THE TRIAL OF CEOLWULF
November 5, 3019
Frodo portrayed by Hobbitness
King Varyon portrayed by Eowyn
Narrator, Ceolwulf, Vartang and Nobles of the Court portrayed by Wraith
Mid-afternoon, November 5, has been set for the date of Ceolwulf's trial. Thirty days he has languished in prison in solitary confinement by order of Ulbin, commander of the Newburg Prison.
In the tower of the Citadel, King Varyon I, King of Forogondor, the Northern Province of West Mordor, and Lord High Governor of Minas Artano, sits upon the throne that had remained vacant since the last King of Gondor, Earnur, journeyed to Minas Morgul to answer the challenge of the Witch-King of Angmar and returned no more to sit upon the throne. Reserved in honor for the day upon which the rightful king of Gondor would return and take up his kingship, the throne sits upon a dias above the floor of the citadel.
Below the throne is the chair of the Stewards of Gondor, its last lawful occupant Denethor, last in the line of the Stewards since Mardil the Good was named by King Earnur as Steward to watch over the kingdom in his stead while he was gone. Now the younger brother of King Varyon, Maugoth Vartang, occupies the Steward's chair. Both Easterlings of Khand, Varyon and his brothers have established the customs of Khand over what is now but a province of what was once Gondor.
Now Varyon, Vartang, their concubines, servants, Varyon's nobles and friends await the arrival of the prisoner Ceolwulf in the Citadel tower. Frodo, the famous "Friend of Sauron," has been graciously been allowed by the King to watch the proceedings. Brennil and Ladiel lounge upon cushions at King Varyon's feet, while Alana, another of Varyon's concubines, sits on Vartang's lap. Wine glass in one hand and Alana's waist in another, Vartang jests with his brother until the prisoner is led in.
Ceolwulf, shackled in chains from head to foot, is prodded into the hall at spear point by brooding, menacing orc guards. The orcs command him, "Bow before the King and Steward!" as they force him to his knees with his head pressed hard against the floor. Vartang yawns at the prisoner's arrival and strokes Alana's fingertips. Varyon's attention is drawn to the prisoner and he says, "Let the prisoner rise and stand. The trial will soon commence."
Frodo: *Frodo, sitting on another
cushion, closes his eyes, unable to watch Ceolwulf's humiliation.
Then Frodo tries to search his friend's eyes with a silent offer
Frodo: *Frodo is pale, sleep-deprived and overwrought. He has gone past the phase of open grief to a deathly quiet that bespeaks the deepest despair*
King Varyon: *he looks over to Vartang* Brother, you will be named as prosectuor
King Varyon: *King Varyon rises to his feet* Now let the trial begin!
Frodo: *rubs his forehead*
Vartang: *looks over to his brother* As you will, my lord
Vartang: *He kisses Alana, then rises to his feet and walks to the throne where he stands beside his brother*
Frodo: *looks hopefully to Varyon...will Ceolwulf be allowed any defense at all? But what defense can he argue? Nothing to excuse him from the laws of Mordor!*
Vartang: *Vartang smiles, his teeth flashing with a bright gleam in the torchlight*
King Varyon: *Varyon sits down* Maugoth Vartang, read the charges.
Frodo: *Frodo's eyes move back to Ceolwulf*
Vartang: *he looks to Alana and smiles* The prisoner, one Ceolwulf of Rohan, son of Elfwine, did cruelly and maliciously murder Orc Guard #5,622,001 on October 6 of the first year of the First Age of Sauron, or as the date is called by some, the 3019th year of the Third Age
Frodo: *his eyes flash and narrow as his glance shoots back to Vartang*
Vartang: There were many witnesses who saw this foul deed as it was done
Vartang: The prosecutor for the Northern Province of West Mordor calls as its first and only witness........
Vartang: Shakh Frodo Baggins, Friend of Sauron
Frodo: *jaw drops*
King Varyon: *his dark eyes turn to Frodo* Let the witness come and stand beside me
Frodo: What?! No! No, I will not be a witness against him!
Frodo: *clenches his fists, but does not move*
Vartang: Shakh... *Vartang says, grinning broadly* you must
King Varyon: Yes... *he says, idily rotating his hand in the air* come forth and testify.
Frodo: I will not be the cause of his death!
King Varyon: *a look of puzzlement crosses his swarthy face* Speak up, Shakh. I cannot hear you...
