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Disclaimer: Middle-earth and all its peoples belong to the Tolkien Estate. I own none of them. Some of them, however, seem to own me.
28 RETHE 3019 ( S.R. 1419 )
In the dimly lit tent, Aragorn stood watch over his charges. There they lay in healing sleep, four small beings that had gradually stolen into his heart months ago, beginning at an inn in Bree. How was it that such small creatures had such great hearts?
Frodo and Sam lay each in his own cot near one end of the tent, cast deeply into a healing sleep. They suffered far more from sheer exhaustion, starvation and exposure than to any serious physical injuries, except for Frodo’s missing finger. But they were covered in innumerable small cuts, bruises, gashes and burns, all needing attendance, lest they infect and cause fever. It was not their physical condition that worried him most, however. When they had been brought in, their spirits had wandered far, and Frodo‘s, at least, had been reluctant to return to his call. He planned to keep both of them asleep for as long as possible. Two weeks at the least.
The fourth cot lay empty, for there were two hobbits in the third one. When they had summoned Merry from Minas Tirith in haste, it had been in the fear that he would be bidding farewell to all three of his dear ones. But again the hobbits had surprised everyone--especially Pippin.
When Gimli had found the youngest hobbit under the troll, they were certain that he was gone. But the spark of life was still there, and with Merry‘s arrival, it strengthened and remained. Pippin was not yet completely out of danger. He had a broken foot, a dislocated knee, a broken hand, and almost every rib in his ribcage was broken. Fortunately, none of them had pierced a lung. He had also had some serious cuts, resulting in blood loss, and he had ingested a great deal of the vile black blood of the creature he had killed. Yet three days later, it was clear that if there were no serious infections or setbacks, he would probably recover more quickly than any patient with similar injuries that Aragorn had ever tended.
Merry lay carefully alongside his youngest cousin, clasping Pippin’s uninjured hand in his own left hand, sleeping the sleep of the truly exhausted. But Aragorn knew that if Pippin even stirred, Merry would wake instantly.
“My sister has named him Holdwine,” said a voice behind him.
Aragorn nodded. He had known when Éomer had come in behind him. “Appropriate. It means ‘loyal friend’ does it not?”
“Yes. I have never seen anyone like him. He had every reason to stay behind in safety, and with such a disadvantage as his size gives, none would have thought the worst of him if he had done so, especially as unused to war as his kind are. But that one does not seem to consider his size at all.”
“Boromir thought he was a natural warrior. He has the heart for it. But then they all do, in their own different ways. I wish there were some way to show them how much they have done. I do not say repay what we owe them; that will never happen in a lifetime, no matter how much we shower them with. My own debt to them is boundless.”
“For myself,“ said Éomer “I plan to make Meriadoc a Knight of the Riddermark. He deserves no lesser honor. My sister suggested it, but I believe it only right. There is much else I would give him as well, if he will take it.”
Aragorn smiled. “A Knight? I think our valiant young Peregrin also deserves no lesser honor . And Merry would not be happy if his cousin were not so honored as well. Thank you, Éomer, for an excellent idea. I will make Pippin a Knight of the Citadel. I do not yet know how we will be able to honor these other two, our valiant Ringbearers, but I will put my mind to it.”
30 RETHE 3019 (S.R. 1419 )
Faramir looked at the list of things his new king wanted of him, to be sent to Ithilien. Medical supplies, food, fodder, blankets, and more healers to attend the wounded, all very much as expected. But it was the short list at the end that caused him to twitch his lips in a smile. Perhaps the Lady Éowyn would be willing to help him out with that one, especially considering that some of those items were at the request of her brother, the new King of Rohan. Some of them would be more difficult than others to find on such short notice.
“So, my brother is finally making my dear Holdwine a Knight,“ Éowyn laughed, and Faramir thought it quite a lovely sound. She did not do that nearly enough, and he found himself slightly jealous that the one thing guaranteed to make her do so was the mention of her little perian friend. “Merry will make a splendid Knight! And I see that they will be making his little cousin one also; that will please him. Let us see, what have they asked for? Four sets of livery each, in the colors of Gondor and of Rohan, a new sword for Merry--” a shadow came across her face as she remembered how he had lost the old one. She gave a brief shudder, and shook her head, before continuing. “a new helm for Pippin--apparently his old one was damaged beyond repair. Some of these things will be difficult at such short notice.”
Faramir nodded. “The Gondorian livery should not be too difficult. We have a store of livery in the Citadel used by the young pages which will do well for Pippin. But I am not so sure about the livery for Rohan. Your colors are green and white, are they not, with the device of the running horse? I will have to think on that.” He pursed his lips. “I think that one of the great merchant houses has green as its color. They use pages as well, you see. But we will have to see to having the device put on.”
Éowyn nodded. “And we will also need to seek the smithy, about the sword and the helm. For the sword, at least, the smith may know whether it would be better to alter a large knife or to make a small sword even smaller. I am not so sure about the helm. What about the silver?”
Now a shadow crossed Faramir’s face. “Coin? Coin is not a problem; Denethor was an excellent Steward.” There was a touch of bitterness in his tone as he considered his father. “ Minas Tirith does not lack for coin, and in luxuries we have a-plenty. It is the more needful things that are in short supply.” The other items, on Aragorn’s longer list, food and medicine, were not going to be as easily come by. Still the coin gave him an idea of his own. He had his own debt to Peregrin.
“M-mer?” It was the merest whisper. Merry sat up instantly.
“Yes, Pip, what is it?” It was the first intelligible sound from his cousin since they brought him in from the battlefield. Merry’s eyes filled with tears of joy.
Merry shot a questioning look to Aragorn, who stood nearby. He had been spending every minute he was not needed elsewhere in the hobbits’ tent. He quickly came to Pippin’s side, and taking a ewer that stood by the cot, poured out a bit into a cup, and handed it to Merry. “Just wet his lips, to begin with. Then a few drops at a time until he gets this down. If he does not bring it back up, in a short while he may have the same again.”
