Chapter 3: Final Rest.
The guard escorted Darius, but maintained a careful distance, even though he was chained. They arrived at the door to the cell, a larger one and more comfortable one on ground level. Darius was uncertain whether this was a courtesy being extended to him by Lord Nasher, or by the guards. It failed to matter to him in either case, "Sorry about this Sir Angelus. Just doing our job, it's nothing personal."
They unchained him and gently, but firmly pushed him in to the cell. For a moment Darius rubbed his wrists determined to bring some life back in to them. He looked around and noted the cot that hung from one wall, in a far corner of the dingy cell. He snorted in frustration, before sitting down upon it, as he heard the key turn in the lock behind him. One of the guards turned his back upon Darius, went across the small space to a desk, and sat down there, with two others, ostensibly to guard him, but in all honesty, to while away the time before they were relieved.
Darius stared at the wall from where he sat, counting the number of dingy stones that made up the wall that was also beginning to crumble slowly, "I can't believe this. How could this have happened? In this city? In Neverwinter! How could such a thing have happened?"
Rising to his feet, Darius approached the solid iron bars that made up one of the walls. He could see the trio of guards, chatting quietly to each other, as he stood there, hands wrapped around the bars, "Hey!" his first shout garnered their attention, his second served to bring one of them over to door.
"What?" snapped the guard, "You're lucky that you´re just in a cell and not hanging from a tree with that traitor!"
Darius snorted at him, before lashing out with cat like reflexes, grabbing the front of the guard's tunic, and jerked him closer to the bars, "Explain to me how such injustice can be done in a city with the God Tyr as its Patron Deity? The confusion upon the guards face was thin mask to hide the fear. Darius released him in disgust, pushing him back hard enough to stumble before falling to the floor. Darius yelled at the prone figure yet again, "Answer the damn question!"
"You wish to talk of injustice? Fenthwick was a traitor to the city!" retorted the guard, as he stood and brushed himself off, his two fellow guards coming forward eyeing Darius angrily.
"Fenthwick Moss was charged with criminal negligence! Review the laws of your city: The punishment must fit the crime. The punishment for negligence is imprisonment! Your own laws state it. You are the ones who called to enforce it. You are the ones who should know what it states! How is death and imprisonment equal punishments to the same crime?" Darius glared at the gathered guards, who glared back unconvinced at his argument, "You choose to follow the orders that broke the very laws you are meant to up hold."
"We did our duty to our lord!" snapped back the same guard, his two fellows standing at his sides, nodding their agreement.
"So you do what you are told, despite the fact that it is against the laws you are sworn to uphold and serve. You do as you are told to avoid getting in trouble?" whispered Darius in disbelief, "I find that pathetic. You shame the very city that you serve and protect!"
"We did what our Lord ordered us to do," another said calmly
Darius turned away from the guard, his feet dragging across the stones as he moved back and sat down upon the cot, "You are nothing but cowards and fools. The puppets of a Lord who does not understand the law he is supposed to uphold."
The second guard frowned as he spoke, "Should I have stopped Fenthwick's hanging? And then be accused of being a traitor? And then hang alongside him?"
"Yes," replied Darius quietly, "You should have," he paused, "You would have died an honest man. Now, you die a murderer. How could you fail to see those out there that tried to stop this "justice" but could not because of your fellows? There should be at least a dozen more hanging alongside Fenthwick as traitors to the City. But there is still only one body hanging from the Great Tree." Darius sat down upon the Cot, "If the crowd has demanded it, would you have hung me along side Fenthwick?"
The guards watched him and considered his words. None of them spoke, but all of them knew the truth in his words, as it had cut them to their very soul. Darius was calm, but he was calm only because he was still numb in shock over the death of his friend, and the injustice of it all. It did not seem as if any time had passed when he heard the key spin in the lock, as the door swung inward on its hinges. The guard stood and waited for him to exit, before handing him both his blades, in their scabbards, by the hilt.
