Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chapter Seventy

I was surrounded by four Guards.  More fool I that I had let my survival instincts down so far as to not even realize the portent of it until the clean-up staff all stopped and stared as I was "escorted" to the Linder's office.  When their looks registered so did my position.  I'd been raked across the coals more than once in the Linder's office, and by my sister wives, but not even they have ever called me to them using a set of Guards.

I concluded that it was about the three young men and it did not look good.  So be it.

I stepped into the office and continued to stand while The Linder dismissed the Guards who seemed reluctant to leave.

As soon as the Guards closed the door The Linder rounded on me and snarled, "What do you have to say for yourself?"

To combat his heat I brought out the calm cold that my comportment teacher had taught me.  "Regarding which subject?"

The Chancellor broke in and asked, "You think this is a joke Madam?!"

I looked at him and said, "I think nothing beyond the two of you are obviously exercised about something.  It would make these proceedings move more quickly if you or The Linder were to explain yourselves rather than leaving me to guess."

"By the Martyrs you have some nerve Viper.  That we would have welcomed you into the family ..."

"Enough.  If you wish to castigate me for something, make it for something truthful because we both know that while I am ALREADY a Linder, I certainly would never have been truly welcomed into your branch of the family.  Oh, you've been silly and slightly kind when it suited your purpose to do so, but you've even more often sought to use me.  Now, if you expect me to beg you to explain why you are so incensed you will be waiting a long time.  Not even for my husband did I beg no matter how I bled."

The Linder through a glass and it shattered against the wall staining the faded wall-covering and giving the room the smell of a bar.  "You seek to distract by insulting me."

"How am I supposed to have insulted you Guardian?" I asked trying to not let them see how frightened I was becoming.

"You have insulted not just me but us all and that I cannot forgive.  My wife lays upon her bed while John tends her.  She has collapsed upon hearing the news of your treachery."

"And what idiot let her hear such words that would cause her to collapse?  Who lost all good sense?! And treachery is it?"  I asked.  "How is defending myself against drunken fools considered treachery?  I did not make a scene at the gala to spare Mrs. Linder and the other guests.  Not handling such a thing the right way is a step down a path to destroying the succession with feuds and civil war if the wrong families took sides."

Briefly I saw the Chancellor think but then he was distracted by his brother when he began, "You lured those two boys ..."

"Two?!  There were three.  All quite a bit larger than I.  And what do you think the X I carved signified to begin with?!"

"What X?"

"What X?!!  On the forehead of the one that tried to get under my skirts while the other two held me!  Though I admit I bloodied all three well enough that they would let me go and have to leave the gala!"

"There were two," the man said stubbornly.

"Three.  Which one complained and let me face him and we'll have the truth of it?"

"They've been taken into protective custody.  Their parents have sworn out a complaint against you.  Luring boys ..."

"Boys older than I!  Bigger than I!  And I certainly was not luring!  For what reason would I do such a corkbrained thing?!"

"To put them under your power the same as their brothers were under the power of ..."

"Let me guess.  Ceena and Tonya.  Did you know those three fools - three, not two - claimed that I killed my husband in his bed with my 'favors' and that they'd heard it straight from their mothers?!  And I know for a fact one of them had a father in the room when my husband died and that my husband had been so sick that ... that favoring was completely impossible?!!"

The Linder shouted, "Do not lie bitch!"

"Have you lost your mind the same as my husband?!  Who brings such facts or are they merely accusations that you are choosing to believe?  Who is bearing such false witness against me?  And why would you believe them when I've never done anything to ..."

The Chancellor hissed, "Careful Widow.  The witness is unimpeachable."

"Oh really.  And just who is this witness?"

The Chancellor answered, "My wife."

I was shocked.  Shocked nearly incoherent.  "Tosha?" I gasped.  "She ... she has to be mistaken.  There were three.  Even though it was going on dark she could not have possibly missed the third, not if she saw the fight.  He was the one that said that he was going to bring a case against me for marking his face."

"You impugn my wife's honor?!"

I snapped, "Of course not.  Tosha would never ..."  I stopped shaking my head.  Remembering the old man's words.  Allies would be enemies and enemies would be allies.  "Not Tosha," I whispered, crushed at the very thought.

"And that is not all she saw you Borderland whore."

"I beg your pardon?!" I yelped.

"Do not play innocent.  You met in secret with a corrupted Borderlander in the maze."

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