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The Siege of Minas Tirith
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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5
Oathtaking

Only they didn't get any talking done on the ride
up for as they left the square, with Gandalf and
Faramir riding side by side, the people on the street
raised a cheer that made the Man and Pippin both start
and Gandalf smile as if well pleased.

The clamor continued all the way up the City.
Pippin, buoyed up by the resounding relief and joy,
grinned and waved cheerfully. Lord Faramir seemed very
much surprised and deeply moved, judging by the tears
in his eyes and slightly stiff way he bowed his
acknowledgement. But Gandalf accepted it as easily as
he did applause for his fireworks.

Pippin heard the people cry the name Faramir, and
Mithrandir too, but they also called out a longer,
more complicated name that he couldn't quite make out.
"What's that they're saying, Gandalf? ernie ferryeth
or something like that."

"Ernil i Pherianath." the wizard replied, eyes
glinting, "means 'Prince of the Halflings' for such
they take you to be, Peregrin Took."

"You don't say!" for a moment Pippin was a little
dismayed, then shrugged it aside. No doubt the mistake
would straighten itself out in due time
***

The Lady Idril met them at the top of the steps to
the Court of the Tree, very grand in a wine colored
gown with jewels of ruby and pearl, including a diadem
with long loops of pearls framing her face. "Our
father asks that you wait upon him at once." she told
Faramir.

"Such was my intention." he answered. "I bring
grave news, Idril."

"None we might not guess even without your telling
I suspect." she said briskly. Turned to Gandalf: "My
father asks that you attend him as well, my Lord
Mithrandir, for he would seek your council."

The wizard gave a little snort of disbelief then
took Faramir, who didn't seem entirely steady on his
feet, by the arm and guided him towards the Hall.

Pippin would have followed had Idril not pinned him
to the spot with those eyes of hers. "As for you,
Peregrin Took, have you forgotten you're to make your
oath to the Lord Steward in less than an hour?"

In fact he had, as his face showed eloquently.
Idril suppressed a smile with some difficulty, held
out her hand. "Come with me and we'll get you
dressed."

They went back to the lodgings he shared with
Gandalf, trailed by the same four Women as yesterday.
"I will stand as your sponsor," Idril told him as her
Women took the arms and armor he'd piled on the table
last night and laid them out neatly on the bed.
"Mithrandir and my father are not friends, as no doubt
you've gathered, and the less he's reminded of your
connection with our visiting wizard the better. Now
then," she continued briskly, "remove those odd
garments of yours if you please."

"Uh - er.." Pippin stammered, gravely taken aback.

Idril laughed. "The upper ones only, you may retain
the shirt and breeches."

Oh. Greatly relieved Pippin pulled off his coat
and started untying his scarf.

"It is the custom of our country for ladies to arm
squire or knight." she continued. "Is it otherwise in
your land, Prince Peregrin?"

"Er...I really couldn't say. We Hobbits don't make
much use of arms as a rule, barring bow and arrow for
hunting and the like."

"A happy land." She said, looked at him
thoughtfully. "How did you come to leave it, Prince?"

"I'm not a prince," Pippin said quickly. "I really
don't know how that notion got round - I'm sure I
never said anything of the kind."

Her eyebrows lifted slightly. "My kinsman Hurin
told me you were heir to the Lord of the Halfling
Country."

"I -" Pippin began, paused and thought, then said:
"You know, I suppose he's right at that. My father's
the Thain - as we call it - and he stands for the King
who's gone and leads the Shire muster at need and the
like."

"That certainly sounds like a lord to me." Idril
agreed. One of her Women handed a her a sort of long
shirt made of tiny metal rings as black as night.
"This goes on first and laces in the back.

Next came a sort of sleeveless black tunic that
went over the head and had a tree embroidered in white
and silver on the chest and more silver embroidery
around the hems. Then there were black gloves and
wristguards like Boromir's, of tooled black leather
deorated with gold and silver. And finally a sword
belt with buckles and bosses of gold that the Lady got
down on her knees to fasten around him herself. Then
kissed him on the cheek.

"That's customary too." she told him, laughing at
his expression. Got to her feet and took his sword
from the hand of her Woman. "This has the look of
Dunedain work." she said studying the black sheath
with its insets of red and yellow gems. Then she
looked at the device on the pommel, a tiny sword
surrounded by stars, and her eyebrows went up. Drew
the blade and studied the twining serpents in red and
gold that decorated it before nailing Pippin with
another of her piercing looks. "Where did you come by
this?"

"Strider, one of our company, a Ranger of the
North, gave it to me." Pippin answered carefully.

"These are the devices of the House of the Black
Sword, descended from Turin Turambar, who had their
seat long ago in the North." She told him. (1)

"Oh.. er... are they?" Pippin stammered. "I'm
afraid I don't know how he came by them." He didn't
think she believed him but she put the sword back in
its sheath and gave it to him.

