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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 86: Slade 77
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Previous chapter: Chapter 85: Hastings 121
The king was at dinner. Slade realized after the fact that he should have expected this, but at the moment that he entered the dining hall and saw the person who could be no one else, he was unprepared for it. "Majesty," he said, trying to remember the appropriate courtesies and protocols for a nobleman in the presence of a foreign king--all of which he'd once been taught but never really used.
"Sir Robert," the man said warmly; "Lady Shella. It is good to have you as our guests, despite the circumstances. Sir Rapheus has briefed me on the situation, and I am sorry for your troubles. I hope you will continue accept our hospitality, and join us for dinner."
As Slade searched for his tongue, Shella stepped in. "We would be delighted, your majesty. Where should we sit?"
The servants quickly showed them their seats as the King continued. "I will have to insist, however, that we not discuss anything related to your case. It would be inappropriate for me to hear such information in these circumstances."
"I understand, your honor--that is, your majesty," Slade said. Then he thought to continue. "Would it be acceptable for me to ask about the procedures for tomorrow's hearing?"
"How do you mean?"
"Well, I've been in some places where such a hearing was little more than the people involved arguing with each other until the judge decided he'd heard enough and made his decision. I've been in other places where there were very strict rules about who was allowed to speak and when, and if you talked out of turn you could be thrown in jail just for that. I thought I should have some idea of how you heard a case before I got there, so I wouldn't make any mistakes that everyone else would know not to make."
"That's very interesting. I'm not so interested in how it's done, but I suppose I have my preferences. In this case, I will first let Sir Rapheus explain how the case manages to come to us. Then, as it appears a Lieutenant Simms is here on behalf of Prince Acquivar, I will let him explain what he thinks you and your companions have done. After that, I'll let you explain yourselves."
"I see. Would it be appropriate for me to question the Lieutenant in your presence?"
"Why would you want to do that?"
"Well, I don't know that the man would lie; in fact, I suspect he wouldn't lie. But I think he might leave out things he knows that would be important to me. It seems to me that if he tells you something that supports my defense, that would have more credibility than if I say it, or even than my wife or our clerical friend."
"I see what you mean. That's a fascinating idea." The King pondered it for a moment. "All right, after this Lieutenant has said what he wishes, you may question him. Then you will be able to present your story, and he will be allowed to question you."
"Thank you, your majesty. I look forward to appearing in your court; already your reputation for fairness is known." He took a mouthful of food, and washed it down with his wine. "I understand that you have a relationship with Prince Acquivar that goes back some time."
The King seemed a bit surprised by this, but answered. "Yes. He married my daughter Taneia some years ago. I don't know that they ever really found happiness together, and she never bore him any children. She died three years ago. But it is a bond between our lands all the same."
"Those bonds are important. My good friend Baron Torelle of Corlander was always close to me, but somehow I think that marrying his daughter has brought me closer. Blood is thicker than water, people say, and I can see that. When someone is a member of your family, you are more loyal to them, and expect more loyalty from them."
"You aren't suggesting," the Prince suddenly said, "That King Morgan would be swayed in his judgement by such?"
"Oh, no," Slade said. "That was not at all my intent. I was just noting that we expect loyalty from our family. I think I would be crushed if my wife's brother were to do something against me. He wouldn't, of course; and I wouldn't do anything against him. Then again, if he did, I doubt I would be so quick to forgive him as I would to forgive some nobleman I'd never met who happened to wrong me in some way."
"Yes, I see that," the King said. "In much the same way, we expect our allies and our vassals to be honorable and faithful to us, and so give them the benefit of the doubt when there is doubt; but should they be found guilty of treachery or treason, we are the more angered because of their status."
"Exactly," Slade said. "It's a far worse crime to cross someone who trusts you than to cross someone who is wary, and the penalty is more severe."
The prince spoke again. "What has this to do with Acquivar?"
Slade feigned surprise. "I'm sorry; I thought it was understood that we were not going to discuss my case. I only mentioned Acquivar because I knew he was family, of a sort, and so he made a good example."
"Indeed," the King said. "Sir Robert, you have some interesting thoughts about justice. I hope we may have the opportunity to speak more of them once your own matter has been settled. But as Ruard suggests, this discussion is dangerously close to that matter, and we should not discuss things that might impact your case."
"Not my intention at all, Majesty. I was just exploring these thoughts. Every nobleman I have met has different ideas about how to administer justice, and I find it enlightening to discover those ideas. Usually the best way to get them to think about what they believe is to tell them what other people think, and get them talking about why that's right or wrong, from their perspective. I usually learn a lot from it."
"Your people must find you an excellent arbiter of their problems," the King suggested.
"Well, I wasn't so good maybe when I started, but hopefully I've learned something over time." He finished the food on his plate, and noticed that Shella was also done. "If you will excuse us, Majesty, I think we'd like to get some time together and a bit of rest tonight."
"They're on their honeymoon," Ruard's wife suddenly said, then withdrew as if she remembered she wasn't supposed to talk.
"Is that right?" the king asked. Slade nodded.
"We were married, gee, two days before we met Rapheus, but I've sort of lost track of the days since then, between the travel and the wonderful time we've had here."
"I'm glad we've been able to make your first days together comfortable, even with the inconvenience of being detained."
"Hey, where else did we have to go? We were just trying to get out of Acquivar's territory, and now we're out. Being detained has meant the best food, the best bed, the best rooms, and the best company we could have wanted. We'll see what happens tomorrow, but at least we've still got tonight to enjoy them." Smiling, he turned and left the room.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with ten other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #191: Versers Travel. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: