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Lord Draupaud was sitting at his desk, gazing straight ahead, almost blankly, as though contemplating a horror that only he could see.

Derron knocked on the door frame then stepped inside, closing the door behind him. "You wished to speak with me, Milord?"

"Yes," said Lord Draupaud, seeming to shake off his reverie and become his usual cold, detached self. "There will be arrangements to be made. The Septon, of course. Intimate details can be left to the Septa. But ... my Lady must be interred with due respect. The local Lords ... must be informed. When the Maester returns ... "

He stood up and began to pace through the room. "She must have all honour, do you understand? What she was ... what she became ... She must have all honour in this!"

Derron nodded. "Of course, Milord. Linnel and I will begin arranging immediately. All the local Lords will be informed by a series of messengers. Um, what day do you wish for the burial? Do you wish to wait a few days to see if Maester Merivel returns?" He began running the sites of various crypts where the Lady could be interred, yet easily avaialbe for examination.

"In the crypt here," said Lord Draupaud, "as is befitting my wife."

Derron nodded and made a mental note.

He looked at Derron.

"I know that we are incomers, imposed by the King. But the old Lords and their Ladies will not begrudge one so hurt as she a place beside them, I think." H rubbed a hand over his forehead. "And now ... I shall be able to wed again - a lady from among the local lords, one who will help me put down roots among our people here."

He did not sound as though the prospect pleased him - but then he looked up at Derron.

"I would have loved her, if I could. As it was, I most sincerely pitied her."

"I understand, Milord." He paused, then decided that since he had not been chided for his outspokenness in the Lady's room, he added, "I am sure that many of the local lords will be eager to offer you sisters or daughters. And I think most would find it proper if you waited at least a few months before entertaining such offers openly, as a sign of respect." He hesitated before finishing. "I think she would have come to love you as well, if she had not been shattered so."

"Perhaps," said Lord Draupaud slowly. "But for now .. the funeral. And ... Steward Thorne, what steps do you need to take for your investigation?"

Derron pursed his lips for a few moments then said, "I am not entirely sure. I think the Septa may have information for me, but there is an extreme measure I have just thought of. Since I believe that whomever is responsible is someone that spends a great deal of time in the private area of the manor, you could give me leave to use Ser Tomas and his men to search every room, and possibly person, for your missing key."

"I agree," said Lord Draupaud. "You will begin with me - and my rooms. Then no-one else will object. However ... " He hesitated. "If you find anything, you will bring the news to me first, before anyone else. Do you understand?"

Derron relaxed visibly at Lord Draupaud's words. Not only did the man make sense in letting himself be first, but it helped allay Derron's concerns about the man. "Very good, sir. I will go find Ser Tomas and have him get some of his best men, and we will meet you in your chambers directly." He sketched a bow and took his leave.

As he strode, he felt both relief and excitement. Once more he was doing something, rather than sitting around waiting for, well, anything. And this search could be extremely useful in the search for the killer. He finally found Ser Tomas in the practice yard alone. The man was still obviously upset over the day's events. He did not notice Derron's arrival, so Derron coughed aloud.

"Ser Tomas, a word, if you please." Ser Tomas put down the practice sword and stood where he was, breathing heavily. Derron came forward and spoke formally. "Lord Draupaud has approved a plan to search the private areas of the manor. Would you be so kind as to collect several trustworthy men and meet us at His Lordship's chambers? He feels that he himself should be the first searched so that others do not have cause to complain."

Ser Tomas nodded. He too looked relieved by the call for action. "Give me a quarter of an hour," he said.

That left Derron with enough time to take some refreshment, or to go straight to the room.

Derron thought about both options, then decided he could do both. He planned to visit the kitchen. Leftovers from midday meal could be stuffed into a large wedge of bread and eaten while he went to the room. He braced himself to be besieged by questions from the kitchen staff.

Indeed, his appearance caused a flurry of excvitement and whispered speculation. But it was only the senior staff who hurried forward; the cooks ostensibly to ask what meals she should be preparing for the next few days - but he saw the gleam of curiosity in her eye, even as she asked what she could do for him.

Derron almost glared at her. "Proper meals for keeping everyone well fed, of course. With the mourning that will occur, people will need to keep their strength up. And in a few days, once the various lords have assembled for the funeral, a true feast to celebrate Her Ladyship's life." He paused then added, "Ask some of the Southen folk what is normal for their homelands. I'll be in His Lordship's chambers."

The cook nodded and bobbed a slight curtsey, even as she beckoned two of her underlings to carry out his request. In very short order, Derron had the food her required - and a spit boy to run at his heels with a flagon of ale to help him wash it down.

He took his bread and meat and left abruptly. He had no idea what would happen the next few days. He just hoped he could keep things running smoothly.

