Scars on the
A story inspired by The Vision of Escaflowne
By Sarah Dove
'All rise for Justice Keller!'
A short, worried-looking man entered the courtroom, flanked by two bailiffs. There was a general murmur and clatter as various officials, spectators and the people whose lives and happiness were at stake got to their feet. The royal party, on a high dais, remained seated. They were very splendid in regalia. They even had Chid up there, looking confused and cross.
'Stand up straight,' Dryden murmured to Celena. He was the only person who was allowed to sit with her, and she was a little in awe of him because he was dressed in a lawyer's black robes, clean-shaven and with his hair bound in a neat queue at the back of his neck, not near the top of his head.
'I always do,' she muttered back. She followed Justice Keller with her eyes as he walked to the tiered desk at which he would sit. It seemed bizarre that such a little man should have the power or life or death over her, depending on his decision. She felt light-headed and unreal today. She had been woken early, got dressed in a half-dream, without noticing new clothes had been laid out for her, new clothes of her own, then eaten a hearty breakfast and thrown it up again ten minutes later.
Justice Keller sat down and began fussing with a fat folder of papers. Everyone else sat down and started talking. A herald on the royal dais stood up; everyone else shut up.
'Your attention for his majesty the King,' said the herald. Down he sat; up King Aston stood.
'My people,' he said, liked the sound of it, gazed round at all of them benignly and said it again. 'My people, we are here today in order that justice may be done; that reparation may be made for unspeakable wrong. We are here to restore order and good governance to our part of the world; to see to it that Asturia sleeps soundly at night once more.'
'Is anyone going to believe I'm that bad?' Celena asked Dryden.
'Hope not,' he said. 'Ssh now.'
'Not only Asturia has suffered in the recent troubles,' King Aston went on. 'We recognise our brother of Fanelia, who has come to bear witness in this matter.' He waved graciously towards a seat at the end of the dais, which Celena had not noticed before because it was almost behind a curtain. The occupant stood up; a slight, dark-haired youth in what looked like ceremonial armour. It was too big for him; his thin neck looked fragile coming out of the great metal shoulders of it. He did not look scrawny or foolish, though. It was something about how he held himself.
Celena found she had stopped breathing, and had to consciously make herself start again. 'That's Van Fanel!' she hissed to Dryden.
'It doesn't look good if we keep whispering,' he replied, hardly moving his lips.
'I didn't know he was going to be here!'
'I'm a little surprised he came. It's not as though he isn't busy at home.'
King Aston kept his hand extended towards Van as though he expected him to say something in return, but after a moment, when nothing was forthcoming, dropped it and continued as though he had merely paused for effect.
'As we face and conquer the demons of our past,' he said, 'we make ourselves ready for a bright and glorious future.'
The speech chugged on. Celena tried to look at Van without being too obvious about it. Seeing him had given her a jolt unpleasantly like guilt. Dilandau had hated Van so intensely that he began to look forward to seeing him, just for the pleasure of trying to hurt him. It had been a true obsession. He hadn't even known Van when he had burned his kingdom. Not long afterward Van's sword had slashed his face and there had been no going back. It was so personal; it was a passion. My God, Celena thought. It's lucky they were never in a room alone. She realised she was touching her face, running a finger along the line where the scar had been. For a moment she could almost feel it again; the thickened tissue; the strange looseness at the corner of the eye where there had been nerve damage. I don't hate him. I don't want to hurt him. But oh, he must hate me. He and Allen nearly killed each other. Two kings against me
He was such a thin boy; his arms and legs, she remembered, were like sticks, but there was wiry muscle in there too. He had taken off his helmet, sat now with his head turned listening to something Millerna was saying. The shape of the back of his neck, for some reason, almost brought tears to her eyes. So damn' vulnerable. He was about her own age, she knew, but shorter; most of his growth seemed to have gone into eyes and hair. Maybe Millerna is putting in a good word for me. Explaining to him. Would she do that, up there? How much authority does he have in the case?
