19. On Trial for High Treason
The courtroom was crowded. The news of Morfindel’s murder was out and hundreds of people came along to see who it was who was being arraigned for the crime. The court was hushed when I was brought in.
In the absence of the King, who ought to have been trying this case, they had brought an elderly judge out of retirement. The old fellow had been installed in the high seat and was being briefed by the clerk of the court. Such things, no doubt, as what the crime was, the name of the defendant, and whether he was guilty or not. That’s all a judge needs to know.
Glancing at the clerk of the court for reassurance that he was doing the right thing at the right time, the judge picked up his gavel and mumbled “Silence in court!” The gavel wouldn’t make a noise and it dawned on him that he was holding it the wrong way round. The clerk of the court hurriedly mounted up beside the high seat and resolved that little difficulty, whereupon the judge brought the gavel down smartly on the wooden block. By now of course the whole courtroom was watching him with curiosity, so silence reigned anyway.
The clerk of the court read the charges against me. One: wilful murder of a Ward of the King. Two: conspiring to abduct the Queen and hold her captive. Three: conspiring to kill the King and overthrow the lawful government of the Realm. Conviction on the first count alone carried the mandatory penalty of Death at the Stake, sentence to be carried out within the hour of conviction. The stake, I knew, would now already have been raised before the Great Gate.
From the prisoner’s box I was able to take a good look around to see who was in the courtroom. Imalad was prominent – he was clearly the chief witness, if not the actual prosecutor. There was no sign of Elandrine and I wondered if she was back yet from her exploits at the wain. I spotted Lady Éowyn sitting two rows back. I had a warm sense of relief that she was there. I couldn’t imagine her crediting the charges against me, and I knew she was quite capable of speaking her mind.
But my eyes scanned the courtroom in vain for Bergil. Where on earth was he? He most of all would be the one to exonerate me. That’s if he wanted to – I wasn’t altogether sure of that. But I told myself that Bergil, whatever else he was, wasn’t malicious. He was a stickler for the facts, and if the facts didn’t support the charges he too would speak his mind.
Prompted by the clerk of the court the judge announced: “The Ancient Court of the Realm of Gondor is in session. Call the first witness.”
A little old woman was brought on and sworn in. She was a cleaner in the White Tower. She recognised Imalad as the “high personage” who had invited her to step inside the secret passage – one she hadn’t been in since she was a girl. Through the peepholes into the bedroom she had watched a “wicked person” swing a sword and cut off the head of a young man lying on the bed. She saw the head when it was picked up and recognised it as that of Morfindel son of Gollum. She was able to identify the said “wicked person” as me.
The next witness to be called was an elderly retainer who essentially corroborated the old woman’s evidence. He too had been induced to enter the secret passage and watch the proceedings in the bedroom. He added the intelligence that Captain Bergil was also present and agreed to the proposition that the latter must therefore be considered an accessory to murder.
I was still smarting at the audacity of Imalad in bringing such a charge against me, and by implication Bergil, and when I heard the evidence I’m afraid I sighed loudly and raised my eyes to the ceiling. But in the absence of both the King and Bergil I quickly realised my position was precarious. I began to wonder if Bergil had been deliberately detained to prevent him giving evidence. There was another thing. Imalad may well have been watching us secretly while we were in the bedroom. But how was he to know that I would cut the head off the body? It may have occurred to him to collect witnesses to the fact that Morfindel was dead in case there was a cover-up. I concluded that my cutting off the head simply offered itself to him as a bonus.
I had elected to conduct my own defence and I took the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses. They weren’t too sure when they saw me cut the head off, but they knew it was in the morning of Friday 28th April. Now, myself apart, only the King, Bergil and Megastir, the Inspector of Corpses, knew the true time of death, namely nearly nine hours earlier. But Megastir was dead, Bergil was missing and the King I now knew had been persuaded to ride out on a wild goose chase. I thought to petition the court for an adjournment until the King returned. But I wasn’t sure my defence would withstand the other charges – and they too carried the death penalty.
Suddenly I began to despair. Imalad had laid his plans well. I was framed, good and proper. I decided that my only recourse was to put all the facts before the court and hope that someone would believe me enough to investigate the matter when I was dead and gone.
It turned out Imalad was indeed conducting the prosecution, and I must say he proved a formidable adversary. “We have heard the defendant’s evidence and he does not dispute the fact that he cut off the head of Morfindel son of Gollum, and that Bergil son of Beregond was present when he did it. And let it be duly noted that Captain Bergil has declined to present himself at this court to give evidence!
