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Recaptured!: 24. The Trial
It was several days later when King Théoden summoned his
Court to sit. He held a Court of Justice usually at the beginning of a new
month and petitioners, or people with a complaint or grievance that could not
be settled elsewhere would come before him. Occasionally there would be a need
for justice to be dealt out to wrong-doers,
but it was most unusual for a special court to be convened for such a purpose.
Also there had been much debate and important meetings going
on to discuss the state of the war, the impending threat from Mordor and when
the riders should leave for Gondor so there was scant time left for other
matters. However, King Théoden had taken a special interest in the case of
Grando Spandif and he also felt that his crime was important as a precedent
since no such charge had ever been brought before in the kingdom of Rohan.
Merry had gradually told Éomer everything that had happened
to him, Drâmym and Ŭnomer had been questioned and the whole story put
together. The circus owner stood accused of kidnapping, false imprisonment,
cruelty and, most importantly, wrongful subjugation and lack of respect to an
equal species. Another charge of stealing had been proposed but was firmly
rejected by the King as he pointed out that it gave Merry the status of
‘property’, which he was not.
A counsel was appointed for both Spandif and the Crown.
Grima Wormtongue the King’s own counsellor had agreed to plead the case for the
accused and Éomer would act on behalf of Merry. King Théoden, of course, would
The Court was assembled in the main hall of Meduseld,
Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and Gandalf were all present and would probably be
called upon to bear witness, as were the riders, Drâmym and Ŭnomer.
Spandif’s son was also there, along with a few other people from the circus.
Théoden entered the Court in his official robes and took his seat.
The prisoner was brought from his cell, not looking much the
worse for a few nights locked up.
As the charges were being read out, Théoden held up his hand
to pause the clerk, "Wait, where is Meriadoc? He should be here."
"By your leave my Lord, we were not sure if he would be
up to hearing the whole proceedings." Aragorn stood up to explain.
"He is not fully recovered from the ordeal yet. I think it would be adding
further suffering to him."
"Then you may not accuse this man." Wormtongue
interjected. "By the law of Rohan, the victim or accuser must be present
if his or her case is to proceed."
"This is merely a ruse to try and bring a physically
damaged and potentially confused witness to give account." Éomer stood up
in obvious anger. "He is using an antiquated precedent to gain an
unreasonable advantage for this man."
Théoden thought for a moment. "The law is the
law." He decided. "I agree that it will be painful for Meriadoc to
hear the evidence, but I fear the only other alternative would be to let this
man go untried." He beckoned to the ranger. "Will you go and fetch
the young Holbytla, Aragorn? He shall sit by me in the Court, if you think that
will help, and I will make certain he is not too distressed."
Aragorn agreed that it would probably help and set off to
find the hobbits. It was not too much of a search as he guessed rightly and
made straight for the kitchens. The insatiable pair were sitting at the
scrubbed wooden table with several bowls and plates around them – all empty but
for a few crumbs. Yomyn was bent over the kitchen range, busily preparing some
"Merry," Aragorn sat down beside him, wondering
how he was going to react. "You have to come to the Court now. The man who
locked you up is going to be tried and you have to be there." The ranger
took a deep breath, "I know I told you that if you talked to Éomer you
wouldn’t have to go to the trial, well the laws here are slightly different and
I'm sorry but I'm afraid you must."
"Oh," Merry acted less than enthusiastically and
felt about on the plates in front of him, although he undoubtedly knew he had
eaten everything. "We were just explaining to Yomyn about second breakfast
and I think he’s getting the idea now."
"Well, you can have your second breakfast later."
Aragorn smiled at the prevarication.
"Then it would be elevensies or even luncheon,"
Merry sighed with mock exasperation, "you never did understand second
"You’ll have to teach me properly some day." The
ranger agreed. "In the meantime, I’ll ask Yomyn for something you can take
with you, but you have to come now. King Théoden is waiting for you, he has
taken a special interest and has asked that you sit at his side."
