It was the hottest summer in the history of Gondor. Many inhabitants of Minas Tirith had heatstroke, and three people had already died. The streets were entirely empty, with everyone seeking the shade of their homes.
Arveldis could see little of the outside world through the small hole in her cell wall, but enough to see that the city streets were deserted. That would have been invaluable to her five weeks ago, when she was watching always for an escape chance, but not now. Her trial began tomorrow, after two years of languishing in the city prison. Tomorrow would decide how she spent the rest of her life.
The cool hall in which many cases took place was extremely crowded, and had been for many days; people did not want to watch the trials, but get out of the heat, since many had to work even in the desert-like conditions, and got out of it by watching others being condemned.
It was the hottest part of the day, and the hall was more crammed now than any other time. It was also the trial of Arveldis of Annúminas, and many people had heard of her, as she was notorious for the amount of resistance she put up when captured.
Faramir had not known what Arveldis had looked like before now, and so he was utterly in the dark about the appearance of the young woman. He was in for a shock.
Arveldis was seventeen, but her two years held in capture had aged her remarkably. She now looked years older, even if it was only the embittered look in her eyes. But no amount of prison time could disguise her strange and yet familiar appearance: her face was an oval shape, she was exceptionally tall, and her eyes were deep-set with a challenging look in their midnight blue depths. Her hair was thick, wavy and as dark as a moonless night. With clouds. On an empty moor with no human lighting, in the shadows.
A loud declaration from – who was he? - brought him back to earth.
“Arveldis of Annúminas, you are here today to answer a most grave accusation: murder of a Lord’s son, Baimeldir of Lossonarch. Witnesses to the deed stand before you, none to your defence. Let your trial begin!”
Arveldis saw the first “witness” step forward. No doubt his pockets were full of gold; a small fortune in return for a few convincing lies.
“I am Arthven, son of Himdor – I own small fields around Gondor. On the night of the crime, I was visiting my cousin in the city of Osgiliath. I heard a man shout, presumably for help, and ran towards the sound. I found him lying dead on the street, and a figure running away – it was this young woman, judging by her height and build.”
“Thank you for your contribution, Arthven son of Himdor,” said the man who was in charge – Arveldis had a vague notion he was the Prince of Ithilien or the Steward Denethor’s son, or even both. She was not native to this land. She did not know.
And so it went on. On and on and on. There must have been twenty “witnesses”, each with gold in their keeping and lies in their mouth. She had stabbed him with his own knife… she murdered any people she thought might have seen her, and they were lucky to get away… once he was dead, she had laughed and laughed and laughed…
But, finally, there came the time when she could defend herself. Arveldis had been waiting all morning for this.
She was ready. And she would make them listen until they saw reason.
Trials made Faramir nervous. Mostly of making the wrong decision, but part of it was a cowardly fear that one day it would be he who stood there before lords and possibly the King, fighting for his life as this girl was doing – yes, girl, Faramir realised. She was very young, no more than twenty. But when she spoke, it was something else.
“My lords and watchers,” she began, not bothering to classify the crowd further than that. “I am seventeen years old, and when I was accused of committing the crime I was even younger – fifteen. The man I am supposed to have killed was twenty-three. Many of you must have daughters of around that age. If you were to make them fight this man, who would you expect to win – a grown, strong man in his prime, or a girl of fifteen?”
Amazing, Faramir thought. She must have worked on this for years. And there was more to come.
“He would most likely have killed me,” Arveldis continued. No one could stop her now. “I’ll admit I gave him a scratch on the face, but that was all. Then I ran. These witnesses are all liars, saying what they said for money. What I do not know is who is paying them, but someone is. And they most likely were the murderer!”
Author's Chapter Notes:
This story has four narratives: Aragorn, Faramir, Eowyn and my original character. The beginning of these are marked with an asterisk. Arveldis is my own invention, but most other characters are in the book. Enjoy!