48. The Prisoner's Audience
The Prisoners' Audience
Those attending the audience were directed to stand in two groups with an open aisle down the center. Those who served as witnesses from other lands stood mostly to the left, facing a clear space before the now-empty throne of Gondor. To the Right stood many of the officials of Gondor and Arnor.
At the foot of the steps to the Throne of Gondor sat now two high chairs, the black seat of the Steward on which Prince Faramir sat to the right from the point of view of those attending the audience, and a grey chair carved of granite on the left, on which sat Lord Halladan, Steward of Arnor, clad in silver mail under a leather gambeson marked with the Seven Stars in inlaid silver, his mantle a rich silver grey fastened with one of the stars of the northern kingdom. A fillet of woven silver circled his brow, as a similar fillet of gold circled the brow of Prince Faramir, who was dressed as an officer of Gondor in the black and silver of the Guard of the citadel with the image of Tree, Stars, and Crown on his chest armor. To the left of Faramir stood another seat on which sat Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth; to the right of Lord Halladan was a heavily carved wooden travel throne on which sat King Éomer of Rohan. The banners of Gondor, Arnor, Dol Amroth, Emyn Arnen, and Rohan were all prominently displayed. All waited for what would occur next.
A troupe of guards entered, mixed in the grey of Arnor, the black and silver of Gondor, the greens and golds of Rohan, the blue and white of Dol Amroth, and the silver greens of the Elves. Then were brought in the prisoners, each bound and hooded as they were brought to their places, where at last their eyes were freed. The guards circled about them, focused on them, those between prisoners and the Lords who sat in judgment kneeling.
Behind the prisoners within the circle of the guards stood one in the worn green leathers of a northern Dúnedain Ranger, a bow in his hand, an arrow loosely nocked. Éomer of Rohan rose and examined those before him. "I see that the Ranger known as Strider stands as your interpreter," he commented. "As I have found he is fluent with your tongue, I am willing to let this stand." The other lords seated before them all indicated agreement.
Ifram was called forward to tell what he knew of the assault on him at the work site for the King's Commission. He gave his statement simply and without adornment, admitting finally he recognized one of those who had come among those attacking him, Solamonti of the Bedui clan, most closely allied during the last generation to the forces of Mordor. Although his folk held lands fertile enough in the standards of their folk, Solamonti had always preferred garnering wealth through plunder in the wars ordered and sanctioned by Mordor. Shefti, scribe to the Rhunish ambassador and brother to both ambassador and Shkatha, agreed, as did the men at arms who served in their guard.
Ruvemir was called forward to describe how he had failed to recognize those approaching his work site as being among those who'd entered the city in the embassy's party, and how he'd stated this to Ifram of Rhun.
Pando Proudfoot came forward to tell how, when he'd heard these were apparently unknown to the ambassador, he'd caught up a couple of large shards of marble just in case, throwing one accurately when he saw the glint of steel and not a message when the leader of the group reached beneath his cloak as he'd advanced on the ambassador. Celebgil confirmed their testimony.
The officer from the gates told how these had failed to give all the signs by which a proper addition to the embassy might be recognized, and how he'd found these were armed with weapons from Gondor, and had apparently intended to use them on Lord Ifram and those surrounding him at the time of the assault.
The testimony continued, and all during it the green-clad Ranger translated for the prisoners, his voice low but steady. The Elves who'd guarded the ambassador from Rhun gave their testimony, and when they spoke in Sindarin their words were translated by the Lord Elrohir into the Common Tongue.
All four of the seated Lords asked questions from time to time, and questions and answers were translated by the Ranger.
Then the Lord Steward called on Éomer King of Rohan to describe the interrogation of the two taken prisoners among the Dunlendings, what tokens had been found there, what would have ensued if the revolt among the Dunlendings had been allowed to continue. The envoy of that people then came forward to agree to the astuteness of the evaluations given by the King of Rohan.