Merry and Pippin, (because Merry flatly refused to go
without him) were led into the Court by the ranger. Both the hobbits were
clutching a gingerbreadhobbit and looking very small and vulnerable. Merry was
still visibly bruised and bandaging was evident around his neck and wrists. He
also had the scrap of Gandalf’s cloak tied around his shoulders, it had become
as a talisman for the hobbit now, although some might have seen it as more of a
security blanket. He had to be guided down steps and it was obvious to
onlookers that he was blind.
Pippin too aroused much sympathy, his arm in a sling, face pale
and drawn, although that was probably caused by opium deprivation, and his eyes
darting anxiously from his cousin to the ranger, tugging at Aragorn’s sleeve to
ask a silent question. Grima Wormtongue began to wonder if his strategy had
been so wise after all.
Two chairs were brought and set beside the King and Merry
and Pippin sat there hand in hand, their feet dangling. Théoden patted Merry
reassuringly on the shoulder. "Don’t worry Meriadoc, this should not take
Spandif was required to stand as the charges against him
were read out. He was asked to plead his guilt or otherwise. Grima interceded,
"Master Spandif wishes to plead to the Court that he is innocent by
"Very well," Théoden indicated to Éomer.
"State the prosecution."
"The case my Lord is this." Éomer began. "The
accused, Grando Spandif, encountered two Riders of Rohan, Drâmym and
Ŭnomer, on the road while they were escorting Master Meriadoc Brandybuck a
Halfling of The Shire to Edoras. Spandif attempted to negotiate with the two
men to purchase Master Brandybuck, an attempt which they scarcely took note of,
it being so impertinent and ridiculous."
Éomer continued. "Later on the road the two riders were
attacked by orcs and separated, Master Brandybuck being carried off with Drâmym
who was wounded. In spite of being blind Master Brandybuck almost certainly
saved Drâmym’s life by removing the arrow from his back and bandaging him and
wrapping him in his own blanket." A twitter of amazement and admiration
ran around the Court at the reported feats of the little hobbit.
"Drâmym then became unconscious and as Master
Brandybuck sat beside him, the travelling show run by the accused came
past." Éomer turned towards Spandif as he spoke. "Master Brandybuck
pleaded assistance from the man, but instead of helping him, the halfling was
taken by this large man and put into a small cage alongside his captive
animals. He was poked and prodded with a stick and stripped of his clothes,
save the small rag, which is still about his shoulders, as he refused to part
with it. He was left exposed to the cold and rain and the heat of the day and
when he became sick with fever, still this man did nothing to help him. He
exploited him by charging admission and exhibiting him in a cage like an animal."
Théoden glanced anxiously at Merry who had sat silently
throughout the accusation, The little hobbit made no move but large tears were
running down his face and he sniffed slightly. This was not lost on the other
members of the Fellowship either, but they knew that to make an overt fuss of
Merry in front of the whole Court would not make him feel better – with one
possible exception. Pippin looked at his cousin in bewilderment, he had no idea
what was being said, although he guessed it was to do with Merry being so
cruelly treated and he started to cry because Merry was.
Théoden lifted his hand to halt the proceedings. He came
round in front of the hobbits blocking the view of them from the people present
and knelt down to talk to Merry, This action from the King caused a ripple of
wonder from the local people of Rohan. "Do not be upset Merry," he
said, offering his own silken 'kerchief for the hobbit to use. "You have
made Pippin cry also and he knows not why he is crying."
This made Merry laugh through his tears a little.
"Silly hobbit!" He gave Pippin an affectionate nudge. Then added more
seriously, "I’m sorry my Lord, hearing it just felt like it happening all
over again and it made me sad. I remembered feeling so lost and lonely."
"I know, and you were very brave, but you have to be
brave again now so that Spandif can be taught not to treat anyone else like
"All right." Merry agreed.
Théoden remembered something else then. He whispered,
"did you know that he even tried to buy Pippin from Aragorn!"
Merry gave a sudden and indignant intake of breath. His
whole stance and attitude changed as only a hobbit’s can, as his grief for
himself gave way to indignation and anger on behalf of his cousin. He scrubbed
at his red eyes with the 'kerchief and stuck out his determined chin. "I
won’t get upset again," he promised.
Théoden smiled and squeezed his shoulder. "Good."
The King then resumed his seat and signalled for the trial to continue.
Éomer had finished the statement of accusation now and gave
the floor to Grima to state the defence.
