“Would Edamosfa now please take-”
“An objection, your honor,” interrupted Odh, “This document is dated to nearly six years ago. She was not under oath at the time, she wasn’t even in the consideration for undergoing an oath. The question here is her celibacy, not her virginity.”
There was a tense quiet as the judge looked over the paper again.
“Objection overruled. However, I remind the prosecution that if I should find the evidence you bring forward specious or irrelevant, I may dismiss it, and if you insist upon yourselves, you will see a reprimand.”
“Would Edamosfa now please take the stand to answer my questions in relation to the evidence?”
Edam’s hands shook as she took to the stand. Odh followed her swiftly, standing close behind as she took a seat. Danza straightened herself out in preparation for the question. The judge looked at her with a keen, discerning gaze.
“Do you, Edamosfa-Iforfit Miaza swear to tell the truth in this court, under the full penalty of the law of the Sepulcher?”
“I swear,” said Edam, “Godhead have mercy on my soul.”
“Could you, in brief, describe your relationship to your uncle for the court?” Asked Danza.
Edam rubbed her exposed arms, and looked to Odh. He leaned to whisper to her.
“Answer, but keep it brief and truthful,” he instructed quietly.
“I lived with him for my education,” said Edam, “From when I was ten to about seventeen. He raised me well.”
“And I take it while you were under his house, you obeyed his rules?”
“I tried to,” said Edam, “Youth is youth.”
“Tried,” echoed Danza, “I understand your childhood was troubled, by every indication in the diary. Allow me to read now for the benefit of the court.”
She slowed her speech. Odh handed off the papers to her so that she could follow along. The translation into Kolet was deft. They weren’t all the words that she would have used, but they were sufficient.
“Uncle was angry with me today. I had been talking with Imane back at the church. When he saw me he reprimanded me and reminded me of the promise I made to him. I wasn’t even talking to him about anything like that, but there was no arguing. Would you elaborate on the nature of the promises you made to your uncle?”
Edam sighed. It was such a silly, childish thing.
“He made me promise that I would not have improper relations with a man my age outside of wedlock. I was only to have female friends.”
“And why was this?”
“Because I was my mother’s daughter,” said Edam, recalling her uncle’s reasoning, “Even though I was not technically his blood, he wanted me to be raised right. And since to that point I had been raised by her, I would be inclined to make her same mistakes, and that needed to be corrected. That was the reason for the prohibition.”
“I see. And what were those mistakes?”
“Promiscuity,” said Edam quietly.
“To clarify for the court – you were born out of wedlock, correct?”
“Now, if you will please move to the next set of pages I’ve selected, please.”
Odh took the paper back and shuffled forward a bit. Danza cleared her throat before continuing.
“Edam, would you describe for the court your relationship, past and present with Peman Vivra, who is currently a priest?”
She looked to Imera. He was silent, and very still. This was his question. He thought he had taught her discipline alongside her uncle. What was in the diary contradicted that so severely that he needed an answer to reconcile the two thoughts. He was not neutral here – he was expectant, waiting for her to tell him how she had failed.
“I invoke my right to silence,” said Edam, her eyes shooting back to Danza.
“That’s alright. You’ve already stated your opinions on the matter here. Let’s see – ‘I am beginning to think I have a growing spot in my heart for the new acolyte at the church. He has taken a shine to me too, I think. He speaks very softly most of the time, but last week our priest gave him a turn at the pulpit, and he spoke very eloquently.’”
She continued down before flipping the page.
“Then, on another page, a list of fors and againsts – ‘For: he is very handsome in his face. Against: I am forbidden from making this sort of relation. For: I am tired of only talking to the women at church. Most of them are not my age and shun me. Against: A priest may travel often, and that may trouble me if I wish to settle down. For: he is nearly a year older than me. Against: he is nearly a year older than me…’”
Some tiny part of Edam wanted to snort at the idea of settling down. It seemed so foreign to being an Inquisitor that the idea seemed quaint now. Danza continued down the list of teenaged wants and grievances for Peman – and at the end the tally of want came up in Peman’s favor.
