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26
Breaking Protocol

28. Gondor: “There was no avoiding it; the letter had to be composed...”
various individuals from Aragorn’s court, Pippin, Aragorn


~~~

Breaking Protocol


Galador, the Master of Protocol for the Citadel of Minas Tirith, had been droning on at the new guards and servants for the place for a good hour or better, and Pippin, himself named a Captain of the Guard (although he would exercise his rank for only a few more days), felt they had suffered at the Man’s apparently unstoppable words for far too long already. “Will he ever give over?” he whispered to the boy who stood beside him.

Lasgon, who’d been directed to serve the members of the Fellowship in their house on Isil Lane in the Sixth Circle for the past few months, shook his head. “He is far too in love with the sound of his own voice,” he whispered back to the youngest of the Hobbits who visited the White City. “I’ll wager most here have been in a stupor for the last three quarters of a candlemark!”

Pippin snorted at the young page’s comments.

At last even this Man had managed to say everything there was to be said at least thrice, and he dismissed them. Pippin shook himself, and said, “Let’s gather the new pages together, shall we?” Lasgon nodded assent, and within minutes they were leading the three new boys back toward their duty room.

“But if you’ve been a page for two years,” one of the new youths asked, “why did you have to listen to the talk as we did?”

“Because I’ve been working in the guesthouses since our Lord King Elessar was crowned,” Lasgon explained. “Master Galador apparently believes that those of us who have served outside the Citadel itself have forgotten how to behave inside it.”

“I’ll tell you one thing,” Pippin said, “if Strider is forced to suffer from such stiff behavior from you lot for very long, he’s going to forget how to be a person altogether. And I won’t have that! He and the Lady Arwen don’t deserve to be forced to be bowed and scraped to every moment of the day and night!” He looked about the wide hallway between the business portions of the Citadel and the residential wings, and suddenly a wide grin spread across his face. “Gather round, lads—and I’ll tell you what you are to do, at least once in a week!”

And the four boys leaned in to listen to the Hobbit’s directions.

*******


The King had dropped back in the line to ride alongside Pippin for a time. “I will miss my smallest Guardsman,” he said, looking down at Pippin, whose pony Jewel was larger than the other Hobbits’ steeds.

“And I will miss you, although I intend to return to Gondor to serve you as I can whenever the opportunity offers,” Pippin assured him.

Aragorn gave Pippin a wry smile. “At least I can rest assured I won’t be having to deal with Hobbit mischief constantly. Although I suspect that I shall miss even that!”

Did Pippin mutter, “Don’t be too certain about that, my friend”?

*******


As he prepared for the coming day, Aragorn went into his bathing room and reached for the carefully prepared twig he used to clean his teeth, unstoppering the small bottle of salt he used and shaking some into the palm of his hand. Dampening the frayed end of the twig, he dipped it into the salt and started working it against his teeth and gums, and----

“What is it, my love?” asked the Queen, looking into his bathing room in response to his shout of disgust.

“Someone has replaced my sea salt with sugar!” He was rinsing the end of the twig under a stream of water he was pouring from the ewer. “Today it’s sugar in the salt, and the other day at table it was salt in the sugar! Last week instead of a missive from the Farozi of Harad I was to have read to the Council I was given a picture done by the youngest daughter of one of the housemaids, and someone the week before sewed up the end of the sleeve of the shirt I was to wear. Two of my stockings have eyes and mouths painted upon them to make them puppets for the hands, and three weeks past all of my small clothes in my clothes press had been replaced with yours. One would think that the Citadel were swarming with Hobbits!”

Arwen was laughing. “I do believe, you who hold my heart, that young Peregrin Took has made certain that you will always be reminded of him, even if he is indeed returned to his own land and people.”

“There is no avoiding it,” he muttered. “I’d best be composing that letter of reprimand to him today!”

But even he was smiling some as he went to breakfast with some of the more tedious members of his Council.

-~0~-


And with love to Lavender Took and Shirebound for their birthdays!

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