“But the defendant asks us to accept that the son of Gollum died nearly nine hours before! The reason he gives for cutting off the head – to establish the time of death – beggars belief! It is so absurd that in the absence of someone knowledgeable in these matters (I refer to the recent tragic death of the Inspector of Corpses) I propose that the court attaches no weight to this evidence.
“Yet just supposing that the son of Gollum had indeed been killed nine hours earlier, namely an hour before midnight. Is it not strange that at around the midnight hour the same Captain Bergil, who were he not missing might well be standing trial for his life alongside the defendant, was seen by many people going to the bedroom of the victim. I put it to you Your Worship that over the nine hour period in question either the accused or the missing witness killed or injured the victim and that what I and other witnesses saw was the final blow in this atrocious episode.”
Which I thought was pretty good for a boy scarcely cutting his wisdom teeth.
Now in cases of treason it has ever been the custom in Gondor to try the accused not before a jury, but before a judge assisted by three assessors. Since the assessors are all knowledgeable men, well versed in the law, this is considered a fairer system than a trial before peers, who rarely possess all that much legal knowledge. The Law of Gondor is ancient, complex and laced with legal precedents. So when presently the judge said “The accusation is proven” and Imalad appealed for sentence to be passed, the three assessors conferred among themselves and decided that the rest of the evidence ought strictly to be heard, providing the Council for the Defence so wished it. Quite clearly the judge did not wish it, being in no fit state for a prolonged trial and wanting only to get out of his heavy uncomfortable gown and first to the loo and then back home to his garden and his potting shed. When I elected for the evidence to be heard on all charges he groaned audibly and went into conference with his assessors. The chief of the assessors then turned to me and spoke for all to hear.
“Since you have already had an accusation proven against you, which carries the highest penalty that this court can hand down, it is a total waste of time to hear any more evidence. His Worship proposes therefore to award a more lenient sentence: you will be given a narcotic drug prior to burning so that you will feel no pain. If however you insist on all the evidence being heard then the sentence will be carried out with full rigour.”
I replied, “Under the Law of Gondor I cannot be convicted until all the evidence has been heard which either the prosecution or the defence wishes to call before the court. I declare that I am innocent of all the charges made against me and in token of that innocence I shall put truth before pain. I’m willing to suffer any agonies for the opportunity to place before all here present the terrible facts of this past fortnight.”
That of course was the last thing that Imalad wanted, not to mention the judge. But it was exactly what the crowded courtroom wished to hear. Particularly in view of the fact that the news of Morfindel’s death had been suppressed, and for such a long period. They wanted to know why! And a murmur and a hubbub arose like an incoming tide. With a pang of gratitude I saw Lady Éowyn rise to her feet.
“Your Worship! I beg leave to address this court!”
Now there was no denying Lady Éowyn (whom the judge knew well) anything she might care to beg, so he acknowledged her courteously and bade her speak.
“The son of Gandalf is correct, not only as regards a specialised point of law, but I think he speaks for all present, indeed for the whole people of Gondor, when he demands that all the evidence to hand be heard. This entire affair has been conducted in the shadows! Horrendous rumours are abroad, that the Queen herself has been abducted and that the King himself rides in pursuit of her captors! If the son of Gandalf can cast light on these happenings, he does us all a signal favour! Even if we then repay him for it by burning him in full possession of his faculties.” Having said that she sat down with a thump.
Everybody cheered. The judge called for order and picked up his gavel, but only succeeded in hitting his thumb. Immediately he was assisted by all three assessors plus the clerk of the court. Even Imalad hovered anxiously over the little press of people clustered round the high seat. But the judge waved them all away.
At that point the judge should have called on the Counsel for the Prosecution to speak first, but for some inconceivable reason he turned to me. I took advantage of the situation.
“I thank this court for allowing me to place the facts before the people of Gondor.” (Murmurs of assent.)
“I shall confine myself to the facts!” (Applause and a few cheers.)
“Facts indeed which many people do not wish to be made public. I stand here accused – indeed all but convicted – of capital crimes of which I’m wholly innocent. Nevertheless I shall not reply to accusations with counter-accusations. It is I that am on trial for my life today, not my learned friend the Counsel for the Prosecution. Though I venture to suggest that were we to change places – he would be in just as much despair as I am now at the prospects of clearing his name and getting home in time for supper!” (Loud laughter.)
