as Kessah Darvostens coffin
was carried down the desolate streets of Fernan,
one man emerged from his house,
his eyes bright with knowledge,
ready to tell all he knew "
The Pasegean Scrolls
The funeral procession, headed by Mayor Fernan, followed by Mr. Darvosten and the pallbearers, then by the entire village, save for a few, halted at the yell. Mayor Fernan turned and stared questioningly at Riann Sheperd, which prompted the rest of the town to do so as well. Riann, under the scrutinising gazes of his fellow villagers, smiled weakly and Mayor Fernan approached him quietly.
"Why, Mr. Sheperd, do you disturb so grievous an occasion?" Mayor Fernans eyes were cold, and Riann squirmed beneath them.
He gulped and replied softly: "Gracious Mayor, I disturb this procession only because I feel it is my duty to inform you of the scene I witnessed on New Years morn."
The entire town was taken aback. "Mr. Sheperd," inquired the mayor, "are you saying that you witnessed Kessah Darvostens murder?"
He shook his head. "No, thankfully I did not. However, as I lay in the bushes near your house, ill from my merriment I had undertaken that night, I saw the murderer enter and withdraw."
A wave of laughter overcame his audience, and Riann looked puzzled. Mayor Fernan chuckled underneath his breath, then spoke again. "So, Mr. Sheperd, you are having me to believe that you weredrunkwhen you saw the murderer? And how are we not to believe that this was merely a figment of your imagination?"
A strained look came over Rianns face. "No, I saw it! I saw her" Riann pointed towards Samandia Darvosten, who stood beside her mother and as the town gasped and stared at her a terrified look settled onto her face. "I saw Samandia Darvosten enter the Fernan barn just after midnight, and I heard the screams of her sister, Kessah, as she was murdered " he trailed off, a faraway look in his blue eyes.
The town was shocked. They stared at Samandia, horrified, as she hid her face in her hands and screamed loudly. The townspeople began to back away from her, and her mother and father looked at their daughter in disbelief. She lifted her eyes, and their chocolate-brown depths were full of pain and despair. She looked into her mothers gentle face, and tears began to run down her face. "Mother, I " but Angelyn simply turned away and hung her head in shame.
Riann, who had regained himself, started to shout the rest of his story to the people. "Then, later, she left the barn, a twisted look on her girlish facecovered in her sisters blood! She was mad; she danced around in the snow as if she was a childas if she hadnt just murdered her only sister!" Many of the women began to weep, and Catalina looked from her father to Samandia, who was sobbing openly now, and wondered how this whole scene had come about why had she killed Kessah?
Banudi Tream stood behind Samandia, an absent look on his face. He ignored the rest of the villagers and walked into Riann Sheperds blacksmith shop, and lit the furnace there. No one noticed him as Riann shouted his next words out like a town-crier.
"Then, as I ran to inform the Fernans, I was halted by a magical spectrea spectre conjured by witchcraft! It called itself Sidhe" A gasp came from both Tierna and Catalina, but Samandia only stared blankly at Riann, remorseful and alarmed. Many of the villagers looked towards Tierna and Catalina in surprise, but with Rianns next words they forgot about their reaction. "And, she threatened me with death if I ever told a soul about what I had seen. She visited me in my home every night for a week until last night, when she did not appear. I only hope that she has been destroyed, whatever evil being she represented and, I fear that she represented Samandia Darvosten!"
Banudi ignored the accusations which were continuing outside and placed a long piece of metal which tapered to a sharp point into the hot grate of the furnace, his white pallbearers gloves getting covered in black soot. He stared at his hands as if he didnt know whether they were his or not.
Meanwhile, the townspeople outside had begun to cry out for justice. A small group of villagers started a chant of, "Kill the witch! Burn the witch! BURN THE WITCH!"
Samandia looked around at all the unfriendly faces that surrounded her, and jumped as she was grabbed from behind by Georg Tanner, the town sheriff, and her wrists were tightly bound with thick rope. Mayor Fernan approached her, and he spat at her. "Take her to the holding cell, Georg," he muttered, his tone one of disgust.
As they began to lead her away, a cry was heard from the blacksmiths workshop, and Banudi Tream stumbled out of the building, the long piece of white-hot metal shoved straight through his stomach. He gasped from the pain and the entire town looked on in horror as he fell to his knees. He stared straight into Samandias horror-filled eyes as he spoke. "You," he whispered hoarsely, "you stole my love, so now I shall steal your peace. I hope that you will remember every moment of my death" he coughed loudly, and blood flew from his throat to the ground in front of him. "so that it will haunt you for the rest of your life, while I shall be with Kessah for all eternity." Banudis eyes dulled, and he fell forward to the ground, which drove the metal stake right through his body, and the blood-stained point appeared out of his back. Samandia nearly vomited at the sight, and several others in the crowd had the same reaction, but were unable to hold back. Many of the women screamed and babies cried this was a day which would not forgotten easily in the minds of the people of Fernan.
Sheriff Tanner dragged Samandia away from the scene and deposited her inside the small gaol cell which was located next to his office, just off the town square. He told her disdainfully that while they would have to try her, which was one of the laws of Menilan state, that she would not escape her death.
As the days went on, Catalina and Tierna came to see her and gave her food and water, which was not provided by the sheriff or the mayor. Since they had their own reputations to uphold, they could only come in the dead of night but Samandia was thankful for their company. Most of the people who passed her during the daytime would either spit at her or come along and pelt the door with rotten vegetable and eggs for their own amusement. Samandia spent most of her time huddled in the corner, muttering to herself in different voices, sometimes sounding like a young girl and other times like an arrogant lords son. She would interchange between their personalities and her own, and many of the younger children in the village would listen to her and then mimic the conversations she held with herself. They would make faces at her through the bars on the door and window of her prison, but Samandia didnt even notice.
She could see nothing but their eyes, staring at her, one pair hazel, the other deep brown, staring into her soul, questioning why their eyes were full of pain, full of angerand, strangely, full of love. Kessah knowing that it was not her sister who had murdered her; Banudi knowing that soon he would be reunited with the love of his life.
And it was exactly in that way that Samandia sat, pondering the past few months of her lifeLlynes expression at Sidhes curse; the fire in Zarenn; Kessahs death and, now, her impending trialand she thought of how much better it might have been, and how they mightve all still been alive at that moment, together again. They were bound by magical ties that could never truly be broken.
So, when her cell door was finally opened and she was dragged out into the sunlight, her clothes covered in dust and dirt, smelling like the dump heap that existed down near the old tavern in the dirtier part of Fernan, she thought of the happier times insteadthe times theyd teased each other playfully, especially sensitive Llyne; the balls theyd attended, even before they were friends like theyd ended up becoming and a smile came over her face, for something, somewhere told her that no matter how horrible her lifeor deathmight be from here on, she could always look back to those days of happy times which were full of sisterly love and friendship and know that she wasnt the worst of in Arsinuae.
So, as Samandia was led to the courthouse, she thought not of the death which might accompany it only of her sisters laughing hazel eyes.
Copyright 2000 M. Lees