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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"
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