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Murder Most Foul
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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20
Revelations in Hevensgil

Revelations in Hevensgil


They’d not been on the road long before they were joined by Harolfileg, who had spent the preceding night in the grazing common in company with its resident Ent. Berevrion greeted his arrival with, “Well, did the two of you speak at all?”

Harolfileg admitted, “He woke again in the middle of the night, and we spoke some. His name translates to Elmheart, and he’s not quite certain how long he’s remained in the grazing common, but suspects it was for much of the Third Age. In his earlier days here he spoke at times with those who dwelt in the area, but in these latter days few have bothered to learn Sindarin, and he saw no reason to learn much Westron, although I suspect he understands far more than he will admit. He rarely moves from where he usually stands, although he has been known to brew Ent draughts from time to time. He was amused to learn that those who live in the region keep alive the stories of the father trees, and suspects that he himself is the basis for such tales.

“He was interested to learn that Sauron was defeated as he was, and commented that it was well past time for that event. He had a few comments to make about Isildur, and was glad his descendant learned from his forefather’s mistake. He may decide eventually to return to Fangorn, but says he would miss the children greatly. His memories of helping to raise Entings appear to be the reason he has dwelt so long apart from his own kind.

“We spoke, and sang together, and watched the Sun rise before he again chose to sleep.”

After a time of silence Berevrion advised him, “Anglor yet lives, and was conscious and aware ere we left. He grieves that Vangil died as he did, although he is also relieved that he will not longer abuse his wife and daughter as he has. And, yes, there was abuse toward his daughter, who has told Anglor that Nedron had intended to run away before he disappeared.”

Harolfileg’s face grew remote. “Men and their evils!” he exclaimed almost under his breath.

“Fortunately there are far fewer among the Firstborn who would do such things,” agreed Berevrion, to which the Elf nodded stiffly.

“I will scout ahead,” he said in a more carrying voice, and with but a shift of movement he was gone. The Man was left watching after, knowing that even if there were but a handful of such Elves over the whole history of Arda, still it was enough to cause grief to one such as Harolfileg.

*******


They arrived at the gates of Hevensgil as the noon hour approached, and they were greeted formally by those who kept the gates, forewarned as they’d been by a messenger sent earlier in the day by Master Nerwion. They allowed two women just returned from the river with yokes and buckets upon their shoulders to enter before them, and were led to the Master’s home where a luncheon awaited them. This was an older Man than Master Nerwion, affable and curious, who questioned them during the meal primarily on the nature of their new King, and was it true that Lord Faramir not only continued as their Steward and the King’s first Counselor, but also had been named Prince of Ithilien? Did he indeed already hold the friendship of their new King? And was it true that he was now contracted to marry the niece of Théoden King, the Lady Éowyn, sister to Rohan’s new King Éomer? Ah, but that would bode well for the fortunes of those within Anórien, for certainly there would be increased travel between Gondor and Rohan, which would mean increased trade for those who dwelt here. And with both Mordor and Isengard in rubble, there would be far fewer raids on their farms and smallholdings as well; so much land that had lain idle for far too long would now be open for resettlement. Ah, how he welcomed this new peace that had come just in time to allow him to enjoy it before he must in the end rest beside the bones of his wife, gone these eleven years past.

The potter who taught tumbling arrived as the meal ended, bringing with him his record books for the lessons he gave to the youth of the region. On seeing the twisted left leg, it was plain why this Man no longer served as a tumbler himself.

“That?” he said, looking down on the leg as if he’d forgotten about it. “Bad landing after a fall from a high rope. Shouldn’t have done the walk, actually—it was much too windy that day. But we’d promised to perform the rope walk, and I paid the price. No real healer in the village where we were performing, and so the leg healed badly. But my father had been a potter and saw to it I learned his trade, and there’s naught wrong with my arms, after all. I can still juggle eight balls or clubs, however, and my son and I often demonstrate here within the village.”

“And Garestil of Destrier was indeed one of your pupils?” asked Erchirion.

“Oh, indeed, and most intent on learning the trade he was.”

“I am surprised you would agree to teach him, considering he is reportedly not one who learns skills easily.”

“That is true, but he made up for his lack of intelligence with diligence and persistence. He might have to struggle to learn some of what I would teach him, but he would not stop until he mastered it. But what made me keep him on as a pupil was his willingness to learn to fall.”

“Learn to fall? One must learn to fall? It seems to me that what one must do is to learn not to fall!”

