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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 113: Slade 86
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Everything ran smoothly after that. The noblemen laid down their arms and swore fealty to King Morgan. The soldiers and guardsmen accepted their guidance in the matter. Those who had been imprisoned were swiftly judged and released, including a few Acquivar had been holding on criminal charges which the king thought unwarranted. Eventually the matter of Prince Acquivar himself came to trial. Shella took no interest in any of this, but Slade decided he had to watch the handling of this particularly delicate matter.
The presentation of the journal so surprised Acquivar that his first words were not, "That's not mine," but "How did you get that?" The King replied that the Prince would be afforded an opportunity to ask questions after the witness, in this case Sir Rapheus, had made his statement. Rapheus of course did describe intervening in the matter of Lieutenant Simms and Sir Robert, and how subsequently the lieutenant had produced the book in court to support his claims, and attested to its authenticity. After that, Acquivar attempted to disclaim the book, but it was simple to get Odette to identify the handwriting and confirm many of the details of the account. It was not so simple to handle the verbal abuse that passed between prince and princess when he was afforded the opportunity question her; however, this made her look the more innocent, as another of his victims used in his plots, rather than a conspirator.
In defense the prince tried to claim that the evidence was all manufactured by his enemies, and that if there was any truth at all in it, surely those enemies had killed Taneia and used her death to discredit and dethrone him. He made an eloquent speech about the tragic death of the woman he loved, and the irony that he would have been seduced into finding solace in the arms of her murderer. It was well done, but inadequate against the overwhelming evidence. So many missteps, Slade thought. Had he consigned the book to the flames, or never written it, this would not have happened. Had he not attempted to recapture Phasius, the book probably would have wound up sitting quietly in Charton. Had he surrendered his army to save Odette, she would have backed his story. Even if he had not reacted as he had to the book when it appeared in court, he might have been able to convince the court that it was not his work. Each fumble had tightened the noose; in the end, it would have him.
Slade did not stay for sentencing. He didn't much care whether Acquivar was banished, beheaded, imprisoned, hung, stoned, or poisoned. Filp's sacrifice had been validated. They had saved the priest and brought down the evil monarch, thanks in large part to him. He would be pleased, wherever he now was.
That night Sir Rapheus came to say farewell. He would be returning to the capital in the morning, escorting Acquivar to the king's dungeons. He asked about Slade's plans, but beyond enjoying the comforts of Acquivar's castle for a few days he hadn't made any. Perhaps they would meet again, Slade said.
"After all, Odin is still looking for a few good men, and you're a man of honor with the makings of an excellent warrior." Rapheus took it as a compliment, or at least if he did not do so, he did not show any dismay.
The palace was comfortable. Slade almost regretted not having accepted the regency; but the kindness shown him by Prince Ruard was certainly better than the job of running the place. Honored guest was always the more comfortable status in these places, and Slade and Shella had come to enjoy the comfort.
Still, Slade knew this couldn't last too long. The job he came to do was done, and the job that presented itself from what he'd done was also finished, but somehow he thought it wasn't all over yet.
As to the old stories that have long been here: