Jondan closed his eyes and bowed his head. He was quiet for several long moments. He took a very deep breath and let it out slowly. He turned in Lauryn’s direction and opened his piercing blue eyes. Lauryn gasped at his intense scrutiny.
“Do you have anything to say?”
Lauryn swallowed and looked to Madame Gertrude for some help. She would not get any from that woman who looked down at the floor with her face all scrunched up in anger.
“I…” Lauryn faltered before she could begin. She cleared her throat. “She should not be allowed to move into my place before me.” Lauryn’s voice pierced the air and broke on her spite.
“You admit to beating your sister?” Jondan was not moved by Lauryn’s outburst.
Lauryn’s shoulders drooped in defeat. “Yes.”
“You know our laws on violence, do you not?”
“In payment to your sister for your misuse of her body, you will be required to cloth her in finery. Before your marriage you must make her three new dresses. You may not give her any of your old dresses. Each dress must be made between now and your wedding and they must be made by you. You are to embroider the neckline of each with a different design. Izabo will inspect them before you personally hand them to your sister. If you do not do this before your wedding the wedding will be postponed until you have finished them and you have satisfied Izabo of their quality. You will use cloth from your wedding gifts to make these dresses. Do you understand?”
“Speak up.” Jondan’s voice boomed at Lauryn.
“Yes.” Lauryn began to cry sincerely for the first time that any one had ever seen.
“Your penalty is light compared to what will happen to you if you ever raise your hand to anyone ever again.” With this declaration, Jondan turned in his seat to face Madame Gertrude. He sat staring at her silently until she raised her head in defiance to look him in the eyes.
“What?” Madame Gertrude hissed out this one word. The venom was clear in her voice.
“You will begin by getting up, getting Mairyn’s belongings and bringing them to me now.” Jondan spoke to Madame Gertrude very quietly. Those who knew him well knew he was most dangerous when he was quiet.
Madame Gertrude continued to stare at him in defiance and she did not move from her seat. No one spoke and no one moved while this silent battle of wills was taking place. You could see Madame Gertrude physically weaken as the moments passed. Finally, she stomped her foot and rose. She left the hall for the area under the eaves where Mairyn had her sleeping space. She was followed out of the room by the two men who had been standing guard over her. In a short time she was back. She walked over to Jondan carrying a small bundle and dumped it on the table next to Jondan. She placed her hands on her hips and stood in front of him.
“You may go sit back down,” said Jondan. She did not move. Her guards took her arms to guide her back. She jerked her arms from their grasps and stomped back to her seat and plopped herself down. She continued to glare at Jondan.
Jondan gestured to Izabo. She separated the items Madame Gertrude had dumped on the table. There was one work dress and one under dress. There was an old bone comb with several broken teeth. There was one red ribbon, a small piece of quartz and a folded piece of velum with a flower pressed inside. Izabo laid these things out carefully and neatly on the table.
“Are these your belongings?” Jondan asked Mairyn. She looked around him at her things and nodded her head.
“Everything is there?” He asked, incredulousness tingeing his voice.
Mairyn looked up her things. The dress was very worn and stained from all of her cleaning. The under dress was stained with sweat. And while her clothes were clean they were shabby. The comb and quartz she had for as long as she could remember. She often thought that they may have belonged to her mother. The red ribbon and the flower were gifts from Petre. She glanced in his direction and knew by the look on his face that he remembered giving them to her and he was amazed that she had kept them. She blushed in embarrassment.
“Those are all of my things.” She spoke so quietly that only those people immediately around her heard her answer.
“Do you wish to keep these things?”
Mairyn nodded. Izabo gathered everything together and bundled them into her dresses. She handed everything to Mairyn with care. Mairyn took the little package and held it in her lap. She began crying again. She shook her head, squeezed her eyes closed to clear them, then raised her chin and held her head up high. Petre put his hand on the hand not being held by Jondan. Both Jondan and Petre squeezed her hands at the same time.
Jondan cleared his throat and coughed. Gideon rushed to him with a cup of ale. Wulfgard watched his son play serving boy and wondered at his unaccustomed servility. This was something he would contemplate at a later time. Jodan took a deep drink and handed the cup back to Gideon and nodded his thanks.
“Madame Gertrude,” said Jondan, “in payment to your former ward for your abuse of her person, you will provide Mairyn with a dowry equal to the one you are providing for Lauryn.”
“I will not.” Madame Gertrude jumped up an attempted to rush Jondan. The people in the room gasped at her audacity.
“You will comply or your will forfeit all of your belongings and leave this village forever.” People gasped again at Jondan’s declaration. It was rare that anyone was ever stripped of their belongings and banished. As a matter of fact it had never happened in the lifetime of anyone present. This was so unheard of that in shocked Madame Gertrude back onto her bench. She had a great many belongings and losing them all was a very sobering thought.
