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Murder Most Foul
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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18
When Those Sworn to Justice Fail their Purpose

When Those Sworn to Justice Fail their Purpose


Those of the King’s deputation broke their fast early, sent word regarding their plans to question the guardsmen and constables and their scribe to Master Nerwion, and as the bell rang the first hour after dawn they returned to the village hall.

Although they’d made no public announcement of their intentions, it appeared that a goodly portion of the village and even some outsiders intended to learn what was to be revealed this day. Many had already gathered outside the hall, and once its doors were opened they filed inside purposefully and took seats upon the benches for spectators. Once those were filled, others began to stand about the edges of the room.

Amdir brought those who’d spent the night with Master Nerwion to the hall. Finding a crowd still trying to work their way in at the front, he led his charges around to the back, and at Berevrion’s direction, he left Vendrion at the table where the families had sat the previous day and saw the others to the rooms where the records for the village were kept.

When at last the main room and the adjoining kitchen were filled to capacity, the village patterer took a position at the door to relay what was said to those who remained outside, and the questioning finally began.

“You are Vendrion the market guard?”

“Yes, my lord.”

“And you are the one who spotted the shoe that floated in the ditch where the bodies of the children Nedron, Gilmar, and Bredwion were hidden by whoever killed them, or so we must suppose?”

“Yes, my lord.”

“And why did you choose to search there?”

“Well, my lord, I’d been through the common field where the children ride their ponies several times and through the woods along the canal and the stream where they tend to play, alongside everyone else who was searching. We were beginning to search elsewhere now—through the fields and woodlots of several of the local farms, in byres and haylofts and the like. And I decided perhaps to look at the woods where people go berrying in the proper season. I mean, I went berrying there, too, when I was a child. So I went out to the road and walked down the old bridle trail, keeping an eye out as I went. Had my sister’s son Cuellion with me, and he was looking, too, on the other side of the path. At last we came to where the bridle trail approaches the gully, and we turned to walk along it, looking down at the water, and I saw the shoe there, floating on the surface. When I saw the shoe I sent Cuellion back to the village to find who was available from the constables and gate guards to come back with them, and I stood watch until they came.”

“And who was it who found the bodies?”

“Constable Amdir found the first one, trying to lean over to fetch out the shoe, only his feet slid and he fell in, and up popped the first body, all white amidst the murk of the water. It was eerie. And with it came a second shoe.”

“And who found the bodies of the others?”

“That was me, my lord. When we’d found the first one we stood and argued a time as to what to do about it. He was all for leaving it just floating there until Master Avrandahil could come to see it where it was found, but I felt that wasn’t properly respectful, so at last I got down in the water and lifted it out.”

“Where did you place the body?”

“On the bank, my lord, on its side.”

“Why on its side?”

“The way the boy’d been tied, I couldn’t lay it on its back, and it didn’t seem respectful to put him on his face. So I set him on his side, lying there, looking toward the water. Then I started to feel around to see if I could find anything else, and found the clothes, all in a bundle, and began pulling them out of the bundle and laying them out on the bank, setting them one on top of the others.”

“Why did you do this?”

The Man shrugged. “Didn’t know if there might be something there that might tell us about what might have happened, my lord. When the last of the clothing was laid in the pile, I got down on my hands and knees so as to better to feel for what might be hidden in the mud, and crawled about. I found the rest of the shoes, and then crawled down the ditch toward the canal until I found the bodies of the other two boys, both lying face down in the mud, their rumps somewhat raised because their knees must be bent by the way they were tied. I lifted them each out of the ditch, laying one on the south bank of the ditch and the other on the north side.”

“Who was it who first mentioned the name of Danárion as the one who might have killed the children?”

“That would have been me, my lord.”

“When?”

For the first time Vendrion paused as if uncertain. At last he said, “After I’d laid the body of Gilmar on the bank, my lord. We were all there, looking down at the boy, seeing how there was blood dried so thick in his hair and the way he was tied and all. And I knew that it was Danárion who had to have done this.”

“Why?” And when he didn’t answer, Berevrion prodded him, “Was he known to be violent or threatening toward children?”

“What? Violent or threatening toward children? Oh, no, my lord, except for those who repeated what their older brothers said about him—threatened to beat my nephew Cuellion a time of two when he’d said out loud that Danárion was one who tried to call upon the Dark Lord.”

“And did Danárion seek to call upon the Dark Lord?”

“Well, everyone knew he’d tried to do this.”

“Did you ever hear him call upon the Dark Lord?”

“Well, no, I hadn’t, but he’d told me he’d done so.”

Berevrion leaned forward. “He told you this?”

“Yes, my lord. It was after the fruiterer came to me saying he couldn’t find a crate of apples. I thought of Danárion immediately, you see, for he’d taken food he’d found lying about before.”

“Food lying about? In the market?”

“Yes, I caught him one time taking bread from the discard bin that the baker had behind his stall.”

“Did the baker complain?”

“Well, no, he didn’t, my lord.”

“But you saw Danárion taking it.”

“Yes, my lord, he was stealing it straight out.”

“He didn’t steal it!” said one of the spectators, who stood up, his face flushed. “I told him he could have it.”

Berevrion shifted his attention to the Man. “And you are?”

“I’m the baker, my Lord. Danárion had asked me if he could have some bread, explaining he had but a brass on him at the time, but the loaves I had for sale were three brasses each. So I told him he could take a loaf or two from the discard bin. None had mold on them, but they were two or three days old, and none of the matrons would take them for they were gone hard.

“Only this ass,” and he gave Vendrion a marked glare, “must keep his eyes on Danárion all the time, him and Hanalgor, and accuse him always of stealing or wanting to steal. Never mind that Leverion and his group would walk off with a loaf fresh from the oven and not leave a single brass for it and neither would do a thing about it. No, leave the rich farmer’s son be, but ever be following the drunkard’s wife’s son about, accusing him of what he didn’t do!”

“And you did nothing to try to help the boy?”

“I complained to Master Nerwion about it, but he told me he could do nothing to stop it, that they were merely doing what they were paid to do. But why Hanalgor is always coming into the market to do the job of Vendrion and some of the others I couldn’t say—he’s supposed to be a gate guard, after all. All Danárion ever did was to try to be helpful, not like some others I could name. My lord,” he added, realizing he might be thought disrespectful.

“Thank you, Master,” Berevrion told him. “Please sit down now so that we can continue to question Guardsman Vendrion. Now,” he said, returning his attention to the market guard, “you say that a crate of apples went missing and you immediately thought that Danárion might have stolen it?”

“Yes, my lord.” His voice was rather subdued.

“Had Danárion been in the market that day, hanging about the stall for the fruiterer?”

“Well, no.”

“Where did you find him?”

“Waiting near the free school for Carenthor to be done with his lessons, sitting upon the low wall about the place. He was eating an apple.”

“And you were certain it was one of the missing apples?”

“Yes, my lord.” Vendrion’s voice was regaining its surety.

“So, what did you do?”

“I accused him of having taken the apple from the fruiterer, but he said not—that his aunt had given it to him from her own tree. When I said he was lying, he asked how I thought he’d gotten it, and I said I was certain he’d taken the crate missing from the fruiterer’s stall, and he asked how he’d have done that, seeing that he’d not been in the market that day. And I said I didn’t know, so he said that he must have called upon the Dark Lord in order to get it for him….” His voice tapered off as Erchirion began to laugh aloud, as did several of the spectators.

Berevrion sat looking at the Man for several minutes as the laughter died down. “And this,” he asked rather ponderously, “is how he admitted to you that he called upon the Dark Lord?”

A woman was now standing. “Well, if he’d bothered to ask, I would have told him that, yes, I did give Danárion the apple from my tree. I often give my brother’s adopted son apples from my tree—all he had to do was ask!”

“And your brother is Targon?”

“Yes, my lord. Or, at least he was Targon. No one knows what became of him.”

He gestured for her to sit down and again pondered Vendrion. “Will you answer the question, please? Is this how he admitted how he called upon Sauron?”

