Aerian was pissed by the time Alwynn led her to the court room, people sat in both the stalls and the stands, the benches once occupied by the High Council now by members of what people called the Everlandian Council, leaders from each of the cities and their aides, commanders of various military forces across the realm.
In the centre looking withdrawn and tired was her mother as she stared at the woman whom she had brought to this world.
Opposite her sat Raya looking rather pleased with himself as he looked her over, Aerian snapped a glare at him then rather childishly stuck her tongue out at him and seated herself.
On a higher balcony in this court room, hidden by the others were Domi and Virra, watching with cruel eyes at the procession.
Aishani sat in her seat befitting of the Everlands Council to represent the affairs of the Emerald City, as her husband and father to Aerian were close. Her expression was calm and collected, but, only Aerian knew the fury that fuelled the golden hues which blazed amidst the ashen features.
Aerian was not alone in this, as others were on her side and some were not. Jade was no place to be seen at this moment, but it was sure that she was not far off.
“Let us get this underway,” Ascondia stated as she stood so did those of the Council beside her “Aerian Elcarus, you are charged with counts of theft, murder, crimes against the crown, acting with disregard for life other than your own, and as a result have been arrested and are now facing a trial by this court, how do you plead?”
Aerian didn’t blink and much to Rayas surprise she didn’t shy form her past “Of those crimes, I am guilty,”
“Very well, then it is the purpose of this court to decide if your actions since leaving the Ever Present, until the day you were arrested are sufficient to grant you freedom under the understanding you will commit no further acts,” Ascondia stated, Aerian knew being part of Ever Present that was a promise she couldn’t possibly make. “I trust you have council in this matter,”
Raya stood which caused Aerian to grate her teeth angrily “My lady she has already admitted to her crimes, there I submit the rest of this is unnecessary,”
“And you would have them take my daughters head without reminding them she is the very reason they are still here? That she fought and risk the lives of her friends, her family to spare yours?” The doors at the back clattered shut behind Kane as he walked in, the powerful frame of man not willing to bend to this farce, he was followed by both Hades and Heart “We will serve as council, by your permission of course,”
“Of course, Lord Kane of Dentarius, Lord Hades of Dentarius and Heart of?” Ascondia was actually surprised as she stared at the man, she thought long dead.
Heart looked to Aishani “No offence milady, but I am here at the request of Queen of Emerald City, I serve as her liaison there, and humbly request she allows me to serve her city in this matter, assuming, of course, that I am not reaching beyond my station,”
“I see no reason not, if Raya wants my daughters head, he will earn it,” She smiled darkly before looking to Aishani “Lady Aishani, Queen of Emerald City the decision is of course yours,”
Aishani grinned darkly, at the presence of her husband and Heart with Hades. Rising to extend a regal hand forward to him on the invitation to settle at her own seat. “This man has known her far longer than most. I will grant him this chair as my liaison to Emerald City. Come, Heart.” She then moved her position at Kane’s side, maintaining a regal aura and authority, her golden eyes shifting briefly to Hades with a tip of her chin in silent greeting.
“Very well, Lord Rayheart will serve as an advocate for the crown of Emerald City, Lady Aishani of Dentarius will serve as council to Aerian,”
Raya could feel his anger burn beneath the surface as Heart seated himself beside the Queen, another traitor for a another day he told himself.
“Raya has levelled the charges, Kane I trust you have things to say, please try to remain civil, I will not have bloodshed in this court,” Ascondia motioned and then seated herself.
“Not counting our little encounter with war not that long ago Aerian, have you taken a life without need?” Kane began there was a level tone in his voice that genuinely unnerved Raya the fact he hadn’t wasted time in going to make his point.
“Yes,” Aerian replied flatly.
“Who and why?”
