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Falcon, The: The Adventures of Peregrin Took: 12. The Singer and the Thief
Pass, pass, parry, lunge. Cut, pass, lunge, parry. Parry, parry—
Pippin grunted as he tripped and fell. He cursed.
“What a foul language,” Obed said, helping him up.
“Orcs are foul,” Pippin replied.
Obed frowned, not understanding the humor. Pippin sighed, took his dueling partner’s proffered hand, and picked up his sword.
“What am I doing wrong?” he asked.
It was nine days since his arrival among the Erites, and he had taken up Obed’s offer to spar with him and teach each other their styles of swordfighting. Obed was truly skilled, a prodigy, in fact, or so it seemed to Pippin. He was at least as skilled as Faramir, at the age of twenty.
Pippin was trying to learn a maneuver favored by the Erites and their hostile neighbors the Haradrim. The desert warriors with their curved or at least leaflike blades, like the Elves of Mirkwood, all but danced with their enemies. They had a maneuver wherein a lateral cut was strengthened by planting the rear foot into the ground and spinning both body and sword so that the blade would pass not once but twice across the enemy, at the least distracting one’s opponent, at most delivering a surprisingly lethal blow. Pippin, small and agile, knew this figure was to his advantage, and he wanted desperately to master it. Before he left.
They were sparring in a clearing used by the Medzhaim, Leah with them. Despite his lingering despondency, Pippin’s natural curiosity, and hobbit resiliency, did not permit him to mope for long. He wanted to learn about the desert, the Medzha fighting skills, and most of all, about the tamed falcons the warriors used for communicating over the ergs.
Now the cry of Obed’s falcon got their attention, and Obed lifted up his hand to the small speck in the sky that came spiraling down. “Serak,” Obed greeted the bird, which called in reply. “What have you found?”
The falcon released a scrap of cloth from its talons, bearing marks that looked like writing. Obed peered at it for a moment, and then gave it to Pippin. “It is in the Westron runes,” he said.
Pippin took it. On it was one word, in Cirth.
“’Help’,” he said. He peered closer at the writing, then gave it to Leah. “Is this what I think it is?”
Leah examined and then tasted it.
“Blood,” she said.
They went together, Obed on his horse, Pippin and Leah on Tempest, Serak the falcon flying ahead, leading them north into the deep desert. The hills of the massif turned into the graved valleys and then into gravel flats and finally into the sea of sand. The horses ran as fast as was safe; Tempest outstripped her counterpart, and soon Pippin and Leah were far in the lead, almost equaling the falcon. Heat and light rained down on them from the sky, and castles of mirages ascended and descended on the horizon.
They saw the horses first, in the lee of a dune scalloped by the wind. Two figures were next to them, one lying on the ground, the other seeming to tend to him. This one looked up as they arrived, heralded by the falcon’s cry.
It was the singer from the market. He rose, and gestured to the man on the ground. “He is ill from the sun.”
Leah leapt off Tempest with the waterskin. “Pippin, watch him,” she said, motioning to the singer.
But Pippin was staring at the prone man, blistered by heat, but not unrecognizable.
“Brogar?” he whispered.
He skidded down the dune disregarding the heat of the sand, which even he could feel through the soles of his feet.
He bent down close and held up his old shipmate’s head and taking the waterskin from Leah pressed its mouth to Brogar’s. “Drink up, mate,” he said softly.
He looked up at the singer. “What is he doing here?”
“I know not,” was the reply. “I came upon him already very ill as I was leaving the Sakharan realm.”
“And you are not ill?” Leah asked.
Pippin wondered why she was being so suspicious. Erites were hospitable to all travelers, until those travelers proved other than trustworthy.
Obed arrived and quickly surmised the situation. “Come,” he said. “Lay him on my horse. We will take you to our encampment. Both of you.”
The singer bowed. “My thanks.”
On the ride back, Pippin asked Leah, “That bard.”
“I do not trust him.”
“I can see that.” Pippin hesitated. “Some people can hear thoughts,” he began. “I think he’s one of them.”
