Witness(es) for the Prosecution

Betsy Pelles’s hands were trembling when she walked into the silent courtroom. Christopher was perhaps one of the only ones close enough to catch sight of this — surely the jury was too far away to take note of it, and at the end of the day, in this strange country, it was only what the jury saw that really mattered.

What the jury would see was that Betsy Pelles was dressed neatly and presentably, in clothes so starched it was a miracle she could move in them and an apron so white she must have painted it so. They would see her walk to the witness’s chair with her head held high, but not too high, and they would hear her give her oath with a voice that was clear even if it wavered a little with nerves.

And if Betsy was truly lucky — and Lady Morgause truly unlucky — somebody in that jury would see the murderous look the lady shot her former housekeeper.

They probably all saw Betsy gulp when she was hit by it, though. That would probably be bad. In Christopher’s experience, a little bit of nervousness from witnesses didn’t tend to phase juries — most Sims were capable of that much basic empathy. Too much nervousness, though, and the jury convinced itself that you were lying.

But Betsy pursed her lips together and folded her hands primly in her lap until Sir William came up to ask her his questions. “Mistress Pelles,” he started, “could you explain to the jury your connection to the defendant — Lady Morgause?”

“I was her housekeeper, m’lord.”

“For how long?”

“Thirteen years, sir.”

“And how did you get that job?”

“I — well, sir, one day me Martin — me husband — came home, an’ told me that Lord Lot an’ Lady Morgause needed a new housekeeper, seein’ as theirs … er, left, an’ he told to me that Lady Morgause wanted me ter come up ter the castle an’ see if I suited fer the job. So the next day I did, an’ Lady Morgause axed me some questions, an’ she said I suited fine an’ so I started the next day.”

“I see. And in your thirteen years of working there, did you and your mistress ever have a quarrel?”

“Oh, no, sir! I’d’a been out o’ a job if I spoke beyond me place!”

“How would you rate Lady Morgause as a mistress? Was she difficult, easygoing, particular …?”

“She were particular, sir, I shan’t lie. But … it were never unjustified. She wanted her home ter look good an’ be run well, an’ ye can’t blame her fer that. She … I don’t like ter air family secrets, sir, but she weren’t very patient. Wanted things done an’ she wanted ’em done well the first time. But ye can’t blame her fer that, I don’t think. Once I learned what she wanted, everythin’ was … well enough, I suppose. All things considered.”

“All things considered? What do you mean by that?”

“She … well, sir, I knew she was a witch. An’ — an’ I knew she weren’t a nice witch, if ye understand what I’m sayin’? But she never used no magic on me, I’ll say that.”

“I see. So would you say that you got along well with your mistress?”

“Yes, sir, well enough. Until …”

“Until?”

“Until, well, sir, I found Thorn.”

“Ah. That day. Could you please tell the jury, in your own words, how it was that you came to find Thorn?”

Betsy took a deep breath, and Christopher couldn’t blame her. This, after all, was it, the reason why she was here. After Sir William had established who she was and her relationship with Lady Morgause, there really was nothing else to do but tell her story, with questions from Sir William to guide her along the way.

Christopher paid little attention to her words. He knew what she was going to say, being familiar enough with the charges against Lady Morgause. What he watched was how she said it, for that, more than what she said, was what would sell the jury.

She was … good, Christopher thought. Any fool could see that what she had seen that day had upset her, but she tried to keep herself calm and under control. That, Christopher thought, was … good. A liar, or more importantly, a witness most jurymen might peg as a liar, wouldn’t hold it in. They’d let out all the stops, trying to win the jury with a passionate performance if the good old-fashioned truth was somehow deficient. Yes, Betsy’s dignity would only help her.

And the few tears that she couldn’t help but let fall when she spoke of the condition in which she had found the boy … well, they would help her, too. A woman that compassionate couldn’t be a liar, and somebody that compassionate wouldn’t be putting their old employer on trial for her life just for spite or vengeance or annoyance.

As for Sir William, he had to keep asking questions, but they were mostly phrased to prod her along and let her talk. Every now and then he would interject with a question meant to clarify or give more detail, but those were fairly rare. He didn’t even ask anything that made Sir Mordred leap to his feet with an objection, which was obviously making the other knight stew.

He did skate very near the line, though, when he asked after Betsy described Thorn’s sudden awakening, “Just like that? And all you did was rub his legs and arms?”

“Aye, sir. I thought — I thought an’ think, sir, that it was a miracle.”

He didn’t comment on it. Maybe he could sense Sir Mordred’s muscles bunched up, awaiting the moment to jump up with an objection, an objection he might have won. The comment did its work, anyway. Christopher glanced over to the jury box, and saw both Lady Claire and Master Chevaux sit up when the word “miracle” came out.

It was much easier to make a charge of attempted murder stick when at least one witness was convinced that only the good Lord Wright’s intervention kept the intended victim alive.

After Betsy’s story was told, Sir William stepped back. “No further questions, your honor.” He nodded to Sir Mordred. “Your witness, sir.”

Sir Mordred only smiled. The jury couldn’t see it. But Betsy did, and she paled even as she folded her hands once again primly in her lap.

Sir Mordred stood over her for a moment, one hand on his hip, the other beneath his chin. “You know,” he began, almost conversationally, “I could force you to tell me about the act of base treachery that led to your being fired. I think it would do the jury good to hear it. I daresay their opinion of your testimony would be quite swayed if they –”

“Objection!” Sir William interjected. “The question is argumentative. Your honor, he’s not asking for her to give information, he’s only trying to blacken her name.”

“If I had been permitted to finish,” Sir Mordred replied, rolling his eyes, “it would have been quite clear that I was not going to ask that question. However, I withdraw it in any case. You may strike it from the record as you please.”

“The jury will disregard …” Lord Pellinore began, but it was all Christopher could do to keep from snorting. As if that ever worked. Those on the jury who didn’t know what the “treachery” was would be both dying to find out and prejudiced against Betsy, and the one man who did would probably follow the rules to the letter and not tell the rest of the jury what it was that had happened. Sir William would have done better to let Sir Mordred ask his question and hope that Betsy managed to clear her own name.

