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Aragorn had arranged to have the Fellowship eat with him in his apartments that evening. He had also invited Faramir, Éowyn, and Éomer to join them. He had a lovely meal spread out for his guests and plenty of drink at the ready. He was dressed casually and was enjoying a before dinner pipe with Gimli and Gandalf when the others began to arrive. He noticed that the hobbits seemed a bit nervous. One of their number was missing. Pippin.
Everyone had arrived and no explanation for Pippin’s absence had been offered so Aragorn looked over at Frodo and asked, “Is Pippin ill?”
“No,” Frodo said, quietly. “He went out earlier with Merry, Sam, Legolas, and Gimli and he left them at some point. He has not yet returned.”
“He stopped to speak with a young boy and then went off with some of the local children,” Legolas said, walking over toward them.
“He did?” Frodo asked, looking up at the elf and smiling. He was sure that he had spoken low enough so that no one else had heard him. He had forgotten about Legolas. Elves have excellent hearing.
“Yes,” Legolas smiled. “I believe that one was his friend, Bergil. I noticed them leaving, but did not mention it as I mistakenly assumed that Pippin had told Merry that he was going.”
“Which he did not,” Merry said. He had joined them now and was frowning again. “He just took it into his own head and wandered off without a word to me.”
“Well, I am sure that he will return unharmed,” Legolas smiled. “I am told that hobbits rarely miss meals so I am guessing that he will soon join us.”
Aragorn and Frodo both grinned at the elf. Merry tried not to but finally smiled at his friend. “Well, when he gets here, he shall have to catch up because we aren’t waiting dinner for him,” Merry said.
“No indeed,” Aragorn laughed. “I have quite a few guests ready to eat a meal and three are hobbits. I suspect that we should start on time.”
Just then, there came a sharp knock on the door and Aragorn smiled. “Just like a hobbit to arrive in time for the meal,” he said, winking at Merry. “Come in,” Aragorn said, loudly and the door opened to reveal a young page. Aragorn looked at the young boy and spoke, “What is your business here?”
“If you please, sir,” the boy said, in a high voice. “The Captain of the City Guard is here and seeks a word with you and the Steward.”
Aragorn looked over at Faramir and shrugged. “Very well,” he said. “Send him in.”
The boy looked about the room, and then nodded. “Yes, my Lord,” he said, and then quickly backed out of the room.
“I wonder what is wrong?” Faramir frowned, joining Aragorn.
The door opened again and the Captain of the City Guard came in looking rather nervous. “If you please, my Lord, I did not mean to trouble you at the hour of your meal, but I have a small matter to discuss with you,” he said. “Perhaps the Lord Faramir might deal with it so that you might not miss your evening meal nor have to leave your guests.”
“It is no trouble,” Aragorn said. “Your thoughtfulness is appreciated, Captain, but you may speak to me if there is a need.”
Everyone in the room waited now, listening to hear what might come next. The Captain’s eyes fell on the other hobbits for an instant and then he looked nervously over at his new King. This fact was lost on no one present and Aragorn said, “What is troubling you, Captain? Have we an emergency or a crisis of some sort?”
Merry and Frodo exchanged looks and Merry opened his mouth. Frodo quickly covered Merry’s mouth with his hand and gave him a stern look. “Don’t you dare,” he whispered. Merry subsided and Sam moved over to Merry’s other side, abandoning his place next to Frodo. The three of them stood waiting, their eyes on the Captain.
“My Lord,” the Captain said. “There has been an incident involving the “King’s Fountain”.”
“I see,” Aragorn said. “Has it been damaged?” He looked at Faramir now. Faramir moved next to him and they waited.
“Someone has defiled the fountain, my Lord,” the Captain said.
This sounded serious. Aragorn frowned. “Do we know who has done this damage?”
“I have the ones responsible for it just outside of the door, my Lord,” the Captain said. “They came willingly of their own accord.”
“You may bring them in,” Aragorn said.
“Yes, sir,” the Captain said. He turned and opened the door. He spoke a few whispered words and then he held the door open so that his prisoners might enter.
Pippin came in first followed by Bergil who was holding Ty’s hand in his own. The sun had dried Pippin’s clothing and hair somewhat, but he was still damp from his time in the “King’s Fountain”. He looked rather messy, his damp curls going in all directions. The knee of his trousers was torn from a fall during the game of ball in the street and his shirt was untucked. He made his way over to Aragon and stopped in front of him, hands behind his back and feet slightly apart. Bergil and Ty walked over and stood beside Pippin. Ty was in the middle still holding fast to Bergil’s hand.