“Alvin Wandright, Personal Guard to the Queen of Dentarius,” There was a quiver in Aerians voice as the name left her lips “I was, my mind had been invaded by Z’ress, during the rescue attempt I was able to break free and in trying to run Alvin was trying to help me and … I killed him,”
“But his death to you was not necessary?” Kane replied
“No, he was a good man, a friend,”
Raya stood only to sit just as quickly as Kane and Hades glared at him, Ascondia interrupted quickly.
“Alvins murder is one of the charges and they are more than aware of this, the fact she claims to have head her head messed is no longer relevant, she murdered a good man in cold blood she just admitted to it milady,”
“Please let me kill him,” Hades muttered quietly enough that only Aishani and Kane could hear.
Aishani never removed her eyes from Aerian, while a subtle smirk formed in the shadow of her lips, amused by Hades’ words. “Your Royal Highness, if I may? I am council to Aerian and I would like to expound on this in the defence of Aerian.”
“Of course, but of course the same rules apply to you as your husband, this is a court of law,” Ascondia replied Raya went to stand but her look stopped him, he would inevitably have to wait for his turn.
“Thank you, Your Royal Highness.” Aishani now stood as this was her floor, moving from her position to address the court. “Now, we have heard her speak of murder. Take a look at her now, she does hold remorse in her voice. I do know, as a fact, that Z’ress, held control over the mind and with the warped press of her plus, Ceremon…this youth was bound to be broken. I have seen it first hand, after all, she and Ceremon had advanced so far as to take the throne. Forgive me, Your Royal Highness, you have seen and felt first-hand the power that Z’ress had even over Ceremon. Now, we all know that to some, it is an excuse, but, to others, it is a cold fact. That she was influenced, therefor not responsible for her acts at that time.”
There was a chatter among the council before the sounds died off.
“I didn’t know it was him, honestly I still don’t remember doing it only that he isn’t here and my dad told me why, so I had to have right? He was the first person to put a blade in my hand, he beat me down so bad some days I could barely walk, and he did this not to be cruel, or for anything other than to teach me to fight back, no matter the odds he taught me to stand and fight, he was my friend and I have to live with my actions,” Aerian stated the same emotion ripped through every word.
Raya stood carefully trying to keep the panic under wraps fearing he’d been beaten before he even got a word out.
“So, while some may accept such a thing, let us go further back, the list is long Aerian, murder for hire, Jacob Coldfire, Ashlynn Vaan, Sia Elderfor,”
Kane stood looking to Ascondia “Do we really need to list them, everyone in this room has a copy of every charge levelled against my daughter, we know her history he should get to his point or admit this is a fishing trip, because my daughter decided she liked someone else that wasn’t him,”
“He is correct Raya, we do not need every name, though if one has any significance then feel free,”
“Of course, milady, my apologies to the court,” Raya stumbled over his words as Kane seated himself, resting his hand on Aerians shoulder “You have many counts of murder to your name, perpetrated in cold blood,”
“I do, during a period I was hurting, I had survived a war none of us expected to survive, I watched my mother and fathers relationship implode, I was mentally numb, sex and murder was simply how I got off, in a time I felt nothing, It let me feel something,” Aerian replied “Every contract was filled, but I rarely took a life that wasn’t worth taking,”
Aishani then stood, nodding her head to Ascondia. “Granted, that was no excuse at the time. Look at that list now, that the war has ended. Where did it stop? Alvin. Every life is precious, even her own. She was but a child then, acting out with anger to the world around her. Clearly, everyone has been at that point in their life.” She rested her blazing golden eyes upon Raya for a moment, then scanned the group. “Now, she stands before you. No longer a child, a woman. A woman with child. A life waits for her with her partners and the growing life within her. Back then she was reckless, as I agree she should not go unpunished, but I believe everyone has the chance to enter probation. Her crimes were in the past not fitting but I believe that she has changed. In fact, instead of fighting or struggling, Aerian took to stand before you and face it. This shows strength and remorse.”
Raya could feel it slip as he stared at Aishani “She uses her name, hides behind it because that is how she was raised, why do we give a free pass yet Ceremon also an Elcarus has not been brought to trial for his crimes? He was taken from Elvera to Dentarius, without so much as an argument, to be protected this is what they do,” Raya spat angrily.
