The Carrick Trial
Manzio and Uther arrived early for the trial but although they were once again reunited, Manzio sensed that a distance now separated the two. They had not addressed the possession which gave them victory over the Earl of Carrick before a difficult, accusatory parting of the ways, though Manzio had given a partial account of events to the Archbishop.
The meeting was scheduled to take place in the magnificent Vindolanda Monastery, first built by the Danagrim shortly after the Roman Empire converted to Christianity.
The great hall was designed as a circular chamber with seats hewn in marble around the outer margins of the airy room. In the centre of this striking arrangement a circular marble dais containing a beautiful painted mural which Manzio had time to peruse whilst waiting for the clergy to arrive. Surprisingly, etched upon the table he observed scenes from Arthurian legend with a cup made from mithril perfectly embedded within the marble whilst intelligently contributing to the story told within the artwork.
The holy grail!
As Manzio studied the cup he began to experience an odd sensation as though viewing the scene through an endless tunnel. Hurtling through space and time, Manzio stepped into the world depicted and for a moment the cup almost appeared to be a Cauldron, so vast in size had it become.
‘Beautiful is it not?’
With a jolt, Manzio returned to the Great Hall. He had barely noticed Uther approach and felt as though a physical bond had been broken. A spiritual connection severed.
‘The cup of Christ’ explained Uther, himself captivated by the design. ‘Appearing only to those worthy of the honour and in times of dire need.’
Just then the sound of raised voices carried through from the vestibule with first Danagrim guards and then the Templar knight, Guillaume de la Croix entering the chamber followed by the Archbishop himself, engaged in a heated debate with other high ranking members of the clergy probably bishops, thought Manzio given the expensive albs and holy relics carried.
‘Yes, yes, yes Hugh. I agree but that is yet to be decided. You worry for those in your own diocese and I will prey for the entire flock of the north.’ The Archbishiop looked a little flushed of face although either from the exertions of the Midday sun or perhaps from the conversation, Manzio could not be certain.
‘The bishop of Durham’ whispered Uther. ‘The tall man to the Archbishop’s right is the Bishop of Whithorn, Galloway and the Isles. He is a close ally of the Archbishop and will want to see a stiff penalty today for the Earl of Carrick and his equally evil sorceress wife!’
A diligent clerical staff made up of both Danagrim and human monks quickly led those in attendance to their seats, including Uther and Manzio. As the Vesuvian settled into his own hewn marble seat, twelve men were brought to sit on additional chairs placed strategically in the shadows close to the doorway. Manzio had heard of ‘juries’ in his travels through Britannia but this was the first time he would see one in operation.
The final two seats were occupied only after the clergy had sat with Prince David of Huntington announced at the doors by his bodyguard, the Templar Knight ‘Alfred of Canterbury’ as confirmed by Uther.
Alongside him guarding the doors, a second Templar, unmistakable given his scarred face and sour disposition, none other than the Archbishop’s trusted lieutenant, Guillaume de la Croix.
Prince David of Huntington, charismatic as ever, dressed in a thick velvet cloak is surrounded by his household staff but is very nearly outshone by a magnificently dressed, clean shaven Danagrim.
‘The Holy Protector, Achilleus the Golden’ confirms Uther, following Manzio’s gaze. ‘A truly great warrior.’
Manzio observed Achilleus take his seat, the bright, keen eyes taking in all those in attendance.
’Prince David, representative of King William the Lion and Achilleus, Holy Protector of Vindolanda, I thank you both for permitting a speedy trial to take place outside of the usual regional jurisdiction. However, given the rebellious nature of the events unfolding in Galloway over the last three years and subsequent capture of Gilla Brigte Earl of Carrick and Heather, the Lady of Carrick, King Henry Plantagenet was keen for a quick trial to take place.
But first and in accordance with their legal right, we will hear the case for the defence.’
The Archbishop resumed his seat waving for the guards to admit a small group of petitioners led by a pock ridden man with a noticeable limp in his left leg. A hush descends as behind, heavily shackled in strong, metal chains is brought the Earl of Carrick. Gilla Brigte is a sinewy, mean looking man with smoky grey eyes and a cruel, sadistic gaze. He has a shaven pate and wears black, stained robes emblazoned with the insignia of a crown.
Behind, the Lady of Carrick. She wears faded emerald robes and has jet-black hair and sharp, emerald eyes to match. Her skin is ashen and her hair swept back and clasped in a jewelled hairnet containing tiny flecks of diamond dust. Her hands are securely bound behind her back and a large piece of black cloth stuffed into her mouth. The two sit on small, ramshackle stools barely able to support the weight of Gilla.