There were gasps of dismay from several sides at this open naming of the Enemy, which he ignored, keeping his eyes fixed on Vendrion. The guardsman ran a finger about the collar of his uniform tunic. “Yes, my lord,” he said, his voice weak.

“Did you ever accuse him of serving the Lord of Mordor?”

After a moment, Vendrion nodded uncertainly. “On occasion, my lord.”

“And what evidence did you have of this?”

“He wore black, my lord, always black.”

“Did he wear any other colors with the black?”

“Well, he’d wear grey with it, and once he purchased a silver shirt from the seller of used clothing and he wore that until it was worn out.”

Erchirion gave quite a sigh. “Guardsman Vendrion,” he said in a deceptively calm voice, “do you know the official colors and seal for the realm of Gondor?”

“The seal’s the White Tree, my lord,” Vendrion said.

“And the colors for the realm?”

The Man’s mouth worked for a time before he finally admitted, “Black and silver, my lord.”

“The young Man wears black and silver, the official colors for the realm, and you accuse him of worshiping Mordor for it?” There was no mistaking the anger and disgust Imrahil’s son was displaying.

“But—but no others here do such things—only those who’d once been soldiers!”

Erchirion turned to Berevrion. “I cannot stand this!” he said. “I think you’d best remove him from the room until my anger fades. My own cousins have proudly worn black and silver all of their lives, as has my uncle as Lord Steward of the realm. And our new Lord King wore the black and silver armor of Elendil at his coronation, and the black and silver banner of the King was borne before him as he rode off of the ship that brought him to the Battle of the Pelennor. And this fool sees the wearing of black and silver by anyone who’s not been a soldier as somehow ominous?”

“Take him to a chamber other than where the others wait,” Berevrion said, feeling tired. “We may recall him in time, but I believe that Lord Erchirion is right and he should be allowed to think on his prejudices for the nonce.”

Amdir led a shaking Vendrion, who was assiduously wiping his face with a kerchief, away, and Wendthor rose to approach the door to the room where the other guardsmen waited. At the door he turned enquiringly toward Lord Berevrion, who directed, “Call for Constable Calderon.”

“I swear,” Erchirion was muttering as Wendthor opened the door and leaned inwards, “they would have arrested Boromir himself for wearing the black and silver of his uniform as Captain-General of the Host!” Berevrion could only empathize with the Man. He thought furiously of how he should start the questioning of the constable so as not to end up with a similar case, with nonsense uttered about how wearing black might have shown that Danárion indicated he was fascinated by Mordor’s dread Lord.

Once Caledorn was seated at the table, Berevrion asked him, “When were you aware that the youth Danárion was considered seriously as one who might have taken part in the murders of the three boys who were killed?”

“Immediately upon the finding of the bodies, my lord.”

“And how did you learn this?”

“I was there when Amdir fell into the ditch and the body of Gilmar was revealed, my lord, and heard Vendrion name Danárion as the one who must have done this.”

“On what evidence did he make this pronouncement?”

“My lord?”

Does the fool not understand what evidence is? Berevrion wondered. “How could he have determined that Danárion must have been involved in the deaths of the children?”

The Man appeared puzzled that the question even needed to be asked. “Well,” he began slowly, as if he must search for some answer that would make plain his reasoning, “all have known for some time that Danárion has been interested in subjects that are best left alone.”

“Such as what?”

Caledorn shrugged. “Well, subjects such as Elves, my lord. Who in his right mind wishes to invoke the presence of the Fair Folk?”

Berevrion risked a sideways glance at Harolfileg, and saw that the Elf’s expression appeared almost as if he were contemplating a new variety of alder tree he’d found growing in a stand of cedars. Erchirion leaned forward and set his chin on his fist, as much to still his tongue, the northern lord suspected, as to examine the Man for any signs of irony or sarcasm. Lyrien was sitting quietly, shaking her head almost imperceptibly, while Wendthor, who’d only just retaken his seat, leaned back and stared up at the ceiling. Bariol was listening quietly; Anorgil merely continued taking down the questions and responses, his face failing to give any hint of how this answer might have struck him; while Caraftion appeared intent on divining Berevrion’s own reaction. Searching Caledorn’s face once more, Berevrion could detect no signs of guile or hidden meaning there. “You have never rejoiced to see a file of Elven warriors coming to join forces with you against the enemy, then,” he commented, and noted the surprise to be seen on the constable’s face. “I assure you that I have been repeatedly gladdened by such allies when my patrols have been forced to engage troops of orcs, trolls, and evil Men.” Yes, this was clearly a new idea for the constable to ponder!

He tried again. “Was aught found within the woods or the gully or the ditch that could be said to belong to the youth Danárion?”

Caledorn shook his head. “No, my lord.”

“Does he wear boots of such distinction that one could say, ‘Look, there, that footprint was left by Danárion’?”

“No, my lord.”

“Does the youth have a reputation for slaying children out of hand?” He found he could not keep the sarcasm from rising within him.

Caledorn appeared affronted, “Of course not, my lord! If it were so, we should have taken him in charge long ago, and not only after three children died at once!”

“Has he a history of assaulting anyone intending to seriously wound or kill him?”

“Oh, yes, there was the time he came to the free school to challenge the new suitor for the girl he had sought to elope with. He threatened to cut the tongue of the young Man in two!”

“What he really said was that he wanted to slit the young Man’s tongue for the foul serpent he’d proved himself,” commented one of the spectators, and Berevrion recognized the teacher, once again seated in the audience. “A common enough threat for one person to hurl against another when feeling betrayed, don’t you think?”

Berevrion felt his lip twitch. “In Eriador we’d threaten to scratch the other’s eyes out,” he said. “But the sentiment is much the same, I suspect.”

The teacher nodded. “It does sound more ominous, does it not, when one changes it to cutting the tongue in two? If it were the northern phrase, would you attempt to change it to remove the orbs with one’s fingernails?”

There was general laughter amongst the onlookers, and Berevrion detected a slight relaxation of the general attitude of the crowd. He said, “As you told us yesterday, Danárion was easily overpowered by the young Man he attacked, was he not?”

“Yes, he was, and he got the worst of the encounter, I would say. The other boy had not even a scratch.”

Berevrion returned his attention to Caledorn, who appeared somewhat angry now. Apparently he felt he had lost face in front of the village. He’d best be handled carefully. “Did you see the fight between them?” he asked.

“No, my lord.” The answer was stiff.

“Who was it who told you that Danárion had said this, then?” He kept his tone sympathetic, and he saw Caledorn relax slightly.

“Borongil, who was captain of the guardsmen and constables.”

Was? He is not captain any longer?”

Caledorn shook his head. “No. He has left us.”

Danárion’s aunt spoke up. “He is in the prison in Anwar, my lord. He was caught setting up a hurdle on the bridge over the canal and charging toll to those not from the area to cross over it.”

“And he kept all of these tolls for himself, then?” At her nod, Berevrion sighed as he returned his attention once more to the constable. “Did Borongil observe the fight between Danárion and his rival, then?”

“Yes, my lord, he did. He was come to the free school himself to bring away his son at the end of lessons, for they were arranging for an apprenticeship for the boy and were to meet with his new master. He saw Danárion waiting in the shadow of the next building and foresaw he had no good intentions in mind.”

“He did not step forward to ask the youth his business, or seek to stop the fight once Danárion stepped forward to confront the other youth?”

“Well, no, my lord. He could see that Danárion was outmatched….”

There was another moment of silence that Berevrion finally broke. “Did Danárion carry a knife or any weapon?” There was a shake of the head. “Then his threat was merely bluster rather than violence intended?”

After a moment Caledorn answered, “So it would seem, my lord.” It appeared to be a difficult admission for him to make.

“What happened as a result of this fight?”

“Danárion was taken in charge and brought to the gaol, although the wardens of the gaol refused to keep him more than overnight. So Hanalgor carried him to Anwar to the mad house there.”