“There is no such thing.”
He was just about to advise the same thing. He had the feeling the singer, riding before them, was listening.
Brogar was taken to a healer’s tent where Pippin joined him. He was delirious with sunstroke, but would survive.
“Seek me when he wakes,” Pippin told the physician, and then hastened to the Prophet’s tent.
The elders and chiefs were assembled. Zedek sat upon his chair. The singer, garbed in his black cloak and hood, stood in the center. Obed had just finished introducing him, and now stepped aside.
“Welcome to the springs of Pallan,” said Zedek, politely but without warmth.
The stranger bowed. “I thank you.”
Leah, seated behind her father with the women, murmured something. Zedek hushed her, but then said, “Forgive us, but it is our custom to seek the name of our guests, of the travelers through this desert land. Please, tell us of thyself.”
For a moment the stranger did nothing. Then he reached up and pulled his veil back.
He was an Elf.
“Djinn,” Obed said in wonder and fear.
“I am Maglor, son of Feanor,” said the Elf, and Pippin couldn’t tell whether it was wonder he felt as his heart leapt, or terror.
The discussion was still ongoing near midnight. The chiefs and elders of the Erites were discussing the matter of Sakhara, contemplating war. Many were inhospitable to the idea of interfering in the matters of the Valley and its people. Some were afraid that too much contact with the “idolaters” would taint the purity of the people of Er. Others were more afraid of war. Obed and the Medzhaim were eager for battle. Leah spoke, addressing the men thus:
“The evil of Seti spreads across the desert and deep into the plains of the south. Have we resisted the lure of the Lord of Mordor, that long claimed our cousins to the north, only to hide our eyes from the Man of Seth?”
The Elf remained in the tent, no longer speaking, only listening, and not just with his ears. Pippin knew this and finally slipped out of the tent into the night outside.
The air had a chill. Pippin drew his cloak about him. He saw a fire where Medzhaim were sitting sipping coffee and munching bread. Pippin went to join them, coming silently into their circle. The men looked at him but remained silent. After a while Pippin rose, taking his cup of coffee and bread, and with a nod, left them.
He was sitting by himself upon a rock in the dirt when Leah emerged from the pavilion. Her face was clouded.
“Didn’t go well?” he asked.
She said nothing, but came to sit next to him, her eyes fixed on the clear dark sky.
“Tell me of this djinn,” she said. “What do you know of him?”
Pippin thought back to the story of the Silmarils. “Well, it is said …” And he told her briefly of the tale.
Leah listened darkly. “You have had dealings with djinni. Is he who he says he is?”
Pippin considered the sight of Maglor’s eyes, comparing them to Galadriel’s, and then nodded. “I think so,” he said. “He’s old enough, at least. There are ages in his eyes if you look at them.”
“I will not,” said Leah. “The djinni are not to be trusted.”
“How do you know?” Pippin asked her. “Have you ever met one before in your life?”
“I do not need to.”
“Well I have. I have had ‘dealings’ indeed. This cloak was woven by Galadriel, the greatest lady yet to walk the face of the world. Legolas of Mirkwood is my friend and comrade, and Companion of the Ring same as I. The Evening Star is a half-Elf, and I’ve met his son, greatest of lore-masters of this earth. Elves are beautiful, and lofty, and wherever they dwell is blessed!”
“Yet in the tale you have just told me, they have done great harm and ruinous deeds. Especially these sons of the maker of the Dawnstar,” Leah pointed out coolly.
Pippin was forced to admit that she was right. Perhaps in this place and in other places of the world, Elves were dark and untrustworthy. He didn’t know.
They sat in silence for a long while.
Brilliant and smoky, a star fell, with a soft exclamation from Pippin.
“What do you see when you see a falling star?” he asked the woman at his side.
“War in heaven,” was her answer.
Pippin was not comforted.
“What do you see, Pippin?”
“A chance to make a wish,” he replied with a smile.
“And what did you wish for, just now?”