Darius stared in to the same guard's eyes, and nodded his acceptance of his weapons. He strove to take them, but the guard held firm upon them, causing Darius' eyes to narrow as he stared in to the man's face. The guard hesitated and swallowed, his eyes falling to the ground, "You were right," he said, before releasing his hold upon the scabbards. He took a deep breath before speaking again, "Come, I was told to escort you from the Castle."
"I want to return to the Courtyard," said Darius quietly, "I…"
"I will take you there," he replied.
They followed the same route that they had taken before, and emerged at the door that lead back to the Courtyard. Darius turned and stared at the guard, who retreated inside. He heard the shifting of metal meaning that they had closed and bolted the door behind him.
The sun had set, hours before and was already rising upon the beginning of a new day. A few hours they had said. More like an entire day. His gaze wandered past the pile of ash and bone to rest upon the Great Tree, beneath which still sat Lady Aribeth de Tylmarande, still hugging her sword. Sitting close by, was Daelan. The two appearing as if they were statues, having not moved for hours, the fallen leaves of the tree having settled around them another tear forming in his eyes, as he realized that she would not leave his remains. Traitors are never buried. They are left to rot.
The two of them still sat beneath the body of Fenthwick Moss, swinging gently back and forth in the breeze, as he approached them. Daelan heard the soft crunch of gravel and looked up, his expression solemn, as he offered Darius a weak smile, before sighing and turning his attention to the heart-broken Elf that sat next to him. Uncertain what to do, Darius acted upon instincts and from the heart as he knelt next to her, and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close. Her tears had long since ceased to fall, but that did little to mask the pain within. He struggled for the moment as he sought for words of comfort, to say something, but still, nothing appropriate seemed to come.
"I know..." Aribeth whispered as she embraced him, "I know, that… that you tried," She turned, as Darius let her go to face Daelan, "that you both tried."
Darius looked up at Fenthwick's body before turning to Aribeth, "Fenthwick was no traitor Aribeth."
Daelan nodded his agreement, "He was innocent."
Daelan and Darius exchanged a look, before they stood, and Daelan drew the dagger he wore concealed in his belt, "He deserves a proper burial." Reaching up, he cut the rope, as Darius gently grasped Fenthwick's body and laid it upon the ground, to undo the noose.
With infinite care, Darius hefted Fenthwick's body in to his arms and began to walk, a strong steady stride, towards the courtyard exit. Daelan stood and helped Aribeth to her feet, before they followed, several steps behind, flanking Darius as he paused a moment, allowing them to catch up with him.
Their passage through the City Core, went unheeded, until the approached the building that housed the city's mercenaries, The Trade of Blades. From its doorway, the dwarf Graxx had choked upon his ale as the trio passed. Daelan gave a brief nod to Graxx before he disappeared inside. They could hear shouting but not what he said; Daelan dropped back several steps as his hand went to the shaft of his weapon, a twinge of unease running down his spine. The only reason they had passed this way was that the city's finest coffin maker was in a building behind the Trade of Blades itself.
They stopped in front of the small building, somewhat ramshackle in its appearance, but the aging sign above the door marked it as the place that they sought. Darius stared down at the still face of Fenthwick, before tapping the door thrice with his armored foot. A moment passed before Darius rapped again.
This time, a middle-aged man, appeared at the door, before looking down at the body, and then up in to Darius's face, "Need a coffin for poor Fenthwick, I see." The man opened the door wide, and beckoned them in, closing the door behind them.
The shop was relatively small, with coffins of various makes and sizes, some plain and others ornate lining the walls. In the back, they could hear the sound of hammer and chisel stop before a young boy of about fifteen years came out. He stopped and stared for a moment, mouth agape before remembering his manners. Pulling his mouth shut, he stared for a moment longer, especially at Darius who carried the fallen Fenthwick in his arms, before disappearing from sight.
The coffin maker turned to face the Lady Aribeth, "I doubt you remember me, but I remember the kindness that you showed me, and my family. I also remember the kindness of Fenthwick to my wife and son" he gestured round the shop, "Pick whichever you wish."
Still carrying Fenthwick, Darius nodded to Aribeth, indicating that she should choose one, as Darius raised an eyebrow to Daelan, who turned to the man, "What is the price?"
