Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Chapter Eighteen

"… On the 15th day of the New Year,

the trial of Samandia Darvosten for

the crimes of murder through witchcraft,

and the crime of invoking an evil spirit so to perform magic,

began …"

—The Pasegean Scrolls

Fernan’s small town hall, normally used for dances and town meetings, had been transformed into a court room, and as Samandia was led into it, over a hundred eyes peered menacingly out at her, pointing and leering. As she walked past the rows of seats she could hear them whispering about her, and she closed her eyes, longing for the sanctuary of her quiet gaol cell where she could escape from the mediocrity that was Fernan, Menilan.

Seated at a large table at the front of the hall were Mayor Fernan and Mr. Sheperd, and the latter’s face curled in a cruel sneer when he spotted Samandia. She sighed as the sheriff shoved her onto a hard wooden chair which sat in the centre of the room, and as she gazed meekly at her judges that sat before her; Mayor Fernan looking upon her down on her like a child to be disciplined and Mr. Sheperd smirking at her arrogantly didn’t leave her with much confidence. There doesn’t even seem to be hope enough to try …

Suddenly Mayor Fernan stood and bashed the table with his gavel, calling everyone to attention. The courtroom became deathly quiet, and Samandia squirmed in her seat from the feeling of hundreds of pairs of eyes on her back, scrutinising her every movement.

"Thankyou," Mayor Fernan began. "I thank each and every one of you for caring enough about the well-being of your humble village to come today and witness this for yourselves." From behind her, Samandia could hear muffled yawns, smothered giggles and a few loud snorts. What scared her more, however, were the whispers which were circulating the audience—whispers which mainly consisted of ‘Burn the witch!

Mayor Fernan glared around the hall, trying to weed out the troublemakers but the room had gone completely silent once more. "Today, we shall try Samandia Darvosten on the charges of murder by witchcraft and invocation of an evil spirit. She has lived in our village of Fernan since she took her first breath, and until certain aforementioned matters were brought to our attention, we had hoped that in this very village she might also breathe her last."

"Well, ‘er sist’r shore did, dain’t she?" came the cry from the audience. One lone man stood up and pointed towards Samandia’s trembling figure. "Thanks ta ‘er, nun ov us is safe in our own ‘omes!"

The mayor flicked his wrist to his guards and the man was removed from the makeshift courthouse. "Now, where were we?" he muttered to himself. "Ah, yes … These certain matters have let us see the situation in a very different light, and they were brought to our attention by Mr. Riann Sheperd, who as one of our witnesses, shall deliver his testimony today." He reseated himself and poked Riann in the side, prompting him to stand and speak.

Riann jumped to his feet, tripping over one of his chair legs and would’ve fallen to the ground if he hadn’t managed to regain his balance by grabbing onto the side of the table. He took a deep breath, and began his spiel. "Well, in the early hours of the New Year, I was coming home from a party I’d attended across the creek, with some of my friends that live there. I was slightly intoxicated, not enough to mar my senses—especially my sight—but just enough to make me a little bit wobbly on my legs. I was resting in the shrubbery on the edge of the Fernan property when a cloaked figure came into my view. Now, normally you’d think that I wouldn’t recognise someone in a cloak and a hood, wouldn’t you? But this girl I knew well—she was known to me as one of my daughter, Catalina’s friends, and I knew her father, Bo Darvosten, real well when I was young. And Angelyn Darvosten, back when she was Angelyn Faille was real good friends with my Collete.

"Anyways, I saw Samandia enter the Fernan’s barn and my curiosity was—what’s the word?—uh, peaked? Naw, that’s not it." He looked towards the mayor for help, and received a hurried whispered in response. "Yep, that’s the one. My curiosity was piqued." Shooting the mayor a proud look, to which Mayor Fernan closed his eyes and brought his head to rest on the edge of the table. "So," Riann continued, "I waited to see when she’d come out again. After about fifteen minutes or so, I heard these horrible screams coming from the barn. Not knowing what to do, and hoping that someone else might awaken and save whoever was screaming I stayed where I was. I guess that everyone who might’ve heard was asleep, probably drunk from the wine at the festival, since no one came.

