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Recess - The Defendants

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As the trial gradually broke up, Eryk hesitated, looking after his father. Then he moved towards where the prisoners were standing. He hesitated for a moment, as though he would speak to Evan ... but then he began to move past him towards Donnell.

Donnell had the pale look of a man confronting a nightmare, which was, in a sense, true. He looked up from his hands, where he had picked at his nails till they bled, and looked warily at the approaching Bolton.

Kenrith moved closer, but was clearly still too far away to hear Donnell's whispers.

Eryk spoke softly. "I can offer you a way out," he said.

Donnell glanced around, like a man hunted, and nodded. "I'm listening," he half-whispered, picking at his nails again.

"You were just following orders, weren't you?" said Eryk, softly. "Doing as you were told. You had nothing against the man ... you didn't even realise he was going to be killed, did you?"

"Well, I - " Donnell began, but Evan turned sharply and fixed him with a hard stare. His tone of voice, though, was deliberate and slow.

"You may want to hear what I have to say before accepting any offers." He shrugged. "I won't decide for you, not when you have so much at stake here. But I still have a defence to present."

Donnell seemed trapped in an agonising moment of indecision as he flicked his gaze quickly between the two of them, but Evan ignored him and turned towards Eryk Bolton. "And you," he said pointedly, "are wasting time."

"Wasting my time?" Eryk smirked. "We're just having a chat. Just trying to help your man out here, when you won't."

"That's not what I mean." Evan shook his head. "I mean that in about ten minutes, maybe less, Ser Godfrey will restart the trial. That means you have about ten minutes to convince him that this is all a terrible mistake, and that you won't really be pressing charges against myself or my man here at all. Otherwise, I'll be speaking in my own defence, and I have a lot to say."

Eryk gave him a withering look. "Do you really think anyone here will believe your pathetic lies?"

Evan lifted his head and stared him full in the eyes, and his smile was a terrible one. "The Hardys are gullible," he said calmly. "They will believe anything - anything - as long as it's what they want to hear. Whether there is proof or not. You know it, I know it. As long as it's what they want to hear, they will search doggedly for proof, until they find it, convince themselves that they have found it, or manufacture it. And so you see," he leant forward meaningfully, "you're wasting time."

Eryk's smile flickered for a moment, but then he shook his head slowly. "I don't think so. You see, whatever pretty tale you tell, it has no bearing on what you did to Grunther. And your man here knows it. You might wrap everyone up on knots so badly that you keep your own neck from the blade. But they'll want someone to suffer for Grunther's death ... and if they can't kill you because they're chasing after whatever hobgoblin you set in their path, then they'll look to the man that stood behind you. And you know it, don't you, Donnell?"

He leaned back slightly, smiling again. "All you have to do, Donnell, is tell the truth."

Donnell looked terribly confused, and irritated about it to boot. "And what happens if I do?"

"You walk free," said Eryk. "All the way to the Wall - which was your destination anyway, I understand."

Donnell's eyes shifted from left to right. "Nope," he muttered. "No place for a warm-blooded man. I'll sing, I'll tell it all. But I want to go south - this is no business of mine."

Eryk nodded. "That can be arranged too," he said.

Evan did not seem concerned, however, and pressed on. "Actually, I doubt I will even manage to keep my own neck from the blade, when it comes down to it. But the result of this trial makes no difference to what happens to you and your father, once it's all said and done. Once I defend myself, my words do not get unsaid after I am gone. And if you don't think that makes any difference to you, you're far more stupid than I think you are."

Eryk laughed, a little jerkily. "So I'm to buy your silence, am I? But there's a way you can do that for yourself - if you're really as good as you appear, sellsword."

Kenrith turned from where he stood after moving to be out of Rhys' way as he helped tend Edlyn. He looked from Evan, to Eryk, and finally to Donnell. "Remember... prisoners of Holdfast are under its protection until such time as judgement is passed..." as if to caution Eryk. Evan, though, had never seen Kenrith's eyes this intense. Clearly, the heir of Holdfast had some hidden meaning... or was up to something of his own.

Having said his peace, he strode down the side isle on his way to the privy.

"An ally," said Eryk, watching him go. "How very fortunate for you. The crippled knoight to rush to defend you. How honoured you must feel."