Van turned his head again, looked directly down towards her and Dryden. Why am I reacting like this? I feel as though I'm pinned to a board. I don't even have any real feelings about this person, do I?
King Aston brought his speech to a close and sat down to polite applause. Justice Keller cleared his throat and shuffled his papers.
'Who represents the individual known as Celena Schezar?' he asked. He had a very slight lisp; it just added a sort of whistle to his sibilants.
'I do, my lord,' said Dryden, getting up and bowing.
'Who represents the Crown?'
'I do, my lord,' said a pale, heavy-browed woman on the opposite side of the court. Dryden said to Celena, again without moving his lips, 'She was in my year. Kept spelling "plaintiff" wrong.'
It's nice of him to try to make me feel better.
'Please present your opening arguments,' said Justice Keller, his eyes fixed on his papers.
Pay attention! This is about my life!
'Our argument is simple and self-evident, my lord,' said Eyebrows. 'That Celena Schezar and Dilandau Albatou are identical, and that Celena Schezar must and shall stand trial for war crimes committed under her previous identity. We aim to prove this beyond doubt, in the service of justice and the protection of Asturia.' She smiled once round the courtroom, switched it off and sat down.
Justice Keller jerked his head toward Dryden, who cleared his throat before beginning. He had done something to his voice; always deep, it now had a sort of dark-brown burr to it. It was resonant and mellifluous. It oozed sincerity without sounding oozy.
'Taking the contrary position, my lord, I aim to prove to the satisfaction of all present that the identity 'Dilandau Albatou' was an unnatural creation of science gone awry, that Celena Schezar is a separate personality, and that the young woman here present is innocent of wrongdoing. Indeed, she cannot even rightly be said to have participated in the war. Submitting her to the strain of a trial, or punishing her, would be not only pointless but unjust and cruel, unworthy of Asturia.' He bowed his head and resumed his seat.
'The Crown may call its first witnesses,' Justice Keller said, turning over a page. 'I wish to remind the advocates that emotive terms like "cruel" are inappropriate in this courtroom; we are concerned only with the question of whether a trial is viable. I also take a dim view of leading terms like "self-evident." If the case were self-evident a hearing would not be required. Proceed.'
Well, I suppose if he doesn't like either of them it's better than if he just didn't like Dryden
'The Crown calls Van Slanzar de Fanel,' said Eyebrows. An interested murmur ran around among the spectators. Van left his helmet on his seat and made his way to the witness stand. He looked very old-fashioned; mediaeval, Celena remembered. He was sworn in and stood waiting to be questioned.
'Your Majesty, please describe, in your own words, the invasion of your country on the day of your inauguration.' Eyebrows stood back, and Van began to speak.
It was a story of horror and confusion. When he came to the death of the old knight Balgus, he stopped for a moment and blinked hard before continuing. It was not a studied performance; he simply told the story. Celena wanted to sink down in her chair till no-one could see her. It was awful. The people responsible should be punished. Most of them, of course, were dead. Many of them Van had killed himself. A memory of Dilandau's came back to her, how like a demon he had been, and she felt a cold wetness growing under her arms, while her hands pinched at each other under the table.
When Van described how he, Kanzaki Hitomi and Escaflowne had been transported to the swamp borderlands by a column of light, Justice Keller lifted his head and looked at him over the rims of his glasses.
'Can this claim be substantiated?' he asked.
'There are reliable witnesses to similar occurrences in the presence of the girl Kanzaki Hitomi,' Eyebrows said.
'Rather a pity that no-one can produce the girl Kanzaki Hitomi,' he said. 'In any case, how is this testimony to the purpose, Crown Counsel?'
'Our intention is to expose the magnitude of the crimes of Dilandau Albatou,' Eyebrows said.
'I'm aware of the magnitude of the crimes of Dilandau Albatou,' Justice Keller said. 'I have detailed and well-corroborated reports of them here in this folder in front of me, which I assure you I have examined thoroughly prior to this hearing. In fact, he burned several downtown buildings belonging to me. Further testimony on this point is redundant, since we are not attempting to determine whether Albatou was a war criminal, merely whether Celena Schezar can be held responsible for his crimes. I had hoped not to have to reiterate this many times.'
