13. The Defense Of Minas Tirith
Idril led a long train of healers, Citadel serving
women, her own four maids in waiting, ladies and
burgess' wives from the upper circles and their maids,
down the long spiral avenue that united the city.
The lower levels were in chaos, just as she had
feared; the streets littered with masonry, the people
either rushing about in panic or huddling together in
tearful despair. She seized the arm of an older Man
whose velvet gown proclaimed him to be a person of
importance as he tried to push past her, stopping him
in his tracks.
"You, collect Men and clear this rubble from the
streets - our soldiers must be able to move."
He stared at her for a moment, then the glassiness
left his eyes and he turned away shouting to the Men
nearby with the easy authority of one used to being
obeyed. "Come, boys, you heard the Lady, let's get to
Idril stepped over blocks of stone to a Woman of
about her own years, huddled weeping over a frightened
toddler. Took the child from her arms and handed it to
Faelivrin. "Get the children and old folk to the upper
levels." she ordered. "I have had the empty mansions
of the fifth and sixth levels opened to recieve them."
She turned back to the Woman, pulling her to her
feet. "Your child is being taken to safety." she said
firmly into the uncomprehending face. "You come with
me, we need Women at the wall to carry water and tend
A light came back into the reddened eyes.
Obediently the Woman kissed her child good-bye and
fell in with others behind Idril.
She continued down the street, collecting Women and
setting the Men and boys to clearing rubble. Finally
they came to the great square behind the gate and
found it already full of injured defenders being
tended by their fellow soldiers.
"Go back to your duties." she said to the young
officer in charge. "We will see to these Men."
He looked at the Women, moving among the wounded
with their supplies of linens and salves, displacing
his soldiers. "Yes, my Lady." then, uncertainly: "My
Lady, Mithrandir has taken command of the defense -"
"By the Steward's will." Idril answered at once and
firmly. "Obey him as you would the Lord Denethor
Doubts answered the Man saluted her, collected his
Men and left.
The great square, being the largest open space
inside the walls, became their main field hospital.
Idril established other aid stations, each with a
healer or experienced housewife in charge, and
stationed the steadiest of the Women on the wall
itself, to carry water and fresh arrows, and bear away
the wounded, freeing the soldiers to fight.
Behind the walls the Men of the city struggled to
keep the streets clear and dig wounded and dead out of
the rubble as the enemy's trebuchets continued to rain
ruin upon them. Then the Nazgul came, snatching Men
from the inner walls to fling to their deaths, and
uttering the terrible screams that froze the blood in
the veins and sent Men cowering under whatever cover
they could find, hands over their ears. But not all
High above the battle the four Fountain guards
stood unmoving at their post of duty. A Nazgul on his
winged beast stooped down upon the Citadel, sending
those watching from the buttress wall running for
cover. But the Fountain guards held their ground,
turning to face the threat, spears leveled. The Wraith
hovered directly above them and voiced its terrible
cry, and still they did not blench.
But it did not attack. Perhaps some virtue in the
dead husk of the Tree kept it at bay. Or perhaps it
prefered to seek less determined prey. For whatever
reason the Nazgul turned aside, swooping down upon the
Weak with the aftermath of terror and the effort of
will it had taken to withstand it, Beregond, Gildor,
Angrim and Meneldur, exchanged looks in which relief
and astonishment mingled. Then resumed their usual
stations, the silence imposed by their discipline
The Nazgul's cries came only distantly to the first
circle but still Women and Men stopped their work to
look upward with haunted eyes. Idril urged them back
to their tasks, with a mounting frustration that
almost held back fear.
She could get their people to follow her orders and
work in their own defense but she could not put the
heart back into them. Nowhere did she see the rage and
defiance that burned within her and it was beyond any
power of hers to inspire it. Neither could Mithrandir,
or Hurin or Imrahil of Dol Amroth though Idril had
watched them all try. It was like firing wet wood, the
sparks they struck were soon smothered.
The one Man who could have kindled all these hearts
chilled by fear and despair to renewed courage had
gotten himself killed pursuing some unkown quest when
he was needed at home. His brother, who perhaps could
have taken his place, had instead thrown his life away
in a useless gesture. And the father who had sent both
to their doom had forgotten all duty in his grief and
Idril was furious at father and brothers alike for
failing their people - and her - in this last need.
And at herself too for being but bastard Anarioni, and
a Woman at that, and unable to wear the winged crown.
