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Volume 3192b
Princess of Az-Lium
by Den Valdron

CHAPTER SIXTY-SEVEN
MAKAPRANA
 
“Yes,” said Heddo Lettus, “this is a trial, after all, not a forum for you to regale us endlessly with your tediously sleazy exploits.”

“I resent that!”

“Too bad,” Heddo Lettus grumped, “it's not all about you.”

“It's about the crimes of Aspar Aguus,” Matlass Kay announced.  “Treason, sedition, betrayal of the Orgus.”

“And the first law, the slaying of a Jed by a Jed,” Aguus shouted.

I rolled my eyes.   They were mad, they were all mad.

“Aguus!”  Heddo shouted, “be reasonable.  All you are guilty of is intent, and this is no guilt at all.   Why would you want to slay Konand Oyl anyway, I thought you liked him?”

“Konand Oyl and Matlass Kay conspired together,” Aspar Aguus announced.  “to slay me, and they killed my beloved, B-Rok Olay.”

“I admit to the killing of B-Rok Olay, but we made no effort to slay Aspar Aguus,” Matlass Kay laughed.

“Oh,” Heddo Lettus said, “what did you do?”

“We bound him to a rock near the body of his companion, and walked away.”

Wait, I thought.  Had he just confessed to murder?  I opened my mouth to speak, but the raucous laughter of those gathered drowned me out.

Heddo Lettus laughed.   “Clever, clever.   So if a beast came along later and devoured Aguus, he would not die by your hand.   You were always the most subtle of my Jeds!”

He turned back to Aguus.

“Aspar Aguus, be reasonable, where is your famous sense of humour?  Can you not appreciate the jest?”

“B-Rok Olay is dead!”   Aguus roared with wild passion.

“Everyone dies,” Heddo Lettus said, “except me.  Again, be reasonable.  You have lost perspective completely.”

Amid the din, I heard the faint sound of a popping, as of guns fired in the distance.

“Perspective,” Aagus roared.  “B-Rok Olay was my life, was my soul.  Be reasonable?   No.  I renounce you, I renounce my rights and title and honours.  I would have slain Konand Oyl, and I will slay Matlass Kay.   My Princess's Army and fleet shall sweep down upon this place and wipe it clean of life!”

“Fool,” Matlass Kay laughed, “you have made your fatal mistake, simpleton.  When you renounced your title, you stripped away your protection.”

“I will destroy you all,” Aguus raved, struggling against those who held him.  His eyes flashed, his tusks clacked wildly as his head swung about.  I had never seen him so enraged, so helpless.   “Listen fools, hear the guns, they are coming.”

And as Matlass Kay stood above Aspar Aguus with knife drawn, then we all heard the roar of the Pinnace's heavy guns blazing.  For a second, Matlass Kay was frozen.

Then something astonishing happened.  Aspar Aguus worn leather shirt twisted and heaved upon his chest, and suddenly, with a ripping sound, a small withered arm tore free of the shirt and plunged a dagger into Matlass breast.

The crowd roared with astonishment.   Matlass Kay stepped back, his permanent grin vanished as he clutched his hands against the wound gushing blood from his chest.   Aspar Aguus took advantage of the paralysis of the guards holding him.  The knife wielding withered arm slashed at the guards, driving away.

Aspar Aguus, stepped forward, full of relentless purpose.  As Matlass Kay stumbled backwards, Aspar Aguus reached him, seizing his wrists in his powerful hands.  The withered arm slashed out again and again from Aguus’ chest, stabbing his enemy over and over.  Blood flowed thick between them.

“Remember,” Aspar Aguus snarled, “you who loved nothing and no one.  You who mocked everything.  Remember B-Rok Olay, and feel his spirit with every wound.   Die!  Die!  Die!”

Matlass Kay sighed and fell then, collapsing in a heap at Aspar Aguus’ feet.

Aguus raised his knife high in the air, the blood dripping from it, and exclaimed “You are avenged,” in a voice filled with more passion than I had ever heard.

