Chapter Nine: Trial
Ehail tracked down the light, asked him to write down what he remembered about Gyre so his memory wouldn't fade, got his address, and wrote it down to give to the Watch the next time she was in Aristan City. She went back to the house, and caught up on repair work, and teleported four more children who'd changed their minds about being adopted to their temporary home in Paraasilan. She notified Ludei that she was engaged and likely to move out, but was willing to continue working at the house for a couple of angles every day until they could get a new resident through wizard training. She went to sleep and woke up again. And then she went back to Barashi.
She had a wedding to plan.
When Ehail went into Gyre's shop again, he vaulted over the counter, dipped her, and kissed her. "Hello, dear heart," he said when the kiss broke.
"Hello," she said breathlessly.
Gyre stood her up again. "How are you?"
"I'm all right. I found the light. I can give the Watch his address so they can find him and ask him questions." She frowned. "He's not going to be used to being treated like the Watch apparently treats people any more than I was - will they act like that in Esmaar?"
"I don't think so," said Gyre. "They won't want to hurt the case - they have no way to make the light talk, if they annoy him and he doesn't want to. They certainly can't take him into custody without Esmaar's permission."
Ehail nodded once. "I'll give them his address on my way home, then, when I go."
"And before you go?" Gyre asked. He kissed her neck.
"I - I was thinking about - getting married," she said.
"I - um - I -" He was still kissing her neck; she knew she'd had at least one thought but he'd misplaced it for her. "Well..."
The door opened; Gyre reluctantly disentangled himself from Ehail to attend to the couple who'd come in and sell them a matched set of bracelets. They left after a short while, which Ehail spent looking over the jewels and spotting occasional pieces that featured baby shren scales (none of her own, larger scales) or what she thought might be the gems she'd conjured.
"That's what we need," Gyre said.
"What?" she asked, looking up and blinking.
"Wedding bracelets. They're not a local tradition - it's more of a fashion on the Trysterran continent - but I think they'd suit us. Two for me, two for you, all a set. Both on the right wrist until we get married and then one on each after that."
"Oh. That sounds nice," she said. "Do you want to have an Aristanian wedding?"
"Unless you have another idea?" he said solicitously, opening the door to his workroom and propping it there to allow a view of the front entrance. He started sifting through densely organized tools and materials, presumably with wedding bracelets in mind.
"I don't, really," she said. "I'm a citizen of Petar but I wouldn't say I'm culturally Petaran... I went to school in Reverni but I didn't have anything to do with any weddings there... and you're Aristanian and the only wedding I've ever been to was Aristanian too. So it makes sense."
"You'll need to pick an attendant, if we do it that way," he pointed out. He seemed to have her scales sorted into several boxes by size. "What do you think of one scale on each bracelet, with our names engraved on the reverse? And maybe little portraits on the obverse, though I don't know how well I'll be able to squeeze those in."
"That sounds perfect," Ehail said. "Um, attendant. Who will you pick?"
"I think I'll go with my twin sister," Gyre said. "That's Myret, in case you're having any trouble keeping track of my family - there's a bunch of us." He paused, and looked over his shoulder at Ehail. "And any of my other brothers and sisters would be glad to help you out, if there's no one you'd like to ask from your house or who you met anywhere else."
"Maybe Rhysel," Ehail murmured. "I've at least been over to her tower for meals a lot. I think she likes me."
"Of course Rhysel likes you," said Gyre. "She loves you. I was a little discouraged, early on when you were still skittish around me, but she kept talking you up and saying how great you were." He was holding up scales of various sizes to the light two at a time, maybe looking for matched pairs.
"She did?" Ehail asked, tilting her head. "Why?"
"I think she likes the idea of you in the family. We can watch her light up when we tell her we're engaged - unless you already did?"
"I didn't. Do you think it's too much - if I go around in the necklace and the bracelets all the time and they all have scales on them?"
"Do you wear the necklace every day?" Gyre asked. "I thought it might only be when you were going to meet me. I have a sweater I only wear when I see my grandfather because he made it for me and likes to see it getting use."
"No, I wear it all the time," Ehail said. "I like it."
"Oh. Hm. Well, I'll want to make sure the bracelets don't clash with your necklace, then... but it might be overdoing the scale motif. It's a pity, I don't think I'll ever be able to bring myself to sell these."
"Why not?" she asked. "You seem to be selling baby scale jewelry as fast as you can make it."
