"Best we make ourselves scarce for a while,
Pippin." Gandalf said as they left the wall, going
down a flight of steps to the ground. "Denethor will
not be pleased, and he knows me well enough to see my
hand in this."
Pippin felt a sudden qualm. Was it wrong to side
with Gandalf against Denethor now that he was in the
Steward's service? But Gandalf was his friend, not to
mention the only person he knew in this whole city, he
couldn't just abandon him.
"Don't worry, my lad," the wizard said kindly,
reading his mind, "you are no oathbreaker, for you
have not yet taken the oath only offered to do so. And
I promise once you are so bound I will not ask
anything of you that would go against your duty to
"Thank you." Pippin said with heartfelt relief and
gratitude as they passed under an arch between tower
and hall into the Court of the Fountain. "So where are
"First to visit Shadowfax and then down to a tavern
I know in the First Circle. I have spoken with the
lords of the City, now I would hear what the people
have to say."
Tavern, that sounded promising. "Do they brew good
the wizard shook his head. "Passable, just
passable. I would recommend the wine over either beer
Gandalf's tavern proved to be a great grey stone
building with two wings embracing a pleasant bit of
garden. They sat at a small table in a sort of
pillared porch overlooking the garth, slowly emptying
a jug of red wine, (which really was very good -
almost as good as Old Winyards) and chatting with the
There were tall, dark haired people, proud and
light eyed, who reminded Pippin of Strider but more
who were rather shorter and thicker, often with dark
eyes and swarthy complexions. And even a few who were
fair haired and blue eyed like the Rohirrim. They all
spoke in a formal, old fashioned way - just as Boromir
had - and were terribly polite, calling Gandalf 'Lord
Mithrandir' and Pippin 'Little Master'.
And they were scared, every one of them. Even more
scared than Pippin himself because they understood
what was happening so much better. They were a brave
people these Gondorim, had to be with that terror on
their borders, but losing Boromir had torn the heart
out of them - and Lord Denethor wasn't doing anything
about stepping into the breech, not even sending for
Boromir's brother Faramir, who was apparently off
fighting somewhere. Not but the folk seemed to have
some doubts about him.
"The Lord Faramir is a fine Man, no one questions
that, wise and noble as one of the High Lords of Old."
An old Man told Gandalf. "But he's not the warrior his
brother was - and a warrior is what we need now, not a
"He is gentle and kind and very handsome," the old
Man's daughter said consideringly, "but he doesn't
shed light around him as Boromir did. It doesn't lift
your heart just to look at him."
Pippin knew exactly what she meant. "You felt safe
with Boromir," he agreed, "no matter how bad things
got you knew somehow he'd get you through it." Just
like old Strider really in that respect, or Gandalf.
Then he remembered and his throat filled with tears.
"He got us through, Merry and me, but he couldn't save
The Man and Woman looked at him in surprise. Pippin
couldn't talk, he was too busy trying not to cry, it
was Gandalf who explained: "Peregrin travelled with
Boromir, and was with him when he died."
There was a murmur and stirring among the Gondorim
at the nearer tables, a number of people edged closer.
"Could you - could you tell us what happened,
please, Little Master?" the Woman asked hesitantly.
Pippin looked at Gandalf, who nodded slightly, took
a deep breath and began. By the time he'd finished
every Man and Woman in the Old Guesthouse was
clustered around their table and there wasn't a dry
eye to be seen - even Gandalf's.
"He was a great Man with a great heart and died a
death worthy of him." the wizard said softly. "Nor was
his life wasted, Pippin. Had he not blooded the Uruks
as he did they might not have simply fled with their
prizes but stayed to hunt out and slay your other
Pippin nodded, speechless but comforted. He didn't
like to think of Boromir's last effort as wasted.
"But it is bitter that he should be taken from us
now, just when we need him most." said an older Woman
behind Gandalf's chair.
"It is." he agreed. "But give Faramir a chance.
True he is no Boromir, but he has both courage and
wisdom. Give him the trust you gave his brother and I
promise he will not disappoint you."
It was just short of noon when they finally left
the tavern - to find people hurrying past on their way
to the wall with others whispering fearfully together
on the arcaded porches nearby buildings.
"What it is?" Gandalf called to one of the hurrying
Men, "What's happened."
"Nazgul!" he called back. "Four or five of them
above the causway forts."
The wizard stood frozen for a moment, eyes focused
on something far away, then blinked back to life.
