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The Acceptable Sacrifice
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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32
32: Incarceration

32: Incarceration


He began to come to as they hauled him into the prison and were approached by the Warden of the place. “He’s to be stripped and searched, his belt and boots removed, and all pockets, sleeves, and hems to be searched for weapons and strangling cords,” one of those who’d brought him said, then added, “There’s more, but I am to speak it to you quietly, sir.”

At a sign from the Warden, two of the guards of the prison took Angrapain and brought him to a cell apart from the rest and saw to it that he was stripped to his small clothes and all was checked thoroughly. A strangling wire was indeed found inside his rolled belt, the knife in his boot, and a smaller but still lethal folding knife in his sleeve. Once they were certain he had no more weapons they left his clothing on the stone bench which held the cot mattress for sleeping and abandoned him there. Angrapain went to the metal chamberpot provided, vomited thoroughly into it, shakily poured water from the battered but clean pitcher that stood on a shelf inside the barred door into the more battered but clean metal cup and drank it down, then after dressing himself laid himself down and covered himself with the thin yet clean blanket and, covering his eyes with his forearm, tried to sleep.

A meal was brought, the meat already cut into pieces, a wooden spoon his only utensil. The cooking wasn’t inspired, but it was adequate, if not the fine cooking Angrapain preferred to insist on. No one addressed him or answered his questions; an hour after the meal was brought the dishes were removed and a new water pitcher brought and placed on the shelf. When he again tried to ask when he would be released and if Lord Wasnior had been notified, he’d been answered in what he suspected was Rohirric. A cold, damp cloth was brought him to apply to his jaw; they then left him alone.

He checked the doors, hinges, locks, and so on. Nothing he could access anywhere; the walls were solid stone; the doors of heavy oak; the bars fairly recently renewed and firmly seated. There was a drain into which he could pour the contents of the chamber pot, and plenty of water in the pitcher for rinsing the thing. He could not claim mistreatment, and could not undo the door.

Having nothing else he could do for himself, Angrapain finally again took to the cot and slept, uncertain what the morning would bring to him.

*******


About an hour before dawn the Lord Elessar came to the prison. The Warden was concerned when it was told to him the King had come here, for in the Warden’s experience personal visits by the ruler of the realm did not bode well for his charges. In the forty-five years he’d served within the prison, the Warden had seen only nine visits by the Lord Steward, and in each case it had been shortly followed by the ordered execution of a particular prisoner or group of prisoners, and in seven such cases he personally had been certain that there had not been viable proof of a crime committed by the ones condemned.

Madog was proud that Gondor had some of the fairest laws in the known lands of Middle Earth, and that those held in his prison were held in clean and relatively humane conditions. He knew that from time to time an innocent person might need to be imprisoned while the truth was found out regarding the charges laid at their feet or while anger cooled so that mobs and vengeful family members didn’t take the law into their own hands before all facts were known. One Man had been accused of the rape of the daughter of a well-respected merchant; had he not been quickly placed within the prison he would have undoubtedly been captured and slain by the merchant’s friends and older sons. Only later did it come out the girl had not been raped at all, but had told the lie to hide the fact she’d been behaving unchastely with the youth she fancied and so had become with child. It was in the knowledge that such situations did happen that the rules had long been in place that the prison of the Citadel was to be a healthful and bearable place, and that any imprisoned within it were to be treated with dignity.

So it had been for almost all of the forty-five years the Warden had served here, save for the last five years under Lord Denethor, when more and more questionable arrests had been made; when eight of the nine visits to the prison had been made. Was this new King, for all his talk of fairness, dignity, and proper justice, no better than Denethor as he declined under the weight of fears for the realm? Certainly the orders that this prisoner was to be carefully searched for hidden weapons and strangling cords had appeared arbitrary--until such things were found. The rule that only Rohirric was to be spoken around this prisoner also seemed arbitrary, save that he was from Umbar, and if folk spoke only in a language he wouldn’t be likely to know around him they couldn’t inadvertently give him information to the detriment of the realm; and so the Warden had confirmed the order.

The King was led into the office of the Warden, and the guard gave a deep bow and backed out of the room, closing the door behind him. The King appeared to be watching this with amusement before he turned again to the Warden, his grey eyes examining him with interest. “Your name?” the Lord Elessar asked.

