An Applewood Gallows; Chapter 16

Another couple of days went by, but how many exactly was difficult to nail down for most of the people in Vorkelvale. Time had begun to slip sideways away from the denizens of the vale, and bitter winter weather had settled in. The first snowfall of the season was beginning one evening, when down the road came a somber procession. It was easy to see that they were soldiers, but who precisely they were remained a mystery, until they made their way to the von Vorkel estate.

The woman in the lead of this procession was Lieutenant Cairn Kinchler, and as she got off her horse, she shouted to the first person she saw coming from the manor house, “I need to see Oskar von Vorkel and Hilde Eigenblade! Fetch them at once!” Her voice was so filled with authority, that the servant quickly bolted into the house and found the two people in question with great haste. Bundling up against the cold, Hilde and her brother hurried out to see what was going on.

Cairn’s face was ruddy with the long ride through inclement weather. She wasn’t breathless, exactly, but Oskar could tell that she was excited, or perhaps agitated.

“Deckler killed himself.” Cairn said, without any other introduction.

Hilde was shocked, but managed to ask, “How?” Oskar stood beside his sister, his mouth hanging open in surprise.

Cairn wiped her nose, and said, “He managed to get a knife, not a very large one, but enough to slash his wrists. He bled out long before he was discovered.”

Now it was Hilde’s turn to stand wordlessly, as Oskar asked, “And what of my father? Does this change anything?”

“Not one bit.” Answered Cairn. “We have everything of any use that Deckler knew, he merely escaped being executed.” She sniffled in the cold, and added, “Your father has upset a good many people, you know. I am going to Vorkelburg next, to oversee the security for him. I wanted to tell you about Deckler first.”

With that, the lieutenant swung back up into her saddle, and asked, “Has your father decided on a course of action?”

Hilde and Oskar shook their heads, and Oskar said, “I don’t know, but his attorney is up at the citadel, too.”

“I figured as much.” Said Cairn, and as she led the soldiers away from the house, she called out, “I’ll call on him next, then!” and with that, they rode up to the castle.

Unsure what to do with the news of Deckler’s suicide, Hilde and Oskar went back inside to get themselves properly dressed. After dinner, they would both head up to Vorkelburg and see if they could gauge what was happening with their father. Aggrylia looked at them both curiously, but she didn’t ask what the lieutenant with the large detachment of Judicial Corps troops had wanted. Unlike the barrier that had stood between her and Jandle regarding her husband, this was still territory that was off limits to her. For now, at least.

At Vorkelburg, Lieutenant Kinchler made a much bigger splash of an entrance. Her retinue included forty-some heavily armed and armored guards who were to take over all duties surrounding the incarceration of Baron Shr Grundoon von Vorkel, and she had the documentation to back it up. She knew the laws of the land, though, and she was not to move the prisoner in any way from where he was currently held. If he was to be moved to the capital to face trial, a higher authority would be chosen to carry out that task. All Lieutenant Kinchler had to do was make sure that Grundoon stayed in his cell, and more importantly, stayed alive. Her first order of business was to catch up with Grundoon’s attorney, and she had one of the citadel’s sentries fetch him for her. Rackerby and his secretary hurried to the garrison’s stables, and there they met with Lieutenant Kinchler in the relative privacy of a horse stall.

Kinchler was the first to speak, and she did so in a hushed but confident tone. “Has your client made a decision on how he wants this case to be resolved?”

Rackerby kept his hands in the pockets of his fur-lined cloak, and with a snicker, answered, “Not yet. But he knows what his options are. I assume you came armed with a warrant?”

Kinchler pulled a folded document from inside of her greatcoat and handed it to Rackerby. The jor opened the document and read the contents. There wasn’t anything in there that was particularly surprising to the veteran lawyer, and he handed it back to the shadow elf.

“Are you going to see the baron now?” Rackerby asked.

Kinchler tucked the warrant back into her coat pocket, and said, “Not yet. I have to make some arrangements with the commandant, first.”

Rackerby nodded his head, and said, “Very well then. I’m close at hand when the time comes, and the baron knows he can call for me at any time.” With that, he and Dellila left the stable, and went to get ready for the inevitable summons.

General Grimstag was not happy to have to surrender her authority regarding the prisoner in her dungeon, but she wasn’t going to make a bad situation worse by raising a stink. A small, portable kitchen was set up in a room adjoining the area in which Grundoon was held, and all visitations, except for those by Rackerby and his secretary, were halted. As a special dispensation to the aged orc, Grundoon was allowed to have some access to his squire. Jandle had to agree to being searched before and after each visit, and there were no less than five guards present the entire time. They watched Grundoon like a cat watches a mouse, and it was one of the few things that had ever caused Grundoon to feel unnerved. He did not care for the tone of this shadow elven woman that seemed to know an awful lot about what he had done to Major Hossler, but he admired her professionalism.

After seeing to some of the security issues, Cairn visited with the old orc, and read to him the official charges being levied against him. “Murder of an officer in the service of Her Majesty the Queen, falsification of a death notice, and conspiracy to cover up these offenses.”

Grundoon asked for his attorney. With Kinchler on hand to witness it, and Dellila to write it all down, Grundoon told his lawyer that he wanted the Queen to decide his fate, and that he would plead guilty to the charges set before him. “I don’t want a fuss. If the Queen is willing to read the facts in this case, and render her judgement, then I will abide by her verdict. If she declines, well then, I’ll still plead guilty, be it to the Lord High Magistrate or a military tribunal.” Rackerby tried to prevent his client from speaking further, but Grundoon frowned at the jor, and motioned for him to be silent, as he continued, “I killed Major Karl Hossler, did nothing to bring about justice for him, and like a coward, a tired, old, coward, I hoped to evade the consequences for my behavior.”

Rackerby interjected at that point, telling Kinchler, “That last bit is not on the record, Lieutenant. You will pass the word along to the Inspector General only that your prisoner wishes to be judged by the regent, and that he pleads guilty to all of the charges as read in your warrant.” Turning to Grundoon, who had stood up in protest, he said in a commanding voice, “And you, sir, should remember to leave the eloquence to me. Whatever burdens your heart, keep it there. I speak for you now.”

Grundoon sat back down on his cot, surprised, and feeling a little chastised. He wanted to say something, but he didn’t know what, so his mouth opened and shut noiselessly. Ignoring his client for the moment, Rackerby turned to Kinchler, and said, “As soon as the Inspector General relays my client’s request for the Queen’s judgement, let me know what is decided. In the meantime, I will need to prepare for our petition for leniency.”

Turning back to Grundoon, Rackerby said in a rather stern voice, “I advise you not to speak any more about this case with anyone unless I am present. One wrong word can undo everything I am trying to accomplish on your behalf.”

Grundoon nodded his head sadly, and just looked down at the floor. With nothing else to say, Kinchler took her leave, and escorted Rackerby and Dellila back to the central keep of the castle. Once again, Grundoon was left alone with his thoughts. Almost alone, that is. There were five burly guards standing there watching, and undoubtedly at least one of them was thinking that monitoring an old orc in a windowless dungeon in the dead of winter wasn’t what they had signed up for. Being that old orc in the dungeon in the dead of winter wasn’t precisely what Grundoon had set his sights on, either.

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