(1866-07-16) Trouble in Hartswood
Trouble in Hartswood
Summary: Elrick, Nadine and Michael arrive in Hartswood and find chaos, rebellion and hard choices.
Date: 1866-07-16
Related: For the other end of this plot see Shady Business
Elrick  Nadine  Michael  Benjamin  

Various places in the Hartswood
Room description
Juliet 16th 1866

The Hartswood is glorious in the summer, full of shady paths and bubbling brooks, and green, green is everywhere. Though despite all its splendour the ride towards Tall Tree is a tense one. Soldiers have been met on the road, 'searching for rebels' they tell the small party if asked, 'baron's orders', a few Elrick might have known from the war shoot him concerned looks before trudging on with their duty. Looking for woodsmen in the Hartswood is not an easy task.

Though as they grow closer Tall Tree comes into view, the town seems intact but the baron's personal banner flies over the town and men and women in armor can be seen milling about, but very few villagers Indeed, the woods should be echoing with the sounds of axes falling and the shouts of lumbermen, but it is silent and tense.

In the village Sir Osmund Barrand stretches as he exits a borrowed hut. He yawns too, then turns his flinty eyes on the town as he adjusts his swordbelt. He spits in the dirt, seeing no trouble, but wait? Riders on the road? He frowns beneath his tangle of a beard and hastens towards one of the men-at-arms who is trying to flirt with a scared village lass "Fetch the baron, riders are coming, might be they found something," he says giving the man a shove.

The man-at-arms hurries off to find the baron.

The ride towards Tall Tree was a vibrant reminder of what Elrick has missed since he left home, the beauty of the world that he calls his home was almost forgotten. Almost. If it weren't for how dire the situation is, the heir to Hartswood would have been in great spirits to finally return home after years of absence, from the road of the Tourney Knight to the war in the north.

Instead, Elrick appears to be brooding, his eyes scanning the surroundings as their horses take them closer and closer to their destination, the Baron's camp by Tall Trees. The look on the faces of the veterans, men he had fought with and bled with in the frozen north, was noted. When they near the village, Elrick gives the others in his party a quick glance before nudging his steed forward a bit so that he is in the lead and in clear view as well. The t'Tremaine Heir does not shout out greetings like a simple soldier, instead he looks towards one of the House guards riding with them and gives the man a nod, so that he would ride ahead and let Sir Osmund know who is coming.

Baron t'Tremaine watches as the noose is looped around the old man's neck. With a snarl and harsh tone teh baron says, "In the name of King Jean-Paul, I, Benjamin t'Tremaine sentence you to die for attempted murder. Do you have any last words?" As a litany of profanity erupts from the old man, Benjamin listens to the messenger from Osmund arrives and gets a nod, "I'm on my way." Turning to the ad hoc hangman he says, "Just do it." He then makes his way to where Osmund is.

In the past Michael had only visited the Hartswood once but as he rides through the fabled wood he makes a note to visit more often. It's a wonder. Though as the village comes into view he finds his thoughts shifting from plans from the future to the very immediate present. He nudges his new warhorse forward as Elrick's man rides forward to announce them. "Seems like this would be a nice place in better circumstances," he remarks to Elrick as he halts his horse again. "Anyhow, whatever happens here, you have my support," he confides.

Nadine lets her horse at a easy canter beside Elrick, letting him take the lead— after all, its his family, his fief. Still, her expression is concerned and solemn. Something feels dark and tense here.

The hangman, one of Osmund's picked men as it would have it, kicks the stool from under the old man's feet and lets him swing. The drop was too short to break the man's neck and so he claws at the noose legs kicking in the air. The villagers, those who had come out to see it look away or into the dirt not wanting to see the man's messy end.

Osmund for his part sees the baron coming and the man swinging and kicking behind him and gives his lord a nod. "That is well done my lord, we cannot give quarter to those who betray us, or those who would shelter them," he says.

It is then the rider arrives, Osmund recognizes him and when the news of Elrick's arrival is given Osmund looks to the baron for his word rubbing at his chin with a frown on his lips.

Benjamin nods to Osmund, "Damn fool. The others will learn. Send word that those who return before noon tomorrow will be shown mercy, those who defy us will be given no quarter." He takes a deep breath and listens to the rider, "Tell my son to make his way here quickly. He needs to learn how to deal with these problems."

