To Burn a Witch 2
"We knew when we were married that we wanted children," Davena said. "But we decided to wait until after I no longer needed the Heart, and then I became sheriff. We wanted to make sure I was established and Dun March built. But I'm not getting any younger, and with our elevation to our new rank, my mother can't stop talking about grandchildren and giving Regulus an heir and a spare, and a few more for good measure."
Calvi looked away as an uncomfortable silence settled over the two of them. They could make out the sound of the shield maidens talking, but not the words. The noise helped keep the space in their own conversation a little more comfortable.
"Have you and Calvus decided to wait longer?" Davena ask, knowing it wasn't a subject her friend probably didn't want to talk about.
"No," Calvi said. The note in her voice was a mixture of emotions but Davena knew her well enough to get a read. To Davena, she sounded a little embarrassed and perhaps ashamed, too, but the strongest emotion was fear.
"I'm sure there are things that can be done," Davena replied softly. "Herbs, magic, blessings. Will you let me help you?"
She laughed a little, but it was directed at herself, not Davena's offer. "I've always known that Calvus wants children. As the prince, he needs them to continue his line. And I've always thought that it would be wonderful to be the one to give him the son or daughter he needs." It sounded like there was a 'but' coming.
"But..." Davena prompted her.
All her doubts came out in a rush. "What if the nobles won't accept a half elf heir? What if it's born wrong, or it turns out I can't have children at all? What if I'm not ready to be a mother? I'm only 49 years old. Most night elf women don't have their first child for at least a century."
"Nobody is ever truly ready to be a mother," Davena said. "Regardless of what any woman might say. I know you're scared about this. I am too. What if the injuries I've had have made me barren, what if... We can't let those what if's control us. When we've found the priest and dealt with whatever has been plaguing the village, I plan on telling Regulus my decision, and then talk to him about all of it. Maybe you should talk to Calvus. I'm almost positive he'll understand. Besides, it takes two to get pregnant. If you work together, it might make things that much easier."
Calvi looked away. "We've talked about it. He wants children and I told him I would give him one. It's me that hasn't lived up to the promise." She was ashamed she was afraid but couldn't help feeling that way.
"So you told him you're afraid, about how you feel."
She slumped a little. "No."
"You need to tell him," Davena said softly. "What if he thinks he's at fault? Calvi, I really don't think he'll blame you, or be angry with you about this."
Calvi shook her head. She was sure about one thing. "I won't have him thinking I've had second thoughts, or that I'm afraid."
"Then make your conversation be about the physical," Davena replied. "Discuss things you can do to increase your chances. Find the best times of the month, use herbs or whatever to improve fertility. But you need to do something. The way things are now isn't helping either of you."
'I know you are right. But I don't want to go down to the temple to ask for help. I don't want the idea getting around that Calvus and I have problems."
Davena wanted to tell her that people were already talking, but didn't. "Then we find a way without the temple."
"We? You mean you'll help?"
"What kind of friend would I be if I didn't?" Davena said with a smile and a little shake of her head. "Of course I'll help. I mean, I don't want to be there supervising or anything, but there are other things that can be done."
In other circumstances, Calvi might have said something to make Davena blush in response, but she was too worried about it. "Thank you," she said.
The rest of the ride went peacefully. They were able to get a room at an country inn for the evening, knowing they'd reach the village after only a few more hours of travel in the morning. While sitting at a table in the small dining room, she asked the innkeeper what news there was of the area. She didn't say it, but she was trying to find out if the troubles affecting the village were wider spread.
The innkeeper gave her a conspiratorial look and leaned in close. "Well, I wouldn't wish to spread gossip, but a messenger came through here this morning. He was moving right quick, staying just to get a drink for his horse before riding hard for Rathport. Said he had important news, but he wouldn't say mum about it. I figure he come from Leaning Stone, though, just down the road." That was the name of the village Davena was heading to. She recalled passing someone on horseback in a hurry early in the afternoon that day.
"What can you tell me about that place?" Davena asked, curious as to what the village's neighbors thought of it.
"Leaning Stone? It's the last village before you get to the forest proper," the innkeeper said. "Been there for a long time. They get by with a little farming where they can, sheep herding but especially off lumber and pieces of wood the woodsmen collect. Not much else to say, really."
