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The Siege of Minas Tirith
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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9
Dinner And An Outing With Friends

Beregond's house stood in the fourth circle, in the
shadow of the great crag that divided the City. Built
of white stone, as were all the houses in Minas
Tirith, and backed right up against the circle wall.
There was a shop on the ground floor with racks of
jars and bottles and boxes on display in the arcaded
porch and a spicy jumble of delightful smells coming
from the open doors. Pippin sniffed appreciatively.

"My wife is an apothecary," Beregond explained, "a
maker of medicines, perfumed essences and other
concoctions."

They didn't go into the shop but instead climbed a
flight of stone steps at the side of the house to a
first floor door that opened onto a stair hall. The
anteroom beyond it had two sets of double doors
standing open; one pair leading to a porch overlooking
the street and the other to a large, bright room full
of tall, dark haired Big Folk.

Beregond introduced his wife, Hiril, a green eyed
lady with curly tendrils escaping from her tight
braids; her brother Iorlas, a young Man wearing a
loose gown with a plaster covering half his face and
leaning heavily on a stick; his own twin sisters
Baradis and Berethil, as alike as two peas with
Beregond's grey eyes; and their mother, Anguirel,
shorter than her children, her hair laced with silver.

Finally he presented his own four children: the
very pretty but very serious girl in her early teens
with a large book cradled in the crook of her arm was
Beleth, his eldest. Then there was a young boy almost
a head taller than Pippin called Bergil. A small girl
with enormous blue eyes and an even tinier boy,
Bronwen and Borlas. All four stared at Pippin in open
wonder.

"How old are you?" Bergil demanded. Adding
proudly; "I am ten years already and will soon be five
feet."

"Bergil!" his father and mother chorused. But
Pippin just grinned.

"I am nearly twenty-nine, so I pass you there;
though I am but four feet, and not likely to grow any
more save sideways."

Bergil gave a low whistle. "Twenty-nine! why you
are quite old! As old as Uncle Iorlas."

"Thank your very much, nephew." Iorlas said drily.
"But I don't feel quite ready to be classed among the
greybeards yet, do you Master Peregrin?"

"No indeed." Pippin agreed. "In fact I'm still
little more than a boy as my folk reckon such things
and won't "come of age" as we say for another four
years yet."

"Bergil," said his father with resignation as well
as reproof, "this is not the kind of courtesy I would
have you show an honored guest."

"Oh I don't mind." Pippin said hastily as the boy's
face fell. "Nothing wrong with an honest question."

The Gondorim didn't seem to go in for dining rooms,
a long table had been set up under the arched windows
at the end of the parlor, as Pippin thought of it, and
spread with what even a Hobbit would regard as a good
dinner; jellied brawn and jellied beef, roasts of pork
and mutton, and spitted fowl of all kinds from a large
goose to a plate of dainty capons, hot and cold
vegetable dishes, an apple custard and mince pastries.

The tensions swirling around his new master had
robbed Pippin of all appetite while in Denethor's
presence, but now it came back with a rush. His mouth
watered and he set to with a will. The children stared
in open astonishment as plateful after plateful
vanished. Bergil opened his mouth to comment but
closed it, words unsaid, at his mother's gimlet look.

"At table small men may do great deeds." Beregond
observed lightly, an eye on his son. "And Peregrin has
had hard duty today, waiting upon the Lord Steward."

"I remember the pair of Halflings we met in
Ithilien ate enough for two Men apiece." Iorlas said.

Pippin turned to him eagerly. "You saw Frodo and
Sam?"

The Man nodded. "Only from a distance, I fear. I
can tell you no more than they looked well and were
determined to continue their quest."

Pippin wondered if Iorlas had any idea what that
quest was. Something in his eye and carefully neutral
tone suggested that he did.

"I am one of Captain Faramir's company of Rangers."
he continued. "If not for these wounds of mine, got at
Osgiliath, I would have ridden with him this morning.

