Private Tales Wolf Among Cubs

Valthar

Nordenfiir
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"It's cold," Valthar stated.

"It's always cold here. You'd forgotten that?"

"I got used to walking in the heat of the south. Went from collapsing in the midday heat and crawling for shade to running through the worst of it. I didn't really think that would mean that home would feel so bitterly cold."

"This is mild Valthar Ardullsson. You shouldn't even need those gloves."

A mist hung low over the ocean. Moisture clung to his furs. Valthar turned his gloves over. The moisture had formed white crystals as it had frozen, they cracked and flaked as he flexed his fingers.

He shrugged at Indell. There would be time to become accustomed to the climate once again before the worst of the winter winds swept in. The ship rocked over a small wave, sending an ocean spray up to meet the mist. It smelled of home. Valthar had sorely missed the ocean.

"Still, we will find a nice fire for some good ale tonight," laughed Indell. He looked as if he enjoyed his food and wine. He had a powerful build, but was not so slim around the middle.

A large number of the passengers were merchants from the south. There were just a handful of Nordenfiir onboard. Indell had introduced himself on the first day at sea and had listened to every word of Valthar's story. Apparently he had heard of Valthar's father, though Indell had provided scant details on what he actually did in Nordengaard. He had an easy nature to him and it was good to talk of familiar things again with one of his own.

"There are the cliffs," Valthar observed. It was Eratejva, looming ahead of him. How much could it have changed since he left? He wondered. At first, talking with Indell had made the ache of homesickness even more acute, but now he could actually see the coast it turned into pure joy.

Objectively he knew he was wearing too many layers for the temperature. He had worn less in more frigid conditions. Would they see other changes from his year away? Sometimes it was hard to tell the colour of something until you held it close to another one you knew well.

"You'd best gather your things," Indell chuckled, turning to head below. "Get some hot food when we go ashore. You've still a long way to go. Bet it doesn't feel that way."

Valthar nodded. He was in less of a hurry. All he owned was already in a small pack. He had on his furs and his knife at his belt. He owned precious little else.

"I'm going to stay a while," Valthar said, gaze fixed firmly on the jagged shapes on the horizon.




The sea had turned choppy when Valthar eventually went below. He had wanted to watch the ship come all the way in, but had decided he could just bring his bag up onto the deck. Then he could jump ashore as soon as they were close enough.

He stopped when he heard a dull thud. It had sounded like something heavy and metal being dropped onto wood. He heard grunting, a shout and then a cry of pain.

Valthar rushed forwards. That was different about him, heading towards the danger instead of away. The noise had come from an open doorway. Indell's room. He felt the now familiar rush of adrenaline coursing through his veins.

The Nordenfiir was on his back, clasping at his own throat. Blood pumped over his fingers in waves. There was an almost graceful arc of crimson across the deck.

"You..." Indell croaked.

Valthar rushed to his side, dropping to his knees. He already knew it was too late. He clapped his hand over Indell's own firmly, but there was no stemming the flow. The air reeked of blood.

He looked around them. There was no sign of the killer, but Valthar had full sight of the door when there had been the cry. No one had left the room, but it was empty.

His knee brushed something cold and hard. Valthar looked down at the bloodied knife.

His bloodied knife. Reaching for the empty sheath at his belt only confirmed what he already knew. The moment he heard two sailors cry from the doorway he knew what would come next.




It seemed unfair to catch such a brief glimpse of his homeland. His cell looked much like any other in the world. Beyond one brief walk and hopefully brief moment of pain that was the last he would see of home before it was taken away.

The wind picked up, howling through the small opening above him. Valthar was grateful that it wasn't snowing. It would have come straight through that window to fall on him.

He had endured an entire year in the summer lands for this. Demons, humans, orcs, fae and all manner of foul beast. Fucking sorcerers too. For nothing. To die on home soil, he supposed.

No one cared to look too deeply into a crime. It seemed that the person whose murder he had been blamed for was quite important. Indell's profession was apparently a mystery that he would carry to the grave. Everyone

Valthar stood as he heard heavy footsteps on the crude stone floor. He watched the door to the corridor and waited for it to open. Keys jangled and it opened. The gaoler strode in and continued walking past his squalid cell without sparing him a glance.

"Not today then?" Valthar asked. He wasn't sure if he was glad or not.

"No," came the blunt reply. At least he could rely upon the blunt honesty of his own people. "And been another murder like that one. Not my job to decide what happens next though."


