I was resting peacefully, but my peace was short-lived. Lords and ladies started filing in the courtroom. It was just dawn and this room had never been occupied so early. I wondered what must have happened.
The advisors also started pouring in and took their respective seats across me. Then, the Queen arrived in all her glory, wearing a black gown with a red cape. Black worn by the royals was an ominous sign. It meant that there was going to be a trial with certain death for the guilty.
The Queen settled in the seat next to me and threw me a familiar look. The one that gave me the creeps. Her eyes were dark, her red lips were turned into a sneer and her hair was slickly tied into a bun.
The palace guards brought a girl tied in chains. Oh, what a beauty she was! Doe eyed, with curly red hair and wearing a tattered green gown. She goggled at the scene before her. I wondered what had she done to warrant such an exhaustive audience.
And finally entered the King. King Geoffrey. A short, stout and benevolent man. He was wearing a black robe studded with jewels and the crown on his head glittered in the palace lights. He had berries in one hand which he kept popping in his mouth and patted me lovingly with his other hand, before lowering himself on me. I was very precious for him. His throne. But, I felt he did not care for me as much as he claimed to. Because ouch! Those jewels in his robe hurt.
As he settled on me, the men bowed and the ladies curtsied till he raised his hands signaling everyone to rise.
“My dear ladies and gentlemen,” Sir William, the King’s prime advisor, turned towards the audience and said, “We have been gathered here for an extremely urgent matter and I request you all to maintain silence throughout. His majesty, King Geoffrey, will dole out a suitable punishment to the accused.”
With that statement, he went and stood near that girl in chains.
“Miss Felicity Smith, the head seamstress working in the palace, has been accused of murdering Lady Esmeralda, whose betrothal to the prince was to be announced tonight. Lady Esmeralda was personally selected by our Queen Beatrice for this arrangement, following the season that just concluded. So today, the King wants all you lords and ladies, who have travelled far and wide to our Kingdom of Nordland for the season, to witness what happens if you go against the royal clan.”
“Step forward, Miss Smith.” He ordered.
Felicity nimbly came forward, peeked through her lashes towards the king and me, and curtsied.
The king looked at her and roared, “How dare you commit such an offense? A lowly seamstress and murdering the future queen?”
Felicity looked puny amidst the vast courtroom.
“Y…Y…Your M…M…Majesty…” She said softly.
“Louder!” The king yelled.
“Your Majesty, I did not murder Lady Esmeralda. I did not.” She said and started crying.
“Well, Your Majesty,” Sir William chimed in, “We have some witnesses who say otherwise.”
With a clap of his hands, the palace guards brought in three ladies.
“The first one is Miss Mary, who works under Miss Smith as a seamstress.” Sir William then turned towards her, “So tell us, Miss, what happened last night?”
Mary stepped forward and curtsied. “Your Majesty, Felicity was very upset last night. Lady Esmeralda had asked her to stitch another evening gown for the engagement. And it was too short a notice for us to do that. Felicity requested her to wear the one that was already stitched, but the Lady got angry and slapped Felicity. And she also ordered Felicity to get her food in her personal suite. Felicity was irked with all of that. I was with her last night when this happened.”
“So, we have a motive too. Let’s confirm this by calling Lady Annabelle, Lady Esmeralda’s lady in waiting.”
Annabelle came forward, curtsied and said, “Your Majesty, Felicity is a useless seamstress. She doesn’t know how to stitch dresses and gowns for the royal family. And my Lady Esmeralda always tried to tell her that, but this girl refused to learn anything. Her ego was hurt, so she thought of getting rid of my Lady forever.” She started sobbing and had to be escorted to stand with the other ladies.
“Your Majesty, Felicity had a strong motive to avenge the insults thrown at her by Lady Esmeralda. So, she very conveniently mixed poison in the food and served it to the Lady. And to prove this, we have our kitchen head, Miss Emily.”
The guards presented Miss Emily, a large woman who curtsied before saying, “Your Majesty, I was up late last night to foresee the preparations of the grand feast following the engagement, and that’s when I saw Miss Felicity taking a tray of food outside the royal kitchen. When I asked her, she said she was taking it to Lady Esmeralda. I also saw her fidgeting with something in her gown, which I assume was the poison that she must have mixed. I did not think of it at that time, but now I realize that I should have stopped her.”
“It’s not your fault Miss Emily. Thank you, you may now leave.” Sir William said.
“Do you have anything to say in your defense?” The King thundered, looking at Felicity.
“I did not do it, Your Majesty. Miss Emily must have seen me fidgeting with something, but that was a powder that I sprinkled over the food so that Lady Esmeralda would sleep throughout the night. I was exhausted by her demands.”
“Enough!” The King said. “I will not hear anymore. You cannot prove your innocence, so by the rule of the kingdom of Nordland, I will award you the highest punishment for murder. You will be…..”