"I am grateful you could not!" Hiril said firmly.
"A foolish waste of Men's lives - what Lord Denethor
was thinking to order it or Lord Faramir to agree to
it I cannot imagine."

"They think it worth the sacrifice and we must
trust their judgment." Beregond said firmly. Changed
the subject. "The reason for this early dinner,
Peregrin, is that the Captains of the Outlands are
expected at the usual dinner hour and we intend to go
down to the Great Gate to watch them march in. You are
welcome to join us."

"I'd love to." said Pippin. "But I have duty again
the second hour of the evening."

"No doubt the Lord Denethor wishes you to attend
him when he greets the Captains. You will have time
and to spare."

"In that case I accept with pleasure." Pippin said
politely.

"How are you faring in the Steward's service,
Master Peregrin?" Hiril asked.

"Well enough," Pippin answered, perhaps a little
doubtfully. "I'm getting used to it, and Lord Denethor
has been very kind." he sensed skepticism and added, a
bit defensive on his master's behalf: "Of course he
has a lot on his mind these days."

"He does indeed." Beregornd agreed grimly. "I am
truly glad I do not have to bear such a burden."
Iorlas nodded firm agreement. The Women seemed less
convinced.

Which reminded Pippin. "Lady Idril doesn't approve
of this attack on Osgiliath either - or so Beregond
tells me. I couldn't see any sign of it myself."

"She wore the colors of the Telemmirioni to farwell
the troops." the Man explained.

Everybody but Pippin seemed to understand what that
meant. "Who are Telemmirioni please?"

" Descendants of Telemmaite who was one of those
who claimed the crown after the death of Mardil, the
first Steward." young Beleth piped up. "and the only
one who refused to accept the decision of the Council
and swear to Mardil's son Eradan."

"Idril is descended from them on her mother's
side." Beregond continued. "To wear their colors is
accounted a challenge to the Steward's rule. But as
the heiress of that House Idril is entitled to do so
and has done from time to time to show her displeasure
with father or brothers."

"But why wasn't this Telemmaite made king?" Pippin
asked.

"Because he had Northman ancestors," Beleth, a
learned young lady who liked to show off her
knowledge, replied "and so his blood was not pure."

That just didn't seem right. "I'm sorry." Pippin
said. "But I don't understand why that should make
such a difference. You're all Men aren't you?"

Beregond smiled a little bleakly. "We are indeed,
Peregrin. And if we Dunedain have greater gifts than
other Men it is purely by the grace of the Valar. But
pride, alas, is our abiding fault and we do hold
ourselves better than other Men, as we should not."

"Especially as there is, these days, little
difference between us and those we call 'Lesser Men'."
his wife agreed somberly. "The race of Numenor fails,
and Lady Idril, for all her mixed blood, is the last
of the line of the Kings."

"Not quite the last." said Iorlas very drily.

"The last of noble rank at least." said Beregond,
then explained to Pippin; "there are a few commoners
with a thin strain of the Blood Royal but they are of
no account."

"Would that the Lord Steward agreed with you." said
Mistress Anguirel from her end of the long table.
***

After they had eaten all save Iorlas, Dame Anguirel
and little Borlas, walked down the circles of the city
to join the throngs gathering in the square behind the
Great Gate.

Beregond looked at the tightly packed backs between
them and the open pavement and said: "Let us try
outside the gate, the crowd will be less there."

It was, or perhaps strung as they were along the
roadway they just seemed less. Pippin and his
companions worked their way to the front and waited.

After a few minutes horns sounded in the distance,
echoed by trumpets from the rampart above the gate.
The people began to cheer, calling "Forlong! Forlong!"

"What's that they're saying?" Pippin asked Bergil,
beside him.

"Forlong has come." the boy explained. "Old Forlong
the Fat, the Lord of Lossarnach. That is where my
grandfather lives -" he broke off to shout; "Hurrah!
Here he is. Good old Forlong!"

