Episode 20:  Thrown to the Wolves

Two key witnesses could not be called. And there were only three. Chusee, the senior researcher, was the last. Starting with her wasn’t the original plan. All he had was the sikya spider bite that proved she was in the catacombs. Where the murders happened. Where she murdered them. But it had healed.

Noshee had no motive and did not have the opportunity to investigate.

The senior scholar slammed his wooden ball on his podium. “Elden Dena asked you a question.”

“Sorry,” Noshee said. He cleared his throat. “I call Chusee to the Main Hall.”

Warlord Rorkai exited. His purple silk vest looked as if he painted it on this morning. He was a vain man. Rorkai escorted Chusee into the Hall and shut the double wooden doors. Chusee bowed with her hand over her flat-chested heart. The eight Eldens perched around the oval table nodded.

The senior scholar approached Chusee. “By entering our Main Hall, you’ve chosen to tell the truth and nothing but the truth.”

“I do,” Chusee said.

“Otherwise you’ll be stripped of your provincial citizenship. Do you understand?”

“I do.”

A second scholar at the other end of the oval table scribbled in an amber pamphlet.

“You may perch,” the scholar said. She perched next to Noshee. “You may begin,” he said to Noshee.

Noshee tightened his wings. “On the day Haiwee and I entered the catacombs—”

“Broke into,” Chusee said under her breath.

“You had already arrived to the province of Genai. Correct?”

Chusee rolled her eyes. “Yes.”

“Why did you follow us in?”

“I didn’t follow you in. Why would I do that?”

“Please refrain from asking questions until it’s your turn,” the scholar said.

“Is it possible you followed us?” Noshee rephrased the question.

“No,” she said. “I was surveying all the evidence the province had against you. How you abandoned our fellow Genaian researchers. How you accused Genaian warriors of kidnapping a cub. Do you think our sister province would destroy their peaceful coexistence with the wolf packs? And why would you kill Haiwee? Revenge for revealing your affair?”

The scholar slammed his wooden ball. “Refrain from asking questions!”

“Did you know the soldier you killed was courting Haiwee?” Chusee said.

“He what?” Wooden ball slamming pounded Noshee’s ears.

“You will lose your cross examination privileges if you continue,” the scholar said to Chusee. He pointed at Noshee. “Stay on path.”

Noshee’s mind swirled. He rummaged through his notes. “Um. Why did you come?”

“Our Warlord ordered your safe return home. He’d then escort you to the province of Echo. Thought you’d receive a fair trial and be safer there. Apparently, our Warlord favors your wife.” The corners of Chusee’s mouth slithered up.

Noshee fought to keep his mind clear. He flipped his pamphlet a few pages back. His claws scrolled down his notes. “Um...”

The Eldens ruffled their wings, waiting for Noshee’s next question.

Rorkai gazed out of the corner of his eye, probably wondering if Noshee would betray his trust. Although, letting Noshee go from the infirmary right after Haiwee’s death wasn’t the smartest thing to do.

“Why would you need to come? Tosai could have brought me back,” Noshee said, flipping one more page back.

Chusee picked at the oval table. “I'm the senior researcher. You’re of lower class, I mean, researcher.”

“Where are you going with this?” the scholar said. His wings clamped tight.

“Please. It is leading somewhere,” Noshee said.

The scholar sighed, then nodded.

Noshee read the pamphlet. “Then why did you condemn me? You agreed I had butchered everyone and were ready to ban me from the seven provinces.”

“I assume someone informed you of this.” Chusee said.

Rorkai pressed himself against the yellow-washed walls.

Noshee gazed at Rorkai. “Can you please corroborate my statement, Dena?"

“You cannot address the Eldens in your examination,” the scholar said.

“It’s quite all right,” Dena said. “Yes. Chusee had thrown you to the wolves, so to speak.”

Noshee leaned over and whispered, “Thought I was going to ask you about the sikya spider bite?”

Chusee gritted her jaws. Blood flowed into her irises. Red flashed in her eyes. Anger.

“Why did you condemn me upon arrival?” Noshee said.

“Because of your past.”

His stomach churned over hard.

Choose your poison: Something about Noshee's past could cinch a guilty verdict. Should he continue with his questions?

100% of the readers said Yes.