"And I keep nudging the price point up, too... But these are yours. It's fine to make things with them, but I wouldn't want to sell them to a stranger," Gyre said. "Let's see. I think I do want to use silver for the bracelets. Maybe some rhodium too, like in the necklace. But I should incorporate some gems." He tapped his chin and peered at Ehail. "I'd say something brown like your eyes, but the selection of brown gems isn't great..."
"The silver is like my hair. You could put green gems. Like your eyes," she said. "They don't have to look like a jewelry version of me."
"Fair enough," chuckled Gyre. "I'll figure it out. I'd like them done before the wedding, but how far off will that be?"
"Do... do you want to wait... for your mother?" Ehail asked quietly. "Someone could tell your father. And he could tell her."
Gyre pursed his lips. "If Ryll adopting Taala and Apran didn't do it," he said slowly, and then he trailed off.
"You don't think our wedding will either?" Ehail asked.
"Missing it might. She can always cave later, meet Taala and Apran later - but we'll only get married once. I suppose I do want to try letting her hear about it first," he sighed. "I miss her. I'd like her to find the humility, this little bit of humility, she needs to be decent to her daughter and her son-in-law and her future daughter-in-law. If you don't mind trying to use our wedding to make that happen... then yes, I'd like to get the message to Father and see if he can budge her with it. But if it doesn't work?" He swallowed and shook his head. "No. I don't want to wait for her. I want to marry you, whether she likes it or not, whether she'll make the necessary concessions in order to come or not."
"She's your mother," murmured Ehail.
"You're my fiancée. And you have done nothing wrong. You have done nothing to deserve having someone who behaves as she's likely to at your wedding - and it will be that, as much as mine."
Ehail bowed her head, and Gyre set down the box of scales he was still holding and walked around his worktable to enfold her in a hug.
A customer walked in the front door. "Just a moment, dear heart," Gyre said, kissing her on the forehead and going out to handle the intrusion.
After Gyre closed up shop, he went with Ehail to the Watch station, hovering over her protectively while she gave the light's contact information to the female officer she'd met the previous day. The officer didn't give her any trouble, just a couple of odd looks.
"How is Arylla doing?" Gyre asked.
"Ms. Allysel has been seen by a kama and made a full recovery," said the Watch officer. "She's being held, awaiting trial. We'll let you know when that is - you'll be obliged to attend and stand as a witness. And Ehail will be... invited to do the same." The emphasized word was spoken with some annoyance.
They left the station. "I still can't leave town," Gyre said. "I think we should tell Batai we're getting married first, since we can do that in the city, and he can go to Tyren and tell My and Ryll and Father for us. Will you tell Rhysel on your way home, or do you want to wait until I can go with you?"
"I'll tell her," Ehail said. "Since I need to ask her to be my attendant." They were wending their way back to Gyre's shop and apartment; it was on the way to Batai's place from the Watch station. "Where will we live?"
"Oh." He stopped outside his storefront. "I guess this is really very bacheloresque, the apartment in the back. I might want to clear it out and knock a hole in the wall for more display space, if I'm not going to live there anymore. Let's see. Would you be more comfortable in Elcenia - since there you're able to cast spells?"
Ehail nodded. "But you shouldn't have to spend too much time commuting to your store every day. I can teleport you to the circle from anywhere, but I might not be available every day, and you don't always close your shop at the same time, so I wouldn't know when to pick you up - you can't bring a communication crystal with you to Barashi, it'd break. There's the same problems with me summoning you and unsummoning you all the time, plus keeping a circle around... And if you move the shop to Elcenia, I can't conjure gems for you again."
"We could live somewhere near Rhysel," Gyre said. "This isn't too far from our end of the circle. If we live in Paraasilan close to that end of it, the commute will be nothing. Do you know if it's easy to move to Esmaar?"
"I think it's pretty easy," Ehail said. "Is it easy to move out of Aristan?"
"Once Arylla's trial is over with," Gyre said, "it won't be a problem."
Ehail rang Rhysel's bell as evening descended on Elcenia. Aar Camlenn answered the door. "Good evening," he said, avoiding calling her by name as always. Ehail wondered fleetingly what her line name would have been. "What brings you here?" Aar Camlenn asked.
"Is Rhysel home? I need to talk to her," said Ehail.
"We've just sat down to dinner. You are welcome to join us," he said, standing aside. Ehail immediately felt awkward about interrupting their meal, standing invitation to "come for dinner anytime" notwithstanding, but she went in and sat at an empty chair.
