A voice was calling my name.
I felt a sharp flash of pain, followed by a flare of bright light. When my eyes opened, I found that I was lying on my back in a small room. My Telmarian cloak was beside me, and holding it was-
She smiled at me, and set the cloak down on the bed that I lay upon. “How are you feeling?”
“Alright…” I sighed. In an instant, my mind snapped into focus, with enough suddenness to make me gasp. “Miranda…”
“Is alright, for the time being. She is off training for now.”
Éif’s face became sad. “Râegan… you know how the Council is…”
I let my head drop back down. “I understand. I should have expected this.” Failure.
I knew where I was now. This was where they kept prisoners. Granted, it was a bit nicer than an average prison cell, but I was still trapped here.
“I have your things…” Éif added. “I found them, while the others handled Karnax.”
I nodded my thanks, and she placed a bag, most likely containing my relics, next to the cloak.
“I’m worried… about what they might do to you,” she admitted.
“I’ll be alright…” I sighed. “I knew this was coming.”
“It’s not fair!” Éif protested. “You couldn’t have stopped him!”
“I am a Sivva, Éif. We must be the best. There is no room for failure. My actions, or rather lack of them, show weakness, an unforgivable act.”
“Râegan, how can you say that?!”
“I swore an oath, like every other Sivva before me has.”
My simple acceptance only seemed to make Éif even more frustrated. “Râegan, they should be able to make an exception! You weren’t able to control what was going on, you couldn’t have been able to.”
“And that is exactly why they believe I have failed,” I replied evenly.
Éif shook her head in wonder. “You’re so calm… how can you be that relaxed?!”
“Because I knew the risk,” I sighed. “I tried. But I could not. Perhaps it’s for the best.”
She shook her head angrily. “No! You’re the best Sivva they have! They can’t-”
“They can, and they will.”
Éif slammed her fist against my bed angrily. “No! That’s not fair! They can’t do that to you, just because of one event. Surely the other times…”
She sighed reluctantly. “I just… can’t let them do this to you! You’re one of my friends, blast it Râegan! I’m not about to see you lose your status as a Sivva, or worse, be banished for something you couldn’t control!”
“Éif, there is no reason for you to get yourself worked up over this.”
“Worked up?! Râegan, this is serious! This is a matter of whether you remain a Sivva or not!”
I held up one of my hands, and she quieted again.
“I have already accepted whatever punishment the Sivvas see fit to give,” I said calmly. “I will not have you worrying yourself over what is mine to be concerned about.”
“I’ll be worried about whatever I want! Râegan, they can’t do this to you!”
“Do not question their decisions, Éif!” I snapped.
She fell silent, expression shocked. “Râegan…”
“They are my superiors, and yours as well. You would do well to remember that,” I chastised her, my tone flat and emotionless.
“Râegan, it’s just…”
I shook my head. “Calm, Éif. I will face my punishment as I must.”
She shook her head. “It’s just… Wrong.”
“It’s not wrong.”
“It is totally wrong!”
There was a knock on the door, and I stood.
It was Dalz, a fellow Sivva.
“Yes?” I replied softly.
“It’s time.” The look on his face was one of great pity as he gestured at the door.
I started to go, but he stopped me. “Your magic things… you have to leave them here. A precaution. You understand, I assume…?”
I nodded, slipping the Telmarian cloak off. Then I walked back to the door. “My things will be looked after?”
“Nobody will touch them,” he promised.
I sighed. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, Râegan,” he sighed. “It’s the least I can do.”
I gave him a slight smile. “You don’t need to worry.”
He sighed. “You know how the council is…”
“Yes, I do.” I readied myself, then gestured to the hallway. “I’d best get this over with.”
Dalz shook his head sadly and we walked out into the hall, Éif following close behind.
Several others joined our grim procession as we walked through the halls. Nobody spoke. A few looked over at me, while others avoided my gaze entirely. I didn’t blame them. They knew I would be facing a serious punishment for failing the council and allowing myself to be held captive and tortured by the evil Sivva Karnax. And, according to the council of Shivax, that was a failure; possibly the worst thing to be reprimanded for.
I kept my head high and showed no fear as we walked towards the council room. To show weakness now… that would be the ultimate disgrace.
We reached the doors and the group of now twenty Sivvas parted, allowing Dalz, Éif, and I to walk forwards, up to the doors. Dalz reached up to knock, then froze, as if he was held there by some magic, unable to knock, unable to move back.
He doesn’t want this to happen either.
I stepped past him. “Allow me.”
I understood. I was the only one that was accepting of my fate.
I knocked firmly three times on the door. Slowly, soundlessly, they swung open.
I glanced back at Dalz who seemed to have regained the ability to move. He glanced over at me, and we started forwards again.
The council room of Shivax was an impressive and dominating sight. It almost took my breath away. I had only been in here once before, ten years ago. But even then, I had been outside the doors, peering through a small crack, not inside the actual hall of the council.