“‘I will ask him for some private tutelage on spiritual matters. That will satisfy any of my uncle’s suspicions,’” concluded Danza, “What your diary then describes is a first encounter with Peman. He was congenial to the idea of such an affair under the guise of him tutoring you. And by the third encounter-”
Danza moved to a different page and grimaced, and Edam hated it. She rubbed her bare arms, feeling the bumpy scars that criss-crossed them. It would have been one thing if Danza had been wholly unfeeling in her prosecution – if she had been hateful or fiery even, that Edam could understand. There were many reasons for Danza to hate her and many more to be less reticent. But no, no – what crossed Danza’s face in her moment of reading was pity.
“The relation took on a sexual nature. ‘He took me up into his room today for another round of tutelage, and he laid me on his bed and kissed me. I was eager to learn-”
Danza paused and skipped several lines.
“‘-When we were finished and he had washed my sweat with a towel, he asked me if I enjoyed myself. He touched me very tenderly after was well. I said he could be a little less rough, but otherwise I did quite enjoy it. The way he looks at me is so odd. I have not been naked like this outside of bloodletting – and I have so many scars. He seemed almost afraid of them, of me, at first. I knew that I was ugly but I think he sees me honestly, sees my soul, and so he made love to me on that account. And what love he made! What ardor it brings to this blasted body – it is a small joy. It is a joy I will take.’”
Danza set her papers at her side for the moment.
“Would you care to comment on any of this? Make any further statements for the edification of the court before I proceed?”
Edam reached for the one exonerating memory in this case. There were many guilty ones – many pleasant. Peman was not a perfect man by most standards. He was indeed, at first, something of a fumbler, inexperienced with love. She now had Ana to contrast with – Ana seemed to take to the matter like a fish to water. That inexperience was no object though. She was just as inexperienced in turn. He wasn’t as conventionally attractive as the women in her church would gossip about, either. In spite of his handsome face he still couldn’t really grow out a beard, and he didn’t have a heroic jawline or a startling physique. Instead he had more of an impish charm to him, playful even in his religiosity. Still, he was deeply kind and pleasant to speak with. That was what kept her coming back.
“I only wish to say, though it is not in the excerpts I have seen, that I wished to marry him for a while at that time,” said Edam truthfully, “He was going to be a priest in good employment. I had the inclination at first to learn from him for a while, marry him and become a schoolteacher or the like. This was before I found my passion for sorcery and ecclesiastic law.”
She sighed with nostalgia. He was also where she got her passion for apologetics and theology. A life with him was a path forever closed to her now.
“If you are speaking of my affairs, then it must be noted in this case that I entered into that affair with plans to exit in a manner that would have pleased the very authority that I trespassed against. In the present, though, I feel nothing for Peman Vivra. Do you have any further questions for me?”
Danza shook her head.
“Not at this moment. You may leave the stand.”
Edam rose with Odh, and the two walked back to the defendant’s desk. Odh patted her on the back with approval as he sat.
“You did well,” he whispered to her, “Those were some hard questions. Nothing they’ve presented so far is damning.”
“There are two things of note here, your honor. The first, and in my opinion, the lesser, piece of evidence is that Edam has before consummated an illicit affair. Not an illegal one, not an unnatural one, but an affair nonetheless. The second is the verbiage that she uses to describe those that she is attracted to. Mr. Kukyar, I call you to the stand.”
The translator stood and walked to the stand with a slight limp before taking the stand. He swore himself in quickly and rotely, as if he was used to this sort of proceeding.
“Mr. Kukyar, would you please identify yourself and credentials for the court?”
“I am Mellat Kukyar of Kallin. I have been a scribe and translator for nearly ten years now. I have extensive experience with Agoran in both speech and writing. I have translated numerous plays and books, and worked with the secular courts before in matters of translation.”
“Thank you,” said Danza, “I’m still a little rusty with my Agoran. I’d like you to clarify some things for the court. Firstly, allow me to reread a section from the proceeding – ‘he laid me in bed and kissed me.’ What is the Agoran word for kiss used here?”
“Tiar,” replied the translator. He spoke glibly, in an almost clipped fashion. He seemed uncomfortable with what he was reading.
“And would you clarify for the court the connotations of that word?”
“Eh, well – there are two words for kissing in Agoran. Mudh and tiar. The latter indicates a, well, a sexual relationship. Indeed, in many writings, it is synonymous with intercourse. If I may analogize – it is the difference in Kolet between sleeping beside someone and sleeping with someone.”
