With a flick of his thumb, Pippin reached up and unfastened the shutter, and opening it, leaned far out across the deep sill of the casement. He had done the same that morning, after his arrival in the Citadel and his meeting with the old Steward -- how long ago it seemed now!
That morning, the air had been clear, and the view fine, of the white walls of the City below him, the mist-shrouded curve of the River beyond the Pelennor, and northward, the Emyn Muil and the Falls of Rauros, glinting on the edge of sight. It had been a compelling scene, but now, nothing was visible. The night was dark and the lights of the City were dimmed, by order of the Steward. The sky seemed overcast; there were no stars to be seen and no moon shone, although Pippin knew it should have been full and bright.
He sighed and closed the shutter. Climbing down from the bench upon which he had stood to look out, Pippin paused in the middle of the room and contemplated the curtained alcove where the bed was set. He was weary, and wondered if he should attempt sleep, but he still felt restless after the events of the day, and knew that sleep would not come easily with so much on his mind. He was worn out with excitement and tension. His head ached from tiredness, and his legs from journeying up and down on the steep, cobbled streets and stairways of the City.
But his heart ached the more.
Pippin was lonely, and the reality of his loneliness smote him like a blow. He missed Merry keenly, and Frodo and Sam, and the others -- but worst of all now was the pain in his heart for Boromir. Here in Boromir's city among Boromir's people, Pippin had been constantly reminded of the Man who had been his friend, and it was impossible not to think of him and mourn his loss anew.
Indeed, much of the early part of the morning had been spent recalling for Boromir's father every detail of the attack that had wounded his son and left Pippin and Merry prisoners of the Orcs. Now that he was quiet and alone, the memory of it was difficult for Pippin to dismiss.
When first he had laid eyes on the lord Denethor, Pippin had been struck by his resemblance to Aragorn. Yet the more time he spent with the Steward, the less he saw of the Ranger and the more he saw of Boromir. Denethor, Boromir's father, was much like him in looks, in timbre of voice, and in lordly manner.
The Steward had raked him with questions concerning the battle and Pippin's vision of Boromir dead. That vision in the palantír had shattered the hobbit's hope of ever seeing Boromir again -- hope that had just begun to return after hearing news from Treebeard of Boromir's survival, despite his wounding. Denethor, too, had seemed to take the vision as final comfirmation of something long suspected, and the palpable grief that hung over him had settled on Pippin, and had never fully left him, in spite of the excitement of the long day that followed.
When speaking of his vision to the Steward, Pippin had known better than to mention the palantír, realizing it was a thing that Gandalf wished to be kept secret -- yet he had wondered if the old lord knew or guessed what was behind Pippin's vague references to visions and dreams of Boromir dead, and the men with him weeping. It gave Pippin an uncomfortable feeling, to think of those piercing eyes seeming to see that which was unseen and glimpse that which was unsaid, piercing eyes looking out of a face that was so like Boromir's that it took Pippin's breath away.
Those eyes still haunted him, for though they had looked upon him with aloof kindness and stern courtesy, Pippin had seen the sorrow of loss in their grey depths, and knew nothing but relief whenever that gaze had released him and turned aside for a moment.
Yet even more haunting than the remembered gaze of those sad, stern eyes, was the memory of the ruined Horn of Gondor. Even now, Pippin could not prevent the sudden flow of tears as he recalled the Horn upon Denethor's lap, split asunder, its voice silenced forever, the stains of Boromir's blood still darkly visible upon its white surface.
Bowing his head, Pippin sank down upon the floor, and buried his face in his hands.
A gentle knock at the door startled him out of his despair.
"Come!" he called in an unsteady voice, as he struggled to his feet.
The door swung open and a Man entered, bearing a salver of bread, cheese and fruit. He nodded at Pippin warmly and courteously, seeming not to notice the hobbit's tear-streaked face, as he set about laying out the food on a small table near the window. When all was set to his satisfaction, he turned to Pippin and bowed.
"I am Dûrlin, Master Peregrin," he announced. "I am at your service while you are here among us, so do not hesitate to call upon me should you have need of anything, at any time. I anticipated that you might crave a morsel to fortify your strength, even at this late hour. No doubt you have already taken your evening meal, but the day has been a trying one for you, has it not? Turmoil and loneliness are somewhat easier to bear if you are not weakened by hunger."
"Thank you!" exclaimed Pippin gratefully.
Suddenly realizing how hungry he really was, Pippin helped himself to some bread and cheese, and sat upon a low bench to eat it. As he ate, he watched the man Dûrlin as he moved about the room, turning down the cover of the alcoved beds, and checking the level of the water in the silver pitcher beside the wash basin.
"You... you were there this morning, I think," Pippin said at length. "In the Hall with the lord Steward? You brought the cakes and drink, and listened while I spoke of... of Boromir."
Dûrlin nodded gravely.
"Yes, I was there, and heard all you had to tell of Boromir. You spoke well in a hard place! It is not an easy thing to be questioned by the lord Denethor, particularly over a matter which has occupied his every waking thought and darkened his dreams since first we suspected that Boromir was in danger, and perhaps lost."
"I did feel rather worn out afterwards," admitted Pippin reluctantly. "But I was glad to tell what I could, if it might help."
"Even news that is hard to bear is helpful to those who are starved for it," replied Dûrlin. "I was as eager as the Steward to hear news of my lord. I am Boromir's personal attendant, who cares for his every need when he is here in the City. In the same way, I care for the lords Denethor and Faramir, at my own lord's behest. And I shall gladly extend that service to you, Boromir's close friend."