"My Lords," he began, "The man accused is
guilty of nothing more than ignorance and lack of experience with this
particular species." Wormtongue moved towards the hobbits. "These
creatures were not in his experience and his questioning of its escorts gave
him no reason to suspect that a halfling is anything more than an exotic pet,
or so he believed the King of Rohan thought of it."
Grima moved to face the Court arena. "The creature
spoke a language alien to his own and he could not understand anything it said,
so assumed it was not speaking as such, but merely making noises. Furthermore,
when the two men were asked if they would be willing to sell it, they merely
claimed it was not theirs. At no time did they say it was not a thing to be
bought or sold. They rather indicated that it was a pet of the King's."
Grima indicated towards the pair of hobbits seated at the side of Théoden,
"as would indeed seem to be the case."
At this a gasp ran through the Court and the King looked
like thunder. "Looks are most deceptive then, Grima," he interrupted,
"I offered Merry my protection when he was in sore need of help, that is
all." Théoden realised in his anger that he should not interrupt the man's
defence. "But please continue."
Grima bowed deferentially, "Thank you, my Lord. I would
like to call Aragorn son of Arathorn to bear witness in this case. His
testimony I believe to be most important in establishing Master Spandif's
Needless to say there were several raised eyebrows at this
statement but the ranger shrugged and stepped forward. "Very well, ask
your questions," he invited.
"Now, as I understand the story," Grima began,
"you first encountered these halflings at an inn in the town of Bree in
the country of Eriador, where you offered them your protection."
"I hardly see how that is relevant to the current
matter," Aragorn replied, "although, yes that is true, what of
"Since then you have dragged them all the way from
Rivendell through the Mines of Moria, allowed them to be stolen by orcs –
twice. Under your 'protection' they were held captive in Orthanc,
where one was beaten and blinded and the other had his wrist broken and was
stricken deaf and dumb." Grima shrugged at Aragorn, "you might have protected
your dog better!"
Merry jumped up in anger at the insinuation, "None of
that was Aragorn's fault," he shouted.
"Pippin and I got into all that trouble on our own!"
"Peace, Merry." Aragorn put his hand on the
hobbit's shoulder, pushing him gently back down on to the chair. "As
Meriadoc said, I was not instrumental in any of these happenings. That I failed
to protect them was not by calculation, but by circumstance."
"Nevertheless," Grima was warming to his subject,
"you sent the blind little thing off with two strangers, with its wrists
in manacles and a metal collar round its neck, dressed in rags. Was it any
wonder that Grando Spandif thought it was for sale?"
"Those were very special circumstances. There was a
greater threat to Merry if he had stayed where he was." Aragorn explained.
"He had to leave at once." The ranger was anxious not to give too
much specific information away regarding the Quest and in particular, of
course, the Ring. "As I understand, this man Spandif was clearly told that
Merry was not for sale."
"Why did you not accompany the halfling yourself?"
Grima continued. "Surely under these special circumstances
it needed your protection more than ever."
"I would have," Aragorn remained very calm under
the needling voice. "But the other halfling, Peregrin needed my help even
more – he was so ill he almost died."
Merry choked out a little gasp at the memory of how sick
Pippin had been and how anxious he had been for him.
"Really," Grima's face melded into a
self-satisfied smirk, "so ill that you started feeding it a deadly and
addictive narcotic? Interesting ways you offer protection,
"That's enough!" Éomer interceded, "Aragorn
is not on trial here. Why do we have to hear these ridiculous
"You are well informed, Sir." Aragorn inclined his
head slightly towards Grima, "but I administered the opiate as a remedy,
not as a poison. Peregrin is almost recovered now."
"Indeed," Grima decided to go for the kill.
"Is that why when you arrived at the Court of Meduseld you had the smaller
of the halflings on a leash, like a dog? If that is how you treat these
creatures, what are ill-informed men like Spandif supposed to think?"
Once more there was a ripple of surprise and indignation
that ran around the Court.
Aragorn took a deep breath before he summoned up his reply.
"I put a piece of cord around Pippin's wrist merely to keep him close to
me. He was obviously developing a very serious dependency on the opium. I am
not the only one who carries the drug, many soldiers keep supplies of it and I
feared he might try to steal more, as he had earlier."