The baker rose from his seat. “Yet, when others, led mostly by Leverion, have laid in wait for Danárion, they have not been stopped or arrested, even when they did so in full view of the market or gate guards. Not even when they have had cudgels to beat him with.”

Berevrion rubbed at his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose as the baker resumed his seat. “It would appear that there was a distinct double standard here, with excessively harsh justice toward Danárion for any perceived deviation from the law, while others led by Leverion were allowed to do basically as they pleased.”

“You have the right of it,” the aunt agreed, and there were what appeared to be grudging grunts of agreement from several others throughout the watchers.

“Why, Constable Caledorn, do you believe that so many of those in authority here in Destrier treated Danárion more harshly than they did Farmer Medril’s son Leverion?” He did his best to withhold any indications of censure toward the constable, and was pleased to see that this time Caledorn did not appear to take offense.

“Perhaps it was because his tongue could be as sharp as any blade, and Danárion appeared unable to keep it bridled. If he believed that someone was behaving wrongly toward him or another, he would speak out against it, always speaking of the one he criticized in the most cutting terms.”

“He did not bear well with what he perceived as hypocrisy,” added the teacher.

“I see.”

Erchirion asked, “And Captain Borongil was given to phrasing what others said in language they did not actually use?” Berevrion was pleased to see he, too, was speaking respectfully toward the constable.

Caledorn gave a wry, humorless smile. “Unfortunately, yes. Why use but one word when he could use three and confuse all others?”

“And I must assume that Danárion found such an affectation a matter for sharp words?”

“Oh, yes—you have the right of it, my lord.”

“And what kinds of criticism did the boy have for Guardsmen Vendrion and Hanalgor?”

It was obvious that Caledorn did not wish to be perceived as being critical himself of his fellows, considering how reluctantly he answered. “Well, my Lord Erchirion, he said of Vendrion that he had not the capability of following the trail of a thief even if the theft was done before his eyes and the thief wore a scarlet cape with a green lining. And of Hanalgor he said that his imagination was a dangerous faculty that could easily end with an innocent person being—hung.”

Hmm—it appeared that at the last he was beginning to appreciate that perhaps in this matter Danárion was being proved right! Berevrion sighed. He took the questioning again. “I wish to discuss the questioning of the youth Garestil. First, was he known to be a close friend to either Danárion or Carenthor?”

“Oh, no, my lord. Danárion had no patience with him; and Carenthor, though he was not unkind, had but little more. To be honest, few had much to do with Garestil save for those who were so poor they had no other friends or companions, or who found him useful to aid in doing mindless work such as thatching or digging.”

“If this is true, then why would Danárion wish for him to be present while he sought to kill three children?”

“This has puzzled us all. But, then, when one worships the Dark Lord….” He did not finish the thought, remembering the protests of the last time this had been mentioned.

Anorgil chose to finish it for him. “How is anyone to fathom the mind of one who worships the Nameless One—is this what you meant to say, Constable Caledorn?”

In low tones: “Yes.”

“Do you know how it is that people are supposed to have shown honor and worship to Mordor’s Lord?”

Caledorn glanced at the various members of the King’s deputation and licked his lips. At last he said, “It is believed that mostly they meet in secret and hold orgies in which men and women couple mindlessly with one another, and as oft with one of their own sex as with the other.”

“And this is believed to have empowered the Eye?”

“No, for it is said it took blood magic and death magic to do that.”

Berevrion exchanged looks with the clerk. “Indeed, and it was for that reason for years he was known as the Necromancer when he dwelt in exile and disguise in Dol Guldur. But why would any believe that sexual congress would show honor to such as he? Few of his sort have felt any need to indulge in such pastimes, after all, for they were not created to reproduce as do those of us counted as the Children of Ilúvatar.”

“Yet it is said that the Powers themselves have spouses, or that most do.”

“That I cannot dispute, although I do not know that they actually couple as do Men, Elves, Dwarves, or Hobbits.”

“Hobbits, my lord?”

“What are known here as Halflings or Pheriannath, and in the north as Periain. Their name for themselves is Hobbit.”

“But such do not truly exist—they are but the stuff of tales and legends.”

“Do not suggest such a thing to Master Frodo Baggins, the Lord Iorhael, the Ringbearer, should you chance to meet him, for he is indeed a Hobbit. Perhaps in Gondor people rarely meet any of different races, but it is different in the north, where we have all been forced to stand against the Enemy’s creatures, often in alliance with one another, in order to survive.”

Many present appeared to be having as much difficulty accepting that fact as did Caledorn himself, and there was a fair amount of muttering until Berevrion resumed the questioning of the constable.

“What else is believed to be done by those who worship the Enemy besides mindless coupling?”

Caledorn was obviously wracking his brain for an answer as he shrugged. “I am not certain. Garestil indicated that they would sacrifice white cats and cook them on spits over the fire and then eat them.”

“White cats? Why white cats?” asked Bariol. “Do white cats frequently go missing from the village and farms hereabouts, then?”

Caledorn appeared uncomfortable. “I am sure I don’t know, Master. There haven’t been any complaints to the constables on it….” Now he began again to appear embarrassed--perhaps, Berevrion thought, because the reality of the situation was hitting him. If no one who housed a white cat was complaining of such cats going missing, perhaps it was because such foolish celebrations weren’t really happening after all? The constable squeezed his eyes shut and hid them behind his hand.

Harolfileg spoke up for the first time this day, and his melodious voice filled the room, although he did not speak particularly loudly. “Sometimes, as has been brought home to me rather forcibly lately, what everyone knows is actually untrue.”

Caledorn’s eyes darted to search the face of the Elf, then quickly looked away and down. He said nothing.

Berevrion asked, “If it was known that Danárion and Carenthor purposely avoided spending time with Garestil, why did anyone think to question Garestil about the murders? Why would anyone assume he would have special knowledge of what Danárion and Carenthor might have done?”

“We were questioning all of the young people in the area, my lord,” the constable answered, keeping his eyes fixed ahead of him.

“Did you question Leverion, or Master Nerwion’s son Narvil?”

“Yes, my lord—we questioned all of the young people.”

“Why the young people in especial?”

“Because oft one who is young will speak of what he has done secretly to another who is young where such a one will refuse to admit involvement to adults.”

“Fair enough—that is unfortunately as true within Eriador as it is within Gondor, I must suppose. But, in the case of Garestil, who you admit is not a welcome companion to many here in the area surrounding Destrier, who will brag to him of what they have done that they wish withheld from the knowledge of those in authority? Why, of all people, would any think to make Garestil privy to such a terrible secret? More than one has told us that Garestil, like a small child, did not appreciate the need for keeping some opinions to oneself, and often embarrassed his companions by openly voicing the comments they’d intended to share but amongst themselves. Again, why was Garestil questioned?”

“I cannot say for certain, my lord. Perhaps Hanalgor and Vendrion merely believed that he could be brought to say that he knew what had happened where the rest of the young people would not?”

“Did none of the rest speak of the general belief that Danárion had been involved in the children’s deaths?”

“Oh, many did. Not long after we began questioning the youths and maidens, we began to hear such things as, ‘I have heard tell that he killed the children in company with this one or that.’ In fact, when Garestil came in to be questioned that day, that was what he told us first, that he had heard that Danárion and a youth from Hevensgil had together killed the children. It was not the first time that we had heard this, even, for at least two others had named the same one as the individual who had committed the murders with Danárion.”

“Why would Danárion be thought to have killed the children in company with someone from a different village? Did he travel often to Hevensgil?”

“Never, my lord. It was why it was not believed. Plus, the youth in question denied he’d been involved, but had his own name as to the one with whom Danárion was supposed to have killed the children. He named Leverion son of Medril.”

“Did any of the young people name Carenthor as Danárion’s partner in the crime?”

“Actually, no, my lord.”

“What?”

Caledorn’s answer was delivered somewhat delicately. “It was not believed by most of the young people that Carenthor would have been party to such a murder. To be honest, while most disliked Danárion intensely, almost all respected Carenthor and his integrity. Even if they were not friends with him, yet still almost everyone liked Carenthor, all of those who were not yet adults within the area, at least. Not even Leverion would seek to devil him as he would Danárion—he knew that no one would allow him to get away with such an offence.”

