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Falcon, The: The Adventures of Peregrin Took: 2. Knight of Gondor
It was almost more than he could manage, but Pippin held his own for the moment. The pressure of the man’s long blade and long arms upon Pippin’s sword was simply superior, as long as Pippin was stilled. He had learned to make up for his lack of size and strength with tricks of movement and positioning. He had to move now.
To the man’s surprise, Pippin stepped back with his left foot and simultaneously lowered his sword. Suddenly off-balance, the man stumbled forward, already cursing. Pippin swung his sword and smacked the flat of its blade onto the man’s back, then over the man’s prostrate head to touch the steel to the man’s neck.
Applause. “Wonderfully played, Master Peregrin,” said Faramir, Steward of Gondor. “You have continued your practice even in the peaceful Shire, I deem, for you have gotten the better of my faithful captain.”
“Indeed, my lord, he has,” agreed Beregond on his knees. “Now, would my lord Peregrin be kind enough to spare my life and withdraw his blade ...?”
Pippin did so with a chuckle, allowing Beregond to rise. They sheathed their weapons. Impulsively Pippin hugged the Man’s waist. “It’s good to see you well, Beregond!” said Pippin.
“Likewise, my lord,” Beregond replied with some embarrassment. Pippin heard it and quickly withdrew. Even he calls me ‘lord.’ I’ll never be able to persuade them otherwise.
He heard footsteps behind him and the slither of steel being drawn from a scabbard. A fell grin curled up his cheeks. “Shall I leave Gondor without its Steward, then?” he jested wickedly, turning to face Faramir.
Faramir’s eyes were full of mirth though his face seemed grave. “I vow that I shall not give your lady or my lord Meriadoc any cause to grieve for you.”
“And what about Sam?”
“Sam will not mind. Guard yourself!” And Faramir met him with a low pass. Pippin leapt back and parried, flat against flat.
Pass upon pass, cut upon cut, Pippin dueled with his teacher. The exercise hall in the Citadel armory had seen fewer finer exhibitions of swordsmanship in practice. It was known that the sons of Denethor had more skill with blade than most, in many a long year. Boromir had superior strength and quickness, Faramir more cunning. Pippin had learned from both, and added a few tricks of his own.
A small crowd gathered from the guardsmen and sons of nobility who were present, drawn by the sight of a tall, dark-haired Man and a ruddy-haired Halfling engaging in an exercise with live blades. Pippin felt good: he remembered most of Faramir’s methods, and he doubted the Man likewise knew his, honed with Merry in Crickhollow and later on with passing travelers, Rangers, and the hobbits-at-arms that his father had maintained since the Troubles.
They paused for breath. Their faces gleamed with perspiration as they grinned at each other. Faramir stripped off his tunic and flung it to a guardsman. Pippin did the same. He wore no singlet underneath and the Men gathered remarked in awe at the faded scars upon his chest, stomach and back. As boys during the siege of Minas Tirith, they had heard of the valor of the Prince of the Halflings before the Morannon, of his slaying of the stone-troll that decimated the very guard to which they now belonged. The Halfling had been little more than a boy himself then, a lad who had walked with the others of the Fellowship of the Ring into the twilight of legend in their own lifetimes—a situation heretofore reserved for Elves, whose lifetimes were endless.
Pippin would have pointed out, had he not been otherwise occupied, that killing the troll had been almost lucky. Lucky that he had been too short to be caught by the first swing of the creature’s mace. Lucky that he had a sword capable of piercing the gravelly crust of its skin. Lucky he had been too mad and stupid to run. But he did not point that out. He was a far better swordsman now, and he was enjoying himself.
Faramir and Peregrin fought on. The delight on their faces was the only thing that surpassed the well-meted deadliness of their strokes. Faramir’s sword was long and keen, an heirloom from the days of Cirion. Trollsbane was smaller, but older far.
Pippin noticed Faramir was growing tired. At forty-three Faramir was nearing middle age, Númenórean blood or no. For a moment Pippin felt angry. Everyone was growing old and settling down. If he saw Legolas, would he see age on the immortal face? No. He’d see the Elven equivalent: an unquenchable longing for the Sea. The Sea. The inexorable Sundering Sea! He overestimated his thrust and Faramir was not defending as he should have. The edge of Pippin’s sword slid into the man’s shirt.
