Use Not Only the Brains You Have, But All You Can Borrow

Osgary 10, 1014

“None of this,” murmured Sir William, flipping through the parchment on his desk — the reams of notes, reports, and reflections assembled by Tawiel, Christopher, and Sir William himself — “is adding up at all.”

Long practice as warden of Tower Prison in Glasonland had made Christopher quite adept at knowing when to keep his mouth shut. He availed himself of that knowledge now. Sir William had decided that Sir Lamorak’s death was not what it seemed, a simple misadventure of a man having crossed paths with the wrong sort of ruffians. Christopher had no idea how to talk him out of that conclusion. Therefore, he said nothing.

Tawiel was not so circumspect. “But, my lord — we’ve been investigating for weeks. We haven’t found anything to support any theory but the obvious one!”

Sir William shook his head. “Explain to me the bee stings, Master Raben.”

“Er … well …”

Christopher came to his rescue. “Sir William — the bee stings could be coincidence. We didn’t find a disturbed hive in the area, I’ll grant you that — but we don’t have any way of knowing that where we found Sir Lamorak was the same place he was killed. It’s entirely possible that the ruffians responsible could have moved the body in order to throw us off the trail.” And, thought Christopher, if you can figure out how anybody could contrive to have a great hive of bees come and sting Sir Lamorak, I’ll eat my hat.

Sir William shook his head. “We found his sword not far off. In the bushes. That indicates that the body wasn’t moved. And,” he pressed, “if it was thieves — why didn’t they take the sword? It’s a damn good sword!”

Christopher would take Sir William’s word on that. “That may be true enough, my lord — but perhaps they couldn’t find it. As you said, it was only found in the bushes, and only when our men were doing a thorough search of the area.” A search, Christopher remembered, that Sir William himself had ordered.

But then again … why was he surprised? These knights of Albion were close; they had all grown up together. Of course Sir William wanted justice for Sir Lamorak. Of course Sir William would wish to leave no stone unturned. And of course Sir William would grow frustrated and perhaps a bit fanciful when confronted with a crime like this. The truth of the matter was that a crime that took place in a remote location, left no witnesses, and was probably undertaken by “professional” criminals was the sort of crime that was very difficult, if not impossible, to solve. It might be easier to pretend there was some sort of conspiracy at the heart of it rather than face the truth that Sir Lamorak’s death may never be properly revenged.

Sir William, however, had more to say. “The sword wasn’t even bloodied. And you can’t say that it was cleaned, Master Tower. If the thieves — if there were thieves — had found it, they would have taken it away with them. So Sir Lamorak had a chance to take his sword from his scabbard — but not to use it. How do you explain that?”

The question was honest, or at least not openly antagonistic. So Christopher took a deep breath and tried to explain. “The thieves might have fallen to fighting over the sword after Sir Lamorak was killed, and the leader threw it into the bushes to stop the fight.”

Tawiel shot Christopher an impressed glance.

Sir William blinked. “A valuable sword like that? Thrown away? No. No thief would do that — and even if he had, surely the other thieves would have tried to go after it. But those bushes were undisturbed until our men went tramping through them.”

Christopher took a deep breath. “My lord –”

“And what about Triss — Sir Lamorak’s horse?” Sir William went on.

Once again Christopher’s mouth opened to point out that the horse was probably sold before the body was discovered. It could be halfway to Reme or Ludenwic by now. So could all the other valuables in the saddlebags. And while Sir William himself might not see anything that valuable, if Sir Lamorak had packed at all for a few day’s journey — perhaps with an extra suit of chain maille, or some clean tunics, or hell, even clean small clothes — somebody could see money to be made from those goods.

He never got a chance. “Given what the border guards found this morning?” Sir William went on.

Christopher narrowed his eyes. “Er … what did the guards find, my lord?”

Sir William blinked. “You … hadn’t heard?”

