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Or Perchance, When the Last Little Star  by Larner

The Trial of Lord Tervain

            With Lord Faramir on one side of him and Leonid on the other, a remounted Tervain led the return to Dol Amroth.  Many watched as the five horses, one of them riderless, clattered into the keep’s courtyard.  Faramir was already dismounted and issuing orders.  “The lady’s mare has cast a shoe--take her to her stall and see her cared for, and send for the farrier and the one who was on duty in the stable before my party rode out this morning to come to my uncle’s presence.  You--hold the head of Lord Húrin’s gelding, and assist Mistress Lynessë and my cousin to dismount.  Boy--go to my lord uncle and ask him to repair to the Great Hall if he will.  Yes, I know it is Mettarë--all the more reason to see the matter settled quickly.  And if you will ask him to request my father’s presence as well as that of Captain Telorin and the Lady Endorë?  Thank you.”

            Lynessë was impressed by the swift flow of courteous commands and how rapidly they were followed.  In moments she was being led into the Keep, Húrin’s arm about her.  She carried the cloaks of both, each having become filthy from having been stamped upon and rolled about on the road.  They were brought into the Great Hall where fires burned merrily in the great fireplace.  Lady Indiriel was there with servants, seeing it readied for the feast to be served there this evening, and turned at their entrance.  Seeing the state of Lynessë and how muddy and disheveled were Húrin and Tervain, she dispatched two to fetch clean toweling and blankets, directed another to take the fouled cloaks, and came herself to take Lynessë’s hands.  “You had a bad time upon the road?  Did your horse throw you?  How is it you are in company with our nephew and these?  Are you well, mistress?”

            She led Lynessë, Lord Húrin, and Lord Tervain to the fireplace.  “Take those and see them properly cleaned,” she directed the servant who’d taken the cloaks before indicating Leonid should lay the swords he carried before the dais.

            “I am well enough,” Lynessë told her as the servant left with the cloaks.  “Oh, but the fire is welcome!  No, Silversheen did not throw me, but she did cast her shoe.”

            “But that is impossible!” announced her father, who was entering the hall with his wife beside him, both following the servant sent to fetch them.  “Nicoldorn saw to all our horses ere we left Pinnath Gelin.”

            “I know, Adar.  But it appears the shoe was deliberately loosened.”  She brought it out from where she had thrust it into the waistband of her skirt that her hands be free and held it out to him to take as he joined her by the fireplace. 

            He swiftly found the signs that someone had deliberately pried at the shoe and ran his thumb over the scored metal.  “Someone wished for your horse to cast her shoe?  But who would do such a thing?”

            “Let me see it,” suggested another voice, and they looked up to see that Prince Imrahil and Lord Denethor had followed Lynessë’s parents into the hall, and that the lord of the keep now held out his hand to receive the shoe.  He also examined the signs of tampering, and indicated them to the Lord Steward.  “There is little doubt this was deliberate,” he commented as Denethor took the horseshoe and turned it between his hands.  The Prince turned his attention to Tervain.  “I am surprised to see you return, my lord.  Did you not take your leave of us already this morning, indicating you would be returning immediately to Langstrand?  How did you come to be in company with Mistress Lynessë and, from the signs of it, brawling with Lord Húrin?”

            Lord Tervain’s face flushed as all were now looking at him with curiosity and growing suspicion, particularly the Lord Steward.  “It would appear, brother,” Denethor said, “that there is much to be looked into in this case.”

            Imrahil nodded, his face almost as stern as that of his late sister’s husband.  “I would agree.  Would you like to officiate?”

            Denethor gave one of his economical shrugs.  “This is your demesne--I have faith you can deal with these situations well.”

            “I would appreciate it, however, Denethor, if you would sit by me and give me the benefit of your wisdom, should it be called for.”

