~ Siwenday, 21st of Juvenis, 11831 ~
Sabine slept in late the next morning. There was a plate of food on her dresser when she woke, but she had not heard anyone enter. When she tried the door it was still locked. It took a bit of time but she changed out of her nightgown into somewhat casual clothes, unable to put on the more formal attire without a maid, and not wishing to call for help. She was not sure if it would come.
Aranea was there, having not left the room last night and staying hidden when anyone other than her mistress was in the room.
She sat down to break her fast, offering a bit of egg and a piece of meat to her familiar. They ate in silence.
Halfway through her meal there was a pounding on her door, some muffle shouts, and then Vivien came in with guards behind him. He was still wearing the clothes he had on last night, wrinkled and unwashed, and there were bags under his eyes. She doubted he had slept a moment.
“She is my mother, I do not need you. Be gone,” he commanded, and the guards hesitated as Sabine stood up to greet Vivien, but a glare from her son sent them out. He closed the door behind them and hugged his mother.
He was shaking. He held her so tight that it almost hurt, but she did not reprimand him.
“You were right,” she said, stroking his hair as if he were still a child and not a grown man with children of his own. “In the end this will be the death of me.”
“We do not know that!” Vivien countered. “We can sneak you out, Elwin can take you to Faery! I spoke with His Grace at length last night, and we can—”
“Vivien, you know as well as I that that will not be possible. Such a thing would only interfere more with alliances, and cause a stain to Pierre’s reputation. I will take my sentence.”
He let himself cry.
Sabine hummed to him a lullaby he had liked a child, and kissed his hair.
“My dear sweet son, I have lived my life. I knew I would be with your father again soon. I could not stand there and let you be taken when I could save you. You have children, and I know you would die for them.”
“I would die for you.”
“Shame! And leave your wife, your children? I am old, Vivien, and however tragic, a child buries his parents, not the other way around. This is far better than if you had taken the blame.”
He nodded and took a deep breath, calming down, but not letting her go. “Oui, I know, Maman… The children wish to see you. They know something has happened. Maiolaine is taking them to Bladeren in a few hours, but they insist on seeing you before they go. I do not want them to witness the trial.” Or her death.
“Bring them in.”
Her daughter-in-law and grandchildren came in. Maiolaine seemed wary, but trusted her husband when he nodded to her, and the children were ignorant and only wanted to tell their grandmother that they were going on a trip to see their other grandparents. Sabine smiled.
Pierre came to see her after her family left. The duc glared at his guards when they came in with him. Like Vivien he did not allow them to stay, reminding them that just a few weeks ago he had been harmed by cold iron, and if they truly wanted to make up for that and show their new allegiance, they could do it by obeying him.
“Why,” he asked her when they were alone.
“I did it for Vivien,” she replied. “Who in turn would have done the same for you, Your Grace. Was going to. Did you not feel the spirits around him as he reached for the knife before you?”
“I did,” Pierre admitted. He hung his head. “The request was so innocent from Tibault, and I could not falter. He was handing the knife to me and… I thought Pluta could provide a distraction, but there were so many people there.”
“Which I am sure Vivien realized as well as he took the knife.”
“And you as his mother could not allow it.”
“Of course not.”
He shook his head, shoulders hunched now in shame.“I can think of no way out for you, my lady. You confessed and your blood runs black. You will die.”
She, to his great surprise, smiled. “Pierre, I have lived my life, had many joys and regrets, and am ready to die. I only ask you to continue doing as you are.”
“I have failed—”
“You are the duc. You are protecting your people. You have shown kindness and care for both fay and man. And you are her favorite. You did not fail.”
“Lady Sabine Estée, you are charged with the murder of Lord Jourdain, being a consort of Mora, and practicing dark magics. How do you plead?”
She was tempted to correct the judge, she was a confidant of Mora’s, not consort, but thought it best not to anger him or the people further.
“Everything you have said is true,” she replied. “I am guilty.”
“It is on the word of Renaud Paul, heir to Feuilles, who cannot be here on this day, that his brother was in fact changed with a man who is fée. It has also been observed that you are very close to the margrave, Elwin of Spadille and Spadé. Was the margrave involved in this?”
“Absolutely not,” she said, while knowing well that Elwin had arranged for the kidnapping. “I merely took advantage of a situation presented before me, it was not planned in the manner that it unfolded.”
“And what was this situation?”
“I came upon The Honored Lord Jourdain near the Duc’s forest. Knowing that he was still away I deduced that something had happened and the fée were involved. Given that his disappearance was now fact, and his return was not—”
“Why!” Someone from the crowd yelled. “Why did you kill the future Feuilles!”