As soon as his lips were wet, Pippin looked fuzzily at Aragorn. “Frodo? Sam?” he managed to croak. His eyes were full of distress.
“They are here, they are alive, they are asleep right over there.” He gestured to the two cots at the other end.
“Mmm-hmm,” he murmured, satisfied. He swallowed a couple of sips from the cup his cousin held, and drifted back to sleep.
Merry looked at him tenderly, and then up at Aragorn. “Strider? He’s going to be all right now, isn’t he?” and then he burst into tears. Aragorn gathered him up, and allowed him to weep himself back to sleep in his arms, then he carried him over and placed him into the as yet unused fourth cot. He resumed his own vigil.
“Good evening, Aragorn.”
He glanced up at the entrance. “Gandalf.”
“It is time that you sought your own bed. It has seen far too little of you these last few days.”
Aragorn cast a look at the hobbits.
“I will watch. I think you may trust me in this?” Gandalf’s tone was kind but firm.
He suddenly realized how exhausted he was. “Very well. But call me at the least sign--”
The wizard sighed in exasperation. “My dear fellow, go to your bed at once.”
He stood up, and then realized that Legolas had come in behind Gandalf and he had not noticed it. That convinced him. “Are you going to escort me to my tent?” he asked the Elf.
1 ASTRON 3019 (S.R. 1419 )
Aragorn felt much better after a night’s sleep, he had to admit. Now he turned his attention to the breakfast tray that had been brought in to him. He smiled to himself. A man could get used to this being waited upon.
“May I enter?”
“Certainly, Éomer,” he said “I was thinking of sending for you, anyway, to discuss this matter of knighting our hobbits. Would you care for some breakfast? They brought me enough to feed four Men, or one hobbit.”
“No, thank you, I have already broken my fast. Have you given anymore thought to honoring the Ringbearers?”
“Yes, yes I have. That is why I would like to put forward the knighting of Merry and Pippin as soon as may be.”
“Aragorn?” Gimli’s voice was heard outside the tent. “You sent for me?”
“Yes, please come in.” He looked up at Éomer. “Gimli will be of use in this.” He took another bite of the bread and cheese in his hand, and washed it down with a sip of ale. “Gimli, I would ask a favor of you. What kind of condition are Pippin’s armor and sword in?”
“Well, except for his wee helm, which you had to destroy to get off his hard little head, it is in excellent condition, because I took it to see to as soon as it was removed from him. His sword is fine. As you should know, since you had to pry it out of his hand. I cleaned it thoroughly and sharpened it.”
“Thank you. It seems that I will not need to ask that favor of you after all, but perhaps Éomer will?”
Éomer nodded. “Master Gimli, if you would be so kind as to check the condition of my esquire Meriadoc’s armor, I would appreciate it very much. He has not had time enough to do so, with attending his cousins.”
“It would be my honor. I do believe I know what you lads have in mind, and I completely approve. Well, I had better see to it, then.” With a bob of his head, he was gone.
The two kings looked at one another and laughed. “Lads?” chortled Éomer.
Aragorn just shook his head.
It was only a day since Pippin had first awakened. Merry had transferred his attention now to Frodo, and sat by his older cousin, as he had by his younger. Pippin didn’t mind. He could still see his Merry there at the other end of the tent, and it was Frodo who needed Merry now. Besides, all he had to do was moan inadvertently or sigh a bit too loudly, and his cousin returned to him in a flash.
“Merry,” he croaked.
His cousin’s head whipped round. “Do you need something, Pip?”
“No, just wondering how he’s doing, and Sam.”
Merry shook his head. For all Aragorn’s insistence that this sleep was the best thing for them, it still seemed unnatural to him. “Aragorn says they are doing all right for now.”
“And they are,” came a familiar voice from the tent’s entrance.
“Strider!” said Pippin, almost in his normal voice. It was spoiled by a fit of painful coughing, which brought tears to his eyes from the pain in his tightly bound ribs.
“Merry, Éomer is asking for you.”
Merry gave him a look that said as clearly as words that he knew this was some kind of excuse to get him away from the “sick tent”. The King of Rohan had found some such little duties for him several times since Pippin woke up, usually something silly like copying a list or something. But he got up and resignedly went out without argument. Fealty was fealty, after all.
Pippin looked at Aragorn. “He needs to get some rest.”
“I know. Right now, this is the best we can do. Unless you want me to put him to sleep like Frodo and Sam?”
Pippin gave a shudder. “Oh, no, don’t do that to him.”
Aragorn moved to examine his small patient. He started with the left foot, and moved up, quirking an eyebrow in surprise. “You really are healing a great deal faster than even hobbit constitution would account for.” He placed a hand on the curly head, curlier and thicker now than it had been before he and Merry had met Treebeard, and considered. Could it be? “Tell me about the Ent-draughts, Pippin.”
Faramir and Éowyn looked over the items they had managed to garner: from the stores of page’s livery in the Citadel, there were two sets of black silk, and two of serviceable black linsey-woolsey which would fit Pippin excellently. One of the merchant houses did indeed have pages’ livery in green, and when they found it was intended for the little perian who had helped to slay the Nazgûl Captain, insisted on giving it to them at no charge. Some of the palace seamstresses had seen to sewing on the device of the running horse, and adding a bit of white trim to them. They had chosen two made of sturdy wool for daily wear and two of rich green velvet for formal occasions.
The smith had found a short sword of a kind that was often used by someone fighting with two swords, rather than sword and shield. It needed very little modification to make it suitable for Merry’s use. But the helm he had to make, and since it was for the Ernil i Pheriannath, he and his apprentices put everything else on hold to work on it day and night until it was finished.
