The Fugly Girl Incident: Chapter Three

 



The Trial



Bishop’s trial began on the first Tahday of the month of Sucrose (the third month in the Alliance calendar) at the Imperial Duatian Hall on Electric Avenue, Adhara Space Station. The venue had been changed from the great hall at Adhara Academy to Adhara’s largest concert hall due to the excessive amount of interest that had been expressed by Academy alumni young and old. Accordingly, the entire auditorium was filled with the most influential people from all over the Alliance with only standing room in the arena for the students of the academy old enough to attend.

Some people had travelled so far it had taken them a month to get there but most came from nearby. Whatever the case, everyone was excited to be in the heart of the action. Bishop was one of the most popular and famous young men in the Alliance, having been voted Mr Alliance Junior and expected to be officially named as one of the best-looking men in the Alliance when he came of age. His victory or downfall would make Alliance history, and everyone wanted to be able to say that they had been right there when it happened.

Ta-Shra and Lorraine sat at the complainants table with Primrose. The three girls were dressed in their formal school uniforms with their hair nearly arranged in matching styles whilst Bishop, Vinod and Sandwich, Marquess of Canini, another boy from the student council who had volunteered to represent Bishop were sitting at the defendant’s table, likewise dressed in their formal school uniforms, with their hair elegantly coiffured. The jury, located in a raised seating area on the left, was made up of twelve students from the oldest class at the school.

Before the proceedings could begin, photographs were taken of the participants and audience in accordance with Alliance traditions. These would go into the official record of the event which would be available to buy on a print-on-demand basis, immediately after the proceedings had concluded.

When the well-dressed audience had taken their seats, the proceedings began. “Moonstone Jong, Prince of Gondor, you stand accused of insulting and threatening Lady Primrose Rosefinch of Sanguin, Duat. How do you plead? Scully asked, looking down on Bishop from the bench that had been constructed in the middle of the stage. Scully had donned his full judicial regalia including The Wig of Justice, a heavy white wig, designed in an elaborate Ptahian hairstyle with a small statue of a solemn faced woman emerging from the top. The woman held a trident in one outstretched hand and a set of scales in the other. A pair of open wings sprouted from her back, giving the impression that she was about to fly out from amidst the hair at any moment. The statue was a representation of Bijou, the first Alliance judge and now a symbol of Alliance Justice.

“Not guilty,” Bishop announced rising to his feet between Vinod and Sandwich.

“Very well,” Scully acknowledged. “Let us begin. Princess Ta-Shra, if you would be so kind as to present your case.”

Ta-Shra stood up and cleared her throat. Her expression was blank but people who knew her could see that she was deeply annoyed. “Your honour, in accordance with the rules of Adhara Academy and following historical precedent, we state that Prince Moonstone also known as “Bishop”, called my subject, Lady Primrose of Sanguin ugly, as well as threatening and intimidating her as a lesser noble in front of the entire student body. We thereby argue that Bishop ruined my client’s reputation and any chance of her forming a good marriage connection.

Scully nodded his head very slightly, apparently making a note of what Ta-Shra had said. “Acknowledged. Proceed with your first witness,” he said when he was finished.

“I call Emerald, Duchess of Veridian to the stand,” Ta-Shra announced, as a murmur of excitement went through the audience Emerald was a minor celebrity in the Alliance thanks to her ditzy ways. Just over a year previously she had nearly caused the space station to be destroyed, resulting in not only the evacuation of the entire student body but also the revelation of a secret so explosive it had nearly plunged the Alliance into civil war. Now here she was testifying against her relative’s fiancé. The trial was off to an entertaining start.

When Emerald had promised to tell the truth and taken her seat in the witness box, Ta-Shra began questioning her. “Duchess Veridian, were you present on the day in question?”

“Yes,” Emerald stated, trying to look serious. “I was at school and in the great hall when the fug…, when the incident occurred.”

Ta-Shra nodded, “Where were you sitting and with whom?”

“I was sitting at the third table with my new friend Blu and my family members Lavender, Sirene, Sedussa and Bulls. Our friends 925, Sterling, Rose and Tuppy were also there.”

“I object you honour,” Vinod cut in, standing up. Several of the people the witness has mentioned are serving on the jury. How can my client get a fair trial when witnesses to the incident make up the entire jury?

“Objection dismissed,” Scully said, the figurine in his wig swaying as he spoke. “This is within the established parameters for Academy trials wince the complainant has indictated that the incident took place, and I quote, “in front of the entire student body.” There are no other options.”

