They ate swiftly and returned to the hall as soon as all had known the chance to refresh themselves. Benargil had given orders that fruit and cold meats and cooled drinks be offered them as they continued their work, grateful that they did their investigations elsewhere than in his own house. Wendthor followed them and sat on the benches where the public ordinarily witnessed trials, not far from where sat the Elf Harolfileg, listening as they took turns reading aloud. Not long afterward his sister Belrieth and a companion also entered in, sitting quietly not far from Lord Berevrion.
The proceedings ground to a halt, however, when they came to the place in which one of the gate guardsman who actually arrested the three young Men revealed how at last they came to know that it was indeed these three who had taken and killed the children. Bariol was reading his part. “We decided to approach the youth Garestil once more to see if he would tell us more of what he knew of this Danárion’s participation in the murders.”
Anorgil, speaking for Master Caraftion who had sought to defend Danárion, read, “So, this was not the first time you had questioned Garestil?”
“Indeed not. In fact, we spoke, I believe, with almost all of the young people who live within and immediately surrounding Destrier, most of them more than once.”
“The first time that you spoke with Garestil, what did he say?”
“That he did not know who it was who had killed the children. When we asked him if he knew if Danárion or Carenthor frequented the area where the children’s bodies were found, he told us that no, he did not, for he and Danárion lived on the west side of the village while Carenthor alone lived on the east side. He said that he rarely went to that side of the village, only traveling the road southeast on a weekly basis when he went with others to Hevensgil to learn what the potter there would teach them of tumbling.”
“And he gave you no idea as to who might have killed the children, that first time you questioned him?”
“Well, he did tell us that Leverion son of Medril, who farmed the land just west of the drainage canal, was known to frequent the ditch where the bodies were found, and that he thought perhaps Leverion might have killed the children, for he was known to be a bully toward those he saw as vulnerable.”
“Did you check to see whether or not this Leverion son of Medril could have slain the children?”
“Well, we questioned him and he said that he did not do so, and his parents said that they believed he had been home all of that evening.”
“They said that they believed he had been home? They did not know?”
“He has his own room within their house and they saw him enter into it and close the door behind him. He did not come forth until the next morning, to their knowledge.”
“Is there a window to his room that looks to the outside?”
“Have you seen this window?”
“Yes, on the day we approached his house to speak with his parents.”
“Is it a small window, a mean one that allows in little light?”
“Do you think his parents too worried for their wealth to allow for a window large enough to illuminate their son’s room properly when it is light outside? Nay, it is comfortably large.”
“And is it particularly high upon the wall?”
“Nay—it is low, and they have built a windowseat on the inside on which he might sit and work on his projects or turn and look out upon their fields.”
“Is the room high in the house?”
“No, for the house has but a shallow loft in which their hands sleep. The rooms in which the family dwells are all upon the ground floor.”
“So, it is perhaps possible that this Leverion might have left the house through the window of his room and his parents might be none the wiser?”
Erchirion interrupted, reading the words of Master Fendril: “Why all of this focus on one who has not been charged with this crime?”
At Harolfileg’s indication that Caraftion had responded, Anorgil continued, “I but seek to show that young Danárion here was not the only one who might have been abroad that evening, and that one known to taunt and threaten those he sees as weaker than himself might as easily have done this deed—indeed, more easily, for he lives alongside the canal and knows both sides of it well.”
Harolfileg said, “You spoke next, Master Enelmir.”
Enelmir gave the Elf a suspicious look, then read his own words. “What does it matter what others might have done when they are not themselves charged with the deed? It is of little import whether or not Leverion son of Medril might come or go as he pleases in secret when it is not he who was charged with the crime.” He looked up and nodded to Anorgil to read Caraftion’s returning words.
“But if it can be shown that others might indeed have brought the children to the ditch and slew them there----”
“But no one’s words place Leverion in the woods to slay the children, but all know that Garestil was brought to place himself, Danárion, and Carenthor there.” Enelmir’s eyes shone as they must have done when he spoke so to Caraftion of Pustien during the trial.
“Yes,” said a new voice as one who had entered the hall unremarked arose from where he’d sat on a bench at the back and came forward. “Yes, so it was that Garestil was indeed brought to place himself there—brought to do so by the very ones who questioned him!”
