“That was awful. That’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.” Valenzuela sat down in the council chamber, followed by Garcia and Nikko.
“It had to be done though.”
Valenzuela merely nodded. “I’ve never seen a man so broken. I was close to tears… having your son taken from you…”
“Don’t feel sorry for him, Val.” Garcia interjected. “He knew the penalty.”
“Did he though?”
“Regardless, he knew it was against the law to have a third child.” added Nikko. “But that’s not the point. He tried to attack you tonight. That’s treason.”
“He didn’t touch me.”
“He would have if Til hadn’t intervened.”
Valenzuela shook her head. “He was just upset about his son. He didn’t try to overthrow me. He didn’t come for the throne. He just wanted his son back..”
“Forget the reason,. He came here tonight wanting to harm you. I saw it in his eyes, my queen. He was close to striking you.”
“Nikko is right. It is treason, punishable by death.”
“I will not have him killed! He is my cousin!”
“Life imprisonment then. He is a risk. He will not stop in his aspiration to be king or make one of his children king.”
“You don’t think he will try for another child and hide his wife?” asked Valenzuela after a pause.
“I hadn’t thought of that.” Garcia murmered.
“I don’t think so. Besides we have him in prison. We’re here to decide, if he is not to be put to death, on how long he will be there. I recommend life or when his wife is past childbearing age..”
“No.” Valenzuela shook her head. “Not life. He… I felt so sorry for him. He was so upset.”
“Val, don’t be soft! You cannot afford to feel sorry for him… You don’t seem to realise the danger!” urged Garcia.
Nikko nodded in agreement.
Val sighed and was silent then added.
“Even if his wife was past childbearing age he could try with another woman?”
“It would be illegitimate, and therefore not eligible to ascend the throne.”
“He could remarry if Elle died…”
“Not if we have him imprisoned.”
Val nodded. She buried her face in her hands and closed her eyes. The men waited. Finally she looked up.
“Ten years.”
“Ten years? Is that all? That’s nothing. He could still plot revenge. He could come out and try again. He could garner support for his cause…”
“He has no friends. You said so yourself. He has no power. He looked broken. I don’t think he will be a threat.”
“You underestimate him, Val. I think it best for him to stay in prison until Jarl is king.”
Valenzuela gasped. “When I’m dead? You must be joking. No. No, that is too cruel. That is tantamount to life imprisonment. No. Not in that place.”
Garcia sighed. “Very well, 10 years. After that time, we shall see. Well, I won’t. My time is near. But you and your advisors will.”
V felt tears well but kept them back. She merely nodded.

Later in the bedchamber, Val looked very sad.
“Please don’t feel sorry for Winter, my love.”
“Ten years in that cell is too much. It would drive anyone insane.”
Nikko sighed and shook his head. “But Val… “he sighed and paused. “Then what would you suggest?”
“We could still keep him imprisoned, but…”
“But at least give him a decent room – a room where he could live more comfortably, still locked up of course.”
Nikko nodded. “That could be arranged, if it would make you feel better.”
Val nodded and hugged Nikko. “Yes. Yes, it would. It’s not in me to be cruel.”
“I know that” Nikko stroked her hair. “I’ll see to it.” he murmered into her hair.

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