The Verdict (Savage Tide)
"Order in court! Order in Court!" The bailiff banged his oaken staff three times against the marble flagstones. "Order in Court! Order in Court" It was a totally unnecessary request, as it by now was well known that the Queen was indulging one of her more furious moods, and no-one wanted to invoke her displeasure.
A travelling court of Faerie is a esoteric sight indeed. Gathering around the King or Queen is a smattering of high lords and high ladies, tied to the court with the strange umbilical cord of power between royalty and nobility. A larger group of minor nobles dance around this, vying for attention and dabbling in intrigue-making. And at the low end of this is the lower fey, boggarts, goblins and gnomes, talking animals, and all other kinds of creatures dragged into the whirlpool of the court as it passes by, suddenly feeling compelled to offer the court whatever odd services that are needed.
Now, the court had gathered like a flock of rooks in an ancient, moonlit temple. The old marble stones were partially covered with artfully grown mosses and wines, and a faint smell of moist earth and wet decay could be traced in the still air. Some of the old pillars had fallen, and they now served as seating-places for the motley collection of elves, fairies, animals, goblins and gnomes that were present, both nobles and commons. Other pillars still stood, reaching for the night sky, and the stern leonine faces carved into their surfaces lent even more gravity to the situation.
The tension could be felt in the air. Traditions and Ceremonies were among the most powerful things in the fickle realm of Faerie, and the ancient ceremony of crime, trial and punishment held more power than most of these. All you had to do to wield that power was to make the crime fit the punishment...
"All hail the Queen of Faerie!" the bailiff called out, and suddenly the moon seemed to shift in its mooring upon the sky. The shadows twitched and reformed into new positions, and pools of moonlight flowed and rolled from surface to surface. The new flow of light turned one of the dark corners of the temple into a lit stage, and in the center of that sat the Queen upon her throne.
For this moment and place, she had chosen an cold visage; Alabaster skin, pale blue eyes, blue-black hair pulled back into a hard knot before falling down the back of the throne in a single wave of darkness. Veils of shimmering mooncloth, matching her icy eyes in color and tone, were artfully draped over her tall, slender frame without apparent fastenings or support. Still in silence, she gracefully inclined her head to acknowledge the courtly bows and curtsies of the assemblage.
"Will the prosecutor please rise!" the Bailiff cried out.
Out of the crowd, a black humanoid cat rose up. Over an ebon coat, brushed to shiny perfection, he wore in an silk vest of conservative cut, embrodered with discrete geometrical patterns in muted colors, and soft silk slippers. His eyes glittered in the moonlight behind a pair of golden pince-nez which balanced upon his nose. He made a deep bow to the queen, and she once again bent her neck in response.
"Will the attorney of the defense please rise!"
An elderly, portly vole rose, huffing and puffing with the effort. He had chosen the traditionalist way of dressing, only wearing a high black hat, and contrasted badly with the polished finery of the prosecutor. His awkward bow was pointedly ignored by the Queen.
"Bring in the accused!"
For the first time the cautious silence of the court was broken, as the various persons and creatures jockeyed for a position that gave them a good view of the unfortunate soul being brought in, and a faint murmour of frantic whipsers arose.
The accused, a young elven maiden, was fair, with pink complexion much more lively than the Queens pale alabaster, especially now with the color of angry humiliation on her cheeks. Her tousled hair was golden blonde, and her huge green eyes shiny and wild with rage. She had been hogtied, and was dragged in by a pair of burly hobgoblins like a sack of flour.
The guards' uniforms of mostly buckled straps of black leather left a lot of their pale, doughy skin exposed, and both guards sported an abundance of fresh bruises and scratches. The prisoner's furious eyes above the gag and the way she struggled against her bonds left no doubt who was responsible for those injuries, and when the guards chained her to one of the fallen pillars they stepped back and assumed their parade rest with an obvious air of relief.
The bailiff stepped up to just out of reach of the chains and roared: "The accused is well advised to behave!" and pointed at the sturdy truncheons hanging from the hips of the hobgoblins. The girl stopped struggling, but her eyes still shot daggers of fury at the bailiff.
The bailiff turned again to face the audience. "Let the Crowns's prosecution speak!".
The prosecutor stood up again. He smoothed his embroidered vest and twiddled his whiskers. He then carefully studied his fingers, briefly extending a set of needle-sharp claws, and when he was sure he got everybody's attention, he spoke.
"The bond of love and devotion between a ruler and one of her subjects is one of the most sacred things of a true monarchy. Interfering with such matters of the state is a heinous crime, and truly a most nefarious attack upon our royalty, and thus an attempt to overthrow one of the very foundations of our society. What would it mean if we let Interference with the Royal Prerogatives go unpunished? It would mean pure chaos, anarchy, the overthrow of our realm!"
