The Lord of the... whatever, Book V, Chapter 1:
Pipsqueak looked out from the shadow of Gandalf's bulk. He
wondered if he was awake or still sleeping, still in the hazy
somnambulant state in which he had spent most of the time since their
hasty departure from Edoras. He blinked a few times, and tried to
recall the events that had led to their journey.
The camp had been returning to sleep after Aragon had claimed the
Palantarium as his own, when a brief musical ringing sound suddenly
emanated from the artifact. Gandalf leapt up, rigid with fear, his
hands clenched. "The Instant Messenger of Mordor!" he cried. "The
configuration files are still there!" Aragon, who had stooped to
investigate the noise, stood and looked at Gandalf questioningly.
Drawn by the commotion, others in the camp gathered round as well.
Gathering his wits, Gandalf ventured, "Aruman must have planted
incriminating evidence in the Palantarium when he held me captive, and
given Sauron himself the means to reach me at will." Observing the
dubious looks of those around him, he rushed on. "Clearly, the plots
of the traitor Aruman and his dark master run even deeper than we
feared. Only haste will serve us now! Wait not for the dawn! Let
the swift not wait for the slow! Act now, think later! Run!"
As the startled riders and companions hastily broke camp in a rout
of confusion and began to speed off singly and in pairs toward Deem's
Help, Gandalf grabbed Pipsqueak and tossed him onto Slimshade's back.
"You looked into the stone, you're coming with me," he said, and then
to himself, "Good insurance, too." After a grunt as Gandalf settled
on his back, Slimshade trotted off into the night.
All that had been many long days ago, and Pipsqueak was now even
more tired and sore than after his run across Edoras with Cedric and
Clarence. As he woke more fully, he heard Gandalf muttering angrily
at himself, and caught a few scattered phrases: "didn't even clear the
browser history... buddy list... oh Eru, the bookmarks, too..." The
wizard seemed thoroughly cross, and he wasn't making a bit of sense.
"What are you saying, Gandalf?" asked Pipsqueak.
"Eh, never you mind. Now that you're awake, though, it's time to
continue your education." Pipsqueak groaned: early on their journey,
Gandalf had become frustrated with his frequent questions, and
demanded, "What more do you want to know?" Laughing, he had
answered, "The names and numbers of all the girls in the Shire, and
cheap sources for every popular drug, and the entire history of
Middle-earth and Atlantis and the Far West. What less?"
Gandalf had taken this as an invitation, and had entertained
himself on their long ride by boring Pipsqueak to tears with history
lessons. "Where did we leave off?" he now asked. "I believe that I had
just told you of the rise of the Stewards in Gondor, of Mardil
and the founding of the University, and of his consolidation of the
copyrights of the Magic Kingdom, but I have not yet told you that
Mardil was also known for his crusade against the rampant sexism
of his time. He it was who insisted on including a strong female
character in every script to come out of Disgiliath, but perhaps
his most lasting contribution to the status of women in Gondor was
the unique system of matrilineal patrimony that he instituted within
his own House. Whereas the kingship had always passed from father to
eldest son, Mardil declared that the Steward's eldest daughter
should select her own husband, who would then become the heir to the
Stewardship. While not perfect, this system has succeeded in
providing Gondor with rulers who were able both to lead her armies
in battle and to cry during romantic dramas. Of course, the system
reverts back to the old patrilineal arrangement in cases where the
wife of the Steward produces no female offspring, as is for example
the case with the children of Denethor's wife Lossiel. A more
complicated situation arose in the days of Turin I, whose wife
Unable to deal with Gandalf's constant drone, Pipsqueak became
drowsy again and paid little attention to Gandalf telling him of the
customs of Gondor, and how the Lord of the City had replaced the
aging monorail loop through Edoras with a system of horse-drawn
carriages to build ambiance and save on upkeep costs. The wizard had
once again driven the hobbit's conscious mind into complete withdrawal.
As he fell slowly back into his zombie-like state, Pipsqueak had a
strange feeling: he stood still like a great boulder by the sea, while
Gandalf's words crashed over him like waves driven by a violent wind.