Merry groaned and he and Frodo exchanged looks. Behind them, Gandalf hid a smile and beside him Éowyn smiled openly. Sam folded his arms over his chest and looked disapproving. Gimli made the only noise, a soft ‘hurumph.’ Legolas, Éomer, and Faramir were wide-eyed with surprise. Aragorn looked down at Pippin. “What have you to say for yourself, Peregrin Took?” he asked.
“I have broken a law of the City of Minas Tirith,” Pippin said. “I waded in the “King’s Fountain”.”
“But he didn’t know it wasn’t allowed, sir,” Ty said, in a hoarse whisper, and Bergil tightened his grip on the child’s hand and looked sternly at him.
“The entire tale if you please,” Aragorn said, looking at Pippin.
“I was walking in the streets in the fourth circle with several lads of Gondor,” Pippin said, looking at Aragorn. “We were tossing a ball about and it accidentally went into the fountain. I went in to retrieve it. I didn’t know that it was forbidden.”
“Where is the ball now?” Aragorn asked.
Bergil removed it from his pocket and handed it to Aragorn. “It is my ball, sir,” Bergil said, nervously.
Aragorn took the ball and looked at Bergil “Were you also in the fountain?” he asked.
“No, sir,” Bergil said.
Aragorn let his gaze fall on Ty now and he spoke gently. “What is your name?”
“Tyberian, were you in the fountain?” Aragorn asked.
“No, sir,” Ty answered. "But I threw the ball in there.”
“He didn’t mean to,” Bergil said, quickly. “He was throwing it to Micah and he over-shot him. Ty isn’t very good at aiming yet.”
Aragorn smiled at the child and said, “If you were not in the fountain then why are you and Bergil being brought before me?”
“I didn’t want Pippin to go to the gaol,” Ty said.
Aragorn looked at Pippin his eyes revealing nothing and then over at Faramir. “I would like a moment with my Steward. Wait here, Peregrin.” Aragorn then turned and walked away from Pippin with Faramir close behind him. The two men did not leave the room, but merely went over to the far corner and out of the hearing of the rest.
Pippin watched them and then looked reassuringly over at Ty and Bergil. He didn’t want the lads to be frightened. In fact, he had not wanted either of them involved in this, but he had not been able to keep the lads from taking a measure of the responsibility. Pippin smiled at the boys and then turned his eyes forward. Somewhere just to his right, Pippin knew that Merry, Frodo and Sam were watching him. He would not have had it known, but he feared their anger far more than he feared Strider’s. He could only imagine what Merry would have to say about all of this.
Across the room, Faramir stood and listened to his new King. “It would seem that I may be about to send Pippin to the gaol. This is hardly the evening’s entertainment that I had planned when I assembled everyone here for a meal. ” Faramir caught the hint of a twinkle in his King’s eye. It would seem that even under unusual circumstances Minas Tirith’s new ruler could still see the amusing side of things. Perhaps Aragorn’s time among hobbits was partly responsible for this.
“Well,” Faramir said, trying not to smile. “It is a difficult business, but do you really think that Pippin’s actions merit that strict a punishment?”
“No, though it might spare us all a great deal of mischief,” Aragorn smiled. His back was to Pippin and so Faramir knew that the hobbit would not notice this. “I believe that he acted without benefit of knowledge in this matter,” Aragorn paused as if thinking the matter through. “On the other hand, I will have to take some sort of action in this matter. I cannot allow Pippin’s ignorance of the laws to relieve him of all responsibility. He is a Knight of the City and as such, he should be aware of the City’s laws. A portion of that oversight is mine for not seeing to his education on our laws. Once this matter is resolved, I shall have to see to it that he receives instruction or this will not be the last such incident. Pippin has a way of finding trouble with very little effort.”
“I suspect that you have not had the time to see to his education in such matters, my Lord,” Faramir said, softly. “There are many laws and I should doubt that our laws are in any way like unto the laws of The Shire. I do suspect that the children were aware of the law.” Faramir raised an eyebrow and glanced in the direction of the boys.
“Yes, and it is a very good thing that children are never put into the gaol in Minas Tirith and so I need not worry about Bergil and Tyberian. I do have to decide what’s to be done with Pippin,” Aragorn sighed. “The fountain is held in high honor and so I cannot permit his actions to go unpunished.”
“Because Pippin’s actions were without malicious intent, then the punishment need not be too stern,” Faramir said.
