174. In Castle Inter Lucus
“General Ridere, please present your case in the matter of Milo Mortane.”
The second day after the adoption of the Instrument of Union, Alf held court in Inter Lucus’s great hall, sitting near globum domini auctoritate. On his left sat Alf’s adopted father, in a special chair devised by Isen Poorman and constructed in the materias transmutatio room. The chair had a tall back with wooden rods curling around Marty’s neck on which Marty could rest his chin, and linen straps that held his neck and chest still. Eight days after his injury, Marty could move his toes and fingers of his right hand. With eyes closed, he could feel pinpricks in the soles of his feet and the back of his right hand. Only his left arm hung limp and senseless. Marty had begun to hope that left arm paralysis would be the extent of his long-term incapacity, that he would regain full use of his other limbs. Isen was already working on a brace that would fasten around the patient’s waist and chest and immobilize Marty’s head, allowing him to walk rather than being carried on stretcher or chair.
The intervening day had seen the execution of Ifing Redhair and Garwig Gray. Marty opposed this decision, arguing that Redhair and Gray could be banished from Inter Lucus, sent back to Stonebridge. But Eadmar and Elfric said that such treatment amounted to no punishment at all. “We cannot keep them here as prisoners without endangering the men who would have to guard them,” argued Eadmar. “Redhair and Gray murdered men of Inter Lucus. Alf must show his own people that he will punish those who attack them,” said Elfric. Despite his respect for Marty, Alf sided with the priest and sheriff. He ordered the murderers to be killed. When General Ridere offered soldiers to carry out the sentence, Alf declined. “They killed our people in this hall,” he said. “The people of Inter Lucus will execute them.” That afternoon, Leo Dudd, Ealdwine Smithson, and several village men hanged Redhair and Gray on a tree north of the castle grounds and buried them nearby. The graves of the murderers could be seen from the barn.
Eudes Ridere rose from a seat on the west side of the hall. He bowed. “Lord Alf. Lord Martin.”
Whitney Ablendan recorded the proceedings at a table to Alf’s right. Ridere waited until she finished a sentence and looked up at him.
“Milo Mortane ordered his knife fighters into the Blue River Valley. As their commander, he is responsible for their attack on my men, Lord Martin’s postman, and me. That attack killed the postman, Godric Measy, and most of the men of my company. Three others and I, taken prisoner, were delivered to Mortane in the Tarquintian hills. He then interrogated me, trying to find out why I was communicating with Lord Martin. At no time did he reprimand Redhair for the ambush of my company. Naturally, I thought he was in league with Aylwin, his brother, so I told him nothing of Queen Mariel’s illness.
“Without provocation, Mortane attacked Queen Mariel’s army, under the command of Archard Oshelm. Oshelm defeated him, and Mortane retreated. In his retreat, Mortane used one of my men, his prisoner, to deliver a message to Archard. That man, Wylie Durwin, later died of the injuries he took from the smoke of the fires set by Mortane. Then, rather than retreating to Stonebridge, Mortane brought his army to Inter Lucus. He claimed that he wanted Lord Martin’s help in gaining a truce with Oshelm. The very day Martin welcomed Mortane and his men into Inter Lucus his men attacked Lord Martin and killed both a boy and a sheriff. These facts are undisputed. It is not clear why Mortane came to Inter Lucus; yesterday we heard Redhair say that he thought the object was to kill Lord Martin and take his castle. If that was not Mortane’s purpose, he did a damn poor job of instructing his second in command.
“To summarize: Mortane has conducted war against Herminia, by ambushing my company and by attacking Herminia’s army. By the testimony of his own sister, Lady Amicia Averill, the Assembly of Stonebridge had not authorized such a war. Mortane attacked us on his own authority and should take responsibility for it. He is to blame for the death of Wylie Durwin. After begging and accepting the hospitality of Lord Martin, Mortane’s men attacked Martin in his own hall and killed Sheriff Oswald and the boy Went Bycwine. Either by intention or by incompetence, Mortane is guilty of those crimes as well.”
Ridere spread his arms and dipped his head. He eyed the young lord, waiting for his response. During five days of Videns-Loquitur debate over the Instrument of Union, during which time Derian Chapman and the disarmed Stonebridge army had marched for home, Alf had said nothing about Milo Mortane. Ridere and his men had asked Inter Lucus villagers and even Alf’s sheriffs what the boy lord would do with the Stonebridge general, but no one claimed to know.
Alf chewed his lip. “My father would like to question you.”
Ridere raised an eyebrow. Throughout the negotiations over the Instrument of Union, Marty had been the silent presence, whispering advice to Alf, never speaking to Mariel or the lords and ladies of other castles. The Herminian turned slightly to face Marty.
Marty gestured with the fingers of his good hand, beckoning Ridere closer. “Thank you, General.” Marty’s voice was little more than a whisper. “Believe me, I look forward to escaping these bands around my throat. Can you hear me?”
“Aye, Lord Martin.” Ridere dipped his head.