Enelmir leaned forward, his expression cold as he looked on the Man who’d interrupted the reading of the transcript. “What do you do here, Caraftion?”
“I came to lodge a copy of a will I’ve just finished seeing executed in the archive here. And you and these now replay the travesty of a trial that was given those three unfortunate youths? For what purpose?”
“You are unhappy with the results of that trial?” asked Berevrion.
Caraftion glared at him. “Had you been here, would you not have been so, sir? To see three young Men—nay, not even men grown as yet—accused and convicted of deeds it cannot be shown even happened as proposed by Master Fendril who presented them as if they were proven fact?”
“He did not prove his case, in your view?”
“How could he? He told all that the crime was done as a rite intended to please and enrich the Nameless One with the power raised from the children’s deaths, and so all believed it to be. But what Garestil himself said indicated that there was no ritual enacted at all—that the three children merely chanced upon the three youths as they sat secretly drinking liquor stolen from the farmer Medril’s storehouse, and that the three youths for no reason at all fell upon them and beat and savaged them until they were senseless, then threw them yet living into the water to drown.”
“Wait!” Erchirion said, raising his hand. “They were drinking ale stolen from the storehouse of Medril, the father of this youth Leverion that you suggest might actually have killed the children?”
“Not ale, but brandy distilled from the wine he presses from his vineyard.”
“And the farmer reported the theft of the brandy?” Imrahil’s son looked to Enelmir in question.
“Yes, it was reported to the chief constable for Destrier, who investigated the theft and forwarded the report of his investigation here to Anwar for my consideration.”
“And do you have this report in your keeping?”
“I gave it to Master Malthor, who saw it filed with all such reports.”
Berevrion turned to the archivist. “If you would bring it?”
In moments Malthor had returned with the report, which at Enelmir’s reluctant nod he presented to Berevrion. The northern lord read it carefully, set the sheets in order, and placed it neatly to one side. “On what night did the children die?”
Enelmir answered, “Two days before Midsummer, a year ago, on the night of the full moon.”
“But the liquor was found missing three days prior to that, according to this report.”
“Who stole it?”
“Is it not obvious?” Enelmir asked. “Danárion and his companions did so!”
“Three days before they intended to drink it? Where did they hide it in the meantime?”
“Who cares where it was hidden? Is it not enough that Garestil admitted that they had stolen it?”
“But Malthor here has told us that Danárion did not care for Garestil’s company. Why would one as dismissive of those of lesser intelligence as Danárion has been said to be suddenly go against his own bent and steal liquor from a farmer in company with the likes of Garestil, particularly when they did not live on the eastern side of the village as did the farmer? Would they not have been more likely to have stolen such drink from one on the west side, or from the parents of the girl that Danárion was said to be courting?”
It was obvious that Enelmir had never thought to entertain such a question. Caraftion’s lip twitched as if he were pleased to see Enelmir discomfited in such a manner. “Perhaps,” the magistrate suggested, “it was Carenthor who suggested they steal from Master Medril.”
“Was Carenthor one who spent much time in Garestil’s company?” asked Erchirion. “Did he also travel to Hevensgil to learn tumbling?”
“Carenthor was to have been apprenticed to a woodwright, to learn the carving of wooden screens and shutters. He was skilled enough at reading and writing, but he had no interest in tumbling.” It was Caraftion who answered the question. “He told his counsel and me that he had played with Garestil when they were themselves small boys, but that he had little to do with him now that they were older, and so Garestil told me as well.
“And why should they spend time with one another?” he continued, turning to glare again at Enelmir. “They were both educated and had thought to be apprenticed to become artisans of one sort or another, while Garestil will most likely continue to aid in the roofing of homes and byres for the rest of his life—that or other unskilled work.”
“So, Carenthor’s family was not poor.” Berevrion looked between Enelmir and Caraftion.
Enelmir eyed him somewhat uncertainly. “They were not so poor as to be considered in poverty, as was Danárion’s household at the time. They had almost saved sufficient money to pay Carenthor’s apprenticeship fees. And then,” he added, again with a sniff, “they wasted their savings on hiring one to represent their son.”
“A waste indeed,” Caraftion sighed, “considering how little Pardronë did on their son’s behalf.”
“And who paid you?” asked Bariol, obviously curious.
