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31
The King's Judgments

The King’s Judgments

The meal provided was light, but well received by the Hobbits present, and by many of the Big Folk as well. After twenty minutes by Sam’s watch the King signalled all were to sit again, and the hearings resumed.

This time there were several documents available, which included descriptions of the actions brought against Bedro Bracegirdle in the past, the results of the former trial in Michel Delving, the findings and judgment placed on him, how well he’d done so far at meeting the payments of reparations and the other requirements laid upon him. Then there was the report of the invasion of the Gravellies’ home, the beating of Brendilac Brandybuck, and the findings of the Thain in his own investigation, the results of the search of the Bracegirdle home, and particularly the bedroom of Bedro.

The young Lord Berestor read the documents aloud, including the ones from the preliminary reports by Frodo, which papers the King held with special respect as he read the originals while his younger cousin read the copies. At last all had been read and the King motioned for Bedro to come forward, watching with interest as he was accompanied by the Brandybuck who’d stood beside him through all.

“You are Brendilac Brandybuck, I believe, from the introductions made the other day?”

“Yes, my Lord King,” Brendi answered with a low bow.

“You are the one who was beaten by this one?”

“Yes, my Lord King.”

“Are you here to see he receives proper justice for the violence he gave you?”

“No, my Lord King. It was laid on me by my cousin in the last trial to see to it that those who stood for judgment not be alone and that their own interests were represented as much as possible; and so, as this was one of those, I have come to stand with him yet again.”

The King’s face grew solemn and gentle. “Frodo asked this of you, then?”

“Yes, my Lord King.”

The King nodded. “What was he to you, other than your cousin?”

“When we were small, before the death of his parents, we were playmates and coming to be friends. As teens in Brandy Hall we ran together in the same gang. He was aware of my love for Merelinde, and when it was learned she was dying, he stood by us both, encouraged us to marry anyway, and to know what happiness there might be for the time given us.”

“Do you regret that decision?”

“No, my Lord King.” He paused. “He stood with us at our wedding, visited us frequently during the time we had together, stood by me at the funeral, always supported me as he could. And he made me his personal lawyer.”

Sam Gamgee was watching the lawyer carefully, intent on this information, and gave one final nod as if accepting the rightness of it all as Brendilac finished. The King’s expression was compassionate, and the nod he gave at the last almost identical to the one just given by the gardener. “I see,” the King said quietly. “So be it, then.” He looked into the face of the prisoner, and simply examined him closely for some time. Bedro began to flush with embarrassment, but could not turn away.

“Do you understand why you are here, Bedro Bracegirdle?” the King at last asked.

“Yes, sir. Because my da used weighted dice on Emro Gravelly.”

“Only for that?”

“I’d not have been arrested else.”

“Even after you’d been stealing from your neighbors, you think you’d not get caught in the end?”

“I’d never been caught before.”

“Does the fact you’d not been caught before give you justification for continuing to do so? Do you truly think none would have questioned you in the end?”

“Who’d of dared?”

“Step forward.” Bedro complied, and the King examined him thoroughly from the top of his head to the tips of his rather shaggy feet. “You are uncommonly large and muscular for a Hobbit, yes; but not so big as to continue evading justice forever. Indeed, the fact you’d already been tried for injustice, misappropriation, open intimidation and coercion, and exceeding your authority as a Shiriff undoubtedly increased the likelihood you’d be examined for theft at a later date. Also, it is clear someone asked for redress from your attentions.”

Bedro gave a brief glare over his shoulder at Forsythia, which was not lost on the King. He followed the Hobbit’s gaze, and then stopped, his attention arrested. He gave a long look at the two young Hobbits sitting by Narcissa Boffin, then asked, gently, “You are close kin to Frodo?”

Forsythia’s whispered, “He’s speaking to you, Fosco,” was heard by all in the room.

The young Hobbit raised his head proudly as he stood. “Yes, Lord Elessar, my sister and I are his first cousins by his uncle Dudo.”

The King closed his eyes and shook his head. “He was a remarkably close one, wasn’t he?” He looked to Sam. “And how long have you known of these?”

“Only since last summer, Strider, when he stood up to dance alongside the rest.”

“So, this is the Fosco whom Frodo taught to dance the Husbandmen’s dance, along with Folco.”

“Yes, sir,” the tween replied. “He taught Forsythia and me both to dance.”

“Then you had known him long?”

“Yes, my Lord King, since we were little ones.”

There was a look of pleasure and even unexpected relief on the King’s face. “Then, it appears there may not be an end to the Baggins legacy as I’d been led to believe.”

Narcissa said, a bit nervously, “No, sir, it was never his desire to see that end. It is why we are here--he desired these, when they are at last of age, to serve as further ambassadors between the Shire and the outer world, as he and Bilbo have done.”

“And your part in this affair, Mistress Boffin?”

“I was appointed their independent guardian, my Lord King. And now I’ve been made their physical guardian as well.”

“Who appointed you their guardian?” At her silent look, he laughed. “How long have you known of their existence?”