Aragorn sighed. “How do you suppose Pippin does it?”
“Does what?” Faramir asked, softly.
“Finds ways to get into trouble that are unknown to others,” Aragorn sighed, quietly.
“Inventiveness?” Faramir asked, quietly.
“Let us hope that I may invent a way for my small, rather troublesome, young Knight to pay for his crime, shall we?” Aragorn sighed, softly.
“With your permission, I think I have a suggestion that might help,” Faramir whispered. “Having grown up in the City, I have seen punishment handed down on other occasions for this crime.” He leaned forward and spoke softly for a few minutes. He then looked over at Pippin out of the corner of his eye and then back at Aragorn. “The decision is, of course, yours to make as you see fit. The punishments that I speak of are well within our laws, but you must determine how best to deal with Pippin.”
Aragorn stood for a minute or two more and considered the matter fully. The room had become strangely quiet as everyone present awaited Aragorn’s decision.
“I shall now pronounce sentence,” Aragorn said and he turned and walked back over to where Pippin and the boys waited. Faramir walked over and stood next to Éowyn who looked at him curiously. Faramir took her hand in his and gave a small shrug. He truly did not know what Aragorn might decide. He would have to wait for the answer just as everyone else would.
The sun was hot and Pippin wished that the fountain was still filled with cold water, but at the moment it was completely dry. The water had been blocked off for the present and Pippin was on his knees in the fountain scrubbing the bottom of it with a soft brush. There was a bucket of soapy water at his elbow. Bergil and Ty, both of whom had insisted on being punished as well, were also scrubbing the inside of the fountain. Aragorn had not wanted to include the boys in the punishment, but Bergil and Ty had made it clear that they expected to be punished also. Now, both of them were helping Pippin to clean the “King’s Fountain”. It was going to be a very long day. No one had done this job in a very long time. The fountain had stood, revered, but unattended, for quite a few years. Pippin wondered if it was cool inside the gaol of Minas Tirith. Perhaps this had not been the best option.
Bergil wiped the sweat from his brow and looked over at Pippin. “At least my father was proud of me for taking my part of the blame in this,” he said.
“That should be a comfort to you when we perish from the heat in this sun,” Pippin sighed, dipping his brush into the soapy water and then looking amused. “It would be an ironic death to die for lack of water in the middle of a fountain.”
“What does ironic mean?” Ty asked, looking up from his own labor.
“It is a sort of perverse fate that is unexpected and odd,” Bergil answered.
Scrubbing a rather nasty bit of slime off of the bottom of the fountain’s bowl, Pippin said, “Rather like most things that seem to happen to me.”
Bergil and Ty laughed and at that moment several more boys climbed over the side of the fountain and joined them. Each of them had a bucket of their own and all of them wore old clothing. Evan grinned at the surprised Pippin and said, “We thought it was only fair that we come by and help. We all should have come along to be brought before the King with you, but we were a bit afraid.”
“You don’t have to be afraid of the King,” Pippin smiled. “You also do not have to suffer in this heat.”
“We are helping and that’s that,” Micah said. “After all, if I had jumped a bit higher, none of us would be in trouble. It was I who missed Ty’s throw.”
“It wasn’t a very good throw,” Ty said, embarrassed.
“Then we shall have to work on your skills later,” Bergil said, and was rewarded with the sight of pure joy in Ty’s eyes.
“You’ll teach me?” Ty asked, hopeful.
“I will if we ever finish scrubbing out the King’s Fountain,” Bergil grinned.
“There are more of us now so it should be faster,” Ty said.
“Is it permitted to sing while working in the fountain?” Pippin asked.
“There is no law of which I am aware that is against it,” Bergil said. With that settled, Pippin began to sing while he scrubbed and the boys soon learned the words and joined him. People passing by them smiled and stopped to listen to a chorus or two before moving on with their own day’s labor.
Aragorn sat in the vast throne room and dreaded his own day. Faramir had set up meetings with many of the town’s shopkeepers and business owners. Aragorn’s Steward seemed to think that it was a good idea to allow the people of Gondor to come and meet with their new King and air their concerns. “It will help your acceptance among the populace if people have met you and have seen that you are interested in their affairs,” Faramir had said. “It will go a long way toward making them see you as belonging to Gondor and not merely a stranger among us who will now rule them.”