"Hi, Ehail," Rhysel said. She was visibly pregnant. Ehail wondered when she was due - would Rhysel even know? How would twin half-Elcenian-elf-half-Barashin-halfblood children grow? "How are you?"
"I'm fine," Ehail said. "I -" Rhysel conjured up a spare bowl out of the stone of the table and ladled soup into it, then passed the soup to Ehail and made her a spoon to match. "Thank you."
"You're welcome, always," said Rhysel. "I don't think you've actually turned up without a day-specific invitation before. Getting a little bolder?"
"I just needed to ask you something." Ehail took a mouthful of soup. It was a puree of potatoes, thick and herby. "Gyre and I are engaged -"
"That's wonderful! Congratulations!" Rhysel exclaimed, leaning over to hug Ehail. Ehail patted one of Rhysel's hands where it rested on her shoulder, until the kama sat back down. "When?"
"We aren't sure," Ehail said. "But I wanted to ask you, if you'd be my attendant."
"I'd be honored," Rhysel said. "I assume Gyre's asking Myret?"
Ehail nodded. "He can't ask her in person, though, because he's supposed to stay in Aristan City..." She summarized the business with Arylla, the Watch, the upcoming trial, and other surrounding details, taking spoonfuls of soup intermittently. "We went to Batai and Karyn's place and told them, and Batai is going to go up to Tyren when he can, to pass on the news and ask Myret for Gyre."
"That sounds like a mess," Rhysel said. "I'm so glad you were able to get help for Gyre in time. He's completely all right?"
"Completely," Ehail said. "But it was very bad before the light came. I was so worried."
"And now you can turn into a tiger," Rhysel said.
"Yes." Ehail winced. "The form would still be covered in blood. I don't know how to get it out. I'd cast a cleaning spell but tigers don't have hands, and I doubt standing in the shower will get it all."
"I can do that," Rhysel said. "You'd have to shift into the form, but I can rinse out the blood with kamai for you."
"Thank you," said Ehail. "When we finish dinner, if that's all right?"
"Of course. So if you're having an attendant, are you having an Aristanian wedding? Or some kind of fusion ceremony?"
"Just Aristanian. But Gyre is going to make us wedding bracelets," she added. "Um, and Batai is also going to tell your father... so he can tell your mother... so she can... decide if she wants to come."
"Of course," said Rhysel, frowning a little. "And if she calls his bluff?"
"It's not a bluff," said Ehail softly.
"You're actually going to get married without Mother there if she won't budge?" Rhysel asked in surprise.
"Yes," Ehail said. "That's what Gyre wants to do. But Tennel will be there. He changed his mind. I met him yesterday."
Rhysel's lip trembled a little and she looked away, prompting Aar Camlenn to reach across the table and take her hand. "Well," Rhysel said finally. "Yes. I'll be your attendant."
They finished dinner. Tekaal cleared the table while Ehail turned into her tiger form and Rhysel rinsed the blood out of the silver-striped orange fur with water magic. Ehail teleported home.
Arylla's trial was scheduled, and Ehail learned about it during one of her visits to Gyre when a Watch officer dropped by the shop to give him his summons. Ehail got her "invitation". When she did the math, she discovered that the trial was starting early in Aristan, but in the dead of night on Elcenia. "If you didn't have to be there, I might not go, just because I'll be so tired," she said. "But at least there's a little warning... I can be nocturnal for a couple of days."
"You don't need to be there," Gyre said. "I just hope the scheduling doesn't make the light refuse to come."
"What happens if they decide she didn't do it?" Ehail asked. "Is that likely?"
"I don't know how likely it is," Gyre admitted. "Since the only information I have about who's innocent and who's guilty is the outcomes of trials. But if they decide she's not guilty, they set her free."
"And then she might attack us again. I'll be safe, if that happens, but you might not be - I don't think she originally meant to stab you but she might change her mind. I need to be there if that could help."
"All right. Do you want to stay here for a few days before the trial date?" asked Gyre. "It'll be a little crowded in the apartment, but I'd be happy to have you and you could adjust to the time zone. You could go back to the house for a couple of divs a day to work when daylight coincides."
"That sounds like a good idea," Ehail said.
She brought a bag with her things a few days before the trial was scheduled to start. The apartment was crowded with two people in it, but not uncomfortably so.
The morning of the trial, a Watch officer came by to "remind" them to attend. He escorted Gyre and Ehail to the courthouse, where they were assigned some sort of junior functionary to tell them when to stand up, sit down, speak, move from place to place, and otherwise conduct themselves. Ehail was inordinately grateful for this, as Gyre didn't seem to know much about the local legal system for all that he'd grown up in Aristan. She supposed he'd simply never interacted with it before.
