1. A Cup Full of Words
Beware of slight raunchiness ahead. It’s two guys getting drunk in a bar, after all...
March in Minas Tirith had not been so grand in some years. The Sun shone brightly, unblemished by the darkness that had been in the east, for days after the crowning of King Elessar. Across the Pelennor, gulls lazily circled over the flowing waters of the Anduín river, their cries carried on the soft, warm breezes.
Beregond, son of Baranor, barely noticed any of this. He had been walking about the city in a sort of haze since his last visit to the Citadel. He had, at that time, gone to face the King’s doom, fully expecting to lose his head for his actions during Mordor’s siege of the city. Instead, he had been given a promotion; he was now captain of the White Company, the guard of the Steward Faramir. All of this posed its own problems, however, as Beregond was currently the only member of the White Company.
And thus it was that haze had set in. The new captain suddenly found himself buried in solving all sorts of logistical problems and reading all sorts of official documents. He had had to closet himself in the study of his home in the sixth circle to even begin to get any of it done. At the same time, his son had been oddly clingy. The boy had been quite distraught while they were waiting for the King’s judgment and Beregond could only surmise this was some sort of backlash.
But at present Beregond was alone in his small study. The Periain, Merry and Pippin, had proven to be of more interest to Bergil than Beregond’s paperwork and they were distracting him for the moment. However, even this silence could not keep the captain’s attention for long. The worries of the day piled up and soon, they were all he could think of. The elegant Tengwar words Beregond was trying to read shifted and formed themselves to remind him of anything but what they were actually saying and while Beregond’s eyes were reading them, his mind was not. Soon, he pushed them aside as a lost cause and sighed wearily, leaning back in his chair.
Days before, Beregond had shed his uniform as a Citadel guard and he had not worn the livery since; he had no more right to. And now, as he looked forlorn at himself in the mirror above his desk, at his dull grey tunic and old white shirt, he wondered if he had any right to wear the livery of any company of Gondor, captain or not.
Which reminded him; it would likely be his responsibility to commission new livery for the new company. One more thing to do.
As his tangled mind began to spin off in these new directions, Beregond heard a knock on the front door of his home tiredly, he got out of his chair and went to it. He blinked and squinted in the broad daylight as he opened the door and there found the Steward Faramir.
Though they looked at each other in silence for only a moment, to Beregond it seemed to be an hour. In the meantime, the idea that his lord was standing there slowly dragged its way through the captain’s tired mind. Finally, he gathered himself together enough to form an appropriate response to the situation. In near panic, he dropped into a bow.
“My lord, forgive me!” he said. “I did not expect you.”
“Calm yourself captain, please,” Faramir said with a bit of a laugh, “this is no inspection. I had not spoken to you since the king’s judgment and I merely thought it time to come down from the mountain, as it were.”
“Yes, yes, of course,” Beregond said, moving aside and gesturing to the open door, “please. My home is yours. For all it may be worth.”
Beregond followed Faramir within and closed the door after them. It was then he realized with horror that every seat in the parlor was occupied by some facet of his work, be it papers or clothing or even an unwashed cup. He hurried over to the nearest seat and lifted a stack of papers from it. “Please, make yourself comfortable, my lord,” he said piling the stack atop another resting on a table.
Faramir took the proffered seat and could only watch as his panicked captain tried and failed to keep the top-heavy stack from toppling to the floor.
“I take it you have been keeping busy, then?” Faramir asked.
Beregond spun around to address Faramir properly, neglecting the lost cause of the papers. “Aye, my lord,” he said, “this has all turned into quite the task. Uh, not that I am not equal to it, my lord. I assure you, I will see it done.”
“I have no doubt of that,” Faramir replied, “that is not why I wanted to speak with you. It occurred to me that-”
“Hey! Bring it back!” cried a voice from the back door, accompanied by a loud slam and the pattering of bare feet.
“Faster, Bergil, we’ll overtake him yet!” came a second voice. “For Gondor!”