“Who did believe that Carenthor would have been party to such a terrible deed, then?” Berevrion found himself demanding.

“Not many, just Vendrion, Hanalgor, and Captain Borongil, my lord.”

“And you did not think that Carenthor would have been involved?”

“No, my lord. Not until Garestil said that he was an equal party with Danárion.”

Caraftion, Berevrion noted, had a half smile as if to say, Did I not tell you this? Shaking himself, he returned to the questioning. “And if you were to learn that a neighbor of Carenthor’s family told us yesterday that in fact Carenthor was home, caring for his brothers while their parents were with friends at the time the children are believed to have died, and that he and Carenthor together chased after and caught the family’s dog, which had dug out of its own yard, so that Carenthor could take it home, would that surprise you?”

Caledorn straightened, and a half smile appeared on his face. “This is true?”

“Indeed it is.”

“But why did he not say this before?”

“Did anyone think to ask him? Or would the likes of Vendrion or Hanalgor—or your Captain Borongil—have believed him were they to know he’d spoken up in support of Carenthor?”

The constable was now clearly considering the question seriously, and for the first time truly questioning the truth of the case. His mouth worked for a few moments before he said, as if to himself, “I certainly believe about the dog—we’ve had complaints enough about it from the neighbor. But why did they not question the neighbor whether or not he saw Carenthor about his home that evening?”

“A good question,” remarked Erchirion.

“Who was it who decided that the trial by water be used on Garestil?” Berevrion asked.

“Captain Borongil and Hanalgor, my lord.”

“And what caused them to decide to do this?”

“I do not know, my lord.”

“We have been told that Hanalgor himself oversaw the test. Is this true?”

“Yes, although Amdir objected.”

“Why did he object?”

“First, he is the one who usually conducts the trial by water. He went to Minas Tirith itself to learn how to do so, and----” He stopped, apparently thinking more deeply about what he’d been about to say. At last he began again. “Hanalgor says that Amdir is too proud of his own skill in conducting this form of divining truth, and is unwilling to allow others to usurp what he sees as primarily his own office. He also has said that Amdir is too lenient with those he questions, and that he refuses to accept that the water does not lie. He says he has seen the fingers move and the water ripple and yet Amdir has refused to admit that at the moment the one being questioned was lying.

“But,” began Amdir from where he stood behind the deputation, “there are times----”

Berevrion interrupted, “I would ask, Constable Amdir, that you refrain from responding to that accusation until we question Hanalgor himself. It is enough now to know what the Man has said in the past that reveals what he actually thinks to be true.” He turned back to Caledorn. “Do you think as he does?”

Caledorn appeared troubled. “I did not think so when first he began to say it, but in time—with repetition----”

The northern lord sighed. “Yes, what is repeated again and again does seem to take on an aura of truth of its own, even when we know in our hearts that it is wrong. Do you think it due to Hanalgor’s ambition or arrogance that he became convinced of this and so sought to convince all others?”

“Perhaps, my lord.”

“A good part of the reason why the test by water cannot be used to fully prove guilt in and of itself,” Erchirion explained, “is because anyone who is frightened or highly emotional or physically weak may find his hand shaking uncontrollably, even when they speak the clearest truth; and there are a few who can convince themselves while they speak that what they say is the truth, even when all know it for the lie it is. It is for this that those who conduct trials are required to find clear and convincing evidence that what has been said is either true or false, evidence that does not rely on what has been said but exists independent of it. And this holds for statements that purport to be confessions as well as what is stated during a water test.”

Caledorn was clearly disturbed as he turned his eyes to meet those of his fellow constable. “This is true?” he demanded.

Amdir’s voice was steady as he responded, “Yes, it is even as Lord Erchirion has said. So it was told to us, again and again, while we learned the manner for conducting the trial by water. Do you remember two years past when Mistress Anhildë was convinced that her brother Amborn had taken her milk cow from the field to add to his own herd, and she demanded we use the test by water on those who work for him, and the one Man’s hand was trembling so throughout the entire trial? I knew that he had been seriously ill not that long before and that he was still weak in his early recovery. She would have insisted I charge him with taking the cow had I gone solely by the results of the trial by water; instead, what he said of how the cow had been acting the last time he’d seen it caused me to order the search of the canal bank, and at last it was found, dead in the brush north of the beam that bridges it, dead apparently from eating vetch.”

Caledorn appeared troubled. “Yet at the time Hanalgor would have had you arrest the hand and perhaps Master Amborn as well—until you ordered the bank searched.”

“Even so.”

“Were you there during the questioning of Garestil during the test by water?” asked Berevrion.

“Yes, I was.”

“Was Amdir?”

“Yes, for only he is licensed to invoke truth over the basin.”

Berevrion turned to Amdir for explanation. “There is a ritual we are to use when we bring the basin of water before the one being questioned. It helps to calm many, and increases their belief in what is being done. I have refused to allow Hanalgor to do this part, for in his very tone of voice he tends to frighten those being questioned so that their hands begin to shake before he even begins. By saying he must have license to do the ritual, I have forestalled him from using the trial on many without supervision. It used to be that if I questioned his findings I had only to speak quietly with Master Nerwion and he would temper Hanalgor’s impatience. But more and more recently Master Nerwion has ignored my concerns, saying that Hanalgor is a capable guardsman with the interest of the populace of Destrier in his heart, and that I am too cautious.” Amdir’s expression was a trifle grim.

“Was the questioning done properly, in your eyes?” Erchirion asked him.

Amdir shrugged. Berevrion sensed by his stance that the answer was no, but that he did not wish to answer so before so many within the village.

“How is the questioning supposed to be done?” asked Caraftion.

Amdir addressed the room at large. “The one who questions is to be calm and, as much as is possible, respectful toward the one being questioned, allowing no hints of eagerness or disbelief to be displayed in face or voice. One is first to ask a series of questions to which all answers are known so as to find how it is that the one being questioned reacts when telling the truth. Then the person is asked to deliberately lie in response to certain questions. When the actual questions regarding the incident being investigated are asked, one is to approach the key questions more than once, from different points of view, and intersperse them with other questions that are focused on what is known to be true of the incident and the person being questioned. All questions and responses are to be recorded at the time, and the questioner is to note the movement of finger in water. The actual questioning is supposed to take place for quite some time and involve many questions, and repetitions of many of them, particularly the key questions and some that are actually neutral and to which the answer is known so as to better discern the truth. Those who are telling the truth often grow calmer as the questions are repeated, and their later responses tend to be more easily discerned; those who are lying, however, tend to grow more anxious, and more belligerent in their answers the longer it goes. Although this is not true for all—one must take into account the nature of the one being questioned, after all.”

Berevrion thought for a time, and asked, “How many questions did Hanalgor ask Garestil?”

“Ten, my lord.”

“Did he approach the key questions from more than one direction?”

“No, he asked each but once.”

“Could you see the movement of the water as Garestil answered?”

“No, my lord. Hanalgor would not allow me to stand where I could see this.”

“So, you had only Hanalgor’s own word as to the youth’s response?”

“Even so, my lord.”

Erchirion turned to Caledorn. “Is it even as Constable Amdir has said?”

Caledorn nodded, “Even so, my lord.” And he added, “And now that I understand better how it is that the questioning is supposed to go, I believe that Amdir was right to protest the questioning then.”

“Have you been trained in the techniques for conducting this test?”

“No, my lord. Amdir would have me sent to Minas Tirith to study with the one appointed by the Master of the Guild of Lawyers to teach it, but with the Enemy’s threats growing stronger by the day such travel was no longer safe; and now Master Nerwion has complained the village has not the treasury to send me so far when perhaps Amdir and Hanalgor could teach me.”

“Did Hanalgor study with one licensed to teach the skill as did Constable Amdir?”

“No, and for much the same reasons, my lord. He has known only what he would learn from Amdir here.”