Christopher exchanged a glance with Tawiel. Tawiel shrugged. Christopher shook his head. “No, my lord.”

Any frustration that might have been in evidence on Sir William’s face disappeared. “Oh — I’m sorry. I thought you knew.” He rubbed his temple, then cracked a knuckle. “I’m sorry — I don’t even know where my manners have gone. Please, sit down, both of you. I’ll explain.”

Christopher and Tawiel sat, Christopher already trying to summon up sensible, logical explanations for whatever it was that the border guards had found.

Sir William began, “This morning, two guards found Triss — Sir Lamorak’s horse — in the forest on the Camford-Albion border … perhaps twenty miles away. It was dead … and had been for some time. Probably … about as long as Sir Lamorak.”

Sir William swallowed, rubbing his temple again. Christopher coughed and took it upon himself to ask the obvious question. “My lord, with all due respect, how were the guards sure it was Sir Lamorak’s horse?”

“It matched the description. And it still had his saddle and saddlebags on it.”

“His saddle and saddlebags?” repeated Tawiel. He shot an incredulous glance at Christopher. Christopher shot him a look every bit as surprised.

“And in the saddlebags, or very near,” Sir William went on, “was, as far as we can determine, everything Sir Lamorak’s valet had packed in them.”

Christopher’s jaw fell. “Everything?”

“Well, nothing edible,” Sir William admitted. “The saddlebags were disturbed — the guards think it was animals who got in. But surely you’ll agree, Master Tower — Sir Lamorak was not slain so that thieves could steal his lunch.”

It was quite possible that Christopher deserved that. He swallowed, letting the knowledge sink in. If nothing in Sir Lamorak’s possession was taken — then he couldn’t have been killed by thieves.

“But …” Christopher whispered, for the first time asking this question honestly, instead of tossing it in Sir William’s face to get him to see “reason,” “if it wasn’t thieves … who was it?”

“That would be the question,” replied Sir William.

Tawiel scratched his head. “Ought we to send another party to search where we found Sir Lamorak’s body? We could have missed something the first time around. We were looking for thieves then, Sir William. It — it was the obvious explanation …”

There was an apology in that suggestion, and who could blame Tawiel? Sir William was not the kind of lord who quashed dissent without ever giving it a fair hearing, but this was the first time Sir William had, as Chief Justiciar, been proven decisively right. This could be nasty.

Or not. Sir William sighed and popped his knuckles one after another. “I’ve had three separate groups of guards search the area. They’ve found nothing. I don’t think …”

He trailed off, his eyes narrowing. “Master Tower …”

“Yes, my lord?”

“Did …” Sir William turned his head to one side. “Did the place where we found Sir Lamorak’s body seem at all … familiar to you?”

“Familiar, my lord?” Christopher could only stare. It was as close as he could get to pointing out that he was a city man through and through, and that one clump of trees was much the same to him as another.

“No?” Sir William leaned back — disappointed? Christopher bit his lip. “But I thought perhaps …” He stroked his chin.

Christopher and Tawiel waited. When Sir William started to think like that, usually only Lord Pellinore had been able to drag him out of it — and that was only by pulling rank. Christopher and Tawiel lacked that option.

“Are — are you sure?” Sir William asked. “Because I thought …”

“You — you thought, my lord?”

“I thought it might have been the same place we captured Lady Morgause. But it’s been so long …”

“Well, my lord, it’s certainly possible …” It had been a long time. Over four years. And the last time Christopher had seen that place had been in the dead of night — and when there was a dangerous witch to be watching, too.

“Would that be important, my lord?” asked Tawiel, cutting directly to the point.

Sir William tapped his fingers on the desk, only the parchment muting the sound of nails clicking on wood. “It could be,” he murmured.

“Wait, wait, wait,” Christopher interrupted. “My lord — if it was Sir Aglovale, or heaven forbid, Lady Dindrane who’d been found there, I might believe that there might be significance to it. But Sir Lamorak? What did he have to do with everything that happened with Lady Morgause?”

