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Chapter 6. Epilogue
Most of the travellers had sought their beds; the morrow would bring an early start. Two figures still sat by the fire. They had talked long, and now shared the comfortable silence of old friends, looking into the flames, watching the sparks fly up as a log shifted.
Finally, Pippin spoke. 'I suppose we will not meet again.'
Beregond was silent until another log split, sending a shower of sparks heavenward. 'No,' he said, lowering his eyes, then raising them to meet Pippin's in the firelight, 'I do not suppose we ever shall, Master Perian. But it has been good to know you.'
Pippin was quiet once more, and finally Beregond spoke. 'Something has been troubling you, Peregrin Took. If you are to speak of it, you had better make now the time.'
Pippin hesitated. Beregond waited. At last the hobbit said, 'That day, when I thought you had gone to your death... I knew... the fault was mine! Had I run straight to Gandalf, you never would have left your post.'
'And then Faramir would have died.'
'Gandalf would have stopped him.'
Beregond shook his head. 'He would not have been in time.'
'All you ever wanted was to be a Guard of the Citadel. And now you have been sent from the City. I am sorry, Beregond.'
'My old gran used to say it was the 'could haves' and 'should haves' that will break your heart.' He raised his eyes to the stars and gazed without speaking until a shining finger of light traced its way across the sky. 'Look!' he said. 'A falling star. I always used to watch them and wonder what far country they might land in.' He looked back at the hobbit. 'Pippin,' he said gently. 'You did the best that you could. Lord Faramir lives today because of the choices that you made, and that I made. And in truth, the outcome is not so terrible. Yes, I am no longer a member of the Guard of the Citadel. But to tell you the truth, it was serving the Captain that kept me in that City of Stone. And now, I dwell in a fair green land, and yet serve the Captain. How, then, have you wronged me? Where is the fault?'
'My life is better than I ever dreamed it could be. But, Pippin...' he held the other's gaze in the firelight. 'Had I died, it would have been an honorable death. I made my choice. I knew the penalty. I would rather have died than let the Captain die because I was too fearful to take action. It was not your doing at all.'
'Then, you forgive me?'
'There is nothing to forgive.'
'And we are friends?'
'That we are, Master Perian. That we are.'
'So what would your wise old gran have said about friends parting?'
'I think she would have said, 'Friendship will live as long as the remembering does.' Pippin nodded, and the two sat silent, companionable, until the fire burned low.
The next morning, Beregond rode to the top of the first hill with the travellers, then watched as they descended into the valley. He thought he saw Pippin looking back as his pony climbed the next hillside. He started to turn his horse to ride back to Edoras, where Faramir was staying some time longer, when he heard Pippin's clear voice call out, 'Remember!'
He drew his sword, and it caught the light of the rising sun as he held it high. On the opposite hilltop, he saw the glint of the sun from another upraised sword, and he watched until it was gone from sight as Pippin's pony descended behind the hill.
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