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In this section the Amazons struggle to deal with Raisa's allegations.
Ariana called for silence as Eponin took her place on the platform. Flanked by Niobe and Krystina, she turned and faced the crowd. "Advisor for the defense, is the defendant aware of the purpose of this hearing?" Phaedra stepped forward, "She is, your majesty, and we are ready to proceed."
Eponin then announced "The purpose of this hearing is to examine accusations made against Xena, daughter of Cyrene, by the woman identified only as Raisa, allegedly on behalf of Queen Ephiny. Unfortunately, Raisa died before she could answer questions about her allegations. The actual events were witnessed by many, so the question is not what happened, but rather why?
In the healers opinion, Raisa suffered from a profound fear of enclosed spaces. They feel it likely that this fear caused her to panic at the jail, and set in motion a tragic chain of events which led directly to her death. Yesterday's inquest accepted this explanation, and absolved all persons involved with the exception of Raisa herself, of any blame in the matter. Many questions remain about the woman, and the allegations she made, but her death was a tragedy fated by the Gods. We ask that they have mercy on her soul."
"Moving on to the allegations. Specifically, Raisa accused the defendant of being a career criminal. She accused the defendant of two instances of murder and treason to back up her charges. As these accusations were made in open court, the council is obliged to act on them even in her absence. For the benefit of all, the head of the council will now report the portions of law that pertain to career criminals."
Niobe rose and bowed to Eponin. Then producing a scroll she read slowly. "Amazon law defines a career criminal as any adult Amazon who has been convicted, under Amazon law, of three or more separate and unrelated violent crimes against persons. It specifically states that there must be at least 13 moons between two of these, and all must have been committed within the ten cycles immediately preceeding the charge. Only one summary judgement, or trial in absentia, may be used in making this determination. The other qualifying convictions must be the result of public trials, in which the defendant was present, and afforded a fair opportunity to defend herself.
This law can only be invoked following a pubic hearing, in which the defendant must be present, and represented by an adult Amazon learned in law. Nine adult members of the nation shall be selected by lot to serve as a jury. The defendant may refuse any of them for personal reasons without explanation, in which case additional jurors shall be called until nine are seated. No victim of her crimes may serve, nor may any of their blood relation. Priestesses and members of the council are also excluded.
The defendant may call and question any witnesses she chooses in her own defense. No Amazon witness may refuse to testify on any relevant matter, regardless of rank, position, or membership in the tribe. All testimony given must be under oath. Witnesses need not be Amazons or followers of Artemis, but they must swear the truthfulness of their testimony by one of the 12 major deities of the Olympian pantheon.
Once ruled a career criminal under this law, the defendant shall, at the discretion of the jury, be either put to death, or banished for not less than ten cycles of seasons. Each question will be decided by a single and separate casting of secret votes by the jurors. These votes will be counted in open court, and no person shall be ruled a career criminal, or put to death under this law, without the agreement of at least seven of the nine jurors."
Niobe bowed and took her seat. Eponin stood and looked over the crowd. "The court has examined the nations records, and found that this defendant has never before been convicted of a crime of violence against a person, or any crime under Amazon law. Based on those findings, the court rules that the accusation is without merit. Xena is not a career criminal as defined by Amazon law, and that charge against her is hereby dismissed."
There were mixed shouts of approval and protest. Eponin impatiently threw her hands in the air. Ariana banged her staff and again called loudly for silence. When calm had been restored, she announced, " If anyone else interrupts these proceedings, without what the court will agree is a good reason, she will be taken into custody, and held in contempt. Do I make myself clear?"
She waited a moment. "Good. The law on career criminals clearly states that the qualifying crimes and convictions must have taken place in the preceding ten cycles. The minimum banishment specified tells me the laws intent is that no crime be used twice in making such a determination. In keeping with that interpretation, the crimes for which the Xena now awaits sentencing are excluded from any future proceedings against her under the law on career criminals. "
One of the anti Xena faction took a chance, "Your majesty, unless the law specifically states that a crime can only be considered once, I think the council should vote on your last interpretation and ruling." Niobe whispered, "I agree with you, but she's right." Eponin bent down to whisper back. "Alright. But damn it, Niobe, just when in Tartarus did we become a nation of lawyers?" "You'd rather break heads than argue law?" Eponin hissed, "Yes"
Eponin stood back up, "The question will be put to a vote. The decision will become a permanent part of the law." Ariana called the council roll, then announced that the vote was unanimous, in favor of Eponin's ruling. She in turn asked the woman who raised the issue, "Does this satisfy your concerns?" The woman bowed respectfully, "It does your majesty, thank you." Eponin nodded, "You're welcome. Court will recess for half a candlemark."
When the hearing resumed, Eponin announced, "The next question is whether or not to proceed with Raisa's specific allegations against the defendant. I would remind everyone that guilt or innocence is not the issue here. Our purpose is to determine whether or not, there appears to be sufficient merit to these allegations to justify formally charging the accused, and trying her on these charges."
Ariana rose and read the allegations, "the defendant is alleged to have committed treason, and murder in the massacre of Scythian Amazons, which took place 11 winters ago. Killed were Queen Cyane, her entire council, and over 100 members of that nation. Reports received at the time indicate that the Scythian nation was attacked without provocation by the army of a Warlord Borias, and his female second in command. The basic facts were made known at the time, but the reports themselves were sealed, due to their source, and other sensitive material contained within."
Eponin asked the critical question. "Do the reports name this female second in command?" "They do not." "What do they say about her?" Ariana consulted her notes, "The reports indicate that she was about twenty, tall with dark hair, and fair skin. They also indicate that she was working with a rogue Amazon Shamaness, who met the same general description. Her name was known and reported as Alti." "The first woman, do the reports say whether or not she was an Amazon?" "Our source was unsure of her exact status, although they indicated that she appeared to be. They do say that she appeared to be a Shamaness, and on at least cordial terms, with both Queen Cyane and the tribe."
Phaedra raised her hand, "Your majesty, while the description does fit the defendant, it could equally describe any number of women. Without a name, or proof of the woman's Amazon status, I respectfully submit that there are insufficient grounds to charge the defendant, or anyone."
Ariana interrupted, "Your majesty, other reports specifically relating to the battle of Corinth, might shed some light on this matter." Eponin shuddered. "What do they say?"
Ariana leaned on her staff. "These reports indicate that about three seasons after the attack on our Scythian sisters, the army of Borias besieged the city of Corinth. They indicate that at that time he also had a female second in command, who matched the description of the one in Scythia." "Do the reports give this woman's name?" Ariana fixed a hard stare on Xena. "These reports name Borias's female second in command at Corinth, as Xena of Amphipolis, and refer to her also as the Warrior Princess, and the Destroyer of Nations."
Angry shouts erupted from the crowd. Xena's guards pushed her behind them, as a wave of women rushed forward. Ordering "royal guard move in" Eponin leaped to the ground and drew her sword, several council members followed. Pushing forward Eponin ordered, "Solari, get Xena back in her cell, and double the guard." Xena's guards grabbed her arms, "Come on, let's get you out of here." Xena pulled free, screaming "NO" then in a firm but more normal voice, "let them have me your majesty, there's no reason for anyone else to die." "GET HER OUT OF HERE, NOW" The guards again grabbed Xena and hustled her away.
Sword bared in her hand, Eponin faced the crowd. " Whatever that woman has done! Whatever any of you think she's done! She is entitled to a fair trial." Shaking the sword, "and if she dies, it's going to be by my order, and in accordance with the law, not at the hands of a mob. Now everybody just back off." Slowly the small group of women backed away. Eponin called over her shoulder, "Sophia, get their names"
Calmer, but still holding the sword, Eponin told the crowd. "I've had it with these disruptions. (Voice raises) This isn't a festival. A woman is on trial for her life. She's entitled to a fair trial, based on the law and the evidence. Just like any of you would be in her position." She looked to Sophia, "You have the names?" "Yes. your majesty." "Good"
Eponin took the list and returned to the platform, Thinking "none of the real troublemakers, but dammit, they went too far." Passing the list to Ariana she called out loudly. "As the scribe reads your name, take one step forward." When all the women had been called, Eponin lowered her mask and faced them, "I find each of you in contempt of court. Unless called to testify, you are barred from any further participation in this trial. In addition, I sentence each of you to one moon of community service, under the orders of the weapons mistress. Court is recessed until tomorrow morning."
She left the platform and found Sophia. "Stop by my hut when you're done here."
That evening Cyrene was sitting on her bunk, trying to fight the swirl of emotions that assailed her. A soft knocking caught her attention. Fighting tears she whispered, "go away." The knocking grew louder, "Cyrene it's Hecuba, please may I come in." Cyrene remained silent, then came Krystina's voice, "latch cords pulled in, maybe she's asleep." "Then why's she got a light burning." Krystina knocked loudly, "Cyrene, please, just say something, anything, so we know you're okay."
Finally Cyrene lifted her head, "we're closed." A moment later she heard crying outside, Krystina's voice saying softly, "we'll come back later." Jolted into clarity Cyrene called out "wait" and a moment later opened the door. Krystina was holding a sobbing Hecuba tightly to her. "Cyrene, please?" "I'm sorry, I just." "I know." Then she put a hand on the priestess's shoulder, "come on, let's get her inside."
They let Hecuba cry for a bit. Krystina told Cyrene, "when you missed supper, we got concerned." "I didn't have much appetite." Realizing then that the priestess looked shaken, Cyrene asked "I wonder if we should give her a moment." "A breath of air?" She looked to Hecuba, "we'll be right outside."
