The trial of Lefty the Assassin is concluded and the two plotters are detained prior to sentencing.
The Angry mermaid 84
Y Morforwyn Dicllon 84.
After the king’s warning about who was judge and executioner, Bishop Celyn took the hint and finally resigned himself to being found guilty. After a few more innocuous questions he declared her had no more questions. It seemed to Bishop Celyn that every time he tried explore another avenue or try another tack he ended up in deeper trouble.
With the bishop falling uncharacteristically silent, King Ethelred decided to stop proceedings for the day and advised everybody that the following day he would be questioning Lefty Tip-toe.
That night, Ethelred shared his meal with only Drustina for company in the privacy of his chamber. The Cardinal, the earls and all the usual company of diners were left to eat together at the high table in the great hall whilst Ethelred’s throne and Drustina’s high seat were left significantly empty. The earls quizzed Cardinal Craklow and Sister Catherine but nobody had any idea why the two had chosen to dine together.
In truth Ethelred desperately needed to discuss the case with somebody who offered an alternative view. After the first day’s damming evidence that had definitely implicated Bishop Celyn, Ethelred was beginning to have doubts about the new faith. He expressed his doubts to Drustina for he knew her to be a Pagan with no friendship for the new church. One thing he could be certain of was that Drustina’s many travels and assorted encounters with other Christians would have given her a lot of insight. It worried him that after all her varied dealings with Christianity, she still remained firmly Pagan. In this vein, he sounded out her feelings.
“How many Christian bishops have you met and had to deal with Dru? May I call you Dru? I know Carl does.”
“Why d’you ask?” Drustina responded.
“Well, this case has destroyed my confidence in this new religion but, well, I find comfort in their prophet’s words, this Jesus fellow. Have you read his teachings?”
“Well, I’m loath to ask you what you think because you remain so adamantly Pagan. What is your issue?”
Drustina stared almost mesmerised into the fire as she turned her bitter recollections over in her mind. The temporary loss of her first children, the condemnation as a freak and a monster, the attempts to kill her, the enforced piracy imposed upon nuns ... women; and a thousand other misogynistic incidents that had amounted to a brutally cruel, lifetime lesson that she could never forget. Ethelred waited patiently for he too was a cerebral man and willing to wait while the woman sat next to him gathered her thoughts. Eventually Drustina voiced her conclusion. She spoke slowly and softly for she found this usually the best way when a woman had a man’s full attention.
“They don’t treat women fairly.”
“Go on,” Ethelred encouraged her.
“Did you see the way that Bishop Celyn was more than prepared to implicate his house-keeper and did you see how terrified the woman was. As if she already knew she would have no hope of establishing her innocence, she knew her testimony would be given no credence, no weight, no consideration, and no fairness.”
Ethelred bristled slightly.
“What! By me you mean?”
“Frankly your majesty ... yes. By anybody in fact. Everybody in that courtroom with any clout, any status, any credibility, was a man.”
“But everybody who was a proper witness was a man.” Ethelred argued.
“No, the housekeeper was a witness, she could give evidence about the keys, about the doors being locked, about the Bishop’s visitors, about a hundred things but she was never called to give evidence, why not? She was never even allowed to defend herself, why not? Indeed if my commander Carl had not been so forthright ... and bold I must say. If Carl had not bluntly accused the bishop and established his guilt, the woman could have ended up being executed. Couldn’t you see she was terrified?”
“Well, yes ... but it’s in the nature of women to be fearful, to be frightened, and to be timid.”
“What; like me you mean!”
Drustina half laughed and half censured the king. Almost mirroring her dual gender in her reply.
The king frowned thoughtfully as he contemplated the legend sitting beside him and the unbelievable feats of military prowess she had achieved. He turned and squinted through thought wracked eyes.
“I suppose you’re right, she could give evidence.”
“There’s no could about it Sir, she should be allowed to speak. She might have some vital information, something nobody’s thought of. Don’t forget, nobody has more intimate or close association with the bishop and his activities than her. I’ll bet she even cleans up his papers and stuff after he has finished his clerical business.”