“Where are kept the records of the questions asked and Hanalgor’s reading of the responses?”

“They are here in our archive—or so they are supposed to be, my lord.”

“Were you there when Garestil began to confess to having been present in the commission of the crime?”

“No, for after the administration of the trial by water Amdir and I were dismissed, and we were told that this was the matter for the guard, not for mere constables.”

“Was a record made of the questioning that was done?”

“Only after he admitted he had indeed been present, my lord. It was over two marks before Vendrion came out and sent me to fetch Master Veredorn to record the youth’s confession.”

“And where is the record of Garestil’s confession kept?”

“Which one, my lord?”

All went quiet at that, and all eyes were considering the constable closely. Berevrion asked slowly, “There is more than one record, or more than one confession?”

“Both, my lord. On reviewing the first confession, Master Nerwion saw too many discrepancies and told Hanalgor that he could not sign a warrant for the arrests of Carenthor and Danárion on the basis of it, much less letters patent to search their homes or the farm of Master Amborn. So they went back to question him over again that the questions be resolved.”

“Master Amborn? Why would they search his farm?”

“Danárion was known to spend much time there, and they thought perhaps that he might have hidden the clothing he wore during the murders somewhere in the barns or byres. It ought to have been quite bloody and filthy with mud from the gully or the ditch, after all….”

*******


Another constable and two other guardsmen, one a market guard and one a gate guard, were questioned, although they had less to say than did Caledorn. But it was plain that from the beginning Hanalgor, Vendrion, and Captain Borongil were certain that, due to his alleged interests in the dark arts and the Dark Lord, Danárion was the one who most likely had led the assaults on the children. Indeed, the first time Danárion had been questioned was by Captain Borongil and Vendrion the day after the children’s bodies were found. Yet, there had been a proper investigation begun, and these guardsmen had questioned Bredwion’s father Rindor several times, although they had been advised by Hanalgor, who had attended the free school with Rindor, that he most likely had not been involved in the death of his adopted stepson, and they were not to probe too deeply into what he had been doing just prior to the murders of the children.

Hanalgor and Vendrion had gone to the alehouse to question the barman about the stranger seen in the privy. They went there after Master Avrandahil had finally arrived with a proper wagon to fetch away from the ditch the bodies of the children to his surgery in Hevensgil, where he was to examine them and advise all of aught that might tell more of the circumstances under which the children had died. The barman had saved much to show them of what was left by the stranger, including an eating knife he’d apparently dropped from his belt, but they had told him that there was naught to be learned from all of this and bade him to dispose of it. Did the barman still serve in the alehouse? Oh, no—after Captain Borongil was arrested and sent to Anwar, the barman had been accepted as a gate guard himself.

Yes, others had been questioned as well as to what they knew of the movements of the children and where they might have been at the time of the murders, including two known drunkards and one known to have been perhaps too familiar with other people’s children. They had even questioned a Man from Hevensgil who had spent time in hard labor after molesting children in and around that village, although it seemed that Hanalgor and Borongil had been more interested in what he might tell them of the thoughts of one who did this than in his own possible involvement in the murders of the children. Borongil and Hanalgor had assured them that this Man could not have been involved in the murders, but they had no idea as to the proofs that either had seen of his innocence. But after the first two weeks following the murders, Hanalgor, Borongil, and Vendrion had focused primarily on the questioning of the maidens and youths of the village and surrounding farms rather than on any adults who might have been involved or who might have seen the children or anyone behaving suspiciously.

Yes, Rindor had been questioned more than once, as had some others who had spoken or searched with Rindor during the time after it was realized the children were missing. Was all of his time accounted for? Well, perhaps not. There was the time he left the field where the others were searching to go home to change his clothing, and then when he went back to the village to fetch a lantern, one he’d failed to bring back with him, claiming he’d been distracted by an encounter with a friend of Dírhael’s who thought he might have seen the children shortly before they disappeared.

Yes, Gilmar’s father had also been questioned, and Amdir had been appointed to see to it his time was all accounted for. All had been amazed at how thorough he’d been in his investigation, and all were convinced that there was no way in which Master Tevern could have been involved in the death of the three little boys.

As for Master Vangil—well, none was certain when Vangil might have been questioned. In fact, if they recalled correctly, Vangil had left the village to visit with family in Anwar the day after the bodies were found, leaving his wife and daughter with her family. And when he returned it was to tell all that he’d found a new home for his family outside of the village, as tenants to Master Beslor, whose farm was west of the common grazing ground. They’d not stayed there long, however; Mistress Nessa had not liked it there and had insisted they return to the village, and they’d taken a different house to live in near where they’d lived at the time the children went missing. He must have been questioned by either Captain Borongil or Hanalgor, however. But none of the guardsmen or constables had been assigned to follow through on the statement of Master Vangil to see where he might have been at the time of the children’s deaths—again, Captain Borongil or Hanalgor must have done so—it was what was supposed to be done, was that not right?

*******


Master Veredorn, who served as recording scribe for the officials of Destrier, was called. Yes, he’d been called to record the confession of Garestil son of Galdor, and had been summoned to this hall where the youth was being questioned between the second and third mark after noon. He’d been there in the morning to record the first statement at the first bell, and at that time Garestil had said only that he had heard that Danárion and the youth from Hevensgil had committed the murder. Captain Borongil had suggested that the trial by water be administered, and had directed that Hanalgor see to it rather than Amdir, even though Amdir was the one who had been trained in proper procedure in Minas Tirith. As Garestil was under age, they had to get his father’s permission to do so, and that meant they had to find where he was working that day, which had turned out to be in the blacksmith’s forge, where he’d been working the bellows. Yes, he’d taken down the questions and answers, while Hanalgor wrote down the indications he felt the water told him. Then he’d been dismissed, and he’d gone home to help his wife with the gardening until he’d been called back to record the confession. He’d remained at the hall then while Vendrion and Borongil went out to speak with Master Nerwion about obtaining warrants to arrest Carenthor and Danárion. He’d then been required to take down the second set of questioning as well as they did their best to clarify answers that Master Nerwion had seen as questionable in the original confession.

He’d spent a good deal of time in the hall recording the questioning of a good many folks, mostly adults the first week or so, and mostly youths and maidens in the last two and a half weeks before the arrests. Yes, he’d recorded at least two interviews with Master Rindor, and the interview with Master Tevern, and the interviews with the three mothers, and those of several others who were considered possible suspects. No, he’d not been asked to be there when the barman at the alehouse was questioned, and he had never been present when Master Vangil was questioned. In fact, he wasn’t certain that Master Vangil had ever been questioned….

Berevrion found that very troubling indeed. “Where are the records of these interviews kept, Master Varadorn?”

“The official ones are here in our own archive, although I have had to submit copies of those in the files verified by Master Nerwion to Master Enelmir’s court in Anwar for the use of Master Fendril.”

There was something in the way that Varadorn said this that caught at Berevrion. “The official records are in the archive? Are there copies that are not considered official?” Then he realized. “Do you make a scribe’s copy first?”

Ah! There was definitely a look of relief on the scribe’s face—he’d wanted for that question to be asked! “Yes, I do. And usually those are also kept in the archives, but I stopped filing mine there a year and a half past, when I found that those copies were being removed from the records along with some of my formal copies intended for the archive, and that others were being put in their place.”

“What?” demanded Anorgil and Erchirion simultaneously.

For a moment the scribe didn’t respond, appearing to weigh his answer closely before he presented it. At last he took a breath, engaged Anorgil’s eyes, and explained, “I was asked to—change—details in the transcripts after I’d filed them. I would be told, ‘We questioned him again and he admitted to this, or that he lied about that. Please change it—we do not wish to have to submit two or three different documents that in the end lead to the same conclusion.’ I am not supposed to do this—this was drilled into me by my master when I was an apprentice to Wendriol, who had this position before me. I was never to change the wording from what was given. If it was deemed necessary to question the person anew, there was to be a new record showing the new questions and answers. When I told them I had taken an oath to record faithfully what was said and only what was said, Borongil and Hanalgor grew wroth with me, but then merely shrugged. Now the new transcripts would have been copied by the official scribe for Hevensgil, and always the new answers would replace those that I had recorded. I spoke of this with Master Nerwion, who did not appear to understand the reason for my concerns, for he merely asked me why it should matter as long as the final answers were there.”

