Afternoon of March 11, 3020

Candon portrayed by Eowyn
Berenon portrayed by Hobbitness
Shakhr played by FreeFall
Narrator and Lord Ghazwan portrayed by Wraith

Story idea based on the Norman census of 1086 (for more information, go to Wikipedia's Domesday Book article.)

Narrator: *While Vardamir and Ceolwulf work in the garden in the back of the hut, a group of mounted men ride along the road towards Berenon's hut and then rein up outside. The officer with the group, Shakhr, goes to the door and knocks on it loudly.*
Shakhr: *Shakhr clears his throat loudly and raises his fist and bangs on the door three times loudly and grunts and coughs*
Berenon: *Berenon puts down the boot he is working on. Trying to hide his alarm, he gestures to Candon to stay out of sight...that is not Cearl or Castamir out there!*
Shakhr: *impatient and stiffening his posture* Open up!
Berenon: *whispers to Candon* Go upstairs to the loft, lad!
Candon: *Nodding gravely to his grandfather, Candon quickly scurries up the ladder into the loft, where he hides*
Berenon: *It might just be another tax collector, but you never know what might happen in these evil times. He hobbles over to the door* Coming, coming! Sorry, an old man like me can't move fast!
Shakhr: *releases a long sigh*
Berenon: *He finally opens the door*
Shakhr: *he stares at the man expressionless* I demand entry for Lord Ghazwan who is making the census
Berenon: The census? Ah yes, yes. Very well. *he backs into his house and beckons them inside*
Berenon: Come down, my boy....*laughs nervously* My grandson was just cleaning the loft *If I let them count the boy, I will avoid trouble for both of us, he thinks.*
Candon: *Hearing his grandfather, Candon climbs back down out of the loft and stands behind him, looking to the guard and wondering why he is here.*
Shakhr: *Shakhr goes back to the road and tells Ghazwan to come in*
Berenon: *His hand rests protectively on Candon's shoulder*
Lord Ghazwan: *A thin man dressed in rich robes sits upon a horse in the road with an armed escort. He looks down at the officer with an arrogant look.* Are the peasants ready to see me? *he asks*
Shakhr: Yes Sir. They are
Lord Ghazwan: Well then. Take my horse. I will go see them *he says as he dismounts. He walks into the house, followed by two servants, one carrying a writing desk and tools, the other carrying record books.*
Berenon: *Berenon sucks in a deep breath when all the men of Mordor enter his house. They are just here for a census, he tells himself. But his grip tightens on Candon's shoulder*
Lord Ghazwan: According to my records, you are Berenon the cobbler. Is this correct?
Berenon: *gruffly* Yes sir, that is correct. *He hates having his home invaded*
Candon: *The lad stands in front of his grandfather, looking up at the Lord Ghazwan and the soldiers.*
Lord Ghazwan: *He pulls out a chair from the table and sits down and his two servants spread out parchments, inkwells and place his portable desk in front of him.*
Lord Ghazwan: *Ghazwan opens a page in the book and begins writing* Do you own this place? *he says and looks around, all the way up to the rafters, where peppers hang drying from the beams*
Berenon: Yes, I do *he says proudly*
Berenon: *Berenon stands in silence as the man writes, having decided it safest to give them as little information as possible*
Lord Ghazwan: *Ghazwan writes the information down in his book, while the two servants write the two servants down in their books* How many acres do you own?
Berenon: One, sir.
Lord Ghazwan: How many cows do you own? *he says and looks over at Berenon*
Berenon: I do not own any cows.
Lord Ghazwan: Goats? *he asks*
Shakhr: *Shakhr comes back in through the door and stands in the back of the room with and looks around and to the little boy indifferently then looks ahead again*
Berenon: *tenses, tries not to sigh* ...One goat. *They will probably take it*
Lord Ghazwan: *He records that information in the book, and his servants write down the same information in their books* Male or female?
Berenon: It's a male goat.
Lord Ghazwan: Then why do you keep it? *he says sourly*
Lord Ghazwan: Ah hah! *he says and strikes at the table with his left hand* You were trying to trick me! There is a fine for that you know, giving false information!
Candon: *Candon looks up worriedly at his grandfather*
Shakhr: *he scoffs and shifts on his feet and looks harshly at the old man*
Berenon: Oh no, see, my mind is not what it used to be...and I...forgot that it is a female.
