A/N: Because this is a movie-verse fic, Gandalf's characterization may seem a bit off. I always found him to be… defeated, I suppose. I hope he's not too unbelievable. I haven't had much experience writing him before.
Aragorn, Gandalf, and Faramir were finishing a meeting with his advisors when Merry and Pippin found them. Once everyone had left and only the five of them remained, Tarannon's tale spilled from Pippin, and he watched the looks of horror grow on their faces.
"I feel so terrible!" Pippin cried when he was finished. "I want to help him. I want to fix what I did."
Silence descended as the three leaders fell into deep contemplation. "The banishment can be turned over by the authority of the King," Faramir said finally, still shocked at his father's actions.
"I will gladly overturn it," Aragorn told Pippin, placing a comforting hand on the hobbit's shoulder. Gandalf remained silent, his face unreadable as he stared ahead of him.
"Thank you," said Pippin. "Now, I have a few ideas…"
After talking together for nearly an hour, the five friends parted. Pippin tarried behind, waiting for Gandalf to leave so he could talk to him. The white wizard finally came through the door and Pippin fell into step behind him.
"Gandalf? What's wrong?"
Gandalf looked at him with a small smile. "It's nothing. Only that I did not foresee this. I had thought that the guard on duty would be punished, but I did not investigate as well as I should have."
"That's what Merry thought," said Pippin. "I mean, not that you didn't do all that you could have, because I'm sure you did, under the circumstances, but only that you didn't know what Denethor would do, and so none of it was our fault, really."
Gandalf smiled a real smile that time. "Thank you for that, Pippin."
"Thank Merry. He's the one who helped me after I found out. Will you be joining us for dinner tonight, by the way?"
"Not tonight, I'm afraid. I have some business to attend to. I shall see you tomorrow." With that, Gandalf swept down the hall, his white cloak billowing behind him as he walked towards the Houses of Healing.
The tapers were burning down in his room, and Tarannon was deep in sleep. The sound of door opening woke him up and he sat up, sleepy-eyed, as he squinted at the white-clad figure that stood before him. To his great surprise, the figure formed into Mithrandir. His brow furrowed as he stared at the wizard. Mithrandir looked at him with something he hadn't seen for a long time: compassion. Despite this, Tarannon felt fury flurry up within him. How dare that wizard come here when his Halfling friend had put him here! Mithrandir seemed to be looking within him, and Tarannon felt rather uncomfortable. He looked away.
"Your thoughts are in a dark tangle," Mithrandir said, and Tarannon felt his cheeks grow hot. So Mithrandir knew what he was thinking.
"Come with me. I have a few things to explain to you." Tarannon didn't protest, despite his anger, for he was eager to leave his room. Mithrandir offered his arm as support as Tarannon staggered up, weak-kneed and stepping on his near-healed leg gingerly. Mithrandir lead him through the halls of the Houses of Healing and Tarannon found himself looking at everything, drinking in sights of the outside before he had to return to his prison. He listened to the stirring of other patients and the occasional snatches of conversation and felt a mixture of joy and sorrow as he did so. It was wonderful to be out, but he was sure that the pleasure of hearing other voices would soon be taken away.
Finally, the two arrived outside in the gardens. Tarannon breathed in the night air with relish, feeling some of his bad thoughts wash away with the freshness and beauty of the stars. Mithrandir offered him a place on a stone bench, but Tarannon declined, lowering himself onto the grass instead. He ran the blades between his fingers, feeling the smoothness and nearly weeping at the texture. To think that he had spent a month without feeling grass! An entire month without seeing the night sky! Tarannon lay back in the grass and closed his eyes, forgetting Mithrandir's presence, and tried to sink into the plant matter entirely, to become a green plant with no worries.
He was nearly asleep when Mithrandir began to talk softly.
"I advised Lord Denethor to light the beacons, and naturally he refused for several reasons, many of them foolish. I must admit, I myself was stubborn. I did not feel reasoning with him would have been productive. I decided to take matters into my own hands.
"I had told King Théoden of Rohan to be ready for the signal of the beacons, so I did what I had to: I instructed Pippin to climb to the beacon and light it. He did so, as you very well know." There was no pity in Mithrandir's voice, which Tarannon was glad of; he didn't think he could take pity at this point. He only heard the voice of a storyteller tinged with sorrow.
"I knew that those on duty would be punished, but I did not think to what extent. I checked the prison records and the list of those on duty at the time, but I could find no correlation between the two. Your name had been struck from the record- you were no longer considered a citizen of Gondor, though I did not know that at the time- and I had no time to question any of the other soldiers. I was planning and giving counsel, and did not think further of what might have happened to you.
"There are two reasons I came here tonight. The first reason is to beg your forgiveness of my negligence and to offer an apology. I should have investigated further, but at the time I found myself enmeshed in preparations for the battle. I am sorry, Tarannon, for the pain that I have caused you.
"The second reason I came here is to inform you of what is to happen in the next few days. When you have been pronounced healed, you will be summoned to Court and pardoned with a full apology." Tarannon felt his heart fill with hope. A pardon? That was something he had not dared to hope for, not even when the Halfling Peregrin had told him he could fix things! He opened his eyes and sat up, staring at the wizard above him.
"A pardon? The Lord Denethor would do that?" he asked hoarsely, unsure if he should have spoken. Mithrandir gave him a puzzled look.
"Lord Denethor? What have those healers been telling you?" he asked, his voice bordering stormy. For one irrational moment, Tarannon thought Mithrandir was angry with him.
"Nothing," he answered truthfully.
Understanding lit in Mithrandir's eyes. "Yes, of course. There are some things you need to know. Lord Denethor is dead."
