28. Comrades Found
As I walked back to the Houses, my sight was drawn to the Citadel and Ecthelion's Tower. There flew the banner of Dol Amroth and the Swans. I stopped, breath held, whilst peace and happiness fled. My heart stopped. I stood in the middle of the road and watched the wind gently move it about, waving it at me in disdain. Was this King going to take the Stewardship from Faramir? I could not believe it, not after what I had just seen. Yet, why was not the white banner of the House of Húrin on the Tower's pole until the King came back? Horrified, I stood there, bereft of all comfort.
A hand took hold and picked me up; I had not heard footsteps, in the midst of my distress. I tried to swipe at my captor, but to no avail. Gentle sounds issued forth and I slowly calmed.
"I believe, Master Alqualondë, that you are the Cat who has befriended Aragorn?"
I looked up into deep, smoldering eyes. A Dwarf! If I had not been held, I think I would have fallen. And next to him stood an Elf.
"Legolas Greenleaf and Gimli, Lock-bearer, at your service," the Elf intoned. "We have just left Sir Peregrin who ranted and raved about what a wondrous Cat you are. Aragorn has spoken a little of your service to Gondor. We are honored to finally meet you."
I swallowed my surprise and bowed, all thoughts of Swans and banners and such having fled in the face of legends.
"Come. There is an inn nearby, right at the Gate's entrance. I believe it is open. Share a mug of ale with us, for we are most thirsty. We have been with two Hobbits and they have worn us to a frazzle with their incessant questions and chatter and such." The Dwarf growled low as he finished this little speech.
I had to laugh. I knew full well what Pippin was like; if his cousin, Merry, were of the same ilk, then I pitied the Elf and the Dwarf. I nodded my head and truly wished the Dwarf would put me down, but I could not ask, and he seemed bound and determined to carry me into the inn. I was most embarrassed.
As we walked into the inn, I felt the tension and surprise of its patrons, all soldiers of Gondor with a smattering of Riders of Rohan and a Swan Knight or two. They looked with surprise at the Dwarf and the Elf, but I felt the tension mount as they gazed upon me. I tried to leave, but the Dwarf had other ideas. The two sat at a table near the door. The Dwarf set me on the table; the Elf called over the innkeeper.
"We would have two mugs of ale and a bowl of milk, if we may," the Elf said politely.
"Make sure the milk is none of that watered down stuff!" the Dwarf enjoined.
"Rationing's still the law. I can't give anything but what I'm allowed," the innkeeper scowled and walked away.
I held my head high. Let them look, I thought. Let them see that the Steward's servant is not bowed by shame. Let them know the Steward died in service to Gondor. Yet, I did not know what the soldiers and people of Gondor knew of Denethor's death. I had not had a moment, since that dreadful hour, to even do my rounds, let alone listen to the gossip that filled the Citadel. I cursed myself for my lack of duty.
The Elf seemed to notice my discomfiture. "Aragorn has told us of your service, as I have said, Alqualondë, but I would hear a little from your own thoughts?"
I sat up straighter, the hairs on my back rising. I did not take the bait; I would not believe that Elessar had divulged my secret to these two.
"Pippin told us, Master Cat, of your great gift and lineage. He was most impressed," Gimli said quietly. "He was so busy telling of the saving of Boromir's brother, that he let it slip."
I steeled myself against my anger and sense of betrayal. Of course the Hobbit would tell these two; were they not of the company that traveled with Pippin? That traveled with Boromir? They must hold his utmost respect.
'There is naught to tell. I did my duty. That is all.' I sat in stony silence, wondering what it was these two wanted from me.
"Master Cat," Gimli stroked my back. "You have been through much. Much horror, if I have heard rightly. Would you not like to tell friends of your sorrows?"
The Elf put his hand on my back next to the Dwarf's. "We are your friends, for Boromir was ours. Does that not make us like unto kin?"
The innkeeper came, blessedly saving me from the grief that suddenly tried to pierce my lips in a long wail. He put two mugs down in front of the Elf and Dwarf and held out his hand. I hissed and he backed away immediately. "No charge," he said "no charge for friends of the Steward's own." He ran back to his counter and brought a large bowl of cream. Cream! I had not seen cream in days. Cold and fresh, I could smell its sweetness. He put it in front of me and ran. I would remember this kindness, unasked for, and send one of my best ratters to help keep this inn clean of vermin.
Gimli almost choked in laughter; the Elf sat silent, but I saw his sides shaking. I turned to them both and mewed. 'I am glad I could be of small service to my friends.'
We sat for three hours at least, probably more, and they listened as I told them of the months in Minas Tirith since Boromir had left. Towards the end, my silent weeping was such that the Dwarf took great pity upon me and held me in his arms. The cream grew warm, much to my chagrin, but I could not figure out how to free myself without being rude. It was difficult enough trying to keep his beard out of my cream!
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.