“Do you ever get tired?” the lawyer in black asked the lawyer in white.
“Nightly,” the one in white answered with a smile.
The two lawyers were standing in the countess’s antechamber, waiting to argue their cases. They were unique in their professions, chosen from hundreds when they were just beginning their education to hold these professions. They were unique in their country in the same way their country was unique within the known world.
The countess ruled the country, holding the throne for when somebody worthy would come to take it from her. There was a series of tests and the countess had sworn she would step aside for any who passed them. After four hundred years, it was looking less and less likely that there would ever be a suitable candidate. Long live the countess had been sung by the people almost since she was sat on the throne. Her evenhandedness and good management had almost ensured that the enchantment on the kingdom would keep her where the people wanted her.
When the doors opened, the two lawyers straightened themselves in identical movements and walked through at the same time.
“Come, my advisors, and talk to me about this case, though I fear I know what you will both say.” The countess sounded tired. She’d spent the last two days listening to the trial of an accused murderer. There was no doubt he was guilty; the evidence was overwhelming and the prosecutors had built a compelling case. The only defense the accused could mount was a plea for mercy.
The lawyer in black held the papers he’d been collecting over the last several days in front of him. “The facts in the case are indisputable; he murdered his family in what could be described as a particularly brutal fashion. The law is clear in this case and the penalty is death, though there are multiple precedents for the method of execution. For the sake of his family, I urge you to carry out his sentence with all due haste though, as they were only farmers, I would suggest the use of the hangman.”
“What say you?” the countess asked the other lawyer.
“I do not believe the brutality of the crime is self-evident, my lady. I’ve spoken to many of the people who knew the family and the thing I’ve heard the most is that there was no evidence that the boy had gone bad. In fact, many of them didn’t recognize him as they boy they knew when he was pulled from the house. While it may be that he simply went mad, I think it is worth investigating why he did it.”
“The boy is incoherent,” the lawyer in black said. “Even now, he sits in his cell and growls. He’s more animal than man.”
“But why? What happened to him to make him this way? It is worth further investigation, my lady, by someone with your particular talents.”
“Whatever the reason behind his madness, my lady, the sentence is clear. He must be put to death and I would urge the quicker the better, lest his madness spread.”
“Unless killing him spreads it faster; you can’t bring him back once he’s dead, there is yet time. Carrying out his sentence now or a month from now will not bring his family back.”
The lawyers stood at either end of her desk, not facing off against each other but looking to her. These were the arguments they were there to present. It was ultimately her decision to make and the burden felt heavy on her shoulders. “Thank you, gentlemen,” she said to them. “I can see a need for haste but I also see the need for further investigation. The sentence will be postponed until I have been to the scene of the slaughter; I doubt very much if the delay will mean much to the boy but I will make sure to have my clerics on duty with the guards. You may go. Thank you for doing your duty.”
They both bent to her and turned as though they were in a mirror and left the office the same way they came in. The door closed behind them and a stiffness they both held in their spines relaxed as the geas of their offices left them.
“Do you really think the boy is possessed?” The lawyer in black asked, turning to his friend and counterpart.
“I don’t know, but I’m not sure I want to imagine a world where somebody in their right mind can do what I saw in that farmhouse.”
“The law doesn’t care if he’s possessed.”
“No, but the people do.”
- Flash Fiction Friday: Preparing For An Heir (steponthejourney.wordpress.com)