Crime and Punishment
Back in Tal Ryth, we found that Captain Ferin and his (and our) troops had captured six bandits and had invested the village itself, so another twenty, twenty-five bandits (well, men, women and children, even babies) were kept in place for us. The captured bandits, interestingly enough, were a raiding party that had tried to make off with what was left after the Feast of Mizran.
There was Rava, who came from Tal-Ryth, and who was visibly pregnant — jealous!!! — Rovan, the village chief, one middle-aged bandit, one young woman and two boys. But before we had a chance to actually interrogate the suspects, Halla and Vauri grabbed us by the arm and took us in the village head’s house.
There, on the table, was a book… It was their administration! It kept track of when they had plundered which village, what they had taken and from whom! They actually kept books! I joked at Halla and Vauri that this no doubt was to make sure they never plundered the same village twice in a row, but they confirmed that Rava, who had kept the books, actually had that in mind when she had set up the system, six years ago.
Well, I say! I mean! It’s one thing for high-level bandits like Sidhan to keep books, they do their stealing that way — but low-level bandits like these village robbers, to keep books is unheard-of! At least, I had never heard it!
After that, I started interrogating our suspects. I made sure that the ones I had interrogated weren’t in a position to tell the others about me afterwards. I decided to start with Rava; she was local, pregnant and had already proven communicative.
She was mostly concerned with her two children still in the robbers’ village, with apparently is called “Tal” without any specifier. She is married to Rovan, the village head and chief robber, and she swore they had never killed or even seriously wounded anyone. “We’re too sneaky for that!” she said, but on the other hand… They certainly had been using threats of violence. I also asked after rape, but she said, Rovan didn’t do that. Though there was this guy from Hostinay, Aldan, living in their village, who certainly had tried it with her, and succeeded with others.
In the end, I sent her back to her parents, big belly and all. She dreaded that, of course, but, well! I sent Maile after her, to check whether Rava would be offered violence by her family, but Maile reported that it was hugs, kisses and asking after the other grandchildren.
Next up was Rovan. He was harder nut to crack; superficially attractive, gifted but untrained, all in all much too much aware of his attractiveness. Blech. The impression I got from his answers was that he’s not only superficially attractive, but superficial to the core. Which is skin-deep with him. He didn’t show much worry for Rava or his kids, no empathy with his victims, no deep care for his villages. Robbing, banditry and plundering was how his granddad had set up the village, and hey, it worked fine, didn’t it? Easy work if you can get it, and good innings.
Sigh… These people travel long distances for uncertain plunder, then take it back and cannot even trade it because they are outcasts. But he didn’t see it that way, not at all.
Then I tried to awaken his sense of guilt by explaining how his plundering had impoverished his countrymen, possibly to the point where the weaker members of a family would die in the winter, because the seed stock had to be kept intact, so the food would be scarce.
At that, he just shrugged. “Everyone dies, why not them? If they’re old and useless? What’s the loss?”
I’m not sure that his man is good husband material, and I think he’s going to have to be punished. Maybe in the tow-galleys in Essle? The rowing boats that pull in the big sea-going vessels through the estuary? That’s quite a punishment. And nobody escapes, at least not if they cannot swim really well through thin, stinky, poisonous, salty mud.
The middle-aged man was next. He was really a habitual criminal from laziness. Not smart, not gifted, not anything, but a thief and bully since he could walk. Galleys for him, too.
The younger woman and the two boys, well, they weren’t interesting. Foot soldiers or water carriers — they had been caught by our kids when they were trying to hide in the trees. Criminals because they were following their village head, not because they wanted to. One of the boys said, “I wish we could just visit village fairs and making up to girls!” And the other one told me he wanted to run away to sea, and was deeply interested when I told him about our nautical academy: “Does that cost a lot of money to attend? How much should I steal before I can attend?”
The final thing I learned was that one of the young boys also had been raped by Aldan. And that Aldan from Hostinay had bragged of having been the one who took the king’s eye with his sling.
This did look bad.
