ZIHAEN, The Shadow of the Revenaunt, Book 2

CHAPTER 10 - BAVOLT (Part 2)

Bavolt had been an elegant and modern mansion once, but what remained was fast decaying. They walked from under the shadow of the skyboat to the main entrance of the house.

‘Does anyone live here?’ Damion stared around with disgust. ‘What a mess.’

Ghyll had to agree; Bavolt looked barely habitable. Time and lack of maintenance had ravaged the mansion, and it looked like a once beautiful woman nearing the end of a dissolute life. The gateway wore an almost undamaged bell tower, but the other buildings surrounding the courtyard had mostly fallen down. The house was a colonnaded two-storey building of white stone now discolored with mosses. Above the main entrance, carved in stone the Bavolt family motto, Truwe’s Min Devyse.

Olle read the words and sniffed. ‘Strange idea of ​​true,’ he said and pushed against the peeling door. To Ghyll’s surprise, it opened silently. They entered a dim hall of immense proportions, certainly as large as the throne room in the royal palace, and completely empty except for a number of rusty suits of armor and a few rickety chairs.

‘Ahaha,’ a voice said. ‘Your Royal Highness has shaved the beard off. It makes you much younger, ahaha. What did the Queen think? She did not like the beard, I believe. You have a firm chin, Highness; I would not have expected that, ahaha.’

The speaker was an elderly man, bald on top, with the remains of his white hair drooping to his shoulders. His mouth was a toothless cave, his body thin and dressed in frequently repaired blue and silver doublet and pants. Hardingraud’s colors!

Ghyll shuddered at the thought of his parents’ murderer still wearing their livery. He doesn’t seem surprised. Does he really think I am my father? He managed to hide his disgust. ‘You are Bavolt?’

The hollow eyes of the man stared at him. ‘Of course I am Bavolt, your faithful Gentleman, ahaha. How may I be of service to Your Royal Highness?’

‘I have some questions, Squire Thu Bavolt. Questions about the past.’

‘Good, good,’ the man mumbled. ‘In the past it was good.’

‘Do you remember the day Crown Prince Jon-Halban died?’

Bavolt seemed to shrink and his eyes moved restlessly. ‘Prince Jon-Halban? Oh yes, definitely. Yes, I remember.’

‘Where were you that day?’

‘Where? Where? What would it be? I was… at the palace. Yes, at the palace. Your Highness did not need me that week. Jakor kept your clothes, instead of me.’


‘He thought he was a Gentleman, that Jakor. Pah, a lowborn fool. No manners, no… finesse. He was nobody.’ Flakes of saliva stuck in the gray beard, and a vein throbbed in Bavolt’s neck.

‘So you were not around when the crown prince died?’

‘No, no, I had that week off. I was glad I did not have to see that spoiled little mongrel for a while, with his pranks and his lack of respect.’

‘You were not so keen on Jon-Halban?’

‘Keen? I could not stand the child. Always the same miserable jokes. Bavolt, when are you getting married? Bavolt, you don’t fall on guys, do you? Bavolt, Marre the cook is looking for a man, wouldn’t you like her? Ah, I hated that child with his clever mouth.’

Ghyll swallowed; that didn’t fit with the picture he had of his eldest brother. Besides, it didn’t prove anything. Bavolt’s dislike of the crown prince didn’t make him a murderer.

‘Let’s go on to the death of Prince Ranolfe. Where were you then?’

‘At the palace. Again, it was Jakor’s turn to accompany you, Sire. Fortunately, actually. Ranolfe was an insult to my abilities. A rude, barbarous youngster, only interested in hunting and sports. I saw him properly dressed and before they served the morning meal, he was already dirty. And who got the blame? Not Nolfie, of course. No, Bavolt the Gentleman was the culprit. Ugh, terrible child.’

Ghyll shook his head. This couldn’t be true; both Steeklenborn and the serf Oburt had spoken very differently about his brothers. And where was the fat man? ‘You had a servant, I believe? Strange that I have not seen him yet.’