'May I continue to examine the witness, my lord?'
'As long as it's relevant.' The judge went back to looking at his papers.
Eyebrows turned back to Van, who was looking mildly annoyed. 'Your Majesty, had you much personal contact with Dilandau Albatou?'
'Not many conversations. I fought him on several occasions. But the judge said '
'Were you present on the day of the Battle of All Nations?'
'Had you a clear and unobstructed view of the battle?'
'As much as anyone did. I was in Escaflowne, but there's pretty good visibility from the control chamber.'
'Were you near Sir Allen Schezar or his guymelef Scherazade?'
'Yes. I was fighting with him.' Van looked ashamed.
'Please clarify, were you fighting with him as a partner, or with him as your opponent?'
'As my opponent.'
'Was Dilandau Albatou in the vicinity at the time?'
'Yes, in his Oreades.'
'How did you know it was him?'
'No-one else had a red Oreades.'
'Did Sir Allen speak to you about Albatou?'
'What did he say?'
'He said "Dilandau is my sister." He was asking me not to fight him. He'd found out that the sorcerors of Zaibach had turned his missing sister Celena into Dilandau.'
The murmur did its thing again. 'Don't worry,' Dryden murmured. 'That could work for us.'
'He said "Dilandau is my sister,"' Eyebrows repeated. 'They were the same person.'
'I don't think that's what he meant,' Van said. 'Celena had been turned into Dilandau. When she turned back into herself she stopped fighting.'
'When Zaibach was on the verge of total defeat, Dilandau resumed the form of Celena Schezar and ran to Sir Allen for protection?'
'That's ... well, that's one way of saying it. But you're making it sound calculated.'
'Were you privy to the thought process leading to this action?'
'Of course not. But it didn't seem that way to me.'
'Thank you, Your Majesty. I have no further questions at this time.'
Van did not leave the stand, although Eyebrows seemed to have dismissed him. 'Look, I haven't told you everything,' he said.
'Thank you, Your Majesty. You may return to your seat,' said Justice Keller. Van looked mutinous, but went. Celena watched him all the way back to his seat. If he had come hoping for justice, he seemed disappointed. He looked down at her again, and seemed puzzled. She remembered she was looking at him, and hastily looked away.
It's almost like well, I don't feel attracted to him. He just seems to have a power over me. I know who I love. Some old obsession of Dilandau's does not change how I feel.
Eyebrows turned to the judge and said 'In view of your earlier comments, my lord, I would like to proceed to an examination of forensic evidence.'
'Please elaborate on that statement.' Justice Keller still seemed more absorbed in his papers than in the conversation.
'We have reliable testimony that Dilandau Albatou and Celena Schezar were seen in the same place at almost the same time. This strongly suggests identity. The Crown calls for a physical examination to support this view.'
'Objection!' cried Dryden. 'My learned friend is surely not suggesting that Celena Schezar is a man in woman's clothing. When I cross-examine his majesty, and other witnesses of whom my learned friend appears not to be aware, they will testify that Albatou and Celena were not physically the same.'
'In that case, an examination can only serve to further your case,' Justice Keller said. 'By whom is this examination to be performed?'
'I request Princess Millerna Sara Aston, an experienced physician with a thorough knowledge of this case,' Dryden said before Eyebrows could speak.
'Given that my learned friend is the Princess' estranged husband, and that the Princess is known to have given considerable aid to Celena Schezar since she was taken into custody, I would suggest that his nomination is not entirely impartial,' said Eyebrows, and gave Dryden a dirty look.
'Noted. Who do you suggest instead?'
'A committee of ladies of the court, women of irreproachable reputation and sound education. Here are the names of those who have volunteered.' Eyebrows put a slip of paper on the judge's desk. He picked it up and looked it over.
'I'll allow it. The examination will be carried out as soon as possible; I call a recess of court until the committee's report is ready.'