Pippin hesitated. “Well, I suppose there’s no harm in telling you, since it’s not going to come true anyway. I wished that I returned to the Shire and found Diamond in love with me.”
There it was. The first time he had mentioned his wife’s name since he had told her he was married. At first she had not understood his concern; Erite men took many wives, and she was not looking for a husband. Pippin painfully explained that he could no longer be her lover. She did not speak to him for days. When once again she did, it was as if their affair had never happened. For a while Pippin was thankful for that. Now it troubled him.
He looked at her, concerned and wary. “I’m sorry for everything.”
She said nothing, draping the edge of her headscarf and veil over her knees like a blanket. “Worry not,” she finally said. “Let it be forgotten.”
“But I don’t want to forget I loved you. Love you still, a bit; a great deal more than a bit.”
There; he said it. He waited for her reply, any reply, like a fellow in a calm waiting for the wind to strike.
But Leah said nothing, nor did she look in his direction, or favor him with a glance or a slap. She simply gazed up into the sky, and after a moment that felt unending, Pippin did the same.
“Diamond,” Leah said.
Pippin let out a breath. “Yes? What about her?”
“Did you ever love her?”
Pippin thought. The quick answer, was no; she had been chosen for him; they had been strangers to each other; she was too proud, he too changed, to be more than strangers. They had both been too young.
But even as he thought so, his mind slipped past cold silences and bitter arguments, past dinners spent without a word passing and nights spent apart, she in the satiny cotton of Lebennin sheets, he in the roughspun bedclothes of some barmaid’s chamber; slipped to a day after their fourth anniversary.
Pippin had taken Diamond on a visit to her childhood haunts in the Northfarthing. As they rode, he noticed how, as the miles dropped away, her icy reserve and haughty demeanor did too, as the passed the Three-Farthing Stone and entered her old country.
“Oh, Peregrin,” she said, riding past Bindbole Wood. A light was in her eyes and the wind was in her hair; and she turned to him and he saw the hint of a smile upon her lips.
“What is it, my lady?” he had asked her.
“Do you think they are still in there?”
He followed her gaze to the Wood. “Who would ‘they’ be, milady?”
Pippin had never considered that his wife would know, or even care to know, of the things he had seen and done. It appears she did.
“Perhaps we should go in and look for ourselves,” he suggested. And the moment as it seemed she truly considered the invitation was the moment Pippin felt love for her.
They didn’t, of course; but that visit to the poor and beautiful valley of Long Cleeve was one of the most pleasant times they had experienced as husband and wife. A month afterward, she announced she was with child, and he embraced her until she scolded. At the proper time Faramir was born, and she let him name him that even though no one knew how to pronounce it. The Tooks enjoyed it; it fit into the family.
“One of these days I’ll take you to see the man you’re named for,” Pippin told his newborn son, gazing in wonder at the child’s eyes already beginning to turn green, at the full head of fluffy chestnut-brown curls. “What do you say to that, my lady?” he asked his wife.
Diamond sighed, and for a moment, Pippin thought she’d say yes.
“Yes,” Pippin said to Leah, sitting under the stars in the midst of the tents in the oasis. “I suppose I did love her, once or twice, however briefly. I thought perhaps after our son was born, things would get better. Instead he became just another subject for us to fight about.”
He shrugged. “I didn’t marry for love. I didn’t even marry for friendship. I’d never have cared to know her if she hadn’t been betrothed to me. I don’t expect to find her waiting for me when I return. Why should she? Our Rules are as strict as your law when it comes to things like this: when a husband abandons his wife, she has every right to a divorce.” Now he laughed. “I really shouldn’t expect any sort of welcome. Prodigal, rebel, runaway… you can be as wild as you want if you’re a Took, but never go against the Tooks. By running away, I’ve done that. They’ve probably disowned me by now.”
He heard Leah exhale and turned to her. She gazed sidelong at him, and then said, “May I tell you something unlovely about yourself?”
Pippin, taken aback, nodded. “Please do.”
