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Act 2: The duchy of Drevnedub

   
"Good." the guard stops pointing his spear at Ninovete and puts it on his shoulder.
"If it's really is a misunderstanding, you have nothing to fear: the justice of the duke is well known." he says, but when you think about it, the duke is more known for his stubbornness, his refusal to attend the council of nobles and his territorial squabbles with the duchies of Gradoslavl and Ledoslavl.
It is also rumored that he holds to many heathen practices in stead of following the church of Svarogs teachings
"Your companions can follow as well. The trials are always held in public, and this wagon is part of what you are wanted for anyway." he says in a tone that indicates he will aid you, but only as long as he isn't contradicted

Ninovette nods and responds, "Ahh....the wagon. Then that explains it. We should have no problems getting to the bottom of this mystery with the Duke. Lead on my good man," the bard says as he falls in line with the contingent of guards following them as instructed. As they walk, the musician attempts to mentally recall everything he can about the Duke and family, the laws and customs of this duchy, the recent history between the Duke and his rivals, and the heathen practices of the church of Svarogs and its teachings.


One of the guards star leading the wagon towards the gate, falling in in front of the mounted men, now numbering maybe 30 light outriders in chainmail and leather who seem to plan to enter behind you


Passing the gate you are taken up towards the castle and led through an open gate where four men are standing guard. One of them goes to take the outer gate guards post, and another runs to inform about you inside.
Passing stables, the smith, the baker shop and a newly built extra barracks you reach a large open space in front of the central keep.

On the staircase of the keep, on a simple wooden chair covered with a sheep pelt sits a heavy set old man. He's clad as a farmer, with a simple yellow tunic, wide green pants and the typical shoes made of bark strips used by the peasants of Drevnedub and Ledoslavl in summertime. Still, his commanding bearing, the bear skin cloak and the legendary longsword "The Claw", which you recognize by it's black scabbard with copper runes leaves little doubt about this being the Old Bear, the duke of Drevnedub, Mstislav, son of Dartomir.

His chair stands on the 2nd step of the staircase. Below it, on the first step stands 5 chairs on each side. All of simple wooden construction and covered with a sheep pelt. On the right side, four are occupied by men carrying swords, clad in either chain mail or well made clothing. You assume this is the nobles in the dukes service that are to judge you. The chair closest to the duke is empty.

On the left side of the duke sit 5 men in simple red robes. They are all old, almost ancient, and wear the same simple footgear as the duke. They have long wooden staffs, and around their necks each has a simple yarn thread rope on which hangs a copper sun, the symbol of Svarog.

Around the staircase commoners and soldiers stand in a half-circle turned towards the duke. They are mostly clean clothed, and the commoners are much better fed than most peasants in the rest of the realm. In the middle stands a man in rich merchant clothing and a man in the clothing of a commoner, and the man in rich clothing is accusing the commoner of something, but you have arrived to late to know what exactly

Myron, as the exchange seems to be directed at the doctor, follows the exchange with one eyebrow raised, but nonetheless does not hesitate to follow along to the duke's company. He stands beside his companion, in spite of not having been invited; after all, it was, in essence, a worthwhile thing to have such a swift audience with the duke and his nobles... and the men in their robes, towards whom Myron tilts his head very slightly after giving the doctor a subtle nudge. If the duke was in on such a thing, having such advisors at hand would seem... ill-advised.

Ninovette stands quietly allowing the proceedings to unfold. He knows enough about any court's equitte to stay silent until called upon, which would be soon enough.

Slipping from his horse, Kain leads it and follows along.

He watches the unfolding scene impassively and notes the nudge from Myron to Ninovette.

