King's Justice, The
“Gandalf has been speaking of Beregond,” Aragorn said, looking troubled. “I know the laws of Gondor, and I am vexed by their harshness upon this point. Since the foundation of the City, it has been strictly forbidden to violate the Hallows with blood. And a man who left his post without leave in time of war may not serve any longer in the Citadel Guard: so speaks the law. Yet his need was desperate, and his cause was just; I cannot find it in my heart to condemn him.”
Prince Imrahil said, “Lord, if I may speak as one who also has some interest in this matter, I beg your mercy. Can the law not be set aside in this case? For Beregond bore a valiant part at the battle outside the Black Gates, where he stood at the forefront of the men and never faltered until he was wounded and overcome. Indeed, as he had been relieved of his duties as Guard of the Citadel, he need not have come to battle at all; but he insisted he would do his part and would not remain behind. Surely for his steadfast courage and his gallant deeds he may be excused despite the word of the law?”
“It is not an easy matter, Lord Imrahil; for I was taught to reverence the law and to hold that it must bind all, from high king to lowest subject, else it will bind none. Though my heart speaks as you do, I cannot wholly set aside the ancient laws of the realm. And I guess that Beregond would not thank me for such a thing carelessly granted, for he is a man who holds his land and its traditions in honour. Nor do we live in the time of tyrants and slaves, where a single man’s whim may give or withhold favour. Lord Faramir, you are most nearly concerned in this. What would you say to me?” Aragorn asked.
Faramir bowed deeply. “I love Beregond dearly; as boys we played together in the city. Grown to manhood, shared service and danger have bound us ever closer. Even did I not owe him my life, I would speak for him.”
“Speak then. Would you have me overlook the law, as Lord Imrahil does? What mercy do you urge for Beregond?”
“Lord, I need ask no greater mercy for him than this: my King,” he said with utter faith ringing in every syllable, “Grant him justice. The King’s justice.”
At these words, Aragorn stood with a strange look of mingled wonder and awe and gratitude. He bowed in his turn to the Steward and said, “I pray I may ever be deserving of such trust, Lord Faramir. Indeed, if in time I learn to be half the king I see reflected through your eyes, I will hold myself worthy beyond all dreams.”
Now they clasped hands in token of their newfound understanding, and it seemed to those who looked on them that a light shone about both men.
“This is what you have both been trained for, King and Steward,” Gandalf said. “You fulfil all my hopes in you. My task was to help folk set things to right, and I have no fear now for either of you, or for the Kingdoms of Men.” He looked upon them both with love and pride, while Prince Imrahil, greatly moved, murmured his approval.
“Set things right we shall. Be it known: justice is not a favour for the king to grant, but the right of all free peoples in our realm. I will not fail you,” King Elessar said to his Steward. “I swear it.”
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‘In the days that followed his crowning the King sat on his throne in the Hall of the Kings and pronounced his judgements. […] And there were brought before him many to receive his praise and reward for their valour; and last the captain of the Guard brought to him Beregond to be judged.
And the King said to Beregond: 'Beregond, by your sword blood was spilled in the Hallows, where that is forbidden. Also you left your post without leave of Lord or of Captain. For these things, of old, death was the penalty. Now therefore I must pronounce your doom.
'All penalty is remitted for your valour in battle, and still more because all that you did was for the love of the Lord Faramir. Nonetheless you must leave the Guard of the Citadel, and you must go forth from the City of Minas Tirith.'
Then the blood left Beregond's face, and he was stricken to the heart and bowed his head. But the King said:
'So it must be, for you are appointed to the White Company, the Guard of Faramir, Prince of Ithilien, and you shall be its captain and dwell in Emyn Arnen in honour and peace, and in the service of him for whom you risked all, to save him from death.'
And then Beregond, perceiving the mercy and justice of the King, was glad, and kneeling kissed his hand, and departed in joy and content.’
-- from The Return of the King, by J.R.R.Tolkien
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