Particularly for Jeannette, Dave, and Peggy, and their families, with thanks for acceptance and Seders and Shabbots shared. With thanks to Fiondil for his help with the language issues, and to RiverOtter for the beta.
“And have you all that you require for your comfort, Master Samwise?” asked a voice.
Sam looked up from his cup of ale, rather surprised, for he’d not heard Prince Faramir approach, followed by his son Elboron. “I’m well enough at the moment, Captain Faramir,” he said. “Was gettin’ a bit much for me, is all, seein’ where the camp was raised, and memberin’ it all.” He took another sip before setting his cup on the table beside him. “It don’t look much the same, but it still brings back the memories, it does.”
“I can imagine,” the Man said softly as he carefully lowered himself to sit beside the Hobbit. “I was not well enough at first to leave the City, and then was too busy preparing for the coming of the King and arguing with those lords of the realm who would have preferred to keep things as they were to visit the camp here, although I did my best to see to it that sufficient supplies and comforts were sent for the needs of those who were worst hurt and those who must serve them.”
Faramir smiled. “I think on all our Lord Elessar did for those who were injured and still marvel. My father might have visited those who were wounded, but for the first hour or so he would have been visibly uncomfortable, for never was he so injured that he could not rise and go about other needful work. Seeing those so hurt they could not rise or would never fully recover to be as they were before made him feel most distressed. In time he would finally find one with whom he could converse easily and the discomfort would pass at last, but Boromir and I came to wager on how long it would be before he would meet that one. Indeed, I preferred to see to it my father was led to those with whom I believed he would relax early in his visits to the healers’ camps or the Houses of Healing. Boromir, however, would at times become impatient with his discomfort....”
Sam found himself smiling at the Man’s words. “And so you do the same with me, eh? Talk on to help ease the discomfort?”
Faramir’s smile widened. “Ah, but you have found me out!”
Sam became more serious. “I thank you for it. Trouble is, it’s a bit too much the same out there as it was, and too much different at the same time, if you take my meanin’. It’s all just a bit--well, off is the only word as comes to mind. And that puts me off, at least a bit.”
The doors opened, admitting the King Elessar and his personal guard, accompanied by his Queen, Diamond, Estella, and Rosie, Elanor following behind them. Sam was noting who had--and hadn’t--entered the building. “So,” he commented, “Pippin and Merry’ve decided to continue their lookin’ about, have they?”
Aragorn nodded. “Yes, they are doing so. They went first to the grove where we set up the enclosure for you and Frodo, and I believe that Merry’s memories were as stirred there as yours have been just to be here at all. So much of this is bringing his longing for Frodo’s presence to the fore, but he says it is good that this is so. He was describing what it was like to first see the two of you, and then how Pippin appeared at the time, how desperately afraid he was but how that fear fell away as he saw you all three returning to normal day by day.”
“I don’t quite understand, Lord Strider,” Sam said slowly, “just why these monuments have all been put together, out here in the wilderness, like. Who will even see them?”
The King sat down opposite his friend and reached out to take Sam’s hand. “Your land has always been sheltered from much of the evil that has troubled the rest of the world, and for that I rejoice. So it is that, although you and Frodo know perhaps better than most just how fragile peace can be and how destructive and pervasive evil can become, still you always knew peace and security as you grew up.”
“Well, if we did, a good deal of that was due to you and your folk keepin’ a watch on the Shire, though we didn’t know about it at the time.”
Aragorn smiled, his love for Sam clear to be seen. “That may be so, but as a result it’s harder, perhaps, for you to realize how much what was done here has had an impact on those in Gondor, most of whom have known only the enmity of Sauron and the destruction of his creatures’ assaults on their lands all their lives. To know now the peace that we do, and to know that most of it is due to the sacrifices of Gondor’s army and Rangers, the alliance we have with Rohan, and beyond all else on the willingness of you four Hobbits and those of us who marched to the Black Gate to sacrifice our own lives to see Sauron destroyed forever--people have made this a route of pilgrimage.”
“A route to follow to honor those who were most willing to die that they might live. A route to follow to appreciate just what was suffered that peace might be restored to the world.”