Faramir’s sharp grunt of pain was followed by murmurs of concern from the audience. Pippin drew up short. Blood glinted on Trollsbane’s edge.
“Faramir! Oh, dear, I’m so sorry!”
Faramir held his side, but blood seeped between his fingers. “Nay, fear not,” he said with a tight smile, “it is not a mortal wound. My own folly for underestimating you. The pupil has surpassed the mentor.”
Pippin smiled quickly at the compliment, mere flattery though it was. If Faramir had been on proper guard he would never have offered that opening; and if Pippin hadn’t been upset, he wouldn’t have injured his teacher at all. “If you call me ‘little one’ I shall finish the job, and Strider will have to find a new Steward.”
Faramir laughed, then winced. He withdrew his hand and examined the wound. “It is not grave, but it is deep enough to need a physician’s skill,” he said. “I shall have to withdraw the field of contest, Master Peregrin, lest my lady catch me neglecting my health.”
“You are too late to avoid that, my lord.”
All heads turned as the Princess Eowyn approached. She paused before her husband, hands on her hips, regarding him critically. “So the Prince of Ithilien has been bested by a Halfling,” she jested. “Fallen, fallen is Númenór the great.”
“’Tis the curse of the Men of the West ever to be undone by their own works,” Faramir returned, “and so it is now with Pippin’s sword.”
“The sword is the arm that wields it, and the heart that counsels it,” Eowyn retorted, turning her gaze to Pippin appraisingly. Then she smiled and kissed Faramir on the cheek. “Go now to the Houses of Healing. I shall find you there.”
Faramir laughed freely, raising his hand to caress Eowyn’s jaw. “My lady,” he said softly.
“My lord,” she replied in the same voice.
Pippin walked away. He picked up his shirt and slung it on his shoulder, and took up a cloth with which to clean his sword, trying to master the envy that begrimed his heart. Faramir was in some ways a closer friend to him than Strider; the closest friend of his who was not a hobbit. And he greatly admired Eowyn, whom Merry would always claim as sword-sister. To see them together and still in love should have warmed his heart. Instead he was aflame with jealousy.
What is happening to me? Pippin didn’t know.
“You have bested the Captain of the Prince’s Guard, master holbytla,” he heard behind him. He turned, and beheld Eowyn removing her long dress. The guards who were not of Ithilien and did not know the lady’s ways were trying their best to disappear. But Beregond stood next to his princess, accepting her gown and handing her a cord with which to bind her long tresses. Pippin saw that beneath her healer’s robes and lady’s dress, Eowyn wore black singlet and breeches like her husband. She had no boots, however, and removing her woven slippers, strode forward barefoot. “And you have caused the Steward of Gondor to yield to your sword-mastery,” Eowyn added.
She held out her hand, and Beregond produced a sword, short and one-handed, with two horse’s heads forming the hilt. Eowyn took it and twirled it in her wrist without difficulty. Her arms were slender and feminine, but strong as many a youth’s.
“But now, ah, defend yourself,” Eowyn finished, “for you face a shield-maiden of the Riddermark! And we are not gentle!” And she strode forward.
Pippin grinned again, and raising Trollsbane touched his brow to its blade, as Strider and Faramir taught him. Otherwise he remained silent and let the clash of swords speak for him.
Beregond had been less than his skill. Faramir, being his teacher, thought himself superior, and underestimated Pippin’s guile. Eowyn was his match. Her short sword of the Mark was made for plain, almost savage battle, and she moved with ruthless grace. She also knew how to fight from horseback, trained to attack an enemy below her. Pippin was hard-pressed to find any advantage; he found himself truly on the defensive for the first time, managing to parry and evade, not to advance.
Still, in the Shire his dueling partner had been Merry, who knew the Rohirric style. She would tire. She was in her mid-thirties, and of little Númenórean blood. She, too, was growing old.
Pippin saw the slightest hint of an opening as Eowyn found a moment’s hesitation, catching her breath. He took it, attempting an attack with upstrokes and midstrokes that soon had Eowyn on the defensive. He did not let her regroup to use her height and to regain advantage. He won ground as she gave it.
Eowyn’s face showed little of the delight that Faramir’s had. She refused to be bested by any man, friendly duel between friends or not. With a cry she spun and then lashed out with the flat of the blade, intending to knock Trollsbane out of Pippin’s hands. Pippin anticipated her and braced himself as hard as he could.