“So, now you keep your scribe’s copies in your home?”

“No—not in my home—in the home of my sister. I feared they would search my home to take them if I kept them there.”

After a few moments to digest this, Anorgil said, “This is a grave deviation from both law and custom, my Lord Berevrion. To find that Master Enelmir and Master Fendril were insisting that the portions of the trials that were conducted with the juries absent from the court be deleted from the official transcripts was troubling enough, for sometimes the judge may have been wrong in what he refused to allow said before a jury. But this is a serious offense, for it allows for answers taken under duress to be substituted for what was said freely. And if the questioning was not conducted before such a witness as an official scribe, then who is to say that the amended answers were truly given by the person questioned to begin with?”

“I see,” Berevrion said. “Master Veredorn, do you have all of your scribe’s copies for the questioning done in this case?”

“Yes, my lord, I do. And I made a second copy of each formal transcript I originally made as well of those I must copy that were made by anyone else and have kept those as well.”

“Why?”

“In case I should be asked why my name is not on the records submitted to Anwar, my lord. I would have proof that I do not falsify transcripts.”

“Bring them to us at Master Normandil’s home tonight. I will have Faradir, who serves as my official guard, accompany you to see to it that the records get into my keeping properly.”

“Yes, my lord!”

Erchirion asked, “You say that this has been happening for at least a year and a half?” At Veredorn’s nod, he pursued the question. “What changed within Destrier that led to raiding of the village’s archives?”

“It began just after Borongil became Captain for the guards, my lord. It had been expected that Amdir would follow Captain Anorthion when he retired, but instead Master Fendril prevailed upon Master Nerwion to appoint Borongil, who is from a village near Amon Dîn. Borongil was brash—and, as I believe you have learned by now, corrupt.”

“So we have indeed been advised. Who is captain of the guard at this time?”

“No one so far, my lord. Many would like for Master Nerwion to confirm Amdir in that role at last, but Hanalgor and Vendrion have campaigned for him to consider a different candidate. Of course, Hanalgor wishes that office for himself.”

Berevrion turned to look at where Amdir stood behind him with new appreciation for the Man’s forbearing attitude and his integrity. “We will be speaking with Master Nerwion. Constable Amdir!”

“My lord?”

“Who was it who sent you to Minas Tirith for your training?”

“Master Lossothion, who was Master of Destrier before Master Nerwion, my lord. He died some six years past. He was quite elderly when he died quietly in his sleep. He was over a century in age, I believe.”

“Most likely of Dúnedain breeding, then,” Erchirion hazarded.

“Which Nerwion is not,” Anorgil noted.

Berevrion nodded. “One thing more before we dismiss you, Master Veredorn. Which time do you think that Garestil son of Galdor was telling the truth—when he said that he had heard Danárion and the youth from Hevensgil had committed the murders, or when he said he saw it done?”

“It is not for me as an official scribe to make judgments on what is said—merely to record the words, sir.” But, after a pause, he added, “When Captain Anorthion or Constable Amdir questioned anyone, always they would merely ask the question and allow the one questioned to answer on his own. They might prod if he would not answer, or rephrase the question to get a more detailed answer or if they believed he might be telling less than the whole truth. But they always did their best not to suggest what answer they desired to hear.”

“And such was different with Captain Borongil?”

“And with Guardsmen Hanalgor and Vendrion, my lord.”

Berevrion dismissed the witness, sending Faradir with him to fetch the files Veredorn had kept in his sister’s home.

*******


After a break for luncheon they finally faced Hanalgor. Before he was called into the room, Berevrion counseled both his fellows and those who filled the room to not allow themselves to be provoked by what the Man might say. “We already know that he is filled with prejudices and preconceptions that many will find offensive. At this point I would prefer that we merely allow him to air them all without comment. We are here to learn how he thinks, not as yet to seek to correct him. Is this clear?”

All indicated their understanding, and he noted that Harolfileg drew back so that his own face was now in shadow. He nodded his appreciation to the Elf for his forethought, and signaled to Amdir to call the gate guardsman into the room.

“I understand, Guardsman Hanalgor, that you are considered to be rather an expert on the ways of the Enemy. How did you come to this knowledge?”

That question, Berevrion noted, served to allow the Man to puff himself up, and he began to speak—at length.

He’d become aware of the Great Enemy when he was but a child, and was warned from his earliest days regarding the Dark Lord’s many perfidies. His grandsire had himself been considered an expert on the subject and had much to say on what would draw the attention of Mordor. When he was twelve his grandsire had died, and the family lost the farm on which they’d resided, and so they’d moved into Destrier. As a young Man he’d gone to Amon Dîn to serve in the garrison there, and had come to know several who had become aware of the history of Macardion of Dor-en-Ernil, who a few generations back had fought Mordor’s influence in southern Gondor with such distinction. Some of his closest associates had come north to Anórien, bringing with them many of his writings about how to recognize those who had become enamored of the Dark Lord and contaminated by Mordor’s taint. While serving at Amon Dîn he had read all he could find of the histories of the Nameless One and how he caught others under his spell.

“And you have read many such books?”

“I have read every work about the history of the Enemy that has been written!” Hanalgor declared.

“Have you read Sephardion’s The History of Númenor, or his Dissertations on the Temple in Armenelos?” asked Berevrion. “But they are dry reading, I must admit, as he tended to be most long-winded. Oh, but I must apologize—I fear I have interrupted you. How about Mithrandir’s report on his findings of the situation within the tower of Dol Guldur that led to the official recognition that the Necromancer was indeed merely Sauron in disguise?”

It took but a look at the guardsman’s face to recognize that none of the titles named were familiar to him at all. Erchirion’s lip twitched. “I was unaware that Mithrandir had made a written report regarding the situation within the tower of Dol Guldur. Is it a work that might not have made it into the archives of Gondor?”

“I believe that he offered a copy to your Lord Denethor. I read it in the libraries of Imladris, although Gandalf also spoke to us as the captains and lords of the northern Dúnedain about that visit within the Keep of Dol Guldur some years ago.”

Erchirion nodded. “My grandfather and Turgon both had a number of reports from the Faithful within Umbar on the building, administration, and rituals of the Red Temple that the Enemy established in the capitol there, as well as similar reports from those who investigated the Red Temples in Harad and Far Harad, particularly that in Thetos.”

“Aragorn managed to visit the Red Temple in the city of Umbar, and had his own reports from Harad and Rhûn as well as Angmar. The records made of these make grim reading. And apparently Adrahil and Ecthelion allowed Gandalf to bring copies of the reports they had north where they might be made available to Men and Elves there. My Lord Kinsman has insisted we all become conversant with these.”

“Your Lord Kinsman?” asked Hanalgor, obviously quite confused.

“My Lord Kinsman Aragorn son of Arathorn, the Heir of Isildur, who on the first of May was crowned the King Elessar Envinyatar Telcontar of Gondor.”

“But he made reports available to Elves? To creatures of the Enemy?”

Erchirion’s voice became decidedly cool. “Creatures of the Enemy? If they were indeed creatures of the Enemy, then why did orcs, well known to be truly creatures of the Enemy, waylay the party of Nimrodel, with whom my own noted ancestress Mithrellas traveled south from Lórien to the ancient Elven haven of Edhellond to seek passage to the Undying Lands? After all, my own city of Dol Amroth itself was named for Nimrodel’s beloved Amroth, with whom she was to have sailed to the Uttermost West. Were not Nimrodel, Amroth, and Mithrellas all three Elves? Was not Elros Tar-Minyatur, the founding King of Númenor from whom both the houses of Elendil and Húrin sprang, himself the son of Eärendil and Elwing, both of them children of marriages between ruling houses of Elves and Men at the time? Our own new King was even raised in the house of Elros’s brother, who chose to live in keeping with the ways of Elves, while Elros chose to live and die as a Man. Do you seek to impugn the foster father of our King himself as a creature of the Enemy?”

