"How do you plead?"
They sit there, in a semicircle of seats raised above me, glaring down at me. Am I afraid? Never. I stare them right back in the eyes and tell them, "I, Moth, daughter of Lord Peascod and Lady Squash, princess of Faerie, and handmaiden to the queen Titania, do not plead."
This is not the response they were expecting. There is a sudden storm of whispering between them, and many look confused. Finally, Mustardseed, sitting front and center, leans over his podium. I glare at him. When he and Titania searched Faerie for someone qualified to judge me, they found no one. They had to think of someone quickly, and who could ever be more suitable for the job than the little goodie two shoes, Mustardseed? He meets my gaze and asks, "Did you or did you not purposely kill King Oberon with a specially brewed poison?"
"I rid Faerie of an idiotic, overaged tyrant, yes."
"And did you or did you not purposely kill the healer Cobweb, in full awareness of his complete innocence?"
"I disposed of a meddling, cowardly fairy, yes."
"And did you or did you not attempt to murder the innocent and defenseless human Sabrina Grimm?"
"She was not innocent or defenseless! She—"
"Answer the question!"
Gritting my teeth, I growl out, "Yes."
"She has confessed!" Mustardseed turns to the council, one hand extended. "Once the penalty for murder would have been death! But now, under the new system this is not allowed. Therefore, I sentence Moth to a lifetime in prison." He looks at the guards. "Take her away."
I try to maintain my composure, but the guards yank me away and drag me across the floor. My bare feet skid painfully across the hard surface.
"Stop, stop!" I scream. Dirt and rocks—when was the last time they cleaned this place?—lodge themselves under my toenails. I grit my teeth and try to move my feet as fast as the guards', but the cruel men give me no opportunity to regain my balance. "Slow down! You are hurting me, you fools!"
They don't listen. I am dragged down a cold, wet flight of stairs, through a heavy door, and down another two flights. The air down here is frigid, and my thin dress, I offers no protection. The guards throw me shivering face-down onto the stone floor of a dungeon. The breath is knocked out of my body and for a moment I am too winded to move. As quickly as I can, I leap up and run to the thick door. I can barely see out the tiny barred window. "No!" I cry, even though I know it will do no good. "Don't leave me here! No!" But I see the guards' shadows moving away, and I sink down to the floor.
How could Puck do this to me? I have loved him, adored him, for thousands of years—how could he just go and abandon me like this? And for that human girl, too! What does he see in her that he does not see in me? Is she prettier than I am? Impossible! What, then? Why?
I don't know how long I lie there, defeated. Eventually, though, I become aware of other noises. Cautiously, I lift my head and look around. The room is enormous, obviously built for more than one person, but there is no one here but me. So what's making the noi—
"AAAAAAAAAAH!" A hand is suddenly on my shoulder. I spin around, desperate to find my attacker in the gloom. A face smiles down at me, and I can't tell if I like the smile or not.
"Oh, good. Company." It's a woman's voice, somewhat gloating. She seems old and harmless. My panic fades, turning into annoyance.
"Get your hand off me, freak." I scramble away, dislodging the disgusting, veiny thing from my shoulder. She chuckles and steps a bit closer.
"You think I'm going to hurt you, don't you?" She shakes her head, still chuckling. "Oh, don't worry. I don't hurt little fairies in pretty dresses, not usually."
I stand up and brush dirt off my gown. I look down at the woman—she's completely hunched over—and say, "Look, old lady, I have no idea who you are and I most certainly do not care. If you have some way to help me, please do so. If you do not, kindly leave me alone and stay on your own side of the room. I do not associate with greasy old crones."
Her eyes twinkle. "Greasy old crones, eh? I assume you mean me. I might have help. I might not. I might know a way out of here. I might not."
"You know a way out!"
"You want the greasy old crone's help? Ha ha, she might not give it to you!"
"How do I get out? Tell me now!"
How dare she? Stiffly, I draw myself up and tell her, " I. Don't. Ask."
"Well, that's a shame. If you don't ask, I won't answer."
It seems to be getting colder by the second. Any longer here and I'll freeze to death. I have to get out, no matter what it takes, even if it means bowing to the wishes of this creepy old woman. "Fine. How do I get out of here… please?"
She claps. "Good job! Seems I was wrong, you really can learn. Now, tell me, little girl, before I show you: why do you want out so bad?"
"What? Are you insane? Who wouldn't want out of here?"
"Now there's a question. Who wouldn't want out? There are many beneath your notice, Princess Moth. Roaches, for one. The roaches love this place."
"Roaches? Eew! How do you know my name?"
"Believe me, everyone knows your name, Princess Moth. You're a beacon of hope to some of us. And then there's me, of course."
"I don't mind staying in here."
"You're still talking about that? When are you going to get me out?"
"Answer my question! What is out there that you need?"
I sigh and answer her. "Puck."
"Oh, yes, your fiancée who left you. Twice. Yes, I've heard much about him. You truly love him, then?"
"Yes! I do! I love him but he hates me and I don't know why and I can't see why he had to run away like that. I mean, we would have married, and with Oberon out of the way, we would have ruled Faerie together! It would have been… happily ever after. Forever. If not for her."
There's a long silence. I stand with my head bowed, hating Sabrina Grimm for all she's done. The woman watches me. After a long time, she breaks the silence. "Seems like an excellent reason to me."
"Great. You'll tell me the way out now, I assume."
"Oh, yes. There's much hidden in a reflection." And with that, she starts hobbling away.
"What? Wait—how do I get out!"
"Think." She leers at me over her shoulder, then disappears into the darkness.