Sir William’s eyes widened — then they narrowed. He leaned back, the only movement he exhibited coming from a slow, methodical cracking of his knuckles.

Then he leaned forward. “We … we never explained why Lady Morgause wanted to make herself young again … did we …”

My lord!” Tawiel protested. “I–I know I didn’t have much part in the trial — but we didn’t need to, surely? Who wouldn’t want to make themselves young and comely forever?”

Sir William blinked, his eyebrows arching over his bright eyes. He turned to Christopher. “Do you think we should be worried?” he deadpanned, nodding to Tawiel.

Christopher barked out a laugh before he could consider his options. It stilled almost instantly. This was surely no laughing matter …

But who was he kidding? They called it gallows humor for a reason. Show Christopher the gaoler or lawman who didn’t have it, and Christopher would show you the gaoler or lawman who must have been halfway around the bend already.

Sir William smiled in response to the laugh, a quick flash of teeth and upturned lips that was gone almost before Christopher could register it. Tawiel even smiled. Then Sir William turned back to Tawiel. “Do you really think it’s as obvious as that?”

“Does it need to be any more complicated, my lord?” asked Tawiel.

Sir William did not answer immediately. He got up and started to pace.

Sir William did not urge them to sit down — a sure sign, if there ever was one,that he was too far gone in thought to be paying much attention to what they were thinking. He hadn’t had a habit of doing this when Lord Pellinore was Chief Justiciar. But when Lord Pellinore had been Chief Justiciar, Sir William had managed to avoid having to do his deep thinking when anyone was around to watch him. Christopher did not doubt that Sir William would have given a great deal to have that luxury back.

He made one pass of the room — two passes. Three. Finally he came to a rest facing the door, arms crossed before him, weight shifting from one foot to the other. “That can’t be all it was,” he finally said.

“Why do you say that, my lord?” asked Christopher.

“Because of Lady Morgan,” Sir William replied. “Because of some things my mother said, of some things the Queen said. Because of the woman Lady Morgause was.”

“I’m afraid I don’t follow, my lord,” replied Christopher.

“You didn’t know her very well,” replied Sir William. “I didn’t, either … but my mother has said things — Jess–my lady wife has said things, Gar–Lady Garnet has said things …” Sir William shook his head. “Lady Morgause was obsessed with her appearance. With being beautiful. The fairest in all the land.” Again the rhythmic popping of knuckles began. “Why did it take her almost fifty years to get to the point where she would kill — or come close enough to killing — for beauty?”

“Because of the cowplant, my lord,” Tawiel pointed out. “She didn’t get a cowplant growing in her back garden until after Lady Dindrane put it there.”

“Lady Dindrane said she’d been growing it for a long time before Lady Morgause struck,” Sir William answered. “She said she started before Lord Lot grew ill, although her experiments didn’t start in earnest until she was trying to cure him …”

“Lady Morgause’s experiments probably took a long time to work themselves up to that point,” Tawiel replied.

“No.” Sir William shook his head. “The cowplant creates youth through death. Everybody knows this. Why did it take Lady Morgause so long to kill?”

Christopher opened his mouth. But a quick look at Tawiel’s expression proved that the coroner was just as mystified as he was. Still, somebody had to inject the obvious into this debate. “But Sir William … what does any of this have to do with Sir Lamorak?”

Sir William froze. He turned around. “Do you truly think it could be coincidence — Sir Lamorak meeting his death in the same place where Lady Morgause was captured?”

“Sir Lamorak, yes!” replied Christopher. “If it had been Lord Pellinore — Sir Aglovale — Lady Dindrane — anybody on the jury — or even, with all due respect, my lord, you — then no, it’s certainly not coincidence! But Sir Lamorak? He had nothing to do with any of that. He was one of the only Gwynedds to keep himself completely out of it … er, not counting the young ladies.”

