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Recaptured!: 25. Crime and Punishment
The justice system in Rohan selected ten of the King's
subjects present in the Court to vote on the innocence or guilt of the accused
and this was done by a secret ballot (*see A/N above). It did not take the
clerk very long to count up the papers. The majority was 9 to 10 in favour of a
guilty verdict. What was not clear was what the man's punishment should be.
The showman was brought to stand in front of the King and
Théoden asked Spandif if he had anything to say to the Court that might
influence how he was sentenced.
"I am truly sorry, my Lord if I mistreated the
creature. I am an honest man of business and I…"
Théoden held his hand up to silence the man. "Master
Spandif, if you have an apology to make, I suggest you make it to Master
Meriadoc and not to me. He was the one wronged by you and, even if you cannot
understand all he says, I think he can understand you."
Spandif looked rather uncomfortable at this prospect.
"You mean apologise to the hafing? But are you sure it understands… that
is I never understand what it's saying…"
"I don't believe you understand anything!" Gandalf
interrupted loudly. He knew it was not his place but the wizard was nearly at
the end of his patience. "Meriadoc has a Eriadorian accent, that is all,
just as your accent is from far below Harad in the South East if I'm not
mistaken. But you both use a version of the Common Speech; if you listen
carefully you will understand him. Perhaps you just do not wish to!"
"I-I'm not sure, perhaps… I did understand a little of
what it was saying, but I will not…"
"Enough of this!" Gimli stood four-square, his axe
at his side. "With due respect, my Lord, I would put his head on the block
now. I would sooner suffer an black-hearted orc to live, than this
"Gimli speaks for me." Legolas stepped forward
dagger in hand. "Why do we waste words on this callous charlatan, or even
a noose? Does your justice allow for the disposal of such malevolent evil,
Théoden King? If so I should be willing to offer my services."
Spandif looked from the dwarf to the elf – two other new
species he was beginning to understand only too well. "Let's not get
angry, I meant no harm. I will apologise to it if that makes…"
"Apologise?" Éomer narrowed his eyes at the man.
"That is a small payment to offer. Do you think that is all that is
required of you? You almost killed this little one. Perhaps we should put you
in a cage in your own circus with no clothes, with your eyes bound against the
light and see how you fare!"
There was a general hubbub throughout the Court, with many
people shouting for the man's immediate execution and others wanting to see
Éomer's scheme of humiliation carried out first.
"No! Please." Spandif wrung his hands together in
dismay. "I truly meant no ill. I do not deserve death for an honest
mistake, nor to be treated like one of my own beasts. I'll say sorry to it
"Don't call me 'it'," A small voice cut across the
general noise and into Spandif's bumbling prevarication. "Do you
Spandif turned towards Merry, who had stood up, his fists
clenched at his sides. "What?" The man asked.
"It!" Merry repeated. "I - am - not - an - it!
- I'm - a - he - or - him. My - name - is - Mer-i-a-doc - Brand-y-buck."
Merry very carefully enunciated every syllable so that the man could not help
but understand him.
There was a stunned silence, even from those howling for
Spandif's death or public humiliation. No one, not even Gandalf, had ever
thought to correct the man's constant reference to Merry as it, and yet that
was at the core of the whole of Spandif's attitude towards the halfling. The
Court was so quiet that it was possible to hear Merry's ragged breathing as he
drew in deep breaths to calm his fierce heartbeats as the adrenaline raced
through his veins, his fists still tightly clenched.
Pippin stood resolutely at Merry's side looking anxiously
around at all the angry looking people and then back at Merry who now looked
Théoden finally broke the tension. "What would you have
us do to him, Merry?"
"Do?" Merry shook his head in dismay; revenge was
not a particularly hobbit-like concept. "I don't know, nothing. Just tell
him not to call me it and make him let all the animals in cages go free."
"Very well." Théoden turned to Spandif once more.
"You are a showman, or so you claim. Let us see how good an apology you
can perform for the benefit of this Court. That at least I will have from you
to begin. After that we will see what follows."
Spandif had been badly frightened by the threats of death
and public display. But more importantly, he had suddenly understood what Merry
was saying and how he had been demeaned by his, Grando Spandif's callous
treatment. He went to where Merry stood and dropped to one knee before the
Pippin immediately pulled Merry away and put himself in
front of the man. This surely was the cruel person who had mistreated his cousin,
why were they letting him come near to him now? Legolas intervened and gently
took Pippin to one side and put his hands to his face.
'Let the man talk to Merry, I promise you he won't hurt
Pippin looked sceptically up at Legolas who nodded his head
encouragingly towards Spandif. The hobbit looked from Spandif to Merry and back
at Legolas, obviously weighing the circumstances. Nobody interfered and Merry
waited patiently for his cousin's directions. Eventually Pippin took Merry's
arm and carefully led him back to stand in front of the kneeling man once more.
Spandif took the small hand and bowed his forehead to touch
the back of it. Merry started slightly at the touch. "Master Hafing,"
he began. "Merryadok – I am deeply sorry I treated you so badly. I am
undeserving of your mercy but truly grateful for it. Please grant me your
esteemed forgiveness as well."
"Yes, but you must let all the animals free."
Merry had decided after his ordeal that no living thing should ever be kept in
a cage. "Will you do that?"
"But some of the creatures may be dangerous."
Spandif told him, surprised at how well he was beginning to understand the
strange speech, now that he made an effort. Also Merry was becoming accustomed
to making himself understood in this part of Middle Earth. "They might
kill people. Especially the big cats."
"Then take them back where you got them." Merry
said simply "Let them go there." After a moment's thought he added.
"And never capture new ones – ever!"
"It is my living." Spandif said in dismay.
"Then find a new living." Merry said simply.
"You are a showman – make a show of something else."
"Do you require nothing more from this man
Meriadoc?" Théoden interrupted, "What kind of punishment would you deem
Merry thought for a moment. "Just that," he said
simply. "He must find a new living."
There was a hum around the Court, mostly of twittering
surprise. Legolas and Gimli looked at one another and shrugged. Aragorn glanced
to Éomer who shook his head in mock disbelief. Gandalf just smiled.
Pippin broke the moment by noisily scratching on the slate
with the squeaky chalk, Legolas watched over his shoulder at what he was
writing 'tel Merry not 2 bee sad eny mor and laff lik hi ust 2.' The elf quietly
reported this message to Merry who smiled at Pippin's positive approach to
Théoden came up behind Legolas so that he too could read the
message. He took it gently from Pippin's hands and looked thoughtfully at the
words, then stroked his beard as if considering a new idea, "Hmm," he
muttered, "something to make Merry merry again – why not?"
"Very well," Théoden turned to Merry putting his
hand on the hobbit's shoulder. "Merry, the mercy you show speaks volumes
of your race and especially of you. I would not discredit that nobility which
you have demonstrated by overturning your judgement for something more
The King turned now to Spandif. "However, I will not
make it that simple for you. You have committed a grave crime and your
repentance needs to be seen."
Théoden turned now to address the general Court. "You
and all of Edoras are invited to a grand show here in two days' time, courtesy
of Grando Spandif. It will be spectacular and most entertaining." He then
added quietly to Spandif, "…and will contain no cruelty or wild animals.
But it had better be very, very good!"
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