No Sin if You Crack a Few Laws Now and Then

Christopher thought that the second day of Lady Morgause’s trial was going to start with a whimper. He even thought, as Sir Mordred put forward a weak motion to dismiss the charges on the grounds that the prosecution had not proven its case, that his initial idea was correct. Then Lord Pellinore denied the motion and Sir Mordred called his first witness.

And Christopher learned how wrong he was.

The name — Talin of Depiesse — didn’t cause any kind of stir, other than that of mild curiosity. But when the man himself walked in …

Well, there was no doubt. He was a wizard.

Christopher could not help but stare at the man’s back as he strode to the witness’s chair. A wizard in open court! Who would have imagined it? The move was suicide, to show Lady Morgause’s occult connections. It would only blacken the case against her —

Except — Christopher barely held back a gasp — it wouldn’t. There already was a wizard in the open court: her son. The prosecutor was married to a witch who also happened to be a princess. There was another witch on the jury. If what these Albionese and even some brave and hopefully wise monks were saying was true and magic was something that was handed down in families like red hair or blue eyes or a certain kind of smile, then the judge might already have a grandchild or two who was a witch or wizard. No, no, bringing in the wizard was not a mad move. It was practically normal in this courtroom.

There was no doubt, too, that the wizard was experienced. Only wizards wore long beards like that, and only experienced and powerful wizards lived long enough — or had the power to be bold enough — to grow that kind of beard. Christopher had heard that the famed Gregory du Partridge had a beard that went down past his knees.

Looking around, though, Christopher saw he was the only one of the younger generation to seem startled or surprised. The Crown Prince and his sister barely blinked, as did Sir Lamorak. Even some of the elder adults, like Lady Guinevere or Mistress Ferreira, seemed more curious than surprised. As for the oldest, there were gasps from the upstairs gallery, but the Widow Parkinson, Mistress Ferreira’s mother, was grinning openly.

The wizard sat, and Sir Mordred approached him. “Master Depiesse, would you care to state your occupation for the court?”

“Gladly, sir. I am an herbalist and apothecary, a healer.”

“Oh? Is that all?”

The wizard managed a small, conspiratorial smile. “No, sir. I am also a wizard, although merely having magical powers doesn’t do much to earn a man’s bread. He has to do something with them.”

“And so you chose to be a healer. I see, I see. Tell me, Master Depiesse, is it true that most wizards divide themselves between the Light and the Dark?”

“That is true.”

“And on what side, if any, of this divide would you place yourself?”

“The Light, sir.”

Christopher saw a flash of red out of the corner of his eye. It was the Princess, leaning forward in her seat, nodding frantically to her husband. Sir William frowned but nodded in reply.

“And would you care to explain to the court how most Light wizards — including yourself, of course — use their powers?”

“It varies from wizard to wizard — and witch to witch, of course — but most of us use our powers for … well, sir, Light. Light in all it means. We … we try to help other Sims. We try to use our magic in ways that will promote good feeling and goodwill. Some of us, myself included, use our magic to heal.”

“To heal. How?”

“Well, there are lots of different ways … some can use their magics to ease pain and chase away disease. Others can knit bones and skin and muscle back together. I myself … well, sir, I’ve always been a Sim who likes plants. A regular green thumb, I have. I’m able to use my magic to discern the natural healing and … other properties of plants, and to better mix them and strengthen them into healing potions and poultices.”

“And … other properties of plants?”

The wizard frowned. “It’s — it’s a sad truth, sir, but any non-magical doctor will tell you that in order to heal, you need to know what will hurt. And sometimes the line between potion and poison isn’t as bright and clear as we’d like to be. So, yes, I know about plants that can be used to harm Sims. But any honest doctor or apothecary will tell you the same thing, wizard or no.”

“Of course, of course. Tell me, speaking of plants that will cause harm …” Sir Mordred tapped his fingers against his chin, “what, if anything, do you know of the Laganaphyllis Simnovorii, commonly known as the cowplant?”

“Quite a bit, sir. I’ll admit it’s a special study of mine — seeing how it straddles the line, as it were, being healing and hurting.”

“You’ve studied it in person, then?”

“Oh, no, sir! At least, not before I saw your lady wife’s fine specimen. A wizard could never grow one.”

“Why is that? The plant hardly seems natural. Surely the good Lord Wright would not create such a destructive force to pollute His fair earth?”

“My lord, with all due respect, it’s hardly that simple. It’s … the plant is known to grow in blood-soaked ground. It’s a well-known fact that plants grow best if they’ve got some kind of fertilizer. Usually this is made from the … the rotting remains of other plants, fruits, waste. But sometimes … the rotting remains of animals and, aye, Sims can be used for fertilizer. There are some who think the Laganaphyllis Simnovorii was merely put onto the earth by the Grim Reaper and his cow demons, to increase the ghastly harvest, but mostΒ believe that it’s similar and somehow related to another type of plant, known as the Venus flytrap. It grows in tropical climes and is known to feast on flies.”

“Flies? But the cowplant eats Sims!”

“Indeed, my lord. Most believe that the flytraps were growing in an area that was the site of a large battle. They … well, they glutted themselves on the blood over several generations, growing to the large size they have today. And as they grew, they required more and more blood. So they used their skills at catching flies to catch Sims.”

