This is a little piece I wrote for a Dungeons and Dragons campaign… it started out with an intro for a character that spiraled out of control and into a full blown court case. Hope you enjoy…
The waiting room outside Diege’s court is full, several men and women are pacing up to look at the bronze plaque posted next to the door. The bell tolls the noon hour and a man in chainmaile with the livery of city guard steps out, announcing the first case. While Owin, Khaladin, Rohk and Chiva all wait, Luag’s complaint is listed second on the list, they take in the scene.
The plaque is new, and engraved upon it are the following words. ‘When you enter here, the power of the Dragon Lord Bahamut will encourage your words to be true and the Flames of Truth shall reveal falsehood. Speak no word that is a lie and you shall find justice.’
The bailiff comes out and speaks their names in turn, calling the four of them to come present their evidence in the case of Luag Seitheach vs Fredrick Tornbarr. When they pass through the door of the courtroom, a shiver runs down their spines as they feel the power of the magic surround them.
Sitting on a high backed chair of carved and polished walnut with purple cushions behind a desk of graninte, Diege Hamira holds a silver gavel in her hand. She wears the embroidered purple and gold mantle of Magistrate. To right stands an imposing figure in gleaming gold washed platemaile armor, the surcoat of Knight Captain Commander over the top, and the battered, leather worn hilt of an Orcish Greataxe over his shoulder.
His helm is clipped to his belt, and his jutting lower tusks, coarse black hair and greenish cast to his skin make his Orc heritage quite apparent. This is the first time some of you have seen the city’s Battle Commander, Gerad Skullcrusher and his visage is, to say the least, a shock to Owin. The Dwarf wisely keeps his mouth shut, but even so, as Gerad’s eyes sweep over the group they linger on him for just a moment and Owin jerks a bit when the massive Half-Orc meets his eyes and gives him a deliberate wink before turning his attention back to the room.
“We are here to discuss the incident that occurred during the Battle of Adder Peak on the afternoon of the Seventeenth day of Eleint, Year 1489.” A voice from Diege’s other side says crisply and a man in a black scholar’s robe with purple and gold embroidery around the cuffs and hem steps forward. He is almost completely unremarkable, and most find themselves feeling trust for him without any real reason to do so.
“Now then, first we call the accuser, Luag Seitheach forward to give his accounting and make a formal accusation.” The black robed man says.
“Thank you Dethnar.” Diege says, motioning toward Gerad who exits through a side door, returning after a moment. On one side is Fredrick, dressed in simple green velvet. On the other is Luag, still wearing the flag of Bahamut as a kilt and using the broken battle standard as a staff. Upon entry, Gerad takes the staff and leans it against the door.
“Please approach and give your complete account of events.” Diege says, her eyes taking in the flag with a twitch of annoyance.
“When shall I begin?” Luag asks, coming to stand before the three. A tattoo of the White Stag of Oberon shines on his skin, glittering like moonlight on calm waters and a wreath of Brightstar flowers grows and twines through his flaming red hair. Covering his arms and torso dark, almost iridescent blue tattoos form wild patterns. The pseudo dragon perches on his shoulder, her head peering around the room in interest.
“At the beginning of the time relevant to this event, and up to where your accusation has been made please.” Dethnar says, pulling an eagle feather quill from a drawer and turning a roll of parchment that scrolls over his desk, allowing him to write a great deal of information without changing paper.
Luag puts his hands behind his back, clearing his throat before beginning. “On the afternoon of the 17th day of Eleint year 1489 DR, I was fishing on the banks of a small tributary of the River Ashara. I had caught several trout and was cleaning them when I felt a pain in my chest the likes of which I had not felt before.
“My vision was obscured by blinding light, and then all sensation left my body. I knew somehow that I was traveling, but was unable to ascertain how or where I was going. Within moments, I was looking down on a battlefield and my vision was drawn to two figures, a man and a half-dragon.
“A white flash blinded my eyes and I found myself in front of the half-dragon, the man at my feet and the half-dragon’s weapons covered in his blood. I could tell that my body had sustained wounds that brought me in danger of perishing, and using my gifts sought to put the creature to sleep. I did not see the weaker troglodytes behind the hulking figure filling my vision, and my magic affected them first instead of my intended target.