Outside the hut Cyrene asked, "what's happening?" Krystina's expression tightened, "Hecuba came to talk to me. She has something very important, but very painful she wants to say to you about both of your daughters. She asked me to come with her, but I'd rather she be the one to tell you." Hecuba opened the door at that moment. "Thank you. I think I'm ok to talk now." Cyrene reached for her hand, "whenever you feel ready."
Inside Cyrene took a chair, while Hecuba sat on the bunk with Krystina. Hecuba looked at her hands, "Cyrene, it's hard for me to say this so please bear with me. A long time ago, your daughter found two pretty wretched women hiding in your hayloft. We told you who and what we were, but you didn't throw us out, or turn us in. You knew we had prices on our heads, and nothing to lose, but still you took our word." She hesitated, Krystina reached over and took her hands. "I'll be forever grateful, and in your debt."
Hecuba went on, "Cyrene, I think the queen has bent over backwards to give Xena a fair trial. I'm not a cruel woman, but I could see putting her on the labor squad, or even giving her a taste of the lash, for what she did to Gabrielle. To my mind that's justice, but this isn't about justice anymore. It's about someone trying to turn a fair trial into a lynching. Knowing my story, you can guess how I feel about that."
She looked down for a few moments, "Xena doesn't deserve to hang, anymore than Krystina does, or Gabrielle belongs in Tartarus. Hades asked us to stay, because if we did he might be able to give Gabrielle back her life." She started to cry. "Cyrene, I miss my daughter, but she's dead and your's is alive. Gabrielle can be rejudged whether we're here or not. To me that's the important thing, I don't care whether they send her to the Forests or Fields. I'll be happy if they just let her out of Tartarus. What I'm trying to say is, if it comes to that, I'm willing to help you convince the Queen to banish Xena instead of hanging her. Even if it costs Gabrielle any chance she has of getting her life back."
Cyrene sat there in shock, then slowly got up and crossed to the bunk. She pulled Hecuba to her breast, and the two mothers cried for a very long time.
Elsewhere, Xena was surprised when Eponin, and Phaedra walked into her cell. Rising stoically as they entered, she gestured towards the bunk opposite. "Sorry about the hospitality, but you see how it is." She folded her arms, "besides my head on a platter, what do they want?" Eponin began pacing the short length of the cell. "That's just for openers."
She went on to tell Xena what had happened with the mob, after she'd been taken away. "Xena, I know we've already talked about Scythia, and the events here. Unfortunately, this Raisa, whoever she was, knew what she was doing when she built her trap. I don't see any way to avoid putting you back on trial. What's worse is we haven't finished the first one yet." "Anything left, besides sentencing me?" "Unfortunately, the gods help us, I've got to give others a chance to speak against granting you leniency. Then after we get through trying you on these new charges, I'll have to do it again."
Xena shook her head, "Eponin, remember when I got here. What we figured out about someone slipping me Lethe water, and why?" "I remember." It looks like they're still at it, and they won't stop until they force you to hang me." Phaedra leaned forward, "or until we stop them. So how do we save your life?" "You don't." Eponin leaned her head against the wall, "What exactly are you saying, Xena?"
Xena sat on her bunk, saying in a calm even voice. "Both of you tried your best, and I couldn't have asked for a fairer trial. It's still hard to accept that people like you, Delia, Krystina care what happens to me. I know all of you do, because you've been teaching me to care too. The problem is that there's people all over Greece, north to Britania, and halfway to Chin that hate me. Most of them have good reason. I don't want to die, but somebody on Olympus wants me dead, and whoever it is, is a lot bigger then the Amazon nation. If hanging me will get them off your neck, then do it."
Eponin was not surprised by Xena's stoic analysis of her situation. "Xena, I never pictured you as going in for human sacrifice." "You might be surprised." Eponin caught her breath. "Maybe so, Xena, but I don't, and you'd make a lousy sacrifice anyway." "Why's that?" Eponin smirked, "Well Xena, I'm sorry to have to break this to you, but if you've had a son, you're not a virgin anymore."
Phaedra added, "I don't hold with human sacrifice either Xena, and your offer isn't sacrifice, it's suicide. Now if you're right, what that deity wants isn't a sacrifice, it's an execution, as in you dead, disgraced, discredited. I've never seen a gallows that looked like a temple altar, and I've seen a lot of both. Let's not confuse the two."
Eponin held up her hands. "Xena, I appreciate the offer, but forget it. I agree with you. Some deity wants you dead. They want us to do their dirty work. There's only two possible explanations that I can come up with. The first is, they're afraid of upsetting other more powerful gods that want you alive. Now if they're afraid to tick them off, we shouldn't risk it either. (Two fingers) The second, and more ominous possibility, they want to replace Artemis as our patron goddess. Now whoever's behind this knows us and our law intimately, so my guess would be Velasca. If it is her, she probably wants us to offer her something she can call a sacrifice, to help solidify her position on Olympus. I don't know about you, Xena, but I really don't think we should do that."
Xena nodded, "I hadn't thought of it that way, but -" Eponin snapped, "I'm not surprised. Now quit trying to play martyr, and help us come up with a way to save your life."
Three days later, Xena again stood before the platform. Eponin announced. "The court rules that the accusations against the defendant Xena, made during pleadings in previous proceedings by the witness Raisa, are of sufficient merit to justify trying them. The defense has requested that they be tried as a continuation of those proceedings. Advisor for the defense" "Yes, your majesty."
"For reasons previously discussed, your request cannot be granted. However the court is willing to defer any additional pleadings and sentencing in that matter, until a verdict has been reached on these charges." Phaedra bowed, "we would appreciate that your majesty."
Eponin took a breath, "The charges against the defendant include the murder of several members of a hunting party from this village ten summers ago. In the interest of fairness, I have reminded the council that my own mother was one of the murdered, and for that reason I could not preside. Under normal circumstances, the duty would then fall upon the head of the council, but her daughter was also one of the victims." She turned and bowed to Ariana, "please announce the councils decision."
Ariana stepped forward, "The High Priestess of Artemis is the highest ranking member of the council who was neither directly involved, nor lost a relative as a result of the attack. As she is sufficiently familiar with law and trial procedure to ensure fairness, the council has asked her to preside. Does the defense accept this appointment?" "We do." Ariana bowed, "High Priestess."
Krystina stepped forward. The junior priestess, acting as bailiff, approached her nervously. "Do you swear before the goddess Artemis, protectress of our nation, that in the proceedings about to begin, you will set aside personal feelings, and base your rulings and judgements solely on the laws of the Amazon nation, and the principle of fairness which it embodies?" Krystina smiled at the young priestess, then placing her right hand over her heart. "Before the holy goddess, my mother in spirit, I do so swear." "For the trial record, please state your name and title?" "I am Krystina, daughter of Artemis, whom I am privileged to serve as high priestess of her holy temple." "Thank you."
Both women took their positions, Krystina stepped to the platform rail. "Before we begin, I wish to make a few things clear. I will tolerate no disruption of these proceedings, (pause) by anyone. Any objections, or questions regarding procedure or points of law, must come from or through a council member or the defense advisor." She waited a few moments. "The defense request for a jury trial is granted. Bailiff, proceed with jury selection."
The young priestess called out, "there are one hundred stones in this amphora," (points) Adult members of the tribe, having no direct or blood involvement in this case, will step forward and draw one stone each until they are gone. Priestesses, and council members are exempt." There was some grumbling as the women moved forward. Those who drew black stones were directed to stand in front of the platform, those who drew white stones were sent back to their places. The bailiff then produced a second, smaller amphora, and passed it among the women who had drawn black stones the first time.
When a jury of nine had been selected and sworn, testimony began. Ariana called, "Solari, daughter of Helen, come forward." Solari testified how she had been on a hunting party, attacked by raiders trespassing on Amazon lands ten summers before. How the parties leader had sent her back to the village for help. And what the war party found when they arrived. Phaedra questioned her on many details, then asked if she had seen any women in the raiding party. Solari answered loudly, "No" "Were you wounded in the battle?" "Yes." "Please describe the wound." Solari snapped, "which one?" Krystina interrupted, "I understand that these memories are painful. But please stick to the facts." Phaedra apologized, "I will rephrase the question. How badly were you wounded?" "My left leg, arm, and three ribs were broken. I had two arrow wounds, numerous lacerations which needed stitches, and a fractured skull." "How long before you were healed?" "I was in the hospice for about a moon and a half. Once my arm healed I was on crutches for a season. I wasn't able to go back on full duty for two seasons after that."
Niobe was called next. She testified how she had led the war party sent to rescue the women. She spoke of the battle which followed, and of finding her own daughters mutilated corpse. Xena was shocked to find that the daughter's name had been Cyrene. She glanced quickly at her mother who nodded. *Oh boy* Niobe also testified that she had seen no women among the raiders, and that one of them had been captured alive. "What happened to him?"
"He was brought here and thrown into jail. Later he was put on trial, and executed for murder." "Is it safe to assume he was questioned?" "He refused to answer any questions at first, but with time and effort, he was persuaded to talk." "By that do you mean he was tortured?" "He was." "How?" Niobe turned to the platform. "We used the lash, fire, knives, -." She hesitated. "Your holiness there are children present, could we spare them the details." Phaedra stepped forward, "your holiness, my question was an attempt to establish the prisoners credibility. The fact that the prisoner's statement was given under torture, is of far more importance than the details."
