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Author Topic: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Twenty-Three  (Read 2397 times)

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Offline Evie

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Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Twenty-Three
« on: April 13, 2012, 09:49:37 am »
   Chapter Twenty-Three

   Eddington Manor
   November 10, 1136—afternoon


   
   Ĉdwige glared balefully at her judge from behind the shimmering wards that enclosed her.  She had not been warded at first—when she'd been brought into the Hall for trial, the Duke of Corwyn had relied primarily on his archers and his own veiled threats to assure her meek compliance during the proceedings.  But how dared these imbeciles presume to stand in judgment against her?  As if none of them had ever had to kill someone before to get a job done!  That Morgan in particular could hardly be held guiltless of that, yet there he stood as if he had a perfect right to look down at her for her deeds.  She'd show him some day!  She'd…she'd marry Sivney, that's what she'd do, and once she had the Queen's ear as her stepsister-in-law, she'd have a thing or two to say about Alaric Morgan!

   Was it her fault she'd nearly caught the roof ablaze in her fury when that damned chambermaid stepped forward to tell how she'd found the bottle of mortweed beneath her mistress's mattress?  She'd sack the ungrateful wench, that's what she'd do!  She really ought to slit the little ingrate's throat, but that would hardly help her case, she supposed.

   The maidservant had shrieked when the first sparks began to shower down from the thatched roof, and Ĉdwige had hoped she might be able to slip out of the Hall during the ensuing confusion, but instead the Bishop had caught up with her, smacking her unceremoniously upside the head with one balled fist and temporarily knocking her out.  Once Ĉdwige had recovered from her dazed state, she'd found herself warded again, the Bishop peering in at her with a look on his face that was an odd mixture of satisfaction and…was it pity?  How dared he look at her that way!  And to strike a lady down…how could he consider himself a man of God, with such unchivalrous behavior?  She’d never dreamed a mere churchman could wield such a mean punch; it simply wasn’t natural.  And she’d not even had the satisfaction of seeing Eddington Manor burn to the ground, although the entire lot of Gilrae sympathizers deserved it, because someone—probably that meddlesome Duke again—had managed to stop the fire from spreading.  She was really beginning to loathe the man.  Maybe it was a good thing she’d decided to break things off with his stepson Brendan.

   She hated them all.  All she'd ever wanted was to be left alone to finish her studies, so that with the combination of her beauty, her Deryni talents, and an advantageous marriage to some rising star in the King's Court, she could finally find her proper place in the world.  Was it so much to ask, not to be stuck away here in this backwater manor, in some minor Earldom, her youth and beauty wasted on some mere old knight with no prospects of bettering himself and his station, and worst of all, her training cut off just when she was on the verge of discovering her full power?

   They didn't understand.  But they must.

   At last the Earl of Danoc allowed her a chance to account for her own actions.

#

   "What say you, Lady Ĉdwige, to the charges brought against you today?"

   Ĉdwige stood proudly as she faced the Earl who was seated at her rightful place upon the dais of Eddington Hall.  She briefly considered telling her liegelord that the witnesses against her all lied, that the chambermaid had found the remaining poison hidden under her mattress because the scheming little wench had put it there herself, doubtless after poisoning the master of the household for her own nefarious ends—probably knowing that if she did, Lady Ĉdwige would return to her studies forthwith, and there'd be less work to do around the manor with a dead master and an absent mistress.  The story might well convince her judge in other circumstances, and Ĉdwige was sorely tempted, yet the presence of three Deryni in the Hall stopped her mouth.  They would know she lied, if she told such a tale outright, and they would tell the Earl of Danoc that she had failed to pass their Truth-Reading.  But how did the Earl feel about the use of Deryni powers?  She didn't know.  He certainly didn't seem to object to Deryni wards being used to confine her, though under the circumstances, perhaps he'd only grudgingly permitted it.  

   Maybe she could plant doubts in some more roundabout way, though.

