The Coronation Challenge - May 2008
Author's Chapter Notes:
Written for the GFIC group's first Challenge, May 2008.
Theme: The Coronation
“Where Shadows Lay No More”
Long has it been since I have seen the great White City; the mighty flags unfurl in the light breeze, the music of the silver trumpets rings out clearly hailing the return of the rightful king of Gondor, and the dawning of a new age. I had to come. I was drawn to behold the triumph of my people, and to appreciate the beauty of the City one last time. I am both joyful and saddened by this visit. Joyful because Minas Tirith did not fall, as I had feared it might; saddened because I cannot remain, and share in the celebration and the coming years of peace. For I am being called away and I shall not linger here much longer. But for now it is enough to drink in the wonder of this day, where I might hold it in my heart and savor it for all eternity.
Pippin stared at the huge gathering of people outside the pavilion and nervously smoothed his black and silver livery for what must have been the hundredth time. The early morning sky was clear and the ceremony would begin soon. He swallowed hard a couple of times, taking a few deep breaths to calm himself, hoping he would be able to have a few words with his cousins beforehand.
He retreated to the back of the grand tent to wait for them to join him, spending his time ruminating over the events of the past year leading up to their presence here. Pippin startled at the sound of Merry’s voice in the relative quiet of his sanctuary, and his face lit up.
“Merry! I was hoping to see you in private for a moment or two before we began.” Pippin gave him a crooked grin.
“It’s almost time. Gandalf said we’ll begin very shortly. Are you ready?”
“I suppose I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.” Pippin shrugged.
“What’s wrong? You seem a little on edge.” Merry peered into Pippin’s eyes as if searching for the answer to his question in the sea green depths.
“No…well, I am a wee bit nervous I suppose. But only because I don’t want to forget what I’m supposed to do. This is quite the momentous occasion, after all.” Pippin tried, and failed, to suppress a small sigh.
“Something’s wrong, though. What is it, Pip? Why, I thought you’d be excited enough to bust by now. Did you think we’d ever see the day when the king really did come back? I mean, we grew up hearing that saying all our lives and here we are, about to not only witness, but take part in the coronation!” He sat on the edge of a small couch, pulling Pippin down beside him. “Now tell me what’s troubling you.”
“Yes, ‘When the king comes back’,” Pippin murmured, so quietly that Merry had to lean closer to hear him. “It never meant all that much to me way back then. It was just one of those things adults said.”
Merry nodded, waiting for his cousin to get to the heart of the matter of whatever was bothering him.
Pippin smoothed his hands across his livery again, looking down at the white tree adorning his chest. “Sometimes everything that’s happened feels like a dream. And sometimes it’s a good one…” Pippin’s voice trailed off and he looked away.
“And, sometimes it’s not? Pip, what is it? You know you can tell me. Perhaps you’ll feel better if you talk about it.”
“You look very striking in your uniform.” Pippin said abruptly, favouring him with his most engaging smile.
Merry snorted and squeezed Pippin’s shoulder. “I doubt my state of dress is at the heart of your thoughts right now, Cousin. Don’t try to change the subject, tell me what’s wrong.”
Pippin stared out the opening of the tent, studying the people as they milled about. “It’s just that…well…I’ve been thinking a great deal about Boromir over the last several weeks. And thinking about today, and how much it would have meant to him to see his city, and his people, victorious.” Pippin turned back to Merry. “To know that Minas Tirith didn’t fall, as he feared might happen. And to know that we escaped the Orcs. He died fighting them to save us, Merry! And the last time he saw us he must have thought that he had failed…I…sometimes I can hardly bear to think about that day…about what happened to him because he tried to help us--” A sob escaped as his voice broke.
Merry draped an arm around him and pulled his head down upon his shoulder, comforting him while he wept. He smoothed the thick curls back from Pippin’s forehead and spoke softly to him until the youth finally calmed. “I think he does know. Somehow, wherever he is, in the place we go after death, I feel that he’s watching. I think he knows how things turned out, Pip. And, I believe he’s happy and at peace.”
Pippin sniffed and lifted his head from Merry’s shoulder. “But how can you know that for certain?”
“I…just do. I feel it in my heart. And Boromir would wish for you to be happy on this great day. Gondor, and all of Middle-earth are saved, and you had a part in that. And I think that somewhere, Boromir is watching and he’s very pleased. And I think he would be sad if he were to find you crying today, of all days, Peregrin Took.” Merry gave his cousin’s shoulder another squeeze.
“There are times when I think he knows, too.” Pippin fidgeted absent-mindedly with the hem of his tunic while he spoke. “Sometimes I believe I feel him close by when I’m thinking about him, and about what happened. I remember what a good friend and protector he was. But then, I always feel all sad inside. It isn’t fair that he had to die.”
“No,” said Merry, “it isn’t right. Life isn’t fair and that’s one lesson you’ve learned beyond all doubt. Good people die, and bad people live sometimes. I don’t know why, Pip. I only know that it’s so.”
Pippin nodded and rose from the couch. “I suppose it’s time to join the others.” He reached for a handkerchief to wipe his tears away, and then summoned up a smile to replace his frown.
“Let’s go, then.” Merry looped his arm through Pippin’s. “Remember, I’m going to be right at your side. If you feel unhappy again try to think about all the good that’s to come out of all the heartbreak and gloom. And bear in mind that Boromir wouldn’t want you to be sad today.”