Krystina nodded, "Niobe, were you present during the interrogation?" "I was, your holiness." "How long was the prisoner questioned under torture?" "Off and on for three days, your holiness." "What did he say?" "He told us that he was a lieutenant in the army of Borias. He himself was under the command of Xena of Amphipolis, who he also referred to as "The Warrior Princess." "Was a record kept of the interrogation?" "I can't say for certain, but there was a scribe present, so I believe so." "Thank you. Advisor for the defense, your witness, "
Phaedra turned to the platform, "Your holiness, I ask that the record of this prisoners interrogation, and trial be checked for references to the defendant, and that they be made available to the defense." "Request granted."
Delia, then finishing her apprenticeship, described the wounds suffered by the hunting party. There were tears in her eyes as she described her sisters death.
Niobe had named several women as members of her rescue party. Those that were still in the village were called. None had seen a woman among the raiders. Two however, had brought back souvenirs which bore Xena's mark.
After a midday recess Xena was called. Phaedra asked her, "Were you with the raiders involved in this attack?" "No." "Did you order them to enter our lands?" "No." "When did you first become aware that the attack and subsequent battle had taken place?" "A few days ago." "If you didn't order them to enter our lands, what were they doing here?" "I don't know. I had put Lt. Piros in command of a foraging party of fifty men. They never came back, that's all I know."
"Where were you, and what were you doing at the time?" "Our army had Corinth under siege. From what's been said, that attack would have taken place a few days before it was broken." "What condition were you in at that time?" "I was in my last moon of pregnancy. My son was born the night our siege was broken."
Krystina interrupted, "Can anyone confirm this?" "Yes. Tyldus the Centaur leader, had been my prisoner at Corinth, along with his General Kaliopus. They escaped, and later led the attack that broke the siege." "Were they aware that you were in late pregnancy?" "If they weren't, they were blind, probably thought I was carrying a colt."
This brought a mixture of soft chuckling, and exaggerated groans from some of the women. Seeing that Cyrene was among them, Krystina decided to consider this a good sign and ignored them. She asked, "Was this the same Kaliopus that raised your son?" "Yes. I gave Solon to him when he was five days old."
Phaedra bowed to the platform, "Your holiness." Krystina waved permission. "We ask that the Centaur leader Tyldus be recalled." "Granted. A messenger will be dispatched. Have you any further witnesses?" "Not until the Centaur leader returns, your holiness."
Krystina then announced, "Court will recess for half a candlemark. When we return we will take up the events in Scythia." Eponin walked up to her, "You're doing a beautiful job." "Thanks, can we get Tyldus back here safely?" "I'll send a squad, what do you think about inviting Ephiny's son?" "He's pretty young, and it gets ugly sometimes. Tyldus knows the situation. If he thinks Xenon can handle it, fine, but I think it better be his decision." "Makes sense. I'll write him a private note."
The trial resumed. "Your holiness, there are only intelligence reports that MAY place the defendant in Scythia at the time of the massacre. Might I remind you, that they DID NOT name the warlords female second in command. There are no eye witnesses, or other evidence of which we are aware. To send an expedition to Scythia to determine the facts of the matter, should they even be available at this late date, would take several moons."
"As to the charges of treason: As the late Raisa pointed out, prior to the beginning of this trial, many present had heard the defendant deny being an Amazon. So even if she took part in the massacre of the Scythian nation, there is no evidence that she ever joined it. Nor can it be proven that the defendant was aware of her Amazon status, as gained here thru her mother, at the time this attack took place. Not even Queen Gabrielle knew about it, as evidenced by her bequest of the same. Regardless of the defendants as yet unproven actions, unless it can be proven that she was aware of her Amazon citizenship at the time they took place, a charge of treason against her cannot be sustained. The defense calls for the dismissal of both treason charges pending against the defendant."
"Prior to ruling on the defense request, the court calls Cyrene, daughter of Artemis to give testimony." Cyrene came forward and was sworn. Krystina asked. "Cyrene, when did you first obtain Amazon citizenship?" "When I was adopted into this tribe as an infant." "You testified during previous proceedings that you have lived outside the nation since you were twenty." "Yes, I did," " Did you ever give up your citizenship?" "Never." "So your daughter, Xena is an amazon by birth." "Yes." "When did you first inform her of that fact?" "Ten days ago, when I returned to the village, and first testified at her trial." Krystina nodded, "Defense advisor, "your witness."
"Cyrene, did you ever tell Xena, that you either were, or had been raised an Amazon?" "No, although she knew I had Amazon friends." "Do you have souvenirs, mementos or anything around your home that might have told her?" "I have my old battle mask, and a few other things locked away in a trunk. As far as I know, none of the children ever bothered them." "Had you ever planned to tell her? And if so when?"
Cyrene cringed, as the painful memories of shattered dreams assaulted her mind. "Yes. I had planned to tell her, and bring her here, when she came of age." "What happened?" "A few moons before Xena's fifteenth birthday, the warlord Cortese attacked our village. Her younger brother Lyceus was killed in that attack. By the time Xena's fifteenth birthday arrived, she had taken up the sword and disappeared." Phaedra hesitated considering her next question. "How long was it before you saw your daughter again?" "Ten summers, and it was a bitter meeting." "What do you mean by bitter?" When Cyrene hesitated. Phaedra turned to the platform, "Your holiness, please instruct the witness to answer?"
Krystina looked at Cyrene, she hated hurting the woman, but she had a job to do. "You will have to answer." Pain was evident in Cyrene's expression as she told of their reunion. "Xena walked into the inn, I took her sword, and told her she wasn't welcome. When she called me mother, I told her that I had no daughter." Cyrene's eyes filled with tears. "Then to my everlasting shame, I turned my own daughter over to the elders to be stoned."
Krystina knew the story, having heard it from Xena, soon after she began working in the hospice. Still she felt her stomach turn. "Obviously she wasn't stoned. What did happen?" Cyrene was unable to answer. Krystina told her gently, "Take a moment to pull yourself together." A few moments later Cyrene nodded, "thank you, your holiness. To answer your question, she was being stoned, when a young woman named Gabrielle of Potadeia happened. You knew her as Queen Gabrielle."
She turned to look at a stunned Hecuba. "Gabrielle arrived right after it started, put herself between Xena and the mob, demanding she be given a trial. Gabrielle was hit a few times before it stopped, but neither of them was seriously injured. Gabrielle and I went into the inn, and Xena rode away. I found that Gabrielle had a way with words. She reminded me of another woman I'd known when she was just a few summers older. When she told me her mothers name, and where she was from, I realized that this was probably her daughter. She told me that Xena had saved her village a few days before. She went on to convince me that Xena was trying to change." "What happened then?" "Xena had stopped at her brother's tomb, before leaving town. While she was there, a warlord named Draco showed up. She came back and met him in single combat, to save the village that had just tried to kill her. She won, but spared his life in exchange for his oath never to enter our valley again. She left soon after and Gabrielle followed."
"Surely you've had other chances to tell her?" "I've only seen her one other time, between then and now." "Tell us about it, just the facts?" "Xena had been cursed with madness by the Furies, who demanded she sacrifice me on their altar. Queen Gabrielle had gone to the next town, looking for the key to the curse. She found it, but it was a close thing. When she got back, Xena had me chained me to the altar, and a knife raised above my heart."
Cyrene stopped, as Phaedra held up her hands in horror, "I get the picture." Delia looked from Xena, to her mother, and back again, *I've heard of some strange mother daughter relationships in my day, but -* Krystina's voice cut off the thought, "Phaedra, have you any further questions for this witness?" The advisor shook her head, "none that I dare ask, your holiness."
Krystina nodded, "the court has one question." Xena groaned. Krystina shot her a warning look. "Cyrene, after everything you've just described. When you found out that Xena was in trouble, and needed your help, you dropped everything to come and help her. Why?" Cyrene sighed, "She's my daughter. Whatever else she is? Whatever she's done? She's still my daughter, and always will be." She looked at Xena, and tears filled both of their eyes, "I forgot that once, but I never will again." "Thank you, you may step down."
Krystina grasped the platform railing, "The defense motion to dismiss all treason charges against the defendant is granted." "Thank you your holiness."
Krystina asked, "do you have another motion?" "Yes, your holiness. The defense asks that all murder charges against the defendant based on the events in Scythia also be dismissed." "On what basis?" "Insufficient evidence currently exists to convict. The woman Raisa may have been able to give useful testimony, but she is dead through no fault of either the defendant or this court. To travel to Scythia and investigate would require considerable time and expense. When coupled with the risks of travel, and likelihood of finding sufficient usable evidence at this late date, this expenditure of resources is hard to justify."
"The murders took place prior to the defendants awareness of her citizenship, so absent proof that she had taken out Amazon citizenship in Scythia, the shield laws would seem to protect her anyway. In addition, the law on career criminal behavior, now specifies that a crime not be counted unless committed in the last ten cycles. Eleven have already passed, and by the time an investigation could be completed it will be twelve. If, due to the passage of time, a crime cannot be counted under that law, I would argue that it should no longer be tried for the same reason.."
"Let us look at the woman who made these allegations in the first place. We don't even know who she was. She had no family here, her name appears nowhere in the council scrolls. The first time anyone can remember seeing her was on the first day of the trial. She took her meals in the food hut, but nobody knows where she was bunking. Yet this mysterious woman showed up in court, with a parchment allegedly given her by queen Ephiny, appointing her to represent her interests at this trial. Queen Ephiny was unable to identify Raisa's body, and denies ever speaking with her, let alone authorizing the woman to speak for her. While in her present condition Queen Ephiny's testimony is inadmissable, I find no reason not to believe her. Especially since no priestess, or member of the royal guard assigned to Queen Ephiny could identify Raisa either.
