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> Chapter One of The King's Spy by Tiffany
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Sep 19, 2020 06:04PM
I'm going to post the first chapter of my book The King's Spy after this comment
Sep 19, 2020 06:06PM
On the day Emeriel was to be tried for the manslaughter of Siel's husband, Siel had been dead for two weeks. She had been laid out in the ground with flowers in her hair thirteen days earlier. Emeriel had not been allowed to attend, but she'd heard. She had extracted every detail from Siel's sister. Kalianas had sobbed and cried in anguish more with each question Emeriel had asked her, as though she had had to relive the hours around Siel's death and burial each time she spoke of it.
Not very long ago, Siel had been a living woman, cheerful and vivacious and so very much alive. Now she was no more than a body in the ground and a name in the record book held in Arath Soor's hands.
The Judicial Chamber was large enough to seat scores more people than were actually in it, airy linen curtains at one side screening the Majesty King from view. The walls were plastered the smoothest white, reaching up far past where ceilings tended to be. The four windows were tall and made of real glass, letting cheery sunlight stream into what should have been a solemn chamber.
Arath Soor stood before the curtains with his calm lack of expression. Three rows of Grand Gentlefolk sat at the opposite wall, Kalianas in her mourning veil staring right at Emeriel with unconcealed hatred.
Emeriel stood before Soor.
"Gentlewoman Doradon-Karalis, I am asking you again, did you or did you not have inappropriate relations of a sexual nature with the wife of the victim?" Soor asked calmly for the third time since the session began. He was more cought up on that than the actual manslaughter. Because of course he was; he had to focus on the less important matter to keep everyone's attention diverted. Because he couldn't pay her back i what he owed her if she were hanged, after all.
"I did not, Respected." That was the third time she'd refuted the accusation. It was the truth. She hadn't said anything but the truth since she the guards had first led her in here. Of course, the verity the statement would not change the fact no one would believe her.
"Noted. You will not be asked again." He was lying, though. He would keep asking, with different phraseology, pretending to ask other things, until he had wrung a confession from her. He had to get her to confess to something so it would look as if he were doing his job. Which was not going to happen, because she wasn't going to confess to something that hadn't happened. She wouldn't lie about anything involving Siel. She would not accuse Siel of forcing herself on someone who didn't want it. She wouldn't accuse her of that ever, and definitely not when Siel was -- not now. Because Siel had been good.
"If you had not committed adultery with her, what was your relationship with the victim's wife?" His voice implied that he thought he knew the answer. He assumed that the true answer was that they had committed adultery. And in a way they had. Siel had loved her in a way she had never loved her husband, regardless of whether she had seen Emeriel's naked body.
"Gentlewoman Tareth-Evirien and I were very close, Respected. We grew up together. I witnessed her exchange of conjugal vows with her husband. I was very glad of her then."
“But not later. Can you explain why?”
“In the last few months, she had confessed to me that her husband was not being himself. Her started smoking opium and he threatened her and their children.” And he had also assumed that Emeriel had fornicated. That was what had started it all.
It had started with “You should have left my wife alone.”
It had ended with blood on Emeriel's hands.
She did not dare think of the middle.
“And why did she not report the threats to the city guard?” Soor asked, as if he were going to catch her in a lie. As if Siel's husband had been an innocent honorable man, Siel an evil seductress, and Emeriel the slut who had slept with her.
“She was afraid, Respected.”
“What did he threaten her with?”
“I don't know. She never told me.” Emeriel had assumed it had been so horrific Siel had been too traumatized to tell it, so she had never asked.
“I see.” Soor's tone implied he saw nothing but a lie. “So. You had an absolutely chaste and innocent friendship with this woman, but one day her husband came up to you, accused you of having illicit sexual relations with her, and told you she had killed herself, correct?”
She gasped. The carefully constructed walls within her cracked. They crumbled. They let the tears past from where she had kept them contained. The tears burned the corners of her eyes, so she closed her eyes, but the tears got around her closed eyelids. Her head felt too heavy to hold upright.
She tried to speak, but her voice was too high and too wavering and too weepy. “Yes, Respected, that – that's what happened.” Except that they had not been friends but lovers. Otherwise it was exactly true.
“I see. Do you know by what manner she committed suicide?”
The walls were now dust. Emeriel tried to keep from weeping outright, but she failed. “Y-yes,” was all she had the breath to say.
Soor eyed her disapprovingly but did not remark on her crying. “She hanged herself. Is that the manner you were aware of?”
The dust of the walls had blown away in the wind. “Yes,” she choked out. Her throat was so tight breathing was hard but weeping was easy.
“I see. You were unaware of both her death and the manner of it until her husband told you, correct?”
She nodded, trying to stop crying but the tears simply weren't obeying. Her tears could get her in worse trouble here.
“I see. Her husband discovered her body and, since he had made the assumption that you and his wife were in an illicit relationship, he assumed you had tired of her and led her to suicide. How had he come to that conclusion, would you think?”
Emeriel took a deep breath, trying to smother her tears.“As I said, she and I were very close. Many people seemed to make such false assumptions about us because some people assume that two people cannot ever be close to each other without having inappropriate relations. There were rumors – completely unfounded rumors-- everywhere, and no doubt her husband heard the rumors.” Well, not actually unfounded. They had kissed and embraced and slept together non-sexually.
Soor was still calm and expressionless, but determined. “Exactly how close were you again?”
“Very close friends since childhood, Respected.”
“I see.”He still hadn't moved at all, standing unnaturally still. How did he stand still for so long? Emeriel could hardly stand still at all, she was so nervous.“When her husband made the said accusation, he attacked you and made you fear for your life, correct?”
“Yes, Respected.” There it was, her first true lie of the session.
