Politics of Arda
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When the King Comes Back (the Great Smials): 8. Chapter 8
“He finished every bite of his supper, Mother, and has dropped off to sleep. He took some more of that mixture Poppy left, but did not finish it. He‘s really remarkable, you know, and quite grown up. I can‘t believe he‘s still my baby brother.”
Eglantine smiled and hugged her daughter. “I know, dear. Now off with you to get some rest. I’ll check in on him myself in a bit.”
After Pearl left, Paladin said “I think that you should get some rest yourself; *I* will watch him tonight.”
She looked at him sharply. The truth was he needed the rest worse than she, but as she met his eyes, she realized that he needed even more to do this for his son. Good, she thought, he’s finally beginning to come around.
Paladin eased himself quietly into his son’s darkened room, and made his way to the bedside chair. He noticed that Pippin did not seem particularly comfortable. Why, his bed’s too small, now! he thought, we’ll have to do something about that.
Paladin made himself comfortable by his son’s side and dozed off.
“Father!” the cry was sharp, low, and urgent. Paladin woke instantly and looked over to his son. Pippin was still asleep, but he was flushed with fever, and moved restlessly. “Father--please--I’m alive--please--I’m burning--no…” Paladin placed his hand on Pippin’s arm to awaken him from the dark dreams.
With a sharp, strangled cry, Pippin sat bolt upright, gasping. “F-father!”
“Easy. I’m here. Take some deep breaths. Are you awake now?”
Pippin exhaled a long, shuddering breath. “I’m alive--you’re alive. Yes--yes. I’m awake now.”
Paladin raised a hand to Pippin’s brow. “You’re feverish.” He looked around for the mixture the healer had left, and found the cup on the floor near the bed; there was still about a quarter of a cup left. While Pippin with a grimace drank it down, Paladin took his strikers from his pocket and lit the bedside candle.
“Do you often have these evil dreams?”
“At first, almost nightly, but seldom since Midsummer, and not at all after we returned to Rivendell. Until I came home.”
“I see.” Paladin was very much afraid he did see. “Peregrin, I think it’s time for you to tell me the rest of it.”
Pippin tried to evade his father’s searching glance. “The rest of it? Why? You don’t want to hear it anymore than I want to tell it!”
“Perhaps. It can’t be pleasant to hear or tell, but I think I *need* to hear it and you *need* to tell it.”
Pippin sat silently for so long that Paladin thought he was not going to speak after all. Then he looked up at his father.
In a low intense voice, Pippin described his encounter with the palantír, and its aftermath. “It was horrible, I truly do not have the words to tell you *how* horrible it was to have the Enemy pressing on my mind. It was like drowning in filth; Sauron was gloating over me, I just --anyway Gandalf got it away from me. I realized later that Sauron must have thought *I* was the one with the Ring and that I was Saruman’s prisoner. He told me he was sending for me!”
Paladin felt the blood drain from his face at the thought of his son in the hands of the Dark Lord.
“*That’s* why Gandalf took me with him to Minas Tirith.”
“Although I was frightened--leaving Merry behind was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life--I did want to see Minas Tirith. It was Boromir’s city, and he loved it so much. When Gandalf told me I would meet Boromir’s father, I was pleased. I had no idea what I would be in for.”
“Gandalf told me that Denethor was ‘wise and noble’. Well, so he may have been at one time, but the man I met was cruel and bitter. I could see he clearly blamed me for being alive when his son was not, and he *hated* me because I came with Gandalf. When I offered him my service, it was because I loved Boromir who had given his life for me and Merry, not out of any affection for *him*. I think he took my oath just to spite Gandalf; also he thought to humiliate me with minor duties. But I meant my vow, every word.”
“The city was gloomy and preparing for war. I did meet a few friends; Beregond of the Guard was one, and his son Bergil, but I was horribly lonesome for Merry.”
“When Boromir’s brother, Faramir, came back to the city I was glad to meet him. Boromir had talked so fondly of his younger brother; in looks they were much alike, though Faramir was quieter than his brother. But he had no sooner come back than his *father* sent him out again.” Pippin began to shake his head, as if in denial of his own words.
“He actually *told* Faramir that he wished he had died instead of Boromir, and then he sent him on what was sure to be a suicide mission.”
“Gandalf told Faramir that his father would remember he loved him; I think for once Gandalf was *wrong*. I don’t think Denethor had any love in him; what passed for love in him was just pride. And he was only proud of his sons because they were *his* and would do his bidding, not for who they were, not as people.”
Paladin felt a chill run down his spine at his son’s words.
“Faramir did come back from the mission, but he was badly wounded, almost dead.”
Pippin stopped. He had begun to sweat, and he lay back against his pillow. “I think my fever’s breaking.”
“What happened, Peregrin?” Paladin asked gently.
“Denethor took his son and himself to the tombs of their ancestors, with oil and wood; it was his intention to burn himself alive, and his son with him.
I tried to stop it; Denethor had me thrown out, he ‘released’ me from my oath and told me to go die in my own way.” He shuddered, remembering the cruel words echoing from the cold stone walls of Rath Dínen.
“I ran to find Gandalf; I didn’t know anything else I could do. I asked Beregond to interfere if he could, and then ran on.” As the night before, he had that distant unfocused look. In spite of his fever, he had grown pale. When he continued it was in a whisper, and Paladin had to strain to hear him.
“I finally found Gandalf; we were barely in time. Beregond was trying to keep Denethor’s guards back from lighting the pyre. Gandalf *tried* to reason with Denethor, but he was too far gone in his madness. Gandalf took Faramir, and when he did Denethor tried to *stab* him! When we finally got his son away, he jumped up on the pyre and pulled out a palantír! It was no wonder he had gone mad if he had been using one of those awful things! Then he--he --Father--he set himself on fire. He burned himself alive.”
Pippin began to cry. It was not a gentle silent weeping, but deep heart-wrenching sobs, as he abandoned himself to grief. “Father, when I came home--the Remembrance Stone--I just--I couldn’t--you said I was dead--I keep dreaming that *I‘m* Faramir…”
Paladin felt his whole world turn upside down. What had he done to his son? Because he could not admit to being wrong, he had let this precious child suffer. He moved to the bed and gathered his son in his arms, rocking him back and forth as if he were a babe. “Pippin, my son, I’m here, I’m here,” he wept himself.
After a few moments, Pippin began to calm. “Father?” he sniffed.
“That’s the first time you’ve called me Pippin since I came home.”
“I know, son.” And he dropped a kiss on top of the curly head.
Just after sun-up, Eglantine quietly entered the room. Paladin still sat on the bed, drowsing, with Pippin’s head in his lap. She smiled.
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