The potter gave a small smile and shrugged his shoulders. “Oh, falling is easy enough. It is learning to fall in such a manner that you protect yourself from serious injury and are back up on your feet before the crowd realizes it was not intended that must be mastered. It is the hardest lesson I must teach those who would become tumblers, for most think as you do. But I assure you that in tumbling it is necessary to learn to fall properly before one can master standing on another’s hands or upon the rope walk. And those lessons Garestil mastered long before his fellows. Indeed, he is so good at falling he should be able to well serve as the troupe’s Wise Fool. A good troupe always has a Wise Fool, who must clown for the crowd, who draws their attention from a missed throw or a poorly turned vault by another. Garestil was not deterred by the laughter of others at what he did, not when he realized that he could purposely draw that laughter, and that with it came admiration for his skill.”

He opened his books, and they saw that as they’d been told, Garestil son of Galdor had not missed a weekly lesson in just short of a year and a half. “I took half of the fee for him that I usually ask,” the potter told them, “because of his poverty and because he was such a diligent student. And because he would have made a most outstanding Wise Fool had he been able to continue his lessons.

“But a fool he would indeed have proved himself had he truly taken part in the murders of those children.”

“But the children were killed this evening,” indicated Berevrion, tapping the notations for that night two days before Midsummer a year previous. “If he was here, studying with you, and walked home in company with the others as they and the gate guards for Destrier have said, then he could not have taken part in the murders of the children—not unless the others were involved as well. But all agree that they returned home at their usual time, and that he was proudly proclaiming to all that he had managed to juggle three balls that day.”

“As he did! And far more swiftly than he learned to do two. All of us were pleased.”

“And you did not testify at the trial?”

The Man’s face became grim. “And how could I do so? With Borongil and that gate guardsman—what was his name? Hanargil?”

“Hanalgor?”

“Ah, yes, that was it. Hanalgor. What a vile creature he was.”

“And what did he do?”

“The two of them came, separately, and made it plain I was not to contact the lawyers who represented the three youths to tell them that Garestil was truly here with me that evening. Hanalgor threatened to see to it my right leg became as twisted as my left….”

Anorgil was noting this down, his expression grim. And when he was done, the potter gladly provided his own report, which he’d obviously had prepared for quite some time, and signed both with a decided flourish. “I went to Anwar to give this into the hands of the magistrate, a fellow named Enelmir. But he refused to accept it, saying that since I had not testified in the trial I could not offer a written report after the fact and expect it to change the matter any. But the jurors had not yet made their decision as to the verdict! It might have changed everything!”

This also Anorgil noted, and again the potter signed to indicate this was precisely how the matter had gone.

*******


The meeting with Avrandahil was nowhere as pleasant an interview. He was a prissy figure, his nose appearing pinched and his mouth pursed. “And I do not know why you would approach me,” he said. “All I needed to say I said during the trial.”

“We have read the transcripts of the trial and know what it is that you said,” Bariol explained. “But we wished to know where it was that the blood pooled on the children’s bodies, and we understand that you made detailed pictures of the wounds you observed, and that you showed some of these. As they are not described in the transcripts, we should like to see them.”

“The blood was pooled primarily on the children’s backs, to the left side on the one boy’s body. And I always make pictures of the wounds as they are to be seen upon the bodies I examine,” he said. “My masters in Lossarnach felt that I was truly gifted in doing this and always praised me for it. My mother was unhappy I must decide to become a healer—she felt my true gift was in art, and that I might become famous had I pursued that profession rather than healing. But there is always a need for healers, while during times of war there are few with an interest to purchase paintings or drawings, particularly when most of their treasury must be spent in providing arms for those who would protect their lands and holdings.”

Still, he required some coaxing before he went to the large room, which indeed appeared to be as much an artist’s studio as a surgery, to fetch the portfolios he’d prepared of his drawings regarding the case.

He had not underrated his skill as an artist. There were at the top of each picture four outlines of a body—front, back, left side, and right side, and an indication as to where the specific wound had been found. The actual drawings he’d shown during the trial were together in one portfolio, each marked with the number given it to indicate which piece of evidence it had been designated.

“I am surprised that you were allowed to retain possession of your drawings and paintings,” commented Anorgil as he looked at a picture of roughly parallel wounds that had been found on the buttocks of the child who’d lost the sacs for his seed.

His pursed lips showed a hint of the satisfaction Avrandahil felt as he explained, “At Master Fendril’s urging, Master Enelmir has named me an officer of his court, and has declared my studio, surgery, and records room a part of the archives of Anwar. Thus it is up to me to safeguard the pictures and reports I make for the use of the court.”

