I will soon begin a rewrite of the first 23 chapters of my story that will bring the story into a better structure and explain some things better and less awkwardly. So if you're just now about to jump in, be aware that you may have to start over suddenly. If you start reading anyway and want to give me some feedback, feel free to contact me.
On a clearing by a cliff face deep in one of the many vast forests of Sturreland, over two hundred witches, druids, shamans and mages had gathered. They wore their best robes, grey with dark green borders, it was the formal attire of the Lodge. Like birds preparing for migration, they sat on branches, oriented and aligned specifically for their comfort by the trees surrounding the clearing. This clearing was an important place of power and where the highest organs of the Lodge of Sturreland would gather, and today, they had come to see a trial. Many of them knew not the crime, had only heard from various gossips what it was about or who the accused was. Indeed, many of them did not even know the actual accused, for her existence had been a closely guarded secret for a while now.
Normally, trials were at least semi-public, being publicly posted at the headquarters of the Lodge for everyone to see, but considering the secrecy around the accused’s status and the shame of the deed, the Lodge decided to hold a closed trial among the inner circle of the Lodge, baring the mayors of Sturreland, on this clearing, rather than the courtrooms of the headquarters.
Just before the stone cliff face, the Arch-Druid Loganna and her twelve trusted judges had taken seat behind a long shale slab table. They wore even more elegant robes, with colourful stitching abound, covering almost all of the available cloth- The accused knelt on the opposing end of the clearing. It was a girl of maybe fifteen years and weird appearance. She had fur, of the colour of grain just before the harvest, with a sheen like brushed metal, a short, dark red mane adorned her head. She wore a white prison gown, and had been wrapped in a long chain that was once carved from the trunk of a tree that stoodabove all others in Sturreland, for centuries, but fell during the Great Sundering more than thirteen centuries ago. Each of the wooden links was engraved with powerful runes to bind and contain anyone or anything within. It was an important artefact of the Lodge and weighed the sinner down heavier than any guilt.
An elderly woman with a burl wood cane came closer to the girl. She was of small stature, hunched over and leaning on her cane. Long straight white hair was hanging down from under the hood of her robe. Her eyes were sunken in deep and her skin was full of furrows and wrinkles. On her shoulder sat a large black raven. She seemed to lean down to the girl, speaking words of encouragement, stroking her head. The girl did not seem to care much for the gesture.
The crowd was still talking among themselves, discussing the severity of the crime, eying the weird accused, discussing her half-beast half-human appearance, and weighing her chances of leaving the clearing alive.
There were two figures not clad in the grey and dark green of the Lodge on the clearing. One of them on the side of the accusers, the other on the side of the defendants.
On the accusers’ side a man with pale skin and long, black hair, bound into a low ponytail. His clothes consisted of a fine satin vest over a dark red linen shirt, and long black trousers.
On the defendants’ side, a man with sun tanned skin, a well kempt beard and dark blonde hair. He wore a vest of very thin and embroidered leather over a dark blue shirt, and dark brown trousers.
The two men looked at each other with an air of respect, but also curiosity reserved for a better time and place.
The arch-Druid Loganna beckoned the crowd to calm down. The crowd fell silent. The trial was about to begin.