“Paid me? I was appointed to serve Danárion, and received only a small stipend to do so, paid for from the public fund. Those who came to speak on his behalf did so without pay, also, most of them paying for their own travel and lodgings.”
“How small a stipend?” asked Erchirion.
“Two silver crowns.”
“Two silver crowns? For all of the work that you did on their behalf?” Erchirion appeared aghast at Caraftion’s nod. “In Belfalas and Dol Amroth those who are appointed counsel to those who are accused of criminal acts are paid that much per week! Why, we pay our servitors more than that!”
“My lord—I would remind you that Anórien is not a rich province,” Enelmir objected. “And in the last few years we have had to increase the number of soldiers we have fielded against assaults from both east and west—and north. We have not the treasury to spend on providing counsel for those who will not support themselves.”
“And how should three youths of such age as these support themselves?” asked Erchirion. “Would you have accepted them in martial service to Lord Benargil?”
“When they cannot provide weapons with which to fight?” Enelmir demanded. “We would have to arm them ourselves….”
“It is what we have had to do in the southern provinces.” Erchirion’s voice was cold.
“How about the fisherfolk of Langstrand?” asked Malthor. “I am told that those who came from Langstrand to Minas Tirith were mostly lordless men who came armed with boathooks and fishing spears.”
“Langstrand is far poorer than is Anórien,” Erchirion responded, “and they have no standing armies as do those here north of the White Mountains.”
“Nonetheless, we are not a wealthy province,” Enelmir answered. “And Anwar cannot afford to purchase great stores of arms to provide for all of our soldiers. Yet we have patrolled the roads and fields and protected Gondor from enemies from all sides.”
“Enough!” Berevrion’s tone demanded obedience, and both the son of the Prince of Dol Amroth and the seneschal of the Lord of Anwar turned their attention to him. “We of the north have had to scrape and make do for centuries to protect ourselves and those who live within our ancient borders as best we can, and we appreciate how difficult it is for those of restricted means to meet all of the needs of their peoples. So, you tell us that had Carenthor and Danárion come to offer themselves as soldiers they would have had to provide their own arms?”
Berevrion sighed. “Each household within our villages has ever sought to provide its sons with a sword and bow each, although when that is not possible then our village heads and the Chieftain himself have sought to make up the lack. And even the people of the Shire have stores of bows and arrows for their Hobbitry at Arms, although they do not teach the use of edged weapons. But who are we to question the means of other places when we are not privy to their ledgers of expenses?”
Enelmir and Erchirion exchanged glances rather than full apologies, but it was plain that the argument was now to be considered to have been put to rest.
Berevrion looked through the copy of the report on the theft of Master Medril’s brandy once more, pausing briefly on the second page. “It says that the storage building was secured with a lock, and that no signs were found of that lock having been tampered with through the use of pick or other tools.”
Enelmir nodded. “Yes, whoever stole the liquor was most clever, and made certain that the lock was secure before leaving.”
“But how,” asked Bariol, “could the lock be secured afterward unless the one who did so held the proper key at the time?”
“Does it matter?”
“Of course it matters!” Caraftion said. “If the door was locked and must be unlocked and then secured anew with a key, then it is obvious that whoever took the liquor must have gained access to the key in order to do so.”
“Yet it says here that Master Medril led the constable to the place where he keeps the key, and that it was properly on its hook.” Berevrion showed them all the page where this had been written.
Berevrion’s guard said from his place by the door, “Then it must have been one within the household who took the key and thus the liquor. Were either Danárion or Carenthor friends with any who dwelt within Master Medril’s household and served upon his farm as hands?”
“That is worth considering, Faradir,” Berevrion noted. “Do any of you know the answer to Faradir’s question?”
Enelmir shook his head. “No, those who served on Master Medril’s farm at the time are all said to have been older Men, none of whom tended to spend time with mere youths from the village.”
“Did this Leverion ever spend time with the three accused of the murder?” asked Anorgil.
“No,” Caraftion answered him. “He is a rather wild youth, and he has his own friends among those who farm the lands outside of the village. He would not spend time with those who live within Destrier unless they would buy drinks for him in the alehouse.”
Berevrion drew his hand across his eyes. “And just why is it that I find myself thinking that it is this Leverion himself who stole his father’s liquor? It says here that his sister indicated he might well have done so, although she would not repeat this accusation to their father.” He dropped the report upon the bench beside him in disgust.