Aragorn knew that Faramir was right, but he dreaded the day all the same. He would have to spend the entire day indoors in meetings with people who were likely to be uncomfortable with him and even a bit unfriendly. He would be forced to win them over and he did not enjoy that sort of thing. He had hoped that his deeds as the heir of Isildur might be enough, but Faramir assured him that a bit of politics would be needed. So, here he sat, half wishing that he were helping Pippin clean out the fountain instead of spending the day inside.
Soon he was welcoming his first visitor, an older woman who owned a small shop. He smiled and said, “I am happy to listen to all that you might have to say. I am told that your husband died in the service of Gondor.”
“He did,” she said. “He loved the people of Gondor and he was always proud to serve. I miss him still, but I do not begrudge his death. He died proudly doing what he felt he must. I have gone on about my life without him as I have had to, but though I miss him, I have managed to make do.”
“I hear that you have a very successful business in the city,” Aragorn said.
“I have,” she smiled. “I won’t take much of your time, my Lord. I just wanted to meet you after talking to that nice young Perian the other day.”
Aragorn wondered which hobbit had spoken to this woman. From her smile, he guessed that perhaps Sam or Frodo had been in her shop for some reason. “Oh, you have met one of the Perian?”
“I have indeed and he is a very loyal subject to you, my Lord,” she said. “He stayed a while and visited with me and told me that I had no reason to worry for the future of Minas Tirith now that you are our King.”
“That was very kind of him,” Aragorn said. “I shall try to be worthy of his respect and of yours as well.”
She smiled. “He was right about you,” she said. “I realize that now. I’m glad that I came if only to see for myself. I’m a stubborn old woman and I was worried now that Lord Denethor has passed, but seeing you makes me know that the Ernil i Pheriannath spoke the truth.”
“The Ernil i Pheriannath?’ Aragorn asked, a bit surprised.
“He was by my shop with some of the local lads yesterday,” she said. “He’s a charmer, that one. Insisted that I call him Pippin. The very name made me smile. I’d never heard anything like it. He couldn’t say enough good things about you, my Lord.”
The afternoon went on much like that. Many that came to see the new King of Gondor did so because the Ernil i Pheriannath had spoken highly of him. One old gentleman admitted that he’d come to prove Pippin wrong and had even told the Perian that. “I told him that I was sure I’d not like the new King,” the old gentleman said, gruffly with downcast eyes. “But I was wrong about that, and I was wrong to say it. When next I come across the Ernil i Pheriannath, I shall owe him an ale.”
It was just past four when Aragorn received some surprise visitors. Faramir came in bearing a tea tray followed by Frodo, Merry and Sam. “I have not heard any gnashing of teeth or rending of clothing and so I am in hopes that it is safe to enter,” Faramir said, setting the tray on a small table that was kept at the ready for the use of the King. “I thought that you might have earned a respite and the sight of a few familiar friendly faces after your labors.”
Aragorn smiled. “Your visit is most welcome, though I fear that I have done little today.”
“We’ve come about Pippin,” Frodo said. “We’ve come to apologize for his behavior and to let you know that we plan to speak to him.”
“Yes,” Merry said, quickly. “He just doesn’t understand how different things are here. He can’t be charging about like he does at home in the Shire, even in times of peace. There is work to be done and I am very glad that you have set him straight.”
“It will do the lad good to work for a while,” Sam nodded approvingly.
“He doesn’t mean any harm, but he still should know better,” Frodo said with a frown. “We had no idea what he was up to yesterday or we would have put a stop to it.”
“Then I, for one, am very glad that you did not know what he was up to,” Aragorn laughed, taking a cup of tea from Faramir. “I should have had a far worse day today if you had stopped Pippin from what he did yesterday.”
Merry and Frodo exchanged puzzled looks and Sam said, “You mean that you’re glad that Mister Pippin went wadin’ in the fountain?”
“I am,” Aragorn said, startling even Faramir.
“Are you planning to explain that at all?” Merry asked. “Or will you be doing what Gandalf usually does and leaving us to guess what you mean?”
“I had a meeting with a man who was near the fountain sitting on a bench when Pippin decided to go in after Bergil’s ball,” Aragorn said, extending a plate of biscuits to Merry. Merry took three of them and continued to stare curiously at Aragorn. “The man said that he felt that he could come here today and meet with me because even though the Ernil i Pheriannath had been in trouble, he hadn’t been afraid to be brought before me. That man came here today to ask me about getting some walls in his shop repaired. The shop is in the second circle of the City and it was badly damaged. The man told me that he would not have come it he had not seen the incident at the fountain yesterday.”
“You mean that he would have let his shop fall to ruin rather than speak to someone about it?” Frodo asked.