Evan shrugged. "No ally of mine. He would much rather I hang, and quietly. And you," he added, facing Eryk Bolton again, "clearly are as stupid as I thought you were, and more. You're not listening. I am offering to trade you my silence for his life," he nodded his head towards Donnell, "and mine. For myself, I no longer need anything from you. I am more than prepared to walk or swing on my own terms, and the Others take the outcome. Once you make sure he has his freedom, then, I don't have any reason to offer you anything at all. I don't need you, you simpering fool. You need me. You need me because if you think that the tale I spin is to save my own hide, you are very sadly mistaken. I could be Baelor the Blessed himself and it wouldn't make a lick of difference. This trial is a showpiece, nothing more, and everybody seems to know it except you and the slackjawed potboy standing there in the back."

Evan's words were crisp now, still very quiet, but the forcefulness was unmistakable from the way he bit off the end of every word. "It doesn't matter what tale I tell, what defence I put on, or what the truth is. The outcome of this trial was decided long before it started, and the only reason we're all standing here is so the Hardys can put on a big show of their lordliness in front of their smallfolk, and so the Manderly fop can preen and wink a bit for his audience. So let me explain, just this once, why it is you need me, and listen closely, for I will not repeat myself. You need me because you now have a choice. You can talk to Ser Godfrey, prevent this trial from continuing, and Donnell and I walk away quietly and never trouble you again. Or you can do nothing, wait for me to be condemned, and whatever happens to me, you will be left to deal with the aftermath of what I have to say. And if you think that the tale I spin can be quietly swept under the rug, you have no idea how much these Hardys hate you. So now, as I said, you have a choice. You have about five minutes to decide whether you want to have any chance of leaving Holdfast peacefully and triumphantly, or whether you want me dead, and no chance at all. I suggest you think about it very hard."

"And you should think hard about this too," said Eryk, taking Evan's insults in his stride. "I'm here, with you ... but where do you think our father is? He's with Ser Godfrey ... and if I know him, he's arguing fairly forcefully that this trial ends here and now, before you're given the opportunity to say a word. Do you know of any hold he has over Ser Godfrey? I don't ... but I never make the mistake of under-estimating him. There's one way ... one way we can both be safe - yes, and your man here too - although he has more choices. Now ... will you listen to it?"

Evan's dark eyes glittered a little. "Talk fast," he said simply.

"I'm not your enemy," said Eryk. "You know what I've done - and why I've done it. Not so different to what you did yourself, really. We both have our reasons for being ... elsewhere. And you know too who the enemy really is. Not these stiff-necked Hardies with their overblown honour. And if your enemy was removed ... " He paused, looking at Evan.

"Demand he prove his charges against you ... the old way."

Evan gave him a withering look. "You aren't telling me anything new. Nor are you telling me anything I haven't already had hours to think over. If that's really all you've got to say..."

"Excuse me," said a fresh voice - a young female.

It was Edlyn, held securely in the arms of Rhys, the young Maester.

"Might I speak to the prisoner?" she asked, her gaze evenly divided between Eryk and Evan, although her arms remained firmly clasped around Rhys' neck.

"We were just finished," Evan said with an air of finality, and inclined his head towards the newcomers. He turned his shoulder towards Eryk Bolton dismissively.

Donnell, however, grabbed Eryk's arm, then released it suddenly, as if suddenly finding some long-absent manners. "I'll do it," he whispered urgently. "I'll say what you want."

Eryk glanced at Evan and then gave a brief nod. "You've won your freedom."

"Can we have a word?" asked Edlyn. Her colour was a little raised, and the knuckles of the hand that was clutching at Rhys's robe showed white.

"You can put me down now," she added to Rhys. "Thank you, Maester." But she continued to hold onto his robe, as though for support.

Evan shrugged, and looked around at the line of guards, who were wearing expressions ranging from the stoic to the bored. One was clearly fighting the urge to fall asleep on his feet, while another had apparently had a little too much ale with breakfast and was casting around a little nervously for the nearest privy. "Say on," Evan sighed noncommittally. "I'm not going anywhere."

Edlyn drew a deep breath. "I'm ready to tell them it was all my fault," she said. "That you killed the man - to defend me."

Rhys glanced sharply at Edlyn, but said nothing. His eyes flicked to Evan.

"That's ridiculous," Evan said emphatically, but one corner of his lips turned in a half-smile, and he quirked an eyebrow at the notion. "Not only would it be totally untrue, but you have no need to involve yourself in this. Besides, I haven't spoken in my own defence yet - I expect to be found innocent, if there's any justice to be had in this town at all."

"Well," said Edlyn, "I'm sure Ser Godfrey has the best of intentions but so much can go wrong, you know. And I thought, when Ser Corryn was asking his questions, that I should stand up and tell the whole story." She fixed him with a firm eye. "You know, how that horrid man was molesting me. I even told my uncle about that, so we have an independent witness!"