Sam slipped his hand free of the King’s, and reached for his cup of again. He took a sip, obviously considering what he’d just been told. At last he returned the cup to the table, folded his hands together, and looked directly into Aragorn’s eyes. “I can begin to understand, Lord Strider, sir. What I don’t understand is why that monument as was unveiled today, the one Master Ruvemir sculpted, why it only shows you and us--my Mr. Frodo and me, I mean. We wasn’t the only ones as was hurt near to the death, after all.”
Aragorn was shaking his head. “That is true, Sam. You must understand--for most among Men it is easier to appreciate such an experience if they focus on only one or two individuals rather than on many. Nearly six thousand Men, one Hobbit, two Peredhil, one full Elf, one Dwarf, and a Wizard marched upon the Black Gate. Nearly five hundred Men of Gondor, Arnor, and Rohan died that day, and at least that many were seriously wounded, along with one Hobbit who came very close to losing his life.”
“Pippin, then,” Sam commented, again lifting his cup.
“Even so. The mind of a Man simply cannot take in the enormity of such numbers. But it can focus on one or two and their plights, and from those one or two it can then apply what it learns of those individuals to the rest, and so better achieve understanding. And if those one or two are exceptional in some way, the lessons are learned the better.
“Remember also that of all who struck out at the might of Sauron that day, of soldiers, Rangers, Princes, Kings, lords greater and lesser, and even common bakers who put by their rolling pins to take up weapons for one last act of defiance against the forces of darkness, the victory was won in the end when two small souls came to the Sammath Naur, winning through not by might of war but by faithfulness and endurance. Only when they brought the Ring within range of the Fire could the Creator use Gollum to see It taken from Frodo and into the abyss, delivering both the Ringbearer and all others forever from Sauron’s intended tyranny. Soldiers and warriors--for ages they have opposed the lords of Evil; but this war was not ended by the sword but by the feet of those who love the land that bore and ever sustained them, and the people who had helped them become who they were.
“I was not proclaimed a Lord of all the Free People of Arda for leading the assault on the Black Gate----”
Sam gave a great laugh, holding his cup between both his hands. “And you think as you ain’t seen as such?”
All shared in that laugh save the King himself, who merely smiled fondly at the Hobbit. “The Great Eagles proclaimed that honor for you and Frodo, Samwise Gamgee, not for me. Oh, they cried out to the folk of the White City that their King would return to them and dwell among them once more, but there are but two they declared as Princes of all of the West--you and Frodo.”
Sam was flushing deeply, and took a deep draught of his ale to cover his embarrassment.
Aragorn continued, “The most extraordinary feat in the entire history of the ongoing struggles against those who would enslave all others to their own will was achieved by a scholar and a gardener. The grocer who has never held anything more lethal than a trimming knife, the farrier who has never seen any greater blaze than that in his forge and who knows his own hammers but not those intended for purposes of war, the goodwife who has done nothing of violence worse than preparing a fowl for her family’s daymeal--they cannot fully appreciate the warrior’s life. But they know when two of their own kind have accomplished great deeds, and they will honor them. And when two who are not of the warrior’s way yet manage to bring about peace without violence, soldiers take notice. You and Frodo mean a good deal to both parties. And when such as the Great Eagles, who are believed to be servants of the Elder King, declare folk Princes of the West--well, that serves to capture the attention of even those lords of the realm who have not been convinced there are Powers dwelling within Aman.”
Sam shrugged, obviously uncomfortable.
Elanor, who’d come to stand behind her father and had her hand on his shoulder, shared a look of sheer pride with the Queen, while Rosie simply beamed at her beloved spouse. “I must say,” she confided in him, “you look mighty fine in that statue. Too bad the other children aren’t here t’see it, too. They’d all be so proud of their old dad!”
Sam shuddered at the thought. “That’s as might be, I suppose, sweetling. But can’t you imagine as how much trouble as they’d of been had we brought them all? I doubt as they’d of left the Citadel standin’! Little Primrose is into everythin’ lately; and the kitchens wouldn’t be proof against the lads! Robin loves his sweets, not to mention all the sweets of anyone else, and will ferret them out wherever they’ve been hid! Bilbo’s at that clumsy age when all he has to do is look at somethin’ fragile and down it bumps to shatter t’splinters, and Rosie-lass and Goldilocks can’t seem t’speak on aught but clothes and lads--when they’re not raidin’ the strawberries. I never seen any children as keen on strawberries as ours!”