The judge took off his spectacles; everyone started to talk again. Celena noticed Van speaking to Millerna in an agitated manner; Millerna was glaring at the Crown Counsel.
'I am not going to be pawed over by those old cats; I've met some of them,' she said.
'We're going to co-operate,' Dryden said. 'You've got nothing to hide, after all. Nothing to be afraid of! Keller's right, this can help our case. I can show when I cross-examine Van that that wasn't the whole story, and your brother tells me he and Princess Eries witnessed you, in broad daylight, change into Albatou; that it was involuntary and there was a change in personality. Right? So don't worry. Grin and bear it.'
'But it's humiliating,' Celena protested.
'Well, which would you rather be, humiliated or dead?'
A bailiff presented himself at Celena's side, ready to lead her away.
It was a big bathroom, really, but the white tile had clearly suggested an operating theatre to someone, and they had tried to make it look as official as possible. There was a table spread with a disinfected white cloth; there were little boxes with rubber gloves. The bathtub against the wall spoiled the effect a bit. Celena stood before a line-up of well-dressed, middle-aged women. Front and centre was Lady Kerell.
'You will undress,' she said. Celena looked around for a screen or partition. 'Here,' added Lady Kerell.
Nothing to hide, nothing to be afraid of. Of course they'll look at me, it's an examination. To hell with them. I can handle this, it's just my body. My good old body which I've never been able to depend on.
Her new clothes were sober and smart, a plum-coloured dress with the usual white vandyke collar. Fortunately, the dress undid down the front; she could manage by herself. Shoes, stockings, petticoat, pants, camisole, stupid brassière. She was down to her skin now and the bathroom was cold.
'You will lie on the table for the examination.' Lady Kerell was pulling on rubber gloves; they all were. Playing doctor. I bet they feel so important. Celena climbed on the table and lay stiffly on her back, ankles crossed and arms folded over her chest.
'Arms at your sides.' One woman had a clipboard and a pencil. 'The subject is externally female,' Lady Kerell told her, and she took it down dutifully. 'Bruise on right breast, otherwise sound.' The subject. That's me. Externally female ... now that sounds special. It really helped to think sarcastic thoughts.
'Do you menstruate?'
'I have, once, since returning to normal.' Lady Kerell looked very dubious about the 'normal.' 'I haven't had time for a second cycle. We were surprised the first one came on so soon.' Bodies, bodies, bodies, it's all bodies I'm safe in my mind
'Oh, come on. You can see I'm a girl. Look at the bone structure ... hips.'
Celena submitted very reluctantly. This was really sick. A medical examination was one thing, but it was the power Lady Kerell was concerned with, the power to pin her down as a specimen and find her faulty, guilty. She was reaching a level of embarrassment where it was difficult not to cry, and closed her eyes as insurance. They snapped open again when she felt a hand where no hand had a right to be without permission.
'Subject is internally normal,' Lady Kerell said. She moved her fingers; it hurt. It wasn't just that the area was still tender; fear and loathing had made Celena's muscles tense and tight and her body was extremely unhappy at the intrusion. 'Subject is not virgo intacta.'
'Is that even a medical phrase? Do you do this to a lot of people, you dirty old bitch?' She saw to her horror that the clipboard woman was writing it down. 'Hey! You have no right to put that down, it's private! This isn't about that!'
'The information may be relevant. We have a duty to provide a full and complete report.' Lady Kerell was stripping off her gloves now, looking well pleased. Celena sat up. She felt shamed and hurt and sick. No-one should have done that to her. It was worse than when her own body let her down, it was an invasion from outside.
'It's private,' she repeated angrily, uselessly. Lady Kerell just smiled. 'Look, you ... look, I'll ' Inspiration struck. She slid down from the table, stood up straight. She still wanted to cover her chest, but that could look defensive. She was attacking. 'You seem like a woman who knows things. I expect you know something about Princess Marlene?'
Lady Kerell looked at her coldly. 'I attended her highness when she first went to live in Freid. I attended the birth of her son. My experience of midwifery and female anatomy is why I volunteered for this duty.'