Maude
 
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Maude

The Bear Queen
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["Indell was one of our best navigators and an honorable man,"] Aether the Priest spoke from his seat at the Council table, a grave expression on the man's face that seemed to darken even someone as aged and world-weary as he, ["...know he is with his loved ones now, feasting with Eogorath."]

Maude watched the man in silence from her own seat, face grim as she thought over the events of the last few days. She hadn't slept - never did sleep well when she stayed in the palace, and blinked hard before rubbing a hand over her eyes, ["Who is the latest?"]

["Enikke, your grace,"] Denma spoke, tone somber, pain evident.

["Your ...sister?"] Maude raised her brows. Denma nodded and wiped at her face, only now did Maude really notice how puffy and red her eyes looked, hidden behind the smudge she wore. The Queen inhaled deeply, brows knit, ["We will send them off properly tonight. They were honored kin, Eogorath will welcome them gladly."]

["Thank you, your grace ... I ask for leave to prepare the pyres for tonight."]

Maude nodded, dismissing her with a gesture.

The great Councilchamber was silent save the scraping of a wooden chair across stone and the sound of Denma's footsteps as she left. There was a heavy weight in the air, one she had hoped she would not need endure for some time, for it had taken its toll on her in the wake of Borvenir's ousting. Then again after the Red Mist Crisis. Death, it seemed, would follow her relentlessly to her grave.

["What of the man that was imprisoned?"] the Queen asked after a time, ["Not a day later and another murder. How can we be so sure we have the right man?"]

["It is possible, my liege, that he was working with someone,"] another Councilmember spoke up.

["An accomplice?"] Aether asked, to which the other man nodded. The Priest grunted, ["Anything is possible, but conjecture does not lend much immediate aid. The fact remains we have a murderer in our midst and we do not know who they are or what they want."]

["Blod'valhar..."]

["There is no proof of that."]

["But it fits, no? Who are the ones that slit our throats on the mountain passes, eh? How many did we hunt down not but a moon ago. Maybe we missed one?"]

["Are you suggesting the man we have now is of Blod'valhar?"] Maude asked.

["His father was no supporter of Iordahn, I doubt he would have supported you."]

["A lack of support is not proof of a crime. Besides,"] disgruntled, Maude frowned as she shifted in her seat, ["we are not our parents."]

Aether nodded, an agreeable hmmm sounding from behind his beard.

["I want to meet him,"] Maude said suddenly, ["bring him to the throne room. Aether, join me."]
 
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Valthar

Nordenfiir
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Valthar had always been comfortable with silence. Hours on hours on the gentle waves beyond his home harbour had flown by with almost nothing to pass the time.

The silence was more oppressive here. He wasn't safe, immersed in the routines he had known for years. He was contained within a small cell, the threat of a quick execution hanging over him. They did not keep prisoners for months unless they were royalty.

Keys jangled and the heavy door at the end of the corridor swung open. Valthar wished they would at least grease the hinges on that thing. To have the uncomfortable silence broken by a sound that cut right to the brain did not make it a welcome interruption.

"Today?" Valthar asked.

"Maybe. Someone important wants to see you. Don't know what that means."

The goaler was always quick to point out how little he knew and just as fast to let Valthar knew that he didn't care. Valthar could appreciate the simplicity of keeping to your work. He wished he had never been taken away from his own.

"You're going to the frozen halls."




Two guards spared no words for Valthar as he was marched inside. Despite its name, the cold was kept at bay by roaring fires. Ice had clung to the walls of stone into witch the Palace had been carved.

"Always wanted to see what was inside in here when I saw it from a distance," he muttered. He flexed his fingers. The chains seemed unnecessary. There was more going on than he understood. Valthar had become used to that travelling across foreign lands.
 

Maude

The Bear Queen
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The throne room of the palace wasn't her preferred place for much of anything, but considering the circumstances it seemed a prudent option. Here, at the very least, there was no place for a convict to go, and plenty of loyal guards on alert.

Chains rattling echoed grandly through the high, arched ceilings. Wooden beams inlaid with brass reflected the fire of dozens of braziers, inflicting the entire hall with a dichotomy of frigid warmth. Maude likened the place to her own frozen pit of hell - for certain if she ended up here when her life was spent, she would never know happiness again. Valthar was lead up numerous sections of stairs by two armored guards. These chains that echoed were heavy and had a very particular ring to their tone. Were Valthar not yet personally introduced to the weight of Solstal Steel, he now could say he'd touched the hallowed metal in his lifetime and he could be assured those chains would hold no matter the form he took.