“When you pity yourself, you sound like a petulant boy.” Leah looked away into the sky. She continued, “I much prefer you smiling. Riding upon Miraz with a carefree smile on your face, as if all the sands, and plains, and seas, and countries of the world altogether are too small for you. That is the Peregrin Took I love.”
Pippin, speechless, got up onto his knees and kissed her. It lasted only a moment; then he turned his head and pressed it against her cheek as he hugged her, saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
Footsteps behind them made them both turn. It was Obed.
“Father is to make his decision. Come.”
It seemed to Pippin that the Prophet of Er had aged since he had last seen him. Shadows now lurked beneath Zedek’s eyes, and the lines on his face were deeper and more tightly drawn. Yet that face was resolute as he rose from his seat, staff in hand; and his eyes were bright as ever.
“For our guests, the son of Feanor and the son of Paladin, I shall speak as a man of the West,” he began in Westron, “and also for the words I shall speak were not spoken first by me, but by a king of the downfallen land of long ago. War is counseled, war against the Man of Seth, Seti the sorcerer, and his enthralled kingdom. And why? He has enslaved innocents and attacked his neighbors; he has transformed the Valley of the Star into a place of fear and might. He promotes with dark arts the power of his demon-idol, Seth; and that is an affront to Er that alone deserves our enmity. So war is counseled me.
“Yet I know that war, though it be righteous, though it be just, though it be called by men holy—war brings sorrow, sorrow and death.
“I am the Prophet of Er, as my father was before me, and his father before him; as my son the captain shall be after me.” Zedek looked kindly at Obed, and also at Leah; and finally he glanced at Pippin. “It is given to me to find the will of Er, and bring it to men. It is also my duty to justify the ways of men to Er.
“The question is war; and so, as Meneldur King of Westernesse said long ago, shall I ‘put iron in the hands of captains of conquest, and count the slain as our glory, and say to Er, at least Your enemies were amongst them? Or shall I fold hands, while friends die, and live in blind peace until the ravisher comes? What will then we do: match naked hands against naked might and die in vain, or flee, and say to Er, at least we spilled no blood? Both ways lead to evil.’ So spake the King over the Sea, whose subjects brought the faith of Er to our people.”
Zedek shook his head. “He did not choose, but chose to leave the choice to his son.” He gazed again at Obed, and again at Leah, and took a deep breath. “But I must choose. And so I choose now.”
He raised his staff and spoke in a tone of command. “We shall join with the Queen Iset and her guards. We shall aid them in their fight for liberation. We shall bring the might of the desert upon the Valley of the Star, until it is cleansed of the darkness of Seth.
“Send riders to all our people,” he commanded. “Send messengers in secret to Iset, and to any who would aid us in this task. I call all Eraim, men, women, and children,” said Zedek, “to war.”
Geber bet-Eria burst into activity, and many at Bet Pallan knew no rest that night. Obed commanded Medzhaim upon the swiftest steeds to summon all their number to the Mountain of Er, west, north, and south.
“I will bring the message to Iset,” said Leah.
“No, sister,” said Obed firmly. Leah’s eyes flashed, but Obed stood resolute. “You are known now to the Temple Guard, and to Seti. The same goes for you, Pippin,” he added, forestalling Pippin’s impetuous suggestion. “My heart tells me Er has another task for you in this great matter.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Pippin muttered. “What about the Bani?”
“I have sent riders and birds to watch the southern marches as far as we can see,” Obed replied. “If and when they come, the Plainsmen will be a great ally to our cause.”
“Especially if they come with mumakil,” Leah added.
Pippin remembered that Poclis was dubious of bringing oliphaunts along the Long River, but then he thought, these were different circumstances.
He left Leah and Obed and the Medzhaim and went to the tent where Brogar was resting. He found his friend covered with wet cloths and being fed lukewarm water mixed with goat’s milk. Brogar was awake and looked up at him with a wide, cracked smile.
“I thought I was still seeing things,” he said to Pippin, reaching up for Pippin to clasp his hand. “Razàr. The Great Rider have been kind after everything.”
“Something like that,” Pippin replied with a smile. “How are you, Brogar?”
