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The Siege of Minas Tirith
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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11
Besieged


The next day, Pippin's third in Minas Tirith, was
dreadful.

It began, as usual, with him reporting for duty at
the third hour. Denethor was still wearing his dark
mail and sword under the heavy black furred robe and
seemed preoccupied, barely noticing Pippin's arrival.

Gandalf, Hurin and the Outland captains came in
soon after and Pippin helped the gentlemen in waiting
set chairs for them.

"Still no news from Faramir." Hurin told his uncle
grimly. "He should have met the enemy no later than
yesterday afternoon, and his courier, telling of the
result, reached us long since."

*Unless there was no one left to bring tidings.*
Pippin thought. And looked worriedly at his master.
Yes, that was what Denethor - what they all - feared.

Imrahil turned to Gandalf. "Can you See anything,
Mithrandir?"

The wizard shook his head. "There is a darkness
over Osgiliath that defeats my Sight."

"And mine." the Steward said, as grimly.

"Then we must go and seek news." Imrahil said
firmly. "Dol Amroth will reinforce Faramir."

"No." said Denethor, and as Imrahil glared at him.
"You accused me last night of wasting lives, but I
spent only what Gondor could afford to lose. All who
could be spared rode with my son. If we send more we
will not have enough to hold the walls."

"The Lord Steward is right." Gandalf agreed. "We
have no more strength to risk on such ventures - at
least until Rohan comes."

"But will Theoden come?" Lord Hirluin asked. "Will
he remember our old alliance?"

"He will come." said the Wizard heavily. "Even if
he comes too late."

*For all the good it will do us then.* thought
Pippin.

Word came, finally, in the afternoon and it was
bad, though not as bad as it might have been. Faramir
was alive but had been repulsed with great loss. He
was falling back to the Pelennor wall and Causeway
forts but did not expect to be able to hold there
long.

"It is the Nazgul Lord that defeats us." the
messenger told the Steward and his Captains. "Even our
bravest quail at his coming. And his own followers
fear him no less, yet they would slay themselves at
his bidding."

Pippin remembered Weathertop and shivered.

"Then I am needed there more than here." said
Gandalf, and strode swiftly down the hall and out the
great doors.

Pippin looked after him in dismay but Denethor,
sunk in his own dark thoughts, seemed scarcely to
notice. "If my son wins back across the Pelennor at
all it will be with the enemy hot at his heels. Unless
Rohan comes soon we are undone." then he roused
himself and turned to Pippin. "You are dismissed
Master Peregrin." and rising from his throne went out
a side door of the Hall, his gentlemen servants
hurrying in his wake.

So Pippin went back to his lodging to eat a
solitary lunch and supper and spent the long night
huddled in a chair on his balcony, eyes straining
eastward for the first glint of white that would be
Gandalf returning. But the wizard did not come.

He was wakened from a fitful doze by the bell
sounding the first hour of the day, though all was
still as black as night. Rubbing his eyes he sat
forward and saw red fire flare north and east, and
after a moment a dim rumble reached him like distant
thunder.

Thowing aside his blanket he ran down the stairs
and out of the house then up the lane and through the
arch into the Court of the Tree. Men and Women lined
the walls of the great stone buttress, eyes bent
anxiously northward. Pippin spotted Beregond among
them and pushed in beside him. "What is it? What's
happening?"

"They have taken the wall." the Man replied grimly.
"They are blasting breaches in it. The Enemy comes."

"Oh, where is Gandalf?" Pippin all but wailed.

"And where is Faramir?" asked Beregond, as bleakly.
***

Pippin went to the Hall at his usual hour but the
Steward was not there. Instead one of his gentlemen
servants stood waiting to take the Hobbit through the
side door Denethor had used yesterday, along a gallery
and up a winding stair to a chamber high in the White
Tower.

His master took no notice of him, but stood looking
intently through the eastward window. After a moment
Pippin dared to come to his side and look out too. The
plain of the Pelennor was dark, the houses abandoned
and their folk safe within the City wall, but at its
eastern edge fires burned, and standing beside
Denethor it seemed to Pippin he could almost hear the
clash of weapons and see tiny figures fighting.

Abruptly the Steward moved away, going to look out
of the northern window. Pippin stayed where he was and
at long last saw the gleam of white he'd watched for
all night. Gandalf and Shadowfax at the head of a line
of wagons, escorted by a few horsemen.

Pippin wet his lips, dared to break the brooding
silence. "My Lord, Gandalf returns."