'You know,' Celena said, and she tried to do the special significant look, the Dilandau look that reminded people of what they wanted to forget. She wasn't sure it quite came off right. 'I think a few people know, don't they? A select circle. But it's not public knowledge. It would be too embarrassing. You don't want to admit messy things like that happen. I could make it public knowledge. Even if I go down. People always like to hear dramatic last words from a gallows, and I have a carrying voice.' Go down? What do I sound like? But is it working? The side of Lady Kerell's mouth twitched.
'So you respect my privacy, and I'll respect the poor late princess's. You just have your woman there rewrite the report, and leave out your prissy little virgo intacta.'
'A murderer and a lunatic as a man; a harlot and a blackmailer as a woman,' Lady Kerell said. 'I cannot say I am at all surprised.'
'I've got no problem with what you say about Dilandau, and I really don't care what you say about me to my face. But I'm not going to have you stand up and embarrass me and people I care about.'
'Embarrass people you care about?' Lady Kerell spat. She put her face very close to Celena's. 'Yet you would betray your brother to lifelong shame; you make a threat about it merely to save your own worthless name. I despise you the more for it. Put your clothes on.' She reached for the clipboard and tore off the top sheet; crumpled it and threw it at Celena. She caught it one-handed and stared her out. The court ladies left in a body.
When the door had shut behind the last of them, Celena very carefully sat down on the floor. The tiles were horribly cold but she needed to sit. She looked at the report sheet, then carefully tore it into strips and posted them through a drainage grate in the floor.
'It's a good thing you didn't call my bluff.'
Dryden looked up from his writing, in the small office behind the courtroom he had been allocated for preparation, as a bailiff brought Celena in. She looked sulky and pale. The bailiff left them and she sank down in the chair facing his desk.
'You look upset. Did something go wrong?'
'It was awful. They were all looking at me ... looking at me the wrong way, I mean. I wouldn't have minded any of it if it had been Millerna, she would just have been medical about it. They didn't even warn me when they were going to ... well, I just think that old cow should have said something before getting stuck up me to the elbow.' She was exaggerating, of course, but it relieved her feelings.
'I thought there might be an internal exam, but I didn't realise it would be so distressing for you,' he said, looking at her with concern.
'They were all enjoying it, like this was part of punishing me already.'
'We can make a complaint, of course, but I don't know how far it will get under the circumstances. They'll all back each other up, naturally, so it's your word against theirs. The worst part is they can even say they were being kind of you ... instead of subjecting you to examination by a male doctor, for example.'
Celena found she had nothing to say. She couldn't even cry properly; a couple of tears leaked out, but she felt numb on the outside, unconnected to her indignation and uproar inside.
'Please don't cry,' Dryden said, coming round the desk, putting his arm round her shoulders. 'My clients have nothing to cry about, I promise you. You know, I once got a complete murderer off scot-free. The clinching evidence that he'd done it only came to light a couple of weeks after a verdict had been reached. Of course, I felt horrible, in fact that was why I gave up law, but I still got him off! Imagine what I can do for you, who haven't done anything.' He added the other arm and patted her back. Celena gave up and leaned against him. He had an odd smell like beeswax, mixed with tobacco. She saw from the tail of her eye that he was looking down at her fondly. Oh, for God's sake, don't say this is what men like, weakness and tears. He doesn't like me like that, does he? Isn't it unprofessional? Isn't he still sort of in love with Millerna? If he does, how do I get rid of him nicely? I don't want anyone but Gaddes to feel that way. Is it disloyal to him to accept comfort from anyone else? In any case, she didn't want to go on leaning on him. She wiped her face on her sleeve and sat up properly.
'All right now?'
'Better.' It's just kindness, it has to be. I'm not even sure why Gaddes likes me; there can't be anything that would attract Dryden.
