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Plot Bunny: Pansy Chubb
“In the Service of The King”
The sun was high in the sky and it was a lovely spring day. Children were running in all directions, laughing and playing amongst the ruins of the White City as if all things were as they should be. Gimli had been surveying the damage with a critical eye and making plans for repairs while Legolas and Sam searched for locations to plant flowers and trees. Legolas said that he wanted to bring the beauty of living things back to Minas Tirith and Sam was eager to help the elf with this project. Merry was fascinated by the architectural plans of the City that Faramir had given to Gimli at Aragorn’s request. He had been delighted to find that the plans were like maps in many respects. He liked the ordered look of them and was now carrying them about for Gimli as the company proceeded through the streets of Minas Tirith. There was much to be done.
Pippin followed behind them at a distance. He was beginning to wish that he had stayed behind with Frodo. Frodo was probably sitting happily in the great library of Minas Tirith pouring over old family histories and the lore of the people of Gondor. Gandalf and Faramir were with Aragorn discussing important matters. Pippin tried to be interested in all of this business of rock and stone and blossom and bloom but it was simply no use. None of it held his attention. The others were very involved in their plans and so when Pippin stopped to watch a group of lads having a discussion, they didn’t notice that he was no longer trailing behind them.
The lads were far enough away from Pippin so that he could watch them and hear their voices but could not make out what they were saying. The youngsters were standing in a circle around something and talking. Pippin knew one of the lads, Bergil, the son of Beregond of the Guard. Bergil had shown Pippin around the White City of Minas Tirith when he had arrived here with Gandalf upon Shadowfax. That had been before the Battle of the Pelennor and most of the children of Minas Tirith had already been sent away to safety. Bergil had remained behind, not wanting to be sent off like a child. He and his friends had been a large part of Pippin’s introduction to Gondor. Pippin smiled as he watched the lads. He wondered what they were doing. This was the first time all day that Pippin had been interested in anything.
Just at the point at which Pippin had made up his mind to approach the lads, they all ran off, well, nearly all of them. Now Pippin could see what it was that the lads had been standing around in their circle. It was a small lad and for some reason, the little one had been left behind. Bergil and the others were already out of sight. Curious, Pippin walked over to where the child stood, looking after Bergil and the others, and said, “Hullo.”
The little lad looked over at Pippin and wiped his eyes with his sleeve. “They’ve gone off and left me,” he said with a sniffle.
“Why?” Pippin asked, pulling a handkerchief from his own pocket and handing it to the child.
“They say I’m too little to play with them,” the child said, looking angry. “They say I can’t play with them until I grow three whole inches.”
Pippin frowned in sympathy as the child reached out to give the handkerchief back. “You can keep that,” Pippin said. “I have others somewhere. My older cousin keeps a stack of them about all of the time.”
“You,” the child stared in wonder now, as if seeing Pippin for the first time. “Are you the Ernil i Pheriannath?”
Pippin sighed, “Some people of Minas Tirith insist on calling me that, but I prefer to be called by my name. I am Pippin.”
“You are Bergil’s friend,” the child grinned. “He talks about you all the time. He and some of the other lads say that you went with them to the Gate to watch for the armies.” He stuffed the handkerchief in his pocket and smiled broadly. “I haven’t ever met a Perian before.”
“Well, you have now,” Pippin said, with a bow that made the child laugh. “What’s your name?”
“I am Tyberian, son of Terendore,” the child replied. “You can call me Ty. Everyone does.”
“I am glad to know you, Ty,” Pippin said.
“I wish I could have been here before when you were here with Bergil and the others, but my folks made me go away while the battles were going on,” Ty sighed. “I wanted to stay with the others, but they wouldn’t let me. No one lets me do anything.”
“How old are you?” Pippin asked. He found it difficult to tell the ages of the children of Big Folk. He was sure that this lad was not as old as Bergil, but he wasn’t sure how much younger the child was.
“I am seven,” Ty said, standing straight. “I’m a bit short for seven but my father says that I‘ll catch up. How old are you?”
Pippin smiled, remembering himself at that age. “I am twenty-eight,” Pippin said.
“That is very old,” Ty said, looking impressed. “But you aren’t very tall, are you?”
“I am tall for my folk,” Pippin said, smiling. “I am not very tall compared to the men of Gondor, but in my home when I return there, I shall be thought very tall.”
“Is your home far from here?” Ty asked.
“It is,” Pippin said looking sad and trying not to think too much about the distance. “But let us speak of happy things now. The sun is out and it is a wonderful day. What have you planned to do for fun?”
Now, it was Ty’s turn to look sad. “I was going to play with the older boys, but they have gone off and left me again.”
“Well, why don’t you and I walk in their direction and maybe we shall meet up with them,” Pippin said. “If we do then they might let us join them, but if not, then we may find a bit of fun on our own.” He reached out and took the child’s hand in his and they set off together.
Merry looked up from the plans and frowned. “Where has Pippin got to? He’s been falling behind all morning.”
“Pippin stopped a while back and was talking to a young child,” Legolas said. “I thought that he would come along after us once he was finished, but now, I suspect that he has stayed behind.”
Merry sighed. “I should have thought that he would want to help. There is much to be done and he is, after all, a Knight of Gondor. I would think that he would take an interest in the City and its repair.”
“He might have grown tired,” Legolas said, seeing Merry’s irritation.
“I suppose,” Merry agreed, but he seemed no less annoyed by his cousin’s absence.
“That’d be a fine spot for some trees,” Sam said, pointing to a small, barren patch of earth just ahead of them and drawing Legolas’s attention.
“It would,” Legolas said with a smile. “I long to see this City filled with the beauty of growing things.”