“Hey short pants, don’t blame us cos you’re getting your ass kicked,” Hades laughed, a titter of laughter fell through the room immediately silenced by Ascondia.
“I will not see this court disrupted like that, one more comment like that and you will be removed Hades,”
“Of course, milady, my apologies,” Hades dropped his head like a scolded schoolboy but remained content with the damage he had done to Raya with but a single sentence.
“I expect you to stay on course Raya, this is to do with Aerian and her crimes not those of the realm,”
“Yes milady, I’m sorry,” He replied before turning back to Aerian “Your crimes of theft, multiple in number, all of the very high value, some from the very people you stole them for in the first place,”
“I had to live,” Aerian replied softly.
Kane stood as he looked to Aerian “You were once handed a contract, one of the richest ever written, I know this because I wrote it, two hundred and fifty thousand gold, a simple item a gold watch, from a well-known maker who died during the dragon wars, as a result, his work has become valuable, do you remember the contract in question?”
“Yea, though didn’t know you wrote it,” She replied quietly
“And what happened on that night?”
“I found the house, broke in through a sky light, honestly people are so dumb they’re on the reach so they figure we can’t get in, anyway when I got in, I scouted round, a man and two children, but they were in deep trouble, they had notice of eviction and would that morning have been thrown onto the street,”
“And so? You’re a thief you had a job to do, what did you do?”
“I took the watch,” Aerian stated completely blank drawn a collective gasp from those present.
“I see, so you collected on the contract, is that the end of this particular contract?”
“No, I collected the money, I paid the rental agreement in full and then broke back into the house and put the rest of the gold in the watches place,”
Raya growled under his breathe in frustration as he stood “So you had a conscience, but that doesn’t discount the other hundreds of thefts you’ve been a part of,”
“I’ve never taken a contract that I didn’t believe was worthy, I don’t take from those that can’t afford to lose an item or two, not that you’d know honour,”
“Enough,” Aishani stated coldly, her voice slicing through the court room. “She does not deny her crimes, while some call the kettle black, others do not. We have to take into account of the crimes brought forth. But, let me ask you, do her crimes outweigh the actual good that she has done to the people? She has even reigned in the Ever Present, I have caught wind of a recent event. Lord Elcarus will you elaborate on the events that have brought a poor wife and children to Denarius as of late?”
“My wife is correct I grow tired of this, we are here away from our children while you Raya exercise your power in an attempt,” He paused to look at Ascondia.
“Perhaps save this for a little later Kane, and as I instructed Raya, stay to the point?”
“Of course,” Kane replied and then threw a glare at Raya “My daughter chose to return to Ever Present, a thorn in the side of most authorities throughout the entire realm, another of her mistakes, this one she sought to correct, and as such not one contract since her return has resulted in a loss of life, A husband was beating his wife and his children and asked that Aerian eliminate him, she didn’t but instead chose to remove them from the situation placing them under our jurisdiction, should he set foot in Dentarius my guards have orders to arrest him on sight,”
“She cannot just walk away from her past,” Raya snapped.
“She didn’t walk though did she, Raya,” There was sudden a drop in Kane’s voice, Ascondia knew this was going to end badly and was hardly inclined to intervene as Raya stared at Kane like a dear caught in the headlights.
“Precisely on point, Raya. As Lord Elcarus so sweetly stated.” Aishani locked eyes on Raya moving from her position to take the floor, this essentially would break the contact of Kane’s fury. “Aerian has had ample chance to escape…she could have walked away. Could have stayed beneath the Dentarius lines to claim sovereign. But, she did not. Aerian chose to confess to her crimes, regardless of the fact that she is carrying the future of the realm in her belly.” Her eyes skimmed over every face, then turned to face Aerian and held a hand out to the fiery red head to join her. “Aerian, tell the court as to why you did not do any of these things? The reason you returned, when facing the impending chance that death would be your gift the realm has put before you…”
“Because I have no reason to run, I made my peace with who I was and I am happy with who I became, I put myself in harm’s way for everyone in this realm, not because I have to but because I want to, and now my child who has done nothing wrong but will die with me if that is the decision of this court,” There was emotion once more yet Kanes did not change as he stepped to his daughter holding her.
