Siege of Minas Tirith, The
“Of course.” Faramir said promptly. “Thank you for coming, Peregrin, and for all your other services to my House.”
The Hobbit bowed and shot Idril a reproachful look on his way out.
“Master Peregrin is displeased with you.” Faramir observed after the door had closed behind him.
“Peregrin doesn’t know how much you hate having things kept from you.” she retorted crisply.
“True.” said Faramir. Then added quietly. “I knew he had killed himself - learning how is no great shock.”
“I told you so.” Idril said flatly.
“You did.” her brother conceded. “But had I fallen at his side on the walls would it not have led to this same end?”
“He might have died better.” she replied.
Perhaps. They’d never know. “The attack was worth attempting, Idril. It failed for a reason none of us could have anticipated. Who ever heard of Orcs using massed bows?”
“That must have been Angmar,” she said, “only a Man, or what used to be a Man, would have thought of that. But archers or no I still say you’d have done better to keep your Men and yourself within the walls!”
He laughed. “Stubborn as ever, Little Sister!” then he looked at her thoughtfully. She was wearing yellow, not mourning, with neither a veil nor the rich jewels their father had always insisted upon. She was rejecting the strictures Denethor had placed upon her, and perhaps his memory as well. “Father deserves pity rather than anger, Idril.”
She sighed. “So I tell myself, but anger comes easier. You were a fool to follow his orders but his was the greater folly, meddling with that deadly stone. Still - Peregrin is right. Father was not himself, and has not been for years. A stranger saw at once what his own children could not.”
“The change was a slow one,” said Faramir, “too slow for us to see.” then he remembered: “But Boromir felt there was something wrong, he spoke to me of it several times.”
Idril’s frowned. “Could he have known about the seeing stone?”
After a moment Faramir nodded. “Very likely. If Father ever confided in anyone it would be his heir.”
“Boromir wouldn’t have liked it.” she said with certainty. “He would have tried to make Father stop.”
“And if Denethor could not be persuaded by his favorite you or I would have had no better fortune.” said her brother. “We could not have saved him.”
“I wonder if anybody could have....” Idril mused. “Maybe your mother?”
“Maybe.” he said. “That is something we can never know. Had she lived many things would have been different.”
“I will try not to think too ill of Father, as Peregrin said.” Idril promised. Then she smiled and came over to kiss his cheek. “Thank the Valar for sending King Elessar. Even a fool of a brother is better than none!”
He laughed. “Thank the Valar and the One above them for our King!”
“Have you heard what he means to do?” his sister asked settling herself in the window seat beside him. He shook his head and she smiled wickedly. “He is gathering troops to march upon the Black Gates.”
For a moment Faramir was nonplussed, then he remembered Frodo and Samwise. They should be inside Mordor by now, Elessar must be trying to draw the Eye from them. “How is it you are not battering his ears with your protests, Sister?”
“I know better than to treat my King like my brother.” she answered primly. “And matters have changed somewhat. No, I like the idea of attacking Mordor very well.” she lowered her voice slightly. “Queen Undomiel has told me why - you already know the reason I think?”
“I do.” he said as quietly. Then frowned in surprise. “What did you say - what queen is this?”
“Our King’s wife of course. Arwen Undomiel, daughter of Elrond of Rivendell.” she laughed. “I wish you could see the look on your face.”
Faramir collected himself. “How was I to know the King was wed?” he demanded defensively, “and to an Elf at that!”
Idril shook her head. “A half-Elf like her father and her uncle Elros Tar-Minyatur. By marrying Elessar she has chosen to become Mortal. She counts herself a Woman now, pointed ears or no.”
“Have they an heir?” Faramir asked.
Again Idril shook her head. “No. They’ve scarce been married a week Undomiel says, though they’ve been handfasted for far longer.”
Faramir’s frown deepened. “Then if Elessar falls we are left kingless again?”
“Assuming Gondor survives at all.” she pointed out. “But he has some kinsmen with him, perhaps one of them is his heir.”
“We will have to establish that.” her brother said. “The law says the King may not risk himself in battle unless he leaves an heir in safety behind him.”
“I will leave it to you to raise the question with him, Steward.” Idril said dryly.
The first thing Pippin saw when he followed Lord Hurin into the anteroom of Strider’s apartment was Beregond sitting on a couch by an inner door, an open book in his hand. The Hobbit ran to him.
“There you are!” he exclaimed with relief. “I’ve been looking all over for you.”
“You should have asked Hiril.” The Man answered mildly, shutting his book. “She would have told you I had gone to the King.”
“Er, yes. I didn’t think of that.” Pippin answered awkwardly. In fact he’d been afraid to ask. What if Hiril didn’t know either? He‘d only scare her - and the poor lady didn‘t need that. “Anyway you have nothing to worry about. Strider - the King I mean - will understand you had to do what you did.”
Beregond smiled gently at him. “I am not worried.”
The four Rangers scattered around the room had also been beguiling the time with the Lady Idril‘s library. Hurin addressed himself to the Man by the bedroom door. “The Dunadan’s not awake yet?”