“It’d be a fine place for some shade and maybe a nice bench or two for sittin’ and smokin’” Sam said. “Where is Mister Pippin?” Sam asked, just noticing that their youngest companion was no longer with them.
“That is an excellent question,” Merry muttered.
“Pippin!” Bergil shouted, running back to meet his friend. “I am so glad to see you again!”
“And I am glad to see you,” Pippin said as he and Ty caught up to the older lads. The other boys followed Bergil over to greet Pippin also. Pippin knew some of them, but not all. Ty stood quietly at Pippin’s side, feeling small and anxious. If the older lads took Pippin off with them, Ty would be on his own again. He knew that this was likely to happen and he was dreading it.
“I guess I should call you Sir Peregrin now that you are a Knight,” Bergil said trying to sound formal.
“Please don’t,” Pippin winced. “Today I should like to be only Pippin. I am a bit weary of being Sir Peregrin. Besides, I am not in uniform nor am I on duty.”
Bergil grinned. “Then I shall call you Pippin and we shall all just go about together as friends.”
Pippin sighed. “I am afraid that I cannot come with you, Bergil.”
Ty looked at Pippin hopefully while Bergil frowned. “But I thought that you wanted to go about as friends today. Do you have something else to do?” Bergil asked sounding disappointed.
“Not really, but I fear that I am not tall enough to come with you,” Pippin said.
“What?” Bergil looked confused.
“Ty has told me the rules on it,” Pippin said. “And as I am the same height as Ty is, then I shall need to grow two whole inches before I can play with you and your friends.”
“Three,” Ty corrected from Pippin’s side.
“Three,” Pippin said. “And I am not likely to grow any taller at my age so I suspect that I shall have to say good-bye to you, Bergil.”
Ty tightened his grip on Pippin’s hand and waited to see what Bergil might say. It was very nice to have someone around that was just his size. He didn’t feel so alone with Pippin here.
“I was only teasing Ty a bit,” Bergil said, quickly. “Didn’t you know that we were teasing, Ty?”
“No,” Ty said.
“Well, we were,” Bergil said, reaching over and running his hand through Ty’s hair. “Weren’t we just teasing?” Bergil asked, turning to his friends for support.
“You should have known, Ty,”
“We meant it as a joke is all.”
Ty’s eyes brightened and he looked over at Pippin. “Can we go with them?”
Pippin pretended to consider this and then said, “I suspect that we should go with them. They won’t have nearly as much fun or adventure without us along.”
“Splendid!” Bergil said. “We were just on our way to get some rolls from the bakers.”
Pippin’s stomach growled loudly and all of the boys laughed. “My stomach thinks that is a very good plan,” Pippin said. “Lead on, Bergil!”
“I doubt that it is anything serious, my Lord,” Faramir said, trying to lessen the matter.
“Still, we can’t have the lads disrupting things,” Aragorn said. “The shopkeeper who said that the boys were making too much noise outside of his market must have had a reason to report it.”
“He is known to report children,” Faramir said, ruefully.
Aragorn raised an eyebrow at him and said, “And how might you know this?”
“You’ve found me out,” Faramir grinned. “That same shopkeeper used to report to the City patrols that my friends and I were making too much noise near his shop. He once dragged me all the way to the Citadel and presented me to my father.”
“It was hardly amusing at the time,” Faramir said. “My father did not suffer nonsense even then. Unfortunately, I am less than sympathetic to this particular shopkeeper’s reporting.”
“I shall bear that in mind,” Aragorn said. “I do guess that I’ll have to deal with the matter at some point or have my Steward to do so.” He smiled at Faramir.
“Well, one matter in the report might need tending to,” Faramir said a bit reluctantly.
“What would that be?” Aragorn asked.
“The matter of the Perian that was with the children at the time,” Faramir said.
“One of the hobbits was with the children?” Aragorn said frowning.
“Yes,” Faramir sighed.
“Dare I ask which one?”
“The shopkeeper reported the Ernil i Pheriannath was with the children and encouraging their mischief,” Faramir said, trying to hide a smile behind his hand. “I believe that his exact words were, “The Perian was right in the thick of things when I ran them off from in front of my place of business. I should think that the King wouldn’t allow his own Knights to act so.” That was what the shopkeeper said.”
“So I am to be held responsible for Pippin’s mischief, then?” Aragorn asked.
“So it would seem,” Faramir said, sounding less than pleased. “But just now, there is the matter of public opinion of our new King.”
“Public opinion?” Aragorn frowned. “I have never been fond of catering to the whims of others in order to curry favor.”
“Perhaps not, but you might do well to attempt this for a while if you hope to unite Gondor,” Faramir said.
“It seems that both Pippin and I need to brush up on our social bowing and scraping,” Aragorn sighed.
The bread was warm from the baker’s ovens and he refused to allow the boys or the Ernil i Pheriannath to pay for any of it. He was a bit less welcoming to the boys until he realized that the lads were in the company of the Prince of the Halflings. It was then that his manner toward them changed. The baker greeted them all and invited them to sit inside of the shop and rest while he brought their bread to them. The boys agreed to this at once, as they were a bit tired. They had run afoul of one of the local shopkeepers just minutes before and had been run off after a bit of rough play in front of the man’s business.
Ty seated himself between Pippin and Bergil and munched happily on his bread while the older lads talked. Pippin was busy listening to a conversation that the baker was having with a couple of men near the counter.
“I fear the worst and I’m not ashamed to say so,” one of the men was saying. “We don’t know anything about this new King of ours. Minas Tirith was of no interest to him before the war so it is likely that he will leave again now that there is no war to bring him glory.”
“We always did well under the rule of the Stewards,” the baker agreed. “But if what you suspect comes to be, then I guess we will be under the rule of the Lord Faramir rather than this new King who comes from the North.”