Arylla was sitting uncharacteristically meekly, legs shackled together, in the courthouse hall. When Ehail and Gyre were shown in, she was already in what the functionary called the Speaker's Dip, a low point in the center of the room surrounded by raised judges' podiums and other seating. She spoke first, but in a murmur Ehail couldn't make out directly. Everything she said was filtered through a neutral Speaker who worked for the court, slightly paraphrasing and putting everyone on a level threshold of eloquence and audible emotional display.
"Ms. Allysel," began the speaker, bent with his ear close enough to listen to her as she mumbled, "does not deny entering Mr. Camlenn's jewelry shop on the twenty-eighth of Pokumest, Voden, in this year of 24869. She acknowledges that she entered the shop, concealing a weapon, with which she intended to harm witness Ms. Ehail. However, she points out that Ms. Ehail was unharmed, and maintains that the injury of Mr. Camlenn was a deeply regretted accident. Further, Ms. Allysel says that Ms. Ehail's retaliation was uncalled for. Ms. Allysel submits that upon realizing that she had inadvertently stabbed Mr. Camlenn, she came to her senses, and would not have interfered with a peaceable attempt to bring him out of the shop for medical attention, as Ms. Ehail is acknowledged by preliminary witness interviews to have done subsequent to her attack on Ms. Allysel."
"This court lacks the authority to formally reprimand Ms. Ehail for what may or may not have been a disproportionate response," said an aged human woman in one of the judges' seats. "She is a foreign national from a country lacking an established protocol with Aristan, and the Department of Foreign Policy did not agree to this court's petition to expedite its attempts to form a relationship with said nation. With that understood, Ms. Allysel, please concentrate on your own trial rather than attempting to set one up for Ms. Ehail."
"But she -!" Arylla said, loudly enough to be heard, but the Speaker made a sharp gesture in her direction and she fell silent and turned her head away.
"Ms. Allysel," said a different judge, "do you have anything further to say regarding your own actions on the twenty-eighth of Pokumest?"
Arylla went back to mumbling. The Speaker paraphrased. "Ms. Allysel submits that she was provoked, agitated, under personal stress, and without a prior history of violent crime. She pleads for mercy in sentencing."
"Will that be all?" asked the second judge.
"Yes, Adjudicator," said the Speaker, after conferring briefly with Arylla.
Arylla's chair turned out to have wheels, so she wasn't obliged to walk in her shackles when a guard went down to take her out of the Speaker's Dip.
"This court wishes to hear the testimony of Mr. Camlenn," said the first judge.
Gyre walked into the Dip and sat down in one of the unwheeled chairs. "Mr. Camlenn," said the Speaker, after Gyre had said a few words that Ehail strained to hear, "alleges that Ms. Allysel had, prior to the incident of the twenty-eighth of Pokumest, engaged in prolonged harassment, which he originally tolerated because of a suspected threat of career harm and later ceased to tolerate out of concern for Ms. Allysel's treatment of Ms. Ehail. He did not anticipate a violent reaction, but alleges that Ms. Allysel had in the past stolen and copied the key to his shop, and that he had recently changed his locks as of the incident."
"Mr. Camlenn, why did you never report Ms. Allysel's alleged harassment to the Watch?" asked a third judge. Ehail counted them; there were five.
"Mr. Camlenn did not expect the Watch to take the complaint seriously, as Ms. Allysel had never stolen anything with her copy of the key, nor explicitly threatened him with the aforementioned career harm. Said harm would have come in the form of her brother, a lapidary, refusing to do business with him," the Speaker said.
"Noted. Does Mr. Camlenn contest any part of Ms. Allysel's statements about the events of the twenty-eighth of Pokumest?" asked the third judge.
"Mr. Camlenn disputes only that Ms. Ehail's reaction ought to have had any relationship to Ms. Allysel's unstated regrets subsequent to stabbing him," said the Speaker.
Gyre, too, was dismissed, and the court wished to hear the testimony of Mr. Andef, the light. Mr. Andef was unavailable. The court wished, upon so learning, to hear the testimony of "Ms." Ehail.
Ehail went down to the Dip, trembling. "Take your time," the Speaker murmured to her. "I'll edit out any stuttering, ums and ers, that sort of thing - it's all right, just tell the truth."
