pertaining to the Glazmere insurrection attempt,
held on the twenty-fourth day of the eighth month in the year 440 of the
Theocracy of Haazak.
Attested: I, Zedekiah Katz, official court transcriptionist and head archivist of Haazak, hereby swear by the name of the Only One, who rules our people absolutely, that what follows is an accurate and complete account of the said criminal hearing, submitted for review and approval on the twenty-fifth day of the eighth month in the year 440 of the Theocracy of Haazak.
COURT OFFICER: We now call to order this criminal hearing. Will the assembled judicial board members rise and raise their right hands? Do you solemnly swear to hear testimony from as many concerned parties as choose to present it, to weigh testimony fairly according to your understanding of the Divine will, and to render right judgment in light of fact, law, and the compassion of the Only One, who is patient with us despite our faults?
JUDICIAL BOARD MEMBERS: (in unison) I do.
COURT OFFICER: You may be seated. Wardens of the court, let the accused be brought forth. Mica Locke, Stalworth Glazmere, Glory Glazmere, and Dinah Aldine, collectively you stand accused of insurrection against the rightfully ordained elders of your people. Due to further information received, this resumed hearing will not include three of your number, whose individual disciplinary actions have already been decided. We will resume where we left off last week. The court now summons the next witness, Miss Helena Jeru. Miss Jeru, it was by your testimony that one Skye Taorri, criminal hearing pending, was diagnosed with early-stage infection by the Decay. The judicial board has expressed interest in learning how you came to develop this ability, which proved itself surprisingly accurate during the tragic events of last week.
HELENA JERU: I suspected that this question would be asked. To answer it, I need to tell the board about my history. I was born into an Outsider family about twenty miles past the South Territory’s southernmost border. My father possessed decomposition sympathy and considered himself a scientist, though I understand now that he had no formal education or training in that discipline. The primary object of his so-called scientific experiments was the Decay. For as far back as I remember, he was obsessed with the Decay, but that obsession didn’t go out of control until just after I turned seventeen. I suspect, considering what I know now, that he had begun with avian-seeded Decay and progressed from there, if you can call it progress, to small mammals, monkeys, squirrels, that sort of thing.
COURT OFFICER: Miss Jeru, if this is too difficult to speak of, we will not press you to continue.
HELENA JERU: No, it needs to be said. I had four siblings, one elder brother, one younger brother, and two younger sisters. My elder brother I always recall as a selfish person. He came and went as he pleased, and when he came, it was usually to get money from my mother. She had human soul sympathy, like I do, and was a quiet, gentle woman who hated conflict. One day, around the start of the time I’m telling you about, my brother Dalen– the eldest– came back after a long absence. He was there for only one evening, got into a violent quarrel with my father, and in the morning, he wasn’t there anymore. Dad was late coming up from his lab in the basement, and when he did, he was in an unusually elated mood.
COURT OFFICER: Miss Jeru, are you able to continue?
HELENA JERU: Yes, I… I will continue. That was the beginning of the end for us. Dad stopped having the younger kids catch small animals and bring them down to the lab for his experiments. Mom… she would start crying for no apparent reason at the oddest times, but she refused to tell me why. Then, one morning a few days later, she gave me money, like she always did when I was heading to the store, but she whispered to me to… to take the little ones and leave. She almost said more, but then she stiffened up. Dad was just behind us. He asked what we were talking about. Mom lied, said there was more on the list than usual, so she was sending the little ones with me to help carry everything. She was afraid of him; I see that in hindsight.
COURT OFFICER: How old were your younger siblings?
HELENA JERU: Averin, my little brother, was thirteen, but small for his age, a late bloomer. Faralee was nine, and she… she loved to hold my hand when we walked to the store. And Lindy, little Lindy, was the baby, just five, Mom’s favorite.
COURT OFFICER: Take your time, Miss Jeru. Page, bring Miss Jeru a cup of water.
HELENA JERU: Thank you. I didn’t think it would– I haven’t said their names in all this time. As I was saying, Mom lied about the warning she tried to give me. Dad said the girls could go with me, but Averin–Rin, we called him– had to stay and help him in the lab. Dad was hosting some of his friends that evening; he called it his Scientific Association, but it was just a handful of neighbors as obsessed with the Decay as he was. He said to hurry back because he needed all of us to help. Mom just seemed to… to crumble inside. She echoed what Dad said, and I went off to the store as if it were any other day.
COURT OFFICER: To judge from your tone, it wasn’t just any other day, though.
HELENA JERU: No. Dad’s so-called association met at supper that night. They were in a rowdy mood, drinking and burning incense and laughing. After they ate, they adjourned to the lab, as they always did, but Dad told us to bring more drinks down to them. Mom brought down the first tray. She didn’t come back upstairs, but that happened sometimes, mostly when Dad wanted her to act as his assistant. I was in the kitchen. Faralee and Lindy had been sent up to bed. After about an hour, Dad called for another tray of drinks. I brought the tray to the door at the top of the stairs. Faralee was there, very sleepy, asking where Lindy was. I… may the Only One forgive me, I told her if she would open the door for me and hold onto my elbow, because my hands were full, I would take her back to where Lindy was after I brought Dad his drinks. She opened the door, and there was a terrible smell. I thought they were burning a new type of incense, but… When I reached the bottom of the stairs, Dad was saying something about younger subjects giving off a sweeter mist. He was… I was afraid of him myself then. He was in a trance, it seemed, swaying in circles around the lab. His friends were in a similar state. It was a chaos of souls, but I couldn’t sense my mother among them.
