The day had come. Vivienne dressed in her leather armour. She strapped on her holster and slipped the matchlock pistol into its place, against her leg. Yes, there would be truce, but it would be an uneasy peace. It was best to be prepared for anything. She frowned, annoyed that she must dignify the whining of a serving wench to answer her frivolous charge in court. That was the system, and it was all they had to try to keep and enforce the peace in these lands. No-one stood above the law or the process, except perhaps for the Queens ruling over Scotland and England.
The Warden of South March, Bryantt Sands, gathered those attending in the town square. On his signal they moved out to travel through the Debatable Lands to the border of South March. There they stopped at the old ruins of the arch, a reminder of the mighty wall built by the Romans that now lay mostly in ruins. “Even the mightiest must bow and fall to the Lord of Time,” she thought.
There they waited for the arrival of Maverick and the people of the South. Bryantt pulled his sword from its scabbard and examined the blade before resheathing it. Vivienne checked to make sure the holster button was undone so she could draw her pistol quickly if need be. Dom pulled out his dagger and wiped the blade on his pants to clean it. They did not have to wait long.
Maverick turned to his group of southerners and said, “Please be silent and permit me to speak to you. Every person who attends this day should honor the precepts of the ‘Day of Truce’ by swearing that he would act with honor. Further, I remind you all that the ‘Truce’ will not end with the completion of the trials but at the following sunrise. Keep those words in your heart and we will begin.”
Maverick stepped towards the arch marking the border, raising his arms in a gesture of peace. “Warden, I beg your assurance that you and your party will act with honor and respect the tenants of the Truce Day.”
Bryantt moved his hand away from his sword hilt and raised his arms with open palms, returning the gesture of peace. “We come in peace with respect,” he answered. “I would ask the same of you and your people.”
“Then the Truce Day is begun. No fighting and any violent behavior will not be tolerated on this day,” Maverick said. He turned to lead the combined group of Northerners and Southerners to the castle to hold court.
The crowd gathered inside the great hall and took their seats in the court while the two Wardens met to discuss the proceedings. Vivienne took a seat on the dias, to the side, the two thrones being reserved for the Wardens who would preside over the proceedings. She was not sure that she should, since she was accused and would be tried on this day, but she decided to see if anyone had the audacity to challenge her right to sit there.
The Wardens took their places and called for everyone to be seated and settle down so that the proceedings could begin. Vivienne’s case was called first. She stepped down from the dias and turned to face the two wardens.
Vivienne bit her tongue, fighting back an urge to say, “As I say.” She did not want to antagonize the man. That could wait for another occasion. She listened carefully to Maverick and repeated the oath. “I swear by heaven above me, hell beneath me, and by my part of paradise, by all that God made in six days and seven nights, and by God himself, I am whart out, sackless of art, part, witting, ridd, kenning, having or resetting of any of the deeds and charges named in this Bill. So help me God.”
At Maverick’s command, his squire, Falcon, stepped forward and read the charge against the Countess, accusing her of dining at the House of Cod and then refusing to pay for her meal, complaining that it had not been cooked to her satisfaction. The next day, all that remained of the fish was its skeleton, with Vivienne’s knife stuck through it, pinning it to the counter. Falcon claimed that she had made threats against the cook, and the dagger in itself was a threat.
Vivienne defended herself, “I have a few points to make. 1. The fish was not cooked but was mostly raw, and it smelled bad. It was not fresh and it was not edible. 2. I did not eat the fish. No-one can say they saw me eat it, for I did not. For all I know rats ate it. 3. Payment was made. I left what I thought it was worth on the counter, a couple of copper pieces. The dagger itself was worth more than the fish.” She heard a snickering behind her, paused, and then continued. “This is not a case of refusal to pay. Payment was made. It is a matter of haggling over the price. It is a matter of the word of a serving wench against mine, A countess, and cousin to the Queen of Scotland.”
Bryantt asked the value of the dagger. Vivienne replied that she did not know exactly since it had been a gift, but thought it was worth a piece of silver. After conferring, the Wardens announced their verdict and penalty.
Maverick stood. “We agree that the dagger makes sufficient payment for the food you ate.”
Vivienne muttered under her breath, “All this to-do over a piece of bad fish…”
Maverick continued. “However, we also agree that your threats, whether implicit or explicitly made, warrant one week of house arrest. This punishment to be seen to by Northern Warden. The matter is settled.” He took his seat.
Vivienne’s jaw dropped. She snapped it shut, realizing that there could be worse things than being shut up for a week with her ladies in the comfort of her own quarters and took her seat.
Drago slipped off his chair and answered the summons.
Bryantt said, “Say as I say,” and read the oath to Drago.
“I do not know what your words say but I give my word as a warrior I speak only the truth, by all that is good and holy,” Drago replied.
Bryantt frowned. “The words must be spoken sir of your words will not be taken as true. It is the law. I will speak them slowly,” and repeated the oath.
Drago listened and responded, “I swear by heaven above you, hell beneath you, by your part of Paradise, by all that God made in six days and seven nights, and by God himself, you are whart out, sackless of art, part, witting, ridd, kenning, having or resetting of any of the deeds and charges named in this ‘Bill’. So help you God.”
Bryantt twitched, annoyed by the failure of the little man to make the oath in the first person, but decided it was probably the best he would get out of him. “You are charged with kidnapping and imprisoning the Lady Karissa and the practice of wizardry. How do you plead?”
“I am not a wizard and did not detain Lady Karissa against her will,” Drago replied.
“Did you not, sir, take the Lady Karissa onto a horse on the said day and ride off with her?” Bryantt asked.
“Then we will hear from the Lady Karissa. Come forward,” Bryantt commanded.