"Any word from other travelers about problems from the Folley?" Davena took a sip of her drink. "Or anything other than the usual dangers on the road?"
"No, that's pretty much it as far as I've heard," the innkeeper said.
Davena thanked the innkeeper, and when the man left, she sat back and thought about what they'd learned. It looked like the trouble, whatever it was, might be just confined to the village of Leaning Stone. That was good, she thought, because it mean it might be easier to deal with. But with that messenger heading for Rathport, it could mean there was an important development. Things could be worse than just three men being taken or killed.
The next day they were able to get an early start and arrived at the village before noon. Davena made her way to the village's small inn, a good a place as any to try and find the constable she'd assigned to the village.
She found him enjoying a lunch, having taken a break from splitting firewood. Being able to come to the inn to eat was a great time saver for some of the villagers, especially the unmarried ones and Brand took advantage of it often, even though it cost him a few copper pennies.
As constable, of course he'd heard about the missing priest. It was a matter of some concern for him, but he had no way to track where the priest had gone. He simply wasn't any kind of scout and felt more likely to get lost in the woods than do any good. He was able to tell Davena that the priest had gone looking for some woodsmen that locals claimed had gone missing. Now, Brand said it wasn't unusual at all for woodsmen to be gone for days when looking for good quality lumber, but the priest had taken it upon himself to go look for himself. When he didn't reappear, the mayor had sent a message up to Rathport's temple and he had sent a message to Dun March requesting scouts.
Davena nodded. "The arch priest contacted me yesterday and asked me to look into the matter," she informed Brand. "And troops from Dun Rath will be here in a couple of days to be on hand if needed. Can you show us where the missing woodsmen live, and where they often worked, if there is such a place? It will give us somewhere to start looking."
Calvi said, "I thought we were looking for the priest?"
"We are," Davena said. "But he went looking for the woodsmen, and it makes sense to me that he might have started near where he knew they worked, rather than heading out blindly. And if I get something that belongs to each of the missing men, I might be able to use those items to try and find them, create a kind of compass we can use if we can't find or lose their trail."
Like a lot of simple people, the constable wasn't comfortable around things he didn't understand. Magic was one of them. But he told Davena that the houses all along the southern end of the village belonged to woodsmen. Davena might get permission from any wives or family there to take a personal item. He added that the priest took a trail the woodsmen us a lot. It leads into the woods starting at the south end of the village.
Davena thanked Brand, and after she and Calvi and the two shield maidens ate lunch - and got a bit of extra food to take with them - made arrangements to stable their horses and headed for the southern end of town. They didn't have far to walk and the woodsmen cottages were easy to pick out; they were the ones with stacks of lumber being aged and seasoned outside as well as skins being stretched and dried before being sold to the tanner. They also spotted the trail Brand spoke of, that lead south into the forest line.
As they walked, the shield maidens each chose one of Davena and Calvi. One stepped up to stand at Davena's left and the other at Calvi's left, leaving both women's weapon arms free and ready to protect front and left flank with a strong shield.
"Let's leave their homes for later," Davena decided. "No need to cause the families a greater disturbance by bringing magic into the mix." She took a look at the sky. They might not have a lot of light left to search, but they needed to get started. She hoped to go as long as they could before resorting to lights or setting up camp for the night.
They set out and by the time they got to the woods, the trail had faded a bit. Those who'd made the trail had split off here to head to various parts of the woods, but Davena was able to pick up the most recent trail, made by a man in soft leather boots. After a half hour, she found the man that had left them.
He was lying face down in the dirt surrounded by prints left from many individuals with a somewhat smaller shoe size. He wore a robe but had otherwise been stripped of his possessions right down to the belt and boots that had been taken.
Davena looked around, scanning the surrounding area for the possible signs of ambush, but if there was any ambush here, it had already happened. The fallen priest was stark evidence.
She approached the body and squatted down next to it. Davena touched the man's hand. It was cold, clammy and slightly blue. The man was gone. But she heard a roar and shouts in the distance.
She stood and drew her sword and glanced at Calvi. It could be the woodsmen, or it could be some denizens of the Folley. Either way, she needed to check it out. "Come on," she said, and continued down the trail a bit faster than before, keeping an eye out for danger.