"Thank you, My Lord. And if there are indeed rebels on the loose, it appears my Lord Father has acted quickly to ensure no further damage can come to this villge." Elrick says with a nod of appreciation at Michael's words, he can't help but put in a good spin of what his father may be doing, though he does recall the faces of the veterans he saw when he went by. The Heir won't say much else for now, staying a bit tight lipped until he learns more. It will be interesting to hear his father's side of the events. As they draw closer though, Elrick can see the man being hanged, causing his lips to thin in a flat line. Appears a traitor has been caught and punished accordingly. Slowly, he sweeps his gaze over the village and the current occupants, as if to judge the scene for himself.

Nadine's expression is grim. Hangings with a short rope? Her father considers that sort of thing torture, and no matter the conviction, a man who walks with the One does not approve of or abide by torture.

"You're welcome, though let us hope your father has put out the fire of rebellion before it really caught light," Michael wishes earnestly. Fighting barbarians was one thing but turning one's blade on one's own people, that was something else entirely. Like the others he does not much like the sight of the man hanging. It's not the first time he's seen it done, but certainly the first with so short a rope. His father always made sure justice was done swiftly. He scowls and turns his eyes towards the baron.

Osmund nods at the baron's command. "I'll put out the word," he says, but does not depart the baron's side, instead he leans close and asks "Do you wish me to remain to greet your son, my lord?"

The people of the village turn to look at the new arrivals as to the soldiers that mingle amoung them. The villagers look cowed, afraid, the soldiers look defiant, with hard faces, and unfamiliar ones at that, these men did not go north to fight with Elrick.

"Stay, sir, probably better this way," Benjamin looks to the arriving nobles and gives a slight bow at Michael, "Lord Michael, my son, and…" he looks to Nadine, "I do not believe we have met before, my lady." He then says, "Damn peasants killed the priest and many ran into the woods. We just hanged one of those who wished to defy my authority. Hopefully few others will make the same mistake and we can restore order quickly."

Elrick's eyes narrow slightly as he looks over the situation of the town, seeing how fearful his people are and the armsmen, he is not familiar with them at all. For his father not to surround himself with the hardened soldiers from the war is a surprise, as they had proven their loyalties with blood and duty. However, he leaves that unmentioned for now, not wishing to create a rift or taint any of their thoughts on the situation. Instead, when they near where the Baron and Sir Osmund are, the t'Tremaine heir dismounts and gives a bow to his father while waiting for those of his party to dismount as well. As names are being listed, Elrick finishes the introduction of Nadine by giving him her name, "This is Lady Sir Nadine t'Cadri, Father." Letting that thought sink in, the Lady that he had slighted in his ill-thought letter that was sent north. Then he moves onto business, "Lord Sir Michael and Lady Sir Nadine have offered their assistance when they heard about the situation here, Father. I am honored and grateful for their offer, and we too hope that we can restore the peace as quickly as possible."

Nadine watches the old man die, a sick feeling at the pit of her stomach. She had no authority here, though she felt the desire to cut the man down herself before he breathed his last. This was not what a ruler did. Old men did not deserve to die kicking and fighting for breath.

She bows to the baron though after she dismounts, though her gaze quickly shifts to the hardened men and women and the dying old man again.

Michael makes himself watch the man's last moments before he turns to the baron, his face set in an even deeper scowl than before. "Baron," he greets with a curt nod then falls silent, hand resting on his sword. When the baron makes a remark about hanging other Michael can't keep his tongue "I pray then you find more rope," he bites out sharply.

Osmund eyes the group as they arrives and bows deeply to them all, "Sirs, your arrival is timely, we have need of good swords," he says with a pasted on grin amidst his whiskers.

"I see. This is the girl you spoke of in your letter, it's a pity," Benjamin shrugs, "Either way, the help is needed. I plan on scouring the forest tomorrow afternoon after the peasants have had a chance to turn themselves in and return to their duties." He removes his gauntlets and tucks them into his belt and looks at Michael. "Indeed, I was not aware the rope was so short, I'll make sure that hangman is dealt with. I am sure it was a simple miscalculation."

