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Gilnean Moon (Part 20)
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Gilnean Moon (Part 19)
As was typical Gilnean structural fashion; the basement of the constable’s headquarters served as a large jail cell. It was not the safest environment for housing multiple criminals, especially if one or more of them had histories of sociopathic violence, but these local, town-based prisons were never designed for long-term confinement of convicts. That privilege went to such locals as Stoneward Prison in Gilneas City, or the penal labor camp of Emberstone Mine to the north.
This was where Ivan Jeret was now, sitting alone in the dark, damp, and altogether filthy room underneath the office. This structure, like most others in Stormglen, had been infested with giants spiders, and although the creatures had been eradicated from the area their impossibly-sticky webs still hung on the ceiling and walls of the room; waiting to entrap victims for their now-deceased creators.
None of these conditions made a kobold’s rear of difference to Ivan, though. He sat with a statue-like silence and stillness to him, a peacefulness that belied the raging storm of emotions that stormed within him; confusion, rage, sorrow, self-hate, and so many more. His memories were… blurred, coming in splashes of images or sounds, sights, smells or… Tastes. He knew what he was accused of and he had accepted the accusations and allowed himself to be jailed down here with the dignity and steadfast resilience he had taught himself after his parents’ deaths, but he was still unable to link what he had been told to what he knew.
There were only two timeframes he was certain of; the distant past and recent past. In his distant memory was the undead; they surrounded him, overtook him. Then there was pain; sharp, throughout his entire body, and then all rational thought, all finesse in his movements, all humanity gave way to rage and bestial aggression. Then came the sound of horses and men, his brother and Gilnean soldiers come to rescue him, and then a reply from him that was not from him. And from his recent memory came images of blood and gore, of soldiers torn apart by his and a black-furred worgen’s claws; him locked in combat until he was finally overpowered and his mind gave way to sleep.
Between those two events, everything was an undistinguishable blur.
He was not alone; joining him down here was Krista. His sister sat by herself as well, and while Ivan’s inner turmoil was all inner, Krista’s emotions were worn on her sleeve. She looked a mess, and she twitched in her seat, the changing expression on her face raging from terror to sorrow to rage, and constantly turned her head to look around the room, although her and her brother’s eyes never met. She and he both knew what she had been charged with; murdering and mutilating Gilnean soldiers. But both of them also knew she would not be down here long; they could hear the talking above. It sounded like Krennan, Lord Godfrey, and, of course, King Greymane.
“Milord’s, there is still much we don’t understand about the worgen affliction,” a voice that sounded like Krennan’s – and
Krennan’s – pleaded with the other two men present. “But we do know that the curse brings with it hyper-elevated levels of aggression and bloodlust. Lord and Lady Jeret were simply not in control of themselves at the time.”
“Then how do you explain the subtlety with which Ivan Jeret carried out his crime, hmm?” The second man’s voice was unmistakably that of Vincent Godfrey, although it sounded shaken, enraged. “A beast does not plan out his actions; a beast does not cover his tracks; a beast does not act like
“There might be…
,” Krennan replied. “Look at Lord Blaine; he manages to maintain full control over himself during his transformation periods, albeit slightly more prone to bursts of aggression. There must be some kind of pattern, but-.”
“This conversation is just wasting our time,” Godfrey replied. “My king, they are both murderers and should be treated as much.”
There was a brief pause, only lasting a second or two but noticeable in the otherwise-frantic conversation. “Before Krennan’s cure, all those afflicted were murderers, Godfrey. While I agree Lord Ivan Jeret’s actions were in an unprecedented manner, the report from the surviving soldiers tells us that Lady Krista was very much nothing but an animal when she committed her crimes.” Upon hearing this, Krista squirmed a little in her seat.
Godfrey was quick to pick up on the king’s meaning. “So, you want to drop the charges again Krista Jeret and let her go free, but keep the charges against her brother standing.”
