Title: The Trial
Summary: It wasn't really Azkadellia's fault, all the disgraces that fell upon the O.Z. Still, its people needed someone to blame.
Genre: Angst. Oneshot (Vignette)
Spoilers: The entire series.
Archive: Please do, just let me know.
Feedback: True, all true, I wrote this for personal satisfaction but you know, plot bunnies feed on reviews. Save a plot bunny! Don't let them starve! Review!
Dedicatory: I really want to dedicate this story to all those writers who have made incredibly beautiful and sad Azkadellia's fanfiction. Her character's fate intrigues me to no end. Atonement, by Meredith Paris specially got to me. And you all praise my beta, Calliope Phantom, who was great, polishing the final touches on this story.
She could feel eyes on her; it made the skin of her nape prick as the murmurs that traveled along the great Court Hall seemed to swirl around her head like a cloud of shapeless insects. It would seem the entire population of the O.Z. had attended to the trial and indeed, a delegation of each region and race were present, eager to see justice done, thirsty for something that might calm down their need for revenge, to find some… any kind of closure for their wounds.
"Were you aware of the actions the witch did through your body?" A firm voice had asked her.
"No… I was not able to see or feel anything… only when the witch allowed me, which was seldom… and only when she was in need of forcing out information from me, yet sometimes, I could sense her feelings, her thoughts," she had truthfully responded to the Judge.
"Did you have any control whatsoever over her proceedings?" Another judge asked.
"I… sometimes I tried to influence on her, trying to blend my own thoughts with hers. I think I was successful on a few occasions and I am sure that's why I-- she, the witch, refrained from killing my mother, the Queen."
"So you were able to influence some of her actions… are you sure you did everything in your willpower to stop her?" a third man voiced his question.
"I tried as hard as I could…"
"Could you have prevented more of her wicked doings by this method?" said yet another judge.
"No! I swear I tried!" Azkadellia had answered more vehemently than she had intended, but the angst oppressing her chest had become unbearable for a second and then… she was able to breathe, a huge burden lifting off her shoulders.
Many times after her release she had tormented herself by asking that very same question to the dark ceiling above her bed, but not until now she had been able to know if her answer was a poor excuse to her own weakness or the truth. Now she found out it was the latter, for the ancient hall in which she was possessed an incredible strong magic, which didn't allow anyone to lie.
DG had told her that in the other side trials were different, that there was a defense lawyer who tried to prove the innocence of the accused, but what is the case of having such a role in the O.Z. when you are bound to tell the truth?
No one, no matter how powerful, could ever lie while on trial-- not even the Queen herself.
Azkadellia brought her mind back to the present and gave a deep breath. Her trial had been just a month ago but it already felt like if it had happened in another lifetime, and as exhausting and overwhelming as it was, she felt that it had given her some kind of peace, especially when eyes who initially burned with hate and disbelief, softened after knowing the truth, and no more spats and curses were directed her way. Instead pitiful expressions and condolences reached her ears. Azkadellia never enjoyed pity, not even as a child, but it was much better than words full of hatred and an entire kingdom that wished to see her dead.
And now there she was, freed of guilt by her people, forgiven, but still those same people needed someone to punish. After all, this whole mess had to be someone's fault, right? Azkadellia lowered her head to hide a painful scowl. She never expected the situation to degenerate into… into this.
DG noticed her sister's guilt and reached slowly toward her hand, touching it delicately.
"S'okay, Az… it's not your fault," she whispered, directing her big sister a saddened smile that Azkadellia tried to return with little success.
I know, she had intended to say, but in that moment the Judge entered the hall and occupied his place. The hall quieted at once. Azkadellia looked to the front and her brown eyes met her mother's. Lavender blinked slowly, her face a mask of neutrality, but Azkadellia wanted to think there was tenderness in her gaze.
"Great Kingdom of the Outer Zone," the Judge, one of the few who had escaped the Witch's hunt for those of just hearts, spoke. "We are gathered today, from every corner of this land, to presence the trial that shall decide the destiny of Queen Lavender, for her supposed guilt or innocence in the terrible happenings that derived in the possession of prince Azkadellia by that who shall be only named as the Dark Witch, and in consequence, for the fifteen annuals that this young woman and the entire realm suffered at the hands of said Witch."