With a cruel crash both blades broke. Trollsbane shattered in several fragments. Eowyn’s sword broke cleanly in two.
“Aah!” Eowyn cried, grabbing her wrist.
“Ouch!” Pippin said simultaneously, dropping the broken hilt and stumbling.
Beregond and the Ithilien guard went to them immediately. Eowyn leaned on him, but offered her hand to Pippin. “Forgive me, Pippin! It was a foolish maneuver, and it has cost you your blade.”
Pippin tried his best to be gallant, but the sight of Trollsbane smarted dearly. “You are the victor, my lady,” he said. “And I can pick up another one of these care of our friendly local barrow-wights.” Not that I’m going back any time soon. My sword!
“No, you shall not need to replace it,” said Eowyn. “The smiths of the city can reforge it. Or, if you wish, in a week or two Gimli’s folk in the Glittering Caves could be—”
“No,” said Pippin with a harshness he immediately regretted. Eowyn did not flinch, but her gaze turned steely. “I mean, no, thank you, my lady. But I don’t have the time.” He picked up his shirt and wiped the sweat from his face and chest before putting it back on. “I’ve lingered here too long as it is.”
Eowyn bent and picked up the shards of Trollsbane. “Linger yet long enough for me to regift this to you,” she said. Beneath her kindness shimmered steel. “I shall not like to see you venture forth swordless and disarmed into your quest.”
“I have no quest,” Pippin told her, unable to keep his voice pleasant. But Eowyn’s face became undecipherable to him, and he let their voices die.
Pippin had spent a week in Minas Tirith. He had made the journey in less than a month, not the fortnight Merry had predicted, but almost dismayingly fast and quick. The Greenway was newly-paved and well-guarded, and the only obstacles he had faced were the wagon-trains of Men resettling the countries of Minhiriath and Enedwaith. Not wanting to turn his journey into merely a visit with old friends, he sped through Rohan in disguise. For a few days he was satisfied. But his nights were stricken with dreams, usually of Frodo or the war, sometimes of Diamond in the middle of a desert landscape. He rode on, Tempest’s footfalls devouring the land with a speed second only to her cousin Shadowfax. On a showery morning in May, he turned down the road, and saw again Gondor’s chief city.
To his chagrin, he found that Strider and the court were absent. “The King Elessar is making visit of state to Dale and the Kingdom Under The Mountain,” he was informed. “The Queen accompanied him, wishing to visit the Lord of Lorien. The Elf-lord of Ithilien and the Master Dwarf of Aglarond went as well to visit their own kin to the north.” What, everyone’s gone north? He had wished to avoid old friends, and now it seemed it was they who had inadvertently avoided him. “Who is in charge?” he asked the courtier.
“The Steward of Gondor,” was the reply, and nothing could stop Pippin from grinning like a callow youth at the sight of Faramir. But Faramir was often busy, and they had not been able to spend time together until that morning when he had visited Pippin’s training session with Beregond.
Pippin had been assigned his old quarters in the house on the sixth level, the one he had shared first with Gandalf and then with the rest of the Fellowship in the heady months after Sauron’s fall and before the arrival of Arwen. Tempest was stabled in the mews containing Shadowfax’s old stall. His attendant was a young soldier whom he thought he recognized.
He had been right. “Do you not know my face any longer, master perian?” said the youth.
Pippin had blinked and then laughed. “Bergil!”
They clasped shoulders. “It is an honor to attend to you during your visit, my lord,” said Bergil.
“Please, Bergil, call me Pippin. Or Peregrin if you must. Last I saw you, you were threatening to stand me on my head.”
“As you wish, master Peregrin.”
Now Pippin leaned on the balustrade of the balcony outside his chambers, with the terraces of the city of kings flowing beneath him out into the Pelennor Fields. The Moon was bright upon the townlands. Pippin saw villages and hamlets where once only farmland had been, and farms where once were fallow fields. Lamps in the homes and lanes of the villages created a constellation of light upon the Pelennor. The lights of the nighttime city itself were twice again as bright and far more numerous. The city was a hill of gleaming towers lit like a beacon, crowned above him by the White Tower a thousand feet above the plain. Minas Tirith was not the oldest city in Middle-earth, nor the largest, but gazing down upon it from his high perch Pippin thought that night no other city would ever again be as glorious.
