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The Siege of Minas Tirith
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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10
The Outland Captains

Pippin went to his lodging for a wash and brush up
before reporting back to Denethor, and was delighted
and relieved to find Gandalf smoking and brooding in a
chair before the empty hearth.

Forgetting his new dignity as a guard of the
Citadel he flung himself into the wizard's arms.
"Gandalf at last! I was begining to think you'd ridden
off somewhere and left us."

Startled out of his dark thoughts Gandalf gave him
a quick hug, a sharply assessing look and said
briskly: "I am not leaving Minas Tirith until her
present troubles are settled, and certainly not
without you, Peregrin Took!"

Pippin sighed in relief.
***

The wizard too had been summoned to attend Denethor
the second hour after sundown when he would formally
recieve the Outland Captains. As the appointed hour
struck Gandalf took Pippin through a back door of the
Hall into a sort of dressing room where one of
Denethor's gentlemen servants was waiting with a
small, silver bright helmet for Pippin to wear and a
larger one adorned with ravens' wings of real feathers
for him to carry on a cushion.

Another little door led to the apse behind the
throne. For the first time Pippin saw the great Hall
of the Kings full of people, its starkness enlivened
by the richly colored, fur trimmed robes of the Men
and the shimmering jewels and gold embroideries of
their ladies. A double row of Citadel Guards in their
bright armor and gold bordered tunics kept clear a
long aisle to the doors.

Denethor was sitting on his throne, wrapped loosely
in a dark robe with a great black fur collar, having a
quiet but intensely bitter argument with Lord Hurin.
The latter was splendidly dressed in silvered armor
under a great black velvet cloak edged with gold and
pearls and had a winged helmet, like the one Pippin
was carrying, tucked under his arm.

Gandalf left the Hobbit's side to join and end the
argument with a few low voiced words. Then he and
Hurin went to stand side by side to the right of the
throne dais, and Denethor turned to greet Pippin with
a wintery smile.

"Ah, there you are my esquire. Stand you here at my
left hand."

Pippin took his appointed place feeling a little
nervous, but also enjoying the bustle and color. *Just
like one of Uncle Bilbo's stories.*

Denethor seemed to be looking for someone over
Pippin's shoulder, brow creased in what wasn't quite a
frown, then he relaxed and the Hobbit turned to see
Lady Idril coming towards them, looking unexpectedly
militant with a corselet of gold inlaid plate over her
flowing scarlet gown. She gave Pippin a smile and her
father a cool nod, and went to stand upon the dais at
his right hand.

Denethor picked up his gold tipped white rod and
stood, throwing back his fur lined robe as he did so.
And Pippin saw, with surprise, that the Steward was
clad from throat to heel in glimmering black mail with
a heavy, gold adorned sword girded at his side.

trumpets sounded from the galleries above and the
great doors at the end of the Hall were thrown open.
The Outland Captains marched in, encased in mail and
plate under bright surcoats embroidered with their
devices, each attended by squires carrying his helmet
and banner. They advanced to within a yard of the
dais, and bowed.

Denethor returned their bows. "Welcome," he said,
"welcome true hearts and true friends come to our aid
in this dark hour. Dire is the need that has brought
you here, yet for tonight let us forget fear and
rejoice to find ourselves still so well befriended."
and then he came down from his throne and went to take
the hand of Lord Forlong, bearlike in his black armor
and scarlet trappings.

The people lining the length of the Hall came out
from behind the rows of guards to mingle and talk, and
somebody put a hand on Pippin's shoulder making him
start.

It proved to be one of the gentlemen in waiting,
who signed for the Hobbit to put the Steward's helmet
down on the dais and handed him a dish of fanciful
sweets made out of sugar paste and filled with honeyed
cream or jellies.

Pippin carried it over to where Denethor still
stood talking with Forlong. The old Lord of Lossarnach
took a sweet, studying the Hobbit with keen interest.
"So this is the Prince of the Halflings I have heard
tell of. They say you've offered your allegiance and
five thousand swords to the Lord Steward here - and
when the Riders of Rohan come each will have behind
him a small but doughty Halfling warrior."

