The morning arrived and I stayed on my makeshift bed without getting up. I also didn't bother trying to cancel the enchantments on the cell. There wasn't much point to doing that, considering Helena told me to not cause a fuss. When the normal operating time for the jailhouse came around, I wasn't surprised when I heard several people come into the hallway with the cells.
“I can't believe they managed to push that through without informing us!” A distinct woman's voice said and I smiled when Melanie's face appeared in front of my cell. “Lord Drake, I am terribly sorry about what happened yesterday.” She turned and glared at the jailer. “Deactivate the enchantments and open the door.”
The jailer sighed and did as she asked, then stepped back.
“You are very lucky that you have someone to take the blame for your incompetence.” Melanie spat at him and he didn't say anything in response. “Lord Drake, please come with me to handle a few things.”
“Of course, my lady. I would never say no to the king's royal consort.” I said and got up from my improvised cot, which the jailer now noticed. His face looked angry, until I pulled out my knife and cut the cot apart. He looked sick as I disassembled the cot and then attached the bench back together, then I put it back where it was supposed to go.
“I need you to tell me exactly what happened.” Melanie said and motioned for me to walk with her and the two guards.
I told her everything, from beginning to end, by the time we finished our walk and entered an ornate room. There were a dozen people inside on chairs and they chatted in whispers while a man that looked important sat behind a very large desk and quietly observed the room.
Melanie nodded to the guards by the door and walked over to the man behind the desk. “Judge Advocate, please accept my testimony on behalf of the accused.”
“You may proceed.” The man said.
“Lord Drake's family was assaulted by two squads of the First King's Men. Two of his own guards were killed to gain entry to his family's home, where they took his family and the staff of the mansion prisoner.”
“That does seem a bit excessive to get him to come out.” The Judge Advocate said.
“You misunderstand.” Melanie said, her face angry. “Lord Drake wasn't at home at the time and they knew this.”
The man looked surprised and looked at me. “I assume you have proof.”
“Lord Drake told me everything, even his own complicity in the accusation he was being arrested for.” Melanie said and that really surprised the man. “He didn't lie.”
“Hmm.” The Judge Advocate said and sat back in his chair. “Do we know who pushed through the order to have him arrested?”
“It was the Grand Mages Council.” Melanie said. “Not only that, Lord Drake was not informed of the charges or informed of his rights.”
The Judge Advocate was not happy to hear that part. “Bring the King's Men involved here.” He said to the guards on the door. “I will hear their side of this while Lord Drake tells me his side of their encounter that caused two injuries to them.”
The guards left and I told the judge what happened, word for word, and he commended me on my restraint. That made me feel a bit better about what happened, until the King's Men were brought in and one was bandaged from head to toe and the other had his head wrapped.
“I object to this blatant abuse to garner sympathy.” Melanie said and walked over to the bandaged man, then slapped his shoulder. The man didn't react and the the Judge Advocate frowned.
“Remove the two fakers. I know the flame injuries were severe and I also know they have been healed.” The man said and waved for the guards to take the two men away. “Now, Squad Head, tell me your tale.”
The man did, about how I had aggressively knocked half of his men aside, threatened him with death several times, and then about gracefully retreating before the conflict escalated.
“That was almost painful to hear.” Melanie said and rubbed the side of her head. “The half-truths alone have given me a headache.” She looked at the Judge Advocate. “If it would please you, I have discovered this man's providence and will submit it as evidence.”
“No!” The lead man exclaimed and then he realized what he just did.
“I see.” The Judge Advocate said. “As the queen stated, the Mages Guild have much more going on behind the scenes than any of us have suspected.”
“Yes, they do.” Melanie said.
I raised my hand and that got everyone's attention. “I still don't know what I've been charged with.”
The Judge Advocate looked surprised and looked at Melanie, who blushed a little.
“I was in a rush to get this dealt with that I didn't get a chance to inform him properly.” Melanie said and turned to me. “You have been charged with 67 murders, the destruction of a clipper ship and two army skiffs, bodily harm on 178 others, including maiming and loss of limb, and the loss of an expensive cargo of marsh panther pelts.”
I barked a laugh and she looked shocked. “I'm not laughing at the injuries and deaths, it's the lie about the shipment of marsh panther pelts. I've been in a spot where there were multiple panthers and I barely got out of there with my life.” I held up my right hand and showed the damage. “There's no way that whatever shipping company made that claim actually had a shipment of pelts.”
“How do you know that for sure?” The Judge Advocate asked.
“I'm the one that usually provides them.” I said and he let out a little laugh.