“Instead,” Sir Mordred said, turning back to Betsy, “I would like you to tell the jury what you think happened to your brother-in-law Accolon to put him in his present, zombified state.”

“Objection! Relevance?”

“Sir Mordred?” asked Lord Pellinore.

“Your honor, this speaks directly to the witness’s credibility. And before my honored colleague says anything about speculation, let me put forth that what I want is Betsy’s honest opinion of her mistress, and if that opinion is founded on speculation, then so be it.”

Lord Pellinore sighed. “Overruled.”

“Thank you, your honor. Now, Betsy, what do you think your mistress did to Accolon?”

“Well, m’lord, I — we –” She faltered and flushed. “Me husband, Martin, an’ I always thought … we thought, after Accolon got into an — improper relationship with Lady Morgan, that yer mother … killed him an’ made him into what he is now.” She hung her head as if she were ashamed to say this.

“Indeed! And how did that make you feel about your mistress?”

“Sir?”

“I am asking for you to give your honest opinion of your mistress as a fellow Sim, not merely as an employer.”

Betsy flushed and sent a beseeching look at Sir William. But when she looked back, there was Sir Mordred, looming over her and demanding an answer with his presence if not his looks. “I were afraid, m’lord.”

“Afraid? What about angry?”

“Angry? No, sir.”

“Whyever not?”

“Well — well, Accolon weren’t me brother — an’ there are some folk who’d say that Lady Morgause did right — an’ — an’, m’lord, yer lady mother was me lady, me an’ Martin’s. We — we couldn’t be angry. What if she — found out? She’d be angry, then, an’ …” Betsy gulped, and her gulp probably did more to restore her credibility than any chance to explain her “treachery” would have. She’d been afraid of Lady Morgause. She was probably afraid still. There would be no swaying her from that.

Sir Mordred seemed to sense as much, but he pressed on anyway. “Would you deny, though, that you had a reason to wish your mistress harm? As the — in your opinion — murderess of your brother-in-law?”

“I …”

“Answer the question, Betsy.”

She stared at her lap. “No, m’lord. I wouldn’t deny that I had a reason. But that don’t mean–”

“Thank you. No further questions.” He took his seat, and Lord Pellinore dismissed Betsy.

The next witness was Lady Dindrane.

After she was sworn in and had seated herself comfortably, smoothing her gown over her just-protruding belly, Sir William approached her. “Lady Dindrane, could you please state your relationship to the accused for the record?”

“I am her daughter-in-law. Sir Mordred’s wife.”

“I see. Lady Dindrane, how would you describe your relationship with your mother-in-law?”

“… Variable,” Lady Dindrane replied after a moment’s thought. “When Sir Mordred and I were first married, it was … neutral. Devoid of both hostilities and affection. As time went on, however, it became more and more hostile.”

“Why is this?”

“Many reasons. Perhaps the simplest is that she tried to blackmail me after discovering my Laganaphyllis Simnovorii, a plant commonly known as the cowplant.”

Christopher could see why. Good Lord, what a mouthful.

“Would you explain, for the benefit of the jury, just what a cowplant is?”

“Certainly.” And so Lady Dindrane explained. It was all similar to the legends Christopher had heard as a child, although knowing that it was real — and more importantly, that there was one in Albion if Sir Mordred hadn’t destroyed it — well, that was probably fuel for nightmares, that one.

When she had finished, Sir William asked, “Given that this is a very dangerous plant, I must ask, why did you decide to plant one in the back garden?”

“To study it,” Lady Dindrane replied. “We know very little about the true habits of the Laganaphyllis Simnovorii. It is certainly a unique and intriguing life form, and if properly cultivated, who knows to what good uses it may be put? For instance, the plant could be cultivated outside vital fortifications to act as a sort of … guard-plant. Furthermore, I must add that I was not at all certain I would succeed in my endeavor. I thought failure far more likely than success.”

“I see. You mentioned earlier that Lady Morgause — and I use your words here — ‘blackmailed’ you the discovery of the cowplant. Could you please explain to the jury what happened?”

“I shall.” Her explanation was short: Lady Morgause found the plant (how, Lady Dindrane admitted, she did not know), and instead of running to her son or demanding that it be destroyed, she threatened to reveal her discovery to her son if Lady Dindrane did not meet certain demands. “I met them, because I thought her demands were slight. She only wanted a few cuttings of the plant. She said that she wanted to make it useful to witches and wizards, which it is not at present.”

“Was it easy forΒ  you to give up the cuttings?”

“No. I was nervous and afraid. I did not trust Lady Morgause. But I realized — or thought I realized — soon that it was very unlikely that Lady Morgause would be able to cause any harm with the plant. I thought it very unlikely that she would be able to create a variant of the plant immune to the harmful effects of magic. And since one unlikely event — my own successful cultivation of the plant — had occurred, I thought it doubly unlikely that another unlikely event would follow so close on its heels.” She frowned. “I should have remembered that the laws of probability do not work that way.”

Sir William nodded. “Do you think that Lady Morgause caused harm with the plant?”

“Yes. I believe she used her cuttings to try to kill Thorn Michaelson in order to create Elixir of Life.”

“Why do you believe that?”

“The little boy’s wounds. When Bet–Mistress Pelles led me to him …” Lady Dindrane paused, a delicate hand in front of her mouth, a suspicious shine in her eyes. Unfortunately, she turned away from the jury while she collected herself. “I saw burns on his skin similar to those that would be caused by a strong . They match exactly the burns described by Martin of Ruben when he came into contact with the digestive juices of the Laganaphyllis Simnovorii. Furthermore, I found a leaf of the plant in the folds of Thorn’s clothing.”

“Besides the wounds, how would you describe Thorn’s appearance when you were brought to see him?”

“Comatose. Although …” Lady Dindrane made a face, as if the admission cost her something, before she added, “I am not a doctor. I have no medical training, so I could be wrong.”

“Could you describe what you mean by ‘comatose’?”

“He was unconscious,” Lady Dindrane replied, the face quite gone. “An untutored eye might have thought he was dead. Betsy did. If she had not found him when she did … well, if he hadn’t gotten some medical attention, I doubt he would have survived.”