   "My lord Earl," she murmured, her eyes downcast, "I hardly know what to say in my own defense.  I fear you have already judged me in your mind and found me wanting.  What reason would I have for wishing my lord dead?  You say a bottle of poison was found within my chamber, and this may well be true.  I have only a chambermaid's word for it, though, and even if someone did find such a thing hidden between my mattresses, who is to say how it came there in the first place?"  She allowed a tear to course down one cheek.  "I know the household was most loyal to my late lord, and that I have had scant time to win their heart.  Indeed, they don't seem to have warmed to me much at all during my brief time as Lady of Eddington.  Perhaps they thought me too harsh a mistress?"  She blinked rapidly, as if to dispel further tears.  "I own perhaps I have too sharp a tongue at times, but I was simply trying to establish myself as mistress of my new household, and mayhap was too clumsy in my efforts…."  She sniffed.  "A youthful folly, I fear, but I was not prepared to wed yet and had but little training in how to govern a household."

   She risked a glimpse at the faces surrounding her.  A few appeared to be swayed toward pity, though not nearly as many as she'd hoped.  Dared she try to add more subtle means of persuasion to her efforts?  Such arts wouldn't work on the Deryni in her presence, alas, but if she could sway enough of her household to her side, or even if she could only manage to convince the Earl, she might still be able to convince the Court that they were being too hasty in their judgment of her.

   The Earl, however, raised a skeptical eyebrow at her before she could continue on.  "So, you are claiming then that you had no knowledge of how the bottle of mortweed infusion came to be in your chamber, and that someone else—perhaps young Maggie—planted it there to implicate you in Sir Gilrae's death?  If that were the case, then why did you take such pains to hide any evidence that the mortweed poison was mixed in with Gilrae's cordial?"

   Ĉdwige gave him a wary look, unsure of where his question was leading or exactly how much incriminating evidence against her the Earl might have uncovered during the days when she had been locked away in her husband's tomb.  "Evidence, my lord?"

   "Yes.  I refer to Gilrae's old tunic that you used to clean up the cordial that spilled in your late husband's chamber, and to the broken shards of glass from the cordial bottle itself.  Even assuming someone else hid the original bottle of poison—a supposition I find myself unconvinced of—why did you take such pains not only to clean up the spill yourself, but also to dispose of all of these items by burying them in the woods under the cover of night, rather than simply calling for one of your servants to sweep it up and bring it to the rubbish heap?"  The Earl of Danoc snorted.  "Clearly you were fully aware of what that cordial bottle really contained, and you didn't wish for anyone else to discover what you knew.  And for the moment we'll lay completely aside the question of what else—or perhaps I should say who else—you had planned to bury along with the evidence that Gilrae's cordial had been tampered with.  Though I must ask, just how were you planning on explaining away burying your house guest alive?"

   Ĉdwige felt slightly faint.  "No, you don't understand, my lord!  That wasn't…."   She glanced wildly around the Hall.  "That was Martin, my steward!  He buried Sister Helena!"

   The Earl leaned forward in his chair slightly, putting her in mind of a eagle about to stoop to its prey.  "Did he now?  And why would he do that?"

   "Because…."  Her mind grasped at the first plausible explanation she could conjure up.  "Because he'd discovered Sister Helena robbing Lady Catherine's coffin, and they fought!  She was bested in the struggle, and he believed her dead and decided to dispose of her body.  And he…He must have been the one to poison Gilrae as well, which is why he buried the…the other things with her!"