They hurried through the woods, over a hill and stared down into a ravine. There they saw a band of goblins bring down the bear that had been bellowing. They immediately set upon it and began skinning it.
Davena silently motioned to the others to back away as quietly as they could. She didn't know the likelihood of these goblins knowing anything about the missing woodsmen, but knowing what lived in these woods, the possibility of something bigger than the bear coming to investigate the sound of the fight and the smell of the blood, she didn't want to get caught by it. But the moment they began to step back, a twig cracked beneath Davena's foot. Every goblin, all ten of them, stopped what they were doing and jerked their heads around to look directly at their small group.
Spiked chains suddely erupted from every long shadow cast by the trees and leafy cover, stabbing the goblins over and over as Calvi murmured her deadly chant. The goblins howled in rage and swarmed up the wooded hill at the small group. Two archers covered their allies as eight of them swarmed both Davena and Calvi and their shield maiden bodyguards. Davena was first to pick her opponents apart while her shield maiden fended off attempts to flank her and drag her down. While Davena tapped into a powerful spell to move earth and trap a pair of goblin archers, Calvi cut down three of her opponents. The fourth fled, only to fall face first into the newly-appeared sink hole.
Calvi walked down the hill followed by her shield maiden who in turn was dragging an unconscious goblin.
Davena moved to stand near the edge of the sinkhole. "Two woodsmen from the village came into the woods a few days ago, and they haven't returned. Where are they?"
The archers, holding hurts received when Calvi unleashed the black tentacles upon them, looked at each other and then tried to hide their bows behind their backs. "Uh. We haint seen no two woodsmen."
Calvi plucked a hatchet from the belt of her unconscious prisoner. "Woodsman's hatches. Those are probably their bows, too. I'll bet you a season's taxes they killed the priest, too."
The three goblins looked around wildly. "Oh no, no priest killings! Nice priest! Gives us money, yes? Nice!" They held up a nice leather pouch that clinked when they shook it.
"Judge and sentence them, Sheriff," Calvi said, already disgusted with the conversation.
"Give it here," Davena said with a frown, her grip on her sword visibly changing as if preparing to use it again. They tossed the coin purse to her. "And this is your last chance. Where are the woodsmen?" She figured they were probably dead, but it would help the grieving families and friends to have their bodies for the funeral rites.
"We not see any such things," one of the goblins complained.
"Liar!" Calvi yelled at them. "We see your bows and this hatchet. We see the shoes on your feet!"
The goblin that had tried to flee Calvi fell to his knees and raised his arms. "Mercy!" he cried. "We iz sorries! We not hurt nice humanz no more! So sorries!!"
The angry, violet light shining now in Calvi's eyes told Davena her patience was at an end. Calvi had no mercy for these creatures.
"Throw him in the pit with the others," Davena told the shield maiden.
When he landed at the feet of the others, and Calvi and the shield maidens had moved back, Davena said "As Sheriff of the Southern Marches, I charge you with robbery, assault and murder. I pronounce you guilty, and according to the law, your sentence is death." With a thought, she released her control of the earth and allowed the sink hole to collapse back into itself. The conscious goblins tried to scramble and climb free, but only the goblin warrior that had run from Calvi managed to escape being buried alive.
Instead, he took two steps away from the sink hole and ended his life impaled on Davena's Blackwood Shortsword. She cleaned the gore off her sword then tied the pouch to her belt. "I'll split the money between the temple and the families of the woodsmen. They'll need the help now that what's likely their main source of income is gone." She looked at the churned up soil, then back at Calvi and the shield maidens. "I also want to try and find the woodsmen's bodies."
Calvi nodded then looked up at the sky, judging about how much time they had. Unless they wanted to stay in the woods after nightfall, they'd only have perhaps an hour or two to search before they had to head back to the village. They used the time they had, but never found any other bodies. They returned for the priest's body and carried them back to the village.
But the village was in an uproar. Heavily armed and armored knights were searching villager's homes amid loud complaints, even tossing belongings out onto the streets.
"What is going on here," Davena demanded of the nearest knight. Looking at his tabard, she realized he was a Crusader Knight, one of the holy knights of the temple in Rathport.
