After morning drills with the crew, we were summoned to the Throalic court to serve as witnesses against Trejack, his surviving men, and the ship crew. Trejack had a pair of men who were shipped in from Kratas that were serving as councilors for him. The men had arrived from Kratas last night and I had asked Suulin if she would do some investigating. She left with Dremnin and when they returned she quickly was able to tell me which of the great houses the men were affiliated with, though they had taken great effort to conceal that information. I took note of that. Suulin was very good at any form of court intrigue… she would have been one hell of a herald had she taken me up on my offer to be the official Herald of Konigsberg. Yet I could not blame her for her decision… she had been in servitude for her entire life and very much enjoyed being a free spirit.
When we arrived in the Throalic courtroom, we were all impressed. The building was made entirely of white stone and designed similar to a combat arena. There were great pillars lining the circular interior. Statues of former Throalic kings stood around the outer edges. There was seating in the back for those who wished to witness the proceedings. Seating to the sides were reserved for witnesses. At the front sat a trio of Throlic justices, and behind them sat king Neden. The accused were made to sit in the front of the room beneath everyone. The crewmen seemed to be huddled together in a bunch. Trejack, Jeoffery, Aarick and Trejack’s men were sitting separately and alone. It seemed none of them trusted the other.After everything was settled the accused were made to give their stories, and predictably Trejack’s men, the crew, Arrick and even the captain, Jeoffery, identified Trejack as the ring leader. Trejack’s two councilors were nothing short of masterful in countering the statements of the crew, and pointing out legal holes in Throalic law preventing much of their damning testimony from being counted. Throalic law was ridiculously complex, and because of that weasle bastards like those two rats from Kratas were able to use it to prevent justice.
My father once said; “If a man has to write down his laws, he has too many of them.”
Still, the combined testimony was so damning I expected nothing more than Trejack’s swift death and the same for his two remaining men. They were so obviously guilty that I could not see any way for another outcome.
When it was Jeoffery’s turn he spun his tale so that it sounded like he didn’t know Trejack’s business at first. He claimed that Trejack told him he was transporting criminals. He said he then feared Trejack and didn’t know how to stop doing business with him after it became clear what his business really was. Not a person in the court believed him, but it was at least remotely plausible and the best lie Jeoferry could come up with.
Bold Arrick, Jeoffery’s swordmaster bodyguard came off as a pathetic man. He looked like hell and rattled on about his sorrow for his part in it. He did at least some good for himself, pointing out that he was captured and initially enslaved before being offered a role as Jeoferry’s bodyguard. Jeoffery had witnessed him challenge and defeat three of Trejack’s men which is why he was afforded the opportunity. I speculated that Jeoffery also recognized Arrick as someone who was easily manipulated. Arrick admitted to being a hopeless drunk and begged forgiveness. Overall, Arrick may have been a powerful swordmaster, but he was a weak willed man who lacked discipline. Without proper structure and accountability in his life, he would always fall in with men like Trejack and Jeoferry. The man desperately needed guidance and purpose in his life, and he had none of either.
The oarsmen were there that day only to serve as witnesses against the others. They were called up next and each gave only a short statement. The evidence of guilt was obvious to everyone, but still Trejack’s councilors kept at it, badgering each witness at every chance, even over the most simple things. I could see they were wearing on king Neden’s patience, but he said nothing.
At last the lead justice called my name in a bored voice; “Lord Stilicho Alaricson of Konigsberg.”
By this time I was rather irritated with the whole thing. We had been there for hours and it was obvious what needed to be done. Trejack, his men, and Jeoffery, had to die.
I rose and moved to the podium at the front of the room. The Throalic justices asked me a number of questions about Trejack’s operation, my capture, my escape, Grodnag, my plan for the ambush of his ship, the battle, the pursuit of Trejack and his capture, and lastly I went over his log book I had taken from his tent which detailed his slave trade for the last few years. The book was written in his hand and gave details on where slaves were taken from, their race, gender, when and where they were captured, and how much they sold for. Incredibly damning evidence.
Then the councilors from Kratas had their turn. Their first question for me, I had anticipated hours before. It was about Rashomon’s return and my status as his questor. When the weasel councilor leveled the question at me, it was more of an accusation.
“Lord Stilicho,” he began.