Suddenly, Merry came charging into the parlor, a loaf of bread clutched tightly to his chest. “You’ll never take me!” he shouted backward over his shoulder. “For the honor of the Shire!” Turning to watch where he was going, the Hobbit stopped dead in his tracks when he saw Beregond and Faramir. An instant later, Pippin and Bergil crashed into him from behind, reaching for the load of bread and making a ruckus.
“Bergil!” Beregond exclaimed, crossly.
At once, the boy and the two halflings ceased their horseplay and looked up. Bergil took one look at Beregond’s face and gasped, untangling himself from Merry and Pippin.
“Sorry, father,” he said, “we were just-”
“What have I told you about such behavior in the house?” Beregond thundered.
“Our fault entirely,” Merry sprang in. He spotted Faramir and waved a greeting. “Oh, hey Faramir.”
“Meriadoc,” Faramir greeted back, amicably.
“I’m afraid we got more than a little wound up,” Merry continued, speaking again to Beregond.
“The bread, you see...” Pippin offered, by way of explanation around a bite of the loaf.
“Hey, he’s eating it!” Bergil exclaimed, then remembered the none-too-happy tone of his father. He grinned sheepishly.
“Just, go back outside with it,” Beregond said rubbing his temples, “this is not the time. Out with you.”
“I think that look is universal,” Pippin mumbled, “c’mon, lads. Best be movin’ on."
Merry nodded his agreement, his mouth still full of a bite of bread he had managed to wrest away from Pippin. He grabbed Bergil by the arm and led the way toward the back door with his cousin close on his heels.
“By the Valar,” Beregond muttered to himself, turning back to the parlor. Faramir was still sitting there, having watched the exchange with a twitch of a smile on the corners of his mouth. But it vanished as soon as Beregond dropped into another bow. “Apologies for the interruption, my lord,” he said, “please continue.”
For his part, the Steward seemed taken aback by the way Beregond was acting. He stared at the captain in silence for a moment before finding his voice. “Yes,” he said as segue, “I wished to learn from you what you think should be done for the formation of the White Company. And what defenses I may wish to consider for the new city in Ithilien.”
“The defenses for the city?” Beregond asked. “But, my lord, that his hardly my area of expertise.”
“Nonsense,” said Faramir dismissively, “you have been a guard of the Citadel for nearly a decade. Certainly you mush have noticed what worked and what did not in that amount of time.”
Panic flooded Beregond’s mind and he found he could do little more than sputter in response. A thousand things flashed through his mind in an instant, recollections of things that had gone awry in the defense of the Citadel of Minas Tirith over the years. But, as he looked at Faramir, he found he could not separate one from another. To make himself stop babbling, he clenched a fist, digging his nails into his palm
“If it please my lord, I can make some suggestions to the architects,” he said at last, “perhaps, by tomorrow?”
“There is no rush,” said Faramir.
“No, no, if you desire it, it shall be so.”
Faramir cocked an eyebrow at Beregond, ever so slightly. A strange look of puzzlement cross the Steward’s face for just a moment before it was covered with practiced ease. Beregond could do little but feel scrutinized under the gaze.
“It would seem that I have found you at a bad moment,” Faramir said, rising from his seat, “I should have sent my assistant to arrange a time. My apologies. Perhaps we could continue this conversation later?”
“As you wish, my lord,” Beregond replied.
The two men exchanged a few more stilted pleasantries and Faramir was on his way. Once the door was closed, Beregond allowed himself a moment to sigh in relief. Then, he looked about the parlor and once more remembered all that needed doing. At once, he went back into his study and closed the door.
After a few moment’s silence in the parlor, three small faces appeared at the edges of the back door. Merry, Pippin, and Bergil looked at each other in puzzlement.
“My father was acting very strangely,” said Bergil, “what’s going on?”
“I’ll say so,” Pippin agreed, “and Faramir, too.”
“Kind of reminds me of the way Sam and Rosie are around each other,” said Merry, thoughtfully.
“What do you mean?” Bergil asked.
“Merry, that can’t have anything to do with it!” Pippin protested. “All evidence to the contrary, in fact. I mean, what about Éowyn? Not to mention Bergil...”
“What do I have to do with anything?” Bergil asked.
