An Applewood Gallows; Chapter 13

Hilde and her brother waited for over an hour before their father had calmed their stepmother enough that he could get back on his feet, and deal with what needed to be done. Grundoon took the paper that he had been writing on off of his desk and folded it neatly. Using some sealing wax from his desk, he pressed his stamp into it, and handed the document to Oskar. Pointing to the axe over the mantel, he said, “Take that axe, and return it to the Archduke of Kernschloss, along with this letter.”

The Lieutenant Colonel took the letter, and reverently removed the axe from the hooks above the small fireplace. The weapon was soothingly warm to the touch and was deceptively lightweight. Quite a legacy surrounded this fine axe, but its future no longer included the von Vorkel family. Oskar held the weapon with the same respect he had seen his father hold it, and quietly left the room to stow it with his own belongings.

“Hilde, come here.” Grundoon said, as he sat heavily in his chair. He removed from his finger an exquisitely crafted ring, another example of dwarven magic, and held it out to his daughter.

Hilde was perplexed but took the ring from her father. “What is this, papa?” she asked.

Grundoon settled back in his chair. “I took that from the body of the late Prince Holburt, Archduke of Linkristle. It had kept that miserable bastard alive after being melted, inside of his armor, and fused to the metal floor of a Romillian juggernaut. I had it checked out by Hemlock, the ranking sorcerer of the 6th Army. It boosts the constitution of its wearer, even so far as to make a mere mortal as long-lived as a dwarf.” He smiled at his daughter. “I am fiercely proud of you, Hilde. I admit, I had hoped to get away with what I had done. But I would rather face the penalties knowing that my daughter had done the right thing, than to live a long life harboring a lie.”

Hilde put the ring on her middle finger of her right hand, the only one it would fit on. It sparkled. The metal might have been platinum, but the stone was a large piece of smoothly formed jade. It matched her skin pretty well, and she admired it for a moment. “Thank you, papa. It is lovely.” She said softly.

Grundoon motioned for his daughter to leave. “I have some work to do, sweetheart. Please take Aggrylia to our room and make her comfortable.” Then in his customarily booming voice, he called for his squire. “JANDLE! GET IN HERE!”

The kobold had only been a few feet away in the hallway and skittered into the study. Hilde took her stepmother by the arm and escorted her upstairs. The house was filled with curious and concerned family members, including all of Grundoon’s children too young to be married off, as well as his son Zindel and his family, who had their own home here in Vorkelvale. The servants were aware of the awkwardness in the house, but nobody was saying anything if they even knew anything. Jandle closed the study door, and that was that.

The day wore on, and finally, just before dinner, Jandle exited the study with a leather briefcase on his back. He gave Oskar a knowing nod on his way out, and then scampered to the stable. A few minutes later, he came riding out on his pony, and without a word to anyone on the estate, he rode up the trail into the setting sun. As Jandle rode past the bridge that led to the gates of Vorkelburg, he noticed a large number of Judicial Corps troops riding out. The kobold watched them, turning from time to time in his saddle, and saw that they were heading down the trail to Vorkelvale. He sighed heavily and urged his pony to pick up the pace as he headed down the road to Borostat.

Grundoon was sitting in his study, his elbows on his desk and his head resting in his hands, when the Judicial Corps soldiers arrived outside of the manor house. Nobody spilled out this time to welcome the guests, but Hilde did answer the knock on the door.

Opening the door, Hilde looked at the half-orc captain in front of her, and asked, “Yes, Captain? What can we do for you?”

The officer handed her a folded piece of paper, and announced, “We have been dispatched by the Inspector General to place Baron Shr Grundoon von Vorkel under arrest for the murder of Major Karl Hossler.” In a somewhat softer tone, the half-orc then added, “I am deeply sorry to have to do this, milady.”

“You’d better come in, then.” Said Hilde, stepping aside to allow them entry. “He is in his study, just down that hallway. My brother will show you the way.”

Oskar motioned for the soldiers to follow him, and he took them to the study. The door was still open, and Grundoon looked up to see what the racket was.

“Hello, Captain.” Said the old orc. “Shall I stand and be shackled, or am I to be allowed to leave my home with dignity?”

The captain stood at attention, and said, “There will be no need for restraints, sir. If you would be so good as to come with us, we’ll escort you to Vorkelburg.”

Grundoon stood up, and with as much regal bearing as he could muster, he went with the soldiers. They had even brought a horse for him to ride, and a servant gave him a heavy coat to wear. Two of the soldiers checked Grundoon for any weapons or other contraband items and satisfied that he had nothing that could be used to escape or put up a fight, they all began the short trek up the road to the citadel.

Oskar stood next to Hilde and put his arm around her shoulders. “They didn’t waste a minute, did they, Oskar?” she asked.

“I reckon enough time has passed with this injustice being overlooked.” Said Oskar quietly. “Things will move quickly from here.”

Rackerby and Dellila made their way from the house, and their carriage was brought around by their footmen. Climbing into the coach, Rackerby asked Hilde and Oskar, “Do you want to come along? I need to make sure that he isn’t mistreated in their custody.”

The siblings shook their heads. Hilde called back, “He was their commandant for almost two decades, Rackerby. The fact that they had the courage to even arrest him speaks volumes. They won’t harm papa.”

“I’ll make sure of it!” Rackerby called back and closed the coach door. The magnificent carriage then headed up the road after the Judicial Corps soldiers. Oskar and Hilde returned to the house.

Closing the front door, Oskar shook off the cold of the evening, and asked of nobody in particular, “Now then, what’s for dinner?”

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