Your holiness, everything about the mysterious Raisa raises questions about her credibility and intentions. Might I remind her holiness that I questioned both, during her appearance in this court, and that it was her refusal to answer that led to her confinement. Her death was too convenient. The healer used the word claustrophobia. With all due respect to the healers, I disagree, and submit to this court the possibility that Raisa committed suicide, using the guard patrol as her instrument. Her refusal to answer any questions, or submit to confinement, are evidence that she knew her story could not stand even the most cursory of questioning."
Krystina held up her hands, "The defense advisor has made several excellent points, and I am prepared to rule." Someone in the back of the crowd shouted, "Aren't you going to at least ask her?" Krystina pointed, "Guards, arrest that woman and gag her." "What the - " Again Krystina pointed, "that one too." Then lowering her arm, she went on as though nothing had happened. "Now, on the defense motion to dismiss the remaining charges based on the events in Scythia. The shield laws do not apply here, as these took place on Amazon lands. Therefore the defense request for dismissal must be denied. Guards, bring those two women here."
The guards quickly pushed the two gagged women in front of the platform. Krystina looked at them darkly, "I gave fair warning, at the beginning of these proceedings, that all objections and questions of procedure had to come from or thru a council member or the defense advisor. Do you remember me saying that?" The women mumbled behind the gags, "Just nod yes or no." Both womens' heads dipped then raised. Krystina turned to Ariana, "that was a yes as I saw it. Do you agree." "Yes, your holiness."
She turned back to the women, both of whom she recognized as being among the more vocal anti Xena group. "Perhaps you didn't think I was serious. Well as you're about to find out, I was. I find both of you in contempt of court, and sentence each of you to 13 days in jail, and 13 lashes." The still gagged women began muttering loudly, Krystina ignored them, "Guards, get them out of my sight."
She turned back to the crowd. "The court recalls the defendant, Xena." Reminding her as she was escorted forward, "You are still under oath." Xena took a breath, *here it comes* "I understand." "I am willing to order an expedition to Scythia to investigate these charges. Do you wish me to do so." Xena lowered her eyes to the ground, thinking *I'm sorry, mother* Then raising her eyes to the platform, she said in a clear voice. "That won't be necessary, your holiness."
Already knowing the answer, Krystina cringed as she asked the next question. "Xena, did you take part in the massacre of the Scythian Amazon Nation eleven winters ago?" "Yes, your holiness." "Were you ever a member of that nation?" "No, your holiness." Grasping the platform rail tightly, Krystina took a deep breath. "Tell us your side of the story."
Xena looked into the grim faces of the jury. "I was second in command of Borias's army, and he was the father of my son. I spent quite a bit of time with the Scythian Amazons. We wanted an alliance with them, so Borias sent me to learn something about them. I went openly, as an emissary, and did get to know Queen Cyane. Eventually she invited me to join their nation. I turned her down."
She went on to tell them, how she had met Alti some time before, and from her learned the ways of the Shamaness. "We did offer the Scythian nation an alliance, but when Queen Cyane found out about my relationship with Alti, she broke off negotiations. Hearing this I went to see her, and found her at their funeral grounds. I hadn't realized that, being an outsider, I was breaking a taboo just by entering them. Cyane ordered her people to "get" me. Whether I was defending myself from an attack, or resisting arrest I don't know, but several of them including Queen Cyane were killed in the fight that followed."
"When I got back to our camp, I told Borias what had happened. He was furious with me. Knowing the Scythian nation would want revenge, he ordered our army to withdraw. We didn't do it fast enough, and their warriors came before we'd even broken camp. We didn't start the fight, but we did finish it. The Scythians fought bravely, but I had killed several of their leaders, and they were disorganized. Still we suffered heavy losses, and it took us several moons to rebuild the army."
Krystina felt sick. *Artemis* she prayed, *You told us she's paid this debt. You said you need her alive. You fought Aries, brought her mother, Hermia, and the Centaur to help her. Now dark powers have forced our hand, and we need your help again. She saved my life, please I'm begging you, don't make me take hers.*
All sound and motion stopped, as the goddess appeared before Krystina. The priestess fell to her knees at the goddess's feet. The goddess placed a hand on her bowed head, "fear not, my daughter, for all will be well." "My goddess?" "Xena's trial must continue to a verdict, and that is out of my hands. But know this, my daughter: I have not abandoned either of you, and I never will. Be watchful, and when it comes time to act, you will know what to do." Krystina bowed her head, "Thank you, my goddess."
When Artemis disappeared, it was as though time had never stopped. Late in the afternoon, Xena finished her statement. "Your holiness, I can offer no witnesses, or evidence to back up my words. With my life in the balance, most would say that I have every reason to lie. I swear before Artemis, knowing that she will be the final judge of my life, that everything I've told you is true. I place my fate in her hands, and ask that she guide you to a fair judgement of my actions." Smiling inwardly Krystina replied, "as in her wisdom and mercy, so may she judge us all." With that she recessed the trial for the day.
The next morning, Xena answered questions from the council. Cyrene stood quietly in the background. She had visited Xena the night before, and her daughter's words had cut her like a knife. "Mother, please go home. You've done all you can here, that you came and tried means a lot to me." She began choking up. "We both know how this is going to end, and I." Cyrene put a finger to her daughter's lips, "no Xena we don't. Even if the verdict goes against you, I'll be here to plead for mercy, just like Delia, Hecuba, and a lot of others will. The queen asked me earlier, how I'd feel about taking you home if they banish you. I told her you'd be welcome, and that so would she."
Xena felt her eyes grow damp, and threw her arms around her mother. Cyrene stroked her daughters hair,"Yes litle one, I'll take you home if you want to go, and you'll be welcome for as long as you want to stay. We'll ride into Amphipolis together, mother and daughter side by side, just like I dreamed about when I was growing up." "That should really shake up the town. Your friends would never accept me back." Cyrene's eyes flashed, "to Tartarus with them, if they can't. You're my daughter, Xena, and I'm not ashamed to admit it anymore. The only thing anybody in that town ever GAVE me was a hard time. Everything else, I either worked my tail off or paid for, one way or the other. Xena, if worse really does come to worse, and I have to take you in an urn, (choking up) I'll put you with Lyceus, and we'll still honor your memory."
Tyldus arrived during the afternoon session. He confirmed, that Xena had been in Corinth, and pregnant, at the time of the attack on the women of the village. Phaedra closed the defense with an impassioned plea.
"Women of the jury, there is no one to speak for the defendant, Xena, but herself, so the real question becomes can you believe her. I remind you that she swore an oath to tell the truth, and her word is known through out Greece to be her bond.
She has admitted that 11 winters ago, at the age of 19, she took part in a battle which killed over 100 of our Scythian sisters. But I ask you, is it murder to kill in battle? The army she was part of, not in command of, fought the Scythian warriors. The reports from that time agree. Nowhere do they say that the army of Borias attacked pregnant women, children, or anyone who had not taken up arms against them. Xena says she went to our Scythian sisters as an emissary, to offer an alliance, which after lengthy negotiations, their queen rejected. These are the actions of an honorable warrior, not a murderess.
If you still have doubts, consider her relationship with the rogue Scythian Shamaness Alti. To believe Xena, is to believe this sorceress powerful enough to travel within the spirit world, to imprison souls, to foretell and shape the future. It is to believe her evil so great that she would curse an innocent, indeed unborn child. To believe the defendant Xena, is to ascribe to Alti the power of a demonic goddess, whose power rivals that of the Fates. Such a woman could easily have controlled the mind of the young Xena. Ask yourselves, could any of you hope to resist the spell of one so powerful? If not, I ask you to give Xena the benefit of the doubt, and find her not responsible for her actions.
Then let us consider the actions of a heartbroken Xena, traveling to the land of the dead, only to learn the tragic results of her previous actions. Consider, that she risked her very soul, to save those of the women she killed so long ago. An honorable warrior might do that, but I cannot believe the same of a cold blooded murderess. That she stayed among the nation for several moons, that she was allowed to stay at all, tells me they do not consider her a murderess. Why was she not arrested and tried there? It was, after all, their mothers, sisters, and friends who were killed. There can be only one answer, that they do not consider her guilty of the crime. Who would know better than they?
Since the Scythian's didn't try the defendant, I ask you, why are we? I remind you of the mysterious woman Raisa, the source of these charges. She came as though out of the night, and disrupted an almost completed trial to make her charges. The way in which her presence was forced upon the court smells of at least conspiracy, if not outright sorcery. How convenient, that less than a quarter candlemark after the queen's ruling on pleas, she had in her possession a parchment to flaunt it. Who, or should I ask what, was this woman? Why, did she force us to try the defendant on these charges? When not even the blood kin of the dead saw fit to do so?
In closing, because of this woman, Xena again stands within the shadow of the gallows. Presumed guilty under the law, unless, and until, you find her innocent. In the almost two moons she worked in our hospice, she made no attempt to run, though she could easily have done so. I say she has proven her word by not running. Her accuser refused to answer even a single question about her charges. Xena turned down the courts offer to investigate, and spoke openly of her involvement in these events. What little evidence there is confirms her story. In all these ways, Xena has demonstrated her faith in our law, and in the ability of the women of this nation to judge her fairly. I ask that you believe her, and find her not guilty, or at least not responsible."