“What?” Merry was equally puzzled. “No, not like that! They’re nervous around each other, is all.”
“Well, that’s no way to go about things,” said Pippin, giving Merry a knowing glance over the top of Bergil’s head. “They’ll never get a thing done.”
“What are you talking about?” Bergil pressed.
“Grown up stuff,” said Merry, “don’t worry about a thing with your da, Bergil. Pip and I know just what to do.”
The Sun had long since set by the time Beregond had paused in his work with the thought of sending Bergil to bed. The light over his desk now came from an oil lamp that flickered in cooler breezes from the window. He found his son already asleep, though, and a different small form was quietly sitting in the parlor, a lit pipe to his mouth.
“Master Peregrin?” Beregond asked in puzzlement.
“Ah!” Pippin exclaimed, softly. “He emerges at last! I was beginning to think I would run out of Longbottom, first!”
“Is there something the matter?”
“Yup!” Pippin replied, putting out his pipe and hopping down from the seat that was far too large for him. “There’s a captain of Gondor that’s not getting a bit of work done. He needs to relay a bit, celebrate a little. After all, it is nice being alive.”
"Some days I wonder,” Beregond muttered, “really, I have no time for-”
“Nonsense!” The Hobbit zipped over the Beregond and grabbed his wrist. “No arguing now. You’re expected, after all.”
“The tavern of the Glittering Sword.”
“But that’s all the way in the Second Circle! Pippin!”
Beregond’s protests were of no use, though. The Perian had a surprising grip on his hand and did not let go until they reached the door of the tavern. They made for a very strange pair as they went through the city. Beregond was nearly bent double so Pippin could reach him. They attracted a great many stares and more than a few curious whispers.
The Glittering Sword was a small tavern nestled in a corner of the Second Circle of Minas Tirith, well known to both the denizens of the Citadel and Rath Celerdain alike as a brewery of some skill. It was said to have been founded before the kin-strife of Eldacar and Castamir and the breaking of the great done of Osgiliath.
“Merry and I found this place a few days ago,” said Pippin, “they’ve got an ale here they’ve been brewing for a thousand years!”
“Yes, Millennium Ale,” said Beregond, “I know of it, but-”
“Well, come on, then!” Pippin said, giving Beregond a shove through the door. “In we go!”
The Hobbit steered Beregond past several tables filled with boisterous patrons all drinking their fill. The captain recognized a few of his fellow soldiers among them. Some of them waved cheerful greetings, but those sentiments were plowed under in Beregond’s mind by the ones made a point of ignoring him. As he had been acutely aware for the past few days, the king’s decision had been a controversial one.
Pippin seemed intent to parade Beregond through the entire tavern. As they went further and further from the door, the door looked more and more attractive. Finally, the Hobbit halted before the curtained booths at the very back of the tavern. Beregond looked at them in confusion.
“Well, go on it,” said Pippin, giving the captain another encouraging push.
“That you out there, Pip?” Beregond heard Merry’s voice float from the booth. A small hand reached out and beckoned to them. “Get in here, already!”
Pippin parted the curtain and revealed two figures sitting on the benches within. Merry was sitting on one side of the table, a half-empty stein in front of him and his short legs dangling over the edge of the bench. Across from him, sitting on the other bench, was Faramir, who straightened in surprise when he saw Beregond. Before the two men could stumbled over any formal greetings, Pippin gave Beregond yet another shove, ushering him into the booth.
“Well, the gang’s all here, then!” Merry said with cheer as he pulled the curtain closed.
“Master Meriadoc, what-” Faramir began.
“It’s the first official celebration for Ithilien!” Pippin sprang in at once. “Invite only!”
“We figured it was fittin’,” said Merry, “and with you being the Prince of Ithilien and you being the new captain of Ithilien, it was only proper you be present.”
Faramir and Beregond exchanged glances in utter confusion. Their eyes met for only a moment, then looked back to the two Hobbits.
“Only us two?” Beregond asked, hoping and praying with every fiber of his being that the sheer terror in his voice could be heard only by him.