He then spoke directly to the woman in question. "Queen Lavender, I want to emphasize that you agreed to submit yourself to the will of this court, divesting yourself of your royal immunity just like your daughter did before you, and for that, the kingdom will always be thankful. Now, do you have anything to say before we proceed?"
"I only acted as I thought best," was the short, stoic answer from the woman, who even in such a moment, managed to look royal and serene. Azkadellia could feel her father tensing besides her.
"We shall start then," the judge said as he and everyone else took a seat and another man, the Questioner, made his entrance. Az supposed he would be what in DG's world they call a prosecutor - her little sister had been very surprised at the way trials were carried in the O.Z.- but this man was not here to lure the accused into confessing their crimes; he was here just to ask questions, fair questions. Again, what would be the need to force someone to confess something when you can't lie?
The man went straight to the point.
"Queen Lavender, as we know, both of your daughters, infants at the time, entered a hidden cave near the royal castle of Finaqua. Said cave served as an unknown magic container for an ancient evil, which we only know as the Dark Witch. There, Princess Dorothea unintentionally released said evil, which possessed Crown Princess Azkadellia. Is that correct?"
"Yes, it is correct," the Queen, answered.
"Did you notice this change in your daughter? Were you aware of her possession?"
Lavender kept quiet for a second, perhaps to give a well thought answer, or perhaps because the hall would not allow anyone to speak unless the words about to come out were truthful.
"I did notice a change in her attitude… she became cold and distant… I thought it was her adolescent years making an entrance." She gave a sad smile before keeping on. "But after a couple of weeks, when we traveled to the northern palace, I started feeling a different presence in her… her light was gone and instead, a dark shadow seemed to surround her, it was… suffocating."
"Did you discuss these events with anyone else?"
"Yes… I spoke about it with her father, my husband, Prince Consort Ahamo."
"What was his insight about this matter?"
Lavender looked toward her husband and gave a smile that Azkadellia would label as apologetic.
"He was alarmed, he wanted to take Azkadellia to the alchemists right away; he asked me if I could do something about it, if my light could make our daughter right again…"
"And, would it?"
"I… yes… I think it would have, but we had taken no alchemists with us during our trip and I didn't want to risk Azkadellia's life by confronting whatever had taken her host, I wanted more time to find out what had happened to her and that's why I didn't make any attempt to confront her. "
"I see, and did you have any idea, any clue of what was affecting her?"
Lavender nodded, it seems, regretfully. "I was certain she had been possessed, and I also could feel this was a strong, malign force and I immediately knew this force was an imminent danger for the realm. My heart ached at the idea of my child being trapped by such a fowl being," she said as a disgusting gesture marred her face.
"What happened next, Queen Lavender?" the questioner's voice was firm yet dispassionate, as he inflicted no pressure to his words but a patient tone instead.
"Then… one afternoon, after I had put my younger daughter, Dorothea, to sleep, I saw Azkadellia coming out of her room, the satisfaction in her face chilled my blood… I knew something horrible had happened… I ran to my daughter's room and found her in her bed, just as I had left her, but her beautiful eyes were open… lifeless… she was so cold… so…" Lavender had to stop her declaration as a lump broke her voice and was able to go on after a few seconds. The silence in the hall was absolute.
"My baby daughter was dead," she finished and looked away.
"Yet Princess Dorothea in present right here, with us. How is it possible?" said the questioner and DG held her sister's hand even stronger. She was feeling guilty again. Azkadellia tried to reassure her, stroking the side of the younger woman's hand with her thumb. It felt it was her turn to say it wasn't her fault, but she found her throat too dry to speak.
This time Lavender did look at her daughters and smiled, or grimaced, Az couldn't tell.
"Because I passed my light into her little body and she breathed again, as if she had been under the water for too long. She was so scared, I took her in my arms and…"
"Yes? And what did you do?"
"I told her were I would hide the emerald, so she could find it when she grew up, and she could vanquish her sist—the witch. After that, with the help of the mystic man, I sent her to the other side, so Azkadellia would believe her dead. I also sent two care units programmed to love her and protect her. I knew that perhaps I wouldn't see my child again, but her life was more important."