But it was evening now, so I went to look for Moyri, reported my findings and kissed her everywhere afterwards. And she me. And we resolved to end it tomorrow.
(I think galleys for the middle-aged guy, Arin, a stint of work on the water pipes in Selday for Rovan and then send him back to his wife, and schooling for the other three. Rava can stay with her parents. Moyri agreed with this proposal when we were getting back our breath, lying in each others arms.)
The next day we went to Tal Bandit. We first found our perimeter guards, and then we just rode into the village square, me, Moyri our army, our kids and the people from Tal-Ryth and the other villages. On our way, I asked Mazao whether he wanted to make Moyri and me pregnant…
“Well, that’s sudden!” he said.
“Your uncle Leshin, who is in Tal-Ryth…”
“Did I miss him!” Mazao exclaimed.
“Don’t get worked up! He’s still there. He’s fine, not too maimed, only his penis and balls are mostly gone, otherwise I’d ask him! He’s even more handsome than you are!”
“Huh. I guess… So, why me?”
“Well, you’re handsome, you’ve already got one or more children that you’re not really involved with…”
“Of course not, that’s women’s work!”
“Hah… Well, Moyri and I want children who are our own. You can visit, you can play the uncle, but their parents would be the two of us!”
“I see — and that makes me a good candidate.”
“Yes. Besides, even though baronesses are appointed by the King, the usual thing is that their children get appointed. And wouldn’t it be good if the next baroness (or baron) is related to you Ishey? There are so many Ishey living here, I think it would be good.”
“It would be very good indeed! I accept.”
I gave Moyri the good news, and when the three of us were riding next to each other, I had some fun teasing poor Mazao about how I would bring his love-making skills to a whole new level before I would allow him to touch my wife. That was so much fun!
Most villages were in the square, but nobody I could recognize as Aldan. I asked everyone where he was, and we finally ran him down in a hay loft.
People did protest when we took everyone to Tal-Ryth, not giving them time to pack any possessions; I assumed that everything in the village was stolen, so we left Halla, Vauri and a bunch of helping hands to make an inventory.
Back in Tal-Ryth, I could sense the anger from the local people. I knew someone would have to hang to make sure the whole village wasn’t going to be lynched; they had been preying on the countryside for too long.
So, after everyone was locked up, I immediately had a courtyard prepared, two chairs, one for me, one for Moyri, a table for the Law to rest on and a bench for Aldan.
He was brought before us, and I asked him his name, mother’s name, village of birth, age… And I confronted him with the testimony of Rovan, who declared he had heard Aldan often brag about having taken out the King’s eye with his slingshot.
“Aldan, what do you say? This man’s testimony, do you confess or deny?”
“Ha! Of course I did it! If I could have taken out the King’s other eye, I would have done so too!”
He still seemed to regard it as a bit of harmless bragging.
“And anyway, you don’t have proof, you don’t have eyewitnesses (pun! haha!), you cannot get me for that!”
“Aldan, it is true that I have neither proof, nor eyewitnesses. But I have your confession. And that is enough; a confession supersedes everything else unless clearly made to shield another. That is not the case here.
“Riei Aldan from Hostinay, I sentence you to death for the treason against the kingdom, lese-majesty and causing grievous bodily harm with intent to maim. You will be hanged by the neck as soon as Moyri has confirmed my sentence.”
Moyri, white as snow, nodded, and said, “So I confirm.”
At that, Aldan started to shout and cry, claiming that I couldn’t do this, where was my proof? But I rapped him on the head with Queen Raisse’s law book, and that calmed him down quite a bit.
Enough that I had time to rig a noose from the hook in the hayloft; by the time he came to, I offered him his right of using the outhouse before being hanged, and that done, had him taken up. I put the noose around his neck and kicked him in the back. He dropped out of the door of the hay loft, fell down and the rope broke his neck.
Moyri found me burrowing in the hay, and we cried ourselves asleep. When we woke up, we had a ginger tom cuddling between our legs. That was nice.