Later, whether one day or many he could not tell, Pipsqueak woke to
find himself surrounded by chill grey mists in the twilit hour before
dawn. Still sitting behind him, Gandalf guided Slimshade along a well
built wall of stone that loomed, barely visible, out of the mist to
their right. Sensing that he had awakened, Gandalf said, "This is the
Wall of Lammas Ichor, the outer wall of Minas Tirith that was
built after a goblin raid razed a harvest festival over a century ago.
It was once quite ruinous and passable in some places, but it appears
that the masons of Gondor have been busy since last I came this
way." They pressed on, for Gandalf was in haste to find a section of
the wall that was still in disrepair before the concealment of the
morning mists was burned away.
After they had followed the wall for some time, the sound of
hurried labor could be heard: beat of hammers, clink of trowels, and
the curses of those who were nearly run down by carts rushing through
the mist. As they had hoped, the workers had not yet finished their
repairs of the great wall, and a small section remained that was both
unwatched and tumbled down. Slimshade climbed over the piles of
rubble, and his hoofbeats were lost in the sounds of construction.
They passed now into the wide land beyond the Lammas Ichor, where
they saw wide tilth, oasts, garners, folds, byres, a whole mess of
rills, and many other common sights of the countryside described in
obscure, obsolete language. After riding through the fields for over
half an hour, a brisk wind from the river swept aside the mist, and
Pipsqueak beheld the polished walls and tall spires of Minas
Tirith for the first time.
For the fashion of Gondor's greatest city was such that it
was surrounded by seven walls, each of them higher and sturdier than
the last, and soldiers patrolled the narrow aisles between them.
Its streets and boulevards were built into the very slope of Mount
Minnie, easternmost outpost of the Off-White Mountains, and
property values rose with every foot of elevation. Turnstiles
innumerable guarded the road into the city, and in each of the seven
walls was hung a great gate of stone: the only opening in those tall
battlements save where the abandoned monorail track passed through the
walls high above the ground. As they watched, the first light of dawn
shone forth and fell upon the peak of Mount Minnie, bathing it in
gold, and glittered on the brightly painted towers that rose so high
above the Castle of Lornavaniwen that was carved out of the
mountain itself at the city's peak. Everywhere Pipsqueak looked,
Minas Tirith was immaculately clean, with every wall and window
sparkling in the new light of day. A flowing trumpet call rang out
from the distant castle, and at that signal, the seven gates of the
city swung open, welcoming visitors with the promise of Magic and
As sunlight illuminated the plain, Gandalf spurred Slimshade to his
greatest burst of speed of the entire journey. In a truly surprising
display of dexterity and strength, the horse managed to leap full
across the turnstiles despite the great weight of Gandalf on his back.
As they charged on toward the great gates, men cried, "Mesprendeur!
Mesprendeur!" The gates, so newly opened for the day, began to swing
"Let me pass!" cried Gandalf. "I must come to your Lord Denethor,
to bring him council in this dark hour! Vile rumors must be squelched
before they reach his ears! Let me pass!" The movers of the gates
paid no heed to his demanding voice, and the great stones swung closed
with resounding booms, but with a final burst of energy, Slimshade
proved the swifter, and Pipsqueak found himself gazing upon the heart
of the Magic Kingdom of Gondor for the first time.
Slimshade's hooves echoed hollowly on the broad stone-paved path,
laid out in enormous flat cobbles, all of them bright clean white and
laced with cheerful red veins; it was bordered by thin strips of well-
trimmed grass. Beyond them were stone pathways where lines could have
formed, and beyond them in turn were stone houses and attractions and
souvenir shops. Stone flowerpots stood beside stone doorways and on
stone windowsills. Painted stone statues of giant, smiling animals
stood along the walkways. Minas Tirith had an air of great
antiquity and permanence, yet in truth it was year by year falling
into decay. In every street they passed, some great entertainment
hall or gift shop was silent: empty, or even closed. Over one great
gate, Pipsqueak read in strange and ancient characters the name "Ye
Hynted Mynsion", but although the wide stone entrance spoke of great
crowds and popularity, the courtyard was silent: there was no line.
