Truth and Lies
Date Posted: 12th October 2019
Characters: Taril, Vinalee
Description: Taril visits Vinalee in prison
Location: Sunstone Seahold
Date: month 11, day 6 of Turn 9
Notes: This concludes the Taril's Ledger series. It took me a long time to write - and get right - so thank you for your patience.
His arm ached, but the ledger was back where it belonged-- in Taril’s care and under lock and key. Rumor had it that the Lady Agate had sail earlier than her manifest intended, with that morning's tide, and with her belly only half-filled with goods. He’d sent a note to his brother Terion via Dodger just that morning. The Sea Wife might just have the opportunity to intercept the Lady Agate within the next sevenday. It wasn't enough-- it would never be enough-- but it was all he could do from shore. There was only one last thing that bothered him.
This time, the merchant walked boldly up to the guards’ desk at the prison. This time, he politely requested to speak with a prisoner face-to-face. This time, he was escorted in by a guard who thoughtfully carried a stool.
“Here she is,” the guardsman said, stopping at a cell near the guards’ room. Vinalee looked up from where she sat on the floor, her knees drawn up to her chest. There were dark circles under her eyes and straw in her hair. The guardsman set down the stool and left them to converse in privacy.
Taril sat. “Why’d you do it?”
“I have nothing to say to you,” Vinalee said quietly. She wouldn’t look him in the eye.
“I know that you were in a tight spot. I saw the hide you tried to burn. Someone told you to attack me.” Taril paused. “Tell me you side of the story.”
Vinalee smiled humourlessly. “You’re trying to trick me into admitting something, aren’t you. Who else is listening?”
She didn’t look like she believed him. Taril shrugged. “I literally have no reason to be here. I could leave now and you could end up… wherever the Lord Holder sees fit to put you. But I’m here. I want to know your side of the story.”
Vinalee sighed. “The truth doesn’t matter. It never matters. You, of all people, should know that.”
“I want to know the truth anyway,” Taril replied quietly.
There was a long silence while Vinalee thought. Then she shrugged a shoulder. “I suppose you’re right. It doesn’t matter one way or the other. I got the note a few nights ago… it told me to kill you or they’d come for my kids. At least this way, with me in prison or sent to the mines, the Hold will take care of them. Or keep them fed, at the very least.” She paused. “I was pretty drunk, you know. If I hadn’t been, I wouldn’t have had the courage to do it. And if I hadn’t been drunk, I bet you’d be dead at my hand.”
Maybe, maybe not. “Who sent the note?” Taril asked.
“I don’t know. Not for sure. But the Lady Agate was in port…” she trailed off. “Do you remember a few Turns back, how I used to have a no-good husband?”
“He… maybe he took off on the Lady Agate. After he cheated on me.” Her lips quirked in a smile. “He took up with some harlot and got caught, and then beat me for it. Or maybe this story goes another way. Maybe I was the one who cheated on him, and got my lover to beat me so I could get rid of that dead-weight of a husband. Or maybe neither of those are true. Maybe I fell down the stairs and we’re both scum.” Vinalee sighed. “Dhavri was always a charming bastard. I heard that he got to be friends with Garik, the Lady Agate’s captain. I’m not surprised. The lucky bastard always landed on his feet, no matter what happened to him.”
Her words sparked a memory-- Lephric had shared a rumor that at one time Vinalee had taken up with the cousin of a minor Holder. She’d borrowed marks for a new dress and the trappings of a lady. If the cousin had ever existed, he’d never followed up on any promises he’d made. Vinalee was still alone, still gutting and packing fish and returning each night to a small, dingy cot full of children. “The Lady Agate is in port and you get a note telling you to kill me,” Taril said, prompting her to continue. The wound on his arm ached. “So why’d you do it?”
Vinalee shrugged. “I have kids to protect and you’re not exactly blameless, you know. You keep sending thugs after me for marks I don’t have. Having you gone… I don’t-- didn’t want you dead, but life would be simpler if you’d just go away. For lots of us down at the docks.”
The merchant shook his head. “You chose to borrow marks. I never said that they were for keeps.”
“It’s still not fair.” Vinalee shook her head sadly as she stared at her bare feet in the soiled straw. There were cracks on the skin of her heels, and her toes were red with cold. “I don’t have anything more for you to take. I borrowed from you because I have nothing.”
“That’s not my problem. You took my marks, and now you owe me marks to replace the ones you took.” Taril stood. “Thanks for the story.”
Vinalee looked away. “Thanks for nothing.”
Taril returned to the guard room and let himself out. The outside air was clear and calm, and he lifted his face to the sunshine. That was one question answered. Vinalee had probably lied about why she and Dhavri had fallen out, but the heart of her story seemed true enough: that Garik had blackmailed her to try to kill him in order to avenge Dhavri, and Vinalee had been scared enough by what Garik knew to draw a knife on him.
It all came down to Vinalee and Dhavri. Both thought they’d been wronged. Dhavri must have told Captain Garik his woeful tale of a scheming wife, an over-zealous Lord Holder and a merchant who wouldn’t extend his mercy to a man convicted of a crime. Then when Humari was hurt, Captain Garik had seen opportunity knocking-- stealing from Taril would help right the wrongs that Dhavri felt had been heaped upon him. Everyone knew that Taril loaned marks and collected secrets, so stealing his ledger had probably seemed like stealing the thing that would hurt him the most.
They’d have to have read through the ledger and seen that Vinalee still owed him marks. Dhavri and Garik had probably written the blackmail note together. Vinalee had tried--- and failed-- to murder Taril. Dhavri had then decided to take matters into his own hands and go after Humari. It made sense in a sick way. Dhavri had lost his wife, so he’d tried to make Taril lose his.
In that, he’d succeeded… even though Vinalee had failed and the attack on Humari was unsuccessful, he'd lost Humari anyway. Dhavri would have heard the news that Vinalee was in prison and that Humari had left with the tide. He'd probably enjoyed the fact that he’d won, that he’d gotten his revenge against the people at Sunstone Seahold who had wronged him.
As always, in the end, most people’s big dark secrets were small and petty. But this time, Dhavri's petty revenge had truly heralded a hurricane.
He tucked his crutch under his arm and started back toward the docks. There was nothing else he could do now but wait. And hope.
Last updated on the October 26th 2019