“I don’t like the idea that Gondor’s armies are being led by an outsider,” a second man said. “I fear that we shall miss Lord Denethor and his ways. He knew our people and he knew what was wanted. This new King has not grown up among us. In fact, I hear that he was raised up by elves. How can he know the ways of men?”
“He has saved this City and its people from the rule of the Dark Lord. Is that not enough proof of his worth?” Pippin said, unable to sit by quietly any longer.
The men looked at him and Pippin left the lads at the table and walked over toward the men, standing straight and proud as he would were he in his uniform. His face had become serious and his eyes flashed with a trace of anger. “If any among you doubt the bravery and the skill of the Lord Aragorn, you need only ask your questions of me and I will be honored to tell you all that I know of him,” Pippin said. “His deeds are great and he deserves your thanks and loyalty, not your doubts.”
“You speak boldly for a lad,” one of the men snorted.
“I am not a lad,” Pippin said, though this was a bit less than the truth. “I am a Guard of the Citadel and a hobbit of the Shire. I have travelled long at Lord Aragorn’s side and am proud to count him as my friend.”
“I beg your pardon,” the man said, nervously, now realizing his error. “I did not realize that I was speaking to the Ernil i Pheriannath. I meant no offence.”
“None is taken for my part,” Pippin said. “But I would have you speak better of our King and my friend.”
The boys sat at the table and watched in awe as Pippin began to speak with the men.
“Honestly, Frodo,” Merry said with a heavy sigh. “I don’t know where he has gone just now. He wandered off while the rest of us were hard at work. He just slipped off without a word to any of us.”
“Are you sure that he didn’t speak to one of the others before leaving?” Frodo asked as he took a sip of his tea.
“I am quite sure,” Merry said, reaching for another custard slice. “Legolas saw him talking to a young child and that is the last that anyone has seen of him.” The three hobbits were seated around a table in the rooms that they shared filling up the corners after their luncheon and talking. Merry was extremely out of sorts over Pippin’s disappearance and had spoken of little else throughout the meal.
Sam, who had said nothing on the subject up this point frowned and spoke. “Mister Pippin don’t seem to understand how important it is to have everyone doin’ their part just now, don’t you see? He seems to want to be off on his own much like he was in the Shire.”
Frodo put the remainder of his ginger biscuit down on his plate and looked at his two companions. Both seemed of the same mind on Pippin’s recent behavior, which made it very hard to dispute. Sam and Merry saw things differently when it came to Pippin. Sam was much sterner with the youngest of their group while Merry tended to allow more room for foolishness. Now, both of them were rather critical of Pippin’s behavior. “What would you have me do?” Frodo asked. “Pippin has the leave of Aragorn to come and go as he will within the City walls just as we all do. It was not one of Pippin’s days to serve the King and so he has broken no law or rule with his actions.”
“I realize that,” Merry said, standing from the low table and lighting his pipe. Lord Faramir had instructed that this table be brought to the hobbit’s house after he had arrived while they were eating one evening and had seen what a struggle it had been for them to sit around the larger table of men that had been in the room. Faramir had seen the problem and had replaced the grand table with this low-legged table that the men of Gondor referred to as a coffee table. Merry leaned a hand on the table now, pipe between his teeth, and spoke around the pipe-stem. “Pippin has a responsibility to his King even if he is not on duty,” Merry said. “As have I to mine. Were we in Edoras now and it were in need of repairs, I should want to be about the King’s work even as I am here.”
“No rest?” Frodo asked, with a slight smile. “I spent the morning in the library. Do you think less of me also?”
Sam nearly choked on the last bite of his gooseberry tart, but Merry quickly continued, pulling the pipe from his mouth. “You were not with us to began with, Cousin. It was not you who wandered off without a word. You were working on research for your journal so that you might make a proper account of events to Bilbo when we return to Rivendell. What do you suppose Pippin’s errand might have been?”
“That we’ll not know until he returns,” Frodo smiled.
Merry snorted and returned his pipe to his mouth. “It isn’t proper,” he muttered while Frodo sipped his tea.
“How do you play?” Pippin asked, as one of the lads tossed the ball into the air and then caught it. They had left the baker’s behind and were now standing near the base of one of the large, undamaged walls of stone at the end of a winding street. This street wound away from the main roads of the City and had no exit at its farthest end. It came out into a wide space at the base of the wall. There were empty shops on either side and a small clothing shop just before that. It was quiet and away from most other businesses.
“You throw the ball so that it bounces once on the pavement and then hits the wall and bounces back toward someone else,” the tall lad said. “You try to surprise the others with your choice so as to throw them off their guard and catch them unawares. Any who miss the ball when it comes their way are out of the game until the winner is declared and the next round begins.” To demonstrate, the lad tossed the ball hard against the road and then it hit the wall and bounced off in Bergil’s direction.
Bergil was expecting the ball to come toward Pippin because the demonstration was meant for Pippin and so was caught off guard. The other lads laughed as the ball shot past Bergil and rolled next to a curb. “It you miss it and the one next to you can move over and catch it, then you start the next round further back from the wall than the others,” Bergil sighed, as he ran to retrieve the ball.
“You also have to go after the ball if you miss,” Ty said.
“We don’t play this one at home, but then, we have few places with enough stone where we could play this,” Pippin said, as Bergil returned and handed him the ball.
“Here then,” Bergil said with a grin. “You should practice throwing it a time or two so that you won’t be first out.”
Pippin shrugged and took the ball, turning to face the wall for a moment; he then turned to look at Bergil as if to say more and quickly threw the ball behind him toward the wall. The ball bounced hard against the paved street and hit the wall at an angle and came back toward one of the lads standing near the end of the line. Everyone was caught off guard and as Evan, who had been supposed to catch the ball chased after it, the others laughed.