Lord Ghazwan: Taxes are higher on females *he says smugly* So, along with the fine for falsifying information... let me see now. That will be.... hmmm.... two brass coins
Lord Ghazwan: No horses? Man, speak! I do not have all day!
Berenon: Ah.....*sullenly* No, no horses.
Lord Ghazwan: Oxen?
Berenon: *shakes his head* Nothing but the goat.
Lord Ghazwan: What about vineyards, orchards, fields?
Berenon: We farm the acre, and there is a garden out back.
Lord Ghazwan: How many bearing fruit trees do you have?
Berenon: No fruit trees.
Lord Ghazwan: Are you sure? *he says as he scrutinizes him*
Berenon: Yes sir, I am quite sure.
Lord Ghazwan: But you did mention a garden. *He and his servants write all these figures down*
Berenon: *sighs*....yes. A vegetable garden.
Lord Ghazwan: There will be a copper coin for that. Now how many members of your household?
Berenon: Myself and my grandson.
Lord Ghazwan: What about those stalwarts I saw out in your garden? Are they your sons?
Berenon: No, they are hired hands.
Lord Ghazwan: *He looks over his record books* Hmm.... I will come to their households later I suppose
Lord Ghazwan: You are the first on the list. What is the name of your grandson? How old is he?
Shakhr: *he narrows his eyes as he looks around and rests his glance on the boy*
Candon: *Candon looks up at his grandfather, wondering fearfully why the Mordor men want to know about him.*
Berenon: *ruffles Candon's hair* His name is Candon, and he is ten years old.
Berenon: *whispers to Candon* It's just a census, my boy. They are counting the people who live in this area.
Lord Ghazwan: *He looks around the room again and then down at his records, and then looks at Berenon* Figuring all this information and tallying it all in my head, I have arrived at your taxes.
Berenon: *waits nervously*
Lord Ghazwan: Ten gold coins *he says emphatically* Every six months, twice a year
Shakhr: *shifts on his feet again and watches the old man*
Berenon: Ten gold coins! *he cries* I can't afford that much! Why, that is all I make in a good year!
Lord Ghazwan: My good man *he says and eyes him closely* you must come up with coins or suffer the consequences
Berenon: *gently pushes Candon back towards the loft....he asks quietly so the boy will not hear* And what are the consequences?
Shakhr: *takes a few steps forward closer to where Lord Ghazwan sits*
Candon: *Candon moves beside the ladder, looking back at his grandfather and the men, his ears and eyes open.*
Lord Ghazwan: The consequences, my good man *he says caustically as he and his servants all close their record books and rest their elbows on the books as all three of them stare at him at the same time* are one of two things.
Lord Ghazwan: If you cannot pay your taxes on time and in a speedy way, all your property will be seized and you will be cast into the road. Or, two, you and your grandson become the serfs of Lord Ashtum and he owns your property. Take your choice.
Berenon: *squeezes his eyes shut, clenches his fists*
Candon: *His eyes widen and he bites his lip. Can they come up with the coins?*
Berenon: *He takes a slow, deep breath, then lets it out through rounded lips as he glances at Candon, thinking what a terrible fate this is for the boy, then back to the men*
Lord Ghazwan: Remember, though, that you and your grandson will be required to perform certain services for Lord Ashtum and you will have to pay him a certain percentage of any fees you might collect for your cobbler work, plus one half of your garden produce.
Lord Ghazwan: Your better choice is to become his serfs, and for that he will protect you, making sure you have a place to live and productive labor. *he smiles* I must have your answer now.
Berenon: *He extends his hands, palms out, and shakes his head, speaking with an effort* ...We cannot pay the ten gold coins. I suppose....*glances apologetically to the boy again*....I suppose we must become serfs.
Lord Ghazwan: I am a very generous and patient man. All the men of my country are renowned for that quality *he says smoothly*
Berenon: *He remembers how handsome and proud his son looked when he set off in his Gondorian armor for the battle of Pelennor Fields...they were all noble and free then*
Berenon: *He tries not to glare at the man's absurd claim of honor*
Lord Ghazwan: Do you think *he says as he peers at Berenon* that you could ever pay this sum?
Berenon: never make twenty gold coins a year.