“Hmmm. That’s a thought. If I remember rightly she is high-born. Ugly but high born... that’s perhaps why she never married. Yes, I think she can read and write. And, if you’ll pardon my seeming prejudice, I think you’ll agree that women are every bit as nosey as men, if not more so.”
Drustina had to smile, ‘Ethelred was at least right on that score, women were certainly nosey, they had to be; men so rarely included them in their dealings.’ She nodded then added.
“Check what she knows about the Bishop’s most intimate dealings, she’s a woman, I’ll bet she knows a lot more than the bishop is prepared to admit to. Ask her in court tomorrow if she can read; if she can I’m willing to wager she’ll have a lot more information than the Bishop will admit to.”
Ethelred stroked his beard thoughtfully.
“I think I will! It’ll be very interesting if she can read and if she does reveal more than Celyn is prepared to admit to.”
Drustina leaned forward with more advice.
“Do it before you wade into Lefty. If you’ve got more ammunition from the housekeeper, Lefty will crumple even faster.”
“What do you think I should do with them ... execute them both?”
“Seems a waste, truth to tell, I could do with Lefty’s skills in my campaign against the Vikings, ridding my beloved Lleyn of their occupation. I’ll never know when I might need a skilled assassin.”
Ethelred’s jaw sagged as he gaped at Drustina before recovering his composure.
“What! You mean let him live? You mean let him work for you? D’you think you could trust him, he’s a killer, a sneak, and he’ll kill anybody for money.”
“Exactly Ethy! (It was the first time Drustina had ever used familiarity and she was quietly pleased that Ethelred had not objected to such intimacy.) I mean exactly that; he’ll do anything for money. If he has got loyalties; it’s to money!”
“Are you seriously suggesting I let him go, to kill again, to spread fear wherever he goes?”
“You’re missing the point Ethy. The last thing Lefty wants is for people to be afraid. If they are fearful, they are on their guard, doubly cautious about security and safety. That makes the assassin’s job doubly difficult. His job is killing, for money; make it easier and he’ll do it for less. Where I’m going, there’ll be a lot of killing, I’ll need killers. The Vikings owe me big time, my grand-parents, my father, my brothers, my sister, cousins, aunts and uncles; big time!”
“Are you serious, you don’t want me to execute him?”
“Yes, I’m quite serious. Don’t execute him, offer him bondsman to me, I’ll wager you a crown he’ll take your offer.”
“How will I get that past the Cardinal, he’ll want the death penalty for both of them.”
“Well, Carl touched upon a good enough excuse yesterday. By the old Pagan Saxon code which is like our Celtic code; you can pay off some less serious crimes; either become a bondsman or slave or even just pay a large compensation indenture to the widow or parents or even the children of the victim. The reason we do this is because the severe climate means our society is always close to the bread-line. Look about you now as winter grips the land; our communities need every useful hand to turn the tide of the elements. People are too valuable to simply execute for every crime or misdemeanour. The loss to the community is often too great, especially if the perpetrator is ordinarily a useful member but temporarily lost his ... or her reason in a fit of anger or despair. Remember how Carl and I let Gisela’s rapists live to work like gelded horses for their community. They will never rape again, they can’t but they can work, they can be useful to their community."
Ethelred frowned thoughtfully.
“I’m not so sure Dru. I mean Bishop Celyn would be no good as a labourer or a tradesman. D’you think Cardinal Craklow will accept my allowing either of them to live? He's pretty disgusted and angry and frightened.”
“You leave the cardinal to me Ethy, he and I go way, way back!”
Ethelred stared thoughtfully at the woman beside him.
“How would you persuade him my lady?”
“I’ve done it before. Cardinal Craklow is a kind and caring man. He and I pleaded to the Polish King for amnesty for Sister Catherine and her nuns after the piracy episode. Craklow is a man on a mission. He knows he has to change the mindset of many bishops from that of obstinate brutality to compassionate temperance. He’s got plenty of early Christian missionaries to use as examples, Augustine, David, Patrick to name but a few. Leave Craklow to me. If I tell him I’ll convert to Christianity if his church stops persecuting women, he’ll count that prize as the highest jewel in his evangelistic crown.”