“I suspect that we better not let you practice or you’ll make fools of us all,” Bergil laughed.
“Hobbits are bold when it comes to games,” Pippin said. “We are also skilled at throwing stones which helps with this.”
Evan returned with the ball and eyed Pippin intently. “Are you sure you’ve not played this before?”
“I am, on my honor as a Guard of the Citadel and a hobbit of the Shire,” Pippin said, drawing an x over his heart with his forefinger as he had seen the lads do when making a promise of importance.
“Then let us see how long you shall last against us in a match,” Andore said grinning down at Pippin. “For I fear your height will go against you in a game.”
“It does,” Ty said, looking over at Pippin.
“Then I shall have to play all the harder to keep up,” Pippin said, undaunted. “Find a place, Ty.”
Bergil frowned a bit and one of the other lads said, “He’s too little to play.”
“He is as tall as I am,” Pippin objected. “Do you think me too short for your game as well?”
“But you’re old,” Evan said, smiling. “That evens up your situation. Ty might get hurt.”
“He might but then he might also best you or is that what you older lads of Gondor fear?” Pippin said, looking at them all critically.
“I’m not afraid of losing to the likes of him,” Evan said, sounding insulted.
“Good,” Pippin said. “Get in line just beside me, Ty and be ready.”
The little lad’s eyes shone with gratitude as he took his place next to Pippin and made ready to play the game with the older lads and his new friend.
“So you believe that I shall have trouble with some of the people?” Aragorn asked, looking up at Faramir who stood before the large desk in Aragorn’s rooms.
“Some of the people of Minas Tirith do not suffer change easily,” Faramir said, trying to be diplomatic. It was a skill that he had long cultivated and at which he excelled most of the time. Somehow, it seemed more difficult to use this skill with his new King. Aragorn was so direct and his eyes were so piercing that Faramir found himself speaking plainer than he might do with others, thus putting diplomacy at risk. “It isn’t that they do not realize what you have done for the White City. It is merely that they are a proud people and, well, they do not easily welcome those that are come from outside of Gondor into their midst.”
“They are like the elves in this,” Aragon laughed.
“They are?” Faramir looked surprised. He had found the one elf that he had met to be very open and fair of mind. Legolas seemed to give all around him respect, never questioning their right to speak or talking unkindly to them. He had never felt any disapproval from Legolas. Faramir would have to admit that he had often felt inadequate in the present of this representative of the ‘Firstborn”, but it was never due to the actions of the elf. It was due to his knowledge of elves and of their great ages and their wisdom.
“They are indeed, my friend,” Aragorn smiled. “For elves will trouble themselves very little with the affairs of those outside of their own borders. In fair times they are about their own business and they do not seek out others nor do they care to do so. Should a stranger wander into their lands; they are quick to send him on his way. Elves have no need of the company or council of the other races.”
“But Legolas seems to be different,” Faramir objected. “I have found him to be very social in the time that I have known him.”
“So he is and so can all elves be if they wish it,” Aragorn said. “But you must remember that Legolas is a Prince among his people and he stands now, as a representative of his father, King Thranduil, and also of the Lord Elrond. He has stood with us in dark times of need. Through our deeds, the men of Gondor and Rohan have proved themselves to him and so have his respect, but had you entered his land in a time of peace, things might have gone differently.”
“Surely the elves are a peaceful folk,” Faramir said, still finding Aragorn’s words beyond belief.
“They are, my friend,” Aragorn said. “But they are also little involved with the lives of men in times of peace. You would have been fed and treated of your injuries if you had been harmed on your journey, but you do not see or hold council with the elves unless they wish it.” Aragorn smiled. “I suspect that the men of this City are much like the elves. They would keep to Gondor and to the affairs of Gondor. You are right that they may not welcome me with outstretched arms in the beginning.”
Pippin found that his height did work against him in this game. He had to run backwards a great deal to keep from missing the ball whereas the lads around him, save for Ty, had only to jump up on their long legs and stretch out a long arm to catch a high bounce. Pippin found that his lower shots to the wall were more difficult for his companions. He quickly learned to throw at an angle and down. The lads were not used to stooping and diving for their catches. Pippin soon found out why this was so. A few times of diving to the ground taught him that this was no Shire meadow of high, sweet, green grass. This was a stone pavement upon which the dives were more painful.
Ty was the first one out of all but the second round. In that round, Bergil had thrown a hard shot against the wall catching Evan off his guard and sending him sprawling on the stone. Evan had been first out that time. Pippin had managed to win that round, but Bergil had won all of the other matches thus far. Bergil was the strongest player among them. He was both quick of foot and strong. His advantages were many, but Bergil was not a poor sport and won graciously. Pippin, the others noticed, cared little for winning and more for the game itself. The hobbit laughed and enjoyed himself no matter if he did well in the round or not. It seemed that Pippin got joy from the playing and not from besting the others. Ty liked this most about Pippin.
Andore was chasing down a ball that had shot past him when an old woman came out of a shop and scooped up the ball as it rolled near her feet. Andore came to a stop next to her and looked at her. “May I please have my ball back, Mistress?” he asked politely.
“You may not!” she said, glaring at him as the other lads looked on. “You and your number are makin’ a dreadful racket out here and it drives away my customers. I will just keep this ball and solve my own problems.”
Bergil sighed and looked down at Pippin. “I guess we are run off again,” he whispered gloomily.
Pippin frowned and walked over toward the woman. “Please, Mistress. We meant no harm to you,” Pippin said, with a polite bow.
“No harm?” she frowned at him. “You lot of wild street runners are causing more trouble than your parents know. The lot of you should be hauled before the Steward and made to explain your actions.”