'Good!' He returned to his seat with a comfortable alacrity that rather startled Celena; obviously it had just been kindness, and professional kindness at that. She felt vaguely slighted, even while relieved. 'Now, when we get back in there and we've gotten through the ladies' report, I'm going to call Princess Eries. She's our ace in the hole ... an irreproachable witness who's seen you change and who knows you're not the same.'
The court ladies' report was received with slight disappointment by the spectators and impassivity by Justice Keller. Probably everyone had been hoping to hear about a hidden extra limb, or hermaphroditism, or something. In Asturian courts, testimony alternated, two by two, between the prosecution and the defense. It was held to be fairer, and also less boring. When Lady Kerell and the Crown Counsel were both back in their seats, Dryden rose.
'I call Princess Eries Aria Aston,' he said. Murmur, murmur. Celena was beginning to wish she had earplugs. The sad, pale princess rose from her seat on the dais and approached the witness stand. Sworn in, she stood with her head bowed for a minute, then raised it and looked gravely at Dryden, who smiled encouragingly.
'Am I correct in my belief that you were in the company of Sir Allen Schezar on the day when he brought his sister, who had recently and mysteriously reappeared, to the Pallas cemetery to visit their mother's grave?'
'Can you see the same girl in this courtroom today?'
'Yes. She's sitting beside you in the purple dress.'
'Can you describe for us her behaviour?'
'She seemed very distant. Allen said she had completely lost her memory ... she had found her way home, but did not seem capable of speech. He behaviour was somewhat childlike; she had to be supervised. There did not seem to be anything wrong with her physically. I saw her catch a butterfly with one hand. She crushed it and watched the fragments blow away.' Murmur, murmur.
'Er, yes,' said Dryden. 'Childish behaviour; loss of memory, inability to distinguish right from wrong. Would that be a good summary?'
'It was a very deliberate action,' said Eries. 'I did not have a clear view of her face, but I thought she was smiling. I was struck by the thoughtless cruelty of it.' Murmur, murmur.
'What happened then?'
'While Allen and I were talking, she resumed the form of Dilandau Albatou. She got physically bigger ... the shirt she was wearing was not so loose. Allen was disturbed by this and called her name; she replied 'Who's Celena?' Then she called a name; I think it was 'Juka.' A Zaibach guymelef decloaked in front of us. It had been hiding in the cemetery the whole time, waiting for her. She ran to it and they disappeared together.'
'Your testimony sounds a little confused to me, Your Highness,' Dryden said. 'You say that Celena turned into Dilandau Albatou. Why do you continue to refer to "she" when Albatou was male?'
'She resumed the form of Dilandau Albatou,' Eries repeated. The spectators were getting excited, and even Justice Keller was watching what was going on as well as listening.
'Yes, but that is not the same person.' Dryden was beginning to sweat.
'I only saw one person,' Eries said. 'If Celena had disappeared and Dilandau had materialised, I would say I had seen two.'
'But would you not say that the physical change was accompanied by a change in personality? That Dilandau did not seem aware of being Celena? Hence his question to you.'
'I cannot say that,' the princess said calmly. The murmur rose to a gabble. Celena felt as though a hand was twisting her heart. She could not breathe. She turned to find Allen, to see how he was reacting to this treachery. Lady Kerell was beside him, whispering to him. Oh shit. She began to look around for ways to escape; it was impossible, but she could not bear this any more.
'Order, please, order,' said Justice Keller. 'Don't make me ring the bell.'
Is she under her father's thumb? I thought she was on our side! She said Allen could count on her discretion! Why would she do this?
'I interpreted "Who's Celena?" as a mocking reference to how she had fooled us,' Eries was saying.
'You can't say that!' Allen burst out, leaping to his feet. Everyone sitting around him turned to stare. It was getting good now.
'Sit down and shut up or I'll have you removed,' said Justice Keller.
'I believe it can be proved that Dilandau Albatou was disguised as Celena Schezar,' Eries said. She just kept talking; even above the chatter that kept breaking out she could be clearly heard. 'I believe that this transformation was unstable and that the Guymelef was waiting to remove him from the situation should it fail, as it did. I believe that the disguise was assumed to allow him to spy on us. I believe that we are not safe as long as he remains disguised among us. I believe he can be exposed and the transformation reversed.'