Still there were older cities...
Bergil appeared. “Sir? The Steward is here.”
“He is?” So late. “Well, then, send him in, Bergil.”
He wondered what Faramir wanted. He looked around his chambers. No time to tidy. As if he would tidy. Maybe on Friday the first...
Faramir entered and observed Pippin’s attempts at cleaning. “You should get Bergil to fetch a chambermaid,” he said.
“Thirty-three years of my mother trying to get me to pick up after myself,” Pippin replied, “wouldn’t be forgotten by anything so simple as my being a thousand leagues away and a grown hobbit.”
“Why not the servants?”
“Actually, for a long time we didn’t have that many servants. Our house was big, but it wasn’t the Smials. Haven’t I told you the story of how my father became Thain?”
“Ah,” said Faramir. “A sordid tale of lust, intrigue, and murder. How is your sister?”
“Well. Everybody’s well.”
“Your lady wife?”
“Wonderful,” Pippin said. He didn’t like the turn of the conversation.
“She remains behind.”
He could feel Faramir’s long sight peering into his thoughts. Pippin didn’t like the feeling. He slammed his mind shut with such strength Faramir physically blinked.
“Forgive me,” said Faramir. “I did not think you would mind.”
“Well I do, so keep your Númenórean gifts out of my head, thank you very much.”
Faramir nodded. “My friend—if I may still presume to call you so...”
Pippin felt bad. “Of course you’re my friend,” he said. “You’re closer to me than anyone except Merry and Sam.”
“Not even the King?”
“Not even Strider.”
“Then forgive a close friend’s concern, Peregrin. You arrived here six days ago, seeking lore regarding Far Harad. The libraries have been open to you day and night. I see you have found some of what you seek.” He indicated the bound books and open scrolls, and the sheafs of note-paper scribbled with Pippin’s blocky hand. “Yet you have not shared why.”
Pippin sighed. He had been too guarded among good friends who knew him well.
“I’m just restless, Faramir,” he said. “That’s all.”
“All?” repeated Faramir. “Restless enough to leave wife and home to venture headlong into a foreign land so long in enmity to the West of your upbringing?” Faramir waited, and then when it was clear he would receive no answer, he ventured, “Have you and your lady yet have a child?”
Pippin smiled. “Yes.” He gazed fondly at his friend, knowing this would please him. “I named him after you.”
“I am honored indeed.”
“I’d think he even looks like you.”
“That would be a peculiar sight.”
Pippin laughed. “We’ll see.” If I come back.
“You have left them behind.”
“He’s in good hands.”
“You hope. Or, rather, you fear you lose hope.”
“Nonsense, hope’s still living at Bag End with Rosie.”
He heard Faramir sigh and then rest in silence. He wondered if Faramir were probing his mind again.
“You can always stop me, my friend,” Faramir said. Ah, so he was, thought Pippin. “It is my gift, as it was my father’s, to perceive the thoughts of other Men, and other creatures capable of thought. You, however, need not fear unwanted intrusion delving too deep. That you can discern my inward gaze is a gift in itself. That you can thwart it with your will is better than a broad shield.”
Pippin scoffed, uncomfortable. “Next you’ll be telling me I’ve long sight from some distant Elvish strain.”
“Are there not tales of a fairy bride in your line?”
“Certainly. As certain as the fact that my ancestor’s head could not have reached her navel.”
“A fool, and a child, you came to this city in the dark days of my father, and you gladdened his heart, such as it could bear. I see neither child nor fool before me. A Halfling, hard, bold and wicked.”
“Treasonous Bergil. Now who’s making fun?”
“Men of Gondor do not make fun.”
Pippin stalked away. “I didn’t come here to be talked out of what I want to do,” he said. “You don’t understand my reasons.”
“And you should not feel the need to explain them. But, Peregrin, do you understand them yourself? Or are you flying into the teeth of unknown winds, hunting for a prey that, in its mystery, may forever elude you?”
Pippin refused to answer. He feared what he might say.
Faramir sighed. “Will you not let your friends dissuade you?”
Pippin shook his head.
Again Pippin refused.