"Were these care units qualified to teach or manage any sort of magic?"
"No, they were not… I had no time to prepare them for such a task."
"I see. This is where my interrogation ends. Now I leave the word to our wise judge," the man said and proceeded to sit down. The whispering started again as the judge regarded the royal woman with a thoughtful gesture, a hand under his mouth and frown lines formed upon his forehead. He then stood up and walked toward a panel of judges like himself, who were sitting at the right of the hall, and they brought their heads together.
"What are they doing now?" Azkadellia heard DG asking.
"They are deliberating about your mother's declaration, now, based on her answers, the judge will pose questions on his own, aided by the insight of the other judges," answered Ahamo.
"It wasn't like that in Az's trial…" DG puckered her brow.
"That's because your sister was judged by the entire board at the same time… they're being more… benevolent here."
"Shh… they're done," Ahamo pointed and silence once again befell on the Hall.
The judge, again on his place, looked at Lavender in the eyes and reviewed his notes, and then he cleared his throat. "Queen Lavender… you say you passed your light onto your younger daughter in order to save her life, is that correct?"
"Yes, it is." Lavender's voice denoted her exhaustion.
"You also declare that you told Princess Dorothea where she could find the emerald because you knew that, by saving her life, you had ended any possibilities you had to fight the Dark Witch, is that correct?"
Lavender blinked a couple of times and opened her mouth to speak, but she simply nodded this time.
"Why did you confide this information to such a young child?"
"Because I had the hopes that she would return one day and would be able to find the emerald and use it to destroy the Witch," Lavender spoke with a strained tone.
"And… hypothetically, if you had not decided to give your light and your magic up, would you have been able to exorcise the witch from your elder daughter's body and destroy her?"
Lavender kept quiet for several seconds before answering. "I assume I would have… yes, with the help of the alchemists and very strong spells."
"Do you assume, or do you know?"
Lavender hesitated for the first time before giving her answer. "I… I'm sure I would have been able."
Azkadellia was not expecting that, it felt as if a cold dagger had plunged into her lungs just like it felt every time the witch took someone's soul.
"Was there any other person on the realm powerful enough to carry out this exorcism?"
"No, not at the time."
"Thank you for your answers, Queen Lavender."
The judge stood up one more time and went to the panel, where the other members promptly gathered around him. This time no murmur broke the silence. Azkadellia knew that the judges were deliberating the fate of the mother she had just recovered. The mother who wouldn't save her. The mother who had-- she closed her eyes in an effort to stop the avalanche of emotions.
It was about almost 20 minutes before the Judge returned to his seat. DG had whispered that in the other side Judges didn't leave their place and if they did, they went into a private room, also that they didn't pose the questions and that trials lasted months or even years. Az knew her chatter was her way to ease out her nerves, not that it did her any good.
The Judge gave a deep breath and looked at the accused with a mixture of harshness and sympathy.
"Queen Lavender. You were presented with a choice that no parent should ever have to face; you had to decide which one of your children to save and which one to sacrifice. As a father myself I can imagine the profound pain this brought to you; if you acted one way, your younger daughter would die, in the other, you'd condemn your elder daughter to live imprisoned by a dangerous, dark being. I truly feel for you, it must have been a choice that haunts you to the present."
"Thank you. Yes, it does, to the core of my soul," she nodded slowly.
After this, the Judge hardened his face before speaking. "Yet, before a mother, you are a Queen, a Queen who had under her wing a whole kingdom who depended on her, on her decisions and on her ability to do the utmost sacrifice to secure the greater good for her people, and that sacrifice, my Queen, includes the life of your daughter."
Lavender's skin went even paler as her lips thinned. Azkadellia felt DG's nails burying into her flesh. The Judge went on.
"I'm sorry to ask this but, did you have a favorite among your children?"
Lavender blinked several times and it seemed her answer brought her great pain. "DG was always my angel… Azkadellia was my husband's little girl… we never meant to-- that's just how we felt."
Another stab. This time Az felt as if the ability to breath had abandoned her. She had always known, but she pretended not to notice, forced herself to believe it was just a mistaken perception.
