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The Acceptable Sacrifice
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26: Searching for Answers

26: Searching for Answers

“My Lord Frodo Baggins--and how are you this day?”

Frodo turned at the voice, finding himself looking up into the thin face of the one who headed the group from Umbar. “My Lord? I suppose I am well enough. And you, sir?”

Wasnior looked at the small figure, who in spite of the warmth of the day walked along the paved way toward the Houses of Healing wearing a grey-green cloak of exceptional beauty over his clothing. His cheeks, which had looked rather pale, now showed small spots of color, and Wasnior sensed he felt uncomfortable at being addressed. “Forgive my, my Lord. I didn’t wish to interrupt you if you wished to be alone.”

“It’s not the company which distresses me, sir, but the address. As I said last night, titles are not commonly used in our land, and I find myself uncomfortable when addressed as ‘Lord’.”

“I am sorry, then. What form of address do you prefer?”

Frodo paused. There was something about this Man he didn’t truly like. Finally he replied, “You may call me Master Baggins.”

“I see. Well, I greet you, Master Baggins.”

“Thank you.”

“You are taking the air?”

Again Frodo paused before replying. “Yes, I suppose I am. I’ve not been able to get much exercise for some weeks, and it was suggested I walk back and forth the distance between the Houses of Healing and the barracks complex on the North end of the level two or three times today to begin rebuilding my endurance.”

“Then you were ill?”

Something in the pale features evaluated that question and showed that the Perian found it somewhat ironic. “It can truly be said I was not well for some time.”

“I hope for a speedy recovery for you then, sir.”

“Thank you, my Lord.”

“You know the Lord King Elessar well?”

“That is hard to answer. We came together from Eriador to the borders of Gondor, and have again been together for just over the past month. Certainly I have come to respect and honor him greatly, and am glad he has at last achieved his destiny. But that is but a little part of his life, which I have been assured by my uncle has been a rich and varied one. And although Bilbo told him of me, there is much about me of which he knows little. I think that last night was the first he’s realized that I--used to dance.”

“You are a very fine dancer, sir.”

The Perian shrugged, and turned to continue his walk. “I have not had great occasion to dance much for some years, and I see that lack of practice and my illness have worked against me.”

“Your people enjoy dancing?”

“We Hobbits simply enjoy.”

“I see,” commented the Man, actually not truly certain what had been meant by that declaration.

The Hobbit looked up sideways at him, and gave a small smile. “We are a relatively simple folk.”

“Your King indicated you are farmers mostly.”

“Yes, mostly we are farmers. We enjoy watching the earth bring forth its bounty, eating, drinking, laughing; and certainly dancing is a means by which we express our enjoyment.”

“Those with you are your followers?”

The Perian stopped and looked up at him, his face solemn and even a bit stern. “Merry and Pippin are my cousins, and Sam is my best friend. True, they followed me out of our own land, but out of love for me rather than because of any wish of my own.” He reached for his chest, then paused when his hand apparently didn’t find something he had known there. His face went pale. Finally he thrust his hand into his pocket in a decided manner and he spoke. “I never asked them to come with me, and tried not to let them know I was leaving. They came anyway.”

“It was said last night that one of them helped destroy the Lord of the Nazgul.”

“Yes, Merry and the Lady Éowyn destroyed him between them.”

“How were you injured?”

Frodo slowly shook his head, keeping his eyes steadily on Wasnior’s own. “That is a very long and uncomfortable tale, and I will not tell it now. Now, if you will forgive me, I must finish my walk.” He turned away deliberately and continued on to the gates to the gardens of the Houses of Healing, paused, then walked on and into the main entrance. Wasnior watched after him, his curiosity overflowing.

“My Lord?”

Wasnior turned to see that a Guardsman stood behind him. “Yes?”

“It appears that Lord Frodo does not wish further conversation at this time. If you will please allow him his privacy? He labored long and hard, and is still recovering from the injuries he suffered.”