“It saddens me to think you unhappy even in these golden days,” said Faramir, and he crossed the room and laid a warm hand upon Pippin’s shoulder. Pippin looked up at the Steward, and saw only kindness and worry in his eyes.
Pippin touched Faramir’s hand and gripped it. “I don’t exactly know where I’m going, and so therefore I can’t say. I am unhappy, I know that now, and this is the only way I can think of to get away. Maybe I’m a fool for thinking so, flying off into the south like some migratory bird. I’ve been a fool before. But don’t think I’m not grateful for friends like you and Eowyn. I’m more grateful than I know how to express.”
Faramir knelt. “Hast thou forgotten I owe thee my life, Peregrin Took?”
Pippin was a hobbit. Hobbits do not shy from embracing. He did not.
Pippin was in the Shire. Tempest was galloping through the Westmarch. Behind Pippin, the woody crests of the Far Downs receded. Before him loomed the silvered crags of the Tower Hills.
Up their slopes he rode. The wind blew in from the sea, which he could discern, the Firth of Lune, from the summit of the tallest hill. He looked away from it, over his shoulder, to the tallest of the three elf towers. There was a door at the base. It was shut.
Pippin went to the door and touched its handle with his hand. It did not move.
“I’m here,” he said to it. “I’ve come.” Then he said, “Annon edhellen, edro hi ammen!”
The door opened, like the unsealing of a crypt.
Stairs led to the summit. There were artifacts in the dimness, mathoms of long ago, but Pippin ignored them. He climbed the staircase, not pausing or speaking, through the shadows broken by staggered shafts of moonlight from the outside.
Atop the tower was a chamber. Within the chamber was a pedestal. Upon the pedestal rested a Palantir.
Pippin walked up to it. Its pedestal was four feet tall. He could just look over its edge. But he didn’t need the pedestal. He needed the stone.
He reached for the stone and gently rolled it off its platform into his arms. He looked at it. It remained dark and still.
Pippin sat, or did he fall? He rested on the ground, the Palantir on his lap, dim and void. He grasped it with both hands and said, “Show him to me. Let me see.”
For a long instant the stone remained silent. Then in its depth it began to glimmer.
“Yes, please,” said Pippin. “Show him to me. I have to see him! I want to see if he’s all right!”
Clouds whirled and storms roiled within the Palantir, then: grayness. Pippin frowned, and then realized he was looking upon the sea, miles and miles of sea, slipping away from him at tremendous speed. He could almost feel the wind clutching at his clothes and hair. Filling his nostrils, crushing them if he tried to turn his head. Tearing pieces of himself away. He ignored the discomfort. He had to see! He had to know!
The sea ended. Waves washed upon jeweled shores and a quay with ships moored forever. A city with towers woven into trees. Upon the side of a mountain was a waterfall. In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. He had dark hair, still, and a thin and noble face.
He looked right at Pippin, who staggered under the glare of what seemed like all the blue heavens of the edge of the world.
“There’s a jewel in the desert,” said Frodo. “Wake up, baby cousin.”
Pippin bolted awake. “Frodo!” But no, it was just a dream. Just another dream.
He pulled his knees up to his face and wept.
There were no great ceremonies. Pippin rose in the morning. He had managed to fall asleep again, and missed first and second breakfast. He ate an apple from the platter of fruit in his chamber. He washed. Then he dressed in the new clothes that Eowyn had given him, clothes both airy and sturdy, for the climate would only grow warmer the further south he went. Among them was a new belt that seemed meant for a scabbard. Pippin wondered if today were the day she’d return his sword.
He found a pair of leather arm braces, made of tough, polished black leather, adorned with the White Tree and seven stars. The paper next to them said they were from Beregond and Bergil.
He looked at himself in the mirror. He looked ... rascally. Rascally?
“Well, I do, and I think I like it,” he said to his reflection. “Don’t we, precious? Yes, we do.”
He sighed. “I’ll end up like that old villain yet, I fear,” he mused. “Especially if I don’t have something to eat. After all, here I am, missing first and second breakfast, and possibly elevenses, and already having a nice conversation with no one but myself. Gollum, gollum.” He was hungry.
Bergil was already standing outside the door. “Good morrow, Pippin,” he said. He saw the arm braces and smiled. “They fit you. Who were you speaking to?”
“No one, precious,” said Pippin, who couldn’t help himself. “Would you come with me for breakfast? What time is it?”