“The people I now know as Khaladin Flameblessed Dohrohk uanye ehricherdir (Green Knight), Chiva, and Terrivangian dispatched the creature with ease and the dwarf Owin Stonebrew ministered to my wounds with great efficiency and care. The immediate danger past, I then examined myself and noticed the outline of a circle on my chest above my heart… and felt the arcane connection pulling me toward Lord Frederick.
“Lord Frederick was unconscious but alive, so I did a quick examination and found an identical circle on his chest as well. I was able to determine that these rings were the catalyst that brought me 1500 miles across the sea of stars and away from my home, and fishing rod. Realizing I was on a battlefield once more and against troglodytes and half-dragons, I joined my rescuers in the battle.
“After victory was achieved, I quickly sought rest after a promise of a more thorough examination of the link between Lord Frederick and myself in the morning. Upon awakening Owin Stonebrew and Khaladin Flameblessed attempted to remove the ring from my chest by cutting it out, which we learned is impossible.
“With Owin and Khaladin I went to question Lord Frederick, and after persuading him to cooperate he confessed to meeting my mother 46 years ago and conceiving me… and when my mother came to him with the baby he convinced her to allow this shackle to be placed in my chest. It was then that I called for him to be bound by law.”
Dethnar’s pen scratches on the paper for a few more moments before he glances at Diege who nods. “Thank you Luag. Are you aware of the import of these charges? What the punishment for such a thing in these lands would be?”
“I have read your laws, and find them adequate with regards to slavery and compulsion against an unwilling person. The punishment does give me pause however.” Luag says, “If Lord Frederick is deemed guilty by Lady Diege and the punishment is carried out before I am able to get the offending artifact removed from my person what I have been able to discern about the nature of these rings causes me to believe that the bond would first kill me, before finally ending his life.”
“Beyond that, he also has a family and while his sons…” Dethnar pauses with an apologetic shrug of the shoulders, “His legitimate sons, are of age to inherit there is still the matter of their care and the title. You don’t seem to me to be the type who would take to the life of a Lord.”
“Nor do I seek it, I feel sympathy for his family… and in a way for him as well. I do not excuse his actions, for they pain me more than you can know… but the state of a man that is driven to do that to part of his own flesh puts a sadness in my heart just thinking of it. When Lord Frederick decided to use magic and an enchanted item in a negative way to try to protect his life in the future he became subject the threefold law; that I cannot change.”
“I do however find myself across this continent with little idea on how I would return home… or if that is my best course of action at this point. Well do I know the myriad and twisted path a life walks before it is done in this world, perhaps there is something I am meant to learn here…But without a way to sustain myself easily any course of action I would choose to take seems daunting, I am a cub left in the bushes with no one to care for me, naked and alone.”
“Interesting metaphor.” He mutters, writing some more with his pen. “I have no further questions. Lady, please call in the next witness.”
“Sir Khaladin, please approach and give your account.” Says Diege, taking a drink from a water glass on her desk.
Khaladin glances around the room when called upon, looking for Jolokar and not seeing him here. Ignoring his feeling of unease, Kal walks to stand before the desk, giving a sharp salute. Diege waves it away, and bids him be at his ease.
Standing at Parade Rest Kal begins his prepared recitation. “On 17th day of Eleint year 1489 DR I, Khaladin Flameblessed, Knight of the Order of the Flame and Green Knight of the Methwood, was attached to the Third Corps, Second Division, Fourth Brigade, First Regiment as Squad Leader of Wolf Squad. Our mission was as reserves and a tactical support team in the event of breaches in the line.
“We were placed under the command of Lord Frederick Thornbarr along with the other Tactical Squads assigned to Fourth Brigade. At approximately 1030 in the morning the Army of Engelstad, and her allies, arrived at the Winding River where my Squad and other advanced elements crossed the river ahead of the army to repel any potential threats to the crossing. No assaults happened and we advanced upon the mountain.