Frodo: *stands up* I said, I will not be a witness against Ceolwulf.
King Varyon: Why do you yet linger? Come forth.
Frodo: *looks to Ceolwulf. His friend's distress strengthens his resolve. He still does not move.*
Vartang: *He looks to his brother, smiling* Well then, my lord.... you know the evidence already, so you give your judgment?
Frodo: Wait...I am willing to be a witness FOR him...
Frodo: *though I don't know what I can say...*
King Varyon: *he looks to Vartang* If the witness is reluctant to testify, then I suppose I shall.
Vartang: Then, my lord, what is your judgment?
Frodo: Wait!...he is ill, he was not himself when he did it
Frodo: He was distraught, mad with grief
King Varyon: I now pronounce in the name of the Province of Forogondor, Northern Province of West Gondor, and in the name of Sauron, his judgment shall be... on the dawn... taken to the field outside the city and in the presence of all who should choose to witness it, behea---
Vartang: Wait, brother! *Vartang exclaims*
Vartang: The Great Shakh, the Friend of Sauron, says he will speak.....
Frodo: *holds his breath, closes and uncloses his cold sweaty palms*
King Varyon: *he looks to Frodo* Then come forth, shakh, and stand before me.
King Varyon: Tell the court what happened that day in October.
Frodo: *with an anxious look at Ceolwulf, he slowly walks to Varyon's throne*
Frodo: *thinks fast*
Vartang: *A servant brings Vartang a goblet and stands beside him to refill his goblet when it is drained dry. Vartang takes a hefty mouthful and swallows, wiping his mouth off with his hand*
Frodo: As I said he was ill at the time and was a danger to himself, so I ordered the orc guards to put him in the dungeon for his own safety.
Frodo: He struggled, and that infuriated the orcs.
Frodo: A fight broke out, and one was killed, but they were all fighting with each other
Frodo: There were many orcs, so it is more likely that another orc did it.
Frodo: *Frodo decides that, in this extreme situation, it might be better to lie outright*
Vartang: *Vartang takes another drink and belches* I object!
Frodo: *glares at Vartang*
Vartang: This is presumption upon the witness' part
Frodo: I was there!
Frodo: I saw the mad scuffle.
Frodo: I was the only one who was there besides the orcs and they are always anxious to put the blame on someone else!
King Varyon: Your objection, brother, is sustained
King Varyon: Continue.
Vartang: Now if the witness can go on without assuming and making false charges that one of the guards assualted and slew the other, this court can arrive at justice
King Varyon: *he yawns and scratches his chest* Continue, shakh.
Frodo: *furrows his brow, wrings his hands*
Vartang: *he takes another drink of wine from his goblet* Shakh, go on with your testimony
Frodo: I did not see him kill the orc.
Frodo: Therefore I cannot say that he did it.
King Varyon: *he stretches out lazily in his chair... Ladiel and Brennil lean against his legs and look up at him adoringly*
Vartang: My Lord King, the other guards swear that the defendant slew Orc Guard #5,622,001 and since they are all good lads, their testimony stands
Frodo: *frustrated sigh*
King Varyon: *he looks to Frodo and then to Vartang* Then brother, if the orc lads saw it, the charges are grave for the accused.
Vartang: My lord, the matter is clear. The accused is guilty as charged
Vartang: *Vartang holds up his other hand* I object
King Varyon: Hmm.... brother... let's see what the shakh has to say... *he chortles under his breath*
Vartang: *Vartang looks to Frodo and bares his teeth in a wolfish snarl*
Frodo: Ah....*sweating profusely now*...Great Shakh, you should speak first *bows*
Frodo: *If Vartang has a way to save Ceolwulf, Frodo would rather hear it first than attempt his last desperate plan.*
Vartang: *Vartang rubs his bearded chin with his hand and looks to Ceolwulf*
Vartang: *Then he looks back to his brother* He is guilty. You can see by the look of him
King Varyon: *he studies the prisoner intently with his dark eyes, then looks to Vartang* Of course he has a guilty look about him. His skin is pale and his hair is the color of straw.
King Varyon: The markings of a lesser man - the thrall folk
Frodo: *closes his eyes, takes a deep breath*
Frodo: All right, I will speak....
Frodo: I will tell the truth at last!
