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Lost Scene: Ailim Judging

Her judge's face firmly in place, she walked to the Sage's Chair and sat.

By the time mid-afternoon came and her last case, Ailim was ready to be done with her day. She'd reinstalled the weathershield she'd banished at noon when sunlight had shone directly in her eyes.

Ailim studied the two mid-aged men standing in front of her. Just by looking at them she knew that one had a pinched, ungenerous nature, and the other was bewildered by the events that had overtaken him.

The dispute was between two master stonemasons, one of GraceHouse status, the other of GrandHouse. The narrow-nosed, pinched-lipped T'Equie accused T'Ginger of copying his original designs.

It took a minimum of Ailim's Flair to realized the problem was a simultaneous idea.
She pressed her lips together. The case wasn't as obvious as it had looked on papyris.

Two large stone cornices sat on either end of her desk. One was elegant in its simplicity, the other exuberant and lush in its execution, much like the natures of the men before her. Both pieces showed old Earth fairies peeking between leaves as the subject. She could swear that T'Ginger's fairies had a mischievous twinkle in their eyes as they peered at her and knew that was an indication of the Flair he'd used in carving the building cornerpiece.

Both men were first generation nobles, raised to that rank because of their Flair, and it was evident by Equie's manner that he'd always been jealous of the other. Ailim suspected that Equie wouldn't listen to anything she'd say and challenge her ruling if it went against him. His determination to fight this to the bitter end, no matter how long and how expensive it might prove radiated from his mind.

And appeal from her decision would be before the NobleCouncil, costly indeed, and something that could wreck the reputations of both men.

She'd try reason anyway. She folded her hands before her and leaned slightly forward. "Before me, I see two exquisite works of art. You are both to be commended for your Flair and your skill."

"He copied me," T'Equie mumbled, crossing his arms and angling his body away from T'Ginger and Ailim.

Ailim looked at Equie. He met her gaze.

"The evidence before me," she gestured to the holo cylinders of witnesses set on the right hand side of her desk, "shows that these cornices were set within a few days of each other, after weeks of work by both of you."

T'Equie's face set in harder lines. "He used my sketches to fuel his imagination."

T'Ginger pulled back his shoulders. "That's not true."

T'Equie narrowed his eyes, unfolded his arms and pointed at his rival. "The idea was mine. Fairies have never been used in stonework before."

"Not for a long time. But there's an old Downwind building..."

T'Equie snorted. "You, Downwind? I can't believe..."

"Quiet." Ailim made her word reverberate with enough power to remind them both that hers was the greatest Flair. T'Equie stilled, T'Ginger flushed. Even the farthest spectators' hushed whispers stopped.

"Everyone knows there is such a thing as synchronicity, an idea or an image or a story whose time has come to be told. Life and civilization is a cycle."

T'Equie looked at her with veiled scorn.

Ailim continued, "I believe that this particular case before me is one of synchronicity.

The concept that you both sculpted existed in the stream of creative force and touched you both. And each of you brought your own visualization and skill to that concept." It wasn't enough to appease T'Equie.

"But the fact is, that both of us executed the concept. One of us will be seen as a copycat," T'Equie said. T'Ginger shifted his bulk from foot to foot.

"Not with this case before them," Ailim replied gently. "And your differing styles are such that there are those that will prefer one image over the other.

"Is that your ruling?" asked T'Equie.

Ailim tilted her head. "That's what I know to have occurred."

T'Ginger heaved a great breath of relief.

T'Equie's mouth pursed even more. "I will appeal."

"One moment," Ailim said, inwardly setting her shields and sending her mind down trained paths to conduct a demonstration that would resolve everything. "I believe neither of you has considered that I am a telempath."

Now both of the men looked uneasy.

"Since your case was scheduled to be heard today before my predecessor, Supreme Judge Goldenseal, and he retired, you were given a choice to have a different judge than me to decide this matter. You chose to have the case heard by me."

"It would have been another month before someone else could hear this," T'Equie muttered.