The last set of steps brought him to a landing before the rise of the throne - a chair of Solstal most infamous for the many great and terrible leaders that had come to sit it over its lifetime and one that Maude had thus far refused to sit. Instead the Queen sat off to the side in a simple chair carved of wood, likely that which was cut and crafted in Colburn, at a table made of the very same. Aether joined her, and another young Councilor named Hagen. Presently pouring over a map and table of notes, it was Hagen who first looked up to the approach of another who looked, curiously, quite like himself - if a bit older.

"Dott'rhi," Hagen gently cleared his throat, motioning with a nod, "the prisoner has arrived."

Maude glanced up from where she sat, green gaze landing on Valthar with an unmistakable look of bated ire, "Bring him forward. Hagen, you may proceed."

The guards lead Valthar to the end of the level upon which they stood, just below the one several feet higher where the throne and table presented. But it was not the Queen who addressed Valthar - no, she went back to her business at the table. Instead Hagen stepped forward and to the edge of the floor, one hand on the hilt of the sword at his hip, Aether watching with some intensity from the table.

"Valthar, son of Ardull," Hagen's voice was not so fierce as one might expect from someone of his stature, and it rang cleanly through the hall, "you have been charged with the murder of Indell, son of Rellan, how do you plead?"
 
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Valthar

Nordenfiir
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It was an odd sense that came over Valthar. Not despair. He had left most of tht behind during his first few weeks across the summer lands. He had been caught up in the business of mages and sick alchemists who created chimera from monstrous creatures and children. A few hours in the cell had been enough to accept his fate.

It was beyond that, further into an incredulous disbelief. All that time and hardship on the road and when he returned he would finally see the Queen herself. He had caught her gaze for just a fraction of a second. He should have felt fear, should have bowed his head. Instead he had squared his shoulders, met her gaze and offered just a subtle and respectful nod. A small measure of rebellion against what felt like an inevitable end to his tale.

His father had been here. Well known within this halls in fact. One of the fiercest fighters across the entire continent. His renown had started when hos charge had crushed the entire left flank at the battle of Lurn's Peak. How far Valthar was from the brash man with fire in his eyes.

"In the sense that I didn't fucking do it?" Valthar asked, only turning to regard the man with questions after speaking. Perhaps he should have sat on formality, but he was past caring.
 
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Maude

The Bear Queen
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One of the guards rang Valthar over the skull with an armored hand - a gentle reminder that he spoke directly to nobility and indirectly to royalty, their hands in which his fate currently sat.

"Let him speak-" Maude intoned flatly, her eyes not leaving the map before her, a quill in one hand scratched notes as the pointer finger of the opposite followed an unmarked path, "-freely."

Hagen sighed, blond brows lifting with the motion of a glance back to his liege before he nodded and made to slowly walk down the steps towards Valthar, "You said as much when they carried you from the ship." He stopped just short of Valthar, "Many of the sailors were inclined to believe you. They spoke of you as an honorable man, like your father. But the evidence works against you. Your blade, verified by the Captain; Indell's wounds; his blood on your hands; and you," Hagen tipped his head slightly where he stood, "found with the body."

A moment, Hagen's lips stretched into a downward frown of consideration, brows disappearing beneath blond hair, "Hm."

He withdrew a stiletto blade from within his cloak, holding it with no obvious intent of running Valthar through. At least, not to the eyes of a trained warrior.

"Hold him still, if you please," and then he used it to puncture Valthar's exposed chest, just deep enough to hurt and leave a sizeable amount of blood on the blade. Not deep enough to do any lasting damage. It likely wouldn't even scar if tended to.

"You can see the predicament we have here," Hagen continued as he turned and made his way back up the steps, "our new Queen is one of facts and prudence. Were she so inclined, you would die today." He stopped short of the table, carefully holding out the blade to Aether who took it and held the bloodied tip under his nose, lips moving as he uttered words under his breath.

"But she wishes to give you a chance to speak. Freely, as it were," Hagen spread his arms open in a marked gesture. Behind him Aether licked the blood from the blade, his eyes having gone a curious shade of pitch black. "So if you could please offer us your story of what happened that a decision may be made from all available information."
 

Valthar

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It wouldn't take a strong blow to finish him here. It wasn't there way to slit the throat if a prisoner to bleed out their life, but he still mentally prepared himself for the worst. The blade cut into his chest, eliciting a low growl through his tight grimace.

The younger one kept talking as he passed Valthar's blood to another. Finally a flash of panic in his eyes. Were they performing magic with his blood?