Once more, Elrick's gaze tightens when he hears his father's answer about Nadine but now is not the time or place to debate such matters, he is glad that the Baron had at least much sense to agree with their future liege lord. A quick glance is given towards Sir Osmund at the mention of needing more swords, obviously not pleased with that news, "Father, is there an estimate of how many… 'rebels' we are searching for? And are you sure that they are all against us, instead of fleeing in fear of what has happened here in Tall Trees?" There is also a pause as he looks over to some of the armsmen milling about, "I am surprised that you do not have more men that returned from the north here to assist you. They are good men, their loyalties without questioned and experience invaluable."

Nadine stiffens. "A pity?" she murmurs to herself, repeating the baron's words. She says nothing else though, not yet. But her eyes are flashing with irritation. Elrick's words, at least, are reasonable and concerned with keeping peace.

Michael is silent, turning an expectant eye to the baron, even as he curbs his mount which shies slightly. Even the horses could feel the tension in the town square. The people did not look much happier, they had gathered in little groups all around, watching, some sharing whispers.

Osmund straightens and looks about at the soldiers "These are good loyal men my lord, your men from the war, best to let them rest while these good fellows manage the rabble," he answers for the baron, taking liberties.

Benjamin nods to Osmund, "That is correct," and looks to the group, "Best to bring the freshest men we had to do this work, and Sir Osmund's men are as trustworthy as any." He looks about the town and back to the group, and to Nadine, "Regarding your father's insult, but I hold no ill will towards him." He then looks to Elrick, "You will help with the southern third, Sir Osmund will take the east, and I the west as we scour the area for the rebels."

A sharp look is directed at Sir Osmund from the t'Tremaine heir, displeasure clear in the gaze but his words remain civil, though the tone that follows is one that is not to be questioned, "Sir Osmund, if I wished for your answer, I would have addressed you." He knows his men would not rest well when their home is threatened with chaos, especially after fighting so hard to ensure that such chaos does not sweep in from the north in the form of ruthless barbarians. Attention returning to his father, Elrick's expression tightens once more when the Baron brings up the t'Cadri incident once more, "Father, we will discuss that matter at another time. In fact, we have /much/ to discuss, but let us focus on the matter of the rebellion first." As for the orders issued, those the Heir does not question, as they are military orders and it will give him a chance to check out this rebellion first hand.

Nadine stiffens further… her father's insult? What insult? But since her presence makes for a more illtempered baron, she takes the reins of her mount and Elrick and Michael's. "I'll go get them settled and watered," she suggests lowly to the other nobles. "Let me know what I may do further to assist." And she leads the horses away towards the town's inn and stables.

Osmund looks to the baron, briefly before nodding to Elrick's words. "As you say my lord," he bows his head.

Benjamin looks to his son and glares, "Boy, you will /not/ take that tone. Sir Osmund has done more for the barony this month than you have in your entire life. You will apologize when we are done with this conversation. Last I checked I still drew breath and you are not the baron. You are in no place to dictate /anything/. You brought the girl here, you know better."

There are a few surprised looks at the baron's words, and a triumphant smile from Osmund but then from the far edge of the village the shout of "To arms, to arms!" The soldiers all perk up at the sound and Osmund lifts his head. A soldier rounds a hut, slipping in the mud and cursing, getting well and dirty in the process. "The rebels are south of the village, they shot two of my hunting party, and bloody well shot me too," he calls trying to pick himself up. It's true, as he slips again the broken haft of an arrow juts from his the meat of his arm.

Osmund draws his blade, "Cheeky bastards, we've got them now, shall we go forth my lord?" he asks the baron.

Michael for his part pulls his sword free of its scabbard but shoots a look to Elrick before he acts.

Elrick's expression remains unchanged, his father's own words not a surprise because he knew when he was younger that this knight was one of his father's closer confidants, for better or for worse. When he chose to speak to Osmund like that, he knew what was coming in return, but the words needed to be said. "Like I said, Father, we have /much/ to talk about."

The Heir was in the process of returning to his mount when the alarms were sounded, to be under attack by rebels was a surprise. No one in their right mind would attack a heavily armed camp, especially a bunch of peasants. "Father, as you have said, I have not done much for this barony and let me begin rectifying that here. Let us handle this attack, we've defeated the savages of the north, what are a bunch of untrained peasants?" The words were no doubt chosen to placate hsi father, as Elrick wanted to see these 'rebels' for himself, "I would suggest keeping Sir Osmund with you, in case this is just a feint to draw our men out." His own bastard sword is not drawn yet, awaiting his father's decision.

