On Trial by Patrick Reid

Magistrate Oloron stood inert and silent at the foot of the platform, a trickle of sweat dripping from his brow. The scent of the midday meal sailed steadily across the open pavilion from the table of the Lord Marshal, Oloron’s host. His nose caught venison and onions and wild peppers as his restraint almost broke. Close to salivating, he watched his host tear apart a stubborn piece of stewed deer quarters, oil dripping from his moustache. Breakfast had come and gone and Oloron did now what he did then, nothing. It was ill mannered to demand conversation with a host until recognized; Oloron concluded the Lord Marshal was well aware of this. So too was it frowned upon to not feed a guest whilst one ate, he wondered how many courtesies the man actually practised. The animal seemed to have a tough texture, he noted, as the Lord used both hands to tear into its flesh. The eating was more work than pleasure, given the Lord’s perspiration, but the frequent belch followed by raucous laughter clearly said he enjoyed the meal. Occasionally he looked from his plates, a glance at his guest who now was clearly starving at the sight of food.

“You seem… famished Magistrate, have you been fed?” said the Lord Marshal. His smile was crooked and never reached the left side of his face.

“I have travelled long and hard, five days to be exact, non-stop from the capital. Deserters from your army attacked my entourage whilst I slept. I was stripped of my worldly belongings, forced to walk two days of the journey and my assistant was hung by his breeches for asking to keep a loaf of bread.”

Oloron took a deep breath, his composure almost failing him.

“I have no need for your food”, he continued, “I didn’t travel this far to meal with you. I only seek knowledge of why I was summoned here and fresh supplies so I can leave.”

The Lord Marshal laughed, looking to his retinue who responded in kind with their own cacophony.

“You sound like a man in charge” said the Marshal, “If I were a lesser man I’d piss my pants.”

“If you were a lesser man you would be slug, Kydian.” said Oloron.

The Marshal stood swiftly, knocking over plates and goblets.

“You will watch your tongue, Politician”. His smile disappeared before taking his seat again.

Olorons’ legs were growing weak from standing, his pride the only fuel he had left in him. He had seen soldiers, food and women come and go, though a few of the latter never left and provided an audience for the farce now happening.

The Marshal snapped his fingers and two slaves, small boys, quickly removed all traces of the meal. A teen-aged girl brought paper, ink and quill to the Marshals’ table. A soldier who was posted to the far left opened a cylinder and removed a scroll before taking it to his superior.

Lord Kydian spoke.

“It has come to my attention that during the senate meetings of the last few months you have fervently campaigned for my removal as Lord Marshal. Is this true?”

“I have spoken against every promotion you murdered or schemed your way into. Why would this one be an exception?”

“So you do not deny calling for a re-election?”

“No.”

“Would you go as far as to say you consider me a threat?”

“The only thing you’re a threat to is Civilization. A man such as you has no business with authority, even worst an army. You might have the King fooled, but I know your kind and what you stand for. I see through you.”

Kydian scuffed.

“You should have paid more attention,” he said.

The same soldier removed another scroll and handed it to Kydian.

“Are you a member of the White Horizon sect?”

Oloron was startled. The mention of sects raised suspicion enough, but to announce it in such a public environ was unheard of. Such activities were private and not the topic of conversation. After all, which ranking official, Army or Senate, didn’t have his secrets?

“Yes, I am a member.”

“Then you are acquainted with Count Millard of Fweep Forest?”

Oloron hesitated “Yes”.

Count Millard was a ranking member of the sect. Oloron was Vice Chair, second only to the head, Duke Raol, brother to the King. Millard had disappeared during his journey to the western front a month before, where he planned to speak the King. It was assumed bandits had killed him on the road, which was not uncommon during wartime. Oloron now had his own suspicions.

Kydian licked his lips and his half smile returned.

“Were you aware of Count Millard’s plan to poison the King?”

The floor gave way under Oloron as he buckled and almost lost his footing, the weight of the accusation punching his empty stomach like a mailed fist.

“Liar! How dare you accuse a man of such standing you filthy louse. Lair I call you, a gutless coward hiding behind walls of power that you have no right to. When the senate hears of this you’ll be arrested and with any luck fed to the iron bull.”

Kydian had no expression, a cold look in his eyes.

“We have reason to believe that Millard along with members of your sect, plot to depose the King and replace him with his brother Duke Raol. Do you deny this?”

“I will no longer partake in this joke.”

“Joke? You call the confession of a noble senator a joke? I dare say, if there is a laugh in this horrid matter, I have yet to find it.” He smiled. “And I do love a good laugh.”

“Confession?” Everything came rushing to his mind like a flash flood. “Where is the senator?” Oloron asked.

“He is with us, fear not. We couldn’t have him hanging around where the soldiers could see him?”

A few of the soldiers still listening chuckled.

“I wish to see him.”

“As you will.”

Kydian steered his guest down, slowly standing to his full height. And he was tall. A full two heads above the average, his mail and leather gave him a wide girth. His arms like tree stumps with massive hands at the end.

“Magistrate Oloron, you are under arrest for Treason. Guards take him to the big cell, its occupant needs a friend.”

Two soldiers promptly took Oloron by his arms and marched him from the stage, Kydian laughing to the sky.

The guards took him past a number of tents to one of the few permanent structures at the camp. It was a large storehouse, the size of a royal horse stable that could house over thirty horses. The first guard simply opened the door, unlatching no locks or removing any barrier.

“Did he not try to escape?” Oloron asked the guard.

“How?” he answered, before both guards starting laughing.

The door opened and the room was black as the night sky. They threw him inside before closing the door. Whilst his eyes adjusted to the darkness he heard latches and a piece of wood lying across the door. Apparently they were not as confident he would stay captive. As he turned in the darkness, a putrid smell came to him. At first he thought horse manure but then the scent became familiar and he knew immediately what it was. He was only five when the Gammel attacked his people; he mother hid him in the pool on the roof of their estate. When the sword clashes and screams had died he climbed out, soaked, looking for his parents amongst the carnage. The memory was only a blur now, red bodies and dead eyes, but the smell was permanent. His eyes adjusted and as he turned to the far corner of the room he saw the remnants of a man, chained to the wall, his legs missing. Ripped from his body by an animal.

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