Of Blood and Innocence

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Princess Keilah sat quietly at her dressing room table, her eyes not fixed on the mirror or the reflection of her maid servant doing her hair, but instead they were focused on the papers before her. She read quietly to herself, her lips moving but no sound coming forth. Her maid servant, Lily was also as quiet as the princess, but then she knew better than to interrupt the beautiful young princess when she was preparing to fight within the court for the right of some petitioner or other. With a final twist and a few more pins to hold the hair in place, Lily stood back and admired her handy work. The princess looked as beautiful as ever, perhaps even more so today with her chestnut brown tresses done up in elaborate curls and swirls in a style that was sure to become the current fashion. Though the princess paid little attention to fashion and what not, she had a knack for creating herself into some sort of fashion icon. But then, those were Lily's opinions, and the opinions of others, all of which often fell on deaf ears.

Placing her small hand on the princess's shoulder to get her attention, Lily said, "You are ready princess. If I might, may I take my leave for breakfast now?"

Keilah looked up, her eyes holding an expression of startlement. She'd been so absorbed in reading over the transcripts of the case thus far, that she had entirely forgotten about Lily. It took a moment for her to comprehend what Lily had asked. "Oh yes," she said. "Of course. And thank you, Lily for doing my hair. It looks beautiful," she said as she finally glanced into the mirror. Lily curtsied and excused herself leaving the princess to her own thoughts and devices.

A short time later, her body guard in tow, Princess Keilah headed through the palace to the rooms designated for the courts and petitioners. The case she had been reviewing while getting ready that morning, would be first on the dockets and would set the tone for the rest of the day. Her father had picked a hard but fair man to be the judge of his courts, and though the princess knew the law backwards and forwards, there were some days where convincing the judge to see her client's side of things was nigh impossible. She always gave it her all though and knew that she had right and justice on her side.

"Case number 16982. The people versuses Maddock Williamson. Princess Keilah for the defense and Master Hayworth for the prosecution. The honorable judge Vivican presiding. Be seated," droned a bored looking official of the court.

The people in the room sat only after the judge had taken his place and then the battle began. Maddock Williamson was charged with the murder of his brother Addikin Williamson. From the evidence presented by the prosecution thus far, it seemed an open and shut case. But the princess had done a bit of sluething and lots of questioning of supposed witnesses to the murder. Even the distraught Williamson family could not hide the fact that Addikin had been a troubled man, one prone to displays of maniacal deeds of which his family often tried to stop him. It was Addikin's way of getting the attention he so craved. And on the fateful day in question when Addikin had perished, it had been his brother Maddock that had been there and tried to stop his latest crazy and half baked deed. No, what seemed like murder to others was indeed and instead suicide on Addikin's part.

It would be a hard case to prove. Addikin's antics and maniacal devices were well known. But it was his family and a close friend that knew him best, knew that they were cries for attention. Knew that it was only a matter of time before Addikin did the unthinkable and gained the ultimate attention. Suicide.

"Princess Keilah," the judge said in his nasally voice, "You may present your case." The princess stood and smoothing the skirts of her dress, thanked the judge and walked forward. Then, she began with her opening arguement, going into great detail about the Williamson family, their history and so much more. It was clear she had done her research. She knew the family and Maddock, perhaps better than they knew themselves, and she was convinced that this was indeed a suicide. So she set out to prove that, calling witness after witness, questioning them, and allowing the prosecution a chance to cross examine. But at every turn when it seemed things would not go in her favor, she somehow turned things around and led the case in the proper direction.

"Your honor," the princess said in closing. "Maddock Williamson is the victim in all of this. What can clearly be seen through testimony and questioning, is that Addikin Williamson was a troubled young man. One whom was hard to control. His cries for attention, his antics, earned him a reputation and so it is with the evidence presented, that the defense puts forth that this was not murder but instead suicide. Maddock Williamson, with only love for his brother, simply tried to stop Addikin and was unfortunately unsucessful. The prosecution and the people have jumped to a conclusion that is as far from accurate as you can get. It is with these presented facts and testimony's that I urge the court to find Maddock not guilty of murder, but instead guilty of only love for his brother and family."

Princess Keilah returned to her seat next to Maddock. The man looked sad as he had since the beginning of all of this. But then, he had lost his brother in a horrible way and sat accused of a crime that he hadn't comitted. She patted his hand reassuringly and waited for the judge to make his decision.

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The judge listened carefully to the princess's testimony before turning to the prosecutor. "Master Hayworth, does the Crown have anything to present in argument to Her Royal Highness's claims of suicide?"