"It is very easy to mistreat a creature that cannot
even speak for itself," Grima pointed at Pippin. "Shall we ask it the
true version of events? No, for it cannot
speak and that is why, Aragorn, you can be as cruel to it as you claim Spandif
was to the other. Perhaps you should be the one on trial here."
"But he is not!" Argued Éomer "and neither
should he be. You have wandered a long way from a proper defence of the man, Spandif.
Falsely accusing another of a similar crime does not absolve the perpetrator of
the original misdeed. So what is your point, Grima?"
"My point is," Grima turned to Éomer to make his
point. "My point is, that Spandif was ignorant of the nature of halflings,
but all the evidence he saw of them in his first encounter, both from Drâmym
and Ŭnomer and from Aragorn pointed to the fact that they are of a lesser
species and could be treated like pets or livestock."
"Does that conclude your defence?" Théoden asked.
"It does my Lord." Grima moved to the side with a
Éomer moved to the centre. He called for testimony from
Gandalf and Legolas and Gimli, who all confirmed the correct version of events
regarding Merry and his condition when he was found imprisoned in the cage.
Then Éomer made a dramatic announcement, "My Lord I
would like to command the testimony of a special witness, now." Everyone
looked around the Court wondering who it could be. "I require the evidence
of Peregrin son of Paladin of the Shire."
Théoden was as surprised as anyone. "But he cannot
speak or hear." The King pointed out.
"He can read and write”. Éomer
reminded him. "Let him have parchment and quill and we will have his
account in this way."
"Very well." Théoden agreed. "Bring parchment
Merry tugged surreptitiously at the King's robes.
"…what is it, Merry?"
The hobbit whispered conspiratorially, "I think Pip
would manage better with a slate and chalk. He's not too good with a
"That is an excellent plan." Théoden patted
Merry's arm. "It will also be easier on supplies as the slate may be
"Also good for rubbing out mistakes." Merry added.
A slate and chalk was procured from the castle schoolroom
and given to Pippin who immediately started to write his name as Merry had so
carefully taught him.
When Meriadoc had first realised that his little cousin,
through no fault of his own, had such difficulty in reading and spelling he
told him not to worry over it too much, but that he should learn how to write
his future title as neatly and perfectly as possible, as one day he would be
required to sign important documents when he succeeded to the Thainship.
Dutifully Pippin had practiced, starting with a slate and graduating to a quill
and parchment. Now the one thing he could scribe beautifully was Peregrin I,
Thain of the Shire.
Éomer looked in surprise at the hobbit's grand signature
then turned the slate over, so as not to spoil the hobbit's careful inscription
and taking the chalk wrote his first question on the slate. 'How long have you known, Aragorn son of
The little hobbit realised that it was now his turn to add
what he knew about Merry's ordeal but Pippin's reading was not the best and he
was not too sure about 'Aragorn son of Arathorn'. He pointed to the
words and frowned. Éomer showed the slate to Gandalf who changed the words for 'Stryder'.
Once the change was made Pippin responded, writing carefully
on the slate, his bottom lip between his teeth in concentration. 'long tym'
'And how does he treat you?'
'All the time?'
Pippin considered this. 'no onli wen im bad wiv thoes
'Why did he tie a rope on you?'
Pippin had to think hard again to remember. 'becuz I stol hys popys'
Éomer read it out loud so that he could understand the
words. Then wrote 'Did you mind the rope?'
'no - wen i wuz bord hi lett mi go and i fond meri'
"That's 'found' by the way," Gandalf pointed out.
'What do you think of Stryder.' Éomer wrote.
'hi s a gud fyter wyv a sord hi luks after mi an meri a
lot wen he dusnt hav to and i trust hym hi wuz veri kynd to mi wen i wuz il an
This was a very long speech for the hobbit and took a lot of
painstaking scratching with the chalk on the slate. Pippin even turned the
slate over and rubbed out his signature to fit all the words in.
Éomer solemnly read this statement to the Court.
"Aragorn is not on trial here," he restated, "but I think it
important to refute the accusations being made about his character and attitude
towards the halflings."
