Title: Son of Gondor
Beta by Llinos and Marigold
This was written for Marigold's Challenge #37, which was to write a story about characters learning about another culture, and with the starter sentence "It was a long way down and ____ averted his/her eyes, suddenly feeling dizzy."
It was a long way down and Pippin averted his eyes, suddenly feeling dizzy.
"Pippin!" Merry shouted, with a mixture of exasperation and anxiety. "Whatever are you doing?" What was his young cousin thinking? His wounds weren't even completely healed yet!
Pippin grinned sheepishly at his elder cousin. He was sitting on the balcony ledge of the house immediately beneath the one shared by all the hobbits and Gandalf. For some reason (and it was a peculiar one even for this particular hobbit), he had thought it would be fun to see if he could climb all the way from the lower street to their house, just to see if it could be done with any amount of ease. He had climbed the mountainside to light the beacon at Amon Din easily enough, so in his mind, it should not be problem to do this. Why should he want to do this in the first place, well.....only Pippin Took knew the answer to that. And the answer was...why not?
"Pippin! You must be 50 feet up if you're a foot! Come down this instant, before a fall does what a troll failed to do."
Pippin rolled his eyes. Merry could be such a mother hen at times.
"Merry, I'm bored! There's nothing to do here but sit around and wait for Strider to decide he's going to do ... whatever it is he's waiting to do. I had to find something challenging to keep my mind occupied."
Strider had been crowned King not five days ago, and he had requested that the Fellowship stay in Minas Tirith until he deemed the time was right to carry on with the next important event. What this event was, Pippin had no idea. Only Gandalf seemed privy to this information, and he wasn't being forthcoming.
Merry shook his head. "Pippin, are you daft? This city is huge! How can you be bored? There must be plenty of trouble waiting for you to stir up. Didn't you make any friends during the siege? Why don't you spend some time with them?"
Pippin sighed. "They're all too busy doing their duties and trying to set the city to rights again. Even Bergil has been assigned a task; he's helping with any errands that need tending to for the Houses of Healing. There are still a great many wounded yet that are recovering."
Merry was used to coming up with ways to occupy his easily distracted cousin. "I'll tell you what, Pip. If you abandon this foolish climbing quest of yours...and don't look at me like that, I get shivers just looking at you.... I will find something for us to do together. I have an idea, actually."
"Merry, you're not going to try and teach me herb-lore, are you? Because no offence, but that is the most boring subject I have ever..."
"Pip! Please, do you really think I would be foolish enough to believe you'd be interested in that? Come down, and I'll tell you my idea."
Grumbling, Pippin padded after Merry as they walked up the stairs to where the historical archives were kept. Honestly, how could Merry think that Pippin would be interested in reading old, dusty, mouldy documents that only contained boring numbers, dates and names? It didn't sound any more interesting than studying herbs, which for some reason fascinated Merry no end. Why couldn't Merry have left the plants to Sam, and found something more exciting for a hobby? Something like archery, or swordplay?
"Merry," Pippin whined, "I'm really not in the mood for poring over boring documents. Can't you think of anything better?"
Merry looked at Pip solemnly. "I thought you might be interested in learning about Boromir's culture."
Pippin looked staggered. "I beg your pardon?"
Merry rolled his eyes. "Really Pippin, do you pay attention to anything? This is Boromir's home; I thought we could honour his memory by learning something about the history of his family. The Stewards ruled in place of the Kings for many years, you know; it might just be interesting reading. There may even have been battles."
Pippin perked up. "Really? Battles? Do you think so? Now that WOULD be interesting."
Merry smirked. "I thought so. Now let's find the Keeper of the Archives, and see if he can find us some interesting reading material."
During the first part of the Quest, Merry and Pippin had found a fast friend in Boromir. He had taken to them right away, determined to teach them how to defend themselves, how to hunt, how to survive in the wild in general. He had never treated them like children, but from the beginning had handled them with the utmost respect and care. Maybe because he had been in charge of soldiers for a long time, or perhaps they had put him in mind of when he and Faramir had been younger, but for whatever reason the halflings had kindled feelings of protectiveness and mentorship. He was used to being in charge, and when he realized he wasn't to play a major leadership role on the Quest, he turned his attentions to Merry and Pippin, who of all the halflings seemed in need of his care.
When he was not teaching them survival skills, he was telling them stories. Stories of his homeland Gondor, to be sure, but also tales of the North Kingdom of Arnor. He was very eloquent, spinning epic tales that spanned more than one age. The hobbits would sit in awe, jaws dropped, as they listened to these tales. During the telling of these stories, Merry and Pippin could shut out everything around them as they imagined landscapes, towering cities, raging battles, and their like. It was a needed distraction from the seriousness of their mission, adding a measure of camaraderie between the three of them.
When Boromir had fallen defending them, Merry and Pippin had not had time to grieve properly. First there was their ordeal with the orcs, then they had found Treebeard, and the siege of Isengard had begun. After that, the palantír incident had whisked Pippin away, and both had many things happening that preventing them from taking the time to honour the Big Man's memory. Finally, after the battle at the Black Gate and the return of Frodo and Sam, time stopped spinning, and the grief welled to the surface in force. There had been many nights when Merry and Pippin had clung to each other, weeping until there were no tears left.
Once back in Minas Tirith, time was again taken up with many distractions, not the least of which was Aragorn's Coronation. Many feasts and celebrations were taking place, as well as the re-building of the City. But they had never forgotten Boromir, or the sacrifice that he had made. They spent a lot of time in the presence of Faramir, who had been more than willing to tell them personal stories of his older brother. They learned a lot about their lost friend during this time.