“But was he?” Sir William whispered — and to Christopher’s ears, Sir William wasn’t asking them, but himself.

Tawiel had a better question. “My lord … was Sir Lamorak involved? Did he say things to you, or do … something that was connected, but didn’t mention it to anybody else?” Tawiel glanced at Christopher, who shrugged. “Master Tower and I don’t know what Sir Lamorak might have done — but it seems you do …”

“Oh, yes,” Sir William murmured. “I do.”

More than that was not forthcoming.

Then there was a string of orders. “Master Raben — please send for the Emryses. Tell them I’d like an appointment — tomorrow, if at all possible. If not … well, tell them as soon as they can get here. Let them know it’s important. And …” Will stroked his chin. “Make sure you assign extra guards to the area of anyone who was connected to Lady Morgause’s trial or capture. If … if I’m right …”

“You think more people might be in danger?” Christopher asked. The question made Tawiel go pale — which was to say, go more pale.

But Sir William didn’t answer. Instead he pursed his lips together.

“Sir William — you’d best tell us what you’re thinking,” Christopher pressed. “You are someone who was very involved in Lady Morgause’s capture and trial! If you think Sir Lamorak’s death is connected — and if other people are in danger — you’re at the top of the list!”

“No. Not the top.” Sir William took a deep breath. “At least — I don’t think I’m at the top. But …” He shook his head. “Get the extra guards. But tell them not to be too obvious about it. I don’t want … I don’t want to tip my hand unless I have to.”

Christopher could well believe that. Tawiel, however, only nodded. “Aye, my lord.”

“And I …” Sir William took a deep breath. “I have to take my leave of you now, gentlemen. Please excuse me.”

“Where are you going? My lord,” added Christopher.

Luckily Sir William did not take offense. But all the same, his answer was not one that Christopher had been expecting. “Home. And thence to where we found Sir Lamorak. With — with my lady wife.”

Christopher’s eyes bulged. “Your wife?”

“Aye,” Sir William replied. Then, softly, “I can only hope I haven’t left it too long.”

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11 thoughts on “Use Not Only the Brains You Have, But All You Can Borrow

  1. Will, you’re a genius! Let’s hope you find everything! well, then again, maybe not. :-/ Cause if Will gets Mordred then Dindrane won’t bring Lamorak back. 😦 It’s a tough decision.

    It’s interesting to watch Will’s mind work when you’re not in his head. I think he’d just made some connections. And hopefully those connections will lead him to the person with Albion’s hugest Oedipal complex.

    But this will be kinda tough to prove, there isn’t a lot of evidence, except circumstantial. And quite honestly, I hope that Will doesn’t have to go through another he said/she said trial with an Orkney’s head on the block.

    But maybe they can find something to implicate Mordred so he’s out of our way, and we can still have Dindrane bring Mordred back.

    I wonder, though, who else might be in danger? Well, Garnet. Not Morgan, she’d hand Mordred’s ass to him while he was still blinking. I dunno that he’d start with the jury members… But he might make another pass at Thorn and his family. Hmmm.

    It’s hard to think like Mordred. That’s good though, I don’t really want to know what it’s like in his head. Although I did get to shoot my first scene with him and Franny coming out of the broom closet today, it was awesome. *giggles*

    • ^ Lamorak. I want Dindrane to bring Lamorak back. We don’t need Mordred back, we’ve got far, far more Mordred than we need. >_<' My fault for not proof-reading. Or my brother's because he was talking to me when I was trying to comment. We'll go with his fault.

    • Rest assured that if and when Mordred goes, Dindrane will be the last person bringing him back. Unless, of course, it’s to kill him again.

      Will has made a lot of connections! This post might have been easier to write if I’d done it from inside his head. As it is … well, it was difficult to pull off a balance of Will saying enough that the readers know where his thoughts were going without Christopher and Tawiel catching on. (Not that they would, since they don’t know what Will knows.) However, figuring it out might just be the easy part. Getting evidence, as you pointed out, could be the hard part.

