Idril ran down the steps of the hall and across the
paved court catching up with her brother just beyond
the fountain as he made determinedly for the stair to
the lower circles and caught his arm. "Where do you
think you're going?"
"I have work to do." he answered eyes straight
ahead, chin high, ignoring the tears tracking the dirt
on his face.
Idril ignored them too. "The work can wait. You are
weary and hungry and smell of horse and worse. If you
have no pity on yourself at least have some for your
That jarred a brief laugh out of him. "A bath and a
bite to eat would be welcome." he conceeded and let
himself be turned around.
Idril took him to her apartments, as his own rooms
had not yet been made ready for him, ordered a bath
drawn, sent a chamberlain to fetch fresh clothing, and
had a table laid with enough food for three Men in the
When Faramir joined her a half hour or so later,
skin and hair several shades lighter and smelling of
flower essences, he devoured everything set before him
with an appetite honed by months of deprivation while
his sister entertained him with inconsequentialities;
a recension of the poetry of Gelmir of Edhellond
recently offered for sale by their favorite book
dealer; the sudden marriage of the City's most popular
female singer to a gentleman of Lamedon and her
departure from Minas Tirith amid the lamentations of
her admirers; and how their father's recent statute
closing the theatres and forbiding dinner parties or
other private entertainments had lowered spirits.
"I doubt anyone has much heart for merrymaking just
now, Idril." Faramir said quietly.
"You call dinner parties merrymaking?" she asked
drily. And her brother, who enjoyed such occasions no
more than she, smiled. "But even if you do, is it so
evil for folk to seek diversion to escape for a time
from their fears? You remember what Boromir used to
say; 'What good does it do the army for folk to sit at
home brooding in the dark? Let them put off mourning
til they have cause for grief!'"
"But they do have cause now." said her brother
"They do," she agreed. "So don't you give them
more. He didn't mean it, Faramir, you know he didn't."
He shook his head, face set. "Yes he did, Idril,
you do not know all that passed between us. I have
displeased him beyond all mending this time. He meant
She looked at him, disturbed by the conviction in
his voice but unconvinced. "I cannot believe that is
Faramir produced a semblance of a smile. "Why would
he say it if he did not mean it?"
"Because for years now neither of you has let pass
a chance to hurt the other." Idril retorted sharply.
Then wistfully: "Surely it hasn't always been so. I
seem to remember a time when we were a happy family -
or am I decieved?"
"No." Faramir answered shortly. "You are not
"Then when did that change, and why?" she almost
pleaded. "How did this war between you and our father
Her brother sighed helplessly. "I don't know Idril.
I know things changed between us - but when or how I
"Nor maybe can he." she said softly, then strongly:
"End it Faramir. Stand up to him, tell him he's asking
the impossible and refuse this ridiculous order.
That's what Boromir would do!"
"I am not Boromir." Faramir reminded her tightly.
"No. You are Faramir, the Steward's wise and
prudent son, you know this is folly!"
But he denied it. "Not folly, Idril. Father's
right. If we lose control of the river we lose the
outer defenses - the Rammas wall and causway forts
cannot hold against an attack in force."
"Then let them fall! Outer defenses are meant to be
sacrificed at need. Don't waste Men's lives on
piecemeal battles that cannot be won. Save them for
the final defense of the City."
Faramir smiled crookedly. "Reckless as always,
Little Sister, anyone would think you wanted to see an
army of Orcs under the City's walls. Better far to
keep the enemy at distance as long as we may. Boromir
retook Osgiliath once before."
"With more Men against fewer of the Enemy." she
retorted. "It cannot be done again."
"No." her brother agreed quietly. "But the attempt
will buy time. Time for the provincial levies and the
Riders of Rohan to reach the City."
"At the cost of thousands of our Men." Idril shook
her head. "To high a price."
"Time is our great need now, whatever the cost."
Faramir argued. "And it is the Steward's will that it
be done. That ends it."
"It will be the end of him." Idril said bluntly.
"You are his last son, the last of his line. He
survived Boromir's loss - barely - he will not survive
"I think he will." Faramir answered bitterly.
His sister shook her head. "You know that's not
true. Kill yourself and you kill him." then she
paused, as a new thought struck her, and her eyes
narrowed. "Or that your purpose? To revenge all the
hurts and insults in one final, shattering blow?"
"No!" he recoiled from her, from the thought, in
undoubtedly genuine horror. "Of course not, now could
you think such a thing of me, Idril!"
