Thursday, October 18, 2012

Test of Freedom - Episode 2

Episode 2 - "Lady Ashton and the Man in the Dock"
by Camille LaGuire

Lady Penelope Ashton couldn't shake the image of that man in the dock, though she had been unable to see his face properly with that thing he had strapped to his head; a gag to keep him from speaking for himself.  All she could really see were those intense blue eyes, staring out from under a mop of black hair.

A man of words made silent, like a beast.  How horrible.

She had never met him, and did not know the sound of his voice, but she had imagined it when she read his political tracts, and been thrilled by them, even if they were much too radical to be taken literally. They were philosophical.  And now this court had silenced him and seemed intent on silencing him forever.

And as she saw him in the dock, all she could think was; I should be there.  That' s my place, the dock.  I should cry out at my own guilt.  I am a murderess!

Which was, of course, irrational since it wouldn't help the man in the dock at all, no matter how true it was.

The judge began to lay his sentence.  Transportation, as good as death for many.

Lady Ashton half rose from her seat, a slight sound in her throat.  She was a woman of high station, the still-young widow of the governor of Acton Bay, and those in the room were conscious of it.  They looked on her with deference.

"My lady?" asked the judge, indulgently.

"Please your honor, I ask  you to reconsider!" she said.

"You want him drawn and quartered?" asked the judge.

"No!" cried Penelope.  "I ask for clemency."

There was a moment of hush and Penelope felt the courtly deference slipping away from the entire courtroom.  Every single one of those men frowned, and then the prosecutor stepped forward.

"On what grounds?" he asked.

"On... on the grounds of literary achievement!"

This caused laughter in the courtroom, and the judge's face turned crimson.  He slammed his gavel down to quiet the others, and Penelope tried to break though with explanation of the man's value to the philosophy of the world, and of his great influence.

"It is his literary achievement that he is being sentenced for, my lady," said the Judge sternly.  "And as for his influence, might I remind you that your husband died by a hand of a murderous rebel under this man's influence."

"That's not true!" cried Penelope.

"You should be ashamed to betray your husband's memory like this!  You come close to treason yourself!"

"The queen's treaty says it is not treason--"

That was as far as she got. The judge ordered that she leave the court and made a good many comments on the foolishness of women.

And in the dock the man who could not speak only looked hard at her with those blue eyes, condemning her as a fool as well, for thinking that her position had meant enough to make any difference at all.

And now, a week later, Penelope sat at tea, with her chalks and paper spread out before her. She couldn't get that man's stare out of her head.  She had tried to draw it, but all she had been able to see was his eyes, and drawing them alone was disconcerting.

So she drew the judge instead, as a pig, with a large snout and drooling mouth and a leering eye. Then she crossed him out and threw the paper in the fire.

She should draw something more calming.  Things, not people.  But people had a spirit in them and she couldn't help herself.

As she stood over the fire and watched the paper burn, her maid Loreen came in. Loreen wrung her hands, as she seemed to do a lot these days.

"Mum, there's a woman...."  She trailed off and gestured to the person beside her, who was not a woman, but a servant from the hotel.

"I am so sorry, madam," he said with a bow.  "Downstairs there is a rather common woman who's been asking to see you.  She won't go away."

"Did she say what she wants?"

"Oh, a favor, I think.  She's a bit wild looking."

"Did she give her name?"

"Mary Black, she said."

"My god!"  Penelope nearly dropped the poker into the fire.  "And you've made the poor woman wait?  Bring her up at once.  And more tea, or broth, or whatever it is you give to people in terrible distress."

The man looked startled, and then bowed deeply and raced out. Penelope returned the poker to its stand.

At last, she thought, she could be of some use.  And perhaps even return a favor that had been done for her.

Stay Tuned For Episode 3 - "Mary Black"

The Test of Freedom should be available as an ebook in December 2012. It will be slightly rewritten from the version you see here.

The first book in this series, The Wife of Freedom is at most ebook retailers.
Amazon Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Deisel, Kobo, and Smashwords

Also, Amazon International: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

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