      However, who knows how careful Mordred might have been? He was operating under the assumption that nobody else knows about Lamorak & Morgause, since that’s not exactly the sort of thing Lamorak wanted spread around. Perhaps with the Wizards of Albion on the case, Mordred might find that his plan starts to unravel.

      Who else might be in danger? Anybody who pisses Mordred off. But right now, I think he’s going to lay low for a bit. It wouldn’t do to kill too many people too close together; the heat might end up on him that way.

      Tee hee hee, glad you’re enjoying Brother Loki and Brother Dustin. 😉 Just don’t spend too much time in Brother Loki’s/Mordred’s head. I can guarantee you, it’s not a happy place in there.

      Thanks, Andavri!

  2. YES! 😀 Will is on the right track. The connection to Morgause, protecting everyone involved in the trial, having Jessie and the Emryses lend their magical expertise to the investigation. I have a feeling that it won’t be long before the correct conclusion is reached, and if that’s the case… well, Mordred can do all the running and hiding he wants, but an increasingly unstable man with a tendency to get involved with risky, high-profile assassinations only has a matter of time before he gets caught somehow…

    Oh man. I just want to whip up a batch of brownies and send them through the screen right to Will’s desk. But maybe those should wait until after Mordred is safely stored away somewhere. Preferably in an urn.

    • Will is indeed on the right track! There’s a reason why I made sure he was the only one at home when Lamorak came riding in after being raped by Morgause. (Which I guess shows you just how long I have been planning this arc.) Will was on the spot so that later, he’d have all the pieces.

      And exactly — once Will figures out that it was Mordred, it’ll only be a matter of time before Mordred’s ass gets nailed to the wall for something. Maybe not Lamorak’s death, but Will will have his eye on Mordred, and the second Mordred screws up, Will will be there waiting.

      LOL, brownies! If you do that, make sure you bake some extra for Will to take home. I have a feeling he’d get a kick out of watching Corey and Celeste feast on brownies. 😉

      Thanks, Van!

  3. … Oh, Mordred, you killed the horse? Don’t do that. I hate it when the unsub kills their victims’ animals.

    Ahem.

    I would lay money Mordred’s list of victims flows thusly:

    1. Nobody for a while; there are living people who have to suffer yet.
    And then in no particular order:
    2. Aglovale
    3. Garnet
    4. Dindrane
    5. Morgan
    6. ???
    7. Profit?

    Possibly Will is on that list, possibly he isn’t. Mordred can let himself hate and murder the Gwynedds as much as he wants to, but murdering trial personnel for being trial personnel makes him have to face the fact that Rosette’s father was on the jury. And he can’t kill him, because that would hurt Rosette. He won’t hurt the Thatchers because he doesn’t (or didn’t) have it in him to cause direct harm to a bastard close in age to his own bastards (but he’ll also do his best not to let them advance in the world). Aglovale has to die to bring about the utter fall of House Gwynedd; Garnet has to die for hating Morgause despite being her child; Dindrane can only die after she’s lost everything except her children. Morgan’s probably way down the list because Mordred does know his own abilities and how they compare to hers.

    Seven seasons (six of them good!) of Criminal Minds, I damn well ought to be able to follow Mordred’s thinking by now. But hey, thank god for Will knowing a little more about Lamorak than your average Joe. It won’t be pretty when it comes out, but it’s motive.