“Of course. Thank you. Now, I’d like to move to the relationship that Edamosfa shared with Ana before Ana left the Church and Inquisition. This is described at length in the diary. Where this relationship first begins to become worrying is a few months after they first meet. I quote – ‘I am afraid to write this. The angle at which I was cut made it difficult to bandage it properly. She has taken it as her responsibility to help me with it. Ana, I have noticed, is a woman of exceptional physique and character. She is strong – quite strong. And yet, she is terribly gentle when she bandages my arm up, day after day. I do not think any person has been so kind as to touch me like this.’”
She touched the scar on her elbow. It was an awkward cut, but it didn’t show much of her other scars on that arm when Ana was bandaging them. She was thankful for that.
“‘I do not know what to do with myself,’” continued Danza, “,I watch her when she sleeps sometimes, and she is so serene – so peaceful, so beautiful. I once thought her rude, but in truth I think she is simply more straightforward with me than most. It is a kind of frankness that has grown on me as I have spent more time with her. She has grown on me, and it terrifies me utterly.’”
There was utter silence in the court when Danza paused. Edam looked down in shame. Her ears rushed with blood as she asked her next question.
“Now, in your translation of these documents which I provided you, did anything strike you about the words that Edam used?”
Mellat seemed, again, squeamish with his answers.
“Well, I- yes. There are many words repeated here – I mean, in the manner in which she describes Ana. On the other page, though. She uses the word cuorva, which is usually translated as handsome, or attractive. Both Mr. Vivra and Ms. Metremte are described as having some physical strength. Kindness – aghem – is also a fixation.”
Edam could hardly pay attention to the proceedings even as she tried to calm her breath. Her lawyer was keeping a stone face, waiting for something inadmissible or egregious to pounce on. Imera was simply frowning, expressing his bitter disappointment while the judge looked on coldly. Danza continued to plow through her and her witness’ reticence.
“There is another word involved here – peron. It appears many, many times throughout the diary when Edam describes Ana. More than I could easily count. An example, on the fifth page that was copied – ‘I called her peron today. I am a fool. I could not resist it. I feel lucky she does not know what it means.’”
Edam nearly swore aloud. This wasn’t just embarrassing – it was painfully humiliating. She would almost rather take the lash than have this brought up in front of her cousin. Her foolish little fantasy of a perfect life with Ana.
“Would you explain to the court what this word translates to?”
“Uh, well, it means female bodyguard.”
“Care to elaborate?”
Mr. Kukyar lightly shuffled the papers again.
“Well, you see, there are certain poetic traditions – I mean – I don’t want to get too historical, but it’s required to get the proper context. In eras past, when Agorans and Veledans went to war, the noble men would often leave their wives behind. This left the women vulnerable to any number of attacks. Kidnapping for ransom, enemy soldiers using them as leverage, or other such things. However, they also felt that leaving their wives in the care of other men could lead to improper relations. So, instead they trained women in the ways of combat, and had them be bodyguards for their wives.”
He coughed before moving on.
“The problem with this is that while all of them loyally performed their duties, it was at times an open secret that some of the peron would also have sexual relations with these noblemen’s wives regardless of their gender.”
“Alright,” said Danza, “And as I understand it, in the centuries since then, the connotation of the word has changed?”
“Well, yes. It now primarily refers to a martially-inclined homosexual woman. Usually in an affectionate manner. The word appears in many love poems.”
It was a silly idea of course – her peron, her strong Ana who could shield her from all the ills of the world. It had started as a joke in her head. She had simply gotten the vague impression that Ana had that sort of inclination, and it had bloomed out into a vivid fantasy from there. She would be a secluded girl up in the Agoran highlands, and Ana would be her knight, crude and flawed but kind and virtuous all the same. She would spirit her from the boring flaws of her husband and keep her warm all night.
Warmth seemed very far now. Her hands shook and felt deathly cold.
“Now, moving on, there is another passage – this one appears to be the most recent in the diary if they are ordered chronologically, which they do appear to be. It reads: ‘I kissed her. Why – why did I torture myself so? She kissed me back and I could not resist indulging it, could not resist that breach. She touched me so tenderly that I felt I could die and be happy then and there. And then we withdrew, and I felt sick to my stomach. I am taking sick leave to collect myself. I cannot let this relation go any further, for both our sakes.’”
Danza paused again. She moved with great solemnity, supporting herself on the desk for a moment with one hand. Her eyes darted to meet Edam’s for a moment. Edam glared back as best she could manage.
