Politics of Arda
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When the King Comes Back (the Great Smials): 4. Chapter 4
Pippin blew out a couple of deep breaths, and sat forward again, and fidgeted a bit. Then he tried for a lighter tone, though it came out a bit brittle.
“All things considered, Merry and I were rather lucky as far as being captured by Orcs goes. The bunch who grabbed us had been sent by Saruman with strict orders to bring any ‘halflings’--that’s what everyone else in the world calls Hobbits--back ‘alive and *unspoiled*.’” Pippin stopped and met his father’s eyes for a moment, as though trying to convey a silent assurance, before continuing.
When the meaning of the phrase suddenly dawned on Paladin, he felt a wave of nausea. Orcs. It could have come to that.
“Merry was unconscious for part of the time. He’d taken blow to the head. We spent about three days or so being alternately carried, flogged and dragged, towards Isengard. I had a couple of lucky chances. I got away long enough to leave a sign for Aragorn, in case he happened to follow. And I took a chance to get my hands free.”
Paladin knew once more that Peregrin was leaving a lot out. Three days in the company of those creatures. He could not begin to imagine.
“About the third night or so, the Orcs made camp near the edge of the Fangorn Forest. They were attacked by some Men--we found out later they were the King of Rohan’s men, and Merry and I were able to get away in all the confusion.”
He went on to describe their time in Fangorn, their meeting with Treebeard the Ent and for the first time showed a glint of humor, as he described how the Ent-draughts were responsible for his and Merry’s unusual growth spurts. He told of their frustration with the slowness of the Entmoot, and their delight when the Ents made the decision to attack Saruman at Isengard. Although his eyes took on once more that distant look, there was a glint of fierce triumph and pride in their green depths that had not been there before. He told of the march of the Ents, and the destruction of Isengard with undisguised glee and the ring of joy in his voice.
“After it was all over with, there was nothing but a sorry mess all around the tower. Merry and I were trying to find ourselves a safe spot to get some rest, when we heard a rider coming up.” Now he openly grinned. “If you can believe it, it was Gandalf! You can imagine our shock! He was on a great silver horse, and he was all in white instead of grey. He consulted with Treebeard, and then had a word with us, before taking off again. I don’t think I’ve ever been more amazed or delighted in my life!”
Paladin was surprised at the sense of relief he felt. The idea that the wizard was dead and gone had shaken him more than he realized.
“The Ents had flooded the entire area around the tower. Merry and I decided to have a look around; we found some food in a storeroom, and also some pipeweed.” Pippin shook his head. “I can’t believe we were so dim, not to figure out what it meant, that Saruman had Longbottom Leaf in his private stores. But I don’t suppose even if we’d known we could have done much about it at that point.”
Paladin pursed his lips and nodded. Somehow it didn’t surprise him to know that Lotho Pimple had been consorting with evil wizards; still, he’d now paid the ultimate price for his greed and stupidity. It was just a shame that he’d had to drag the whole Shire down too. And also a shame that he himself had not caught on sooner to what Sackville-Baggins had been up to.
“The next day, Gandalf came back with the King of Rohan, King Théoden, and his party, and Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli were with him. We had a nice little picnic reunion with those three. It seems they had chased after us on *foot* all the way from Parth Galen; they would have caught up to
us and rescued us, too, if the Riders had not attacked the Orcs first. It seemed that Frodo and Sam had gone off to Mordor on their own. Anyway, then all the Big People went to parley with Saruman, and Merry and I tagged along for the hobbits. Gandalf broke Saruman’s staff, and left him there with Wormtongue, a prisoner in his own tower. He set Treebeard on guard. I wish we’d known what he was going to get up to later, maybe he could have been guarded more carefully.”
Pippin stopped again. He looked in the cup sitting next to him on the floor, and finding a bit of wine still there, picked it up and took a sip. He shook his head and put the cup down. Paladin tensed; what was coming now must be pretty bad if the lad had to take a drink before recounting it.
“This next part, I’m not going to really say a lot about. I will just tell you that I did something very foolish and dangerous. It was probably the most foolish thing this ‘Fool of a Took’ has ever done. I--I really can’t say more about it now, I *can’t*.” He shook his head firmly. “I don’t know why Gandalf didn’t just blast me on the spot. Anyway, he decided he needed to go to Minas Tirith, and to keep me out of any more trouble, he decided to take me with him. He slung me up in front of him on his big horse, Shadowfax, and we just took off. We rode for three days, with only a couple of brief stops, before we came to the white city.”