Unasked, Faramir had taken it upon himself to find some other things to send for the pheriannath. He had found a goodly store of clothing that had once belonged to him and to Boromir as children: shirts, nightshirts, jackets, breeches and smallclothes. Most of it still looked like new; as sons of the Steward, their clothing was never subject to being handed down. It’s about time these things were of some use, he thought. No need, of course, for the small stockings and boots. He hesitated as he came across the little gilded shirt of mail that had been his brother’s Yule gift the year he was nine. It had been a gift from their uncle in Dol Amroth. Finally, he packed it up with all the rest, along with a message for Aragorn.
And there were two small chests of silver coin, to be the young hobbits’ stipend as retainers of Gondor and Rohan. Faramir took out a small pouch of his own, with another note, and slipped it into the chest intended for Pippin.
3 ASTRON 3019 ( S.R. 1419 )
Pippin lay back in his cot exhausted. Aragorn had allowed him up briefly this day, to see if he could put weight on his left foot, and then had been amazed when he could do so. It had been painful, though, and tiring.
Merry was out on another “errand” for the King of Rohan, but the hobbits were not unattended. In order to persuade Aragorn that he did not need to spend every waking moment in their tent, the other members of the Fellowship were also taking turns watching. Even when Merry was there, Gandalf, Legolas or Gimli were often there, also keeping watch. Once or twice, they had allowed the King of Rohan to watch as well, but mostly the Fellowship was jealous of its hobbits.
Right now it was Legolas, who sat between Frodo and Sam, singing in Elvish. Pippin quite liked the song. It was not one he had heard Legolas sing before. As the clear Elvish voice faded, Pippin spoke.
“Sing that one again, Legolas, if you please.”
The Elf looked over at him in mild surprise. He had been aware that Pippin was awake, but had not realized he was listening so intently. “Certainly, mellon nin.” And he began once more the soaring melody that had caught Pippin’s attention.
That’s nice, thought the youngest hobbit. He called me “my friend” in Elvish, just like he does Strider. To the sound of the soft singing, he drifted to sleep once more.
Merry sighed. This time, he had a pile of accounts, lists of horses, that Éomer had asked him to sort out by éored. It was so obviously easy busy work, meant to take his mind off his fellow hobbits and keep him away from their tent. The problem was, that while it succeeded admirably in the latter case, it was not enough to succeed in keeping his mind off Frodo, Sam and Pippin. He sighed again, more loudly, and stacking the documents, he tapped them rather loudly on the tabletop to straighten them.
Éomer gave a wry look to his cousin Éothain with whom he had been discussing which men were to be sent back to Rohan, and which were to remain.
“Holdwine,” he said to Merry, “is there something you wish to say to me?”
Merry flushed. “I am sorry, my liege. It is just that I know this task is not truly needful. If I must be away from my kin and friends, I wish I were at least doing something that *needs* doing.”
The King of Rohan stood up and walked over to where his esquire sat, on top of two cushions to raise him to the proper height for the table. He placed a hand on the hobbit’s shoulder. “Meriadoc, you are only partly right. This is a task that needs to be done, though not one which is urgent or important. If Aragorn and I could trust you to actually *rest* when you are in your tent, I could be persuaded to at least find more active tasks for you. But you do not sleep except at your cousins’ sides, and then restlessly, as you are awake instantly for their slightest sound or movement. We have discussed moving you out of their tent--”
Merry’s head shot up in alarm, and his grey eyes sparked dangerously.
“Never fear. We realized that would probably only make it worse if you could not be with them. What would you suggest, if you had a friend in like circumstance?”
Merry looked at his liege with wide eyes, but could not quite find the words to ask what came to his mind.
“Yes, Holdwine Meriadoc, I consider you a friend. You saved the life of my sister, and you defended my uncle and king in his last moments of life; how could I not think you are my friend?”
“Oh!” While not nearly as demonstrative as Pippin, Merry was a hobbit, and the only proper response to that declaration was to grab the startled Éomer around the waist in a fierce hug.
“I am sorry if I am being difficult,” he said finally, letting go. “If I sleep in my own bed at night, would you and Aragorn think that good enough?”
Éomer smiled. “It would be up to Aragorn. He is the healer, after all, not I. But I should say he might consider that a good start.”
“Thank you.” Grinning, Merry gave him another quick hug, and hopped down from the chair, scattering the cushions. “May I be excused now, my liege?” He barely waited for the young king’s nod before bolting from the tent.
Éothain was smirking with thinly disguised mirth. Éomer looked at him sternly. “The holbyltla may show their feelings more easily than do Men, but they are not children and there is nothing amusing about their loyalty or courage. Consider where *all* of us might be, kinsman, if not for the loyalty and courage of that one--or of the Ringbearers.”
Éothain flushed. Truly, he liked the little one himself, and admired his courage, but it was hard to keep a straight face around them. They just did not seem to take things seriously, and they had very little grasp of formality around those they thought of as their friends.
“Legolas?” Aragorn had been looking for the Elf. He did not like sending for his friends when he could avoid it. He supposed he would eventually get used to it, though. It happened more and more frequently now.
“Yes, mellon nin?” He was busy currying Arod, crooning in Elvish to the restive steed.
“Do you know of any minstrels in the camp?”
“There are several. What do you have in mind?”
“I think that a lay, honoring our Ringbearers, would be in order. I cannot reach Frodo, but this above all Samwise would cherish.”
“Ah,” the Elf smiled. “I think that can be arranged.”
5 ASTRON 3019 ( S.R. 1419 )
Pippin opened his eyes. “Bergil! Beregond! When did Bergil get here?”
“He just arrived this morning, with some supplies and other items that the king had requested.” Aside from the bandage still wrapping his head, Beregond seemed little the worse for the battle.
Pippin was overjoyed to see his friends. He had known Beregond survived. Merry had told him, but the last time he had actually seen the guardsman, he had been unconscious next to the troll, just before Pippin killed it.
“I have told him,” said Beregond, “of your valor in battle. Did no one ever tell you to pick on someone your own size?”
Pippin laughed, though it made his ribs ache. “I would have done, but there was no one of that description there besides myself!”