“Would you do that Dru, after all the misogynistic cruelties and persecutions you’ve experienced and witnessed, would you convert?”
“It’s not a faith issue for me Ethy; it’s a social issue, an ethical issue,; a trade off even. I deal in realities like war and death, fair play and justice. Women face the reality of persecution all the time by this new faith but I want to change that. Treat women fairly, treat all people fairly, even if, they are like me and deemed God’s mistakes.”
“Is that how you see yourself Dru; one of God’s mistakes. God doesn’t make mistakes.”
“Right, so that makes me what, a test piece, some sort of divine, evangelical trial to make holy men look inwards and examine their prejudices. I see myself as a woman, but a woman warrior; and woe betide anybody who crosses me.”
Ethelred smiled as he replied.
“Well amen to that Dru, nobody can deny you are a warrior.”
“Well if I’ve addressed some of your concerns, I’ll count that as a job done. Are there any other problems?”
“No. Not for the moment. Thanks for your thoughts.”
Ethelred nodded with no small satisfaction. Tomorrow would be a monumental day and he was surprised to find himself looking forward to it.
‘What was it about this incredible queen that so made problems somehow look small or even disappear altogether?’ He asked himself as they finished their meal and joined the others in the great hall for an hour of socialising before finding their beds.
The next morning Lefty was brought into the court where Carl and Drustina were pleased to see that he showed no signs of bruising or injury though he certainly looked scared. This time King Ethelred himself led the questioning. To everybody’s surprise before Lefty was questioned, Ethelred invited the housekeeper to come forward.
After his previous night’s fireside chat with Drustina, Ethelred checked carefully for any signs of fear or dread emanating from the woman. There were plenty for Ethel was shaking physically. Ethelred was both ashamed to learn of this and also angry that women should be so distrustful of his court. As a cerebral and pious man, he had always prided himself upon the type of justice he had always meted out.
Once again, (The Lioness of Carthage had opened his eyes.)
Ethelred could not help but let his gaze wander briefly towards Drustina who had deliberately chosen a none-descript seat right at the back so as to divert attention from her being there. Their eyes met for less than a second but it reinforced everything Drustina had spoken of about women and their station in the new Monotheist Christian order. At that very moment Ethelred swore to balance the scales; at least in his kingdom if nowhere else. He started to question the woman.
“You are Ethel the Bishop Celyn’s housekeeper.”
“Yes, your majesty.”
“I am told you have letters.”
“I do sir.”
Ethelred silently noted that the woman had been taught court etiquette somewhere for she knew how to address the king. He continued.
“So you read and write.”
“Did you ever read Bishop Celyn’s private correspondence?”
Ethel hesitated fearfully. It was unusual at best and almost deemed witchcraft by the new faith for women who were little more than domestic servants to be able to read and write. Such skills were usually found only amongst the highest ladies of the land. Ethel was waiting for the next question demanding where she had learned to read and write. It never came as Ethelred smiled benignly.
“It’s alright Mistress Ethel. I am only determining if you were in a position to know anything about the bishop’s affairs. The function of this court is to try and find the truth. Did you ever read the bishop’s correspondence?”
Ethel gulped nervously then nodded before she rushed to explain.
“I worked occasionally as his secretary. When his curate was away attending to the flock or visiting his parents, the bishop sometimes asked me to work in the curate’s stead.”
“So Bishop Celyn knew you could read and write.”
“It was no secret within the bishop’s household your majesty. I kept house and did the accounts for food and cleaning.”
“Exactly,” Ethelred nodded. “So did you ever see the bishop in the company of Lefty Tip-toe?”
The housekeeper hesitated as she glanced nervously towards the bishop. His defeated demeanour reassured her and she eventually nodded before replying.
“I saw them once some nights ago. The bishop seemed upset about something and had refused his dinner. I had prepared his favourite meal to share with the Cardinal but the bishop refused it and left the kitchen after scolding me. The cardinal ate alone in his rooms while the bishop went out into the town. I heard him returning after dark but I didn’t inquire if he wanted any food for I had left some food out for him. Later I heard talking in the kitchen and became curious as to who could be in there at such a late hour. I had business in the kitchen to see if the bishop had eaten and to clean up if he had. To find out if the food was finished and to find out who the bishop was talking to, I entered the kitchen. On entering, I encountered the bishop talking to Lefty. They were not best pleased that I had interrupted them. The bishop snapped at me to get out.”
