Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chapter Seventy-One

"I was accosted ... well waylaid perhaps is a better description as he never threatened me ... and ..."

"Shut up you bitch.  If I could see you hanged for treason I would but it would bring so much shame and dishonor on the Linder name that it would destroy the entire Region."

I had been angry up to that point but a calm settled on me.  I suppose it was a form of shock.

"Not without a trial and that is what I demand."

"Oh you demand do you?!!" the Guardian snarled.

I turned to the Chancellor.  "Do your duty.  Arrest me.  Let it be investigated and come out in a trial.  All of it.  Let the honor of those three young men come out.  Let Tosha have her day to say her piece in front of a Judge.  Let all of it come out.  And allow me my right to defend myself."

"You'd like that wouldn't you?" The Linder said spinning me around to face him once again.  "Destroy my family.  Defame my duty.  See the Great Council come in here and ..."

"Let them.  If you truly have nothing to hide then let them.  If I am truly guilty then it will come out."

"No.  No I cannot let ..."

"You cannot let justice take its course?" I asked.  "If you are right and I am wrong then what is there to fear?  Or is it that you cannot risk being wrong and shown to be the complete ass that you are acting?"

"You are gone you corrupted whore.  Gone.  You have two hours to pack a sack of belongings - and I'll decide what of that you can keep - and then you are going to be marched into the Borderlands and may you rot there."

He picked up a paper from his desk and shoved it in my face.  "Do you know what this is whore?  Your contract."  He proceeded to shred it and then threw the pieces on me.  "You get nothing.  Nothing I say!"

"I never asked for anything!"

"Oh no, you just had Daren ask it.  And now I must suspect my own brother of duplicity because of you!"

I saw the Chancellor startle at his words, start to say something then close his mouth.  He turned and looked at me with hate as if it was my fault he'd seen a worry in his brother's actions he hadn't thought he'd ever have to deal with.  If The Linder could turn on the Sheriff, how long would it be before he turned on him, the Chancellor?

"Cavorting about like a couple of ..."

I slapped The Linder's face shocking all three of us but I was the first to recover.  If they thought they were going to shred me the same way the paper had been shredded I would prove to them otherwise.

The Linder went for me but the Chancellor pushed him back looking horrified and confused.  I did not care, let him see what power did to people and then maybe he would never make such choices.

I told The Linder, "I did not slap you for the offense you gave my honor but for what you said against the Sheriff who is not even here to defend himself.  From the first and for always he has been loyal to you, no matter how unfair the hand that first your father and then you dealt him.  As for me, I accept I was fool to ever expect anything else from The Linder ... whether it be my husband or you."

I held my chin up and looked at the Chancellor with all the contempt and disappointment I could force into my gaze.  "I will be ready.  It would behoove you to come up with some reasonable explanation for the staff.  I would also send for Dr. Cummins.  The Linder appears close to apoplexy or some other kind of fit."

I turned and left the room thinking I didn't know who was the bigger fool; me or the rest of them.  Had I really been after to destroy the family all I would have needed to do was pull my fang and strike both The Linder and the Chancellor down.  They'd both heard me admit that I'd bloodied those three men yet had not even acted as if they suspected me of being armed.  And the Guards were just as foolish.  They didn't even leave a Guard for the door.

As I passed, staff in all direction tried to ask me what was going on and finally I had to stop and reply.  "I am sorry.  I will not discuss it.  I am going to see Mizz Marta.  I am sure that The Linder will offer an explanation in due time."

Still they talked and I did not escape the buzz of it until I slid inside Mizz Marta's room.

"What are you still doing up Alyce?"

"It's all over below stairs Widow.  Guards took you off!"

"Easy now.  Is Mizz Marta awake?  I need to speak to her."

A voice from the other room said, "Alyce, you need to go to the staff lounge for a bit.  The Widow and I have something to discuss."

Alyce did not want to leave but did so.  I walked into the room of someone that had acted as a second mother to me and wanted to burst into tears as I had so many times before but could not.  My feelings were all locked inside me.  And seeing how frail Marta still was I knew that I would have to be the strong one.

I told her without preamble, "I must leave."

She nodded.  "Where will you go?"

"I have options," I told her lying.  "Once I find my feet I will try and let you know if I can find a little birdy to carry the tale."

"Well, then make sure you send your birdy addressed to my mother's holdings in Elisabethtown."


"I am retiring.  I had nearly come to terms with it and was using the Gala as a post in the sand.  It is apparent that I ... that I am unwell but do not always realize how unwell I am.  You have been quite kind to not point it out but I have been keeping a journal.  It has recorded my deterioration."

I shook my head, "You are better than you were."

Marta gave me a sad and tired smile.  "And I hope to get better still but we both know that I will never be fit to run an establishment the size and complexity of Linderhall."

"It will cause a tear in the community here."

"Perhaps that is what is needed.  A tear, then a healing.  I am not indispensable.  And neither is Mr. Holman or Mrs. Cooksey.  We've all discussed our options.  Holman and Cooksey want a few more years to set themselves up.  Me?"  She shook her head.  "I stopped thriving long ago and this ... this whatever it is that has a grip on me only proves it."

I ran and took her in my arms.  I could feel bones where I should have felt none.  She felt as light as a bird.  Even her heart fluttered.

"Who will look after you?  Maybe they will let me ..."

"No Leeda.  I am taking Alyce."  That almost undone me.  "I will admit I cannot abide the idea of you seeing me like this or as I get worse.  Alyce has no memories of me being anything else.  And she has family in the area that will look after her when I am gone."

"No ... you'll get better ..."

"Only for a time, then I will ... not."  I did cry a bit at that but she told me to dry my tears.  "Leeda, seasons turn and years come to a close.  Life is the same way.  I have had a nice long life and have seen a great many things, done a great many things.  And I am also blessed in that I have very little left in this life that I have not been able to mend and still regret.  It is time for me to take my leave of Linderhall.  And it appears that it coincides with your need to as well.  Can you tell me Child?  It breaks my heart that once again a Linder has hurt you ... and this time because I called you here."

I nearly did, then realized it was impossible.  "It is complicated politics," I told her instead.  "It would take so long to unravel the facts for you that there isn't time to do so before I must take my leave.  Suffice it to say that I made the mistake in forgetting who and what they are."

"Aye.  I suppose that is as good an explanation as any has ever given when dealing with the Linders."

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