“You will present Mairyn’s dowry to her personally within three days. And as you were abusing the ward of Wulfgard, you will pay him three sheep in guilt payment at the same time.” Jondan banged his staff on the stone floor of the hall and everyone jumped. His sentence had been served.
Madame Gertrude’s guards would remain with her until she had fulfilled her debt. The crowd began to disperse.
Izabo took her round parcel from the table and came around to help Jondan up. He stopped in front of Mairyn before leaving.
“It is time for you to begin a new life.” He patted Mairyn on the head, laughed and leaning on Izabo, he left.
Mairyn followed him out the door with her eyes. She was in shock. Wulfgard walked up to her. He took her hand from Petre’s and raised her to her feet. Petre rose too.
“It is time for you to see your new home,” said Wulfgard. He took her things from her and handed them to Petre. Mairyn took a quick glance at Lauryn and Madame Gertrude and looked away. She did not like what she say. They both were definitely her enemies now. Wulfgard guided her to the door. Petre and Gideon followed. Only Wulfgard noticed that Gideon had never once spoken to his future wife during the time they were in the hall together. Except for Lauryn of course. She definitely noticed. The little group left the Lindwurm for Wulfhall. Mairyn thought she was leaving Lindwurm for the last time and thought she might have some sadness about leaving the only home she could remember, but the only memories the guesthaus held were of continuous work. She did not think she’d be missing that. She was still stunned by what had just happened. People defended her; people stood up for her; people took her side over Lauryn’s. She never would have thought it possible this morning when her day had begun. Now, if things went the way Jondan decreed, she’d be a rich woman, richer than she thought ever possible. She’d have a dowry and maybe someone would want to marry her. No matter what became of her now she would never forget this day. She had been willing to give up and go on with her pathetic and abused life. The chances were that her life would have been worse than before if she had been allowed to accept her defeat and be under Madame Gertrude’s power for the rest of her life. But people had come to her aid; people that she never knew even paid any attention to her. She had no idea how this had come about but some sort of miracle had happened and she had been thrust into a new life, one she was afraid to begin because she was sure it would be very different from her previous life. She didn’t know if she were up to what lay ahead but it was exciting to wonder what was in store for her. She looked back to Petre and smiled a great big dazzling smile. He grinned back at her. Behind Petre, Gideon leered at her.
Mairyn shivered from the look she saw on Gideon’s face.
“You are cold and tired and sore, I am sure, from this strange day,” said Wulfgard. “We will take you to your new home and make you comfortable.” He smiled down at her and placed his arm across her shoulders and gave her a hug. She stiffened momentarily from the unaccustomed kind contact. She looked up at Wulfgard to see if she had insulted him. He smiled again, hugged her briefly and let her go.
“Gideon, run ahead of us and tell Cook to be prepared with a light meal for Mairyn. But make sure it is warm. And tell Maison to have the fire stoked in the green chamber and set out a fresh chemise for Mairyn.”
Gideon nodded and ran off to follow his father’s instructions.
“You can bathe in the morning,” said Wulfgard, “I think a good night’s sleep is what you need first.”
“Thank you,” said Mairyn. She was too shy of Wulfgard to say anything else.
“You’ll get used to us all,” he said. “Petre will be charged with helping you adjust and find your way around.” He gestured Petre up to join them. “You can manage that, can you not, nephew?”
“Yes, sir, I’ll be happy to oblige.”
“As I thought.”
Wulfgard addressed Mairyn again.
“Tomorrow, you and I will discuss your future. I’m sure you have been wondering what is in store for you.”
“It is permissible for you to say more than a few words.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Wulfgard and Petre laughed ay Mairyn. She blushed and then laughed with them. She would need a lot of time to get used to people actually wanting to talk to her.
As they walked through the town, various people called greetings to Wulfgard and Petre and many called Mairyn’s name too. She was astounded by how many people knew her name. She had never spoken to most of these people in the fourteen years she had been here. She looked at them wide eyed and made small hand waves to acknowledge their good wishes and greetings. She didn’t think anything of her appearance even though her dress was ripped and her face was tear stained. She never thought much of how she looked since she never had the opportunity to do anything about it. With one old work dress and half a comb and only house cleaning water there wasn’t she could have ever done before. Today had been the first day in her life when she had ever bothered with her looks. She really had no idea how closely she resembled Lauryn when given the chance to make an effort. And it would be a while before she found out that her smile captured peoples’ hearts but again she had never had reasons to smile much before. Her smiles had only been given to Petre and unbeknownst to her she had enslaved his heart.