Another point for the attempted murder charge. Christopher nodded to himself. Sir William was doing well so far, he thought.

Sir William asked a question or two about how Thorn had recovered so quickly, and made sure to get Lady Dindrane’s testimony as to how she and Betsy had found Thorn, but his point being made, he soon wrapped it up. He looked up and nodded to Sir Mordred. “Your witness.”

Sir Mordred rose and sauntered to where his wife sat. Lady Dindrane sat up straighter, but Christopher had to hiss — though she laid her hands protectively over her belly, Sir William’s books blocked the jury from seeing that unconscious gesture. It would have been pure gold for him if the jury had seen that.

Or perhaps not. A woman who was so afraid of her husband that she feared for her unborn child in an open courtroom, with other Sims nearby who would leap to her assistance in an instant, might make up any lie to get out of that marriage.

Sir Mordred seemed to be thinking along those lines, too, for he put his hands on his hips, surveyed his wife, and asked, “Tell me, Dindrane, and tell the jury — just how unhappy are you in this marriage?”

Sir William was half out of his seat to raise an objection, but Lady Dindrane never gave him a chance to open his mouth. “I never expected to be happy,” she replied. “I expected to do my duty, as any young woman of our station expects.”

She carefully didn’t look at the Princess or Crown Princess. But Christopher could not have been the only man in the courtroom to notice how those two young ladies leaned around the Crown Prince and looked at each other.

Because he was too busy looking at the Princess and Crown Princess, Christopher didn’t see Lady Claire wince and look stricken.

“That does not absolve you of being miserable, if miserable you are. Are you miserable?”

“No,” replied Lady Dindrane. “I have our children. I have my work. I am as content as it is possible to be. Or I was, until your mother tried to kill a little boy who is only a bit older than Nimue.”

“‘Content as it is possible to be’?” Sir Mordred repeated. “What does that mean, Dindrane?”

She did not reply at first. Her eyes slid to Sir William.

“Your honor, I object –”

“It is quite relevant,” Sir Mordred interrupted. “It speaks directly to her credibility as a witness. It gives her a motivation for lying. She needs to answer this question.”

Lord Pellinore sighed. “Sir Mordred, I do not appreciate you interrupting the opposing counsel. Sir William, was that your objection?”

“Aye, sir.”

“Then, unfortunately, I must overrule it. Dindrane … answer the question.” Something — some wordless communication — passed between father and daughter. When Lady Dindrane finally spoke, Christopher prayed that it was Lord Pellinore’s assurance that what Lady Dindrane was about to say would make Sir Mordred look worse than she.

“There are many reasons why I can only be content in this marriage, and why I cannot be fully content. However, I believe the most … salient one is that you have a mistress, you have had that mistress since before we wed, you have three children with her, and you love her and them more than you will ever love me and my children.”

As for what happened next, well, Christopher was familiar with it. It was the sound, the rushing feeling, of all the air being sucked out of the room as every person in it gasped. What he wasn’t familiar with was being one of the gaspers.

Sir Mordred had his hand on his hip and his head cocked in the manner of a man smirking, a man who had gotten just what he wanted. Christopher was familiar with that, too. “So you’re jealous.”

Lady Dindrane’s mouth opened, but slowly shut again. She knit her brows. “I suppose I am. But not of her. And not for myself. I’m jealous of her children and the care you lavish on them, and I’m jealous for Nimue and Gawaine and … the new baby.”

Sir Mordred didn’t pursue that. Presumably, he had gotten what he wanted. “Now, Dindrane, where have you been living since you first went to your father with your accusations against my mother?”

“With my parents.”

“Alone?”

“No. I took the children.”

“Enjoying yourself?” Sir Mordred spat.

“Objection!” Sir William interjected.

“Withdrawn,” Sir Mordred replied. He turned again to his wife. “Do you plan to return?”

“Not while your mother is alive.”

Sir Mordred blinked, taken aback. “And the children?”

“If you want them while she still lives, you’ll have to go over my dead body to get them.”

“You wouldn’t have a legal leg to stand upon. Your father can tell you that.”

“I’m their mother. If I don’t defend them, nobody will.”

I,” Sir Mordred snarled, “am their father.”

“If you have no problem bringing them into the same dwelling as a woman who has already tried to kill one child, then I am clearly the only one capable of protecting them.”

“That is –”

“Would you bring her children into your house?” Lady Dindrane snapped. “With your mother? Would you risk that? Answer me that!”

“I will ask the questions here!”

Lady Dindrane only blinked up at him. “Then answer it for yourself,” she whispered.

Christopher had once stood beyond a fence watching two bulls pawing the earth, heads down, their breath misting around them in the cold, still air. The suspense of that moment had taken his breath away. And it seemed to stretch on, and on, and on, seconds dragging into hours, hours into days, days into weeks …

He felt that again, watching Sir Mordred glower at his wife and Lady Dindrane stare limpidly back up at him.

Finally one of the bulls backed away. “No more questions,” Sir Mordred snapped, and stalked back to his seat.

Christopher started forward to help her out of the chair, but Lady Dindrane was already up and sailing from the courtroom before he could take a step. Lady Eilwen, too, was half out of her seat, but Lady Dindrane shook her head and wasΒ  gone.

There was not even a rustle of cloth to break the silence until Lord Pellinore awkwardly cleared his throat. “Next witness?”

“Ash Thatcher, your honor,” replied Sir William.

That just wasn’t fair.

It wasn’t fair on anybody in that courtroom, to follow up that testimony with what was possibly the first instance of a Plantsim gypsy testifying against a noblewoman, ever. Barely anybody had a chance to breathe before the door opened again and the Plantsim came in.

Hell, it wasn’t even fair on the Plantsim. He hesitated at the threshold, his hand on the knob, trembling — it was terrible but it was true — like a leaf.

Then he hunched his shoulders, the way a man would if he was putting a hood farther over his head, and scuttled to the witness’s chair. After he was sworn in, Sir William approached him.

“Master Thatcher, will you please state your relationship to Thorn Michaelson for the jury?”

“Aye, sir. I’m his uncle an’ guardian.”