When he arrived in his lord's room, he found Lord Draupaud was there before him. Derron had never been in the room before, but he saw that it was furnished sparsely - as though Lord Draupaud was still a soldier on campaign, not the prosperous lord of a peaceful holding.

Derron swallowed the last mouthful of food, then polished off the last bit of ale and handed the flagon to the boy whose eyes had widened at seeing Lord Draupaud. The boy bowed then scurried off. Derron bowed and said, "Milord, Ser Romas will be along shorlty with men to search the room. If you wish, I can search your person myself before they arrive. Or would you prefer other witnesses?"

Lord Draupaud sighed.

"We should have witnesses, I think. Then, at a later date, no-one can accuse me of deceit."

While they were waiting he stood up and began to removed his jerkin, folding it neatly and setting it aside. "That too should be checked."

At this moment Ser Tomas arrived with two guards, and looked questioningly at Lord Draupaud in his shirt-sleeves, and Derron.

"The Steward will direct this matter," said Lord Draupaud. Only a muscle in his cheek betrayed his distaste for the proceedings.

Derron nodded and spoke neutrally. "I believe that someone stole His Lordship's personal key to his offices. It was stolen while he slept, so it must have been talen by someone comfortable with moving through these halls late. His Lordship agrees and has decided that all rooms and person must be searched. He has volunteered himself to go first. You two," he indicated the two gaurdsmen, "you will begin searching his rooms for the key on its chain. Ser Tomas and I will quickly check his person before assisting you. Once we have eliminated him, we will next move to the rooms of Ser Tomas, and then the others." He paused as something else came to him. "We will even search the rooms of Lady Draupaud again, in case we missed it earlier." Derron picked up the jerkin and addressed the Lord. "Milord, would you prefer Ser Tomas or myself to search your person?"

"You best do it together," said Lord Draupaud. He extended his arms. "Should I remove my shirt, or will this be sufficient?"

It should be possible for anything unusual to be felt through the lawn of his shirt, and his breeches could also be searched in situ. There was a key around his neck, but Derron was experienced enough in metalwork top see it was almost newly cut; clearly the replacement that the locksmith/cutler had made.

The guards were searching the room quickly and efficiently, but with no success.

Derron replied, "That should be enough, Milord." He gestured to Ser Tomas to take the man's right side while he began patting down his left side. He had searched prisoners on the battelfield, and he had seen what can happen when a search is not thorough. The man wished to remove all grounds for complaints, so Derron was not shy. If Ser Tomas seemed to be holding back, he was prepared to cover the same ground, as it were.

Ser Tomas seemed a little hesitant, but the first time Derron covered a lapse, he seemed stung into activity and became even more meticulous and through than Derron himself. But to no avail. There was no trace of the key on Lord Drau[paud's person and nor - the guards reported with relief - in his room.

Lord Draupaud shrugged back into his jacket. "Now," he said, "I'll accompany you."

He was looking grim. "Who next?" he asked.

Derron shook his head slightly in embarrassment as he said, "I think if we next check the rooms of Ser Tomas, it will completely still any tongues wagging about favoritism."

Ser Tomas frowned, but nodded his agreement.

"You had best check my daughter's rooms as well," he said. "As long as that dam' cat of hers is not in residence."

The two guards were wearing the stoical look of being among the many that Shade had - at the very least - snarled at in an all-too-frequent fit of pique. Most of those who came into contact with the beast had at least one claw scar (given, they would be assured by Aerin, in love).

The Master's rooms were nearest top the gatehouse entrance - his own room kept nearly as precisely as Lord Draupaud's own.

Before moving to Aerin's rooms, Derron said, "Let us begin with you, Ser Tomas. If you will remove your outer garments, please." He kept an eye on the guards, who might refrain from doing a thorough job on their leader's rooms.

Ser Tomas nodded curtly, unfastening his jerkin.

Lord Draupaud watched impassively as his Master of Arms was subjected to the same thorough search - but with no better results. The two guards, for their part, were thorough in their search - but the most incriminating thing they found was a set of etchings on the back of cards - about playing card size. They contained images of a woman who bore some resemblance to Rosie, the bvarmaid in Clearwater's tavern, the Girl and Garter.

Rosie generally wore more clothes, though.

Derron nodded and said, "Now, your daughter's rooms. I think we can wait to search her until you are present with her. We can ask Septa to conduct it, if you prefer."

Derron nodded and said, "Now, your daughter's rooms. I think we can wait to search her until you are present with her. We can ask Septa to conduct it, if you prefer."

"That would be best," agreed Ser Tomas stiffly.

The search of Aerin's room took rather longer (and not just due to the embarrassment of the two soldiers at looking through a young woman's possessions under the gimlet gaze of her father), but yielded no more results.

Page last modified on April 06, 2006, at 06:09 PM