“Clearly, you are an urchin, a street rat!”
“Are you suggesting that I am not who I say I am?” asked Areia incredulously. She tried to spin around the chamber imploringly, with her hands held outwards, but the massive chains prevented her from doing so. Several pockets of laughter erupted from the nobles and military officers who had gathered to see the judgment.
While the laughs settled down, she twisted a bit and winked at the others, none of whom were laughing themselves. Where is the lanthorn Areia? asked Zy’an.
Don’t worry about that now, you’ve got to focus on the big honcho’s questions here! Besides, it’s safely hid along with the Prince’s letter! We’re good!
Iricah groaned. Thrak muttered something about “thievessss”. Frank tried to slap his head but the chains stopped his palm an inch before it struck his forehead.
You didn’t think I’d just walk around Silvershore with important stuff like that did you?
Tabraxon settled the crowd down by striking his gavel several times. “You claim to be the Areia of Far Realm? The Areia of Areia’s landing gone these many years, as if you would just one day re-appear? This is only evidence of your crime!” Tabraxon had reached a fever pitch now, his face awash with his anger. “What evidence do you have of being “the prince’s guest? Leaving as you say the battle, with his well wishes?”
“Well there is a letter, I just don’t happen to have it at the moment, if you get my drift,” snapped Areia. She leaned over and winked at the cardinal. “You can trust me though, I killed my darker side in the Chamber of heroes while a dragon woman was yelling at her estranged dragon husband.”
He paused and took a breath. “Take her away! And bring the next prisoner forward in the Light!” Areia blew kisses to the nobles, her feet skidding along the chamber floor. Zy’an was brought forward then. He stood, calm and collected. He had a pretty good idea what his primary crime would be.
“And what of you? Your darkness is manifest! Standing before me now, I can feel your aura! Did you think you could simply walk off the ship at Silvershore and come among us? You may have fooled the prince, but we know a Sasser spy when we see one. Look at him well Celns, the Host has not left him, it is a ruse …,” A clergryman interrupted the Cardinal. He whispered something to him and the Cardinal looked pleased. “This court has received information regarding the markings you possess. Are you now or have you ever been affiliated with an order of monks located somewhere in the outskirts of our colonial sphere at Far Realm?”
“I decline to answer,” Zy’an stated calmly.
“In that case, you have forfeited your right to give testimony in your defense under article 11. Take him away!” Tabraxon took a sip of water, and turned a page in the mighty book before him. He held out a scroll for all assembled to see. Before him, Iricah stood now. “Your bags contain maps and documents the likes of which are blasphemous! Clearly these are forged and falsified intending to be sold, giving false intention to those that would subvert our mighty Flame!” Iricah knew better than to answer. She simply looked around, taking in the laughter, the raucous crowd. As before, it was the same.
The cardinal then called the name, “Thrak Yak”, and the chamber exploded in laughter. A jeer bellowed out from someone in the crowd. It sounded like “Bleg blag blug” and it was followed by a chorus of jeers, insults and more laughter. Tabraxon himself seemed to be having a hard time keeping his face fixed in objectivity. “Whatever you call yourself, You are not capable of providing testimony under Article 9, regarding halves.”
Thrak did not exactly know as Zy’an did what would happen when he was called forth. But something had changed since the Chamber of Heroes in his way of thinking. He simply said, “That is a wrong judgment.” To which the Cardinal simply chuckled, and thanked the lizardman for his personal opinion. There were more laughs among the nobles and military guests alike. Thrak waited to see if he would be led out, and when none of the guards moved to do that, he slumped forward, his tail swishing scrolls off a nearby table, and lurched out of the room, chains rattling. The guards went with him, hands on the hilts of their swords. The chamber suddenly grew quiet. Frank, stepped forward.
“You claim to be a member of the Order of Silver. State your last prayer vigil, brother?”
Frank was close-mouthed.
The cardinal continued. “Speak for yourself clearly, to what cause have you been gone from our mighty Flame? Under what purpose have you been gone?
Again, Frank said nothing. His face was set in stone.
The cardinal called a cleric forth, and the woman in the silver robes cast a spell directed at Frank. Frank knew what it was, but could not know what it would reveal. The cleric concentrated as wafts of energy drifted all around him, her face grew red with the effort.
Frank though was at peace. For him too, something had changed in the Chamber of Heroes. He waited for the horns to snake outwards, the skin to burn, his eyes to blaze. But they did not. A hush fell over the crowd.
“Perhaps, brother, we have been wrong about you. You may state your evidence Brother Frank.”
“My evidence is clear for all to see. If they will but open their eyes,” he looked around the chamber, Tiresias’ words came to him, “We are all of the flame, and the flame is all of us. Because the flame is us!!! It is the good we choose to do!!!”
The crowd had heard the rhetoric before. This wasn’t exactly news to them, nor was it helping his case. But Frank continued, and the crowd went from still to agitated to shouting.
“But my friends and I have been dealt a great injustice here! We are members of the Prince’s envoy. And this man,” he pointed to Cardinal Tabraxon, “Will be the one inquisitioned when new leadership arrives here in Silvershore.”
Yells erupted in the chamber, but Frank continued.
“You are not fit to administer judgment in the Flame’s mighty radiance! Because you, Cardinal Tabraxon, are not of the Flame yourself!!! You are corrupted, cruel, there is no good in you to share with the rest of us, Brother!”
Frank was hauled out of the chamber. Behind him the crowd erupted into chaos.