“Is it true that they are highly sensitive to magic?”

“Yes, indeed.”

“Why is that?”

“Most reliable sources indicate that a wizard of the light — his name is lost to us, unfortunately — found the plants and realized how dangerous they could be in the wrong hands. So he bred them carefully, selecting only the specimens that were weakest in regards to withstanding magic. I should mention there were very few cowplants at that time, so it wasn’t hard to destroy the stronger specimens. And once he bred them, he sealed the seeds with magic that would ensure that they would always be weak in the face of magic.”

“I see. Has anyone broken this spell?”

“Many great wizards and witches have spent their lives trying. They’ve failed.”

“In your expert opinion — seeing as you know so much about this plant, and since you have examined my mother’s workroom and her magical apparatus — do you think my mother, the defendant, could have possibly solved this conundrum?”

The wizard snorted. “I mean no disrespect, sir, but no. I don’t think she did.”

“Why not?”

“Plenty of reasons, sir. But most of what I saw of her equipment indicated … well, a certain vanity, if you don’t mind me saying. I saw mostly cosmetics, skin creams, hair dyes — certainly not the kind of difficult magic that would be required if she wanted to solve the riddle of the cowplant. Everything I saw was also completely harmless, my lord. Frankly, I was surprised to hear that your lady mother aligned with the Dark witches and wizards.

Sir Mordred smirked. “No more questions. Sir William — your witness.”

Sir William slowly rose and crossed to where the wizard sat. “Master Depiesse,” he began, “Sir Mordred said you saw Lady Morgause’s workroom. Did you encounter any evidence that she was even working with the plant?”

“No, my lord. I did not.” The wizard smiled a little, as if to congratulate himself on the impossibility of arguing with that question.

“I see. When did you examine Lady Morgause’s workroom?”

Sir Mordred, who had been scribbling something on a bit of parchment, looked up with a sudden jerk.

“About a fortnight after she was arrested, my lord. It took some time for Sir Mordred to contact me and ask for my opinions in this matter.”

“So there would have been plenty of time for Sir Mordred or other interested parties to destroy any evidence of Lady Morgause’s experiments with the cowplant, or evidence of any type of magic that was not ‘completely harmless’?”

“I — I suppose that’s true. But he assured me that nothing had been touched!”

“I’m sure he did,” replied Sir William without even so much as a shrug to indicate what surely every Sim in that courtroom was thinking: he could have lied. Sir Mordred’s tantrums had kept the King’s men out of Lady Morgause’s workroom until three days after her arrest. Oh, Sir Mordred might have said that it was about releasing the wards and making certain that nobody got killed when they entered the workroom, but Christopher would eat his best hat if anybody believed that Sir Mordred didn’t use that time to destroy anything incriminating.

“But all the same, you cannot say for certain — you have no way of knowing — whether the room you examined was not tampered with?”

“Not — for certain, sir.”

“Thank you. I only have a few more questions. You say it is impossible for a witch or wizard to grow a full-grown, fully-functioning cowplant. But have other wizards and witches managed to grow it to intermediate stages — perhaps stages where it might be possible to harvest the harmful acid the cowplant produces, if not the full Elixir of Life?”

“… Aye,” the wizard sighed. “It’s possible. It’s been done.”

“Thank you. No more questions.” Sir William smiled to the wizard and then to Sir Mordred before he resumed his seat. The wizard trembled his way to his feet and shuffled from the courtroom.

As if Sir Mordred had planned it this way on purpose, to keep the jury and the audience both on their toes, the next witness was a monk.

“You are Brother Lodwicke Martin of the Order of the Grunts?” began Sir Mordred.

“Yes,” the monk replied.

“Could you tell the court a bit about your order?”

“Certainly. We are primarily based in Reme, and consider it our especial duty to guard good Wrightians from the many menaces that the Grim Reaper and his cow demons send to tempt them into sin and damnation.”

“You must be quite busy, then,” Sir Mordred replied. His lips didn’t twitch — not a bit — but the cruelly amused spark in his eye rendered mere lip-twitching unnecessary. “I take it your order crusades against gambling, excessive drink, fornication …?”

“Bah! Not in the least! Of course, all those things are quite sinful, but we primarily concern ourselves with the Grim Reaper’s deadliest servants — those creatures who wear the faces and bodies of Sims, but who aren’t anything of the kind, really.”

“My goodness. What might these terrible creatures be?”

“There are many, sir, so many that I fear to go into detail about them, lest the delicate ladies present take ill with fright.” Christopher couldn’t be certain, but he thought he heard several distinctly feminine snorts arising from the general direction of the spectators. “But one of the most dangerous groups, separate species I would say, is that of the Simmi virides. I believed they are called ‘Plantsims’ in your language.”

“Plantsims? How can they be possibly dangerous?”

“They are dangerous because they confuse.” Brother Lodwicke’s eyes lit up. “The Lord Wright established a clear hierarchy, an order of all things on this earth. Lowest are merely things — stones and dirt and objects Sims create and such. Plants are the next highest. Next come animals, then humans, next the angels. Highest, of course, is the Lord Wright. I should mention, too, that the cow demons and the Grim Reaper are lowest of all in this hierarchy. Therefore, it is in their interest to confused the matter — to make certain things seem higher than they are, and others seem lower.”

