Chapter 33: Confusion

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Grimbert

Grimbert's mouth fell agape as he was pushed to the ground and he watched Hildegund get dragged away. The guards, with their blue and white striped stockings and gold fleur-de-lis embroidered sashes, had moved swiftly and efficiently. And Grimbert remained stunned-still on the ground until they had exited the tavern and Hildegund's shrill screams faded into the distance.

But Grimbert didn't have much time to absorb what had just happened, for in a moment he was the one being attacked.

"What did you do?" the tall scarred man yelled, yanking Grimbert to his feet. "Why are they taking him?"

"I - I don't - How should I know?" Grimbert spat out, trying to shrug off the hands that pawed at his shirt.

"What just happened?" asked an adolescent boy, a warble of emotion exaggerating the youth of his newly deepened voice.

Grimbert turned, saw Adso, and was momentarily lost. "When did you get here?" the question tumbled from his mouth.

"I brought him, Grimbert. Looks like you've been making some bad trades. Very out of character." A swivel of Grimbert's head revealed Nikolaus, the traveling merchant who Grimbert had occasional dealings with. He had even acquired his wooden practice sword from him in the months before their journey began. This, of course, only compounded Grimbert's confusion.

He didn't like feeling confused. He didn't like feeling accused. And he certainly didn't like the feeling of guilt that was beginning to ball up in his gut. He needed an escape, but there wasn't a path out of the tavern. "I need a drink," he moaned.

"Now, that sounds more in character," Nikolaus chuckled, causing Grimbert's cheeks to burn.

"Let's all calm down, we're just going to make things worse if we start a brawl," the fat one reasoned. Grimbert decided that he liked this fellow. "We can figure out what to do next over a round." Yes, Grimbert definitely liked him best.

"This is crazy," Adso announced before darting out the door, presumably after Hildegund.

"I agree," said the tall one, who also stomped out.

"They'll be back. The Rallac guards won't let them get very far. You two go sit back down, I'll grab five more drinks," said the fat one.

"How did you get here?" Grimbert asked Nikolaus as they took a seat.

"I could ask you the same question, old friend, but if you really want to know, Lorenzo, the man with the scar, is my brother-in-law. Whenever we are in town at the same time we get together and swap stories from our travels. Last month he told me a wild tale about a lost child he had met in Tyre. Turns out the boy is from Loconge. He didn't know that I go to Loconge. 'Next time you're in Tyre, bring him back, and I'll get him home,' I told him. I figured it would help win us some time off of our sentence in Purgatory," he laughed at this and then continued his tale as the fat man carried drinks over, two at a time. "Then I was in Loconge again, like I am so often, and I asked a few people about recent pilgrimages, and well, one thing lead to another, and Adso insists on traveling with me here to Venice. I told him there were no promises that his cousin would be here, but he refused to listen to reason."

"Well, then, do you know the, uh, whole story?" Grimbert whispered as the fat man went to grab the last drink.

"The disguise, you mean?" Nikolaus whispered back, and Grimbert nodded. "Yes, I knew Richart well enough to know he had a daughter, but don't worry, I can keep a secret." He winked at Grimbert as the fat man sat down.

"So those were the Rallac guards?" Grimbert asked glumly.

"Yes. Does the name ring a bell?" the fat man responded.

"I know that Jean Rallac is a French nobleman." It wasn't a lie, just an omission.

"And why would a French nobleman be arresting Joseph?" the fat man asked.

"Like I said to your friend: I don't know."

"Well, I'm not so sure of that," the fat man let his voice trail off.

"Pascual, I feel like I am missing part of the story," Nikolaus said, finally giving a name to the man who had so generously bought their drinks.

"Well Nicolo, just yesterday Grimbert here gave Joseph a very eye-catching necklace, and now this morning, Joseph was arrested by the Rallac guards. Just seems suspicious."

Grimbert shifted uncomfortably under the new scrutiny.

"A necklace that gets you arrested? That certainly was a bad trade, Grimbert. Where did you get it?"

Grimbert was spared from having to answer by the return of Lorenzo. Adso was sulking behind him. "They took him to the Rallac estate, probably to hold him in their dungeon cell. At least he isn't with the vermin in the city jails."

"That's a small relief, I guess," Pascual slid a drink over to Lorenzo.

"A trial will be set for the morning," Adso announced as he plopped down on a stool. "We need to clear this mess up so we can get Joseph home."

Grimbert felt all eyes shift towards him. He withered under their glare, a worm stranded on the cobblestones after a rainstorm, succumbing to the sun's hot rays.

"Well?" Adso prompted impatiently, "How are we going to clear this up? What's the plan?"

"Right before you two came back, Grimbert was about to explain where Joseph's new necklace came from. So, maybe we should let him answer that," Nikolaus said.

After a pregnant pause, Grimbert realized that he had no choice but to speak. "Like I said to Joseph yesterday, the necklace came from the neck of the man who killed Richart. I took it as proof of my revenge. How was I supposed to know that Richart was murdered by a nobleman's son?" The words were difficult to say, but there was a relief in saying them. As he said them aloud for the first time, however, he heard the absurdity in them. "I did nothing wrong. I revenged my friend's death. Killing that man was justice."

The men at the table exchanged worried glances. "Are you sure you killed the right man?" Lorenzo finally asked.

Grimbert was positive. He thought back to that day, how he waited outside of the city and followed the riders towards Tripoli. He had snuck up on their camp and watched them. When he killed the man with the hooked nose and caterpillar eyebrows he had looked into his eyes. It had been a face he had known.

But a haze of doubt began to creep at the edges of his memory. He had been sick with grief. Their camp had had no fire, and he only saw them in the pale light of the moon. Could he have made such a grievous mistake?

He shook his head vigorously, and spoke with more confidence than he suddenly felt, "No, I am positive that I killed the right man."

"Okay then, we just need to explain the situation to the Rallacs. If your killing was justified, then so be it. But more importantly, Joseph is completely innocent of all wrongdoing," Lorenzo said.

Grimbert broke out in a cold sweat. He knew what the man was saying was correct, but it was also terribly unfair. The Rallac's would never accept his version of events, and if he turned himself in, he would certainly be hung for his actions. This was not supposed to be how his story ended.

"I can tell what you are thinking, Grimbert," came Adso's voice, full of a righteousness that only a 13-year-old could muster, "You can't let Joseph down again. You will come to the trial tomorrow and you will make right by Richart."

Richart. As much as he hated to admit it, Adso was right. He had to do right by Richart. Seeking revenge had only caused more trouble. But he was being given an opportunity to correct his mistakes, and he wasn't going to throw it away.

"I will," said Grimbert glumly. "I will."

"And we will make sure of it," said Adso, "Won't we?" And the rest of the men nodded.

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