“And this was when.”
“The night before the murder attempt.”
“Did you see Lefty again?”
“Thank you mistress Ethel. Is there anybody else who would like to question the witness?”
A deafening silence settled on the court then Carl spoke up.
“How many set’s of keys are there to the Palace?”
“Two. Mine and the bishop’s. The captain of the guard also has the keys to the gatehouse and barrack-rooms but none of the residential keys.”
“Is the gatehouse normally locked?”
“Only after midnight or when the off-duty guards return. The off-duty guards go into the city most nights. When they return, the captain locks up the gatehouse and I let him into the palace with my key. Then we share some bread and wine before retiring... to our individual beds I mean.”
A soft titter rippled around the court room but Ethelred let it die naturally. Mistress Ethel was released and Lefty Tip-toe was brought forward.
Ethelred grilled him thoroughly for an hour but only to re-establish what had already been determined and to describe his part. He had already admitted to the attempt for he had been caught red handed by no less a group as the Cardinal, the Saxon, the Sergeant and the two guard’s-men. After establishing the facts and some additional surprising circumstances, Ethelred closed the court and told those interested to return in two days time.
This act alone served to intrigue many who had attended the court because normally in times recent, the verdict would have been arrived at immediately and the sentence announced immediately. It also served to confuse the two plotters for they had fully expected to be taken out and summarily executed, there and then. That said, both the bishop and the assassin were each led away to the city prison to await their fate.
Hello readers, as a result of some readers expressing their distaste at having to rumble down the Character list to arrive at the Kudo button.
Ever willing to try and please others I have adopted another ploy, namely I've posted this address hereinunder, (That sounds posh doesn't it?) AM 85 will simply have this string of strange unintelligible letters instead of a readable character list.
Gazette of Characters etc.
Mabina.... Ch 1 The youngest daughter and Twin to
Drustan.... Ch1 Her twin brother.
Grandpa Erin.... Ch1 The twin’s grandfather.
Giana.... Ch1 The twin’s grandmother.
Caderyn.... Ch1 The twin’s father.
Herenoie.... Ch1` The twin’s wise and beautiful mother.
Morgaran.... Ch1 The Twins oldest brother.
Aiofe.... Ch1 The twin’s oldest sister. Famous for her beauty.
Tara.... Ch1 The twin’s second oldest sister. Famous for her grace.
Feidlim.... Ch1 Twins aunt (Caderyns’ beautiful sister.)
Mogantu.... Ch1 Twins uncle (Married to Feidlim.) Chief of the Gangani tribe.
Brun.... Ch1 Twins 2nd cousin and the Acaman clans’ blacksmith.
Feorin.... Ch1 Twins second brother. Also training to be a blacksmith.
Rhun.... Ch 2 Feidlims’ son and Feorins’ favourite 1st Cousin. (Both red-heads.)
Arina.... Ch 4. Child of a Demetae fisherman, (rescued by the three siblings.)
Penderol.... Ch 6 Dumnonii Minor chief.
Udris.... Ch 6. Young Dumnonii warrior. Ch 6
Dryslwyn.... Ch 7 High chief of the whole Celtic nation. Dwells in Brithony. Ch 7
Bronlwyn.... Ch 7 Dryslwyn’s wife (and queen.)
Magab.... Ch 8 The moor who taught numbers.
Eric.... Ch 9 Saxon galley slave rescued from Corsair pirates.
Carl.... Ch 9 Another Saxon galley slave rescued by Drustan.
Torvel.... Ch 9 Celtic galley slave rescued from the same captured corsair ship
Arton.... Ch 7 Turdetani Chieftain Holder of Gibral Rock.
Carinia.... Ch7 Arton’s wife.
Isobel... . Ch 7 Arton’s adopted daughter.
Appotel.... Ch 9 King of the Turdetani Tribe. (Southern Iberia.)
