The walk back to the grove was silent. Elpis walked slightly ahead of me and I wasn’t going to break the silence. We hit the edge of the grove. Elpis went into that catatonic state that indicated she was recovering from being outside the grove. Because she had only been out for about a day, it only took about a half hour where I and the remaining pixies basically chatted. Lunette’s father however sat alone away from us. The one female pixie that was left flirted with me pretty hard. She was young and definite sexy so the flirting was welcome because it kept me from thinking deeper thoughts.
Elpis eventually came out of it. He birch bark skin was completely restored. She also looked to be less angry. As we walked the remaining distance to the tree, she told me the first order of business was Lunette’s trial. I tried to inject that it could wait, hoping she would be more calm but she stopped me with her hand. I knew then and there Lunette was in trouble. Whatever she had done, Elpis was angry and vengeful about it. There would be ‘justice.’
We arrived at the tree but went passed it. We were headed to the Hollow Tree. The Hollow Tree was just as it sounded an old tree that was still alive. The hollow place in it was used as a jail of sorts for the pixies. Lunette was already inside at her full size. She was asleep for such was the power of the tree. It kept a person imprisoned and sleeping until they were tried. Next to the Hollow Tree was the Oak Throne. An oak tree so ancient I would even begin to guess how old. Part of roots formed a throne of sorts. Elpis approached and then sat in it.
“I Elpis, Dryad of the Red Tree, call Lunette to trial.”
Lunette woke up and the Hollow Tree allowed her to exit. She stood with her feet close together and he head down. Her wings drooped a little. She was wearing the outfit Elpis had given her. She looked as pathetic as a pixie can look.
“Who will stand for the accused?”
Lunette’s father strode forward.
“I will stand for her.”
“And I stand myself to bring charges. I charge Lunette with conspiracy against the grove and treason against her queen.”
A low murmur went through the crowd.
Now, the justice of the faerie folk is expedited by the fact these things are such sacred moments in their history lying is rare. The grove itself also acts as a truth serum if the dryad wishes it and Elpis definitely wished it. Thus no one plead guilty or innocent. Not necessary. What was determined in a faerie trial is the facts of the case and a stating of what should be a just punishment.
The first part of the trial was Elpis restating her story. Lunette had been upset about seeing me with another girl. She had come to Elpis to vent. Elpis for her part tried vainly to comfort her and then Lunette streaked off with tears in her eyes. Elpis for her part felt bad and followed her. She hoped to bring her back and get her to calm down. She was simply concerned as a queen about one of her subjects.
While she had head the reports of the men watching the grove; as the powerful demigod she was, she thought little of them. She found Lunette on a rock crying. She once again tried to comfort her. That’s when the men approached and surrounded them. Elpis felt this would be a short fight but as she readied her magic she was struck from behind by Lunette.
The unexpected attack caused her to lose consciousness for only a second or two but it was enough for the mages to hit her with some spell that froze her in place. Elpis was in the process of breaking the spell when she was thrown in the iron cage. At first she was anxious and angry, but when she realized she needed to protect herself. She activated her power and kept it on. She saw Lunette talking with the men. She was telling them about the grove and something about how she had kept her part of the deal before her meditative state blocked out her senses until she felt the iron door fall off the cage.
“Thus is my part of the tale. The accused may, as is custom, tell her side.”
Lunette’s story was that she had been captured herself the day before Elpis had been. She was frightened when she heard what they wanted to do with her so to get free she had offered to get the men access to the grove in some way. Something in exchange for her freedom They really had no leverage over her so they made her swear the oath of pixies. An oath on the tree he served. She knew it was stupid but she made the oath because she was scared and they let her go expecting either access to the grove or other pixies in her place. The pixies listening murmured again because such an oath was binding but her oath to Elpis was equally binding and in conflict with such an oath.
Lunette then confessed she had other ulterior motives. Namely she had been jealous of Elpis and her close friendship with me. She saw opportunity to solve several problems for herself. Elpis would be exchanged for herself. A new queen could be chosen and then she would be in a better position to be more aggressive in her pursuit of me. She resented that Elpis had restricted her in this regard. Then she saw my holding hands with Miss R and she decided to expedite her plans. She didn’t have to pretend her heartbreak about seeing me with another and she used it to manipulate Elpis.
The story Elpis told was confirmed from that point on. The one thing that was added was the men betrayed her. They captured her again. She had been talking to them and one of them sneaked up behind her and put the glass dome over her. She spent the next day listening to their plans for her and Elpis. She ended her testimony with an apology citing she had been so scared when first captured.
“I will hear recommendation for justice,” Elpis stated.