“But how do Plantsims come into this?”

A certain witch allowed the Grim Reaper to alter her so that she would be half-plant, half-Sim. Doubtless she saw some advantage to it that would be worth the price of her soul. But the Grim Reaper’s motives are far clearer: by altering some Sims into this separate species, he smudges the line between plants and Sims. He makes the divine simplicity of the Lord Wright’s plan seem complicated and confusing, and so opens the door to doubt and error — and thus, damnation.”

“So Plantsims are undeniably the servants of the Grim Reaper, then, with all that implies?”

“Absolutely.”

“So, if, say, a Plantsim were to testify in court … could his word be trusted?”

“I am shocked that there is a Wrightian court that would allow such a farce,” Brother Lodwicke barked. “They are servants of the Grim Reaper! Of course they would lie. They are as their master is — the avowed enemies of truth, of justice, of faith. They are the agents of a damning confusion. They would lie merely to cause chaos and destruction. And I can say this,” Brother Lodwicke concluded, “because I myself have attempted to minister to these cretins, where the Reman army imprisons them in Riverblossia. A more shiftless bunch of liars and thieves you will never meet.”

“And their seemingly ‘normal’ descendents? In your opinion — your opinion as a monk and as man who has studied these creatures — could the word of one of their descendents be trusted?”

“Bah! Not at all. They are every bit as bad as their parents. The only hope for them is to separate them from their unholy parents at birth, or before the first year is over, at any rate. Otherwise, they’re a lost cause. I wouldn’t believe the word of one of them for a moment.”

“Thank you, Brother Lodwicke. Sir William, the witness is yours.” Sir Mordred was clever — very clever — he only smirked when his back was to the jury, and when he took his seat again, he did not lean back and appear to relax, but immediately began to flip through his notes.

Sir William, on the other hand, rose slowly and seemed to hesitate before he said anything. Christopher bit his lip. Now was not — not — the time to appear unsure before the jury …

“I’m confused,” Sir William said, and Christopher almost groaned. “You claim, on one hand, that Plantsims are the servants of the Grim Reaper and were practically created by him. Is this true — is that what you mean to say?”

“Yes, that is correct.”

“What is the nearest translation for the word Simmus?”

Brother Lodwicke blinked. “I — I beg your pardon?”

“It’s a simple enough question, for those who don’t know the Reman tongue. What is the best translation for the word Simmus?”

“Sim.”

“And viridis?”

“Green.”

“So the most literal translation of Simmus viridis is ‘green Sim’?”

“Yes.”

“Objection! How is this — language lesson in any way relevant?” Sir Mordred protested.

Sir William only smiled. “Give me a few more questions, your honor, and I assure you that everyone will see precisely how this is relevant.”

Lord Pellinore steepled his fingers together, but after a moment he nodded and said, “Overruled.”

Sir William turned back to Brother Lodwicke. “So then even the Remans acknowledge that Plantsims are, in fact, Sims?”

“They are still servants of the Grim Reaper!” Brother Lodwicke protested.

“But even if that is true, they are Sim servants of the Grim Reaper.”

Brother Lodwicke shifted as if his robe were bunching up in a most uncomfortable place. “Well, what of it? Unfortunately the Grim Reaper can count many Sims among his most dedicated servants.”

“Certainly, certainly. But do Sims always have Free Will?”

“Yes, of course.”

“So a Sim could make the choice to lead the service of the Grim Reaper at any time?”

“We pray daily that they will.”

“And a Plantsim is a Sim?”

“Ye–” Brother Lodwicke’s eyes bugged. “They are what they are because of the Grim Reaper! Why would they leave his service?”

“Well, there’s always the hope of salvation,” Sir William shrugged. “Is it possible, or is it not possible, that even a Plantsim — being a Sim — could choose to leave the service of the Grim Reaper and dedicate himself to truth and virtue, the same as any other Sim?”

Oh, that was good! Every Sim had Free Will, even little Coralie knew that. And if Plantsims were Sims, then they must have Free Will too. And if Plantsims had Free Will, then they could be truthful and trustworthy — the same as any other Sim. Christopher watched Brother Lodwicke squirm under the weight of the logic.

Finally he sighed. “Yes.”

His point made, Sir William didn’t dwell on it. “These Plantsims you have dealt with — are they not the slaves of the Reman state?”

“Yes, yes, they are.”

“Have you dealt with other, non-Plantsim slaves?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Do they have a habit of lying?”

Brother Lodwicke’s mouth opened — and shut. “Yes,” he forced through gritted teeth.

“Have you ever dealt with a free Plantsim?”

“No,” Brother Lodwicke snarled.

Sir William bowed his head. “Thank you, Brother Lodwicke. No more questions.”

Brother Lodwicke stormed from the courtroom. The only thing that kept him from slamming the door behind him was the guardsman — the next witness — coming in as he went out.

“Corporal Michael Rawe,” began Sir Mordred, “what is your occupation?”

“I’m a guardsman,m’lord, in the Avilion Watch.”

“Avilion! Is it true that there is a brothel in Avilion?”

“Aye, sir.”

“Who is its madam?”

“Marigold Thatcher, sir.”