"Is there no wood?" asked Pipsqueak. "Nothing but stone?" He
looked up at the roofs and walls and statues mounting up the hillside
behind the gates: tiers of stone, painted or naturally multi-colored.
"There is wood here, and some metal," said Gandalf, "but there is
more stone. The Atlanteans liked stone."
They rode on, drawing stares from the residents of the city, who
were unaccustomed to horses. Indeed, a cleaning crew began to follow
them up the street, pausing occasionally to scrub away any hoof marks
and carrying buckets and shovels in case of emergencies. At first the
mountainside loomed up far above the buildings that they passed, but
as they went farther up the slope, the buildings grew taller and
taller and seemed to be part of the mountain themselves. Finally,
another gate rose up before them, the wall around it bending away to
either side until it joined seamlessly into the bedrock. They went
through this gate, too, and entered a wide flat courtyard of polished
stone. It was mirror white, and it blazed up fiercely in the early
sunlight. Before them stood the Castle of Lornavaniwen. The
sharp points of its turrets, brilliant as sapphires, pierced the sky
far above their heads, and tallest of all stood the Tower of Commerce
itself, from which the Lord of the City could chart the course of his
As they gazed upon the castle, half a dozen guards appeared out of
hidden corners in the courtyard. Their leader stepped forward, and in
a cheerful but firm voice said, "No horses in the Citadel." Pipsqueak
and Gandalf were bundled to the ground, and before they knew what was
happening, Slimshade had been led away. Pipsqueak finally lowered his
eyes from the shining walls before him and beheld the ancient raiment
of the Guards of the Citadel.
With its great age, Gondor had a keen sense of its own history,
and a few customs were preserved that dated back to the Atlanteans
themselves. The Guards of the Citadel traced their elite
tradition back to the sailors of the famed Atlantean navy, and alone
among the men of Gondor they continued to proudly wear the ancient
uniform of their forebears. That classic uniform of the Sea-Kings,
worn by Anarchion himself, consisted in its entirety of a helm in the
fashion of a blue sailor's cap adorned with a flowing black ribbon,
and a bright blue sailor's shirt.
Gandalf strode quickly across the white-paved court, pushing
Pipsqueak ahead of him. As they passed, Pipsqueak saw a high fountain
off to the side, splashing up against a great artificial tree covered
with ladders, platforms, and ropes. It seemed to be abandoned now, but
he could make out old signs sitting next to it: in cracking paint, one
of them read "Tarzan's Treehouse," while an almost entirely faded sign
set off to the side seemed to read, "Thy Swyss Fymily Rybinson". It
looked mournful, and quite dull, and as he ran before Gandalf he
wondered why it was left in this place, where everything else was well
tended. He had absolutely no idea.
They walked down a long passage paved with marble, and as they went
Gandalf spoke softly to Pipsqueak. "Be careful of your words, Master
Paragraph! Denethor is a kind old man, if preoccupied with rules
and order. I am of another sort, and I will not have your hobbit
pertness spoiling my designs. He will speak most to you, because of
what you can tell him of the fate of his beloved son Boromir, but
under cover of this he will seek to make you reveal more of my doings
than I can afford. Tell him no more than you must, and say nothing
about Aragon if you value your life."
At those words, Pipsqueak felt the cold point of a dagger press
into his lower back. "Why not?" he asked. "Wasn't Strider planning
to come here himself? I thought he and HeyHoDen were just a few days
"Maybe, maybe," said Gandalf. "Though if my messengers get through
in time, he may go off in a direction that no one expects. It will be
better so. And if he does come, I want to herald his arrival myself."
Gandalf halted before a tall door of carven stone, and he gave a cruel
chuckle. "See, Master Pipsqueak, I have already instructed you in the
history of Gondor, and if you'd been paying attention you would
understand the need for silence. Do as I bid!"
With that, the door opened, and although none could be seen to open
it, its motion was accompanied by a great squeaking sound that bore
little resemblance to the noise of ungreased hinges. Pipsqueak looked
into a great hall, lit by deep windows cut into the stone of the
walls, beyond the broad black marble pillars that upheld the high
stone ceiling, carven in many forms dimly visible to those below. No
hangings nor storied webs, nor any things of woven stuff or wood, were
to be seen in that long solemn hall; but between the pillars there
stood a silent company of images graven in cold stone: figures clad in
the ancient mode of the kings, dressed as all manner of ducks, dogs,
rodents, and caricatured humans of every description.