“An hour past third watch.”
“Oh dear. Breakfast, second breakfast, and elevenses then.”
“I shall run ahead and alert the King’s banquet hall.”
“You do that. No, I’m only joking. What a lovely day.” It was: springtime in her fullness, with warm breezes touched with sea-tang and all the spices of the meadows and fields that lay between Minas Tirith and the limpid, sun-drenched waters of the Bay of Belfalas. The Anduin, brown with spring flood, lazed its way through Harlond towards the sea. From the height of the Citadel Pippin thought he espied Pelargir, a pale creamy glimmer at the end of the river.
“Pelargir was a thousand years old when Gondor was founded,” he said, pondering.
“So we are told,” Bergil answered, a line of confusion tracing its way above his eyes. “Though I myself have never been there.”
“The great port at Anduin’s mouths was built as a haven for the ships of Númenór in the reign of Tar-Atanamir,” Pippin recited softly. “The harbor became the chief refuge in Middle-earth for the Faithful of Númenór. But Umbar was greater still.”
“Umbar is yet a dangerous place,” Bergil said dubiously. “The lords of that city swore in treaty with the King, but Corsairs still have raided merchant vessels on occasion.”
“How goes the navy building?” asked Pippin.
“You should ask Prince Faramir,” said Bergil. “Although ... friends of mine are training as sailors, and the ships are being built in the new harbor on the Second Mouth of Anduin, across from Pelargir.”
“Gondor’s first thousand years saw her rise under her Sea-kings,” Pippin said, again reciting from a book he’d committed to memory. “At her height, she approached the glory of lost Númenór, and all the nations of the world came to the court of the King beneath the Dome of Stars in Osgiliath.”
Bergil was regarding him with curiosity. “You know more of our history than I do, Pippin,” he said. “It is clear you have put in long hours of study. May I ask why?”
The whole histories of Middle-earth, Pippin thought. He missed Gandalf.
“Simple curiosity, Bergil,” he said. “It’s a family trait, you know.”
He quickened his pace, so Bergil had to walk faster to catch up.
Faramir and Eowyn awaited in the Courtyard of the Fountain with another person, a tall, swarthy man with dark eyes and a head covering that seemed to be made of fine fabric wound tightly around the head in a twisted rope. Pippin realized this is what was called a turban. The man had a short, pointed beard and decorative facial scars on his cheekbones.
“Peregrin,” said Faramir gravely. “This is Sàrtánukîl, a merchant of Harad. He is sailing for Umbar this evening from Pelargir. I have informed him of your ambition to visit the lands to the south and he has agreed that, if you wish, you may join him as a guest aboard his vessel.”
Pippin bowed to the stranger. “I would be happy to accept such a generous offer, my lord Sàrtánukîl,” he said. “I am Peregrin Took, son of Paladin of the Shire.”
“Peace and blessings be upon you, Ràzanûr Tûk,” replied the Southron, repeating Pippin’s name in such a fashion that it seemed exotic and strange. “Our voyage is surely to be blest with the company of one of the great warriors who abetted the return of the King to imperial Gondor.”
Neither Pippin, nor Faramir, responded in any way other than with more bowing. But both had heard what was beneath the surface of the words of the merchant of Harad.
“I am only half a warrior, my lord, if stature is any account,” said Pippin. “Though I confess to some half-skill with a blade.”
“Gods willing, that shall not be necessary while we sail blue Belfalas,” replied Sàrtánukîl.
But when I land in Umbar I’m sure a Númenórean sword will draw attention, thought Pippin. That reminded him of Trollsbane’s fate, and he turned to Eowyn, who smiled.
“Yes, it is here,” she said, and she produced the object she had kept behind her in her cloak. “Your sword is reforged, my friend.”
Pippin stared at it, its hilt black and gleaming in a new black leather scabbard. The scabbard was emblazoned with silver filigree, and again with the tokens of the Tower Guard, the White Tree and Stars. He took it from Eowyn’s hands and was amazed he did not tremble. He looked at her, unable to keep from smiling like a child on someone’s birthday, and then at Faramir, and even at the Southron.