“We then marched with the army and the opposing army was sighted at approximately 1400 hours by advanced scouts. At approximately 1530 hours battle was joined. We remained in reserve and after battle was joined with the army of Troglodites the Half-Dragon abominations they had hid in reserve began to fall upon our rank and file, disrupting the lines.
“First Regiment was unmolested by the Half-Dragons. Lord Frederick had observed a Half-Dragon land among the ranks of Second Regiment and they had broken and started to retreat before its’ powerful breath weapon. Lord Thornbarr charged the beast and cried out for a charge which alerted us to its’ presence. He was well ahead of us when I lead my squad along with Terrivangian in a charge at the Half-Dragon.
“As we attempted to catch and overtake our commander in his brave but reckless charge we urged the fleeing troops to mount a counteroffensive and after much urging Rohk Stonebrew was able to rally them behind us.
“Lord Thornbarr reached the Half-Dragon well before us and using the battle standard as a spear attempted to slay the beast. He was unsuccessful. Lord Frederick Thornbarr was then nearly decapitated by the foul spawn of Tiamat and fell at its feet. I assumed he had surely perished.
“There was a blinding light then and a naked man, Luag here, (points to Luag) appeared and disrupted a charging line of Troglodites with a well-placed spell. I observed the newcomer appeared to be grievously wounded, blood coming from wounds on his body. Miraculously, Lord Thornbarr’s neck wound was healed and he appeared to be breathing. I called for a medic and ordered him removed to the casualty tents.
“As we charged the Half-Dragon to avenge our fallen commander an restore the integrity of the battle line my Squad worked with amazing efficiency and it did not have a chance to so much as raise a finger before it was slain.
“We then returned to our Regiment and provided aid and support in the battle line and behind until the day was won. The next morning Owin Stonebrew, a camp surgeon, and I attempted to remove the ring grafted under Luag’s skin in a surgery tent. We were unsuccessful.
“Luag confronted Lord Thornbarr about the magic of the ring and I heard him admit he had placed it under Luag’s skin when he was but a babe and that he was Luag’s father. I filed a written report with my order that evening and have supplied copies to the court.”
He takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly, meeting Diege’s eyes. “Is there anything else your Ladyship requires of me?”
“You were present when Lord Thornbarr admitted to being Luag’s father?” Dethnar says, finishing his sentence and looking up from his writing.
“I was sir, and I must say it was as much of a shock to me as it likely was to you.” Kal says, shaking his head slightly.
“Interesting.” Dethnar says.
“Thank you Sir Khaladin.” Diege says and he steps back.
“It is my understanding that one Terrivangian, has given a written testimony as he is unable to attend. Is that correct?” Dethnar asks.
Gerad lets loose short snort of laughter before composing himself. He hands Diege a piece of folded parchment. On the back is an army shipment manifest. Diege’s mouth turns up slightly at the corners and she reads aloud.
“That Fredrick coyote should be hamstrung and left for the ravens, however I understand that might hurt the one he made his slave. Cage and muzzle him, but by the Hart do not allow him on a field of battle again. Courage without ability is suicide, he fights like a newborn pup chasing a grasshopper and is as likely to bite his own tail as not. The fight was disappointing, the Alpha knows what happened. Alpha’s know how to deal with cowards and idiots.”
“Colorful.” Dethnar says, “May I see that please?”
Diege hands him the note and he looks at both sides. When he reads what Terr has written his brow furrows. “I do not understand all of his diction, but his penmanship is quite precise. Who is this ‘Alpha’ he refers to?”
Kahladin clears his throat, appearing slightly embarrassed and opens his mouth to speak, but is interrupted by Gerad. “It is just his word for leader sir.” Kal glances at him, grateful not to have had to try and explain his strange relationship with the man. Gerad meets his eyes and quirks first one, then the other eyebrow at him and then throwing him a mirthful wink.
“Very well, since we cannot question this Terrivangian, perhaps we can continue?” Dearth sets the paper down on his desk.