"We wanted it done," T'Ginger said. "Right now neither of us can finish our building construction until this is settled. Winter with its storms and snows is coming. We need a decision." He bobbed his head as he spoke.

"Right," T'Equie said, planting his feet and crossing his arms. "Let's get it done."

"You just said you would appeal," Ailim reminded him in a voice that reached only to them. Then she spoke louder. "When you agreed to have me as your judge, you signed a waiver that you didn't want attorneys to speak for you."

"We've come this far without lawyers, we wanted our own voices heard, our craft to speak for us." T'Ginger swept his arm wide.

"No need to have additional blood-suckers involved," T'Equie said. Ailim figured he thought of her in that light. She let go a steady breath.

She tapped a pair of papyris, each with an elaborate seal at the bottom. "You both also agreed that I could use my Flair as I see fit to try this case." She gathered the focused energy inside her. "And I choose to do so." She tested the barriers to their minds. "We will link."

She made the connection to the surprised Ginger first, then sent his thoughts of apprehension and embarrassment to Equie in a wave of distraction, and snaked under his defenses.

The juggling act began. She'd gone in too deeply with T'Equie and she drew back, plucking out his true belief that T'Ginger had counterfeited his concept and the resentful energy that made him file suit. She stripped away all undertones of jealousy from the man before sending his belief along the three-way link to T'Ginger. She felt the shock and hurt of Ginger as he received the pulse of information.

Now she gathered the truth from Ginger. He'd wandered the streets during Summer Solstice and found himself Downwind during the celebrations. There he'd seen a crumbling building embellished with fanciful motifs. That night he'd dreamed of fairies peeking through the lush trees of Celta and playing hide-and-seek with him. Ailim sent his experience to Equie.

She steadied Equie as he rocked under the brush of another mind. When she felt the beginning of acceptance of the truth by Equie, she gently broke the link. She wondered if he would twist the truth enough to deny it. No one knew better than she that every fact was colored by the mind that processed it.

Silence filled Judgment Grove. A wave of fascination and awe broke over her from the spectators. T'Equie stood unnaturally still, his chest rising and falling quickly, his mouth twisted in uncomfortable lines. Ailim could hear T'Ginger's stertorous breathing and his face was flushed.

Finally, T'Equie said jerkily. "Supreme Judge D'SilverFir, I accept your ruling. This action is at an end. We thought of the idea at the same time." He turned and strode across the platform and down the three stairs, leaving Yeldoc open-mouthed.

The bailiff scuttled to his formal position and pounded his staff on the stage. "Hear all. The Supreme Judge will rule."

Ailim stood. "My judgment is this: Neither T'Equie nor T'Ginger is at fault in this matter. Both saw the light of the cosmic fire which inspired them. The work growing from this inspiration* is each unique. This is the decision of the Judgment Grove. This is the truth. This session is finished.

"I will now say the closing prayer. By the Lady and Lord let us give thanks that the day is closed and these actions have come to an end. Let us believe that all has progressed for the good of all and according to the free will of all. Blessed be."

"Blessed be," echoed from around the Grove.

She glanced at Yeldoc. "You may dissolve the sacred circle and dismiss the weathershield."

He did so, then gestured to two of Equie's workmen, who brought a shroud of fine cloth to sheathe his cornice, and placed it in an above-the-ground glidercart.
T'Ginger pulled a handkerchief from his robe pocket and wiped his face with it.

"That was amazing, utterly amazing, GrandLady...ummm, judge." Despite his portliness, he managed a courtly bow.

He waved a fleshy hand and two beaming men dressed in his colors wrapped and carried off his piece of work.

"My thanks. My many, many thanks." T'Ginger grinned, then backed away, shaking his head. Ailim knew he was going to dine out on the story for months to come about how the telempath D'SilverFir tried his case the first day of her appointment as Supreme Judge.

At the edge of the platform, he jumped to the ground beyond the three steps, big belly jiggling.

Ailim allowed herself a small smile until she felt the surge of gleeful satisfaction from her enemy. She stilled, as quiet as hunted prey, and set her mind to sifting through those leaving the Grove.


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