Genn nodded. “There is no need to frighten the people further. A worgen-afflicted temporarily gone rogue they will understand. If the idea that two conscious murderers had been at large at roughly the same time, people will panic; maybe even riot. And right now, that kind of reaction is the first thing we need to try and avoid.”
Godfrey was reluctant to agree, but his king had made up his mind. Why he bothered protecting these mutts as much as he did, though, eluded him. “Very well,” he grumbled aloud. The Lord turned to a pair of guards standing by the trapdoor to the cell below. “Release Lady Jeret.”
The guards pulled the trapdoor open and descended into the basement. Krista was already standing, but before the guards even reached her she looked over at her brother. Ivan gave her one glance and then nodded. She understood; she would be able to do more good outside of this cell than she could by sitting in it until he was released as well. She left with the soldiers, who closed the trap door behind them.
Ivan listened as she, Godfrey, Krennan, and King Greymane left the constable’s office. He was unsurprised and even relived that she hadn’t attempted to argue for his release right then and there. There was no point in attempting to talk about his release right here and now, the conversation they had overheard had made that clear. It would take time, planning, and a proper legal to defense to clear his name… But Ivan wasn’t sure if his name would be cleared. He wasn’t sure if he wanted it cleared. What he – or what some part of him – had done was unforgiveable, and justice had to be met. Still, he prayed there was some other way for that justice to be satisfied than what he first was imagining.
Hours passed with no words spoken by either himself or the guards keeping watch over his cell door. He remained lost in his blurred memories, trying to put the pieces together and make sense of that incomprehensible period between fighting the Forsaken and killing the Gilnean soldiers; trying to fit the events into the proper order from then to now. Each time he thought he was finally on the verge of a breakthrough, however, the answers would slip away from him. Sometimes he wound realize an inconsistency in what he thought he knew, other times he would remember a new detail that derailed his ideas altogether, and other times still it was any variety of other problems.
He slowly began to lose track of time. How quickly was time starting to pass? Were minutes seconds? Seconds hours? Had he perhaps been down here for days? It unnerved him how quickly he was losing touch with reality, but given all he had apparently been through he was unsure if he had been in touch with it at all for some length of time.
Finally the sound of the door opening and footsteps entering snapped him from his self-induced memory stupor. Three people entered the office, and then Ivan heard the voice of a man say to the guards: “they have the king’s permission to speak with their brother. Let them down.” It was Sergeant Cleese, and… Krista? Blaine? They were here?
The trapdoor opened shortly after that and Ivan’s siblings descended into his cell. The door was closed behind them – most likely for security measures than the intention of keeping them down there as well. For the first time since he had been put down here, Ivan stood, and Krista ran to embrace her older brother. The same greeting was shared between Blaine and Ivan when the youngest Jeret’s slower pace got him over there. “Why are you here?” Ivan asked them.
“We’re here to tell you of the plan we have for your defense,” Blaine said.
Ivan cut him off before he could start another sentence; “defense?”
“For your trial,” Blaine clarified. “Our old friend Mister Burke has agreed to provide your defense, and we’ve already discussed the strategy we’ll use. We spoke to Krennan as well as we all came to the conclusion that you were not in control of your actions. Something about his potion or curse itself created a second personality of some kind. It’s a little far-fetched, but given what eyewitness testimony we’re hoping to pull together we should be able to outline the differences between you and this… Bloodhowl.”
“That’s what you- it, what the worgen in control of you called itself.”
Ivan hesitated a moment. “And Krennan, he is willing to let his name and reputation be soiled by the idea that his potion may have been the root cause of all of this?”
“If it means keeping an innocent man from going to jail,” Krista spoke up, “yes, he is.”
Ivan fell silent once again, taking all of this in and processing it, mulling over the ideas and trying to see if they made any of his jumbled past clearer. “Why,” he said, breaking his silence after a few minutes, “why do you want to help me? The things I did, what I said, we we’ve all said to each other before any of what… what I did even happened; after all of
, why try to help me?”
“Because we’re family, Ivan,” Blaine said.