Now that I was here, I understood why they had made it so large. It reminded you that no matter how important you thought you were, there was always something greater, something more important.
There was a set of chairs off to the side of the long council table. We took our positions in the chairs. I stayed straight-backed, tense. Waiting.
Finally, the council entered and took their positions around the table. There was silence as the audience of Sivvas entered, and took their places. I saw Miranda beside another Sivva. She gave me a nervous wave. I nodded back.
Finally, the leader of the council, Miraza, stood.
I stood smoothly.
“Stand before the council.”
Keeping my head up, I walked to the center of the room.
“You understand the oaths of the Sivvas that you have broken?”
“Will you name them, or will we?”
Refusing to name the broken oaths would just be worse for me.
“And they are?”
I closed my eyes. “Revealing information to an enemy, no matter how minor, failure to control circumstances, allowing capture, and showing weakness.”
“Very good. And you understand this?”
I nodded. “I understand.”
She nodded approvingly. “Do you have anything to say in your defense?”
I took a deep breath. I felt all eyes on me. Did I? I had, after all, just accepted that I understood all the charges, and agreed. But I did have a last defense. I would do my best to convince them.
I would at least try.
It’s one thing to be accepting, and another to completely give up.
I would accept, but I will defend myself.
“First, allow me to address the charge of revealing information to an enemy,” I began. I took a deep breath before continuing. “I revealed no important information. I simply voiced the origin of a homing pulse located on myself. I never said a word of Zila, or Simar, or the council of Shivax. I understand that the act of revealing information shows weakness. But did I not hold out against torture by a Sivva who specialized in it, and say nothing?”
Murmurs throughout the council.
Miraza nodded. “Continue.”
“Secondly, allow me to address the charge of failure to control circumstances.” I sighed. “I have no defense for this charge.”
I glanced over at Éif. Her hand had gone over her mouth. I had just admitted to one charge.
“Now, allow me to address the charge of allowing capture. I did not allow it. I did not surrender, I fought back. Tell me, is honest defeat a charge?”
“Continue,” Miraza said again.
I took a deep breath. “Finally, allow me to address the charge of showing weakness.”
This one, I knew, was the one I needed to speak the most for; Sivvas could not afford to be weak.
“ How exactly did I show weakness? I resisted constantly, did not comply with their wishes, showed no pain, and attempted escape as often as I could. How, then, is that weakness? I held out against torture and fought against Karnax’s whims as long as I could. Even before I was recovered, I was devising plans for his downfall. I believe that, given more time, I could have orchestrated a successful escape on my own. It was simply your unexpected arrival that changed my plans. I would not call waiting weakness- I was simply biding my time until I was ready to escape.”
I bowed. “My defenses are complete.”
I didn’t return to my seat. We weren’t finished yet.
“Open your mind,” Miraza ordered.
This was the most difficult part of the trial. They would examine my mind for the events, deciding the seriousness of the crimes.
“Prepare to be examined,” she continued.
I felt another mind reach into my own. I didn’t try to fight it back. Instead, I let it search through my mind, picking through my memories o.
The searching of my mind was rough, more so than it should have been. The one searching my mind was Arril, a Sivva who was particularly vicious in cases like this. He was not overly fond of me, considering my youth to cloud my judgement.
I dropped to my knees as he shoved through my memories, locating them and studying them individually. White spots flashed before my eyes, but I remained silent.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Dalz place a warning hand on Éif’s arm. She was watching me with a panicked look in her eyes. I gritted my teeth. Caution, Éif. If she interrupted the process, the punishment would be severe. I shook my head slightly, doing my best to warn her. She relaxed slightly, though I was unsure if that was because of me, or because of Dalz’s quiet reassurances
Finally, the memory searching was done. The council spoke in whispers for a long time. Finally, Miraza looked back to me.
“Râegan Castaldi, we have decided on the final charges and punishments.”
I was not overly religious in any case, but I uttered a silent prayer. Please… whatever they do, don’t banish me…
“You will remain in the prisons for the time of two days, as a reminder. Then you will be free to continue as before.”
I bowed my head, silently relieved. Imprisonment for two days was a light punishment, compared to s been fortunate enough to have been spared this time.
“Now go. Dalz, escort her back.” Miraza’s eyes locked with mine. There was no emotion in them, no sympathy or or empathy, but also no anger. This was simply another punishment to her. Nothing of any importance. And in a way, that was a blessing. If she had taken more interest in this conflict, then I would most likely have been banished.
Miraza continued speaking. “During this period, you will be searched again to make sure that no mental effects have been placed in your mind. Also we will search for more information on Karnax.”
“Yes Ethrål,” I replied, using the term of respect for one’s superiors.
I felt a hand on my arm, and turned. It was Dalz. He jerked his head in the direction of the door, and I followed him out.