“We have a King now,” Ty said, coming up beside Pippin and taking his hand.
Pippin smiled at the lad and then looked back at the woman. “We truly meant no harm and we are sorry if we have disturbed you,” he said.
“You have all disturbed me more than once,” she complained. “This is hardly the first ball that I have taken charge of in this street.” She eyed Pippin intently. “Who are your parents? I’ve not seen you here before.”
“This is the Ernil i Pheriannath, Mistress,” Bergil ventured, coming up behind Ty to stand in support of his friends against this old woman who had, indeed disrupted many of their games over the years.
The woman looked quickly down at Pippin’s furry feet and then back at his face. “I beg your pardon, my Lord,” she said, with a bow. “For the folk of your race appear as children to us on first look. I meant no disrespect to you, sir.”
Pippin blushed and around him, all of the lads stood straighter. They were in the company of one whom the adults respected. They were the companions of the Ernil i Pheriannath, Guard of the Citadel, and Knight of Gondor, one of the heroes of the war. This old woman of Gondor would trouble them no more now that she knew who Pippin was. That seemed sure to them. “I am not offended,” Pippin smiled at her. “I am Peregrin Took, at your service and that of your family’s, Mistress. I, also, meant no disrespect by my actions and neither did my friends.”
She looked at Pippin and then at the boys who were standing around him like some sort of small honor guard. “This lot have troubled me long and sorely,” she said.
“In what way?” Pippin asked.
“They play their games in my street and drive off business with their noise,” she said.
“We’ve nowhere else to play,” Andore objected. “And this is not her street. It is a street of the White City and we’ve as much right to be here as any.”
“Rude insolent little street urchins,” the woman said, looking up at Andore who was tall at thirteen and an inch or two in height above the woman.
Seeing trouble about to begin, Pippin quickly spoke. “They truly meant no harm. We will take our leave of this place at once and we apologize for any trouble that we may have caused you.”
“Well, it is only that I have to work hard in my shop to earn the bread for my table,” she said. “I am on my own. My dear husband died in the service of Gondor some ten years past and I have been left to make my own way.”
“Your husband was in the army of Gondor?” Bergil asked, looking impressed.
“He was,” she said, stiffly. “He was a Guard of the Gate.”
“Really?” Andore said, his respect overcoming his dislike of this crotchety old woman.
“He was indeed,” she said. “And tis fine payment for his services that his own widow can’t do an honest days business because of the children who run wild in the streets of this City. I suspect that more things will go ill for us all now that Lord Denethor is gone.”
“But you have a King now,” Pippin said, smiling at her.
She sighed and pressed the ball into his hand. “He comes from outside of our folk. I have heard the tales of his bravery in battle but that is not all that a ruler must see to. There are things to be dealt with in times of peace also. Lord Denethor knew the minds of his people and he served the City well for many a year as did his father before him.”
“The King will keep the people safe and see to what is needed,” Pippin said, taking the ball and handing it to Ty to hold.
“How do you, a stranger in our land also, know what this King will do?” she asked, narrowing her eyes and looking intently at Pippin.
“He is my friend and I know his heart lies here with his own people,” Pippin said. “He is a fair man and a great leader. The men followed him into battle and I believe that the people will follow his rule gladly, for it will be a just and fair rule.” The lads around Pippin all murmured their agreement and nodded.
They had heard him defend his King earlier in the Baker’s shop and Bergil knew that the King was a fair man for his own father had said as much. His father, along with Evan’s, Gradian’s, Micah’s and Andore’s fathers, had fought in the Battle of the Black Gate at the King’s side. Ty’s father was a shop owner and unable to serve in the army for he had but one leg.
Seth spoke now. “My own father died in the service of Gondor when I was but a year old, Mistress and my own mother says that he would have been proud to serve such a King as we now have.”
Pippin smiled at Seth who was usually rather quiet. Pippin had met him along with Bergil on his first visit to Minas Tirith and had liked the lad very much. Seth reminded him a bit of Sam. He was quiet, but when he did dare to speak it was of important, sensible things. “I would tell you of the King if you would give me leave to do so,” Pippin said.
“I think that it would be well to set aside a day for visits from the merchants and the people in general,” Faramir suggested.
“I think this might be wise,” Aragorn agreed. “I should like to know the concerns of the people of Minas Tirith. I do not want to remove myself to the Citadel and not know what is going on in the City. I need to know what the people expect of me.”
“They will expect much,” Faramir sighed. “And not all things will be possible for you to give. My father often said that the needs of the people were few but that their wants were many.” He smiled at this memory of his father in a time before Denethor had changed and had withdrawn from his sons. That had been in a time, Faramir now suspected, before his father had begun to make use of the Seeing Stone. A sad, introspective look came into Faramir’s eyes as he thought of the father that he had lost long ago.
“In the days before he encountered Sauron in the palantir, your father was known to all as a wise ruler and a noble Steward,” Aragorn said, gently, seeing a trace of hurt in Faramir’s face. “It is partly his reputation that I shall have to live up to in Minas Tirith.”
The older lads had walked ahead leaving Pippin and Ty to follow. Ty usually minded being left so far behind the others but on this occasion with Pippin for company, he was enjoying it. They had remained for a long time with the old woman upon the road that led nowhere, but now they were following Bergil off to more adventure. When Ty had fallen a bit behind the others, Pippin had dropped back with him asking him questions about the City and making Ty feel important. “Where are the grassy fields that you and your friends play in?” Pippin asked, while ahead of them, the others laughed and shoved one another about in jest.
“We don’t have any grassy fields,” Ty said. “This is not farm land, but a City.”
“So you have no where to play but in the streets?” Pippin asked.