The House of the Stewards had failed, just as
Telemmaite had predicted. Gondor needed her King but
there was no King to hear or heed her call.
One by one the candles in Faramir's sickroom
guttered out until Denethor's hunched form in its dark
robes was almost invisible. Pippin could stand the
strain no longer, he had to get out, if just for a few
minutes. He groped his way to the door and slipped
The six gentlemen in waiting stood still and silent
as ever in the outer room. Pippin hesitated, but they
didn't ask him his business, scarcely seemed to notice
he was there. He went past them, through the presence
chamber and down the long stair to the great door of
It was dark outside too, except for the reddish
light cast by the torches on their poles. Pippin
leaned against the stone wall and shook. Suddenly the
Captain of the Citadel came through the arch between
tower and hall followed by the five companies of the
guard, each with its captain at its head.
"Come you Men," he called to the sentries posted
about the court, "down to the lower levels." The
guards abandoned their posts willingly, almost
eagerly, each joining his proper company behind the
fair haired captain.
Pippin hesitated, fear fighting his reluctance to
return to the Steward's chamber, painfully conscious
of his armor and weapons, and the White Tree on his
chest. But as the tail of the column past him he fell
in with it, another guard of the Citadel, however
The tall soldiers didn't run but they strode very
fast with their long legs, and Pippin soon found
himself falling behind. The streets of the lower city
were strewn with rubble, dispite the best efforts of
the Men trying to keep them clear, with more wreckage
raining down on them every time an enemy boulder
The difficulty of getting through the streets and
necessity of taking cover every few minutes broke up
the column. Pippin clung determinedly to the band he
was following, they knew where to go and he certainly
The Big Folk didn't seem to see him at all until a
group of them accidently knocked him off his feet
getting away from yet another fall of masonry. A big
chunk fell practically next to Pippin, shaking him
Some of the city Men noticed him then, picked him
up and dusted him off with apologies, then directed
him after the vanished guardsmen. Pippin wouldn't have
believed things could get any worse after that - but
they did. Horrible winged Nazgul swooped down on them,
uttering their bone chilling cries and sending
everybody, even the bravest soldiers, stumbling for
cover hands over ears.
Yet finally he made it to the wall, collapsing
winded on a chunk of roof as the other guards pounded
up the stone stairs. But his conscience wouldn't let
him rest for long. He squinted up the at the
battlements and saw a flash of white cloak - Gandalf!
Pulled himself to his feet and started to climb.
He arrived just as the Orcs did, pouring out of
their huge wooden siege towers. Gandalf saw him and
cried: "Peregrin Took, go back to the Citadel!"
"They called us out to fight." Pippin managed,
round eyes fixed on the enemy.
An Orc started for them and Gandalf struck in down
in a whirl of cloak, sword and staff. "This is no
place for a Hobbit!" he shouted.
Pippin couldn't have agreed more, but he couldn't
move. The big hulking Orcs were just like the ones at
Parth Galen and just as at Parth Galen he couldn't
*move* couldn't do anything but stand there like a
lump watching Gandalf fight for his life - as Boromir
The he saw an Orc come up on the wizard's blind
side. Before he knew what was happening his sword was
out of its sheath and he'd thrust in straight and hard
into the nasty creature. It fell and he stood staring
in disbelief at the the black blood on his blade. Had
he really done that?
Gandalf smiled at him. "Guard of the Citadel
indeed." then crisply; "Now, back! Up the hill!
Pippin obeyed, scampering for the stairs. But once
down off the wall, away from the Orcs and able to
think clearly again, he hesitated. Wandering
uncertainly through the first circle he walked into a
little cross street square full of wounded men being
tended by Women, including Lady Idril.
She looked up, yellow eyes widening at the sight of
him. "Master Peregrin, what are you doing here?"
"The Captain of the Citadel ordered us down to the
walls," he explained, glad to find somebody to confide
his uncertainty to. "but when I got there Gandalf
ordered me back. Now I don't know what to do - I'm no
kind of warrior but I want to do my duty."
"Mithrandir is right," the Lady answered without
hesitation. "Your place is in the Citadel, Master
Peregrin, at the Steward's side. You are his esquire."
Well that settled that, though the thought of
returning to Denethor's darkened rooms was almost as
appalling as facing Orcs on the wall. He squared his
shoulders. "Then I'll go back. Thank you, my Lady, for
clearing that up for me."
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