by Ruth Davis Hays
He stood, the chill air caressing his skin. Eyes closed to the world around him, D’harro’mar’rie’Khiall let his fate sink into his conscious mind, feeling it tickle the raw indignation of the last few days.
The Blessed Fathers of the Monastic Temple University of Coreigan had made up their minds about his motives and guilt long before his tribunal had begun. Twelve hours spent with his neck tied to a rock in order to incapacitate him was the least of his trials as he was relentlessly questioned and prodded.
The first moment they had allowed him to stand upright, he had insisted to them, “Nothing happened in the garden.”
“We will decide that. Now, open your mouth.”
“Why?” Khiall flinched back from the approaching acolyte. “I’m bathed in blood, yet you want to look in my mouth? I didn’t bite him!”
“Father Grae is simply collecting specimens. He will swab your mouth, genital area, and rectum.”
A hand gripped his face, prying open his mouth with all the detachment of inspecting a prize stallion’s teeth. Rough white cloth on a stick dabbed at his throat, stopping his question in a gag.
“What are you looking for?” he repeated when his jaw was free.
“Evidence, of course. Traces of saliva, abrasions, ejaculate, oils, or Apthia Water can be discovered with simple alchemy tests.”
“Yes, some men use it as lubrication.”
“Where would we get Apthia Water in the monastery?” His mind was distracted from their implication by the unintentional education they gave.
“There are vials in the infirmary. If traces are found, then an additional charge will be brought against you: Theft.”
“Stop clenching,” another voice said.
Shifting to glare at the young monk groping his rump, ‘Khiall continued addressing the High Priest. “Why do all this?”
“You and the other were caught in the act of breaking your vows.”
“I made no vows to this place.” He growled under the statement.
“Acolyte Daviel most certainly did. You have corrupted him.”
“We did nothing to break his vow of-“
His statement was ended by a grunt as the metal cylinder was inserted in his backside with little nuance. The cold, thin sheath was retracted and the porous material of the probe absorbed all it could, growing as it did until it felt roughly the size of a tree trunk. It was extracted in a swift, abrasive movement which elicited a sharp cry of pain. It stopped his words with a clenched jaw.
Then the monks turned their attention to his front. One assistant inspected the smooth fae abdomen and looked back at his superior with a shrug.
Reading from a manual, perhaps the same book Daviel had gleaned his information about faerlin ears, Father Grae began instructing the younger monk on how to force a fae to “present” the penial instrument.
“Place a thumb on either side of the glift and spread it open while pressing inwards on the abdomen soft. The genitals will be exposed for inspection.”
“Only if it’s not too cold in here.” ‘Khiall muttered. He was not fond of this intrusion. If his arms had not been tied, he was inclined to let his claws fly wherever they willed. As it was…
The assistant made a slight recoil as the fae’s treasure dropped into view. ‘Khiall couldn’t resist a chuckle. “By the rumors I’ve heard from you saphiens, I’ll bet you weren’t expecting such an endowment, hm?” he said with a smirk. The young human simply eyed him with a blush and continued his duties. ‘Khiall’s mirth was short-lived.
The order caused “Khiall to roll his eyes.
“Oh Sweet Hells! What further invasion are you going to visit upon me?” he shouted. This was greeted by a backhand on his face.
“Show more respect to the Fathers!” Grae stared down at the fae. The small pit set ‘Khiall’s head at the perfect level for a swing of the hand. “We are going to reattach the stone to your neck. This interview is ended.”
‘Khiall’s tongue prodded at the corner of his mouth, testing the blood there and savoring the thrill it brought. As the last monk tied the rope around his neck, pulling it tight, he heard another attendant plod into the chamber. The monk who had inspected him exited. His limited vantage point blocked his discovery of who was in the room.
A pair of sandaled feet scuffled into his view.
“It’s Onath.” The owner of the feet whispered. “I can’t stay long. I just wanted to say that it wasn’t me. Don’t hate me.”
Running like a child fearful of a beating, Onath vanished through the door. ‘Khiall began to suspect that if Daviel was orchestrating some escape access for him, perhaps he had not leaked his plans to the other saphien boys in their intimate circle. Or else, he is unable to do so. A constriction in his chest, at the idea that Daviel’s wounds may have been too severe, gave ‘Khiall pause.
Do I truly care about these saphiens, he pondered? Are they my friends?
“When did that happen?” he said aloud.
“Witnesses testify that you were attempting to break your vow of celibacy in the garden, and you are charged with bodily harm of another. That cannot be overlooked. Worse still, it has come to our attention that you, Acolyte Khnyghtsyde, coerced several others to partake in the sin of gambling. How do you plead?”
Still pondering the accusation of garden fornication, ‘Khiall was silent too long for the Blessed Fathers’ comfort. The High Priest repeated the question with vehemence. Shaken from his thoughts, the changeling stumbled in his defense.
“I…I plead… guilty?” If his instincts were wrong about this confession and its possible judgement, then he may be faced with a lifetime of onerous vows and dank stone monastic walls.
“He has confessed. Shall Our Spirit Guide Coreigan bless him with mercy and atonement or exclusion from His grace, even in death?”
Wood striking on wood shattered ‘Khiall’s unsuspecting ears as the gavel rang out three times. Wincing with each, the changeling was held in limbo for insufferable moments before the words reached into his brain and he understood that his long months of exile from Culetan were ended.
“Cast him out!” the witnesses repeated until the air danced with the syllables. An observant member of the crowd might have even noticed the changeling’s lips moving in accord.
Opening his eyes to unveil the landscape of the Khnyghtsyde estate before him, ‘Khiall took a deep breath and strode through the gate with a grim determination to confront his step-father and gain access to Lauralei once more. …
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