35. Torn Loyalties
For eight days we rode, harried only once by the Enemy. More terrible to the hearts of the men that followed the King were the Nazgûl. Though unseen, except by Legolas and myself, one could feel them. They flew above us from the fifth day on. Terror grew as we drew closer to Mordor; the flying servants of the Dark Lord only exacerbated it. As we rode on, I ever sitting with my liege-lord, my respect, admiration, nay! awe, only grew. He was the greatest man I had ever met and my love also grew. When he let those defeated by despair and fear leave us to fight for Cair Andros, I thought my heart could not swell more with pride. Yet, when he stood before the Mouth of Sauron and held his ground, well, I would have bowed to him right then and there, and lost my very spirit to him. I could now understand why the Dead had obeyed and marched under his banner!
But my heart broke for Pippin as we stood before the Black Gate. To see Frodo's accoutrements in the hands of... And to know that Sauron held his cousin in some foul prison. It was too much for the Hobbit and he jumped forward with a cry of grief. I jumped from Elessar's horse, he had left me upon it when he and the company had dismounted, ready to defend the poor thing, for surely, one of the company of the Enemy would hew him down. I stopped in surprise as Mithrandir swept him back, away from any threat.
For a moment, my heart stopped, then began to beat with irregularity. I saw Mithrandir's face as he beheld the cloak, the coat, and the sword of Frodo. The wizard seemed to age in a moment; his shoulders slumped, his face. I could not look at his face. At last I realized the depth of love that coursed through Mithrandir's veins and I felt such shame at my treatment of him. I had not taken the opportunity to ask for his forgiveness and now, now it was too late. We would be dead within the hour.
With flair and strength, the wizard rebuked the Mouth and took back Frodo's gear. The man, for though his visage was hidden from us, all knew this was a man, screamed his outrage and rode back inside the gate. Drums pounded, fires flared, the gate clanged open, and a great host poured forth, screaming their derision.
We rode back to the company as Easterlings poured from a hidden area to the east of us, Orcs rode down from the west, and a whole host of hill-trolls accompanied by Orcs drove forward from the gate itself. A trap, neatly set, and we the mice! Elessar and Mithrandir rode to the hill on the left and climbed with their horses to its top. The two Elves, I cursed myself for I had yet to formally meet them, stationed themselves in front of and slightly to the right of that hill with the Dúnedain. Legolas and Gimli stood next to them. I watched as the banner of the Tree and Stars was unfurled and my heart near burst again with pride. Elessar held his sword high and the men rallied.
On the other hill, the banners of Rohan and Dol Amroth were unfurled. I saw Imrahil and Beregond standing at its base. Swan Knights and the Tower Guard stood around them both. I smiled despite myself. Bergil would be so proud to see his father stationed next to the Prince of Dol Amroth and in the vanguard of the Tower Guard where he belonged, even though he was under suspension for his deeds in Rath Dínen.
'My Lord,' I called out, 'I have promised you that I would guard the Pherian and yet I have vowed to guard you. I am torn. Where would you have me?'
He smiled, in the midst of the horrors spread before us, and held me. 'Be not concerned. I have many about me who have sworn as you have done. Go now, and protect my servant, Peregrin.' I mewed with joy and sorrow and jumped lightly from his hand. I scrambled in as dignified a manner as I could, given the fierceness of the Enemy, across the intervening yards and stood next to the Hobbit.
Pippin looked upon me with surprise. "I was just wishing Merry were here. But you are most welcome, beloved Alqualondë. "Do you know, I understand poor Denethor a little better. We might die together, Merry and I, but why not? Well, since he is not here and you are, we fight." His brow furrowed. "I hope he'll find an easier end. But now, I must do my part."
He held his sword before him and I stood at his feet, rubbing along the hairs on his toes and smiling up at him, offering him the encouragement I could.
A/N - A few thoughts about this chapter. 1) Nowhere could I find where Legolas and Gimli were stationed during the battle, yet Gimli found Pippin - who was across the way from Aragorn's hill. So I stationed the two of the Fellowship by Elrond's sons. Gimli had to be somewhere close by in order to find the Hobbit at the end of the battle. Another odd thing. At least to me. I suppose it only seems right that Pippin would be stationed with the Tower Guard; however, I would have thought Gandalf would have wanted the Hobbit close by, due to his great love for Pippin. But who am I! 2) The words of Pippin to Alqualondë (about Merry and Denethor are the words he speaks aloud (to no one in particular) in the book. So please note - these are a paraphrasing of Tolkien's exact words. ROTK: Chapter 10: The Black Gate Opens. "I wish Merry was here," he heard himself saying, and quick thoughts raced through his mind, even as he watched the enemy come charging to the assault. "Well, well, now at any rate I understand poor Denethor a little better. We might die together, Merry and I, and since die we must, why not? Well, as he is not here, I hope he'll find an easier end. But now I must do my best."
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