For his part, Faramir lookin at the halflings with a strange look in his eyes. It was the same oddly scrutinizing gaze he had given Beregond hours before. Then, as if the Sun had just crested a hill, the Steward’s face turned to understanding. A moment later and he burst out laughing. Beregond, Merry, and Pippin all looked at him with worry, but he waved them off and smiled.
“Well played, dear Periain, well played,” he said, “I understand your purpose well.”
“You do?” Merry asked with uncertainty.
“You told him!” Pippin accused, turning on his cousin.
“I did not,” Merry replied, incredulously, “he figured it out on his own!”
Pippin sighed. “First Gandalf, now Faramir. Merry, are we really all that predictable?”
Beregond was utterly confounded by the conversation. He eyes darted back and forth between the table’s other three occupants, looking for a clue as to the context of the dialogue. He found instead the Steward’s eyes. There was no scrutiny in them now and they seemed to smile along with the rest of his face.
“Well, captain, since we are here,” said Faramir, “what say you to a round of Millennium Ale?”
“Sounds like a great idea to me!” Merry exclaimed, quickly. “How ‘bout you Pip?”
“Me too,” said Pippin, “let’s go get some pints.”
“But, Master Peregrin-” Beregond began as the two Hobbits hopped up from their seats and slipped through the curtains of the booth, ignoring the captain’s protests.
“Great Iluvatar!” Faramir said in astonishment. “They took the first out I gave them! They certainly are determined.”
“Forgive me, my lord, but I am rather confused,” said Beregond, “what... what are...”
“’What are they up to?’” Faramir finished for him. “Oh, a Hobbit tradition, I expect. But leave such questions be, for now. Tonight is for celebration.” As he said this, one of the bar maids slipped in through the curtain with two pints of ale. She placed them on the table and curtsied. “Here, good lady,” said Faramir, handing her a few coins, “two pints of the same every half hour, if you please.”
She took the coins and nodded, then slipped out. Faramir pushed one of the two steins over to Beregond.
“Should we not wait for the halflings?” the captain asked.
“Oh,” said Faramir, “we won’t be seeing them any more tonight. Drink up, captain.” The Steward knocked his own stein into Beregond’s, the lifted it in toast. “To Ithilien.”
“To Ithilien,” Beregond said, still confused, but doing the same. He took a gulp, then looked back to Faramir only to find the Steward had up-ended his stein.
Beregond blinked. This was a side of Gondor’s new Steward that he doubted any of the Citadel Guard had ever seen. The Rangers, perhaps, but not the Citadel Guard.
Faramir finished his drink and set his empty stein on the table. His eyes darted to Beregond’s cup. “That’s all?” he asked.
Beregond shifted, uncomfortably. “Millennium Ale is... rather strong, my lord.”
“Ah! But Beregond, that is the point! So dispense with rank and title and let us drink as men do.”
And suddenly, the idea was very attractive to Beregond. At that moment, he very much needed a very stiff drink and there it was, sitting in front of him. Deciding that he would deal with whatever came of it all afterward, Beregond grabbed his stein and up-ended it.
As Beregond finished, Faramir leaned back in his seat with a smile.
“Well, then,” he said, “this should prove to be a very interesting night.”
The bells of the city had tolled once and three pairs of steins sat on the table when the two men began singing. They finished their bawdy ballad just as the server returned with a fourth round.
“What shall we drink to now?” Faramir asked, taking one of the cups.
“My complete lack of understanding!” Beregond exclaimed with gusto.
“My complete lack of understanding!” the captain repeated, enunciating as clearly as he could around a slightly tingling tongue.
“No, no, I heard you,” said Faramir, “I mean, what do you mean by it?”
“I still don’t understand what we’re doing here,” said Beregond.
“Well, that’s fairly obvious. We’re getting drunk!”
“To getting drunk, then,” said Beregond, lifting his stein.
“To getting drunk!” Faramir agreed.
The two of them had long since given up the practice of drinking the whole stein at once, but they were still taking large gulps. The result was a lot of gas which Faramir now took a moment to release in a suppressed belch.
“By the Valar,” he breathed, “I have not been drinking like this in some time. Not since before the battle at the bridge of Osgiliath, I think. Bothersome war.”