“Madog son of Margond, my Lord. Won’t you sit, my Lord King?”

“Thank you.” The tall Northerner folded himself onto the extra chair. “I wish to speak privately to the prisoner I sent you yesterday, but also to the ones accused of spying on Gondor and imprisoned during Lord Denethor’s tenure. I will be calling for them to be brought before me later today to judge their cases, to free or to condemn them as is right.”

“And what do you think to learn of them now?”

“In part, the order in which to call them and what witnesses should be called to speak for and against them. From the report you have sent me, most are accused of having spied on the realm for the agents of Mordor.”

“Yes.”

“The one I sent here yesterday is Umbari, and came with the embassy sent from that land. There are a few reasons why we believe they were sent--to learn of the disposition of their fleet which was sent against us and which I captured and used to bring defenders from the Southlands; to find out what has become of their spies who have not reported to them since the battle; to learn what they can of the new government of the land that they might figure how to exploit the situation to Umbar’s benefit; to set up a new spy network within the city; to gauge my knowledge and abilities and commitment to the realm.”

“Such is indeed likely. Why was this one sent here? For suspicion of spying?”

“No. He was arrested for making indecent proposals to one who found such offensive.”

“And who was this?”

“The Ringbearer.”

Madog found himself angry. He’d seen the Ringbearer at the coronation and a few times as he walked the last few days along the main way in the Sixth Circle; and he’d seen him by the King’s side at the funeral of Halargil, whom Madog had known for many years. His gravity, his extreme courtesy, the quiet gentleness one could see in him--all had marked him as one well worthy of respect. He’d seen the others of the King’s companions hovering about him protectively. Several of his guards had begged leave to go with the Army of the West to fight before the Black Gate, and had brought back the stories of the finding of the Ringbearer and his esquire by the great Eagles and Mithrandir, the long watch lest they die, the ennoblement upon the Field of Cormallen. Three of his Men, one of them his own son, told of how they’d been near being overwhelmed by enemies when at last the Ring came to the Fire, and the ones threatening them had suddenly stopped, bereft as they now were of direction.

“You overheard this?”

“The first time, yes I did.”

“Who knocked him unconscious?”

“The Ringbearer. And a masterful job he did of it.”

“He reeked of drink when they brought him here.”

“Frodo said that he believed the Man was drunk when he approached him the second time. However, he found the Man’s words highly offensive and his manner threatening, and so he struck him twice to stop his advances. Certainly what I heard him say the first time was offensive in the extreme, although Frodo handled it well. I’d hoped that in light of the correction Frodo gave him and the shame of being overheard as he was that he’d stop the affair. That he’d return to his quarters and drink himself into a state where he’d approach Frodo again and this time threaten him physically didn’t cross my mind. Did he vomit after he regained consciousness?”

“Yes, he did, and didn’t pour it out until after we brought food to him, though he ate little enough of what was brought to him. There is no question he had drunk heavily before being brought here.”

“Good enough. I’ll start with the proposed spies. Have a bowl of porridge and sauce of apples and apple juice taken to the Man as soon as possible, and I’ll speak with him in about a quarter mark. He ought to be sufficiently sober to answer me properly. I’ll want a responsible guard to stand as witness to what is asked and the responses given.”

Madog looked keenly into the King’s eyes. He’d suspected that the Man would wish to question the prisoners alone as Denethor had done; but this was untrue? His respect for the new King, which had tended to be higher after the respect shown to Halargil and Berilieth, was raised again that he wanted witnesses to what passed between himself and the prisoners. “I will set a steady Man beside you, and will join you myself as well when I can, my Lord King.”

The King smiled, and suddenly Madog went still with memory, for the smile brought to mind one he hadn’t seen for many, many years. “That will be satisfactory,” the King commented. “The reports I’ve received of your care for your charges are not exaggerated, then.”

“Thank you, my lord,” Madog answered automatically. Then he asked, “Did the Lord Captain Thorongil indeed come from the North? And are you his son?”

“I beg your pardon?” But the keen grey eyes were searching his own, and again in a familiar way. The smile returned, an expression of familiar humor in his eyes. “Madog--you were a guard then. It has been a long time, hasn’t it? And you have enough Dúnedain heritage yourself to still be in service to the realm?”