   A loud cry of protest sounded behind her—Martin's voice, from the sound of it—nearly drowned out by an equally loud hubbub of other voices—but the Earl held up a hand to silence them.  "I see, Lady Ĉdwige.  Are you certain he didn't bury Sister Helena along with the other items in question because you had control over his mind and were directing him to?  Or how do you explain your own presence at the magistra's makeshift grave that morning?  Not to mention the attack on the Bishop and his men-at-arms at daybreak.  Did Martin Steward engineer that as well?  Tell me, Lady Ĉdwige, how does a mere human call up Deryni-like powers at a moment's notice like that, only to lose them again later in the day?  You're formally educated in the Deryni arts; is that even possible?"  He turned a wry smile towards Duncan.  "I'm sure that your Schola's Rector will correct me if I'm wrong, but I highly suspect that none of the events that occurred on the fifth morning of November were initiated by Martin Steward, and most especially not the fiery blast which incapacitated Otho of Leviston nor the takeover of Eanrigh d'Alençon's mind and sword hand to inflict grievous injury upon Bishop Duncan McLain.  Could Martin Steward have committed either of those acts, Bishop McLain?"

   Duncan shook his head.  "As you've correctly surmised, my lord Earl, he could not have.  While there are some humans who have the ability to acquire Deryni-like powers, these do not simply manifest spontaneously and disappear just as suddenly.  Martin's hands might have dug that grave and placed Sister Helena in it, but I assure you that his own mind was not in control of his body at the time."

   Ĉdwige glared at the man through the energies of the ward separating them,  trying to think, but it was of little use.  The growing murmurs of the crowd around her were too distracting, and she couldn't think of an adequate defense.  She opened her mouth to try again anyhow, but before she could think of anything else to add, the Earl spoke once more.

   "At any rate, the  events of five days ago have little bearing on the question before us now—of whether or not Lady Ĉdwige did willfully and knowingly cause Sir Gilrae's death from mortweed poisoning—except in that those events appear to have occurred in a futile attempt to hide one crime by committing others.   The testimony of those affected by those events will be heard in due time.  I am only here today to judge in the matter of Sir Gilrae's death."

   Ĉdwige frowned, puzzled.  What was the idiot leading up to?  Her temples began to pound, and she rubbed at her aching head in growing frustration.

   "On the count of murder of her husband Sir Gilrae of Eddington, I find the defendant guilty. However, the King has expressed an interest in hearing the case against Lady Ĉdwige brought forward by Bishop McLain and Sister Helena ferch Ednyved; therefore, sentencing will be deferred until His Majesty has weighed in on that matter."

   What?  Ĉdwige felt the blood drain from her face, had to fight off a sudden wave of faintness.  

   "Lady Ĉdwige, you will be taken to Rhemuth Keep, there to await trial on the other charges against you at the King's command.  May God have mercy upon your soul."

   She was hardly going to count on that!  "My Lord Earl," she cried out, "I plead my belly!  I can't be tried and sentenced; I'm bearing the future Lord of Eddington!"

   Danoc raised grizzled eyebrows at her outburst.  "My dear young lady," he drawled, "of course you can be tried and sentenced, whether you're bearing or not.  You simply can't be executed."  He smiled grimly.  "Yet."

#

   The City of Rhemuth—Market Square
   November 13, 1136


   The Duke of Corwyn’s entourage entered the City of Rhemuth through the Rivergate and made its way through Market Square, heading south toward the road which would lead directly into Rhemuth Castle.  As the party passed through the Square, Ĉdwige cast a wistful gaze towards the center of the City, wondering if she could break free of her armed escort in the thronging crowd and escape up the King’s Way, or better yet, through the narrower back streets or alleys of the densely populated City, until she lost her pursuers.  Even at this distance she could see the rooftops of the Cathedral of Saint George.  If she could make it to that landmark in the city’s center, she could get her bearings enough to escape the city through any one of several city gates, and could make her way to safety.

   If she could make it that far.  Or need she even try to leave Rhemuth at all?  She had heard that it was possible, even for convicted felons, to escape execution for crimes committed if that felon could make it to consecrated ground and there claim the right of Sanctuary.   What were the conditions attached to that, though?  She knew there had to be some, but she couldn’t remember them at that moment.  That had never seemed to be the sort of information she’d ever thought she’d need personally, after all.  Sanctuary was for common felons, wasn't it, and not for people like her.  But damn it all, why hadn’t she listened properly when she’d heard people nattering on about it before?  All she really needed was the chance to buy enough time for a message to reach her Papa.  Papa wouldn't allow this travesty of a trial to happen to her.  He'd figure out some way to smooth things over, and she'd go along with whatever he suggested, and be just as meek and mild and compliant as everyone insisted on young ladies being—damn their judgmental hides!—even if it meant marrying some nasty old codger again.  If that happened, at least she'd know better the next time around than to use mortweed to encourage him to die sooner!

