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November 28, 2022

The Rubiyaat of Ozzie 16

By Alexandra Queen

Episode 16 - Justice is Done

I gave him a bit of a glare and then turned my attention to the great Hall, which was, I figured, easier to deal with than either of my travel companions (though not as pleasant as the one). This building was made of stone, with tall ceilings and great, wide hallways. It took me a moment to place what was odd, but then I realized that everything in the building was built to my scale. Counter tops, doorways, door handles, everything. At the front of the line Minerva was waiting in, there were little stools for humans to use to see over the counters more clearly. It looked like quite a few of the clerks were centaur women. It was well worth the second look to confirm that apparently their women were not as concerned with covering up as human women were. Huh. I wondered if there were many centaur barmaids. It was just a thought.

Riordan and I killed about an hour waiting for Minerva to get through the line and speak with the clerk behind the counter. She came back with a smile. "We are in luck. The ring bears the crest of the Orancale house. Master Orancale is here in the Hall and will be available for an audience after the meeting of the Finance Committee. It is likely he will see us ahead of his other appointments."

"Think there will be a reward?"

She gave Riordan a faintly disapproving glance. "Of course there will be a reward. A tortured soul will find peace. That should be reward enough for anyone."

"Um. Yeah. Great."

"Eternity is a very long time, Master Seawolf. Pray that when you die, the living are as kind to you."

The stairs leading up were more like a bunch of little landings, which I understood once I saw a centaur navigating them. "Hey, how come everything is built around centaurs? I mean, it's really nice and stuff, but isn't it a human town mostly?"

"Built on centaur tribal territory," Riordan informed me. "All these plains traditionally belong to them, though I hear the orcs would say otherwise. I guess they get to be involved in all the city government."

We waited in a room with nice carpets and padded benches for Master Orancale to arrive. Riordan was pointing out people on the tapestries and making faces to mimic them - I was not laughing, thank you, though I might have smirked a little - until Minerva caught him at it and pinched him so hard he whimpered. That I laughed at, but only until she gave me a look that promised the same for me. When the door opened and a little guy in colored velvet pants announced, "All rise for Lord Orancale!" I was disappointed to see he was just a human. We had to wait another fifteen minutes after that before the guy in the sissy pants came out and asked for the Mistmoore party. Danny and I sat there blankly while Minerva rose to her feet, until she looked back at us and lifted an eyebrow.

Trying to look like we knew we were the Mistmoore party, we allowed ourselves to be ushered back a short hallway and through some ornate, highly polished wooden doors. Lord Orancale was seated behind a large desk and looked up from some scrolls of parchment as we entered. "Master Mistmoore. I hear you have a matter that concerns me."

"Mistress Mistmoore," Minerva corrected him, uncovering her face and drawing attention from Riordan to herself. "My brother-in-law is merely chaperoning me. On our journey here, we came across an abandoned hiding place for bandits. There was a body there, long deceased. On the corpse was a ring, in the rib cage as if it had been swallowed. There was also a note near the body, saying that a signet ring must be returned to Lady Orancale at all costs. It was signed Verafin. Here is the ring - I can only assume they are one and the same." She reached across the desk to hand him the gold ring. I had been staring at her with something like wonder - she sounded so confident and authoritative. When she handed the ring over, I was actually glanced at Lord Orancale. He looked like he was the one who was seeing the ghosts.

"Verafin? Are you certain?"

"Yes. It was on the main road between here and Bloodport. I wish that I still had the note to bring you, but it was in fragile condition when I found it and I fear that reading it and then attempting to place it in a case to transport with the ring destroyed it completely, but the name was Verafin. Does it mean something to you?"

The official leaned back in his chair. "Thirty years ago when I was a young boy, my father was called away on urgent business. My mother was left in charge of our lands and affairs. She uncovered a plot to betray my father in his absence, a plot that would have meant death for my mother and siblings and, of course, myself. She sent word to my father before she sent us into hiding, saying that the only member of his retinue that could be trusted was the family of the one bearing her seal. She dared not say more for fear the message would not reach my father unread. Upon his return, he was able to quell the plot in time to save the children, but he returned too late to save my mother from the treachery. None of the men in his service bore her ring, though all swore their innocence, and so they were all indicted for treason and murder, the men themselves imprisoned and their families stripped of the wealth they had earned in service of my family and ejected from our lands. Sergai Verafin was never accounted for and presumed fled, which only seemed to confirm the guilt of the Verafins. His brother, Borim, was just barely a man when all this happened. He has been jailed all these years."

Minerva did not look surprised, even though Riordan and I were trying our best not to gape. "Will the ring be enough to clear his guilt?"

"The ring and... what did you say became of the body?"

"I didn't. It is still along the road, less than a day's travel from Bloodport, on the north side of the road about... how far would you say, brother?"

"Uh," Riordan blinked. "About a hundred yards from the road maybe nine hours travel from the city. Past the Cozelle Vinyards."

Lord Orancale nodded. "This will be enough to have Borim moved to comfortable quarters under house arrest, to give him time to reacclimatize while we investigate and see about restitution to the Verafin family. We will send someone out for the remains of Sergai Verafin, to be brought back for a proper burial...…and for an inquest."

Minerva nodded, but Riordan leaned forward in his chair. "Wait a moment... inquest? What kind of inquest?"

"We will, of course, turn the remains over to the high priests of our church to be blessed, purified and to have the truth determined. You have made a convincing story, but what if Verafin stole the ring from another of the retainers and was killed before he could make good on the opportunity? We must be certain justice is done. But you have set the wheels in motion, Master Mistmoore. On behalf of my family and on behalf of the Verafin family as well, you have our deepest gratitude."

Riordan opened his mouth to say more, but Minerva placed a hand on his shoulder. "Thank you, Lord Orancale. I'm sure you will see justice done. Peace to both families."

Article © Alexandra Queen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2002-12-02
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