"Ms. Ehail, you were the one who provided the Watch with the contact information for Mr. Andef, the alleged 'light' who healed Mr. Camlenn's alleged wound," said a judge who hadn't spoken before. "Can you explain Mr. Andef's absence?"
"It's the middle of the night in Elcenia," Ehail said softly. "He doesn't have any experience with Aristanian courts. He probably thinks that if it were really important, an Esmaarlan cop would visit him at a reasonable angle of the day and ask him a question or two."
The Speaker cleared his throat. "Ms. Ehail suspects that scheduling and unfamiliarity with Aristanian courts are responsible, and indicates that in Mr. Andef's home country he would never expect to testify at a trial, particularly not during the Elcenian night."
"Would Ms. Ehail care to testify about the events for which Ms. Allysel was not present and Mr. Camlenn incapacitated?" asked the first judge. She didn't sound happy about phrasing it as a question about Ehail's preferences.
Ehail took a deep breath. "After Arylla stabbed him I learned a tiger form to get her away from him. I carried Gyre to the circle in that form, too, and took him through, and got him off the circle, and pressed the emergency crystal on the wall. Public buildings in most countries in Elcenia have them and they call lights to teleport there and heal people who need help. Aar Andef - it'd be Aar, not Mr., he's an Esmaarlan - came and healed Gyre. Since Gyre was the only injured person there, he left after that. I tracked him down later and asked him to remember the incident and got his address, but then this trial was scheduled for the middle of the night. I've been in Barashi for a few days changing time zones myself. Aar Andef doesn't have a reason to do that."
After some clarifying questions, the Speaker said, "Ms. Ehail belongs to a species capable of spontaneously learning to shapeshift into a limited number of forms. She learned to turn into a tiger in order to separate Ms. Allysel and Mr. Camlenn. In the same shape, she transported Mr. Camlenn to the circle, which took them to Esmaar. Among Esmaar's conveniences are emergency healer-alerting crystals in public locations such as the circle; she activated one, prompting Mr. Andef's arrival. Mr. Andef healed Mr. Camlenn and then departed. Ms. Ehail later located Mr. Andef and obtained his address, as well as indicating to him that the incident would be important to remember compared to others he encounters over the course of a work day, but while Ms. Ehail has enough invested in the outcome of this trial to have dedicated some days to adjusting her sleep schedule, Mr. Andef is not so motivated."
"Ms. Ehail," said the second judge, "in your opinion, which is acknowledged to be non-expert, would Mr. Camlenn have survived his injury without Mr. Andef's attention?"
"A kama could have saved him," Ehail said. "If a light hadn't come I would have teleported him to his sister Rhysel's place and I think she could have done it - she's a Master kama. A witch might have been able to give him something that would have helped enough to let him live. But I don't think a non-magical medic could have."
The Speaker reported, "In Ms. Ehail's opinion, magical assistance, although not Mr. Andef's in particular, was essential to Mr. Camlenn's survival."
The court no longer wished to hear Ms. Ehail's testimony. She went back to Gyre.
A few Watch officers summarized what they'd seen and the statements they'd taken from bystanders who'd observed Ehail's tiger form. And then the first judge said, "The court will confer for a maximum of one div, and return with a decision regarding Ms. Allysel."
The judges stepped down from their podiums and went out of the room together. Ehail and Gyre waited. Across the room, still in her shackles, Arylla waited too.
The decision didn't take a full div. Ehail and Gyre hadn't finished discussing what sort of house they wanted to live in when the judges marched back into the room.
"It is the opinion of this court," said the first judge, "that Ms. Allysel's actions were unconscionable. Despite complications, including potentially ill behavior by a politically sheltered participant in the action, Ms. Allysel did enter the workplace of a person who had repeatedly asked her to leave him alone; did do so armed; did intend to commit grievous bodily harm with this armament; and did escape having caused another's death only through luck and magic. These actions constitute a crime. They constitute a violent crime. This court will commission the services of a mind kama -"
"No!" shrieked Arylla. "No! No!" The guard standing by her chair put his hand over her mouth.
"And," said the first judge levelly, "request of this kama that she be subject to the minimum interventions necessary to leave her a harmless citizen of the nation of Aristan. This sentence will be carried out within two days to minimize both the distress of anticipation for Ms. Allysel and the risk of flight. The decision of this court may be reevaluated if the requisitioned mind kama indicates, on inspection, that it is called for."
"Mmmmf!" said Arylla behind the guard's hand. He wheeled her away with his other hand.
"You two can leave," chirped the functionary who'd been guiding Gyre and Ehail.