The man winced visibly at the question, "As I said, I remember the kindness that was shown to me and my family. No charge," he paused, "My son should be round with a horse and cart in a moment. Please, return them when you are done."
Daelan nodded his understanding, and thanks to the man. One of the few good ones left in Neverwinter by his standards. Aribeth, who had paused by one made of oak, her fingers brushing over the smoothly sanded and polished lid before moving to one made chestnut before nodding to herself, "This one."
Gently, they lowered the coffin, before placing Fenthwick within. All three of them stared at him a moment before she took an amulet from around her neck and placed it upon his neck. The coffin maker's son arrived round front, and together they loaded the full coffin. The young lad leapt off, pausing as he passed Aribeth to whisper a few quiet words, offer his condolences. She thanked him, biting her teeth to prevent any more tears from falling. Darius nodded too the coffin maker, and his son, as Daelan and Aribeth climbed aboard the car.
"Thank you for this." Aribeth said, "Forgive me, for I do not remember you name."
"Kelvar, my lady," he replied, "This, is the least that I can do." He bowed before them and led his son back into the workshop, before closing the door and bolting it.
Darius wheeled the cart to a building not too far away, just a few doors down, to the home of a tombstone mason. Darius would have knocked at the door but the mason was standing in his own doorway alerted by the noise that meant business. The man growled as he recognized Darius, Aribeth and Daelan, "I know what you want. I know you want a tombstone for your traitorous elf friend?"
Darius bit his tongue as Aribeth shook from the abusive words that cut at her with the ferocity of a knife. "Yes we want a tombstone," he leaned forward and grabbed the man by the throat, "and if you speak again when you are not spoken to, I will carve a few choice words in to your chest!"
"Darius!" snapped Daelan, worrying about his friend, whose temper, he knew was on a very short leash of frayed string, "This does not help our situation."
Darius growled as he pushed the man back in to his own house. Within, Darius could hear the man heaving a slab of granite on to his worktable before chipping at it with hammer and chisel, Darius glanced at his hand, a soiled by holding the man's throat. A few minutes passed before the mason said, "It is done."
Darius glared as he walked in to the building, and noticed the smirk upon the man's face, "If I find the word "traitor" on that stone slab, I promise it will be put to good use."
"Oh no m'lord!" The man said in a mocking tone, "I would never do such a thing. How about you go elsewhere and get your tombstone carved eh? You should be grateful that I'm even considering doing this for you and that traitor!"
Before Daelan could stop him Darius had picked up the craftsman and thrown him the length of the room. He had crash landed atop a pile of crates, that soften his landing for him, but still left him dazed and confused but fortunately alive. Darius turned to the worktable, the tombstone lay with the words: "Here lies the dirty body of the Traitor of Neverwinter: Fenthwick Moss." Darius growled, as he pushed the slab aside.
While no mason, Darius hefted another slab of granite on to the table, before grabbing the hammer and chisel, "I'll be damned before I let him carve anything!" Aribeth walked up to him and watched as he carved the words in to the stone, reading them silently as they were formed: "Here lies Fenthwick Moss, a devout man, of pure heart, a servant of the people of Neverwinter, a servant of Justice and the Light." Darius hesitated, his hands shaking slightly.
"What is wrong?" Aribeth asked quietly.
"I," he paused, "I don't know how to … to end… to finish it."
"May his spirit find peace in the grace of Tyr..." said Aribeth as she looked up at Darius.
He looked at her then down at the stone and began etching her words in to the stone, followed by the symbol of Tyr above the message. It took him several long minutes before he was finished and dusting off the tombstone. He inspected with a critical eye as Aribeth stood by him. Darius knew that he had done a poor job with the tools. "It's not the best of work," agreed Aribeth, seemingly reading his mind, "But I think it will mean more since it has been done by a friend."
Hefting the slab of stone, they headed toward the door as a voice called out behind them, "Hey! I want compensation!"
"You didn't do anything fool." Darius told him icily.
"Pay me for the use of my tools and for that wasted slab!" The man yelled angrily.