“People keep saying that, but Alf is the lord.” Marty smiled. “General Ridere, when did you come to Inter Lucus?”
Ridere counted days on his fingers. “I arrived here as a prisoner eight days ago. I intended to come some time before that, in response to your letter.”
“I’m sorry, general. That’s not what I meant. When did you first visit Inter Lucus?”
For a moment Ridere registered incomprehension. Then he grinned. “I came to Inter Lucus a year ago, shortly after midsummer.”
“That’s right. I think you called yourself Boyden Black. A cloth merchant, you said. Archard Oshelm was your bodyguard. And there was a youth, who stayed the night in castle Inter Lucus. What was his name?”
Ridere nodded, remembering. “That was Bully, Bully Wedmor, though at the time he called himself Bully Poorman. Bully survived the ambush in Blue River valley. He is with our army. Five days ago, when Lord Alf permitted the Stonebridge army to march home, Derian Chapman freed Bully and Bron Kenton, returning them to my army.”
Marty nodded, a slight movement but one that showed progress in his healing. “Perhaps Alf will invite Bully to visit us for sup; I would like to see him again. But now I want to ask: Why did Boyden Black visit Down’s End and Inter Lucus? You were not the cloth merchant you pretended to be, so why did you come to Tarquint?”
Ridere frowned. “Truth? I came to reconnoiter. Mariel trusted no eyes better than mine.”
“Reconnoiter? To what end?”
The Herminian general paused only a moment. “We were preparing our invasion of Tarquint. From the beginning I thought the harbor at Hyacintho Flumen would be the best entry. But we worried about the possible alliance between House Mortane and House Toeni. And we wondered whether Down’s End or some castle lord would fight for Hyacintho Flumen.”
“And the result of your scouting expedition was positive?” Marty smiled encouragingly at Ridere.
“Aye. Hyacintho Flumen has a well-situated harbor. The castle is strong, but I judged it vulnerable to siege, especially since Aylwin had just succeeded his father. I discovered the Down’s End Council divided among guilds and financiers; Aylwin was not likely to gain help from them. The nearest castle to Hyacintho Flumen is Inter Lucus, and I found it to be a near ruin, albeit with a new and mysterious lord.” Ridere grinned at Marty. “I reported to Queen Mariel that Tarquint was ripe for our taking.”
Marty waited several seconds; Whitney’s quill could be heard scratching on paper. “It seems, then, that you came to Tarquint as a spy. I want to be fair in what I say. It seems that Queen Mariel had already decided to invade Tarquint. You came to Tarquint, misrepresenting your true intentions, in order to prepare war against the Mortanes and anyone who might ally with them. Would you agree with that assessment?”
The general frowned. “Aye. Mariel had decided to add Tarquint to her realm. I came to Tarquint to implement that decision.”
Whitney’s quill caught up. Marty said, “I have a question, then. If what you say is true, how is Milo Mortane’s attack on you and your army any different from Mariel’s war against Hyacintho Flumen?”
“I don’t understand.” Ridere’s face flashed anger.
“I think you do,” Marty said. “Milo Mortane is responsible, you say, for the deeds of his men in attacking you. He is guilty, you say, of unprovoked war against the Herminian army. But Mariel sent you to attack Hyacintho Flumen, quite without provocation. How is his attack wrong if hers is right?”
Ridere straightened his back. “Mariel is a sovereign queen, and her judgment is not to be questioned. Mortane was a renegade general.”
Marty made a wry face. “But Stonebridge is a free city, sovereign in its own affairs. That is, it was such a city. Now, of course, Stonebridge is part of the United Kingdom. Remember, General, that we are all citizens together now. I am accusing neither you nor the queen. My point is that when Mortane attacked you, Stonebridge had just as much right to make war on Herminia as Herminia had to make war on Tarquint.”
The Herminian shook his head. “Stonebridge was sovereign at that time. That I will grant. But Mortane acted without authorization from the Assembly.”
Again Marty waited for Whitney to catch up. “That may be true. If it is true, Milo committed a crime against Stonebridge and its Assembly. He should defend himself in their court, against some charge brought against him by Stonebridge officials. Here, though, you are in Alf’s court. If Alf were to find Milo guilty of war making, he might also find you or your men equally guilty. Since we make no charge against you, we should make no such charge against General Mortane.”
Ridere waved a dismissive hand. “No castle lord has authority over the Queen. However, I am willing to set aside that matter. As you say, we are all citizens together now. Let us ignore Mortane’s attack on Herminia as something outside Alf’s authority. Mortane came to Inter Lucus where he attacked you and killed Os Oswald and Went Bycwine.”
“Aye,” Marty said. “These are serious crimes—if Milo is responsible for them.”
Ridere raised a hand, interrupting Marty. “Mortane may not have ordered the attack, but as I said, he is still responsible for it, through incompetence if nothing else.”
Marty did not reply. After a few seconds, Ridere lowered his hand, looking quizzically at the former lord of Inter Lucus. Finally, Alf spoke. “Lord Martin… Father. Do you have more questions for General Ridere?”