'Impossible,' Dryden snapped. 'You're telling half the truth, based on a partial understanding of what happened. Celena Schezar was turned into Dilandau Albatou as a young child. Under the unusual strains of the war the transformation, which I believe the sorcerors of Zaibach termed a fate alteration, failed, causing her to revert to her true form. What you saw was the restoration of the disguise, involuntary on Celena's part.'
'Only you are saying so,' said Eries.
'I'm saying so too!' Allen shouted.
'Shut up,' Justice Keller said. 'If you have a statement to make it can be taken if Mr Fassa calls you as a witness. Otherwise, hold your tongue.'
'We will prove it here in this courtroom,' Eries said.
'That's enough, Eries,' King Aston interrupted. 'It isn't time for that.' He got to his feet but had to sit down again quickly; he was not strong and standing for his speech earlier seemed to hae exhausted him.
'We have to do it now!' she snapped back. 'It's going to be too late soon! I've kept putting them off for you but they're right, soon induced change will be impossible!'
'What the hell are you talking about?' Dryden bellowed. Celena wondered how far she could get, running, when everyone was distracted. She rather thought the courtroom doors were locked.
'Sit down, Eries, you don't know what you are talking about,' the King said sternly. 'She's clearly hysterical.'
'Don't dismiss me like that! I've done everything for you! You always want to play both sides and see how it turns out, but you can't do that now! Do you really think Basram are just going to go back to how things were, that they're not going to try to dominate us? We need weapons! We need power they don't have! The only greater power is fate. We have Zaibach's most lethal warrior. We can make him fight for us. We can make more like him! If he dies, we can remake him ... we have the technology! We don't have to see how things turn out. We can change fate!' Eries was truly agitated now. She gripped the edge of the witness box with white-knuckled hands and screamed at her father. 'Don't take this away from me!'
'Clear the court, clear the court,' Justice Keller shouted. 'I'm holding you, you and you in contempt. Clear the court!' He grabbed a bell that stood on his desk and clanged it vigorously. The spectators broke into a roar.
'Bugger this,' Dryden said. He grabbed Celena's hand. 'Let's just get out of here. I don't know what's going on any more.' They made a run for it, jostling through the audience, past the startled bailiffs who were hauling the heavy doors open to let out the crowd. Corridors flashed by; Celena could only think of running, running away. That was the great thing. To did not bear thinking about at the moment. There was a door that opened on sunlight; they were running, running out onto the Plaza of Justice. Bailiffs followed them; spectators, officials, Allen, Van, Chid, Millerna, Eries. King Aston had been left behind, gasping in his throne.
Give me a sword, I can fight them, give me a sword. You're first, Lady Bloody Kerell. Celena was going faster than Dryden now, dragging him. She made it to the statue of Winged Justice in the centre of the plaza, dropped Dryden's hand, scrambled up the plinth, stood with her back to Justice, ready for them all. I wish it was Gaddes behind me. Oh God - no.
There was pain in her joints. Her legs buckled and she almost slid off the plinth. Cold sweat under her arms, down her back, in her hair. It was springing out in beads. Nausea, her mouth filling with sour spit, stomach convulsing. She looked out at the crowd, dizzily. Dryden was panting at the foot of the statue; Allen stood just behind him, staring up at her, seeming afraid to go further. His ambivalence hurt her more than anything. Eries stepped forward, smiling all over her face. She had a beauty right now that no-one present had seen before; it was always hidden, always restrained. Now a high colour was in her cheeks and her eyes flashed fire. 'We can change fate!' she proclaimed.
'Change fate!' Her words echoed back from other throats. On the far side of the plaza, the air rippled and split as a Stealth Manteau parted. It had been draped over something, like a tarpaulin. Black-cloaked figures stepped out of its shadow, dragging it forward, uncovering machinery, shining tubes of glass and matt black metal.
Celena felt as though her skin was splitting.
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