Walking to a stand positioned at the far side of the circular hall, the group is announced by one of the clerics, in a clear, ringing voice:
‘The laird of Arran.’
The pock ridden laird of Arran walks slowly to the stand and takes his position
‘Prince David, the Archbishop of York, the Holy Protector, Bishops of Scotia and England in attendance and gentlemen of the jury. I fear a terrible mistake has been made, nay an injustice and slight upon the name of my honourable friend Gilla Brigte. As I’m sure Prince David will confirm, never has there been a man with more passion and patriotism for his Mother Land than the Earl and his beautiful wife.’
Manzio was unable to remember, later that day when thinking about the trial how long the Laird spoke. Whilst eloquent, both Manzio and Uther exchanged glances more than once as a lengthy character testimony was provided, which was clearly at odds with the scoundrel on trial. Manzio was beginning to drift, remembering the odd sensation when looking at the Arthurian mural and had not been listening properly when he was suddenly alerted by the sound of his own name.
‘Furthermore I attest that these two men, the Templar Uther accompanied by a lowly man of no rank or honour, a hired thug no less, one Manzio of Naples unlawfully came upon the accused’s property and caused great mischief and harm to both the Earl, his wife and the castle guard.
I therefore request on the recommendation of our legal team that the following ruling would offer reasonable recompense for the murders and financial costs incurred:
That a sum of 1000 sterling silver be paid to the defendant so that the families of deceased or badly injured guardsmen be adequately recompensed and new guards hired.
That the damage to the Earl’s property be repaired with compensation of no less than five hundred sterling silver.
That the Templar Uther provide a year of service to the Earl for each man brutally murdered at the hands of the Templar, making three years in total.
For one Manzio of Naples to be executed a month hence at the Earl’s Castle in full sight of the bereaved.
And finally, that the Archbishop and his accomplice, the Bishop of Whithorn desist in malicious and unfounded accusations of treason against the Earl.’
As the laird of Arran sat, his retinue making a fuss over his robes and two men stooping close to speak in his ear, an immediate reaction of voices and angry accusations broke out in the chamber.
The same cleric introducing the Laird of Arran stepped forward, this time inviting the Archbishop of York to the stand. An immediate silence settled upon the gathering as the old man approached the dais.
‘Lies! All lies and not a jot of evidence to support your claims Ruric.’
Reaching into his robes ignoring the remonstrative Laird of Arran, the Archbishop withdrew a folded piece of parchment, nimbly placing a pair of reading glasses onto the brim of his nose whilst simultaneously opening the scroll with his left hand.
’Back in December I was visited by one Cullen Mackenzie, known to his enemies as the fearless Wolf of Galloway. Into my possession he passed this interesting piece of correspondence between Lord Farquhar of Stranraer and the Earl of Carrick. In it and I quote verbatim, the Earl reminds Lord Farquhar of his ’civic duty to defend Scotland, restoring to the Scottish crown the lands of northern England so unlawfully lost to us and so feebly contested by our current King.
Is this not your signature, Gilla Brigte? And for those of you unsure, I also have a copy of the Earl’s signature taken from 1174 when I oversaw the signing of the Treaty of Falaise. This article on my person,’ the Archbishop flourishes another document, ‘is an exact signatory match.’
The Archbishop hands both pieces of paper to the jurors taking his time walking slowly to the twelve and back again to his original position.
’The truth is that you have been plotting against your lawful King for quite some time. An insurrection, which has grown for half a decade. That you have the audacity to come here on English soil in a place of sanctity to demand recompense is a fitting reflection of the ingenuous and clandestine nature of your dealings. Sir.
And now, I have some recommendations of my own and made with the full authority of the Church.
First that 2,000 sterling silver be donated to the various Monasteries around Scotia.
Second, a personal donation to York of 500 sterling silver.
Your wife and child will be held as hostages in York…your wife for one year and your child for five, all in lieu of your goodwill and continued cooperation.
Furthermore, 200 of your banner-men to be sent into Northern Scotland to aid King William in his work in Ross and Caithness against the White Queen, Morgause.
Finally, whilst the word of one noble born, such as yourself should, under normal circumstances suffice, you have demonstrated not once but repeatedly that you are in fact a miscreant of vile proportions. In short, you are not to be trusted.
We will therefore drink of the blood of Christ together acting, quite literally to seal our bargain.
Do I make myself clear?’