            “If you wish,” agreed the Steward as the servants returned with the requested toweling and blankets.  Húrin’s aide stepped forward to take those brought for his master and saw to it that the Warden of the Keys was dried and wrapped warmly; while Tersiel, who’d been summoned by those who brought the blankets came after to wrap a lighter cloak about her mistress and with a comb to see to her hair while the room was readied for as formal a hearing as could be arranged on such short notice.  Once Prince Imrahil’s personal scribe arrived with vellum and ink and quills readied, the investigation into the matter began.

            Lynessë was first called upon to tell what had happened as she had experienced it.  She described how the horse had stumbled and she’d fallen back, and how she’d found the shoe had been lost.  “But I was there as Nicoldorn examined Silversheen’s feet,” she explained.  “He is always most conscientious--never would he allow a horse to leave the grounds for such a journey as this with a loose shoe!”

            “And how was it the shoe was found?”

            “My Lord Húrin had dropped out of the riding when he realized I was no longer with the group, and it was he who found the shoe and searched the ground about the place where it was found and could find but the two nails, one of which had been pried at.”

            “I see,” the Prince said, then thought for a moment before summoning one of his guards to him and murmuring to him.  The guard indicated his understanding and left the hall.  The Prince then indicated that Lynessë should carry on.

            When she was done, he turned to Lord Húrin and had him tell his tale.

            “...And when it was asked, ‘Who would do such a thing?’ both of us immediately thought of Lord Tervain.”

            “And why is that?” asked the Lord Steward, speaking up for the first time.

            “Because of his reputation,” the Lady Indiriel suggested, to which both Lynessë and Húrin agreed.  “He has shown a fascination for following and seeking to seduce young women.”

            Imrahil turned his attention to Captain Telorin’s daughter.  “Has Lord Tervain shown you such attention, Mistress Lynessë?”

            “Yes--for some months.  I first was introduced to him last spring during the hunt sponsored by Lord Hirluin; three months ago he attended the Harvest Ball in Morthond where he paid me far more court than I desired, and at my cousin Erolieth’s wedding feast I was forced to remain in my chamber and to plead indisposition in order to avoid his importuning.”

            “And you do not welcome his attentions?”

            “No, my Lord Prince--I do not.”

            The door had opened during that last interchange, and the Prince’s guard returned to murmur information to his lord.  “I see,” the Prince said.  “Have them wait outside until I call for them.”

            The guard nodded and returned to the door.

            “So, Lord Húrin, let you tell us how it came to be that you found yourself fighting with Lord Tervain.”

            When the Warden of the Keys was done, Imrahil turned next to Leonid, Húrin’s aide.  “And your part in the affair?”

            “When my master turned back, he bade me continue, assuring me he would catch up soon.  However, when we had gone a half-mile’s distance Lord Faramir realized his cousin was no longer with us, and dropped back to ask about it.  The rest halted.  It was decided that Lords Erchirion and Elphir would accompany the rest to the village, and that we would retrace our path and learn what passed with my master and Mistress Lynessë.

            “We found them rolling about on the road, and Mistress Lynessë astride my master’s horse, holding the reins to her own.  Lord Tervain had just managed to roll astride my master when Lord Faramir decided the time had come to--interfere.”

            “I see.”  Prince Imrahil.  “Well, nephew?”

            Once Faramir had told his tale, Imrahil and the Steward exchanged significant looks.  Imrahil then turned to Tervain.  “Now, Lord Tervain.  Is what has been described accurate to the best of your knowledge?”

            Tervain raised his chin proudly.  “I do not understand why they suspect me of being involved in the loss of the horse’s shoe,”

            “You do not?  Then shall we enquire as to your actions within the stable at the time you were preparing to leave the keep, my lord?”  Imrahil turned to the guards by the door.  “Let the stable boy enter.”

            A youth of about seventeen summers entered, followed by the stablemaster.  “Welcome, Gervain,” the Prince said.  “What hours did you serve in the stable this morning?”

            “From the second hour after dawn until I was summoned here, Lord Prince.”

            “And do you know which steed belongs to Mistress Lynnessë here of Pinnath Gelin?”

