This short story was contributed by guest writer Nathaniel Farris.
“Sir Valrrin Inkarno, you are here to stand trial and hear the judgment of your King for the murder of the High Chamberlain,” announced the herald.
Valrrin dropped to one knee before King Markus. Before the King had a chance to speak, Valrrin said with his head still bowed, “My Lord, forgive me for speaking out of my place, but what proof is there against me?”
While Valrrin continued to bow his head, the King spoke. “Rise and stand with your men, for you are still my chief bodyguard. You are forgiven for speaking such.”
Valrrin went and stood with his men to one side of the dais, looking back down the great hall at the nobles and lords with their ladies. He noticed that many were nervous and frightened.
As he stood there, Prince Drachen came from a side room with a sentry behind him. “I have your proof,” he sneered triumphantly as he withdrew a knife from inside his cloak. Valrrin’s hand at once dropped to his belt. His dagger normally hung from here. “This and a witness are all I need to prove that you are guilty,” Drachen continued.
“Step forward and tell us what you saw and heard,” commanded the King, pointing to the front of the dais.
The guard went up to the dais, knelt, then rose to his feet to begin to speak. “Your Majesty, I have the watch at the South tower and the surrounding wall from 2 in the morning until 6 as the sun rises. As I was making my rounds, I went up to the top of the tower to scan the area around the castle.
“While I made my way down though the tower, I passed the High Chamberlain’s rooms. I heard a scuffle, and then a groan. Putting my shoulder to the door, I broke into the room. I saw his Honor the Chamberlain slumped against the far wall with a knife in his chest. Hearing a slight noise behind me, I quickly began to turn when I felt a body slam into me, causing me to crash my head into the wall.
“Before I fell unconscious, I saw a man in a dark cloak that hid most of his body and face, but I think that it was Sir Valrrin. What made me sure was the knife I found in the High Chamberlain’s chest on waking: this one that his Highness Prince Drachen has brought out before you. And that, your Majesty, is all I know.”
Bowing to the King, the guard stepped back to the side of the dais.
“Sir Valrrin, what do you have to say in is matter to defend yourself?” the King asked.
“My Lord, you know that it is my duty as your bodyguard to see to the safety of your Highness. In doing this you have allowed me to patrol the city twice a week at night while my second in command guards your Highness. Last night was one such night. When I returned this morning, I was immediately placed under guard until I was brought before you without knowing why,” Valrrin finished.
“You lie!” shouted Prince Drachen.
Valrrin spoke before the Prince could say more. “Ask Lady Audrine. She was in the room with the High Chamberlain when I went to patrol the city.”
“Lady Audrine Caffery was still in the High Chamberlain’s rooms that the time of his death, but she has gone missing,” the King said sadly.
Valrrin swung his gaze to the King. “How do you know that she was still in the room?” he asked.
It was the Prince who answered. “We found torn cloth from the bottom of her dress, as well as a small knife she had with her when she arrived.”
“My King, although it does seem like it was me that killed the High Chamberlain, I swear to you on my honor that it wasn’t me. Command me, my lord, in the way you choose that I may prove my loyalty to you,” Valrrin said as he dropped to one knee with head bowed before the King.
King Markus let the silence stretch for a few moments before speaking. “Sir Valrrin, this is the command I give to you. You will be given two saddle bags to fill with food for three days. At the end of those three days you will take the horse to the closest town and leave it. Then a command will be sent out, which outlaws you for the space of one year, and that if anyone brings you to a Baron of the country, they will receive eight hundred in gold and silver. If you last though the year you are to return to this room where we will give you the task of finding Lady Audrine and bring her back to ether reclaim your honor or to meet your fate as the murderer of the High Chamberlain Frederick Caffrey.
“Let all here know what we have commanded in this matter,” the King finished.
“NO!!” shouted Prince Drachen angrily. “Your Majesty, if you allow him to leave, he will not return”.
“Yes, I will,” Valrrin said in a quiet voice, before turning and exiting the hall.
Copyright 2021 by Nathaniel Farris all rights reserved