“Why his guardian?”

“His — his ma, she can’t take care o’ him.”

“Why not?”

“She …” The Plantsim ran a hand through his leaves. “She — her profession, sir. She’s a … lady o’ the night. The Church, they don’t like those types of women raisin’ their own kids. But rather than puttin’ him in some orphanage where she might never see him again, Marigold — me sister — axed me an’ me wife, Lyndsay, if we’d take him. An’ so we did.”

“Why did you?”

“Why, sir?”

“Why did you take the child? You have other children, don’t you? And your sister’s child is not your responsibility. You didn’t have to take him in. So why did you?”

“Because — because he’s family? I don’t know, sir. I — what else could we do? He’s family. Marigold, she’s family too. They needed help, me an’ Lyndsay could give it. How could we say no?”

Sir William only nodded. “Could you describe a typical day in your household for the jury?”

“Objection!” Sir Mordred snapped. “That is irrelevant!”

“It’s quite relevant,” Sir William replied. “It speaks to my next witness’s credibility. Since he is so young, the jury ought to have an idea how he is being raised so that they can determine whether his testimony is to be believed.”

He didn’t say, The jury won’t believe a word the boy says, since he is the son of a whore being raised by a Plantsim, unless I do some damage control. But that wasn’t the sort of thing you said in open court. All the same, Lord Pellinore seemed to hear it. He nodded. “Overruled.”

“Thank you, your honor. Master Thatcher?”

The Plantsim started to speak, but even though he listened, something niggled at Christopher’s mind. Something … wasn’t right. Even though everything sounded so normal —

And then it hit him.

Everything sounded so normal.

How did Ash Thatcher and his family spend a typical day? They got up. They got ready for work and school. They tried to eat breakfast while getting dressed and finding their boots and feeding the baby. Then the family scattered to their respective occupations, only to rejoin sometime in the afternoon or evening. The kids played or did their schoolwork or their chores. The adults did the chores the kids were too little to do. The baby needed to be fed or changed or just held for a while. The family sat down for supper, then afterward cleaned up, and maybe got a few moment or an hour to sit as it was getting dark, tell stories, talk, sew, work on small projects.

When they kids acted up, they were punished. When they did well, they were rewarded. When they cried, somebody dried their tears. When they laughed, somebody smiled to see it. It was just how Christopher had been raised. It was just how he wanted to raise Coralie and Jason. It was —

It’s madness! The man and his family live in a tree! He has leaves for hair! How can they be normal?

And then Sir William took his quill and underscored the point in glistening red ink.

“So what you are saying, Master Thatcher, is that your typical day bears a certain amount of resemblance to the typical day of any other family that is similar to yours in size, composition, and station?”

Sir William must have given him warning that the question was coming and told him ahead of time what he meant by size, composition and station, for the Plantsim nodded. “Aye, sir.”

“And what about Thorn? Do you treat him as your treat your other children?”

“O’ course, sir. Me an’ Lyndsay are tryin’ ter raise him like our own.”

“Does he act in a way that’s substantially different from your other children?”

The Plantsim knit his brows. “Not … really, sir? I mean, all kids is different. Thorn’s himself, but … well, kids is kids, an’ he’s a kid like any other.”

“How did you and Mistress Thatcher feel when you discovered that Thorn was missing?”

“Oh, Lord, sir! It — I don’t know how ter describe it. It’s the worst feelin’. The worst feelin’ anyway. I’d — I’d rather face down a ragin’ bear than go through that again. The worst a bear’ll do is kill ye. This — with Thorn gone — an’ not knowin’ what happened ter him — knowin’ anythin’ could’ve happened to him — I can’t explain it ter nobody who don’t have kids, sir. It’s … it’s like all yer worst fears about what could happen ter yer kid, rolled up into one. An’ made worse, because suddenly ye’ve got fears ye didn’t even know he had.” The Plantsim shuddered and cradled his head in his hands.

Sir William nodded, and his eyes slid over to the jury, as if to ask, Are you getting this? Are you paying attention? Then he turned back to the Plantsim. “Master Thatcher, we’re almost done here. Just a few more questions. First, how often does Thorn see his mother?”

“Not — not often, sir,” replied the Plantsim. “She — she comes when she can, but it ain’t that often. It’s — it’s hard for folks like us ter travel, sir.”

“Do you ever bring Thorn to see her?”

“Oh, Lord, no, sir! Lyndsay won’t got near that — that place! An’ — an’ ye can’t bring kids ter a place like that!”

Christopher thought he saw Sir William smile at that. “I see. My next question is, how are you and your family doing financially?”

“Well enough, sir. We can’t complain. Got a — a roof over our heads, food on the table, clothes on our backs … can’t axe fer much more than that.”

“Were you aware, when you decided to press chargers, that, if Lady Morgause is found guilty, you and your nephew will be entitled to reparations?”

“Sir — sir, all we knowed when we decided was that that woman did somethin’ awful ter Thorn. An’ if we didn’t do somethin’ — well, she might do it again ter Thorn, or to some other kid. We couldn’t have that.”

Sir William nodded. “I see. Thank you, Master Thatcher, that will be all from me. Your witness, Sir Mordred.”

Sir Mordred didn’t answer at first. Then he grunted. “No questions.”

“Then, Master Thatcher,” said Lord Pellinore, “you are free to go, and Sir William, you may call your next witness.”

“Thank you, sir. For my next witness, I call Thorn Michaelson to the stand.”

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18 thoughts on “Witness(es) for the Prosecution

  1. And the jackass continues to be. That was just cold what he did to Dindrane. I hope that costs him sympathy with the jury. And I liked how she threw Rosette back in his face the way he threw her in Dindrane’s at Lot’s funeral.

    I don’t know if it helped her or hurt her, but I loved her saying that if he wanted to get his kids back while his mother was still alive, he’d have to go over her dead body.

    Ash was kinda awesome. I think he was very credible and that it almost hurt me that Christopher was so surprised that Ash’s family is like his family.