            “Indeed, my lord.  It is a grey mare of excellent line, a fairly young mare and well suited to the lady, if I might say so.  She was kept in the fourth stall of the----”

            The Prince held out his hand, smiling, to stay the youth’s testimony.  “I see you know precisely how she was disposed.”

            “Indeed, my lord.  I was the one who saw to her stabling.  I am often called upon to serve the horses belonging to the ladies, for I have a gentler hand than many of the others.”

            The stablemaster nodded his agreement.  “It is as he says, my lord.”

            Imrahil returned his attention to the youth.  “When you were on duty this morning, did any from among our guests enter the stable?”

            “Yes, my lord.  First there came his lordship there before you with his manservant and guardsman.  He had his guardsman see to the saddling of the horses for the three of them, and his manservant stayed by the guard as he did so to assist as might be needed.  His stallion was restive, and needed calming.”

            “His servant stayed by Lord Tervain’s horses, but he did not?”

            “No, my lord, he did not.  He wandered about the stalls, examining the mounts of others before he paused before the tool board.”

            Denethor straightened.  “Tool board?” he questioned.

            “Even so my Lord Steward,” the youth said, bowing before the Steward’s attention.  “We keep the knives and rasps for trimming hoofs there, and pincers for the removal of objects from the frog of the hoof, and tools for the removal of shoes when it is necessary, as well as other tools that may be needed for the care of the hoof or tack.”

            “Did he touch any of the tools upon the board?”

            “I believe he did, but was called away to help saddle the horses to be required by those going out with Lord Faramir here, my lord.”

            “Did he return to his own horse’s stall?”

            “No, my lord, he did not, for his horse had been led forth by his guard and manservant and was being saddled near the mounting block where his tack was stored.”

            Prince Imrahil had listened to this with interest.  “So, if he was not with his horse and he did not stay by the tool board, where went he?”

            “I next saw him coming from the third aisle from the entrance.”

            “And where was this in relation to the stall where was kept Mistress Lynessë’s mare?”

            “It was the same aisle on which was kept Mistress Lynessë’s mare, my lord Imrahil.  Certainly it was in that aisle that Lord Húrin’s aide found him when he came for Lord Húrin’s gelding and his own.  Lord Tervain accused him of being in the way of a purpose when he would leave.”

            Lord Denethor demanded of the aide, “Is it even so, Leonid?”

            “Indeed, my Lord Steward, although I had no idea at the time of the identity of the one who so spoke to me.”

            “You did not recognize him when you saw him in the forest?”

            “No, my Lord Denethor, I did not.  Never had I seen him before, and I did not mark anything about him save his impatience and that he had a rasp in his hands when I found him.”

            “Who mucked out the stall in which Mistress Lynessë’s horse was kept?” asked Prince Imrahil.

            The stable boy answered, “I did, my Lord Prince.”

            “And did you find anything unusual within the stall at that time?”

            “Well, yes, my lord--one of the sets of blacksmith’s pincers from the tool board I found within the straw as I went to fork it out of the box.”

            “And nothing else?”

            “Well, one unusual thing--a horseshoe nail.”

            “What did you do with this nail?”

            “I have with me, my lord.  There was no time to dispose of it elsewhere, so I thrust it into my scrip to bring to the attention of Master Vilthorn here when all was again quiet.  I fear I’d forgotten it until now.”

            “I wish to see it, please.”

            The youth brought out a nail, which he presented to the guard, who in turn brought it forward to present to the Prince, who then passed it to the Lord Steward.

            The two lords of the realm exchanged looks as they passed the nail between them.  “The horseshoe?” requested Lord Denethor.  He examined it fully and compared the nails to the one found by the stable boy.  “They are of the same make,” he observed.

            “Indeed,” agreed his wife’s brother.  “And they are not the work of any within the keep.  Captain Telorin--if you will come and examine this?”

            The captain came forward to accept the shoe and nails again.  “I will tell you, my lords,” he said after making his own comparisons, “that this does appear to be of the work of our smith and farrier, Nicoldorn.”

            The Prince of Dol Amroth nodded slowly but decisively.  “So--we are agreed, brother Denethor, Captain?”  He turned to the guard.  “Please call the farrier now.”