Now there was even more time on their hands, and Merry's idea to learn more about the culture of Gondor, and the Stewards in particular, sounded like a welcome distraction. The Master Archivist retrieved some texts he thought would be of interest to them, and set them in a quiet corner to start their research.
"Merry!" Pippin exclaimed. "Did you know that Boromir was named for the most famous Captain known to Gondor?"
Merry smiled indulgently at his cousin. "Yes, I've come across that in my readings too, Pip."
"And did you also know that, just like OUR Boromir, he died of a wound sustained in battle? Granted, it was a lingering wound, but a battle-wound nonetheless."
"Yes, they both were noble men." Silence hung over the two hobbits for a few moments as they were each lost in their own thoughts.
Pippin said, "It's amazing how much of Gondor's culture has been built around warfare and defence. Soldiers are held in high esteem, especially the Captains. The Guards of the Citadel .... of which I am one now, thank you very much....are the cream of the crop, and very much respected. The Stewards have seen a lot of battle, especially from the south and east. Umbar and Harad seem to have given them plenty of trouble, for hundreds of years now. And being on the border of Mordor.... it must have been a very uneasy existence for them. Until now."
Merry was thoughtful as well. "I wonder how well the Gondorians will adjust to this new age. The threat from Mordor has been overthrown, and the Corsairs are being brought to heel as well. There will be a long stretch of peace ahead, or it is to be hoped so. I hope that the adjustment will be a smooth one, and that other endeavours will be pursued and allowed to flourish."
Pippin nodded. "I think it'll be all right, Merry. Aragorn will see that it is. People will get used to peace, and Gondor will thrive, I have no doubt."
"I suppose you're right." Merry grew pensive.
Later they sought out Faramir for more information than the documents had provided. Faramir was more than happy to sit with them and tell these heroes from the Shire about his home. They learned that soldiers had their own particular culture; if the father was a soldier, then the sons were as well. Not many people came from 'outside' to join the armed forces. Boys could start being trained as early as 15, although they couldn't officially join the ranks until they came of age at 21. The daughters would more than likely end up marrying the son of a fellow soldier. To become a Guard of the Citadel, one had to work his way up within his unit to command a certain number of forces, and had to prove himself, either in battle or in fighting contests. Pippin had been a special circumstance, help unlooked-for in a time of dire need. It had never been expected of him to actually fight.
Faramir went on to describe the Day of the Soldier... a celebration held every year on the first of September. The Pelennor Field would be dotted with tented stalls selling their wares, and behind them would be tents of the travellers who had come from all over Gondor to converge on Minas Tirith. The very front of the field was dedicated to games such as archery, sword-duelling, foot races, and horse racing. A parade of all those of Minas Tirith's soldiers that were in or near the City would march all the way from the Citadel to the Field, banners for each company waving proudly. And at the head would be Boromir, son of the Steward. He had had this duty every year since he had come of age.
All three faces were wet with tears as this vision coalesced in their minds: Boromir, tall and fair, straight-backed upon his horse, helm on head, shield and spear clutched in hand. He would be at the head of a long line of horses and men, stepping proudly onto the Field under sable banners bearing silver trees. Faramir's vision was memory, Merry and Pippin's imagination, but neither vision failed to move. Merry's hand was clutching Pippin's shoulder, and Pippin was leaning into Merry's embrace. Faramir sat apart, shunning touch for solitude. His thoughts couldn't help forming the question.... who would be at the head of the parade this year?
Pippin broke the silence. "He was a great man, Faramir. I would be proud to have had such a brother."
Faramir wiped his face with his sleeve. "Thank you, Pippin... yes, he was, and I am. I'm sorry..."
"No need!" Pippin hastily exclaimed. He wiped his own face, then, in typical hobbit fashion of making light of everything, exclaimed, "Really, Faramir, what kind of host are you? It's time for tea! Where's the food?" The mood duly lightened, Faramir laughed and set to providing the hobbits with the meal as requested. The remainder of the afternoon was spent talking of lighter things.... how repairs went in the City, what Aragorn might be planning next, Faramir's own future plans (which included a certain beautiful heroine with golden hair by the name of Éowyn.)
Afterwards, replete with sweetcakes and tea, Merry and Pippin were returning to their house. Both hobbits were uncharacteristically quiet. Merry broke the silence. "It's just so different from the Shire, isn't it, Pip? We have taken it for granted that we would always be safe and secure. So many other places are just the opposite. Gondor has had an uneasy existence with the Shadow for most of her existence. They've always had to be vigilant and ready for anything. We'll have to properly thank Strider for the Rangers' protection of the Shire."
"I just hope everything is all right back at home," replied Pippin. "I hope that Sauron's reach never made it that far. If it has ... we may be in for a rough homecoming."
Merry's jaw was set. "Well, if anything needs to be put back to rights, the four us can handle it. After all, we've faced Nazgúl, trolls, orcs and wizards. How much worse could it be?"
Pippin laughed. "Well, I'm thinking it will be weeks before we know for sure. Do you know what this thing is Strider is waiting for?" Pippin inhaled sharply. "I'll bet I know! A wedding! Aren't Strider and Arwen betrothed? Oh, now that would be a sight to see.... the wedding of an Elf and a Man!"
Pippin's chatter continued as the two hobbits made their way home. The weight of strong emotion had passed, and Merry felt contentment settle over him. It had been a good day, even with the feelings of sorrow and loss. Memories always contained good as well as sad times. Merry and Pippin now had more of Boromir to take home with them, to keep in the corners of their hearts, and that was no small thing.