Roomies 3: Part Six
“Come on now, the trial’s about to start. Get up and no magic tricks.”
Jhudora looked up at the orange Grarrl guard who’d barked the order. He had already opened the dungeon door with his ring of keys, but she just glared at him defiantly from her spot on the bench. In the past hour, she had decided something: the trial was inevitable and out of her hands. But as for everything else... “Magic tricks? Please. Who do you think I am, Illusen? And what makes you think you can boss me around?”
The Grarrl’s eyes widened at the retort and he shifted uncomfortably in his heavy chain mail and armor. The other prisoners never acted this way around him, but yet again, an infamous dark faerie wasn’t exactly “another prisoner.” There was just something about Jhudora that made him feel antsy, and despite the fact that Queen Fyora had taken her wand upon arrival, he didn’t doubt that she could turn him into a Mortog right then and there.
“Ju-just please get up, okay?” the guard pleaded. “The trial...”
“I heard you, I heard you,” the dark faerie bit, standing up. She looked at him with her striking violet eyes. “So now what? Are you going to shackle me or something?”
“Well, it is procedure...”
She rolled her eyes. “Don’t bother. Just take me to the blasted courtroom and let’s get this party over with.”
The guard started to protest, but a single glance shut him up. “Um... well, at least...” He hesitantly put a claw on the dark faerie’s shoulder, trying to give the illusion of some authority. Jhudora looked ready to strangle him, but she didn’t push him off. The Grarrl felt a wave of relief. There, he thought to himself, now they’ll at least think I’m doing my job... somewhat... “Come on now, Jhudora. To the courtroom.”
The dungeons were located deep down into the palace, a place neglected by everything except dust and Spyders, and they had to travel through some extensive tunnels and up a couple flights of stairs until they reached the main hall. After that, they only had to pass a few dozen flower vases, beautifully sculpted statues, and life-sized portraits of Queen Fyora to reach a tall set of arched wooden doors: the trial room.
“Yeah, yeah.” Jhudora waved him off and walked through the doors, leaving him stunned behind her.
The room was already filled with Neopets and faeries alike talking animatedly to one another in their seats. Jhudora even spotted Jesc, Jan, and Mrs. Pierce all seated on one side of the room. However, upon her entrance, everyone seemed at a loss for words and stopped mid-sentence. As usual.
“Please, don’t all be silent on my account,” Jhudora mocked sarcastically, heading for a free seat near the front of the room and reclining in it. The trial room didn’t exactly resemble a courtroom. In fact, it was quite a light and airy space with tall windows streaming sunlight, seats that were made more for comfort and appearance than for a trial, a tall throne-like chair in the center where Queen Fyora sat majestically, and on the right side of the room, long benches decorated in pink fabric for the jury.
Yes, in no way was it a customary Neopian courtroom. But yet again, Faerieland courts never had been normal in the least sense. In fact, there was hardly any true order to them at all. Basically, the proposed system was this: anyone could be questioned, anyone could ask questions, and in the end, the jury advised Queen Fyora on whom they believed was guilty or not. However, after all was said and done, it was the Queen who had the final verdict, and although she usually was quite a fair judge, once she made up her mind, almost no one could change it.
“Okay,” Fyora announced, looking at Jhudora’s arrival with a hint of distaste. “Now that everyone is assembled, we should begin.” As usual, the Queen was perfect in every way: her long hair reached halfway down her back, a silver tiara was perched atop her head glittering in the sunlight, and her eyes were a soft lilac. She was wearing her customary gown, a draping nightmare for even the most talented seamstress, and her translucent lavender wings were set gracefully behind her.
“All right. This trial has been called for by Mrs. Vermillion Pierce, ex-Proper Uses of Magical Abilities teacher at the Faerie Academy.”
Mrs. Pierce shifted slightly and her eyes narrowed; the slight stress on the word “ex” apparently rubbed her the wrong way, but Fyora continued on, oblivious.
“According to her report, Jhudora, resident of the large purple cloud currently polluting Faerieland, first blackmailed Jan about a week ago, and then kidnapped Jesc. Is what I’m saying an accurate relay of your complaint, Mrs. Pierce?”
“Yes,” she answered stoically, her face serious. Only Jhudora caught the hint of a smirk playing along the edges of her mouth.
“All right.” The Queen turned her eyes to Jhudora. “And you’re pleading...?”
“Innocent of course,” Jhudora snapped, crossing her arms. “Really, sometimes I wonder...”
“Moving on,” Fyora said, her voice a bit louder than usual. “Let us announce the jury.” She turned to her left, while Jhudora followed her gaze and grimaced. It was clear that Mrs. Pierce had somehow found a way to influence the jury selection: she instantly recognized a couple of her questers that she’d yelled at after failing to retrieve some miscellaneous rare items, a couple faeries who held various grudges against her, and to top it all off, the Tombola Man whom she’d threatened just last summer.