He sighed. “Oh, they all wished t’come, ’tis true, and in especial Ham and Merry and Pippin-lads. Oh, those three’ve always wanted to stand there at the battlefield and see where their Uncle Pippin killed him his troll. I hated leavin’ them home, but suspect as it’ll be best they come when they’re all older. And as Frodo-lad will be servin’ on you two as a page when you come north next year, he’ll have his special time with you away from the rest. I’m just glad as he’s there to keep an eye on the younger ones--mostly he’s a steady one as can keep the rest in line. And as much devilin’ as they all was doin’ afore we left, they need some steadying.”
Aragorn rose as Lady Avrieth entered carrying the Princess Idril, who was but a year old; and reached to take his younger daughter from her. “Ah, our small, benevolent tyrant has risen from her nap, I see. And just in time to join us as we go out to the small river where we used to gather in the evening to talk.” He looked down at Sam. “I think you will be pleased to see the spot once more. Pippin is insisting we must have tea there, and swears it has not changed since we were encamped here.”
“It hasn’t changed all that much,” Sam agreed once they’d passed the line of bushes and trees that screened the sheltered spot where those of the Fellowship had been wont to spend much of their time. “True, there’s benches where those logs used to be, but the great stone on which you used t’sit is still there!”
In time all were settled. Pippin was lying on his back on the grass with his head in his wife’s lap, listening to the King’s sculptor describing how he’d come to choose this particular pose for the memorial statue, and Merry was seated nearby with his legs crossed, burnishing his sword. Master Faralion, the minstrel who had composed and first sung the Lay of Frodo of the Nine Fingers all those years ago, was idly picking out individual notes on a lap harp as he listened. Somehow they all felt the memories of Frodo and that horrible time were easier to deal with here, with the familiar, cheerful murmur of the water rushing to join the Anduin as an immediate backdrop to their conversation.
Arwen sank down to sit upon the ground near the bank of the small river, slipping her shapely feet out of her shoes and cooling them in the rushing water, while Elanor joined Princess Melian, who held out a platter of preserved pear slices to share between them. Estella sat quietly near Princess Éowyn and her daughter, and gladly accepted small Princess Idril into her lap, watching as young Faramir Took and Prince Eldarion, who were immediately joined by Elboron, scoured the bank for pretty stones.
Servants soon appeared with blankets and hampers of food and drink for the party. Rosie looked up from the dish of cheese slices she’d been served to examine the face of her husband. “Did Master Frodo come here often, there while you was restin’ here, love?” she asked.
“That he did. But then we all liked it here, we did. Was easier here, by the river, to remember as we was safe now and not in want no more. Frodo would approach the water, kneelin’ much there where our Lady is sittin’, and dip his hands in to drink. He often needed to drink, even if he wasn’t particularly thirsty, just to be certain as he’d not be that again. He’d close his eyes and listen, and at the sound of the water he’d start to smile again. Oh, that crease in his brow--that never quite went away; but he would still know relief here.”
The others who’d been part of the Fellowship nodded in recognition of how that reflected what they, too, remembered.
“I’m just surprised that Legolas and Gimli weren’t here, too,” Merry said, meticulously picking the last shards of shell from his boiled egg.
“They are seeing things readied at our next stop,” Aragorn answered with a quick, smiling glance at his youngest lying in Estella’s lap. “There is no guesthouse there, or at least not yet. And they seem more tied to the memory of the day of the last battle than they are to the two of you awakening here. I must say that I cannot wait to see the sculpture that Master Celebgil has created there. And I am amazed that he was able to get those who took part in the events there to agree to come and allow him to draw their likenesses.”
Arwen laughed her beautiful, quicksilver laugh. “Ah, there I think you can thank Radagast the Brown, who agreed to serve as intermediary.”
“Seems a bit daft to me,” Sam muttered, reaching for another of the fine cakes provided them, “reversin’ the memorials as you have. I mean, Strider, unveilin’ the statue here on the New Year, and then waitin’ for my birthday to do the second, and two days after that the one as is to remind folk of the victory. And I still think as it’s odd to place the second on the side of the road as we’ve been told it is.”
“Well, that is where it happened. And it will be seen more often that you might think. The emissaries from Rhûn will pass it every time they come to Gondor, as shall many of those who travel between Laketown or Dale and Minas Anor,” Aragorn sighed as he sipped from his mug of herbal drink. “It will be good for them always to be reminded how it was that Mordor was felled.”
