An Applewood Gallows; Chapter 14

Hilde had been correct. The Judicial Corps detachment of the 6th Army wasn’t about to hurt Grundoon in any way if it could be at all avoided. Now that he was in their custody, they did what they could to make him comfortable. His new accommodations were rather more austere than the aged former general was acquainted with, however. A small cell deep beneath Vorkelburg, in the dungeons once utilized by the lich Frenklar the Brazen to house his victims, Grundoon was now sitting on a cot staring unhappily at the barred door. He hadn’t been there very long when the commandant of the citadel, General Shar Sarla Grimstag paid him a visit, along with Rackerby and Dellila. The ogress stood with her hands on her hips, and in a loud whisper, asked Grundoon, “What is this all about?”

Grundoon laughed and slapped his own knee. “Hello, Sarla. I see that army life is agreeing with you.”

“Until now, yes. Now tell me, what is this all about?” asked the commandant testily.

Grundoon kept chuckling, and said, “That major that died right before the Romillian War broke out. Remember that fellow? He didn’t die due to an accident. I killed him. They finally found out, and now I am under arrest.” He nodded his head towards Rackerby, and added, “This guy is my lawyer. He is going to try and save my neck.”

Sarla didn’t even try to hide her astonishment and looked at the finely dressed jor next to her. “Is there anything I can do to help?” she asked.

Rackerby smiled, and said, “Yes, actually, there is. If you could put in writing a statement testifying to the character of Lord von Vorkel, that may help a great deal. Anything to cast him in a role other than a reckless homicidal maniac will be helpful.”

“I’ll see what I can come up with.” Sarla said, and then quipped, “I can’t help with the reckless aspect, but I’ll see what I can do.” With that, she took her leave, and walked past the Judicial Corps guards who were making sure that Rackerby and his dark elven secretary didn’t try anything funny.

Grundoon laughed again, and even his attorney and Dellila had to laugh. There wasn’t anyone in the realm that wasn’t familiar with the reckless exploits of Grundoon when he led his army to victory at the Battle of Garvin’s Gap. The jest was a fine one, and well-timed to dispel a painfully awkward moment for Sarla.

Rackerby wiped his eyes and forehead with a silk handkerchief, and then looked at Grundoon and said, “Once the Judicial Corps indicates that they want to speak to you, or interview you in any significant way, you have to have decided what course of action you want to take.”

Grundoon slowly stopped laughing and leaned back against the wall of the cell. “What are my options, exactly?” he asked.

Rackerby leaned on the bars of the cell, and said, “First of all, you have to decide who you want to hear your case. As a noble, you are entitled to have the Queen hear it, or the Lord High Magistrate, instead of a military tribunal convened by the Inspector General. Once you decide that, you need to decide whether you will plead guilty or not. And then I take it from there.”

Grundoon ran his hand over his closely-shorn head of snow-white hair. “What difference will that make to my fate?”

Rackerby looked down at the floor, and then back to Grundoon. “If you plead not guilty, I will have to explain how exactly you are innocent. By reason of insanity, albeit temporary, or that you in reality did not kill Hossler. But the statement you already gave me disallows the latter, and I doubt the former. You lost your temper and will have to pay for that lapse in judgement. I recommend against trying to argue no guilt.”

Grundoon nodded his head, thinking about the advice of his attorney. “So, guilty then? Plead for mercy?”

“Something like that, yes. You can throw yourself on the mercy of the court, and I can explain on your behalf why you should be spared from execution. There is a great deal in your record to suggest we can achieve leniency, so long as there isn’t anything else that you have done to indicate your fury wasn’t contained during your military career.” Rackerby looked knowingly at Grundoon. “Think about that, Baron von Vorkel. Is there anything else that you have done that suggests you are a man prone to act out of anger?”

Grundoon smiled weakly at Rackerby. “What else has Hilde told you?” he said, his voice barely audible.

Rackerby’s facial expression didn’t change as he replied, “That is irrelevant. What matters is what you are willing to admit to me and allow me to use in your defense in the matter directly before us.”

“I’m hungry.” Muttered Grundoon. “Would you please ask if I can have something to eat?”

“Alright.” Said Rackerby. “Give some thought to my inquiry, Baron. If you want to hide anything, my defense of you will be compromised.” The jor then turned to the guards and asked, “Your prisoner would like some dinner, please.”

One of them nodded his head and left the doorway he was standing in to relay this information. The remaining guard tightened his grip on his drawn sword and adjusted his shield just in case the dark elven woman was going to cast a spell at him.

Rackerby turned his attention back to Grundoon. “I am going to see if I can impose upon General Grimstag to provide Dellila and myself lodging here in the castle, so I can be close at hand if you need me. Unless you ask for me, I will take my leave now, and see you again in the morning.”

Grundoon waved his hand dismissively and gazed down at the floor. Rackerby and Dellila walked past the sentry on duty and vanished into the corridors leading up to the castle above. The sentry watched them depart, and then turned his focus back to the prisoner. Grundoon just sat there on his cot, head down, eyes closed, and hands folded across his belly. Now that he had given up his magic ring, he felt older than he ever had before. He thought back across the years to that fateful night high in the watchtower. It had been a bad time to be old but being old was the least of his concerns now.

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