Benjamin is about to resume yelling at his son before he hears the scout, "Damn them all." He draws his sword and look to Elrick, "Fine, you wish to actually be of some use? Go and bring me their heads, they have condemned themselves. Just try not to get yourself killed." The baron looks to Michael, "My lord, if you wish to stay with us here, where it is safe, you are more than welcome to, in fact I request you do so, for your own safety."

Osmund shoots a surprised look at the baron but says nothing in protest. Instead he turns to his own men and shouts "Secure the village, and help that man up!" he shouts pointing towards the man in the mud.

Michael moves his horse beside Elrick. "How shall we do this?" he asks, his voice calm and measured.

A smirk appears on Elrick's face that wasn't well hidden, it seems like the heir is getting what he wished. As for Michael's question, he does give his father a quick look but answers his future liege lord, "Lord Sir, if you wish, you can accompany me to ensure that the King's justice is upheld." Before the Baron could object about endangering the l'Corren heir, Elrick quickly adds, "Lord Sir Michael is a very accomplished and skilled knight, Father, and this way, he gets to see first hand the kind of treasonous rebels that you have had to dealt with."

Benjamin looks to Elrick, ignoring Osmund, "Underestandable, and I have no authority to stop him. Take some of Sir Osmund's men, you might need them, at the very least. Take what you need. Bring me any prisoners, perhaps there is a method to their madness."

The villagers wisely get out of sight as trouble begins again. The soldiers however snap to command and begin getting ready to defend the village.

"I am with you," Michael assures Elrick with a grin as he watches him twist the baron a little more.

Osmund looks back from his men, "Yes, take whatever men you need," he repeats the baron's offer, but with urgency in his tone.

Before accepting Osmund's men, Elrick looks to the wounded soldier that reported in, "You, how many ambushed your party?" As he asks, his eyes also looks over the armed men in the camp, hoping to see any familiar faces that was north with him. Osmund and the hedge knight's men he does not trust, not one bit. "I do not wish to waste the manpower if it is not needed, especially if it is a feint to draw men out of this village to get to you, Father.

The injured man looks up as he's carried by Elrick "Didn't see all of them, but not counting the brats we found, there was at least five, all of them with bows."

Ben nods, "I do not think they are trying to feint, likely just fools playing at fighting." He crosses his arms, "Try to be careful, this is not a tourney."

Now Elrick has to make a decision, his seven guards should be enough to handle commoners with a bow and he knows that they are not Osmund's men. However, the part that has been worrying him is that these may not be simple villagers but something more sinister. "Father, I did survive the war in the north, just so you know. But I will be careful." And being careful, the t'Tremaine heir looks over towards Osmund's men, pointing to four that looks the least brutal types, just to be safe. Then he looks to Michael, "Let us see what this is about, shall we, Sir?"

"We shall, Sir," Michael says with a grin before spurring his horse forward.

When the party reaches the edge of town they find a small party of men at arms crouched behind a hut with arrows sticking from the side. While on the village road a small figure writhes in pain, and a man in woodsman's garb runs towards him. At the tree line two men can be seen with bows, and when troops come into view they shout "Run!" to the man in the road. He doesn't flee however, but pushes harder towards the small figure crying out in the road. As he does one of the men in the cover of the hut lifts a crossbow and takes aim.

Once they arrive at the edge of town, Elrick quickly looks at the situation at hand, seeing that there are already some men there that are taking cover. Looking out to the village road, his brows furrow as he sees someone wounded out there, then sees one of the armsmen taking aim with the crossbow. With a commanding shout in that man's direction, he yells out, "Lower that weapon, soldier!"

The man with the crossbow starts when the command is given but has the sense enough not to fire by accident the weapon is lowered and the man in the road reaches the figure unharmed. He ducks down to scoop up the figure, a boy, by the look of him into his arms and then stands again, only then seeing the soldier arrayed by Michael and Elrick. At the treeline the men with bows halt their attack, standing fixed in place waiting to see what happens next.

Michael curbs his mount, and with a quick glance to Elrick moves to take command of the men behind the hut before more violence is carried out without command.

