Art by the author using Midjourney.
The room was a perfect square, equally distant in all dimensions. Stones—also all of equal sizes—made up the walls. Two tall windows, equally distant from one another and the corners of the room, were recessed on one side. Each window showed half of a scale, perfectly balanced. Within the room were four chairs, and those could not be less similar. On one side sat three cushioned chairs with high backs, each with the carving of a balance and raised off the ground on a dais. A table, dotted with papers, sat in front of them. On the other side of the table sat a plain and well-worn wooden chair. This is where Surt sat.
Surt decided that his lone chair was purposely the less comfortable of the four. It was rigid, cold, and not quite the right size for a dwarf. But he expected that of the Vigilants. Across from the table sat three magistrates, high ranking officials that held considerable sway over the lives of others. In today's instance, their decision was about the life or death of the accused Sana Eillar. To Surt's left sat Magistrate Keisha Vantor, a white-haired human with a stern, narrow face. Her grimace was certainly meant to be intimidating, but Surt ignored it—he had seen sterner faces in his time. Next to her sat a Caithan named Theddsharr. His black fur was spotted with gray. Surt wasn't sure if it had always been that way, or was a sign of the magistrate's age. One of the few Caithan that Surt knew of in the Vigilants, Theddsharr had served for a long time since he first escaped slavery. Surt knew that he had a history of being bloodthirsty during his time as a constable, but he could also be the most open to the plight of the accused—something Surt hoped would help Sana. Finally, on the right, Magistrate Ayham Tahir. Tahir did not look as old as the others, but that was a benefit of his elven blood that helped hide almost a century's lifespan. As the magistrate with the longest service, Tahir took the lead.
"Commander Surt," he began looking up from his papers, "Your request, although not unheard of, is a little unusual."
Surt decided long ago to forego the flowery language that he heard a lot of barristers use. "Which part?" he asked, "The one where we don't tell anybody that the accused was a beard's length away from poisoning everyone in Wyvern Towers, or the part where we show leniency for the crime and don't execute her for it?"
Magistrate Vantor steepled her fingers together, looking down at Surt over her manicured fingertips while the caithan Magistrate Theddsharr spoke. "The breach in the sewers will be handled by the imperials. We have been assured that their lack of appropriate security measures will be remedied. It is not of our concern. But about the crime..."
"A life for life is the common penance," Magistrate Vantor interjected.
Surt responded, "It's also common to temper punishment with mercy." He matched her gaze. "And wisdom."
Magistrate Vantor continued. "And then where is the wisdom in allowing the culprit her life?" the magistrate asked. "We have a person that has the ability to kill hundreds. And would have done so, if not for our timely intervention."
"She also has the ability to save hundreds. I've shown you sworn statements from The Solari and numerous residents of Oldkeep about her healing gifts. The same gifts that can harm, she has previously used to heal."
"Biased sources, commander," Magistrate Vantor retorted with a pointing finger.
Theddsharr interjected with a glance to his left. "Biased because her healing skill helped them when others could or would not, perhaps."
"And is it correct, Commander, that Sana was the source of Bane that was used by Hammerfall?" Magistrate Vantor continued, "How many problems has that caused us?"
"And she has been instrumental in helping us counteracting it. Her skills can be used to help others," Surt countered.
Magistrate Vantor gave the dwarf a tight grin. "Ah, so she should stay alive so we can use her?"
Surt opened his mouth to respond, but the elven magistrate Tahir spoke up first, "I do not believe the commander meant it in the way you have interpreted. He finds that the accused's life has worth, and her gifts can be used to balance any past... indiscretions. Does that sound accurate to you, Commander?" Surt nodded in response, certain that anything he added would not have equal weight to Magistrate Tahir's own words. "Very well," continued Tahir, "We will consider the commander's words, his documentation, and the concerns of Constable Crow during our deliberations." Magistrate Theddsharr nodded while Vantor beside him remained stoic. Tahir turned to look at Surt. "You are excused, commander."