"Whether it is your intent or not such will be the
result." she said inexorably. "Think again, Faramir,
it's not just your life but our father's as well. And
if he dies what becomes of our people left leaderless?
Consider that too before you throw your life away."
It was a horrible afternoon.
Denethor ate not like a Man who was hungry, or one
who was enjoying his food, but like a Man trying
desperately to shut out his thoughts.
For the first time in Pippin's life the sight and
smell of food inspired no appetite. In fact his
stomach rebelled at the thought of swallowing a single
morsel. He was wondering why when suddenly Denethor
"Can you sing, Master Hobbit?"
"Well, yes." he stammered, heart sinking at the very
thought of singing 'The Green Dragon' or any of the
comic drinking songs he knew best to the Lord of Minas
Tirith. "At least, well enough for my own people. But
we have no songs for great halls and evil times."
Denethor gave him a grim look. "And why should your
songs be unfit for my halls? Come, sing me a song."
For a desperate moment all Pippin could think of
was that silly bath song of Merry's 'Sing hey! for the
bath at close of day.' which obviously wouldn't do at
all. Then he remembered Bilbo's favorite walking song
- the one they called the 'Adventurer's song':
"Home is behind, the world ahead,
And there are many paths to tread.
Through shadow, to the edge of night,
Until the stars are all alight.
Mist and shadow, cloud and shade,
All shall fade! All shall fade ..."
The words had never made him cry before, but now,
after all he'd been through, they took on a new
meaning, a new poignance. He struggled against his
tears and Denethor, absorbed in his own pain, either
didn't notice or pretended not to.
It was no better after lunch. The silent Men in
their rich furred gowns cleared the table and took it
and the chair away. Denethor sat again on his throne
and various people were admitted to give counsel or
take orders. Occasionally Pippin would help the Men
set chairs for the visitors, or serve them with wine
and little white cakes.
Gandalf returned and Pippin's nerves clenched,
bracing for another explosion. But nothing of the kind
happened. Instead wizard and Steward had a chilly but
civil discussion of recent happenings in Rohan.
Denethor seemed very interested in Eomer for some
reason; asking about his opinions and what advice he'd
given the King.
It was about teatime, as they reckoned it in the
Shire, when Denethor suddenly looked at him, frowned a
little, and said quite kindly: "You seem weary, my
small liege, have I kept you too long on your feet?"
"I am not used to waiting on the great, my Lord."
Pippin admitted. Then added stoutly: "But I will grow
Denethor smiled. "I have no doubt of it. But
perhaps it would be wise to limit your hours of
attendance at first, I do not wish to outwear you! You
are dismissed for the rest of the day, Master
Peregrin. Return to me tomorrow at the third hour."
Pippin bowed and went down the long marble floor,
past the towering statues and silent Menservants, to
the great doors which a guard opened for him.
The shadows of hall and tower darkened the court
outside where the Fountain Guards in their black robes
and strange winged helmets still stood watching over
the bleached and withered trunk of a dead tree. Beyond
them the black clouds over Mordor, lit by red fire
beneath, seemed to have come closer, almost
overshadowing the city. Pippin's heart sank to his
Here he stood in the great fortress and city of
Middle Earth, dressed in armor with the sign of the
White Tree on his breast like he belonged there - but
he didn't. He sat down on the steps of the Hall and
put his head in his hands. He wanted Merry. he wanted
to be safe home in the Shire and for none of this to
"Are you all right, Master Halfling?" a voice asked
Pippin started, looked up, then started again. One
of the Fountain Guards was looming over him, helmet
under his arm, gazing down with a kindly expression on
a face that reminded Pippin strongly of Aragorn, or
perhaps of a younger Denethor.
"Yes I'm fine!" the Man looked skeptical and Pippin
felt constrained to add: "That is to say no. But
there's nothing much wrong, just a touch of
homesickness." He consulted his insides and said
thoughtfully: "I should eat something I think, but I
can't say I have much appetite. Not to mention not
knowing where the dining rooms or kitchens are."
The Man smiled. "Now there I can help you. As my
Lord's esquire the messes of all the companies of the
Guard are open to you. If you like I will take you to
that of my own old company."
"Please!" said Pippin with relief. "And thank you,
Master - ?"
"Beregond son of Baranor." the Man said and offered
"Peregrin Took." Pippin replied, taking it. "Or
rather 'son of Paladin' as your folk would say, and very
pleased to meet you."