    Still hoping you choke, Mordred! Will is doing well, though. I think. And the demi-goddess’ like for Law and Order is showing through. *giggles*

    • In Mordred’s defense … he didn’t throw Rosette into Dindrane’s face at Lot’s funeral. He was very discreet in that most of the other attendees had no idea he was talking about Melehan and Melou. He actually wasn’t thinking at all about Dindrane when he said what he said.

      Not that it makes it right. Far from it. You’re generally supposed to think ahead before you say something that will upset your spouse, especially if it’s as blindingly obvious as that was. But Mordred didn’t think that way.

      Hmm … did it help or hurt her? You’ll have to wait until the jury deliberates to see. πŸ˜‰

      Why should Christopher be anything other than surprised? He’s not met any Plantsims before. He’s from a relatively urban area and Plantsims don’t do cities, for the most part. He’s heard all kinds of bad things about them. He’s heard that they’re not even really Sims. And now his prejudices are getting blown up before his eyes. Of course he’s surprised.

      So you think Will’s doing well, eh? Well, I guess it all depends on what the jury thinks …

      Thanks, Andavri!

  2. Hmm. You know, going into this arc, I never expected Mordred to be professional–he’s defending his own mother, after all–but that exchange with Dindrane just brought that to a whole new level. Wanting to know why she was miserable like he could have possibly missed it. Why do I get the feeling that Ye Olde Separation won’t end with the trial?

    I hope some member of the jury saw Morgause’s face when she glared at Betsy. Also, why is it so important that the jury don’t know the story behind Morgause’s capture, especially considering that it was all lawfully engineered? It seems like the sort of thing they should know.

    I think Ashe’s testimony went off without a hitch. He’s set the bar very high for all the other gypsy plantsims testifying against noblewomen in years to come.

    • It’s not that Mordred doesn’t know how miserable Dindrane is. He knows. He just needs her to say it, so that the jury can officially know. The jury is only supposed to consider the information that they hear at trial, so even if they (Aglovale) knew how miserable Dindrane was, they couldn’t officially consider that information in their deliberations.

      Plus … Dindrane’s got a good poker face. Naomi, Richard, Edmond — even Lance and Claire — might not know that Dindrane is unhappy. She’s never appeared less than content in public. (Even her murderous glances at Mordred at Lot’s funeral were only seen by Brother Tuck.) So Mordred has to make sure that they know that, so that they realize Dindrane has a reason to be lying. She has a reason to manufacture this so she can get out of her marriage.

      It’s not so much that the jury isn’t allowed to know about Morgause’s capture, as Will didn’t think that the part Betsy played in that was relevant to the trial. (Plus, if he was going to go into detail on the capture, he’d probably have to put Jessie and Morgan on the stand. Mordred probably wouldn’t put Jessie through too much in cross-examination, but bringing Morgan into it could explode in their faces. Morgan’s got every reason to make her sister look worse than she is. … If that were possible.) It does make Betsy look good, absolutely. But she’d look good if she had a habit of getting kittens out of trees. Good =/= relevant in Will’s mind.

      The problem is that Mordred brought it up, but not in a way to let Betsy explain herself. The way he was phrasing his not-quite-a-question would have forced Betsy to admit to treachery, which Mordred thinks she’s guilty of but that most people wouldn’t. But she didn’t even get a chance to explain what happened, which means that she looks like she did something wrong, even though she didn’t. That hurts her credibility. And the jury can only consider the things that are brought up in the trial, so Lancelot (who’s the only one with the details on Morgause’s capture) probably wouldn’t clear Betsy’s name in the jury room.

      Ash is more awesome than he knows he is. πŸ™‚ You’re right that he’s set the bar high.

      Thanks, Van!

  3. … Does Mordred really have no questions for Ash, taking the high road and NOT trying to punch holes in the testimony of a gypsy-raised born plantsim, a whore’s brother, raising a whore’s son, who had no real childhood of his own?

    Because it looks like Dindrane rattled him and distracted him from playing on the prejudices of the jury.

    • I disagree, Hat. By not questioning Ash, he’s insinuating that Ash’s testimony is so weak that he doesn’t need to poke holes. Will himself established that Thorn is the son of a Plantsim whore being raised by Plantsim peasants who live in a tree. The fact that they live as normally as they can has no bearing on Thorn’s birth. He’s belittling Ash, Thorn, and even Will by not questioning. And I highly doubt that Dindraine really rattled him that much- sure, he wasn’t expecting her vehemence about his other children, but such a cold, calculating man would file that away for further perusal at a more private time and wouldn’t let it affect his work.

      Also, AUGH!! Four more posts?! I can’t take it, Morgaine! *whimpers*

      • Whether he questions Ash or not, he’s still got to question Thorn. There’s only so hard he can make this on the boy (and it’s going to be hard on Thorn regardless, and Mordred doesn’t get to go first) without making the jury look at him, look at his mother, and wonder if a woman capable of raising a man who can do that to a four-year-old in front of a judge, the king, and his mother really actually might have tried to kill a little boy. Better to question Ash about Thorn– what kind of a little boy is he? Does he give you any trouble? What kind of trouble? Do you punish him when he stretches the truth?– and try to remind the jury, subtly, that no matter how normally they try to live, there’s gypsy in the mix, and plantsim, and whoreson, and Ash admitted part of the reason he’s raising Thorn is because Marigold is a whore and a plantsim and the Church would take her son away. If you bring the man’s breeding into question– AND speaking of breeding, the man had no childhood to speak of, no youth, and doesn’t have the experience of being a child to bring to the experience of raising children– you remind the jury that no matter what else this man is, he’s not human and never has been.

        Besides, Mordred has to do some damage control. Rosette’s father is on that jury, and the ‘would you trust Morgause with her children’ issue is one that Master Chevaux there might bring up in deliberations, seeing as how he… knows a bit about that situation. (If the answer were yes, a jury member might think, if the answer were yes, absolutely, I would trust my mother with my bastard children, then wouldn’t he have just said “Of course!” instead of insisting he was the one who’d be asking questions, than you very much?)

        Will has just painted a nice, trying-to-be-normal picture of the Thatcher… treehold. The next witness is a little boy Mordred will have to cross-examine, gently. Mordred missed his chance to distract the jury from questioning whether or not he trusts his own mother with kids he loves but who can’t further the family with a witness he could be moderately hardassed with without looking like a grade-A viper. If he doesn’t handle Thorn with kid gloves, he’s going to hurt his mother’s case just by being her son.