Bavolt looked nervously around. ‘Lammer? Yes, he must be around somewhere. He…’

‘Did you call, Squire?’ a deep, jovial voice said. ‘You have visitors! Why didn’t you ring, Squire? We can’t leave our guests without anything to drink.’

This was he! The description fitted exactly: the man was fat, with a broad smile, red face and white hair. He wore a leather apron over a filthy tunic and continuously wiped his hands on a towel. On his neck was a small, faded scar.

‘Don’t bother,’ Ghyll said. Being face to face with the man he was looking for made his hair stand on end. He noted that Childegard on his back quivered in its sheath, as if he wanted to warn him. Well, Ghyll needed no warning. ‘Are you Lammer?’

‘Yes, my lord,’ the fat man said submissively. ‘Lammer Kilman, servant of Squire Thu Bavolt, at your service.’ He looked at Ghyll and for a second, his eyes opened wide. That was the only response; the round face remained beaming.

He knows who I am, thought Ghyll. ‘I asked your master a few questions. Now I want the answers from you. Where were you on the day Prince Jon-Halban was murdered?’

‘Murdered, my lord?’ The man radiated innocence, but something in his eyes told Ghyll to be wary.

‘We know the crown prince was murdered,’ he said. ‘We also have a description of the culprit. You look like that man, Kilman.’

‘I, my lord? But we were here, that day, the Squire and I.’

‘According to Squire Thu Bavolt, he was at the palace that week.’

‘At the palace? Oh, now I remember. It is true; we were at the palace. It’s been so long.’

‘And when Prince Ranolfe died? Where were you?’

‘With my master, at the palace. I remember well, my lord.’

‘Strange. A man looking your spitting image was in Rabogst. He spoke to the old man who they said slew the prince, and he spoke with several people in the castle. We have people there who can recognize the fat man, Kilman. We know how it went. There were two murders that day, Kilman. We know who killed the prince and who hanged the old archer.’

Ghyll saw with satisfaction that the joviality in Lammer’s face was gone. In its place, a completely different character emerged, a hard and unscrupulous creature.

‘Squire Thu Bavolt. When King Halfraud and Queen Milliane were killed, you were present. You were one of the two survivors. The other was a crewmember who looked much like your servant Kilman. A crewmember that was totally unknown to the ship’s principals. The lieutenant of the Guard in Kyrran gave a perfect description of the fat man, even to the scar on his neck.’ This last was a gamble, but it worked, for Lammer paled.

‘In the wreck they found a strange object.’ Ghyll produced the blue cloth and unfolded it. In the center was the black vial.

‘We have had the contents of this bottle tested, and the fluid it contained was sufficient to put a large number of people to sleep immediately.’

Bavolt and Kilman both stared at the bottle as if mesmerized.

An elongated, metallic sound broke the silence. It was Olle, who had drawn his large sword.

‘Squire Thu Bavolt,’ Ghyll said in an implacable voice. ‘Who killed the king and queen? You or Lammer Kilman?’

‘Oh,’ the old Gentleman of the Chamber said, ‘that was I, ahaha. That was I, of course. Lammer did the two princes, but my master insisted I kill the Highnesses myself.’

Kilman stared at Ghyll, and the evil in his face shocked the young king. Then the fat man sprang forward and struck.

Bavolt tottered on his legs with the handle of Lammer’s dagger sticking from his chest. With a curse, Olle grabbed the servant, who didn’t resist, and put his hunting knife on Lammer’s throat. His gaze was so deadly that the fat man looked away.

Ghyll caught the squire. ‘Why did you do it?’ he asked urgently, as he lowered the dying man to the floor.

‘I hated your family,’ the old Gentleman said hoarsely. ‘The king, a weakling with a crown; the queen, a finicky hysteric, and those terrible children. Besides, they promised me money and power, after the revolution. If all went well, I would get a high position in the Court; no longer a simple assistant Gentleman of the Chamber, but Lord Steward at least.’