Krista nodded briskly in agreement with her younger brother and then spoke herself; “and even if we did not agree with each other’s decisions, that fact cannot be changed. No matter what we think, no matter what we do, we will always be there to defend each other.”
Ivan allowed himself a sad smile, smiling at his brother and sister, smiling at the people he had known for longer than anyone else. Then, with his family there to comfort him, he finally let himself break down and began to sob.
There was no room large enough for this trial in Stormglen, so the event took place outside. The weather reflected the gloom man felt as a slight drizzle began to fall, but rain or no rain this event had to take place and had to be concluded here and now. They all knew that, and nobles and civilians alike had gathered to watch it. The civilians were in a state of shock; Ivan Jeret, eldest son of Lord Viktor and Lady Anna Jeret, the two Glinean lords who had most helped the common folk, was a murderer? And even though the idea hit them hard, it impacted none more than Ivan and his family.
“All rise in the presence of High Justice Matthew Kalligan, High Justice Sean McCready, and High Justice Vladamir Bronsk.”
Ivan remembered all three of these justices. The first two had been from Crowley’s trial; the third had been High Justice Nickoli Berard’s replacement – unfortunately, the High Justice had been killed during the initial invasion of the Forsaken. The three men took their seats as Genn made his entrance, this time alone. He looked tired, worn out and weak, and rightfully so given what his kingdom was passing through, and his words reflected his physical state as well; “Ivan Jeret, you have been accused of nine charges of murdering Gilnean soldiers and one charge of murdering a Gilnean civilian, Pamela Denson,” here Genn paused, and Ivan, “as well as one charge of raping said civilian.”
Half of the crowd gasped, not even speculation had gone
far. But none reacted more than General Denson, who was sitting with the rest of the prosecution – including Vincent Godfrey and two Eastern Lords that supported him. He stood and almost started a charge to attack Ivan, but was restrained by a pair of Royal Guards.
“General Denson,” King Greymane said, his voice regaining some of its authority, “you will abide by the laws of this court no matter the situation. You will remain seated until the Justices had given sentencing.” Grudgingly, General Denson obliged.
“Lord Ivan Jeret,” King Greymane started again, “how do you plead?”
Ivan, arms and legs restrained as he stood before the podium his king stood behind, fought the urge to glance back over his shoulder – as doing so was forbidden – at his family before speak. “Innocent,” he said.
King Greymane nodded. “Let the record show that Ivan Jeret as entered a plea of innocence. Prosecution, you may make your case.”
Vincent Godfrey stood and walked forward towards the justices. He was calm, collected, and strode in a manner that made it clear he thought he had the more convincing argument; Ivan did not doubt this. His brother and sister were relying completely on Krennan’s testimony and expertise in his field, Ivan’s words on what he remembered, and the goodwill of the justices. They had no hard evidence, both like and unlike the prosecution, but unlike the prosecution’s eyewitness account they were using an idea that sounded like something from a fairytale.
“Noble Gilnean Justices,” Godfrey began, “a man is defined by his actions there can be no denying that. In the past Lord Ivan Jeret has been one of the greatest men Gilneas has ever known; honorable, loyal to his King and country, an all-around model citizen. But there is another saying; the past is not the present.
“The crimes that Ivan Jeret is accused of are more present than any of his good deeds. The crimes he has committed on Gilnean soil, the crimes he has committed against the Gilnean people, cannot be overlooked. I would like to call Mister O’glen to the stand.”
Godfrey’s servant stood and walked towards the justices, to whom he retold the story he had told to the Gilnean nobles several days before. The justices and the crowd were all visibly disturbed by the image O’glen painted for them, and as he finished his story the horror and disgust at this retelling of transpired events clearly stuck with them. What O’glen failed to mention, and Blaine noticed this, was that when Pamela had tried to get the confirmation for his brother’s identity the response had been “no.” It was something he would use against them in his testimony. Godfrey dismissed his servant to retake his seat and then began to speak again.