Aragorn, Gandalf and Éomer examined the contents of the chests and boxes Faramir had sent. Éomer was impressed with the little sword that had been fashioned for Meriadoc. Aragorn lifted up the small items of clothing. He had an idea of where they had come from. This was most thoughtful of Faramir. He drew forth the gilded mail shirt. “Do you think this will fit Samwise?”
“Ask Gimli. He would be able to tell you, and to make any changes needed for it to do so, if it does not,” said Gandalf.
Aragorn nodded. “Gandalf, I know that what we do will please Pippin, Merry and Sam. But I am worried about Frodo. His thoughts remain elusive; he is not really with us yet, and I dare not keep them asleep too much longer.”
The Wizard shook his head. “I am afraid that Frodo has a long and troubled road ahead. Yet he will be glad that we honor his kindred and friends, and that will have to do for pleasing him. His thoughts, as ever, turn on others, not himself.”
6 ASTRON 3019 (S.R. 1419)
Éomer came into the tent, where Pippin and Merry were just finishing up a light second breakfast; Merry had just started to get out his pipe and light it.
“Meriadoc, come walk with me.” The young king looked very serious.
Startled, and wondering if perhaps he had committed some breach of courtesy, or perhaps made some mistake that would need to be reprimanded, he excused himself to his cousin and went out.
Pippin felt a bit alarmed himself, wondering if Merry was in any trouble, when Aragorn entered. He, too, looked serious.
“Peregrin--” he started.
“Strider! Have they taken a turn for the worse?” His eyes flew to where Frodo and Sam lay, as unmoving and silent as ever. He could not think of another reason that Aragorn would be so serious and formal with him.
Aragorn gave a rueful chuckle. “No, Pippin, I did not mean to frighten you. But I do have something serious to talk about, and though it *is* serious, I have hope that you will not find it unpleasant.”
The young hobbit gazed at him in wonder.
“You have more than proven yourself, by your loyalty, and your courage, and your prowess on the battlefield. I find myself honored to know you, and I want to show that. Peregrin, I would make you a Knight of the Citadel.”
Pippin’s eyes filled; he did not know what to say.
“This is a gift I may give as I will, and though in years to come, I may give it to many Men of renown, this first time, I wish it to be you, who are my dear friend, and of all other warriors, most worthy. Will you accept this gift from me, my friend?”
Speechless, Pippin nodded, and then burst into tears.
Merry and the King of Rohan walked silently for a few moments, Merry puzzled by this turn of events, yet a little afraid to ask what he had done wrong.
Finally, Éomer spoke. “Meriadoc, Holdwine of the Mark, you have given me your fealty as my esquire, as you did for my uncle. I have been honored to have that fealty from one of such proven courage and heart. Now I wish to know if you would care to honor me with your fealty as a Knight of the Riddermark?
Merry stopped, and stared. “A knight?”
“Yes, you would be Sir Meriadoc, a Knight of Rohan. Would this please you?”
“Oh yes!” He turned shining eyes on his King.
“Very well; tomorrow you shall receive this honor. I believe that your cousin may have something to tell you when you return to him.”
Merry turned around and looked at the tent from which they had come, and saw Aragorn coming out with a large grin on his face.
Oh joy! he thought, Pip’s going to be a knight, too!
“Now you must understand, Pippin, that what I give to you is a part of the ceremony; I do not want you to tell me that you cannot accept it, or that it is ‘too much’. This is part of what a king does.” Aragorn gestured to the box beside him.
He lifted out the sets of livery. “Four of them, two for everyday use, of serviceable material, and two of black silk for feasts and so forth. You will wear one of the latter for your knighting, and also when we show honor to Frodo and Sam. They will be waking up in a few days, and we plan to celebrate then. We also have a new helm for you, and Gimli has made your armor and sword to gleam like new. There are also a few items of clothing here, shirts, nightclothes, smallclothes and such.”
“Thank you, Aragorn.” Truly he was grateful for the clothing. His own had been pretty nearly ruined since their capture by the Uruk-hai, and there had not been a chance to replace much of it, save for his livery. And the livery he had worn to battle was ruined. Only his Elven cloak had escaped destruction.
“After your knighting I will present you with your stipend--a gift of money. This is something that all retainers of a court receive, so I do not wish to hear any objections to it.”
“Money? Aragorn, you are not buying my loyalty.” Pippin looked mildly offended.
“I told you, it is part of it. A retainer owes certain duties to his king, and his king must insure that the retainer is able to carry out those duties. Trust me on this, Pippin.” Aragorn had no intention of telling him that the stipend he had arranged was about three times more than was customary, nor yet that Faramir had added a goodly sum to it. Nor did he intend to mention that a stipend was an annual custom. Surprises were always nice.
“Now, do you remember your oath?”
“I could never forget it.” Indeed it was seared into his brain, those words spoken so solemnly to the proud and stern Denethor, who had accepted them both seriously and mockingly. He ducked his head to hide the tears that suddenly sprang to his eyes.
Aragorn placed a finger under his chin and lifted his face. “It will be different this time, Peregrin. This pledge will be given and taken in love.”
“One final thing, and in this I speak as your healer, and not your king. You will be allowed up for this ceremony, but you are not to put any strain on that knee by attempting to kneel to me. My opinion is, that you are about the right height standing as anyone else would be kneeling, anyway.”
Pippin laughed. “Strider! I might disobey the king, but I would never be so foolish as to disobey the healer!”
“Aha,” Aragorn laughed disbelievingly, “you will have to prove that to me, imp.” He gave the hobbit’s nose a tweak, and got up to leave. “Tomorrow someone will be in to help you prepare for the ceremony. I will see you again in the morning, to make sure you will be up to it.”
Éomer looked at Merry, and smiled as he opened the large box. “We have here, gathered for us in Mundberg by Aragorn’s most excellent Steward and my sister, some items we will need on the morrow.”
He showed Merry the livery, and the clothing; Merry was suitably impressed, and very glad for the clothes, especially for the smallclothes. His own undergarments were in an embarrassing state, and he’d had no chance to do anything about it.
