Angrapain groaned as once again his sleep was disturbed. He rolled over and glared at the two guards who entered the cell. “Now what?” he demanded.
The Warden for the prison entered after them. “He’s not cleaned himself or combed his hair as instructed?” he asked. He himself had come to the cell a half a mark previously with a basin of warm water, a comb, and cleaning cloths and explained Angrapain was to shortly be taken before the King and should prepare himself. All could see that none of these items had been utilized. “So be it,” the Warden sighed. “I will be accompanying you, then. Stand up.”
“But I can’t go looking this way----”
“You were given time and means. It is too late to change that now.” At the Warden’s signal the two Guardsmen pulled the Umbari to a sitting position and indicated he should don the newly returned boots immediately. Then he was made to stand and his hands bound before him, and he was led out of the cell and around the Citadel to the main doorway. As he entered the vestibule he could see into an open office of some sort, and saw one of the two servants who’d accompanied them talking with a Guard and to a young lord of the realm. What this was about, however, he was not given time to ascertain. Instead he was brought just inside the door, surrounded by four Men, while the King finished sentencing the spies who’d just appeared before him. The prisoners were led out past the throne and toward the side door out of the Citadel proper, and now the Guardsmen and Warden straightened in anticipation of the call which would now come. Angrapain lifted his bound hands, vainly attempting to brush his hair into some semblance of order, and then was led further into the room.
The Lord Steward Faramir now announced, “Now comes before you, my Lord, the case of Angrapain of Umbar, who has been accused of making indecent comments and attempting to take indecent liberties with a temporary resident of the city of Minas Tirith.”
The King held up his hand toward the advancing guards, and they stopped, while the growing murmurs of comment on each side also hushed. He looked down at Frodo, and said, “Lord Frodo, would you prefer to remain or leave?”
After a moment’s thought, Frodo answered, “I suppose I ought to remain, my Lord King.” The tone of the title was quite deliberate, as if reproving the King for addressing him as he had.
The Lord Elessar’s face remained impassive as he ordered, “Bring the prisoner forward.”
Angrapain looked up at the Man seated above him and tried to appear aggrieved, but failed miserably. The truth was that he was finally beginning to appreciate he was in serious difficulties of his own making, and uncertain he’d find a way of getting out of them this time.
The King spent some time looking at him, then turned to the prison Warden. “Why has this Man been brought here with his face still dirty and his hair uncombed? Did I not order he should be given the chance to prepare himself?”
Madog gave a bow. “My Lord Elessar, we followed the orders you gave, but he refused to use water, soap or comb, although they’d been there in his cell for over half a mark before we came to bring him here.”
The guard to Angrapain’s left added, “He speaks correctly, my Lord King. When we arrived, a basin of water, clean cloths, and a comb were there, but he remained on his cot and was rude when we entered to call him forth.”
Again the King fixed his attention on the Umbari. “So, you lack the pride to prepare yourself to stand before this court with some dignity?”
“They would not allow me time after they roused me the last time to do so.”
“Did they not tell you when they brought you what you needed?”
After several moments of silence, Angrapain said sullenly, “Yes.”
“Then do not blame others for your own lack of action. Why are you here before this court?”
“Because my words offended the Perian Frodo Baggins.”
“What did you say unto him?”
“I asked him if he thought of the woman who stirred his mind.”
“Was that all?”
After some moments, finally Angrapain answered, “No. When he did not answer that I asked if his interest was in--his companions.”
“After we came upon you and heard part of what you said to him and saw his confusion that you would seek to discuss such things with him, a stranger to you, you returned to speak with him again. Why?”
“I felt shamed by his answer to me the first time,”
“You felt shamed that he told you he thought of food at the moment and not women?”
Angrapain flushed. “He laughed at me, there behind his eyes.”
“I did not hear him laugh. I saw him stand with considerable dignity and tell you that at the moment you came on him he was thinking of mushrooms.”
“Why should he think of such things?”
The King answered this time with a shrug. “Why did you approach him the second time?” he asked again.
“I didn’t approach him. He came to me. I was waiting for him to return to the low wall. I knew he would return there, that he would return to face me again.”
“Did he see you and address you?”