Sabine took a deep breath. Elwin had told her about the suspicions against Frederick and his kin. But could she reveal this in open court? The people still thought Jourdain as the heir, it seemed.
“You are not permitted to speak unless I command it,” the judge said before she could speak.
There were more questions, which she answered in half truths and full lies, confessing her cræft. She endured the jeering and the yelling. Aranea, nestled in her hair and hiding, spoke comforting things to her. Ah, her dear Familiar, she would likely die too the moment Sabine did. She almost reached up to pet her and offer her comfort in return.
The questioning lasted throughout the afternoon, and then the judge, along with His Grace, Charlot, and Tibault, went to discuss matters together over dinner. The crowd mostly stayed, discussing amongst themselves what to do with her, continuing their jeering, and certainly not allowing her to leave and have her own dinner and peace. Sabine’s calm resolve only faltered when she saw Perdita in the crowd weeping and glaring at her. They had never been close, but the hurt this brought her, and to Cordelia, was painful.
Almost too soon the men returned. Pierre stood and waited while a hush fell upon the room. “Having reviewed all evidence, conferring with my advisors, the judge, and Lady Sabine herself, I have come to my decision.”
He looked out to his great-aunt. Tears stung at his eyes and he blinked them back. “Sabine Estée, you are sentenced to death.”
Murmurs, yells, whoops of triumph, Vivien’s cry of despair that he could not keep from uttering. The woman herself had no reaction save to nod her head in understanding.
“You shall—” Pierre paused to cough, unable to trust his voice. “You shall be hung until dead at dawn. A priest shall visit you for your last confession before this.”
There were some shouts here, cries that she was not deserving of Confession, but they were quickly silenced.
She was finally led back to her room and she went to bed without eating.
She dreamt of having tea with Mora. Of finding Aranea. Of her desire to have a family and the cræft she performed so her son could be conceived and born. Of her husband. His death. Of meeting Pierre and seeing her great-nephew return home. She dreamt of Akhlys and the mists, and Mora on her throne. Of her judgement and the afterlife.
Father Isidore came to see her the next morning.
“Can you bury me with my husband?” she asked after greeting him. There was still some breakfast left over on her table, she found herself not hungry this morning, and offered him what she had not touched. “I believe there is a plot by him, though you may need to put his head in with my coffin.”
“I believe after your hanging you will be cremated,” Father Isidore said. He sat at the table and motioned that she join him. He moved the plate to the center of the table so they could both reach it. “I will mix your ashes with his gravesoil, my lady.”
They ate together for a time, a churchmouse joining them and being fed by the priest, then going over to inspect Aranea and talk with the spider. The Familiars held a hushed conversation that neither of their masters could hear.
“Shall you Confess?” Father Isidore asked.
Sabine nodded. She closed her eyes and clasped her hands, thinking over her life, and not just the time since she had last been to see the priest.
“In my time alive I have been a liar, a hoarder of secrets, and a manipulator. I am a lady of death. I caused the death of my husband…”
~ Iunday, 22nd of Juvenis, 11831 ~
The hanging itself would be a private affair. Beside the hangman it would only be witnessed by Pierre, Comte Frederick, and Lord Vivien. Elwin too was in the courtyard that morning, but masked under magic and unseen by anyone else.
Sabine was led out by two guards, each holding onto one of her arms, shackling clinking together with every step. She wore her most elegant black gown and her hair was pinned up with jewels. She seemed even younger than usual, wearing make-up. She was smiling as if she was not bothered.
“She cannot wear that!” Frederick said upon seeing her. “Vile woman, she—”
“Shut up!” Pierre snarled. “She is my aunt. She will die in mere moments, I do not care what she is wearing. Witness it in silence.”
Outraged he sputtered, but the order held and he quieted.
“Any last words?” the guard asked.
Sabine looked to the witnesses. She smiled at her son and to Pierre. Her eyes roamed the courtyard until they settled on where Elwin was hidden.
“I did what I thought was right. For causing harm, grief, and pain, I apologize.”
The noose was placed over her neck. She was directed to stand on the trapdoor, her shackles taken off. Vivien looked away for a moment and then forced his eyes back up to see her. He smiled.
The door opened and she fell.
Arms wrapped around her. She looked up and found herself in a last of mist and shadow with her husband. He kissed her, and took her hand, leading her to her judgement, and accompanying her to their afterlife.
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I write dark things that involve magic and romance. I love books and stories, and anime and gaming. I'm trying to Catch 'em All, I collect geeky pins, and listen to a lot of true crime podcasts.
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