Seeing that the soldier actually obeyed the order, Elrick's expression eases but only slightly. Looking out to the road again, his frown returns after seeing that it was a young boy that was wounded, "A boy. Really? You were able to put a bolt into a boy?" The question was more rhetorical than anything else, "It appears I already have the first volunteer selected for those that will be heading to the north to ensure the barbarians stay away." Looking towarsd the rest of the men, the t'Tremaine heir issues a real question this time, "Now someone, besides the childslayer, explain to me what is going on!"

As the questions are bellowed to the men the man with the child turns and bolts towards the tree line the men with bows flick their attention between their comrade and Elrick's troops waiting to see what happens next.

The Hartswood men by the hut though point at the men and the child "Those are the enemy, my lord!"

"The enemy?" Elrick says in response to the Hartswood men who were taking cover by the hut as he looks out to the road again, seeing the wounded boy fleeing with the adult. "I don't see any barbarians charging down the road, or any Rivanans riding in on the cavalry?" There is a pause before the gaze sweeps back to the armsmen, "Or do you mean rebels? Rebels, are our own people. People who may have committed crimes against their sworn House which means crimes to our liege, which also means crimes against the crown. They will be brought to justice, but only after we have found them guiltly. What I saw was a scared and wounded boy, and possibly his father out there trying to save him."

The man with the wounded child reaches the treeline and his comrades. They turn to see there is no pursuit and when they see none, indeed, that no one has moved to pursue them at all they linger a second longer before they fade into the woods.

The armsmen look as stunned as the woodsmen did when Elrick turns on them and not the 'enemy'. One of them comes forward "My lord, your father demanded we bring them back in chain, are you really going to let them go?" he calls out. Michael turns his horse to let the man pass but keeps a close eye on the rest.

"No, we are not letting them go. I will do more than bring them back in chains, we will track them down." Elrick says with a shake of his head, looking out to the woods, making sure that the rebels have left. "With some luck and the guidiance of the One, we will find the source of this rebellion and put a stop to it. I know they have done well staying hidden, but this time they have a wounded boy. We can track his blood." Before he orders the men to move out though, he looks to the soldier that has been the vocal one, "What is your name?"

There are some murmurs at Elrick's pronouncement and some approval that the enemy would not escape without punishment. The man who stepped forward studies the heir to Hartswood for a moment then bows his head. "I'm called Talard, my lord."

"Talard, how long have you lived in Hartswood and how long have you served my Lord Father?" Elrick says, his gaze focused on the man who stepped forward.

Talard frowns but looks up at Elrick. "I was born near Pacitta my lord, but I've served your father in lived here in the 'Wood for nigh on five years."

The t'Tremaine Heir considers the answer for a moment, "Five years… five years is long enough to call this place home and to get to know the people. Tell me, in your honest opinion, do you think that our people would ever rebel? They may have been unhappy or discontent, but outright rebellion?"

Talard frowns deeper. "Dunno, push a man far enough and he might do anything…" he begins before he is cut off by a scoff from one of the men from Elrick's party of guards "Not a true Hartswood man," he protests. There are nods of assent from others in Elrick's party, men the heir has known all his life.

The edge of Elrick's lips tug up slightly as he hears the immediate rebuttal from his guards, as he feels the same as they do. He does hold up a hand to prevent any further argument or debate, "I believe there may be an outside source that had pushed Tall Trees into rebellion, /that/ is the real threat we face, the real enemy. A coward that hides in the shadows. Talard, I know that this is your home now, and you wish to defend our home from our enemies. So do I, I went north to fight that damned frozen war just so our home would remain safe. And I'm not about to see the effort our men put forth in the north be destroyed by some craven in the shadows." He points out to the woods, "Let's track them now, should have given them enough time that they are more focused on withdrawing than trying to put more arrows into you. I want you all to move out in groups of threes, one will track, the other two will keep an eye out for rebels that may be laying in wait. If you find a rebel, do not charge out and engage, it could be another ambush. Send one of you back to report in quietly while the other two keeps watch. Go now, move swiftly and quietly."

Talard casts a glance back towards the woods, then to Elrick and then bows his head. "As you say my lord," he says before he turns back to his men. "Alright, split into threes and make sure one of you knows how to track. We've rebels to find," he says. Elrick's man who spoke comes forward. "Us too?" he asks.

Looking back to his guard, Elrick nods his head, "Three of you head out as well," He wants his own pairs of eyes searching, just in case, "The remaining four with Sir Michael and I should be enough to reinforce quickly if things go south." The t'Tremaine heir glances to Michael, "Sir Michael, anything else that we should do that I've missed?" Even though he is in charge here since this is home, Elrick does look towards Michael for feedback, just in case.