Suddenly, Pipsqueak recalled the great stone figures of the
Argonath. "Boy," he whispered back to Gandalf, "these statues sure don't
hold a candle to the great stone figures of the Argonath!" Gandalf said
nothing, and simply pushed him forward. At the far end of the hall
upon a dais of many steps was set a stone chair, black and unadorned,
and on it sat an old man gazing at his nearby desk. At the foot of
the dais, tucked back in a shadowed corner, was a high throne set with
jewels and inlaid with finest gold, all of which seemed to be in need
of polishing. As they approached, the old man did not look up. In
his hand was a small white rod with a golden tip that he was tapping
on the table in frustration.
"Hail, Denethor, Lord and Steward of Minas Tirith," said
Gandalf. "In this dark hour, I am come with..."
"With poor timing as usual," interrupted Denethor. "When
preparing for war, the Stewards have spent the period from eight to
eight thirty in the morning composing intelligence orders for time out
of mind. Walk-in audiences are not available until eleven. But you
were never one to pay heed to courtesy."
Gandalf sighed quietly, and continued, "...with council and tidings
of war. Is it naught to you that HeyHoDen has fought a great battle,
and that I have broken the back of Aruman? Is it naught to you that
slanderous rumors about me may already be spreading, rumors that have
absolutely no basis in truth? Is it naught to you that Isengard has
been overthrown and burned?"
"The burning that comes to my mind occurred the last time that
you visited Minas Tirith," said Denethor. "You have not been
welcome here since then, and you are not welcome here now: if the
Guard at the city gates had been following the established protocols
properly, you would never have been able to enter my city in the first
place. As for your news, I know already enough regarding these deeds
for my own council. Yea, for though the Stones be lost, or so they
say, still the lords of Gondor have better vision than lesser men.
But as you have already interrupted my work, and as you have brought a
guest whose news does interest me, we may as well push my breakfast
back by thirty-five minutes. Sit now!"
Pipsqueak settled onto the stool that was brought to him, but never
took his eyes from the old lord. Was it so, or had he only imagined
it, that Denethor had given him a big wink when he spoke of the
Stones? Gandalf sat on the chair provided for him as well, but close
enough that Pipsqueak still felt the dagger poised and ready at his
Turning to Pipsqueak, Denethor smiled sadly. "Now, Paragraph
son of Palatine, tell me of my son! When did you last see him, and
what was his fate?"
"How did you know my name?" Pipsqueak exclaimed, but Denethor
did not answer. After a moment, Pipsqueak began, "Boromir fell
under heavy assault by goblins and critics when our company was
scattered: he was surrounded alone, and my kinsman Moribund and I were
captured when we tried to come to his aid."
"Tell me more! Why was he alone, and how could such a great warrior
and musician fall, with only goblins to withstand him?"
"The mightiest man may be slain by a knife in the gut," Pipsqueak
said, "and Boromir had already received one from our mad cousin
Frodo. Perhaps if Aragon had stopped to help Boromir instead of
dashing off into the woods, things would have been..."
"AHEM," hacked Gandalf, pretending to cough violently while pressing
his dirk firmly against Pipsqueak's back. Pipsqueak froze, and made a
horrible swallowing noise in his throat: "gollum". He fell silent.
Denethor gave Gandalf a stern look, and turning back to Pipsqueak
said, "Please, go on. You have nothing to fear from me. If it is
easier, tell me your full tale, from your first meeting with
Boromir until his untimely death. One who has risked his life for
my son will always be a friend of Gondor."
Comforted, Pipsqueak told Denethor of their journey from Riven-
dell, always inflating Boromir's role to better please the old
man. As he described their flight from the house of Moira, he found
himself explaining the conflict over the leadership of their company:
"...and the contract clearly said that Aragon son of Arathon, the guy
with the broken-reforged sword, was to..."
At that, Gandalf sprang up in fury. "Why you little rat-sized
turncoat!" he cried, and he came at Pipsqueak with his blade bare.
