SotF: The Blood Court

  • VI

    The familiar chains jingled when they brought her before Laila Law-Giver, the Jarl of the Rift. Younger than most, Jarl Laila was no older than Falrielle herself… perhaps even younger considering how humans age. The Jarl sat on her throne raised on a dais, looking down on the Vigilant. To her right was the bearded nobleman and in the corner with the other courtiers stood his companion from the dungeon. Falrielle felt a little naked; no arms or armour on her persons meant that fighting back would be difficult.


                The elf took a deep breath and exhaled, thinking of the ‘deal’ the bearded nobleman had offered her.


                ‘Well prisoner,’ said the Jarl, frowning. ‘My steward, Hakon had informed me that you wish to make a confession. Be warned: we are under the light of the Nine – speak the truth and only the truth lest you suffer my wrath.’


                Falrielle nodded and said nothing, she was unused to defending herself in a trial; they’d usually just throw her in a pit or dungeon but never a trial, she was too petty a criminal to bother with one. The Jarl shifted her weight and glared at the Vigilant, expecting her to speak.


                ‘Yes-yes, milady,’ Falrielle said, thickening her Northerner’s accent. Southern nobles liked to think Northerners like her are uneducated yokels and for the most part they are but that’s beside the point: better they think her naïve than a threat. ‘I be Falrielle of the Pale, you see and I-uh was here on a task, you see.’


                ‘Go on,’ said the Jarl, leaning forward. Good, she was easing in. Stay simple.


                ‘I-uh yes. A task I was. Task of great importance. Me Jarl paid me good coin to take a good look at what ye up to down ere’,’ she said, shuffling her legs. ‘Me Jarl wasing the see of the Rift. Come that be the Bleeder of things, you know? Wasing to be-‘


                The Jarl raised her hand. ‘I don’t understand.’


                ‘Oh?’ said Falrielle. Her stomach cramped; perhaps she shouldn’t have gone that simple. ‘Apologies, milady. Just Northern speech. Me Jarl wanted me to take a look at the goings of ye court and report back ‘nything interesting.’


                ‘So,’ said the Jarl raising an eyebrow. ‘You’re a spy?’


                ‘That be I meant, milday… Have mercy on me. I meant no harm befallen on ye but it is me duty to serve me Jarl.’


                The Jarl nodded silently before she whispered something into the bearded noble’s ear. The bearded noble nodded and whispered something back.


                ‘Who sent you here?’               


                Falrielle paused and cocked her head. ‘Me Jarl of course.’


                Jarl Laila rolled her eyes. ‘Who is your Jarl?’


                ‘Oh uh,’ said Falrielle, looking at the other nobles in attendance. She thought fast, thought of a name. ‘I uh know not his name. I pay me taxes to the alderman, I do. Alderman Gunnar. Oh me Jarl uh, maybe you know him? He a man, Nord and has a beard he does,’ she continued, describing almost every nobleman in Skyrim – especially the one by Jarl Laila’s side.


                ‘Indeed…’ said the Jarl. Falrielle let out a small sigh, the Jarl seemed to buy her ignorance. ‘And you are telling me that he sent you, a pale elf down instead of getting some other Nord to spy on me?’


                Falrielle shrugged. ‘I said the same thing, milady but the alderman insisted that I go.’ She shrugged. ‘Said somethin’ that it be brilliant if I did it. You’d be lookin’ for a Nord but a Falmer elf like me? It be hidin’ in plain sight, yes it is milady.’


                The bearded man whispered something into the Jarl’s ear again. This time Falrielle could hear a name: Skald, the Elder. Falrielle tensed – she’d rather not accidentally a war. She wanted to say something but she held her tongue.


                ‘So, Falrielle of the Pale,’ said the Jarl, her voice resolute. ‘You have been rather forthcoming with your… confession.’


                ‘Aye I have, milady. Yes I have,’ said Falrielle, nodding. ‘I made an oath under the light of the Nine, I have and I ain’t no oathbreaker.’ That was of course a lie.