“Alive and awake,” Brogar said, “which is a surprise, since I lost my way a few days ago coming from Umbar. If I had not run into that Elf, I would be dead. He had food and water.”
“Where were you going?” Pippin wanted to know. “What’s happened to the ship? Where’s Morelin, and Davy? Tell me everything!”
Brogar smiled and told his story. After the storm that damaged the Mormegil, they had put into a succession of little harbors and villages, repairing and reprovisioning, and doing a little light piracy. “Nothing much.” After perhaps five weeks of this, they decided to venture back into more frequented waters, to see how much of a bounty was still on their heads, if any. They found out quickly, and were engaged by another Corsair ship that they defeated in a duel that ended with the opposing ship sunk by the shoals off the Cape of Andrast.
Unfortunately, the Gondorian navy had resumed control of its national waters, and one of the new double-hulled, three-masted war galleys had stopped the Mormegil and arrested its crew. They were taken as far as Pelargir and brought before the Steward of Gondor himself.
“Then the Steward said to the captain, ‘Are you not Elenmor, a Ranger of Arnor?’ To which the captain said, ‘Morelin, if you please, and a pirate.’ Then the Steward sent us away to be held while he spoke with the captain. I do not know what they spoke of. But that night, we found the captain at the door of our cell, Davy and I; and he was opening our cells and freeing us. We stole our way through the lord’s house in Pelargir and managed to arm ourselves when our flight was detected.
“Oh, Razàr, it was a glorious fight! We slew, and they slew, and we looted, and they chased us. We boarded that trim galley of theirs and made as if to steal it, and you should have seen the look on their faces when it seemed we were going to do so! Ah, but the captain has only one love upon the sea. That was his plan all along, you see.
“Imagine the looks on the harbor-master and the captain of the navy and on all the soldiers as their bright new ship foundered right at port, while the Black Sword of the Ocean slipped her berth and raced away under the darkened moon! And the captain climbed onto the poop deck and ordered our black flags to fly, and so we sailed.
“We came to Umbar to a hero’s welcome. All was forgiven for our feat against the navy of Gondor.
“Loaded with booty, the captain offered to disband the crew. I decided it was time to do as I said, and buy a horse and go seek my sister’s fate and my own road home.
“I have been seeking the desert nomads for I was told they have lore of many lands. But I am not as skilled as I could be in traveling through a sea of sand. I lost my path and wandered from spring to spring as best I could, hoping to find this so-called holy Mountain where the nomads had assembled. I heard of wars and rumors of wars as well.
“Three days ago, near the end of my tether, I came across another rider coming from the east. So I came into the company of the Elf. Together we sought this place. I believe the Elf called the birds of the nomads. And so here we are. But now, tell me how you came to this place. How did you survive the sea? And do you know what happened to the first mate?”
So Pippin told the story, much abridged, of his journeys with Poclis, from the mysterious help of the leviathans to the traverse of the Plains of the Sun to the installation of Poclis as chief of all his People. He mentioned briefly his capture by the Sakharans, rushing over the circumstances of the barge and the box and his experiences there. He spoke about the capture of Leah, and the true identity of the magician Seti as Alatar the Blue, and of the chase across the Long River into the desert pursued by a sandstorm. At the end of it Brogar shook his head and laughed.
“There is a word for you in my land,” he informed Pippin. “Terik.”
“Sounds like my family,” Pippin replied, taking one of the cloths from Brogar’s head and refreshing it in a basin of water. “What does it mean?”
“Fool,” said Brogar. “But a special kind of fool: not a simpleton, but someone so reckless as to be clearly unwise, yet whose very daring warms the hearts of the gods. Wherever the fool may go, in whatever place he finds himself, he will find himself with whatever grace he requires, to keep going.”
Pippin made no reply for a long time. Finally he made himself smile. “No,” he said, “that’s not me.”
“It’s a good, if dangerous, thing to be.”