Realizing he could not afford to antagonize any within Gondor at this time, Wasnior returned back to his own guest house, and after a time watched from the bedroom he’d chosen on the upper floor as the Perian walked back, rather slowly, past the place toward whatever housing he’d been given toward the North end of the Circle. As he came even with the ramp to the level of the Citadel he met with a party coming down it and stopped, his posture indicating pleasure. In this group, apparently, was the King, another of the Periannath dressed as a Guardsman, and one of the dark-haired Elves. After speaking for a few moments they walked Northwards and turned down a lane toward the Pelennor. Was that perhaps where the Perian lived, then?

Then he saw three coming from the gate to the Fifth Circle, and realized this party included Belladon. Belladon had intended to sneak down and find at least one of their spies. He’d been gone for an hour or better, but apparently he’d finally been found. Wasnior hoped that he’d learned at least something before he was recognized and escorted back. He went down to find out what had been learned.

Belladon was trying to look unconcerned, but could not keep an expression of frustration out of his eyes. One of the Guardsmen bowed. “We escorted your companion back from the Fourth Circle, my Lord. If you will please remind the others in your party that if you wish to leave this Circle you need to be escorted for your own protection? The folk of Umbar are not held in warm esteem by most of those here in Gondor considering how many have lost family members, homes, and crops to the Corsairs among your people.” Again he gave a bow and turned away, returning back toward the gate to the lower city.

Wasnior looked right and left; the two assigned to their house remained, one on each front corner of the building. He drew Belladon inside and closed the door. Once they were in the dayroom he waited for Belladon’s report.

“The trader who has the house in the Fourth Circle is dead. He was returning from a trading trip to Harad three months past--had a fleet of four ships. Two of the four were taken by our own Corsairs--including the ship on which he rode.” Belladon’s expression was accusatory. “All aboard were put to the sword.”

Wasnior gave a deep sigh--their own folk had cost them a faithful spy. He nodded for Belladon to continue. “The sculptor that Landrion favors is there, but has no knowledge. He was among those who were sent out of the city to the places of refuge, and he at this time knows less than the rumors we’ve already heard. There has been little chance for him to gather any information so far.”

“Why not? Certainly there must have been deaths enough to increase his custom.”

Belladon shrugged. “True; but many were buried in Ithilien, for there were not wagons enough to carry home the bodies of most of the dead as well the wounded; and those who have commissioned the tomb effigies since the return of the refugees have been almost solely the women who also are just returned from the places of refuge. Such have little if any knowledge of how the battle actually was won. Most who know what truly happened have only returned to the city yesterday.” Angrapain brought in a beaker of mead and handed it to him, and Belladon sipped from it as the more decadent lord sat on the arm of the sofa opposite where Belladon had seated himself on a more simple chair.

Finally he continued. “The bookseller in the Third Circle was arrested by Denethor’s folk two weeks before the battle before the city walls. I had no time to check out any others. I don’t know if they saw me in the workshop of the sculptor; but they know for certain I visited the house of the merchant and the bookseller.”

“No indication of where the ships of our fleet have been taken?”

“No. Perhaps many ended up being used to ferry Men and goods between the place in Ithilien where the army rested and here. Although I did hear one comment in the marketplace in the Fourth Circle that at least one larger ship had sailed to the Mouths of the Sea to bring back provisions. The city is much depleted of fresh meats and produce. Perhaps there have been others used similarly.”

Beslor, who’d been sitting in the room all day slowly emptying mugs of mead, looked up at that statement. “They aren’t going to return any of them to us, you know.”

Wasnior took a deep breath, reluctantly agreeing with Beslor’s evaluation.

Dorath gave a deep grunt of disgust. “I don’t know why we even came.”

“We still need to have some knowledge of what changes there are in the land and government of Gondor,” Beslor pointed out. “And certainly the fact that Denethor is dead as well as Boromir, and that Faramir has been supplanted in lordship by a new King from the wilds of the North and West indicates much change will affect our land as well.”

The five of them looked to one another. One of the two servants listened from the door to the dining room of the house, and wondered if somehow he might make some profit off of what he had just heard.


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