The Ranger shook his head, a glint of humor just visible. “No. And it would be more than my life’s worth to disturb him for anything less than a personal assault by the Dark Lord.”
Hurin laughed. “The Lady Arwen’s orders I take it?”
The Man nodded, then looked over his shoulder at the door, alerted by some sound only audible to Ranger ears. It opened and Aragorn emerged; clean, brushed and clad in robes of grey and crimson embellished with gold and silver needlework.
He looked so regal that for a moment Pippin could only gape, then he found his voice. “My word, Strider, don‘t you look grand!”
The two Gondor Men laughed out loud and even the Rangers showed quiet amusement.
Aragorn smiled at him, “Thank you, Pippin.” then he turned to Hurin. “How goes the muster? Are enough Men willing to go?”
“Too many. As Imrahil said, all are ready to follow the King.”
Aragorn frowned. “You must make clear the peril.”
Hurin all but rolled his eyes. “Nobody expects a march to the Black Gates to be a merry maying expedition, Dunadan!” his voice lowered slightly. “Naturally we have not told them it is a diversion, or about the Ringbearer. But we have said that while the King expects this attack to give us victory it is very likely none who make will return. Is that sufficient?”
“I do wish you wouldn’t say things like that, m’Lord.” Pippin put in a little forlornly. “It might turn out all right - after all nobody thought we’d survive the siege either did they?”
“Very true, Pippin.” Aragorn agreed. “But we must consider the worst as well as the best when making our plans. And the Men must know what they risk.”
“That’s true.” the Hobbit conceded.
“Now then,” Aragorn continued to Hurin, “I would like to give my greetings to the Men from the South, and then have a look at the City defenses.” he glanced around. “Where is my wife?”
“She went off with the Lady Idril some hours ago, Dunadan,” answered the Ranger at his shoulder, “after leaving those clothes and threatening us with the direst fates compassed in her spellcraft should we wake you before time.”
“And you obeyed her to the letter as was wise.” Aragorn said with some amusement, then turned to Hurin. “Who is this Lady Idril, Hurinya?”
“Narcil and Almiel’s daughter.” he replied. “Born after you left Gondor. Both their boys died young of the wasting and Narcil fell soon after in a skirmish on the Northern March.” he shook his head sadly. “So many losses so close together were too much for Almiel‘s strength, she died bearing Idril and the little girl became Denethor‘s ward.”
“And so Lady of Gondor.” Aragorn nodded. “That explains all, thank you Hurin.”
“As you see the Gate is destroyed,” Prince Imrahil told the King and his companions as they stood beneath the empty archway, “and where now is the skill to remake it?”
“In Erebor, in the Kingdom of Dain.’ Gimli answered promptly. “If by some chance we should survive this expedition I will send for Mountain wrights to make you gates that no foe will break.”
“A generous offer, Master Dwarf, for which we are grateful,” said Imrahil. “But what do we do now?”
“Men are better than gates,” said Aragorn in voice deliberately pitched to reach the eagerly listening ears crowded at a respectful distance around them, “and no gate will endure against our Enemy if Men desert it.”
“Well said, my Lord,” Hurin answered, “but what of the Women and children, should they be sent into Lossarnach?”
“That is just the question we have been debating.” the crowd parted for Arwen Undomiel,
radiant in a blue gown all aglimmer with threads of gold, and with blue and yellow flowers braided in her long hair. She was followed by several other Women including one almost as tall as she, and another much shorter.
Aragorn broke into a smile at the sight of her, then bent to kiss her hand. “And what have you decided, my Lady?”
“Nothing yet.” Arwen turned to one of her companions, “The Lady Idril here argues for it.”
“At present everybody is crowded into the fourth, fifth and sixth circles,” the small Woman in the yellow gown explained, “and the greater part of our siege stores have been spoiled or destroyed. Under such conditions sickness is perilously likely. Lossarnach would be healthier for the bulk of our people until the lower circles are habitable again.”
“A well considered argument.” said Aragorn. “Who is against it?”
“I am.” Arwen answered. “The threat of sickness is real, but Emeldir of Endorien told me long ago that folk do best in their own place, no matter how ruinous, and my experience in the old wars proved her right.”
Aragorn considered. “What of the water supply, is it clean?”
“Yes,” Idril answered, “the enemy had not the time to meddle with it.”
“Then they may stay.” he decided. “Food can be brought from Lossarnach as easily as the people sent there, and many hands will lighten the work of rebuilding.” he smiled at his distant kinswoman. “I trust my wife has already thanked you for all your kindness to us, Lady Idril.”
Yellow eyes, like her father Narcil’s, looked up at him. “A small return for my brother’s life.” she answered, then smiled radiantly. “Thank you for Faramir.”
“I forsee I will have good cause to be grateful for him myself in days to come.” Aragorn answered, studying her closely. The last of the Anarioni could make a great deal of trouble for Isildur’s Heir if she chose, but he saw at once she had no more intention of opposing him than Faramir or Imrahil.
The lack of resistance continued to surprise him, he couldn’t believe a thousand years of obdurate denial had just disappeared overnight. Sooner or later he would be challenged, of that he was certain, but it would not be by Idril. And hopefully not until after Sauron was defeated.
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