“You think that’s bad,” said Beregond, “try having a child. I have not done this in ten years!”
“Ha!” Faramir scoffed. “That is a purl... prur... puritanical approach to your role as... as a role model. Surely his mother would have rode herd on Bergil quite enough.”
Beregond halted at that, slowly setting his stein down on the table. He studied the liquid inside as though he did not see it, but said nothing.
“Beregond?” Faramir asked.
“Rindrian has been dead for seven years, my lord,” he replied slowly, “she died just a few weeks shy of Bergil’s third birthday. We came to Minas Tirith when she was with child because I was appointed to the Citadel Guard. But in her heart, she was ever a woman of Lossarnach. She was always trying to grow flowers in clay pots in our home. After Bergil was born, she... was not the same woman I married. There was a darkness on her mind and it soon ate her soul. Her body followed not long after. Bergil is... all I have left of her.” As if it was the natural end to the story, Beregond took another drink of ale, quickly, almost as if he felt guilty about it. Then, he went back to silently studying what was left in the stein.
Silence hung in the air between the two men for nearly a minute. It was Faramir who finally found his tongue first.
“Well,” he said, “that was certainly crass of me. I didn’t know. I’m sorry.”
“There’s no reason you would have known, my lord,” said Beregond, collecting himself somewhat, “after all, we do not exactly travel in the same social circles.”
“More’s the pity, I’d say,” said Faramir, “but the night is young and we are both only tipsy. Best drink up. We’ve more coming. To the lady Rindrian.”
“An melethril-nín,” said Beregond.
Solemnly, they both raised their glasses and drank.
Some more time passed and somewhere I the midst of it they had lost track of the city bells. The server had cleared away the empty cups at one point as well, so the two men could not even use that to tell how long they had been there.
“I don’t believe that, not for a moment,” Beregond slurred out, marshalling his tongue just enough, “one cannot kill a Mûmak with a flaming flask of oil!”
“But it’s true,” Faramir protested, quite obviously struggling to make his mouth work as well, “I saw Mablung do it in Ithilien!”
“Well, he sat in a row of hedges upon a ridge, watching the Haradrim passing us. Now, the Mûmakil are well-trained, but not even their masters can stop them from answering nature’s call. Do you have any idea how much a beast of that size will...” Here, Faramir waved his hand in the air, not committing to any particular word. “You know.”
“Merciful Mandos!” Beregond exclaimed. “Don’t tell me!”
“He aimed for the excrement!” Faramir announced. “It made for quite the show. Everything near it caught fire, including the tower on the beast’s back. So, Mablung got the Mûmak-kill that day.”
Beregond blinked for a moment as the words drifted through his ale-clouded mind. Then, he began to chuckle. “Mûmakil! You said Mûmakil!”
“Mûmak... kill. Mûmakil!”
Faramir caught on and began to laugh as well. Small parts of both their minds were still sober enough to realize the ridiculousness of what they were laughing at. But, those were over-powered by those parts that were simply amused by the unintentional play on words. They were in stitches for a full five minutes.
“To Mûmakil!” they exclaimed in unison, then took long pulls from their steins.
“My time in the Citadel was never so interesting at that,” said Beregond, then fell silent and blinked several times, “Manwë damn it, I was going to go somewhere with that and not I can’t remember.”
“Interesting times in the Citadel?” Faramir prompted.
“Oh, yes! There being none!” said Beregond. “No, I’m afraid the most of the war I saw for ten years was the siege.”
“At least you saw the siege,” said Faramir, “I saw the insides of my eyelids and some very strange dreams.”
“At least you were spared that horrid vision, then. The screams of men, fires burning in the night, the hideous groan of the gate as the Orkish ram battered it, heads... heads of men flying over the walls.”
Beregond’s descent into remembered terror was suddenly broken by the sound of Faramir’s cup slamming down upon the table. Faramir’s gaze was sharp and Beregond started at it.
