Episode 22: Judgment Day
It was over. Noshee’s wings hung heavy like someone pulled them down. Despite the Main Hall’s vast space and towering walls, Noshee couldn’t help but feel cramped, trapped. Wings rustling crowded the Hall more. Noshee itched to escape. He felt the hundreds of sikya spiders crawling over his wings, arms, legs, throat, ears, and back. Their prickly legs scrambled into every crevice of his body.
“Your rebuttal,” the senior scholar said.
Noshee shook the memory away. He turned on his perch and faced his superior. “Were you in the catacombs the night Haiwee and her lover were murdered?” He choked on those words.
“No,” She said.
“Upon arriving, have you been bit by a sikya spider?”
“No,” she said.
Noshee looked at Rorkai who was leaning against the yellow wall. Rorkai eyed Chusee because he knew she just lied. Podium of the female scholar wriggled as she wrote. Black ink laid thick on her amber pamphlet. She blew on it, turned the page and waited.
The senior scholar at the other end of the large oval table raised his head. “Chusee. Please make your closing statements.”
Chusee stood from her perch and strolled in front of the Eldens of Genai. “It’s simple. Noshee is guilty. Noshee should be condemned to duel with the victims' family. With their showing today, I doubt he’ll survive."
She faced all eight Eldens. “I sent him to find out why Graywolf and his wolf pack attacked our sister provincial citizens. And what did he do? He neglected his fellow researchers. Left them. Graywolf and his pack tore them apart. Devoured them. He denies neglect. Denies it! And what does he do next?"
Chusee points at the swarm guarding the Main Hall just outside the window. “He claimed he chased Genaian warriors. Accused them of kidnapping one of Graywolf’s cubs. A likely story. Why? Because attacking any of them would result in war between Hartons and wolves. War. A false accusation since that hasn’t happened, yet.
“Then he supposedly flew into his first love, Haiwee. Another likely story. His affair went on unbeknown to his wife. Haiwee felt guilty. She was innocent. Her soul was filled with guilt. Haiwee did the only thing she could. She revealed the affair to Noshee’s wife. And given his past violence, Noshee saw the opportunity to exact revenge and exact it privately in the catacombs. He lured her there, where Haiwee’s lover followed them. Probably feared for her safety. And what happened to them? Murdered. Throats ripped out. Still. Noshee denies.
“He breaks free of the infirmary, almost killed a Destinian Legionnaire, attacks a guardian of his detention cave, caused a mob where twelve guardians die in his defense, and he tried to conjure up a story that I’m guilty of all this. Me? I’d just arrived when the catacomb murders happened. Still. He denies."
She throws her wings up. “Do you see a pattern here? A pattern of denial. Skirting responsibility. He should be so lucky to suffer death only once. It’s simple. Noshee is guilty.” Chusee perched and weaved her fingers on the table.
“Your closing statements,” the senior scholar said to Noshee.
Noshee took a deep breath. It was all he could do to stay his anger. He stood from his perch and crossed his hands in front. “Yes, it is simple. Yes, I have denied. Only because I am innocent. I have no evidence to prove it." He resisted looking at Rorkai. "So I will accept the verdict given to me.”
He bowed with his hand over his heart and perched.
The scholar raised his wooden ball.
“One more thing,” Noshee said. “I love my wife. I love my baby daughter. And I also loved—love—Haiwee. For me to hurt her in any way would be impossible. It is the reason I agreed to leave my father’s school.”
The female scholar finished writing. She blew the ink dry, closed the pamphlet and handed it to Elden Dena. Dena nodded to the senior scholar.
The scholar slammed his wooden ball on his podium. “The Eldens will convene in the Eldens’ Hall. Once they return, a verdict will be given. All rise and give love, loyalty, honor.”
Everyone in the Main Hall rose, covered their heart with their hand and bowed. One by one the Eldens flew up to an oval door above the main entrance. Their wings stirred the air. Dena pushed the door up and climbed into the Eldens’ Hall. The last Elden shut the door.
Rorkai walked over to Noshee. He placed a warm hand on Noshee’s shoulder. “I’m sorry I couldn’t help. My seat as Warlord isn’t worth your death.”
Noshee smiled. Tears jutted against his eyelids. “Tell my wife, tell my daughter the truth.”
Rorkai squeezed Noshee's shoulder.
It seemed several eternities strolled by like dense molasses. The sun was setting. The blue sky pulled back to reveal a darkness that Noshee hadn’t seen since he killed his father’s prized student. He hadn’t talked to his father since. Not even when Noshee’s daughter was born.
Noshee’s heart jumped when the oval door creaked open. The Eldens glided down. Purple robes flowed over their perches down to the brown floor. Candles had to be lit. Torches surrounded the Main Hall. The eerie glow fought the sinister murk.
Elden Dena rose off her perch. “Noshee, family of Calmwarrior. We have a verdict.”
There's no voting this week. Stay tuned for Episode 23: Verdict. There'll be a revelation you don't want to miss.