Then began the interrogation of the prisoners, all translated by the green-clad Ranger. Other Lords of Gondor added their questions to those spoken by the seated Lords at the front of the hall, and the questioning continued for a solid hour at least. Ruvemir was glad he wasn't one of those being questioned, such was the intensity of the focus. At last they all fell silent, and the Lords of Gondor and the envoys of other lands began to speak softly among themselves.
Those in the high seats rose and joined the rest of Gondor's Lords for several moments' conference while the rest stood, waiting and watching. Finally Faramir straightened, and turning to the sergeant-at-arms and the chief of the servitors present, gave a signal.
He then walked to the center of the dais and faced those witnessing the audience. "We have agreed time is now needed to let the King digest the information gathered this day, and for those present to refresh themselves. Pastries and drinks and cold meats have been placed on the tables at the back of the hall, and we ask that you feel free to enjoy them and return to your places within a quarter mark."
He turned to the envoys to his right. "I thank you for your attendance, and those of you who wish to withdraw will be allowed to do so now."
Rustovrid of Harad stepped forward. "Why is the King not present at this audience?" he asked.
"The King has many, many calls on his many skills and talents. He is fully apprised, however, of what has happened, and will most likely take the throne afterwards. However, in the earlier afternoon he has served our people in a manner he has felt was needed, and you may fully believe we find no lack of honor due to his absence from his throne."
Rustovrid nodded, apparently appeased by what he'd been told. At a sign from the Steward of Gondor the audience recessed.
The green-clad translator briefly left the circle, then returned as others were returning to their places, now covered in the stained cloak over his garb. The envoys from the Dunlendings had not returned, Ruvemir noted. The four high Lords took their seats before the Throne of Gondor, and the rest settled into their places. All grew quiet.
Finally Imrahil of Dol Amroth rose to face the prisoners. "We find all evidence points to you as ones who would dissolve the growing ties between Gondor and Rhun, who would allow the folk of Rhun to be freely attacked and overrun by your own enemies from further east of your own lands. We have seen you would even do your best deny your own people support not only from Gondor, but from Gondor's allies as well. We must take from all this that you have desire to depose the rightfully elected Shkatha of your people and set yourselves in his place, not as ones who shepherd your people but as ones to take the place of the Lord of Mordor, seeking to control the lives of the people of Rhun to your own engorgement and enrichment in goods, wealth, and power over others.
"Ifram and Shefti of Rhun, what are your findings on what has been revealed today?"
Ifram b'nto Agharan stepped forward. "It is the same as yours, my Lord Prince Imrahil. We are newly come to personal freedom, and they would take its promise away from our people."
One of the prisoners sought to pull himself forward away from the guard who stood at his side, to whom he was shackled. "I demand to speak with your King," he demanded, his use of the Common Tongue heavily accented. "I accept not the rulings of Gondor's war leaders, the captains of its armies. I wish to hear the rulings of the King of Gondor himself."
Faramir rose and faced the Man steadily. "You will accept the judgment of the King?" he asked, his apparent mildness of manner barely masking the steel beneath.
"He has not given us the dignity of a hearing. Let him decide what is true."
The Steward of Gondor looked to the rest standing there, and all could see they were smiling. "Not given you the dignity of a hearing, you say? You are mistaken, sir. All right, as you have demanded, I now require the King of Gondor and Arnor to come forward and take his place upon the throne of Gondor, the Winged Crown upon his head."
He signaled, and four came forward bearing an ancient casket. He opened it and took out the Winged Crown of Gondor and held it up for all to see. A servant came forward from behind Lord Halladan carrying a white mantle and the Elessar stone brooch. The prisoners seemed surprised as their translator stepped forward, handed his bow and quiver to one of the Elven guards, unclasped his cloak and handed it to one in the star-clasped cloaks of Arnor. He walked through the kneeling circle of guards to stand before the throne, accepted the Winged Crown from Faramir and placed it on his head, allowed Halladan to clasp the white mantle about his shoulders with the Elessar stone brooch. He'd worn the black robe embroidered with the White Tree and the Seven Stars beneath his Ranger's cloak. He removed the sheathed sword Anduril from its hangers and held it in his left hand, accepted the scepter of Annúminas into his other hand, paced solemnly up the steps to his throne, and sat himself upon it, laying his sword across his lap.
