12. In The Steward's Chamber
The Houses of Healing were a cluster of buildings
just inside the gate to the sixth circle with treetops
showing above the wall of its terrace garden. Pippin
ran into a forecourt already filling with wounded from
the streets below and spotted an unexpectedly familiar
The boy turned from his horrified but unwillingly
fascinated contemplation of a Man with crushed legs,
and his eyes widened in recognition. "Master Peregrin!
what are you doing here?"
"I need a healer for Lord Faramir."
"But they said he was dead!" Bergil cried.
Pippin shook his head. "He's alive but badly
wounded, and his father the Steward could use a healer
"I'll get my aunts." Bergil ran into the building,
leaving Pippin standing rather uncomfortably in the
court, trying not to look at the hurt folk being
brought in or hear their cries.
The boy soon reappeared, two wooden boxes, one atop
the other, in his arms, followed by Beregond's twin
sisters. What were their names again? Oh yes; Baradis
and Berethil, though which was which was anyone's
guess. Both dressed alike in grey gowns under darker
surcoats, hair covered by kerchief-like veils. They
walked very fast with their long legs, Pippin had to
trot to keep up.
"What can you tell me about the Lord Faramir's
wounds?" one of the sisters asked.
"Not much I'm afraid." Pippin panted, trying to
think. "He was still in his armor so I couldn't see
much, but there were two arrows stuck in his harness,
and one at least had gone through though I don't know
how deep. His face was hot when I touched it, and he
stirred a bit as if he felt it."
"Fever," the woman muttered to herself, "and far to
soon to be natural."
They hurried across the Court of the Tree. One of
the Fountain Guards turned his head to follow them and
Pippin realized it must be Beregond. A gentleman in
waiting met them at the door of the White Tower and
showed them up a winding stair to the third floo.
Through a large room with a chair under a canopy, a
second starkly decorated in black and white, and
finally into a small, austere bedchamber. Its windows
curtained against the lowering sky, lit by stands of
candles and a lamp shaped like a tree.
Idril was standing alone beside the narrow,
uncurtained bed where Faramir lay, undressed, washed
and lightly covered by a linen sheet. "The physical
wounds are none so grave," she told the healers as
they bent over their patient, "but I fear the Black
"And rightly." One sister said bleakly, laid a
white hand on the Man's flushed brow. "It takes him as
a fever - he is fighting it."
"For all the good it will do him." was Idril's grim
The Healer gave her a sharp, almost chiding look.
"You must not give up hope, my Lady. A few have
managed to find their way back to life from under the
Black Shadow. Lord Faramir has the strength and the
will to be one of them. Someone must remain with him
at all times, to give him a line and anchor whereby he
may pull himself back to us."
"Peregrin said the Steward was also in need of a
healer?" the other sister said.
"In the next room."
This too was curtained and candlelit. Furnished as
a study with shelves of books and a writing desk.
Denethor lay on a couch beneath the covered windows,
"He has been struck." the healer observed
neutrally, feeling delicately around the purpling lump
on his temple.
"Yes." Pippin admitted uncomfortably, putting her
box of medicines down on a nearby table. "He - he was
distraught." the Woman's mouth twitched a little.
Pippin realized she must have heard Denethor's shout
and found himself saying defensively. "My Lord has
been worrying himself sick about Faramir for two days
now. And then to have his only son brought back to him
apparently dead - what father wouldn't go a bit mad"
"That is true." she conceeded. "The Lord Steward
has been under a strain the rest of us can only
imagine." She pried open one of Denethor's eyelids and
seemed satisfied with what she found beneath it. "No
great harm done, he is but stunned." glanced at the
gentleman in waiting standing by the door. "I need
When it was brought she took a vial of greenish
glass from her box and poured it into the water.
"Bathe his wound with this, it will bring down the
swelling." she instructed Pippin. "He should come
around very shortly. If he is not himself again by the
time the hour stikes, send for me again."
She opened the door to the bedchamber just as her
sister was telling Idril: "There is nothing further to
be done, my Lady. My sister or I would remain but
there will be many others in need of a healer today."
"Indeed there will." the Lady agreed. "Go. Peregrin
and I will deal well enough here."
Pippin went back to sit by his master, bathe his
head with the medicated water, and think about his
parents. He'd remembered home and family often enough,
and wished himself back any number of times, but never
before had he considered what his long absence must be
doing to those he'd left behind.
Mercifully Paladin and Eglantine had no idea where
their only son was, or the peril he was in, but he'd
been gone for so long now that they must be getting
anxious. And how would they feel if he never came home
*I'll just have to see that I do.* he told himself.