“All right. I see that this is going to take much more investigation to get to the bottom of, so I see no reason to keep you locked up until we can discern the actual facts about this case before bringing it to the king's bench for a decision.”
“I believe that would be wise for all parties concerned.” Melanie said and bowed slightly to the man. “Thank you for handling this so quickly.”
“You have never wasted my time during all the other times you have brought me things, Royal Consort. I didn't doubt that this time would be any different.”
Melanie blushed a little. “Thank you.”
“Lord Drake, since you've conducted yourself with honor and didn't kill anyone, even when they threatened your family and you easily could have, I see no reason to release you with an escort.”
“I don't understand.” I said, because the wording seemed a little weird to me.
“It means you can go without being guarded.” Melanie explained for me.
“Oh. Thank you.” I said and bowed slightly to the man like she had.
“Your spokesperson will contact you when the actual trial will be held. Next week is probably not going to work, considering the evidence tampering and false statements.” The Judge Advocate said and waved us away in dismissal. “Have a good day.”
Melanie took my arm and I escorted her out of the room past the disgruntled King's Men.
“Squad Head, as for the two quite unnecessary deaths you caused...” The Judge Advocate's words were cut off as the door shut behind us and a sound dampening enchantment went into effect.
“Thank you very much.” I said in a whisper to her when we were out of the room.
“I'm glad you were smart to send word to both Richard and Rose about what happened. I might not have gotten here in time, otherwise.”
“I asked the jailer to contact them last night and he tried to lie about it, so I forced him to promise to do it this morning.” I said and she let out a sigh. “I'm glad he kept his word, late though it was.”
Melanie nodded and led me out of the building to a waiting carriage. “This will take you back home to get ready.” She said and smiled. “We expect you at the castle in two hours.”
“Am I to make it a show?” I asked and she grinned. “Very well. See you then.”
“I'll let Richard and Rose know.” Melanie said and I was off at the carriage's fastest speed to go back home.
The time seemed to pass instantly and I stepped into the mansion to a very loud welcome home greeting. After a kiss from Helena and Vanessa, who both looked like they didn't get a lot of sleep the night before, I was swarmed by the staff and congratulated on being released.
“We don't have much time to get you ready.” Hope said and shooed everyone away from me, except for Helena and Vanessa, which made everyone laugh. “David, the magic words, please.”
Helena chuckled and Vanessa looked a little confused.
“I need a bath.” I said a bit loudly, then heard two squeals of delight and Sara and Tabitha were there by my side and grabbed my arms. Vanessa, Helena, and Hope watched me be dragged up the stairs.
“We need to get ready, too.” Helena said and Jill was there with two other maids, then another maid appeared and nodded to Vanessa. They followed us up the stairs and then split off to separate rooms to get ready and changed for the king's birthday celebration.
The three of us had different fancy clothes to wear for the event, mainly because everyone else would have new outfits as well. I was sure that we were going to stand out with me being there with two women on my arms instead of just one.
“I can't believe you're doing this for me.” Vanessa said in a whisper as we gathered in the main bedroom.
“Being a Lady isn't really something we are going to discourage.” Helena said with a soft laugh. “You have just as much right to the title as I do now.”
Vanessa blushed a little and nodded.
“I can see why she caught your attention, David.” Helena said and lightly ran her hand through Vanessa's well styled hair. They wore matching dresses, only Helena's was a bit bolder with the extra padding around her belly and showing off a little more cleavage.
“You seem to be a bit more revealing today.” I commented and looked down at her chest.
Helena laughed softly again. “My breasts are expanding at an accelerated rate and neither I nor Ferdinand expected today to be a bloated day.”
“How much bigger are they going to get?” I asked, curious.
“Big enough.” Helena said, demurely.
“The carriage is out front.” Hope said from downstairs. “I assume you want to be fashionably early.”
“Yes, I want everyone that arrives to see us beside the king and his family.” Helena said, her face going from happy to slight anger. “No one does what they did to my David.”
“I don't think there's anything you can do against the Grand Mages Council.” Vanessa said as we walked down the stairs towards the front door. “They've been in power for far too long to be brought down by a little scandal.”
“I know the other things have been passed over and hidden; but, accusing him of murdering their people and destroying a ship?” Helena shook her head. “It's deplorable.”
“That's why we're bringing our own guards.” I said and she nodded.
“Yes, let them try to tell us that we can't.” Helena said adamantly and we left the mansion to climb into the Henrietta Longshore carriage. Six mounted guards came with us and we rode in style to the castle. We had a very important birthday to get to.