Silently Denethor returned to his side and together
they watched the White Rider enter the City gates and
gallop up the seven circles to the Court of the Tree,
dismount and disappear into the tower.

After a few moments a gentleman in waiting opened
the door to the Steward's chamber and Gandalf entered,
white robes spattered with black Orc blood, looking as
grim and weary as Pippin had ever seen him.

Denethor asked the only question that mattered: "Is
Faramir returned?"

"No," the wizard answered, "but he still lives and
is unwounded. He is resolved to stay with the
rearguard and cover the retreat of as many Men as may
be saved, but I doubt they can hold for long. The one
I have feared is come."

"Not the Dark Lord!" Pippin blurted, forgetting his
place.

Denethor laughed bitterly. "Nay, not yet, Master
Peregrin. He will not come save to triumph over me
after all is won."

"It is the most fell of his Captains, the one I
spoke of before, Pippin, the Witch King of Angmar Lord
of the Nazgul who is come." Gandalf said quietly.

The Steward's lip curled. "Then, Mithrandir, you
have a foe to match you. Or can it be you have
withdrawn because you are overmatched?"

Pippin flinched, expecting an explosion, but the
wizard answered quite gently: "It might be so, but the
time for our trial of strength is not yet come. I came
to guard the wounded saved from Osgiliath and the
Rammas."

"Let us go down." said Denethor.
***

Bands of Men, weary and often wounded, trickled
back to the City all that dark morning and afternoon
as Faramir slowly striped the forts of their
defenders. Each new groups reported him still alive
and still - somehow - holding Men to his will even in
the face of the Captain of Despair.

Denethor's hands were clenched, white knuckled, on
the arms of his throne. Pippin hovered at his side in
growing fear. If Faramir fell what would become of his
father? If only they hadn't parted as they had - in
mutual hurt and anger. Now that it was too late Pippin
bitterly regretted his silence. If only he'd spoken -
at the very least he might have made them think again!

When the rearguard came, if they did, they would be
hotly pursued, Prince Imrahil drew up his swan knights
in the square inside the Great Gate ready to sortie to
Faramir's support. But they were not needed.

It was a breathless guard, run all the way from the
Great Gate seven hundred feet below, who brought word
that the Enemy was at the walls and Lord Faramir
returned - alone - dragged at the heels of his
exhausted horse.

Denethor ran out of the Hall, Pippin and his
gentlemen right behind, just as Faramir was carried
into the court and set down beside the dead Tree.

"Faramir!" he cried, casting himself on his knees
beside his son. "Say not that he has fallen!"

"They were outnumbered." the fair haired Captain of
the Citadel told his Lord bluntly. "None survived."

"My sons are spent..." Denethor staggered to his
feet, stumbled away from Faramir's inert body. "My
line has ended!"

*No, please no, not Faramir too!* Pippin knelt
beside the litter, touched the Man's face. And
Faramir's eyelids fluttered as if he wanted to open
them but hadn't the strength to do so. "He's alive!"

"The House of Stewards has failed!" the father
wailed.

"He needs medicine, My Lord!" Pippin called
desperately after him - but Denethor didn't seem to
hear. "My line has ended!

"My Lord!" Pippin pleaded, unheeded.

The Steward reached the wall and stopped, struck
motionless by whatever he saw below. Pippin, still
crouched over Faramir, heard the crash of falling
stone and screams rising from the city below.

Suddenly, shockingly, Denethor cried aloud in a
voice of thunder: "Abandon your posts! Flee! Flee for
your lives!"

Citadel Guards, gentlemen in waiting, even the
normally immoveable Fountain Guards exchanged
horrified looks. Pippin saw Gandalf and Lady Idril
come through the arch between the King's Hall and the
White Tower. The Lady stopped, staring at her father
as if she couldn't believe her ears. But Gandalf
strode towards him in an angry swirl of white robes
and, as Denethor turned away from the wall, struck him
full in the face! Then a second blow to the stomach
knocked Steward to the ground.

Gandalf whirled on on them, eyes blazing. "Prepare
for battle!"

After a stunned moment everybody began to move;
Guardsmen to the stair in Gandalf's wake; the
gentlemen in waiting to see to their Lord; and Idril
to bend over her brother. Pippin looked up, and was
shocked by the bitter anger in her face.

"I told you didn't I?" she said to the unconscious
Man. "I hope you're satisfied, Brother. You may have
ruined us all!" only then did she seem to notice the
Hobbit. "You know where the Houses of Healing are do
you not, Peregrin? Run now and tell them we have need
of a healer for the Lord Faramir and the Lord Steward."

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