'Oh good going, Pip, he'd just forgiven you for the business with the Palantir and now you have to go and make him angry again!' Peregrine Took trotted unhappily after Gandalf down the long hall and out the big doors, shooting uncertain glances over his shoulder back at Boromir's father, hunched again in his chair cradling the broken horn.

'But he already knew Boromir was dead'. Pippin told himself defensively as they emerged into the white sunlight of the Fountain Court. 'Doesn't he have a
right to know what happened? He's Boromir's father isn't he?'

The wizard made a sharp right turn around the big building and through an arch into a narrow yard full of boxes and barrels and baskets of all kinds of food. Pippin hooked an apple from an open barrel and bit gratefully into it - after three solid days even Lembas bread palls - then grabbed a little round cheese from a basket and hurried on after Gandalf.

The wizard plunged down a sunken flight of steps, like a rabbit into a hole, and through a small wooden door. Pippin caught just a glimpse of a long, arched
passage of white stone, lit by lamps, before following Gandalf through another door into a plain little room with small windows set high and maps and plans pinned to its white walls. A table half buried under a heap of paper stood in the middle of the room and behind it sat a tall Man dressed in black ensigned with a white tree like the guards. He looked up at came to his feet as they entered.

"How long has he been like this?" Gandalf demanded of him.

Amazingly the man seemed to know exactly what the wizard was talking about; "Ever since word came of Boromir's death," he answered.

"No one sent any word." Suddenly Gandalf didn't look angry any more, just very sad and rather tired. He leaned heavily on his staff. "I feared Denethor would take it so. How did he find out?"

"From Faramir." the Man answered quietly. "Thirteen days ago half the city heard the great horn's call, faintly on the wind from the North. And three days
later Faramir rode in from Osgiliath with the pieces of the horn in his scrip and a strange story of seeing Boromir's body laid out for burial in a small grey
boat sailing down the River to the sea."

Pippin perched himself on one of the stools set against the wall by the door and bit into his cheese. 'Thirteen days, has it really only been thirteen days? It seems longer, a lifetime almost. Strider said they'd put Boromir into one of the boats and sent it over those awful falls. It can't have still been afloat!'

"It must have been a seeing," Gandalf was saying,"Boromir's companions did indeed lay him in a boat but they sent it over the Rauros and nothing survives
those falls. He is safe at the bottom of the Anduin where no Orc and other filthy creature can trouble him."

Pippin tasted salt with his cheese from the tears running down his face. Boromir was gone. Not just far away like Merry and Strider and Gimli and Legolas and
Sam and Frodo, but gone. Gone forever, they'd never see him again. (1) So much had happened since that awful fight in the glade that the finality of it hadn't had a chance to sink in before. Boromir was dead, and it was all their fault, His and Merry's.

"Your companion seems in some distress, Mithrandir." the Man observed.

"What's this?" an arm in a flowing white sleeve went around him. "There, there Pippin, my lad," the wizard said kindly, adding over his shoulder. "He's
exhausted. We've been riding hard for three days. And he is grieved. He saw Boromir fall."

"And being a Hobbit no doubt very hungry." the Man said briskly. "I can do something about that at least."

The Man, whose name it seemed was Hurin and was somebody important here in Minas Tirith, (2) took them down the long passage and out a door at the far end
into a narrow alley lined with tall buildings. Then through an arch and down a flight of steps to a small house, like a little castle with a dome and turrets,
clinging like a limpet to the side of the mountain.

They sat down at a round table in the large room under the dome, which was painted blue with a gold sun and silver stars, and Men in green and white brought them cold meat, fruit, cheese and bread to eat and ale to drink. Pippin
practically had the food to himself as his companions seemed much more interested in talking.

"It's not just Denethor," Hurin told Gandalf, "the entire city is in shock. Boromir was the hope that gave us the heart to fight on, without him - " the Man
shook his head.

"There is Faramir!" Gandalf snapped.

Hurin smiled wryly. "No need to bite my head off, Mithrandir, I haven't forgotten my younger cousin." His face went grave. "I know Faramir's worth, but
all his life he has been overshadowed by Boromir. And though he is as brave and resourceful, and far wiser in old lore, he is not the born leader of Men his
brother was."

"There are few who are." Gandalf conceded. Then added flatly: "Aragorn is in Rohan."