“We have always played in the streets of the City,” Ty said. “There are fields outside of the walls, but it isn’t safe to be there on your own and so we aren’t allowed out of the Great Gate. It is safe inside because the army keeps it safe. My papa says that outside there are many who would harm children.”
“That is true, though not so much now as before,” Pippin agreed. “But still, lads ought to have some place to play.” He was lost in thought for a moment until he heard Ty sighing deeply. He looked over at the child and asked. “What is it?”
“I just wish that you were staying here in Minas Tirith forever,” Ty said, softly.
“I will be here for some time, but I will return to my own home before the summer ends I suspect,” Pippin said. He loved Minas Tirith but he did hope that this was so. He missed the Shire and today, among the children, he missed it all the more. He missed the green fields near Tuckborough and the banks of soft grass by the Brandywine. He missed the garden at Bag End and the trees. The stone felt hard underneath his feet and he longed to feel the soft mud by the river between his toes or smell the summer grass in the farmlands of Whitwell near his childhood home.
“When you are here it is easier for me to get the older lads to let me come with them,” Ty said, looking down at his own feet which were clad in soft leather boots that stopped above his ankles. His legs were bare for he was wearing short trousers and both knees were scraped and scabbed from the stone streets.
“You want to keep up with them, don’t you?” Pippin smiled, looking at the older lads just ahead of them.
Ty nodded. “I wish I was older. I want them to like me,” he said and Pippin heard the echoes of his own childhood wishes in the boy’s voice.
“They like you,” Pippin smiled. “They are just doing what older lads do. Sometimes they are a bit rough on the younger ones, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t like you.”
“They don’t think that I can keep up, but I can,” Ty declared with a fierce light in his dark brown eyes that reminded Pippin of Merry.
“It is a hard job keeping up with the older ones,” Pippin said. “Sometimes it can be very hard and you always have to work twice as much to do as they do.”
“How do you know?” Ty asked.
“Because I was the youngest of my group and still am,” Pippin said smiling ruefully. “It isn’t always easy to follow along. Sometimes they will ignore you and some things that they do will be too dangerous for you or too difficult.”
“I am still bound to try,” Ty said, firmly.
“Then you are as stubborn as any Took that walks the Shire,” Pippin grinned. “But if you’ve made your mind up to it, then you should steel yourself for the harsh words and the disappointments that may come at times.”
“If it isn’t any fun, then why did you do it?” Ty asked.
Pippin grinned. “I didn’t say it wasn’t any fun. I said that sometimes it was hard. It is fun most of the time and far more interesting than going with the lads of your own age, but you do let yourself in for some disappointments like the one you had earlier today when I found you on your own.”
“Did your friends go off and leave you too?” Ty asked.
“Many times,” Pippin said. “But I was a crafty little pest and very persistent so they didn’t leave me nearly as often as they tried to.” Pippin smiled and thought of how Lord Elrond had wanted to send him, the youngest among the hobbits, home when the Fellowship was formed in Rivendell. He thought of all the times he had run hard after Merry and the others or had pleaded with Frodo to take him along, promising not to be any trouble and to keep up.
Ty looked at his new friend who seemed lost in thought again and asked, “Was it worth it?”
“Was what worth it?” Pippin asked.
“Was it worth the trouble to keep up with the older lads?” Ty asked.
“It was,” Pippin smiled and from just ahead of them Evan shouted.
“Ty, come on if you’re coming you slow poke!”
Ty looked at Pippin and they both laughed and broke into a run, Pippin keeping pace with Ty easily but not passing the boy so that they caught up to the others at the same time.
It was nearing dinner and Merry was pacing. He kept pulling his pocket watch out and inspecting it and then looking at the door. Frodo sighed and said, “He’ll be back, Merry. He always comes home for dinner.”
Merry snorted. “I’m not worried.”
“You are worried,” Frodo smiled. “Pippin is fine. He is within the walls of the City.”
“How do you know that Pippin hasn’t strayed outside of the City?” Merry asked. “If anyone would, Pippin would and he’d not think anything of it.”
“You misjudge him, Merry, if you believe that,” Frodo said, gently. “Pippin knows well that dangers still lie outside of the protection of Minas Tirith. He is a Knight of Gondor and has grown up a great deal on our adventures.”
“This explains why he disappeared today without a word to any of us,” Merry said, sarcastically. “It is because he has grown up.”
Sam snickered, but he wisely decided not to say anything at this moment. Mister Merry was best left alone when he was in a foul humor. Most, save Mister Frodo or Mister Pippin, would not approach him when the Brandybuck was out of sorts. Sam was not about to test the waters. He would leave that to Mister Frodo, who, for all of his injuries and his current ill health, was still a match for Mister Merry.
“You have to let him have some freedom, Merry,” Frodo said. “You can’t keep him at your side and under your eyes at all times.”
“I have always managed to do so before now,” Merry growled. He felt a bit of a tremor as he thought of the two times that he had failed to keep Pippin at his side and he quickly looked away from Frodo so that his older cousin would not see the pain in his eyes.
He had not been quick enough or else, some power of sight, which seemed to be one of Frodo’s many gifts, had come upon his older cousin. When Frodo spoke again, it was plain that he knew what Merry was thinking about. “None of what happened was your fault, Merry,” Frodo said, gently. “Things went ill at times for all of us and it was the work of the Dark Lord of Mordor in most cases, not the imagined failings of Meriadoc Brandybuck of the Shire.”
“If I had kept him close at hand then he would not have been crushed by the troll,” Merry said. “I should have made him stay behind with me. He may seem recovered, but he is still not completely healed, and who knows if he ever will be. He still limps and sometimes his right side still aches. I should have been more insistent that Pippin stay behind with me.”
