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Chapter 19: Secret Trials

News of the masquerade reached the outer fortresses of the passage as the town of Domain tried to reach a verdict. Jurors seemed to be more concerned with the masquerade ball than the actual case. Jason and Anton Drought both became present in the courtroom.

“If no party is substituted, I would like to abstain for Acacia’s absence.” Jan testified.

The Judge looked at him. “You can’t volunteer yourself for another party if the party hasn’t spoken in your approval. Their permission for your spokesman-ship is needed as is permission for their absence. We can continue the hearing later, but I’d like to divide the testimonies now without quarrel.”

“If you would like my side of the story first then I have plenty to show for. The jury would be surprised at what we’ve hidden in our absence.” As the Judge kept an eye on him, he pulled a small box polished in iridescent shell out of his jacket. Most of the box was falling apart but what Jan showed Judge Danika when he opened the small chest did not force her to bat an eye but instead, look quizzically.

“Mrs., Mr. Drought, could you please release the will’s testimony again?”

“Yes, Mr. Mennings made a copy for us.” Jason’s mother answered. “I’m sure there’ll be another day Acacia can appear to us, so I’ll repeat, ‘The Old World is where we came from and I hope that you use this portal wisely because we ensure you will start anew in this world. It lies at the end of the passage and he who finds the fruit or has it in their possession can get to it’...”

Jason released the lid to reveal an extraordinary but ordinary half-eaten fruit. Danika’s expression appeared half annoyed, half confused.

Anton Drought took the stand. His suit contrasted the nicks and scars on his cheeks and hands. “Therefore, Judge Danika, my family claims rightful ownership of the will and in ownership of the will, my son, executor, has right to the deeds and once again this town will be restored.”

Jason beamed at his father. “Thank you, and as executor, court, I give the church back to Acacia, I keep the orchard and cellar for Ondrea. But the college, it came to a tough decision, I could hand it to the Correlli’s or the Alexander’s but since it switched owners so many times, I release it momentarily to my father.”

Judge Danika pounded her gavel. “This decision isn’t official until all parties are present. Dismissed.”

Since there was no need for the crew to hold a secret meeting late since Anton had escaped, everyone noisily climbed below deck.

The captain after having spoken with Andelko, returned to Acacia. “Your foreign pirate will be back. He’s not done yet but what is he back for? No, not my ship. I’ve reached discourse with sailors of Medora and they tell me the man means to cause calamity ‘bove the noise, and pillage towns, giving them his name! Howe’er, there is a reason you boarded this vessel. You must find the deeds o’ e’ery town and give ’em up ta Daphne.”

“Captain, I do not belong aboard this ship. I don’t belong anywhere. The reason I came to Acropolis was to get away from what awaited me back home and find my friend who took my will from me. Daphne sent me to find this friend as well, but I had no choice to escape that time. I don’t need a war, so I will restore the deeds of every town once I get mine, but only if I prove myself ruler. Anton frightens me, but my friend is near him. What day is it?”

“Why, it’s the fourth. Seems to me that you were too late for Daphne’s quest, and you need not worry. Oh, they’ll be back. But we’re in war. I’ve been telling everybody about the High Warrior. You mustn’t worry about whom Daphne forced under exile due to her poor knowledge. Seems she was doin’ what was righteous, but same, she was working the wrong plan.”

“No, I think Jason’s exile was choice. Do you expect me to take back what belongs to Daphne though? I need an opinion. Do you think you are really ready to be my subject, whether or not I’m ready to rule?”

“You are rightful heir to her. Take back what is yours. She hasn’t kept it a secret from you. You chose to be obedient, not meddling ’round. So, Ara told me.”

“Ara?” Her surprise came.

“I know everybody, do I not?” The captain then gathered the crew in silence and employed his strategy to take siege of the port Siljeca.

After making for Siljeca, the captain summoned Acacia below deck. A gathering was made around a table holding a parchment of an old map. As the crew tried settling for the meeting, the captain took his matters privately, first to Acacia.