Pippin saw am enormously fat old man encased in
mail, with a long grey beard showing beneath his black
helm. Mounted upon a big, thick limbed horse with a
scarlet and green banderole flying from the spear in
his hand and leading a dusty line of of grim, swarthy
Men, broad in the shoulders but shorter than the
Dunedain, armed with great battle axes.

Over his head he heard Hiril mutter; "So few! a
mere two hundred or so."

And Beregond answer; "We hoped for ten times that
number. No doubt Forlong has heard the tidings from
east and north and dares not strip Lossarnach of its
defenders. Still every little is a gain."

Forlong was followed by a Lord Devorin of a place
called the Ringlo Vale with a following of three
hundred Men. Then the Lord Duinhir of Morthond and his
sons, Duilin and Derufin, and their company of five
hundred archers. A very large, if ill equipped, force
from Anfalas, far away on the western coast, was led
by their Lord Golasgil. Then came a few score grim
looking hillmen from Lamedon who didn't seem to have a
leader any more than did the hundred or so Fisher-folk
from the mouths of the Anduin. Finally there came
another well appointed company; three hundred green
clad men-at-arms led by a handsome golden haired lord
riding beneath a green banner. Followed by the largest
and grandest of the forces consisting of both mounted
knights and tall men-at-arms, about a thousand in all,
under the golden banners of the Prince of Dol Amroth.

"Three thousand all told." Beregond said quietly.
"Not enough, not nearly enough. But with the Black
Fleet raiding at will can we blame them for putting
the peril to their own homes and families first?"

By now the sun had vanished behind the mountain of
Mindolluin and it was outlined in in fire, but the
city below was drowned in shadow. Pippin shivered for
it seemed an omen, and a dark one. The children ran
ahead at the heels of the Men of Dol Amroth and he
said quietly: "Wouldn't it be as well to get the
little ones out of the city? And Mistress Anguirel and
Iorlas too?"

"I agree." said Beregond drily. "But my good wife
does not."

"Minas Tirith will not fall." Hiril said with calm
confidence. "They are safer staying here at home than
they would be as prey for raiders on the long road to
Lossarnach."

Beregond shrugged and gave Pippin a half-smile.
"You see? I can do nothing with her. Are Halfling
women so stubborn?"

Pippin thought of his mother and sisters and aunts
and cousins, and nodded. "Oh yes."
***

They left Baradis and Berethil at their own little
house in the second circle, and Hiril and her children
stopped at home too, but Beregond continued up to the
Citadel with Pippin to hear the news the new levies
had brought.

"I'm more than a little nervous," Pippin admitted
to his friend as they walked up the near empty road,
lit by lamps, "I've done some fighting but never been
in an actual battle before."

"Nor have I." said Beregond. Startled Pippin looked
up at him and he smiled wryly. "I have been in the
service of Gondor all my life but never yet lifted a
sword in her defense. I was chosen early for the
Citadel Guard and never had the fortune, or
misfortune, to be sent on campaign. So I am even less
experienced than you, Peregrin, with your many
adventures."

"That's very odd." Pippin said, trying to be
tactful. In fact it struck him as very strange indeed
given what Boromir had said about Gondor's danger.
There couldn't be anything wrong with Beregond himself
or he wouldn't have been chosen for the Fountain
Guard.

"Oh there is a reason." the Man said. "A foolish
one in my opinion, but not alas the Steward's."

His mother had said something like that too, then
Pippin remembered in what connection and came to a
full stop at the entrance to the tunnel leading up to
the Citadel.

"You're descended from the Kings too, aren't you?
and Denethor doesn't trust you because of it."

"Alas yes. And unecessarily - I know my place very
well and will keep to it." the Man laughed briefly.
"Don't look so amazed, Peregrin, the blood is old and
thin and means nothing."

*Maybe.* Pippin thought. *And maybe Beregond
reminds Denethor of Aragorn too.*

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