“No--I was hidden behind the tree. But he came back, came over the wall, went further into the yard.”
“You had hidden yourself--obviously you did not intend him to see you. Why did you think he would return there?”
“He stopped there before. He would return to me there.”
“Did he approach you there behind the tree?”
“No. He passed me.”
“Did he appear to realize you were there?”
“No, he went more toward the house.”
“Was he standing and waiting for you when you finally approached him?”
“No, he was kneeling down.”
“Was he facing you?”
“No, he was facing away from me. He was intent on----”
“He was intent on gathering food, was he not?”
After a pause, the Man finally said, “Yes, he was. Why did he not face me until I approached him?”
“Because he did not return there for your sake. Because he went there because he had seen there something of more interest to a Hobbit.” The King straightened and looked down on the two seated Periannath. “Frodo, will you attempt to explain to this fool? You do not need to identify specifically what drew you there.”
Frodo stood rather carefully. “I went there in search of mushrooms.”
“But it is difficult----”
The spots of pink could be seen in his cheeks. “You were there the other night at the feast, sir, when our Lord Aragorn explained to your Lord Wasnior that my people are primarily farmers. We have learned that we as Hobbits must, in the normal course of things, eat more often and more at a time than Men, Elves, or Dwarves. As our King has characterized us, we are the children of Yavanna. We are as automatically drawn to natural sources of foodstuffs as an Elf is to something of great natural beauty such as a tree in the fullness of its grace or a Dwarf to a vein of precious metal or a Man to the side of a beautiful woman--or most Men we have known and seen. There were several sources of food in that garden, sir, and I had to examine them. Even if my ability to eat fully is still--damaged--as a result of my quest, yet as a Hobbit I still must look to such things first.”
“Are Periannath not drawn to one another, male to female, as is true for all others? How do your numbers flourish, then?”
Frodo went totally white. “We also must find wives and husbands; but for us the urge to seek first the mate is not as strong as it is among Men--although we rejoice in large families and many children. And if it had been given me to marry, you may be certain that I would have done so.”
“Then why have you not?”
“Have you not divined it, sir? Because of the Ring! It would have gladly seen me as you are, and I would not have it.” The Perian looked up at the King. “If I might be excused, Aragorn, please?”
The King exchanged looks with the one of his Elven brothers who stood behind the Periannath, and he came forward to escort Frodo away around the throne, back to the private quarters of the Citadel.
All had heard the bitterness in the voice of the Ringbearer, and many could see the pain reflected in the faces of the Lord Samwise and the Ernil i Pheriannath. Éomer said quietly, “Sir Merry, you are excused to attend upon your kinsman.”
The King said, equally quietly, “Sir Peregrin.”
The Perian Guardsman looked up at his King, “I beg your pardon, Aragorn, but he does not want us at this moment. I doubt he even wishes Sam with him now. It is best only your brother or Gandalf is by him at the moment. You cannot begin to understand what it cost him to say what he just did.”
The King’s other Elven brother said, “I have summoned Mithrandir, and he will go to him.”
The King bowed his head. “Thank you, Elladan.” He finally took a deep breath and straightened, then looked at Angrapain once more. “You have not understood from the first, have you? Seventeen and a half years he bore Sauron’s Ring, and he has fought Its influence all that time. But once It awoke fully, It did Its best to destroy him utterly.
“Sauron knew not of Hobbits when he led Celebrimbor to create the Rings of Power, or if he did he saw that they had no great leaders or lords among them and thought them little better than the beasts of the field and forest. He never suggested that Celebrimbor create Rings for them. And because no thought was taken for them, and because they are not given to ambition or great lusts as are Men, or to the desire of treasures as is true of Dwarves, or the desire to cause and know as is true for Elves, only those of Hobbit-kind in the end were fit to carry Sauron’s own Ring to Its destruction.
“Four of their kind carried It: the first, even with It still asleep, It finally twisted utterly; the second was beginning to be taken by It at last after sixty-one years; the third It robbed of much even when but restless in Its waking, and in the last year It has almost scoured him out. And the fourth, by the grace of the Creator, did not bear It long enough for It to do great damage.
“Be grateful, sir, that It did not come to you.”
“You would not have taken It?”
