Monday 25 – Tuesday 26 March 2013
Ingrid Fredriksson grieved at the body of her father, Anders, who had been mistakenly murdered by an assassin intent on killing King Osgood. Feeling partially responsible for the death of the man, Osgood had him laid out in the royal chapel where the daughter could mourn in peace. She had been by her father’s side since his transfer to the chapel, her anger at his death brewing beneath the surface of her grief.
Osgood had looked in on her a number of times, wanting to make sure that she was as comfortable as she could be, but he failed to notice the simmering rage. He was far too concerned with seeking vengeance for the old man. The surviving the urge to hurt the assassin chained up in the dungeon was proving more and more difficult for the king, who had taken the step of avoiding the entrance to the dungeon altogether.
Bastian watched silently as the world seemed to move slowly around him. Still suffering the effects of the cold, he sat close to the fire in the king’s bedchamber where he had been taken to recover. It was comfortable enough but he really wanted and needed to be out with the king’s knights helping to free his people. He tried to distract himself from the boredom of waiting and feeling helpless by thinking about the assassins who’d attempted to kill King Osgood. It had been mention that they were from the mountain clan but, as far as Bastian knew, everyone in the clan was accounted for, and trapped behind a wall of rocks and debris in the cave.
Lost in thought, Bastian was startled when King Osgood spoke.
‘Are you warm enough?’
‘Yes, thank you,’ Bastian hoped that his voice didn’t betray how startled he really was.
‘Those men,’ Osgood spoke in a hushed tone, ‘who killed the old man, who tried to kill me . . . do you know of them?’
Bastian sighed. He was at his wit’s end trying to figure out who they might be, to no avail.
‘Not at all. You say they said they were Kristofsen men?’
‘As far as I know, there are no people by the Kristofsen name in my clan. I’ve never heard of them. Not even through previous generations of my people. Is there any chance that they might have been lying? To implicate my people? Possibly to start a war between us?’
Osgood considered Bastian’s suggestion. It seemed valid enough.
‘Following your line of thought – who would benefit from a war between our people? Not me. Not your Queen Elizabetha. Too many lives would be lost on both sides for either one of us to claim victory.’
‘And there are no others nearby who might wish a war upon us?’ Bastian enquired.
‘I don’t believe so,’ Osgood replied. ‘Not unless someone new is waiting in the shadows for our people to fall. It has not come to pass my ears that there might be another clan in the mountains or on the plains.’
* * * * *
The rain pelted down upon the knights of the realm, extinguishing their torches and making them impossible to reignite. The men worked in darkness, throwing the rocks and debris down the side of the mountain.
‘I hope that we can get back down again, Dagmar. All these rocks that we’re moving might just be the death of us,’ Bengt called to his brother who was working on the opposite side of the cave mouth.
‘That, brother,’ Dagmar replied, ‘is something that we will deal with when it crosses our path.’
‘You know, brother, those words that you keep repeating, about dealing with things when they cross our paths? They are working in to my brain and they are making me weak of mind. Please, do not say them anymore.’
Dagmar’s reply was a hearty laugh.
Inside the cave, Queen Elizabetha had gathered a number of able-bodied men who were working on a rotating roster to clear the rubble unaware that King Osgood’s men were outside working toward the same end.
‘Keep moving those rocks, as quick as you can. The others will be getting suspicious as to why we’ve been away for so long. We don’t want to alarm the women and children,’ she rallied her men.
* * * * *
The Oracle who had warned King Osgood of the assassination plot hovered in the shadows of the chapel watching Ingrid mourn. She sensed the anger in the girl that the king had not, and planned to nurture it for her own use.
‘The death of one so close is difficult to bear for all,’ the Oracle spoke as she walked towards Ingrid, appearing from out of the shadows. The mourning girl turned on her heels to face the shrouded woman.
‘Who are you?’
‘A humble servant to King Osgood. Some call me the Oracle, others a seer, and yet others still call me a witch, but whatever they call me, I am trusted by the king.’
Ingrid turned away from the Oracle, back to her father, and clasped her hands as if to pray.
‘I wish to be left alone,’ she said.
‘And I will . . . after I say what I have seen.’
Although intrigued by the Oracle’s words, Ingrid refused to look at the woman. She knew everything that she needed to know about the death of her father; the words of a seer would not change what she had to do.’
‘It is not the man held in the chains in the dungeon who is to blame for your father’s passing, Ingrid Fredriksson. It is the king himself. Had he entered his bedchamber alone, your father would still be alive. Had Osgood not opened the castle to everyone from the village, your father would still be alive –’
The grieving daughter interrupted, ‘Had the storm not struck our land, my father would still be alive. There are so many factors that have converged to form these events.’ Her own words, however, did little to calm the storm inside her. It was as violent and consuming as the storm outside the castle’s walls.
But the seed had been planted; the Oracle could see that without the gift of second-sight. And her plan to work from the inside out to claim the thrones of the plains king and the mountain queen were falling steadily in to place.
. . . To be continued . . .