“Whether your encounter with your friend was temporary, I do hope he never returns yet I can’t fathom why he doesn’t join our side. Seein’ as were headed toward a revolution, uniting men and beast, we must oversee what the old rulers asked either turning of the blade. I, myself, would rather have the beasts return to the wild; however, their own races disown them. To’morrow, it might seem soon, but tomorrow we arrive in Siljeca.”

“I don’t propose, captain, that it is best for you to strike without a strategy. There needn’t be war. If it’s me Medora is after then have the town take me because my siege and only purpose is to chase my seal, my fortune. I have no purpose in Siljeca.”

“But Daphne has sent me a message. She has found your cousin in Siljeca headed toward the pass of Philippi.”

“But Captain, also I hope for a smooth return to Daphne although I haven’t trusted her lately. I can’t leave her for my cousin. She faked her own death and now she plans to spread my fortune to ones she has exiled, as I hope it’s not so, but as I’ve heard it from the family, that is my fear. I do not reckon what is happening in their world. For a while...I’ve been reluctant to find out.”

“Strategy is what we’re here to discuss. It’s imperative to gain the port and perhaps we can do so without starting a war.” His eyebrows grew grim. “And of whom I wonder from your family blessed you with this great news?”

The crew demanded the captain not make them wait any longer, so the shipmates put down their drinks as the captain slowly joined their ranks.

“Acacia and I are in accord,” he announced. “We invade Siljeca tomorrow and some of us will go off toward the pass of Philippi, but war is not what we’re here for. Sage Daphne sent me a message. Citizens of the outer world have breached our barriers and Jan intends to send his drunken masses our way with an armada of one hundred.” He smiled sneeringly.

When Acacia heard the news, her shock blocked the anger. She sunk in her chair and navigated toward darker, and more wounded thoughts.

The captain’s words then bled into her thoughts, “...after failure of invasion—that is—if the rest of my fleet does not arrive, we arrest Agora and bring her in. Stage a coup. But yes, we will take care and joy in Siljeca.”

Another rang in, “What of the outsiders? How can we reach them before they reach us?”

The captain turned stern. “Sir, we may need to make some alliances and if we turn back from our direction, who will be in charge of Siljeca first? And we will make alliances not only with the port peoples but the wild ones, the unicorns, and dare I, the Kirin?”

Acacia shuttered at the mention of the creature’s name. The Kirin tales were most elusive. Most of Kazimir’s elders denied hearing them, but one or many high priests have vague beliefs in Kirin lore. Their wild manes like fire, scales like sea serpents, and teeth as long as their claws, and claws as long as stalactites terrified and mystified her. The Kirin of the East were only concerned with their own wild affairs, but they were unbiased when shown mercy, and deadly when one wrong word has been slipped from the mouth of a sailor.

“And sir, half of my armada will run through the pass of Philippi, after coup, and the other half will demand all weaponry under High Priest authority and High Warrior authority.” The captain turned to Acacia, making sure he had her attention.

But Acacia interrupted, “Captain, do you know my friend, my good priest, Kazimir? Any word of him?”

His rigidity disappeared. The captain rubbed his temple and sank in his chair, heaved a sigh, and looked back at her with glistening eyes. Marko’s eyes were as glassy and glazed as the sunken late-afternoon sea.

Capital Domain dwindled into upheaval three months after the missed court hearing. All shops across from Domain Private College and scattered shops including the Alexander Fishery along the river fell off the radar like pine needles in the Northern wind. Rarely did students and residents venture out of the town although everyone very much desired to see family or get a scrap to eat. No one knew where the city funds went. Jason and quite a few other authorities were proclaimed “missing or lost” but hopefuls at Dominion Church prayed for safe returns. Despite the upheaval in Domain hearts, the town felt cold and isolated, living but dead, hanging on a limb. The court hearing had been canceled but rescheduled. Judge Danika stood in place for city officials and soon reassured everyone most missing persons joined the search parties in hope of finding Acacia, Jason, and Ondrea. No one wondered where Kazimir had gone because he seemed to always go on vacation to see his extensive family, even if he couldn’t afford it. If the town was forced to starve any longer, Judge Danika would be elected dictate mayor in favor of open trade to all neighboring cities and the wilderness.

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