“Owin Stonebrew, please come forward and give your account.” Diege says, glancing between Kal and Gerad. Gerad’s face is as implacable as a stone, and Kal manages to look fairly innocent, however a slight bit of color rises to his cheeks.
Owin approaches, looking around with apparent unease. “If this do be a zone of truth and the magic shows the truth, why do you ask us. Ask them. I heard a tale from Lord Fredrick, but I would like him to testify on his own actions. In battle he led our troops. I saw a man fall dropping our banner and he picked it up and led the charge”
“Owin Stonebrew, your question is not without merit.” Diege says, sighing and running a hand through her short cropped red hair. She looks tired. “The protocols and laws for a proper trial were established long before the Lady Xyrella Kra’Allin blessed us with this spell and they will remain after the magics she has placed upon this courtroom fade.”
She sits up straighter, and her face lights with passion, “Laws are not designed around such fleeting things as a magical enchantment, they are structured around what is Right and Just! Each accused has the chance to defend themselves and each accuser has the right to bring witnesses. The Arbitrator presides and I, as Magistrate listen to the evidence and make my decision based upon the laws I am sworn to uphold. If your testimony is complete, please step down for the next witness.”
“Well said my Lady.” Gerad says, looking at her. Owin is the only one close enough to see the expression in his eyes take on a look of fondness. Owin is shocked even more when Diege returns his look and her gaze goes well beyond fond. She’s in love with a Half-Orc! His skin crawls.
“Ah. Well.” Owin hesitates, “I did try an remove the ring an it did seem like it was killin him. So, ah, if it was put there against his will by someone then ah, they’re probably not very nice.”
“Thank you Owin.” Dethnar says, “If that is all?” Owin bows awkwardly and returns to his seat.
“Rohk Stonebrew?” Diege says, “Please approach.”
Rohk walks up to stand before the table looking even more nervous than his brother. “Well…I was kinda hoping I could talk about this without Luag and Fredrick right there lookin’ at me and judgin’ me but, alright. I hate bein’ forced to say things in front of people that might make them hate me but looks like I have no choice in the matter.”
“I can promise you that no harm will be allowed to come to you based upon your testimony here.” Diege says, “Please continue without fear for your or your family’s safety. If people were unable to testify because of such threats our system of justice would fail to work.”
Rohk nods, looking slightly less nervous, clears his throat and begins to talk, “Let me paint the scene for you…
“There we were…middle of the battle field and this large, scaly monster of a half dragon jumps right in our midst, spreading devastation about with his large swords and fiery breath. Many lay dying in one fiery explosion from his maw…people were scared and started running away in terror. Ser Khaladin and I immediately looked at each other and started to rally the troops to gain strength and not run as we charged the beast. It seemed that our incredibly brave attack rallied the troops some, as many began to gain heart and turn around and follow us back into the fight.
“Ser Fredrick also charged the beast with us and got to him before we did, jamming his spear right into the beast. It was a brave attack, but the dragon…half dragon…promptly turned and gave Ser Fredrick what we thought was a fatal blow.
“Unfortunately my little dwarf legs weren’t fast enough to get to the dragon in time to hit it meself.” A small tongue of flame curls around his feet and he hastily adds, “With my hammer that is… I didn’t have a crossbow to use.”
He looks down for a moment, visibly sweating before continuing, “By the time I got there it was dead from Chiva’s daggers and a massive beating by Ser Khaladin and Terravangian. That’s when there was the strange flash of light…imagine it…dead dragon, destruction all around…our squad leader dead in the dirt…suddenly Fredrick is standing up and there’s a d’rn naked man sittin’ there! What the hell I say!
“I didn’t know what to do at that point…so natural I proceeded to loot the half dragon’s weapons and went and got me mule.
“That’s all I know other then what I been told by others. I can say I don’t trust Fredrick OR Luag. It’s a little disconcerting to me that that Luag fella latched onto my group so fast, asking and expecting us to just buy him supplies. Who does that? Who immediately meets new people then asks them to buy him stuff and expect no questions? Somethin’ seems suspicious about the both of em.”