        Not that I want Mordred to win this case. The last thing he needs is Rosette questioning whether or not Mordred would trust his mother with her children. Bad enough Edmond is having to question it. No, no, ‘off with her head’ is better for everyone involved.

        • A debate! Awesome! I’m so tempted to play “death of the author” and let y’all have at it. But … since I’m saying something to everybody else, that wouldn’t be fair.

          So I guess the question is — how cold and calculating is Mordred? Is he really cold enough to completely freeze out his own feelings about his mother, his doubts (or rather his refusal to admit to the slightest bit of doubt) about her innocence, his own foundering marriage? Or is he going to feel that, just a little bit … especially when his wife tears apart those walls he’s oh-so-carefully built in is head?

          I will say this much. Out of the three main players in this case from a legal perspective — Pellinore, Will and Mordred — Mordred has the most emotional involvement. Pellinore just had his daughter on the stand, and now that’s over. Will isn’t stupid enough to think he (and Jessie and possibly Lance) won’t be on Morgause’s s*** list if he loses; however, he’s also smart enough to realize that it will be after Thorn, Betsy, Dindrane, Morgan … lots of other people. Mordred had his mother on trial, his wife and ex-housekeeper accusing, zero support from his sister … oh, and his father died only a few months before this all blew up, so he’s dealing with that too …

          Again — how cold and calculating can he possibly be?

          Thanks a lot, Hat & Naomi. πŸ˜€ I love debates. Carry on if you’ve still got more to say! :mrgreen:

          • Is he really cold enough to completely freeze out his own feelings about his mother, his doubts (or rather his refusal to admit to the slightest bit of doubt) about her innocence, his own foundering marriage?

            Whoa whoa whoa. Whoa. Wait a second.

            Mordred refuses to doubt his mother’s innocence?

            I mean, okay, I get what that means, yeah, he loves her, he doesn’t want her to be a babykiller, nobody really expects that of their mother. I’m just surprised that he’s trying not to admit his doubts to himself rather than accepting, if only in his head, that this is not in fact a terrible mistake and a gross miscarriage of justice and young Thorn probably was found near dead by his momma’s hand. Somehow I can’t see Mordred thinking ‘it was only some gypsy whore’s son,’ but I sort of thought he’d be more upset that Morgause got caught than that she tried to turn a preschooler into Oil of Olay. (Or, okay, maybe upset, but not surprised. Woman killed her sister’s boyfriend and then turned him into an undead babysitter. … Woman gave the care of her infant daughter over to a zombie. Woman’s head ain’t screwed on right.)

            • *laugh* And now I’m agreeing with you- he’s more upset and embarrassed that she got caught than the fact that she tried to kill a Plantsim whore’s son. He knows perfectly well that she’s guilty, but he’s got to convince the jury that not only does he NOT believe that, but that there’s no way she could have done that. Or at least plant enough doubt in their minds that they can’t say “yes, yes, she did it!”

              But is he cold and calculating enough to ruin his marriage and freeze out his own feelings? Absolutely. Mordred is not a nice man and never has been. The fact that he has developed some sort of feelings for Rosette and their children together does not mean that he’s a snuggly teddy bear. And besides, even if he had no feelings for his mother, though I believe he does, he has been raised to do his duty. And his duty in this instance is to save his mother’s life, even if doing so is a gross miscarriage of justice.

              • Actually, I have to disagree with you both. Well, at least in part. Deep down in Mordred’s heart of hearts, (He does have a heart, doesn’t he? Don’t worry I answer my own question. πŸ˜‰ ) I think he knows Morgause is guilty as sin. Mordred is very good at denying that inner goodness when he wants to. I won’t deny that, but before you go cutting off his feelings entirely, think about how he was at Lot’s funeral.

                And even before that when he tried to get Morgause to let Morgan take a look at Lot. He loved his father. And in almost every action he’s a mama’s boy. So if my quarter had to go one way or the other, he probably loves his mother just as much. But he’s still not as capable of being cold as Morgause is. At least not yet. I think he could be, especially if something drove a wedge between him and Rosette. Something that kept her away.

                Morgause has, best as anyone can tell, never loved anyone in her life that she didn’t see in the reflection in the mirror. Lot wasn’t even dead yet before she stepped up her campaign to try to get Lamorak away from Garnet.

                Think for a second. We’ve seen Morgause’s thoughts, a little, on Igraine. Do you think Morgause would have asked Uther to let the emperor of Reme look at Igraine, to heal her, if Morgause thought that it might have saved Igraine’s life? I highly doubt that.

                But I think that while he might have that knowledge that she’s guilty as sin he needs the passion that believing that she’s truly innocent imparts. Mordred’s not a lawyer. He’s not got the legal knowledge that Will or Pellinore has. So he needs something.

                Shoving away the knowledge that she did it in favor of trying his best to whole-heartedly believe she didn’t is self denial, but I could see it. Killing Accolon was, in a way, understandable especially from a Glasonland Noble point of view. He disgraced her sister. And by extension her family. It’s been said before that in Glasonland, no one would even have raised an eyebrow. At least not the killing part.

                As for the turning Accolon into a zombie and then into Garnet’s nursemaid, well, the first was a dig at Morgan, and the second, um, she doesn’t love Garnet. She’s never loved Garnet. She’s seen Garnet as a rival for the affections of the people (men) in her life probably since the baby was announced to be a girl and not a second son. Look at what she did to Garnet when she thought that Garnet had Thorn’s body! Look at what happened with Lamorak.

                And hey, before we go dismissing Mordred as being that cold, think on this: do you see in dozen or so years Mordred climbing into bed with Melou’s girlfriend or making plans to marry Melehan’s betrothed cause this thing with Dindrane didn’t work out?

