Janna entered the tower. She would have entered much slower, but Natasha was pulling her and Drake along by cuff.
“You know, you don’t have to put me in binds, I did turn myself in after all,” Janna said.
“It is procedure,” Natasha told her as they went inside and up a few flights of stairs.
The court room was on the third floor, and it was already half full of people. On the benches, Janna saw her mother, but not her father sitting. She also recognised Setzer, one of the agents that stayed within the kingdom during missions. Drake was seated near the front in with the crowd, but Janna was led to the centre.
The tower was cylindrical, so all the rooms were round. The courtroom had a podium at the far wall and an empty space in the middle with a couple benches. The law was being represented by Chloe, but Janna wasn’t sure who was representing her. Surrounding, like a miniature coliseum, were all the seats. It was almost like a house of commons that was rounded.
Janna sat, but she felt queasy. She faced the far end of the room and it seemed as though everything was about to start. The small crowd of forty or so people hushed. Janna wondered where her poet was, or who was going to be the chair who judged it all. Usually the chair had to be someone that wasn’t closely attached to the law and was known for their unbiased nature. Also, generally it was someone who was more likely to favour the accused than the law. Recent changes to the Solune laws have put an emphasis on redemption, and consequently, the law now often slightly favours the lawbreaker over itself.
The tension in the room was high now, as everyone was silent, waiting for the chair and Janna’s poet to arrive. Chloe was sitting on a bench adjacent to Janna, and Natasha had come to sit beside her. Chloe assumed that Natasha would be referencing the laws for Chloe, as Natasha had written many of them.
A few more people shuffled in, including Alice and Finch, both guards under Natasha. Then a couple of dark haired men walked in. One had very dark skin was Janna’s age, nearly eight hundred**. This man’s hair was long, and both his skin and hair were slick with eline oils. He came and sat next to Janna, smelling of earth and pollen. The other man took the head seat as chair. He had the pale skin of a Riley and black hair that was short in the front but long in the back. Janna’s mother Gwenhime shook her head disapprovingly and muttered something about mullets.
Janna recognised the chair at once as her older brother Kain. This was a surprise as she had assumed he was down south, outside the city.They had a few moments before the trial began, and so Janna spoke to her poet.
They had a few moments before the trial began, and so Janna spoke to her poet. “Do you think you can lower my sentence?”
“Sure, not a problem,” The man smiled, teeth missing from his mouth, an incisor and a canine.
Janna was taken aback. A wave of shock passed over her; she recognised this man.
“Are you Chance, the exiled Elken youth?” She asked.
Now Janna became worried. She had known Chance from the days when she was in the public secondary school. Her parents had put her and most of her siblings through a public school for parts of their education so that they could meet their people. It was good, Gwenhime had said, that you should acquaint yourself with the citizens.
The problem was that Janna had been even more violent as a child. She often came home with bruises, while other children came home with black eyes and scrapes. She was even kept home for a year so that her parents could teach her to respect other children. Janna had never broken bones or opened wounds, but she had accidentally hit one child into a rock, and he had lost a couple teeth. He was someone adopted from outside the Kingdom, and the two were bitter rivals.
“You’re not going to make things worse for me, are you?” Janna was worried.
Chance smiled again, the holes in his grin mocking Janna, “Well, it seems you never calmed down after all that. But no, I am here to represent you for a reason quite similar to why your fair sister is opposing you.”
This confused Janna, but she was obliged to take his word. She was worried about other things now. It seemed she was getting some unusual cramps, and she didn’t like it.
“Okay now, it seems like we’re having a strange sort of family reunion eh? Let’s, ah, try to make it a decent one huh? Not every day you have to judge your own sister whilst your other sister does the accusing. Quite a strange situation I’ve been put in.”
The chair sighed and stood. Whenever the chair stood, everyone was to be silent, and so Janna hushed. Then he sat back down.
“Okay, so I’ve heard we’ve quite a list.” He continued.
Chloe nodded slightly, then stood. In her hands she held a scroll. Scrolls were unusual, but Chloe tended to use whatever medium suited her purposes. It seemed this list was long enough to warrant a scroll.
“We have two confirmed cases of murder. Seventy-eight cases of verbal assault. Forty-two counts of battery, that is physical assault. There are more, but I’ve been informed that offences that occurred during war are to be exempt from this trial.”
Chloe’s voice was assertive, but not accusing. Drake nodded with his eyes closed. She was simply stating the facts.
Kain said, “Very well Chloe. Do you have specifics?”
Chloe nodded and pulled her scroll open a little more.
“I have arranged them in chronological order. It seems she encountered her current poet, Chance Sing, and Elken man, in Hannibal on her way out of the Kingdom to find Zeallott a few-” Chloe stopped, she didn’t want to gloss over any of the facts, “I mean precisely twelve years ago. They had a quick, unsanctioned duel, and Chance was sent to the infirmary. Janna exited the kingdom shortly after, heading north.”
“See?” Chance whispered, “How could you not recognise me?”
“You grew your hair out, idiot,” Janna replied.
Kain eyed them, but his attention remained on Chloe. He wrote down a number and then spoke.
Chloe wasn’t sure if she agreed, but she read on.
“Okay, she stopped in the N’Tariel Lands, and fought alongside them against the Bazents for a period, apparently learning new sword techniques from them.”
Kain said, “That’s an ongoing war.”
“I’m aware, it’s what she did after that I’m getting to.” Chloe said, “It seems someone aggressive challenged her, again they did not sanction the duel. She brought this man near death, causing permanent damage to his right leg. He limps now.”