“Your Majesty! No… Please… Prince Adrian loves me…You cannot execute me in the gallows…” Felicity cried.
The courtroom broke into hushed whispers and the King himself was stupefied for a moment. That’s when the Queen, who was a silent observer until then, said, “And you think we will believe your preposterous claim? Send her to the dungeons immediately!” The Queen commanded.
The courtroom went silent again.
“That’s the Royal verdict. Guards!” Sir William announced. “Take her.”
The scene before me was unedifying. I felt sorry for the seamstress.
As the prison guards began dragging her, there was an uproar amongst the crowd. They parted, to make way for the Prince.
“Wait…guards!” He said. “Bring Felicity back here.”
“Prince Adrian! What are you doing? The Royal verdict is out and you cannot recall it.” Sir William said.
“I can prove her innocence.” He stated.
I was happy, the prince had come to save his princess.
Adrian went towards Felicity, held her chained hands in his and said, “I’m sorry, my love, I was caught up in some urgent matters in the villages of the kingdom and as soon as word got to me about what was happening here, I came.”
“A scandal in the palace! And right under my nose? Tell me, Adrian, why did you have us go through the pains of organizing this season if you were already having an affair with the seamstress?” The King said.
“Your Majesty, I fell in love with Felicity over the last three months, just as the season started. I did not even know her until then. In the nights, when sleep would evade me, I would roam around the corridors of the palace and sometimes in the gardens. I had noticed a flickering light in a room and a shadow bent over something on most nights. To satisfy my curiosity, I had knocked on the door to see who was up in the dark of the night. That’s how we met.
“Felicity would be stitching, but we always talked. She was hesitant initially, but gradually we became friends. We had so much in common, our love for books, for the outdoors… We didn’t even realize when we fell in love… And as soon as we did, Her Majesty had selected a wife for me, without my consent.
“Initially, I was excited about the season as well. I was looking for a lady who was caring, intelligent and witty; who would be able to talk to me as a friend. But sadly, all the ladies that attended this season were only interested in titles and tittle-tattles. After a few evenings, I lost interest. But, I still attended the remaining balls out of formality and respect for their families.
“I never liked Lady Esmeralda to begin with. Our ideologies never matched. But, Her Majesty had a special interest in her. So, I investigated and found the reason. They both were scheming behind our backs to eliminate us. According to them, we were too benevolent as rulers. They wanted all our powers to exploit the kingdom. Am I right, Queen Beatrice?”
“Stop it Adrian. You will not talk to your mother like that!” King Geoffrey said angrily.
“She’s not my mother, Your Majesty. She’s just your wife. My mother is dead!”
The Queen rose and said, “I’m not your real mother, but I have always treated you as my own, Adrian. This is how you repay my love?” She then turned towards the King and approached him, “Look what he says, my King!”
“I have proof. I can show you the secret suite where this vile woman planned everything.” Adrian said.
This created an uproar. Amongst all the commotion, Beatrice came closer to Geoffrey, produced a dagger from the folds of her gown and in the blink of an eye stabbed him in his heart. His blood splashed onto me and as he fell, he held my limbs and twisted them. I knew what he had done.
Beatrice then roared, “I’m the rightful queen of this kingdom. I made Geoffrey kill his own father to claim the throne. And today, I have killed him to claim it as mine! I am the ultimate ruler of this kingdom!”
She turned towards the Prince and Felicity, “And my loving son, did you think that I did not know about your little affair with this peasant? Nothing escapes my watchful eyes in this palace!
“And yes, you are right, Felicity did not murder Esmeralda. It was me! Because she was getting way too ahead of herself and planning to be the next ruler. I smothered her in her sleep.” She said brusquely.
“I feel sorry for you Adrian, had you not come here, your father would have been alive. This lowly seamstress would be executed and I would be planning better to get my throne. Unfortunately, this is the way it all ends!”
A pandemonium broke in the court.
“Guards! Take every one present here as prisoners.” Beatrice said to no one in particular.
An army of the Queen’s followers entered and pointed their swords towards everyone. She swished her cape, looked at me and smiled. I was waiting for her to sit.
She did and we both fell below. The courtroom was filled with her screams, but I was happy. I had served my kingdom well.
The king had a backup plan to make sure that nobody claims his throne against his wish. I was a special throne. I was structured just above a dungeon that connected into a well. The twisting of my limbs opened a trapdoor below and then, if anyone sat on me, death was certain with the fall and the drowning.
As I fell, I realized that this was the most successful trial in the history of Nordland. The guilty got their comeuppance and the kingdom was ready for a new ruler and a new throne.
This is an entry for #TheTrial, a Claws Club exclusive event for #Legends-4.
Check out event guidelines here: https://writers.artoonsinn.com/artalelegends4/
Check out Arva’s space here: https://writers.artoonsinn.com/author/arva-bhavnagarwala/