5. Chapter 5
Merry fastened the clasp of his short green cloak and adjusted the angle of his sword. “That’s the uniform of the Shire,” he pointed out. “Here we must make an impression.”
“I’m sure cousin Frodo and Sam will not be wearing anything special,” Pippin grumbled.
“They are not esquires of Gondor or Rohan,” Merry returned. “Anyway, I saw a servant hurrying to their quarters with a pile of new clothes. Which hopefully means Frodo is at least coming tonight.”
“Oh good.” Pippin picked up his Elven-cloak and carefully pinned the slightly battered brooch to it. “I know Strider wanted everyone there, and I don’t think Frodo has been eating enough recently.”
“None of us have been eating enough recently – well, maybe in the past week or so, but not before that,” Merry said. “I’ll be glad when we get back to the Shire and there’s none of this rationing business.”
“Only Men would think up rationing,” Pippin added. “Ready? I think we have time for a stroll on the battlements before the feast is served. We could work up an appetite.”
Merry hit his cousin lightly on the shoulder. “You do not need to work up an appetite, Peregrin Took!”
Leading the way out of the door, Pippin shrugged. “Well, we haven’t been eating very much recently, you just said that yourself. But we do have a reputation to keep up.”
They made their way up on to the wall which surrounded the Citadel itself and began to walk along it, stopping every now and then to stand on tiptoe and peer over the battlements down at the City.
“Fancy building something like this place!” Merry said. “Remember what we thought when we got to Bree?”
“It’s all relative,” Pippin said wisely. “Why, there’d be hobbits in the Shire who’d be amazed if they were ever let inside the Smials. If you don’t know your way around it’s perfectly easy to get lost in there. Don’t you remember old Fatty Bolger shutting himself in a pantry, at my aunt’s birthday party five years ago? We couldn’t find him for hours.”
Merry laughed. “Fatty got lost in Brandy Hall too,” he agreed. “It’s a good thing he didn’t come with us. He’d have got mislaid in the Old Forest. Or in Bree …”
“I felt very small in Bree,” Pippin put in.
“And then Rivendell. The food was good in Rivendell.”
“And Moria, with those pillars.”
“And I was quite impressed when I got to Edoras,” Merry said. “It’s nice, Edoras. Much smaller than here. More of a simple place. And the Rohirrim are more generous with their food.”
“Back to food again,” Pippin laughed. “What time is it, I wonder?”
“Nearly dusk,” a voice said from above them. “Well met, Master Took!”
“Hullo, Beregond!” Pippin said, exchanging bows with the tall Man who had come upon them from the other direction.
“Master Brandybuck,” Beregond greeted Merry. “I am pleased to see you both.”
“It’s good to see you too,” said Pippin, enthusiastically. “But I thought you’d already left for Ithilien.”
“I am to leave next week,” Beregond answered, taking a seat upon a nearby stone bench. The hobbits climbed up next to him. “Though the lord Prince will not come for some weeks yet, I am to prepare his house and see what else needs to be done. Much, I do not doubt.”
“And Bergil?” Pippin asked, thinking of Beregond’s son who had proved such a good companion during his first lonely days in Minas Tirith. “Is he going with you?”
Beregond shook his head. “Nay. Until peace is certain, he will remain in the City with my wife, and continue his schooling. Eventually I hope they will both join me in Ithilien. My lord Faramir has said that when the time is right, he will accept Bergil into the company and train him as a Ranger. For now, though, my family has the King’s grace to stay here.”
“Good old Strider,” Pippin said.
The Man smiled. “I still find it strange, Master Took, how you can talk of the King with such ease.”
Pippin glanced at Merry, who laughed. “It is our way, I suppose. In any case, he was introduced to us as Strider, and I can’t get used to thinking of him as a king.”
“Different countries have different customs,” Beregond observed, looking down at his companions. “I daresay the lady Éowyn will have some changes to make when she comes to Ithilien as its Princess.” He seemed a little doubtful about what changes Éowyn might impose on his captain, and Merry hastened to defend his adopted lady.
“She is a lady worthy of marrying the lord Faramir,” he said. “I hope you’ll be proud to serve her, sir.”
Beregond nodded gravely. “Aye, Master Brandybuck, I will be. Though it may seem strange at first to have a Rohirric maiden as the Lady of Ithilien, the tales of her deed have spread far and wide, and for that at least we should honour her.”
The sky above them was now turning a deep blue, Eärendil sparkling brightly, and from the height of the tower glimmering silver in the twilight there came a trumpet call.
“Aha!” said Pippin. “That, I think, means dinner.”
“That means I should hurry home,” Beregond said.
“Are you not eating with your Company?” Pippin asked, and the Man shook his head.
“No, Master Took. Until I leave for Ithilien, my lodgings are with my family. I shall give Bergil your greetings.”
“Please do!” Pippin said. “I hope we will see you again, before you leave or we leave.”
Beregond nodded, and standing bowed to them. Merry and Pippin returned the bow, and they parted company, the hobbits hurrying off towards the Citadel and Beregond turning in the direction of the lower levels of the City.
In the great hall of the Tower, the hobbits found the table almost ready and servants bustling about putting the finishing touches to what looked like being a rich and hearty feast. Pippin and Merry exchanged pleased glances, and Pippin licked his lips in anticipation as a large pie was brought and placed at the centre of the table. They were walking along the length of the board, peering in interest at the food, when another trumpet call rang out and the doors opened to admit the rest of the company, headed by the King and Queen.
The hobbits stood back to allow Aragorn and Arwen through, and joined in the small procession as Frodo and Sam came past them, wearing the new clothes Merry had seen earlier. Sam grinned at them cheerfully, but Frodo looked rather grave.
Aragorn took the seat at the head of the table, and the others found their places along either side, with Gandalf taking the chair at the foot. For a moment, they all turned, and faced West in silence, and then there was the squeaking as chairs were pulled out and pushed back in again.