He hung it from his new belt as the Lady took his
Elven dagger from her Woman. "This is not the work of
Men at all - Elf made?"

Pippin nodded. "A parting gift from the Lady of
Lorien." That caused a flutter among Idril's Women but
she seemed merely interested. "You have guested in the
Golden Wood have you? You must tell me about it
sometime -" she glanced at the clock above the bed.
"But not now! Come, Peregrin, we must hurry. It
wouldn't do to be late." (2)
***

Gandalf brushed past them on his way out with a
face like a thunderstorm as they came into the Hall.
Pippin winced, and heard the Lady sigh with something
very like exasperation.

Denethor was standing in front of his black throne,
washed and shaved and looking very different from
yesterday, he even smiled at Pippin. Lord Faramir was
off to the side, looking bleak and unhappy, and the
tension in the room tingled like sleet on Pippin's
skin. The three of them, Faramir, Denethor and
Gandalf, must have had a terrible fight. He wondered
what about.

Pippin stopped when Idril's hand tightened on his
shoulder, some paces short of the dais, and bowed.
Denethor bowed back.

"My Lord," Idril said in a clear voice that rang
the length of the big room without being in the least
loud, "I bring before you Peregrin, son of Paladin
Lord of the Land of the Halfings, who asks leave to
enter the service of the White Tower."

"Welcome Peregrin son of Paladin of the Halflings."
Denethor answered. "I thank you for your offer and
accept it gladly. For we will have need of all folk of
courage and good will, great or small, in the days to
come." Denethor sat down on his throne and looked at
Pippin expectantly.

Idril pressed down on his shoulder and he knelt,
feeling totally foolish but determined, and recited
the words she'd taught him: "Here do I swear fealty
and service to Gondor, in peace or war, in living or
dying, from..." for a heart stopping moment he
couldn't remember what came next, then he did: "from
this hour henceforth, until my lord release me, or
death take me." The solemnity of those last words made
him feel very suddenly very sober indeed, and a little
frightened.

"And I shall not forget it." Denethor stood up and
came down from his throne to stand right in front of
Pippin. "Nor fail to reward that which is given." the
Steward put his hand under Pippin's nose, remembering
his instructions Pippin kissed the ring on it, then
Denethor cupped his chin and tilted his face upward so
their eyes met. He was not, Pippin saw, taking this
swearing entirely seriously, (and who could blame
him?) but Denethor's amusement was not unkind as he
finished the formula: "Fealty with love, valor with
honor," he released Pippin and shot a cool look at his
son. "Disloyalty with vengeance."

Oh dear. Pippin stood rather unhappily sensing the
argument, whatever it was, between Faramir and his
father was about to break out again. Denethor went to
sit at a table set up nearby and laid for a meal.
Faramir didn't move.

Pippin, uncertain, looked to Idril, now standing to
the left of the throne with her Women, for
instructions. She signed for him to stay where he was.

"I do not think we should so lightly abandon the
outer defenses. Defenses that your brother long held
intact." Denethor said to Faramir as he loaded his
plate with fruit and cold meats.

"What would you have me do?" his son asked quietly.

"I will not yield the river and Pelennor unfought.
Osgiliath must be retaken." was the crisp reply.

Idril frowned.

Faramir said flatly; "My Lord, Osgiliath is
overrun."

Denethor didn't seem to care. "Much must be risked
in war." he gave Faramir another cold look. "Is there
a captain here who still has the courage to do his
lord's will?"

The tension between the two Men was palpable. Why
were they so angry with each other?

Faramir said, pain in his voice. "You wish now that
our places had been exchanged. That I had died and
Boromir had lived."

Pippin winced. Uh-oh, just the wrong thing to say.
Didn't he *know* what his father was sure to answer,
angry as he was just now?

Yet the father hesitated for a moment, and the
words came out softly, almost reluctantly. "Yes, I
wish that."

'No you don't.' Pippin thought. Looked at Faramir
and his heart sank. Clearly his son believed that he
did, there were tears in his eyes.

"Since you are robbed of Boromir, I will do what I
can in his stead." he said. Bowed and turned to leave,
then paused. "If I should return, think better of me,
Father."

And Denethor replied, without looking up: "That
will depend on the manner of your return."

Pippin stood still. He wanted desperately run after
Faramir, to pull at Denethor's sleeve, to beg them
both not to part like this, not now when any parting
might be forever. But he didn't move. It wasn't his
place.

But it was Idril's. She gave her father a darkling
look that reminded Pippin sharply of Strider, then
swept down the hall after her brother followed by her
inevitable bevy of shadows.

And Pippin was left alone in the grand, white stone
hall with a clutch of silent, statue-like Menservants
and a father pretending he didn't care he'd just
broken his son's heart.
*******

1. In my Movieverse AU the swords Aragorn gives the
Hobbits at Weathertop came originally from the armory
of his kinswoman Aranel, Lady of the House of the
Black Sword.

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