“He was ready to do exactly that,” Aragorn said. “He suspected that ‘an outsider’ would care little for the troubles of one rather poor shopkeeper. He only took a chance in coming because Pippin seemed unafraid to be brought in for his transgression.”
Frodo and Merry looked at one another. “So, by breaking a law of Minas Tirith, Pippin somehow managed to do something good?” Merry asked looking chagrined.
“It was well indeed for me that Peregrin Took became bored with the business of City repairs and went off to seek adventure with Bergil,” Aragorn said. “I have seen more than a few people today and most had spoken with Pippin at some point yesterday. All say that the Ernil i Pheriannath holds Gondor’s new King in high regard and so they came by to see for themselves. Instead of spending a long day trying to convince my people that I want to help them and intend to rebuild our City, or convincing people that I belong upon the throne, I spent the day hearing that the Ernil i Pheriannath thinks very highly of me and so I must be all right.” Aragorn laughed at Merry’s expression. “The people of Minas Tirith are very fond of your cousin, Merry. They also seem to value his opinion which is very fortunate for me.”
There was a knock on the door and Legolas entered. “You should come to the square in the fourth circle if you desire contact with the people of Minas Tirith,” Legolas said.
“I should? And why is that, my friend?” Aragorn asked.
“Because Pippin and the boys of Gondor that are cleaning the fountain have drawn quite a crowd,” Legolas said. The elf removed a biscuit from one of Merry’s hands and said, “The singing is lovely and very entertaining. Did you tell them that they had to sing while they worked?”
“No,” Aragorn said. “Though I do not doubt that they are doing so. I merely told Pippin that he was to make the “King’s Fountain” gleam in the sunlight before the day’s end if he hoped to stay out of the gaol of Minas Tirith. Bergil and young Tyberian insisted on being allowed to help him and as I suspected that their own fathers would punish them if I didn’t allow it, I set them to work also.”
“They have been joined by several other boys, and the work proceeds quickly, as well as tunefully. The people of Minas Tirith are speaking of the songs everywhere I journey today,” Legolas smiled. “I went and listened for a while and in honor of my visit, Pippin sang an Elvish song that he had learned while in Lothlórien.” Legolas’s expression now seemed slightly pained.
“Pippin sang in Elvish? In public?” Frodo asked, looking a bit horrified.
Legolas smiled, weakly. “I nearly recognized some of the words. It is most interesting to hear Elvish spoken in Pippin’s accent.”
“I am sorry that I missed that,” Aragorn said with a smirk. “And how did you respond?”
“I was gracious,” Legolas said.
“Thank the Valar,” Aragorn laughed. “I know how difficult it is for the Firstborn to hear their own tongue mutilated.”
“It was strangely lyrical though completely incorrect,” Legolas said. “Pippin’s accent does have a musical quality to it and it was not altogether unappealing. The people of Minas Tirith enjoyed it so much that they requested it be sung a second time. Pippin, also being gracious, insisted that I perform it for them. I did so, but I do believe that the people preferred his version.”
Aragorn laughed. “Are you saying that an Elf of Mirkwood has been bested in song by a Hobbit of the Shire?”
“I am saying that the people of Minas Tirith, endearing though they may be, are not terribly gifted when it comes to discerning pleasing music,” Legolas smiled, taking a bite of his stolen biscuit.
“I should like to hear Pippin sing in Elvish,” Faramir said, smiling.
“I have heard it,” Frodo sighed. “And it is not exactly Elvish. It is more like Pippish.”
“The Tooks always have talked funny,” Merry grinned. “I’m sure since he is a learned expert on Elvish, that Frodo will prefer your version, Legolas.”
Frodo blushed and glared at Merry. “I am hardly an expert, Cousin. I do know how it is supposed to sound however.” Frodo then reached over and took one of Merry’s remaining biscuits in payment for his cousin’s cheek.
“Do I have any more appointments after tea, my good Steward?” Aragorn asked, raising an eyebrow.
“You do not, my Lord,” Faramir said.
“Then perhaps we shall all make our way to the “King’s Fountain” to hear the music,” Aragorn smiled, reaching over and taking the last of Merry’s biscuits out of the startled hobbit’s hand and popping it into his mouth.
“We might as well,” Merry said, tartly. “A hobbit can’t get anything at all to eat around here. Maybe there is a bakery or grocer near the fountain.”