For some time he looked down at those standing for judgment before him before he finally spoke. "You have demanded a hearing from the King himself, and here I now sit. Do you truly think I will find differently than those before whom you have stood all this afternoon?
"You have traveled through my lands to foment discontent among the Dunlendings, to draw off the support of Gondor's allies to the north and west. You have come as assassins to attack your own people's ambassador here before the Citadel of Gondor itself, and sought to use weapons to implicate our people in his death. And if you had been successful you would undoubtedly have slain those who stood by him, innocent artisans with nothing to be gained by the alliance or enmity between Rhun and Gondor. These artisans are working at my pleasure, for my own purposes, which have naught to do with war but with the very nature of honor itself--honor and faithfulness.
"You have demanded my judgment, and you will have it."
The King turned to Ifram of Rhun. "Will you translate for the assembly, as it is hard to be judge and translator both?" At his assent, he focused himself on the shackled prisoner and the one identified as Solamonti of the Bedui. He barked a question in their own tongue at the two of them.
"What do you seek to gain by dividing Rhun and Gondor, by supporting war by the Wainriders?" translated Ifram of Rhun.
"We seek to keep our people strong, to keep alive our own traditions, to not place our own armies beneath the control of those who have been our enemies time out of mind."
"Have not the Wainriders been your enemies time out of mind?"
After a long pause, finally the answer was given: "Yes."
"So you would break the alliance between your peoples and those of Gondor, which imposes no restrictions over your government of your own peoples, but would allow the Wainriders to attack your people, perhaps to take over the government, allowing them to set the laws and rules, to restore the custom of tribute given to strangers and outdwellers?"
"We would have defeated them in the end."
"A thousand years ago you could not do so, and even Gondor itself was so heavily threatened that we ourselves were almost overcome; had it not been for the aid from the forces of Eorl the Young we might well have fallen."
"We would have defeated them in the end."
"And set yourselves to dictate the lives of your peoples, to have impoverished them to enrich themselves as has been foreseen by all here assembled?"
"We would have continued as our people have been accustomed for the last many generations."
"What is the lawful punishment given to those who have betrayed their Shkatha?"
The prisoners looked to one another, several faces growing markedly pale. None answered.
"What is the lawful punishment?" The King's voice was implacable.
Finally Solamonti answered, "Death by impalement."
The King of Gondor looked to Ifram of Rhun, who nodded agreement. Finally he spoke in the Common Tongue, Ifram now translating for the prisoners, his voice solemn. "Then it must be so. You will be taken to the frontier between Rhun and Gondor, and handed over to your own people. As you have committed your crimes in the lands of Gondor and Arnor, Gondorian spears will be provided your Shkatha for your impalement. But you will die among your own people by the form of execution you have allowed you know you deserve. Your final betrayal, after all, has been less our peoples than your own."
He gave a sign to his own court scribe and to Faramir, who nodded. "So has judged the King Aragorn Elessar Envinyatar Telcontar of Gondor and Arnor," intoned the Steward of Gondor. "Let the prisoners be taken back to their cells for the night. On the morrow they will begin the journey back to their own people."
A messenger was sent immediately eastward, and the prisoners were removed. The King then looked to the assembly. "Does any now question that we must fight alongside the Shkatha of Rhun?" he asked.
The Lord of Lossarnach stepped forward. "No, our Lord King, we do not do so."
"So be it. On Sunday of the second week of May we march eastward, my Lords. Let all be in readiness. My Lord ambassadors and envoys, you are summoned tonight to a second formal dinner, in which you will see our military leaders."
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.