"Oh no!" Pippin said, in real dismay, "oh dear,
that's not true at all!" and looked to Denethor for
help.

The Steward's lips were twitching suspiciously and
his grey eyes glittered, but he managed to keep a
serious front. "Master Peregrin is indeed the son of
the Lord of the Halflings but he has no sword but his
own to offer us, having come so far from his homeland
on quite a different errand."

Forlong nodded. "I thought it sounded an unlikely
story. Halflings are a peaceful folk, or so our
fireside tales say."

"Not that we can't fight if we must." Pippin said
quickly. "But the last time was more than a hundred
years ago, against the White Wolves of the far North.
I'm afraid most of my people have never even heard of
Gondor - I know I hadn't until I met Boromir at
Rivendell."

"And why should you living so far away?" Denethor
asked, quite kindly. Continued to Forlong: "Forgive me
if I leave you now, my friend, but I must have a word
with my good brother of Dol Amroth."

Pippin followed his lord over to a tall, fair
haired Man draped in a shimmering golden mantle, with
swans and ships decorating his surcoat. Not a brother
by blood but by marriage and his name was Imrahil.
Pippin looked at him curiously. So that was where
Boromir and Faramir had their fair coloring from. And
just as with Faramir there was something Elvish about
the Lord of Dol Amroth. Clean shaven, unlike the other
Men of Gondor Pippin had seen, and with his golden
hair worn rather longer.

"Where is my nephew?" he asked Denethor. "Surely
the Steward's heir should be present."

"Faramir has gone forth to retake Osgiliath if he
can." was the flat reply.

"What!" Imrahil stared at his kinsman in disbelief.
"Are you mad, Denethor, to throw Men away so rashly?
And your only remaining son among them!"

The Steward's face hardened but he answered evenly
enough. "Would you rather we yielded the crossing
unfought, Imrahil? You and the other Captains might
have arrived to find Minas Tirith already besieged had
we done so. Faramir has done well to hold the Enemy at
bay for this one day, even if he does no more."

Pippin, looking up at his master, wished that
Faramir were there to hear his father's praise,
measured as it was.
***

The party - if you could call it that - didn't last
long. When the bells tolled the fourth hour of the
night the company dispersed to their various lodgings
in the Citadel or wound their way downhill to their
homes in the fifth and sixth circles.

Gandalf came back to their rooms with Pippin and
stood on the balcony gazing eastward towards
Osgiliath. Pippin sat in an armchair before the fire
munching leftover sweets.

"Faramir came to talk to me last night," he told
the wizard. "he knew all about the Ring. Did he tell
Denethor?"

"He did." Gandalf answered shortly.

"And that's why his father was so angry with him
wasn't it?" Pippin guessed. "Denethor wanted the Ring
brought here."

"Yes." Gandalf sighed, and came inside to sit in
the other chair drawn up before the hearth.

"Gandalf, what's so terrible about this pass of
Cirith Ungol? I meant to ask Lord Faramir but I
forgot."

The wizard smiled grimly. "The name means 'pass of
the spider' and it is said to be haunted by a Great
Spider, one of the spawn of Ungloliant."

"Oh." said Pippin in a small voice. Then more
firmly. "Uncle Bilbo fought off the Spiders of
Mirkwood didn't he? Frodo has Sting with him. And old
Sam to watch his back."

"That is so." Gandalf agreed, continued as if to
himself. "We must not lose hope. Frodo is still alive
and still determined to fulfil his quest. We must
trust him to find a way."

He got to his feet. "It grows late and there are
evil days ahead. To sleep while we may!"

"But-" said Pippin.

Gandalf turned at the foot of the stair leading to
his room. "But what? Only one 'but' will I allow
tonight."

"Gollum," said Pippin, "how can they be going about
with him, even following him? Faramir didn't like it
one bit - I could see that - and I can't say I do
either."

"My heart guessed that Frodo and Gollum would meet
before the end. For good, or for evil." the wizard
answered grimly, then burst out: "Treachery, I fear
treachery from that miserable creature. Yet - a
traitor may betray himself and do good that he does
not intend." he shook himself and tried to smile
reassuringly at the anxious Hobbit. "It can be so -
sometimes. Good night, Pippin."

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