As he spoke, Dûrlin smiled down upon the hobbit, and Pippin felt warmed and comforted. He was suddenly reminded of the grave kindness of Elrond, yet this Man seemed infinitely more approachable, rather like a favorite uncle or even Pippin's own father. Pippin found himself relaxing, and made no more attempts to hide his melancholy from Dûrlin.
"Yes, Boromir was my friend, and I miss him," he sighed. "I wish... I wish I could stop thinking about him!"
Dûrlin laid an understanding hand upon Pippin's shoulder.
"Would it ease your heart for us to speak of Boromir together?" he suggested. "He is on my mind as well, and I fear he will give us little peace, else."
Pippin laughed through his tears.
"I would like that very much! But... well, I've noticed you speak of Boromir as if he is not dead... as if you expect him to return. Why is that?"
Dûrlin did not hesitate in giving his answer.
"I am a cheerful man whose heart cannot long be darkened, and I prefer to look at the future with hope, rather than doubt. My confidence has been sorely tried of late with Boromir's long absence; nevertheless, I cannot find it within me to discount the possibility that he may yet live. The very proofs which lead others to believe he must be lost are to me still only circumstantial, and not wholly convincing. So I continue to watch for his return, until I am convinced otherwise."
"Do you think... do you think it's possible I could have been wrong -- in my vision?" Pippin stammered, amazed.
"I cannot say for certain," replied Dûrlin cautiously. "But a vision is not the same as seeing with the eye, and thus its meaning and import might easily be misread. Boromir has been in situations before where he cheated death and returned unlooked for -- and my hope is that this is yet one more instance of that. I choose not to despair before all the facts of his situation have been uncovered."
"Tell me of one of those times when Boromir cheated death!" begged Pippin. "I... I think I want to be convinced, too. Maybe if we speak of him alive, it will be easier for hope to return..."
"It would be my pleasure, Master Peregrin!"
"I did not say that I would bid you ride with me..."
The king's final words to him before bidding him good night echoed in Merry's ears as he paced the grassy area in front of his tent, unable to sleep.
"I won't be left behind!" he muttered as he walked to and fro, unsure whether he felt more frustrated or frightened at the thought of being left alone. How he wished Pippin were here with him now!
"I offered the king my sword, and I won't be parted from him! I must go where he goes. Besides, I don't want to be left here, alone, when all my friends have gone to serve in the battle!"
He glanced at the pavilion next to his small tent, where King Théoden was housed. All was quiet and still. Merry wondered if he was the only one in the camp, aside from the guards, who could not sleep this night.
Even as the thought crossed his mind, he heard the approaching sound of booted feet on grass, coming from the direction of the field where the horses of the King's household and guard were picketed. Out of the gloom strode a tall Man, swathed all in dark green, the small silver star on his helm barely visible in the darkness. Merry recognized him as Hirgon, the errand rider of Gondor who had arrived earlier that evening, bearing a red arrow as the summons to King Théoden to ride to war.
As the Man approached, Merry was struck once more by his strong resemblance to Boromir, even as he had been when the rider had first entered the king's tent upon his errand. Merry had been so startled, he had cried out, thinking for the briefest of moments that perhaps Boromir had survived after all and had somehow made his way here to Rohan, to present himself at Théoden's court.
Much to Merry's surprise, Hirgon slowed his pace, and stopped to stand before the hobbit. He looked down and nodded at him gravely.
"You, too, are restless this night," he observed quietly, in a voice that so reminded Merry of Boromir, that his heart leapt in his chest.
"I have been to see my horse settled," continued Hirgon, "and now I may go to my own rest with lighter heart. But first, perhaps we might have a few words together, you and I? For I have heard somewhat of your tale from the lord Éomer, and I would know more of you."
"I would be honored!" stammered Merry, pleased for the chance to talk with this Man who must have known Boromir. In truth, he had been longing to speak to him ever since he had first seen Hirgon enter the king's pavilion.
"My name is Merry," he said with a bow. "Meriadoc Brandybuck, hobbit of the Shire, at your service."
"Well, I suppose you in Gondor would say, a halfling."
"Ah, yes, a Halfling!" said Hirgon, gazing at Merry thoughtfully. "I am honored to meet you, Master Meriadoc. I have been told that you have been in the company of my lord Boromir, not so long ago. That is why you cried out when first you saw me, perhaps, because I am much like him, and you thought I was he, returning."
Merry nodded mutely.
"I am sorry," Hirgon said in answer to the nod. "I fear the sight of me has brought you sorrow anew -- for I have also been told that my lord must surely be dead. Alas for Boromir, son of Denethor! Long has it been feared in the City that our captain is lost and will not return. Perhaps it will be of little comfort to either of us to speak of his final days together, but I would hear what you might tell me, if you can bear it."
"I.. I would like to speak of him, I think," replied Merry slowly. "I miss him very much, and it would be comforting to talk to someone who knew him. Your voice... well, it reminds me of him a bit, and that's helping me remember things about him -- things I don't want to forget."
"It is good to recall the deeds of lost comrades in this way," Hirgon said solemnly. "Come then, let us walk together for a time before we go to our rest. We shall speak of the dead, that they might live forever in our memory."
Boromir was restless and could not sleep. The darkness flowing from Mordor troubled him, and his heart was filled with fear concerning all that his people would surely be facing in the coming days. Would he reach his City in time to be of help to his father? How did his brother fare? Would the Rohirrim be free from war to ride to the aid of Gondor, and would they come in time?
And what of the others? Where were Merry and Pippin? Had Aragorn been able to rescue them? Did Frodo still live, or was the Ring even now in Sauron's possession, and this darkness the beginning of the end...
If only I had some news! sighed Boromir to himself, as he tossed and turned on the hard ground. If only I knew what was happening...
At last he fell into a troubled sleep, sleep that was filled with dreams of his comrades in grave peril and his City in flames.