Hurin's face lit up as if somebody had fired a torch inside it. Pippin stared in awe, meat half chewed in his mouth. "The Dundadan is here in the South? That is great news, Mithrandir!"

Gandalf's eyes narrowed. "You did not know? Denethor did."

Hurin blinked. "No word of Aragorn son of Arathorn has come to us by Man or bird, or I would have heard it as well. Denethor must have Seen him. He has the
long sight and perceives more than other Men even those of the Ancient Blood."

"Hmmm." said Gandalf.

"The Dunadan must come to Minas Tirith, Mithrandir," Hurin said urgently. "I know the dangers but only he can put the heart and the spirit back into
our people."

"Boromir wanted him to come," Pippin said suddenly remembering things he'd overheard while the Company was still together, "but Strider wouldn't." Man and
wizard looked at him in surprise, almost disbelief. "I heard them arguing about it many times." he finished defensively.

"So...The Steward's heir desired the return of the King." Gandalf mused. "But would he have set his will against his father's?" he sighed. "Perhaps it is as well
we shall never know," and turned briskly to Hurin. "Aragorn will come, but in some way no one, not even Denethor, will expect." His tone turned grim. "Better he had come unheralded, but it seems that was not meant to be."

"Why?" Pippin asked worriedly, "What's wrong with old Strider? And why does Lord Denethor hate him when he doesn't even know him?"

Hurin smiled wryly at that. "Oh he knows him all right."

"What is the point of eavesdropping, Peregrin Took, if you pay no attention to what you hear!" Gandalf demanded. "Have you been walking with eyes and ears
tight shut all these months? Don't you understand Aragorn is Isildur's Heir and the rightful King of Gondor!"

"Oh." Pippin said, rather blankly then his eyes opened wide in sudden understanding. "Oh!"

The servants were just clearing away the empty dishes and cups when a third Man came in and said very formally to Hurin, "The Lady Idril, my Lord."

The Woman behind him was much taller than a Hobbit-lass but looked small next to these towering Men of Gondor. She was richly but somberly dressed in brown and black with lots of embroidery and fur on her sleeves. A small, pale, pointed face peeked out from beneath a dark veil, held in place by a wide circlet of gold and she wore a great deal of heavy gold jewelry, much more than the Lady Eowyn had done.

Hurin and Gandalf both rose so Pippin did too. "I thought I'd find you here, Mithrandir," the Woman said dryly in a surprisingly deep voice, "conspiring with Hurin as usual."

Pippin looked quickly at Gandalf but the wizard's face showed only bland courtesy. "How may I serve you, Lady?"

"It is rather my part to serve you, my Lord Mithrandir." she answered. "My father the Steward begs you to pardon his hard words as the foolishness of an old Man in great grief, and to accept the hospitality of the Citadel as has always been the custom."

"Foolishness?" Gandalf answered as dryly. "Denethor will die long before he sinks into dotage. Even his grief for his son he uses to further his purposes."

"And why not?" the Lady said lightly, almost mockingly. "Do you not use every tool that comes to your hand to further your ends, my Lord Mithrandir? But for now at least your purposes are the same. Neither of you wishes to see Minas Tirith destroyed, is that not so?"

She turned her attention to Pippin and he found himself looking up into the strangest eyes he'd ever seen; yellow like a cat's, and fever bright. Yet at the same time cold, like the glittering snows of Caradhras. "My father spoke also of a Halfling who offered him service and got no answer, would that be
you, Little Master, or is there another?"

Pippin cleared his throat. "That would be me, yes, my Lady. Peregrin Took of the Shire at your service." He bowed.

She made him a slight curtsey, a brief bending of head and knee, in return. "Welcome to Minas Tirith Master Peregrine. My father asks you to forgive his
discourtesy and accepts your service - if you are still of the same mind?"

Pippin set his jaw and carefully did not look at Gandalf. "I am."

"Very well, for now you may lodge with the Lord Mithrandir - as long as he chooses to stay with us. If you will both follow me I will show you to the
house prepared for you."

'Oh dear' Pippin thought unhappily. 'What have I done? Am I going to have to stay here even after Gandalf goes home, maybe forever? What will Merry say?
And my father! Oh, Pippin, you are a fool aren't you!'

1. That's what he thinks. See 'The Return' by this author. (adv.)

2. Hurin of the Keys, who appears briefly in the Book and features prominently in this author's 'Rangers of
the North' (adv.)