“What this boils down to ladies and gentlemen is a vendetta, and a power play,” His eyes slid silently over those of the Council for a few minutes before settling on one “Lord Rellian, of Riverside, tell me something who was it that marched upon the gates of Riverside when you were under siege just a few short months ago,”
“Lady Aerian and her girlfriend my Lord,” Rellian replied.
“Lord Grey of the Ten High Grove, your daughter was kidnapped several years ago and no one could find a lead, who located and brought back the missing girl,”
“Lady Aerian my lord,” Grey replied softly
“We can see where this is going right? Aerian has indirectly probably saved everyone in this room at some point, Lord Rayheart after you were in a dark place, with no one to turn to and no reason to live who saved you,”
Heart was caught by Kanes words as he stared at Aerian who simply “Shrugged in reply,”
“Aerian,” Was all that came
“The one man I trust more than anyone who wasn’t blood, I would have lost him, but here is. See this is personal because many do not know that Raya was supposed to marry my daughter, you know how you royal types are in trying to assure power by marrying with each of your little groups, it’s how the High Council had so much power,” Again a murmur through the crowd as Kane spoke “But if we are to try everyone who has committed a crime in the past then you guys are gonna be here for ever because we are all guilty of something, my own wife stole from the crown, a necklace with the power to control whomever they chose, intended to make her serve them, she escaped and ended up in Dentarius, I have taken lives, Hades well we won’t even bother trying him just hang him now for his transgressions, but Raya would have you believe he is Commander of the Guard, perfect, correct, doesn’t make mistakes,”
Kane circled around and upon him now “But let’s ask you, Raya, why did Aerian leave? Really?”
Raya froze as he stared at Ascondia, who looked just as confused, Aerian felt her heart began to hammer at her chest in panic.
Aishani took in Aerian after Kane moved about, indicating all involved with Aerian’s assistance in times past. But, glanced at her strangely, as her heart began to thunder in her chest, clearly, Aishani’s keen senses having picked up on this. She kissed Aerian on the crown while moving to stand at Kane’s side, her golden hues fixed on Raya. “Now, need we remind you, Raya. You are in a court of law; the truth here abides and is no different for the ‘Captain of the Guard’. I sense the fear dripping from you like sweat and hear Aerian’s heart beating to a thunderous potential. It is not nothing. Do tell, us and the court, why did Aerian leave?”
“I fail .. to see .. the relevance of this,” Raya stared at Ascondia who had suddenly understood why Kane had been so calm to this point.
“You hold yourself to a higher standard do you not? And this seems to be of some relevance, please answer the question,”
“We argued a lot, we weren’t a good match she figured that out a lot quicker than I did, I woke one morning and she was gone,” He stated the words came so easy from him it was as if he believed them.
“So you fought as any couple does, relationships aren’t supposed to be easy,” Kane smiled darkly “But that’s not true is it, Raya, you just lied in open court, Aerian, on the other hand, has been nothing but honest, I wonder if her story will match,”
A smirk formed on Aishani’s lips, to Ascondia’s backing of Kane’s reasons behind this, granted, it was obvious that there was far more then what met the eye. She left Kane’s side and moved to Aerian, placing a hand on her shoulder in support. “Aerian, in your own words, please explain this to the court. Why did you leave him?”
“I … um … We were supposed to marry, his family was among the High Council and choices made there, but I was property to him, treated as bad as some slave or maid, there only to feed him, which I really suck at, and for sex ….” Her words trailed off.