“Since the spring after he left, my Lord.”

“I was told that the disturbance was at the Gravelly house in the village of Westhall.”

“The twins have been fostered there by the Gravellies since the death of their mother. They’ve been raised among the Gravellies and as Gravellies, but remain Bagginses by birth, name, and all else.”

“Baggins, Boffin, and Took,” amended Fosco.

“Through the Old Took, I must suppose.”

“Yes, sir, our great grandfather.”

The King nodded. “I find myself wishing I’d known the old fellow, as Gandalf and Bilbo certainly had tales to tell of him.” He gave a glance at Bedro, then asked Fosco, “Has this one given you trouble in the past?”

“Yes, my Lord, all our lives since we came to live with the Gravellies. He always chased the little ones, and especially me as I can’t see well and so can’t avoid him easily.”

The King turned back to Bedro. “Is what he says true?”

Bedro surprised himself by admitting, “Yes, it’s true.”

“Did no one ever seek to stop you?”

“Once. A stranger hit me once.”

“When was this?”

“Years ago, just after the Free Fair.”

“A rather tall, slender Hobbit with dark hair?”

“Yessir. How did you know?”

“Educated guess.”

Fosco looked up with interest. “Was that why he stopped chasing us that evening, then? And was that Iorhael?”

The King again shook his head. “And how do you know this name?”

Forsythia laughed. “He told us to call him that so Mum wouldn’t realize who he was.”

The King sighed. “Enough of history--let us examine this case here now. You were to be the reluctant bride?”

The lass nodded. They went through the case at length, with Fosco and Forsythia and Brendilac testifying to details. Finally the King turned to the Thain. “And this wedding would not have been legal, nor would its purpose in gaining control of Forsythia’s dowry and inheritance been legal?”

“That is correct, my Lord King.”

“I see.” He turned and murmured in Quenyan with his wife for several moments. Finally he turned again to the Thain. “Is he to be accepted again into the Shire when his term of punishment is through?”

“No, my Lord. Plus his family has struck his name out of the Book of Bracegirdle.”

The King and Queen looked to one another. “That,” the Lady Arwen said softly, “indicates this is seen as most serious by his own family.”

The Thain nodded his head. “There are very few times when we strike names from the family books, my Lady Queen.”

“I know, for I discussed this with Master Bilbo at length. To be deprived of family ties is the greatest punishment that can be visited upon Hobbits.”

After several moments of examining Bedro carefully, the King finally said slowly, “Then I am ready to pass judgment on this one. Bedro Bracegirdle, you recognize that the Shire is under the rule of the Land of Arnor?”

“Yessir, I’ve been told this.”

“As the laws of the Shire have been long established and are not in conflict with the laws of Arnor and Gondor in this matter, the punishment imposed by the people of the Shire as witnessed by Thain, Master, Mayor, and your own family, is accepted as the first part of the penalty imposed upon you. However, as you have continued breaking the laws of the Shire and the Kingdom of Arnor even after having been largely forgiven of your prior offenses, you now stand under further examination before me. So be it, then. You will be taken south by the next troop of Rangers to go to Minas Anor from Bree, where you will remain in the prison of the Citadel until my return. You will then serve at my pleasure in the marble quarries of Casistir. Are you a decent cook?”

“Decent enough. My da never complained.”

“Then you shall serve in the kitchens there for five years. Once you are done, you will be allowed to settle in the southern Kingdom. You will not reenter Arnor, for if you are found within its bounds you will be retaken and hanged summarily.”

“Hanged what?”

“Hanged without further consideration. Do you now understand?”

Pale, Bedro nodded. The King nodded. “So be it, then. When we are done with these, you will accompany them to the local lockup for the night at least, until the next detachment is sent south.” He looked at Brendilac. “Would this, you think, be acceptable to your former client?”

“Yes, my Lord King. He would thank you for your mercy shown.”

The King nodded.

Lord Halladan said solemnly, “So has judged the Lord King Elessar Envinyatar Telcontar of Arnor and Gondor, the heir to Elendil, Isildur, and Arvedui.” The guards drew Bedro back, and at last the nine from Angmar were led forward.

The King pulled himself straight in his seat, examining them carefully one last time. He again nodded at Hardorn, then addressed the prisoners in their own language as Hardorn translated to the Common Tongue: “Do any of you have anything to ask of me or any pleas to make before me ere I pronounce your doom?”

The one who had thought he’d seen offenses done by Gondor stepped forward, speaking again through the interpreter. “I understand I was mistaken as to what I saw, and thus bore false witness before my people regarding yours. I grieve that this is so.”

The King nodded. “Then there is honor in you, which I must admire. Do any others of you wish to speak now?”

One of the two who had whispered earlier stepped forward, closely followed by his fellow, and spoke in the Common Tongue. “My brother and I hereby leave the service of our armies, for we were given false information regarding your people and your ways, and based our entry into our forces on that. Knowing it was false, we cannot in good conscience remain in arms against you. Had we our swords, we would break them now in token of this.”