Michael brings his horse over and dismounts as he ponders the question. "Nothing I can think of," he says. "Unless you've got your Warhound stashed in your saddle bags," he says with a smile as the others in the party begin to form groups.

With a laugh, Elrick shakes his head, "No, Grim is at the keep, terrorizing the servants I'm sure." The t'Tremaine had never felt comfortable treating the Elementi as a real warhound, throwing him into danger but more as a companion when he's home. Look over the men as begin to form up, he nods his head in approval, waiting for them to set out.

Michael laughs "Damn, could have used his nose," he says and then sheathes his sword and glances to his men. "Well, guess we'll do this the hard way then, come on," and he beckons them forward towards the woods. The other groups quickly form up and do the same.

<FS3> Elrick rolls Tactics+3: Success. (3 4 3 7 4 1 1 4 6 6 2 3 4)

The searchers vanish into the woods and then hours pass and the sun sets before word returns. "We've found them my lord," one of the men reports. "The man and the boy are in a shack in the woods with some old woman, we lost the rest."

By the time the scouts returned, Elrick already has a look of impatience on his face as it was taking much longer than he thought it would. However, when news arrives, he nods his head, "Old woman? Sounds like a family of three generations." With the others gone though, that was their best lead, "We shall pay them a visit. I want the scouts to remain in the outskirts of the shack, in case there is another party watching. Sir Michael and I," With their guards of course, "Will apprehend and interrogate the rebels. They may tell us where the others are hiding." He then motions to the soldier to show them where the shack is.

The man nods, orders are sent out to gather the other parties and the man leads the way. The trip to the shack is a treacherous one, full of winding paths and roots and shrubs to trip a man up, but by the time Elrick reaches it and Michael and his men join him, the moon is full and the little clearing around the shack is lit by the silvery light. The shack is just that a crudely made structure of wattle and daub, with a thatched room much in need of new thatching. Outside there is a small herb garden and other signs of habitation. Through the windows, a faint flickering light can be seen.

"So this is the place?" Michael whispers to Elrick as he moves into a patch of shadows he can watch the hut from.

"Fits the description…" Elrick answers back in the same quiet whisper. He looks over to the men gathered and points at three of the guards, motioning at them to move around and position themselves towards the back of the shack in case an escaped is attempted there. "Shall we?" He asks Michael, nodding towards the shack.

Michael nods and orders his men to move forward before doing so himself. He has shed most of his armor for the sake of stealth and he keeps his sword behind him to keep the blade from flashing in the moonlight, still he is no Wraith, and neither are the other men at arms. As the shack is encircled the door bangs open and the man from the road steps out with a hunting bow in hand, arrow knocked on the string. "I don't want a fight, but come for my son and you'll have one as long as I draw breath."

Not kitted out for a full battle, Elrick isn't in his plate armor either but protective leathers that allows him to move easier for the long trip to Tall Trees. When the door opens unexpectantly though, the t'Tremaine heir puts a hand on the grip of the bastard sword that is strapped over his back but refrains from drawing for now. "Is that how you greet the heir to your liege lord?" It definitely irks Elrick that a simple commoner can be so defiant, but he is here to get to the root of the rebellion so there is no bloodshed yet, "If I wanted your son, I wouldn't have stopped the others from filling him with bolts earlier. Now lower your weapon or the consequences you and your family will be /most/ dire."

The man hesitates a moment, then slowly he releases the tension from his string. "You swear to the One my family won't be hurt?" he asks. "Those bastards didn't much care when they came for him the first time, they stabbed him, near did the same for his sister too."

"What I will swear to the One is that I am here to find the source of this rebellion and to see proper justice is dealt to those who would rebel against their liege and the king." Elrick says, not bothering to mince words or lie to the peasant. His hand leaves the grip of his bastard sword though as he tries to look past the man, "From what I was told, you ambushed those men and wounded some. They have a right to defend themselves and apprehend criminals."

The man bites his lip. "They found our camp, grabbed my daughter and son, my wife escaped, we were-" he pauses not wanting to say hunting which could be taken for poaching, but then he was in this deep "-hunting, came back and found them my girl escaped but they took my son and run. A man's got to defend his family."