            As with Master Nicoldorn of Captain Telorin’s household, the farrier of Dol Amroth also was the main blacksmith for the place.  Once he had added his opinion that the three nails and shoe he was shown were all the work of the same man, and added he believed that man to be Master Nicoldorn, who had done his own apprenticeship under the same master as himself, there was no question in the minds of those who’d been gathering in the Great Hall that this nail had indeed come from Mistress Lynessë’s mare, and that the shoe had been loosened deliberately, and that the markings seen on both the nail found by the stable boy Gervain and one of those found with the shoe had both been made by being grasped with pincers and pulled loose from the horse’s hoof.  As for the scoring on the shoe itself--it appeared the handle of a rasp might have been used on it to pry it loose from the hoof.

            The eyes of Lords Imrahil and Denethor were both stern as the two leading lords of the land of Gondor returned their attention to the unfortunate Tervain.

            “So, my Lord Tervain,” the Lord Steward Denethor said coldly, “you made assay at the farrier’s arts this day, did you?”

            The lesser lord from Langstrand blanched.  Yet he attempted a defense:  “No man can say he saw me do such a thing this day, my Lord Denethor.”

            “Perhaps this is so, yet it remains that the one person seen within the area of the stall in which Mistress Lynessë’s mare was housed was you, my Lord Tervain, and that after you were seen near the board for the tools and before you were seen by Master Leonid with a rasp in your hands.”  Such was the tone of voice used that no one was in question that the Steward felt Lord Tervain did not deserve the title he bore.

            The door opened again, and the guards without spoke briefly to the guard at the door.  He asked a question of them, then came again through the room to speak quietly with his Prince.  Imrahil’s expression was at first surprised, and then pleased.  “Bless Master Dendril, then.  My lord brother, it appears that your son’s aide has returned with still another possible witness.”

            “Then let him be brought in that we might question him.”

            “I shall so order it, but first I would speak with Lord Tervain.”  He turned toward the unfortunate man with purpose.  “You will stand where you are, and you will keep your lips sealed and your tongue stilled, or the knight behind you will see to it the tendon behind your knee is cut that you do not easily stand again alone.  Do you understand, sirrah?”

            Tervain looked behind him, apparently surprised to learn he indeed had one of the Swan Knights behind him, and that the man was unsheathing his sword.  He looked back to the Prince of Dol Amroth, his face pale, licking his lips with uncertainty.

            “Do you understand, Tervain of Langstrand?” insisted the Prince.

            Tervain’s voice was shaking as he finally answered, “It is clear to me, my Lord Prince.”

            Those nearby could see that the point of the knight’s sword rested against the rogue lord’s leg.  Tervain swallowed.

            Prince Imrahil commanded, “Let the man be brought here, before me.”

            In a few minutes a man garbed in Lord Tervain’s livery was led through those within the room to stand before Prince Imrahil and the Lord Steward Denethor.  Tervain straightened, but a prick of the sword’s point against his leg led him to stillness.  Sweat could be seen upon his forehead.

            Denethor examined the man.  “And you are?” he asked.

            The servant paled and bowed deeply on recognizing the one addressing him.  “My Lord Steward?  I am sorry I did not recognize you at once!  Please to forgive me!”

            “You are forgiven, but the question stands.  State your name and office.”

            “Henethergil of Langstrand, my Lord Steward, Lord Tervain’s body servant.  I was told that my master might require my assistance, and that he had returned here.”

            “Indeed the latter is so.  As to how much service you might offer your master at this time--that remains to be seen.  I understand my son Faramir’s aide found you.”

            “Yes, my lord, north of here in the village of Veridian, at the wayhouse there.”

            “You were in Veridian?  Why?”

            “My master informed the Lord Prince here we would be leaving to return to Langstrand as directed by Lord Angborn; but once we were free of the keep he sent Tirgon and myself north to Veridian to await him there.  He said he had an errand to complete before he would join us, and that we were to take rooms for our party in his name, and that he would be bringing another with him.”