Damn your pity, thought Edam, You’re a poppet for my cousin’s false piety – his full ardor in his duty that has exceeded any law or rule. You are a traitor.
“Mr. Kyukar, what word exactly did Edamosfa use to describe this encounter with Ana Metremete?”
“Tiar,” he said quietly.
“And from this, would you say that at the very least this could describe a sexual encounter?”
It wasn’t like that, Edam protested silently, We only kissed and held each other for a while.
“Yes,” said the translator, “It is possible. It at the very least describes, well, an intimate physical relationship. I would not say that it’s so clear-cut as involving intercourse.”
“Thank you. That will be all for now. You may leave the stand.”
The judge leaned back heavily as the translator limped back into his seat.
“Now, clearly, we have our case here. This diary, which is in Edamosfa’s handwriting, which was found in her room, contains clear evidence of an emotional, physical and sexual affair of with Ana Metremte while she was under oath. So long as this evidence is true and not proven incorrect by any further evidence or testimony, it must be at least considered that Edamosfa is guilty of a total and egregious breach of her oath as an inquisitor.”
“However, I cannot yet rest my case. I call to the stand Inspector I-Merach-Lluar Miaza.”
Odh spoke up at once where Edam could not, sensing weakness in Danza’s tone.
“Your honor, this is a violation. Bringing the prosecution into the witness stand is a clear conflict of interest.”
Danza was more than ready for this, though. She replied wearily.
“I invoke the madman’s exception. Imera was one of the only witnesses to this event, and while the court is free to discount his credibility, I believe that the eye-witness testimony he presents is unique and relevant.”
The madman’s exception was rarely invoked, and rarely accepted. It ran on the simple logic and precedent that in absence of other evidence and testimony on a particular incident, any testimony that is offered could be brought to court so long as it was not clearly frivolous in nature. Even a madman’s. It also gave the judge the free and total ability to discount and remove an uncredible source. As a result, most cases that even brought it into the question saw the witness removed and the case promptly thrown out. There were other, good-minded uses for it, of course – cases where a victim was mentally unsound but could still testify were more difficult to throw out as a result.
Judge Tyeli leaned over and examined Imera. This was a different look – fearsome and severe in nature. Where Edam had simply been observed, it seemed that he was vivisecting Imera with his eyes. For a brief moment, she thought he might even raise his voice.
“You’ve already presented a very convincing set of evidence. If you don’t present something important to this case, your superiors will be hearing about it I-Merach-Lluar. Take the stand and keep it short.”
Edam’s nose twitched as Imera took the stand. He swore himself in to the judge quietly. He looked down at her for just a moment before Danza began her examination. A passing glance – of concern or contempt, she could not say.
“Imera, how would you describe your relationship with your cousin?”
“I would say that we are… congenially strained. It’s always been like this. I dearly love her, and she seems to dearly love me. When my uncle was raising her, I took it upon myself to help with her moral instruction. Even though she wasn’t of my blood, I still saw her as having great potential and I treated her as family. She works at being virtuous and pious, and I appreciate that, but often her foot slipped. That’s only human, but it’s still something that must be repented for and particularly when she was younger she struggled with repentance and owning up to her actions. That would strain any relation. I can’t say that I did not have some prejudice in seeing bad behavior out of her. That should be noted for the court. However, I also must testify because what I have seen of her in my reunion with her is deeply troubling. It fills my heart with concern and anguish to see her like this.”
His voice seemed to nearly break. It wasn’t an act – not all of it. Edam couldn’t help but feel her heart twinge a bit. She had tried to not let his disappointment stir her emotions up. Now, it was just like the old days when she had slipped up. She felt an urge to confess immediately, to simply give him what he wanted so that it would be over sooner.
She resisted it. She would not give him or Danza the satisfaction. They had dragged up her most embarrassing secrets – her innermost thoughts – and used them to slander her good name regardless of their truth. That made a bit of spite grow in her, and it was enough to stave off the guilt. Giving up so easily would not do her any good, and it wouldn’t do Verat any good either.
“To keep things short – what occurred on the night of Mr. Allatsha’s party?”
Edam nearly crumpled in her seat.