Berevrion’s eyes were no warmer than were those of the son of Prince Imrahil. “Every Dúnadan has within him some of that heritage, and at least traces of Elvish blood. And know this: the choice as to whether to live as Man or Elf was made to Elrond and Elros because they chose to fight against Morgoth, the teacher of Sauron the Deceiver and the Accurst. And there is not an Elf remaining within Middle Earth who has not fought against Sauron himself with every fiber of his being. A strange thing to do, don’t you agree, for those you would seek to name creatures of the Enemy? And while we fought against those of Sauron’s forces he sent here to besiege Minas Tirith, Elves and Dwarves and other Men were defending their own lands against the armies he sent to the edges of the Golden Wood, the great Woodland Realm, Esgaroth and Erebor, the Iron Hills, the settlements of my people in the north, and Imladris itself.”

Harolfileg rose, and Hanalgor’s fascinated gaze was drawn to him, a figure he’d not recognized until now as being foreign. “Yea, I am an Elf, a creature many here seem to believe somehow evil. No, I am not as you are; but think of it in this way—I see you as being far different than I am.

“Do you truly believe that we of the Great Wood have ever sought to honor Sauron the Accurst, Sauron the Deceiver, Sauron the Cruel, particularly as he has sought to despoil our lands and to destroy us as surely as he has sought to do to your people or to the Dwarves? His creatures took Isildur’s city and defiled it, destroyed Khazad-dûm for the Dwarves, and did the same to us, taking the site of our Lord’s former seat of power and destroying all that had been beautiful there, delving deep to create the dungeons of Dol Guldur, and practicing foul magics there intended to draw the life forces out of all that his people could entrap to help him recover his former power and might.

“And it has ever been his will that the Free Peoples of Men, Elves, and Dwarves, not to mention lesser known creatures such as the Onodrim and the Periannath, should come to fear and distrust one another, for as long as we avoided one another and sought to fight him solely on our own he could triumph against us all! Only when all worked together was he brought down at the last! The Fellowship held representatives of each race, and the Ents joined the alliance and contained the threat of Isengard so that the rest could face Mordor itself! The Heirs of both the North and South Kingdoms were each members of the Fellowship of the Ring, as were the Heirs of a King among Elves and a Lord among Dwarves, and the Heirs of the two hereditary leaders of the Halflings of the Shire and the one the other three tell us was most likely to have taken their third seat of power as Mayor and his esquire. And because these all held true, Mordor is no more, and Sauron is defeated, and this time cannot rise again until the ending of the world. It will be the evil inspired by Men that will be the greatest threat against which those who follow us must struggle, although I deem it shall prove more than terrible enough in its own right.”

Berevrion held up his hand. “Enough! The Enemy is gone now, defeated by the destruction of his own artifice, and nothing any in Middle Earth can do will be able to restore him. As Harolfileg has said, we ourselves, however, can cause at least as much harm through the abuse of our own imaginations. We were not going to seek to correct you, but found we could not allow such a statement as that you just made to stand unchallenged. Do you understand?”

Hanalgor, his face white and his mouth gone dry, managed to nod.

“So, on the basis of what you did read, you considered yourself an expert on the ways of the Enemy. What works did you read?”

It took a moment before the guardsman could speak clearly, and Berevrion directed Amdir to provide him with some water. At last he said, his voice much subdued, “I read mostly the works of Macardion of Dor-en-Ernil and those of his fellows who removed here to Anórien.”

“Do you know what became of Macardion of Dor-en-Ernil?”

Hanalgor straightened himself and declared boldly, “He had enemies who sought to discredit him in the eyes of the authorities before he could finish his great work of identifying and purging the Dark Lord’s secret spies and allies amongst the true Men of Gondor!”

“And one he sought to so identify was my own grandfather’s sister.” Erchirion shook his head. “She was named so by a spurned lover, a former servant whose perfidies she’d made plain to her father and brother, and by one who hoped that by naming so blameless a person that at last the attention of the Steward should be brought to the evil Macardion was wreaking throughout the southern fiefdoms. At least his hope was realized.”

“And they destroyed a true patriot!” Hanalgor insisted.

“A true patriot? One who sought to sow distrust and fear amongst all in the land, who leaned on those who were named by others as secret worshipers of Mordor to do the same themselves? If that is a patriot, then may we be spared such examples of patriotism in the future!”

“Nor was he destroyed,” Anorgil noted. “He was sent to a madhouse in Lossarnach, where I am told he died of a brainstorm after insisting that the matrons and wardens there were lacing the food of the inmates with some noxious substance he swore they were somehow fetching from the Moon.”

“Is that what became of him, then?” asked Erchirion, leaning back and facing the law clerk.

“Yes—the chief archivist of Minas Tirith showed me the report the day before we left the city to come here—he thought I would wish to read it.”

Faradir entered the building alongside Veredorn and another, all three of them laden with wooden boxes filled with documents. These they set upon the table before the members of the deputation. Veredorn took up a folder that lay atop the box he’d carried and handed it to Berevrion. “Here is the original scribe’s copy of the ‘confession’ made by Garestil, my lord. I thought that since you would question this one, you should wish to see this in particular.” He gave a bow, and after he was thanked and dismissed by Berevrion he and his companion withdrew.

Berevrion began reading the document, passing the pages without comment to Erchirion as he finished each one. Hanalgor stood, his expression uncertain, watching until at last the northern lord finished the last page and placed it before Erchirion for his perusal when he was done with what he had already. Again Berevrion rubbed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. “You asked why Garestil went to the woods, and he indicated that Carenthor approached him to do so in order to fetch back blackberries. Is that right?”

“Yes, my lord, as I remember it that is what he said.”

“Are blackberries commonly ripe in the woods of Anórien by midsummer? I ask because in the north they do not usually ripen until some weeks after that.”

“I have been berrying in the woods the other side of the canal since I was myself a child,” commented the teacher, “and never have they been ripe before Midsummer.” Several others indicated their agreement.

“And he indicated that this request came two hours after dawn?”

“Yes, my lord.”

“What time do lessons begin at the free school?”

Hanalgor started to answer, but saw where the question would lead and closed his mouth again. Instead, the teacher said, “At the second bell after dawn, my lord.”

“And was Carenthor missing from lessons that day?”

“No, he was not, nor any day that week. Nor were the three children missing from their lessons on the morning of the day they went missing.”

“Thank you.” Berevrion turned his eyes back to Hanalgor. “If you will read the next part, please, Lord Erchirion.”

Erchirion thumbed through the pages until he found the place. “Vendrion: And what time did you arrive together at the beam crossing the canal? Garestil: At the second bell past dawn. Hanalgor: Would you not have taken some time to leave the village and arrive there? Garestil: What? Hanalgor: How long would it take you to go from your home to the gate of the village? Garestil: Oh, a quarter of a mark. Vendrion: And how long from the gate to the beam? Garestil: About a half a mark. Hanalgor: And what time did you arrive at the beam? Garestil: At noon? Vendrion: It would take you so long to walk there? Garestil: Oh, no—we arrived there at about the second mark past dawn.

“Then they come back to it again after discussing him having seen the children on their ponies riding toward the marketplace while Garestil and his companions were on their way out of the village. Vendrion: So, it was after the children were released from their lessons that they arrived in the woods where you and Carenthor and Danárion awaited them, is that not so? Garestil: I said that they arrived at about the second mark past dawn, didn’t I? Yet we have been told that the children were last seen in the evening, at the time for the evening meal, and this by Mistress Renata herself. With this so, how does he place what happens in the forenoon?