He coughed and spat blood over his livery. ‘It was so easy. They gave me the bottle. I only had to wait for the right moment. I mixed the contents of the bottle through the food and everyone slept. The watch on deck I did separately. Captain, helmsman, the lookout on the bow, they all took the glass of wine with which I treated them. My birthday, I said and they even toasted with me. Then they slumped down. Ahaha, I stood at the helm of a ghost ship. We jumped overboard and waited for the impact. Magnificent! The ship was exactly in the middle of the rocks. Within minutes, it had sunk to halfway up the helmsman’s hut. Lammer and I climbed back on board and sat at ease on the roof of the hut until the rescuers arrived. It was that simple!’

‘Who were they? Who gave the order to kill?’

Bavolt coughed again and his voice sounded weak. ‘Ahaha! The Master! He’s… he’s family! Family! Ahaha… Everything… everything for the glory of Bavolt.’ He gestured weakly to the ruin around him. ‘The glory of Bavolt. Oh Gods, the irony.’ Then he spewed up a great rush of blood and died.

Olle looked at his foster brother. ‘The man was mad. He hated the Hardingrauds because he was weak. What he thought of your parents isn’t worth a smith’s cuss.’

Ghyll tore his eyes away from Bavolt’s corpse and looked emptily at his foster brother. ‘Perhaps,’ he said heavily. ‘But…’

While everyone looked at Ghyll, the fat man saw his chance. With an amazing speed for someone his size he wrested himself out of Olle’s grip and disappeared through a side door. Olle snarled and ran after him, with the others at his heels. Ghyll, the lame last of all, put his sword away and followed at his own pace.

The door opened onto a corridor with faded tapestries on the walls. In the distance were the voices of the Companions. Ghyll hastened after them, as fast as his legs allowed him. Suddenly he heard a sound behind him and turned around. The stout shape of Lammer Kilman stood in the doorway he had just passed. In Kilman’s hands flashed a well-maintained twohander sword. There wasn’t anything jolly in him now. His face was a hateful grimace, his mouth twisted as he stared at Ghyll. ‘The last Hardingraud. With your death, the Master will triumph.’

‘Your master is dead,’ Ghyll said, surprised. ‘You killed him.’

‘That dolt?’ Kilman spat in the dust, without taking his eyes off Ghyll. ‘Bavolt was a pawn. Never more than that.’

‘You’re Dar’khamorth.’ Now everything was clear to Ghyll. Kilman was an agent of the Dar’khamorth. The murderers of Tinnurad had also killed his family.

The fat man struck. Just in time, Ghyll parried the treacherous attack and the sound of their clashing swords filled the corridor. Childegard?

Don’t worry, Sire. I’m here. The sword sprang into flames and Kilman held back his next stroke. His eyes narrowed as he stared at the blade. Then he dove at Ghyll, his weapon like a spear in front of him. Ghyll jumped aside and a terrible pain shot through his leg. Kilman turned, nimble as a juggler, and slashed. With an almost instinctive movement, Ghyll caught the blow on Childegard’s blade.

For a moment both stood motionless, their weapons pressed together. Ghyll felt the power of the fat murderer, and the muscles in his own arm trembled. He saw Kilman’s face purple and the veins in his temple throb. The man is old, he thought, surprised. Then, as if tired, he lowered his sword point. As Kilman’s blade moved in response, came Childegard’s Now, Sire! Man and sword thrust together, and Childegard slid through Kilman’s chest. The fat man gave a cry, dropped his weapon and leaned forward. Ghyll stepped back, pulled his sword out of Kilman’s body and cleaved the fat man’s skull. Just at the moment the Dar’khamorth murderer fell to the ground, Olle came running. Ghyll turned to him. ‘Hardingrauthe tha Staercse,’ he said, while the tears ran down his cheeks. Wordlessly they stood, Ghyll leaning on Olle, waiting for the pain in his leg to subside. One by one, the others joined them.

Finally, Ghyll straightened his back. ‘We’re done here. The murders are solved and the perpetrators dead.’ Resolutely he wiped the tears from his cheeks. ‘Bo, take us back to the inn, if you please. We’re moving into the palace. I’m done with aliases.’

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