Saturday 30 March – Monday 1 April 2013
With King Osgood’s body laid out in the chapel alongside Anders Fredriksson, Dagmar and Bengt, along with Bastian and Queen Elizabetha, occupied the deceased Osgood’s bedchamber.
‘What do you know?’ Dagmar asked Elizabetha. She steadied her thoughts before replying.
‘It has been long believed that the feud between our people was not the work of either side, but rather that it was instigated by a third party. Now, it has never been known exactly who that third party might have been but, as with any conspiracy, we’ve all had our thoughts on the subject.’
‘We have no time to waste here before my people want Ingrid’s head on a stake. And I wouldn’t be surprised that they were after your blood too. After all, had your man not come to seek assistance from King Osgood to release you from the mountain, all of the knights of the realm would have been here to protect him fully,’ Dagmar said.
‘I think that this young lady acted out of a misplaced sense of vengeance. I do not believe that she would have harmed your king of her own accord. She was pushed, enticed to do it. When I spoke with her, when you took me down to the dungeon, it was in her eyes.’
‘What was?’ asked Bengt.
‘Fear,’ replied Queen Elizabetha, ‘fear of the consequences. She looked like she wanted to give me information, but with all of us down there, I don’t know . . . perhaps she was too frightened to tell what she knew.’
Bastian rubbed his eyes, the past day and night taking its toll on him. He desperately needed to sleep again to revive his energy, but he could not leave his queen in the hands of Osgood’s men, especially not if they still believed that Lars Kristofsen was a mountain man.
‘So who could have spoken with her without anyone else knowing, or without anyone thinking that it was suspicious?’ Bastian asked. ‘And where could this person have gotten to her?’
Bengt responded first. ‘She spent most of the day in the chapel praying beside her father’s body. Anyone who had access to the chapel could have spoken with her. Even King Osgood himself spent some time alone with her.’
‘And who else?’ Dagmar asked his brother.
‘Any knight of the realm could have entered the chapel. It’s closed off to the villagers though. The Oracle was looking for Osgood earlier. She was sent to the chapel – that’s where the king had been seen.’
They sat in silence considering the information they had, which amounted to very little but conjecture.
‘What about Kristofsen? Is it possible that he had something to do with this?’ Dagmar posed the question, but didn’t really believe that the would-be assassin had anything to do with Ingrid killing King Osgood.
‘She never spent any time in the dungeon with him,’ another knight answered.
‘Then that leaves the Oracle,’ Dagmar replied. ‘And she was the one who raised the idea of an attempt on his life.’
‘It seems relatively clear to me,’ Queen Elizabetha said, ‘that you must start with your Oracle. But be wary and consider this: if she is the one behind the murder of Osgood, then she will be wily enough to direct the blame away from her and on to someone else, as she has already attempted to do.’
‘Dagmar, let’s assume that the Oracle is the one we’re after. We need a plan of attack,’ Bengt lowered his voice as if speaking out against the King’s Oracle might somehow bring bad luck.
* * * * *
The Oracle gathered the few possessions from her chambers that she wished to keep. Necessary things like warm clothes and shoes, her fortune telling journals, and some small keepsakes that had bee passed down through her family were the only items she packed into a bag for the journey away from Osgood’s land. Sensing that she was no longer safe, the Oracle was preparing to flee.
The castle’s hallways and corridors were packed with villagers who had been given refuge from the storm. The possessions that they had been able to bring with them cluttered the floor and she her rapid escape was hampered by those items and their owners. Winding through the castle, she was only a few feet from the entrance when Dagmar appeared in front of her, blocking her escape.
‘I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, but seeing you here, running, escaping King Osgood’s people in their time of need, I no longer doubt your involvement in his death. And for that, I take it upon myself as King Osgood’s humble servant and knight of the realm, to seek swift vengeance for his untimely death.’
Dagmar nodded to several men standing in the corridor behind the Oracle. They stepped forward and restrained her.
‘Your end, Dagmar, knight of the realm, slave to Osgood, will be slow and painful if you position yourself as my judge and executioner.’
‘I never spoke of being your executioner, woman. I am, however, your judge,’ Dagmar replied. He strode over the bodies that were scrambling to get out of the corridor and away from the hostilities.
‘You said –’
‘I said that I would seek swift vengeance, not that it would come at my hands. No, for you, I have a fate that King Osgood would have seen as fitting. You will be released from this castle, and you are never to return. Banished from all lands that were ruled by King Osgood. And you will be released from this servitude tonight. You seemed eager to leave and we won’t stand in your way. You are free to leave. On foot. In the dark of night. And I’m sure that if you consult your false gods, you’ll see that the storm is not letting up. No, tonight we will see the worst of this storm, for the entire land mourns the death of its king.’
Bengt opened the castle door and a rushed of freezing air and rain entered the castle. The night was moonless and savage with the worsening storm. Still restrained by two knights of the realm, the Oracle was pushed towards the door and the world outside of it. Lightning struck outside the castle’s gates, providing a spark of light in the blackness and cracking as it made ground. The Oracle flinched; she no longer wanted to be rid of the confines of the castle, at least not tonight. She fought against the knights but her strength was no match for theirs.
‘If you dare return to these lands, be warned, you will be dealt with on sight,’ Dagmar stated without a hint of emotion.
Thrust out in to the freezing wind and rain, the Oracle turned to look at her accusers in time to see Dagmar instruct his brother, with a slight nod of his head, to close the castle door. The torrential rain pasted her hair to her head and her clothes to her body in a matter of seconds. Water welled at her feet and her steps out of the courtyard were through deep puddles and just as deep mud. The wind whipped around her, pushing against her body and working its hardest to slow her progress to the castle’s gates. She did not need second sight to know that she would not survive the night in these conditions. Aimlessly and without hope, she continued on into the night.
Inside the castle, nestled in the warmth of the fires and the company of villagers, the knights of the realm with the help of Queen Elizabetha of the mountain clans, began discussions to appoint a new sovereign for the lands that were once ruled by King Osgood.
. . . The end . . .