Episode 19:  Guilty

All seven provinces had a governing center called the Honeycomb. Only three of them were carved into massive trees. Genai province was one of them. There were four levels—the Main Hall, Eldens’ Hall, War Room, and Honeycomb. The Honeycomb contained eight offices located on top of the other three levels for each of the Eldens. These provided temporary dwellings during war, allowing the Warlord to provide central protection.

It was easy to identify the Honeycomb. It was carved into the largest tree. A huge crescent landing provided a place to settle. An image of Warlord Sajen was carved onto the double wooden doors wide enough for a group of Hartons. Sajen was a revered Warlord from long days past. Sajen’s Cliffs was named after his last and most famous battle that ended in his death.

Inside, artifacts of war—swords, talons, spears, axes—hung on the walls, along with portraits of the current Eldens and Warlord Rorkai. Perches surrounded an oval table in the center of the Main Hall. Two wooden triangles formed the base of the perch. Thick wooden dowels completed the frame, also making up the actual perch bar.

All eight Eldens were perched. Their purples silk robes flowed to the dark brown floor. Two scholars stood behind podiums at both ends of the table, recording the events of the trial.

Noshee was perched. His wings drooped. A Healer tended to his wounds from the earlier attacks. Familiar linen wraps coated with Genai’s renowned medicinal herbs covered Noshee.

He decided to move forward with the trial. There was no need to prolong the anxiety. Proving his innocence was his priority. After the Healer was finished, she bowed to the Eldens and Rorkai, and left.

Both scholars slammed wooden balls on their podiums.

Elden Dena intertwined her fingers. “Noshee, family of Calmwarrior. You’ve been charged with the deaths of six Genaian researchers, the death of Haiwee and a soldier inside the catacombs, and fleeing the guarded infirmary where you were being held.”

The scholars scribbled on thick amber paper. Warlord Rorkai leaned against the curved wall. But where was the guardian who witnessed Chusee’s sikya spider bite? Noshee needed his testimony since the bite had completely healed. It proved she was in the catacombs when Haiwee and the soldier were killed.

Dena twisted her finger ring. “You also ignited a mob that killed all twelve guardians Rorkai assigned to protect you. In doing so, the guardians killed countless citizens whose only intention was to rightfully duel you to the death. If you were found guilty that is. How do you plead?”

“Not guilty, Elden Dena,” Noshee said.

The Eldens ruffled their wings and whispered to each other. Some smoked the pipe. The rubbery smell irritated Noshee’s nose.

“Call your first witness,” Dena said.

Noshee turned to look out the window. Out of the haze of flying Hartons, no one seemed to be coming to the Honeycomb.

“My first witness hasn’t arrived, yet,” Noshee said.

Rorkai’s wings pushed off the yellow washed walls. “Elden Dena.”

She nodded.

“I’m sorry, Noshee,” Rorkai said. “We can’t seem to find him. The whole Legion is looking for him. No one has heard from him since last night.”

“I had nothing to do with that,” Noshee said.

Rorkai smiled tight-lipped. “We know.” He passed a look back to Dena.

The senior Elden perused Noshee’s witness list in front of her. “I’m also sorry. But you can’t call our Warlord as witness. He’s recused himself from this trial. His mentor is your Warlord who helped Rorkai gain his current seat. There is a potential lack of impartiality.”

Noshee threw his wings in the air and stood. “What?”

Rorkai’s wing cupped Noshee’s. “Please, my friend. Sit.”

“Sit?” Noshee shoved him off and faced Dena. “My whole strategy is thrown out the window. I need the guardian of my detention cave to prove what I saw on Chusee. Rorkai knows I tried to save Haiwee! You know. Tell them!” Noshee pointed a claw at Rorkai.

Rorkai parried it away, grabbed his wrist, and slammed Noshee’s head on the table. The Eldens jumped off their perches. “Calm down,” Rorkai said.

Warriors flooded the Main Hall. Their broadswords and talons were drawn. Despite the immense size of the Hall, their wings seemed to crowd it.

“I am calm,” Noshee said.

“Good.” Rorkai stood Noshee back up. “Please. Perch.”

Noshee did so.

The Eldens slowly perched. Rorkai jerked his head and his warriors shuffled out. The massive wooden doors slammed shut.

“Would you like to call Chusee? Your only witness,” Dena said.

Choose your poison: With his strategy out the window, Chusee is the only witness. We saw in Episode 17 that she seemed to be the culprit behind the catacomb murders. Should he examine her?

67% of the readers chose Yes.