Faradir from his place by the door indicated, “If it were one of our own, we would first look to the older sons and their companions.” To that Berevrion nodded. The guard added, “Nor would they agree to wait three days before drinking what they’d taken.”
The matter was left at that, but it was obvious that those of the deputation were convinced that none of the three accused of the murders had anything to do with the liquor stolen from Master Medril’s storehouse.
“Come, Master Caraftion, and sit by me while we continue,” Berevrion said. “So far I have found nothing but questions as to how it was that it was determined that these three youths had to be the ones who murdered the three children. Were the youths familiar with the boys?”
“No. The families of the three boys live on the southeast side of the village, and were near neighbors. The parents of two of the children were sufficiently wealthy to provide ponies for their sons to ride, which is a sign of status among those who live in that portion of the village.”
“And where would the children ride their ponies?”
“There is a common grazing land south of the village, across the Highway from the village gate. It was the habit of those children who had ponies to exercise their animals there each afternoon when their lessons were completed and their chores done.”
“And where were the ponies stabled?”
“There is a common stable adjacent to the village wall where most of those within that neighborhood kept the horses and ponies they owned, and each family saw to the upkeep of its own beasts.”
Berevrion again nodded as if this was a familiar enough arrangement to him. “And each paid a fee for the upkeep of the stable and for their share of the feed and hay their animals require?” he asked. At Caraftion’s agreement, he said, “Then the children of this area would not need to pass through the portions of the village where the three youths lived on a regular basis.”
“No, they would not. They might encounter one another in the marketplace, but that would be probably the only place where they might have met at all, save that they might have seen Carenthor at the free school. The parents of the children were known to one another, but although the mother of one of the boys had been friends to Danárion’s mother when they were younger, they had had nothing to do with one another since Danárion’s mother married his father, none approving of the marriage due to the nature of the Man.”
Berevrion sighed, and reached again for the transcript of the trial. “We were sent by the King to investigate this case, to learn whether the justice dispensed in the name of the realm was done properly. So far, however, I find little that I may tell my Lord Kinsman was properly done.”
“And you have come from Minas Tirith?”
“I am Berevrion of Tirith Fuir, and am from Eriador, from the lands held by the northern Dúnedain. I came south with the Grey Company to the aid of our Lord Aragorn, the Heir to Isildur, who preceded us at the side of the Ringbearer. Now that he is the King Elessar, he sent me here, accompanied by these.”
“And he wishes that true justice be done in the realm’s name?”
Caraftion closed his eyes and pursed his lips. “The Powers be praised!” he whispered fervently.
Enelmir was bridling. “And to suggest that we here in Anórien care nothing for justice--” he began.
“Was justice truly sought here, or merely an end to an investigation that had so far led nowhere, and the removal of one seen as a disturbing influence who might be acceptable as a scapegoat to those who knew of the case?” demanded Caraftion.
“Enough!” Berevrion’s voice again indicated he would not accept further argument. Enelmir and Caraftion glared at one another, but desisted obediently. Berevrion looked to the rest. “Let us continue.” He looked inquiringly at the Elf.
Harolfileg glanced at the text before him. “Master Caraftion spoke next.”
Anorgil glanced uncertainly between lawyer and magistrate, cleared his throat, and read, “So, he said that he suspected that Leverion son of Medril might have had something to do with the murders?”
“Yes, he did.”
“And you then let him go back to his own home?”
“Yes. It appeared he had nothing further to tell us.”
“Yet you questioned him yet again?”
“Yes, three weeks later.”
“Because we thought he might be persuaded to tell us yet more of Danárion’s involvement with the murders.”
“So you went to his home?”
“We had his father send him to the village hall.”
“He is not yet of age. Did his father come with him?”
“No, for we told him it was not needful.”
“And why did you feel that it was not needful for him to come with his son?”
“We believed that the boy would speak more freely if the father was not there.”
“They feared that when they began to press him to say what they would have him say that the father would speak against them, more like,” Caraftion muttered loudly enough for all to hear. At a stern look from Berevrion he grew quiet once more.
“When did he arrive at the village hall?”
“A mark after sunrise.”
“What was it that he told you?”
“That he had seen the murders--”
“No! When first he entered the hall that day, when first you sat down facing him, what did he tell you?”