“My liege?” Merry looked at his king with a troubled gaze. “I have no sword to lay at your feet. My sword--” He stopped. He didn’t like to remember what had happened to his sword after he had stabbed the Witch-King.
“As to that,” Éomer replied, and he drew forth from beneath his seat the sword that had been sent for Merry.
The young hobbit’s face glowed, and his eyes glistened as he took the blade from his King’s hand. It was longer than his barrow-blade, and was very clearly a small sword and not merely a large knife. He looked at Éomer with a question in his eyes, and received a nod. He stood up, and moving to the center of the King’s tent carefully made a few of the practice passes that he had been taught by Boromir.
“This is a wonderful blade!” He looked at it with a gleam of pride. “How can I ever thank you!”
“You will be laying it at my feet on the morrow, Holdwine. That will be thanks enough. One more thing I should mention before then: you will also be receiving an amount of coin as gift for your knighting. This is customary, and I will not hear of you refusing it. It is the duty of a king to gift his retainers, and a matter of honor for me. If you do not accept it, it will diminish me, do you understand?”
“No, not really, my liege, but I will take your word for it.” Merry was so thrilled with the sword that he didn’t want to be thinking about some token gift of money that he’d rather not be bothered with anyway.
“Now I have a question for you: your father is the head of your clan, and normally I would need his permission to make you mine. But he is far away, so it would be difficult for us to ask him about this. Do you think him likely to be offended that you take this step without his permission? I do not wish to make trouble for your homecoming.”
Merry looked startled at the question; he’d never even thought about it. “No, my Da is not like that. I am of age by my people’s reckoning, and the decision is mine to make. He’ll not be upset by it.” But it made Merry wonder if Pip could say the same about Uncle Paladin--Pip was not of age yet, and the Thain could be a little touchy about some things. But he wasn’t going to say anything. If he was going to be a knight, he wanted his cousin to, also.
“Very well, then, take your gifts and go back to your kinsmen; Éothain will be by in the morning to help you get ready. I will see you at the ceremony.”
Aragorn and Gandalf were enjoying an evening pipe, by the fire outside his tent when the Elf approached.
“Our minstrel has prepared the lay you wished, also a hymn of praise was composed, that the people might sing in their honor. I had wondered if you would care to see.” He held forth some sheets of parchment.
He took them, and held them close to the light of the fire, where Gandalf could also see. After a few moments he nodded. “Yes, yes, this is very good. Sam will be delighted with this.”
Gandalf smiled. “And if Samwise is delighted, then Frodo will be also. Excellent. So, do you still think to wake them in two days?”
“Yes, yes I do. We have been turning them and seeing to their needs as they slept, but to keep them asleep any longer risks weakening them.”
“I am glad the Eagles were in time,” said the Wizard.
“As am I. I do not like thinking that I have won my kingdom and my bride on the sacrifices of these small ones. If we had lost them, I do not believe I would have had the heart to claim my throne.” Tears glistened in Aragorn’s eyes, and Legolas put a comforting hand upon his shoulder.
Gandalf shook his head. “You would have done what you had to do. But I am glad it was not necessary to put you to the test.”
Aragorn nodded. But he was still very troubled by Frodo.
7 ASTRON 3019 (S.R. 1419)
Merry was just bringing in an early breakfast tray, when Aragorn came in the next morning.
He went over to Pippin first, and examined him carefully. He seemed pleased by his recovery. “Eat well, and rest while you can. You will be busy in a little while.” For they had decided to hold the ceremonies at noon.
Then he went over and examined the sleeping Frodo and Sam, checking to make sure that their physical wounds were healing well, and that no unexpected problems had developed. He placed his hand upon each pale forehead, and was silent for a moment. Then he nodded. He looked over to Merry and Pippin, who as always, watched his examination of Frodo and Sam anxiously.
“I am very pleased with their progress. I do believe that I will be able to allow them to waken tomorrow.”
Overjoyed at this news, Pippin and Merry let out whoops of delight, and Pippin gave a rather hard bounce in the bed. If Merry had not moved quickly, it would have overturned the breakfast tray.
“Sorry,” said Pippin.
“We had better eat, before it ends up on the floor.”
Aragorn laughed, and took his leave.
They had barely finished eating when Éothain, Beregond, Legolas, Gimli and Bergil entered the tent.
“It is time to begin preparation,” said Legolas. “You will need baths, and we will dress you.” He smiled. “Don’t look at us like that, young hobbits. You will need the assistance, especially you, Master Pippin. Or do you tell me that you are not nervous?”
Legolas, Beregond and Bergil saw to Pippin, while Éothain and Gimli took care of Merry. The King of Rohan’s cousin also took the chance to drill Merry on the words of his oath.
The Sun was near the top of her journey when they stepped outside the tent to the clear area that had been prepared for the ceremonies. Over his objections, Legolas carried Pippin, and sat him down on an upturned bucket that was just the right height. “Aragorn said that he does not want you walking or standing any more than you have to. And he does not want your legs to dangle, either. You will have quite an excellent view of your cousin from here.”
Pippin muttered under his breath. Legolas laughed.
“What did he say?” asked Gimli.
“He said that ‘Aragorn might be an easy-going king, but Strider the healer is a tyrant.’ ”
Aside from the members of the Fellowship, several other well-wishers had gathered. There were a few members of the King of Rohan’s personal éored that Merry knew. And Pippin was pleased to see some of the members of the Third Company with whom he had journeyed to battle. He was especially pleased to see two brothers, Artamir and Adrahil, for the last time he had seen them they had been struck down by the troll he killed. He had worried about them, but had been afraid to ask if they yet lived. Here they were, Artamir with a bandage round his head, and Adrahil with his arm in a sling, but otherwise hale. Well, he thought, it was worth getting squashed by the troll, since I saved them after all.
Merry was to be knighted first, and he was more than a bit nervous. There had been no ceremony when he had given his allegiance to Théoden. For love of the king, who reminded him so much of his own father, he offered his sword and his fealty, and Théoden had accepted. They were on their way to war; there was no time for formality. And in the House of Healing, he had given that same allegiance to Éomer, once again, hastily and without ceremony.