                Honestly if I had to say I would say that he can’t justify Morgause grinding up Thorn for beauty paste as anything other than selfish, cold, and self-serving. Which we, as the readers, knowing her thoughts know she is. But Mordred doesn’t want to believe. Even if it’s true Mordred doesn’t want to buy that she’d do it. Dindrane’s unhappy in her marriage so she lies. Betsy wants to get back at Morgause for Accolon, lying in wait for the right scheme to come along and when it does she lies. Ash and Thorn, well, a few silvers would completely turn their lives around, open doors that they’ll never open on their own being a gypsy plant-sim and a whoreson, so they lie.

                It’s better than believing that his mother, whom he loves (against everyone’s better judgement but maybe his own) would kill a child for no reason other than the quest for youth and beauty. That’s where I’d guess the belief comes from. He has just a slight capacity for love and it’s playing against him here.

                • Yes, but at Lot’s funeral, he completely threw his wife down and trampled on her in public, and humiliated her. He may have affection for Rosette and their children, but I doubt he’s ever known what real love is like, nor do I think he’s capable of it. He has an affection for the woman who birthed him, but he has no delusions that she loves him and knows that if he was ever in her way, he would be dead. So by acting as her lawyer and getting her acquitted, he’s getting himself off her kill list. And if he fails, then at least he can claim he did his best when she comes after him (because, really, who thinks she’d go to the sword quietly?). It’s self-preserving and maybe a little selfish (he doesn’t want to lose his only living parent so soon after his father died, after all!), but I don’t think it’s out of love.

                  Not that I think he’s incapable of love (not yet, anyway), but I don’t think he’s had the best examples of love around him and wouldn’t know what to do with love if he found it within himself. I don’t think he understands that Rosette loves him, or at least didn’t understand until several posts ago. He has a deeper affection for her than he does for his wife, but I think he believes that Rosette, who is the most loving creature he’s ever met, is with him for the support he can provide. So while I think he could be capable of love, I don’t think he is yet and he’s walking a very fine line between a happy path and ending up like his mother. Maybe not as evil as her, but darn near.

  4. All of those witnesses were incredibly brave. Mordred – what a plonker. I really hope he’s seriously damaged his credibility with the jury after Dindrane’s turn. And, I meant to say this last post but it fits here too, it was a great choice to have this from Christopher’s POV, since we get to see everything on kind of nuetral lines and also how it compares with Glasonland. Go Will! πŸ™‚ And I hope poor Betsy feels better after the trial ends, at least. *crosses fingers*

    Emma x

    • Yay, somebody likes Christopher’s POV! *happy dance*

      You’ll see just what the jury thinks when the jury deliberates. And maybe what one member of the jury thinks before that. Sorry! Can’t say more. πŸ˜‰

      As for how people feel … well, we’ll have to wait and see on that, too. Betsy probably won’t be feeling much better if Morgause is acquitted. And anything could go through her head if Morgause isn’t.

      Thanks Emma! πŸ˜€

  5. We’ve run out of replies, so I guess I’ll just start over. Naomi, what Mordred did to Dindrane at Lot’s funeral doesn’t negate any possible love that Mordred might have had for his father. You’re right that his idea of “love” might be fucked. I will not argue that in the slightest, but we all know that Mordred doesn’t love his wife, that says nothing one way or the other whether he’s capable of loving or not.

    It says a lot of things, that he’s an asshole for one, but not that he didn’t love his father or that he is incapable of love.

    But let’s go at this from a slightly different tack: The only way that it even matters if Mordred is on Morgause’s shit list is if he gets her off and then he won’t be. If Morgause is in prison, without her magic, and sentenced to die, where is the danger to Mordred?

    He’s still got his magic, if she, by some odd chance, manages to get out of prison and comes after him, he can fight her off. If she’s pissed at him, he can ward Rosette’s apartment and not have to worry about her getting his kids or Rosette either.

    And he wouldn’t even be at the top of the list of people to try and take out on her way out of the country. Betsy, Ash, Dindrane, Morgan, all much much more likely to be first in line for retribution. And she’s got to know that the longer she sticks around the more likely she is to be caught and killed, so I can’t imagine she’d tarry around just to kill people.

    If she doesn’t get out, she gets her head taken off and everyone’s happy anyway.

    So I repeat: why would he even care if he’s on Morgause’s shit list? If he’s completely incapable of love and feels nothing for his mother, he could dismiss this whole thing faster than you can say “meh”. Why would he be stressed out about it?

    And if, as you say, he only cares because she’s his one remaining parent, um, why? What’s that matter? So she popped him out. That’s old news. Why isn’t he like “what have you done for me lately other than caused me headaches?” He doesn’t love, but yet he feels obligated to her? Huh, but he doesn’t feel obligated to look at his son’s drawing of him or spend time with his kids? He doesn’t feel obligated to respect his wife in public?

    He doesn’t feel obligated to half of the people he theoretically should feel obligated to, but he feels obligated to the idea of his mother for no gain to himself? If he’s really enough of a psychopath that he feels nothing for her, his gain would come first. And I don’t see how what a condemned woman would feel about him would count as much of a gain.

    • I want to hear what Morgaine says about why Mordred is squelching his doubt, honestly, so I’m going to hold off there.

      I am going to agree with Andavri that I think Mordred can love. Does love. He loves Rosette (possibly not quite unconditionally; he loves her for her sweetness, for her love for him, for the simplicity she represents), he loves Melehan, he loves Melou, he loves Aimee. He doesn’t love Rosette. He never had the moment of ‘omg I love this baby!’ with Nimue that he had with Aimee, and I can’t picture him taking Gawain out for a game of bowls. It’s not that he doesn’t like his legitimate children, but they’re… duty, obligation– his heir, and a daughter who has potential for making political connections. Part of the life he was born to– not part of the sweet little love-nest he made for Rosette.

      And I still want to know if he failed to cross-examine Ash because Dindrane challenged his happy little extra-curricular family– forced him to think of how Morgause would treat those grandchildren.

      Because honestly?

      Gawain is probably safe. He’s the heir. They need him.

      Morgause’s track record with girls is not so stellar. It reads, honestly, like Morgause liked Garnet just fine, until Garnet started preferring the company of her undead nursie to her own pretty mother. Heaven forbid Nimue should ever like to spend more time with her attentive auntie than with her elegant grandmama.