Rhys became aware that as Edlyn was speaking, one of the guards was hovering at his shoulder, waiting to speak with him.

Rhys did a classic double-take, the guard temporarily forgotten.

"What?! What do you mean, molesting?" he asked Edlyn, his voice carrying. "Were you...hurt?"

"No," said Edlyn. "No ... I managed to get away from him, although he was horrible - I think he had been drinking." Then she turned to Evan. "Although ... we don't need to say that so explicitly, do we? That I got away."

Rhys rolled his eyes.

Evan sighed, and rubbed at his eyes - it had been a long night, and he was starting to wish he'd at least requested a bath before this. "Lady Edlyn," he began patiently, "Ser Godfrey's intentions are to see me executed before nightfall and to see an end to this whole affair. And while your offer is received in the spirit in which it was intended, and I thank you, it's really not necessary. Firstly, it would just make you a needless target of the Bolton's ire and cross-examination.

"I could cry," offered Edlyn, "Even Mother will allow that I do cry awfully well."

"While I'm sure you're more than brave enough to handle that, there's no need for it, particularly not when your story about my intentions is untrue, and not going to hold up to the slightest examination. Secondly, and most importantly, it would make it seem like I was actually involved in this affair somehow, even if for a good reason. When, in actuality, I have nothing to do with any of this." He shrugged. "If you want to tell your story and give the Hardys another reason to incriminate me, go ahead. I won't stop you. But not on my account, please."

Evan leaned forward then and continued, a slight frown creasing his features. "Can I give you a private word of advice?" He motioned that she should lean in and allow him to whisper in her ear - apparently his advice was for her alone.

Edlyn nodded and leaned closer towards him.

The guard at Rhys's shoulder coughed.

Rhys made an exasperated noise in his throat, looking from the guard, to Edlyn, then back to the guard. "All right, what is it?" he asked the guard.

"It's your uncle, Sir," said the guard. "Lord Hardy's not too good - he may be a few minutes getting back. He wants you to alert people ... "

At this moment, Edlyn suddenly pulled away from Evan, who had been talking to her.

"No!" she said, and there was a note of desperation in her voice. "You shouldn't say ... such things! It's not true, it's not true!"

She took two hasty steps away, and then gave a cry of pain as her weight rested on her injured ankle.

Rhys turned at Edlyn's cry and caught her up into his arms again. He scanned the hall quickly, looking for Ser Godfrey of Lady Celia, or any Hardy to inform about Lord Hardy's condition, but none were present, save Edlyn.

At this point, Rhys could see Kenrith walking back into the room.

"Talk time is over," he said firmly to her. He turned back to the guard. "Find Ser Godfrey and Lady Celia and tell them what you've told me. I will stay here in case they return before you've found them."

Rhys started back toward the bench where Edlyn had been sitting previously.

Continued in Recess - Rhys and Edlyn

"Well," said Donnell, watching them go, "there's another friend you've made amongst the Hardies."

Evan shrugged; he seemed unconcerned. "You're probably hoping that once you tell your story, the Boltons might take you on as one of their men? Steady work, not too strenuous?"

Donnell shuffled in the dock, sneaking a few glances at the impassive guards around them. "Something like that," he said offhandedly. "At least they had an offer to make, unlike everyone else here. And at least they had an idea to get me out of this, unlike you."

"You do realise that the Boltons have no intention of letting you live either, right? That once you're released into their care, it'll be a quick knife for you?"

Donnell looked alternately angry and confused. "You shut up. Some chance is better than no chance at all. You, they'll definitely hang, and the Others take you once they're done. At least with me, I might have a chance once they've taken their vengeance on you. The Bolton boy said he'd give me my freedom."

Evan sighed. "All nobles lie, Donnell. I thought you'd know this by now."

"Yes," said Donnell. "And I've done so much better by listening to you instead, haven't I?"

"Just as you like," Evan said with a shrug, in much the same tone as he might have while casually discussing the weather, or the local turnip crop. People were beginning to slowly file back into the Great Hall now, and several of the nobles and guards were taking their places again. "Looks like we're restarting," Evan remarked to no one in particular.

People were definitely moving towards resuming the trial. Edlyn Martin was sitting back on her bench; Ser Kenrith was in his seat (I imagine), and Ser Herys swept in to take his place too, followed soon after by Lady Celia Hardy, who paused in the doorway, looking around.

Page last modified on June 06, 2006, at 09:45 PM