            Prince and Steward exchanged glances, and murmuring could be heard throughout the room.  The Prince asked, “Did he say why you were to go that way?  Is not the straighter and better road that along the coast?”

            “Indeed it is so, my Lord Prince.  But he wished to remain there for the evening with the one he would bring to join the party.”

            “Did he give you any information as to whom this one would be?”

            The man searched the eyes of the Prince uncertainly.  “Well, yes.”

            “Did he indicate who was to join you?”

            “No--he gave no names, but....”

            “But what?” asked the Steward sternly.

            Again the servant paused, apparently reluctant to respond.

            “I command you answer the question,” Denethor said in a voice that brooked no refusal.

            Henethergil went pale.  “From what he ordered me to procure, it was apparent that the one to join us would be a woman, for he asked that I find suitable night garb for a woman roughly his own height, if far more slender.  He directed I should engage the services of a tirewoman skilled as a seamstress, suggesting one he has used before who--who is known for her--discretion.”

            “Did he give orders regarding the rooms he wished?”

            Reluctantly, unwilling to answer but knowing he could not do otherwise, Henethergil continued, “Yes--the rooms were to be at the back of the place, and away from other rooms that might contain guests.”

            “Did he have any other orders?”

            “Yes--I was to have a blacksmith nearby, for he said it was possible that the--that the lady’s horse would need to have new shoes fitted.  And I was to have Lord Banthir there this evening.”

            Banthir was an older lord originally from Tolfalas.  He had given over his office years ago to his son, and had retired to the mainland where it was hoped his health would be better.  Perhaps that might have come to be had he not been given to strong drink at frequent intervals.  As it was, he was often called upon by young lords and ladies of the realm to perform marriages that the parents of such young persons might have disapproved of.  At the mention of Banthir’s name an audible groan had gone up from Lord Tervain, and Imrahil looked his way in amusement.

            “And had the lady refused to go along with the planned wedding, what would you have done, Tervain?” he asked

            The servant’s face went grey.  “You did not say he was within the room, my Lord Prince!” he said with dismay.

            “No, I did not.  However, his plans were apparently not seemly.”

            He nodded to the guard who’d accompanied Henethergil to come forward.  “Take him in charge.”  He looked to the knight standing by Tervain.  “Bring the fool forward now.”

            Once Tervain stood before him, he rose to his feet, towering over the now shaking lord, who was forced to kneel.  “So--here in my lands you would lay hands upon a guest of my household, and force her to become your bride, would you?  You would present your marriage to her parents and to her liege lord and myself and to the Lord Steward himself as an accomplished fact, when it has been made plain to many she has done her best to discourage your interest and your advances?  Why would you wish to have one who clearly fails to return your own interest?”

            Tervain set his jaw and refused an answer.

            Húrin came forward.  “My Lord Prince Imrahil, I would beg the right to challenge this one for the insult offered the lady in question.”

            Imrahil and Denethor were both examining the Warden of the Keys.  Denethor asked, “And why would you do this?”

            “No woman should be importuned by one she finds offensive, Uncle.  It was made clear many times both last night and this day that Mistress Lynessë has found Lord Tervain’s advances both unwanted and offensive, and that she has been unsuccessful at convincing him to leave her alone.  What he has done dishonors the rank and title he holds, and he must suffer the punishment he deserves for what he would have done to her and for what he has imposed upon other innocent women.”

            Imrahil appeared uncertain, but Denethor gave a twisted smile.  “Yes--that is fair enough.”  He turned to Tervain.  “You carry a sword, and it appears serviceable.”  He indicated the swords Leonid had laid at the foot of the dais.  “Do you know how to wield it?”

            “I have been taught to use it, my lord,” Tervain said shortly.

            Denethor turned to his late wife’s brother.  “I am of a mind to grant my nephew’s request,” he said.  “Let all who would watch clear to the edges of the room, and let these two each be armed with a blade.  If Húrin bests Tervain, he shall name the punishment the miscreant shall bear.  Otherwise, Tervain shall be allowed to leave the realm with mere banishment, his lands and honors stripped from him but with enough to see him settled elsewhere.  But I do not see that last happening.”