Now he would step up and lay his sword at his King’s feet, and offer a solemn oath before witnesses. It was a bit daunting, yet there was a feeling of pride as well, that Éomer had found him worthy of the honor.
He stood now, apart and a bit alone near the center of the area, feeling very small indeed. There was a stir, and all the men-at-arms came to attention as the two Kings, accompanied by the White Wizard, approached.
Aragorn and Gandalf stopped at the edge of the clearing, and Éomer went forward a few more paces.
Merry stepped forward, outwardly confident, inwardly quailing. He knelt and drew his sword, and laid it at Éomer’s feet.
“Will you accept my sword and my oath?” he asked, according to formula.
“I will. Speak your oath.” The young King of Rohan held out his hands, and Merry reached up and placed his own small ones between them.
“I promise on my faith that I will in future be faithful to Éomer, King of Rohan, and will observe my homage to him completely against all persons in good faith and without deceit.* His enemies shall be my enemies, and his friends shall be my friends, and his word shall be my law, from this day forward.”
“And I say: that Meriadoc Saradoc’s son of the Shire is sworn unto me. His enemies shall be my enemies, his friends shall be my friends, and his welfare shall be my consideration, from this day forward.” He looked down with a smile. “Arise, Sir Meriadoc, Knight of Rohan.” And he bent and placed a kiss on the hobbit’s brow. He picked up Merry’s sword and handed it to him. “Receive back your sword, and bear it hereafter on my behalf.”
There was an outburst of cheers from the gathered witnesses, and Merry blushed. The King drew him back to his side, and they moved back a few paces.
And now Aragorn moved forward. He went several more paces. He did not want Pippin walking any further than he had to. He stopped about seven or eight feet away from where the young hobbit sat on his bucket.
“Approach, Peregrin son of Paladin of the Shire.”
Pippin stood, gingerly placing the weight on his left foot and leg. His foot was still quite painful, and he had to walk slowly and carefully. Mindful of Aragorn’s admonition not to kneel, he gave a profound bow. Even that gave him a twinge in his knee, and he suddenly realized that if he had knelt, he would not have been able to rise without assistance. Drawing his sword, he presented it hilt first to Aragorn.
Aragorn took it gravely. “Are you resolved in this?”
Aragorn presented the hilt to him, and he placed his small hands upon it, and without prompting, made the words of the oath: “Here do I swear fealty and service to Gondor, and to the Lord and King of the realm, to speak and to be silent, to do and to let be, to come and to go, in need or in plenty, in peace or in war, in living or dying, from this hour henceforth, until my lord release me, or death take me, or the world end. So say I, Peregrin son of Paladin of the Shire of the Halflings.”
“And this do I hear, Aragorn son of Arathorn, and I will not forget it, nor fail to reward that which is given: fealty with love, valour with honour, oath-breaking with vengeance.”** Aragorn returned his sword, which he placed in its sheath, and then he drew the young hobbit to his side, and proclaimed: “I present to you Sir Peregrin Took, Knight of the Citadel, Guard of the Tower. He is sworn to my service, let all who see bear witness that good done unto him is the same as good done unto me, and that harm done unto him is the same as harm done unto me. So say I, Aragorn son of Arathorn, Heir of Elendil.”
And cheering broke out, the loudest coming from Pippin’s cousin and fellow knight. But suddenly he felt his leg begin to give way. Aragorn swept him up, and replaced him firmly upon his bucket, where he sat to receive the congratulations of his friends.
More seats were brought forward, and the Kings sat down next to their new knights. Now they brought out the chests containing the stipends.
Merry’s contained a hundred silver pennies. Thunderstruck he stared up at Éomer, who said “By the way, when you pass through Edoras on your return, Stybba will be waiting to bear you to your homeland. He is yours.”
Mindful of the young King’s admonition the day before, he nodded. This was incredibly generous! And Stybba! He had grown fond of the pony before he had to leave him behind. How lovely!
After goggling in amazement at Merry’s stipend, Pippin took his with a bit of trepidation. He opened the lid, and shut it quickly after a brief glance and glared up at his new liege.
Aragorn just grinned at him. In a low voice, he said “One hundred fifty,” and then with a twinkle in his eye, added “Oh, and the pouch contains another fifty from Faramir, as a gift. Which, by the way, you cannot decline, as he is not here.”
Pippin’s jaw dropped. Two hundred silver pennies? When the average hobbit of the Shire did well to earn the equivalent of fifteen or twenty a year? Even the Thain’s annual income did not normally rise above eighty!
But now the new knights began to receive the gifts of their other friends. From Gandalf, they each had a small pouch of leaf (“It’s only fitting, my lads, as it is some of the leaf you liberated at Orthanc.”). From Gimli they each had a new tankard of proper hobbit size. Legolas handed each of them a small roll of parchment. Merry’s was a sketch of himself standing at Théoden’s side on the palisade at Edoras, which brought tears to his eyes. Pippin looked at his. “It’s Elvish!” he said, puzzled. Legolas bent down and said in his ear “It is the words to some of the songs you like,” and was rewarded by a brilliant Tookish grin.
Some of the Rohirrim presented Merry with a small cask of ale, and several of the Guardsmen had managed to bring Pippin a basket of pastries. Bergil handed Pippin a small bag. “I couldn’t find very many,” he said, apologetically. Pippin looked in and saw mushrooms. But to his dismay they were not edible. He carefully schooled his face and thanked his young friend, reminding himself to dispose of them later. He gave a shudder. Someone was going to have to teach the lad how to tell what mushrooms were safe.
They sat for a while by their Kings, accepting the gifts, and sharing out the ale and pastries, but Aragorn was keeping a sharp eye on Pippin, who soon began to flag. “I think, Sir Peregrin, that it is time you returned to your cot.” It was a measure of how tired he was that Pippin turned a grateful eye on his healer, who lifted him and bore him within the tent.