Frodo: It was not Ceolwulf who killed the orc, it was I. I put the blame on him to save myself.
Frodo: The orcs who swore otherwise know of my fame and feared my wrath
Frodo: I ordered the guards not to hurt Ceolwulf but they started to beat him
Vartang: *A look of amazment on his face, Vartang drops the goblet and watches as it spills its contents and then rolls across the floor*
Frodo: I flew into a rage and attacked them
Frodo: *gives a look to Ceolwulf that says, you had better not contradict this!*
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf had been silent throughout the proceedings, his head bowed, but as the goblet clanged across the floor, it rolled to his feet. He moves his position and the chains about his arms and legs and wrists clank*
Vartang: *Vartang looks at the goblet* This is madness! He lies!
Frodo: No, no, I was lying before, to protect myself
Vartang: *Scowling broadly, Vartang whispers to his servant* Bring me another goblet and more wine, you idiot!
Frodo: *I have suffered worse things; I have stood before Sauron himself. I can endure this.*
Vartang: So, shakh, you confess to this crime?
King Varyon: *he straightens up in his chair and leans forward, his elbows resting on his knees... he has a look of feigned interest on his face* Do continue, shakh. This is most... interesting...
Frodo: *white as his shirt, says quietly* Yes, I do
Vartang: *Vartang looks over to Frodo, glaring* Shakh, why would you kill an orc guard?
Frodo: *He glances back at Ceolwulf, who does not seem to be reacting much to this development. Worry that something is terribly wrong with Ceolwulf adds to Frodo's agitation*
King Varyon: *he stifles a yawn as he looks to frodo*
Frodo: Surely you have heard of my time in Lugburz? Surely the Shakh Vartang has told you of my state before I was healed by the Dark Lord Sauron? Orcs tortured me in hideous ways. I hate them!
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf kicks viciously at the fallen goblet at his feet and watches as it rolls to the side of the room*
Frodo: And as I said before, I planned to adopt Ceolwulf as my heir. When an orc attacked him it unleashed my fury at them all
Ceolwulf: *the chain about his foot clanking as he kicks*
Ceolwulf: *he lifts his bowed head up and shouts* NO!
Frodo: *stops mid sentence, turns open mouthed to Ceolwulf*
King Varyon: *the king had almost fallen asleep, but ceolwulf's yell alerts him... he leans back in his chair, scratching his chest*
Frodo: *masters himelf* Come, Ceolwulf, you know it is true.
Ceolwulf: NO! *Ceolwulf screams and holds his manacled right hand in a fist as far as he can reach it* Frodo, you cannot say these things, for I slew the guard with my own dagger!
Vartang: Ah! *he smiles and takes another sip from his goblet* The prisoner now speaks
Frodo: *glares at Ceolwulf while making his voice calm and placating* You say these things because you fear me, but you need not fear my punishment anymore. I will not place the blame on you any longer
Vartang: And he has confessed.... *he turns to his brother* my King, the confession is from his own lips
Vartang: He condemns himself with his mouth!
Frodo: He speaks out of fear! I have confessed to the crime!
Vartang: And the shakh, ahh yes.... the shakh is overwrought. He babbles what he does not know
Frodo: *Frodo is now truly on the verge of a mad rage*
King Varyon: *he looks to his brother and smiles, his perfect white teeth gleaming* My brother, you are the one to know best about the good shakh, for you spent many months with him in Nurn.....
Frodo: Yes, and you know how I tried to kill the guard who whipped Ceolwulf!
Frodo: Twice I tried to kill him!
Vartang: Aye, my King, I know the Shakh well, and have found that he is given to fits of madness when he is under strain!
Frodo: *nods vigorously, feeling that his head is about to burst*
Vartang: It is a weakness in his nature, thought to have been caused when he made his ardous journey to bring the Master's Ring back
Frodo: *cannot surpress a growl*
King Varyon: *he looks to Frodo and a look of sympathy crosses his face* The shakh is to be pitied... for though he is a loyal servant of our Master, he is given to these fits and maladies.
Frodo: *He is now at a loss for words. Fear and worry sweep over him in waves*
Vartang: But the shakh, my King, the shakh had been misadvised by those who thought to bring peril to him. Instead of counselling him to go to the Morannon and state his presence and his purpose, his false advisors told him to come round by the yonder way, by the Morgul Vale
Vartang: But the shakh, true friend of Sauron that he is, can be forgiven for his outbursts
Frodo: *His glare is now almost as intense as the ones he turned on Sauron himself...but he forces himself to keep silent*
King Varyon: However, we cannot believe all that he says.... for his mind is deranged.