He had endured. He had kept marching onwards through foreign lands beneath an unrepentant sun. It was here, in the heart of his own nation, that his felt most out of place all of a sudden. A queen who spared him four words as they took his own blood for a spell.

"I heard his cry and found him that way. I had travelled from Alliria on foot to come home. I have no reason to murder the first nordenfiir who speaks kind words to me.

"My father had honor. And a temper. He killed men over a few bad words. Do not compare us."
 
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Maude

The Bear Queen
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"Indeed?" Hagen assumed his position at the edge of the dais, hand now returned to the hilt of his sword at his hip, "Well, as the Queen so eloquently put it earlier: we are not our parents."

"But this still leaves us with a strange set of circumstances. If you did not kill Indell, as you say, how did it come to be he was slain by your own dagger?"
 
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Valthar

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"Because someone took it and killed him with it," he replied plainly.

"I do wish I had more answers." For more reasons than explaining his own innocence. He would be a demeaning thing to die without even knowing why.

"I think he was deliberately killed when I was outside. But I don't know how or when my knife was taken. It doesn't make sense that no one else was in the cabin. I had my eye on the door when I heard the scream"

These facts did not help his case. He could have lied and said he saw a man squeezing through the porthole. He did not want to lie, it was not in his nature. Especially when his queen was half listening to his account.

"What are you doing with my blood?" Valthar looked down as his blood formed a single rivulet and rolled down his body. It pooled briefly in his navel before continuing down. There were things that could be done with magic that transcending death. Even now what they were doing concerned him more than the sight of an executioners axe would have.
 

Maude

The Bear Queen
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Hagen listened attentively to the brusque and understandably furtive statements from the man. The Queen remained, seemingly, absorbed in her work. Her quill scratched across parchment, her finger continued to trace a path. Her eyes switched from map to notes to another sheet to her side.

"So a man was killed inside the cabin that no one else was in." The statement fell flat on tone, Hagen seemed to chew on it with some thought, glancing over at Aether when the use of Valthar's blood came into question. Aether sat rigidly in his seat, black eyes staring intensely at Valthar, the dagger resting on his upturned palms. Red marked the edges of his mouth, staining a pinkish hue in the white of his beard.

"Why were you in Alliria?" Hagen began again, "Curious place for a son from Faarin to be."
 
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Valthar

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"Curious and hostile place for any nordenfiir to be, I can assure you of that. I went into Pandemonium," he admitted. Even now he felt a sliver of ice trickle down his spine.

"I was fighting near our town and the mist swallowed us. We desperately fought against...things." The shapes and figures of those creatures seemed to twist in his mind's eye, refusing to take a recognisable shape.

Strange, it had felt like that at the time when he had be looking right at them too.

"The demons have a portal stone. It threw me out near Alliria. Alone."
 

Maude

The Bear Queen
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A low, guttural rumble sounded from the prone Priest at the table at the mention of Pandemonium. The Queen's quill stopped in its course across the parchment, her gaze shifting to a new spot on the map that had not been part of her earlier perusals. The Hearth Stone.

"Hhhhuuuuuuuuuhhhhh-" Aether's lips parted, a red mist spilling from them.

Hagen's posture stiffened at this sound, one he'd not recalled ever hearing in the waking realm before. In his dreams, perhaps. Strange and dark dreams.

"Hhhhhhhhhuu- I see a wolf. Fur black. Paws white. In its eyes the aurora lives," Aether's head swiveled, Valthar would begin to feel a piercing pain in his head, "I see creatures. Their faces of folklore, hhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaa-" the red mist continued to pour from his lips and now his nostrils, "I see the sons and daughters of Faarin. The blackened lungs of Withereach. The webs of the witches. A boulder of story."

And now blood seeped from the edges of his mouth. He gurgled, growled, hissed. His head twisted to the side, a sudden twinge mirrored in Valthar's skull.

"Aether-" Hagen took two steps before the Queen lifted a hand to stop him, her eyes glued to the Priest.

"I see-" the old man sputtered, "sunlight. A golden svalen marred. The heat ... the heat ..."
 
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Valthar

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Valthar did not appreciate having to relive the experience of pandemonium. The desperation that had set in before that great tusk had hurled his boulder right through the face of the demon assailing them.

It was in the mad dash to escape that he had shifted for the first time. They had caught him, dragging him down. Their claws eviscerated his shield, pierced his armour. His Svalen had emerged, shaking the fiends off as he charged towards his escape.

