A Judgment of Ghosts (Day 711)
“Leave the dead to the quiet of the grave!” wailed Dr. Grauzeng. Or, rather, what was left of her, cradled in a basket of leaden words. “There is no sorrow like the sorrow of visiting the broken remnants of my life!”
“Sorry, sorry!” hissed Osoth. “Just a few questions and we’ll have you on your way again.”
“Ask. We must answer.” said Bthera hollowly. Tarcuna hid her face in the curl of my tail and sobbed. I carefully didn’t move.
“Who killed you?” asked Osoth.
“That one, and that,” Dr. Grauzeng said, pointing to Carlio and another defendant. “My house burned. I ran to get Lyre, giving him such shelter with my body as I could from the kerosene-scented flames. Those two men shot us with Davrok-33 automatic guns as we came out the front door.”
“Lyre lives. I healed him,” I told her. I should know better than to try to comfort the living dead.
“He lives. I do not. Will you avenge me, monster? Will any one of you?” she cried, surveying the courtroom.
“The claws of the law, they shall be your claws! The breath of justice, it shall be your breath!” roared Llredh.
“It must be. I have no other breath,” said Dr. Grauzeng. Meaning life’s breath, I suppose, which isn’t what Llredh meant at all.
Carlio laughed. “I’m sure that’s some sort of illusion.” Truthfully, though wrong.
“Those are the real spirits of the women you murdered.”
He shook his head. “Silly games. Do you really think that the population of Trest will accept this trial? All your evidence is dragon magic, dragon senses, dragon proof. Nothing is real here.” Truthfully. Wrong, since it’s all real, but he believed it.
We asked a few more questions of the ghosts, and let Osoth return them to death.
Afterwards, Tarcuna asked us, “Why didn’t you just ask the husband, or even the two children? They saw as much, or more.”
Nrararn blinked at her. “I didn’t think of that.”
Osoth smiled. “It was merely an excuse to return me, however briefly, to my conjugial duties.”
So, the judgment was easy to make: “You are all guilty of some quite wicked crimes, arson and murder and attempted murder.”
“You are too,” said Carlio. “Far more than us.” Truthfully, yes.
“The torment and the death, they shall be yours!” roared Llredh the sentence-maker. “Nrararn’s subtle torment, that shall come first!” And it was done as he commanded. I didn’t watch the torment — it was probably worse for the children as for the murderers. Llredh killed them slowly, ripping them apart with his claws. That seemed appropriate.
Ythac and I flew through the upper air, chasing the edge of Eclipse. No travel spells, we were just flying and chatting.
“I’m glad you got them convicted at least,” he said.
“Was there much doubt of it? What chance to some hoven criminals have against four dragons? Or even one, if he’s got working veriception?” I asked.
“That’s just the problem. I don’t have enough dragons. I could employ all twenty-two of us, full time, just truthforcing at trials,” he said, lashing his tail as much as one can lash one’s tail and still fly straight.
I glanced at him; he was in the middle of a smouldering sort of fury. “You have that many trials?”
“Oh, yes. There’s a gross of revolutionary groups opposing me. Two gross … a grand … sometimes I think that every soldier I’ve fired from the army has started his own revolutionary group, and half the civilians too. Most of them aren’t doing anything, or not very much. The gross of them are doing things. Wicked things, too, from a hoven’s point of view as much as mine.”
“Like what? I haven’t heard much of that, in Damma, and you don’t write about it.”
He fumed more, clots of darkness slithering over his chin. “I hate to scramble your mating flight any more. I’ve asked too many favors of you as it is. Some few murders: my chief of gendarmes in Churry City, is one you’ve met. Two of the scientists on the Twelve Troubles Report. Now Dr. Grauzeng. Hers was the bloodiest; usually they just go after the cunyas.”
“That’s a very rude word. Tarcuna kicks me every time I say it.”
“Apologies. Usually they just go after my supporters. Well, I only have one supporter, that’s Llredh…”
I hooted, “Me! Tarcuna!”
“Fine. I have three supporters, and I am very fond of all three of you. Usually they go after collaborators.”
“Why don’t you just find them and deal with them?”
He did something I have never seen before: he turned his head and breathed a wide cone of darkness at Perstra. It didn’t get all the way there — he’s a careful and Uplifty sort of drake — but I had to stare. “I did. I did my part anyways, I gave the names and addresses of the murderers to the gendarmes and sent them out arresting. The gendarmes did not do a very good job. They arrested the rebels wrong.”
“How do you arrest someone wrong?”
“Kicking them, is a good way. A hoof to the belly of an un-resisting criminal, and the arrest is invalid in the eyes of Trestean law. There was rather an epidemic of belly-kicking. So Llredh changed that part of the law, and there was an epidemic of mishandling evidence instead in a dozen other ways. If a dragon’s involved, the case goes right — as long as the dragon’s actually in the room. As soon as the dragon flies off to get some much-deserved time with his husband, the hovens are suddenly as clumsy as Tultamaan giving a hand job.”
“They don’t want to be ruled by dragons,” I said, brilliantly.
“It’s not their choice,” he snapped.
“No,” I said.
“Not mine either,” he said.
“Llredh thought it would be a good idea.”
“At this point, it’s as much a matter of honor as anything. I don’t think I’m going to get much respect from any dragon for a grand of years even if Trest works brilliantly. If I marry another drake and we fail at our attempt to hold a country … we might as well go live on Plurdat or somewhere else that nobody will ever want to follow,” he said.
“My poor trapped friend. I’ll be helping you, as best I can,” I said.
“I need you vastly, I’m afraid.”
And then Virtuet escaped Curset, and we turned back to his entanglement of a capitol city.