Pipsqueak squeaked in terror, and leaping up the dais threw himself at
"Little service, no doubt, will a great Lord of Men find in a
hobbit, but what skills I have I offer now if you can save me from this
madman!" Pipsqueak was quite impressed that he had managed to
extemporize such a good speech, and he whipped out his sword and
handed it hilt-first to Denethor.
As the Steward took the weapon, he thrust it forward and faced
Gandalf in anger. Gandalf stood at the base of the steps and stared
intently into Denethor's eyes. "What is this," asked Denethor,
shaking his head in disgust, "some kind of juvenile staring contest?
I had planned to house you and your companion somewhere that I could
have you watched, but after this outrage in my own chambers I think I
shall have you taken to a cell instead. The time of your audience is up,
and the schedule of Gondor is mine to set, unless the king should
come again, along with a full set of authenticated proofs of ancestry
and the appropriate forms filled out in triplicate."
"Unless the king should come again?" said Gandalf. "Well, my lord
Steward, I'll see what I can do about that. The rule of no realm is
mine, neither Gondor nor any other, but all things great or small
are within the realm that I consider my concern. And if you think me
juvenile and no true man, I shall say only this. By some chance, the
blood of Atlantis runs nearly true in you, as it did in your son
Boromir, and yet does not in your other son, Dr Faramir. For I
also am a Steward. Did you not know?" And with that he turned and
strode swiftly forth from the hall, while Denethor stood rigid in
shock with his face white and his mouth agape. Pipsqueak's dagger
fell from the Steward's trembling hand and clattered to the floor, and
he slowly sank back onto his lofty chair.
Minutes passed, and Denethor regained at least some of his
composure. Finally recalling the presence of Pipsqueak, he said, "I
am sorry that you had to witness that, and I hope that it shall be
long before you find yourself in such a tight corner between two such
terrible old men." At that, he laughed wryly. "I accept your offer
of service, for the sake of my son, for your own protection, and
because generous deeds should not be checked by cold companions.
However, the proper paperwork must be filled out at once, and in any
case the time I had allotted for your morning audience has ended. You
shall return to me soon to tell me of this Aragon and the rest of your
journey, though after this morning's interruption it may prove
difficult to find space in my schedule. Now," he said, raising his
voice and looking toward the alcoves about the hall, "who is the Guard
on errand duty today?"
A man, clad in the blue sailor's cap and shirt of the Guard of the
Citadel, stepped to the foot of the dais and bowed. "I am, my
lord. Bererond son of Bararor, at your service." Pipsqueak politely
tried to avoid glancing below his waist.
Denethor nodded. "This is Paragraph son of Palatine, whom I
have taken into my service. Escort him to the Registrar to complete
the necessary documents and to be measured for his uniform, and teach
him the Grade II, III, V, and VIII.B. passwords. You may then introduce
him to our fair city, answer his questions, and show him to his
barracks; be sure that he returns by the ninth hour of the evening.
The Registrar will issue him temporary meal vouchers for use until his
forms are processed and his existing trademarks are assumed." He then
turned to Pipsqueak, and returning to him his sword, said, "Farewell,
my liege, and I hope to soon hear your tale in full."
Bererond led Pipsqueak to the quarters of the Guard, and after they
completed the lengthy application and registration process they had a
late lunch in one of the private "cast members only" cafeterias that
looked out over the great stone gates of the city. Pipsqueak learned
much from Bererond about Minas Tirith's culture, its nightlife,
and its people, and Bererond was pleased to learn that Pipsqueak had
connections that might be able to supply much of the Guard's need for
black market drugs and alcohol. Beyond the stone roofs of the city,
they gazed out over the tilth within the Lammas Ichor, upon the
pitifully small crowd gathered to watch the cowboys performing their
twice-daily rodeo at the Pelennor Fields, and along the long, dusty
road that led from the great gates into the south.