“Aye,” Marty said. “One more. General, let us suppose that one of your men failed in some duty you assigned him. How do you punish incompetence?”
“Punishment would vary from case to case, depending on a number of factors. If a picket falls asleep on guard duty he is subject to the lash. If he sleeps on duty and the army suffers loss, he hangs.”
“Different punishments in different cases, then?”
Marty smiled. “Thank you for answering my questions, Eudes. Notice my use of your name. It is my hope that we shall long be friends.”
Ridere inclined his head to Marty and Alf. “I share that hope. Lord Alf, do you require more of me?”
The white-blond hair swayed as Alf shook his head. “No. Thank you, General. I will consult privately now with my advisors.”
Eadmar, Elfric, Marty, and Alf whispered together briefly. They had debated the question in Marty’s room the night before. Elfric still had reservations, but he bowed acquiescence to Eadmar and Marty’s advice. “He must agree without conditions,” Elfric said, and the others nodded.
“Milo Mortane, please stand.” Alf’s court resumed.
Milo cast a glance at his sister and Merlin Averill. Since the departure of the Stonebridge army, Milo, Amicia, Merlin and the two murderers had eaten alone at the east table in the great hall. Alf invited Merlin and Amicia to join him at the lord’s table, but they chose solidarity with the accused. Today, with Redhair and Gray buried, only three ate at the east table. Amicia tried to communicate love and confidence with her eyes, but she and Merlin knew no more of Alf’s intentions than Milo did. Milo lifted the corner of his mouth, a wry smile.
Milo stood up.
“General Mortane. No, that isn’t right. The army you once commanded has marched for home. You are a general no more.” Alf paused. He had an innate sense of timing.
“You brought death and injury to Inter Lucus. My father and I do not believe you did this deliberately. Not even General Ridere accuses you of that. Nevertheless, you bear some responsibility for what has happened. You acted recklessly. You provoked war, in which you took prisoners and killed men. Battles between you and Archard Oshelm killed hundreds—and much worse could have happened if my father, Lord Martin, had not intervened.
“But… but. You came to Inter Lucus, you say, to ask for Martin’s intervention. In doing so, you risked bringing battle between the lakes. More recklessness—which, by luck it seems, turned out well in this case. You brought your army, and Master Averill, and Lady Averill, and Eudes Ridere, and Archard Oshelm, and his army—all of them, here, to the only place where the Instrument of Union could be forged. You are a reckless man, whose recklessness has by good luck produced a happy outcome.
“Therefore, on the advice of my father Lord Martin, I declare you guilty of wanton recklessness. And I announce the following punishment.
“You forfeit your armor and sword, and the right to carry a sword. We brought your armor and sword from Prayer House to Inter Lucus, and here they will stay as my property, in partial payment of the debt you owe my house. Without a sword or squire, you are no longer a knight; you will be Master Mortane only. Such is my judgment.”
Alf let Whitney write. Milo coughed to clear his throat, thinking that he was expected to reply, but Alf held up a hand. “There is a remaining question, and you must answer it, Master Mortane. Stonebridge is now a free city within the United Kingdom. Master Averill tells me that the Assembly will disavow your attack on the Queen’s army and will terminate your office in the City Guard. If you go to Stonebridge, you will probably be thrown into a cell in the Citadel. By your own confession, you have no welcome at Hyacintho Flumen. I intend to write a letter to the Down’s End Council, telling them of what has happened between the lakes. Eulard Barnet will know with certainty that you helped Avery Doin to escape Down’s End, and the City Council will learn that you have made yourself odious to the Herminians. So Down’s End will be closed to you.
“So where will you go? Not to Stonebridge, nor Hyacintho Flumen, nor Down’s End. What will you do? I have a proposal; or rather, my father Martin has one. Would you like to hear it?”
Mortane’s eyes roved between Alf and Marty. “Aye.”
“Lord Martin wishes to be a teacher. Collegium Inter Lucus will relocate from my castle to village Inter Lucus. Because of his recent injury, my father says he will need an assistant to run Collegium Inter Lucus. My father Martin proposes that you be permitted to live in the village as his helper. Since, as General Ridere has said, you are partially responsible for Martin’s injuries, it seems fitting that you help him. The question is: Will you accept such a chance?
“If you do not accept my father’s proposal, you will be free to go. We will permit you a horse and a saddle, but no weapon or armor. Consider carefully, Master Mortane. Will you live and work with Martin Cedarborne in village Inter Lucus?”
Mortane stared at the floor for a long time. When he looked up, he said, “Could Tilde come?”
Alf blinked. “I don’t understand.”
“Lord Alf, I would gratefully accept Master Cedarborne’s invitation if a letter could be sent to my wife, Tilde, in Stonebridge. She may refuse, but my letter would invite her to join me here.”
Alf looked at Marty, but only for a moment. “We grant your request. Write your letter. I am confident that Master Averill and Lady Amicia will be delighted to carry it to Stonebridge.”
Here Ends Part Four of Castles.
Copyright © 2015 by Philip D. Smith.
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.