“So I challenge the Counsel for the Prosecution to corroborate everything that I shall say, most of which I imagine is to form the substance of the evidence he wishes to present against me anyway.” (Applause.)
Then to stifled cries of “Ooh!” and “Aah!” I detailed the extent of the treason of Morfindel son of Gollum, describing everything that took place in Hotel Doom and naming Imalad himself as my witness for the events at which both he and I were present. The rest I said were indisputable facts known to Grishnakh son of Grishnakh, the head of GUB. Since Commissary Grishnakh could not be present the court was at liberty to reject my evidence – which was immaterial anyway in view of the capital charge against me which still stood. But I wanted somebody with a passion for the truth as well as the law to establish these facts at their leisure after I had been executed.
At first the assessors tried to object that what I had to say had no bearing on the business of the court, which was solely to determine my guilt or innocence. Looking at Lady Éowyn I replied that I had been given leave to speak and that I resolved to do and that everything I said was relevant to the case, whether or not it serve to convict me or exonerate me. “What is more,” I added, “it is of sufficient importance for everyone to know!” At that the courtroom cheered me mightily.
You could have heard a pin drop as I described my battle with the wargs and the demise of the underworld boss Grimwald Uruksson. Though when I had finished that episode the cheering was deafening. Grimwald Uruksson was hardly everybody’s favourite person. To show their satisfaction that the Realm was rid of him at last, people got to their feet, climbed on the benches, waved their arms and threw hats in the air. The judge tried to beat his gavel and again banged his finger.
I raised my hands and a hush fell on the courtroom. Thereafter the judge gave up his efforts to call the court to order and left it to me to do, sitting back to enjoy my story like everyone else. Everyone that is except Imalad.
Then warning the court that everything I was going to say would be amply corroborated by the Mandate authorities I launched into a description of the GUB raid on Guthmud’s hideout. A gasp went up when I described how we found Guthmud dead, yet the kidnap party had nevertheless set off and I had been unable to intercept the wain. Consequently the kidnap, so far as anybody knew, had proceeded according to plan (though whose plan it was now we weren’t sure) and to a successful completion. That is unless the King and his two close friends could overtake the wain and rescue the Queen before she arrived at the Tower of Orthanc.
I faltered. I was suddenly no longer laying before the court the facts as I knew them. It wasn’t my intention to deceive but I didn’t want to say anything about Elandrine’s exploits as Gimli had reported them to me. Because it suddenly occurred to me that if I did I would be placing the Queen in grave danger. Exactly from whom I wasn’t sure. But whoever intended the Queen to be sequestered in the Tower of Orthanc might well have done so to silence her and might well resort to desperate measures if they discovered her still here in the Citadel.
All of a sudden I saw Elandrine!
She was standing at the back in the gangway in full view of everyone. I couldn’t understand why the judge had not ordered her to sit down. Was his eyesight that bad? Then I saw that what I first took for scanty garments was black orc-blood spattering her naked skin. Her long black hair was tangled and dishevelled and she was clad in nothing but a sword-belt. As she stepped slowly and deliberately down the gangway, swinging her graceful hips and shapely breasts, I couldn’t understand why everybody wasn’t ogling her in consternation. Indeed why everybody was ignoring her!
My tongue stuck in my throat. I couldn’t utter another word. Why had I not seen her before? “I’m in a dream,” I told myself with utter conviction. “This is a dream. A nightmare...!”
As I stood there in stunned silence people gaped at me. They rose slowly from their seats. Guards began calling out to each other. Officials got up and started to rush about in all directions. To start with I thought it was simply because I’d stopped talking, but it soon occurred to me that this wasn’t the response of an audience to a performer who had suddenly dried-up on-stage. It was the response to a performer who had suddenly vanished before their eyes.
Then I realised why I could see Elandrine but nobody else appeared to do so. Both she and I were now invisible! Both she and I were in the world of the Rings! Someone had just brought the palantíri back into contact!
I grasped with fresh insight what it meant to be “struck dumb”. When something so utterly unexpected happens one is not only struck dumb but paralysed as well. A dumb, numb spectator to the events unfolding before my astonished eyes.
Elandrine descended the steps of the gangway and slowly advanced across the courtroom floor, her face stern, her eyes fixed on me. She had her hand on the hilt of her sword. Ignoring the people rushing around her, and being ignored by them in her turn, she advanced right up to me as I stood there in the prisoner’s box. With a shrill ring of steel she swept out her sword. Then carefully, deliberately, as if unleashing a bolt of lightning, she brought it swishing down. Had the blow fallen I would have been cloven from crown to crotch.