“Oh, and you don’t call this biased?” Jhudora protested angrily after the jury members had introduced themselves.
“Jhudora, please don’t interrupt,” Fyora chastened, wearily sorting through a couple pieces of papers set in her lap. “Now, you’re claiming innocence, Jhudora, correct?”
“I just said that...”
“So may I ask exactly what you were doing yesterday instead of blackmailing one faerie and kidnapping another?”
Jhudora grinned and tapped her fingers together at the question, her long nails shimmering in the sunlight. “Well, let’s see... I woke up at precisely 8:34 NST. At 8:38 I got out of bed, glanced at the mirror to my right, took exactly twenty seven steps into the kitchen, all while avoiding...”
“This is all irrelevant!” Mrs. Pierce shouted from her spot angrily, startling Jan and Jesc seated next to her. Her eyes were narrowed. “She’s stalling!”
“Please, Jhudora. A little less of the exacts...”
“Fine, fine.” The dark faerie scowled. “I woke up yesterday morning around 8:30, had breakfast, and started giving out quests, as usual. However, about an hour in, I was attending to this one Gelert who was supposed to go out and find me some items, when a swarm of Weewoos suddenly attacked my house...”
“You expect us to believe this?” Mrs. Pierce scoffed. “Your alibi is a bunch of flying petpets!”
“Vermillion, please don’t interrupt.”
“Now as I was saying,” Jhudora continued pointedly, “I’d previously employed the use of keep-away spells to stop the vermin, but seeing as the Petpet Protection League calls them ‘immoral and cruel,’ I closed for the day to pay a friendly visit to the Neohome Planning Committee...”
“Friendly visit? You were fuming and the ground was shaking!” a small pink Cybunny seated in a chair near the back of the room squeaked.
Jhudora turned around to face the young Neopet and gave her a look that made her pale. “Hey, I never said I was in a good mood. Blast it, doesn’t a faerie have the right to be a little testy ever so often? But anyway, when I finally got inside, I spotted Jesc helping out for her lending schmending thing. She was about to help me fill out some forms when... dun, dun, dun! Everyone’s favorite fire faerie walks in, whips out her wand, casts a spell, and the next thing we know we’re all out like lights!”
“We?” Fyora pressed.
“Me, Jesc, and Jim, the smart-aleck yellow Aisha who runs the planning committee,” she explained. “And to top it all off, when we all woke up, it was late into the night and we were all trapped in Mrs. Pierce’s oubli-thingy... well, dungeon room... But when we finally escaped, she found us, altered everyone’s memory, and then dragged me here. And that’s it. There. That’s my story.”
Everyone in the room eyed the dark faerie skeptically.
“What a lovely tale,” Mrs. Pierce commended, clapping her hands slowly and her eyes practically smiling. “It’s almost worthy of the greatest Neopian storytellers. But I must say your highness that none of that ever happened.”
“Then would you like to tell me what did, Vermillion?” Fyora asked. Her face was blank of expression, but her eyes showed signs of erratic thoughts being played in her head; she wasn’t sure who to believe.
Mrs. Pierce smiled, sat up straighter, and adjusted the hem of her dress. “Well, your majesty, yesterday morning I happened to be out and about in Faerieland running errands. I had no clue any of this treacherous activity had taken place until halfway through the day when I was greeted by a frantic Jan running through the streets blabbing about how she’d been blackmailed by Jhudora with a letter and had betrayed Jesc and the sorts.” She glanced over at Jan seated next to her, who nodded her brainwashed little head in accordance. “It was very tragic, you see, so I offered to go with her to the palace to seek a meeting with you.” She looked at the Queen expectantly. “I’m sure you can verify this, your majesty?”
“Yes, yes...” Fyora answered wearily. “And Jan, all this up to this point is true?”
“Yes of course.”
“All right then. Now please, continue.”
The fire faerie wrinkled her nose. “Well, after Jan gave her interview to the Neopian Times, I went to bed, and then this morning, while Jan and I were taking a morning stroll, trying to clear our heads, we saw a ratty Jesc dart towards us from the down the street being pursued by none other than a livid Jhudora. Well, it wasn’t easy, but in the end, Jan and I were able to disarm Jhudora and take her here, to you... and that’s everything.” She smiled.
Jhudora snorted at the ridiculous lie. “Please, like that’s what happened,” she growled, but she glanced over at the jury all the same. They all were nodding their heads and whispering to one another, as if Mrs. Pierce’s ridiculous tale made complete sense. Jhudora felt her stomach flip.
Fyora frowned. “Well, two completely different stories. This is quite interesting...” She surveyed the audience before her, looking at each one of the various Neopets in turn as if to find someone who could make her decision clearer... and then she spotted the hunched air faerie in the front row fiddling with her scarf. “Ahh... Jesc,” she said softly, causing her to look up startled. “Can you please tell us your side of the story?”