He glanced at her own tabard and dipped his head. He slid down off his horse to speak with her. "Witchcraft, marquessa. I'm afraid there is witchcraft here. We have orders from the knight captain to uncover evidence of it and pursue the witch." A little more deferentially he added, "Your brother's over there." He nodded in the direction of a knot of people surrounding a knight with a bit more officious looking and expensive armor.
Davena nodded her head at the knight, then made her way toward Con. She kept an eye on him and the people around him, watching and waiting for the moment they saw her coming.
Her attention was diverted half way to Con and the villagers around him when a knight dragged an old woman out of her little hovel and dumped her on the ground as she ineffectually battered at him and cussed at him. A young woman paced along with the knight shouting that this was nothing more than what an old witch like her deserved. Another knight ransacked the old woman's home while the she complained loudly and protested the lie.
"Good sir! Kind sir! I'm but an old woman! That barren twat of a child is my daughter in law. Don't listen to her! She--"
"Shut it!! Both of you!!" yelled the knight. "We'll determine if she's the witch and who's to blame here! Now shut your mouths or I'll have you both in irons!"
The threat shut the old woman up, but the young one kept up her shrill complaints.
"Mother Luda but this is a mess," Calvi muttered irritably. With all this anti-witch fervor going on, she felt rather like heading back to the woods, but that wouldn't look very good. She was still the Prince's wife.
Davena quickened her pace, upset at the old woman being treated the way she was. These were her people, and while the temple might have jurisdiction over religious matters, she was still sheriff and would not be excluded from what was going on.
People made way for her, but shouted questions as to why the crusaders were here (which they'd already been told why). She tried speak but was completely drowned out by the villagers.
Finally, her brother roared, "Enough! The next person to open their mouths to speak to the Sheriff or myself without leave will be clapped in irons and put under the inquisition!"
The villager's noise died quickly away.
With a tired sigh, Con turned to Davena. "Hello, sister." He nodded at Calvi, too. "Lady Calvi."
"Hello, brother," Davena replied. "Wish we were seeing each other under better circumstances." She glanced around. "There was no mention of witchcraft when I was here around noon."
He nodded. "I'm not surprised. The letter sent to the temple was anonymous."
"Could be nothing more than a troublemaker," Davena said, and hoped that was the truth. "I'm here at the request of the arch priest," she continued softly, and told him of the missing woodsmen. "I'm afraid we were too late to save the priest, and probably too late for the woodsmen. Do you have any trackers amongst your men you might be able to spare to help in the search?" She expected the answer to be no, and would not be upset by it, but she had to ask. Her own people were at least a day or two away.
"Sorry, but no," Con stated.
"Sir? Sir! We found these things in the boy's room." The knight had a firm grip on a boy's arm. The boy was skinny and couldn't have reached 14 winters yet.
A pale father and a clearly upset mother followed along. "Sir knight, please! We had no idea what he was doing. He's just a boy! He's just... curious."
But the father towered over the boy. "How could you do this? That was your friend's cat! He'd been frantic for a week! And the birds, why the birds! You disgust me!"
"Don't say that!" the mother cried. "He doesn't mean it sweety."
Con strode over to see what the knight had found and was lead to a number of animals that had been killed and inexpertly mounted in disturbing, unlifelike shapes. It was disgusting, really, and consisted mostly of small, domesticate pets. He looked up at his knight. "Disgusting but not witchcraft. Let the parents deal with the boy. Continue the search."
"Sir." The knight saluted with one fist and headed to the next house.
With his attention diverted, a young woman crept out of her hovel with a bag in hand and started to slip away down the street.
"Calvi," Davena said softly to her friend, and looked over to where the young woman was and back to Calvi. "Can you stop that woman without causing a big commotion?"
Calvi nodded and headed that way. Davena saw her talking to the young woman as Con turned back to Davena. "What were we saying? Anyway, it won't take that long to search the village. If we don't find our witch, I might be able to leave a few knights behind to give the Sheriff a hand tomorrow."
"Thank you," Davena said to Con. "We were able to recover the priest's body." She looked over to where the shield maidens stood, watching over the corpse they'd lain carefully down. "Should we see it prepared for transport back to Rathport, or should the service be done here?"
"I think his family would see him returned to Rathport," Con said. "If we could find some linen amongst this folk we could wrap him properly for the journey."
