The Blue Star
Chapter 26: The Court of Special Cases
Punctual to the hour, as Rodvard and Lalette sat at breakfast with the woman who cared for the kitchen and a Green Islands buyer of northern wools, there arrived a messenger bearing the authority signed by Mathurin to consult all documents and registers in the Office of Pedigree, even those hitherto held under ecclesiastical seal. For Lalette also, a note; the Arch-Episcopal had declared himself in seclusion for prayer, and she would be notified further. Between them that morning there was a truce to contention; they walked for a while in the gardens among dead rustling leaves, and she kissed him sweetly when he left.
On the way to the Office of Pedigree, Rodvard thought of Asper Poltén and the rest when he walked in with an authority to examine the sealed registers, but this small triumph was denied him. Poltén was nowhere to be seen, and in the distributing office was only an old, dry, dusty man Rodvard remembered as having seen once or twice with some document close to his nose. He held Rodvard’s paper in the same manner, sniffed as though it had an unpleasant odor, and shufflingly led the way to the sealed strong-room, which he unlocked with a creaking key. There seemed fewer people than usual in the halls.
The sealed files themselves showed the search likely to be a long one; mostly old, written in crabbed hands, and largely concerned with the illegitimacies of persons now forgotten, or convictions of witchery in cases that now had no meaning. Of the specific line of Tuolén there was no trace that morning, and the older records of families having Kjermanash blood were so badly kept as to indicate a long search.
At noon, Rodvard went to a tavern and lingered over his mug to savor the gossip of the town, but that was something of a failure, too, for there was none of the high excitement over the doings of the great assembly he had expected. The only group he overheard specifically were three or four merchants at a table, rather gloomily discussing the rise in the price of wool caused by the troubles in the west, and the fall in the price of southern wine, which kept coming in from oversea and could not be dispatched to the disturbed seignories. Nobody said a word about the Episcopals; the only time the court was mentioned, there was a little growling over the name of Florestan.
In the afternoon, Rodvard began by setting aside the registers that had to do with the three northernmost seignories, Bregatz, Vivensteg and Oltrug; but the task was so wearisome and his mind so occupied with other topics that he put them away early. It seemed to him, as he summoned the caretaker to lock the room, that there was nothing in the world as dear or desirable as Lalette, if he could only somehow reach an agreement with her, all troubles would vanish away. As he walked back toward the Ulutz palace, he thought that if they could only sit down in the clear winter air after last night’s storm all coils would be unwoven.
But she was not in the room when he arrived, and when he found her, it was on a bench among the garden alleys, wrapped in a cloak and laughing as she talked to Demadé Slair. The swordsman leaped up at his coming. “Hail dauntless dompter of the written page!” he said, in a tone which was that of banter between friends, but with something in it that made Rodvard look sharply at the eyes. (Clear as speech, the thought came through; “And this long-legged booby who has never handled a weapon in his life will lie with her tonight while I’m alone.”)
Rodvard said, a little unevenly; “I have made a beginning. Are there any tidings?”
“Not in the assembly,” said Slair. “Much discussion of how to raise troops for the people’s army, and a report by General Stegaller. The decree for your court.”
“My court?” said Rodvard (thinking of the Queen).
“That of judgment in special cases.” (The eyes had gone blank.) “You’ll be writer to it, as Mathurin to the assembly. If there’s anyone you have a grudge against, name him for trial.”
He laughed; so did Lalette (and as Rodvard caught her eye, he saw in it a color of regret that he could not be as gay as the swordsman, and a wave of dislike for the man who had rescued him from Charalkis prison contracted his veins). “I think I saw in the library a book by Momoroso that I have never read,” he said. “I will see you before table, Lalette.”
“The session will recess,” said the kronzlar Escholl. He rose and swept the courtroom with his curious lacklustre eye, that never seemed to be settled on anything. “I will go over the evidence with you, Bergelin.”
The legist on his right, the Zigraner, frowned; he on the left leaned his chin on his hand and his elbow on the table. The accused, a man with a coronet badge, iron-grey hair and heavy dewlaps, looked disconcerted. Rodvard gathered his papers and followed the president of the court to the little room in rear.
When they were there; “What have you found?” asked the legist.
“I think he tells the truth,” said Rodvard, “when he says he has given no help to the Queen’s party or Pavinius. When you asked him that, however, there was something like fear—perhaps for his brother. It was not clear.”