“That he knew nothing certain, but that he had heard rumor that Danárion had committed the murder in company with a farmer’s son from Hevensgil. It was a rumor that had been told to us by others, and one we had already dismissed.”
“And what proof did you have that it was not true?”
“We had questioned the youth from Hevensgil and he told us that he had not done this thing.”
“Did you find evidence he had not left his home that evening?”
“Well, no, we did not.”
“Yet, on the authority of no more than his own word you decided that this rumor was false?”
Enelmir closed his eyes and shook his head. “I do not know why I allowed you to continue this questioning,” he said, opening his eyes again and turning his gaze on Caraftion.
Caraftion caught the cautioning glance from Lord Berevrion and held his tongue.
Bariol, who was reading still for the guardsman, continued, “There was no reason to disbelieve him.”
Anorgil murmured, “Sweet Valar! What reasoning!” He sighed and resumed the dialogue. “So, what did you do next?”
“We determined to do the water test.”
“What is this?” asked Harolfileg.
“It has been found that in many cases if one questions an individual while he holds a finger in a basin of water, it can be told whether he speaks truly or falsely, as when he speaks truly his finger will hold still, but when he lies his finger will move, causing the water to ripple.”
“And what if the person is frightened?” asked Harolfileg. “One may be speaking truly and yet may be frightened, and in such cases the finger will move in the basin in spite of the truth of what is said.”
Erchirion said, “It is for this reason that we do not rely on the water test in the south. Those who are fearful or weak or whose limbs are not steady at the best of times simply cannot remain still enough for the truth to be divined from the water. And we have found a few who are persistent liars can hold their fingers steady no matter how outrageous the lie being told. Not even my uncle when he was Lord Steward put faith in it as a proof of either truth or lie.”
Berevrion was nodding. “But then it has been told me that Lord Denethor was skilled in the reading of Men’s hearts, as is true also with your cousin, Prince Faramir, as well as our Lord Aragorn Elessar himself. Such individuals do not need to put reliance in such questionable means of divining truth as this water test. Now, let us continue with the reading.
Bariol repeated the sentence last spoken by the guardsman: “We determined to do the water test.”
“Who interpreted the water test?”
“Hanalgor of the gate guard.”
“Does he regularly interpret this test?”
“No—the constable Amdir does this, usually.”
“Why in this case did Hanalgor conduct and interpret the test?”
“He knows more of the practices of those who traffic with the Enemy.”
Now again the reading stopped as all within the deputation exchanged looks between them. “And just how,” demanded Anorgil, “does the gate guard for a village such as Destrier become knowledgeable about those who traffic with the Nameless One?”
“He has studied this for many years, and has read many of the writings of Lord Macardion on the subject….” Enelmir appeared surprised at the laughter from Lord Berevrion and the cry of outrage from Erchirion.
“He has studied the writings of Macardion of Dor-en-Ernil?” demanded Erchirion. “Considering how he was unmasked by my great grandfather, grandfather, and Lord Ecthelion when he came to Dol Amroth as his father’s emissary to investigate how it was such as Macardion could name my grandfather’s sister as one who worshipped the Dark Lord, I am surprised that anyone within Gondor would dream of taking aught he wrote on the subject seriously at all!”
“I do not understand…” Enelmir began but did not finish.
Berevrion was shaking his head. “My Lord Kinsman has told us all of what was told to him by Lord Adrahil and Lord Ecthelion of the investigation of Macardion of Dor-en-Ernil, and I had the chance before we came away to read their final reports from the Great Archive in Minas Tirith. Macardion of Dor-en-Ernil sought to make himself important by pretending to knowledge he did not have of how it is that Sauron drew power from the deaths of others. It was not for nothing, after all, that for many years when his stronghold was in Dol Guldur on the southern boundaries of Mirkwood that Sauron was known as the Necromancer. And he did have established the Red Temples in those lands where he ruled or had strong influence where sacrifices were made in his name, and from which he did indeed derive strength.
“Reports of those rites were sent to the attention of the rulers of Gondor, reports that Aragorn, when yet a young Man, confirmed on his own witness when he visited such a temple in Umbar.”
“And how did one from Arnor know what was told to Lord Ecthelion or Prince Adrahil, or come to visit Umbar?” Enelmir’s own demand bordered on the strident.
