Chapter 71: The Tribunal

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They had many names for her . The Philosopher of Pain, the Torture Countess, the Damned Lady. But before the trial, she was only known as Colette de Voileaux, the poor lady who had been beaten near-to-death by an evil, monstrous Ranger.

-Lydia Deinne, A History of Philosophy


One Year Ago


Iako followed the other Rangers down the stone staircase, quiet. It was hard to be talkative, especially in these circumstances. His friend was in jail, their superior officers heading down, and next to Iako walked the most powerful man in Alberion.

King Aarein Alberis was a tall man with a neatly trimmed beard of iron grey, and wavy hair that reached down to his jaw to match. His face was lined with age, but it had hard iron lines.

The descending stairs leveled off into a brick passageway. Every few meters, an iron door had been bolted in, each one flanked by two guards in full plate mail. Iako had kept a sword and a knife by his side, but that had been confiscated. The most secure prison in the world did not take security measures lightly.

They stopped by one of the door, and Invidia gave one of the guards a look. "Open up." Adran and Denan were silent. The two guards grabbed one of the massive deadbolts on the door, and together shoved the door open.

The three Rangers stepped into the cell, and the King followed, with Iako taking the rear, along with the king's guard. The two men, both human, had been quiet the entire time.

The door slammed shut behind them, and only the sputtering pitch of the torch filled the cell with its sound. It cast a shifting light through the steel bars to the prisoner. Laidu sat there in an old vest and a pair of ragged pants, quiet. 

"What are you doing?" Denan snarled. "Do you know who you're looking at? The king! Why aren't you bowing?"

"Enough, Ranger Denan." The king turned to Laidu. "No need to get up." He looked at one of the guards on the side of the cell. "Pass me that bench. Put it here." The guards did that, and the king sat down, studying Laidu. "Look me in the eye, Ranger Tsung."

The two locked eyes, and Iako held his breath. What was he doing? What was the king playing at? Finally, after what was a small eternity, the king spoke. "You're an odd one. You've committed an act that by any standard would be heinous, but yet your eyes tell me you believe you're in the right."

He studied Laidu's face. "Your record is exemplary. And you're new. Three months since you've graduated, since you've been given the Ranger badge, you do this. Why?"

Laidu paused. "You would have done worse," he said at last, voice hollow.

"You disgust me," Denan snapped. "You act like everyone would be a degenerate like you."

"Silence, Ranger," the king snapped. He turned back to Laidu. "God above, what have you seen?"

Laidu closed her eyes. "I will tell you on the day of my trial," he said.

"About that," Iako said. "It's tomorrow. de Voileaux awoke from the coma. Healers repaired most of her broken bones but she's still in a bad shape. Any more and they said she could get too overly saturated with aether. They need her mentally stable, or something."

Laidu nodded. "Very well."

"You holding up well enough?" Iako asked. Laidu didn't look too beaten; though the dim light of the cell hid much from detail, Iako could only make out a few bruises.

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