Merry soon followed, and the party began to break up.
Later that evening, as Pippin slept deeply, under the influence of a mild pain draught, Merry watched as Aragorn went over and sat next to Frodo.
He placed his hand on Frodo’s pale brow, and closing his eyes, whispered “It is time.” Then he turned to Sam, and did the same.
“They will sleep through the night, and the healing sleep will gradually give way to natural sleep. Then, when they are ready, they will wake sometime on the morrow.”
Merry nodded. It would be a relief to see them finally wake. He had frequently found himself watching anxiously to see if they were breathing, they had been so still.
He looked up at Aragorn. “Thank you, Strider, for everything.”
He smiled. “No, it is I who thank you, and your kin. But I am pleased that you still think of me as Strider. Get some rest, Merry. Tomorrow will be a busy day. Tomorrow will be for Frodo and Sam.”
* The first part of the oath is taken from an actual 12th century oath. Source: http://www.dragonbear.com/fealty.html
** Adapted from The Return of the King, Book 6, Chapter 1, "Minas Tirith"
8 ASTRON 3019 (S.R. 1419)
Frodo woke and found himself lying in bed. At first he thought that he had slept late, after a long unpleasant dream that still hovered on the edge of memory. Or perhaps he had been ill? He seemed to feel all this was familiar, as though it had happened to him before.
“Where am I, and what is the time?” he said aloud.
“You are in Ithilien, and it is eight o’clock in the morning,” said a familiar voice. “It is the morning of the eighth of Astron, or the fourteenth day of the New Year, if you want to know.”
“Gandalf!” cried Frodo, sitting bolt upright in astonishment. “Gandalf!” he exclaimed again, caught between laughter and tears. There was the Wizard, sitting on a stool by his cot.
“Oh, Gandalf,” he reached out, to see if this was real, and the Wizard caught him in an embrace.
“Yes,” he said. “I am here, and you are lucky to be here after all the amazing things you have done.”
Frodo lay back down, and a shadow passed across his brow. “It is gone; it is done.” He turned his face to Gandalf anxiously. “Sam?”
Gandalf smiled and gestured to the cot on the other side of his. Frodo saw the mound of covers, topped by sandy curls, from which issued gentle snores. He relaxed with a sigh of relief.
“And the others?” he asked fearfully.
“All the Fellowship live, save poor Boromir.”
Frodo nodded sadly. “I met his brother. He told me.” He noticed the cots at the other end of the tent.
“Pippin?” he whispered.
Gandalf nodded. With tears in his eyes, Frodo studied the face of his youngest cousin, a face he had never expected to see again. Relaxed in sleep, the young Took looked all of about seven years old.
Merry chose that moment to enter with the usual morning breakfast tray. He gave a gasp at the sight of Frodo awake, and would have dropped the tray had Gandalf not moved quickly. “Easy, Merry, I have it.”
Unencumbered, Merry flew to Frodo’s arms, sobbing. Laughing and crying at the same time, they hugged one another fiercely, occasionally drawing back to examine one another’s face. Frodo reached his hand up and touched the scar on Merry’s brow, and saw his own bandaged hand. He drew back, troubled. But Merry grabbed him again, and the shadow lifted. How could he be sad, with Merry there to cheer him?
Just then, Aragorn entered. “I see you wakened first, Frodo,” he said with a smile. He came over and placed his hand on Sam’s brow. “I think Sam will probably sleep for another three or four hours; and Pippin was tired out as well, and needs still to sleep. It’s a beautiful day, and the weather is mild. Let us take you outdoors, so that you and Merry can visit without waking the sleepers. When they do awaken, we will bring them out to you.”
He called two Men, and they carried Frodo out, bed and all, to a nearby grove of beeches, and then the two cousins shared the breakfast tray, as they talked and shared their news. About an hour later, they brought Pippin out to join them, and the three of them shared a pipe, and laughter, and reunion. They tended to gloss over the unpleasant details, and talked of Ents and oliphaunts, waterfalls and White Towers, rabbit stew and Longbottom Leaf. After a while, Sam’s cot was brought out, though he still slept.
“I thought he might like to waken among the trees,” said Aragorn. He turned to Pippin and Merry. “I am sorry to break up your reunion, but the two of you have some duties to attend to. So back to your tent, and into your liveries. I believe, Pippin, that with Merry’s help, you may walk that far.”
Leaning on his cousin, they made their way slowly back towards the tent, Merry stopping frequently to let Pippin rest. Frodo followed their progress with troubled eyes.
“Pippin told me he was injured by a troll he killed,” he said incredulously.
“So he was,” said Aragorn. “Both your cousins had a near brush with death, yet it was averted. And they have recovered remarkably well. I think that we have Treebeard and the Ent-draughts to thank for that.”
“They told me that he gave them a drink that made them grow. It’s astonishing to me to see them so tall; especially Pip.”
“From what I can determine, it did more than simply make them grow and make their hair curl; it seems to have made it possible for them to heal very quickly of any injury or illness. Aside from some lingering effects of their injuries, your cousins are in the bloom of health. Of course, Pippin’s injuries are not yet healed completely, but considering the extent of them, he is in remarkable shape considering that two weeks ago we did not think he could live. Here he is walking about; a Man with his injuries who lived to tell the tale would be yet abed and still swathed in bandages.”
“They have told me some of it, yet not all,” Frodo sighed. “I wish I could have spared them all of this.”
“I do not think either of them would thank you for that. They chose what they chose, and it is well for us all that they did. They had tasks of their own to perform, and though their tasks were not as important as the Ring, nevertheless they were important ones.” He looked at Frodo, who was stifling a yawn.
“I cannot believe I am still sleepy after sleeping for two straight weeks.”
“But during that sleep your body was busy repairing itself from all the abuse it had endured. That in itself is less than restful. Lie back down, and doze a bit more if you feel like it. Sam is near to waking, and you want to be fresh when he does.”