“Those visions are past you,” said the Steward, “the visions I saw are still inside my mind. They spoke of Gondor’s utter ruin. I saw the eye of the Enemy in my dreams!” He lifted his cup and drank quickly, as if stalling to find more words. “but what does it matter? Terror is relative. And yours is not those things you mentioned just now.”
“I don’t follow,” said Beregond. He lifted his cup. “Must be the ale.”
“Nay, I saw your terror, Beregond,” Faramir pressed onward, “at the king’s judgment. You thought you were going to die as a traitor, didn’t you?”
“Of course not!” Beregond answered quickly, a note of drunken incredulity in his voice. “Not much. Not after the king spoke his doom.”
Faramir raised an eyebrow at him.
“Not after my pardoning.”
“All right! I was horrified of it! To die as a traitor to the country you so love? There is no greater dishonor. So, yes, I was terrified. What of it?”
“You stood for me.”
Beregond had been in the midst of a drink, but stopped when Faramir spoke. He looked at the Steward curiously, unable to see where the conversation was going.
“My lord?” he asked.
“No one has stood for me since Boromir passed,” said Faramir, “not the way you did. Peregrin had been released from my father’s service and was free to do as he would. And no one, no mortal man, could ever master Mithrandir.” He swirled the last couple fingers of ale in his stein, pondering it. “And there you were at Fen Hollin, facing certain death as a traitor, breaking your oath to follow your heart for the sake of another. I admire that.” He laughed, but there was no humor in it. “By the Valar, but I had to be drunk to say it.”
Beregond looked to Faramir stupidly, unable to find any words. Briefly, he wondered whether it was because he was so shocked by what Faramir had said or so drunk on Millennium Ale. And then, another thought plowed its way through the captain’s stupor; his lord felt indebted to him and that just wasn’t right. In fact, he wasn’t certain why, but he found it rather comical.
“Why are you laughing?” Faramir asked him, sounding miffed.
And indeed, Beregond found that he was laughing and he couldn’t stop for some strange reason.
“I’ve never seen a man so serious when he was drunk!” Beregond exclaimed. “For some reason, it conjured up the image of my brother’s drunken dance with a mop.”
“Why is that so amusing?”
“He brought it to his bed that night!”
Laughter engulfed the booth once again.
They were the last to leave the tavern of the Glittering Sword that night, both too drunk to notice the impatient glances of the keeper and his staff. The tavern had stayed open far longer than normal and yet none of them had had the nerve to throw out Gondor’s Steward and his captain.
Leaning on each other and staggering dangerously, the two men slowly made their way up the winding main road of the city.
“This road is slanting,” Beregond commented.
“Of course it is,” Faramir slurred out, “it is not called the Hill of Guard for nothing, you know.”
“But it is not supposed to be slanting to the left.”
“Ah, you’re drunk.”
“I know. So are you.”
“Isn’t it fun?”
It took them about an hour to stagger up to the fifth circle. At least Beregond was fairly certain it was the fifth circle. He was having trouble keeping track of numbers. Still, at any rate, he was rapidly running out of his chance to make a fool of himself and not have it be remembered or excused. He felt the need to say something in particular, although he had never felt the need before.
“Something on your mind?” Faramir asked him after a few minutes of silence.
“The King has been for more than a few days,” Beregond answered.
“Aahhh, he’s taken,” Faramir said, dismissively and Beregond couldn’t quite tell if he meant it as a jest.
“’S’not what I mean,” Beregond slurred, “how did he know about the laws of Gondor?”
Faramir stopped dead in his tracks, thus pulling Beregond to a halt as well. The pair nearly recoiled backward down the hill. The Steward grabbed the captain by the shoulders and spun him around to look him in the eye. He looked in silence for a long moment, blinking through his ale haze.
“Uhh... my lord?” Beregond ventured.
“By Eru, you cannot be this thick!”
“Beregond, we are both very, very drunk and we will both be paying for it tomorrow. The night is nearly finished and if it comes to naught but a hangover, I will be very cross, to say nothing of two blessedly meddlesome halflings. You have divined the purpose of all this, so for the love of all the Valar, will you please speak your mind?”
“I would, but that just emptied it,” Beregond said with a dumb grin.