            “You think not?” asked Imrahil, an eyebrow raised in concern.

            “You have not seen my nephew fight, have you?”  Denethor’s expression indicated the confidence he had in his Warden of the Keys.

            So it was directed.  Both men were relieved of other weapons, and their swords made ready as the Prince’s men saw the growing number of spectators moved to the edges of the room, with those who were taller made to stand behind the rest.

            At last Húrin stood, dressed still in his mud-stained breeches, shirt, and tunic, to receive his sword from his younger cousin’s hand, while the Swan Knight who’d stood behind Tervain saw the other sword returned to that man.

            “We will give you a quarter mark to settle this,” Denethor directed.  “If neither of you has prevailed, then we will see to it you, Tervain of Langstrand, are returned to your own land to stand before Lord Angbor for your insolence and the offense against the peace you have practiced here in the southern fiefdoms.  If you prevail, you will be given a month to settle your affairs and gather to you such as you will need to support you outside the realm of Gondor, and you will be given another three weeks to get you gone from within our borders.  If Lord Húrin prevails, however, he shall name the penalty you shall bear.  Do you understand?”

            White-faced, Tervain nodded.

            “So be it, then.  Gentlemen, will you prepare yourselves?”

            “Naneth!” Lynessë hissed into her mother’s ear.  “The Steward cannot allow this--Lord Húrin has but one arm!”

            Her father, however, was smiling.  “Do not fear, my love.  He was trained to use his sword one-handed by the Lord Captain Thorongil.  I have seen him spar.”

            Endorë looked with surprise at her husband, while at the name of the legendary hero of Gondor’s past Lynessë felt a surge of hope.

            Denethor, however, was watching the two men preparing to spar.  “Faramir,” he said, “if you will serve as steward for the bout?”

            “Yes, Father,” the younger man said, stepping to a point midway and to one side of the two combatants.  He looked from one to the other.  “You will ground the points of your swords,” he directed.  When satisfied both had followed directions, he said, “You will use the flat of your sword, not blade or point save when you prepare to claim victory.  Do you understand?”

            Húrin nodded directly; Tervain eyed first his opponent and then Faramir before he agreed.

            Satisfied, Faramir stepped back.  Once he was out of the way, he commanded, “Begin!”

            Húrin and Tervain began to circle one another.  One of the lords standing near the family of Captain Telorin commented to his companion, “I am somewhat surprised that Prince Imrahil allows live steel to be drawn and used so, here within the Great Hall.”

            Lynessë’s expression became fearful once again.

            It was Tervain who sought first to strike, and Húrin’s sword was there in defense.  A second clash, and again Húrin defended himself with seeming negligence, although there was nothing particularly negligent about the attention he was giving his opponent.  Indeed, he was watching Tervain intently.  Then Tervain surged forward with a flurry of blows, and Húrin easily warded each one.  But when Tervain began to move forward again the Warden of the Keys had stepped aside and had managed to slap the flat of his sword hard against the lesser lord’s left side.  Tervain turned reflexively, and the next swat from Húrin’s sword caught him across his mud-stained rear.

            Any concern felt about how Húrin’s disfigurement might impede his ability to defend himself soon fell away as it became obvious that not only was Denethor’s nephew a skilled swordsman, but that he was also well conditioned and practiced.  Tervain might have had training in the use of his sword, but it had been a time since he’d faced a worthy opponent in the practice salle, and he was soon out of breath and obviously wearying.  His attacks became more desperate, while those of the Warden became more frequent and precise.  Two touches he managed against Húrin, neither of them serious, to at least eight by the one from Minas Tirith, each maddeningly humiliating.

            At another swat to Tervain’s rump the lesser lord’s temper broke, and he began a furious assault, now seeking to use the edge and point of his blade; he managed at last to catch Húrin’s left arm a glancing blow just below the shoulder and above where it ended abruptly, the sleeve sewn closed over the stump of the arm.

