October 10, 2019 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
Lirnilalie was in the middle of her fourth diatribe when the lead judge interrupted. “I believe—” they held up a hand. “That will be enough. There is no more need for this one to speak. You may restrain her again.
“You don’t want to silence me,” Lirnilalie informed the judge calmly. “You don’t really think it’s a good idea, do you? After all, there are a number of people who are interested in what I have to say, and they’re only going to be more interested if they find that I have been silenced.”
The judge didn’t look impressed. None of them did.
“Silence her,” the lead judge repeated. “Silence her, and let us be done with this farce. She has nothing to say in her own defense and only things to say that will further condemn her. It is in the interest of both the accused and the court to not allow her to speak any further.”
“There is no good for the accused in this court,” Lirnilalie shot back. “There is no good for Calenta in this court, for Bithrain, for the people. There is no good for anyone here with those few corrupt leaders who benefit from things remaining as they as they have always been. There is no good—”
Spears from three guards penetrated Lirnilalie’s outer robes; she smiled as she fell silent. She was still smiling as they placed the bar back over her lips and the letters on it once again glowed.
Saydrie shuddered. Nothing good could come from that speech. He looked down at the Bitrani crowd and wondered at them. They were stirring a little; they were murmuring just a bit. Were they listening? Hadn’t they learned? Hadn’t they smelled her? He sat back down, brow furrowed, chewing on his lip. What could he do? Was there anything he could do? He was just one Bitrani boy who looked too Calenyena. There was nothing —
“Next,” the Speaker for Justice began, her voice cutting through the murmuring. The room fell back into silence as she continued. “Next, we will hear testimony from three students who discovered much of the malfeasance which we are bringing to your attention today.”
She began to read. Saydrie leaned back in his chair as words that he and Enrie and Taikie had put together were read — not their names, not any identifying information, but the speaker did mention — not once but three times — that they were students in very good standing and good regard in their school.
The trial didn’t last long after that. The judged examined three more pieces of evidence before they determined that they had heard enough. And since Lirnilalie was no longer going to speak for herself, they could be done while the Speaker for Justice still had piles and piles of paperwork in front of her, days and days of testimony she could have read. Saydrie wondered if that was a bit of showmanship, if maybe only a third of the paper was actually full of testimony? But it didn’t matter. The hearing was over. And now the judges would rule.
It took an hour for the deliberations. While they waited, they had a little more food, a little more water, a lot of walking, and some whispered consultation. The Bitrani who were still waiting looked restless and angry. The Calenyena that were waiting looked either very worried or rather bored. And Saydrie—
“Do you think this will still lead to rebellion?” he murmured to the Princess.
“No.” She frowned, and shook her head slowly. “No. I think it might lead to a lot of trouble, yes, but I don’t think it will still lead to rebellion. But someone — many people — need to point out, both to the Cevati Bitrani and to the southern Calenyena governors, that things were in bad enough of a state that that person, that person nearly caused a cataclysmic rebellion which would have caused great damage to everyone.”
“That sounds like a script,” Saydrie murmured. He was already picturing talking to the Cevati Bitrani at Edally — what he could say, what he couldn’t, who he could talk to and who he couldn’t.
“Consider it the rough draft of my remarks. I might talk to Enerenarie’s parents. They’re well known, after all, in certain circles, and working with them, I might be able to talk to people who wouldn’t otherwise listen to me.”
“You’re a princess,” he muttered, even though he knew — he really did know — why sometimes that wouldn’t be enough.
“I am. And maybe in another fifty generations, nobody will know the difference. And who are we to say if that would be a good thing or a bad, in the fullness of things?”
“I—” Saydrie looked at her, a Princess of the Calenyen who was a Bitrani. He thought about himself, caught between the two worlds. He cleared his throat, because he wasn’t sure what he was going to say but he had to say something.
“All those attending, it is time for the verdict to be read. Please return to your seats immediately.”
Saydrie ducked his head and took the exit, returning to his seat with Taikie and Enrie.
“You don’t think—” Taikie hissed. “They’re not going to let her go, are they?”
“I don’t think they could,” Enrie murmured. “She presented no evidence to defend herself. She called for no witnesses for herself. There is nothing to say she is not guilty — even she didn’t say she wasn’t guilty.”
“But the Bitrani down there—” Taikie looked over at Saydrie guiltily.
“I’m worried too,” he told her, “but, if there’s something working in our favor, it’s that the Bitrani rarely have the clout to influence courts and they almost never pay bribes.”
Taikie bit her lip. “That seems like the sort of thing that only sounds positive until you start to think about it.”
Saydrie wanted to pat her head. Instead, he leaned into her for a moment, the way Enrie had done for him; somehow in sitting down again, he had found himself between the two of them, Enrie between him and Princess Oltyellalobtello.
The lead judge stood up; the audience fell quiet. “We have come to a decision. But before we give it, the Emperor has asked to speak.”
The murmuring rose for a moment. Saydrie’s heart was in his throat. If the Emperor — if he declared that Lirnilalie wasn’t to be held responsible, there was nothing anyone could do. He was the Emperor. There was no greater authority on Reiassan, and some people argued — even some Cevati Bitrani argued — that he was greater an authority than the Three themselves, when it came to events and matters of the world of the living.
The Emperor stood up and walked slowly, four guards and his Voice flanking him, until he was standing before Lirnilalie’s box. She was still silenced but the grate was not covering her; she looked disdainful, sneering as the man got closer and closer to her.
The Emperor nodded at her. “My granddaughter — for even when you are no longer a princess, you are still my granddaughter — I am saddened for you that it has come to this.”
Lirnilalie’s eyebrows shot up, as if to say saddened for me?
The Emperor continued. “I am saddened for the Empire, as well, and to the Empire, I must apologize — and to you — I did neither Calenta nor you any favors in letting you go as long as you did. Take your verdict here with grace and honor, child, and prove yourself one more time a daughter of the Empire.” He nodded again, turned, and walked away, back up to his box.
The room was wordless, only footsteps and the swishing of silk robes cutting through the silence.
Even the judges waited until the Emperor was seated again.
Saydrie looked at Enrie and then at Taikie, at Princess Oltyellalobtello and back at Enrie.
His friend shrugged, looking lost. He’d have to ask her about that later.
“Lirnilalie, you have been found guilty of treason against the Empire. You have also been found guilty of the attempt to foment rebellion, of blackmailing, of bribery, and of both murder and attempted murder. You have been found guilty of conspiracy and of the attempt to change the official history of the Empire.”
The lead judge cleared her throat. “For any of these, the punishment is death. For several of these, the punishment is Death by the Three.”
Saydrie was not the only one who hissed. Death by the Three was a horrible way to die, even for someone as horrible as Lirnilalie.
“However, we have chosen to take a different route here. Today, we are going to give you to seven judges of the Bitrani group called the Cevati Bitrani.”
“What?” Saydrie leaned forward. The whole audience was gasping in surprise.
“We have picked judges we have worked with, judges we know. And they — they will both chose and oversee your final punishment. You may have tried to hurt Calenta, but you have risked far more potential damage to the Bitrani.
“I do not believe they will be gentle with you, Lirnilalie. We do not believe that you deserve gentleness.”
The lead judge leaned forward to look directly at Lirnilalie. “If we see you again in our courtroom, we will show no patience and no mercy. Take what you have been given and go.”
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