Pippin closed his eyes, and did not open them. When he continued, his voice was flat, and devoid of any emotion whatsoever. His father suddenly realized what an effort that must be for him, for Peregrin always showed his emotions freely. What could be so horrible that he had to keep his feelings so tightly checked?
“Gandalf took me to see the Steward of the City, Lord Denethor. He was Boromir’s father. For Boromir’s sake, I pledged myself to the service of Gondor. We were there in the city as the War began. Hosts of Mordor-- I’d never known there were that many Orcs and wicked people in the world. The whole world was dark, while we were besieged. Our people fought valiantly…”
Paladin gave a start to hear his son use the term “our people”.
“…but we mostly thought it was hopeless. Captain Faramir, Boromir’s brother was hurt and nearly died. Gandalf saved him. Denethor died.” If it were possible, Pippin’s voice went even flatter on those two words. It was as if he had to force them past his lips.
His eyes finally opened. “Just when things seemed at the worst, we heard the sound of horns; it was the armies of King Théoden arriving. They rode in and just *smashed* into the enemy; they’d begun to win, too, when one of the Nazgûl came--the Black Riders, on huge flying monsters. This was their leader, the same one who had stabbed Frodo on Weathertop. He killed King Théoden, but Merry and the king’s niece, Lady Éowyn, were there, and between the two of them they killed the Nazgûl. It was very strange; it seems there had been some sort of prophecy that no *Man* could kill him. So instead, he gets killed by a woman and a Hobbit.” Pippin gave a bitter laugh. “Then Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli showed up in great boats with re-enforcements, and finished what the Riders of Rohan had begun. When the battle was over, I found Merry; he’d been horribly hurt by striking that foul thing; he seemed more dead than alive. But we got him to the Houses of Healing in time, and Aragorn was able to heal him.” Tears shone in his eyes briefly as he remembered how close he had come to losing his Merry.
Paladin glanced at Eglantine, who had gone pale. To lose their nephew would have been very nearly as bad as losing their son. He thought guiltily of his angry words to his brother-in-law. How stupid they seemed to him now.
“You see,“ Pippin said in a tone of bemusement, “Aragorn was the King. Gandalf thought I was really blind not to figure it out sooner myself, but to me he was just ‘Strider’, my friend, you don’t really expect your friends to be kings, do you?”
“Anyway, Aragorn, Gandalf, and all the Captains of the West got together, and decided we had to distract the Enemy, to let Frodo and Sam get a chance to destroy the Ring. Because with all the host the Dark Lord had sent against Gondor, he had that much more still in Mordor . Three days later, our small army set out to do battle; we did not stand any kind of chance unless Frodo completed his mission, but we had to give him any help we could. I was lucky enough to stick a great troll, and stupid enough to let him fall on me. I didn’t know until I woke up later, that Frodo and Sam did finish the job, and were back and alive. They were in pretty dreadful shape, all skin and bones and bruises and scars, but they were alive, and so was I.”
“Of course, after that , there were weeks of healing ahead, and there was Aragorn’s coronation, and his wedding, before we could even begin to head for home; we had to go by way of Rivendell, so that we could see old Bilbo. But after that we got home as soon as we could.
It was pretty disheartening to get home to the Shire and find out what had been going on after we left, let me tell you.”
Pippin drew a deep breath. “Well, that’s my explanation, and that’s what’s happened in the wide world; perhaps I should not have gone without a word, but I do not regret what I have done, I only regret the grief and worry I put you all through, and for that I *am* heartily sorry.” His head drooped, and his face looked grey and weary.
Eglantine spoke up. “I think you’re tired, son.” She looked at Paladin, “I think we’ve heard enough tonight.”
Paladin gave a sharp nod, and Pippin drew himself stiffly to his feet, and left the room.
Over the Shire and across the Brandywine River, in Brandy Hall, Merry was making a similar explanation. He sat on the bed in his room, his father in a chair next to it; his mother was not there. Knowing the grimness of what he had to say, he had refused her presence.
Merry’s account was far more detailed than his cousin’s. He’d paid more attention and absorbed more knowledge. He left *nothing* out, including the parts played by others; he included all that he knew of Pippin’s time in the besieged city, and of the travails of Frodo and Sam. Before he had half finished his account, Saradoc had moved to his side, and put his arms around his son. He held him, as Merry wept, and talked himself out, and gently tucked him in as dawn came through the window.
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