The dying man finished what he wanted to say, and the room went quiet.
If it had been thirty, even twenty, years ago Anglou Saddler would have cried. Even ten years ago she would have cursed the dying man, deathbed or not.
Now? Now Dendion Gale and all their plans for a life together were thirty years dead. She'd made a different life, and time had aged her grief for both the man and the life she might have had with him into an occasional melancholic regret. The only difference now was that a dying man had confessed to her once betrothed's murder.
The prosecution of the murder, or not, wasn't Anglou's problem. That duty lay with the town reeve, and ultimately the King. The reeve's presence at the confession, requested by the dying man himself, absolved Anglou and the dying man's family of the responsibility of reporting the matter. Murder was not a thing that you should have to request that it be investigated or prosecuted, and at the moment Anglou was glad that she didn't have to take on those responsibilities.
"What happens now?" That was one of the dying man's sons, a well-grown man with children of his own who'd been a toddler back when it had all happened.
"I will check your father's statement against the facts recorded at time of Dendion Gale's death," replied the reeve. "Then I will interview the families of the other men he mentions in his story; in case they too raised the matter before their own ends. When all of that information is in hand, a decision will be made as to how to proceed." He glanced at the man in the bed who was propped up with pillows and cushions to make breathing and speaking easier. "It is entirely possible, given the state if your father's health, that the natural course of events will outrun the investigation."
"That's what I thought," confirmed the dying man. "Why else leave matters so long and speak now? Thing is," he added another confession, "with me gone, he'll have lost his last chance of vengeance against those who caused his wrongful death. All of us who were there that day have sons and grandsons who work down that mine now, and those lads are not to blame for this. I hold that none of us would have gotten out of that collapse that day if we hadn't done what we did, but time has come to acknowledge all debts. His blood kin left the world before him, so I owe them candles and prayers, but I've been offering them up for him and his for years now. That leaves Mistress Saddler." Everyone turned to look at Anglou. "We, we didn't really believe him when he told us all he had a girl." He paused, "And then we all thought she'd find someone else, but...."
"Turned out that there was no-one else who particularly interested me or was particularly interested in me," said Anglou briskly.
"A lot's happened in the last thirty years, think on, Hollace Farrow." She looked around the room at the reeve, the descendants of the dying Hollace Farrow, the attending priest, and Market Cranebourne's resident withemaster, Withemaster Read. "What I ask for now, isn't what I would have asked for then. The execution of justice in this matter isn't mine. What I want now is no unnatural deaths coming out of the mine. That means recovering what is left of the body and giving it a proper funeral and burial." The priest and the withemaster nodded in agreement. "Hollace, you are going to pay for a coffin for Dendion, and your lads are going to take it down in to the mine and bring his body out in it after you tell them where to find it. Then you are going to share your funeral with him."
The priest spoke up. "That should work, if you retrieve the body before Hollace dies."
A granddaughter asked, "Excuse me, what happens if they don't do that?"
"Then they'll be playing hide and seek in the dark with a vengeance seeking dead man," replied Withemaster Read. "One fuelled by righteousness. That would be...difficult."
"Very difficult," agreed the priest. "The bishop would probably have to go to the archbishop for help, and the archbishop might need to ask the other archbishops."
"Perhaps we should go tonight then," suggested a Fallow son-in-law. "If we've not much time, then we shouldn't waste it.”
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