“Marigold Thatcher!” Sir Mordred gasped, or pretended to. “The mother of the principal witness of the defendant?”

“I, er, wouldn’t know fer sure, m’lord.”

“Of course, of course. Tell me, are you often called to the brothel to … shall we say, solve disputes between citizens?”

The guardsman snorted. “All the time, m’lord.”

“Is Marigold Thatcher often one of the principal originators of these disputes?”

“Aye, sir.”

“Why is that?”

“She cares for nothin’ but money, sir,” replied Corporal Rawe. “She’s always tryin’ ter rough up her clients fer more of it. I’ve had ter fight her trained vampire — one o’ the other whores, sir — off clients so’s they don’t get their blood sucked out an’ robbed.”

“My goodness! How frightening. Why are these women not arrested and thrown into gaol?”

“Well, sir …” Corporal Rawe shrugged. “Most men, they don’t want ter press charges. Not against a whore, sir. ‘Cause then they’d have ter admit ter their womenfolk that they was visitin’ a brothel, an’ their womenfolk wouldn’t like that much.”

“Indeed,” Sir Mordred chuckled. “And those men who don’t have ‘womenfolk’ — why do they not press charges?”

“Probably because o’ Brother Tuck, m’lord. He’s been preachin’ real hard against goin’ ter brothels. So most men wouldn’t want ter admit it, because then all the neighbors would know — an’ even if the neighbors all go themselves, well, it’s not the sort o’ thing ye talk about.”

“Indeed it is not. Tell me, Corporal …” Sir Mordred tapped his fingers against his chin, “do you have much experience with liars?”

“Do I ever!”

“A simple yes or no will suffice.”

“Er, sorry, sir. Yes, yes, I do.”

“And given your experience, have you grown at all skilled at telling a liar from a truthful Sim?”

“Quite skilled, sir.”

“Generally speaking, would you call Madam Thatcher a liar or a truthful Sim?”

“A liar! A thousand times a liar. Why, sir, she’s a whore an’ she ain’t even a real Sim!”

“I see, I see. So … her son. Have you ever met her son?”

“No, sir.”

“But given the mother … do you think it likely that he would be a well-behaved, truthful child?”

“We-ell, sir,” replied the Corporal, slowly, “I don’t like to say nothin’ nasty about a kid … but as a guardsman, ye get ter realize right fast that there is such a thing as bad blood. Rotten parents’ll have rotten kids. It’s a shame, but it’s the way it is.”

“And would you say it is likely that the boy would have bad blood?”

“Aye, sir, practically certain.”

“Would you believe him if, say, he came before you with outlandish accusations against a well-regarded citizen — a noble, perhaps?”

“Not fer a minute, m’lord.”

Sir Mordred inclined his head. “Thank you. Your witness, Sir William.”

Sir William stood without a word, crossing Sir Mordred as he returned to his seat. He opened his mouth to speak —

He stopped.

He stared.

The courtroom grew silent.

“Sir William?” Lord Pellinore finally prompted. “Have you no questions, then?”

“I –” Sir William faltered. He looked to Lord Pellinore, to Corporal Rawe, to the jury. And then back to Corporal Rawe. Sir William took a deep breath. “Corporal Rawe, you say that you believe in bad blood. Do you also believe in the reverse — that is, in good blood?”

“Aye, sir. That is — leastaways, the parents who don’t give no trouble ain’t likely ter have kids who give trouble, or trouble that goes outside o’ stupid kids bein’ stupid kids.”

Sir William nodded. “Would you say you yourself — and any children you may or may not have, therefore — would have that good blood?”

“I’d hope so, sir.”

“I see. I — I am going to apologize in advance for this — but I must ask some rather personal questions. Did you — that is –” Sir William began to flush and pulled his collar. “Were you ever a customer of Madam Thatcher’s?”

“Objection!” Sir Mordred roared. “This cannot be relevant!”

“Your honor, it can easily be relevant. If he was a customer — a wronged customer — then he would have ample reason to blacken Madam Thatcher’s name.”

“Overruled,” Lord Pellinore replied. “Corporal, answer the question.”

The Corporal cringed. “Aye … aye, I was.”

“Were you a customer of hers around … five, six years ago?”

“Yes …”

“So since the boy Thorn is a little shy of five years old, it is possible — possible — that you are his father?”

The Corporal jumped, and most of the courtroom gasped. “I — I — ye couldn’t never prove nothin’! His ma’s a whore!”

“I am not trying to prove it — yet. I am asking you to admit if it is possible.”

“… S’pose it is,” the Corporal sighed. “But there ain’t no way ter prove it.”

Sir William ignored that. “What color are your eyes, Corporal?”

“Dark blue,” answered the Corporal quickly, without even pausing to ask himself — as Christopher did — why Sir William would ask that question when he could see the Corporal’s eyes for himself.

Sir William, however, didn’t ask another question. He only surveyed the Corporal with raised eyebrows and an expectant expression.

The Corporal sighed. “Violet,” he admitted.

“It is an unusual color, isn’t it? I myself have only seen two other Sims with eyes of that color.”

“Aye … ’tis,” the Corporal admitted.

“One of those Sims was Thorn Michaelson. What–”

“That ain’t no proof that the kid’s mine!” Corporal Rawe protested. “Why ain’t ye axin’ that other Sim if the kid’s his, eh? Answer that!”