Frodo: No, I am myself now...but in a fit of madness I slew the orc!
Ceolwulf: Do not believe these words that Shakh Baggins says! He killed no one! I did the deed myself!
Frodo: CEOLWULF! *shouts angrily*
Vartang: Shakh, tell this court why you think you killed the orc
King Varyon: *he cannot surpress a fit of laughter*
Frodo: I killed the orc because it disobeyed my orders
Vartang: Then Shakh *he rubs his chin again with his hand* what order did he disobey?
Frodo: I told you before, I had ordered them to take Ceolwulf to the dungeon but not to hurt him. But they started to beat him.
King Varyon: *he stops his laughter and clears his throat and listens intently*
Frodo: I was mad with fury that they would dare disobey....one such as...*coughs* such as I.
Vartang: Then Shakh *Vartang says with cunning in his voice* Where did you inflict the killing blow?
Vartang: *He looks to his brother* The Shakh is speechless, his mind caught again in another fit of madness
Frodo: In its stomach. I could not reach much higher
King Varyon: *he shakes his head sadly* A pity for the friend of Sauron.
Vartang: My King *he looks to his brother* It is true that the orc was stabbed in the stomach, but this proves nothing since the Shakh was there and saw the whole thing!
King Varyon: My brother, I must make a pronouncement.
Vartang: *Vartang, now looking bored, looks across the hall at Alana*
King Varyon: If the shakh is indeed guilty as he says he is, he cannot be punished for he is the Friend of Sauron. However, someone must still pay for the crime......
Frodo: Why not? I was punished immediately after......
Frodo: after bringing the Ring back
Frodo: *trails off, falls silent, too choked to speak anymore*
Vartang: I object
King Varyon: Objection sustained
Vartang: The Shakh was rewarded, amply. Not punished.
Frodo: Vartang, you SAW....!
Frodo: You were in my CELL!
Vartang: *Vartang, cunning in his eyes, says* Shakh..... I saw you housed in quarters appropriate for your station *he yawns*
Frodo: I was covered in blood and filth, in a dark cell, starving and sick almost to death!
Frodo: *tries to compose himself* This..proves that it is permissible to punish me.
Vartang: I saw nothing of the kind Shakh. I saw you ailing, it is true, but that is because of the weakness of your constition nothing more. You traveled many miles to bring the Ring back to the Master and saw many misfortunes
King Varyon: The matter of how the Great Lord of Mordor rewarded Shakh Baggins is not the matter at hand. The matter at hand is whether the Shakh or one Ceolwulf of Rohan is guilty of slaying the orc guard.
Frodo: *Frodo surpresses a great cry of angry protest*
Vartang: My King.... my lord.... your wisdom is profound
King Varyon: *he smiles broadly at his brother* Thank you, Maugoth Vartang. Indeed, I endeavor.
Vartang: Then my lord, are you ready to arrive at your judgment? *the servant refills his goblet for the second time*
King Varyon: Aye. The justice of Khand shall be delivered!
King Varyon: *He rises to his feet and clears his throat. Then speaking in a loud, booming voice, he makes this proclaimation:*
Frodo: *bows his head and prays, unable to do anything else*
King Varyon: I deem that both Shakh Frodo Baggins of the Shire, son of Drogo Baggins, and one Ceolwulf of Rohan, son of Elfwine, and one of the thrall-folk....
Frodo: *raises his head*
King Varyon: ...conspired to kill Orc Guard #5,622,001.
Frodo: *gnaws the insides of his cheeks*
Ceolwulf: NO! He did nothing! I did it myself! I take full blame!
King Varyon: Silence, accused thrall! This is my judgment upon the matter!
Frodo: *closes his eyes*
King Varyon: Since Shakh Baggins cannot be punished, for he is the Friend of Sauron, then his slave Ceolwulf, the accused, will bear twice the punishment that a crime such as this deserves.
King Varyon: Both punishment for himself, and punishment for his master.
Frodo: No, this is not acceptable! I will kill whoever tries to harm him!
Vartang: *Vartang smiles broadly and asks* Then the verdict, my lord?