“Even if he was not the one responsible for the disappearance of Misses Pamela Denson, it cannot be disputed that he was responsible for the deaths of Gilneas’ loyal soldiers; men loyal to the crown taken from this world too soon, their bodies torn to shreds. And this was not vengeance out of some motive, some vendetta, this was murder for the sake of murder, plain and simple; senseless, purposeless violence; a type of violence that not even Crowley unleashed upon this nation.”
Blaine’s eyes narrowed at Godfrey as he said this. Using the Northgate Rebellion to back his point; that was low, even for a lord as slimy as Godfrey – and Blaine was quickly realizing how slimy and despicable Godfrey could be. He wondered how he could have ever considered Godfrey a good man, let alone a friend to his family.
“The prosecution now rests its case,” Godfrey concluded. “I leave it to you, good justices, to make the correct decision on how to treat this scum of Gilneas.” He retook his seat next to General Denson, whose hate-filled gaze stuck on Ivan like a plague.
Mister Burke stood and walked towards the justices. “Nobles Gilnean Justices, a good man does not simply become an evil one overnight,” his Lordaeron was accent very thick. No, he was not a native Gilnean, just one of those poor souls to be trapped within Gilneas when the nation had closed its border that had needed to make the best of their new life. “No man simply wakes up one day and becomes a criminal, no man simply has a bad day and turns into a murderous fiend. A man’s mind can only be twisted slowly, purposefully. Months-to-years of psychological trauma building upon itself,
and only that can make a good man an evil one.
“But, sometimes, it is not the mind of a man that is in control of the body. Even a good man can have a dark side, and, on occasion, that dark side can be far more real, far more prevalent, than simply base lusts and habits taken to extremes. I would like to call Royal Alchimist Krennan Aranas to the stand.”
Krennan stood, faced the justices, and began to talk. He went on about the potion’s chemical formula, how it treated the worgen affliction. He then made some connections to the ingredients used and how they could also be used in different potions and drugs that occasionally had mind-altering effects, albeit in very, very different combinations and quantities. Not Ivan, Krista, nor Blaine understood much of what he was talking about, and all three feared the same was for the justices, but they had anticipated that. What they were truly relying on was Krennan’s reputation and expertise in the realm of alchemy to win them this trial.
Krennan concluded his presentation with a few last words on how he did not fully understand the worgen curse, and because of that the potion, designed only as a treatment, not a full cure, could have adverse effects; and, while granted this would have been the only one of this magnitude, the possibility for error on an individual scale was a very real thing. The alchemist then took his seat as Mister Burke began to speak again.
“How can you accuse a man of murder if he was not consciously the murderer? Yes, Lord Ivan Jeret’s body was used as the murder weapon, there can be no denying that; but it was not his mind behind the murders. The true murderer was a different personality inhabiting one body; a monster and creature of evil that identified itself as Bloodhowl. I call Blaine Jeret to the stand.”
Blaine stood and walked forward. “Your Honors,” he began, “when I confronted my brother in the Blackwald two days ago when Lord Godfrey attempted to arrest him and he assaulted the Gilnean soldiers in question he explicitly identified himself as a separate person from my brother; a worgen entity who called himself ‘Bloodhowl.’” If he mentioned Krista’s transformation and immediate attack on the soldiers, it might have helped their case, but it would have also marred Krista’s name and certainly rile the civilians into calling for her arrest. It was best to leave that as knowledge unknown for now. “A similar event happened when he confronted Lady Denson, a detail which the prosecution decided to omit: when Lady Denson asked if it was Ivan standing before her, the response was ‘no.’ In my mind, your honors, there is no doubt that it was not my brother, but instead this Bloodhowl-character, that was responsible for the deaths of the soldiers.” Blaine sat back down.
“Thank you, Lord Jeret,” Mister Burke said with a grateful nod. He looked back to the justices. “You know what you must do. The defense now rests its case.”
The Justices were allowed several minutes to discuss amongst themselves and read documented versions of the defense and prosecution’s words; then Genn spoke to gain their attention. “You have had time to review the charges and evidence, what say you.”