Master Hayworth stands, gives a bow to the princess and to the judge, "Your Honor, should it had been proven to be suicide, it would indeed be a terrible miscarriage of jusitice to place the accusation of murder upon the defendant. However, the Crown has found nothing to collaborate this claim. There  was no notice of intent of suicide found and no reasonable expectation that the deceased would have desired to commit such an outrageous sin. Instead, the Crown has found plenty of motives and evidence to suggest that the defendant is guilty of murdering his own brother. If it would please the court, I shall begin my testimony sharing the evidence gathered by the Crown."

The judge raises his hand, about to allow the prosecutor to continue, when a messenger quickly and quietly approaches him and whispers into his ear. The color in the judge's face fades to white as he turns and stands quickly. From the side door, escorted by two templars, a priest of the Church of Archelus enters into the court. "Holy Father, you have no buisness interfering with the Royal Court!"

The priest smiles thinly, "Actually, Judge Vivican, I do. Just declared by His Highness, King Camden Mercleis, Lord and Protector of Celestia and the Celestial Realm and servent of the Creator, the courts of the land is now to be precided over by the appointed priests of Archelus." The priest produces a sealed scroll and directs the templar on the right to hand it to the judge. The judge opens and reads the scroll, it soon falling from his trembling hands. The priest motions to the judge, "Vivican Armedis, you are hereby charged by the Crown and the Church a heritic, and are under arrest pending holy trial." The templar that handed the judge the scroll locks his hands in chains and proceeds to drag him from court. "Send  Maddock Williamson back to his cell as well," the priest directs, "until a new trial can be set."

The priest then walks over to Princess Keilah, "Your highness," he bows," the court is no place for a lady such as yourself. You should return to the keep." He motions for a guard, "Please escort the princess from here safely."

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Princess Keilah wanted to and was about to interject her objections to the prosecutor's statements about it not being a suicide, when everything that had seemed to be going her way, went entirely in the opposite direction. She stood as the declaration was made naming the judge a heretic, a sentence passed down by both her father and the church. Keilah had never seen any evidence to prove it, though she rarely saw the judge except for in court and at courtly functions. The times she had spoken with him, he seemed a good and honest man even if his nasally voice was irritating. But a heretic? Surely not. She couldn't and she wouldn't believe it, not unless he confessed of his own free will that indeed he was.

Opening her mouth to protest against this injustice, she was quickly silenced by the preist's approach and his reccomendation that she return to the keep, stating that this was no place for a lady such as herself. Anger bristling within her, she felt her face grow red with it and she straightened more than was necessary. "Now see here," she began waving her bodygaurd off for the time being. "There must be something amiss. Surely these accusations against Judge Vivican are unfounded. What proof is there? What evidence do you have to support this? My father liked the judge and I haven't seen or heard of anything to alter that fact. Nor have I seen or heard anything to prove him a heretic." She paused just briefly to take a calming breath and ease the tension in her voice.

Closing her eyes in addition to taking the calming breath, she began again. "Look, surely there has to be a mistake. Let's set aside the other cases for now, including the Williamson case, until we can uncover the truth regarding Judge Vivican. Certainly that can be seen as a fair compromise, and we can find an unbiased party to look into the charges. One that isn't myself or Master Hayworth or even a member of the church or courts." Keilah presented the priest with a warm encouraging smile, hoping that he'd see things her way. Most people did, but Keilah was no fool to think everyone was going to give in to her wishes. Heck out of the corner of her eye she could see her bodygaurd moving closer to her, he was eager to do as the priest said, him being one of the many that believed she overstepped what it meant to be a lady, let alone a princess, in her pursuit for gender equality and justice for all. But Keilah wasn't one to back down easily. Sure, she could be indecisive at times, but when it came to the law, justice and equality for all, she would stand her ground so long as she could.

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The priest smiles thinly but there was no kindness in his smile. Shaking his head, he sighed, "Your Highness, do not misunderstand being escorted to the keep as a suggestion, for it is not. A lady of any name or title, especially a princess, has no voice in the holy court and no authority over the Church., and neither does any king. Only the almighty creator, Archelus, and His Holy Word have any sway in the matters of holiness, right, and justice."

The priest chuckles, "Princess, even now your very words condemn you. It is blasphemy to suggest that an outsider play judge to the cases of holy court, just as it is an abonination to have a woman play the role of a man. Princess Keilah Mercleis, daughter of our king Camden Mercleis, you are under investigation as a heritic and a Zodoist yourself. I'd advise you to more carefully consider your next words, Your Highness."