Bariol, his brow furrowed, took the picture that Anorgil had been examining. “Hmm,” he said as he held it close to scrutinize the detail. “And this is just as you saw it when you examined the child’s body?”

“Well, I must admit this is not the original. When I prepare the pictures to be shown in the court I must make them bigger so that all can see, and I must sometimes—emphasize--those details that it is important that the judge or the jurors should pay the most attention to.”

“And how do you make certain that they are as accurate as were the originals?” asked Bariol.

“Here—let me show you.” So saying, Avrandahil led them to a corner of his studio where a draughtsman’s table was set up, and on it an apparatus made of joined rods that had two scribers upon it, one with a smooth tip to it near where the artist would sit, and the other on the far side inset with a rod of graphite. Under the smooth tip lay a picture of a woman’s face, with bruises and a split to her eyebrow. On the other side, under the graphite stick, lay a much larger sheet of paper on which the general outline of her face had been reproduced and the placement of eyes, nose, and brows lightly sketched in, this picture half again as large as the original.

“This woman was visiting a farm near here, and went into the stable where the master’s racing horse was kept. The horse proved skittish, and kicked at her, striking her in the brow and causing the injuries you see here. She intends to sue the master of the farm for the injuries she has suffered, and the picture must be larger so that the judge and jurors can see it properly without it needing to be handled over much. The farmer has insisted that a jury be employed, you see. I suspect that he believes they will be more sympathetic to his situation than Master Enelmir alone might prove.

“You see how the original is kept unmoving by this frame, and how the same is done here for the copy? I have only to move the scriber here over the original, and it moves the graphite stick there over the larger sheet, and it is as exact a copy as I can make it and yet have it larger than the original. By lengthening or shortening these rods here and changing the length of these crosspieces and adjusting the pivot point by placing it in one of these holes set upon the diagonal, I can make the copies as much larger as the table is able to hold. Or I can turn it around to reduce the size of the copies. Do you understand how it works?”

“I do believe I understand,” Bariol said. “Ingenious.”

“I am told such an apparatus was designed first in Hinya, which is said to be a land far to the east and south of Gondor, east and south even of Khand. Traders brought back a prototype to Gondor some twenty years ago, and there are a few such as I am who have had them made for our use.”

“And the original is in the other files you showed us, then?” Bariol asked, holding up the picture of the parallel wounds, intent apparently on pursuing his previous question. “I should like to see it to compare.”

“Oh, yes. Let me see this one and I will be able to find it directly.” Avrandahil turned the picture over and looked at a designation he’d written there. “Victim three, buttocks, picture five.” He returned the picture and led the way back to where the other portfolios were, locating the file for victim three and opening it.

“The colors are excellent,” Bariol commented while Avrandahil was finding the original.

“Yes—Master Fendril has made a point of seeing me provided with the best materials for reproducing the colors actually seen in the wounds. I must make my own paints, of course. I prefer to use an egg tempera as a base, and grind my own pigments. Ah, here it is.” He drew forth a picture and set it on the nearby table.

Bariol leaned over it. “Hmm,” he said again. “The blood you indicate here you don’t show at all on the original.”

“Master Fendril wished for the jury to be aware of how serious the wound was, so he asked me to add some blood.”

Anorgil now leaned in and looked at the two depictions of the same wounds, then up to shake his head toward the battle surgeon. He took both pictures and handed them to Harolfileg to consider. “Most interesting indeed. And did he suggest that you make them more clearly straight compared to one another, also?” he asked.

“Well, yes,” admitted the local healer. “He felt it would make it easier for the jurors to see each one.”

“And he also suggested to the jurors that the wounds were caused by that combination of knife and scaling tool that was found in the duck pond near the one youth’s house, did he not?”

“Well, yes, he did.”

“Do you believe that that tool was used to cause these wounds?”

Avrandahil’s face grew closed. “It is not up to me to indicate what might or might not have caused each wound. I am asked merely to report on the state of the bodies and the nature of the wounds I see, and to prepare my pictures of the wounds for use by the court.”

“So,” Bariol said delicately, “it is up to Master Fendril rather than to you to decide whether that set of wounds was due to animal claws or the points of a scaling tool? I feel confused—he is a lawyer, and you are the one trained as a healer, are you not?”

Harolfileg’s face had that particularly closed set to it that Berevrion had by now learned indicated that he had a far different view of matters than what had been presented by others. He met Berevrion’s eyes levelly, glanced meaningfully at the pair of pictures as he handed them to the northern lord, and turned to looking through one of the other files. He paused with one picture partially withdrawn, then pulled it out further. “What is this?” he asked.

