An Applewood Gallows; Chapter 18

The Herzgraf was given the best accommodations that Vorkelburg had to offer, and after he and his retinue got settled in, the paladin summoned General Grimstag to see him in the communication hall, which was mostly deserted except for Dellila and Oskar, who were playing cards just outside of it. Oskar was in uniform, so he stood and saluted each time the Herzgraf walked by. Dellila just smiled, otherwise the comings and goings around her were of no outward interest.

The communication officer had been temporarily relieved of duty by the Herzgraf, and he had one of his own mages sitting at the crystal for the time being. Grimstag nodded at Oskar as she went into the room, and one of the Herzgraf’s guards closed the door behind her. Looking around the room, the ogre noted the people present. Half a dozen or so, including the paladin’s squire, who looked as though he was going to be taking notes.

“You wanted to see me, sir?” the general said, her head held high as she stood at attention.

Looking away from the book in his hand, the Herzgraf said, “Thank you, yes. The Queen is on her way here, you are instructed to prepare for her arrival in a dignified, but low-key manner. She does not want a huge turnout, nor will she be reviewing the troops. The purpose of her visit is solely to hear the case for and against Baron von Vorkel, after which she will depart. The people I brought with me on this trip are integral to her brief visit and must be afforded every request.” Taking a deep breath, the Herzgraf asked, “Any questions?”

“You will be sharing a room, then?” the general asked. “Or do I need to find better lodging suitable for you both?”

The Herzgraf looked uncomfortable, and after a pause, said, “She will take the room I am currently using. I will find a cot among my soldiers.”

“As you wish, sir.” Replied Sarla. “Anything else?”

The paladin shook his head, and said, “That is all for now, General. Thank you.”

Saluting, Sarla took her leave, and informed each of her senior officers of the impending royal visit. No extreme fanfare, she reminded them. Low key. For whatever reason, the Empress was keen to not draw a lot of attention to this outing, so Sarla let the garrison know that if things got out of hand, there was plenty of room to hang people off of the walls. Order and discipline was the rule of the day, and everyone she spoke to took it as seriously as she did.

Grimstag was the first to tell Rackerby about the Queen’s visit, and he went directly to Grundoon to let him know. Dellila was still waiting outside the communication room while her boss talked with his client, but Rackerby didn’t need anyone to take notes on this conversation. Lieutenant Kinchler was sitting on a stool, and there were four guards in this small room, too. Grundoon was laying on his cot behind the bars, bundled up in his quilts.

Rackerby tapped on the bars of the cell with one of the rings on his fingers, and said, “The Queen is on her way, Baron von Vorkel.” He waited for Grundoon to stir, and after a moment, the aged orc did sit upright, still bundled in the quilts.

Looking at Rackerby, Grundoon blinked his eyes, and asked, “How long until she arrives?”

Rackerby shrugged, and said, “Could be anytime, I suppose. I wanted you to be ready.”

Yawning, Grundoon said, “I appreciate it counselor. I will need some nicer clothes than these fetid rags. I’ve been wearing the same clothes since I was brought up here.”

“I’ll have your squire find something.” Said Rackerby. “Anything you want in particular? An old uniform, perhaps?”

Grundoon stood up unsteadily, his voice somewhat on edge. “Absolutely not. A fresh tunic, trousers, and a nice coat will do fine. Something appropriate to the occasion of a dire judgement.” The orc said, a hint of spite in his voice. “But no uniform.”

Rackerby nodded his head slowly. “I understand, sir. I’ll get right on it.” Nodding to Cairn, who nodded back, Rackerby left, and went in search of Jandle.

He found the kobold in the dining hall, enjoying a meal among former comrades of the 6th Army. Taking him aside, and out of earshot of anyone else, Rackerby whispered Grundoon’s instructions to the squire, and Jandle promised to get to it as soon as he was done eating. Rackerby then headed to the communication hall to find his own secretary.

She met him halfway in a corridor of the citadel, and somewhat excitedly told him, “The Herzgraf says that the Queen is on her way here! They won’t be taking Baron von Vorkel to the capital for his case, the capital is coming to him!”

Rackerby chuckled, and replied, “I already heard, Dellila. We have to work fast to be ready. Get your notes and meet me in the northern bombard tower. We’ll set up there, plenty of room, and we won’t be disturbed.”

“Alright, I’ll meet you there in a few minutes. I’ll tell Oskar where we are in case anyone needs us.” Dellila smiled, and quickly strolled back down the corridor towards the small room she had been given to stay in.

While Rackerby set to work refining his defense of Baron von Vorkel, Oskar positioned himself to relay messages to the attorney that might come in on the crystal, or from the Herzgraf. Without a firm timeline for the Queen’s arrival, Rackerby and Dellila worked nonstop until they felt they were ready. Oskar took occasional breaks but didn’t leave the citadel. Hilde would relay information to Aggrylia, unless something urgent happened, in which case Porger or Chloe would be sent to bring their step-mother up to the castle. Jandle found the clothes that Grundoon had requested and had cleaned them up before bringing them to his master. It was a dark grey, almost charcoal colored suit, with a deep red colored tunic. The high collar was unadorned, and the ensemble gave a noble, but understated sense of class and style. Grundoon had the outfit tailored for him while he was the Governor-General of Romilmark but had never had occasion to wear it until now.

Grundoon was the only one that was able to sleep at night, now that word was out that the saga was drawing to a close. Everyone else was busy trying to either get ready for the Queen’s court to convene or doing what they could to cope with the potential consequences of her judgement. But the old orc slept like a log every night, and during the day he did little more than sit on his cot. The guards assigned to him became more comfortable around the old fellow, and despite his reputation for being a fierce warrior of renown, it was clear that Grundoon’s days of grappling with foes face to face were over. Out of his armor, and without his legendary axe, the orc posed no more of a threat than any ordinary great-grandfather.

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