3. The Beacons
Idril sat at her dressing table studying the locket
that filled the palm of her left hand. Wrought of
intricately filigreed gold its cover was emblazoned
with a tengwar 'B' formed out of small rubies. She
opened it, indifferent to the presence of the maid
unraveling the intricate braided coils of her hair and
combing it smooth. The good ladies of Gondor could say
what they liked as long as she, Idril, didn't have to
listen to their twitterings.
And she didn't. She'd not been given to girlish
gossip and confidences even when she was a girl, and
certainly was not now. Her maids in waiting learned
quickly to speak only when spoken to. She did not
consider this cruel or unreasonable. The little
creatures were free to whisper and giggle as much as
they wished whenever they were out of her immediate
presence - as three of the four were now, and Luinil
would be joining them soon with a nice fresh bit of
gossip to share.
For inside the locket was a beautiful ivory
miniature of Boromir. Doubtless Luinil would take this
as proof that Idril's feelings for the Steward's Heir
had not been those of a sister. And why shouldn't she?
for it was true. And the only person in all Gondor who
had never suspected anything of the kind was dear,
dense Boromir himself.
But that was her fault rather than his. She'd never
tried to make him see - fool that she was! To expect a
Man absorbed in matters of life and death, such as the
war in the East and the undeclared war between his own
father and brother, to notice what was under his nose
without a bit of help was quite unreasonable.
Father had seen it all right - and been delighted.
Idril knew very well why but didn't hold it against
him. It had, in it's way, been an elegant solution to
the problem of ending forever the pretensions of the
Line of Isildur - assuming this Aragorn actually
existed at all. (1)
It was all moot now anyway. Boromir was dead, as
they all would be soon, and Gondor destroyed. There
was nothing left for them now but to make an end
worthy of the Heirs of the Kings of Men.
Her hand closed tightly over the locket. They could
not win but they could make Sauron's victory come hard
- that was what Mithrandir wanted and Idril was with
him hand to glove. Elendil's blood, however thin and
dilute, in her veins demanded it - and Boromir would
have expected no less of his city and his sister.
Suddenly the dressing room door slammed open
without a knock. Idril's anger vanished instantly at
the sight of Pharinzil's terrified face. "Oh my Lady,
come and see, come and see!"
She and Luinil followed the agitated girl through
bedchamber, antechamber, presence chamber and gallery,
out on to the terrace where Annalind and Faelivrin
huddled, clutching each other, and staring north-east.
Idril followed Pharinzil's trembling finger to the
twisted column of icy light rising from Minas Morgul
and was mildly surprised to discover she felt no fear
at all but only a sense of relief, even of
anticipation. "Well," she said calmly, to her
terrified maidens, "at least the waiting is over."
Pippin hadn't expected to get another wink of
sleep, what with his long afternoon nap and now the
fears for Frodo, and himself, kindled by that awful
light. Even Gandalf had been shaken, and that had
scared Pippin half to death. But to his surprise he'd
dropped off the minute his head hit the pillow,
comforted by the homely presence of Gandalf, smoking
quietly on the balcony, his eyes still fixed on the
And it was Gandalf who shook him awake in the dim
grey predawn. "Get dressed and come with me, Pippin, I
need your help." was all he'd said.
Thoroughly astonished, but wanting badly to make up
for his blunder with the Palantir, Pippin obeyed,
shrugging into his clothes and then following the
wizard through the little alleys winding their way
between the service buildings and workyards behind the
grand halls and mansions of the the Citadel.
"Peregrin Took, my lad, there is a task now to be
done." Gandalf told him over his shoulder. "Another
opportunity for one of the Shire-folk to prove their
great worth. You must not fail me.
"The Witch King has marched forth from Minas
Morgul, already his army of Orcs and Trolls seeks to
force a crossing over the Anduin. There is no time to
be lost, the beacons must be lit, Gondor must call up
her levies and summon her ally Rohan. But I fear
Denethor, in this strange mood of his, will refuse to
do what must be done - or at least not until it is to
The wizard came to a stop at last in an abandoned
yard crowded with old crates and other debris, pointed
upward. "See, there stands the beacon tower of Minas
Tirith, high on the flanks of Mindolluin." then he
looked down, very seriously at Pippin. "That beacon
must be fired, any delay could be fatal to Minas
Tirith and all the Westlands."
Pippin looked at the mountainside. Higher than he
was used to but with plenty of hand and footholds.
"Don't worry, Gandalf," he said confidently, "I'll get
He had grown up in the Green Hill Country, climbing
its little rocky cliffs for sport with his friends and
cousins. He'd even climbed the Redwall, a high hill in
the North Farthing, on the very borders of the Shire.
This mountain was easy by comparison, but he was
careful to pace himself. It was much farther than he
was used to and it wouldn't do to tire too soon.
There were two Men on watch, sleepy eyed and
drinking something from bowls, paying no attention to
the ready laid pile of wood - and why should they?
Luckily the rope holding the lamp was frayed, it broke
at a tug. Pippin waited a moment, to be sure the fire
had taken hold, then started back down before his toe
curls got singed.
Gandalf was no longer in the little deserted yard
but Hobbits have a good sense of direction, and one
who'd been brought up in the tangled mazes of the
Great Smial wasn't likely to lose either his head or
his way in the winding alleys of the the Citadel.
He found the wizard on the wall smiling quietly to
himself, eyes on a bright little flame burning on a
mountaintop some distance due west.
"Has something happened, Gandalf?" Pippin asked
with an elaborate pretense of innocence that was
probably wasted on the nearby sentries. But not on the
wizard, his smile became a mischievous grin meant only
for Pippin. "The beacons of Gondor are alight, calling
for aid. See, there is fire on Amon Din, and a flame
on Eilenach; and from there the alarm will go speeding
west to Nardol, Erelas, Min-Rimmon, Calenhad, and
finally the Halfirien on the borders of Rohan."
*So I'll be seeing Merry again soon.* Pippin
thought with satisfaction. *But what about Aragorn, is
it really a good idea for him to come here?* he
quickly shrugged the thought away. *Not my problem.
Strider knows his own business."
The sentry nearest them moved down the wall a space
to whisper excitedly with some comrades. Gandalf
leaned down. "Thank you, Master Took."
"You're very welcome, my Lord Mithrandir."
1. Idril believes, probably correctly, that Denethor
was ploting to make Boromir King. His eldest son was
well loved, in a way Denethor himself had never been,
and marriage to Idril, last descendant of the
Anarioni, (by way of princes disqualified for the
throne by their mixed blood) would have forged a tie
with the former dynasty. It would have required new
statutes approved by the Council and people of Gondor
but he might well have pulled it off.
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