"We have levied charges against Glendes of Grey House and his grandson, Shadow Grey, who signed a contract accepting all financial obligations pertaining to Melida, daughter of Marid of Belancour and her deceased husband, Findal. We also levy charges against Lissa, Queen of Le-Ath Veronis, Shadow Grey's first mate. Cloudsong recognizes that a mate's obligations are the same as your own, therefore, she is also named in these charges." The judge rattled off the information in a monotone. It made me wonder if he ever got excited about anything—he was in his seventies, had a long, wrinkled face that would have made any bloodhound proud and eyes that looked as if they needed cataracts removed.
"We wish to point out that prior to the marriage between Shadow Grey and Melida of Belancour, Lissa of Le-Ath Veronis broke affiliation with Shadow Grey," one of the Grey House lawyers stood and announced. "Therefore, she should not be named in these proceedings."
"Cloudsong does not recognize verbal divorcement," the judge spouted and that was that. Didn't look as if they recognized much of anything, if it was beneficial to them in the long term.
"But there was never a contractual marriage between the Queen of Le-Ath Veronis and Shadow of Grey House. It was an informal arrangement only." Merrill had stepped up to speak on my behalf, looked like.
"There was an exchange of rings, was there not? Cloudsong recognizes that as binding, whether there was a written agreement or not," Judge Bloodhound said. Geez, this guy had an answer for everything. Whether he actually had laws on the books to back it up was another question. "The Queen of Le-Ath Veronis will remain an active participant in these proceedings."
"Then we wish to point out that we were not notified of any undisclosed obligations on the part of Melida of Belancour before the contracts were signed," the Grey House lawyer said. "We received a listing of obligations from her father, Marid of Belancour, and nothing of this magnitude was mentioned."
"But he informed us when we notified him of his daughter's mate's perfidy that he was unaware of it until we gave him the proof we had. Therefore, he could not have given you that information. You then signed the contract, taking on all of her debts. This is one of her debts and we intend to see that justice is done. We could be asking for the life of the Eldest of Grey House. We are being generous, since we realize that Grey House had no involvement in Prince Brandelin's death and choose to ask for monetary damages only from all pertinent parties." Well, there you go. I was a pertinent party.
"Then it is our duty to point out that fifty years of profits is excessive in the extreme," the Grey House lawyer said. "You say yourself that we had no involvement in the Prince's death. We are innocent of any crime, by your own admission. Yet your option is to bleed us dry and destroy our family? You seek to obtain your justice by committing an injustice yourself."
"What price will you place upon the Prince's life? He would have ruled a good fifty years—that is the average rule of any monarch upon Cloudsong. That is what we base our demands upon," the judge wasn't budging an inch on this. "You say this will destroy your family. I have heard that Le-Ath Veronis is quite profitable. We will accept fifty years of profits from there as complete judgment in this case, leaving Grey House free of debt."
That had me standing in a hurry. They wanted to put all of this on me? I couldn't believe it. Angry didn't begin to describe what I felt right then. I think they were all lucky the fangs and claws didn't come out. This was what they were aiming for all along, by dragging me and Le-Ath Veronis into all this. I think the King of Cloudsong realized I was furious. I did my best to reel in my temper, and phrased my words carefully.
"King Kenderlin," my voice carried across the room to where he sat on a richly carved throne, "would you drop this case if your son were still alive?"
"I would not only drop this case, I would pay to have my son again," he huffed. "Do not trouble that wound, or the judge will levy a heavier fine against you."
"Uh-huh," I muttered. "Excuse me." I folded away.
* * *
"You planned this, didn't you? Find some obscure law to drag my granddaughter into this, because the riches would come rolling in. Or so you think." Wylend came to stand next to Lissa's empty chair. Someone, likely one of the Larentii, had covered her disappearance and now a replica of Lissa stood beside Wylend, who wasn't fooled for a moment.
"You are?" The judge rumbled.
"King Wylend Arden, of Karathia," Wylend announced.
"The King of Karathia is here?" Kenderlin almost came out of his chair. "I did not know that the Queen of Le-Ath Veronis had a living grandfather."
"As you can see, she does. That is why I am here, to ensure my granddaughter is treated fairly."
"You do not frighten me, warlock," the judge scoffed. That made Wylend cross arms over his chest. Norian, who had tiny cameras affixed to his clothing, was transmitting the entire proceeding live to Ildevar Wyyld. As yet, Ildevar had made no comment and the earpiece Norian wore remained silent.
"Then you have never dealt with my kind," Wylend remarked casually.
* * *
"Em-pah, you can back up, now, I've got this," I dragged Brandelin of Cloudsong behind me, bewildered as he was at having been pulled out of an exploding building at the last possible moment, more than three months before. I'd gone Looking during my train ride, determined that Brandelin's living would have absolutely no effect on the timeline, and held that as my trump card. "Here's your heir, King Kenderlin. Now what was that you said about dropping this whole thing?"
"This cannot be my son," Kenderlin stood and snarled.
"Father, what are you saying? I was just inside a burning building, when this woman came and pulled me out of it. Are you rejecting me? Do you wish for Jenderlin to succeed you? I think the others died back there," he pointed in a confused manner behind him.
"Brandelin?" Kenderlin was now looking closer at his son—at the smudge marks on his skin, the partially burned clothing and the smell of smoke that clung to the Prince. I was standing there, wondering what to do next.
"She can always return him to the fire," Wylend intervened smoothly. I reached out to take Brandelin's arm, wondering if Wylend's bluff would work. It did.
"No—wait!" Kenderlin was heading toward his son. "Tell me what happened on your tenth birthday. Tell me!" He commanded.
"I climbed up the pear tree, fell out and broke my arm," Brandelin muttered. "I was afraid to tell you and walked around with a broken arm for three days."