Lunette’s father stated that past betrayals had been treated harshly but always within the concepts of pixie justice. Not a single person of the grove had actually died so it would not be justice for Lunette to die. His recommendation was imprisonment for a time after she reached her majority. that she be stripped of title and position. You could see the love he had for her as a father as he spoke. Lunette for her part would not look her father in the eye.
This is where it got complicated at Elpis stated she could not give recommendation for the prosecution and be the judge in the case. That was not allowed by the law. She wanted to give the recommendation but let another pass final judgement. I wondered who she could get for that one and then.
“I call Edward, Hedge Wizard of Redberg. I call you to be the judge in this case.”
Oh shit. I was not happy because I knew I couldn’t refuse. Elpis then got up out of the Oak Throne and motioned me to sit in it.
“I justify this decision. Edward is a good soul and he will be fair. He will temper justice with mercy. Is there an objection from the accused?”
I looked at Lunette and she at me. She looked away but didn’t say anything. I moved toward the Oak Throne and sat down in it. It was the most uncomfortable chair I have ever sat in. Seriously, ever sleep on a root when camping. That plus the situation made this intolerable.
Elpis then made her recommendation. She would be to stripped of title, name and position. She would be whipped for her transgressions 40 stripes minus one. One punishment would be inflicted by the Queen herself that could leave permanent consequences to her and her family. She would be imprisoned for period of twenty years and then executed.
Well, talk about Arab trading where one side bids high and the other low. Crap I had to find a middle ground. I called Lunette’s mother over. I asked her how long I had to make this decision. Pixie justice demanded that I pass judgement within an hour. I asked how I could get that. Lunette’s mother said I had only to ask for it. So I did. I got off the throne and headed into the woods. I told them to have someone get me in an hour.
I never ever want to be put in such a situation again. That said I had to admire Elpis’ decision. If she passed judgement then it would be considered too harsh no matter what it was. Anyone else besides me and it would be considered too light. Elpis knew she was too heated to be a good judge so that left me. The guy who was always telling people to relax. Maybe I should develop anxiety so people stop doing this crap to me. Reality was I liked both Elpis and Lunette for different reasons and this was a conflict between the two of them. Lunette was definitely in the wrong but death? Nope. What did that leave?
The hour passed quickly and eventually a pixie guardsman found me and told me I had five minutes. I headed back found my way to the Oak Throne and sat down. Elpis and Lunette’s father were in their places. Lunette was in the middle. She came forward and knelt before me. The posture for her to receive her sentence.
“I have come to a decision. The accused shall face the following consequences for her actions. She shall be stripped of title, position and citizenship in the grove. She shall remain in the grove until the year of her majority when at such time she will be exiled from the grove forever. I grant Queen Elpis the right to initiate a single consequence of her choice under the following conditions. It cannot cause permanent physical harm to Lunette or her family. It cannot last for more than a year. It cannot cause her death. Elpis may also remove all property that she has given to Lunette. No consequence of position to title shall happen to Lunette’s family. Only the accused shall suffer punishment for her actions. So I have judged, let it stand.”
I looked at Lunette who actually seemed to be relieved. Elpis also seemed pleased. Lunette’s parents seemed relieved. I got up from the throne and Elpis re-seated herself. She spoke.
“Thank you Edward. I accept your judgement. Does the accused accept the judgement?”
This was a formality as the accused really couldn’t stop it. They could however log an objection for the sake of future generations and cases. Lunette nodded.
“Very well, I choose to imitate the consequences. I strip you of title, position and citizenship. You are now a non-citizen. I also take back what is mine.”
Lunette’s outfit unraveled and the pieces flew off into the forest leaving her standing there naked. While she was still reacting to that vines came out of the ground and grabbed her wrists and ankles holding her spread eagle about a foot of the ground.
“I now initiate the single consequence I have been granted. Within the limitations stipulated – I take your wings!”
Two other vines came out of the ground and grabbed Lunette’s wings by the roots near her shoulder blades.. Then they pulled. Lunette’s wings were ripped off with a sickening sound. Lunette screamed and I felt tears fall down my face. What had I done? I moved to object. Elpis put up her hand
‘Her wings will grow back in less than a year, she will not die and it will not be permanent. I have met your conditions.”
The vines let Lunette go and she fell to the ground sobbing. Her parents rushed to her side crying as well. Elpis spoke.
“Let this be lesson for all. I will not tolerate treachery or treason. Let this story be retold as an example. Let it be remembered.”
If it hadn’t been for the fact there was major crisis I would have left right then but there were bigger things going on and like it or not I was going to need everyone’s help. I just didn’t know how I was going to face everyone now. After this, how could I get us all to be ready for what danger was next?