“I am grateful to you for your council, Faramir,” Aragon said, as they stood some distance from the fountain listening to the lads singing Bilbo’s bath song with Pippin’s voice ringing out among them. “I should not have wanted to be too harsh with Pippin in this matter and your suggestion seems to have worked out quite well. Pippin is learning a lesson and we are getting a much cleaner fountain all at the same time. I am aware of the laws of the City but I am grateful to have access to your knowledge of past decisions.”
“Thank you, my Lord,” Faramir said, smiling.
“I am glad to have you by my side,” Aragorn said. “A King needs wise council at times.”
“Pippin may be less than grateful for your wise council,” Merry laughed with a glance over at his younger cousin who was scrubbing the side of the fountain now.
“I suppose it is better than the punishments that his own father would set for him at home,” Frodo reminded Merry.
“Yes, it must be better than mucking out the pony stalls,” Merry agreed. “My own father was fond of that same sort of punishment and in Buckland we have a great many ponies.”
“Did you have to clean up after them often?” Aragorn asked.
“Those ponies used to think of me as their personal stable maid,” Merry grinned.
“All fathers must have their rules,” Aragorn said.
“Well, Pippin is not the first to be punished for defiling the fountain,” Faramir said, as the boys launched into a Gondorian marching song which Pippin seemed to know quite well. “Some years ago, one of the Steward Denethor’s own sons had to do the very job which Pippin is now doing,” Faramir said.
“You?” Frodo asked.
“A bit of trouble with the fountain, Faramir?” Merry asked, winking.
“No, the Steward’s eldest son,” Faramir answered.
“Boromir?” Merry asked, looking over at Faramir and laughing.
“Yes, the very same,” Faramir smiled. “There is a pub not too far from where we now stand. It is called “The White Tower Pub” and it was a favorite of Boromir’s as well as many of the City’s young soldiers. Boromir was in training for his service in the Army at the time. He was barely seventeen, which is what saved him from the gaol of Minas Tirith. His actions shocked and angered many. In fact, if Boromir had not been the son of the Steward, I do believe that he might have been hanged for his crime.”
“What did he do?” Frodo asked.
“Yes, what did Boromir do?” Aragorn asked. “Don’t tell me that he was retrieving a lost ball for a young child.”
“No,” Faramir said. “Boromir and several of his mates had been drinking and they were all more than a bit drunk. They came weaving past the fountain in the dark of night. The evening lanterns were lit and the Guardsman that was watching the square on that night knew Boromir and the others. It was he that told me the full tale one evening over drinks at the same pub. Everyone in the City knew Boromir and so naturally it was impossible for my older brother to do anything without gaining notice,” Faramir smiled, proudly. “Anyway, one of Boromir’s friends turned to him and said, ‘Look, there’s the “King’s Fountain”.’ Boromir looked over and said, in a rather drunken slur, ‘Gondor has no King’ and then he pulled down his trousers and relieved himself in the fountain.”
Everyone laughed so loudly that they nearly drowned out the last of the song.
It was after sunset. Pippin had bathed and dressed and was now standing outside Aragorn’s chambers waiting. The boys had been sent home by Faramir and Pippin was waiting to hear if he would be working on something else tomorrow. His arms ached from scrubbing and he wanted nothing more than to lie down and sleep. He had been given dinner at the buttery before coming here. He only hoped that he didn’t get another lecture from Merry or worse, one from Frodo when he returned to the house. He was too tired to hear how disappointed they were in his behavior just now. He was sure that whatever Aragorn had to say about it all would be lecture enough though he would never convince Merry of that.
Merry had said plenty last night about responsibility and mature behavior. Pippin’s ears had rung with it all, but he had been unable to argue the point. After all, Merry had been right. He had gone off without a word and had got himself into trouble. In fact, it had been trouble that could have reflected badly upon Strider. That was something Pippin had never wanted to do. He was planning to ask Strider for a list of the City’s laws so that this sort of thing would not happen to him again. He was, unless Strider was thinking of releasing him from his service, a Knight of Gondor, and he should know the laws of the City. What would Boromir have thought of it all? Pippin shuddered to consider that. He yawned deeply as the door opened and Aragorn peeked out at him. “Come in before you fall asleep in my hall,” Aragorn said.
Pippin started to ask if sleeping in the hall was illegal, but thought better of it and silently followed Aragorn into the room, limping slightly. To Pippin’s surprise, the room was not empty. Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli, Frodo, Merry, Sam and Faramir were all present. Pippin gulped. Maybe Aragorn wanted to release him from his service to Gondor and had asked the others here so that they might bear witness to it.