Dead? Then who- of course. Why hadn't he thought of it before? "Please convey my thanks to Lord Faramir for my pardon, sir," Tarannon rasped, brimming with gratitude.
"Faramir? No, he is not the one who commanded this to be done, although he is horrified at the actions of his father and advocated for your release. The King of Gondor has pardoned you. Yes, there is a King once more. You will meet him when you go to Court. Now I suggest that we return." Mithrandir rose and offered a hand to Tarannon. He took it reluctantly, not wishing to leave the outdoors.
The wizard began to lead him in the opposite direction from his room. "Where are we going?"
"You don't think that we were going to let you stay in that room when it was little more than a storage closet? We have secured a room for you with finer furnishings. And a window," Mithrandir added. Tarannon's sickly face seemed to glow with happiness. This was far more than he had even dared to imagine, back when he still had hope.
"It is not me that you should thank," said Mithrandir. "It is Pippin who thought of this. He wanted to make things right."
"Tell him that I am sorry for what I said to him today. I meant what I said then, but I regret it now."
"You can tell him yourself. The King has granted Pippin a few more days off duty. He wishes to come and ease the passage of the next few days by giving you company that you may speak with. Here we are." Mithrandir pushed open the door they'd stopped in front of and Tarannon nearly gasped in delight. There was a bed, some chairs, a dresser, a table, a fireplace- even a window! Tarannon seized a chair and laboriously dragged it over to the window, sinking into it gratefully and staring at the sky again. Such a stark contrast to his old room!
"It's wonderful," he found himself saying.
"It was recommended by the hobbits. Meriadoc, Pippin's cousin, stayed in this room. They thought it would be better suited to you."
"It is. I haven't had anything this fine since I was arrested."
"I will leave you to rest. The healers will be in to tend to you tomorrow, and they have been informed that you are allowed to go into the gardens whenever you like." Mithrandir hesitated at the door. "Do not be angry at Pippin when he comes. This injustice was not of his making."
"I am not angry, Mithrandir. I am grateful."
Mithrandir looked into Tarannon's eyes searchingly and smiled. "I know."
Tarannon spent a few more minutes at the window, breathing in the sweet outside air as the bad thoughts inside him melted away, slowly being replaced by thoughts of what he would do when he was free. A smile tugged at his lips for the first time in what seemed like ages. He got up and limped over to the bed, slipping between the sheets without any hesitation. A real mattress, clean sheets, and a soft pillow- the world never had anything better than that. He closed his eyes and had the first good night of sleep he'd had in a long time.
The next morning as he was acquainting himself with the room there was a soft knock on his door. He carefully limped over to the door, using pieces of furniture as support, and opened it. The Halfling stood outside, a nervous look on his face.
"Hello," he said, watching Tarannon apprehensively. Clearly, he feared that the Man would be angry with him and send him away. Tarannon gave him a reassuring smile that banished all of his fears.
"Peregrin Took, at your service," the Halfling said, relief evident in his voice as he bowed.
"No need to bow, Master Took. Please, come in." Tarannon moved aside so Pippin could enter. "In fact, it is I that should be bowing to you; Gandalf told me that you have not only secured my release, but you have also given me this fine room!"
"I couldn't very well do nothing, now could I?" Pippin said, almost fierce in his tone. "I had to fix it." He looked at Tarannon standing by the door on one leg. "I should get you a crutch, too," he said, then offered the Man his shoulder for support and steered him towards a chair.
"Thank you, Master Took," Tarannon said as he lowered himself into the chair.
"Just Pippin, please. It's what everyone calls me."
"Then, Pippin, might I ask how you are faring in Minas Tirith? I have heard very little of the outside world, and I am very curious to know what has happened in the last month."
It was like the bursting of a dam; Pippin began to talk about anything and everything concerning the last month. For perhaps the first hour of the conversation Tarannon was very reserved: even though he had told Gandalf that he wasn't angry, he still was unsure how he really felt, and so he held himself back. Soon, however, Tarannon found himself more animated and enjoying Pippin's company. There was something about the Halfling- or hobbit, as he insisted- that made him impossible not to like. Tarannon began to talk just as much, the rust and creaking in his voice being worked out more and more until it was nearly back to normal.
Miriel had been told by the Warden that the strange man had been moved, and she couldn't help but feel confused when she heard where he was now- one of the finest rooms in all of the Houses! If he was a traitor, then how did he end up there?
As she approached the door, she heard Pippin's voice talking amiably, his tone mirthful. She opened the door to find the man and Pippin sitting opposite one another in the sunlight-flooded room. The man's head was thrown back in laughter. The care and weariness that had settled around his face over the past month had been lifted away, and Miriel found herself thinking that he looked as though he was free; his face nearly glowed, saturated in happiness. This man who she had watched while he descended into darkness seemed full of light. She had never seen anything quite so wonderful as that.
"Miriel!" Pippin exclaimed with a grin when he saw her. "I told you I'd be back. Sorry I didn't bring Frodo and Sam like I said I would, but I wanted to talk to Tarannon on my own first. Have you heard? He's to be pardoned!" He turned to the man. "I suppose you have Miriel to thank, really, because I wouldn't have met you if it hadn't been for her." Tarannon inclined his head towards her in thanks, giving her a real smile. She smiled back and turned to Pippin.
"I just thought I'd look in. I've been told to bring a large tray for lunch for the both of you, so I should be back around noon."
"Could you bring the lunch to the garden instead and bring a crutch here so Tarannon can walk out there? He was just telling me how much he's missed the outdoors. I mean, if it won't be any trouble to you, that is."
"It's no problem."
"Wonderful! Thank you," Pippin said as Miriel left. Miriel walked down the hall, her mind buzzing. Who was this man and why was he being pardoned? She would have to have her own talk with Pippin when he had a moment just to sort out exactly what happened.