Finally, Krystina instructed the jury, after which they retired to consider their verdict.
Three candlemarks later Xena stood again before the platform. Krystina stepped to the rail, "the jury has reached a verdict. The bailiff will take the first amphora." There was a tense silence as the priestess bailiff stepped over to the jury, and received a small black glazed jar. Pouring out the stones she made a mark on a piece of parchment, then repeated the process several times. When finished she passed it to Krystina who, after reading it, passed it back to the young priestess.
Muttering a quick prayer, Krystina called. "There will be absolute silence while the verdicts are read. The defendant will face the jury." Xena turned, and a hush fell over the crowd. Krystina ordered. "Bailiff, read the verdicts." The priestess picked up her parchment, then with a stern face and clear voice she announced.
"The first charge of murder pertains to the hunting party from this village. On this charge by a vote of nine to nothing, the jury has found the defendant, Xena, daughter of Cyrene," (hesitates) "Not guilty." Holding Cyrene's hand, Hecuba whispered in her ear, "that's one down."
The bailiff started the ritual for the second murder charge, pertaining to the Scythian Amazons. Xena's face became a mask as she waited for the worse. Cyrene and Delia found themselves holding their breath as the anticipation rose. Finally the bailiff read the words all had been wanting to hear, "On this charge, by a vote of three for conviction and six against, the jury has found the defendant. (smiles briefly) Not guilty."
Hecuba saw that Cyrene was pale and unsteady. Whispering "lean on me" she helped the larger woman sit. The bailiff announced, "the third ballot being for or against the death penalty is no longer relevant. The fourth also pertains to Scythia, on an included charge of manslaughter. On this charge the jury split the question, considering the deaths of the elders, and warriors separately. As regards the warriors slain in battle, the jury by a vote of 8 to 1 finds the defendant not guilty. In the deaths of the elders, by a vote of 7 to 2 the jury finds the defendant guilty. The last charge considered was resisting arrest with violence at the Scythian funeral grounds. On this charge, by a vote of 7 to 2, the jury also finds the defendant guilty."
A much relieved Krystina thanked the jury, then announced, "The court will recess for a quarter candlemark, while all of you get it out of your systems." Xena turned to Phaedra, offering her manacled hands. "Thank you." The advisor took her hands, "You're welcome." Then a moment later, "Xena, I want you to do something for me." Xena looked at her, "The jury just said you're not some loathsome creature who deserves to hang. For the gods sake, and your own, will you please believe them?" Hecuba had walked Cyrene to where they were standing. She too thanked the tireless defense advisor. "It's better than I dared hope." Next she asked the guard. "Is it okay to hug my daughter?" The guard looked her over, "You armed?" "No." "Then go ahead. (More softly) You both look like you could use it."
All to soon, Ariana called the court back into session. Krystina announced: "Pleadings regarding sentencing, in both cases, will be held tomorrow at mid morning. Court is recessed until that time." Leaving the platform, she went to talk with Eponin.
The next morning, Krystina and Eponin took the platform together. Eponin announced. "With the consent of the defense advisor, we will combine pleadings in the trials just completed. As the presiding officers, we will then withdraw to consider sentencing."
The pleas made before the second trial are a matter of record. As a special consideration, anyone who made a plea in the first trial who now wishes to change, or withdraw that plea may do so." She turned and bowed to Krystina. "High priestess."
Krystina gripped the rail. "The rules are simple. All pleas will be given under oath. The persons making them must state their relationship to the defendant, or other interest in this case. Anyone making a plea agrees, by doing so, to answer the courts questions about both their motivations, and their pleas content. Anyone who refuses, anyone who disrupts these proceedings, will be held in contempt and dealt with accordingly." She turned to where the anti Xena crowd had gathered. "And if, after the last two days, any of you still don't believe me, just try me."
Eponin retook the rail, and in response to her question, Tyldus stepped forward. After being sworn he folded his arms across his chest and began to speak. "Your majesty, your holiness, I've known Xena for a long time. I've been her enemy, her captive and finally her friend. The Xena I met at Corinth was a savage, but that was 10 almost 11 winters ago. It's hard to believe that the Xena here today is the same woman. That Xena wouldn't have cared if my son died for a murder he didn't commit. This Xena looked for the truth, saved his life, and helped bring the real murderers to justice. I know a lot of you don't care much for Centaurs."
Someone in the back shouted, "you got that right," and a scuffle broke out as the guards moved in. Tyldus waited as Eponin held up her hand, and ordered the three women brought forward, "Krystina, they're all yours" The priestess demanded, "which one yelled?" The guards dragged one of the women to her feet, "this one. The other two didn't think we should arrest her." "Then they're all in contempt. Charge these two with obstructing justice, and get them out of here." She apologized to Tyldus, "not your fault." Krystina bowed, "please continue."
Tyldus finished his statement, "Passing judgement is never easy. Too often, I've had to look into men's eyes, and watch the light go out of them, when I told them they were going to die. I've often wondered if there wasn't more to the story, something I didn't know, that might have led me to show them mercy."
"I've killed Amazons in battle. Some of you, including Xena, have killed Centaurs. It was war, and nobody tried calling it otherwise then. So why are they doing it now? Did the Scythians ask you to put Xena on trial? Like her advisor asked, why didn't they try her themselves, last winter when they had the chance? Why is it, that in all the times Xena's been around here, you never saw fit to try her for your own mother's deaths until now? That only makes sense if neither you, or the Scythians, thought she was guilty. And if that's the case, why in Tartarus are you trying her now?
You've convicted Xena of some pretty serious charges related to Queen Gabrielle, so I doubt she's going anywhere for a while. If you do sentence her for the old crimes in Scythia, I think you should stay the sentence until you're sure the Scythians want you to carry it out. Send them a message, tell them what you've done, and ask them to confirm whatever sentence. What can it hurt? You can't take back the lash or the branding iron. Ask yourself, what would you do if, after you send them a message saying you've punished Xena, they send one back saying they'd already forgiven her. Thanks for letting me speak."
Krystina stood and thanked Tyldus. Looking out, she could see a lot of whispering going on within the anti Xena crowd. Delia came next, "nothing I heard in the second trial changes my mind about Xena. We all knew she came with a past, but isn't that what this nation is all about, helping women in trouble start over?
Xena stands convicted of crimes against Queen Gabrielle and the nation. She should be punished for these, and I think she needs that for the sake of her soul. But to punish her now, for crimes committed in what may as well have been a former life, would be wrong. The night before her first trial started, she gave her word to our goddess; to learn our ways, to respect our laws and her temple. At this trial she called upon the goddess to witness the truthfulness of her words, and to guide your judgement of her.
At 18, Xena was drunk with a lust for power. Bitter treachery had already poisoned her soul. By the time this sorceress got thru with her, I doubt that, despite her mothers best efforts, she knew the difference between right and wrong. The Scythian nation, and all of Greece,. suffered as a result. Had she come to us at 15 as her mother had planned, instead of 29, it is quite possible that both she, and the world, would have been spared a great deal of misery.
Xena's crimes against Queen Gabrielle must be punished, but as they were the result of a soul sickness, she too is a victim. Her poisoned soul usually saps her strength and spirit, but it also flares from time to time as it did that fateful day. Jail will punish the spirit, but it will not heal a poisoned soul. Banishment would be worse, for it would cut her off from the help, that we, as healers and priestesses can provide. Here we can make soul healing a part of her sentence. Without it, I predict that within the four seasons of the cycle, she will again fall prey to evil.
Meaningful work usually helps the healing process, and we have already seen the results. Allowing Xena to continue working in the hospice would help both her and us. She is a fine healer, and since Rhea died, we do need another. If you will permit her to work with us, I will continue to accept responsibility for her in law."
Krystina stood up, "thank you, healer. One question. You say that Xena's soul is poisoned, and that her criminal behavior is the result of a sudden festering within?" "Yes, your holiness, in my opinion her violent outbursts both in Scythia, and here, were a result of this festering." "Please tell us more." "Once a flare occurs, it burns itself out quickly, this leaves a residue of guilt, which saps her strength and spirit, leaving her vulnerable to another flare."
Niobe stood up and bowed, "Your holiness, might I inquire of the healer?" Krystina gestured to the rail, "Healer, you have some training in sicknesses of the soul, do you not?" "I mentored for a full cycle at the asylum in Corinth." "Then, in your expert opinion, how do you suggest we proceed?" "In my opinion, the pocket of infection within Xena's soul must be lanced and drained, the soul itself cleansed of the residue.
Delia took a deep breath. "Cleansing a soul is so physically, and spiritually. demanding that it is often done in steps. In Xena's case this will be necessary, since in addition to the sickness in her soul, she has been cursed in turn by the Fates, the Furies, a powerful sorceress, and at least one god." She hesitated and added, "If the cleansing isn't complete, there is a risk of reinfection.
Seing several confused faces on the platform Delia fidgited for a moment, "I realize that this is difficult, but in simple terms, draining the infection, and removing the residue leaves a void in the soul. It like any open wound would make her vulnerable for a time. At the asylum, we found it best to keep newly cleansed patients somewhat isolated at first. During the first moon we would keep close watch for any return of the initial infection. Later we would keep them busy under the supervision of people skilled in such matters." She smiled and added, "In many cases, after complete healing, the soul is less vulnerable to infection than it was before it was first sickened."
