14. Sworn to Silence
'He was telling the truth,' Ferdibrand answered quietly. 'When he said he did not take the fowl, when he asked how his knife came to be found where it was, his voice had the ring of truth.'
'A convincing liar?' Regi asked.
'I have yet to hear one,' Ferdi replied.
'I need evidence, Ferdi, solid evidence,' Pippin said in frustration. 'Your gift for hearing truth is not something one can hold in the hand, show to the People.'
'You'll put an innocent hobbit under the Ban?' Ferdi asked.
'You know what'll happen if I don't,' Pippin said bitterly. 'Folk will cry "favour" and will shun the whole family. No one will trust the Thain's judgment again, and then where do they find justice in the Shire if that happens?'
'Justice,' Reginard said bleakly. 'Is there any justice for Frodo?'
'Blast it, Regi!' Pippin swore, slamming his fist upon his desk in his frustration. There was a long silence. 'I don't know what else to do,' he added, when he'd got hold of himself again. 'Sam knows it, too,' he said. 'You saw the look on his face, Regi.'
'I didn't hear,' Ferdi said in a faraway tone. 'He didn't speak.'
'He knows it,' Regi gritted. 'All we're doing is prolonging the agony. He knows that the Ban will be pronounced upon his oldest son, and there's nothing that anyone can do about it.' He shook his head. 'However you look at it, you'll be losing two Gamgees this day.'
'What do you mean?' Pippin asked bleakly.
'The moment you pronounce the Ban on his son, Samwise will resign the Mayorship,' Regi said. 'Can he do aught else?'
Pippin closed his eyes in pain. There was no way to save Samwise, or his son, no way that he could think of. 'I should have stayed in Gondor,' he said to no one in particular. He raised haunted eyes to Reginard. 'Tell me we are doing this for the good of the Shire.'
'We are doing this...' Regi said slowly, then shook his head. 'No, I cannot believe that.'
'What else can I do?' Pippin asked, an edge in his voice.
'Naught else,' Regi sighed. 'Not a thing.'
'Shunned, for an entire year,' Ferdi said softly. 'Couldn't we send him out to the new territory?'
'The Gamgees would lose their son entirely, should he flee the Ban. He could never come back,' Pippin said. 'Folk would never forgive his "crime". The only way to be welcomed back into the community is to live under the Ban.' He sighed. 'Let's get it over with.'
Reginard rose and stalked to the door, yanked it open, and told the servant waiting outside that the hearing was ready to continue.
All too soon, they were ready. Pippin held Sam's gaze in silent apology for a long moment before turning to his son.
'Frodo Gamgee, also called Gardner, do you have anything else to say?'
Frodo could only shake his head helplessly, but behind him, Ned Sandyman said to his father in a low tone, 'Why is he drawing this out? We all know who took those chickens.'
Ferdi sat a little straighter, puzzled. He couldn't quite put a finger on it, but...
Pippin nodded, squaring his shoulders. 'Is there anything else to be said?' he asked the room in general. Heads were shaken, and he nodded again. He did not notice the look of intense concentration on his chancellor's face.
'Here is my finding,' he said. Reginard dipped his quill in the inkwell, preparatory to taking down the verdict.
Forcing himself to look Frodo in the eye, he said, 'Frodo, I find that all the evidence presented here serves only to indicate your guilt.' He could not bring himself to say that he found Frodo guilty.
The anguish, the betrayal in Frodo's eyes made it hard to continue, but Pippin steeled himself.
'Frodo Gamgee, also called Gardner, of Hobbiton,' Thain Peregrin said somberly, 'I hereby pronounce upon you, the Ban.
'You may speak to no other, and none may speak to you. You must eat your meals in silence, and avoid gatherings, feasts, and festivals. You are under the sentence of shunning, until you return, one year from this date, to hear the Ban against you lifted.'
He took a deep breath. 'Do you have any final words to say before the silence begins?'
Frodo looked to his parents. There was no use in protesting his innocence; he could see from their expressions that they believed in him, no matter what the evidence said. 'Mum, Dad,' he faltered. He swallowed hard, groping for the right words, words to last through a year of silence. 'I love you,' he said brokenly. Rose sobbed into her handkerchief, then controlled herself with a great effort. She lifted her chin proudly. 'I love you, too, Frodo-lad,' she said clearly.
Pippin nodded, then saw Samwise stagger. 'Sam!' he said sharply. Ted Sandyman and Shirriff Nob jumped to either side of the Mayor, eased him into a chair. 'Call the healer!' Pippin snapped. Hilly darted from the room.