    … Even if I honestly suspect “How dare you act paternal toward my children, how dare you turn my daughter against me!” is a good sixty percent, at least, of Mordred’s motive. Nimue’s birthday party was well after Lamorak’s drunken confession, and for all Mordred thinks of his legitimate kids as his duty to his house rather than as little rugrats he can love without obligation, he certainly values Nimue and Gawain. Losing them, losing their loyalty, to a perceived enemy is unthinkable. Sure, he’ll tell himself it’s because Lamorak dishonored his mother, but he’ll tell himself that despite his original hallucination of Morgause claiming to have picked Lamorak out as a second husband…

    • Mordred cast a spell that would make the horse run itself to death. Which, according to my copious (coughcoughfiveminutescoughcough) Internet research, may or may not be a thing that happens. But anyway, Mordred didn’t want to risk Triss running for his home stable and alerting everyone to the fact that something was wrong. The more time that elapsed between Mordred killing Lamorak and the finding of the body, the better chance Mordred would have of getting away with it.

      Of course, that being said, all Will would have to do is figure out Lamorak’s route and find the last place where he was seen and figure out how long it would have taken him to get to the nearest tower that he hadn’t already toured to get an approximate time of death. So that wouldn’t be much good for Mordred in terms of coming up with an alibi. Still, if somebody like Garnet or Morgan had gotten on the scene quickly, things could have been very bad for Mordred. (Especially Morgan. If Lamorak hadn’t been dead all that long, she might have been able to use her magic to bring him back perfectly, and THEN Mordred would have been screwed.)

      As for whether Will is on that list (which I am not going to comment on, for fear of giving things away 😉 ), he may or may not be at this point. But he could always “earn” himself an entry by getting too close to Mordred’s tail. After all, Mordred wouldn’t have to do any mommy-issue justification for that: he’s not killing Will because he was the prosecutor in Morgause’s case, he’s killing Will to avoid Will being the prosecutor in HIS case.

      Ugh, if you’re right about what’s part of Mordred’s motive (and you’re certainly right that it is part of it), that is incredibly disgusting on Mordred’s part. Lamorak never did anything but be a good uncle … who sort of had to step into a paternal role because the guy who’s supposed to be fulfilling that role is, um, Mordred. But that would be Mordred’s line of thinking. *sigh* His evilness is beginning to disgust even me.

      Thanks, Hat!

  4. Yay, Will! 😀 I could just see all the little wheels start turning in his head. He’s a very smart man, he is. *nods* There’s no doubt in my mind he’ll be able to connect all the dots.

    But I hate Mordred a little extra for killing Triss. Damn you, Mordred, what was that good for? Couldn’t you just have let her go? 👿

    • I wanna say yes, yes he could have, and nothing I theorize makes what he did better, but after I said to myself ‘goddammit I hate when they kill animals,’ I said to myself, ‘… wait, does Albion’s world have magical ways to question animals? Like, seeing what they saw or memory retrieval or whatever? Is Triss a witness?’

      Because if Triss counts as a witness, I am still deeply disappointed, but there’s at least motive for the equucide (yeah I dunno I am making up crime names) beyond ‘I am Mordred, Lord Orkney, and I am a little shit.’

      • And this is why I should check my spam folder more than once a week. ^_^ Sorry, Hat! Don’t know how that happened.

        However, if you’re looking for a motive for Triss’s murder — look above. 😉

    • Oh yes, Will will be connecting the dots. (And it is so odd to talk about Will in the future tense … I’m always afraid I’m typing the same word twice and screwing up my sentence.) The trouble, however, will be getting the evidence. Still, as Van pointed out, Mordred’s sanity is going and he’s bound to slip up sooner or later.

      No, no, Mordred couldn’t have just let the horse go. He wanted to cover all his tracks. If he was smarter, he would have done something else with the saddle & saddlebags, though, even if it was just throwing them into a river. Letting the horse be found with the saddle, etc., just underscored the fact that this wasn’t thieves.

      Oh well. As one of the very minor characters (a police inspector, I think) in The Blue Train Mystery said, “If criminals kept their heads and acted with intelligence, how should we catch them?”

      (Answer: by being smarter than they are. Still, it helps for the bad guys to make mistakes. 😉 )

      Thanks, Nix!

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