ashes and snow

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ten


The king sat on the golden throne that stood in the middle of the wooden platform. Eira sat next to him on a smaller throne, her gaze drifting over the silent crowd that watched their every move.

There were people from every status, from the indigent to the extremely wealthy. All of them together, they waited for the trials to begin.

“King Arkyn,” her husband was greeted by a tall man that walked inside, stepped onto the platform, and bowed his head for them. His dark brown hair fell into his face, and he quickly stroked it back before he looked back up at him, managing to completely ignore Eira’s presence.

“It is a pleasure to see you again after all these weeks. I see you’re happily married now?”

Arkyn sat back in his seat. “I am,” he said darkly. His gaze shifted to the doors they had come in to. They had been closed right after their arrival. “How long do we have to wait, Alastair?”

The man, Alastair, crossed his arms behind his back, straightening even more. “They will be brought in as soon as you want them to, my king. We have just been waiting for your arrival and approval.”

“Go on then, what’s stopping you?”

He bit his lip and looked back to one of the guards that stood next to the door. They shared a look, and after the man nodded, Alastair sighed in relief. He turned back to them. “Nothing, my king.”

“Bring them in now,” her husband ordered, with gritted teeth. Several people moved at the same time.

The doors were opened to let in six people. Two guards were each holding a young woman and a young man by their upper arms, dragging them into the hall. Both of them were cuffed, their wrists bruised and bloody.

The woman’s chin was tilted upward, her steps proud. Her golden, straight hair was as dirty as the rest of her. The man, who seemed as disheveled as her, was shaking in fear. His skin looked almost paler than his white hair, his shoulders tight as he looked around. Eira could smell the odor of his terror, the sweat on his hands.

The crowd of people that stood beneath the platform started to shout again, most of them wishing the defendants their death. More guards entered the courtroom, having to keep them away by force.

The man and the woman were brought up the stairs, watched by everyone.

Eira folded her hands in her lap. How long would it take until this was over? All the smells and noises in the room were starting to play with her mind.

She watched as they walked over the platform and stopped a few meters to her right. The guards held the defendants by their arms to keep them still.

The man’s whole body was shaking, and she could smell his fear in the air as if it was a strong perfume. But the woman? She was looking straight forward now, her chin held up high as she completely ignored the world around her.

Arkyn lifted his chin. “Alright. Let the trials begin.” He looked at the defendants, disgust wrenching at his features. Eira couldn’t help but pity them in away. She had been where they were in some kind of way.

“The indictment?” he asked Alastair, without even looking at him. He was focused on his possible victims, the strands of their lives basically in between scissors that he held.

A woman fought her way through the crowd, causing yelps and insults to echo around the air. The king’s focus fell on her, right before she stopped in front of the platform. Her cheeks were blushed, and Eira could smell the hatred that radiated off of her. She pointed at the woman, accusingly, “She used her magic to kill your townsmen!” Her whole body was shaking. “My husband! She was the cause of my husband’s death!”

Another man raised his voice to acknowledge her point, “She must have poisoned the well! Everyone that drank from it got sick, she was the only one that got off without anything!”

“She is a witch!” One of them shouted. They were clearly lying, she was the only one in this world that possessed magic. She had taken all of it for a reason.

More shouts erupted, and no further sentence could be understood. Eira pinched her eyes close as the sounds started to clog her mind. Her head was pounding.

“One at a time!” Alastair tried to stop the mess that was starting, but it was to no avail. He was simply ignored.

Eira shook her head and lifted her hand to her temple. She groaned quietly as the shouts only got louder.

She wasn’t sure how much more of it she could take before she would raise hell.

She could feel her husband’s gaze drifting to her. A growl rumbled through his body right before he turned again. “I demand silence!” he roared. “Don’t you see what you are doing to your queen?”

A second passed before Eira opened her eyes slightly. The people had become silent, looking almost frozen as their gaze slowly moved from her to the king. Some of them were still openly staring at her. A choked laugh left her lips. This was all it took?

Arkyn shook his head beside her, demanding everyone’s attention. “This is the first open trial after her death, and all of you dare to act like this?” He was talking about his past wife.

It was silent in the room, and nobody even dared to make a move. They all seemed to know when to not anger him any more.

He gripped the armrests of his throne, his knuckles turning white and breathed deeply to collect himself. “Alright,” he muttered to himself before raising his voice again. “Then let’s continue, shall we?”

Alastair nodded at this and moved his attention to the male that was still a shaking mess. “He is accused to be a spy from the red kingdom,” he stated.

Riot went through the crowd.

“Any witnesses?” the king asked as they all watched the color drain from the man’s face.

“Two guards noticed him leaving the border unannounced. They sent someone to go after him and watched him leave for the red kingdom. There is no denying what he is.”

“Alright,” the king let the word roll from his tongue. “They will be hanged in two days,” he announced without looking away from him.

The white-haired man’s eyes widened in terror. “No!” he screamed, desperately trying to fight off the men that held him. “No, you can’t do that! You’ll declare war!”

The king beside her chuckled darkly. “You think I am scared of that man, all of you call king?”

Beats of sweat started to drip down the man’s face. His cheeks blushed, his lips trembling in fear, “You- you can’t do that-”

“Oh, I will,” her husband snarled at him. “That pathetic little bastard had nothing on me,” he spoke. “If this won’t stop, your blood won’t be the last to drip from my hands. And there will only be him to blame.”


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