Vinod took his seat shrugging at Bishop and Sandwich as Ta-Shra continued to question Emerald. “Duchess Verdian, could you please tell us what you saw and heard?” she asked, her red eyes shining as she stepped closer to Emerald.

“I object you honour,” Vinod shouted, flying to his feet more quickly than last time. “Princess Ta-Shra is attempting to coerce the witness using her Mesmeric Gaze.” Another murmur went up from the crowd as the audience members whispered theories to each other. Now it made sense why Ta-Shra had called Emerald as her first witness, even though the former best friends now hated each other. She must have been planning to use the abilities she had inherited from her mother to coerce Emerald into denouncing their soon to be in-law and all just to win the case. Devall by name, devil by nature!

“Silence!” Scully ordered. He spoke quietly but his voice seemed to carry, speaking individually to each and every person in the auditorium. When there was silence, Scully said, “I will uphold your objection. Princess Ta-Shra, to make certain that your abilities cannot be called into question, your co-council the honourable Lorraine Leydon will take over questioning all non “magical” witnesses.”

Ta-Shra looked surprised but she made no objection as she bowed slightly to the bench and took her seat. In comparison Lorraine’s face looked like thunder as she stood up to take over the question. Her expression darkened when she saw a tiny, malicious smile flash over Scully’s lips. Lorraine knew the old sorcerer had somehow arranged for this to happen. No doubt he was hoping to ruin her reputation and help Bishop to victory at the same time. No matter, she would destroy all of them in the process and if anyone questioned why she had done it, she would remind them that Scully had forced her to represent Primrose.

“Miss Lemon,” Lorraine began causing an uproar in the auditorium, that took two full minutes to quiet down, “Miss Lemon, could you please tell me what you meant when you said, “the fug” just now?

Emerald’s emerald-coloured cheeks reddened at the use of her legal surname. In an effort to hide her father’s low-class status, her older cousins had paid their Grandmother the queen of Bim to allow Emerald and her brothers to inherit the Veridian title and lands that would have eventually been theirs had their mother not disowned them. Lorraine had used her low-class surname to embarrass her and recall to the audience’s minds the salacious particulars of her birth. Technically there was nothing wrong with the use of the surname “Lemon”, it simply was not done.

“Please answer the question, your grace,” Scully said when the din had died down.

“I’m sorry Uncle Scully, I mean your honour,” Emerald mumbled, looking down at her hands. “I didn’t hear the question.

“Repeat the question Ms Leydon,” Scully ordered, giving Lorraine a hard look.

“Very well,” Lorraine replied smiling innocently even as she mimicked the way Scully had said the same phrase earlier. She was pleased to see the look of annoyance on the judge’s face, after all he was sitting in the position that should have been hers. “The question was, what did you mean when you said, “the fug” just now?”

“I was going to say The Fugly Girl Incident,” Emerald replied, finding her voice again. She was a Bim and would not allow herself to be brow beaten by the likes of Lorraine. Bims never backed down from a fight no matter what.

“And what exactly did you mean by that Miss Lemon?”

“I didn’t mean anything. That’s the name that the incident has become known as.”

“Why is that?”

“I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Why has the incident become known as “the fugly girl incident”?”

“That’s just what everyone calls it. I didn’t coin the term myself, I just heard it around school and picked it up.”

“So you admit that this matter is being spoken about throughout the school?”

“Yes. Almost everyone was in the hall and saw some of what happened. Naturally everyone has been talking about it afterwards.”

“Really? And what were they saying?”

At this Emerald paused. She had unwittingly agreed to testify against Bishop but she had assumed that Ta-Shra would do her best to help Bishop out due to her connections with him. Now that Lorraine was doing the questioning and in such a hostile manner too, Emerald had no idea what was going on. It seemed as if Lorraine was actually trying to win the case on Primrose’s behalf and Emerald did not want to help.

“What were people saying about the Fugly Girl Incident?” Lorraine asked, more forcefully this time.

Emerald glared at Lorraine with her piercing silver eyes in a way that a bird of prey looks at its next meal, but she made to answer the question. “Your honour, please order the witness to answer,” Lorraine said, smiling at Scully.

“Please be so kind as to answer the question you grace,” Scully requested, smiling at Lorraine.

“Fine,” Emerald replied. “Everyone was saying that Bishop had called Primrose ugly because that was how she explained what we all saw.”

“So everyone at school was aware that Bishop had called my client, Lady Primrose ugly?”