"And them there is the abominable crime of Lèse majesté. I refer to none less than the notorious and widely known attack upon her Majesty herself at the Equinox Ball; a most malicious assault on a Royal Personage with a liquid weapon. Some may call this an accident, but knowing the history of the accused, and the working of her devious mind, I say that it was Tripping with Malicious Intent."
The prosecutor pointed accusingly at the prisoner. She in turn tried to reply, but only muffled sounds came out of her securely tied gag.
"Now, let the defense speak!"
The defense attourney stood up again. He drew some air to speak, when he suddenly choked, face turning red, his breath lost. After a few painful moments, he coughed up something grey and small. It fluttered across the court, landed on the Queen's extended finger, and showed itself to be a small songbird. The bird started singing, a sweet, sad and haunting tune. The Queen studied the bird for a few moments, her face unmoved, and then extended her hand towards the prosecutor. The cat snatched the bird, and quickly stuffed it into his mouth. He chewed and swallowed, a smile of pleasure on his face. The Queen turned to the attourney, who was drawing long, laboured breaths in silence: "What's the matter, attorney? Cat's got your tongue?"
The attorney composed himself with difficulty, turned to the accused, and shrugged apologetically before sitting down again.
The bailiff took to the floor again. "As the defense has failed to make a coherent case, we can now proceed with the verdict. As a matter of state, this will be ruled by our true and uncontested ruler: our beloved Queen. Your Majesty?"
The eyes of the Queen gleamed, and she fought hard to keep a noble and serene face, as an expression of intense satisfaction threatened to take over. She cleared her throat, and gave her verdict with a clear and penetrating alto.
"Nandellë Aurehen Alastegiel Lindariel, you are found guilty by this court."
"Your punishment will be the following: You will be divested of your rank and exiled. You will be stripped of each and everything that comes with that rank, including your estate, your possessions, your stature, and your name."
"The Island of the August Moon, the Vale of Elderberries, and the Green Spring Morning Hills will be returned to the crown, to be bequethed to those that truly deserve the honour. Your possessions all fall to the Crown's treasury, effective immediately."
The queen made a few idle gestures with her fingers, leaving a few half-glowing, half-shadowy signs trailing in the air. The prisoner's clothing and jewellery was torn from her body by an invisible force, and unceremoniously dragged over and through the mosses, stone and rubble to end up in a smudged pile before the Queen's throne. She placed a dainty slipper-clad foot possessively upon the pile.
"Similarly, your stature as a high lady is revoked. Without that, you are nothing but one of the lowborne fey, like a boggart, goblin or... Yes, a pixie".
More gestures from the Queen, and the prisoner's fair skin turned a robust tan, and her delicate pointed ears grew so that the sharp tip was more than a handslength and a half from her head, flickering up and down with sudden mobility. She then suddenly decreased to a diminutive size, only a foot tall, and dragonfly-like wings sprouted from her backside. Freed from her restraints, which had fallen to the ground around her as she shrank, the new pixie scrambled to cover herself with some leaves from the ground.
"And with loss of rank follows the loss of your name. You will receive a new name, more suitable to a common pixie." The Queen pondered for a moment. "Your name will be... Cinnamon. A sweet, earthy spice, but utterly harmless. That will provide you with a suitable personality."
The prisoner looked momentarily confused, as if she had lost something but did not know what. An errant whisp of wind carried a faint mocking whisper to her ears, and her alone: "...Oh, yes, it was Nandellë that loved Rávion, and you are no longer Nandellë. It is amazing what a name means..."
The queen smiled a wicked smile at the prisoner from her distant throne.
Meanwhile, the prosecutor had inched his way to the queen and crawled up into her knee. He now lay there, suddenly much more similar to a common housecat than a dapper officer of the court, and purred while the Queen scratched between his ears.
"Take the prisoner away and exile her forever from this realm!"
One of the Hobgoblin guards stepped forward and grabbed for the pixie with one hand, as she clambered on all fours, wings dragging behind, trying to get way. He managed to catch one foot between thumb and finger, and lifted her up, dangling upside down. He cupped the other hand below, in case she fell, and carried her out of the old temple.
As the guard had laid some distance between himself and the makeshift court, he lifted the pixie up in front of his face and whispered: "Sorry ma'am, just doing my job, you know. No hard feelings, I hope?" Before the pixie had time to answer, he hurried to continue. "You still have some friends, you know. They paid the Morrigan to read the future, and they also paid me to give you this..." He rummaged through a pouch hanging from his waist, and dug up a miniature set of bags. "Just some clothes, weapons and stuff, but it will at least help a little in whatever strange world you will find on the other side of the border."