                ‘The Nine bless you for honesty for the law is the law,’ said the Jarl before her expression turned grim. ‘And my sobriquet is well earned; do you know what the penalty for spying in my court is?’


                Falrielle gut churned again but she shook her head. After all, a yokel wouldn’t know these things.


                ‘Death by hanging.’


                Falrielle stumbled back, the chains rattled. ‘Mercy milady! I’m just be a simple farmer in over me head ‘er. Flog me! Banish me! But don’t hang me! Stendarr’s wisdom on ye that ye see the light of mercy.’


                The Jarl closed her eyes and sighed. She opened her eyes and her expression hardened. ‘My heart goes out to you but ignorance of the law does not offer you protection from the law and I, Jarl Laila Law-Giver shall not turn my back on my duty. Let it be known that the priests of Arkay shall perform the proper rites and that the dirt of your homeland shall lay lightly upon you.’


                ‘But I-‘


                ‘The Law-Giver has spoken,’ said the bearded noble, smiling. ‘And her word is law in Riften. Guards, take her away.’ Falrielle struggled as the guards laid their hands on her putting up a good show. Was the noble going to sneak her off? She cursed at herself for even thinking such an unlikely event: ‘Never trust a noble’ was the law of the streets.


                ‘My Jarl!’ shouted a guard as she entered the hall, panting. ‘I bring urgent news! A citizen has… has…’ she continued before stopping to stare at Falrielle.


                ‘Well,’ said the Jarl. ‘Speak.’


                The guard eyed the bearded noble suspiciously. ‘For your ears only, my Jarl.’


                The Jarl nodded and the guard whispered in her ear. The Jarl’s frown deepened as she leaned back. ‘That is something but if this citizen claims to have proof, I will see to it myself but first – guards, take this spy away.’


                ‘Wait, my Jarl,’ said the guard. ‘The one that told me to give you the message… She was wearing the same clothes as the elf.’


                Falrielle tensed and paled.


    ‘A coincidence surely-’ said the bearded noble before the Jarl silenced him with a gesture.


                The Jarl leaned back, scratching her chin in thought. ‘We’ll see. Bring this… citizen here,’ said the Jarl. Falrielle paled even more, gritting her teeth. She closed her eyes, counting every breath until the door opened with a roar.


                ‘Hail, Jarl Laila Law-Giver,’ announced a familiar voice. Falrielle winced. ‘I am Sister Carcette, Vigilant of Stendarr and I… I…’ she stopped looked at Falrielle who gave her a stupid smile and a short wave. Carcette shot her a look that told her that they are going to have a talk if they survive this. A long talk. ‘I bring tidings of a conspiracy,’ she snapped her attention back to the Jarl.


                ‘Oh?’ said the Jarl. ‘Let us hear of it.’


                Carcette pulled out a sheet of folded parchment paper from her satchel. ‘This is a contract between Theign Hakon and the Shippers & Movers company. It details of purchase, shipment, and payment of fifteen stones worth of armaments.’


                The Jarl turned to the bearded noble, eyebrow raised. The noble bowed and stepped forward. ‘To replenish the armoury, my Jarl. Our old inventory has rusted away and we need fresh weapons if we are to defend ourselves.’


                ‘Oh?’ said Carcette. ‘Why not place an order from the local smithies? Why weapons from lesser known smiths away from the Rift? Weapons that cannot be traced? Or are you implying that the blademasters of Riften to be so inferior that foreign steel is needed?’ Falrielle smiled. Carcette could be a real she-wolf when she needed to be.


                ‘Is that so?’ said the Jarl, frowning. ‘We have spoken about this before Hakon. I had made it clear that we are to buy Rift steel.’


                ‘That may be so, my Jarl,’ said the bearded noble. ‘But as your steward it is in my many duties to care for the treasury of the realm and that means that better prices cannot be ignored.’