For a moment there is stunned silence in the great hall, although Manzio catches the gleeful glint in the eye of Achilleus. The Holy Protector perhaps wisely sits back in the shadows of his alcove space disguising his smile.
The silence is almost immediately broken by the Earl himself. Attempting to gain his feet despite the constraints pinning him to the floor, he stumbles, cursing audibly, a great globule of mucus spraying from his lips and narrowly missing the Archbishop.
‘You old thief! Aye, you’d likely rob the shirt from my back in the name of the Church. What justice do you call this? But justice was never your intent was it? You won’t settle until Galloway is sold off to the English. Henry Plantagenet’s very own thief disguised in the robes of a clergyman. I see through your cunning handiwork for you are the devil’s own work! First, you finish off Thomas Becket and now you turn your evil eye upon my family.’
The Earl is already being forcibly removed from the chamber even as he spits forth his final insult. His wife, gagged and bound to prevent any use of her sorcerous power is no less acidic in the look she fires the Archbishop but is content to leave without force.
Unsurprisingly the jurors quickly deliberate and reach consensus. The Earl is found guilty of treason and Manzio cannot help but notice that despite his crimes, a noble birth is enough to avoid execution.
Soon after the verdict is delivered the chambers quickly clear and only the Archbishop and two of his bishops remain. The surly, cold looking Bishop of Durham and Christian of Whithorn, clearly a close ally of the Archbishop, a magnificent crozier in hand.
The Bishop of Durham looks first at Uther and then Manzio.
‘Congratulations to the two of you on your capture of this reprobate and his scheming spouse. However, I would hear more of how you accomplished such a feat singlehanded.’
Uther immediately tenses, his face paling of colour and it is Manzio who responds after an uncomfortable silence ensues. The Vesuvian reserves special praise for Cullen suggesting that his timely attack saved the day.
‘I see,’ responds the Bishop of Durham. ‘So the three of you were able to take the castle. Such a tale of gallantry as I have seldom heard recounted. Why, Archbishop, I believe these three men have been blessed with a miracle.’
The Bishop’s dark gaze never leaves the face of Uther as he speaks, his disbelief as evident as Uther’s discomfort.
‘And then Uther and local Templars transported the villain South. But what of Cullen and you Manzio? I believe you are but newly arrived here at Vindolanda and yet the Earl of Carrick arrived several weeks ago.’
‘Manzio has been performing many services on behalf of the church Hugh. But please, such questions are best answered at a later date. I am old and in need of sustenance,’ responds the Archbishop, interjecting before Manzio can reply.
‘Indeed,’ responds the Bishop of Durham, a lingering and rather withering look still etched upon his furrowed brow.’
It is early evening by the time Manzio and Uther return to the Templar barracks. To their surprise, a young squire intercepts them at the doors, leading the two into a quiet and vacated prayer room where they find the Archbishop waiting for them.
‘Aaa, Uther and Manzio. Returned at last. I trust your training session has left you with an appetite?’
The squire returns with a steaming hot stew and water, which the Archbishop invites the two to eat before beginning. Once they have finished and the plates cleared, he leans forward beckoning the for Uther and Manzio to bring their chairs closer.
‘Forgive me for visiting so late but much has happened today and we must act swiftly to countenance the suspicions and downright accusations leveled at Manzio. In short, I have agreed to perform Manzio’s baptism on the morrow.’
‘Excellent’ exclaims Uther, patting Manzio on the back.
‘This act,’ continues the Archbishop, ‘will protect you against the more militant and extreme factions of the Scottish clergy and in particular, the Bishop of Durham.’
‘Am I in danger?’ asks Manzio, paling a little at the words of the Archbishop.
‘We three know the truth of what transpired in your victory and the role played by the power of the Great White Drake of the north. I see this as unfortunate, fortuitous and dangerous all in equal measure though no fault of your own.’
Turning to Uther, the Archbishop’s intense gaze fell upon the Templar. ‘I sense your discomfort Uther?’
Glancing at Manzio and then back to the Archbishop, Uther’s shoulders sag, his eyes closing as though reliving unpleasant, deeply buried memories.
‘I cannot rid myself of the possession. Such a flagrant violation of the inner consciousness is an act of evil.’
Nodding, the Archbishop sat back in his chair, sipping his water thoughtfully before responding. ‘Yes, and that is why Manzio must undertake a cleansing of his soul.’
Standing, the Archbishop’s gaze fell one last time on Manzio. ‘Vast powers are at work in the north. Do not reproach yourself for what is done but remember that the Lord is mightier than even the drake.’