"Roozbeh, give me your sword." Fozhan ordered as they reached the last turn before the final dive. The manservant hesitated but relinquished the weapon. He after all still had his dagger, and his mistress must not stand unarmed, especially as her bride was bursting in without even a blade drawn.
"Ernst!" Waltraud cried and as Fozhan came up behind she also saw the boy. He was on the floor in a kneeling position, head down, before the throne. At the sound of his mistress' voice however he leapt up and stumbled over towards her. The sleeves of his tunic and the bottom of his pants were in shreds, livid bruises blazed across his wrists and ankles, and seeping wounds had clotted the tatters in blood. Fozhan raised his eyes up at the disinterested king upon the throne. He made no move to stop the weeping page's lunge at his adopted niece; he watched the outpouring of raw emotion with passivity.
He had already decided what was to come; Fozhan kept her blade drawn as Waltraud allowed Ernst to fall against her, but she didn't dare to take him into her arms.
"My lady! Whatever they say is a lie! I would never, never-! I only said it because I couldn't take it anymore! I was so weak, forgive me! Forgive me!" His words were a hysterical babble as he rocked against the breast of the only one who could save him. Waltraud glanced at the assembled nobles first and then slowly raised her eyes up towards the king. She assumed the same cold demeanor; that icy lack of concern with human life even as it smoldered.
"What is he charged with?" She asked lowly. Lady Röselein stepped into the room; Waltraud's eyes fell upon her as soon as her footfall was heard. Prince Jakob was in her arms, likely filched from the nursery on the way over. She paused behind Waltraud, a few feet back, on the very edge of the conflict yet looming large in its progression. The king however refused to acknowledge her.
"Treason. He confessed to hiring those assassins and plotting your demise." The king answered smoothly, keeping his gaze locked on Waltraud's.
"My lady I would never!" Ernst gasped but shut his mouth when Waltraud glowered at him.
"And what reason would he have?" she asked.
"You helped in destroying his family." The king reminded her. Waltraud's eyes flickered but she then looked away. She turned away from Ernst and the boy gave a small hysterical scream.
"I only said it because they made me! I couldn't take it anymore! What they did-!" He gasped as tears flowed down his face. Fozhan looked on steadily, forcing herself to look at what her betrothed couldn't stand to.
"Well, then, what reason do I have to not trust my king?" There was only defeat in her face and her shoulders slumped. She shut her eyes. "We can only do what we must to traitors."
"I am not a traitor!" Ernst cried but at last the guards came to drag him away from Waltraud. He screamed, he fought, and he was quickly silenced by a vicious punch to the gut. Waltraud still didn't raise her head or turn towards him. She only stared at the floor.
"Then, you will take him to the Donar-stone, and slay him." At the king's decision Waltraud at last raised her head.
"By my blood I will not! I will not be made a kinslayer for even you, my king!" She cried in a fury. Fozhan stepped back at such a sudden burst of emotion. She glanced at Röselein but the woman remained still, her expression was carefully devoid of feeling even as her child struggled uncomfortably in her arms.
"Kinslayer?" The king chuckled even as he gripped the arm rests of his chair in some disquiet. "That boy is a slave. The gods will care not if you kill him."
"No, he is my kin. I have made him my blood by my loyalty and love for him, even if there was no formal ceremony. I will not have the sin upon me of slaying someone whom I never should!" Waltraud countered angrily. She saw King Ludwig's scowl and stepped back. Some of the gathered crowd gasped and a few snickered at such a ludicrous statement. A slave the kinsman of a noble! By their expressions it was what the vicious enclave expected from this maverick that Lady Röselein had taken into their ranks. They hissed in disgust. Fozhan swallowed, very aware Waltraud was in a very vulnerable position even with her mistress behind her. Waltraud exhaled and attempted another form of attack.
"I will not kill him. And by my right as part of your family, don't make the execution public. But let anyone slay him, so long as it is not I, so long as I do not have to see."
"My lady, you are not in a position to ask-" The king began but at last Lady Röselein was allowed the opportunity to strike.
"My lord, she most certainly is! As your kinswoman she is allowed to ask such a favor for her son and she has never asked you for a thing." Lady Röselein stepped forward with her son bouncing at her hip. She raised her chin. "Don't let others think you don't honor your bonds."
King Ludwig's nostrils flared in anger but he was as aware as Lady Röselein they were before every man and woman of note in the empire. He sat back, fully aware the knife he had tried to use to separate mother and daughter had just been driven into his gut.
"Very well. I will indulge Lady Waltraud's request, though she must know this is her one great gift." Neither woman responded. Ernst only continued to softly weep at the foot of the guards. He pointed at the disgraced page.
"Lock him up. He'll be slew upon the stone in the morning by a worthy man."
"My lady!" Ernst again tried to find his lady's side. She turned away again, and fully turned her back towards him. "My lady! Waltraud!"
His scream echoed across the hall, shaking the very vaults of the ceiling. Waltraud still kept her back to him, as if his emotional tumult was nothing more than gentle rain against her back. He was dragged away sobbing and Waltraud only continued to look at Lady Röselein. The older woman watched the boy be sacrificed to indifference and she turned to walk away when the last echoes of his cries had faded away. Waltraud continued to look forward with no emotion, standing rigid with locked knees. She stood until all others had left, save for the one who had never sheathed her sword.