“Ham will be that disappointed, I know,” Rosie commented, “not bein’ here t’see and all, I mean.”
“And I’m just relieved as he’s not here to be gettin’ into arguments with his brothers as to which should get to stand where Pippin there killed his troll,” Sam said. “Now, that would be a fight worse’n what you all saw when you were here afore!”
The others laughed. “At least young Wynnie is staying with those she loves best, since Merry and Estella left their brood at home,” Diamond sighed. “She refused to come if Sam and Rosie’s younger ones couldn’t come, too. But then I don’t know if she’ll ever leave the Shire willingly to go further than Annúminas, and even then she wishes to hurry us home again! I think she’s rather afraid of Outside.”
Farry Took paused and looked up from his perusal of a shard of green jade he’d found. “No, she’s not so afraid of Outside as she is of changing,” he said. “She knows that Da and Uncle Merry and Uncle Sam and especially Uncle Frodo all came back changed from what they were, and she’s afraid that if she’s away too long she’ll change and maybe not recognize herself, or at least not fit in any more back home.”
It was a sobering thought, and the rest of the time spent by the water was largely quiet. Certainly Frodo Baggins had never found the true homecoming they’d all hoped for--not that he’d truly looked to return to the Shire at all once he’d accepted the burden of the quest upon his slender shoulders. It was likely he was far more at home where he was now, in the alien lands far to the west of Middle Earth, than he’d proved on his return to Hobbiton and Bag End.
A few more days they stayed in the guesthouse at the Fields of Cormallen, and all now explored the region about the fields. Aragorn showed them where the camp for the enemy wounded had been set up, and spoke of his visits there. Sam told of his forays with those who foraged for the camp. Master Faralion described his private interviews with various members of the Fellowship and his meetings with Frodo during the weeks spent within the camp before the return to Minas Tirith. Pippin explained what it was like to waken to find himself unexpectedly alive, and realizing Merry was there with him. Merry was quiet during much of their stay in the guesthouse, but there was no question he was listening hard. Sam found himself wondering at that; but then Meriadoc Brandybuck had shared Frodo’s ability to keep his own council until he felt it time to let others know the thoughts and plans he’d already set in motion.
On the evening before they were to leave the guesthouse to take part in the second unveiling Sam found Merry leaning against the boulder on which Aragorn had so frequently sat, there by the river. He’d drawn out his pocketknife, and with it was shaving a piece of wood to toothpicks with deft and sometimes savage strokes. He gave only the briefest of glances at the Mayor of the Shire as Sam joined him. After a moment he said, as if they were merely continuing a conversation, “There are many places that bring back the memories, of course. It’s not as if this doesn’t happen elsewhere. Down by the Brandywine where he taught me to swim and to handle a boat, in the grove where he did much of his plans for distracting farmers and smallholders, in the old mill where he spent a good deal of time reading, in his old room where Perry sleeps now. Or there in Hobbiton--the place where he interrupted Lotho and Ted Sandyman when they were tormenting me and the two of them turned on him, and it didn’t stop until some lads from the village came and joined us, or atop the Hill where we’d lie out together and watch the stars.
“But here----” He paused and let his hands drop, looking around them. “It ought not to look so much the same, I suppose, lying as it does beside this smaller river. But it does, and I remember coming here with Aragorn and Gandalf, and them comforting me while I cried. The three of you when I arrived--you all were so badly hurt--so wounded! And I so feared none of you would awaken again. I don’t know that Aragorn ever gave up hope, not once he’d brought Frodo’s spirit back to his body, but I had so little. And it was worse as the shadow of the Black Breath was still lingering some.”
He looked up to meet Sam’s eyes directly. “He was going to leave us without saying farewell, Sam! He was just going to disappear--again! Oh, how I hated that in him, his fear of saying goodbye. He would not even say it when he left the Hall to go with Bilbo to live in Bag End--he held me and kissed me, but wouldn’t say it to me! And when he’d been visiting we’d have to watch him like a hawk to keep him from simply slipping away.”
At last Sam agreed, “It hurt him so, and him wouldn’t say it at all if’n he could avoid it. Was easier for him, bein’ able to slip away when he left you or the others as he loved, knowin’ as the last memories he’d have of you was you and him smilin’ together the night afore. It hurt him, seein’ you lookin’ sad as he was goin’. He’d of slipped off on me if’n he’d thought as he could of got away with it.”
