Chapter 35: Trials

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They hadn't left his side all night. Even if he had wanted to, he wouldn't have been able to avoid attending Hildegund's trial. But, even though the thought of it took away his appetite, he was going to make right by Richart. He was.

The trial was held under the autumn sun in the inner courtyard of the Rallac's large residence. It was a palace, as far as Grimbert could reckon. The open-air courtyard was made of four brick walls, three of which had white marble archways and columns leading to a shady veranda; the fourth wall had a large gate leading to the street. The gate was open and people filled in the front part of the courtyard, stopping abruptly where a thick rope had been strung to mark a clear border. Grimbert was standing shoulder to shoulder with Pascual and Nikolaus. Lorenzo and Adso had made their way closer to the rope divider. Although there were several other spectators, and passersby kept wandering in, Grimbert did not feel overly crowded.

Grimbert took note of the potted plants that stood stately and majestic in front of each column. He could also make out stone statues standing in the shadows of the covered walkway. Who knew what else stood beyond his sight. Or behind the second-story windows that peered down from three of the walls.

A platform of sorts had been erected along the far wall of the courtyard, an empty table and several chairs were placed on top of it. Guards stood straight and stiff behind it, reminding Grimbert of the impossibility of escape.

A few moments later Hildegund was led out, slouching and dragging her feet. Two guards shoved her harshly to the front of the stage, where she stood, head down and worrying at her lip. Grimbert could hear Adso shout at her, and her eyes darted up, but no smile touched her lips. She looked so diminutive, standing there in front of imposing stone archways with tall guards close by. Her shaggy blonde hair, tight vest, and masculine breeches made her appear to be a youth of no more than ten. Putting a child on trial for murdering a knight was ridiculous. How could a child be strong enough to commit such a deed?

But did Grimbert really want to exchange places with her? No, of course not.

Yet, seeing her, so small and pitiful. It broke something in him. It really was all his fault, wasn't it? Not just giving her the necklace. Everything else, too. Would Richard have wanted his death revenged at the price of leaving Hildegund behind? He doubted it. Suddenly, Grimbert was awash in shame.

Soon a nobleman appeared, dressed in blue silk stockings, with a white tunic covered by a surcoat that was embroidered with the same coat of arms displayed on the fated necklace: two gold lions with forepaws resting on a gold fleur-de-lis. He also wore thick gold chains around his neck and had several large jeweled rings around his fingers. A blue chaperon rested on his head, hiding his hair. He was clean-shaven and had fair features: soft brows, pale blue eyes, a thin nose, and a straight-lined mouth. Was this the father of the swarthy, caterpillar-browed man Grimbert had killed? If this was Jean Rallac, then Sir Hugh must have taken after his mother.

The nobleman was followed by four men in their prime. They pranced in like peacocks, wearing bright silks and floppy hats. And while they didn't look like brothers - each having different noses and chins - they were all fair in color, rosy cheeked, and lean. The five members of the nobility took seats on the platform, the older man took center stage.

"Come to order!" shouted one of the guards, quieting the crowd. "Sir Jean Rallac will be presiding over this trial."

"Boy, you were found to be in possession of the necklace stolen by my son's murderer." Rallac's voice was cold and tinny. "How did you acquire this piece of jewelry? Have you recently been to the Holy Lands?"

Hildegund looked drained, like she hadn't slept all night. She looked up slowly, "I just arrived here in Venice two days ago. I was returning from a pilgrimage." Why was she telling the truth? That wasn't very smart of her.

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