“…guilty, and the punishment: Death.”
As soon as Leaf-on-the-Wind finished his sentence, turmoil broke lose. The werewolves and kinfolk in the audience were in uproar – understandably – at the state of the trial.
Scales-of-Justice stared out into the crowd, at nobody in particular, doing all she should to maintain composure.
How did it come to this?
“Absolutely not” Scales-of-Justice responded immediately, not even considering the suggestion.
“I urge you to reconsider.” Leaf-on-the-Wind’s voice was cool and composed, and his smirk implied confidence that she could not fathom the source of.
“What you are suggesting is a mockery of justice, of the Philodox auspice and its duties. I will not hear any more of it, or you will be the one on trial."
Julia Collins-Smythe was a promising young philodox. She was bold, charismatic, and full of ideas and ideals. And like most Silver Fangs, she was utterly incapable of Subtlety. This was arguably a good trait of the tribe, but unlike most young Silver Fangs Julia kept a distance from the rest of her tribe, the group which could otherwise protect her from the enemies that bold idealists inevitably make.
And now, one of these enemies would be her undoing. By the time the Silver Fangs had caught wind of this trial, things were too far progressed to prevent it; to protect her.
Scales-of-Justice had been meaning to have a talk with Julia, to caution her. She saw great potential in the other woman, to become a great philodox someday, once her youthful rebelliousness has been washed away.
Now, it was too late for that.
“If you are certain. You always were strict in your interpretation of your duties.” The Shadow Lord feigned disappointment for a moment, before his smug grin returned. “Well, not always actually.”
Scales-of-Justice was out of patience. “I have about a dozen more important matters to attend to right now. Speak your peace or begone.”
“November 25th, 1981. Hong Kong.”
Her eyes widened. This was not a topic she had ever expected – nor wanted – to revisit.
His grin widened. “Poor, poor Voice-of-Gaia. For someone so influential to die so young, such a tragedy.” He watched her as he spoke, gauging her reactions. “And such an ignoble death as well. Poisoned dagger in the night. How many times was he stabbed?”
She stayed quiet, willing herself to not react, not show any recognition.
“I think it was sev-“
“Not. Another. Word.” she hissed.
The man obliged, crossing his arms and continuing to smile that smug, self-satisfied grin of his.
The trial was a sham. It was always going to be, of course, but it was like Leaf-on-the-Wind wasn’t even trying to hide it. Or like he was doing it deliberately, to torture those who wanted to but couldn’t speak up against it – like Scales-of-Justice.
“How do you know?” she asked, after a moment.
“Doesn’t really matter now, does it? What matters is that I do know – Every gruesome detail. You needn’t fret though, your secret is safe with me. I would never reveal such horrible things about a friend.”
“Friend?” she was unable to contain her shock and disgust.
If he noticed her tone, he didn’t care.
“That’s what we are, isn’t it? Friends?”
“You are a serpent and a fiend. I would sooner call a-”
“Careful now,” he interrupted. "Unless you want the entire nation to find out about your sins, you really want to be my friend."
Every word tasted like venom as she spoke them. “Fine. We’re friends.”
“Are we though? You’ve said some pretty hurtful things to me this evening. I am feeling a lot of hostility from you right now.”
She sighed. “What do you want.” It wasn’t a question, she was just saying what she knew he wanted to hear.
“You know what – the trial.”
She resented herself as she made her decision.
“Excellent! I knew we could come to an agreement. Well, I should leave you to the dozen more important matters. Good evening.”
“Damn you.” she muttered as he turned to leave.
He stopped mid-step and turned to her.
“I’m already damned. We both are. The sacrifices we make for our people, eh?”
Then he left.
Behind her, the judges were deliberating. They were nearly as torn as the crowd, but for different reasons. They all seemed to agree that the verdict was inevitable – Scales-of-Justice wondered how many of them had, like herself, known it going in – but the way the trial had been conducted, and the sentence… it didn’t sit right with a lot of them. It wasn’t right.
“What the devil was that? What game is he playing?”
“We can’t sentence her to death, not after that.”
“They’ll lynch us”
“They’ll be right to. This is a travesty.”
“That… doesn’t detract from her crimes though. We can’t just let her walk.” There was doubt in this one’s voice, as if he didn’t fully believe his own argument.
The others murmured in uncertain agreement.
“We need to send a message,” someone said.
Scales-of-Justice had a thought.
“We need to send two.”
The group turned in unison to look at her.
“We need to send a message not only to those that would follow her example,” she continued, “but also to those who would follow Leaf-on-the-Wind’s. It does not only matter that the outcome is just, but also our methods. Displays like this bring shame on us all, regardless of the crimes of the accused.”
Again they nodded and murmured in agreement, but with more certainty this time.
“Whatever we do, we need to do it fast,” one of them said. “We appear more weak and irresolute with every moment, and the crowd is in uproar.”
“What can we do?” another asked.
Everyone began to speak at the same time, and the conversation was quickly descending into chaos, when someone said:
“Exile?” The others echoed.
“Exile. It’s effectively a death sentence, but not literally one. She’ll be gone from Garou society for good, but she’ll still be alive.”
“Where can we send her though? We need to guarantee that she won’t be able to reach other garou, including dissidents.”
“Especially dissidents. You’re right, she can’t stay on this plane, or somewhere she could escape to this plane from.”
“We’ll take her.”
The latest speaker was a tall woman with violet eyes and hair the colour of midnight. She had arrived just the previous day, Scales-of-Justice remembered – one of the Shadow Lords.
“Pardon?” Scales-of-Justice asked.
“The Shadow Lords.” The other woman said. “We’ll take her. Send her to the Stormlands. It is one of the most well-guarded homelands; she’ll be unable to leave, and other garou will be unable to get to her.”
“Besides Shadow Lords.” Someone said, disapprovingly.
The raven-haired woman sighed.
“Besides Shadow Lords, yes. But even our own are strictly watched, and our leadership have no patience for rebel sympathisers.”
A moment of silence followed as the elders considered this.
“And besides,” she added, “This is the best way to send a message to Leaf-on-the-Wind. In his own homeland she will be right under his nose, but he will be unable to do something about it without appearing petty and weak, and disrespectful of our legal system – more than he already does, that is.”
“The Silver Fang homeland would surely send a clearer message” Scales-of-Justice offered.
“Perhaps, but there’s greater risk of interference. Her father is a powerful man, and the bonds of family can subvert even the wisest elders.”
The retort was followed by varieties of “Aye”, “True”, and “Agreed” from the others.
Scales-of-Justice said nothing more. Her last effort was spent.
I’m sorry, Julia, for your fate.
“We need a decision now. Stormlands, any opposed?”
Nobody spoke up.
“Good. Scales-of-Justice, will you announce the sentence?”
She did not hear them.
“We don’t have time for this. I will speak for us.”
The Shadow Lord stepped around her, and raised her arms to silence the crowd. Scales-of-Justice still did not respond, and continued to stare blankly into the distance as the sentence was announced.
How did it come to this?