Avrandahil peered at it. “Impressions found on the upper thigh of one of the victims.”

“I do not remember these mentioned in the trial.”

“They had nothing to do with how the child died. But I am charged to record all unusual signs to be found upon the bodies of those I examine, and this was definitely an unusual sign.”

Harolfileg held it out to show Berevrion. It appeared that the leg had been lying against something round, like a narrow pole or rod, with a pattern of rings about it. Something about the image tugged at Berevrion’s memories, but he could not think what it was that it reminded him of.

Anorgil reached out to take the pictures from Berevrion. “I would wish to have a healer I know to examine these pictures and all reports you have made, one who knows little about the case and who has no preconceptions about what these might show. Lord Berevrion, you have the King’s own warrant, do you not, to take all files that might appertain to the case for another appointed by the King to examine?”

Berevrion carefully suppressed a smile. “Indeed I do. And I, too, would wish that the best healer I am aware of should examine these. Unfortunately Master Elrond is not here, but we do have a healer trained by him now dwelling in Minas Tirith. It is only too bad that Lords Elrohir and Elladan will be gone by the time we return—they have had a very long time indeed to study under Master Elrond, after all.”

Anorgil appeared surprised. “There is another healer trained as I’ve been told the Peredhil have been now dwelling in Minas Tirith? I’d thought to speak with one of those in the employ of the Houses of Healing.”

But Bariol was definitely smiling. “Oh, yes—the fosterling! He was very well trained by Master Elrond, from what I can see, and will appreciate fully well what is shown in these pictures and what might be learned from Master Avrandahil’s reports.”

“And who is this Master Elrond, and what training has he had?” demanded Avrandahil.

Berevrion explained, “Master Elrond Peredhel is the greatest healer at this time in, perhaps, all of Middle Earth, and copies of his works on healing are studied in Minas Tirith and Dol Amroth as well as throughout the North. He has dwelt for most of his life in the northern lands, and his home in Eriador is considered the greatest seat of learning there is available east of the Sea. All healers among the Dúnedain of Arnor have studied under him; and his greatest student among the Men of the North is his former fosterling, who as I said dwells now in Minas Tirith. As for who trained Master Elrond himself—I understand that he began his studies under those of the Noldor who learned their skills from the Lady Estë in Aman, and was given additional training by those who followed Lord Eonwë to fight in the War of Wrath. He has certainly had time and time again in which to further his studies and write down all that he is willing to share with other healers.”

“The War of Wrath?” demanded Avrandahil. “But that is the stuff of legends!”

“As is Master Elrond himself,” agreed Berevrion. “You see, he is the son of Eärendil and Elwing, and own brother to Elros Tar-Minyatur, the founding King of Númenor, of whom Elendil the Tall was a direct descendant. He chose to live in accordance with the fate of Elves while his brother chose to number himself among Men. He has never sought the Havens, or at least not until now, now that his second greatest foe is at last destroyed. But one he fostered and trained to be a healer now serves the reunited Kingdoms in Minas Tirith. And I would have him see these and hear what you have to say. As the King has directed in his warrant, I now take these files into my custody to take to the King’s presence for perusal by the healer trained by Master Elrond Peredhel. And I direct that you are to present yourself first for examination in Anwar tomorrow afternoon at the seventh hour, and then to the chief herald for the Citadel for a questioning to take place a week from today. Do you understand?” He produced the King’s warrant from his scrip, and allowed the healer of Hevensgil to read it, indicating the addendum made by Lord Daerloth of Amon Dîn, whose sigil Avrandahil clearly recognized.

Anorgil had been looking through certain papers he had in the personal satchel he’d carried with him throughout all of his sojourns, and at last paused, a slight smile on his face. “Aha—here. Lord Berevrion, I would wish still another group of pictures and records found—those involving the case of Dorndrol and Drevendor, in which a trader was slain and another accused of his murder.”

“That has nothing to do with this case!” objected Avrandahil.

“Perhaps not, but it does have to do with certain matters we are pursuing regarding Master Fendril,” Anorgil explained, his eyes on those of the northern lord.

Berevrion nodded slowly. “So be it. Master Anorgil, will you aid Master Avrandahil to find these files? I would wish to take all of them with me. Faradir! Summon a guardsman if you please—the room in which Master Avrandahil keeps his files and pictures is to be sealed once the desired files are found, and kept sealed awaiting the King’s pleasure.”