He motions to the guards to proceed, "Now princess, your choice is very simple. You can willingly be escorted to the keep or unwillingly be escorted to the dungeons. Either way, out of courtesy to the Crown, you shall be given time to plead for Archelus's wisdom and mercy, and be afforded a priest to make confession without fear of it being used in judgment against you with the hope that you will find your way back into Archelus's good graces and find forgiveness for your unholy transgressions."

The priest turns his back to Keilah and starts to walk back to his entourage. The royal guard to Keilah's right tries to encourage his princess, "Your Highness, we should retire to the Keep."

The priest doesn't make it more than 5 steps away before he stops, "Your father is truly a good man, the rightful King of all Chalcedonia. Out of rrespect for him, you may be escorted to see your father before being secluded to the Keep." The priest then continues to walk away. 

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Her breath caught in her throat, her objections, her anger, the heartbreak, it all hit her all at once, stunning the princess into silence for perhaps the first time in her life. As the priest turned his back on her, her mouth worked to form words but no sound came out. Her? A heretic? Surely he jested, but his words and everything else were proof positive that this was no laughing matter. Her very life was on the line here and all because she wanted only to stand up for what was right and just.

Keilah's eyes flitted from one person to the next in the court room, her eyes pleading for some sort of assistance in the matter. But many adverted their eyes when she looked at them, only a few having the courage to look at her straight on. No one spoke except for the priest to say that she could see her father first. What was all this? What had happened in so short a span of time to make not only the people but her own father to seemingly turn against her? Her heart aching she knew she had to get to the bottom of this. Or maybe she should just throw herself into her studies, surly no one could claim she was a heretic for reading books on any topic she wished. But wouldn't that be the fool's way out? Perhaps though, rather than playing the fool, she could do both. If she could find the right books, if she could ask the right questions at just the right time, perhaps then she could find out what was going on. Something wasn't right, she had felt it that morning in her gut, she had been too uneasy to eat despite Lily's fussing about her and her not eating. And now there was a mystery to solve and Keilah knew that the first person that could give her any idea as to what was going on, was her own father. Surely he'd confide in her? He had always indulged her, given her anything she could want within reason, and supporting her in all of her endeavors. If anyone could shed some light on this farce it was her father, the king.

Facing a resounding defeat, Keilah nodded in understanding and preceeded the guards out of the courtroom, her steps quick, her shoes clicking on the marble floors as she walked quite quickly towards the throne room. That was the most likely place to find her father. Leaving the guards to run to catch up with her, Keilah thought about poor Maddock Williamson. They'd likely kill the poor guy for nothing other than the fact that he had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. She felt sorry for him and at the same time, she hated herself for not being braver. But it had been said that being brave did not mean you had to fight every battle. Sometimes being brave meant picking your battles and living to fight another day. Keilah believed that with her whole heart, and she knew that this was one battle she wouldn't be able to win. At least not by fighting her way through it. She knew what she needed to do and though she was loathe to do it, she would. Yes, it broke her heart, yes it tore her apart inside, but it was necessary for change to take place.

As she reached the throne room she steeled herself for what she might find and encounter. Then with a deep breath she pushed open the doors and strode inside, looking for her father and the answers she so desired.

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The royal guards who flanked Keilah's side said not a word as they made the long walk to the grand hall. They were as silent as shadows, with only the echoing thud of their perfectly matched footfalls to give any indication that they were still there. What did the two guardsmen think of what transpired in the court room? Did they agree with the priest, that Keilah should be a proper lady and not pursue her work for justice? Would they defend the princess's honor should the guards of the church come knocking? Whatever their thoughts were remained a mystery.

When Keilah reached the great hall the royal guards did not follow her in. Instead, they took positions next to the other guardsmen outside the door. King Camden was a peculiar man who wished privacy when dealing with family matters and had a reputation of loathing their constant presence. He had been rumored to complain that they would not leave him be for even a moment, that he could not be rid of them even long enough to take a royal shit. So while the guards were there, they had learned to give the King and his daughter space and respectful privacy.

Camden Mercleis was pacing back and forth across the long blue rug that led to his throne. He was a handsome man who appeared no older than his early thirties, which given that he was a true blood xodian it was remarkable that he even appeared that old. A thin crown of mythril and silver held together the golden mess upon his head, his royal garb slightly disheveled. Camden Mercleis was a good king and a gentle father, however ever since the death of his wife and Keilah's mother, Cecila, Camden had not been the most stable of mind. Even though a decade had come and gone since her tragic death, Camden has yet to trully recover from his grief. 