"That is the road to the potato vales of Tubeladen and Lotstarch,
and the mountain hollows, and then on to Lebanon and the fields of the
south," explained Bererond. Then, in a darker tone, he went on, "From
Lebanon yestereve came evil tidings of a great fleet approaching the
mouths of Anduin, manned by the Tampalas Bay Corsairs. Our great fear
is that this attack will inspire local riots and draw off much of the
help that we looked to have from Lebanon and Belfast, where folk are
swarthy and expendable. All the more are we troubled by the conflict
in Edoras, and the tidings of inexplicable battle that you bring."
"I am no warrior," said Pipsqueak, "and I dislike any thought of
battle or its causes. No stroke would have been struck in Rohan, I
think, but for Gandalf. But look! What is that dust that I see in
the distance, far down the road?"
"Rightly said!" cried Bererond once he had spied the distant cloud
himself. "The Captains of the Outlands are expected up the South Road
ere sundown. Come, let us make our way to the great gate before the
Before long, they found themselves in a throng going toward the
entrance to the city, filled with worried citizens of Minas Tirith
who deeply needed this boost to their morale. When they reached the
gates, Pipsqueak and Bererond spoke their names and various Grade III
passwords, and they were given stamps on their wrists and allowed to
find a better vantage point in the great stone-paved space beyond the
turnstiles into which all the ways to Minas Tirith ran. All eyes
were turned southwards, and soon a murmur rose as the dust kicked up
by the approaching reinforcements drew nearer.
"Forlong! Forlong!" Pipsqueak heard men calling. "What does it
mean?" he asked.
"Forlong has come," Bererond answered, "old Forlong the Fat, the
Lord of Lotstarch, home of my father. Hurrah! Here he is. Good old
Out of the dust, there came walking a big, thick-limbed horse, and
on it sat a big, thick-limbed man of huge girth. He was clad in mail
and wore a black helm, and he bore a long, heavy spear. "Forlong!" men
shouted. "True heart, true friend! Forlong!"
Behind him, the dust settled.
The onlookers stood silent for a while. The wind had died, and the
evening was heavy, and for some this made the shock of disappointment
too much to bear: first one, and then another of the onlookers sat
down where he was and began to cry quietly. Eventually, the crowd
began to wander listlessly back into the city, though it seemed that
some crept instead away toward Minas Minnie and the hills.
Pipsqueak thought he heard one of these men mutter, "Gondor shall not
perish yet! Hope and memory shall live still in some hidden valley
where the grass is green... and I'm gonna get there while the gettin's
As they trudged back up to the barracks, Pipsqueak and Bererond
were silent, each lost in his own thoughts. Bererond showed him to his
newly assigned bunk. "It is a black night," he said, "and the end of
a black day. We can only hope that things will look brighter in the
morning. Wake early, for you will be summoned before the second hour
to the Lord Denethor to receive your permanent assignment with the
Guard. Farewell, and sleep in peace!"
The barracks were dark as Pipsqueak climbed into his bed to settle
in for the evening. Gloom settled still more heavily on him, for he
was alone in a strange city and was soon to be thrust into the terrible
heat of war. For a while he lay and listened to the sounds of the
other Guards breathing and tossing in their sleep, and then he joined
them in their uneasy slumber.
In the night he was wakened by a dim light above him: Gandalf had
come and was leaning over the bed with a pillow poised above Pipsqueak's
face. "I have come for you here," said the wizard in an almost
inaudible whisper, "for I must have a little peace to work in this
city, alone. I cannot leave you to do any more damage than you have
already done. I hope you have enjoyed this night, Paragraph Took!
There will be no dawn."
This chapter of this epic work is presented through the courtesy of
Steuard Jensen <sbjensen-aaaaaaat-midway-dawt-uchicago.edu>.
Copyright © 2001 by the author. All rights reserved. Some variance between this
e-text and the original printed material by Professor Tolkien is inevitable. Using this
as an electronic resource for scholarly or research purposes may lead to a certain
degree of academic embarassment. All agree that the printed version of the text,
available from respectable publishers such as Houghton Mifflin and Ballantine Books,
is to be preferred.
Boromir, Denethor, Minas Tirith and
Gondor are trademarks of Saul Zaentz and Tolkien Enterprises, who
hold all merchandising rights to Gondor and its subsidiaries.
Tourists to Gondor are reminded that tickets to the Castle of Lornavaniwen
must be purchased at least three months in advance.