Faradir saluted and went out; and Avrandahil, with the unwanted aid of the law clerk, gathered still another set of files for Berevrion to take.

With a large sheet of paper from Avrandahil’s own store, the various files were gathered into a parcel, and the whole was sealed officially by Berevrion as the King’s deputy. Once the desired guardsman was come, they returned to Avrandahil’s living quarters to await word that all was closed and made inviolate as directed by Lord Berevrion.

Erchirion glanced about at the paintings that decorated the walls, many of them depicting the banks of the river to be seen in the distance. “I do not understand—you tell us that you have been named an officer of Master Enelmir’s court in Anwar. So why do you dwell here in Hevensgil?”

“It is the river—when I saw this house and the view of the river from its windows and grounds, I knew I must have it for my own.”

“You made these pictures, then?” Erchirion asked, pointing to a painting of a turtle sunning itself in the shallows.

“Yes. I love water views and the creatures that dwell by the river, you see.”

“Your skill is indeed excellent, Master Avrandahil. Your mother was right, I think, to encourage you to pursue your art first.”

“Perhaps you are correct. I am, I suppose, an adequate healer; but I do find that it is my art that is my first love.”

“Sometimes the first love is not only the sweetest, but also the one for which we are truly best suited,” commented Erchirion.

Avrandahil gave no sign he read the irony in Erchirion’s tones.

*******


As they returned to the Master’s house, the Swan Knight carrying the bulky package containing the various paintings, drawings, and reports that had been confiscated at Berevrion’s order, Bariol asked Anorgil, “Why do you want these pictures and reports from this other murder?”

“It is Master Fendril who has been guiding Avrandahil’s hand in preparing his copies of the pictures used in the trials, and from what I could tell by the way you and Harolfileg reacted to the pictures of the wounds on the child’s buttocks, it is obvious that there was a serious purpose to them having been altered.”

Bariol shrugged. “The way in which they were drawn originally, it is plain that the wounds are scratches from an animal’s claws. They are not truly parallel or evenly spaced, and it can be seen where the claws separated more and where they came closer together as the animal scratched the child. But in the copy they are straighter, and the spacing regular. And blood was added, attempting to make it appear the child was bleeding when the scratches were made. In the original it is apparent that there might be some seeping of blood from the deeper wounds, but the scratches from the animals claws were not bleeding, which indicates the child was long dead when the scratches were made.”

Harolfileg continued the explanation. “And the picture of the impressions found on the one child’s thigh—it shows that the child, as he lay dying, lay with that leg pressed against some item that was rounded and had raised rings about it, something that Guardsman Vendrion ought to have found under the child’s body when he crawled through the ditch searching for bodies, clothing, and weapons, but that he never found there. Again, this is proof the child did not die in the ditch, and most likely not particularly close to where they were found. That kind of impression cannot be truly made after the child is properly dead, and will begin to distort and smooth out if the child’s heart continues beating. He has to have died while his leg was pressed against the item.” The Elf’s face was very stern. “And the fact that the blood had pooled on their backs indicated that shortly after they died they were all laid upon their backs for some time before they were brought to the ditch—I would say at least three hours for it to begin to fix there. There would have been some settling after that time to be seen perhaps upon their faces and chests and the forepart of their legs; but it is where they lie the longest immediately after death that shows how they lay then, and that they were moved.”

“Yet Master Fendril would have it that the children were alive all through the attacks on them, and that only when they were newly dead or dying were they introduced into the ditch,” Berevrion concluded. “So, he must have the pictures altered to fit with the tale he would tell in court, knowing that they do not match what was wrested from Garestil.”

He looked to meet Anorgil’s eyes. “You think he might have done similarly in this other case?” he asked.

“Again, it was originally thought to be a simple murder in order to take the merchant’s goods, only Fendril would have it be someone alarmed to find this merchant was importing pagan images. Again, we have this move to make of an evil act one that is far more sinister and that involves claims of worship of Sauron.”

Anorgil shook his head. “Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof; but those who seek worshippers of Sauron everywhere themselves cause more evil than do simple thieves and murderers! Fendril did much the same in this case also, you will remember---when the family of the accused tried to say, No, he was with us at the time the Man was killed, and so could not have done this, he waved it away as merely those who know and care for the accused lying to seek to protect him from his just due.”

“And if we find that in this case a similar pattern to what we have seen in the case presented against Danárion, Carenthor, and Garestil was practiced, it shows that he is indeed corrupt,” concluded Erchirion.

