As he sat scrunched up beside Frodo in the bed listening, Mister Frodo’s head leaning on his shoulder, Sam was glad the villains had been taken to the prison and he didn’t have to look at them. Especially since, according to Moonrise, they weren’t a pretty sight, Beleg being covered from head to foot with bee-stings, and Raegbund having suffered several severe bites…from what he himself had taken at first to be a stone dog, but he had soon gotten a very nasty surprise.
“Lainadan the miller and his son appeared in their wagon and drove us to the prison after Ebbtide and Crystal and Whitegull and I overcame them,” Moonrise said. “If you listen closely, you can hear bells ringing out there and people cheering. So…Northlight, what do you wish done with them this time, little brother?”
“I don’t wish to be the one to decide this time,” Northlight said in a voice that seemed to come from far away. “I shall leave it to the Queen. I suppose she will make them serve out the rest of their sentence, and then some. Which suits me fine.”
“Raegbund is in a considerable panic,” Moonrise chuckled, “for it seems the dog was foaming at the mouth. Now he’s certain he will grow fangs and a tail, and die a horrible slow death of thirst. I believe it was Whitegull’s idea to make it foam—she has rather a wicked sense of humor, you know, and our friend Raegbund was trying to get a bit cosy with her, if you know what I mean. He’ll be told the truth eventually, but I think it won’t hurt at all to let him stay terrified for a bit. And I doubt he’ll believe anyway, so he'll get to squirm a while longer.”
Sam and Anemone took turns watching over Frodo all next day, with Northlight hovering about. Amaryllis was allowed in, and although much subdued, she kept them posted about what was going on, and was therefore in her element, saying how nice it was to be allowed outside the Palace walls for a change. Then she said Silivren and Castiel had already gone home and WHAT was she going to do NOW? With only boys and little children to play with?
“What about Lúthien?” Anemone said.
“She's BIG,” Amaryllis pointed out. “She only cares about boys. She's obsessed with them. It's positively embarrassing. I just don't understand her anymore....But look what she gave me.”
She extended one arm, showing a silver bracelet with a carnelian rose set in it. Lúthien had brought a bag full of old bracelets she didn't wear any more, nine of them, and gave them to the girls to divide up among them.
“I let the others have first choice, because I was so horrid,” Amaryllis said virtuously. “Here are the other two bracelets.” She took them from her pocket and held them out for the admiration of all. “I'll probably give them to Lindariel and Menelwen,” she said. Lindariel and Menelwen were the daughters of her mother's friend Emleth, who had married a fisher from one of the villages and lived there with him and their children, but she did come down frequently to visit with her parents and grandmother, her brothers and their families, and her old friends. “That is, I tried to let them have first choice, but I so fancied this one, Castiel saw the longing in my eyes and let me have it. I already miss her.”
“We will be going home soon also, my Bud,” Frodo said to her, where he lay back on a soft long chair in the garden, covered with a thick blanket. “It will be safe for us now.”
“I don’t think Lord Elrond is going to allow you to be moved yet, M—Frodo,” Sam said. “And I think you need lots more rest before you’re ready to go.”
“Agreed,” Northlight said, looking troubled. “Amaryllis, you may go home with your mother if you like—your Uncle Moonrise will take you. But I must stay here for a while longer.”
“Absolutely not!” Amaryllis exclaimed in indignation. “Do you actually think I would desert my granddad in his hour of need? The idea!”
Frodo had to laugh a little at how much like Sam she sounded. Northlight grinned proudly, and a little sadly.
Late in the afternoon a group of Elves came to request an audience with the Queen. There were three adults and four children, and all were ushered into the private study of Lord Elrond, the Queen being with her counselors at the prison. Frodo was brought in, at his own request, although Sam thought it might be too much excitement for him, when he heard the people were here pertaining to the prisoners.
Ionwë was brought in also, and Anemone as well. The guests consisted of a dark young elleth and two black-haired children, a boy about Little Iorhael’s age of so and a younger girl, and a fair-haired couple with two little girls, holding tightly to each other’s hands. All seemed to wish to speak at once, so Lord Elrond suggested they come in one at a time to present their cases. Lady Celebrían led out the fair-haired family, leaving the dark lady with the two youngsters.