“All right, Merry.” Pippin made a valiant attempt to brighten up.
They joined Frodo and Sam, who waited with Gandalf, then followed behind the great Captains of the West as they began the procession. Pippin shivered with the realisation of the magnitude of what was about to happen. Merry was quite right. This was indeed the time for joy and thankfulness, a day of celebration, and of renewal, and he was proud to be included in it. Pippin met Frodo’s eyes and gifted him with a genuine smile. A silent communication passed between them as Frodo placed a gentle hand on his arm. Pippin’s attention was drawn to the place where a finger should have been, and he shivered ever so slightly before squaring his shoulders and returning the smile. His heart swelled with determination and gratitude for the life that stretched before them all. Together with his four kinsmen, he took the first step forward.
Far ahead, Pippin could see Faramir, the last Steward of Gondor, awaiting them as they approached the City. The procession halted and Aragorn continued forward, his head held high, clad in the black and silver colours of Gondor. Pippin felt a thrill of sheer elation course through him as he listened to the exchange of formalities not far from where he and his kinsman waited.
Then Faramir’s voice rang out, commanding them to hear his proclamation. “Men of Gondor, hear now the Steward of this Realm! Behold! One has come to claim the kingship again at last. Here is Aragorn son of Arathorn, chieftain of the Dunedain of Arnor, Captain of the Host of the West, bearer of the Star of the North, wielder of the Sword Reforged, victorious in battle, whose hands bring healing, the Elfstone, Elessar of the line of Valandil, Isildur’s son, Elendil’s son of Numenor. Shall he be king and enter into the City and dwell there?” *
A great cry arose from the people, their voices combining as one. “YEA!”
Slowly, I move towards the place where Faramir is holding up the ancient crown and speaking once more. I am delighted to see that Aragorn has bid the former Ring-bearer convey the crown to Mithrandir, who shall have the honour of placing it, at long last, upon the king’s head. Oh, how grateful I am to bear witness to this moment! My whole being soars when I hear Gandalf make his proclamation. The King has indeed come back, and all of Gondor rejoices!
“Now come the days of the King, and may they be blessed while the thrones of the Valar endure!” * Gandalf’s words elicit another joyous shout from the people, and a cheer.
Faramir cries, “Behold the King!” and the mighty trumpets ring out once more, as if echoing the Steward’s words. Now music bursts forth from every corner of the City, expressed in the voice of every instrument known to our people, and the tears flow from my eyes unchecked. I am whole again. As I told you with my last breath, I would indeed have followed you, my Brother, my Captain... my King.** If only I had been afforded that opportunity. Let the Reign of Elessar commence at last. Take the Lady Arwen by the hand and begin the new life for which you, and all those present, have paid such an enormous debt.
I wonder if my little ones truly comprehend the significance of this historic day? I cannot take my eyes from them. I am perfectly content to watch and listen as they exchange their observations with one another, expressing their wonder with all the ceremony. Doubtless they have ever seen the like of it before. I know they are safe and well, and I am happy to watch them standing tall and proud. How my Merry and Pippin have grown! I chuckle with the realisation that they have indeed grown in stature, as well as maturity. Ah yes, I saw them partake of the Ent Draughts and I behold the evidence that the powers of those waters are no mere fable!
I notice that Gandalf startles ever so slightly as I pass by his side, and am pleased to see his perceptive smile. He knows that I am here, and that is good. However, I must make my farewells at last. I watch my brother as he follows the parade into the City. He will be fine. I can see he already has chosen the woman who will stand by his side until eternity beckons, and I am pleased. The Lady Eowyn has already given him her heart; it is quite obvious in the manner in which she gazes upon him.
I sigh, but not with any sense of dismay. I am indeed content now. I shall visit them from time to time, my little ones most particularly, as I feel they will have many difficult nights ahead as they recover from their dreadful experiences. They need only think of me, and I will come. For some reason, I know not why, I feel in my heart I will be able to do so. Perhaps it is the enduring connection that love follows one’s footsteps forever? Even unto death and beyond. Yes, far beyond the threshold of this world.
I watch as the people pass by me, unaware of my presence, and I am a little sad again. For it is time for me to leave, at least for now. I lay my hand on the shoulder of each of my comrades in turn as I make my farewells. Gimli continues walking, seemingly unaffected. Aragorn smiles sadly. He knows I am near. But Legolas slows and an expression of wonder, then one of thankfulness, appears on his fair features. Ah, he has sensed me. I wave to Mithrandir, who nods at me once before continuing away; he does not look back.
Last of all, I kiss Pippin and Merry ever so gently, and chuckle as I watch them startle and cast a look about.
“Merry! Did you…?”
“Yes, it felt like someone kissed me - here.” Merry pointed to his forehead. He turned in a circle, knotted brow raised in awe.
“Merry…Do you think…?”
“I don’t know what to think, Pip. But I know what I felt just then.”
“Merry, I think…!”
My quiet laughter reaches their sensitive ears somehow, and they whirl as one, eyes widening. I allow them to see me then, if only for a moment. I smile and wave farewell, knowing they will feel peaceful now, in the certain knowledge that I am indeed well.
*From LOTR, Return of the King, Chapter 5: The Steward and the King.
** Quote from the New Line Cinemas film, LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring.
May 2008 Coronation Challenge
“Where Shadows Lay No More”