Lord Ghazwan: All right then. *He looks to one of his servants* Give him the paper to sign
Berenon: *I am signing away my grandson's freedom! He boils with anger*
Lord Ghazwan: *The servant sorts through some papers and brings out a parchment which reads: "I _____ do hereby pledge that I and all of my household, goods and services, all my property are hereby under the authority and protection of Lord Ashtum. I do swear fealty to him, pledging myself and all my male heirs to his service for now and forever until the unmaking of the world or I should be released from this oath. Signed... _____"*
Shakhr: *watches as the old man's brows furrow and his forehead creases and he smirks and brings his fist up to his mouth and coughs*
Berenon: *A scowl on his face, Berenon bends, dips his quill and signs his name on the parchment...."Berenon son of Imladion."*
Berenon: *When he straightens he wears an expression he has never worn of bitterness, hate, and utter humiliation.*
Lord Ghazwan: Ah, welcome to the protection of Lord Ashtum *he says and smiles smugly*
Berenon: *Unable to speak, he nods curtly to the man*
Candon: *These men of Mordor talk a lot of strange speech of figures and taxes, and Candon does not understand most of it. However, he feels resentment in his young heart, for these men are intruders in their land and they have no business trying to rule their lives. But there is naught that can be done about it, for the war had been lost for Gondor...*
Lord Ghazwan: Now you do understand that when the lad is about twelve or so, he will be trained as a common soldier? *Ghazwan asks*
Berenon: *his jaw drops* What?!
Lord Ghazwan: Yes, he looks strong enough for that.
Shakhr: *looks over to the boy and smiles*
Berenon: A soldier of Mordor!
Lord Ghazwan: So in about two years, he will begin his training. Can he read?
Berenon: NO! Never!!! Not my boy! I would not have signed it if I had known! Better to be thrown into the streets!
Candon: *Candon swallows hard and fights back tears - he will not let the evil men see him cry like a weakling.*
Shakhr: *Takes another step forward at the old man's raise in tone*
Lord Ghazwan: He will stay in this province, owing fealty to Lord Ashtum... unless there is war elsewhere.
Berenon: *He thinks fast......perhaps....perhaps Cearl and Castamir could steal the boy away, and save him from such a fate....but then he would never see his grandson again!.....*
Lord Ghazwan: You should be highly honored that someday your grandson will be a soldier and not *he looks down his nose at him* a cobbler.
Berenon: *Desperately he grabs the parchment from the man's hands, but as he is about to tear it, he stops...he pictures Candon ragged and starving...Valar! What is worse?*
Shakhr: *his jaw stiffens as he increasingly becomes impatient with the man's manner. He is used to, but equally annoyed with people's frustration with money and consequence*
Lord Ghazwan: Now if you will give my servant back the parchment, we will bid you a pleasant good afternoon.
Berenon: *Choking, with shaking hands, he slowly hands the parchment over*
Lord Ghazwan: *Lord Ghazwan and his servant rise to their feet at the same time. The desk is folded up, papers cleared, books and parchments held in their arms.*
Shakhr: *Shakhr does not nod to them but stares long before he moves to the door and opens it for Lord Ghazwan and the servants*
Berenon: *Berenon stares back with glaring, glistening eyes*
Lord Ghazwan: *He takes the parchment from Berenon and turns from him. Followed by his two servants, he walks out the door. After placing the parchment in a saddlebag, he mounts his horse and waits for the guard.*
Lord Ghazwan: *As soon as the guard comes out, all of the men mount up and ride down the lane to the next house.*
Berenon: *Berenon goes to Candon and embraces him* Oh, my boy! I am sorry!...But they are gone for now.
Candon: *After the embrace between them is broken, Candon looks up at his grandfather, his lip trembling slightly* What does this all mean, grandfather? What will happen to us?
Berenon: Well, Candon...what it means is that now everything we have belongs to Lord Ashtum...and it means that we belong to him now, too. I could not pay the tax they demanded, so they gave me two choices.... One was to be turned out onto the street. We would have nothing and no place to stay. Most likely, we would starve
Berenon: The second choice is what has happened to us. Now we are serfs of Lord Ashtum. The worst of it is that in two years, they want to take you to the army and make a soldier of you. *he cannot keep the fury out of his voice. Candon, fighting for Mordor!*
Berenon: But....*he tries to find a reassurance where there is none...* I will find a way to make things right....just you wait, I will find a way. *He does not really believe it, but perhaps saying it will make it more possible.*

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