“I would like to remind you here in this court by her own admission, Aerian stated earlier that her own sword master used to beat her down, but here she is struggling to explain her relationship with a man, I myself have never held back when it came to her training and she has never once shied down from me either, a supposed legend here in this realm, so why him?” Kane stood behind Aerian now his own hand on her shoulder “Please, I need you continue Aerian,”
She swallowed down the shudder and nodded “He was aggressive in everything he did, mostly I was able to hide it, it wasn’t like I was allowed out of the house anyway, I was barely twenty at the time and this was my life. I wanted to leave, but bound by duty I stayed, until one night he came home, I don’t really know why but I asked him about his day, honestly I didn’t care but I wanted to try and make things work between us, to make the most of what I had to deal with, and he hit me twice before I could react, I think deep down he knew I would break him if I had time to react.” She waited for a moment to settle her thoughts, “He had hit me before, slaps, a few pushes but always with enough time to ensure I couldn’t react, but this was different, he had these chainmail gloves, and he was wearing them, the second punch caught me and sent me into a shelf thing which completely screwed my balance or reactions and I couldn’t fight back, but he carried on hitting me. I don’t remember much after that only bits, him telling me I was a failure, worthless and that he was going to sell me to the first trader he found, he then pulled me into the bedroom and raped me, it must have been some point in that he figured he’d really hurt me because he left and a guard and Alwynn were the next things I saw two days later,”
Ascondia felt her blood boil as that cold anger ripped through her, she was also now wondering how Kane was so eerily calm, Hades looked like he may kill half the court and the court itself had fallen deathly quiet.
“You only had to be a good wife,” Raya retorted coldly “But I guess I just wasn’t equipped to keep the almighty Aerian happy,”
“I would choose your next words very carefully, by Dentarian law you’d be dead already,” His words bit darkly as he stepped forward “So as we can see, yes Aerian has a past, but I have already pointed out we all do, and yes she is Elcarus, half of the advantages we get in most situations are because of Aerian and who she is, no one in the realm can track better, a child gone for three days without trace, she found the track, there isn’t a better thief we already know that and a girl so beaten and broken after a failed marriage attempt, watching two of her Uncles fall in battle to save the realm, her parents fall apart, being forced to flee the only place at the time she felt safe, it isn’t really hard to figure why a young girl would shut down and stop caring, make no mistake she is my daughter and I will die to protect her but ask yourselves have I once tried to say this is unfair? Argued this is a waste of time despite knowing what I knew before walking in here? Would I really fight so hard if thought for one second she was guilty of anything but being a broken child with a rebellious streak a mile wide? I have locked up my own daughter on several occasions for crimes she has been accused of here,” Kane paused for a moment before he eyed the court.
“Raya do you have anything you would like to add to all this?” The words came cold and bitter.
“I do milady,” He stated standing, he was suddenly aware of every person’s eyes on him intently.
“Aerian, you never wanted the marriage, again I would state that my equipment did not fulfil your needs,”
“Really? That’s what you’re going to go with? Are you trying to piss us off?” Hades bit angrily only for Ascondia to once more holla at him.
“She was difficult, refused simple requests,”
“She wouldn’t put out you mean,” Again Hades snapped angrily “Ascondia he is trying to find a reason to blame her, and ensure he gets his win in all this,”
“I would agree, Raya make a relevant comment or deliver your closing statement so we can continue,”
“I, Aerian Elcarus, have flaunted the rules, broken them with disregard because her parents are among the highest in the realm, her mother is the Queen and so she knows ultimately she is untouchable,”
“I suggest you be careful Raya,” Ascondia snapped
“Of course, milady, her father a noted hero of the realm, who dissolved his own home city from the crowns accord because he wanted to make the rules himself,”
“Still pay my bloody taxes,” Kane retorted “And not all the rules are ignored, just the ones I don’t agree with,”
“And when she is in danger, she retreats to Dentarius where she cannot be touched,”
“And yet here she is, turned herself in when she should have cut your sorry ass down,” Hades bit
“Hades please remove yourself from this court, I cannot allow your outbursts to continue,” Ascondia snapped frustration burning her now.