Bramana.... Ch 9 Queen. (Wife of Appotel)
Pilus.... Ch 10 King of the Capetani.
Shaleen.... Ch 10 Pilus’s queen and sister to Bramana.
Pedoro.... Ch 10 Lord Marshal of the Southern border region.
Lady Shulaar.... Ch 10 Lord Pedoro’s wife.
Taan.... Ch 11 The scullery maid.
Isaar.... Ch 11 Pedoro’s oldest son.
Ferdie.... Ch 11 Pedoro’s 2nd son
Sular.... Ch 11 Pedoro’s 3rd son
Gontala.... Ch 11 Pedoro’s youngest son.
Shenoa.... Ch 11 Pedoro’s only daughter.
Portega.... Ch 14 Tyrant King to the west.
Portua.... Ch 14 Portega’s grandson.
Jubail.... Ch 15 An old Fisherman.
Mutas.... Ch 16 Magab’s younger brother and usurper.
Walezia.... Ch 18 King of Malta.
Alviar.... Ch 21 Megalomaniacal bishop of Carthage. (Hates Drustina.)
Ethelia.... Ch 21 Female healer who treats Drustina during her pregnancy.
Seripatese.... Ch 21 Drustina’s faithful horse.
Astos & Amitor.... Ch 26 Minor royalty who govern Alexandria. King and Twin Queen.
Meronee.... Ch 28 Nubian Queen of Nobatia The northern Kingdom of the Nubians.
Horam.... Ch 30 The Egyptian master Boat builder.
Muraa.... Ch 31 King Astos’s male partner.
Tuk.... Ch 35 Makurian general.
Fantu.... Ch 35 Makurian Captain.
Irene.... Ch 41 Emperor Leon’s only child.
Leon.... Ch 41 Byzantine Emperor.
Zano.... Ch 41 Byzantine general who defeats the Bulgars with Drustina’s help.
Oraxyis Ch 42 Supreme commander of the Bulgar forces.
Urthos.... Ch 46 The Gaul elected captain of the 4th ship. Ex Barbary galley slave.
Horus... . Ch 46 Horam the boat-builder’s son.
Sister Catherine.... Ch 47 Leader of the pirate nuns.
Archishop Craklow Ch 47 Archbishop of Warsaw, later Cardinal Craklow.
Guthrun.... Ch 49 Jarl of Bornholm.
Etheline.... Ch 49 Guthruns’ wife the countess of Bornholm.
Capenda.... Ch 49 Taras’ mare.
Athun.... Ch 52 Gay king of Dark Age Denmark.
Queen Elthorn.... Ch 52 King Athuns’ Consort.
Iselda... . Ch 55 Athun and Brendigan’s, younger (middle) sister.
Heingist or Hengis..... Ch 52 Drustina’s loyal Danish pilot who becomes her 1st Mate
Brendigan..... Ch 54 Athun’s older sister and consort queen of Svenland.
Bjorn.... . Ch 53 The captain of the Palace Guard. King Athun’s gay partner.
Morgan and Amethyst.....Ch 56 Drustina’s twin children.
Dalcimon..... Ch 62 Queen of West Friesia.
Andrar..... Ch 62 Prince of West Friesia (Dalcimon’s son.)
Harald Cold Blood.... Ch 63 The Viking King, father of Gisela
Jupus..... Ch 69 Carl’s stallion.
Heliox..... Ch 69 Drustina’s second mate and deputy navigator (Ex Belgiie fisherman)
Gisela..... Ch 70 Viking princess captured after the Battle of Godwin Sands.
“Althred..... Ch 71 Young Saxon Naval commander who allies his fleet with Drustina
Symone.... Ch 73 Young teenaged rape victim who join’s Drustina’s band.
Edburg.... Ch 72 The Angry mermaid’s cook.
Edrinor.... Ch 80. The Mercian King.
Princess Sonala.... Ch 80 Edrinor’s daughter
Celyn.... Ch 80 Saxon Bishop of Winchester.
Sergeant penstock... Ch 82 sergeant of the city guard.
Lefty Tip-toe.... Ch 82 Thief and assassin.
Ethel Ch 84 Bishop Celyn’s housekeeper.
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