Pippin laughed. “Danger? Well, if you wish to talk about danger,” and he eagerly changed the subject, “I think there’s going to be a war on.” He spoke about the meeting. “And that fellow who rescued you—he’s quite an Elf.”
Brogar shuddered. “I owe him my life for his kindness. But he scares me, Razàr. All Elves do, but he is too ancient, too terrifying.”
“I know,” Pippin agreed with a serious nod. “Still, I think he intends to help us.”
“Us? You will take part in this?”
“Did I say ‘us’?” That must have been a slip of the tongue. “Well, I meant the Erites. I’m going to Umbar. I plan to sail back to Gondor.”
“You are going home,” said Brogar wistfully.
Pippin didn’t tell his friend that he doubted anyplace would truly be home; but the Shire was a good country, where he had friends and family; it would have to do. Until the next time the wander-love came upon him.
He felt someone join them, and saw Brogar’s eyes widen, and turned to see the Elf.
“How do you fare?” he asked Brogar.
“The doctor tells me I’ll be on my feet by tomorrow,” the Easterling replied, not taking his eyes off his visitor.
“That is good.” The Elf paused. “You,” he said to Pippin. “You are Peregrin.”
Pippin nodded. “Peregrin Took, at your service.”
“Offer not your service to me lightly,” said the Elf with a gleam in his eyes. “For I may ask it of you when it is least advantageous and most dangerous.”
“It’s too late now,” Pippin replied, “for I’ve given it to you all the same. It’s only polite.”
“Polite,” repeated the Elf. “Rest well,” he said to Brogar with a bow. “If it please you, I shall sing for you, and aid in some small way your recovery.”
Brogar looked uncomfortably at Pippin, but said, “If you want to,” looking dubious.
“I do,” said the Elf. “I shall return with my harp. Peregrin, would you walk with me?”
It was not a request.
They were barely out of the tent when Pippin spoke first.
“Are you really the same Maglor from the Elder Days?”
The Elf nodded. “Yes, I am. Do you wish for proofs?”
“I’ll take your word for it,” was Pippin’s reply. “And what do you want?”
“Surely as you have been in the City of the Sky, and seen the mechanism in stone being built therein, you already know the answer to your question. But I shall answer you, if you will answer a question of mine. I come, of course, for the Silmaril. It is mine; or, at least, it was, and claim it do I still, though truly I had wished it never fished from its long home in the heart of the Sea. But it has come again within reach, and I am sworn to reach for it, though all be consumed.”
The Elf brooded darkly, something Pippin had never before beheld in Elves: it was terrible and frightening. Then Maglor turned to him and said, “And you: who are you, Peregrin? What do you want? Why are you here? Whom do you serve?”
Pippin decided it would be good to answer with some consideration. “My lord is Aragorn Elessar, King of Arnor and Gondor,” he began. “I am, I guess, on errantry here in Far Harad; that is, on a journey of my own device. Who I am and why I want, are probably why I’m here. I am a hobbit, but a wanderer; I set out to seek adventure in places I’ve never been to; and after quite a lot of them, here I am. Any other answer would have to be much longer and end much more dubiously than that.” He glanced up boldly at the Elf. “And whom do you serve?”
“What must be.”
Pippin nodded. He’d expected such an answer.
They came to the place where the horses were tethered. The Elf went to his steed, caressing its cheeks and murmuring soft phrases to it in his own language, which the other horses heeded. From his pack he produced a simple harp. He noticed Pippin’s interest and asked, “Do you play, hobbit-wanderer?”
“Not a harp. But I can carry a tune.”
“You must lend me a tune in the days to come.” Maglor gazed up into the sky. “And days there will be yet, whatever happens here upon this corner of the wide and ancient world.”
“My lord?” asked Pippin.
“Maglor then. Pippin, or even Pip.”
“Maglor, what is the Blessed Land like?”
For an instant grief ravaged the Elf’s face; grief, anger, and even rage. Pippin took a step back, terrified.
Then the Elf mastered himself, and gazed as an Elf would: sorrowfully and full of regret.