"After another half-an-hour or so, I saw her—Samandia—re-emerge from the barn, her clothes covered in blood. I was mortified, but I watched her as she danced around the field in the snow like some kind of … well, witch." He paused for dramatic effect. His audience were hanging onto his every word, and he could tell that they were longing for more.

"Seeing that she was oblivious to everything but herself and whatever sort of curse she was performing, I raced towards the homestead so to repeat what I had witnessed to Mayor Fernan," he glanced down at Samandia with a look of pure disgust. "However, I was too late. Whatever she had conjured with her spell-casting I had met, and it told me that death would befall me if I revealed the identity of Kessah Darvosten’s murderer to anyone. So, I bided my time and eventually the spell must’ve worn off, so I went to expose the murderer—and the witch!—to all the world."

As he finished his tirade, Riann Sheperd resumed his seat and Mayor Fernan once again had the floor. "Now, I turn the case over to you, the people. Please, for the sake of us all and so that we might prevent such incidents occurring again in our village, if you have seen any strange behaviour committed by our suspect who sits before you all, or by any other person in this village—any behaviour that you believe to be witchcraft—speak now, or forever hold your peace."

Soon the room was filled with yells and finger-pointing as the entire village began to accuse each other of witchcraft. Mayor Fernan had to slam his gavel for nearly five minutes before everyone was quiet once more. Then he called upon each person to tell their stories. Samandia herself was accused of dancing around cornfields, cursing chickens, and of destroying promising romances because of her ‘jel’ouse streek’, since she’d never had a suitor of her own.

Finally it seemed like the townspeople were spent. Mayor Fernan wearily asked them to return after the trial to file their complaints against the other members of the community, and was about to dismiss the court when a heavily accented voice spoke up in the crowd.

"’Scuse me, Mayor Fernan, but I ‘aven’t ‘ad the chance o’telling yeh my story."

Samandia froze, since she had recognised the voice instantly. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a flash of red, and knew for certain who was speaking. Now I can’t even seem to depend on my friends, if not to come to my aid to at least keep their mouths shut!

The mayor gave her a puzzled look. "And what might your name be, young lady?"

Another, meeker voice spoke up this time. "She is Tierna Farray, sir, and I am Catalina Sheperd. We are here to confess."

Mayor Fernan was alarmed. "What do you mean, child? We already have our murderer—your own father has given his testimony! Do you really wish to challenge your own father’s word?"

Even though Samandia could not see her face, she felt sure that Catalina would be smiling right then. "Do I not have the right to challenge it if I feel that my story is closer to the truth?"

He nodded his head in agreement. "Of course, of course. Please, tell us your story, Miss. Sheperd."

So she began. She told the court of Sidhe and her great magical powers; of her search for revenge against her tyrannical husband, Radalph; the creation of the coven—the journey to Chail, and the true whereabouts of Llyne and Garvin. She told it all, the whole story, which left the court astounded and rather bewildered.

When she had finished, she sat back down on her wooden chair and awaited Mayor Fernan’s comments. He sat with strange look of astonishment on his face for several minutes while he recovered from the shocking tale. Then, his mouth curled into a cruel smile. "Catalina Sheperd, do you confess to the crime of witchcraft, which could have inadvertently caused the death of Kessah Darvosten?"

Catalina stared at him. "But don’t you understand? Kessah was in this too … we all were! Samandia wasn’t alone—Tierna, Llyne, Kessah and I … we were the witches of Sidhe!"

"Oh, my dear, I understand very well." He beckoned his guards to him. "Take the three of them and lock them away inside their houses. This information must be dealt with properly, and their presence will only distract us from the task at hand. Leave a sentry on every door, and do not let them leave their houses without the order from me—understand?" The head guard nodded and directed his guards to arrest all three of them and undertake the mayor’s orders. Their hands were all bound with thick rope and they were led away from the hall.

As Samandia was dragged outside, she caught one last look at Mr. Sheperd’s face. His expression was not one of disbelief or even of anger … his face seemed totally vacant, his eyes blank and lifeless.

Each girl was shoved roughly into their houses when they reached them, but their hands were left bound. Samandia hopped upstairs to her bedroom—the bedroom she had not seen for nearly a week and flopped down onto the bed, wondering if this sleep would be her last.


Copyright 2000 M. Lees

Previous Chapter

Next Chapter