Reginard poured a glass of water, held it to the Mayor's lips, urging him to sip. 'No,' Sam said faintly, pushing the glass away and sitting straighter in the chair. 'No, I'm well.' He looked to his son, standing aghast, and his eyes filled with tears. 'Frodo,' he whispered.
'I know, Dad,' Frodo replied simply. The Mayor--soon to be plain Sam Gamgee again, opened his mouth to renounce his office, only to be forestalled by a quiet word from the chancellor.
'Wait,' Ferdi said. Pippin looked at him in astonishment. Ferdi bore the look of one who has sorted through a difficult puzzle.
'The hearing is not over, not yet,' Ferdi continued.
'I've already pronounced my finding,' Pippin said, dumbfounded. 'Regi's written it down.'
Regi looked down at the mess on his desk in dismay. 'I spilt the ink when I jumped up,' he said.
Ferdi, of a wonder, smiled. 'I heard that,' he said. 'A lovely sound it was. I take it the paper is quite unreadable. You'll have to write it all over.'
'That I will,' Regi said.
'Perhaps I can spare you some effort,' Ferdi said.
'What are you on about, Ferdibrand?' the Thain said in some irritation.
'Adjourn the hearing,' Ferdi said. 'We're not quite finished yet.'
'Adjourn the...' Pippin said in astonishment.
'That's right,' Ferdi said. 'There's more evidence to be heard.' He turned his head in the general direction of the Mayor. 'Samwise?' he asked. 'Are you well?'
Sam was beyond words, and Ferdi half-rose from his chair in concern. 'Sam?' he asked.
'Drink the water, Sam,' Rose said firmly, taking the glass from Regi and urging it upon her husband. 'It'll do you good.'
Healer Mardibold strode through the door just then, and seeing the Mayor in the chair, surrounded, had no trouble determining who needed his services.
Sam finally found his voice, as his wrist was seized in a firm grip. 'I am well,' he said shakily.
'Let me be the judge of that,' Mardibold said mildly. 'Why don't you drink the water your wife has for you?'
Sam gave up and drank. Colour was returning to his face, and Pippin breathed a sigh of relief.
'I don't know what the lot of you are up to,' the healer finally said, straightening from his examination, 'but I want to pop this hobbit into a bed and watch him for the rest of the day, and into the night. He's suffered some sort of shock.'
'I'll say,' Ned said softly, only to be hushed by his father.
'I am well,' Sam said again.
However, Pippin replied, 'The hearing is adjourned until the morrow. We'll find you all rooms to stay, or you may return to your homes this night and we will meet again at noontide.'
'If I let you take him home, will you put him straight to bed?' Mardibold asked Rose over Sam's head.
'I will,' Rose said.
'He'll rest easier in his own bed, I think,' Mardi said, as Sam tried to protest. 'I know I always do.'
'Don't I have a say in this?' Sam blustered.
'No,' Rose and the healer answered together.
Looking to the Thain, the healer added, 'For the convenience of the Mayor, I'd suggest you continue your hearing in Hobbiton on the morrow.'
'Very well,' Pippin said. 'We will do just that.' Sweeping the room with his gaze, he said, 'We will reconvene on the morrow, at mid-day, at Bag End.' Looking at the Shirriff, he said, 'You might as well unbind him.' Nod quickly undid the rope, wound it into a small coil, and shoved it back into his pocket, all without speaking to Frodo, or meeting his eye. The Ban had been pronounced, after all, whether or not the hearing of further evidence caused it to be lifted.
The party from Hobbiton walked in silence back to the waggon, Samwise supported between Mardibold and Pippin, though he protested as they helped him up from the chair that he did not need the aid. In silence, the Shirriff drove the waggon all the way back to Hobbiton, stopping at the mill to leave off the miller and his son. In silence, the waggon pulled up in front of Bag End, and without speaking, Nod and Rose helped Samwise down from the waggon and into the smial, where Rose tucked him into bed with a cup of tea fresh from the pot that Goldi had brewed when Tolman shouted that he saw the waggon coming up the Hill.
In silence, Frodo walked into Bag End, not meeting anyone's eyes, taking himself off to the parlour to be alone, not speaking to anyone, and somehow, his brothers and sisters knew without being told that the shunning had begun. The girls dissolved into tears, and the boys went grimly about unharnessing the ponies, grooming them, feeding them, putting them and the waggon away, and moving on to their evening tasks, and no one spoke a word to anyone, not even a word of farewell to the Shirriff as he quietly let himself out the door.
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.