Kain’s eyebrows raised, “Care to defend yourself, Janna?”
Janna stood carefully, “Sure. I think he’s better now, I visited that man, his name is Spring. He was very aggressive, loved to fight amongst his people. Turns out the injury gave him a huge disadvantage in duels, and he started to reconsider his lifestyle. He’s much happier now, has a family, hunts with a bow.”
Natasha stood, “Agents in the north confirm this.” Then she sat again.
Janna sat down, but she felt really off.
“Chloe,” Kain said, “Do you think that Janna has done more harm than good in this situation?”
Chloe had not prepared for this, it was most unexpected. “Ah…”
She looked at Natasha beside her who just nodded. Chloe said what she thought to be the truth.
“It seems as though her injuring Spring ended up helping him in the long term.” She said.
Kain nodded, “Well, considering you still have quite a list, we’ll waive that one. Next?”
As Kain was speaking, Chance whispered again to Janna, “I wonder if you will fair like that man.”
“What?” She replied.
“Injured by this case, will you look back on your ways and change for the better?”
The day continued like this for six hours. Chloe continued in chronological order. It seemed that the times between incidents grew longer and longer. Chance mentioned this to Kain, who wrote some sort of small note and thanked him. Chloe was very diligent in her recalling, but the situation seemed to be stressing her. She felt like everyone was trying to let Janna off easy. Chloe did too, but deep down she felt that Janna’s life would be worse if she was simply let off the hook.
After six hours, Kain stood.
“Okay, we will break for today. How far, ah, by percentage, do you think we are Chloe?”
“Twenty-three.” She calculated quickly.
“Okay, house Janna in a longer term prison.” He replied.
“What of Drake?” Chloe asked, “Should they be separated?”
“Would that help anything? With the law changes, we’re supposed to be preparing prisoners for reintegration, am I correct? They will be together after serving their time, so it makes sense to have them imprisoned together.” Kain continued, “But of course, I wasn’t here for the law change, I was in the Sol-Metch state. I am unsure myself.”
Natasha stood, sighing, “You are correct, they will be housed together.”
The onlookers shuffled out of the room, leaving those involved in the trial, Drake, and Gwenhime.
Janna said to Chloe, “See you tomorrow I guess.”
Chloe replied, “I guess… I don’t think I did very well today.”
“What are you going to do about it?” Janna asked.
“I guess I’ll…” Chloe trailed off.
“Step your game up?”
Gwenhime went to Kain to tell him what a great job he was doing, and also pinch his cheeks.
“Mom, come on we’re in public.” He crossed his arms.
Natasha led Janna and Drake out as Gwenhime scowled at Kain for having a mullet.
“You’ll be put in the more empty building. Are you okay Janna?” Natasha stopped.
“Umm, I might not be. I feel like… I don’t know it’s weird.”
She looked to Drake, who seemed worried. Natasha an expression of confusion mixed with concern.
“I think we’ll have to send you to the hospital.” She said.
“Umm,” Janna said, “Maybe not. It feels like I’m having a weird period.”
Drake blushed and tried to cross his arms, but he was still handcuffed.
“Well, at the very least you should meet with mother then. She used to run the frontline infirmary.” Natasha said.
Janna and Natasha waited outside the tower for Gwenhime to exit. Drake sort of looked around awkwardly.
“Umm,” He said, “Isn’t-”
But he was cut off by Natasha who said, “Mother, you’ll have to take a look at the prisoner before we lock her up.”
Gwenhime looked happily suspicious. She eyed Janna saying, “You are aware I’ve retired from nursing? I deal with internation relations now.”
Janna clutched at her stomach, “Yeah well. It’s one of those days you know?”
They cantered to the castle where Gwen still kept a small medical room.
“Okay, just lie down. It’s not the first time I’ve had to deal with battlefield menstruation.”
Gwen grabbed her daughter in a few strategic locations, asking if it hurt and how bad. Then she crossed her arms and looked considerate for a very long time.
“Well.” She said.
“What?” Janna asked. She was getting very worried. Maybe something was really wrong with her.
“I think you might be carrying.” Her mother replied.
“Eh?” Janna was scared now, “What am I carrying?”
Gwen lowered her voice, and said softly, “A child.”
Janna looked around the room.
“Umm… now’s not really a good time for that you know.” She said.
“Yes, I’m quite aware dear.”
“Is there even anything in place for prisoners having children?” Janna was almost yelling now. “What am I supposed to do? How long until I have the kid? Ah! What will I even call him? Or her?”
“Just calm down, breathe deeply.” Her mother said.
“Okay. Okay.” Janna breathed, “But listen, I like children and all, they make great target practice, but I don’t know if I can actually raise one…”
Drake just gazed at Janna, a little nervous. He took her hand. Janna looked at him, expecting him to say something reassuring.
Instead he just said, “What…”
So, Janna decided to reassure him and herself at the same time.
“Don’t worry Drake, it’ll be alright. We’ll figure it out. If anything, we’ll make grandma here help us.”
He nodded. Gwenhime started to say something but then changed her mind. She would be obliged to help if she could.
Occasionally when I write about a female, I’m forced to face the fact that they do things that males do not. Specifically, women menstrate and get pregnant. Now, neither of these things happen very frequently so they don’t make it into words, but when they do I’m forced to research what the heck it all feels like. I’ve really only encountered one piece of fiction that spoke of menstration, and that was “A Girl Named Disaster.” I read that way back in the ninth grade. It’s a Canadian award winning novel about a young African girl who runs away from her village so that she won’t be married off to some old man with two other wives.