“Aayiiiaaaeee!”  Heddo Lettus trilled.   “I'm next!  He means to kill me.”

He swore at his guards.  “Stop him!  Disarm him!  Bind him!”

“But we must guard you, great one!”  One of the guards protested.

“What!  Nincompoop!  What are you guarding me from, if not a maniac with a knife.  Go and bind him quickly.   He is the threat you must deal with.  Leave my side now, I command it!”

“You will be undefended?”

“Amongst all my followers,” he slapped his guard.  “Any of these will stand by me while you do your duty.  That one!  And that one!  And that one!”

He pointed at Aspar Aguus’ followers, even as he sent his guards scurrying off to seize Aguus, who dropped the knife and allowed them to put hands upon him.   They forced the Orgus to his knees.

“Aspar Aguus,” Heddo Lettus shouted.  “This is infamous.  You have broken my first law.  You have murdered another Jed, and in front of everyone.”

“Not so, your greatness,” Aguus replied calmly.

“Not so?  How so?   Do you mean to say that my Jed, Matlass Kay, is yet alive?   He looks quite dead to me, with all those holes in him.”

“He is dead.”

“Then you are guilty!”

“Not so?”

“Again?  How can you deny reason?”

“I renounced my title.”

Heddo Lettus stopped then, and considered that.

“Hmmm,” he said thoughtfully, “as a matter of fact, you did, didn't you.  We all heard you.”

He seemed to come to a decision.

“Oh well, that's all right then.   The great law has not been broken, no crime committed.  Release him.”

Hedo Lettus’ palace guards, with evident confusion, let go their hands of Argus, who rose to his feet and retrieved his knife.   They started back towards their monarch.

“Stop,” Heddo Lettus announced.   They halted, uncertainly.

“It is the law of the Orgus that no Orgus should bear responsibility for the acts of their Jed.  This is my law.”

The guards looked at each other uncertainly.  More of Heddo Lettus band gathered around the Jeddak, and others from the crowd.  Certain Orgus found themselves isolated as people drew away from them.

“And it is a good law.  But there is little that prevents a common Orgus from seeking justice from those of his brethren who have offended them.   It strikes me, that I am well pleased with you good and valuable service to me, and can reward you best by freeing you from it, so that you can look to your own safety.”

“We honour the wisdom of the Great One,” one of the Guards said shakily, seeming to draw back towards his companions.

“I suggest you take yourselves to the outer patrols, where you will find each others company congenial, and where you may redeem yourself of whatever sins trouble your souls.  I fear that you will find the company of other Orgus....  murderous.”

They bowed.

“You have until the end of the day,” he said flatly, and watched them scurry away.

He turned back to Aspar Aguus.

“Aguus,” he thundered, “kneel!”

Aguus knelt.

“You are no Jed of mine, having renounced all title.  You stand as nothing more than a common Orgus!”

Well, but he was kneeling.  I decided not to say anything.

“But even if you are not guilty of my great law, you have committed many crimes.  You have clearly helped to lead a foreign army almost to our gates.”

“Not foreign,” he said.  “Hers.”

Oh thanks, drag me into it.

Heddo Lettus glanced at me.

“Another matter!” he said, “you have brought a foreigner of astoningly loose morals into our sanctuary.”

He barked, with displeasure.

“There is no need for a trial.  You crimes are manifold, your guilt is obvious, you will only worsen your case with pleading.   I find you guilty of all counts.”

He cleared his throat.

“Aspar Aguus, for your crimes and sins, I can find no better punishment, I hereby condemn and curse you with the rank of second Jed of the Orgus nation.  Do not disgrace yourself by begging for mercy, for you shall find none.”

Aspar Aguus nodded.

“What?” I said.   “That's a punishment?  How is that a punishment?”

Heddo Lettus shrugged.  “Sometimes a reward, sometimes a punishment.   Mixed blessings are the stock in trade of gods.  We'd be lost without them.”

He winked.


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