    ‘Four-thousand Septims promised in payment,’ said Carcette. ‘But did the books spoke of an additional two-thousand to buy their silence?’


    ‘The books spoke of nothing-‘


    ‘Of course they did not.’ Carcette shook her head. ‘As steward it is among your many duties to record the Hold’s expenses. How convenient.’ The hall filled with mummers.


    The Jarl raised a hand and her courtiers hushed themselves.


                Carcette looked at the bearded noble. ‘Jarl Laila Law-Giver, I stand here accusing Steward Hakon of treason for he is conspiring to coup against you.’ Now was the outrage. The Jarl raised her hand again but to no avail, the courtiers continued to bray.


                ‘Silence!’ said the Jarl, standing up. Her face grew red and the court was as silent as the grave. ‘You are making a serious accusation, Carcette, Vigilant of Stendarr,’ she continued, her voice low. ‘And here in Riften, as long as I rule in Riften the law holds the foundations of our way of life but none shall make a farce of justice. All shall have their say and bow beneath their scales. Hakon, honourable steward who has served me for many years. Hakon, what will you, the accused make of this.’


                The bearded noble stepped forward, hands behind his back. He stood motionless like a statue but Falrielle could hear him grinding his teeth. He took a deep breath and sighed. ‘My Jarl,’ he began, his voice echoing in the hall. ‘I have a confession to make,’ he continued, his head kept low. ‘I have been dishonest with you, Jarl Laila and I have dishonoured you and my station. It is as what Carcettee, Vigilant of Stendarr has implied: I have been stealing from the city treasury to add to my own coffers. I know the penalty to my crime: flogging and imprisonment and I shall accept the punishment as befits of me but my Jarl.’ He turned and looked at Carcette. ‘I am no traitor. I have stained my office yes but I am no traitor.’


                Silence again. Not a word but the crackling of the hearth.


                ‘My Jarl,’ Falrielle finally spoke and this time proper. The Jarl raised an eyebrow at the country yokel of the North and Falrielle was certain so did the other nobles. ‘It is more than mere corruption. More than mere treason. Your steward, Hakon and a circle of your courtiers are Daedra worshippers; infidels of the dark ones.’


                ‘You will hold your tongue lest it be torn from your mouth, she-self!’ barked the bearded noble.


                ‘Try and I’ll shove my boot up your f-’ said Falrielle but she stopped herself when she noticed Carcette glaring at her.


                ‘So, Spy of the North,’ said the Jarl, her voice cold. ‘Who are you, truly? You claimed that you were but a simple spy from the North but now there is more. Speak.’


                The elf nodded her head and coughed. ‘I am Falrielle, Vigilant of Stendarr.’ She thumbed her chest, the chains jingling. ‘And yes, I am a spy. Not for a mere Jarl but for Stendarr himself.’ She smiled nervously at Carcette, hoping she took the cue.


    ‘Yes, my Jarl.’ Carcette carefully nodded. ‘She is.’


                ‘For months the Vigil have suspected Daedric corruption within your halls, Jarl Laila,’ said Falrielle. ‘And what I’ve found is shocking! Blood sacrifices and effigies.’ Falrielle pressed her palm on her chest. ‘Stendarrbemerciful.’


                ‘Daedra you say?’ said the Jarl, a tone of worry in her voice.


                ‘First treason and now this? Utter nonsense.’ The bearded noble spat. ‘My Jarl, these Vigilants are a cult of fanatics clinging on to dying traditions. Reward them for their service and send them off.’


                The Jarl leaned forward, clasping her hands over her mouth. ‘Dying traditions you say, Hakon? These days it is gold that is law not justice and it is we, the Jarldom of Riften who cling on to dying traditions.’ She turned to the elf. ‘Vigilant Falrielle. I believe you’ll have proof to support your accusations?’


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1 Comment   |   ilanisilver likes this.
  • ilanisilver
    ilanisilver   ·  August 27, 2018
    It’s interesting seeing Falrielle like this compared to how she is at the beginning. Very cool difference in character.