Drago turned to watch her approach and stand before the wardens.
Bryantt looked at her and said, “Lady Karissa, say as I say,” and repeated the oath to her. Karissa then dutifully swore the oath before the court.
Bryantt pierced Karissa with a hard look, “Did you get onto Drago’s horse willingly and without reservation?”
Bryantt sat down hard on the throne, looking at Karissa. His face flushed and his brows furrowed. He said not a word to Karissa, but turned to Drago and said, “You are dismissed,” and waved his hand. He turned his gaze from Karissa and did not look at her again. “The charges have been proven untrue. You are free to go.”
Drago took Karissa’s arm and patted it, “Ye be a good and honourable Scot lass,” and led her back to her seat. “Is good to see good Scottish Justice even on English soil.” He smiled at Baylee, his own true love, as he took his seat beside her.
Maverick leaned toward Bryantt, and they conferred together for a minute or two.
The priest stepped forward before the wardens as commanded. He bowed, “My lords.”
Bryantt administered the oath, and Barnard repeated it. “I swear by heaven above me, hell beneath me, by my part of paradise, by all that God made in six days and seven nights, and by God himself, I am whart out, sackless of art, part, witting, ridd, kenning, having or resetting of any of the deeds and charges named in this ‘Bill’. So help me God”
Bryantt took his seat again, and leaned toward the Countess whispering in her ear. Vivienne looked shocked, then angry, and then saddened, her lower lip quivering slightly. Bryantt turned his attention back to the man before him. “Father, you are charged with the kidnapping of the Lady Karissa, assault of an officer of the court, namely myself, and breaking the laws of the Holy Church.” He watched the priest’s face closely. “How do you plead?”
Barnard clasped his hands behind his back and spoke out in a clear and loud voice. “As to the charge that I have committed crimes against the church, I ask first, who here among you is a lawful representative of Rome? A cardinal? A bishop? A Pope? Who has right to claim that the weakness and sins of a man constitute a crime? Have I denounced the Holy Church? Have I blasphemed? Have I turned against the Holy See or the Pope himself? Have I destroyed church property? Or stolen from the churches coffers? Have I desecrated the sacristy? I have done none of these things, nor have you anyone with authority to judge me on them. If I have sinned – and indeed I have – then that is between me and God and not any titular authority appointed by man.”
Barnard responded, “Did not our glorious ancestors draw their swords in battle in Jerusalem?”
Bryantt replied dryly, “We are not in Jerusalem, Father.”
Barnard looked at Bryantt carefully and said lowly, “I would have to say that I acted righteously, to prevent a greater sin. That being said, I question your authority to handle this matter.”
Bryantt shouted, “I am the law here!” He lowered his voice almost to a growl. “And you are charged here, not in the church, priest.” His pronunciation of the last word dripped with acid.
Bryantt nodded to him, “You may explain yourself.”
“I am guilty. I acted with the foolish impulse of a man who trusted a woman,and I was proved wrong. She is indeed a beautiful woman, and I was a weak and stupid man,” Barnard said, for all to hear. “I, a German, came to this land in hope of finding redemption, only to learn that redemption does not exist in any place, but in one’s action and thought. As part of my compensation to you, I would offer this.” He gestured to Falcon. She picked up a small chest and placed it at Bryantt’s feet.
Bryantt turned again to the very pale and subdued Vivienne and whispered to her.
Maverick looked with surprise at his squire, Falcon.
“I present to you the gold which the Lady Karissa did steal from you and did give to me for my benefit and use. I have not touched it. It is all there.”
Bryantt’s grip tightened on the chair as he looked at Karissa and back to Barnard again. Karissa’s eyes widened.
Barnard continued, “Today is Truce Day. It is a day for laying aside our hurt and anger, and taking upon ourselves whatever honor we can find in justice and fairness. I do not blame Karissa for her part in this. She is only a woman. I blame mostly myself for not using right judgment in this matter.”
Vivienne’s eyes widened in shock and then narrowed in anger at the priest.
Barnard continued, “For if you were not smitten with the sin of gambling, you would not be in need of marrying this man, Bryantt Sands. And if that had not happened, Karissa would not have run to me, heartbroken over it.”
Vivienne leaped to her feet, “How dare you?!!!”
Bryantt turned and commanded Vivienne, “Sit down.” Vivienne sat, but her eyes remained locked onto the priest.
“I shall abide by the sentence agreed upon by you and the Warden of the South.” Barnard bowed his head, awaiting their answer.
Maverick turned to Falcon, his squire, and said quietly, “Remind me to speak to you later about holding a chest of gold without my knowledge.” There was a loud mumbling from the crowd and Maverick rapped on the armrest of his chair to get their attention and calm them down. He then turned to confer with Bryantt. There appeared to be much discussion between them, at times heated, and at times not so heated, but all in hushed tones so no-one else could hear their words.
“Yes, your lordship,” Barnard replied.
“It is the judgement of this court, with much debate, that you be banished from the North. The payment of the gold stolen is considered payment of your fine for your assault on me,” pronounced Bryantt.
Maverick stood. “The trials are now complete and this meeting concluded. Everyone is reminded that fighting and any violent behavior will not be tolerated on this day. You will honor the Truce Day and go about your business peacefully until sunrise on the morrow. Good day.” He turned to Falcon, “See that the gold is given to Bryantt before he leaves.”
Vivienne stood and walked slowly and deliberately to where Barnard stood, looking up at him. She curled her fingers into fists. “If it were not Truce Day, I would slap you for your words to me.”
Barnard replied, “Then be thankful it is Truce Day, Countess.” he turned and walked toward the door.
Bryantt took Vivienne’s arm and said, “Come.” With that they left.