Then he drew it. Trollsbane slipped easily, with a hushed whisper, from its new scabbard. Its blade was whole and keen. What little nicks it had born over Pippin’s stewardship were vanished, as were the last traces of its long sleep in the Barrow-downs. The hilt was brushed to a dull gleam, with a grip wrapped with black leather. It took a moment for Pippin to literally grasp that the smiths of Minas Tirith had changed his sword. Its grip was longer, its pommel slightly larger, balancing the slightly longer and more gracefully tapered blade. It was no longer a man’s longsword wielded by a hobbit. It was now a hobbit’s greatsword, two-handed and almost three feet long from pommel to tip.
He stepped a short distance from the watching Big People and tried a few cuts and passes. Oh, perfect balance. He had grown used to adapting to the idiosyncrasies of fighting with a weapon meant for Men that he felt new and strange possessing a hobbit weapon. He wondered if this was the first greatsword ever forged for a hobbit.
The sun gleamed on the blade. Pippin noticed runes etched into the fuller near the curved Gondorian crossguard.
He read them. “Troll’s bane am I, the falcon’s talon,” he said aloud, and frowned quizzically. “The falcon?”
Eowyn smiled. “Surely you have heard your epithet among the young soldiers of the Tower Guard.”
Pippin had. “I thought they were joking.” He had seen, at times, those small falcons here in Gondor, with its golden eyes, silvery breast and sable hood, wings, and tail. He’d heard its keening cry often while he dwelled here with the Fellowship in the aftermath of Sauron’s fall, as it nested among sheer cliffs and high places—and what was Minas Tirith but a sheer city of cliffs and high places?
“Though small, the falcon is the fiercest of raptors on the hunt,” said Faramir. Pippin was still wondering if any of them were serious, but Faramir, though his eyes were humorous, spoke plainly.
“It is the swiftest of birds, daring to fall from great heights to seize its prey in mid-air.” Pippin knew that; he had seen it, looking down from the Citadel. “In Númenór the falcon was kept by the kings as a companion in war and sport. Its name—ràzanár, peregrine—means ‘wanderer’, for young falcons spurn the nest in which they fledged to seek their own homes in the wide world.”
“I never gave any thought that my name had any meaning,” Pippin confessed, feeling uncomfortable with being compared to such a fell and noble creature. “It was just a jest, in the way of my people. Peregrin I may be, but everyone calls me Pippin, and as far as I know the noblest meaning to come from that is when my sister Pervinca threatened to bake me into pie.”
Laughter, as Pippin had hoped. “Never let the expectations of others rule your opinion of yourself,” said Eowyn, “be you wanderer, falcon, or windfallen apple.” And she smiled with Pippin.
Sàrtánukîl was watching them piercingly. “What the lady of the North says holds much wisdom, Ràzanûr. The nomads of the deserts have a saying: the sands can bear what the river cannot.”
“Indeed,” said Faramir.
Pippin felt a surge of feeling for his friends and for Minas Tirith. He knew if he did not leave now, he never would; and he’d find himself back in Tuckborough before summer. He sheathed his sword and deftly tied its scabbard to his belt.
“I must go,” he said shortly. “I’m sure you wish to get to your ship as soon as possible,” he said to Sàrtánukîl, who tipped his head in acknowledgement.
Pippin went to Faramir. The two friends clutched arms, and then Pippin hugged him. Faramir did not resist. “Farewell,” said the Steward of Gondor. “You are a Guard of the Citadel, wherever you may wander; the White Tower will know you and welcome you home.”
Pippin nodded. “Take care, Faramir. Tell Strider I’m sorry I missed him. He really should stay home more often.”
Faramir laughed. “I shall tell him.”
Eowyn was still smiling when he embraced her. She hugged him tightly. “May you find far fields and clear winds, little falcon,” she said. “Take care of your steed. She is of the Mearas, and will not fail you.”
“I’ll remember that. And thank you for the swordfight.”
“You are most welcome.”
Pippin pulled away. He gazed up at her with a cheeky smile. “Merry was right about you.”
Eowyn laughed. “What did my sword-brother say about me?”
“All sorts of nice things,” Pippin replied.
“Well then,” said Eowyn, “when you see him again, give Merry my love.”
Pippin nodded. “But if you get to see him before I do,” he asked her, “give him mine.”
Eowyn embraced him again, and this time there were tears in her eyes.
So departed Peregrin Took from Minas Tirith and all that he had yet known.
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