Instinctively I threw up my hand, the hand wearing Nenya, and caught her wrist. The sword flew out of her grasp, skated down my back and stuck quivering in the boards behind me. Seizing it and wrenching it out with an effort I backed away, facing her. My heart pounded like a paviour’s mallet. Then I leapt from the prisoner’s box and began running towards the exit. I was so aroused and, I’m ashamed to admit, so terrified that I’d have cut down anyone standing in my way. Fortunately nobody was. I did not bother to look round because I knew that Elandrine was racing after me, even though she was now without a weapon.
As I ran I tried to grapple with the fact that I had just disarmed a Rohan-trained shieldmaiden bare-handed, in the very act of striking me a mortal blow. Then I realised that I had been far from bare-handed. I was wearing Nenya. Elandrine too was wearing one of the rings of Power – I guessed Vilya, which the Queen would have given her prior to her mission. Or else she had taken by force.
I had heard it said that the elf rings would never endure weapons to be raised against each other. Now I understood what this meant. Two people wearing the elf rings were quite unable to strike blows at each other without being disarmed in the process. So it had not been mere chance that Elandrine had dropped the sword when I grabbed her wrist. By the same token, I too could not spin round and strike her down or I would be disarmed in my turn. I kept running, she hard at my heels.
The courthouse is in the Citadel, as I’ve already said, and as I ran out into the open air I found myself in the courtyard before the White Tower of Ecthelion. I ran onto the greensward in which the White Tree grows beside the silver fountain and as I ran my foot slipped on the wet grass. I fell – and Elandrine went tumbling over me. I was first on my feet and I turned to face her, brandishing the sword. In that instant I was smitten to the heart by the sight of her valiance and the naked fury of her bloodstained beauty. She rose to her feet and squared up to me, quite prepared to fight me with her bare hands, armed though I was – and with her sword, which I knew to be a good blade.
We paced cautiously round each other, each seeking an opening. Did she know about the elf rings? She was acting as if she did, so I saw no reason not to tell her.
“Elandrine, come no nearer! While we both wear the elf rings, we cannot be hurt by each other’s weapons. But if you so much as touch me, I shall tear off my ring and run you through.”
“You bastard! I’m going to kill you!”
“Just as you killed Morfindel?”
“How... dare you say that? You killed him yourself!”
“If you really believe that, why didn’t you let the court send me to my death?”
“What – and forego the satisfaction of slaying you myself? For your ill-treatment of the Queen?”
“Look Elandrine, I meant the Queen no harm. I tried to foil the attempt to kidnap her. It was by pure mischance that I failed. My fire horse...”
“You lie! I was there, hidden among the trees, when Gimli the Dwarf made contact with you by palantír ring. He told you plainly it had been me, not the Queen, rolled up in the carpet. Why then did you lie to the court that the Queen had been successfully abducted? Once you said that, I was no longer in the slightest doubt of your guilt.”
“No Elandrine, that’s quite wrong...”
Suddenly a squad of guards dashed into the courtyard. Instantly Elandrine sprinted over to them crying, “Guards! Guards! To me! To me!”
They shied back visibly when, taking off her ring, she appeared before them, bare and bloody. “My Lady Elandrine!” one shrieked in dismay.
“Quick,” she said, “give me a sword! The prisoner is out there on the greensward. He is wearing a ring of Power which makes him invisible. But I can see him – when I too wear this ring of Power!”
Seizing a sword she ran back towards me shouting, “Follow me! Follow this sword, even if you cannot see me!”
I knew then what I needed – a disguise. Invisibility was no protection now. The guards had come from the armoury of course, having been recalled in emergency from their off-duty hours. Still invisible I managed to evade them as well as Elandrine and attained the archway from which they had come. Quickly I found my way to the armoury simply by thrusting against the flow of guards who were now emerging from it in large numbers. They must have wondered about the unseen body that pushed past them, not connecting it with the reason why they had been ordered to stand-to. Else with no room to wield the sword I would have been surrounded and captured easily.
As luck would have it, there standing behind the quartermaster’s desk was Glamdring, taken from me at my arrest. I quickly swapped it for Elandrine’s sword and kissed the blade. There were high winged helmets still on the racks and black cloaks emblazoned with the White Tree still on their stands. Rapidly I equipped myself and pulled off my ring. Just in time I managed to join the tail-end of a squad of guards leaving the armoury, at the very moment a sword floated in on its own, leading another squad of guards in the opposite direction.
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.