Niobe put a hand on her forehead as though deep in thought. "I mentored in law, not medicine, but what you're saying seems to make sense. Has something like this been attempted with Queen Ephiny?" Delia scowled, "Queen Ephiny's case, unlike Xena's, is strictly medical. There are differences between the two, and factors specific to her majesties case that I would prefer not to discuss in open court. You may rest assured, however, that she is being treated to the very best of our abilities."
Ildiko stood up, "Your holiness, the healers refusal to answer is a violation of the stated rules of this hearing. I demand that you hold her in contempt." Delia stood defiantly, "Your holiness, I was asked a specific question about the details of a patients treatment. As the questioner is a member of the council, they have a need to know, and I am quite willing to answer privately. In the queen's case, as in any like hers, many of these details are quite personal, and embarrassing. Therefore I claim the healers privilege."
Eponin took over, "the healer is within her rights. Niobe, are you finished?" "Not quite your majesty. Healer, if as you say the defendant is suffering from a serious soul sickness, would it not seem cruel to turn her out, without providing the treatment she needs?"
Several heads nodded. Delia replied, "It would violate my oath to the gods of healing were I to do so." "This soul cleansing, is that something that can be done here, or do you think we should take the poor woman to the asylum?" Inwardly Delia cringed at the very thought. "We should have the ability to treat her here, and since we have fewer patients, we could keep her under much closer supervision than the asylum would."
There is also the consideration that the initial poisoning of Xena's soul, as well as her flares both here and in Scythia, were either caused or aggravated by her association with men. In my opinion, Xena's chances of recovery improve measurably, if she is kept apart from their foul influences during the entire cleansing and healing process. The asylum would make no attenpt to do so. " Niobe growled, "That I dare say, would not be a problem here."
Cyrene caught on quickly, and so did Xena. She whispered in Phaedra's ear. The advisor nodded and spoke quietly to Cyrene. "What do you want me to do?" Phaedra told her. Moving back to Xena, she whispered, "your mothers in, so's Hecuba." Stepping forward. "Your majesty." "Advisor for the defense" "The defendant Xena, has asked me to relay a request" "Proceed." "As a healer, she recognizes that she suffers from a soul sickness, but says she's been both too proud to admit it, and afraid of the asylum. She asks that you add the healers treatment, whatever that may be, to her sentence, so that she will be forced to accept it." "Does she want to go to the asylum?" "She is willing to go or stay, but she accepts that the decision is rightfully yours."
Cyrene moved forward and knelt before the platform, "Your majesty." "Cyrene" "Your majesty, please," The bailiff moved forward, "Ma'am I'm sorry, but you have to be sworn" Cyrene was sworn, then turned to the platform with tears running down her face. "Your majesty, please I've known something was wrong with Xena's soul for some time, but there was nothing I could do. I thank the gods that she's finally willing to be cleansed. Now that I see what a good influence you've had on her, I know I should have brought her here when she was younger. To know that she's finally accepted the gods, to hear her call upon Artemis and ask for help, it's like a gift from the gods to a mother who long feared her daughter lost. Your majesty, I know you have to punish Xena, but please let the healers help her as well.
Still kneeling, she grabbed Delia's skirt, lifting her face as in homage. "Healer, please, if you can lift this terrible curse from my daughter, do whatever it takes.." Hecuba moved quietly behind her, whispering to the bailiff, "The poor woman's been tormented by this for a long time. Help me get her up." The young priestess looked up at the platform, Eponin nodded. "Court will recess for one candlemark." (Quietly) "Krystina, do you mind helping Cyrene to the hospice. I want to talk with Delia." Still playing it to the hilt, Cyrene again fell to her knees as Eponin walked up, "Your majesty, please help her, don't send her away." Eponin took her hand gently, "Krystina and Hecuba are going to take you to the hospice." Turning to them, "These last few days were too much for her. Maybe she will be able to function again if she just lays down for a while."
As Cyrene was led away, Eponin turned to Delia, "come with me." She went straight to her hut, and held the door for the healer. Inside she turned, "first question, was Cyrene acting, or is she really in as rough a shape as she looks?" "Let's just say that I think she'll be alright." "That's what I thought. Fair warning to your little acting troop, be very careful and take it easy. Ildiko's watching you like a buzzard, and I don't want to have to find any of you in contempt." "Thanks for the warning, but when I said I think Cyrene will be alright, that's exactly what I meant. We hadn't planned any of this." "You hadn't!" "No, but I'm sure they picked up on it."
Eponin set out two mugs, then picked up a lemon and a knife. "Alright, now tell me exactly what you're up to." The knife went thru the lemon as she spoke. Delia explained quickly, "I was serious about Xena not knowing right from wrong back then." Eponin squeezed half the lemon into each mug. "If she really didn't, she's not responsible for those deaths." "Exactly, and we've already ruled that she's only partially responsible for her crimes here." "So are you saying she really is crazy?" "No. She's got some soul sickness, and she's drowning in guilt, but she's not crazy." Eponin thought for a moment while adding water and honey to each mug. She passed one to Delia. "What do you want me to do? and Why?" "I want you to give Xena as severe a whipping as we can manage, without either maiming or killing her."
Eponin spewed lemon drink halfway across the room. "You want what?" The healer sank into a chair, "You heard me, and I want you to do it publicly." Eponin stared at her in disbelief, "She needs it, Eponin, not because of what she did, but because of what she can't do." "What in Tartarus is that?" "Forgive herself. She told me something the day before her first trial. It's a long story, and I'm not sure we have time right now." "Give me the short version." "She told me she spent half a moon on a cross in a Tartaran firepit, that it burned layers of guilt from her soul, and that she felt herself being cleansed by it." "Oh gods." "Eponin, brutal as the asylums were, they really did help some people. They were usually the ones so bound up with guilt they couldn't see straight."
Eponin looked resigned, "It's a way out of this Raisa's mess." Delia finished her mug, "that was good. It does more than that. Remember the meeting at the temple? Artemis wants Xena here. Somebody else wants her gone. All the objections, Aries, now Raisa, and what next? Raisa won't be the last, and they won't stop until they force us to kill her or at least drive her away." "I know that, tell me something I don't know."
"This can bring us back to what we decided at the temple. Treating her for soul sickness, gives us a reason to keep her here. We've got her mothers plea, under oath, asking us to treat her. That, and my diagnosis, are all you need to order it, but getting a second opinion from the temple would help. It gives us something to argue the next time a Raisa shows up. And there will be a next time. The asylum in Corinth is, gods help us, considered the best in Greece, and there's a record of my being trained there." "So." "What I'm suggesting is close enough to modern medical practice that a Raisa would be hard pressed to argue against it. Healers are always looking for new, and better ways of doing things, so I can defend any differences as innovation. Eponin, if push comes to shove, I can make this stick in any court in Greece." "How does Alicia feel about it?" "We both want to save Xena." "So do I, but by branding her a lunatic?" "We're not, she's soul sick, not a lunatic, there's a real difference." "I'll take your word for it
Eponin stood up, "we should head back. I'll order a
second opinion, then recess until morning. In the meantime, a few of us need
to talk." "When and where?" "Why don't you check on Cyrene, while I talk to
Krystina and Niobe?" Eponin hesitated, before opening the door, "Delia, make
sure you watch your back. This bunch that's after Xena will stop at nothing,
and this probably puts you high on their list." "So be it."
Eight women crowded into the guard room, Krystina, Andrea, Niobe, Phaedra, Cyrene, Hecuba, Delia, and Alicia. A short time later Eponin and Solari brought in Xena. Eponin explained quickly, "we all know what's going on, I think Delia's plan has the best chance of getting us out of this mess. Xena, has your advisor explained the law to you?" Xenia nodded, "The reason for the second trial was to keep the Scythian charges from coming up again."
Eponin nodded. "Delia." Delia stood, "Xena, what do you know about soul sickness?" "Means you're able to function, do your job, but you don't feel right about yourself. It robs you of feeling, and affects your self image. In serious cases your judgement is off, and you can start to become a danger to yourself." "What causes it?" "Guilt, fear, rejection or something of that sort piles up in your soul until it takes over."
Delia folded her arms, "Now tell us how that's different from being a lunatic?" "The soul sick are the people we think of as odd. They've got some strange habit, or obsession, but most live a decent life without problems. Unless it flares up, most people couldn't tell the difference between someone who is soul sick and someone who isn't." (Deep breath) "True lunatics can't think rationally, or function with any real sense of normalness. The flares of the soul sick are like lapses into lunacy, and out again. True lunatics have poor judgement. if any, and usually can't tell the difference between right and wrong. That's why courts don't often hold them responsible for their actions. They're considered a danger not only to themselves, but to others as well, which is why they're usually put in asylums." "Thank you."
Delia turned to the group, "That's a correct, if somewhat simplified explanation." Eponin scratched her head thinking *simplified?* Delia went on, "There are degrees of both, and at times it's hard to tell the difference. Xena is definitely soul sick, and if truth be known, many of us have a touch of it. Ephiny is also soul sick, but her lack of judgement, and suicidal tendencies, place her on the brink of lunacy."
Krystina spoke, "I agree with Xena's explanation, and Delia's assessment. One of the stranger things about soul sickness is the number of people who think they suffer from it, yet don't." Andrea added, "mostly we talk with these people, we ask personal questions, and encourage meditation, to help them look into their own souls. Often they feel they're cursed by the gods, or feel the weight of some transgression. Once we know where the problem lies, we can help them strengthen themselves thru prayer, and the cleansing rituals of penance and purification." Noticing that Hecuba was fidgeting nervously, Andrea resolved to talk with her later. "Please, if any of you have questions, ask them."