Calvi returned, giving Davena a shrug and shake of her head.
There was a shout and a bit of a scuffle from one small house. A man fell face first out of his own doorway, closely followed by a pair of knights. The grabbed him by the arms and dragged him over to Con. "Knight Captain, we have our witch," said one knight with a deep, gravelly voice. He threw Brand to the ground and spat on him. "Tried to hide it."
"I am the constable here!" Brand shouted. He managed to get to his knees but the knights wouldn't let him stand. "I don't know anything about that stuff!"
"Sir, we found these things behind a false wall in his cellar." The accusing knight unfolded a cloth to show little wax poppets in the crude shape of people. Bits of hair were attached. "There were also vials of black fluids and few jars with indescribable organs and other body parts in them," the knight reported.
"No! It's not me!" Brand screamed. He surged to his feat and lunged at Con, but Davena's brother was fast. In a blink his hand drew the pommel of his sword and cracked Brand on the head. Brand fell to the ground and Con let his sword slide back into it's sheath. He'd never even draw it.
"I will execute you where stand, constable. Get up," Con hissed with angry menace.
"Just because those things were there doesn't make him a witch," Davena said. "I checked him out. I hired him, placed him here in a position of authority. If it is proven he is a witch, then I will be the first one to light the fire. But please, give me some time to investigate." She faced Con while she spoke, hoping she'd be granted some time, but she would not beg, or try to trade on their relationship.
"Sir Ancaris," Lady Calvi said, "as someone accused of witchcraft, this man has the right to a trial under church law."
Con stared at her, but nodded slowly. "He does. Depending on what he chooses, the Sheriff may be permitted to attempt to gather more evidence." He turned to Brand. "What's your name?"
"Brand?" he said groggily. He rolled over and puked.
"Get hold of your senses, man," Con said impatiently. "You need to make a decision. You can have a trial by combat, trial by ordeal, or trial by court. Choose."
"Uh... um.. what? I mean..." Brand blinked a few times. He Con up and down. No way would he take Sir Constantus in a fair fight. Trial by ordeal usually consisted of sticking ones arms in hot coals and hoping they don't get burned, or some such. That held little appear, either. "Trial by court?"
Con sighed. It wasn't his favorite pick. "Very well." He turned and started walking away. "Bring him to the inn. We'll hold court there."
The two knights grabbed him and dragged Brand along.
"Well," remarked Calvi, "frontier justice is swift..."
"I want to see all the evidence found in Brand's cellar," Davena said. If they could prove they're not things that would be used in witchcraft, then perhaps that could be used to save him.
"Okay," Calvi said. "Let's talk to your brother at the inn, see if he'll give you time. I have a feeling this trial is going to start right about now and we'll only have until the 'judge' has decided to present evidence."
Inside the inn, knights were already shoving tables out of the way, save one at the end of the building where Con sat. They placed chairs out so that anyone who wanted could witness the proceedings. They sat Brand down between a pair of knights near the front, then waited. Con calmly ordered some ale, then sat back to wait as word was spread around the community.
Davena approached him and came to stand before him. "Will you give me some time?" she asked politely, hoping he'd say yes, even if it was just an hour or two.
"You'll have some time, though I can't say how much," Con said. "I'll listen to what evidence there is, then listen to character witnesses among the townfolk. There are always lots of people that have things to say about an accused witch who looks pretty guilty. Then I'll review any evidence that has come up since the trial began and make my decision. You have until that final review to find anything new."
"Thank you," Davena said. She backed away several steps as a show of respect before turning and heading back outside. "Let's get to Brand's house to look at this hidden space, and at at least one of those wax dolls. If we can determine, somehow, if it's not human hair, that should eliminate them. And I wish there was a fast way to find out who Brand had made enemies of, and then sort out who might have written that letter."
"Well then I hope the author wasn't the missing woodsmen or the dead priest," Calvi stated.
They made their way back to Brand's small home. There was one knight posted outside, who let them in, and one other knight in the cellar where the false wall had been discovered. At first glance it seemed to be just the way the knight had described. It was a rather ingenious mechanism that caused a panel to slide back using some sort of spring. The knights had already taken the most damning pieces of evidence, but there was still a small alter, black candles burnt low and what appeared to be human skulls without their lower jaws sitting on each side of the altar.