He came closer, hearing Merry closing the knife. He held out his arms, and Merry moved into them, and he felt the Brandybuck’s tears on his shoulder.
“There, there,” he said softly, as if this was yet another of the young Gamgees he was comforting. “At least Master Ruvemir has him smilin’ in the statue here, stead of him lookin’ as uncomfortable and lost as him did when he did awake.”
He could feel the hitch in Merry’s breath as the other Hobbit found himself laughing through his silent sobs. “He did look most confused, I must say!” Merry said, straightening and rubbing at his eyes with the back of the hand holding the stick. “I don’t think he quite believed it was all happening, and that he’d truly awakened after all. I think in some ways it offended his sense of Baggins propriety and decorum in some odd fashion I doubt that I’ll ever fully understand. There always was far more of his Aunt Dora and Uncle Dudo in him than he ever admitted.”
And the two of them were suddenly laughing together, remembering how unutterably fussy Frodo Baggins could sometimes appear, and how that used to spark Bilbo into becoming acerbic, which in turn would turn Frodo stubborn as the Hill itself. Sam found himself looking at Merry’s hands, noting how Frodo’s cousin tended to hold things much as Frodo himself had done. It could easily have been Frodo’s penknife, with Frodo paused in the act of sharpening a new nib to answer a question. And he knew his eyes were swimming slightly as again he met Merry’s.
Merry’s face grew more solemn once more. “This is proving a bit of a pilgrimage to me, following your part of the journey. I came here afterward, and only saw folks getting better. I’d never meant to be separated from him--from any of you! I’d meant to go with you to the very end.” He looked away before continuing, in a softer voice, “I want to understand just how he felt--what he went through.”
“Be glad as you can’t, for he’d never of wanted that for you nor anyone. He loved you that much--it would of killed him if’n he’d thought as you had to know that.”
Merry’s expression was steady and he said with soft determination, “And it nearly killed me, seeing him lying there, emaciated to the point of being skeletal, his skin an unnatural grey, his eyes sunken, barely breathing, watching as they carefully coaxed liquids and broths into him a little at a time, all through the night and day. At least you could swallow almost normally.”
He turned away slightly, looking off into the distance. “He was my cousin, and almost my brother. He was there when I was born, and always after, until at last Bilbo took him to Hobbiton. But he never gave up loving me, even when I behaved horribly to him or others. And at times it feels as if part of me went with him--” he looked back to catch Sam’s eye again, “--just as it must feel for you, too.”
Sam couldn’t deny it, that feeling of brotherhood he felt for Frodo Baggins, that feeling he knew he shared with Meriadoc Brandybuck, that feeling each of them had at times felt ought to be private just to himself. They did not speak any more words, but the look the two of them shared communicated far more than mere words could convey.
Early the next morning the party headed north to the unveiling of the next monument, just where the final spur of the Ephel Dúath stuck out that divided Ithilien from what had been the waste before the Black Gate. They reached the camp at sundown, and entered into the pavilions prepared for them, raised by those who’d come earlier, accompanying Prince Legolas and Gimli Gloin’s son, assisted by Radagast the Brown, who’d come together to see all prepared for this day.
They welcomed the three Hobbits and their families with great joy, and were immediately beset by young Prince Eldarion, who was obviously a favorite of both Elf and Dwarf. Rosie was soon overseeing the serving of the meal prepared to the new arrivals, and Sam could see the amusement in the Lady Arwen’s eyes as she accepted her meal--more than she could eat, Sam was certain--from Mistress Rose’s hands. Meanwhile Melian and Eldarion and Prince Faramir’s son Elboron, accompanied by Elanor and Farry, went out to explore the area surrounding the camp, joining Master Celebgil’s apprentices and peppering them with questions about their parts in the sculpting of the monument to be unveiled upon the morrow.
As the party came together at the dawning for first breakfast Aragorn made a point of sitting by Sam. “I am sorry that neither of us can be by the White Tree or the Shire’s mallorn this morning,” he said, “for I grieve not to be there for the first blooming. I must say that as the blossoms open I tend to feel as if I had both you and Frodo by me, sharing in the delight of it.”
Sam nodded his understanding. “Well, at least we’re here by you in person. I only hope as Frodo realizes we must be together, and that we’re all thinkin’ of him.”