Valthar had lived in a small world. Outside of the fishmarket and tavern it had barely extended beyond the sides of his round-bottomed boot. He hadn't asked for a larger world. For demons and witches and orcs.

Reliving the despair he had felt at arriving in the summer lands made Valthar realise something.

He should have been angry.

As his ship had sailed closer to those cliffs he had felt a great sense of pride, of accomplishment, at making the journey home. It had all been dashed and he had solemnly accepted another twist of fate.

Someone or something had put him in this situation and he should have been pissed off.

"Perhaps," Valthar growled, "you should look into a truth spell instead of...whatever that is."

For the first time real emotion forced its way onto his face.

"Indell seemed a kind man to me," Valthar said. In fact he had been a pragmatic diplomat and spy who was only kind when it suited him. "Some fucker killed him and got me blamed. You should be looking for them."
 

Maude

The Bear Queen
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"...the heat... the heat..." Aether continued, keeling forward and coughing up blood. At this Maude stood from her seat, watching while Hagen moved to keep the Priest from falling off his chair.

The Queen's gaze shifted, then, to the owner of the angry voice now filling the chamber. The look on her face spoke of understanding, but it was not a look of sympathy.

"Aether ... what do you see? Tell us more. The boat, Indell," Hagen braced the older man, "the dagger."

"Haaaaauuuuuuuh-" Aether drew in a deep, rattling breath, black eyes rolling open once more, "I see ... Indell ... blood ..."

"And who is there?" Hagen gripped him, "Who took his life?"

"I ... see ..." Aether groaned, "...shadow," and the last of the red mist dissipated from his mouth, the black of his eyes seeped away, the pain in Valthar's head vanished like a storm gale blowing out to sea again. "Valthar," the Priest began again, Hagen nodded, glancing over to the man in chains, "is innocent."

Hagen blinked, a flash of mild confusion on his face, and gave the old man a gentle nudge with his fists at his robes where he held him, "But who, Priest? You must see someone. Who do we charge?"

Aether groaned painfully, a hand lifting to his head. He shook it lightly.

Maude, brows drawn together, nodded to the guards holding Valthar, "Release him."

"Dott'rhi - you think it wise?" Hagen moved forward again.

"Aether has never been wrong," she replied, "what he sees is nothing short of the truth." Her gaze leveled on Valthar as his bindings were removed, "Hagen, see that the preparations for tonight's ceremony are underway. Denma has enough on her mind."

"As ... as you say, my Queen." The man fixed Valthar with a leery gaze before descending the stairs and leaving the hall at a brisk clip.

"Valthar," Maude spoke again as she retook her chair and gestured to another at the opposite side, "have a seat. You there, have food and water brought in. Get this man some proper clothes."
 
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Valthar

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Valthar rocked back on his heels as Maude stood up. He winced in the same moment, perhaps making it seem that the magic working its way into his head had caused the movement. It hadn't. The previously disinterested Queen, his Queen, had quenched the flames beneath his anger with just a few words.

Dropping his gaze, he could only listen to the rest of the exchange. His life was hanging in the balance and only the accuracy of magic - a fickle beast - could tip him back to safety. He felt nauseated, more from that realisation than the actual magic at work.

Maude, brows drawn together, nodded to the guards holding Valthar, "Release him."
Valthar frowned. Another roll of the dice and he came through. Home was so close now. His friends, those few he had, his boat and the silence of the waves in a crisp, cold morning.

Holding up his arms he let the guards release him from his shackles. They fell away and he started rubbing some life back into his wrists, holding maude's gaze. His wrists were grazed and sore, but he had suffered far worse to get here.

Hagen cast Valthar one more suspicious glance before leaving. Valthar could not blame him for that. It was so hard to believe that he wasn't the killer given how he had been found. Even Valthar doubted the wizard's visions.

Very slowly, he walked around the table and took a chair. He suddenly felt very out of place in this fine hall, his tunic torn and blood still pooling in the shallow cut on his chest.

"A shadow..." he muttered incredulously as he sat down.

"My queen," he said. His voice was almost bold, but within the space of just two syllables it sounded as if it was faltering. "If I can help in any way in finding the killer..."

The last barriers had been lifted. Months away from home and he was already jeopardising the final leg now it had opened up before him. Valthar was a simple man, plain speaking and loyal. It was a wonder he had even got this far in some respects.
 

Maude

The Bear Queen
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"You can," Maude replied flatly, "and you will. Aether," her hand reached over to brace at the Priest's forearm, "are you well?"

