October 8, 2019 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
The trial seems to take forever, and at the same time it seemed to go very quickly.
And it only been two weeks since they had tackled Lirnilalie at the Treaty Meet, and in that time the Speaker for Justice had come up with an amazing number of charges and complaints, facts and testimonies…
The Speaker for Justice — Saydrie recognized her as Lady Azhyaranzhya from the Treaty Meet, although she was dressed and speaking far more aristocratically now — brought forward each new piece of evidence, each testimony, each charge which condemned Lirnilalie. Her tone with every new piece of Lirnilalie’s malfeasance was light and casual, as if she was discussing, perhaps, a particularly grey day in southern Bithrain.
The judges would listen to each piece of evidence and then ask their questions, and then the Speaker for Justice would give her answers and retorts. The whole process seemed to move as swiftly as if they were trying to cover the whole continent in just minutes, and yet hours would go by and Saydrie would find that they were still discussing, for instance, one testimony taken from one teacher at one school, neither Instructor nor Academy mentioned by name.
They stood to stretch and eat some food and drink some juices and tea around noon, and then they were back in their seats. Now, for the first time, Lirnilalie was able to speak in her own defense.
The grate concealing her from the audience was removed, and she looked out, implacable-seeming, at the audience, at Saydrie and Princess Oltyellalobtello and Enrie and Taikie. She was wearing brown robes the color of dung with only one button closing them, and a metal bar covered her lips. The bar was marked with bright, glowing letters; Saydrie squinted and leaned forward despite himself, but he couldn’t read what it said.
A guard of the Court removed the bar as two more guards aimed their spears directly at Lirnalie, as if her very words could threaten the Emperor’s life, or the sanctity of the court and its proceedings.
Of course, Saydrie considered, they could. Her words had already done damage to the Empire, had done damage to the Bitrani, had caused a great deal of trouble — and very little of the damage, or the troubles that she had caused, the deaths that might be at her behest — almost none of it, as far as he knew, had been done by her hands. Just her words had caused all that damage. Perhaps the guards were in the right to aim those spears so close to her heart.
She spoke as if her throat was dry, as if she needed a drink, and indeed, there was no glass of water at her seat, although there were in front of each of the judges, and in front of the Speaker for Justice. Even with the box in which Saydrie and his friends sat with the princess had a pitcher of water.
She spoke slowly, her eyes more on the spears then on the Bitrani in front of her, the Speaker for Justice to her left, or the judges in the front of the room. She spoke of wanting the best for the Empire, she spoke of wanting a change that needed to come, and she spoke of being brave and wise, unlike her sisters, unlike her cousins.
As she kept talking, Saydrie found some stupid hope in his stomach sinking. On trial, stripped of her finery, stripped of her followers, Lirnilalie still hadn’t changed. Almost nothing had changed at all, except that her voice was quiet, and except the fact that the Bitrani seemed unhappy rather than interested, that the Calenyena seemed curious rather than dismissive or afraid, and that the Emperor was staring straight at her — Saydrie turned to look not once but four times, and he could tell that he was not the only one doing so.
Very little had changed, and yet it seemed that everything had changed. He wondered if the dull robe had anything to do with the way people were looking at her, or if it was the fact that the Bitrani could smell her — if not now, then at least they’d all had the chance to smell her already and knew what she was.
He wondered if it was the spears pointed directly at her that made her less frightening, made her seem smaller — or perhaps made her seem her true height and breadth. He wondered that her words meant nothing now, because he listened and he found no interest in the top of the world changing.
Saydrie was certain she had been speaking for at least two solid minutes, but nothing she said spoke to his Bitrani upbringing, or to the problems he’d had with Edally, to anything but his dismay. She looked like she was set to continue on, too, when the lead judge held up a hand
“If you’ll excuse me.” It was startling to hear such a deep southern accent, all the consonants clipped and strange, on a judge in an Imperial trial. “Lirnilalie. The question was: how do you answer the charge of bribery, blackmail, and threatening behavior aimed towards an instructor of an Imperial Academy?”
“Now now.” Lirnilalie smiled. Even where they were sitting it made Saydrie shiver. “You would have to be more specific about which Instructor. After all, I’ve spoken to a lot of them. Many of them were quite interested in the cause that I am promoting. After all, the Instructors of our Academies are meant to be the wisest of us all, aren’t they? After all, they teach the young—” she gestured outward to the audience; the spears moved in so close they were touching her robes and so quickly that for a moment Saydrie thought they had pierced her through.
She cleared her throat, lowered her hands, and smiled before continuing. “There are so many of the young here, and they are meant to learn from these Instructors. Clearly these are the ones that see the wisdom of a new—”
“I will note that you agree you have done as accused, and we will so note all of those evidences of attempting to change the direction of an Imperial Instructor. Be silent or be silenced.”
Lirnilalie nodded her acquiescence and fell silent, allowing for the trial to carry on
The Speaker for Justice continued to give evidence. The judges continued to ask questions. Occasionally, Lirnilalie would be allowed to to say something. And each time, she seemed more confident, more arrogant, more out of touch with her current situation than the last time she had spoken. Saydrie, when he was back home in the enclave, had heard discussion of theories that those with bad aether were somehow wrong in the brain as well as being wrong in the either. He hadn’t given it any credence at the time — aether and the mind were different, after all — and everything they’d seen at school had seemed to lend evidence to his theory that one had aether and one had a mind, they weren’t all that connected.
Watching Lirnilalie, listening to her, Saydrie was beginning to rethink that idea. He took a note — he didn’t particularly want Taikie to make a device to read the connection between the mind and the aether, but maybe she could come up with something or maybe, the three of them together could come up with something that wasn’t quite so on the line of being sacrilegious.
Of course, maybe he should give Taikie a little more slack, as she had, after all, helped him prove to the Calenyena that there was something to the idea of bad aether.
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