“Several reasons,” Sir William replied. “But mostly because the Sim in question is my wife.”

Corporal Rawe stared — and after several heartbeats, his face crumpled and his body slumped.

“No further questions,” Sir William said, quite unnecessarily, as he returned to his seat.

Into the silence broken only by the shuffling of the Corporal’s boots, Lord Pellinore asked, “Next witness, Sir Mordred?”

“No — no further witnesses.”

“I … see.” Lord Pellinore glanced out the window, at the angle of the sun. “There should be enough time for closing arguments. Counsel, are you both prepared?”

“I’m ready,” Sir William replied.”

Sir Mordred straightened his papers. “So am I.”

“Then the prosecution shall present its arguments first, followed by the defense.”

Sir William nodded. He strode to the podium in the center of the courtroom to face the jury. But after he put his parchment down and before he began to speak, he glanced over his shoulder.

That was Christopher saw for the first time — and, at the time, he was sure the last — a natural-born Princess wink.

Sir William wasn’t half as shocked as Christopher was by it, though, for he only gave a wry grin before he turned to the jury. “Lords, ladies, gentlemen and gentlewomen of the jury, the defense has tried valiantly this morning to make you believe that this is a complicated and doubtful case. It is nothing of the kind.”

The defense snorted at that, but the jury seemed to be paying attention.

“What we have here is a very simple crime. Lady Morgause wanted something — a victim, a Sim to experiment upon. So she went out and got one. Since this experiment could very well be fatal, she searched in cold blood until she found one that seemed suitable: a gypsy boy who lived not with his parents, but with his aunt and uncle. A child who, she could well have thought, might not be missed. She kidnapped that child

— you will doubtless remember his own words about luring him with the promise of a puppy — and subjected him to horrific experiments until he was nearly dead.

“Then a miracle — for so I call it — happened, in that the child’s cries were heard, and a responsible adult came to see what was the matter. That adult was Betsy Pelles, the defendant’s own housekeeper, and instead of acting out of loyalty to her employer’s family and forgetting she had seen or heard anything, she did the right thing. She got help for the boy and spirited him out of the castle to a safe place. And so the boy was able to tell his story, and Lady Morgause was captured and charged with the crimes of kidnapping and attempted murder.”

Sir William took a deep breath. “When you go to deliberate in a few moments or half an hour, I hope you will remember a few things. I hope you will remember the demeanor and bearing of the witnesses. I hope you remember, too, how the defense tried to get them to contradict themselves or to admit their words to be falsehoods. The defense failed in this. The witnesses told the truth, simply, as they knew it. I hope you remember, too, that each of the witnesses you saw had more to lose by testifying than to gain.

“Betsy Pelles already lost her job, her livelihood, thanks to her courage to do the right thing. You will remember, also, how the defense forced her to admit her fear of the defendant. I doubt any of us will be forgetting the treatment Lady Dindrane received on the stand, so I will not dwell on it. Let us suffice to say that her marriage is in grave difficulty now, if it was not before. As for Thorn Michaelson, we all saw how frightened he is, even now, of Lady Morgause. It took courage for him, too, to testify. As for Ash Thatcher … well, Brother Lodwicke’s testimony this morning showed us all on just what fragile ground all Plantsims walk. With some members of the Church being already their avowed enemies, it surely also took courage for Ash Thatcher to testify against a woman with much secular power and great connections.

“Remember also the witnesses for the defense. One was a wizard who claimed that Lady Morgause’s workroom bore no evidence of experimentation with Plantsims — but he did not see that workroom until a fortnight after Lady Morgause’s arrest. Anything could have happened in that fortnight. The next was a churchman who claims to know all there is about Plantsims, but in reality, he has only ever dealt with Reman slaves. The last was a corporal in the Avilion Watch, but for all of his blowing smoke about bad blood, he was forced to admit that the blood that runs through the veins of the principal witness for the prosecution might well be his own.

“I call so much attention to these witnesses, you see, because the case for the prosecution rests on the testimony of the witnesses. But we could scarcely ask for better testimony. As I mentioned before, all of those witnesses have more to lose by testifying against Lady Morgause than they could ever hope to gain — either by testifying or by keeping silent. Their stories dovetail. They speak the truth.

“And since they speak the truth, you have only one choice ahead of you. You must find the courage in yourselves to find as the law and as the truth demand. You must find the defendant guilty.”

The jury was still looking at each other as Sir William gathered up his notes and returned to his seat.

Next was Sir Mordred.

“Lords, ladies, gentlemen and gentlewomen of the jury, I must apologize — since the prosecution refuses to do so — for wasting so much of your time. It is obvious that the prosecution has not found Lady Morgause, my mother, guilty ‘beyond a reasonable doubt,’ and as such, you must find her ‘not guilty.'”

Sir Mordred lifted his finger and began to wag it as a scolding schoolmarm might. “He has talked a great deal about my witnesses. Might I remind you of his? First there is the housekeeper Betsy Pelles, obviously a grossly disloyal woman, to speak accuse her former employer and indeed her liege lady of these heinous crimes in open court. Need I remind you, too, of her belief that my mother was responsible for the death and alteration of her brother-in-law? If the possibility of vengeance is not motivation for lying, I do not know what is.