"Faramir! Pippin, run up to the stable and fetch me
Shadowfax. Bring him to the Great Gate as fast as you
Pippin did run all the way up the six levels of the
city. By the time he got to the stable he had scarcely
enough breath left to gasp out: "Shadowfax, Gandalf
The great stallion lifted up his head, dark eye
alert and eager as it fixed on the Hobbit. Pippin
dragged open the stall door, pulled over a mounting
block and scrambled without grace onto the broad back,
clutching a double handful of mane. "Now, quick, down
to the Great Gate."
And Shadowfax launched himself like an arrow from a
bow, tearing down the winding road to the first level
in a bare fraction of the time it had taken Pippin to
run up it.
After the first moment Pippin released his death
grip on his handfuls of mane, so smooth was the great
steed's gait that he felt in no danger of falling
dispite his speed and the lack of saddle or stirrups.
As Gandalf had once said; if Shadowfax consented to
bear you he made it his business to see you stayed on
They barely paused in the great square behind the
City gate, just long enough for Gandalf to swing
himself up behind Pippin, then the three of them
flashed through the half opened gates and out onto the
In the distance ahead Pippin saw a troop of
horsemen, some in armor others in dark leather, under
attack from Nazgul mounted on fell beasts like the one
Legolas had killed over Sarn Gebir. As he watched they
stooped upon the riders to snatch up one or two at a
time, horse and all, and hurl them again to earth to
be broken or trampled by their comrades.
Clutching again at Shadowfax's mane, in a worse
terror than that of falling, Pippin wondered what even
Gandalf could do against four or five the Wraiths and
their mounts. He soon found out; as they neared the
fleeing horsemen the wizard raised his staff and beams
of fierce white light broke from its tip, striking the
the Nazgul aside as they stooped upon their prey.
They wheeled, screaming in frustration, and gave
way. Shadowfax changed direction, heading now back to
the City with the fugitives close behind. The gates
swung open and they thundered inside, filling the
square with exhausted and shaken Men and horses, as
the folk of the City came hurrying down the side
streets to meet them. Even Shadowfax was slightly
winded, dipping his head to drink from the square's
"Mithrandir!" a voice cried and Gandalf twisted to
look at the speaker. "They broke through our defenses.
They've taken the bridge and the west bank. Battalions
of Orcs are crossing the river."
The fair haired captain from the Citadel pushed his
way through the horsemen. "It is as the Lord Denethor
predicted! Long has he foreseen this doom!"
"Foreseen and done nothing!" Gandalf flared. And
Shadowfax, finished with his drink, wheeled away from
the fountain to let his riders face a tired looking
Man on horseback.
This had to be Faramir, Boromir's brother, tall and
fair haired as he had been. Very like indeed was
Pippin's first thought, then their eyes met and
Faramir's weren't like Boromir's eyes at all, though
as blue, but like Elves' eyes; wise and gently sad.
They stared back at Pippin, and into him, with an
intensity that quickly became uncomfortable. Pippin
turned his head aside, wishing the Man would look
Gandalf said "Faramir?" in a puzzled sort of way,
then, enlightened: "This is not the first Halfling to
have crossed your path!"
"No." said the Man
Pippin looked up eagerly at that. "You've seen
Frodo and Sam?"
Faramir nodded, those eyes still fixed on Pippin
but somehow less unnerving now he knew why he was
being stared at.
"Where? When?" Gandalf demanded, a strange mixture
of anxiety and hope in his voice.
"In Ithilien, not two days ago."
Two days. Just two days ago Frodo and Sam had been
alive and well. Pippin looked up at Gandalf, he too
seemed reassured, even happy.
Then Faramir said: "Mithrandir, they've taken the
road to the Morgul Vale." and Gandalf's face froze.
"And then the Pass of Cirith Ungol?"
A grim, silent nod from Faramir.
This wasn't good, Pippin could see that plainly
enough, but why? "What does that mean?" he pleaded.
And Gandalf said urgently: "Faramir, tell me
"My Lord," it was the captain of the Citadel again,
speaking to Faramir. "You must report to your father
at once." and there was a tone of warning in his voice
that Pippin didn't quite understand.
Nor did he understand the sudden, grim set of
Faramir's face as he answered. "I intend no delay, for
my tidings are dire indeed. Ride to the Citadel with
me, Mithrandir, we will speak as we go."