Horns sounded at some distance, and the noise of cheering rolled towards them like a gathering wind.
Then there was a loud trumpet-blast, and all about them people were shouting. That is where my grandsire lives. Here he is. Good old Forlong! Leading the line there came walking a big thick-limbed horse, and on it sat a man of wide shoulders and huge girth, but old and grey-bearded, yet mail-clad and black-helmed and bearing a long heavy spear. Behind him marched proudly a dusty line of men, well-armed and bearing great battle-axes; grim-faced they were, and shorter and somewhat swarthier than any men that Pippin had yet seen in Gondor. Two hundreds, what are they? We hoped for ten times the number.
That will be the new tidings of the black fleet. They are sparing only a tithe of their strength. Still every little is a gain. And so the companies came and were hailed and cheered and passed through the Gate, men of the Outlands marching to defend the City of Gondor in a dark hour; but always too few, always less than hope looked for or need asked. From the uplands of Morthond, the great Blackroot Vale, tall Duinhir with his sons, Duilin and Derufin, and five hundred bowmen.
From the Anfalas, the Langstrand far away, a long line of men of many sorts, hunters and herdsmen and men of little villages, scantily equipped save for the household of Golasgil their lord. From Lamedon, a few grim hillmen without a captain. Fisher-folk of the Ethir, some hundred or more spared from the ships.
Hirluin the Fair of the Green Hills from Pinnath Gelin with three hundreds of gallant green-clad men. And last and proudest, Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth, kinsman of the Lord, with gilded banners bearing his token of the Ship and the Silver Swan, and a company of knights in full harness riding grey horses; and behind them seven hundreds of men at arms, tall as lords, grey-eyed, dark-haired, singing as they came. And that was all, less than three thousands full told. No more would come.
Their cries and the tramp of their feet passed into the City and died away. The onlookers stood silent for a while. Dust hung in the air, for the wind had died and the evening was heavy. Already the closing hour was drawing nigh, and the red sun had gone behind Mindolluin. Shadow came down on the City. Pippin looked up, and it seemed to him that the sky had grown ashen-grey, as if a vast dust and smoke hung above them, and light came dully through it.
But in the West the dying sun had set all the fume on fire, and now Mindolluin stood black against a burning smoulder flecked with embers. There goes the trumpet for the closing of the Gate.
Lights sprang in many windows, and from the houses and wards of the men at arms along the walls there came the sound of song. Come again soon, I beg. Almost I wish now that there was no war, for we might have had some merry times. But maybe we will go thither together yet. They will never overcome our Lord, and my father is very valiant. Farewell and return! They parted and Pippin hurried back towards the citadel. It seemed a long way, and he grew hot and very hungry; and night closed down swift and dark. Not a star pricked the sky.
He was late for the daymeal in the mess, and Beregond greeted him gladly, and sat him at his side to hear news of his son. After the meal Pippin stayed a while, and then took his leave, for a strange gloom was on him, and now he desired very much to see Gandalf again. And I can give you news of another order: you will be summoned to the Lord Denethor early tomorrow. I fear you will not be for the Third Company. Still we may hope to meet again.
Farewell and sleep in peace! The lodging was dark, save for a little lantern set on the table.
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Gandalf was not there. Gloom settled still more heavily on Pippin. He climbed on the bench and tried to peer out of a window, but it was like looking into a pool of ink. He got down and closed the shutter and went to bed. In the night he was wakened by a light, and he saw that Gandalf had come and was pacing to and fro in the room beyond the curtain of the alcove. There were candles on the table and rolls of parchment. I am glad to see you back. It has been a long day. You should sleep, in a bed while you still may. At the sunrise I shall take you to the Lord Denethor again.
No, when the summons comes, not at sunrise. The Darkness has begun. There will be no dawn. Gandalf was gone, and the thudding hoofs of Shadowfax were lost in the night, when Merry came back to Aragorn.
He had only a light bundle, for he had lost his pack at Parth Galen, and all he had was a few useful things he had picked up among the wreckage of Isengard. Hasufel was already saddled. Legolas and Gimli with their horse stood close by.
More in this Series. You can use even your grief as a cloak. In the night he was wakened by a light, and he saw that Gandalf had come and was pacing to and fro in the room beyond the curtain of the alcove. And as they rode rumour came of war in the North. March 23 edited March
But we shall not go alone, as I thought. The king is now determined to set out at once. Since the coming of the winged shadow, he desires to return to the hills under cover of night. And there, I think, he will hear tidings of war, and the Riders of Rohan will go down to Minas Tirith.
But for myself, and any that will go with me. I must go down also to Minas Tirith, but I do not yet see the road. An hour long prepared approaches. Though, of course, the king did say that I was to sit by him when he came to his house and tell him all about the Shire.
But do not look for mirth at the ending. Many hopes will wither in this bitter Spring.
Soon all were ready to depart: twenty-four horses, with Gimli behind Legolas, and Merry in front of Aragorn. Presently they were riding swiftly through the night. They had not long passed the mounds at the Fords of Isen, when a Rider galloped up from the rear of their line. As we crossed the fords I thought that I heard them. Now we are sure.
They are overtaking us, riding hard. The Riders turned about and seized their spears. Merry felt more like unneeded baggage than ever, and he wondered, if there was a fight, what he should do. He drew his sword and tightened his belt. The sinking moon was obscured by a great sailing cloud, but suddenly it rode out clear again. Then they all heard the sound of hoofs, and at the same moment they saw dark shapes coming swiftly on the path from the fords.
The moonlight glinted here and there on the points of spears. Who rides in Rohan? The pursuers brought their steeds to a sudden stand. A silence followed: and then in the moonlight, a horseman could be seen dismounting and walking slowly forward. At ten paces the man stopped. He was tall, a dark standing shadow. Then his clear voice rang out. None ride here save by his leave.