As always, there are two sides of the story which is what Elrick expected, "Do you think that it is wise to be hunting when there is a rebellion going on here?" He asks, purposefully putting suspicion in his tone, "And what of those men that were with you, the rebels?"

There is an awkward silence before the man speaks again, "A poor time to be hunting true, but the village wasn't safe and my family needed to eat. Anyhow, these rebels, as you call them, they didn't start this fight, it was the brigands and those who let them prosper."

When the man becomes more forthcoming, Elrick finds the answer disturbing as it strengthens his suspicions that there was an outside source. He gives Michael a quick glance before motioning to two of the guards, "Let my men take a look at the boy, and dress him with field aid if needed. I want you to tell me more about the brigands and their conspirators." Hopefully the guard that is keeping watch over the one applying first aid is smart enough to make sure nothing is out of place inside the shack.

"The woman in the hut is a woodswoman," the man explains. "Brought my boy hear for her help but if your men can help, him please."

Michael speaks up sliding his sword away "I'll go," he says and another guard says the same and the two men head inside the hut, moving carefully until out of sight.

The bowman watches them as they pass then turns back to Elrick. "I don't know it all," he says. "But in the next village over there's a village judge named Gerard who was saying the priest Father Eustace was behind the brigands. Like how the old Cardinal was the cause of all that trouble with the Prince and the King. Anyhow, the brigands killed him for it, so Gerard's people came to Tall Tree when the priest was here and attacked him, trying to get revenge."

Elrick's frown deepens as he hears the accusation, a very strong accusation at that. To hear that it was Father Eustace that was behind the brigand attacks is most troubling. "So the other men from earlier, they were from the other village? To accuse a priest to be part of such a conspiration is very dire. Especially done so without proof." The heir doesn't mention the obvious about why the village judge did not report it to his Lord Father, the Baron. He knows that Father Eustace was another one of Fathers friends, just like Osmund. It would have fell on deaf ears.

"True my lord," the man says to Elrick of the accusation. "However they believed it. We all do, he and his kin are nothing but theives and have only now dared to do it openly." The man was taking a risk, but he had come this far and Elrick seemed to be listening.

Shaking his head slightly, Elrick is at a crossroads now and he isn't sure which path to take. What the man is saying makes sense, especially with how badly the barony has been doing, but to accuse important men of House t'Tremaine is a completely different matter. "For justice to be served, there must be proof. The only proof we have right now is that the Baron's men were attacked. Tell me, do the villagers in the next town, or did the judge have any proof?"

The man shakes his head. "None that I know of my lord, just talk, they said Gerard had it from one of the brigands that the priest and his kin were their masters."

That is a problem and without proof, justice lies on the side of those the villagers accuse. But Elrick does feel that the talk of brigands do have merit, "Do you or those villagers know where the brigands have been hiding? Or where they gather?"

The man shakes his head sadly. "No. Since Gerard died they've not struck again. Afraid, I guess or called away by their masters." He looks to Elrick. "I wish I had more. Gerard knew the most and he his dead and the men who went to avenge him had only his word. I know that won't be enough for the Baron."

The man is right, it won't be enough for the Baron. "I have one last question for you, did you or your son attack the Baron's men." Now, it is time for justice to be served.

"I did," he admits. "They had my son and I shot one of them with an arrow," he admits plainly, but with regret. "But they stabbed him before they left him in the road."

"And your son was not part of this? He did not attack my Father's men nor did he do anything to provoke them that resulted in them taking him?" Elrick asks further, as if to separate those who are guilty and those who are not.

"He did nothing, he's just a boy of five," the man assures Elrick. "Only I attacked the men," he is not happy about his admission but he squares his shoulders and seems to be ready to accept his fate.

Michael emerges from the hut wiping his hands on a rag "The woodswoman and your man say the boy will live, though your man will need to stay with him awhile to see him through." He says. When the man hear the news he turns his eyes upwards to give thanks to the One.

"Sir Michael, it appears that they will need to stay with the boy longer than that." Elrick says with a rather neutral tone to Michael who departs from the shack. He then looks back to the father of the wounded by, "I will give you five minutes to speak with your boy and the others, then you know that my guards must escort you back with us."

Michael looks between the man and Elrick and then simply nods. This meeting wasn't likely to have ended well and it appears it hasn't. He steps aside as the man mutely turns and goes inside the hut to say farewell to the boy. Then when the man is within, Michael moves to speak to Elrick "So, then he's guilty?" he asks.

