Such a strange and twisted morality prevailed.
Realize that I ate better locked in a cell than I ever did fending for myself. The good man, Constable Reeves, brought me three platters a day. The meals were warm and balanced with generous portions of seasoned fish and mashed potatoes.
My cell was large and rather nice. Inside, I enjoyed a comfortable bed with a heavy blanket and two pillows stuffed full of brown feathers. The flagstone floor was covered in warm furs. There was a solid writing desk and a chair so cleverly designed that it leaned back. I reclined in it as Constable Reeves stood outside the cold iron bars of my prison.
“Master Kymric,” he said after a hesitant pause. His voice was strained and broken. He knew enough to fear me, but I took no pleasure in that.
His hands shook when I stared. I tried not to stare but, as they say in Kal Leoni, habits define us better than goals. Staring brought his body and his being into focus; he wore stinky old leathers, his hair was thin, and most of his nose had been butchered off years ago. What remained was an ugly mass of scars with a single gaping hole through which he breathed and dripped snot.
“Master Kymric,” he continued. “The Baron sent word. You’re to be given more parchment and ink.” He held up two bundles of parchment. On top he had placed three small jars made of clay, no doubt containers of black ink.
I frowned. “I already have parchment.” I wet my pen and scratched down words. “And ink.”
“Not enough,” Reeves said. “Not to the purpose the Baron is setting you.” He leaned forward, eyes bright and hopeful. “Master Kymric, you are to be given a defense.”
I almost laughed except it turned into more of a sour sigh. “What defense do you give a man guilty beyond doubt and dispute?”
“Nothing is beyond dispute. These are civilized lands after all. The magistrates said that all folks deserve a vigorous defense. A vigorous defense, sir. It’s right here. In the letter they scripted to you.”
“Empty words and wasted time,” I said. “Hang the guilty man now, I say. I’m unfit for civilization.”
Constable Reeves kicked the cell door. A loud clang echoed down the stone hallway. His face reddened. “Master Kymric, please. Won’t you at least consider reading what they have to say?” The poor man was pleading with me.
I stood and took the items through the bars. Constable Reeves reeked of dried sweat and grime. His face was close to mine as he spoke. Rotten teeth hid somewhere in that mouth–I could smell it.
“Your orders are written out for you by the scribes,” he said. “Do as they tell you. I swear to you, Master Kymric, the half-saints are looking for any excuse to bury you. And those of us who might be sympathetic, too. Trust the Baron; he can be your friend. This is real. I don’t think even your power is enough to change what is real.”
There were two bundles of flattened parchment, about fifty sheets per set. The Baron’s letter was there also, a decree sent directly to me from the gathering at the House of Honesty.
“Thank you, Reeves.” I sighed and sat in my clever chair. “I will consider this matter. You have my word,” I said, dismissing him.
Carefully, I laid the bundle down on my desk and nestled the little clay jars into the corner of one of the top drawers. I leaned back to read what my betters had to say.
Let it be known that the High Court–under the power of the twelve Kings of Fairbreeze–have hereby gathered on this third day of spring in the fourth year of the second decade to reckon with the alleged crimes of one Master Kymric, a man who hails from Boiling Springs and has personally sworn fealty to this stable, civilized, and prosperous Kingdom.
Let it further be known that this court has heard initial testimony from Master Zane, newly appointed Royal Magician of Fairbreeze, in regards to the safety of allowing Master Kymric into the House of Honesty to speak in his own defense. It is, after due consideration, the wise decision of this High Court that Master Kymric will not be allowed within this chamber. Simply put, the danger is too great.
Let it be known, however, that the laws of Fairbreeze are clear. All folks are entitled to a vigorous defense. So it is that Master Kymric will be compelled to offer his personal defense via messages with this High Court. It is our decree that good ink and usable scrolls will be provided to such noble ends.
“You’re right,” I whispered to where Reeves had stood. My voice was strained and broken. “Even my power cannot change what is real.”
I straightened out a new sheet of parchment. It was woven well. No cracks ran across the surface. I began to write. The ink was as solid a black as the color of my heart.
Soon it would stain my hands like the blood of my victims.
Know that I offer no defense. I have crossed the moral line. My punishment cannot be severe enough. Herein, instead, is my confession.
May these words hasten your decision. I once swore to honor your rulings, and I do so again. I will not contest the judgment you must inevitably reach.
Know that it is obsession that has led me here. Perhaps all of my failures have begun with obsession. Let us go back to when I was but a lowly trader cataloguing sales and purchases.
This was well after I had failed as a priest. But only just after I had failed as a husband.
It was, in fact, during the time that I was failing as a merchant.
But only shortly before I discovered magic and changed the world forever.
What am I trying to say?
In short, this is a cautionary tale….