An Applewood Gallows; Chapter 2

Even before his sister started talking, Oskar knew he needed something stronger than apple brandy for what he was about to hear. Given a choice, Oskar probably would have preferred to have not heard anything about his father, either good or bad, but as his sister spoke, choosing her words carefully and with clear consternation, he could not ignore that what he was listening to was important. Not just to her or their family, but to the country.

Hilde had finished her brandy before she began and had made motions indicating she wanted to wait until she was done talking before having more to drink. Belynda sat with Cinder in her lap, absent-mindedly petting the snoozing rat. Trangdor was listening intently, having been there for many of the things that Hilde was talking about. Even a man far less sensitive to the moods of others than Oskar was, would have realized that the tone in the room had moved into decidedly serious territory.

“For whatever reason papa had, he planned and executed a scheme to kill off every member of the Velferin family. Their patriarch had been at the Battle of Garvin’s Gap, and it had been his strategy to invade Slothjemia that had led to the war with Romillia. Once he gained the power of the Governor-General’s office, papa began to connive a way to lure these dwarves back into Romilmark, and finish them off, once and for all. There are no heirs to any title held by the patriarch of the Velferin family. Papa killed them all or had them killed.”

Hilde paused to collect her thoughts, and Oskar waited patiently for her to continue. “Papa made sure that I wasn’t around for any of it, but I noticed things. Things I didn’t dwell on at the time, but I think they might be important. There were two jorish huntsmen that kept popping up at random times, and papa would always speak to them in private. I swear I saw them lurking outside the house in Brakoff.”

“Anyway, papa ordered that there be prisoners taken from the Battle of the Peklender Mine, but there was no apparent reason. He didn’t seem to want any information about other possible insurrections, because there was no specification as to who should and shouldn’t be taken captive. He just wanted prisoners. And these prisoners were kept at Linkristle Castle.”

“So, after the prisoners are stashed away in Linkristle Castle, papa invites the Velferin family to come to that same place to discuss a final settlement for their properties in Romilmark. Why the same place as the prisoners? And then the Red Guards are sent away, and one of papa’s henchmen, that creepy fellow Kreg, is put in charge of the prisoners. Right after that, the Velferins arrive, the castle gets blown to a million pieces, and everyone except papa and his entourage are killed. It makes no sense, Oskar. It is reckless, sloppy, and yet, he got away with it.”

Hilde got up and went to pour herself another brandy. When she sat back down, Oskar took a deep breath, and said, “Something on this scale cannot possibly have occurred without somebody noting it. As powerful as father was in Romilmark, he did not exist in a vacuum. There must be reports someplace that can be examined, and discrepancies found.” Oskar looked at his sister, and in his deep, booming voice he asked, “But to what end do you seek to have any of this brought to light?”

Hilde blinked at him, and replied quietly, “Justice must be served, Oskar. We can’t ignore evil just because it is inconvenient to confront it.”

Oskar smiled grimly, and said, “My dear little sister. Do not be so naïve as to think that father has done evil and nobody knows about it. Nothing happens in the realm that doesn’t make its way to the ears of the Crown, one way or another, especially when it involves her most powerful nobles. Father was, for a while, one of the most important men in the Empire, and he had both allies and enemies he knew nothing about. If you are right, and he did these things in Romilmark, and killed this Major at Vorkelburg, then somebody has decided to willfully ignore it. And that somebody, whoever it is, has a lot more influence than a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army High Command.”

There was an uncomfortable silence in the room, and it was Trangdor who dispelled it by clearing his throat. Everyone looked at him, and the dwarf said calmly, “I think we all realize the difficulties involved in exposing to the nobility, bureaucracy, and the citizenry the atrocities committed by one of their most beloved heroes. After his unexpected valor and brilliance at the Battle of Garvin’s Gap, he began down a path towards immortality in the minds of the people. But whatever virtue he brought to his name through his work, he also brought dishonor. If at the end of the day, the decision is made to remember only the good things that he did, then so be it. But it will have been an informed decision. We cannot, nor should we contemplate, leaving the skeletons where they are piled into the closet. Let us clean it out, and let history be the judge.”

Belynda wiped tears from her eyes. “You are so wise, Trangdor. So brave and so wise.” Her voice was barely more than a whisper.

Oskar lowered his voice as far as he could, seemingly afraid of being overheard by unknown eavesdroppers, and said, “If you are determined to go forward with this, then I shall do what I can to help. I have access to most everything you will need to pursue the issue with Major Hossler. The other matter, I’m afraid, might be out of my depth. All I can find for you regarding father’s time in Romilmark will be reports filed with the High Command by Army units under his command. I doubt that I will find anything that father didn’t himself have the ability to manipulate to suit his purposes, but I shall look all the same.”

Hilde sniffled a little, but she wasn’t on the verge of tears. She felt more tired than anything. Wearily, she asked, “When will you have any information on Hossler?”

“Tomorrow evening. We’ll meet here when I leave the office. Say about the same time as today.” Answered Oskar. “Get some rest, enjoy the city. Let me see what we can find.”

Hilde stood up, and Oskar rose to give her a deep hug. It was reassuring, and it helped her mind to settle into thinking more clearly now beyond the troubles she had been carrying. Trangdor and Belynda headed for the door, and Cinder woke up enough to scramble up onto Belynda’s shoulder. Oskar opened the front door for them and bid them good night. The trio headed down the stairs and out of the apartment building.

Walking down the streets of Jordrakenschloss, they could see and hear that this was a city that was every bit alive at night as it was during the day. Many shops stayed open, and people of every race and description bustled about taking care of business. Hilde and her companions walked silently to their lodgings, each pondering the implications of how these folks might react to one of their most recent heroes being revealed as a monster.

Previous Chapter  –  Next Chapter