January 8th - Braga
Brigdha re-read the letter, a slight sense of uneasiness at the thought of entering political debate. That had always been her sister's province, back before the tragedy which had befallen their House: not a day passed that she didn't think of Lady Moira...
"Supreme Justice, I've given much thought since my niece's recent letter on the subject and I feel beholden to protest your use of the headsman's axe for I feel that it is ultimately self-defeating.
Fontan has always been plagued by Elven infiltrators but it has not always resorted to such harsh methods to deal with the problem, vexing though it has been to many a holder of your high and noble office.
By taking this approach your predecessor made it all but impossible for Fontan to enjoy the chivalrous prisoner exchange agreements of yore, nor can we now expect any infiltrator to be willing to risk their life on our behalf as surely their capture by Sirion (or Caligus) would lead to summary execution as a common criminal. Such actions would be risky enough for a seasoned agent, but for anyone starting out on that career it would be a guaranteed death sentence.
As such you deny Fontan a weapon which no realm should have to be without, and in exchange you gain us very little beyond the fervent hatred of our enemies. I therefore ask you to reconsider this policy as a matter of urgency and look to the example of your many predecessors who found effective means of dealing with the menace of the assassin's blade such as summary confiscation and deportation to one of the world's darker environs."
Well, someone had to say something. War was more than just the marching of men to their death in battle, it was the subtle stratagem, the smuggled secret and - much though it pained her to think it - the swift blade in the night. Lady Moira had realised that, but perhaps her perspective as an infiltrator and mistress of spies had given her a unique perspective on the role of Supreme Justice.
With a nostalgic sigh Brigdha folded the letter and sealed it. Whilst she doubted the newly elected Supreme Justice would pay much attention to her entreaty perhaps there were other voices in the realm who might. A debate at least would prove Fontan still had some of the old spirit she remembered from her youth.
January 22nd -- An Najaf
Brigdha's mood was dour as she considered the verdict on the accused standing before her, a motley band of merchants and their retainers who it was alleged had collaborated with the occupying forces. Testimony had been given and accounts presented which proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that each had profited from the Caligan invasion, evidence in each case of generous bribes and petty privileges such as would be considered inconsequential to a noble but clearly could turn the head of a man of coin.
Drumhead tribunals had always troubled Brigdha's conscience, and she'd on several occasions been shocked at the grim justice which Lady Moira had at times meted out to traitors. But this situation called for action. These were men and women whom she had known personally for many years and who had profited much from her patronage during the long years that she'd traded luxury goods with Caligus and the other southern realms. The sting of betrayal therefore carried a personal edge which made her duty all the clearer and the more heartbreaking.
"Each of you before me today has been accused of giving aid and succour to the enemies of Fontan. You have all turned a blind eye to the appropriation of Fontanese properties, you have all assisted the illegitimate government in imposing alien laws and customs on the free people of An Najaf, and worse yet all of you took coin to betray your duty to the Knights of An Najaf and to your liege Lord Hierarch."
She took a deep breath and held it as her eyes moved from face to face, watching the beads of sweat as the condemned men and women awaited her verdict.
"As a Lady of Fontan it is my duty to mete low justice in accordance with the laws of our fair land, and having weighed the evidence brought against you this day I have no choice but to find you guilty of treason against both liege and realm. Our land is built on the rule of law and the bonds of honour. By breaking these you have not only betrayed Fontan, you have betrayed all who placed their faith in you, friend and family alike."
She lifted the black cowl from her shoulders and pulled it over her black braids.
"By the power vested in me by the Knights of Fontan and the community of the realm I sentence you to be taken from this place forthwith and executed in accordance with our customs. You have committed treason and your lives are forfeit. May Darton have mercy on your souls."
There was a commotion amongst the accused as the weight of the judgement sank in and a young woman by the name of Lyra, a vintner's widow who in more peaceful times had been a regular guest at Lady Brigdha's estate, pushed her way to the front and threw herself to the ground.
"Please m'lady, I am with child. Would you kill an innocent?"
Brigdha considered her for the moment.
"And how many innocents have died as a result of your treason Lyra? Did you consider that before you took Caligan coin to betray your friends?"
"Please Mistress, please - I did only what I had to to protect my unborn child and my late husband's business. All I did was sell the Caligan soldiers some food and a little wine."
"Aye, wine which you stole from the cellars of Lord Hierarch's estate and food which should rightly have been in the stomachs of his subjects."
Brigdha sat for a moment in thought before signalling to the captain of her guard.
"Jonas, take her to a midwife and have her story confirmed."
"Very good m'lady," Jonas reached down not entirely ungently and helped the woman to her feet.
"If you are telling the truth Lyra I will commute your sentence to indentured servitude and you will spend the rest of your natural days serving even the lowliest peasant on my estate. Your child will be fostered, it's identity unknown so that it will not suffer the stigma of your treason, and you will bear the brand of a traitor so that all may know you for what you are."