“We were aware that was the story she told, yes.”

“But why was the word, “fugly” used instead of ugly?” Lorraine asked, ignoring the mention of Primrose having started the rumours herself.

“I have no idea,” Emerald shrugged. “Probably because fugly sounds funnier than ugly. I think it’s an amalgamation of two words.”

“I see,” Lorraine replied thoughtfully as she turned to the audience with a meaningful expression on her face. “Now Miss Lemon, as one of the most notorious busybodies and gossips at the school, would you say that Lady Primrose’s reputation has been enhanced by the “Fugly Girl Incident” as you call it?”

“No,” Emerald replied stonily.

“Thank you, Miss Lemon.” Lorraine smiled at Emerald as if they were friends and she had not just repetitively insulted her. “I have no further questions for this witness, your honour.”

“Does the defence have any questions?” Scully asked, pondering Lorraine’s behaviour. He had no idea what the Varunian girl was trying to achieve but she was not doing herself any favours. She was running her own carefully crafted reputation with her own hands. It would be difficult for her to come back after this.

“Yes, your honour,” Vinod replied, standing up and adjusting his blazer. He stepped forward and opened his mouth as if to speak but before Vinod could utter a single word, Lorraine raised an objection against him.

“Your honour, Lord Vinod of Ajna is a telepath like all of his people. What’s more he is a known mind rapist. I object to his being allowed to question anyone, especially since Princess Ta’Shra’s reputation was called into question for similar reasons as if she had a history of mental violation like the defence council does.

This latest tidbit of juicy gossip caused yet another uproar in the auditorium. How had this information gone unreported in the newspaper? Whose was the mind that had been raped? The spectators were so busy speculating that few noticed one of the girls in the jury box shuffle uncomfortably in her seat. Hers was the mind Vinod had read without permission, revealing her private thoughts to the student council as revenge for a perceived slight. She had not realised at the time that it was such a malfeasance, though from the reactions of the other council members she had realised that unsolicited mind reading was a social faux pas. There had been a lot of talk about it at the time but since more important things were going on, it had faded out of everyone’s minds or so she had thought.

Once again Scully was forced to issue an order for silence and when the crowd had quieted down, he said, “In light of the extraordinary accusations that have just been made, I’m afraid I will have to ask Lord Vinod to leave the further defence of Prince Moonstone to his co-council, the Marquess of Canini.

Sandwich stood up with a sigh, but he made no complaint as he walked over to the witness box. He stopped in front of Emerald and in a crisp, clear voice asked, “Can you please tell the court what you witnessed on the day of the so called, Fugly Girl Incident?

“Yes…,” Emerald replied a little taken aback. She knew about the “mind rape” incident that Lorraine had used to get Vinod out of the way but she had not expected the student council president to bring that up now. Collecting her thoughts Emerald said, “I saw Primrose and her cousin Princess Branwen standing near to the table where Bishop had been sitting with Foundation. Bishop was standing up but I couldn’t see his face since I was at the third table and his back was towards me. Tristen the Fair was standing up as well and they both looked angry.

“What else, if anything, were you able to see or hear?” Sandwich questioned.

“I heard Bishop say something like, “Don’t speak to my friend like that” and then Primrose took a step backwards away from him.”

“And then what happened?”

Emerald hesitated for a moment and then replied, “Primrose apologised for interrupting Bishop’s lunch and asked him not to hit her. A sound of general disapproval went up from the crowd but it was unclear if the audience believed that Primrose had been threatened or not.

“As a Bim, would you say that you’re familiar with combat?” Sandwich asked to the amusement of the onlookers. Bim was a warrior society that practiced combat as a sport. Bims were constantly training, constantly ready to act under their ancient title, “The Armies of I-Am”.

“Yes,” Emerald replied, smiling modestly. At ten she had undergone, “The Pit” a combat trial that all Bim children were obliged to perform on their tenth birthday. A child either won the pit or they went to the Isle of the Dead. The simple fact that Emerald was sitting there at 17, meant that she had passed the trial and everyone present knew it.

“And therefore as someone who is familiar with combat, would you say that Primrose appeared to be genuinely afraid that she would be struck by Bishop?”

Emerald was about to reply when Lorraine jumped to her feet and protested. “Your honour, any response to that question would be pure speculation. There’s no way that Emerald could know what Lady Primrose was thinking or if she was genuinely afraid or not. She’s not psychic.”