“Next there is Thorn Michaelson and Ash Thatcher. Thorn Michaelson is, of course, a child, and as a child he will do what his elders tell him. And what elders does he have? A Plantsim. As good Brother Lodwicke — a man of the Church — informed us, Plantsims are not to be trusted. Sir William is trying to make a great deal of the Plantsims in question being Reman slaves, but my good jurymen, surely you are too wise to be taken in by that obfuscation. If the Plantsims were not somehow a danger to the rest of the Sim race, why would the Remans so forcibly enslave them and keep them well away from the rest of the population?

“I must also remind you of the testimony of Corporal Rawe, his word — given under oath — that the boy’s mother is only concerned about money. And I must remind you, also, that if Lady Morgause is found guilty, she will have to pay reparations to this boy’s family. The boy’s family does, indeed, have a great deal to gain from lying in this matter.”

Sir Mordred paused. “And now …” He sighed. “Pain me though it might, I must come to my wife.

“You all can see — she admitted it herself — that she is not happy in this marriage. I am quite, quite certain that all of you know to what lengths a desperately unhappy wife might go to extricate herself from a situation that is intolerable to her. I want you to note that I do not blame Lady Dindrane for being unhappy — I accept responsibility for my role in making her unhappy. But, jurymen, that does not give her the right to tell vicious lies about my mother in order to free herself from her marriage.

“You might wonder why I am devoting so much time and energy to discrediting the prosecution’s witnesses. The answer is simple: all the prosecution has are witnesses — these flawed, flawed witnesses. The prosecution has no physical evidence to prove that my mother is guilty of these heinous crimes — no evidence, other than these witnesses — that a crime occurred at all!

“So, if you wonder how you should find, I will tell you. You must find my mother innocent. There is more than enough ‘reasonable doubt’ to forestall a verdict of guilty. There is enough ‘reasonable doubt’ here to acquit ten defendants. To fail to doubt would in fact be unreasonable — and I am certain that none of you would wish to be known as being unreasonable. So, it only makes sense. My mother is innocent — and the evidence finds her so. Your only job is to agree with the evidence.”

Sir Mordred inclined his head to the jury, gathered his notes, and strode back to his seat.

Lord Pellinore cleared his throat. “As Sir Mordred said — jurymen and -women, you must find according to the evidence. You must weigh it as impartially and as reasonably as you can. You may only consider the evidence presented to you in the trial. You must …”

Christopher stopped listening. The instructions given to juries in Albion and Glasonland were very similar, after all — at least, the instructions given in open court. Everything was supposed to be fair and aboveboard, after all. The jury had to find unanimously, it had to follow the law, it had to decide according to the evidence presented in the courtroom and not whatever they came up with in their heads. If they voted guilty, they must be convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that the defendant was, in fact, guilty. If they had any reasonable doubts, the defendant was to be acquitted.

Only this time, and perhaps for the first time in his adult life, Christopher got the sense that the judge truly meant it — that this wasn’t just a show to please the commons and preserve the illusion that all was well and good and fair in the kingdom. This was … serious business.

And so it would all be down to the jury, and what they thought — however they thought — of Lady Morgause.

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12 thoughts on “No Sin if You Crack a Few Laws Now and Then

  1. Oy. Well, I can’t say that I’m impressed with Mordred’s defense. But it doesn’t matter if I’m convinced it only matters if the jury is. Which I hope they’re not. I hope they all find reasons to know that Morgause is hardly shitting rainbows.

    Mordred has a lot of balls saying that the prosecutions witnesses have a lot of reason to lie. The only one who I would trust as far as I could throw Dindrane’s cowplant, is the wizard and he can’t say one way or the other cause Mordred did have plenty of time to dispose of anything.

    He had to have, she was tending to the cowplant trimmings when they were talking about Lot. And really, Morgause would not be a dark witch if all she did was play with cosmetics. She wouldn’t know the spells she was throwing around in the wood with Morgan if all she did was play around with cosmetics.

    That churchman, I have to say, made my skin crawl. Ugh. He remind me of Wartman. *shudders* He ought to be kicked in the balls repeatedly until he has to change to a different order.

    And that guard, I so loved Will and the violet eyes thing. ;)) No, I don’t think that Jessie is siring kids with Marigold.

    But, next up is the deliberations, I guess, and I’m curious! Which’ll be cool.

    • Andavri, you’re right that Mordred’s witnesses are hardly reliable. But they have zero reason to lie. (I’m differentiating lying from being just plain wrong here.) Will’s witnesses, whether he likes it or not, do have motives to muddy the issue and even make stuff up against Morgause. Are they good reasons? No. But they do have reasons.

      You’re right that Mordred had to know that something untoward was gong on. There’s no way that her workroom would be completely devoid of anything remotely suspicious if it hadn’t been cleaned out. Morgause is not that good at covering her tracks.

      Sorry to bring up the bad Wartman memories. But Brother Lodwicke wasn’t exactly meant to be sympathetic. πŸ˜‰ There’s a reason why I used a throwaway tourist townie for this job. Although … as far as kicking in the balls goes … would you really want to inflict him on a bunch of nuns (or eunuchs) who had never harmed you, Andavri? That wouldn’t be very fair, now, would it?