“Ai, Iluvatar!” Faramir exclaimed.
“I... I would... I would stand with you. The king granted me mercy when all were saying that I was a traitor. The king would not have known he had the right to make this ruling. I can think of none who would have spoken for me but you. And... and I would stand with you. Not for you, but with you, shoulder to shoulder if you will permit, as... as brothers.” He paused as if searching for still more words and Faramir waited with expectation. “And... and that’s all. That’s what I wanted to say,” Beregond finished.
Faramir and Beregond stood in the street, staring at each other for a very long moment. For a moment, Beregond thought he had erred for upon Faramir’s face was a look he had never seen. But as the captain looked closer, he saw that it was not an unkind look. A smile soon came to Faramir’s face and it lit his eyes.
“Well,” said Faramir, “we have met each other at last. We may have been thrust together by the war, but I could think of no better man to stand with as a brother.”
Once again, Beregond was set to blinking at Faramir with stupidity. Another long moment passed between them in silence.
“Did I not say as much?” Faramir said.
Beregond put both his hands on his hips and did his best to adopt a haughty tone. “You had best not be humoring a drunken old soldier.”
“Why, t’was I got him drunk!” Faramir said with incredulity. He stumbled over to Beregond and leaned on him once again. “Or are you so drunk you have forgotten? Now, come on. To home with the both of us.
And together they continued up the city’s main road, shoulder to shoulder.
The words exploded into Beregond’s head like the giant, stomping feet of a Mûmak on soft ground. Some small part of his mind reminded him that Mûmak feet crushed things and did not explode, that the imagery made no sense at all, but that was promptly gored to death by the Mûmak’s sharp tusks.
With a painful moan, Beregond rolled over on to his side and put his pillow over his head. It was a purely unconscious action. He could take no other sort, since it hurt to think. Thus insulated from the world, he figured he could drift back off into oblivion where everything didn’t hurt.
“Father! Wake up!”
There was that Mûmak again.
With another moan, Beregond decided to face the evil creature. He was, after all, a soldier of Gondor and would face any foe. Slowly, he pulled the pillow off his head and rolled back over. The light that came to his eyes took the form of barbed knives, but he fought them back with some work. Finally, he found himself staring up into the face of his son.
“It’s after the fourth bell already, father,” said Bergil, “are you ill? Should I get the healer?” He shook Beregond’s shoulder as if trying to rouse him.
Every nerve in Beregond’s body screamed.
Slowly, Beregond waved Bergil off and sat up, fighting off the urge to wretch. This, too, was not an pleasant experience. In preparation to speak, he rolled his tongue around his mouth; it tasted the way he imagined a pickle might if it rotted.
“Father?” Bergil prodded.
“No, no, Bergil, I’m not ill,” Beregond said, trying not to speak too loudly.
“I guess Pippin was wrong, then.”
“Wrong about what?”
“He said you wouldn’t feel well this morning.”
“No, he was correct.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Don’t worry about it,” said Beregond, hauling himself to his feet, “I just need to eat something.”
“All right,” said Bergil, “but how come there are mops in the parlor?”
Beregond paused, looking off into the distance and blinking, trying to collect himself. “Perhaps I should go to the healers.”
“I could have sworn you just said there were mops in the parlor.”
The captain paused again, then shuffled to his door and made his way to the parlor, muttering under his breath. As soon as he got there, he stood in the doorway in wonder, shaking his head.
Every single piece of paper that had been in the room had been replaced by a mop.
“See?” said Bergil from Beregond’s elbow. “And all your papers are gone, too.”
“Mops,” Beregond pondered. “Bergil, where are Meriadoc and Peregrin?”
“With the Ring-bearer, I think, in the gardens.”
“Go and fetch them for me, will you? And bring a glass vial if you can. I have a gift to send to a friend.”
Bergil nodded and went out the front door. As soon as the boy was gone, Beregond went back into his bedroom and opened a large chest. He dug around in it until he found a worn, old stuffed toy from his childhood, shaped as a friendly version of a Mûmak.
“My friend, you ask and I answer,” Beregond said to himself, “last night is not forgotten.”
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.