"You have declared that you would have been able to eradicate the menace that the dark Witch represented by exorcising her out of Princess Azkadellia's body and destroying her, but you, irresponsibly chose to render yourself useless, leaving a whole kingdom defenseless and at the mercy of a tyrant."
Lavender opened her mouth to protest but just lowered her head, unable to give voice to her reasons. As if they were empty now, even for herself.
"And then, you deposited our one and only hope in a child, a child who would be raised away from her world, where she would receive no magical training, at the incredible risk of having her grow used to that new life. Why would she return to save a world she didn't know or remember? Wasn't that a risk too great to take? You didn't know if she'd return indeed, Queen Lavender; you only hoped, as much as you hoped that she'd be able to defeat a powerful sorceress with practically no assistance whatsoever. I think we can count ourselves as very, very fortunate that things turned out right, because I'm sure that a little twist in the fortunes would have got us all now covered in eternal darkness."
Ahamo's hand looked for Azkadellia's as well as the royal family listened to these words: hard, shattering, painful. True.
"It all happened so fast! I acted on instinct… I didn't think… " she shook her head and let her words fade away. The Queen looked now lost and her eyes shone with unshed tears as a hand went to her mouth. The Judge waited for a few seconds for her to continue, but she did not.
He went on. "As much as hard and cold these words may sound, and asking in advance the forgiveness of the royal family present here, this court firmly believes that the sacrifice you made was the wrong one. Had you let your younger daughter die, you would have conserved your light and your magic, and you would have been able to save your other child, who wouldn't have served as a vessel of the devil that tormented the Outer Zone and turned it into a wasteland of fear and desperation. By sacrificing Princess Dorothea instead of Princess Azkadellia, you would have saved us, your majesty. This court has decided that your actions were the root of all the misfortune that aggrieves this land. My queen, you failed us. You were also our mother."
The crowd burst in quiet gossips, which again, were silenced when the Judge stood up and pointed his hand to Queen Lavender, whose gaze had become vague and her face, expressionless.
"Do you have anything to say in your defense? Do you wish to refute our conclusion?"
Queen Lavender took a deep breath and finally, raised her head. "I do not, wise Judge. The court may proceed to dictate my sentence." Her voice was firm, her bearing, solemn.
"In that case, this court, by the will of the Outer Zone, condemns you to the capital punishment. The time will be decided at a later meeting. The law has accomplished its duty and this trial is over."
Loud voices rose up along the Hall. If they were cheers of cries, Azkadellia couldn't tell; her ears buzzed, her eyes pricked. Her heart felt heavy and it hurt to breathe; perhaps for the intensive pain in her chest, perhaps it was because her sister was hugging her so strong that her arms started to feel numb. DG's tears were soaking her shoulder while her sobs made her tiny frame shake violently. Azkadellia took her arms around her little sister and was able to touch her own face. She hadn't noticed; her cheeks were wet as well.
Then she felt strong arms surrounding them both and knew her father had joined them in their grief. Now they all would lose Lavender for a second time.
Az raised her red, puffy eyes and saw, amid her tears, the guards taking away her mother. Lavender directed her one last look; she knew her well enough to decipher it. The Queen was asking her for forgiveness, but she didn't find any trace of regret.
How did that make her feel? She had felt nothing for so long… she wished she could return to that state, at least for a few hours… there was so mush sorrow… so many burdens and guilt.
Now the O.Z. had a culpable, now they could heal. Yet as far as Azkadellia knew, she was now broken, she didn't know what would heal her, she didn't know if it was even a possibility.
But she'd have to try, because the emerald now hung from her neck and she would be Queen, for her sister refused to take the throne. The irony of it all made her want to laugh out loud and cry until she lost her voice forever, but she could not. A whole kingdom was about to be set upon her shoulders, and this time, a Gale better do it right. There would not be a second forgiveness.
DG's cries intensified and Azkadellia let her thoughts flow away as her father rocked them both, like he used to when they were little.
When she tried to look at Lavender again she was already gone, she who gave her life, who loved her and nurtured her, she who forsake her.
Azkadellia allowed her mind to wander as a comforting numbness embraced her heart. Just for today she would try not to feel.
Reviews bring joy to my heart and food to my plot bunnies' plates.