   A mounted man at arms wearing the Corwyn livery drew closer alongside the coach she rode in, and Ĉdwige drew back from the coach’s window.  No, there was no hope of escape that way.  With the Duke’s men surrounding her completely, even if she could create some momentary distraction to draw the Earl of Derry’s attention off her long enough for her to leap out of the moving coach and make a break for safety, she couldn’t run faster than a party of mounted men.  The crowds were thick in this part of the city, with common folk doing their daily shopping, yet they’d swiftly part to let armed soldiers through and might even side with them to stop a fugitive, although there was some chance that a heart or two might be moved by the sight of a lady in distress.  But no, she couldn’t count on something so capricious as the good will of strangers.  

   The coach and its guards continued on past Market Square, and Ĉdwige switched her attention to the small window on the other side of her enclosed space.  The Castle loomed large in the near distance, the crenelations of the Keep towering overhead.  That's where they meant to bring her, she had overheard, with various Deryni taking shifts to ensure she remained securely locked inside the stronghold until the King called her forth to be tried for her attempts on the magistra's and the bishop's lives.  As if a lady didn't have a perfect right to defend herself when her life was at risk!  And what was Sister Helena anyway, for all her skill and training in the Deryni arts, but a jumped up commoner of mercantile birth?  Why she'd ever thought she’d seen anything of merit in the woman, Ĉdwige had no notion.  As for the Bishop…well, he had been a Duke's son, and later had been a Duke himself, but then he'd tossed it all away, hadn't he?  And for what?  To sing Latin chants and grow calluses on his knees from too much praying?  Ĉdwige snorted disdainfully at the thought.  Was he even a man at all, or had someone else actually fathered the current Duke of Cassan?

   One of the men-at-arms looked in at her with a grim smile, saying "We're nearing the Castle gates now, my lady."  She started to retort that she could see that well enough for herself, but something in his blandly courteous manner stopped her, and she gave him a closer look.  He was a young man, perhaps in his middle twenties, and fairly handsome.  Not too dire, at any rate.  Ĉdwige wondered if he might be bribed to look the other way once they reached the Castle, so she could slip past him to make her escape.  Though bribed with what?  She'd not been allowed to keep anything more valuable than the clothes she wore.  But he was a man, and there were other inducements a woman might use to put a man in a more compliant and biddable frame of mind.  Not at the Castle gatehouse, of course!  But perhaps later, once things quieted down a bit, she might find some opportunity to ask the favor of him and offer him sufficient inducement to gain his cooperation.  An exchange of favors, one might call it.  

   Still dreaming up scheme after scheme, Ĉdwige hardly noticed as the coach and its entourage entered the Castle gates.


Chapter Twenty-Four: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=865.0
« Last Edit: April 20, 2012, 10:56:40 am by Evie »
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

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Offline AnnieUK

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Twenty-Three
« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2012, 12:03:18 pm »
Good old AEdwige. She's not going down without a fight! :D

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Twenty-Three
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2012, 12:13:08 pm »
Good to see Bishop Duncan well enough recovered to give Ĉdwige a good crack in the head!  She could use a few more for good measure.

Unfortunately, I don't think they would do much good.  Ĉdwige remains totally self-possessed and devoid of conscience.