Jesc’s watery blue eyes widened and she gripped her scarf tightly. Jhudora hadn’t paid much attention to her as she entered, but she wondered for a moment if she had ever stopped crying since their encounter downstairs. “Um... well...,” Jesc stammered, looking around at the occupants of the trial room, all who were anxiously awaiting her testimony. “I-I remember going to the lending with Jim and helping out, sorting papers... and when I finished Jhudora stormed in and... and...” She trailed off.
“And what?” Fyora asked expectantly, leaning forward in her chair.
“Come on Jesc,” Mrs. Pierce coaxed from her spot next to her. “It’s okay... tell her the truth, tell Fyora what Jhudora did...” The fire faerie looked so concerned that Jhudora almost believed her... and then snapped out of it once she saw the pigment of triumph hidden in the faerie’s crimson eyes.
This is it... with her testimony it’s all over...
But Jesc seemed to have suddenly lost all composure. Her eyes were clenched shut, tears spilling out of the corners, and she was shaking.
“Jesc,” Fyora spoke softly. “Jesc... please, just tell us what happened...”
But that was the final straw. Jesc’s eyes suddenly slammed opened and words mingled with sobs poured out of her mouth. “But I don’t know what happened after that! I-I just can’t... In my head I see... random thoughts all jumbled together! I-I don’t know which are r-real and which are fake!” She gripped her head and shut her eyes again as if blocking out the world around her could make everything clearer. “I remember Jhudora storming in, Mrs. Pierce flying... a white Weewoo, Spyders... UGH! It’s all so blurry! I-I just... don’t kno—”
“PLEASE! IT’S URGENT I GET INSIDE! I-I HAVE IMPORTANT EVIDENCE FOR THE TRIAL!”
The sudden shout came out of nowhere, interrupting Jesc’s desperate attempt to make sense of her thoughts and causing everyone in the trial room to turn around in their seats. Silence permeated the room as everyone focused on the muffled sounds making their way through the heavy wooden doors.
“Sir, please stay back or I’ll have to have you escorted from the palace. No one else is allowed inside. Queen’s orders...”
“PLEASE! I JUST NEED TO GIVE THIS TO—”
“Aagh!” came the guard’s frantic shout. “Get this blasted petpet off me! Ow! It’s pecking my...”
The large wooden doors to the trial suddenly opened with a slam, and running down the central aisle followed by a chirping white Weewoo and the frantic orange Grarrl guard from earlier was a small yellow Aisha with shattered glasses. He was clenching a scroll in his outstretched paw...
“What is the meaning of this?” Fyora commanded standing up. “And who are you?”
“I’m Jim, head of the Neohome Planning Committee, your majesty,” he spluttered, making a hasty bow as the Grarrl attempted to restrain him from behind, “and I have proof of Jhudora’s innocence. It’s all right here!” He waved his arm frantically.
Mrs. Pierce paled once she caught a glimpse of the paper and stood up. “Really, Fyora, you aren’t about to believe this, are you? It’s all hearsay! And he just interrupted your court...”
“Vermillion,” the Queen said sharply, “according to Jhudora, he was involved in this too. Anything he has to show us will be accepted.”
“Silence, Vermillion.” Her words were heavy and final and Vermillion couldn’t help but shut her mouth instantly. Fyora turned to the guard. “Please release him.”
The Grarrl immediately let go of his hold on Jim. “Thank you,” Jim grumbled.
Fyora’s turned to him and her voice softened. “All right, Jim. May I see it, please?”
The Aisha nodded and handed the scroll over to the Queen. Mrs. Pierce’s mouth was set into a grim line as Fyora unrolled the piece of parchment and read it to herself.
“What is it?” a light faerie juror asked after the Queen was silent for a while.
“A letter addressed to Jan. Or, to be more specific, blackmail. And the signature on the bottom happens to be the one of our very own Vermillion Pierce.”
Around a hundred pairs of eyes alighted on the fire faerie and gasps rippled throughout the room, but Mrs. Pierce refused to back down so easily. “Impossible! It must be forged...”
“It very well could be,” Fyora nodded, withdrawing her wand, a long slender rod with a sparkling orb at the top that blazed with magic. “So we’ll just have to check.”
She pointed her wand as the signature. From her spot in the front row, Jhudora saw the name “Vermillion Pierce” light up through the parchment, blazing with gold, and heard the slight crackle of electricity in the air. For a moment, the page shone with a blinding brilliance, and then a thin trail of golden light snaked down off the paper, flashing through the air in sparks of radiance... and stopped, a single gold ember hovering inches above Mrs. Pierce’s head.
Just about everyone in the room gasped, complete shock registering on their faces.
Except, of course, for Jhudora who just said, “I told you so.”
To be continued...