King Varyon: The prisoner should first be tortured and then beheaded at the public execution field. Then his body should be hewn to bits and scattered upon the top of the Mindolluin for the carrion birds.
Vartang: My lord! Let justice be done!
Frodo: *Frodo's lips part, his hands go limp. He shudders but cannot speak, numb with shock*
Vartang: Let it be known throughout all the lands of Middle Earth that the justice of Khand is always swift
Ceolwulf: *Ceolwulf looks to Frodo and he mouths the words* Be silent! Be silent lest he change his mind!
King Varyon: Does anyone have any reason to question the ruling of this court? *he looks around and sees that all of his nobles are either smiling or laughing*
King Varyon: Then are all in agreement with this judgment?
Nobles of the Court: Aye! Aye! Let the judgment be swift!
Vartang: My lord, since there are no objections..... this case should be called to its conclusion and swift justice
King Varyon: *he looks around* No one? None at all?
King Varyon: I say... SHOULD be...... *he pauses* but look at the man... see the strapping muscles on his arms?
King Varyon: It would be a pity when there is so much work to be done that he be wasted in the stomachs of carrion birds.
Vartang: My lord! I object strenously!
Vartang: He is guilty! He is a knave and a rouge!
Frodo: No...it is a good point. There is much work he could do!
King Varyon: My brother, I know that he should be tortured and executed, but since the war is over, there are fewer slaves to labor on the many works....
Frodo: *He has been turning over the situation in his mind, trying to think of another defense...but it seems the Valar are having mercy on them*
King Varyon: So I say... let him be driven by whip and spear to hard labor where he will die slowly day by day until his life is spent
Frodo: But why waste him so?
Frodo: If he lives, he can do much more work
King Varyon: But first... he should be scourged thirty times to teach him obedience and humility.
Frodo: *covers his face*
Frodo: *shaky breath* He has already spent thirty days in prison....
King Varyon: This is my doom. I have spoken. Let the prisoner be taken away.
King Varyon: I turn him over to the discretion of Maugoth Vartang to see that he is used either in the mines of Mordor or on the building in the land of Forogondor. *he sits down in his chair*
Vartang: *Vartang looks crestfallen and his shoulders sag* Then let justice be done. Take the prisoner away to be housed in chains and solitary confinement until I decide whence he shall be sent
Ceolwulf: Frodo *he says quietly* It is best this way perhaps
Frodo: *looks to him, fights back tears*
Frodo: I'll find you *mouths*
Narrator: *The guards that brought Ceolwulf into the hall had been waiting along the walls during the court. They walk to Ceolwulf, spears drawn and pointed at him and escort him from the hall*
Vartang: *Vartang spits as he sees Ceolwulf leave*
Frodo: *Frodo watches Ceolwulf until he is out of sight, then sinks back to his cushion and puts his head in his hands*
King Varyon: I thank all the nobles who attended the proceedings. Come to my House where food and refreshment await you!
King Varyon: *He rises to his feet and proclaims* This court is ajourned!
Vartang: My lord, sometimes justice is a tedious business *he says and smiles* but justice has been done this day
Vartang: *Carrying his goblet in his hand and followed by the servant, Vartang walks back to the Steward's chair, smiles at Alana who sits on the floor, waiting for him, and sits down, a satisfied smile on his face*
Frodo: *The true purpose of their "justice" has indeed been done, as evidenced by the crushed figure of Frodo huddled on the stairs but at least Ceolwulf will live...for a time and Frodo determines to find him at all costs...and perhaps help him escape*
Frodo: *Frodo stumbles to his feet. He pauses a moment to steady himself, then walks down the length of the throne room and out of the King's House*
Frodo: *He does not notice anything around him. He cannot breathe, as though he were in the foul air of the plains of Gorgoroth*
Frodo: *He wafts silently through the streets of the city, feeling as though he were moving through knee-deep glue*
Frodo: *Later, he will not remember the trip home or the words he spoke to his servants*
Frodo: *He will block the ugliness of this great loss of Ceolwulf, this second loss of Sam, from his mind. He will wake up sitting on his bed, staring at the cot that used to belong to Ceolwulf and he will tear down the tapestry of the Great Eye that hangs in his room, rip it to shreds and throw it on the fire.*
Frodo: *Then he will stagger back to his room to spend the next hours in a stupor on Ceolwulf's bed.*
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