“We were on a case unrelated to this one. I had set up surveillance around and in the house of Mr. Allatsha by hex to aid in this operation. Edam made contact with one Manguyaat, who sits before us in the court. However, I noticed something odd soon after she did so – one of my hexes was destroyed. Because of the sensitive nature of the case, I did not immediately raise any alarm at this, instead choosing to observe with the other hexes more closely. When I next observed Edam and Manguyaat, they were entering into a stairwell with three others.”
“The angle was very long and the glimpse I caught was brief. However, I feel very strongly that I saw among them a woman who had the same height, physique and hair color as Ana Metremte. If this is true, it would indicate an ongoing and continuing affair between the two. That is all.”
“Thank you,” said Danza as Imera left the stand.
“I now call Manguyaat to the stand.”
Varna stood, and walked imperiously to the stand. She dressed plainly, in a dark gray Kolet dress. She took her seat. Judge Tyeli eyed her suspiciously.
“Do you, Manguyaat, swear to tell the truth in this court, under the full penalty of the law of the Sepulcher?”
She looked back at him with contempt.
“I, Varna, swear to tell the truth. Manguyaat is a war-name. A mask. I would not use that name for fear that I would be telling the court an untruth.”
“The court scribe will make a note that Varna is her name from this point forward,” said Tyeli, “Continue.”
“Varna,” said Danza, “Would you give an account, in full, of what happened on the night of Allatsha’s party?”
“Yes. I encountered Edamosfa in disguise, and thought her to potentially be one of the vampires present that I was looking for. After a brief moment of questioning, we realized that we were essentially allies. She looped me into the investigation, brought me to her cousin and Danza to inform them of this, and brought them back down.”
She smiled widely.
“We then tracked the vampires, and pursued three of them into an alley. Two escaped and one died there. It pleased me to see him burn. I used his bones to make a servitor.”
“And what would you say of the disturbance that Imera described?”
“I wouldn’t know anything about a disturbance. We went back down entirely undisturbed.”
She’s lying, thought Edam hopefully, She’s covering for me.
Danza looked at her quizzically. For a moment, she glanced back at Imera in doubt before refocusing.
“I- Are you absolutely certain of that?”
“I am. I can offer an alternate explanation, but it may be inflammatory to the public if I were to speak it.”
“The ecclesiastic court’s records are not widely available,” reminded Judge Tyeli, “Speak freely.”
“Very well. Mr. Allatsha’s wife is not exactly what one might call a faithful woman. Indeed, it seems that Mr. Allatsha has done a very poor job of keeping her, and so she has several affairs with both men and women at any given time. I have this information on good repute from several maids and serving-men whom she has bribed handsomely for silence.”
Judge Tyeli blinked. Even the court scribe stopped for a moment. Varna simply continued onward.
“Perhaps Imera spotted one such… the word you keep using is an encounter, now? Is it four encounters if it’s four people at once? Or do they all have to be directly touching for it to be an encounter?”
“That’s enough,” said Danza, “Thank you for-”
“If I may speak – I must say. This trial seems to be little more than a sham to me. Perhaps it is my pagan ways, my pagan feelings, but I have no deeper conviction in my heart than that Edam is a good woman with honest intentions, and to jail her, humiliate her-”
“That’s-” Attempted Danza.
“-Treat her as a pariah to her own religion for an accusation of a kiss is an injustice. I have heard often of the savagery of you men of the Sepulcher, and this brutality is not one that I will forget. I-”
“Order!” Commanded Tyeli as he slammed down his gavel. He only slammed it once, and she ceased her speech. It echoed through the room.
“You are dismissed, Varna,” said Judge Tyeli.
She bowed her head and quietly returned to her seat, her sly smile totally gone. Danza supported herself on the desk again. Tyeli looked down at Danza and Imera with contempt.
“Since you have, as promised, kept things brief, I will not be punishing you here and now or throwing out this case on the spot. If you had presented anything less than such consistent physical evidence, then I would have done so already. Imera, I am not bringing your testimony into consideration. Your superiors will be hearing about your unprofessional conduct, and I will leave any reprimand or punishment to them.”
Edam breathed a sigh of relief. That was one less thing to deal with. Danza supported herself on the desk once more.
“All the evidence and testimony available have been presented. The prosecution rests,” she said with an air of finality. She walked back to her chair quietly and sat, slumping slightly as she did. For better or worse, it was over.
Odh then spoke up.
“Your honor, I request a short recess so that I may speak with the defendant privately.”