“I see. So you stabbed him to keep him from killing you, and you accidentally stabbed him deeply enough to kill him, yes?” He exchanged a quick glance with her.
“Yes, Respected.” The lie came easily; she'd practiced it so long to herself in her cell the past two weeks.
“He had inflicted multiple lacerations on your hands when you tried to ward him off, you said?”
“Yes, Respected.” She extended her hands to show him the cuts.
“Please show them to the Grand Gentlefolk.”
There was no way the Grand Gentlefolk could even see her cuts, since they were sitting in rows in the back of the room, but she gave Soor a little bow only he could appreciate the irony of, and she turned to the Gentlefolk, hands thrust forward. They made a show of leaning forward and squinting, then they nodded. Because they weren't supposed; no one here did – with the exception of Kalianas and the possible exception of the Majesty King, unseen and silent but listening behind his curtain. Especially not Soor. He owed her too much. The Gentlefolk had already been swayed in her favor because of him.
“Thank you, Gentlewoman,” Soor said after she presented her hands in the direction of the Gentlefolk.
Emeriel turned back to Soor. Soor gave her a grave nod. “Please return to your seat, Gentlewoman,” he said.
Emeriel bowed again and returned to her metal chair in front of the first row of Gentlefolk. She didn't let her discomfort of the guards looming over her, the hard metal, or Kalianas glaring at her back show.
“Gentlewoman Kalianas Tareth-Evirien Halian. Please come forward,” Soor aid.
Kalianas rose and came forward, and for half a moment Emeriel's breath caught, because Siel's heavy black hair was ever-so-slightly coming undone from Kalianas's pins. Soon she could breath again though, because otherwise Kalianas was not Siel at all. Siel had been short, plump, pleasant-faced. Kalianas was thin and tall and sour even when she wasn't grieving. She wore an outfit Siel would never have worn, a long red blouse over loose orange-patterned trousers. The venomous glare Kalianas gave her as she walked past made the difference even more obvious.
Kalianas bowed low to the curtain and to Soor. “I am honored, Your Majesty the King, Respected Vizier.”
Soor nodded. “Thank you for coming, Gentlewoman. I'm sure this is a difficult time for you on account of your sister, and I apologize for your having to be here. What say you to the accused's claims?”
Emeriel couldn't see Kalianas' face, but her back was as straight as a soldier's.“I believe that she is lying about not having an affair with my sister.
Soor looked mildly interested. “Why is that so?”
“After--” she coughed into a handkerchief, murmured a “beg pardon”, and continued in a different tone, “In recent days, as I visited the accused in her cell, she kept asking me distressing questions about my sister's . . . body and funeral. She was very adamant about it, almost like a madwoman. I don't believe that is the behavior of close friends.”
“When your sister was alive, did she seem to be having an affair with this woman?”
Kalianas nodded once, jerkily. “She always talked about this woman, in an infatuated way. She always gushed about what an excellent friend she was, things of that sort, and whenever her husband was gone, she often asked me to watch her children and she left the house for long periods of time without saying where she was going. When I asked her, she was very vague, saying things such as 'into the North District'.”
Soor nodded. “I see. Is it true that they were friends since childhood?”
Kalianas nodded, bowing her head. “Yes, Respected.”
“Were you ever friends with Gentlewoman Doradon-Karalis?”
Is there a reason why?”
Kalianas answered promptly, without any hesitation. “She always seemed somewhat odd.”
“In what way?”
“She was a very quiet child, but she wasn't shy. It seemed as if she were sizing one up. Calculating, I would say. She unnerved me.” She gave Emeriel a brief dirty look over her shoulder.
“I see. But that did not bother your sister.”
“No,” Kalianas said. “ I think that oddness attracted her.”
Soor tilted his head forward.“And do you believe that that attraction was mutual?”
“I – Yes? I mean –” She paused. She looked at Emeriel, swiftly, almost fearfully, but her hate was still clear. “Well, in all honesty, I have no idea. I was never exactly privy to Gentlewoman Doradon-Karalis's thoughts.”
“But you think that they had an affair.”
“I do. But I only suspect it. I can prove nothing.”
Soor inclined his head. “Where were you on the day your sister passed away?”
Sep 19, 2020 06:07PM
She started, then quickly composed herself. “I was at my home, Respected. I heard of her death from a messenger.”
“Who was the messenger?”
“I don't know. One of Si – one of my sister's servants.”
“I see. I will interview the staff of the deceased after this session. Thank you for your time, Gentlewoman Tareth-Evirien. Please return to your seat.”
Kalianas gave him a low bow, murmured something about being honored, and returned to the front row. As she passed Emeriel's chair, she gave her a look that told her she'd much rather it was Emeriel dead instead of Siel.
Soor finally moved. He turned so swiftly his emerald cape swirled about him, and he made a show of bowing to the curtain and the silent monarch behind it. “May we adjourn this Judicial Session until tomorrow afternoon, Your Majesty the King?”
From behind the curtain, the King said in his surprisingly faint, uncommanding voice, “This Judicial Session is adjourned until tomorrow afternoon.”
Soor bowed again, then turned back to the Gentlefolk. “Thank you all for attending. We shall continue this session one day hence.”
There was a general murmur of approval from the Gentlefolk, and as everyone rose and filed out of the chamber, including Emeriel and her escort of guards. Kalianas lingered by the tall ornate doors a moment, and when Emeriel passed through, Kalianas gave her a hostile glare and, holding her hand where the guards couldn't see it but Emeriel could, she made an gesture. Despite herself, Emeriel's blood ran cold when she saw it. The gesture meant, “Kill yourself.”
Sep 19, 2020 06:09PM
((Sorry that the paragraphing is a bit too spaced-out -- my word processor is a joke.))
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