Eponin stood up, "Is it true that soul healing is a bit like cutting an onion? Peeling back each layer produces tears, but exposes a deeper, more pungent layer." Krystina smiled, "they are a lot alike. Each layer brings tears, and these must be shed, but once removed, the layer is gone. Getting through all the layers takes time, for the first needs to heal before we can cut into the next. It can be a painful process, but it is necessary for full healing."
Eponin nodded, "I want to get closure on this. I want to be fair to the nation. Xena committed a crime and has to pay for it. Xena, I also want to be fair to you, but I want this over. We're still looking into who or what was behind Raisa. What I'm more concerned about right now is keeping something like that from happening again."
She took a deep breath, "By treating Xena's crimes as flares of a soul sickness, we'll have it on record. It's a defense against any new charges based on old crimes being filed in an Amazon court. Delia tells me her background is good enough to make it stick elsewhere, if it comes to that. I'm not an expert, so I don't know. Krystina will be presiding tomorrow, so she'll explain what we want to do. Krystina."
Krystina faced her assistant, "Andrea, do you have any problems confirming Delia's diagnosis?" "No." "Good, I'll call you first, and ask you to do that. Alicia, you'll be next." Alicia nodded, "no problem." "Eponin and I will leave for about a candlemark to "consider our ruling." When we come back, we'll announce our decision to accept Xena's soul sickness as a major factor in her violent criminal outbursts. Cyrene, I'll want you to make a formal request to have Xena treated. I'll have to ask you a few questions about why, but they'll be easy to answer." Cyrene shuffled her feet nervously. "I don't like it, but still it's better than I'd dare hope."
Krystina nodded in sympathy, "I understand, Cyrene, but at this point it really is the best option we've got." Cyrene swallowed hard, "count me in." Delia put her arm around Cyrenes shoulders. "Hecuba, I'll ask you if this is acceptable, since your daughter was the intended victim. Delia, will Kayla agree?" "I've explained the situation, and she will." "Good I'll want you to quickly explain your training, and what you said today. Then I'll ask you some specific questions about cleansing the infection, etc." Delia nodded, "I'll make it sound good." Krystina then turned to face Xena, "Xena, I'll ask you if you have anything to say before I pass sentence. When I do, I want you to look embarrassed, or ashamed, and repeat what Phaedra said today, or words to that effect." "I'll say anything you want, if we can just get it over with."
Krystina looked at her sternly, "Our necks are on the line too, Xena. Some people will probably see this as letting you off. We aren't, but if you've got any problems with this, I want you to tell us right now." Shrugging Xena replied, "There's probably a few who wouldn't be happy if you burned me at the stake, like Ephiny wanted." "There's likely one right on the council. I doubt this will sit well with the others we told you about either. There's a few of us with a lot to lose, but we're betting on you anyway." Xena lowered her eyes, "I won't let you down."
Krystina ran her hands back through her hair, "If we thought you would, we wouldn't be here right now. Xena, what I'm going to do is sentence you as a soul sick criminal. It won't excuse your crimes, but it will save us from having to brand or banish you. I know about the one, Hecuba can tell you about the other." "What do you plan to do?" "I'm going to order you whipped, publicly, and severely. Partly because I think you deserve it, partly because I don't think you can get past the guilt without it." Xena nodded her acceptance as Krystina continued, "I haven't decided how many lashes yet. Your charges could bring four courses of thirty nine each, and there's a couple other factors to consider as well." Cyrene's face tightened, *that many would kill her.* Hecuba put an arm around her.
Krystina sat on the desk, "What I'll probably do is sentence you to all of them, and let the healers decide how many you can handle. Now Delia was talking about keeping the patients isolated for a while. We've got two choices for that, the temple or jail, and for now it's going to be jail." She looked at the healer, "how long was that usually?" "Anywhere from a moon to a season." The priestess nodded, "Meaningful work, that'll be community service at the hospice, like we talked about before. On top of that you're going to doing so much prayer, purification and penance you'll start thinking you're a priestess."
Xena smiled at the last. The image of herself in clerical robes at the head of an army of priestesses, charging a village shouting *save em all* came to mind. She had all she could do to keep from laughing. Krystina scowled but said gently, "don't laugh, Xena, I was only a couple summers younger than you are when I joined the temple. And a lot of people never would have thought it of me either. Personally, I think you'd have made a good one." Seeing Phaedra and Andrea nod in agreement, Xena went rapidly from amused to stunned, "huh." All eyes turned to her as Krystina explained, "Only real difference between being a soldier, a healer or a priestess, is what you're fighting for, and how. Soldiers fight for gold or glory, healers for lives, and priestesses fight for souls."
The meeting broke up shortly afterwards. While returning Xena to her cell, Eponin asked how she felt. "Confused, why all this effort, for me?" "We don't like lynchings, Xena, and that's what both Aries and Raisa were trying to do. Maybe we're trying to give you a second chance because, no disrespect to your mother, we don't think you really got a first one." At the cell, she unlocked Xena's manacles, "Xena, I think you're basically a decent woman, that's got herself in a lot of trouble. Someday, when all of this is behind us, maybe we can even be friends, but right now I've got a job to do. So instead of asking us why all the effort, why don't you just appreciate it, and try proving to us that it was worth it."
When court reconvened the next morning, everything went smoothly. Looking over the crowd, Eponin could sense more anticipation than anger. It was a refreshing change. Delia spoke at length about soul sicknesses in general, giving much the same explanations as Xena had the night before. Cyrene's plea brought expressions of sympathy,
"Your majesty, your holiness, I would start by apologizing for my behavior yesterday. In my defense please consider, that in the past half moon I have seen my only daughter tried twice for her life." She swallowed hard, "I lost control for a short time, and for that I humbly ask your forgiveness."
Krystina looked upon her gently, "There is nothing to forgive. Cyrene, no mother should ever go through what you have in that half moon. If there is anything we of the temple can do to help you find peace, you have only to ask." Eponin stood up, "Cyrene, these have been trying times for all of us. You need never apologize for being a mother." Cyrene bowed deeply. Krystina asked gently, "Cyrene is there more you wish to say?" "yes your holiness." "Please proceed."
Cyrene took a deep breath, "your holiness, while I have long suspected that my daughter suffered from a sickness of the soul, I have been powerless to help her. There was no asylum in Amphipolis, and in her warlord days, it would have been impossible to have her treated if there were. Long ago, I gave up any hope of her redemption, and accepted that her soul was lost forever.
Your holiness, as a child I was taught that the gods work in mysterious ways. Painful though this last half moon has been, perhaps I am seeing the miracle for which I have long prayed. The warlord is gone, and my gods fearing daughter is back. Though it pains me to see her stand in judgement, I again have hope that Xena's soul, *and my own* might still be saved." Cyrene dropped to one knee, "Your holiness, as her mother I ask that when you sentence Xena, you also order soul cleansing, and healing by whatever means and in whatever measure are necessary to help her. Thank you." Cyrene bowed her head.
Krystina was heartened by the sympathy shown Cyrene during her short heart felt plea. "Thank you Cyrene. Should we grant your request, you do understand that there are no guarantees of success." "I understand your holiness." "Yesterday, you asked us to treat Xena here. Is that still your wish?" "It is, your holiness." "Thank you."
Krystina asked, "Xena, do you wish to speak on your own behalf?" "Yes, your holiness." "you have one candlemark. Bailif turn the glass."
Xena cast her eyes to the ground, "As a warlord, I had an army that obeyed my every command. They brought me pride, power, treasure, and my greed made me lust for more. There was never enough power to satisfy my lust, nor enough treasure to satisfy my greed. My pride told me that I deserved anything I wanted, far more than the innocents who lived in fear of me. I lived like a queen, while knowing that in truth, I was just a common thief and a murderer."
"Like the drunkard, who cannot stop drinking. I became drunk on power and pride, and together they fed my greed. Like the drunkard with a hangover, the guilt I felt was tremendous. But like the drunkard who takes a drink to ease their pain. I would take one more dose of pride, the guilt would be buried, and the lust for power would return."
My pride used to tell me I deserved to enjoy my hearts every whim, no matter who suffered for it in this world, because surely I would suffer in the next. Now I ask myself, how can all the tortures that await me in the next world, ease the suffering of even one of my victims in this one? Or, as Gabrielle once asked me, why buying passage to Tartarus gave me license to make others suffer? She finally made me realize that it did not."
"This nation is the only place that anyone, anywhere, has dared hold me accountable for my crimes. My troops rebelled when I did one good deed and saved a babies life. They put me through a gauntlet, because they thought I was going soft. That showed me to what depths I had sunk, and made me want to break from my life of evil. Soon after, I helped save a village from slavers, and in that small village, called Potadeia, I first met the girl who became a great queen. She helped me relearn the difference between right and wrong, and helped me onto the path of redemption. Despite her best efforts, the old evil lived on in my soul, waiting for a chance to take charge again. That is what happened after the death of my son.
Your holiness, I cannot cleanse myself of this evil, and until now my pride has kept me from asking for help. I could not bring myself to consult a temple healer, because my arrogant pride told me I had no need for the gods. To place myself in an asylum would have been to invite death, because of my past. I fear that unless my soul is cleansed, the evil which poisons it will fester and erupt again.