“My name is Calathiel,” the lady said immediately. She had the kind of thick, blue-black, incredibly rich wavy hair seen only on Dark Elves, together with the pale-gold skin and haunting almond-eyed beauty. Sam could well believe she was kin to Raven and Lady Ríannor, looking at her. She wore a simple gown of a deep wine color, in the old style, and Sam guessed she was from the village.
“Won’t you sit down, Lady Calathiel,” Lord Elrond said. “You have come a long way, have you not? What are the names of your children?”
“I prefer to stand, thank you,” Calathiel said with a touch of haughtiness, Sam thought. He could hardly help but notice Ionwë looking rather hard at her. “And these are not my children, save inasmuch as I have had the care of them since the deaths of our parents long ago. This is my brother Sadron, and my sister Mirwen. May I ask what is to be done with the two who were captured yesterday?”
“It has yet to be decided,” Lord Elrond said. “May I ask what is your case against them, my lady?”
Calathiel glanced around the room, her dark eyes meeting with Ionwë’s for a moment, but no recognition lit them. Then she looked back to Lord Elrond, drawing a deep breath.
“They raped me,” she said at last, all in a rush, and a collective gasp went up from all other occupants in the room. “More than once. I saw them, and although the dark one was considerably…altered, I had no trouble to recognize him. He threatened to kill me and the children if I told. He caused me to live in constant terror for years. I certainly hope that you do not intend to release him at any time now.” She turned to look straight at Northlight. “I suppose you thought you were being merciful by not having them put to death. But all you did was allow them to terrorize others far and wide. And there were probably others besides myself.”
“Here now, my lady,” Ionwë spoke up, as Northlight stood looking stricken, “do not blame him for aught! If anything, the fault was my own.”
“No, I am to blame,” Northlight said. “Had I not spared them, this poor maiden would not have had to go through such an ordeal. But I was not of the sort who could order the death of any.”
Calathiel tightened her lips. Then said, “I suppose I am not blameless in the matter. The one they call Beleg said I led him on, and it’s true that I was once compelled to use my physical charms in order to survive, after my father was killed and we were left penniless on the streets to fight our way. That was in Middle-earth, and I thought things would be better here, where I was able to find respectable work in the Inn. But it seems my past has caught up with me, and he somehow saw it, although I know not how.”
“You should have told ME,” Sadron spoke up. “I would have killed them. I’d have struck them down in five seconds. I could have done it, too.”
“My lady,” Frodo said, sitting up a little, “you should have given yourself and the children into the custody of the Queen from the beginning. They would have given you protection and sent out hunters to capture the wrongdoers. Let us not stand about assigning blame, but rather work together on putting things to rights. And I would ask you to begin by giving yourself into the care of the Queen for the healing of your heart and mind. Of course he had no right to take you by force, no matter what your past.”
“The Prince is right,” Lord Elrond said, and Sam looked proudly at his former master, at the same time feeling he ought to take him out of here. It would be too wearing on him, listening to all this unpleasantness. “I would invite you to stay here and allow my mother and wife to minister to you in mind and body. They have had much experience in doing so, and have proven effectual time and again.”
Tears welled in Calathiel’s eyes and spilled over, and in Mirwen’s also.
“It was horrible what they did,” the older elleth said as Ionwë took a handkerchief from his pocket and gave it to her. “I would have them both dead. I would have the Island and myself purged forever of their poison. But I think it will be inside me forever, even if they are given what they deserve.”
Lady Celebrían took her gently in her arms and led her from the room, the children following, hand in hand. Sam looked to Frodo once more. Frodo took off his eyeglass and rubbed it absently on his shirt-front, his hand shaking slightly.
“Are you all right, master?” Sam whispered. “I think we should take you back to the garden, or to your room.”
“No no, not yet,” Frodo said, his old stubborn streak rising once more, as the fair-haired couple and the two little girls were brought in. The smaller one’s eyes looked very red, and the older one kept an arm tightly about her. “I will be all right. Truly.”
“My name is Bragohil,” the male elf said, “and this is Narylf, my wife, our daughter Doriel, and our niece Limwen. You must pardon both Limwen and Narylf if they seem upset, for they have recently suffered a tremendous loss. I suppose you have heard of the house fire in the village of Isodan?”
“I have indeed,” Lord Elrond said, “and we have long since sent out a party to investigate it. Do you know aught of it?”