COURT OFFICER: Elder Fulke, if you would, please.
ELDER ROSAMUND FULKE: There, my dear, there… breathe… If you feel you need to continue, I’ll stand with you. Deep breaths, now.
HELENA JERU: Thank… thank you. I saw her then. She was alive, but her soul wasn’t giving off any qualities at all. She sat up to her knees in the Decay, and she was stroking something just… under… the surface. I couldn’t see what it was… but she only ever rubbed Lindy’s head like that. Behind her was a chair, almost totally submerged. Someone was sitting in the chair. It looked like that person had had two heads, but I knew, I just knew it was both my brothers, Rin sitting on Dalen’s knees. Their hair… all that was left above the surface was Dalen’s hair and… and the top of Rin’s head… Faralee saw Mom and ran to her. I was too shocked to grab her, to stop her, and the Decay rose up to… to engulf her legs. Her scream…
ELDER ROSAMUND FULKE: There, dear, it’s almost over. Just a little further.
HELENA JERU: I ran. I couldn’t stop myself, I ran up the stairs and out the front door and down the street and out of town. I was too afraid to go to any of the neighbors, because I knew some of them were part of Dad’s association. I ran until I was exhausted and collapsed in the ditch. When I regained consciousness, I heard Dad behind me, yelling for me to come back, so I ran again. I ran for most of four days, until I was so weak I couldn’t stand. Dad was still behind me, and that terrified me more than anything. I knew he hadn’t stopped at all, any more than I had, but he was still able to keep going. It wasn’t natural. When he came up to me, he had… he had something amber-colored, big clots of it like jelly bubbling in his mouth as he tried to speak. It was in the corners of his eyes. It was running down his face.
ELDER ROSAMUND FULKE: And that was when Conneran came.
HELENA JERU: Yes, that was when Elder Stone saved me. He was out with a South Territory patrol, and he saw me and called the patrol over to me. They contained Dad and… and incinerated him, while Elder Stone carried me back to their truck.
COURT OFFICER: It’s hard to know what to say, except that you have survived a terrible ordeal. It was this, we may presume, that developed in you a heightened sense for a soul affected by the Decay. Thank you for taking such troubles to help us understand. If the court may ask one more question: according to what you can perceive in these four accused, have any of them had sufficient contact with the Decay to risk infection?
HELENA JERU: No, but Stalworth knows something about it, I think.
GLORY GLAZMERE: You knew? You knew? You knew, and you let Grandma take such a dangerous risk?
COURT OFFICER: Page, please restrain the accused. Miss Glazmere, please restrain yourself. This is an official hearing–
GLORY GLAZMERE: I can’t believe you! You might as well have killed her yourself!
STALWORTH GLAZMERE: Glory, listen, I only knew that it was there. Grandma said she was taking all the precautions–
GLORY GLAZMERE: I can’t believe you!
STALWORTH GLAZMERE: I’m telling you the truth. As far as I knew, it was just part of her import business, just–
GLORY GLAZMERE: And what was it she was saying? It was all for us, all for us, so we could be rich and fix up the district and make everything better. And now she’s dead, horribly, shamefully dead, and you knew about it and never told me! Can we believe anything she told us? Can I believe anyone anymore?
HELENA JERU: Glory, Glory, hush now. Hush. It was terrible, wasn’t it.
GLORY GLAZMERE: Grandma!
COURT OFFICER: Page, you may stand down now. We will adjourn this hearing for a quarter of an hour, to let Miss Glazmere compose herself.
[At 0945 of the same day]
COURT OFFICER: We now reconvene this criminal hearing. Members of the judicial board, do you find the accused to bear sufficient guilt to merit public trial?
DOCTOR SOPHRONIA KEENE: We do not.
COURT OFFICER: Is this your united judgment?
DOCTOR SOPHRONIA KEENE: It is. We took counsel together during the adjournment, and it is our finding that most of the guilt lies with the deceased, Milla Glazmere. These children, while not sufficiently guilty to merit public prosecution, do need corrective discipline. We suggest that they be sent separately to the territories for a second obligatory four years of military service under the close supervision and guidance of the territorial elders.
COURT OFFICER: Council of the elders, because you were the ones most affected by their actions, you have the right to speak your thoughts on this decision.
ELDER ALLIMAE CRAM: We have no quarrel with the board’s judgment.
FATHER EVERARD LOCKE: If I may speak to the court?
COURT OFFICER: Please do, Father Locke.
FATHER EVERARD LOCKE: I ask that Mica Locke be placed under my supervision and guidance for this period of discipline.
COURT OFFICER: Does the board object to this request? Do the elders? Then the court grants this request, Father Locke. The rest of the assignments will be left to Mother Coralie Locke, as this is her rightful area of command. The court declares this criminal hearing finished.