"Looks like what we'd think a witch might have," Davena murmured. "We need to find out who owned this house before Brand moved in. It might have been theirs." She was afraid to search the altar, in case they found more things that would condemn her constable, but there might be something there that could exonerate him.
A search of the altar revealed nothing new, and an examination of the dolls revealed it was indeed hair in the wax poppets, but she couldn't tell if it belonged to a person or not, and it frustrated Davena. "Why was that woman sneaking out of the village?"
"She was simply afraid. She had a bag of assorted good luck charms that she was throwing away before the crusaders found it. She feared they would think it witch's paraphernalia." Calvi shook her head with mild disgust. "Things should not be like this. Witch hunts. They are an excuse used by disgruntled neighbors to legally murder one another."
"I know." Davena shook her head. "It's got to be someone who wants Brand gone. We need to find out who, and quickly. Talk to Brand, maybe." She led the way out of the cellar and looked around, wishing she had some clue as to who else they could talk to.
"Your brother said character witnesses will be called. Surely he will call some forward that the accused asks for." Calvi said. "We'll have to go to the inn to talk to Brand since I doubt they'll allow an accused witch out of their sight."
"Let's go." Davena walked quickly back to the inn, hoping they still had enough time.
When they arrived, they found a nearly toothless old man with a red nose and unkempt hair loudly making his statement to the make-shift court of law. "An' I swear on my good mother's grave that Constable Brand charged me twice the taxes all for no reason other than he didn't like me, seein' as how I din't share my whisky with him."
"You were charged the same, Samus, but with all your drinking you only made half the money this year!" Brand yelled back.
"Order!" Constantus roared. He raised a finger at Brand. "If you don't settle down, you'll be removed from the proceedings. I already said you can defend yourself after testimonies are done!"
"But he's lying!"
"Master at arms, gag the accused if he opens his mouth out of turn again." Constantus sighed and looked back to Samus. "Are you finished?"
"Just one thing, sir. I have proof of what I say! Ask the good Sheriff here if she received twice the taxes or asked for twice the taxes, mm?"
Constantus made a sour face. "Very well. Marquessa, will you answer the question."
"No, I did not receive or ask for double the taxes," Davena said. "But the taxes are a flat rate, regardless of income earned."
"Aha!" Samus said triumphantly. "That only proves that Brand kept half for himself!"
"Your testimony is noted. Next," said Constantus.
A knight read the name of a townswoman and she came forward.
"Brand turned me into a salamander for three days!" she claimed.
Constantus looked interested. "Three days? Can anyone corroborate your story?"
"No, because you see it did it all by cursing my mind. And as we all know magic that affects your head is far worse than any magic that just changes the body."
Constantus nodded in grudging agreement. "Truth."
"So, when you claim to have been a salamander in your mind, what did you do during that time?" Davena asked.
"I felt really low, and... bad," she said. "It's hard to remember because I was a salamander."
Brand rolled his eyes while Constantus listened to the woman carefully.
"Oh come now," Davena said. "Surely you must remember something. Feeling depressed does not make you a salamander, in your head or otherwise."
"Sheriff, this woman is not on trial," Constantus told her. "Your constable is." To the woman he smiled kindly. "Thank you for your testimony, dear. We will now hear the next witness."
The woman turned and left, throwing a victorious, angry glance at Brand.
"I am not permitted to attempt to determine the veracity of her testimony?" Davena said calmly to Constantus. She was more disturbed than angry, and she wanted to believe her brother was doing the right thing, but his comment to her, and what she said to the woman surprised her. He had to know that anyone with an issue with Brand would use this as an opportunity to get payback.
"That is for me to judge," Constantus said, "as acting church archon in this matter. People have died, Sheriff, and evidence of witchcraft has been uncovered. The people here deserve to have this resolved so they can get on with their lives in peace and safety. Know also that to lie here is to bring down the anger of the gods. I think the last witnessed believes everything she said. It will serve no one to waste time picking the wounds she has as a result of being near the accused witch." He addressed his knights and those gathered. "Next witness please."