“Beautiful and beyond reach,” he said to Pippin. He patted his horse. “Pray that we do not see more than a glimpse of it when the wizard activates his machine.”
They made their way back to the tent. “That triangular building around the Silmaril is a machine?” Pippin asked.
“The order and measure of its chambers is known somewhat to me. It is a magnifier of power, made for one purpose: to part the veil between this world and the world from whence the Silmaril came.”
“I heard that before, but I still can’t understand,” Pippin said. “Why would he want to do this? Does he want to conquer Aman? Is he mad? Not even the Númenóreans could do that. Sakhara doesn’t even know how to make steel!”
“I know not his purpose,” the Elf replied. “Nor care. I care he has laid claim of possession upon my father’s work, the Silmaril I held in this hand.” He showed his right hand to Pippin; it was whole, but its skin showed the hideous scars of a terrible burn, as if it had been set into a fire and left there. Pippin swallowed at the mark of the Silmaril upon an unworthy hand. “That claim I cannot suffer.”
Pippin recalled the story of the Silmarils and the terrible oath of Feanor and his sons. “I suppose you can’t,” he said softly. “Will you steal it when the Erites attack?”
“The wars of men are no longer my concern, but it seems meet to seize the chances presented to us. Yes, I intend to take it.
“And moreover, I want you to help me.”
Pippin halted. He stared at the Elf. “You can’t be serious.”
Maglor advanced on him, his eyes agleam. “The Silmaril is mounted on a spiraling crystal set upon a silver mast that I nor any other speaking creature can climb. The structure of the chamber now housing it is such that one cannot climb down to take it. The pillar is set in foundations of Númenórean make, unbreakable by any craft we have at hand. It cannot be toppled.
“To take it, one must climb the tower, onto the capital, and pry the Jewel from its crystal. Perhaps once I could have done it myself, but no longer. Men cannot do it. Only a small and nimble creature can do so. I have no patience training monkeys. When I saw you in the market, I thought perhaps you would do.
“Now, after speaking with you, and discerning your mind…”
Pippin realized the whole conversation had been spent unguarded to the Elf’s deep sight. So Maglor had gained his knowledge of the plans of the Stairway: he had taken it from unguarded and unknowing minds. Pippin closed the door to his mind, but it was too late. The Elf continued as if Pippin had done nothing.
“… I feel I should not coerce you, but rather, ask. Pip, I am in need of a thief. What say you?” Maglor smiled. “Shall we steal a Silmaril?”
“So what do you say, Pip?” Merry asked.
Pip frowned. The tree seemed awfully high, even for him. All this for a kite?
“I don’t know,” he told Merry.
Next to Merry, Myrtle Burrows burst into tears. Estella comforted her with a pat on the back, and gave Merry a Look.
Merry sighed. He was twenty-two and just discovered Fatty Bolger’s sister was very pretty. “Come on, Pippin. You’re the only one who can climb that high.” He put his hands on Pippin’s shoulders. “Come on. Do it and maybe Myrtle will give you a kiss.”
“No I won’t! Lads are smelly!”
Pippin didn’t find the offer very appealing either. “Girls are a bother,” he said.
Estella was smirking at Merry, who seemed quite unaware but for the gleam in his eyes. “All right then, I guess we’ll just have to try to knock it down,” he said. “Where’s a rock?”
“No!” Myrtle protested. “You’ll ruin it!”
“But it’s a very high tree, Myrtle dear,” Merry explained to the young hobbit girl. “Even Peregrin Took is daunted from time to time.”
Pippin heard that. “I am not!” he protested, and without another word, leapt for a low branch and began to climb.
Up, up, up he went, until he got so high he felt like a giant in a story told by Cousin Bilbo before he went away. He reached for the small white kite, and with his last reckless reach obtained it; but instead of climbing down saw how high he was and decided he liked it up there.
“Merry! Look at me, I’m an eagle!” And Pippin stood on the branch and spread his arms.
“Very funny, young hobbit,” said Merry sternly. “Now stop that and finish what you set out to do, and mind you don’t end up killing anyone, such as yourself for example.”
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