The first to stand and walk forward was Justice Kalligan. “I, Justice Matthew Kalligan, find Lord Ivan Jeret guilty and request he be sentenced to execution by decapitation, King Greymane.”
Justice McCready was next. “I, Justice Sean McCready, find Lord Ivan Jeret guilty and request he be sentenced to execution by decapitation, milord.”
Last was Bronsk. “I, Justice Vladamir Bronsk, find Lord Ivan Jeret guilty and request he be sentenced to execution by hanging, my King.”
Godfrey smirked, even at this split in the vote.
Normally the king would side with the majority vote, or pick the request he favored most, but Genn had defied Gilnean law with his power once, and he was about to do so again. Ever since the worgen attacks, and even more when the Forsaken invasion began, he had been reminded of Lord Viktor and Lady Anna Jeret’s view on life; that it was the duty of the fortunate to help those who had no such fortune. For the strong to help the weak, for those who stood to help those who had fallen.
What he could not accept when they had been alive, Genn steeled himself to do in their memory now; for the benefit of their eldest child.
“As King of Gilneas,” Genn started, and in the crowd Godfrey’s smug smile quickly faded, as if he knew exactly what Greymane was about to say. He thought Genn was going to overthrow the charges, or alter the sentence to imprisonment like he had with Crowley. But even Genn knew doing so would destroy Gilneas’ trust in him, in the nobles, in themselves even, and it would break the nation to the point where it would lose this war. “As King of Gilneas, I hereby overthrow the sentencing of the Justices and set my own,” he looked at Ivan, a brief glint in his eyes seemingly begging the young lord for forgiveness. “Ivan Jeret you are hereby exiled from Gilneas for life, under penalty of death should you ever return to its lands or shores.”
Exile; banishment from the only home he had ever known, the only place he had ever known. He knew King Greymane was sparing him from death, but to Ivan this felt like an even worse sentence.
“No, NO!” the crowd was silent, shocked but not enraged, the cry came from General Denson, who had bolted up from his seat and broken through the Royal Guards to charge at Ivan, sword drawn. “If the King won’t have justice in this court, then I will carry out justice myself!” He was merely a foot away from Ivan when the Royal Guard tackled him again and began to drag him to a building in which they could secure him. “You won’t get away with this, Jeret! I will hunt you down! I will scour all of Azeroth for you! And when I find you; I will kill you! I will kill you in the most painful way I can think of and give my wife the justice she deserves for her murder! I swear this on the Light! I swear this on the Void! I swear this on all Gods and Demons that look upon this land! I WILL HAVE YOUR HEAD!” With those last words, he was gagged and dragged out of sight.
“My King, I object to this sentencing!” Krista said, having bolt up when Denson attacked. “The evidence is clear, my brother is innocent! The sentence you place upon him is unjust because of this!”
“My decision is final,” Genn Greymane said. “I am sorry, Lady Jeret.”
“No!” Krista yelled again, determined rage on her face. “If this is to be my brother’s fate then I take it as my own! Until such a time that my brother’s name is cleared of these false charges and the sentence placed upon him is lifted, I will join him in exile under the same conditions.”
“Krista, no!” Blaine pleaded with her, gripping her shoulders as he attempted to reason with her. “We can still overturn this; if we work together we can convince them of the truth! Of Ivan’s innocence! You don’t have to do this, you-.”
Krista shook her brother’s grip from her. “My decision is final.” She said, glaring once more at Greymane before storming away from the scene.
Ivan sat his head in his hands, acknowledging what was going on but praying to the Light over and over again that it wasn’t happening. This was his fault and he knew it; this was his doing. This was his mistake, and because of it his sister was taking the price of it to pay alongside of him. This couldn’t be happening, why was it happening?
Dear Light, please don’t let her do this!
Dear Light, please don’t let this be real!
Dear sweet, merciful Light, please, please, please,
! Don’t let this happen!
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