33. A Case Stated
I had already decided before his call came. And I would not tell him. Yet every fiber of my being roiled against such a decision. I had learned discipline at Denethor's knee. Now, I would throw my very self aside to protect him. To be with him. I listened attentively to all he said, the last minute instructions he gave me, and I knew Húrin would carry out his orders. For I was leaving with him this day, whether or no he wanted me. Someone had to guard his back!
Húrin listened attentively and asked many questions. At last, the Warden sighed, farewell'd his King, and stepped back, waiting for his order to leave. Elessar looked long upon me and I cringed. Could he read minds as Denethor could? I bowed my head in defeat. 'I would go with you.'
"I have already said that I need you here. We leave in one hour's time."
'I have shown Húrin where the tunnels are. I have led him into them and shown him the paths leading to the slopes of Mindolluin. He can lead the people out and away from Minas Tirith. I do not need to be here.'
"And Faramir and Merry and Éowyn? Who will care for them?"
'They are much healed. You have seen them yourself. They do not need me. In fact, Pippin will need me more. And I am one of the finest spies in all of Gondor. I can run ahead. No Orc will pay attention to me. I can run along the road and then run back and tell you if the way is free or not. I can scare Mûmakil, I am sure. I...'
I stopped, perplexed, as Elessar shook with laughter. He sat on a small stool in his tent and motioned for me to join him. "Have you ever left the White City?"
I huffed a little at the ridiculousness of the question. 'I have been with Faramir to Osgiliath a few times.'
"Faramir took you to Osgiliath?"
'I did not say that.' I stopped. He waited. 'When Faramir was first given captaincy of Osgiliath, what, ten years ago, Denethor had me follow him. He wanted a full report.'
"So you spied upon Faramir? For what purpose?"
'Boromir was afraid that Faramir was too young and too green. He drove his father to distraction, asking that Faramir not be sent. He was afraid for him. Denethor grew concerned. He sent me to watch Faramir and decide whether or not the boy could captain such a garrison.'
"Ah," Elessar sighed. "So he did not trust his youngest?"
'He too loved the boy, though not as much as Boromir did, none did! But he would not have the lad go if he was not ready. He would never send him off to die!'
"Of course not. So this means you have some battle experience?"
'A bit. Faramir was a remarkable captain, for one so young. He went out on forays with his men and always came back victorious. I would hide in the healers' cart and watch from a distance. He was very good. I reported back to Denethor and he let the boy stay as captain before moving him, last year, to Henneth-Annûn. I do not think Boromir ever forgave him.'
"Húrin," Elessar called over the Warden of the Keys. "I understand you now know the gift that our Cat has been to Gondor?"
"I do, my Lord."
"He has shown you the tunnels and you are confident you can lead our people to safety if we do not return?"
"I am, my Lord."
"Alqualondë, do you really think it wise to come with me? There will be many dangers. You heard we do not expect to return. We go only to distract the Enemy."
'If none live, then what is there for me? I have already lost the only one who ever cared for me. I have pledged my fealty to you. Do I save myself? For what? I have saved myself once this past week, and bitter have I felt since that night.'
"Do not be bitter, little Swan. I will take you with us. Your main concern will be Pippin. You promised me once that you would watch over him. What think you of that?"
'I am forever in your debt, my King.'
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