      Yup! Next up are deliberations, and … *drumroll* … THE VERDICT!

      Because I believe in efficiency. πŸ˜‰

  2. Yeah, I think I’m inclined to agree with Andavri here. Mordred’s a smart guy, but I think Will put up the stronger case. Mordred was just too emotionally invested in it, I think. He seemed like he was trying to convince himself more than anyone else. Will kept his cool the whole time, stuck to his guns, stayed logical without being pushy. That and… well, Morgause herself. She just never looked like an innocent woman, or at least in any of the shots. And in a place as small as Albion–and especially with the nobles on the jury–her reputation is going to have some effect on the outcome, so she may have screwed herself over years ago.

    (Or at least, that’s what I’d like to think…)

    • Morgause couldn’t look like an innocent woman if you paid her. Her pride is too strong. I know we haven’t really gotten into her head this whole trial, but I think I can say that she really doesn’t think she did anything wrong. So what if she experimented on a half-forgotten orphan? If the kid had died she probably would have been doing him a favor. Life sucks for half-forgotten gypsy orphans.

      Or so she would think.

      But if and how far she’s screwed herself over … well, you’ll have to find that out in the next post. πŸ˜‰

  3. First thought, before even clicking through to read:

    “Good lord, it’s Father Brandt!”

    Ahem.

    Relatively solid closing arguments, I think. Mordred does in fact have a total lack of evidence on his side. Unfortunately, he also has total access to the primary and secondary crime scenes weighing against him. Will has more to prove and precious little to prove it with.

    On the other hand, the jury has seen rather a lot in the last two days.

    Most powerfully, they’ve seen things that haven’t strictly been part of the witness’s testimony– that they might nevertheless want to take into consideration. Mordred’s reaction to Dindrane’s question. Morgause’s reaction to Betsy and Thorn. (Okay, Betsy, I can understand. Thorn? Wrightamighty, woman, he’s four. Look gravely disappointed in the four year old boy and not like you want to reach down his gullet, rip out his ribcage, and wear it like a party hat.) They’ve seen the prosecution’s witnesses hold up on the stand, even under Mordred’s questioning. They’ve seen two thirds of the defense’s witnesses have their testimony ably picked apart by the prosecution to the point that one of those witnesses (the one, in fact, who did not come off like an imperious, know-it-all Reman) had to admit that the defense councilor might in fact have tampered with the evidence himself.

    One of Mordred’s witnesses didn’t actually say much besides ‘merchants in their place of business pay a lot of attention to money.’ (The boy’s mother is a whore. The boy’s mother is not raising him. The boy’s uncle is raising him. The boy’s uncle is the King’s own gamekeeper.)

    The jury has to ask themselves two questions, based on what they’ve seen in the courtroom.

    1. Is Morgause Orkney capable of kidnapping and attempting to murder a small child?

    2. Do they believe the three witnesses who flat-out told them that Morgause Orkney did kidnap and attempt to murder a small child?

    If the answer to the first question is no, the answer to the second question is easy. If the answer to the first question is yes, the answer to the second question becomes a game of he-said-she-said. It’s more complicated than either Will or Mordred make it out to be, particularly considering the jury.

    And the jury is such a mixed bag that it’s hard to know how they’ll swing, and what they’ll consider a reasonable doubt, and if any of them will consider what they stand to gain or lose by getting behind one verdict or the other. (Edmond Chevaux, father of the mistress Lord Mordred loves more than he’ll ever love his lady wife, grandfather of those bastards his lordship might not trust his mother around. Claire de Ganis, a woman who has to rely on the king to defend her if she ends up voting opposite the way her husband would have voted, whichever way that is. Aglovale Gwynedd, son of the judge, brother of the defending counsel’s wife. Lancelot du Lac, father of the prosecutor, best friend to the defendant’s brother. Naomi Emrys, whose motives are still fairly inscrutable. And the one juror who has nothing to gain or lose but the King’s favor, which he gets just for doing the best job he can regardless of the verdict, Richard Ferreria.)

    I know what I want to happen, but in light of the closing arguments– far more than the defense’s witnesses– I’m not comfortable predicting.

    … Okay, I have ONE guess. Just one. Even if it isn’t necessarily a safe or emotionally satisfying one, it would be one that served justice.

    • Father Brandt! Wouldn’t that be hilarious? Although the poor guy would probably be quite confused. … Or maybe not. Lothere is a bit of a supernatural free-for-all too. πŸ˜‰

      You’re not even going to tell what your guess is? That’s not fair. Even if you don’t want to say it now, you could mention it after I post up the deliberations and verdict. And who knows? The story won’t be completely, 100% over even after the verdict, so you could still be right even after the verdict is read.

      You’re right about the lack of evidence — the Crown’s forces really couldn’t get to the crime scenes quick enough to keep them from being tampered with. I don’t think I’m giving anything away to say that Mordred absolutely tampered with them. Even if he was desperately trying to believe that his mother tried to kill a kid who bears certain pertinent similarities to his own kids, he’s not stupid enough to believe that there was nothing incriminating in her workshop or in Garnet’s bedroom for good measure. No use helping the prosecution out.

