April 23, 2014

In Which Severin Is Guided Off-Script

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This post centers around a rehearsal for the masque, which as the cross-section of Naroni and Albion readers will know, is based on the "Trial of the Century" arc from the on-going storyline "The Orkney Saga". As such, most of the dialogue between the fourth and eighth images was shamelessly lifted from this Albion post, so all credit for those lines goes to the talented Morgaine. If you haven't read Albion yet... then what are you waiting for? Read it, read it now.

May 6, 1185

"I have to say--you make the most beautiful immortal light witch I've ever seen."

"This after you watched young Ellona in the capture scene rehearsal yesterday?" True. But as objectively attractive as Ellona may have been, there was an inherent repulsion in checking out a woman the age of some of Severin's own children, and he didn't doubt Nora knew it. But she also knew he'd respond to 'But what other immortal light witches have you seen?' with reference to Ellona, so if her aim was to get the last joke, his wife had made the correct choice. "I'm flattered. And I'll have you know that you rank among the most handsome of aspiring barons.

"A pity that in this universe, I'm married to Tarien."

"And I'm married to Arydath. So you may have gotten the last joke, but I believe that between the two of us, I got the more desirable fake spouse--for all Tarien has us both beaten."

"Us, and Arydath too," Nora teased. Severin knew she didn't mean it, but all the same, it was a relief to see that she was now comfortable making such jokes, having spent much of their marriage surrounded by undue glances and constant whispers about former servant girls who married their lords. Most of the spectacle had worn off by now, but some of the lingering stupidity refused to die.

"Indeed. But speaking of fake spouses, there are a lot of other people's not-so-legally un-wedded husbands and wives, and we've probably kept them waiting long enough--unless you care a quick exploration of that broom closet over there, in which case another few minutes wouldn't kill them."

"Tempting, but I'd rather hold out for a lengthier and more comfortable session after the fact." With a wink, she brushed past him toward the door--but not without a nip to his earlobe. So there was an advantage to tying back his hair indoors. "Come along. Sister Paulina always knows when we haven't rehearsed."

"If only because Searle will tell her." But the masque was near enough now that there was little point in complaining too much, so he followed her into the dining hall, where the jury would rehearse while Paulina had the stage for the four in the opening scene.

"Everyone." He took his seat at the head of the table. In the actual performance, they'd be blocked in such a way that allowed them all to be turned toward the audience--but Sister Paulina hadn't quite decided on the arrangement, so they'd sit naturally for now. "I hope you were at least able to entertain yourselves while we kept you waiting."

"Ovrean and Renata were, pestering me about what you were probably doing to my sister," Falidor grumbled.

"And what you were probably doing to my father," added Searle to Nora with a shudder.

"I see." Nora shot a succession of glares about the table, ending with an eye-roll Severin's way. "Well, whatever we were doing to each other, that's our own business, isn't it?"

"Agreed. Let's just start acting, so we can all be equally uncomfortable. Everyone ready?" Five nods. On that note, Severin put on a forced-cheerful face, as dictated by Morgan's script. "Well! What do you say we start with a vote, to figure out where we all stand? Those in favor of acquittal, say aye."

"Aye," chorused Nora and Searle.

"I see. Those in favor of conviction? Aye." Falidor joined him on the last word. As scripted, Renata and Ovrean were silent. "Lady Claire? Master Chevaux? You didn't vote."

"I--" Renata's start and stammer rang perfectly timed as always. She was the strongest actor of the six of them--as Sister Paulina never failed to remind the other five.

Falidor leaned in toward her, a little overdone. "Lady Claire?"

"I... don't know what to think."

"Well, at least you admit it." Nora reassured Renata's character with a wink. "Most folks don't, as a rule."

"So what don't you know what to think about?" Severin asked.

"I... oh, I don't even know where to begin. She's a woman. A mother. A grandmother! How could any mother do such horrible things to a little boy?" A pause, marked by expressions. Renata's in particular melted from indignant disbelief to lost confusion. "But... why would Betsy Pelles... Lady Dindrane, the little boy... why would they lie?"

And then, quick as a whip while the others processed, that was Nora's line. "It's not that simple. We're not being asked to say she's innocent, you know. Just whether she's guilty or not."

"I don't..." How did Renata trail off so naturally?

"We've got two choices for each of the charges: guilty or not guilty. Now, if we say she's guilty, well, then, she's guilty--at least, in the eyes of the law. But if we say she's not guilty? That doesn't mean we think she's innocent. Just that we're not quite convinced that she's guilty."

"Indeed," Searle chimed in agreement, though as always, Severin had to wonder about Sir Aglovale's actual chiming ability. "There's no physical evidence, really--just the word of three people. Should we send a woman to the block on that?"

But to his own credit, Severin could see Richard Ferreira snorting in derision. "She's the king's sister. I'm not at all convinced that she would go to the block, no matter what we decide."

"Even so..."

The scene carried out, for the most part, kink-free. Searle pointed out that these were death penalty offenses, and Renata questioned his trust of his (character's) sister's testimony, while Searle and Nora argued that testimony just wasn't sufficient. Falidor countered that, pointing out the flaws in the defense's testimonies and the strengths in the prosecution's, plus the state of the witness--and Nora confirmed the injuries to be of a magical nature.

Some lengthy reasoning later, and Renata came to the conclusion of 'guilty'. Brought to the fence, Nora questioned the defense attorney's method--the lack of a reasonable doubt, swapped for a multitude of smaller doubts. Searle made a loud-but-weak protest on classist grounds, and Severin ignored him--to ask Ovrean why he had yet to speak a word.

Ovrean stroked his beard, though Master Chevaux was said to have a more impressive one. "Didn't think it was my place at first, sir."

"Nonsense. Of course it's your place. We're all..." Severin relented with the obligatory pause. The Kingdom of Albion did not place hierarchy over justice--that was rather the point of the play--but that didn't mean there was no hierarchy for the characters to consider, or so Morgan had explained. "...here to do the same job."

"Aye, sir."

"So, what do you think?"

Ovrean looked over at Nora, then Severin again--and then, at Searle. "Begging your pardon, sir, but... she's guilty. Ain't no doubt in my mind."

"Why not?" Searle demanded.

"'Cause of--"

"Everyone! Quick! Lady Morgause set the courthouse on fire! We have to evacuate--now!"

That... was not in the script. "Florian, not again!"

"Who is this 'Florian' of which you speak? I am Sir Bors, here to guide you all to the flame-free safety of the great outdoors!"

At least a fire made more sense than his previous interrupt of 'The hippos are attacking!'? "Florian..."

But instead of stopping like a rational person--and Severin had to wonder why he'd ever considered that Florian might do anything like a rational person--Florian dashed around the table and took to prodding Falidor's shoulder. "Come along, Sir Lancelot! We're too young and handsome to die!"

Caught between amusement and annoyance, Renata shrugged. "We might as well continue on as usual. Who knows what antics the audience will throw our way, anyway?"

"No time for nonsense, absurdly attractive wife! We must depart from this place!"

Severin grimaced. At least the performance wasn't so far off now--and at least there would be plenty of people backstage to keep their eyes on Florian. Hopefully. "Yes, let's continue on. Ovrean, let's take it from your line."

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