And went on tending his master. Through the open door
he could hear an occasional moan from Faramir, calling
for his father. It seemed a very long time, but in
reality was only a few minutes, before Denethor opened
his eyes to look dazedly about.
"My Lord?" the eyes focused on Pippin, seemed to
recognize him. "My Lord, I am glad you are awake. The
Lord Faramir calls for you."
A hint of color crept back into the Steward's grey
face. "But...he is dead." he whispered, not daring to
"No, my Lord, he lives yet, though sorely wounded,
and wants his father. He's just next door."
Denethor pulled himself off the couch and, leaning
heavily on Pippin's shoulder, staggered into the next
Idril was sitting by the bed, her brother's hand in
hers. She looked up as they came in. "Your son calls
for you, Father."
The Steward collapsed onto the chair Pippin hastily
set for him and took Faramir's other hand.
Idril left shortly after that, and Denethor sat
alone by his son save only for Pippin, standing by the
door, unwilling to leave yet unable to help.
But his master knew he was there. Said suddenly:
"Come, Peregrin, take my son's hand for a few moments,
for I would not have him think himself forsaken and I
have an errand elsewhere."
He left the room slowly, leaning heavily upon a
short staff. He was away only a brief time but when he
returned his face was so grey and haggard that Pippin
was frightened for him.
He took his place again beside his son. Pippin,
uncertain whether to return to his post by the door or
stay where he was looked at his master for a hint, and
saw tears running down his face.
"Do not weep, Lord," he stammered. "The healer said
he might get well. Perhaps we should get Gandalf?"
"Comfort me not with wizards!" said Denethor. "The
fool's hope has failed. The power of the Enemy waxes
and all we do will end in ruin.
"I sent my son forth, unblessed, into needless
peril, and here he lies with poison in his veins. Even
the House of the Stewards has failed. Mean folk shall
rule the last remnant of the Kings of Men, lurking in
the hills until all are hounded out."
For a moment Pippin felt himself sinking into the
black pit alongside his master, but then something
inside of him - sheer Hobbit obstinancy no doubt -
Frodo lived, and as long as he did there was hope.
Even the fall of this great city would not be the end.
Aragorn's folk had fought from hiding for nigh on a
thousand years, his kin in the South could do the
same. And Hobbits too if it came to that! The Shadow
would not win, they wouldn't let it.
Lady Idril came in, dressed so differently from her
normal custom that Pippin almost failed to recognize
her. Her gown was bright scarlet, with kilted skirts
and flowing sleeves knotted up out of her way, and she
wore neither veil nor any jewels, save her great 'B'
"The people cry out for the Lord of the City." she
told her father. "Not all are willing to follow
Mithrandir, or even Hurin. They want you, their Lord
and Steward. Will you not go down to them?"
"No." Denethor's voice was flat, indifferent. "I
must stay beside my son. Let them follow who they
will, even the Grey Fool, though his hope has failed."
The candlelight quivered on the gold and rubies of
the brooch and Pippin realized the Woman was shaking
with a barely contained passion that was certainly not
fear. "Hope fails but hate remains," she said
fiercely, "and defiance! Will you sit here and do
nothing while the White City burns about your ears?
Boromir would be ashamed of his father!"
Denethor's head lifted and for a moment Pippin
thought her goading had succeeded - but no. "Here I
stay." he told his daughter.
"Very well!" she blazed. "But I am going down into
the city to do what little I might to make the Enemy's
victory come harder! Good-bye, Father."
She whirled to leave, was halted by Pippin's cry of
"No!" Father and daughter both looked at him in
astonishment but he wasn't going to make the same
mistake twice. "Please, you musn't part like this -
not now. Not when you might never see each other
There was a tense silence. Then Denethor rose from
his seat, detached the long sheathed dagger that
balanced his sword and offered it to Idril. "Take
this, daughter," he said huskily. "I trust you to know
when to use it." his voice broke slightly. "Believe
me, child, if there were any way I could save you I
would. But I cannot.
Tears glistened in Idril's eyes as she took the
blade. "I know, Father. Don't worry, I will not live
to be Sauron's slave." Then she stood on tiptoe to
kiss his cheek, and bent to place another on Faramir's
brow. "Farwell, dear Brother." she said softly, and
Denethor sank back into his chair and picked up his
Pippin subsided onto his own stool, shaking with
relief - and remorse. If only he'd spoken up so when
Denethor was quarrelling with Faramir! Then maybe they
wouldn't be sitting here waiting for the son to die
while his father aged before Pippin's eyes, heart and
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