Back in the cell, the others waited as one by one they were returned and, thrown into their cells. The rest of the night would be a short one as they awaited the dawn and their transcendence into the light.
They were kept in separate cages, some could see a few others, but the lines of cells gave little in the way of a view. Hojo was in the furthest. They had seen him sitting, his head hanging low, when they were brought in. Thrak tried to reach out to strangle him in his cell, but he couldn’t quite fit his arm in between the bars. Hojo never stirred. Several of their attackers at the bizarre were there as well. A few of the men cried. Most just sat on the slick and grimy floor of the cages, and waited.
One of the pirates rattled his bars as they were brought back in. He seemed delirious, his eyes darting this way and that. “Tabraxon has been waiting to cleanse us vermin for years! When those soulless Sassers struck, it was his chance! Rest well, me hearties! Knowing that at dawn you’ll be dead, and a day after that you’d be pardoned!” His hysterical laughter reverberated down the line of cells.
Another voice, familiar, answered, “The King would pardon you all, lad.”
“Well the King ain’t here, is he?!!” cried the crazy man, and he struck the bars with his fist.
“I am sorry,” said the familiar voice to the silence afterwards. Although they couldn’t see him, they knew immediately it was Hojo. “I wish I had my lyre, I would while away the hours for us.”
“You bastard, Hojo!” yelled Frank. “To what end did you betray us like that? We trusted you!”
“I needed to do it, my friends,” replied the melancholy voice. “We knew there was treachery in Silvershore you see, and the only way to find it was to go underground. I didn’t expect it to play out like this though.” And then there was a sigh, “I had to know some things about Tabraxon and his plans you see, and this was the only way to find out. I am greatly sorry, my friends. It was the only way to track down the culprits, so many lives depend on it. I mean, who can one trust these days?”
“Not your friend, not your friend,” Thrak growled.
“So you had a plan to what?” asked Zy’an.
“To get us inquisitioned? Great job, Hojo. Why?” asked Iricah emotion written on her voice. And then to Zy’an she asked, “What are you even talking to him about?” She wasn’t thinking about the jester anymore, nor did she care about an answer.
“What things about Tabraxon?” asked Zy’an. He sensed more trickery from the jester, but he didn’t figure it would hurt to collect information. Besides, he wasn’t going anywhere.
“I have all the pieces I need save one you see. Pieces to a puzzle as it were,” said Hojo. “If I’m right, we’ll find the last piece here any minute.” He paused, “Did you know master monk, that a permanent detect magic spell is kept in all Celn prisons? Lives depend on it, so look alive, please.”
“What is he talking about?” called Frank. He stopped. The sounds of footfalls came from the corridor past the cells. The Cardinal appeared between the cells. He was alone, and he was smiling a toothy grin.
‘Good evening, lads. Ladies,” the cardinal said bowing in the Cillandrial fashion. He looked around in a self-righteous air. But he wasn’t here to gloat. There was an awkward air about him, as though he were the one in the cell. “I trust your last night here in the light is comfortable?”
Thrak spit a giant wad of phlegm across the corridor. It was green and tinged with yellow. It struck the cardinal just above the eye.
The cardinal moved closer to the cage, withdrawing a wand from his robes. For a moment, he looked furious, but then brushed the goo aside, and put the wand away. “You monster. I should end you here now. Take your power and use it for the good of a righteous chore before I myself do the same.”
“You are a liar, a hypocrite, Tabraxon! You’re a stain on the goodness of the Flame’s might!” yelled Frank.
Tabraxon’s shoulders dropped slightly, and he careened his head around to face the cleric. “Oh, I’m far worse than that but I am no hypocrite, brother,” he whispered, staying just far enough away from all sides of the cave. His strange meaning hung in the air. Frank was confused.
“I’m the instrument of justice tonight, but no, I am no hypocrite.” He turned to Iricah, who was now watching him, her eyes wide. She was standing, her hands on the bars as if she were willing herself to move through them. “And unfortunately, I will not be here to see your inquisition, for I will already be with the light, and so will our guest to Silvershore.”
“You are part of the plot!” said Zy’an. “The plot to kill…”
“Yes, Master Monk,” sighed the Cardinal. “Congratulations. Like Hojo here, you’ve been putting together clues I see. It’s not as easy to plot to kill a king and his envoy as you might think.”
“What is he talking about Zy’an?!” yelled Frank.
Zy’an spoke what he had suspected since seeing the tattoo scrawled across the back of the second man, the man in the holding cell before their judgment. The tattoo, like the other, had been drawn in the same script, and said simply “1200 lbs blackrock.”
“He King, his Majesty Lord Borindin himself arrives tonight from across the still waters, tonight the fifth of Galindir. And Tabraxon and his schemers intend to kill him when he does.”
The Cardinal applauded and laughed heartily as though he were at a play in the noble’s quarter. “Yes! Yes, Master Monk, I do indeed! And the lot of you, I needed an excuse to rid myself of those in our little scheme. A terrible business, treachery. And although you, nor I, will be here to see it, a new day will dawn soon for the realm. One in which our majesty’s laws will not pervert the might of the true Light. The mandate of our mighty Flame! Tonight, the righteousness of sacrifice will create a new Realm. My sacrifice, your sacrifice. Congratulations to you all! By our deaths, will the Realm live on, as it was meant to be. For this is what will truly keep the darkness at bay.” Iricah gripped the bars tightly, and stared at the cardinal. His eyes were crazed, burning with chaos.