            Húrin gave a feral smile, and ended the affair.  How he managed it none could say, but he swiftly had Tervain upon his back on the floor, the lordling’s sword spinning away from him across the stone paving, and the tip of his sword was to Tervain’s throat.

            “I would suggest,” he said in a voice that allowed for no dissension, “that you yield, my lord.”

            Tervain swallowed visibly, and finally managed, “Don’t kill me, my lord!” in a breathless squeak.

            “Oh, I have no intention of doing that, Tervain of Langstrand.  Do you yield ye?”

            At last the man lying on the floor whispered, “Yes!” loudly enough for most to hear.  At that Húrin lifted away his sword, nodding to the two Swan Knights who had approached and now stood each to one side of the two of them.

            A servant came forward with a cup of water and presented it to the Steward’s nephew.  He handed his sword off to Faramir, who had come forward to offer what help he could, and taking the cup he drank thirstily.  He then returned the cup with thanks, and looked one last time at the thoroughly cowed man who’d been raised to his feet by the two knights and now stood between them.  “It is my right now to speak your doom.  It goes against my grain to kill any in cold blood, although perhaps it is what you deserve.  Nor do I wish to send you from our land in total disgrace, for I would not gift the enemies of Gondor with one who will bring with him knowledge of some of our defenses and the habits of some our lords and their men.  Nay, I think I will leave you under the eyes of Gondor yet, and still in possession of your sword.”

            He continued to consider Tervain for a few more minutes, then gave his own twisted smile as he made his decision.  “I only pray that my cousin here does not take offense at my disposition of you.  He has just been commissioned as the commander of our Rangers within Ithilien.  You will be given to him, to serve among the Rangers in defense of the realm.  And you will not leave his company, for if you are not where you are assigned to be by Faramir, all others under his sway will have permission to slay you out of hand.  Are you skilled with a bow, Tervain of Langstrand?”

            The man was pale.  “I have learned to wield a bow, but am not particularly skilled with it,” he admitted.

            “You had best study well, then.”

            Denethor now stepped closer to the stricken lordling.  “Know this, Tervain of Langstrand, a lord of this realm you no longer remain, for you have betrayed your rank perhaps too many times.  I now strip from you your rank and all honors and lands and wealth you have held and administered.  You will no longer be offered the courtesies ordinarily given to even the least of the nobility, and all have permission to spit upon you or your shadow as you pass.  Who is your rightful heir?”

            “My--my son.  My son Taldred--but he is yet but a small boy--he is only six years of age!”

            “Then we shall appoint a regent for his lands, and a proper guardian and tutors to see to it that he does not grow to think himself above the law as you obviously do.”  He looked to the knights.  “Take him away, and see to it that he is housed in keeping with his now proper estate.  As for the servant----”  He looked in the direction of  Henethergil, and his expression became harder.  “Let him be taken with us back to Minas Tirith where he will be questioned thoroughly regarding his former master’s activities, after which we will determine what shall be done with him.”  He looked at the growing red patch on Húrin’s sleeve.  “And allow the leech to see to Lord Húrin’s wound.  I think, brother,” he said, turning toward Prince Imrahil, “we should withdraw and allow your lady to complete her preparations for this evening.  Do you not agree?”

            Imrahil gave his wife a warm embrace and chaste kiss, then conducted his late sister’s husband out of the room; and guards and knights saw to it that those who had observed the duel were chivvied out also.  Húrin was led away to the keeping of the healers, accompanied by young Faramir; and between them Captain Telorin and his wife brought Lynessë out of the room, followed by Tersiel while Tervain and his former servant were led away by Swan Knights to the guardhouse.

            The main door opened and Boromir entered just as Lynessë was leaving by doorway leading to the passage to the guest rooms.  “And what has been happening here while I was examining the defenses?” he asked cheerfully.

            Lynessë gave a last glance at the tall, broad-chested warrior before she fully left the room.  Oh, how glad she was not to be married to him!

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