If she does get a message through to dear Papa, I wonder how much help he would be willing to be, now that she has totally ruined the family name?  Not much upward mobility in that!
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

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Offline Evie

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Twenty-Three
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2012, 12:57:05 pm »
LOL! You should have heard my internal dialogue when I was writing that opening scene: 

Me:  "OK, so Ĉdwige lets loose a burst of power in a fit of pique and the roof ignites.  What are you doing, Duncan?"
D:  "Oh, that's nice.  All right, I guess I'd knock the daylights out of her at that point."
Me:  "Wait, what?  Are you saying you'd hit a lady?  YOU, the priest?!"
D: *with raised eyebrows*  "Let's see here...she's already murdered one man, tried to kill two others, injured even more with collateral damage, and now she's just tried to incinerate her own Hall while it's packed full of people?  Whatever Ĉdwige might be--and I'll willingly concede that she's a woman--can we at least agree that she's no lady?  And I'm all in support of chivalrous behavior up to a point, but when the wench is putting others' lives at risk, seems like it's time to be more practical than polite."
Me:  "Okaaaaay.  So, you've knocked Ĉdwige out.  Now what?"
D:  "Then I put up wards around the little hellspawn...."

 :D

And yeah, I suspect Papa might be a bit less than pleased with his precious darling at this point.   ;D
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

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Offline Alkari

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Twenty-Three
« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2012, 06:23:58 pm »

Quote
That Morgan in particular could hardly be held guiltless of that, yet there he stood as if he had a perfect right to look down at her for her deeds.  She'd show him some day!  She'd…she'd marry Sivney, that's what she'd do, and once she had the Queen's ear as her stepsister-in-law, she'd have a thing or two to say about Alaric Morgan!

Quote
And what was Sister Helena anyway, for all her skill and training in the Deryni arts, but a jumped up commoner of mercantile birth?  Why she'd ever thought she’d seen anything of merit in the woman, Ĉdwige had no notion.  As for the Bishop…well, he had been a Duke's son, and later had been a Duke himself, but then he'd tossed it all away, hadn't he?  And for what?  To sing Latin chants and grow calluses on his knees from too much praying?  Ĉdwige snorted disdainfully at the thought.  Was he even a man at all, or had someone else actually fathered the current Duke of Cassan?

ROFL - got to love Aedwige's increasingly wild self-delusions about justification, blaming others, escape and revenge as the noose slowly tightens around her pretty little neck.   

Quote
"My dear young lady," he drawled, "of course you can be tried and sentenced, whether you're bearing or not.  You simply can't be executed."  He smiled grimly.  "Yet."
   
We are all looking forward to it, my dear lord Earl.   When do the tickets go on sale?   :D


Offline Elkhound

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Twenty-Three
« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2012, 10:34:28 pm »
I regret that we haven't had a chance to see a real catfight between A. and one of the other Deryni ladies.

Offline Shiral

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Twenty-Three
« Reply #6 on: April 14, 2012, 12:31:14 am »
Winston Churchill observed that "Some women should be struck regularly, like gongs." Normally, I take immense exception to that statement. I"ll make an exception for Aedwige, though!  :D
 
She  still thinks Sivney would ever have her?   Or that Araxie would ever plead her case with an 'irked' Kelson?  "My dear Lady Aedwige, when my brother chooses a bride, it's my hope he'll not choose a widow who poisoned her previous lord!"

Can't wait until Aedwige has to face said "irked" King. ... ;D

Melissa
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Offline derynifanatic64

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Twenty-Three
« Reply #7 on: April 14, 2012, 01:01:11 pm »
All of Rhemuth is going to be "irked" with Aedwige when they hear what she did.
We will never forget the events of 9-11!!  USA!! USA!!

Offline Elkhound

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Twenty-Three
« Reply #8 on: April 18, 2012, 08:30:37 am »
She  still thinks Sivney would ever have her?   Or that Araxie would ever plead her case with an 'irked' Kelson?  "My dear Lady Aedwige, when my brother chooses a bride, it's my hope he'll not choose a widow who poisoned her previous lord!"

Siveny is a young man who too often allows the head not on his shoulders to do his thinking for him, but he isn't a complete ninny, and he does have some sense of self-preservation.

 

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