      And yeah — it’s going to come down to whether the jury believes the witnesses or not, really. That’s why both Mordred and Will harped on them in their closing arguments. The witnesses are all they’ve got. It might be he-said/she-said … but that’s all they have.

      Thanks Hat. πŸ™‚

      • You know what, I will PM you my guess on GoS, that’s what I’ll do. That way it are secret AND I’ve said it ahead of time.

        (Aging mod should go up tonight. I have to gather and compress all the bits, write some documentation, and toss them up on Mediafire. … But first I’ll PM you and then I think I’ll fix dinner because I’m hungry.)

        The only trouble with clearing everything incriminating out of Garnet’s room and Morgause’s workshop is that… well, it helps the prosecution out. Just the implication that the defendant’s attorney (and son) is untrustworthy enough to tamper with a crime scene helps the prosecution. If Mordred wouldn’t let anyone– even under his strict supervision– inspect Morgause’s workroom promptly, it makes him look guilty of tampering with evidence (Arthur, if you haven’t made that a felony yet, do so now) and it makes Morgause look guilty of… something. What she’s accused of? Maybe, maybe not, but something.

        • Aging mod!!! *does happy dance* Now I have even more reason to finish up the round quickly. (After all, it makes more sense to put it in at the beginning of a new round, no?)

          In Mordred’s defense — what little defense there can be — there really wasn’t much in Garnet’s room. Morgause cleared that out herself. Betsy and Dindrane finished the job when they took Thorn out of the room. πŸ˜‰

          But Morgause’s workroom? Oh yeah. He went to town on that. I imagine forensics is a new enough science to Albion that nobody’s thought to make it illegal to interfere with a crime scene. But as soon as this is all over, the Council is making that illegal. πŸ˜‰

          • Put it in at the beginning of a round, age everybody up (or in the case of elders, down), then back to where they were, then fiddle with their ages in SimPE. Because aging mods only affect newly-created (born or CAS) Sims right off the bat, and existing Sims only at their next elder transition. But if you’ve got everybody’s ages worked out, it’s fairly simple math– their age in Fictional Years is four times their age in Sim Days.

            It doesn’t really matter that there wasn’t much to find in Garnet’s room. (Although, period possibility: hounds. Hounds to track Thorn’s scent through the house, to the room, proving his presence.) If there were any evidence that could have been gathered, Mordred entered the room with intent to tamper with it. Will can’t prove Mordred DID tamper with it, but he can certainly mention that he had more than enough time to do so. That he contrived to have more than enough time. It doesn’t matter what he did, because he’s not on trial here– it matters what the jury believes he might have done to protect his mother.

            (And that’s one thing Mordred did wrong. Reasonable doubt isn’t just saying ‘she didn’t do it, nobody did it, this is a conspiracy against my mother and my marriage,’ because– however plausible that may be– it doesn’t plant enough seeds of doubt in the jurors’ minds. Reasonable doubt involves giving the jury another story to believe. And while I could easily spin a story to explain almost every aspect of Thorn’s testimony (which is the really damning stuff), I think it’s actually a moot point. Coming up with an explanation besides ‘none of this happened you’re all making it up’ would require Mordred to accept the truth of the matter, so he could agree on an alternate interpretation of what little physical evidence they have– Thorn’s scars– with Morgause.)

            • Hounds! I will definitely keep that in mind for next time! Er … assuming there is a next time. Hounds definitely would have picked up on Thorn’s scent in the house; he walked from Garnet’s room out the door. That would have absolutely placed him at the scene of the crime.

              Exactly, Sir Mordred could have come up with another story if he had put his mind to it. He could have said that Morgause caught Thorn wandering on the grounds and tried to put a bit of a scare into him. Then he runs afoul of the cowplant, Morgause finds him and puts him in Garnet’s room to rest while she figures out how to help him. Then, of course, Betsy finds him and runs for Dindrane …. and the rest is history. The jury might have bought that, or been forced to admit it was plausible enough for reasonable doubt. But Sir Mordred didn’t take that road … because he was so busy denying the possibility of Morgause’s guilt in his head that he didn’t have the leftover mental energy to come up with a sensible alternate explanation.

              And that his point …. well, the rest is history. *points to next post* πŸ˜‰

  4. I honestly don’t know how the jury is going to vote. Even if I didn’t know everything that Morgause had done already, I would still vote with Sir William, but I am not a citizen of Albion. I have no bias one way or the other, but the members of the jury do. Like Hat pointed out, everyone there has some connection to one side or the other, and that connection will affect their decision, no matter what the evidence says. I like to think that they’ll vote Morgause guilty, but I honestly couldn’t guess.

    • Trying to set up an impartial jury in Albion is like trying to play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, only not in a fun way. *sigh* Everybody’s either insanely connected or completely unsuitable.

      But … even though all the jury members have prejudices and biases and personal connections, one way or another, to somebody in the case, hopefully they have enough competing connections to produce something like impartiality. Like with Aglovale — he was Lot’s protege, and Dindrane’s brother, and Pellinore’s son, and close to Lamorak who is Mordred’s buddy (or was before Mordred browbeat his pregnant sister in court …) … no wonder the poor kid’s head was about to explode.

      On the plus side, though, if you all have no idea which way the jury’s gonna swing, I guess that means I’ve done my job! πŸ˜€

      Thanks Naomi, thanks everybody!

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