“Stand before me, Peregrin Took,” Aragorn said, formally.
Pippin came quickly to attention in front of his King and then bowed low.
“Do not bow,” Aragorn said. “But listen carefully to what I am about to say before this company.”
“Yes, sir,” Pippin said, now standing at attention again.
“I would like to thank you for your service to your King,” Aragorn said. “Your deeds are known to me and I am grateful to you.”
Pippin looked at Aragorn in sleepy confusion for a minute and then said, “I don’t think I am hearing well this evening. Did you just say that you were grateful to me?”
“Tooks!” Gandalf muttered. “You have to repeat everything that you say to them.”
Pippin glared over at the wizard, forgetting his place for a second, but he quickly remembered and straightened to face Aragorn.
Aragorn knelt down in front of Pippin and put a hand on the hobbit’s shoulder. He smiled at him and said, “I saw a great many people today and almost all of them told me that the Ernil i Pheriannath had spoken words of high praise for the new King of Gondor.”
Pippin shifted uncomfortably on his tired feet and said, “I may have mentioned you to a few of the folk that I spoke with.”
“I thank you, my friend,” Aragorn said. “It would seem that you have served me well on your day of leisure by giving fair tidings of the new King to my people.”
“I just told them about my friend, Strider, the Ranger from the North,” Pippin smiled and Aragorn drew him into a hug.
“And for that you shall be well rewarded,” Aragorn said.
“Will you name a fountain after me?” Pippin asked, grinning.
“Even better,” Aragorn said. “I won’t make you clean any more of Minas Tirith’s fountains.”
“That is a reward beyond any that I have ever received,” Pippin said unable to stifle a yawn.
“Now, get some rest for tomorrow you are afforded another day off from your service,” Aragorn said.
“I am off duty again tomorrow?” Pippin asked, yawning again. “I’ve not been released from your service have I?” He looked worried.
“No,” Aragorn said, standing. “That shall never happen Peregrin Took. Though if I catch you wading in any of the fountains you will stand behind my chair during all of my long meetings and all of my meals for a week, do you understand?”
“I do,” Pippin nodded and rubbed his knee.
Suddenly Merry was beside him and putting an arm around him to support him. “Lean on me and take the weight off of that leg, Pip,” Merry said.
“You aren’t going to keep me up again lecturing me are you?” Pippin asked, glancing at his older cousin as he leaned against him.
“No,” Merry said. “But after a night’s sleep, I wonder if you might take me about the City. I should like a proper tour.”
“You mean, that you should like a way to keep an eye on me,” Pippin laughed.
“That wouldn’t go amiss either,” Merry grinned as he and Pippin, followed by Sam and Frodo started toward the door. “Oh, and maybe you could teach me that lovely Elvish song that Legolas told us of earlier in the day. I know Legolas would love to hear it again and I am sure, since he enjoys Elvish, that Frodo would like to hear it as well.” Merry’s eyes twinkled with mischief.
Frodo looked over his shoulder at Legolas and the two exchanged pained grimaces.
“Really?” Pippin said, brightening. “I only know two Elvish songs. Haldir taught them to me. He said that I learned very quickly for someone that had never spoken any Elvish before.”
“Well, I would love to hear them,” Merry said, opening the door to leave. “And so would Frodo. Wouldn’t you, Frodo?”
“I would,” Frodo said, kicking Merry lightly in the seat of his trousers.
As they left, Legolas looked over at Aragorn and sighed. “Haldir told me that he would get even with me for bringing a Dwarf into the Golden Wood, but I had not expected such cruelty.”
Before Aragorn could respond, the door opened again and Pippin came back in, followed by Sam, Merry and Frodo. “Was there something else?” Aragorn asked, smiling at Pippin.
“Yes, if you have a wee bit of time tomorrow I should like to speak to you about something that has been on my mind,” Pippin said.
“I can make some time for you,” Aragorn said. “Though I should have thought that you would be busy enjoying your time off duty.”
“I only need a few minutes,” Pippin smiled. Behind him, Merry, Frodo and Sam were looking rather puzzled.
“Then come by my chambers in the morning if you like,” Aragorn said.
Pippin frowned a bit and then said, “Well, it is rather in the way of official business so perhaps I should have an official appointment.”
“An audience with the King?” Aragorn asked, raising an eyebrow.
Pippin nodded and then yawned.
“Very well,” Aragorn said, feeling curious. “I will hear your business at eight in the morning. You now have an official appointment. Now, get some rest or you shall sleep through it.”