“Even so, my lord,” Anorgil agreed.

“So, it will be at least two cases we present to Aragorn,” Berevrion said. “And with Avrandahil’s records room sealed, we will be able to search for more cases with no fear of files being destroyed should the King agree with us that Fendril has been more interested in hunting worshippers of Sauron than in pursuing true justice in this region of Anórien.”

Wendthor was waiting with those who were going back to Anwar with the deputation, sitting near the wagons where Vendrion and Hanalgor were sweating in their bonds. He was slapping the tally stick into his palm as he’d taken to doing—and it suddenly struck Berevrion what it was that one picture reminded him of. “Orc spit!” he suddenly exclaimed, looking back at the Swan Knight carrying the parcel he’d sealed.

“What is it?” Erchirion asked, alarmed.

“The picture of the impression that Harolfileg says had to have been made while the one child lay dying—I need it!”

“I have it, and the original of the one showing the claw marks,” Anorgil said, unshouldering his bag.

“Wendthor—you haven’t altered any of the cords on the tally stick, have you?”

“No, my lord. Why?”

“Give it to me!”

In moments they were all leaning over the picture done by Avrandahil and comparing it to the tally stick.

“That’s this!” said Wendthor.

Berevrion looked up. “Well, it appears that we may now know where the children died,” he said.

*******


While the wagon and those from Destrier went on toward Anwar under the supervision of Erchirion’s Swan Knight, Mistress Lyrien, her father, and Master Gilflorin going with them, the deputation and Wendthor rode back to the ruined byre. “I found the tally stick here,” he said, showing a place where the mould of leaves had obviously been disturbed recently. “It was lying like—this,” and he set said object where he’d found it.

Harolfileg appeared uncomfortable, but was apparently using all of his senses on the ruined structure. “There have been a number of people through here,” he said. “It has been used by many travelers since the farm was destroyed. And some of them wished to remain hidden. And not all were wholly Men.”

“Saruman’s Uruk-hai and half-orcs, think you?” asked Berevrion.

“Possibly.”

Erchirion nodded slowly. “They said that the ponies were not pushed into the canal, but picked up bodily and cast in. A Uruk could possibly do that where no Man could.”

Wendthor led them out and pointed. “The track I followed came through there, past the woodlot, and meets the wagon track some rods that way. Faradir walked the whole way along the track out to the Highway and back to here, and I was here some time before he joined me.”

One last time they entered the ruined byre, and the Elf knelt near where the tally stick still lay, then moved his hand over the floor. There were a few tumbled stones fallen from the wall, and one----

“This was used to strike the children,” he said simply. It was not rounded as were most of those in the wall, but flattened.

“It was used in the floor of the place,” Berevrion noted, and after a few minutes’ search Erchirion found where it had come from in the nearby stall. And Harolfileg had found a place on the wall where a rough stone still was darkened with old blood.

“They merely happened upon where perhaps an agent of Sauron or Saruman was hiding himself during the time when people were likely to pass along the road,” Berevrion said, “and he slew them that they not be able to tell anyone else that a possible spy had been there.”

“And he hid the bodies that the hue and cry not go up ere he could get himself far away,” suggested Erchirion.

“I suspect you have the right of it,” Anorgil agreed. “But who will believe it?”

“Not those who wish to believe we Elves are somehow agents of the very Enemy we all fought,” Harolfileg said bitterly. “Nay, they would rather believe in the fantastical and bizarre rather than that something as mundane as a spy managed to pass by them upon the road after killing three small children.”

Wendthor asked, “But why were the children here?”

Bariol sighed. “Nedron’s sister told her uncle that Nedron had planned to run away.”

It was as they left the byre the second time that they spotted the rough cloth bag lying flattened against the outside of the ruined structure, where it apparently had been kicked in the struggle to get the children all under control. It had obviously been lying there for quite some time, and some grasses had begun thrusting their roots through its dark, earth-colored fibers. Inside were some children’s clothes—two cottes, a shirt, some small clothes, extra stockings, a sturdy pair of trews, all such as the children of Destrier had worn, all gnawed upon by mice and insects. Besides indications of some rotted food and a kit for a strike-a-light, a small eating knife, and tin mug, there was a stained picture in a frame of what appeared to be Nedron’s mother and a baby, perhaps Nedron himself or his sister Mardeth. Whoever had done the picture had shown some skill.

“Look,” said Wendthor, pointing to the signature identifying the artist.

The picture had been apparently done by—Carenthor.



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