As Rosie settled herself by her husband’s side she momentarily took and squeezed his hand. “I’m sure of it, lovey. How could he ever doubt that?”
When all were finished they were arranged into a procession of sorts by Gimli, and all approached the great veiled structure that had been raised upon the spur. There they were met by Master Celebgil himself, who looked down on them all, and particularly on Master Ruvemir, who’d been his master in the White City in the last years of his own apprenticeship.
The younger sculptor cleared his throat, then began: “I wish to greet you all this day, and thank you for coming here to see this monument unveiled. How many in the future may choose to come to see it I could not say, as isolated in many ways as it is. However, this is a point of importance in the final battle of the War of the Ring, the place where our beloved King, who had not yet accepted the Winged Crown, came to the succor of the Cormacolindor as they were brought out of the destruction of Mordor and the torment of Mount Doom. We know now that neither of those restored to us had expected to survive that turmoil, but the Powers and the One saw to it that they received the grace to be assured their sacrifices had not been in vain.
“That this event never be forgotten by the peoples of the western lands, we now unveil this memorial to that moment.” So saying, he gave a signal to his apprentices, who, assisted by Princess Melian and Elanor Gardner, pulled the ropes that uncovered the great grouping.
This was constructed not of stone, but of bronze, and consisted of depictions of three of the great Eagles facing the King in his battle armor, the figure of the Wizard Mithrandir beside him, all of them set on the lower slopes of the great spur of the mountain. Highest up, as if settling himself on a rocky outcrop, Gwaihir the Windlord was shown just beginning to fold his great wings. Gandalf had just received the body of Samwise Gamgee into his arms from the second Eagle, and was tenderly pulling the Hobbit close to his breast. And Aragorn was holding out his hands to accept the form of Frodo Baggins from the talon of the third Eagle.
All stood, examining the grouping in awe, when cries from above caused them to look up. Out of the glory of the blue sky dropped a half dozen of the great Eagles, each alighting near the monument. Immediately Men, Elves, and Dwarves pulled back respectfully. Once the birds were settled, the King and Queen of the West stepped forward with Radagast to greet them.
“We welcome you, and rejoice you have come to join us as we honor the memory of the saving of the Ringbearers,” the Lord Elessar said, bowing deeply. “Certainly had it not been for your assistance it is likely none of us would be here now, and particularly not Lord Samwise and his family.”
The Eagles fixed their gaze on Sam, who had been beckoned forward by the King, and who stepped forward steadily enough, although he was flushing deeply.
Gwaihir bobbed his head respectfully toward the Hobbit. “We greet you, Lord Perhael, and are glad you have made the journey from your own land for this.”
“And I thank you for drawin’ my Master and me from the destruction of the mountain,” he answered, bowing low. “We’d of not survived if’n you hadn’t braved the rocks and all to come and find us.”
“And this is one of your young?” the Windlord asked, fixing his attention on Elanor, who had followed her father forward. He turned his head to examine the Hobbit lass carefully, and appeared enthralled. “A worthy child, and blessed by all, I would say.” Again he bobbed his head, this time to Elanor. “Lord Iorhael must have rejoiced to see you born, child.”
She curtseyed. “Yes, I’m told he was very glad, although I barely remember him. He went away when I was still a small bairn.”
Sam put his arm about her and drew her to his side, a gesture that appeared to spark approval in the eyes of the Eagles, who now all turned their attention to the memorial. “It is much as it was,” commented one of the others, “although, Lord Gwaihir, I don’t remember you having gone up so high.”
Gwaihir made a noise that Sam realized was his manner of laughing. “And never did I do so; but it is a worthy depiction in spite of that, I think. And they have caught your reluctance to release the Cormacolindo to the Eagle of the Star very well, Landroval.”
The other Eagle mantled slightly, perhaps in embarrassment, but all in all the great birds appeared pleased by the depiction made.
Master Celebgil now bowed to the Eagles. “And I thank you all for your agreement to allow yourselves to be depicted, and for the patience you showed while we sketched you to make certain we caught your seemings as faithfully as we were able.”
“You have done well enough,” Gwaihir answered him. “It was our honor to be allowed to do all that we did in that last battle. To face down the Nazgûl and the dumb beasts they’d enslaved was most satisfying. And to be allowed to bring Lords Perhael and Iorhael out of the destruction was even more so.”