The word ‘lord’ rolled off his tongue but I noticed he was careful not to seem mocking, for the lords of Kratas depended on Konigsberg and if I had accomplished anything in the last few months, I had put doubt into the long term prospects of my uncle’s false claims to power. Any house of Kratas would be disadvantaged to anger me should I return to my rightful place as Ealdorman of the province. So, wisely, they worked hard to conceal their identity in their support of Trejack and were careful to make sure that, should I find out which houses these councilors belonged to, the political damage was minimized.
“In your testimony I could not help but notice you mentioned the temple of Rashomon, and how you later used your questor powers to stop the horrors that infected your crew and the crew of the Blue Albatross. Tell me, are you a questor and if so, what to what passion?”
I could tell he fully expected me to either be evasive, or try to sidestep his question. I had long thought about how to best address this line of questioning. I concluded that I could make no attempt to minimize or conceal Rashomons return and his contact with me. To do so would have made me look less believable, and I could not afford that. Not because of that mock of a trial over Trejack. For the purposes of the trial distancing myself from Rashomon would have been the smart play. I had much bigger considerations to think about and Trejack, as much as he deserved death, was of no real importance in the grand scheme of things. For me, as rightful Ealdorman of Konigsberg, reputation was everything. The same was true for any questor of Rashomon, for his word to get out, his questors must be open, true and believable. That would start with leadership and I knew men must see that I was not afraid nor ashamed of Rashomon and above all else, they must believe, that at a minimum, I believed. So, I instead took the opposite approach and went on the attack, much to the surprise of the two councilors from Kratas.
“Rashomon has returned and I am his questor.” I answered proudly.
The councilor’s eyebrows in front of me leapt in shock at my answer, there were gasps in the crowd, and I was later told even king Neden seemed surprised by my frank answer. The councilor quickly gained his composure, but then made a mistake.
“You expect the good people in this room to believe you?”
I held back a smile, knowing this was the opportunity I had hoped for. I had thought the councilors would be too savvy to give me the chance, but my answer had taken him by surprise and now he was operating without a script and I was on the attack.
“Rashomon has returned. He presented himself to me and made me his questor in his temple. I have already performed his questor powers in front of many men, lots of which are here in this room and could testify to it. The details of the powers of Rashomon’s questors are well documented from before the Scourge…”
The other councilor tried to interrupt me at that point but raised my voice and kept going, silencing him. This was an attack like any on a battlefield, and I knew momentum was key. I had no intention of letting up until my point was made and goals accomplished.
“Obviously there are those who would try to deny his return, and dissuade others from believing, such as followers of Raggok and the other mad passions. If my words and the testimony of the men in this room are not enough, if some men still choose not to beleive, they need only to look into the night sky and see that one of Rashomon’s stars is once again in the night sky. That should be proof enough that Rashomon has returned.”
The councilor frowned. I had backed him into a corner, he could mock the idea of Rashomon’s return, but to do so would hurt his credibility and associate his actions with entities who he could not afford to be associated with.
Just as quickly his confident smile returned he would counter attack himself. “The horrors you faced in Rashomon’s temple. You say they infected and possessed many of your men? As well as many of ypir companions such as the Unchained?”
I admitted this, pointing out that it was only Skram an Suulin among the Unchained who were effected and many of my crew were not effected either.
Soon after my testimony was over. Yet I knew, for the purposes of the trial, the damage was done. Rashomon may be back, but men would doubt it in spite of the evidence simply because the world was known to be without Rashomon and with that narrative accepted, men would be reluctant to face facts yhat would alter their perceived reality. Then, the horrors that effected so many of us would scare the quill pushers of the court who had little understanding of such things and would now view us as men who had been possessed by horrors. Regardless I had been successful. My testimony had shown that Rashomon had indeed returned, and men who were open to the idea and heard my testimony would beleive it was possible. Not only that, but I had portrayed myself and the others of the Unchained, and my crew, as heroes by account. We had captured an infamous criminal, all of his men, and his ship. We had faced horrors and slain them. We had sanctified Rashomon’s temple. All of these things were made very public during these proceedings. While many of the others were angry at the unfortunate outcome pf the trial, it had served a far greater purpose than the joke that Throalic justice. our reputation had grown, and most importantly, men all across Barsaive would soon hear the tale of how Rashomon had that the lord Stilicho Alaricson, Ealdorman of Konigsberg, was his questor.
My uncle, I knew, would have heard already about my assassination. I wished I could have seen his face when the tale of Rashomon’s return was told and the fact that I was not only alive, but his questor, reached him.