Scully looked at Lorraine with the thinnest of smiles on his lips. “Are you suggesting that the witness is not well versed enough in combat and the body language thereof, to give an educated opinion in a student trial, on whether someone looked afraid or not?”

The sound of creaking and cracking was heard from high in the auditorium where the birdlike Bim alumni were perched to watch the trial. From the sound of the beams cracking, it sounded as if they were found the suggestion of Emerald’s ignorance offensive.

“No, I wasn’t suggesting that,” Lorraine grimaced.

Scully nodded, “Then your objection is dismissed. Please Continue with your questioning Lord Sandwich.”

“Thank you, your honour,” Sandwich said with a bow. “Now your grace, did Primrose appear to be genuinely afraid that Bishop would hit her?”

“She flinched, but from the way she started shouting and the look in her eyes, I didn’t think that she was really frightened.”

“Thank you. Now please tell us, if you know, who was it that spread the rumour around the school that Bishop had called Primrose ugly,”

“Oh, it was Primrose,” Emerald replied with a nonchalant shrug, producing gasps from the crowd. How could Primrose’s defence claim that Bishop had ruined the girl’s reputation and chances of a good marriage if she was the person who had spread the rumours herself? There had to be some mistake.

“Could you please elaborate on how that came to be? Sandwich questioned, almost reading the minds of the audience.

Emerald thought for a moment and then replied, “Everyone was extremely curious about what had happened because it was so out of character for Bishop to be angry with anyone as he appeared to be. Also, because Sa-Ankh appeared to defend Bishop it seemed weird. So we, I mean myself and many other people, tried to find out what had happened. I personally tried to ask Bishop, but he wouldn’t talk about it, neither would Sa-Ankh, Duke, Arata, Tiger-Lily or any of Bishop’s little fans. There was no choice but to ask Primrose what had gone on.”

“And did you ask Primrose?”

“Yes, I did.”

“And what did Primrose tell you?”

“She said that she had gone to ask Bishop’s advice about how to ask a boy out to the Cupid’s day dance because her cousin was too shy to ask herself. Primrose said that Bishop had been annoyed that his lunch was interrupted and told her to get her ugly self away from him.”

“Did you believe her?”

“No, not really. I’ve known Bishop for about ten years and I’ve never heard him insult anyone or be mean to anyone like that.”

“Thank you, your grace. What else did Primrose say?”

“Primrose told me that when she tried to defend herself and object to being called ugly, Tristan the Fair got up and told her not to contradict Bishop because she was ugly and had no right to complain.”

“And did you believe that?”

“Again, not really, I don’t think Tristan would behave like that, but he had been standing up when I looked over at what was happening and he did seem angry, so he had obviously said something to Primrose.”

“What else, if anything, did Primrose say about the incident?”

“Well, I asked her why Bishop had told her not to speak to his friend like that and she just glazed over it and said she hadn’t heard. She said that Bishop had repeated his order for her to go away and moved as if he was going to hit her. Then, according to what Primrose told me, she tried to apologise to diffuse the situation, but Sa-Ankh butted in and used his authority as the imperial prince of Duat to get her to go away.”

Yet more murmuring was heard from the crowd. If it turned out that Sa-Ankh had used his authority as a superior prince to intimidate a lesser noble, it would cause an uproar. A certain percentage of the lower classes already believed that the royalty and nobility of the alliance had a sinister old boy network that put the interest of close friends from their various private clubs before the interests of their own people. This might be a school trial, but it would have real world consequences.

“Did you believe that?”

“No, Sa-Ankh isn’t like that. I heard him tell Primrose to leave but he said that directly after she implied that Bishop was going to hit her?”

“What impression did you get from that?”

“I thought maybe he was trying to diffuse the situation because everyone was looking.”

“And you’re certain that what you’ve told us is exactly what Lady Primrose said to you?”

“Yes, that’s what she told me.”

“Thank you, Duchess Veridian. Your honour, I have no more questions for this witness,” Sandwich said walking back to the defence table and taking his seat. Bishop gave a small thumbs up. The cross examination had been better than expected, especially with the last-minute change replacement. Vinod, who was keeping his face focused directly ahead, nodded his head in acknowledgement.

When Scully thanked Emerald and dismissed her from the witness box, Lorraine continued presenting the case against Bishop, calling witness after witness before tarnishing their reputations with lies of omission and salacious out of context revelations, if the witness seemed reluctant to speak against Bishop. By the time Lorraine was ready to call her star witness, the audience had enough juicy gossip about the students of the academy to keep them whispering and giggling for a lifetime.

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