      The hitch I’m seeing is, there is no way that not cross-examining Ash Thatcher helps Mordred’s case in the least. I can see at least two things he could’ve used Ash to show the jury– one, show them that Plantsims go from bud to bloom, toddler to adult, with no childhood, no youth, to speak of, which might in fact hinder Ash in properly raising children. Two, what sort of little boy is Thorn, hm? What’s he like to do? He gets disciplined when he acts up, of course, but what sort of acting up? Tells a few lies now and then, doesn’t he? (I was on the moon! With Steve! I was dead at the time!) Prone to wandering off?

      Because Mordred needs to distract the jury.

      Look at him, sitting there all sullen. How does that look? He didn’t cross-examine a witness. He looks distracted, and, again, Rosette’s father is on that jury– the one juror who is likely to remember Dindrane demanding Mordred answer her question for himself, if not for the court.

      He looks like he’s not sure how far he trusts his mother.

      And he can’t not question the next witness, and he has to go easy on Thorn– make him look unreliable, or dishonest, or make the jury think he trespassed onto Orkney lands, ran afoul of Dindrane’s cowplant, barely escaped with his life, and the rest is misunderstandings or lies or both. Whatever, he’s got a lot of leeway making up stories– but he has to be gentle with Thorn, no matter what.

      Because if he makes that little boy cry, if he’s a jerkass to a four-year-old, it reflects poorly on his client. Because his client raised him. Arguably, how Mordred treats children reflects on how Morgause would treat children, so he’s got to treat Thorn with kid gloves if he wants any chance at winning the jury over.

      So pretty much all I’m saying is that Mordred missed a BIG opportunity to further his case, and it looks like he did it because he’s wondering if he’d trust his mother with a child he loved. (He probably shouldn’t trust her with a dog he likes.)

      There’s a part of me, you know, that really wants Garnet to take the stand and tell the court aaaaaaaaaaall about what Morgause did to her the night Thorn went missing.

      • Kind of going to sideline the debate here; I don’t really care about Mordred. IMO, he’s both a bad person, not necessarily evil but not good, and also I’m hoping he loses regardless of his motivations/opinions because I want Morgause to DIE!

        *cough*

        But the question I have now is, where is Garnet in all this? Is she watching or is she going to be a witness or has she just stayed away as much as possible? And for a little trivia question, where has Morgause been staying? In the prison/tower? Because if so that must be a fun house for Mordred and Agravaine, suddenly both alone, with the household going from six to two. Just a couple of thoughts. πŸ™‚

        Emma x

        • Roland Barthes is probably spinning in his grave (how’s THAT for death of the author), but I’ve been requested to weigh in and so I shall.

          I won’t say whether Mordred is capable of love or not, loves Rosette, loves Dindrane, etc. The story will have to say that (or not say it. And then I am going to have to keep poking at it until it does). But I can talk a little about his feelings on Morgause, and whether Garnet is going to take the stand or not.

          I think the post to go to on Mordred’s thoughts about Morgause, her guilt or innocence, is Conscience and Consanguinity. You’ll notice that there’s very little said openly and directly. That’s because Mordred refuses to think about it. Absolutely refuses. He focuses his thoughts, when he thinks about Morgause and her predicament, on how he’s going to get her out of it. Not on why she’s there and whether she did what she was accused of.

          I think you’re all right in that Mordred knows in his heart of hearts that Morgause is guilty. But in his head, he refuses to admit it. In his regular heart, he refuses to admit it. He will cling to the story that she is innocent until the day he dies. Because the thing is, Morgause has always treated him very well (for Morgause). She’s been, in his head, everything a noble mother should be. So what if she wasn’t always cuddly and affectionate; that’s what nurses are for. And a young man shouldn’t need cuddles and affection anyway. (Despite how much he enjoys cuddling and being affectionate with Melehan, Melou and Aimee.)

          And here’s another thing: I don’t think Mordred operates at his best when he’s extremely emotionally involved in something. And whether he wants to be or not, he’s emotionally involved here. That’s his mother on trial for her life. That’s his wife, the mother of (some of) his children accusing her of unspeakable crimes against another a child. A child who is, in certain fundamentals, far too similar to his own love children with Rosette. (Would someone like Bors necessarily see much difference between Marigold and Rosette? Well, other than the Plantsim thing.) Whatever heart and emotions he has are completely caught up. He’s feeling things and he doesn’t want to be. This inner conflict is taking up some of his energy, some of his resources, meaning he’s not at 100%.

          And then Dindrane has to go drag that internal conflict that he’s trying very hard to ignore right out into the open, in front of Rosette’s father (and mother!), no less.

          So, yes, part of the reason why Mordred didn’t question Ash is because of Dindrane rattling him. Part of it is that Will surprised him by tackling the Plantsim issue so openly and directly. Will, as we’ve seen, tends to be reserved, shy, a bit diffident. Calling in Ash as a witness, not only showing the jury that he’s a Plantsim but talking about Marigold, his daily life, etc. in open court and daring the jury to make something of it is a bold move. Mordred wasn’t expecting that, and it threw him. That coupled with his emotional turmoil meant he had no idea what to ask Ash. What he planned on bringing up — Marigold’s profession, how Ash is much weirder than other Sims — was already covered. So he was stymied and decided not to ask any questions.

          Aaand now we move onto Garnet.

          Garnet will not be taking the stand. (I can say this with certainty, having taken the pictures.) At the end of the day, she’s too much of a liability for both sides. Her relationship with her mother is beyond terrible, so if Will called her in, Mordred could take her to task on that and accuse her of making it all up because she hates Morgause. If Mordred called her in … well, if you have to treat your own witness, your own sister as a hostile witness, more against her own mother than for it, that does not look good to the jury. Mordred made the judgement call that calling her in would do more harm than good. Will, I think, was not going to ask a daughter to testify against her own mother unless she enthusiastically volunteered. Garnet didn’t.

          So that’s that. Oh, and fair warning — I probably won’t have the next post up until Friday, because where I am I have no real internet and am poaching off of other people’s. 😦 However, I will work on it in Word, and maybe even the next post, so as soon as I have Internet, I can post!

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