The King straightened, then asked, “If they were brought to you, will you do this?”

“Yes, my Lord King Elessar, we would do this.” The faces of the two Men were pale but set, for in Angmar such an act was taken very seriously.

“There would be no return to you ever to your own people. Have you wives and children?”

“Yes, my Lord, I do, although not my brother.”

“They would pay the penalty if they are left there.”

“I know, my Lord; but I cannot live a lie.”

The smile on the King’s face was clearly seen behind his beard. “Then we will see to the removal of your family ere the news of this night’s judgment is made clear to your people,” he said quietly. “Eregiel?”

Eregiel stood up from the back bench. “It would be a pleasure, my Lord Cousin.”

The leader glared at the three who had stepped forward. One of the guards, at a nod from the King, left the hall, returned swiftly with the weapons taken from the prisoners. The King indicated they should be laid upon the table before Prince Faramir, and at last one of the two was allowed forward, where he took up his own, then walked under guard to the fireplace for the hall where he brought it down on the stone hearth, and it broke. He cast it into the fireplace and turned, his face even paler, but stood erect. The King indicated he was to stand over to the side. The other brother stepped forward, pale and sweating, but as his brother had done he did now also, and he was allowed to stand by him. In their own tongue, the King asked, “Is there any other who will follow suit?” One more stepped forward, and taking up his sword he also went to the fireplace and broke it. Then the leader stepped forward. There was a carefully made nod between King and Lord Hardorn who stepped forward with him, and Pippin imperceptibly shifted his own stance, as did the King himself. The leader made a great show of examining the remaining six swords, and reached down to take his up--then shifted to aim at Faramir--but found his weapon blocked by three as Troll’s Bane, Anduril, and that of his guard all were interposed between his blade and the Steward of Gondor. Shocked with the speed of the move, the leader dropped his weapon and stepped back in confusion.

“You were warned, were you not, that the Perian here is skilled with his blade?” asked the King mildly as he retook his seat, and one of the other guards scooped the leader’s blade from the floor and laid it before the Lord Halladan.

“Yes, my Lord,” whispered the Man.

“We need your name and family designation so your family can be given the news of your fate,” the King continued. If possible, the Man went even paler, and the sweat broke out on his brow. “You will be executed at dawn. Taking up a weapon under false pretences and threatening one innocent of offense against you and your family and your people is punishable by death among your own people, I know. What is the standard punishment for such actions among your people?”

The Man could barely answer. Finally he managed to whisper, “To be beheaded with my own sword.”

“So it shall be. And I myself will execute it, as I must endure its effects anyway. You will know that I will be as merciful as I can, that it will be quick and clean.” He turned to the others. “If any other thinks to do similarly, let you rethink it now. Will any other follow the example of those three?”

One more, pale, but determined, came forward and took the sword from before Halladan. “This was mine, my Lord. He simply chose the one he felt was best situated to take the swing with. That was his.” At a nod from the others, Faramir carefully lifted the indicated weapon and handed it gingerly to the Steward of Arnor, and the Angmarian walked to the fireplace and broke his sword as had the others. He walked to stand with the others. No others made any move, and the King nodded.

At that moment the door opened, and Legolas entered, herding in four more individuals in the dark green of Angmar. “There is one more I could not find, Aragorn,” he said as the guards took charge of those he’d brought. “The trees tell me the rest are dead, two by their own hands as the Forest drove them mad. The trees were rather vindictive as they reported that. The one remaining managed to make it back to the Road and fled across it from the Barrow Downs. The trees on the south side would not stir themselves to act against him, and did not care to note where he went. However, he appears to have been an archer.”

The King sighed. “Thirteen in all this night, then. Know this--we have been told your purpose in coming south was to foment war between your land and ours, and to slay either my Steward or myself in the doing. I will not tolerate such actions in my lands. Those four have broken their swords, and their families will be removed from Angmar before word of what has happened here is told to your people. That one--” indicating the leader, “--is to be beheaded at dawn with his own sword for offering violence in this hall. The rest have not yet had their doom pronounced. You are now offered the chance to break your swords and stand with those four, or to accept the doom of the others. Which shall it be, gentlemen?”

One finally stepped forward and reached out his hand to the Elf, and taking his sword broke it upon the hearth. The others stood quietly but pale with their comrades.

“I see. The families of those who have broken their swords will be extracted from Angmar and brought here to Arnor to be reunited with them. Then all will be taken south to Gondor where all will swear allegiance to the throne and Crown, and will be allowed to take lands or employment as each is suited. The rest of you will go first to Minas Anor to the prison there. On my return, you will be granted one last chance to foreswear your allegiance to your own warlords. If you refuse, you will be taken to the Houses of Healing where your sword hands will be cut off, and after you have recovered you will be allowed to return to Angmar. Do you understand?”

All nodded. “So be it, then,” the King said.

“So has judged the Lord King Elessar Envinyatar Telcontar of Arnor and Gondor,” intoned the Steward of Arnor.

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