“I know aught,” Narylf said stepping forward, “for it was those beasts who set the fire, killing my sister and her husband. It is extremely fortunate that their little daughter was staying with us that night, or she would have burned along with her parents.”
“I am greatly sorry for your loss, my lady,” Lord Elrond said as Frodo’s eyes widened in horror and Sam felt his own must be doing the same. “But how do you know it was they who set the fire?”
“Because my husband and his father and some of his friends have already investigated,” Narylf said, “and they found prints in the ground made by boots worn by that creature. That’s how I know!” Her face was flushing up good.
“Why would they have wanted your sister dead?” Northlight asked her gently.
“I cannot understand why anyone would have wanted her dead,” Narylf said, her lips trembling and her eyes welling up. “She was the loveliest and gentlest girl, and never harmed a soul. All loved her. And…”
“Who was her husband?” Ionwë asked suddenly, and it seemed he had a hunch, from the look of him.
“Rilion was his name,” Bragohil spoke for his wife. “What know you of the matter?”
“How did he look?” Ionwë asked. “About my height, fair hair, blue eyes, a mark on his left cheek in the shape of a tiny bean?”
“Why, yes,” Narylf said, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. “You knew him then?”
“It was Istuion,” Ionwë nodded. “He was with us…that night. He must have threatened to tell…and so they killed him. I wonder why they did not kill me also. I suppose they thought I was not brave enough to tell. But Istuion was different…he was a reckless fool. He was the youngest of us, not quite of age. He was very young, very fun-loving, excitable…and yes, he could be stupid. But he was never really a bad fellow at heart.”
“I remember,” Narylf said, taking her own handkerchief as Bragohil lead the little girls from the room, and Northlight took her arm and gently steered her to a chair, “Meril telling me that Rilion had confessed to her, just before they were wed, that he had done a bad and foolish thing one night after having too much to drink, and had spent some time in prison. What it was he had done, she never told me. But he was always good to her and little Limwen, and took the best care of them, and worked hard to provide a decent living for them. Yes, I always sensed that there was something amiss, but did not think to connect it with what happened that night….”
“I knew Meril,” Frodo spoke up. “Did she live in the Orphans’ Home?”
“Why, yes,” Narylf said. “She spoke of you often. I brought her to stay there when I came to the Island—I came on the same ship as you, although of course you do not remember me. But well I remember you, Ringbearer. And I had my sister with me, who was only a child then. I had the care of her from the time she was very small, when our parents were killed in war-time, and I had to go in service and could not look after her, so I brought her to live in the Home, after seeing what a comfortable place it was, a happy place--at least, as happy as an orphanage possibly could be. She liked it there, and did not wish to leave, even after I married and was able to have her come live with us. But she would not come, so I let her stay there until she was old enough to go into service herself.”
“Yes, I do remember her,” Frodo said, rubbing his eyeglass on his shirt-front once more. “I am so sorry for what happened. She was a lovely, happy-natured, charming little lass, and all were fond of her. I it was who saw to it that she had suitable employment when she came of age. But I lost track of her after many years, and heard neither of her marriage nor of the birth of her child.”
“She was never deserving of what happened,” Narylf said with her eyes tearing once more, “and no more was Rilion, or Istuion, although I will admit I did not approve of him at the first. But he eventually proved himself a good husband and father, and a likable fellow himself, and so he won me over.” She looked pleadingly at Northlight. “Please do not think too harshly of him. I know that he always deeply regretted what he did, and he paid for it with his life. And he was never deserving of such a fate.”
“I do not think harshly of him, my lady,” Northlight said, “and I would never have wished such a horror on him. He paid for it with nine years of his freedom, and should not have had to lose his life. Beleg and Raegbund are monsters—even more than I once supposed. They should never have been released.”
“It is indeed unfortunate that they were,” Lord Elrond said, “and had it been up to me, I should never have released them. If indeed they were responsible for the deaths of your sister and brother-in-law, my lady, then we will leave it to you to decide what is to be done with them. It will not bring anyone back, but if it will ease your mind in any way at all, I will allow you to make the decision. Please give it some thought before you decide.”
“I have decided already,” Narylf said, her eyes dry now, and harder and bitterer than any steel and any ice and any grief. “I would have them burn…the way they burned my sister and her husband, and left my niece an orphan, as Meril and I were once left orphans. Let the punishment fit the crime. I would have them burn.”