Surt stood up and politely saluted. He left the magistrates to their quiet discussion in their office, and headed down the hall towards the courtroom. Once inside the courtroom, he looked over the audience tensely waiting in their seats. Sitting far in the back by himself was Amaiur Eillar, Sana's father. Kennick, who Constable Crow mentioned was the local leader of the Oldkeep Solari, was on one side with a few of his followers. Pointedly ignoring them, members from the Gilded Stage sat on the other side. Nestor Soranus, owner of the theater, sat with his wife. Nestor stared straight ahead, his expression rigid. The unmistakable pair Ragor and Spruce were also in attendance. Surt gave a slight nod of recognition to his former travelling companion, and Ragor responded with a slight flick of his eyes; or perhaps it was the dwarf's imagination. Several of the actors were also in attendance, but one was missing: Chalinus Maltinus. Chalinus was somewhere on the other side of the Seat of Law sitting in a cell for his role in the murder of Kappa Adolus. From what Serjeant Crow has gleaned, Chalinus wanted the role of Solarian in the play, and wanted it badly enough to hire some Hammerfall mercenaries with the intent to temporarily remove Kappa from the picture. According to Kappa's journal that Amos Crow and his team found, their ambush did not go according to plan and he escaped. Some point after that, Chalinus managed to earn the Hammerfall's ire, and he was supposed to be the target of Sana's poison. But unfortunately, it was Kappa instead that drank the poison.
* * * * *
A gong sounded within the courtroom. As the sound receded, the bailiff announced the return of the magistrates. They entered, deep hoods over their heads, and the crowd in the gallery stood. At the same time from a door opposite the courtroom, Sana was led inside, magical manacles around her wrists. The Vigilants were making sure to take extra precautions. As with all accused, she was sat to the right of the magistrates. After everyone resumed their seats, Magistrate Tahir firmly tapped the gavel.
"The Magistrates have conferred and made their ruling," he declared. "We find the accussed Sana Eillar guilty of the crime of murder of Kappa Adolus. However, her actions were influenced by the criminal organization Hammerfall, and their threats against her family." Magistrate Vantor shuffled some papers in front of her as Magistate Tahir continued, "Sana Eillar has already served four days of incarceration. She will be remitted to the care of the Vigilants and selected community members as rehabilitation."
There a few outbursts—namely from the Gilded Stage members—that were quieted with a few short raps of Magistrate Tahir's gavel. He continued, "She will remain in the custody of Vigilants until such time that the vetting process is complete."
Surt took another glance at Ragor, trying to read the orc's face. Surely Ragor would understand the concept of redemption, but his face was inscrutable. Spruce was looking around the courtroom, fidgeting. She stood up when Ragor did as the gallery slowly departed. Ragor looked back to Surt and gave a quick wink. "Well, Surt thought, "I don't know if that's good or bad."
Surt's attention turned to Amaiur, still sitting in the gallery. Beside him stood Tor'in—Surt didn't remember seeing him come in—the two elves talking quietly together.
Surt decided he had loitered enough; although he was happy with the outcome, it did mean there was a pile of more paperwork waiting for him.
* * * * *
Surt made his way down the hall to his personal office. The curious looks and quieted conversation as he walked by his fellow Vigilants caused some concern. But not as much concern as the armed burly man standing outside his office door. Surt stopped a few feet away, and looked the man up and down. Wide shoulders with a neck almost as wide. He had a few scars on his hands and knuckles, which rested easily near the grips of a pair of hand axes. The man gave a nod, and then opened the door for Surt. Surt stepped inside his own office and his eyes were immediately drawn to the figure inside. A tall woman with long silver hair and matching silver eyes stood on the other side of his desk. She wore a blue flowing gown, and her wrists were adorned with black bangles.
Surt blinked, then gave a bow. "Lady Fournius."
The woman smiled in return. "Commander, I think it's time you and I have a little talk."