“To what end?” Frodo asked. “Bergil would be without a father if you had done so and Pippin would have been embarrassed to have been treated like a mere child by you. He looks up to you and he always will, even when he has taken his rightful place as the Took and the Thain of the Shire one day. It would have hurt him deeply if you had shown no more faith in him than that, Merry. Sadly, I have learned this lesson the hard way myself.”
Merry looked at him intently. “I don’t know what you mean, Frodo.”
“I would have spared you and Pippin and Sam this journey if I had been able to do so,” Frodo said. “I now know that this might have hurt each of you more than coming, and if you three had not been able to play your parts the Quest would have failed and all of Middle-earth would be covered in Darkness. Pippin survived the battle and he is a hero for his deeds. He has been honored with the title of Knight of Gondor. Would you take that from him?”
Merry looked surprised. “Of course not.”
“Then put your watch away and relax,” Frodo smiled. “Peregrin Took can take care of himself and it is time that you and I accepted that fact. Aragorn trusts him and so should we.”
Merry looked at Frodo and smiled broadly. “Aragorn doesn’t know him like we do.”
“You taught Pippin how to look out for himself, Merry, now let him do it,” Frodo said.
“I may have taught him to look out for himself but I am having trouble teaching myself to allow him to do that,” Merry said. “How do you let go?”
“I am still trying to let go of you, Merry-lad,” Frodo laughed. “You best ask someone wiser than myself for that knowledge.
Merry said, “I know of no one wiser than you, Cousin.”
Frodo smiled and gave Merry a hug. “You certainly do have the gift of a silver tongue, Meriadoc,” Frodo teased. “One might think that you were interested in a career as a diplomat.”
“And you have a gift for ducking the praise that you rightly deserve, Frodo Baggins,” Merry laughed. “Just know that your efforts will not lessen your stature in my eyes.”
Frodo rolled his eyes and looked at Sam.
“Don’t be askin’ for my thoughts on this unless you want to hear me side with Mister Merry,” Sam said.
“It would seem that you are out-voted, Cousin,” Merry said, winking at Sam.
“Or out numbered in this case,” Frodo said, smiling.
They had been tossing the ball back and forth between them as they walked through the town’s center on the fourth circle of the City. They had come to a large, wide spot in the street where a fountain stood. The road encircled the fountain. The fountain had stone benches about it and some folks were resting on the benches while others walked on with their packages. No one had taken much notice of the boys and Pippin as they had made their way past the fountain. Bergil tossed the ball to Ty who managed to catch it and grinned over at the older boy. It was plain to Pippin that Bergil was Ty’s hero. The small lad was most pleased when Bergil spoke to him or paid attention to him. Ty looked at the ball as if it were a rare prize and then Micah shouted, “Throw it, Ty” and raised his hands.
Ty turned and threw the ball toward Micah but his aim was off and the ball shot past Micah and a soft splash could be heard. Several of the boys groaned and Pippin turned to see the ball floating near the center of the fountain. He smiled. “I’ll get it,” Pippin offered.
“Are you mad?” Micah laughed. “Go into the fountain?”
“It’s only water,” Pippin shrugged.
Bergil snickered. “They’ll have your head, Pippin.”
Pippin climbed up on one of the empty benches and looked over into the fountain. An older man on the next bench looked down at Pippin’s furry feet and grinned. “If you’re going wading in the King’s Fountain you’ll get those furry feet of yours wet,” he said.
Pippin smiled at him as he put his hands on the side of the fountain. “These feet have carried me across half of Middle-earth recently and so I suspect a bit of water won’t hurt them,” he said with a gleam in his eyes.
“He shouldn’t,” Ty whispered to Bergil.
“I know and I’ll tell him,” Bergil said. The older lad moved over toward Pippin and said, “Pippin, I think we should leave the ball where it is.
Pippin grinned at him. “Don’t tell me that you are worried about my feet also, Bergil,” Pippin said, stepping into the fountain’s cold water with his hands on his hips.
“Too late,” Andore said, with a sigh. The other boys had moved up next to Bergil and Ty to watch.
Pippin looked down at the water, which was just above his knees, and frowned. The fountain had a high center column with a large statue of some Gondorian warrior standing upon it. The water for the fountain shot out of small openings in the base of the statue. Unfortunately, the ball was bobbing near the center just under the statue and so Pippin was going to have to bend down and reach underneath the little spouts of water in order to get the ball. He was going to be completely soaked to the skin. “Oh, well,” Pippin muttered to himself. “You did volunteer, Pippin.” As he waded to the middle of the fountain he didn’t notice that he had drawn a rather large crowd of onlookers. He also didn’t notice that several of them were members of the City Guard.
“Pippin!” Bergil hissed a bit desperately.
“I’m getting it,” Pippin said, over his shoulder, and stealing himself for the icy cold that was to follow, Pippin plunged underneath the stream of water from the base of the fountain and reached for the ball.
“He’s getting it,” Evan whispered in wonder to Bergil.
“Oh, I suspect that he’ll be getting it all right,” a large Guard said, just behind him and all of the color drained from Evan’s face. The Guard laid a hand on Evan’s shoulder and one on Bergil’s. “You lads just behave yourselves and it will go easier on the lot of you.” Bergil groaned softly. His father was going to be very displeased by this. Bergil was barely over the trouble that he had got himself into last week. Now, Bergil had stood by while Pippin defiled the “King’s Fountain”. The fact that it was Bergil’s ball was not going to help at all.
Ty stood with his lips trembling, trying not to cry. He had never been this frightened before. There was a soldier behind him holding fast to him as if he expected Ty to run off and leave or something. Ty was frightened, but he wouldn’t run off and leave his friends to face this. He straightened his shoulders and watched as Pippin came out from under the fountain’s spray, soaking wet and holding the ball aloft.
