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AUTHOR NOTE: I'm in the midst of preparations to move across the country, and most likely won’t be able to start chapter 3 for another month. But here's chapter 2, and thank you for reading!
Chapter 2: Resilience and Respect
Then Aragorn entered first and the others followed. And there at the door were two guards in the livery of the Citadel: one tall, but the other scarce the height of a boy; and when he saw them he cried aloud in surprise and joy.
‘Strider! How splendid! Do you know, I guessed it was you in the black ships. But they were all shouting corsairs and wouldn’t listen to me. How did you do it?’
Aragorn laughed, and took the hobbit by the hand. ‘Well met indeed!’ he said. ‘But there is not time yet for travellers’ tales.’
But Imrahil said to Éomer: ‘Is it thus that we speak to our kings?’
‘The Houses of Healing’, The Return of the King
He was startled when the King began to laugh, but his attention was diverted by his brother, who gasped and grabbed his arm.
“He lives!” Delumîr cried out. “There, I see him!”
“Who lives?” Caladîr asked, then he paled and his steps faltered. For there, emerging from the large tent they were approaching, was Peregrin Took, talking earnestly about something to the Dwarf, who was stroking his beard in thought.
“How can this be?” he marveled. “Sire, we saw the enormity of the troll warrior which crushed Peregrin. You saw it. There is no way...”
“There are two ways,” Aragorn told them quietly. “The resilience of hobbits, coupled with the determination and strength of a friend to find him beneath that great carcass ’ere his breath failed, and a strong and buoyant spirit was lost to us forever.”
“Resilience indeed,” Caladîr murmured, still scarcely believing his own eyes. “Halflings... err, hobbits, are truly extraordinary.”
As Gimli strode away towards the main encampment, Pippin spotted them and burst into a glad smile. “Strider!” he cried out happily. He began to hurry toward the King as quickly as his healing ribs and shoulder would allow, and Aragorn strode forward to meet him. The men followed in his wake.
Pippin bowed, then gazed up at Aragorn with delight.
“We were hoping you would visit today, but Merry says that King duties are even more difficult and time-consuming than Ranger duties.”
“They are,” Aragorn said with a laugh, “but I find it impossible to stay away. Today I bring new friends to meet all of you.”
Pippin smiled up at the men expectantly.
“I am Caladîr,” the elder spoke, slightly out of breath. He was warmed by the young hobbit’s exuberance. “This dusty fellow is my brother, Delumîr. We are both greatly joyed to see you well, Master Peregrin.” He and Delumîr bowed.
“Peregrin Took, at your service. Please call me Pippin.” Pippin bowed in turn, then peered up at them closely. “I remember you, I think. From the march north?”
“Yes,” Delumîr said. “Congratulations on such a miraculous recovery.”
Pippin grinned. “The praise is due to Gimli, who found me, and Strider, who wouldn’t let me get up even though there was so much to see and do here. I was forced to heal quickly to earn my freedom.”
Aragorn merely smiled, then knelt to inspect Pippin’s rust-colored tunic. It was slightly long for the hobbit, but well fitting otherwise.
“This is good cloth,” he said approvingly. “Have enough garments been found to suit everyone’s needs?”
“More than enough,” Pippin replied. “The supply boats bring the most wonderful things. Gimli seems to think it his duty to inspect everything, and appropriate what he thinks we might like.” He brushed the King’s embroidered sleeve with curious fingers. “This is nice. A king should dress well.”
“As should hobbits,” Aragorn said gently, “especially four very special ones.” He got to his feet as the brothers, who had been listening to the exchange, exchanged incredulous glances. To speak so informally to one’s king! And Lord Aragorn spoke in such a tender manner to this hobbit. It would take some getting used to.
Just then, Aragorn noticed Prince Imrahil beckoning to him from a nearby rise of land.
“Gentlemen, I hope you will excuse me if I do not accompany you further,” Aragorn said to the men. “'King duties' require my attention, as my young friend here would say. If you have no other pressing tasks, Sir Peregrin, would you act as my emissary and introduce Captains Caladîr and Delumîr to Frodo and Sam, and Merry, if he is about?”
“Of course,” Pippin said proudly.
“Thank you. They are only now returning from the Black Gate.”
“They’ve been in Mordor all this time, and missed all the feasts?” Pippin asked in dismay.
“Apparently we have,” Caladîr said with a smile. “But we begrudge not our duty, and the King has kindly offered to feast us this eve.”
“But that’s hours from now,” Pippin exclaimed. “You’d better come with me. We’re having luncheon as soon as Gimli returns.”
“A moment, Pippin,” Aragorn said, turning toward the brothers. “It would be a kindness if you could share with Frodo and Sam what you told me about the healing of Udûn – how the streams are being cleared, and the waters cleansed. They will like that, and such news will help ease their hearts.”
“We will tell them, sire,” Delumîr assured him. “And thank you.”
“It is we who thank you,” Aragorn said. “Enjoy your visit.” He strode away, and Pippin gazed after the King with an expression of love and respect. And even after such a short time in Lord Aragorn’s company, two brand-new captains of Gondor realized that they felt the same way.
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