“But yes, my Lord. Then----”

“Yes, I was Thorongil. I am almost full Dúnedain. But I ask you tell no others, for I prefer each find out for himself.”

Madog started to laugh. “Quite the joke on the late Lord Steward, then.”

The King’s face grew solemn. “No, for he divined my identity when I served alongside him so long ago, and again when he realized I was returning at Boromir’s side. Faramir had already realized from his father’s arguments with Mithrandir who I had been to the realm.”

“Did Boromir know?”

“I don’t believe so, for I never spoke of it with him. It was good to see him now an adult, the one I saw so briefly as a newborn. A worthy Man.”

“Who saw his body placed in the grey boat?”

“Legolas, Gimli, and I did that. We were separated on Amon Hen, each seeking after Frodo, the Ringbearer, after he made his determination to go alone to Mordor as he saw that the Ring was seeking to corrupt us as well as himself. Boromir went after Merry and Pippin, Frodo’s kinsmen, when they ran off without thought searching and calling for him. Legolas and Gimli went off in a different direction, and Sam and I headed up the hill to seek for signs of him there. Saruman’s Uruk-hai found Merry and Pippin and sought to take them prisoner; Boromir did his best to protect them. He had at least seven arrows in him when I found him, and five of the wounds at least were mortal. They’d already taken Merry and Pippin and run off to the West by the time I realized Frodo had indeed been to the seat of Seeing and had come down again. Only Sam realized what Frodo was likely to do; he left off following me and turned back to the boats, and thus was the only one who accompanied him Eastward across the lake and on to Mordor.”

“My son’s friend Damrod is one of Lord Faramir’s Men; he told us of the Captain’s sight of the funeral boat as it drifted down the river.”

“He killed better than a score single-handedly, Boromir did. The Hobbits appear to have killed at least three between them--the wounds were different, and they showed signs in two cases of having been hit with stones.” Aragorn sighed and straightened. “I must question the prisoners now that I be ready to question them officially in the Hall of Kings two hours after dawn.”

Madog smiled. “Yes, my Lord.” They both rose and Madog went to the door and opened it. His lieutenant sat at his desk, checking over the orders for meals for the prisoners. “Ruvegil, please go with our Lord King to the cells of the prisoners. Start with....”

*******


The door grated open, and Angrapain turned his head, seeking to hide away from the lamplight that shone from the hallway. Why did they continue to plague him? First a breakfast he didn’t want, and now what? A voice spoke with disgust, “You will sit up now for the King.”

Angrapain turned with fury on the guard. “What do I care for your King?”

But behind the Man stood a taller figure, his face impassive. This one looked down. “You will do what he says, and you will do it now.”

Reluctantly Angrapain sat up, seeking to guard his eyes from the light by covering them with his forearm. “What do you want?”

“Pour a cup of water and set it on the shelf near to my hand, and let me have the stool.” A stool was pushed into the cell and the King sat on it, and the guard stepped inside as another guard outside the cell pushed the door closed and locked it; the guard filled the cup from the pitcher on the shelf and set it on the corner of the shelf nearest the King’s shoulder. “Now, sir, you will speak. How many spies were you and your fellows to seek out during your stay?” Only after he’d answered the questions posed him was Angrapain finally allowed to have the cup of water. He’d done his best to lie; but he found it was difficult to do so successfully to the King, who several times shook his head and asked again, insisting on a proper answer. Now and then the King would suddenly shift the focus of his questions, and the answer which Angrapain gave would surprise him even as he spoke it, for he’d certainly never intended to let others know what he’d just said.

The questioning didn’t go on long, but when it was over the King looked down on him grimly. “I see,” he said. “Well, my friend, you will shortly be brought before me officially. We will see then what you have to say. Know this, the offense you have given the Ringbearer and myself will not go over well with the people of Gondor.” The tall Man rose, and the guard knocked a coded rap on the door, at which the guard outside turned to unlock and open it, allowing the two to leave. As he sat, his head on his knees, Angrapain listened to the lock click once more, and groaned. What had he revealed? Wasnior and Marcipor were going to have his head!

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