“So, your natural inclination on the field of battle is to start collecting spoils of war even when the battle rages around you?” Gerad’s eyes narrow, but before he can press for an answer Diege cuts him off with a chopping motion of her hand.
“That point is irrelevant to this hearing.” She says shortly.
“It seems that your brother was charitable enough to offer him healing. Perhaps he assumed you would share that charity.” Diege says to Rohk.
“Now you say that you are suspicious of Luag because he was needy after arriving on a battlefield clad only in his skin?” Dehtnar asks, “I don’t think that sounds… unreasonable.”
“He gimmie a list like a mile long!” Rohk protested, “And it weren’t stuff like food an whatnot, he put a house on there! A HOUSE!” He looks around as though expecting to hear a chorus of Dwarves harrumphing through their beards, then remembers where they are.
“Thank you, no more questions.” Dethnar says and Rohk gratefully retreats.
“Chiva, if you would come forward and give your account?” Diege says, and the Halfling bounces up, looking interestedly at the parchment roll Dethnar has been using before starting.
“Thanks! I mean, this is interesting, very interesting. Ah yes, the battle, I’ll make it short. Incompetent dumbass who should never have been in leadership charged recklessly.” He gestures at Fredrick.
“Dumbass then gets eviscerated by nasty dragon guy. Bright light. Naked tattoo guy appears. Dumbass is back alive. I luckily get a dagger into the dragon which is then railroad spiked by Terr and then finished off by Kal. Any questions?”
He glances at Dethnar who is scribbling madly to keep up with his tirade, an amused look on his face. “I lost my favorite dagger in that beast too. I don’t suppose there’s any chance of recovering it?”
Diege unstraps a sheathed dagger from her waist and tosses it to him. Chiva catches it out of the air, feeling its perfect balance. He doesn’t react to but notices Gerad tense at the presence of an armed person within leaping distance of Diege.
“I – ah, thanks?” He says, not sounding sure.
“Not at all.” Diege says dryly, “That’s my favorite dagger, wield it well.”
“Now it’s time for the last bit of testimony.” Dethnar says, “That of the accused.”
“Frederick Thornbarr.” Says Diege, “You are called to defend yourself.”
Frederick comes to stand before them, his shoulders slumped. He looks quite different from the man who ran defiantly into the teeth of a half dragon. “All I have to say in my defense is I was just a boy of fifteen. The witch who gave me the rings said they’d protect me. I was young and ambitious. I didn’t think about what it meant…
“I’ve seen … “ He shudders, “I’ve seen what awaits me after I die. I know I can’t change it, but I mean to try.” Tears fall from his eyes. “I am sorry Luag Seitheach. I plead for the court to have mercy on my family, this was none of their doing.”
“I have heard bits of this testimony before.” Diege says, “And I have had time to give this some thought. What you all have told me today has only strengthened my decision.
“Frederick Thornbarr, I hereby strip you of your title. You shall be kept under house arrest until the day when Luag Seitheach is able to remove the ring from his chest. In consideration of your youth, your family and the condition of the ring’s enchantment you will not be sentenced to death. Instead you shall be insulated from harm, not allowed to do anything dangerous and will be required to put whatever skills you may have to use helping the less fortunate.
“Luag Seitheach, in recompense for what you have lost and in lieu of the punishment that cannot be meted out to you, I award you Frederick’s share of the treasure from the battle. In addition you will be offered travel back to your homeland at the expense of Frederick’s estate.” She crosses her arms, and looks him over before continuing.
“From all reports, and I’ve heard a few, you conducted yourself quite well. Not just on the battlefield either. It seems you have a bit of talent and ambition, and we could use some more of that around here… as long as you can keep the latter in check.” She glances at Frederick who flinches. “So I’m offering you a second option.”
“The Thornbarr estate owns a large parcel of land outside of the city. I have made some negotiations, they are willing to part with forty acres. They border on the Mephwood on one side, and apparently have been some rumors of issues with the forest lately. If you wish to make a life for yourself here, you would be welcome.”
She smooths a rumpled sheet of paper on her desk, and raises an eyebrow artfully at him. “You seem to have begun to make plans already, but I will leave the decision up to you.”