Aether gave a gentle groan, his face pale. He nodded, "Yes, let us continue."

"Indell was a diplomat of the Kingdom," Maude looked back to Valthar, "I tasked him with expanding our trade resources along his shipping routes. Now he is dead. Ennike," the Queen drew in a terse breath, looking all the world a mountain lost of its crowning snow: sharp, bleak, and grave, "was set to lead an expedition to the south to establish a new port settlement in place of Withereach."

Public word had not yet gotten 'round to Withereach's fate. In truth the settlement had seceded from the Kingdom, something she'd taken to covering up. What word that spread spoke that the mines had run barren and Withereach was at its end of use. She hadn't time to make the trek there and reports from her scouts had said the path to the mining town had been destroyed. No Herrevans returned from there. The Witch Sigrith had not been of much help. Maude needed to scope things out for herself, but every opportunity had been demolished by violence here in the north.

"We've no proof, but the signs point to subterfuge by the Blod'valhar ... the remnants of Borvenir's regime. They were slaughtering my Rangers and Scouts in the pass to Hjerim just last month."

It was no secret Borvenir had wanted nothing to do with trade and diplomacy. These deaths made sense in such context.

"I believe they have infiltrated the Capital. The other settlements could be at risk as well."
 

Valthar

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"He did not say he was a diplomat..." Valthar said quietly, trailing off as he realised he was speaking at the table of the Queen.

It was a remarkably naive thing to say. Diplomats were essentially spies and not prone to talking about their work with strangers. Valthar had no experience in the matter.

He bowed his head and thought about what she had said. There were still political opponents to her rule. He hadn't even known that.

Another thought crossed his mind. It was only freed when the weight of his impending execution was lifted. He was angry at how they spoke of his father.

Back at home the man was revered. One of the greatest warriors to ever leave his own town and serve the king. He might have been outspoken, but no one back there would ever have questioned his loyalty. Now they had used his name here to cast doubt on Valthar's innocence.

"There was an odd scent in his room. Like sulphur. Not quite. Could this have been a...spell?"

As soon as he spoke, he wished he had stayed silent.
 

Maude

The Bear Queen
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Maude eyed the man after his fumble of words, thinking much the same of them as he was in that very moment. But her own thoughts turned quickly from the non-essential of opinion to those of fact origins. With a terse sigh she returned her gaze to the map on the table before her. They didn't have enough information and, regretfully, she'd not yet managed to capture one of the Blod'valhar alive.

The raid in the mountains to Hjerim on the rogue group hadn't been as fruitful as it had been cathartic. They hadn't gained much in the way of helpful information, but at the very least the path for her Rangers was safe once more.

Several men and women arrived carrying trays of food, drink, and clothing for Valthar. Aether smiled weakly to the woman who set a steaming horn of tea before the Priest. He lifted it to his face, breathing slowly and deeply of the aroma and set his gaze on Valthar as the younger man spoke up again.

"Mmmm," Aether considered this, patting his beard flat to take a sip of his tea, "possible, quite possible. Some magics to leave a certain scent - what you speak of seems more likened of darker arts."

"We don't mentor those arts in Kiringsaal," Maude remarked, "those were outlawed by Iordahn himself."

"So they were, and if it were of such nature I am lead to believe this was not of Norden doing," said the Priest before looking back to Valthar, "there were other peoples on that ship, yes?"

"You're suggesting the very group who seeks to imprison and ostracize other races from our lands is employing them to act against me?" the Queen scowled.

"It would be strange if not for the notion of pinning the killings on them to start which would only serve to further their goals."

Maude pressed her lips together, having no response to that. The old Priest had a point.
 

Valthar

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"Which suggests there is more killing to come," Valthar said. He had pulled on a fresh tunic, but had placed a cloth to the cut on his chest. He had one hand there, keeping pressure to the wound.

Several curious glances were aimed in his direction. Both because of his choice to speak again and because it wasn't clear what led to that assertion.

Valthar didn't have the kind of mind that followed the web of diplomatic discourse, or the intruige of assassins. He thought in very straight lines. One fact to the next fact.

"Because they tried to frame me. Because if they wanted to frame outsiders they did not then. Because they must need to buy time?"

He might have shrunk into his chair on another day, mindful of where he was. Instead he sat upright and squared his shoulders.

To their very queen they had questioned his loyalty on the basis of some drunken moaning from his father. A man who did not hold his own tongue, but who would have seen off any of Maude's advisors in battle for saying as much.