Hades sighed and as requested left the room.
“I, um … Oh right, she knows she is safe but why should she be any different to us? Had it been us that committed those crimes, we would have been hunted by the full force of this realm, I believe no one should be above our laws even if you’re the daughter of the Queen, with respect milady,” And with that, he sat.
“Hmm” Kane mused before he began “He has a point, no one is above our laws, even if they are daughter to the Queen, but she has already paid for those crimes and does so with every day that passes, she has to live with blood of innocent people on her hands, she has to try and make peace with that knowledge, each of us has done something we regret, made mistakes but her mistakes were many, and angry woman lashing out the world that in her eyes had failed her, this realm can be cruel when it chooses to be, but so can people we can directly trace Aerians misdeeds to that one single night when everyone that should have been there for her, failed her myself included, which is the only reason this excuse for a man isn’t dead already. But in truth I can only say so much, the choice ultimately is not mine to make, so look deep, think on things, you know her past, the stories are out there, can you say the realm is going to be better without her? Or further to the point why should the life of an innocent child be forfeit simply because of the mothers transgressions, this court is making a choice on the life of not one but two here today, or ultimately has Aerian changed her way, reset the course of the Ever Present, stood shoulder to shoulder with each of you in defence of this realm, be directly or indirectly responsible for someone you love still being with you,”
There was a hurried murmur through the crowd as Kane finished and sat back behind Aerian. Ascondia could hardly believe she was still allowing this now.
“Very well is there anyone else that would like to add to this?”
Aishani remained calm and poised, tilting her head a slight to this revelation, as those golden eyes burned with silent fury. She gathered Aerian’s hand into her own to offer the girl her support, since Kane had put everything in perfect prospective, there was nothing anyone could add. Now it was the decision of the court.
In the shadows in the balcony, Aerian could see Domi with his arms pinning Virra back in an embrace. Surely it was her lovers wish to kill Raya.
“Very well, the court is dismissed to make their choice, we will return here at daybreak,” She paused in thought before sighing softly “I make a point that any attempt to harm anyone involved within these proceedings, will be the next one tried for their crimes,” As her words settled those surrounding her left the room, she sighed and slumped back as several guards ushered Raya from the room through another door.
Within a few moments only Aerian, Virra, Domi and Aishani remained.
As the only ones that remained were the four, Aishani stood aside to give Virra and Domi space. Virra embraced her tightly, do much in fact that Aerian would wonder if the dark-haired vixen thought she would disappear. She then kissed her deeply and passionately, while Domi looked on in silence.
Aishani then excused herself from the three, leaving them as the only standing people in the room. After Virra took her turn Domi stepped in wrapping Aerian in his strong arms and the warmth of his lips upon hers. “It’s done.”
“I hate having to wait…I want to take you home. Away from all this…” Virra sneered, but caressed Aerian’s cheek and then her belly.
“We have no choice…” Domi whispered.
“I don’t understand how you knew,” Aerian sighed softly as she stared at Kane, as Virra embraced her she returned the kiss just as deeply.
“I’ve known for a while, but chose not to act unless you asked me to, it wasn’t my place, until today at least,” Kane smiled softly and then headed from the room to join Aishani, “Mom looked so angry, honestly with everyone in the room I’m surprised he isn’t dead already, but it’s almost over,” she sighed softly.
“I just hope that justice is served upon him for his own crimes, just as you, he is not above the law.” Domi stated, owning his arms to invite Virra within to join the embrace.
“That better happen…” Virra cautioned.
“I don’t see mom letting him walk away from this one, by his own argument he has to answer even if they decide his past crimes do not represent who he is now, at least he will have answered, honestly I don’t care I just want to go home,” Aerian replied softly.
“I know…” Domi whispered kissing the fiery crown of Aerian and Virra’s own dark hair.
“The sooner the better.” Virra stated bitterly.