Hearing someone enter the room, Camden stopped his pacing and fidgited with his hands for just a bit before he hesitantly dared to take a peak. When he saw it was his daughter, the king's face softened a bit and he extended his arms, "K.. Keilah, my dear. I... I'm so glad t.. that you are n... not harmed!" Camden quickly made way to close the gap between he and his daughter, "D...dreadful day this h...has become. B...but you already e...experienced a bit of that, h...have you not d... dear daugher?

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With the gaurds in their proper place outside of the throne room, Keilah hurried to her father and embraced him, her hug suggesting comfort for him, but also her own need for reassurance and comfort from him. She hadn't missed his slight stuttering either. Something that rarely occured with him save for when he was nervous. Though a gentle and loving father, he normally had a commanding presence, one that Keilah respected and admired. As she pulled back from him, though only enough to look up and see his face, she worried as to why her father was so nervous. Remaining within his arms, she kept her eyes fixed on his and asked, "Father, what is going on? I don't understand why you'd suddenly have Vivican accused of being a heretic, or even why I must be confined to my rooms. The priest, he.....he said the court is no place for a lady such as myself. But you've always let me practice the law with the others. The people, they have come to show me respect by asking me to defend them in court. But now, now some of them won't even look at me." Her voice was sad as she spoke softly to her father, softly enough that the guards outside the room should not be able to hear anything save for soft murmuring. She blinked away tears at the heartache she felt, determined not to let herself cry in front of her father.

Reaching up to touch his cheek, she looked at him with water in her eyes and asked once more, "What is going on father? What has happened in so short a span of time for this to come about?"

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King Camden sighs as he gently and fatherly takes his daughter under his right arm and walks towards the throne with her. He knew that his worry and his fear was evident to her. Camden was a lot like his brother Armeas in the best of times, but when stress or fear hit hard it caused the younger Camden to stutter. 

"A... A bearer of Legend has come," he finally said, though it was more of a whisper. "An arrogant prince from across the ocean, Ardatha Andron. He has come to court bearing fragments of the holy sword Legend, weilding them with authority. He proclaimed our kingdom to be doomed by the Creator himself if things were not done to root out what he called Zodoism in our country."

Camden turned to his daughter, "I had the mind to throw him out, or even throw him in the dungeons. But to do so would not end well at all. Surely you remember the tales of Legend, how it is the very word of Mogen David solidified into a blade? How it's weilder can bring down rigtheous judgement from the heavens?"

The King sighed, "Well, the people believe it, and the Church has routed all of their power behind him. We have to entertain him, it seems, and hope to either find a weekness in him or a way to be rid of him..." He lowers his head, "But while Ardatha is here, while he wields the broken sword and the power of the Church and the People.... he is more King than I."

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Keilah's face showed a mixture of sadness, of confusion, of understanding and compassion along with a multitude of other feeling flitting across it. She didn't interrupt her father as he spoke, but instead listened intently to his words. So some arrogant man thought that just because he had a sword that he could rule better than her father? The idea was lunacy in it's finest. Even if the sword truly was Legend, that didn't give the prince authority over her father or the people. Obviously this man was power hungry and blood thirsty to have gone to such great lengths. Well, he was also a fool and Keilah knew exactly how to play that to her and her father's advantage. It would take cunning, it would take a devious mind and lots of careful planning. But if Keilah played her cards just right, she could win the kingdom back for her father. She had to try and if worse came to worse, she'd take her father and they'd run. That of course being a last resort, but an option none the less.

Wrapping her arms tightly around her father she hugged him, the hug meant to give reassurance along with her love. "We'll sort this out father. I know we will. You are the rightful king and you'll remain as such forever." Then, lifting onto her toes, she kissed his cheek and hugged him once more, whispering ever so softly into his ear, "I'll do whatever it takes to make sure of that father. I love you." Then she sank back down onto her feet and stayed in his arms, all the while her mind whirling with thoughts and ideas of how to put things back to right again. Some thoughts and ideas went out the window as garbage and stupid. Others were filed away as possible plans of actions. She knew though that at the very least she needed to meet this Ardatha and size him up for herself. She also needed to learn as much as she could about his homeland and culture. It was often said that knowledge equaled power, and Keilah believed that too. Keilah loved knowledge and she would gather as much as she could so that she could play this game and win her father back not only his respect but his pride too.

Gently pulling just a little ways away from him so she could speak to him in a manner the guards might catch, she asked her father, "Father, could you set up a meeting between me and this prince? I'd like to see for myself just whom it is that is turning our world upside down." There, let the servants and the guards chew on that, she thought to herself with a smile. Now all she needed to do was to study and to wait. Two things that she was quite good at.

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