“Thank you, Strider,” Pippin grinned and turned back to Merry, Frodo and Sam.
When the door had closed behind the hobbits, Faramir turned to Aragorn and frowned. “What do you suppose that is about?”
“I have no idea,” Aragorn sighed deeply.
“Maybe Pippin would like to sing something in Elvish for you too,” Gimli grunted. He then looked over at Legolas. “Punishment for bringing a Dwarf into the Golden Wood, was it?”
“What are you up to now?” Merry demanded as the four hobbits made their way back to their little house.
“It’s nothing, Merry,” Pippin said, tiredly. “Just official business.”
“Peregrin Took if you are planning to get yourself into more trouble then you had better rethink your plan,” Frodo said sternly.
“Honestly, Frodo,” Pippin sighed, exasperated. “I never plan to get myself into trouble. It just seems to come out that way.”
“Well kindly inform me what sort of official business you might have with Aragorn so that I might be prepared for any trouble that might result from this meeting of yours,” Frodo said.
“I only want to speak to Strider about the children,” Pippin said.
“What about the children?” Merry asked as he put an arm around Pippin to support his younger cousin. Pippin was limping. It was plain that his injured knee had not taken kindly to the hours spent kneeling in the fountain today. The damage was from Pippin’s battle with the troll at the Black Gate. It bothered him from time to time and was still healing. Pippin rarely mentioned it, but the others could always tell when the knee was bothering him by the severity of his limp.
Pippin leaned gratefully against Merry and replied, “I think that the new King of Gondor should be aware that there are no places set aside for the City’s children to play in. They play in the streets and most of the time they are run off for causing a disruption of some sort. They need somewhere that they can play.”
“Don’t they have any gardens to run in?” Sam asked.
“Not that I saw,” Pippin said. “Ty told me that there weren’t any fields or any grassy places inside of the walls of the City. They just play where they may. The shop owners don’t like for the lads to play near their businesses but it seems that everywhere that the lads go is near someone’s business.”
“So you want to speak to Aragorn about finding a place for the children to play?” Frodo asked.
“I think,” Pippin yawned again. “That we were far luckier than we knew. The Shire is filled with green meadows and fields. We had places to run and play where we were of no bother to anyone. The children of the White City don’t have that. I spent all day yesterday listening to folks run the lads off just for playing. It shouldn’t be like that.”
“So you plan to ask Aragorn to find a place for the children like the places that we have in the Shire?” Merry asked as they reached their little house.
“There are no places anywhere in Middle-earth like the places that we have in the Shire,” Pippin said, sounding both proud and homesick. “Still, I think that Aragorn will be able to find someplace for the children.”
“I think he will too once he is informed of the situation,” Frodo smiled, thinking of his garden at Bag End.
“Maybe Mister Legolas will know of somewhere that we could plant some trees and a bit of grass,” Sam said, also thinking of Bag End. The flowers would be in bloom there now.
The four hobbits entered the little house, each thinking of the Shire’s fields and rivers that lay so far away from Minas Tirith and its proud stone walls and great towers. Somewhere in the Shire a group of hobbit children were probably running across a meadow in search of fun and adventure with the smell of lush green grass all about them. Frodo sighed deeply. Pippin was right. Children needed someplace to run and play. “I think that it is a splendid idea, Pippin,” Frodo said, closing the door behind them.
“It may not be anything so important as restoring the foundations of the buildings or repairing the walls, but it is something that needs doing,” Pippin said, his voice heavy with sleep.
“It is every bit as important as those things,” Merry smiled. “And tomorrow after you’ve had a night’s rest, I suspect that you will be able to convince Aragorn of its importance.”
“I mean to try,” Pippin said and he left the others and went off to his room.
Merry smiled after him and said, “I was complaining that Pippin wasn’t interested in repairs to the City when all of the time, he knew more about what the City needed than any of us.”
“He has always been full of surprises,” Frodo agreed.
Merry slipped an arm over Frodo’s shoulders and grinned. “Maybe after Pip meets with Strider tomorrow, we can talk him into singing those Elvish songs for you.”
“Right now,” Frodo smiled. “I would be quite happy to hear anything that Pippin would like to sing. He has managed to remind me of home and I was having a bit of trouble remembering exactly why we went through all of this. Pippin’s words about the Shire have brought it all back to me.”
Merry gave his older cousin a quick hug. “Sometimes, we all need a reminder,” Merry said, thinking of days spent fishing on the Brandywine. “Lucky for us, we have Pippin along to put things into perspective.”
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