“He offered It to me, as Isildur’s Heir. I would not touch It lest It destroy me utterly. Perhaps I could have mastered It--for a time--ere It mastered me. Even had I managed to cast Sauron out of Arda, It would have consumed me in the end, making me over into a pale copy of Sauron himself. And as Frodo himself has said, I would not have that.
“Now we are left with the question of what to do with you. I would have you tell this company as you told me this morning in the prison why it was you approached Frodo Baggins to begin with.”
“I was--attracted to him. And we hoped to learn from him that which would give us power over you.”
“He could not give you that knowledge. He has not been told the object of my desires.”
“You do not desire him?”
The King laughed. “Ah--the Ring would have loved that, had it come to be! No.”
“And we wished to find out what has become of our fleet.”
“We will not return a ship of your fleet--your people have been told this. And we will not allow Umbar to hold any power or authority over our land and people. Why did you return to him again?”
“Again, I felt shamed. I thought to avenge myself on him.”
“Avenge yourself for having had your desires ignored?”
The King sighed. “Enough has been said.” He stretched. “Bring Belladon before me again.”
The Perian Guard went out again, and led back those who had taken Belladon, who brought him to stand beside Angrapain. The King looked from one to the other. “Hear now my judgment against you. Of old slavery has been forbidden within Gondor and Arnor, and such will be rigidly enforced during the time of my rule, at least. All who were brought to Gondor by your people who have been enslaved have been freed, and any brought into our realm from this day who were enslaved are declared free from the time they cross our borders.
“Those who do wrong, however, shall be forced to serve for a period of time dictated by the evil they have done. The wages for their service, however, shall be saved for them and given them when their time of servitude is over, that they might be ready to begin life anew afterwards. In some rare cases the punishment shall be death, as it has been ordered this morning for the servant who betrayed his lord and his people, but I do not wish to need to order such often.
“Now, Angrapain, what would be the judgment against you in your land for approaching another and insisting on seeking to twist him to your appetites?”
After several minutes Angrapain said, his voice tight, “No one would seek to bring any judgment against me in Umbar.”
“And if one should come upon you and force you against your will?”
“I would behead him with my sword.”
“Would that be legal to do?”
“No one would question my right to do so.”
“Then shall I have Frodo Baggins behead you with his sword?”
“He does not carry a sword.”
“He yet possesses one, and one of ancient lineage and honor. No, even if you had indeed sought to force him he would not do so, for such is not his nature. Therefore it is up to me to speak your doom. Ordinarily I would have you gelded for your behavior, but I do not believe that in this case it would do any good. No, first you will return to the prison where you will be branded on forehead and hand with a D glyph to indicate you have been a degenerate. And after you have recovered, you will go North where you shall serve alongside a midwife of my acquaintance in Arnor. You shall remain by her side for five years and go from one place to another alongside her, assisting her in accordance with her needs. If you are seen anywhere but in her presence, you will be hung summarily. At the end of the fifth year you will be accompanied back through Arnor and Gondor to have the report of your service reviewed. If you have served satisfactorily you will be allowed to return to your own land. However, you will not be allowed to reenter Gondor, Arnor, or Rhovanion or you will be taken again, returned here, and executed. Do you understand?”
Angrapain turned completely white, and asked, “You would do this to one from a different land?”
“Didn’t you realize that this behavior would be unacceptable in this land, and that seeking knowledge to use against the rulers of our nation in such a manner punished?” Angrapain looked away. The King of Gondor continued to examine him. Finally he added, “Had you left off after your first advance, then you would simply have been sent home and refused readmission to Gondor ever again. But the second approach was what earned you this punishment. And it would have been the same no matter whom you were to have advanced upon, although certainly the fact you chose to focus on the Ringbearer brought it about more quickly.”
He looked then at the other Umbari prisoner. “Belladon of Umbar, I now pronounce your doom. You are found guilty of practicing slavery within Gondor where it is not lawful, and of kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment, and suborning the will of citizens of Gondor in order to convince them to serve as spies for Umbar, to present false information to our officials, to convince lords and officers of the realm to change their actions and rulings to assist Umbar to achieve its aims for our lands and peoples.
