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I have learned much, and taken many counsels, since returning to Minas Tirith, but I have yet to hear of the event most pressing on my mind from the one who witnessed it. It is need of this knowledge that leads me this evening to the guest houses of the steward. A light gleams from an upper window of the house I seek, so I know someone is still waking. No one answers my rap at the door, so I let myself in, as I was wont to do years ago when Mithrandir studied in the city.
The old wizard and his companion are upstairs, and I am glad to find them both still awake. Mithrandir peers sharply at me from beneath bushy eyebrows before I can knock at the half-open door.
"Come in, then, my captain," he says sharply, startling the hobbit beside him, who is munching on some bread and unaware of my presence. He promptly scrambles off his chair to look at me with frank curiosity. Mithrandir is reading something, and parchments are scattered about the tabletop, save where the hobbit's dinner lies.
"Sit, then," Mithrandir invites (in a manner that is really more of an order), and I do. "Master Took, you could offer our guest some refreshment."
The little being stands straighter and puts his hands neatly behind his back, and I think with amusement that he has been taught manners at some time in his life. "Would you like something to eat or drink, sir?" he asks politely. I smile a bit at picture he presents: he has taken off his surcoat and untucked the shirt beneath it, his braces dangling, wears no shoes after the fashion of his kind, and the curls that looked brushed, if not entirely orderly, in my father's chambers are rebelliously springing out from his head.
"No, but I thank you," I answer, "and I would not take you from your evening repast, as I know you have waited upon my father all this day. Please, sit and finish your meal."
Peregrin looks as though he is going to say something in reply, but Mithrandir casts him a quick, cutting look and instead he just murmurs, "Thank you, sir," and climbs back up into his chair.
"So, Captain Faramir, which of your troubles brings you here tonight?" Mithrandir asks gravely. I have glanced over the parchments on the table, and I note that they all have to do with the ancient history of Cirith Ungol. I know, then, which of his troubles lie upon on the wizard tonight, but while they may be the most pressing, they are also the ones we can do the least about. But then, the concern I am about to lay forth is not something that any action will resolve, either.
"A trouble for which there is no balm, I fear, but one that I would know the full breadth of nonetheless," I answer. "I actually am not here seeking you, Mithrandir, but your companion."
Peregrin has just finished the last of his bread and is washing it down with water. He puts the cup down with a startled clunk. "Me, sir?" he asks in surprise.
I swallow hard. "I know you were with my brother at his death, and that you have relayed those circumstances to my father. But, if you will indulge me, I would hear it from one who was there, and not from the lips of the steward. Will you tell me of Boromir's last deeds?"
The hobbit's mouth is open, but I do not know if it is in surprise or distress. He snaps it shut and swallows hard himself, then looks at Mithrandir for guidance. The wizard has put down the parchment in his hand, and is looking at me with sympathy. He nods to the hobbit.
In a stilted voice that quavers at times, Peregrin relays what he knows of the final day of the company from Imladris, and of Boromir. But this is a far different tale from what I had expected, after what I had learned first from Frodo, and then from my father. Indeed, this is the type of tale I would have expected to hear about my brother, before these dark days befell us.
And I hear things that the young hobbit does not utter. I hear his friendship for my brother, and his anguish at his death. I hear his admiration, and his affection. I hear the words of one who knew and understood much of my brother's moods, of his failings and strengths. I hear gratitude, though in the end Boromir could not protect this small soldier. And, if I am not mistaken, I hear love, love of the man, apart from the deeds of which we now speak.
I do not interrupt but allow him to tell his tale in his own manner. We are silent when he finishes, and I see that this telling has wearied Peregrin so much that he is shaking slightly. Indeed, it has worn me to hear it, but at the same time, I feel somewhat lighter. I will set what I have learned aside for now, to be studied and pondered later, should we ever come to peace again. Yet I am glad to have learned that Boromir's fate was not ill as I had so feared, and that I saw true the peace in his face as he passed me, onward to the sea.
I finally stand, and address the hobbit. "Thank you," I say. "I know that was a difficult tale for you to relate, but I am grateful you did so. You bring me some comfort on the matter. I have wearied you, though, so I will leave you in peace now."
Peregrin hops off of his chair, and bows low to me, as Frodo and Sam had done. But when he looks back up at me, the formal manner fades away, and he addresses me as a friend.
"Boromir spoke to me of you," he says in that earnest little voice. "He missed you very much."
My eyes sting suddenly, and my breath trembles a little in my throat, but my voice is steady. "Yes," I answer quietly. "Yes, I miss him very much, too. Thank you, Peregrin, and good night."
I am to the foot of the stairs when I realize that I have neglected to speak to Mithrandir about a number of issues more pressing to our current situation than the one I have spent the last half-hour on. I pass my hand in front of my face and steady my breathing, returning to my focus, then turn and go back up the stairs.
But a noise from inside stops me at the slightly ajar door, and I linger in the corridor. It comes again: a keening, gulping whine. The hobbit is crying.
I venture closer to the door and peer inside. To my amazement, Mithrandir has pushed his chair back from the table so that he may embrace Peregrin, who is kneading his hands in the wizard's robe and pressing his face into the wizard's beard. "There, there, my Pippin," Mithrandir is saying gently. "You did very well, and I believe you brought Faramir some comfort. You have been a brave lad, and no one will ask you to relay that tale again."
The hobbit answers, but I cannot discern his words, just a high-pitched, tumbling blur of syllables. Mithrandir answers him, though, with a sad, "I know, my lad, I know," and then rubs his back in soothing circles.
For a few moments, the only sound is the small soldier's grief, but it slackens after a bit and turns to hitching breaths. Mithrandir moves him away, and then hands him the napkin from the table to wipe his face off with. "I am sorry," the hobbit mumbles as he scrubs at his wet checks.
"No, no, Pippin, do not be sorry that you mourn a friend," Mithrandir says. "But take comfort in this. Think how delighted he would be to see you now, a soldier of Gondor. He would be proud of you, as I am."
Peregrin nods his head, and as I watch, his back straightens and his shoulders lift. "I was thinking of him, you know. That is what put it into my head, as you said. He gave his life for mine, and I should like to do something worthwhile with it. I should not ever like anyone to think poorly of him when they meet me."
Mithrandir smiles, and I am struck by the grandfatherly love and pride in his eyes. He lays a hand on the hobbit's head and answers, "Boromir knew well the full value of that which he defended, and I have no doubt that you will do honor to his sacrifice. Now, it is late and you must be to your duties early, and I, no doubt, earlier. Go to bed, Peregrin, and enjoy the slumber of the virtuous."
I can see only a glimpse of the hobbit's face from my position, but I catch the far edge of a large smile for a moment, and then he has hurtled his arms back around the wizard and pressed his face into Mithrandir's neck. "I am glad you are back, Gandalf," he whispers, and then scurries off to bed.
I sneak away undetected, unwilling to disturb them further tonight. I have no claim to be proud of this small, defiantly courageous being, but I give him my admiration freely. He has my gratitude as well, for he has given me something back tonight that I feared lost forever after what I learned of my brother's actions from Frodo. It seems I need not look upon his final deeds with despair after all, but may know that they were honorable, and worthy of the man he was.
Once outside, I pause in the street to turn my eyes toward the ink-black sky. The evil in the east has poured itself over the beauty of night, and at first I cannot detect a single light from above. Then, to the south and east, down the river and toward the sea, I find a single glimmering star, valiantly beating back the dark mantle that hangs over all the lands.
And I let myself utter the words I have longed to say for more than a year now, that I feared I never could speak.
"Well met, my brother."
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