Clifton Puerillis hastilly gathered together the dusty scrolls laid beform him on the ancient oaken study desk. He rubbed the sand from his eyes with on hand as he did so, wishing he'd chosen to sleep last night instead of spending the entire evening wrestling with legal precedents and case histories. Hurrying down the cavernous hallway to the audience hall where the trial was to be held, Clifton reviewed the facts of his case.
This was to be his first case since volunteering for the Order's advocate training program and he certainly wanted to be prepared, but there was a degree of hopelessness attached to this case. The prosecuting inquisitor would be the legendary Lord Keldorn Firecam, who had been Clifton's own instructor in many of his classes including "Legal Advocacy in Criminal Proceedings", which had naturally been his favorite subject, especially given the reflected glory of one such as Sir Keldorn. Meeting his mentor at the bar, that alone would have been reason to burn the study candle at both ends, but it was hard to zealously advocate his client's innocence when the man was so guilty.
August 'Talon' Rencour may not have done the crime he was accused of, Clifton had mused to himself after they met in his cell, but he'd never met anyone so full of guilt. The remorse angle was positive, that would help.
"Go, begone from me advocate." Rencour had said, red-rimmed staring unblinking at the ceiling of his cell as he lay on his bunk. "I will not defend my actions to you or the court. It would dishonor my victims to lie now."
"Victims?" Clifton quickly re-read the charge scroll, wondering if he missed something, "You are only charged with one count of murder, a woman named Marquise."
"Maybe, but perhaps if I am punished for a life I didn't take... perhaps then the innocents I've killed with impunity can have some kind of retribution."
"If you didn't kill the woman, talk to me, the truth will set you free Mr Rencour." Clifton had tried to use his best preaching voice.
"I don't have all that much experience with the truth, but I don't want to be free. My freedom gets people killed."
"I'm obliged to advocate your best interests Mr Rencour, whether you want me to or not."
"You want to do what's best for me, then go away. Come back when they schedule my execution."
"Your self-pity is becoming annoying." Clifton had failed his course on 'Tolerance in Counseling Situations'. "You can't make amends to your victims from the grave. It's a question of balance.
"Balance? I thought you a paladin from your bearing, if not your dress sense, but now you speak like a druid."
"I'm not talking about balance in nature," Clifton was no longer speaking as an advocate, now he just a man with an opinion, "I'm talking about balance within ourselves, you think Paladin's are monuments to virtue all-day every-day?" Rencour shrugged and shook his head. "Damned right, and by the same token criminals aren't evil all the time either."
Rencour sat up on one elbow, too look the young advocate dead in the eye.
"Have your instructors taught you nothing about the nature of evil boy?"
"I know enough."
"You know nothing of Evil."
"I know you're not it. If evil is as evil does then the August Rencour I know want's nothing but the best for the rest of creation."
"You really think I could make amends and start fresh don't you?" Rencour chuckled lightly.
"Well you can't do any worse alive than you would dead now can you?"
Rencour sighed. "I can't fight your logic Advocate, till the trial then?"
"Till the trial," Clifton smiled, getting up to leave he noticed the tray of neglected food on the side table in his cell, "And try and eat something will you, I'll wont be able to sell the jury on your redemption if you look like a skelleton."
Magnolia Puerillis was stuck on identification duty again, fortunately she was of the Divination school and the identify spell came very easy to her, so the night's duties would go easily, if not swiftly. As a novitiate of the Cowled Wizards, Maggie, as her friends and brother Clifton called her, would spend many nights in the future like this, identifying, researching, documenting and cataloging the vast collection of items the Cowled confiscated from the many illicit magic users that brake the taboo on magic within Athkatla's walls,
While as a mage she secretly dispised the law, it was a fact, it existed, so it always surprised her that so many of her supposedly intelligent colleagues found it impossible to avoid breaking the law. Of course as a 'cowlie', she was exempt, but even before she joined she had no problem simply not casting in public.
To one side on her ancient oaken worktable, Maggie had set a special project Clifton had brought to her that afternoon on his way to the research library. Two finely crafted daggers of unknown but clearly magical origin. Apparently they had resisted attempts to identify them by the mages in the employ of the guard, adamantly resisted as Clif had put it.
Maggie sat down on in her well padded armchair at the table, she allowed a small groan of satisfaction as the enchanted cushioning carressed her, adjusting to her perfectly, being a 'cowlie' had it's perks. She lifted the pearl handled dagger first, using minor levitation cantrips to avoid any contact activated spells it might have, and considered it's design. Very ornate, very old, ancient even. Not able to recognize the markings or design from a visual analysis, Maggie decided to take the risk and touch it.
Images of hunting filled her mind, of tracking a lesser life form and biting it. This weapon was old, ever so much more than mearly ancient, it was hungry too, like a caged beast. A mild sensation of loss filled her mind too, it missed being wielded and it missed it's wielder. She knew little of the man to whom the daggers belonged, but once so armed. this man must have been a killing machine.
Then the pearl handled dagger sent Maggie a very disturbing image, she saw herself, as she was right then and there, sitting at her worktable, as a hand wielding the dagger and reaching forward to slice her own throat. In shock she threw the dagger across the room, impacting into the wall an inch from Tolgerias' head.
Tolgerias, who had entered the room to check on his pupil, regarded the dagger speculatively. Once he was convinced it had stopped moving he turned to the still-shaking Novice. "Problems Pruellis?"
"Nothing I cannot handle Master." Maggie lied unconvincingly to her mentor.
"These daggers are beyond your ability," Tolgerias announced, as he took both daggers from her worktable. "How did you come by them, and don't bother lying? "
"My brother Clifton asked me to try and identify them."
"The advocate? Part of a case then?" The elder Cowled One speculated.
"He didn't tell me. Just that they resist identification, my own analysis confirms they are intelligent." she chose to leave out 'and hungry' thinking her overbearing mentor deserved to learn this for himself.
"Leave there with me Novice, you have more than enough items to process before the night is through."
"Of course Master." She nodded meakly, internally damning him for denying her such a great research chalenge, "What should I tell Clifton."
"The truth child," Tolgerias smiled as he regarded his reflection in Tooth, "That the daggers are where they should be."
Episode 14: Trials and Errors.
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