"He is guilty for attacking my Father's men." Elrick says, neither shaking his head or nodding, "But not guilty of being a rebel. It appears that the men apprehended the boy for some reason, which I will speak to them of once we move clear of this place." There he pauses for a moment with a sigh, "It appears there may be corruption under some who serve under my father. He told me that the rebels are not from Tall Trees but a neighboring village. Apparently, according to the neighboring village's judge, Father Eustace was the man behind the brigand attacks, to line his own pockets. The village judge had proof of it and denounced Father Eustace, in response, the brigands murdered the judge. In retaliation, the villagers struck out at the church and Father Eustace. However, with the village judge dead, there is no proof."

The man's guilt is met with grim acceptance. The rest though earns a curse "Abyss," Michael grits out. "I hate to admit it cousin, but I am not surprised by the accusation after seeing the sort of men who work for your father. Is there nobody living who might have proof against them? Or knowledge of these brigands?"

Shaking his head, Elrick looks very troubled with their current situation, "According to that man? No. We may learn more when we visit the neighboring village, but the problem is what do we do right now. My Father is expecting us to return with at least half a dozen men in chains, and he will most certainly want to execute this man." There is a pause as he tries to think of a way that proper punishment is dealt, "Is there a way for you to claim the prisoner, so my Father can't touch him?"

Michael looks skyward as he claws mentally through his lessons about the law. "I have no claim on him for what he did to your men…" he pauses to think looking back to Elrick. "Though, if he levels an accusation against your father's men the case would need to be heard by my father or one of his magistrates, at least it does if I champion his cause. It would let me hold him in my custody and buy us time until the case could be heard."

"He claims that my Father's men took his boy without cause, and my Father's men did cut him as well, causing that wound. Would that be enough?" Elrick asks, apparently seeing that this may be a way for the man to have proper justice.

"No it would need to be bigger than that to be warrant a magistrate or my father, he would need to accuse your father's men of the same corruption the judge did even if he could not prove it, my word would carry him far enough to have a hearing and perhaps word of a trial may get others who know more," or indeed anything, "to speak up," Michael explains and then gives a shrug of his shoulders. "I am willing to risk it if it saves a mans life."

Hearing that, Elrick can only let out a sigh of resignation, "Then that man may have to face the harsh justice he will no doubt find here, if I am not able to convince my Father to hold off on the noose until we find the root. Father Eustace, if he was indeed behind the brigand attacks, may have acted alone out of greed, but I will not leave out any possibilities of an outside influence either." Look back at the shack's door as they wait for the man, the t'Tremaine heir is certainly displeased with what he is uncovering thus far, "If you wish, cousin, you may question the man as well. But it appears that he has resigned himself to the fate that awaits him."

"So no then, to having the man make those accusations?" Michael asks his cousin. "He wouldn't need to prove them just make them so we could buy us time…" he lets that trail off and sighs himself, "I suppose it is a long shot and not likely to work," he admits. "Other than that, the best I can offer is to take the prisoner to Hart's Home and give you time to speak to your father before he passes judgement."

Shaking his head, Elrick says, "I won't convince him to make accusations that have no basis just to give the man a reprieve, he knew what he was doing when he fired the arrow. But, I still intend to speak with the men who took the boy and put a blade to the youth." As for speaking with his father, the t'Tremaine heir shakes his head again, "Unless you wish to go to Hart's Home, I prefer you being there when I speak with my father about this, cousin, with your presence he may keep a more leveled head."

Michael nods and sighs. "I forget what Murnord is like sometimes. Very well, let's go see your father then, but send the prisoner on to Hart's Home with some of your men, it will give us time to see if we can put your father in a more just mood," he advises.

The prisoner emerges from the shack then his eyes still glistening with unshed tears. He wipes them on a sleeve before he presents himself to Elrick. "I am ready to go, my lords."

"I will send him to Harts Home. Perhaps it will delay his judgement," Elrick says in agreement, certainly not looking forward to seeing what his father will have to say, no doubt more words about his failure to capture anymore rebels. When the man leaves the shack, the t'Tremaine Heir points to three men, "These men will escort you to Harts Home where you will be placed in a cell until your crime can be judged and justice given. May the One judge you more fairly."

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