“Oh, and here—here he has told his tale, almost all of it. You asked, How long after dusk was it that the beatings were over? He answered, Perhaps a half hour after the Sun went down. He says that the children’s bodies have been bound with hempen rope, although they were really bound with leather laces taken from their own boots; they have been dropped into the stream, although it is no stream, and they were not merely dropped but purposefully pressed down into the mud at the bottom of the ditch; he has seen one wriggling as does a worm as he looks down at it in the water, although one cannot see aught deeper than a finger’s joint under the surface. Vendrion: When did you leave? Garestil: I left at the second bell, and arrived home at noon. Vendrion: Did you see aught of Carenthor or Danárion again that day? Garestil: They came to my house, and Carenthor demanded to know why I had not stayed there after, and I told them to hush, as my father was within, and Danárion kept saying, ‘But I cannot believe we truly did it!’ Vendrion: What time was that? Garestil: At the first bell after sunset.” He looked up to meet Hanalgor’s eyes. “Just how many times did the second bell after dawn ring that day? The magic wielded by these three must have been potent indeed for the second bell to ring so many times, and for the time to move to noon, then back again, then to evening, then back again to that second bell after dawn and for him to return home at noon. How do you explain this, guardsman?”

Hanalgor appeared unable to frame any answer, and finally said, “It is just that Garestil is not good at recognizing time, my lord.”

Bariol had taken one of the pages up and was reading it. He looked up, his eyes wide with amazement. “You said this, You told us that Carenthor had a knife. Garestil answered, Oh, yes. He had a small knife that had a blade that folded into the handle. He brought it out, and pulled the blade out. You said, Did he use it to cut one of the boys? He answered, Oh, yes, he scratched one boy on the face with it. You asked, Did you see him do anything more? to which he responded, He closed it? which Master Veredorn indicates was phrased as a question. Vendrion then asked, Didn’t he use it on another child? and he answered, Oh, that’s right—he swung it at the bottom. He cut one of them on the bottom, to which Vendrion responded, You mean here, in the groin? Master Veredorn indicates that Garestil did not answer and appeared to be confused by the question, and Vendrion asks, Do you know what a penis is?

“Yet in the testimony given during the trial you and Vendrion both indicated that you had no reason to believe that Garestil son of Galdor was an especially simple soul. If you truly believed his intelligence was that of most people, then why did Vendrion need to question him as to whether or not he knew this name for one’s manhood?”

Frustrated, Hanalgor insisted, “But he does not need to be kept! He can decide for himself where he wishes to go and what he wishes to do, and he can understand what is said to him and answer questions!”

“He did not know that another name for one’s manhood is penis, and does not appear to understand the word groin either.”

“But he indicated that Carenthor removed the sac for one child’s seed with the knife!”

“Did he? Does he not say that he swung a knife at the bottom and that he cut the child on the bottom? Where in this does he say that Carenthor removed the sac for one’s seed?”

Berevrion had removed the next folder from the top of the box from which Veredorn had taken that holding the scribe’s copy of the questioning of Garestil, and was glancing over the first page, and now he stopped. He turned to the last page, back to the first, then looked at Hanalgor. “This is noted to be the second questioning of Garestil son of Galdor on the same day. It takes place, it says, at the tenth bell of the day, and it is marked, To clarify answers that were uncertain. Why was there a second questioning of Garestil not that long after the first one?”

Hanalgor was clearly sweating. “Master Nerwion, having heard that we had found one who would say that he had seen Danárion kill the children, had come to the hall to hear what we had learned. However, when he read the confession that Garestil had given us, he said, But we know that the children did not disappear in the morning as he repeatedly says. And here and here—these details are wrong. I cannot issue warrants when there are such details wrong. No court will convict them with such problems. So, we went back that he might make those details right!”

“And you must begin with the words, What you really said, Garestil, was that it was Danarion who called for you rather than Carenthor? to which he answered, Oh, yes, that was so? And then you go on to first again have him agree that the assault took place near sunset rather than in the forenoon, and then to indicate that the children were forced to suckle the manhoods of Danárion and Carenthor?”

There were gasps throughout those who watched at that. “Well,” Hanalgor began almost desperately, “there were the marks behind the ears of the children that must be addressed!”

“But here he indicates that Danárion sought to do so by capturing the smaller boy’s head under his upper arm—how is he to have forced the child to suckle his manhood when he has the child’s head held by force against his chest?”

“We were trying to get him to correct that----”

“And is that not what this entire matter is—the attempt to force Garestil to tell the story you would have told, even when there is more than adequate evidence within it that he knows nothing of the deaths of the children at all? In his mind, as I read what he has said, he believes that the children died on the morning of the day on which their bodies were found. So that is the tale he tells, and the only real detail of which he is certain is that on that morning he heard the bell ring the second hour after dawn! You know that he never saw the children riding through the village toward the market at that hour, and that the children and Carenthor were all at lessons in the free school. So, why is it that you continued on?”

“We must have someone who could tell us that indeed Danárion had done this terrible thing!”

There—they had it at last—the admission that they could find no other means by which to place the blame for this crime upon Danárion!

“And what if it was not Danárion who killed the children?”

“But it must have been! No other would have done so!”

“Oh, really? The children were outside the village, perhaps but the three of them to be seen upon the road with the two ponies amongst them. Who is to say that a passing carter with a load of goods he planned to sell in Rohan might not have seen them and sought to take his violent pleasure of them? Or one from Rohan heading eastward to bring news to the Steward’s court? Or yet another small group of spies creeping either eastward toward the Anduin or westward toward Isengard or Dunland? We have seen ample evidence that raiders have passed through Anórien more than once in the last decade or two and left dead families and abandoned farms in their wake!”

“But how could we hope to find such ones and punish them?” demanded Hanalgor. “The people of Destrier wanted someone caught and hung, and to feel they could sleep soundly in their beds at night once more!”

“And so you would seek to give them such victims—sacrifice innocent youths merely to allow the village to sleep more soundly, knowing that whoever truly killed Gilmar, Nedron, and Bredwion was still out there, perhaps ready to slay yet another? That is not justice, Hanalgor—that is merely compounding one crime with another murder to which the courts have become complicit! Except you sought not to offer one life for the murders of the children, but to destroy three!”

“Carenthor and Garestil would not have died—merely Danárion!”

“Yet would they have ever come home again to their families? Did you not seek to destroy Carenthor’s reputation, which was always of the very highest, merely because he committed the terrible crime of actually liking Danárion?”

So it remained for some time, until at last someone sitting upon the benches asked, “Then, you are saying that Danárion, Garestil, and Carenthor did not kill those children?”

Hanalgor snapped, “We simply could not prove that Danárion did it!”

“Even though,” demanded the youth’s aunt, “my brother’s wife, her daughter, my daughter, and the neighbor’s family have all told you that Danárion was at my home while my husband and I were away in Hevensgil shortly after the evening meal, and that the neighbor’s daughter and her friend both told you that they spoke with Danárion between their homes all during the evening following? We showed you the note that my daughter wrote for Vanessë to ask us to make another time to meet regarding giving Danárion some employment, and you know that we indeed went to the cock fights and that you found proof my husband won considerable money wagering on the alehouse cook’s red! You have known all along that Danárion did not kill the children on that night, and that they did not die the following morning, either. So, why blame Danárion out of all here in Destrier?”

“Because he is a foul, evil fiend who worshiped the Lord of Mordor!”

“Pah! Anything you do not understand you say is proof of a love of the Dark Lord! You know nothing of the worship the Nameless One desired! I know nothing of that, either, although it appears these—” she indicated the members of the deputation, “—have greater appreciation for what it might have been than you ever have. And will you now name them the Enemy’s own fellows, when they have helped see to his utter defeat?” She turned to the unnamed Man who’d asked the question. “No, Danárion, Carenthor, and Garestil had nothing to do with the deaths of the three little boys. Only in the imaginations of such as this one were they ever guilty!” And she gave Hanalgor a look of utter loathing ere she sat down again.

“But Danárion must have killed them!” insisted a woman, the same woman as the previous day. “I will not believe anyone else could have done so!”

Just then the doors crashed open, and all turned as Nessa, mother to Nedron, stumbled into the hall, crying hysterically. “My brother Algorn—Vangil has sought to kill him!”



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