Frodo nodded, and slid back beneath the covers, his eyelids slipping closed.
Gandalf approached. “I will watch them for a while. I would be here when Samwise awakens. And you have duties to attend to. Your responsibilities extend to more than just four hobbits, no matter how valiant and beloved they may be.”
Aragorn nodded. No matter how reluctant he felt to leave them, he knew Gandalf spoke truly.
Legolas and Gimli awaited Merry and Pippin in the tent. “There is to be a ceremony for Frodo and Samwise,” said the Elf, “and a feast afterwards, in their honor. The two of you will serve at the feast. But Aragorn had orders for you Pippin: you are to rest until it is time, you are to sit down between removes, and if at any time you feel a weakness you are also to sit down. And you will be resting immediately afterwards as well. He said to remind you that he is your liege now, and you had better obey those orders.”
Pippin nodded. “I’ll do just as he says. I don’t want to spoil things for Frodo and Sam by having a setback.”
Merry looked at him in astonishment. “Who are you, and what have you done with my cousin?”
Pippin laughed. “I *do* have some sense, Merry.”
“Well, I must say that being squashed has had a good effect on you, if that is so.”
Pippin gave his cousin a light blow on the shoulder, and they spent a minute swatting at one another playfully. Truthfully, both were in such high spirits to have Frodo finally back that if they could have they would have been rolling about on the floor wrestling.
“All right, laddies,” said Gimli, “that’s enough of that. You are both knights now and need to have a bit of decorum.”
They burst out laughing. “Who ever heard of a hobbit with decorum?” said Pippin.
“Oh, I don’t know, Pip, your father has his moments.” This made them giggle.
Legolas shook his head. “Let’s get you both into your livery. Perhaps that will straighten you up.”
After they were dressed, they had a light luncheon, and then they separated, each to his own company of comrades. Merry went to be among the éoreds of the King of Rohan, and Pippin took his place with the Third Company. But they had prepared for him, and had a small seat for him.
Pippin looked about; all he could see was a sea of knees, in every direction. This was a bit frustrating, and he heaved a sigh of exasperation. Artamir looked down at him. “Sir Peregrin, if it would not offend you, I would be willing to lift you up so that you might see, when the ceremony begins.”
“Like a little lad on his father’s shoulder? Well, I will put my dignity aside then, if you don’t object, for I do not wish to miss seeing this for the world.”
So Artamir lifted him up, and put him on his shoulders, and Pippin could see the mighty host drawn up all in honor of his cousin and Sam. Soon enough, he saw their small figures escorted by Gandalf, approaching to the sounds of many voices, his own among them, lifted up in a hymn of praise.
And Pippin watched, swollen with love and pride, as they ran to embrace Aragorn, and he set them upon his throne, and cried out “Praise them with great praise!”
And after another mighty shout, the minstrel came, and sang for all the lay of “Frodo of the Nine Fingers and the Ring of Doom”. The tears of joy ran down Pippin’s face unnoticed as he drank in every word of the song.
The lay finally ended as the Sun went down, and Merry and Pippin were taken to the great pavilions where the feast was to be served, and were served first, so that they might not grow hungry as they served others.
Then they stationed themselves at the back of the pavilion near the cookfires. Merry had found a little barrel for Pippin to sit on while they waited. Soon enough the Kings and their guests of honor were seated at the High Table, along with Legolas and Gimli.
All rose for the Standing Silence, and then Merry and Pippin took the ewers of wine, and went forth to serve. Pippin poured wine for the Prince of Dol Amroth, who sat near Sam, and then turned, waiting for Sam to recognize him, as he poured his wine.
“Why, look Mr. Frodo! Look here! Well, if it isn’t Pippin, Mr. Peregrin Took I should say, and Mr. Merry! How they have grown! Bless me! But I can see there’s more tales to tell than ours”
“There are indeed,” said Pippin turning towards him with a wicked grin, “And we’ll begin telling them as soon as this feast is ended. In the meantime you can try Gandalf. He’s not so close as he used to be, though he laughs now more than he talks. For the present, Merry and I are busy. We are Knights of the City and of the Mark, as I hope you observe.”
The feast finally ended, and Frodo and Sam, along with Merry and Pippin and the others of the Fellowship went back to the beech grove where they had spent the morning, and began to tell all their tales. Aragorn had joined them, and he watched carefully over his patients. He was pleased with the way his gifts had been received, and Frodo seemed to be in good spirits. The darkness that troubled him was still there, but it was scattered and dispersed; perhaps it would remain that way, only an occasional cloud to shadow him. Perhaps it would not gather in on him again. Perhaps Frodo could return to his home and his life. Perhaps.
As he began to notice the signs of weariness on them, he was considering telling them the evening was at an end, when Gandalf forestalled him.
The Wizard rose. “The hands of the King are the hands of healing, dear friends. But you went to the very brink of death ere he recalled you putting forth all his power and sent you to the sweet forgetfulness of sleep. And though you have slept long and blessedly, still it is now time to sleep again.”
And then Gimli, who had become somewhat possessive of Pippin since finding him under the troll, reminded him that he had only been up a day, and so needed his rest as well. It was hardly necessary; the youngest hobbit was nodding where he sat.
Aragorn got up and gathered his newest knight into his arms; he settled him into the crook of his left arm, and offered his right hand to Frodo. Sam supported Frodo’s other side, though he too was stumbling from weariness, and Merry walked on the other side of Aragorn, with his hand on Pippin’s knee. They walked back to the tent, and he saw everyone each to his own bed.
He turned to leave, and was stopped by a quiet voice.
“You know, you don’t owe us anything. We did what we had to do. Besides, you gave us your best gift long ago.”
“And what was that, Frodo?”
“You gave us your love. Good night, Strider.”
In Part III sections in italics are quoted directly from The Lord of the Rings, from The Fellowship of the Ring, Book 2, Chapter 1, “Many Meetings” and from The Return of the King, Book 6, Chapter 4, “The Field of Cormallen”
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