“I’ve got it!” Pippin crowed, shaking water from his curls and smiling at Bergil and the others, all of whom were now in the company of City Guardsmen. When no one responded, Pippin surveyed the situation and then looked to one of the Guards and asked, “Is there a problem?”
“You are standing in the “King’s Fountain” so, yes, I should say that there is a problem,” one of the Guards said, gruffly as he approached the edge of the fountain.
“It is a bit cold,” Pippin said, misunderstanding. “But no harm done.”
There was a slight murmur from the crowd and Pippin frowned. “I’m sorry, but I don’t know what the problem is,” he said, turning his head to one side and looking over at Bergil.
“It’s forbidden,” Bergil said, nervously. “I was going to tell you, but I didn’t think you’d actually go in after the ball.”
Pippin swallowed hard and his arms dropped to his sides. “So, standing about in the “King’s Fountain” is against the laws?” he asked, thinly.
“Yes, it is,” one of the City Guards said. “Now, climb out of there and tell me your father’s name, lad. You are in more trouble than you know.”
“My father is Paladin Took the second, Thain of the Shire of the Hobbits,” Pippin said as he waded to the edge of the fountain. “He’s a bit far from here at present, so I suspect you shall be wanting the name of my oldest relation within a proper distance. That would be Frodo Baggins. He’s my cousin.”
The Guard realized his mistake as Pippin’s furry foot came out of the water and onto one of the empty benches next to the fountain. Several in the crowd chuckled and a man announced, “That’s the Ernil i Pheriannath!” Pippin put both feet on the bench and then bowed to the Guard, dripping water all over the bench.
He straightened but made no move to get down.
The Guards were taken aback for a moment. Here, before them, stood one of the Perian, the Ernil i Pheriannath, and one of their new King’s company. Yet, this Perian had just broken a City law in front of more witnesses than it would be possible to count. What was he supposed to do? As the senior Guard, it would come to him to decide what would be done. He cleared his throat but before he could speak, Pippin said, “What is the punishment for splashing about in the “King’s Fountain”?”
“One may get up to a month in the gaol as punishment if it is found that the law-breaker is of age and had ill intent,” the Guard said.
“What if the law-breaker was unaware of the law and was merely retrieving a lost ball?” Pippin asked, holding up Bergil’s ball and feeling a bit queasy upon hearing this news.
“I don’t know,” the Guard said. “I suspect that decision would be the King’s to make.”
Pippin nodded and someone from the crowd spoke, “The Steward Denethor would have had your hide.”
“I suspect as much,” Pippin agreed with a shiver.
“Aren’t you in the service of the Guard?” asked someone else.
“I am,” Pippin said, quietly. “I am a Guard of the Citadel. The Lord Denethor himself appointed me.” Pippin thought it best not to mention that he was a Knight at this moment though he was sure most of the assembled crowd knew this. “I should have known better than to wade in the “King’s Fountain” but I confess that I had no knowledge of that law. I didn’t even know that the King had a fountain.”
Several people chuckled and the Guard who had addressed Pippin earlier said, “This is the fountain of the last King of Gondor. It is held in high honor among our people. It was built long years ago to honor the line of Kings of Gondor. The man’s image that you see is that of King Eärnur who ruled but seven years and then rode off to face a challenge of combat with the King of Minas Morgul.”
“What happened to him?” Pippin asked, forgetting his troubles and wanting to know more of the last King.
“None know,” the Guard said, looking at the statue. “He and some of his Guards rode to Minas Morgul against the wishes and advice of Steward Mardil and they never returned. That ended the line of Kings in Gondor until now.”
Pippin looked up at the statue of the noble King Eärnur and then looked back at the Captain of the City Guard. “He had no wife nor child?”
“He had never taken a wife,” the Captain said. “The fountain is in tribute to his memory here in Minas Tirith and that is why it is held to be sacred and said that no one shall defile it by setting foot or hand into its water.”
“Then I have surely broken the laws of the City as I have put not only foot and hand in the fountain of the King but every part of me,” Pippin said, climbing down from the bench. “You shall take me to the King and he shall judge me as he must.”
“You don’t know the new King’s justice,” someone called out. “Things may go ill for you.”
“The new King is a fair and honorable man and I will be treated according to the law,” Pippin said, holding his head up. “I do not fear to stand before him.”
A murmur ran through the crowd and Evan whispered to Bergil, “I would rather stand before the King than face my father at this moment.”
Bergil nodded. Then Pippin spoke again. “Please allow the boys to return to their homes and go about their business,” he said with a smile. “None among them set foot in the fountain. I am the only guilty party.”
“Very well,” the Captain of the City Guard said. “It is true that they did no harm and so they shall be free to go.”
Gratefully, the lads all backed away from the Guards except for Ty and Bergil who both came quickly over and stood on either side of Pippin. Startled, Pippin looked at them and frowned. “Go on, both of you,” he said. “I’ll be fine. You two go home now.”
“I don’t want to leave you, Pippin,” Ty said.
“I will be fine, Ty,” Pippin assured the young boy. “I will explain things to Stri-the King and he will deal fairly with me. You go home. It must be near to supper time.” He patted his own growling stomach and smiled at the boy.
“I’ll go with Pippin, Ty,” Bergil said. “You are very brave to offer but you have no part in this.”
“Neither do you, Bergil,” Pippin said with a frown.
Bergil reached over and took the ball out of Pippin’s hand and held it up. He looked at the Captain of the City Guard and said, “It was my ball that went into the fountain.”
Pippin groaned but before he could recover from this, Ty said, “And I threw it!”
Bergil and Pippin both looked over at Ty in surprise.
The Captain sighed and looked at the three of them. “Very well, we shall let the King of Gondor decide,” he said. “The three of you shall come with me.”
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