Justice

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Parameters: One name. No quotations.

Lorne’s eyes fell upon his brother’s killer. His ears burned as anger climbed his neck. Anticipation dried his mouth waiting to interject with his accusations. Words of this magnitude needed care when delivered. No one noticed his movement as he rose from the chair. His dark robe embraced the shadows while a hood concealed his face. With eye’s fixed on the wretched fiend he noticed the other four members of the killer’s party. Storm soaked, the party’s leader requested a night of rest. The crew would leave in the morning. Although the head-counselor agreed, Lorne would rebut. Waiting for the head-counselor to ask for objections, Lorne stepped from the shadows. Playing his part like steps in a waltz, he waited for those words to land on his ears so he could forward his inquiries.

A single voice echoed the great hall as Lorne approached the bewildered party. Removing his hood he stood before the group staring at the killer. The vagabond traveler stared back without expression. Lorne assumed time had dissolved the memories. Fate worked differently than time. Fate returned his brother’s assailant, and presented Lorne with a second chance for redemption. His brother’s death would not go unpunished. Pointing at the accused Lorne preceded to make his persecution. The crew’s leader volleyed a rebuttal back. Moving forward with his accusations Lorne asked if the killer remembered his brother. Silence fell as every ear leaned forward to catch the next words uttered.

The man acknowledged Lorne’s brother, and he recollected the argument. It resulted over a woman the brother courted. A conversation she had with the killer filled his heart with jealousy and envy. The accused traveler painted a different picture than Lorne’s accusations. The brother attacked first, and the traveler merely defended himself. The head-counselor requested a witness or substantial proof. The traveler knew where this led. Time had removed all evidence and he traveled amongst a different group. Lorne would stand before the guilty and deliver justice. The head-counselor appointed him as the magistrate over the proceedings. The leader of the group protested stating a fair trial would never come from a man set on vengeance. Smiling, the head-counselor understood that this custom appeared unfamiliar to the travelers. She explained, if the traveler is innocent then he should think long and hard on how he can prove his innocence to his victim. His actions left Lorne without a brother. Violence should only be a last resort.

Seeing no way around, the accused traveler surrendered and willingly went into custody. Two guards escorted him in silence. His cell contained comfortable accommodation. Soft goose down mattress, a desk with pen, ink, and paper, and a latrine with a privacy wall made the cell rather livable. In this society, shame weighed heavy. No one wanted a criminal reputation. Status weighed heavy in the small community. Rainfall echoed as he sat at the desk staring at a blank paper. His thoughts raced back to that night. Time had changed him since. A woman offered to pour him a drink and he accepted. She spoke French and he returned his compliments in the same manner. They began to chat in this common bond. Soon a gentleman stepped up and knocked the drink out of his hand. Upon the gentleman’s request, they slipped into the back alley. Exiting the building, the brother lounged with a knife. Out of reflex the traveler grabbed the knife wielding arm and bent it towards his assailant. The knife entered the brother’s chest and the two froze. Just like that the fight ended. The traveler knew that he had no witnesses in his favor. Everyone inside saw the brother knock the drink out of his hand. He hid the body under some trash and ran. His comrades were only staying the night, and he joined them once they left the village. That night changed his life. The scene played repeatedly in his head. Everything happened too fast. How could he explain to his assailant’s brother it happened in self-defense.

Morning came quick as Lorne found himself before the accused. He listened to the traveler paint a night of innocence. Every word reveled his brother out to be the villain. His words sounded typical for a man facing death. No one takes responsibility for their actions when death is on the horizon. After the traveler finished his story Lorne allowed the chambers to reach full silence. The long pause provided effect. He had seen others do it and witnessed how well it changed the atmosphere. He asked a single question. He knew the answer and the traveler knew he received a loaded question. Lorne listened as the traveler admitted he could not bring his brother back. Looking at the head-counselor, Lorne proceeded with his verdict. He found the traveler guilty and death would come at sunrise. The room erupted as the traveling vagabonds contested the verdict.

Solace filled the accused face as he stood. He calmly stated his companions must allow this to happen. He turned his attention to the head-counselor. He asked that his friends be allowed to leave and after the execution his companions must be allowed to enter the village to collect his body. The head-counselor faced Lorne for objections. Lorne agreed to the terms. As long as he received justice he didn’t care what happened to the traveler’s corpse.

Back at his cell, the traveler stared at the same blank sheet of paper. He heard his comrades yelling their promise of a return. It brought a smile to his face. His first visit to the village caught him with a rough group. They were out for blood and glory, not him. He sought adventure. Meeting new people intrigued him. He left that group soon after he killed Lorne’s brother. Bouncing from several groups his found his way to this motley crew. Like his first group, this group loved violence and war. Unlike the first group, this group appreciated him for him. As he sat at the desk his hand wrote. He knew what he wanted to say.

Morning came and the guards came to escort the traveler. He handed the letter over, and asked them to give it to Lorne. The cool morning air filled the his lungs as he stepped into the court yard. Everyone in the village gathered around. He watched as the guard gave Lorne the letter. Placing it into his cloak without reading it he glared at the traveler. The traveler smiled and placed his head on the chopping block. He prepared for death. The head-counselor read the decree and gave the order for execution. With a single blow the traveler’s body fell  to the ground. As Lorne watched, his heart filled with disappointment as he expected more fulfillment. He still didn’t have his brother back. Vengeance is hollow like that.

A warning bell rang as a loud crash came from the front gate. Everyone knew the traveler’s friends had returned for his body. A loud crack from the gate beckoned with impeding failure. A roar of ten thousand troops, from outside the gate, filled the villagers with horror. People panicked. Women and men grabbed their children and scurried home. Every unmarried villager grabbed a sword. This is what they trained for. However, training never prepares one for war. The gate peeled open as invading bodies poured through. The army formed ranks and flooded the village. In a matter of minutes the population grew six times it normal size. Once all ranks formed, the everyone froze. Whimpers sounded as a familiar face emerged from the crowd. Last night’s guest approached Lorne and the head-counselor. He stood there in silence. In full armor, he explained to his troops that the village had a judicial system. If someone steps up and accuses another person of a crime, then the accuser became the judge. Pointing his finger at Lorne he made his accusation, stating Lorne had killed the army’s priest.

A chill fell over Lorne. The traveler’s words rushed back. It all made perfect sense. The traveler had mentioned  he lived a different lifestyle, and the fact remained, he owed his life to Lorne’s brother. After that night, he studied under a traveling priest and dedicated his life to become a virtuous man. However, the words of the traveler fell on deaf ears. Lorne  made his verdict, regardless of what the traveler had to say. He made the fatal error of letting his anger drive his emotions.

The leader asked if Lorne had any words in his defense. Nothing could be said. His actions were rash and juvenile. Standing there with a heavy heart, Lorne accepted his fate, but to his dismay death did not come for him. The leader allowed him to live. The village did not fare as lucky. Before noon crows feasted  on the villagers. His son, daughter, wife, friends, and their families were all slaughtered. One man lived to remember this day. The one who sealed their fate with his arrogance, anger, and blind lust for vengeance. Pulling the letter out, Lorne began to read.

Never judge a man. As quick as leaves change in autumn, so do men. They are not who they were before. Time changes us all. By this time tomorrow you too will change. I pray my friends spare your life so you may find the truth in these words. No man is greater that I am, and I am greater than no man.

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