“You, too, will be taken to the prison for the Citadel, and you will be branded on forehead and hand with an S glyph to indicate you are a slaver and a spymaster. When you have healed you will then be sent to the marble quarries where stone for the needs for the city of Minas Tirith is obtained. You will serve there for a period of five years. Then you, too, will be brought back to the capitol to have your work record reviewed. If it is satisfactory, you will be released to your own people. After that, if you are ever again found inside the borders of the lands claimed by Gondor, Arnor, or Rhovanion you will be retaken, returned to the city, and executed summarily. Do you understand?”
Belladon looked at him, his face blank with shock. “Yes, Lord Elessar,” he finally said.
“So be it then,” the King said with finality.
He gave a sign to the Guards surrounding the pair, and they were marched out of the Hall as the Lord Steward Faramir announced, “So has judged the Lord King Aragorn Elessar Envinyatar Telcontar, King of Gondor and Lord of Arnor.”
At that moment a lord entered from the vestibule and leaned to speak quietly to the Herald, who asked a question and finally nodded. He straightened and stepped forward, tapping his staff on the floor. “My Lord King, Lord Erchirion wishes to speak with you.”
The King rose and descended the stair to stand near the chair of the Lord Steward Faramir and waited for Prince Imrahil’s second son to make his way to the front of the room. He quietly discussed something with the two of them, then at a gesture left the room again while King and Steward spoke quietly for a moment, then the King ascended again to the throne and resumed his seat as Faramir crossed to speak briefly with his uncle, then returned to his own place and again sat.
The Lord Aragorn Elessar rubbed his eyes briefly, then gestured to the guards surrounding the three remaining Umbarian Lords to bring them forward slightly. “It appears, my lords,” he said with a note of fatalism in his voice, “that faithlessness is widespread in your party. One of your two servants has come to report on what he has overheard you say, not that it is anything we had not already divined. He wished to see all or most of you imprisoned and himself rewarded with your confiscated possessions, and riches with which to purchase himself an estate in Umbar on his return.
“His information is petty at best, and as I said, we had already divined all of it or had learned more here this day than he had to report. Also, his willingness to betray you grates upon me as it has those who have dealt already with him. We have no reward to give to him, not that his faithlessness has endeared him to our people here. We do not receive him to our land, but must restore him to you to do with as you see best. The one thing that I demand is that if he has earned death for his actions, you are not to carry out sentence here within our borders. If you do, I will know and will have your ship stopped ere it leaves our waters and you will be returned here, and you will be charged with murder. Do you understand?”
Wasnior, Dorath, and Beslor looked at one another with alarm. Finally Wasnior said, “So it shall be done, Lord Elessar.”
The King nodded. “We have prepared a treaty for the consideration of the government of Umbar. Its details are rather simple....”
The three remaining lords from Umbar had no choice but to agree to carry to Lord Marcipor and his Council what was presented them, a treaty which left those of Umbar with no right to do anything against any ship or individual or business enterprise from Gondor, Arnor, or their allies of any race; restricted the size of their ships on the rivers and along the coastlines of Gondor to those crewed by no more than twenty, none of whom could be slaves; gave Gondor and Arnor full right to exclude from trading missions and parties, embassies, and deputations any whom they chose; restricted Umbari ships from approaching any nearer than five bowflights of any vessel from Gondor, Arnor, or any of their allies of any race; allowed vessels from Gondor and Arnor free passage through Umbar’s coastal waters and safe harbor in case of need; and many similar articles.
At last the King said, “You will now be returned to your guesthouse, where a cart awaits you already to carry your luggage. You will be then escorted back to your ship, which will cast off immediately and return to your own land, escorted by one of our ships. I do not wish to see any from your government here any sooner than five months from this day. Your people had best carefully examine the treaty offered you. If you have any amendments you wish made, you may proffer them after that time. Do you understand?”
Through gritted teeth, Wasnior answered, “We understand, Lord King.” The three gave perfunctory bows, turned and left the Citadel with what little dignity they had left to them. None of them spoke any more than was necessary until they were aboard their ship again and it had entered the current of the River.
Dorath looked aft at the receding view of the White City. “I think,” he said thoughtfully, “we came off better than we might have done.”
Reluctantly, Wasnior agreed.