"I will return to pay you later!" Darius growled as the man's bravado crumbled, "I will be paying you, by ensuring your work upon that first slab is used appropriately: I intend to pay you by burying you beneath it!" The mason trembled with fear, as he promptly lost control of his bladder, a dark stain appearing upon his trousers. Darius drew his blade and the man fled, crashing through his own window in his desperation, "Scum," muttered Darius.
Once again, they moved through the city, passing thorough the District Gates in to the Beggar's Nest, where the poorest of the people lived. The Great Graveyard was their destination. Many of the peasants saw them and bowed their heads respectfully, as some fell in behind the cart, wishing to pay their last respects, but keeping a respectful distance as they did not know how the deadly fighter would react to their presence.
Darius reacted to their presence. He recognized some faces within the crowd, as those who had roared and celebrated the hanging of an innocent. He paused the cart and spun round, one hand taping the hilt of the blade that rode upon his hip, "We go to bury a friend and an innocent man. Disturbing his last rites, would displease me, greatly." A number of the mob faded away.
The large oak gate was slightly ajar and the trio noticed others were inside many placing flowers at the graves of loved ones who had perished in the plague. Aribeth pushed open the gates to the graveyard and stopped short at the sight of so many, men and women, all there, tending to freshly dug graves, all of them victims of the Wailing Death. It drove yet another nail of grief in to her as she looked round at the suffering that the people had endured. Many of those here, looked weak and ill, but they noticed her, and they quietly filed out, some mumbling under their breath, others with looks of pity and sadness, several passing to offer their condolences. Those with anything improper to say wisely held their peace as they noticed that she did not come alone.
Darius and Daelan paused behind her as they looked for a place that they could bury him, where his grave would be left in peace and undisturbed. Daelan spotted the small group of trees, that seemed to lead off in to wild jungle, "There, my lady," he gestured with his head, his hands still supporting the coffin, "Behind that line of trees, beyond the sight of others. He would be allowed to rest in peace there."
Aribeth looked the area over and nodded, snatching up a pair of shovels from where they rested, leaning against the wall of the gravediggers hut. The gravedigger ran out and was about to yell something, when he noted who had snatched his shovel, and more importantly, what the two men accompanying her supported between them. He retreated quietly in to his home where he wiped a tear from his eye. He too, felt guilt for the "mobs justice."
Disappearing through the trees, they somehow, managed to maneuver the coffin between them; until they found themselves sheltered by the trees causing the rest of the graveyard disappeared from existence, away from all, in the center of a small clearing, barely large enough to accommodate them.
"Yes. This will do perfectly," whispered Aribeth as she wrapped her arms around herself, trying to stop the shaking that threatened to take her off her feet. The men grabbed a shovel each, with long practice of burying the dead upon a battlefield, marked the outline, and began to dig. It was slow steady work, as a spade full of earth at a time they dug the final resting place of Fenthwick Moss. It took them an hour of work, before they could lower his casket in to his grave using the rope that had been in the cart. It was another hour before they had covered the casket and planted the tombstone to mark the grave.
The trio stood around, in silence, before Daelan broke it, "Fenthick was a good man, dedicated to Tyr… it is sad that he died in such a fashion."
Darius knelt by the tombstone, as he spoke a few words, "Fenthwick, I know that you're watching, from Tyr's right hand. I do not know of you hold any ill will towards the people, who had you hung... I don´t know if you hold any ill will towards us, your friends, and the fact that we could not save you..."
"He would not. I doubt he is even angry at the people who wanted him hung," whispered Aribeth quietly from a few feet away, "He was a servant of Tyr in life, and now he is free to enjoy the fruits of so many years of devoted service."
Darius looked up at the sky and watched the dark grey rain clouds move overhead, but the sun still shone through in places. Daelan noted the change in weather as a wind, strong and suggestive of the storm to come whirled around them, "It is going to rain," he paused, "Come, my lady, we should get you home."
Aribeth stared at the two men, who had done so much, for Lord Nasher, for the city and for the people, and now for her as well. She stared at the grave before letting her hand trail across the cold stone that marked the final resting place of her beloved. "This is no longer my home," she whispered.