Berevrion smiled. “Our Chieftains have, from time to time, come south to Gondor and have even gone further, always in secrecy, to learn how things are done here in the southern kingdom and to learn more of the enemies of us all. When he was young it was deemed right that Aragorn should do so, and he was given some years to do his own investigations of how it was here in Gondor and elsewhere. So it was he sojourned in Gondor and Rohan, Umbar, Rhûn, Khand, and Harad, and later probed into Angmar, as well as visiting many lands in Eriador and Rhovanion so as to make himself knowledgable of those who would be his subjects, his allies, and his enemies—or so we hoped, and so it has proved. He knew Thengel, and met Théoden first when he was but a child. He spoke with Lord Ecthelion and Prince Adrahil, and even was known to Lord Denethor at the time. And while in Umbar he managed to visit Sauron’s temple in the capital and saw sacrifice offered there, and has stated that it was obvious from reading one of Macardion’s Book of Shadows that the Man had no knowledge of what the true rites were.
“Macardion was brought to Minas Tirith to stand before Turgon himself, and was unmasked as a fraud and agitator. Ecthelion tried to see all copies of The Book of Shadows destroyed, but at least two copies survived, one in Dol Amroth itself and one here in Anwar.”
“I know! And I bade Lord Benargil to cast it out!”
“Which he did—taking it to the rubbish heap behind the Keep with his own hands, or so he has told me.”
Enelmir straightened, obviously feeling vindicated.
Malthor sighed and rubbed at his beard. “Then how was it that such as Danárion came to hold such a thing, there in Destrier?”
Berevrion’s laugh was sardonic. “Can you not think how it was he came by the copy he had? Lord Benargil himself has told me that a guardsman from Destrier sought often to have the youth held either in the gaol in the village or in the madhouse here in Anwar; and how, when he was released from the madhouse here he would look to see what had been disposed of from the Keep into the rubbish heap that was of any worth that he might bring home for his own use or that of his mother. And at least one of his times here in Anwar closely followed the day on which Lord Benargil sought to dispose of his father’s copy of The Book of Shadows.”
Enelmir’s face went first pale, and then flushed furiously. “He purposely sought out what I bade Benargil to destroy?” he blustered.
“I doubt he deliberately sought it out,” Berevrion said reprovingly. “I doubt that he had any foreknowledge of what he found or what it might mean. He but found a book, and one on a subject on which he might have been curious. Has not Master Malthor indicated that the young Man had interest in the written word and in the older records and collections of tales kept here?”
Caraftion began to laugh, and his laughter became increasingly deep. “And so--” he said, but had to begin yet again: “And so it is that you have managed yourself to corrupt the youth of the region, Enelmir, by insisting that Lord Benargil purge it from his library!”
Several of the others joined him in his laughter. At last Berevrion bade them to calm themselves, and they continued the reading, although it was obvious that Enelmir was brooding on what he saw as an insult to himself and his lord.
Malthor now read the part of the guardsman. “He knows more of the practices of those who traffic with the Enemy.”
“And did Amdir have any knowledge of what was learned from this questioning of Garestil of Destrier?”
“Yes, for he stood by, as did several others. Although he protested that Hanalgor did several things wrongly.”
When they finished with the testimony of the guardsman regarding the test by water, Berevrion set down the full transcript he had with marked distaste. “I would wish,” he said, “to stop here for the day. Perhaps a good meal and an evening of diversion will make it easier to resume on the morrow.”
“It is nearly the time for the evening meal,” Enelmir pointed out. “I was told that a good white fish will be served to us this evening.”
Berevrion grimaced. “A white fish, eh? I find my stomach would prefer either venison or perhaps a good joint of beef.”
“There is an inn where they serve a good roast of beef,” suggested Anorgil. “I could lead you to it.”
Berevrion nodded in relief. “That would be good. Master Enelmir, if you would forward my apologies to Lord Benargil? Master Malthor, will you take responsibility for the records and have them ready for us to continue tomorrow morning, perhaps at or just following the first mark after dawn?”
In the end all within the deputation chose to go with the northern Lord, who invited Master Caraftion to join them. And so it was that a much disgruntled Enelmir returned to the Keep, preceded by Benargil’s son and daughter, to take the evening meal with his lord and friend.