Grima interjected, "But what is the point of this
testimony, the halfling tells us nothing that someone else could not have done
and with more ease."
"The point is," Éomer turned to face the body of
the Court and parodied Grima's earlier stance. "The point is, that it is
not difficult to see that a halfling, in spite of this one not being able to
hear or speak, is a reasoning and intelligent being and not a creature to be
bought and sold or exhibited in a cage. Therefore it would be reasonable to
assume that anyone, even someone such as Grando Spandif must have been able to
work that out and must have known what he was doing was wrong!"
There was a murmur of approval from the Court.
"To further emphasise my argument," Éomer gave
Pippin back the slate indicating that he could keep it. "I now call for
the testimony of Meriadoc son of Saradoc of the Shire."
Merry did not know he was going to be called upon to speak,
but he remembered Théoden's earlier words about the importance of being brave
and that the man had tried to buy Pippin, so he stood up and waited to be led
to the centre of the floor.
"Tell the Court, Meriadoc, are all the things that were
described by the other people about how Spandif treated you true?" Éomer
had decided this would be a kinder approach than making Merry recount all the
"Yes," Merry agreed in a small voice.
"Can you also tell the Court how you felt about
Merry said nothing for a few moments, gathering his
thoughts. Then he started in a low whisper and there was total silence as all
strained to hear him. "At first I was very angry and I rattled the bars of
the cage and shouted. But they just laughed. Then I was frightened, especially
when it thundered and all the animals got noisy. Then I was so very, very sad.
More sad than I have ever been before. But it was because I thought I would die
and no one, an-and Pippin, would know what had happened to me, because they
would just throw me away like r-rubbish. And Pippin might think I had just gone
off and left him. That made me feel lonely and sad." Merry paused a
moment, he was shaking now and in spite of his endeavour to be brave, his eyes
had filled with tears which ran down his cheeks making little track marks which
he stoically refused to wipe away.
Merry gulped and continued. "They took my clothes off
me and I got very cold, but I was also very ashamed, to be naked in a cage and
not even be able to see who was l-looking at me. It was such a frightening
feeling it made me feel utterly worthless. So then I thought it was a g-good
thing the others didn't know what had h-happened to me." His words became
punctuated with small involuntary sobs. "I was afraid for th-them to see
me like that. Then I-I couldn't think or t-touch or hear any m-more. Like all
m-my senses had given up the s-same as my eyes. And when P-Pip, when th-they
came for me, I c-couldn't m-move." Merry was almost overcome with emotion
now as the memory of the ordeal came flooding back. "I-I was scared that the
c-cage would be my grave and that they-they would think I was s-so worthless I
should b-be locked in it forever."
Éomer started to ask another question, but Gandalf stepped
forward holding up a warning hand and shook his head. He could not bear to see
young Meriadoc put through any more of this emotional pain.
"Merry, that's enough now." Gandalf knelt down
next to the hobbit and put his arm around him pulling him in close. "Hush
now Meriadoc, you must not think about it ever again. Do you promise me you
will try not to?"
Merry buried his damp face in Théoden's 'kerchief and leaned
into Gandalf's comforting embrace. "I'll try, I promise. I don't want to
think about it anymore, ever."
Pippin had climbed down from his chair as soon as he saw
Gandalf hug Merry and with tentative glances around at the official, important
people and an anxious sideways look at Strider, had gradually edged his way
over to his sad cousin and pulled at Gandalf's cloak.
The wizard drew Pippin in as well and whispered to Merry,
"Did anyone tell you how much Pippin cried when you were lost? He loves
you so very much; I think that was why The Valar helped him find you. That is a
truly wonderful thing Merry, so if ever you think of this again, remember how
it ended and that it was Pippin who saved you."
Merry sniffed and hugged Pippin tightly. "I will,
Gandalf, thank you, that is a much better thought."
The Court was silent except for a few sympathetic sobs from
the assembly and many silent tears to match.
Éomer waited while Merry and Pippin were led back to their
chairs by Gandalf who stayed by the hobbits once they were seated, their legs
dangling from the high chairs and tightly holding each other's hands.
"My Lord, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Court." Éomer
announced. "I have presented my case to you in full. Now you must
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