One of the men in red robe rises when the merchant clad man finally is silent. He starts slowly to chant in a hushed voice, and you soon realize that he is reciting the laws concerning thievery. When he finishes, he turns to the duke and says in a quiet, sickly voice:
"This is the law we were handed down, as it is applicable to this case. By the law, Kosoj the Halting is guilty if there are witnesses to the crime, for nothing of the property that was said to be stolen has been found in his possession."
The duke nods impatiently, seemingly having long ago decided in this case and merely going through the formalities.
Then the old man sits down and the nobles on the right hand side look at each other, seemingly a bit uncomfortable. Finally one rises:
"As I see it, sire, both sides have brought witnesses for their cause. It is thus for us to decide who of the witnesses are more trustworthy, but we have no means to be certain in this case!" he speaks his excuse with great uncertainty in his voice.
The old duke frowns, but remains silent.
Then a man hurries to the empty chair from the stables. You recognize him as leader for the mounted men that entered after you. He wears a chainmail reinfoced with plate and two swords, one on each shoulder. He is tall and black haired, with deep blue eyes and a determined expression on his face.
He tries to take the sear unnoticed, but is stopped by the deep menacing voice of the duke:
"What do you think you're doing?" he snarls
"Forgive me father, but I have just arrived from patrol..." he starts on his excuse with an even but somewhat annoyed voice
"Forgive you? You forget who you are, and who I am to you! It's not of me you should ask forgiveness: they are the one you serve, and who have had to wait on you." the duke says in an angry voice, but the anger is mostly for show, hiding a caring tutor underneath.
The young man turns to the people, bows a deep bow and says:
"Forgive me for being late to the court. It was not meant in disrespect."
"Good, now sit down and tell the people how you will judge between a claim based only on witnesses that are all respected, trustworthy members of the community! While you think, let's hear the next case." the old bear finally takes the reigns in the court.
Ninovete is lead forward by the guard that arrested him, who says: "This man has admitted to being Ninovete Vladislov, a man wanted by the duchy of Drevnedub for various crimes."

"Very well. We will take time for him as soon as this hearing is over." the duke says a bit interested, then turns to Krestnik, who promptly replies:
"A spell making anyone speak only truth would settle the current case. Let us have the Elders cast it and settle this!" he proposes
"By the laws of the duchy, only by their free will can a witness be submitted to having such spells cast on him or her." the leader of the old men objects.
"Indeed. So, if the accusing side will not submit witnesses to testify under power of such a spell, the case is dismissed." the duke sums up.
The leader of the nobles rises from his chair and addresses the people
"We will postpone this hearing until such a time when witnesses have volunteered to have the spells cast on them."
The duke then turns to Ninovete and says in a quiet, but cruel and menacing voice:
"Now, little snake: my men finally got you? I have sent men for you all over the realm, and then you turn up yourself at my gate? Tired of living? I will be delighted to kill you slowly and painfully!" he then rises from his chair and speaks out loud:
"It is not our way that I myself should speak the accusation, but in this case there are no one else to do it, and I hope you will excuse this deviance from our customs" he bows to the elders, then steps down on the ground from the staircase.
"We know the case and will accept this divergence." One of the other elders says.
The duke points at Ninovete:
"Ninovete Vladislov, also known as Cozel Petrano, also known as Vlad Temnij and other names. There is no accuser to hold you to account for your crimes but Svarog himself, his angels and the venerable Elders. But in their name, by the power and trust vested in my by the people of Drevnedub I hereby declare myself nominal kin of the kinless who died by your hand and call you to account for your crimes! As the great Father Bear protected all of the old forest, so is it my duty to protect all of the people of Drevnedub." he pauses of effect, then continues:
"You stand accused of having sold poison in the guise of healing remedies. This poison you have used to kill the parents of a little girl. Claiming to be a doctor, you entered her parents house on midsummer night and administered a strong dose of poison in stead of healing remedies so they died!
With her parents dying, you then did unspeakable things to her, breaking both her body and soul!

The hands of Krestnik grips for the dagger in his belt, while several of the people standing around you start yelling:
"Death! Death to him!" but the duke continues unaffected
With the girl alone in this world, with no other kin but the parents you killed you held her prisoner and raped her several times over the course of 8 days, before a Beggar Knight started to ask around. Then you fled as the coward you are!
The people of Drevnedub has no mercy for a child molester! More so when taking into account the way you saw to being alone with your victim!"

The duke turns to the elders who's leader says coldly:
"The punishment for this crime is to be killed by the victim herself or by one of her relatives. Since she herself is unable to do this and has no relatives, the right and duty to take the place of the kin is rightfully duke Mstislavs, or anyone he would nominate as his proxy."
The leader of the nobles then rises:
"With his highness duke Mstislav being a part in this trial, the duty to lead it falls on me. Justice will be upheld and the accused will be judged fairly by the 5 nobles of the duchy on account of proof, not on the account of the reputation of the accuser and accused." he turns to Ninovete
"Before we proceed to hear the testimonies of witnesses, you are free to speak your initial defense."

Kain raises an eyebrow at the charge. Didn't sound like the Ninovette he knew.

The short warrior looks at the doctor and mutters "Did you do this? And where is the girl who laid the charges?"




 

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