The parade went on. People presented what they felt were wrongs done to them and laid them at Brand's feet. Six more witnesses came, spoke and left. At the end of it, Constantus addressed the court. "We have heard from those who believe they have been wronged by a witch. I commend those who stood up and spoke for their bravery in risking the wrath of a witch to do what is right. Now, in accordance to church law, I must ask the accused to call forth his own witnesses to testify as to his character and support his... claim that he knows nothing of witchcraft."
Davena knew Con was right, but he mentioned deaths. Were there other deaths she didn't know about, or were the deaths of the woodsmen and the priest being laid at Brand's feet?
A few friends of Brand's came forward. Mostly buddies with whom he drank at the tavern, they swore they never saw Brand do anything witchy and said any claims against him were pure hogwash born of people scared because of missing husbands and wives, woodsmen who hadn't come home. But none could explain or defend the fact that Con's men had found paraphernalia used in witchcraft hidden in his cellar.
At the end of it, Constantus asked if there was anyone else that wanted to come forward and speak. He looked over at his sister.
Davena took a step forward. "The disappearance of the woodsmen and the village priest can be laid at the feet of goblins in the Folley. Those goblins will not harm anyone ever again." She looked around the room. "There are other explanations for the existence of the things in Brand's cellar. Someone could have put them there, someone who wants Brand out of the way. Someone in Brand's position earns enemies." She could keep her eyes from moving to Samus and the salamander-woman. "They could have belonged to the person who lived in the cottage before he did, and there was a previous tenant."
Davena didn't know what else to say. The best she could hope for was to introduce enough doubt to influence Con's decision about Brand's guilt. If Brand was found guilty, however, and she discovered Samus and the others lied when testifying against Brand, she would make sure they paid for it according to the laws they broke.
"True enough." He looked around the tavern/court. "Who owned Brand's home before he moved in?"
"His mother," called out the local mayor. "She probably taught him witchcraft!"
"And is she still with us?"
There was a pause. "Well, not for some nine years past..."
"Very well. It appears I have to make a decision that I take no pleasure in delivering," Constantus began.
Then a knight came rushing into the court. "Sir! There is a disturbance coming from the grave yard!"
Constantus stared at the wild-eyed knight. "Elucidate."
"It's the dead! They have risen! We are under attack!"
Davena was already moving, drawing her sword with her first few steps outside. She immediately scanned the area, looking for the disturbance. If they were lucky, most of the villagers would be inside, and out of harm's reach - at least for now.
Outside, there was chaos. Villagers ran in a panic, pursued by skeletal -- and some more than mere skeletons -- remains of their own relatives who went right in after them. Knights clustered here and there were attempting to form some kind of line, but fast-moving undead quickly flanked the, stabbing and clawing from the side and behind even as the mass of the dead crashed against them head on.
She heard a footfall and slide-snick as Calvi drew Thirst, as well. "I can't call on Igna for this." The reason was obvious -- the dragon was so big she wouldn't be able to separate friend from foe -- everyone would die, potentially only adding to the numbers of undead running rampant.
Constantus burst out of the tavern door behind them. "Alfina! Mercury!" he cried out and raised his mace. At once he rose four feet on a pillar of wind and the water from the horses trough rose into a vaguely humanoid, feminine shape.
"Chica," Davena called out, summoning her own elemental ally to her side. "Calvi, if you can get something up to keep the undead out of the tavern, do it!" Davena called out as she started to run to aid the temple knights.
Calvi turned and gestured. A heavy portcullis appeared in the frame and slammed shut, sealing off the tavern. "Go," she told Davena. "I'll bar the windows and any other doors as well."
Davena sped up and went for the undead attempting to flank the knights. Her attack cut the legs out from under one of them, and hacked off the arm of another. Two skeletons tried to push the advantage and take her out, but she evaded their attacks with ease.
The temple knights she fought alongside knocked down twice their number, but are taking hits. More importantly, not thirty feet away is a girl screaming and crying, huddled against the wall of a hut while a meaty zombie closes in on her.
"Chica, destroy that zombie and protect the little girl!"
Calvi got success with style on the Seeming of an iron portcullis. It will be quite strong.
Davena has a free boost from a sux with style defend roll Davena Available FP: 2
Calvi Available FP: 0 first metal stress box marked off The following is ffrom the log at rolz.org for the combat we did after the current narration stopped - if that makes any sense....