Your holiness, your majesty, you have given me the fairest of trials, and for that I thank you. Now the jury has spoken, I accept their verdict, and my fate. As part of my sentence, I ask you to give me over to the healers and the temple. Let them do with me as they will, for however long it takes, to cleanse my soul of as much of this foul poison as possible."
Krystina stood, "Should I permit this, will you give this court your word, that so far as your sickness will permit, you will cooperate fully with their efforts, no matter how prolonged or painful they may be?" "Yes, your holiness." Thinking *so far , so good* Krystina then asked, "Should their efforts fail, and they decide that you have become too dangerous for us to keep and treat here, would you be willing to go to the asylum?" "Your holiness, I hope that I would have enough reason left to recognize the need. But with respect, if I become too dangerous to be held and treated by a nation of well armed warriors, I doubt it would be safe to treat me anywhere."
Krystina had hoped for a yes or no answer, and was taken aback by Xena's brutal honesty. "I agree with you, but anywhere is not my concern, this nation is. Knowing that, should the situation I described arise, what would you have me do?" "In that event your holiness, I ask that you put me to death, lest I flee the asylum and begin again to prey on innocents." Shock rippled through the crowd
*And I thought there were no more surprises to be had.* Krystina gripped the rail, "Thank you for your honesty. You will hear our decision shortly. I have no further questions. Your majesty?" Eponin shook her head, "No questions, (then in a whisper) call a recess until after the midday meal. Then let's talk."
Xena, daughter of Cyrene, yours has been the most difficult case either of us have ever had to judge. When deciding your sentence, we have had to consider many things. The crimes themselves, and these are are the easiest since they are clearly defined in law. We have had to consider both your potential to do grievous harm, which is tremendous, and balance that against the likelihood of your doing so. The court seeks not only to punish, but to redress wrongs.
Xena's advisor had explained this, after asking her some questions about Argo. The property of felons is used at time, to ease the physical, and monetary, suffering of their victims. In this case, the value of care provided the male victim of your attack, as well as the value of the whip destroyed in the crime " "You can take anything but the chakrum, and Argo. If they execute me, you can sell my head, or me for that matter for a lot more than that."
The advisor had gotten angry, " "Amazon law doesn't permit slavery within our borders, nor do we sell women, any women, into bondage. Now if you'll let me finish explaining. The law says you get to keep one horse, saddle and other tack for that animal. You can keep your clothes, personal religeous items worth less than 20 dinars, and the basic tools of your trade." "So why the questions about Argo, like her age, injuries?" "Because we inventoried your belongings, including their condition, and a horses age and so on helps describe their condition. It was actually done a while ago, but they didn't know much about the horse. It's both for your protection, so somebody doesn't try stealing your things, and the villages. If it's not on the list, we won't be held responsible if it's lost or damaged." "Oh" "Your work in the hospice more than pays for the man's care. The owner of the horse and whip got her horse back unharmed. She says she'll gladly take the cost of the new whip out of your hide."
Krystina was still speaking, "Amazon law tries to be fair to the defendant as well. The taking of a persons life or liberty, cannot be done lightly. Neither, as the Centaur leader said, can the lash or branding iron be taken back if unjustly applied. Never were truer words spoken, for I carry the scars of both upon my own body. Though unjustly applied, I will carry them, and the bitter memories that surround them, to my pyre."
She took a moment to look over the crowd. "Her majesty and I have reviewed the crimes, and all related testimony. Seeking to include treatment for the defendants soul sickness, we have consulted with the healer as to her needs. These have been taken into account in determining the sentence. Her majesty will begin.
"Xena daughter of Cyrene, this court accepts the findings of the Healer Delia, and others, that an ongoing soul sickness, coupled with a deep seated soul poisoning, exists within you. We also accept their findings, that while you are not usually a danger to either yourself or others, flarings of this illness are related to the crimes for which you now stand convicted. Your own request for treatment demonstrates not only your awareness of the sickness you suffer, but I am told it bodes well for your healing process. In addition, your most descriptive statement, a short while ago, may help others understand the ailment, and the viciousness with which it consumes the unwary. Do you have any questions thus far?" "No, your majesty." "Then we will proceed."
Eponin lowered her mask, "Xena, daughter of Cyrene, you are ordered to soul cleansing, and healing, under the direction of the Chief healer, and the High Priestess of the Temple of Artemis. Their authority over your care and treatment is without limit, and will last for as long as they, and the court deem it necessary. Any failure to cooperate fully with their efforts will be punishable as contempt of court. Each moon they will report your condition to the council. The court appoints the Royal guardswoman, Tanya, daughter of Tula, to receive these reports and report the same thereto. Your defense advisor will continue to represent your interests.
Eponin then called, "Krystina, daughter and High Priestess of Artemis, Delia daughter of Lydia Chief healer."Both women faced Eponin and saluted. "You are hereby charged with the treatment and care of the prisoner, Xena, daughter of Cyrene for soul sickness and poisoning. You may do with her as you will, in accordance with the current religeous and medical practices of this enlightened age. Should you wish to use her to test any new and innovative approaches to treating these ailments, you are encouraged to do so. The assets of the nation are available to assist you in this effort. Have either of you any questions?" (Together) "No, your majesty." "Will you accept responsibility for her conduct, as regards the safety of this village, according to the laws of the Amazon Nation?" The women answered in unison. "Yes, your majesty." Eponin bowed, "High priestess."
Krystina stepped to the rail, and accepted her mask from Niobe. "The defendant will take one step forward, and face the platform." Xena moved forward flanked by guards. Phaedra moved to stand beside her. "Xena, daughter of Cyrene, while the soul sickness you suffer provides some basis for leniency, you are still aware of the difference between right and wrong, and therefore at least partly responsible for your actions. In addition to the soul healing just ordered, you are sentenced to one season in the village jail, with credit for time already spent in custody. Once released, you will serve not less than seven seasons in service to this community, on conditions which may change depending on your medical condition and conduct. Any wilful violation of these conditions will be punishable with the lash, confinement or both as contempt of court. The court notes that you are a skilled healer, therefore should your medical condition permit, it directs that your service be performed in the village hospice."
"Finally, several of your crimes are punishable by the lash. Added together, even after taking into consideration the law on multiple offenses, your crimes have earned you a total of two hundred and eighteen lashes." Shouts of approval, expressions of horror and invokations of deity, came from the crowd.
Krystina raised her mask and waited, while order was slowly restored "Amazon law is based on the principle of justice, not vengence. It was codified in an attempt to curb the abuses of the past, and written in plain language so that everyone can know where they stand under it and why. When it is appropriate to take a life it does so openly. It is not our intention to kill you, and a whipping of that severity almost certainly would. The healers have informed me that a reduction of one half would be necessary simply to give you a chance of survival. They recommend a further reduction to avoid crippling injury.
The law on multiple offenses was written to prevent lifetime imprisonments, and whippings to the death for a series of minor related offenses. While it does not directly address this situation, in considering your sentence I have been guided by the limits set there in. Accordingly Xena, you are sentenced to be whipped six courses of thirteen, twice the single offense limit, for a total of seventy eight lashes. This will be carried out publicly three days hence. (Pause) Have you any questions regarding your sentence?" Xena turned her eyes to the ground, "No, your holiness." Krystina nodded, "Remove the prisoner."
Eponin moved to the rail beside Krystina. "These trials are ended. I want to remind everyone that Amazon law clearly states that no charge can be accepted against any woman, in an Amazon court, which relate to an event for which she has once been tried. There are two, and only two exceptions. The first is that if, after a woman has been convicted, new evidence is found to either prove her innocence, or significantly reduce her level of guilt, either she or her family, may ask the court to reopen her case. The other exception is that a person, found guilty of a violent crime causing injuries, whose victim dies within two seasons of, and as a result of, that same violent crime, may be tried for that death. Neither condition can apply here."
Ariana announced, "court is now adjourned."
Leaving the platform, Krystina headed towards the latrines. Coming out, she was confronted by Ildiko, "Don't think I believe any of that soul sickness, cleansing garbage those damn healers fed you, because I don't. Just watch me prove they put one over on you, and you're all mine." "What do you have against them anyway?" "Coddling criminals, flaunting the law, they're no better than a couple of damn renegades. But that explains why you'd let them get away with it." Ildiko scoffed, "Imagine a condemned criminal sitting in judgement, what's this world coming to."
Krystina was seething, as Ildiko added "Still that whipping you ordered should be quite the spectacle. To be honest, I didn't think you had it in you."
She started to walk away, but Krystina grabbed her and spun her around. "You'd be surprised what I've got in me." "Get your hands off me, renegade!" Krystina swept her feet from under her, following her to the ground. Ildiko froze as she felt the coldness of a tiny dagger pressed against her throat, "You lay one finger on those healers and you'll look like a sacrificial sheep." "You wouldn't." Cold eyes bored into Ildiko, "wouldn't I? You're right about one thing. I am a condemned criminal, a murderess. And in case you haven't figured it out yet, that means I've got nothing to lose."
Ildiko began feeling sick as Krystina whispered, "As for that spectacular whipping, you won't be seeing it. The trial is over, so in case you've forgotten, you're due at the temple tomorrow at sunrise. I'll expect you barefoot, with ashes on your head, and sacking about your loins." "You can't be serious?" Krystina hissed, "Oh can't I? On the direct orders of Artemis herself, you're going to be spending the next moon in one of my cells, and you've just seriously ticked me off. I've got orders to use the scourge, and I would anyway. I think it's about high time we started cleansing your soul. So a word to the wise, don't keep me or the goddess waiting."
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