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Chapter 61 : The Queens' Judgment
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Sarai prodded him hard in the small of his back with her sword. “Move, boy! You’re under the jurisdiction of the Seelie court now, and if you don’t start picking up your feet, my sword is going to remove a very tender portion of your anatomy in about a minute.” Her voice was as chill as winter frost. “I’ve always thought that a child abuser deserves to be emasculated as part of his punishment. If you don’t believe me, Jarillion, by all means keep standing here.”
Jarillion gulped and began to walk again. He knew better than to challenge the Queen’s Blade, she never threatened, and she had a personal tie to the children he had kidnapped, which would not incline her to be merciful towards their captor.
Ahead of them, Severus opened the door of the hut and strode inside, followed by the two boys and Cafall. The door remained open and Baba Yaga appeared in the doorway. “Ah, my runaway apprentice. So nice of you to join the party,” she cackled.
Jarillion snarled something uncomplimentary at her in the fae tongue. Then he yelled as Sarai swatted him across the backside with the flat of her sword.
“Show some respect, Jarillion Nightdusk,” scolded the Blade. “Prince or no, she is your elder and of royal blood.”
Jarillion’s eyes flashed an icy disdain. “She is the Queen of Exiles, and I owe her no fealty.”
Baba Yaga’s face contorted into a sneer. “Do you not, youngling? You broke your apprentice oath to me when you fled in the dead of night with my amulet. Did you really think you could hide from me forever? Now you are my prisoner.” She gestured for Sarai to enter the hut with her reluctant captive.
As the Blade shoved Jarillion through the narrow opening, Baba Yaga lifted her hands and chanted a few words in her native tongue. Twin blue streaks shot from her hands and slammed into the gray fortress.
Instantly, the mortar holding the stones together began to turn to sand and crumble. There came a terrible shivering and shaking and then the fortress started to fall apart. In minutes half of it was destroyed.
Jarillion gaped at the ruin of his home and spat, “You half-wit termagant! How dare you destroy my palace?”
Baba Yaga shut the door and the hut took off. She gave the Winter prince a vicious smile. “To the victor go the spoils, nephew. And for once I am the victor here.”
“You cannot hold me forever!” blustered the other. “When my mother finds out what you have done . . .”
“She will be out for your blood as much as my sister Titania for breaking the Accords,” snorted Baba Yaga. “Do not delude yourself, Jarillion. You may be her favorite, but she doesn’t tolerate failures. Especially if they get caught.”
Now Jarillion paled as her words sunk in. Sarai indicated her should sit on the floor with his back against the wall. He squeezed in next to the table, the hut felt rather cramped with seven people inside it. He pretended to be aloof and indifferent, but in reality he was shivering inside. Baba Yaga spoke the truth. Maeve had no mercy on those who failed, even her own children.
Severus went and set Nesmay down on the pallet he had recently occupied when he was injured. The girl was white as a ghost and shivering, her teeth chattering like castanets. “Cold . . . Severus, I’m so cold . . .”
“You’re burning up, child.” The Potions Master murmured, feeling her forehead. Her gold eyes were glassy. He tucked the quilt about her slender frame. Then he cast a quick diagnostic spell upon her. To his dismay, he saw that she had drained her magical reserves down to almost nothing. The fever was a result of spell shock.
He turned to Baba Yaga, who was glaring at the Winter prince as though she wanted to strip the skin from his bones. He utterly understood that impulse. But he had more important things to worry about than getting revenge upon Jarillion at the moment. “My lady, do you happen to have a Magical Restorative cordial about? Nesmay’s magical core is dangerously low, she has exhausted herself almost beyond recovery, I fear.”
Baba Yaga looked concerned, then went and rummaged in a chest beside the cupboard. She came up with a small vial containing some green liquid. “Here, Severus. This should help until we can get back to the Summer Kingdom.”
He took the vial and coaxed Nesmay to swallow it, she was delirious and frightened. She gripped his hand and stared up at him pleadingly. “Don’t go . . .”
“I’m here,” was all he said, but it calmed her enough to allow her to relax and soon she slipped into a stasis-like sleep. He looked down at her and felt pity and sadness crawl into his throat. She was so young to know such pain and fear, to have borne the dark taint. Her innocence had been lost in that frozen hell, as had his sons’.
He turned abruptly to see how Draco and Harry were faring, and found them sitting on chairs near the table, their arms wrapped about themselves, looking both relieved and stunned, as if they could not believe they had been rescued. He had seen that look before, on those who had been victims of the Death Eaters sadistic games. He walked over to them and hugged them tightly. “You’re safe now. It’s all right. You’re going to be all right.”
They clung to him, half-weeping, and for several long moments he held them close. His relief was so vast that he almost succumbed to tears himself. Would have, perhaps, had they not had an audience in the form of Baba Yaga and the Winter prince. But his many years of hiding his emotions in public enabled him to choke back the prickling sensation behind his eyes. Later, he could weep, after justice had been done and they were alone. But for now . . . “I am so very grateful you are alive,” he told them sincerely. “Are you injured?”
“No, not really,” Draco answered. “Unless you count being made to learn dark curses an injury.”
Harry hung his head. “We didn’t want to, Dad. But he started hurting Nesmay and we thought if we agreed somewhat to his proposal, it wouldn’t be so bad. But now I feel sick and . . .my head hurts . . .”
Gently, Severus lifted his son’s chin so he could look into his eyes. “What did he do to you, Harry?”
“He tried . . .to make me hurt you . . .” Harry groaned.
“Mind control,” Severus said grimly. He looked at Draco. “You as well.”
“Yes.” Draco answered shortly. A part of him felt cold inside, as cold as winter, and even the warmth of the fire in the hut could not touch it. Suddenly, his head began to throb too, sending bolts of pain stabbing behind his eyelids. He gasped.
“What’s wrong?” demanded his father sharply.
“Headache . . .hurts like hell . . .”
Severus Summoned his pack and took out two vials of Headache Remedy, which he carried in his emergency potions kit. He gave them to his sons, though he sensed the damage that had been done them was much greater than his eyes could see. He could only hope that he could mend it.
“Why don’t you two lie down for awhile? We’ll wake you when we arrive.” He suggested.
“Sounds good,” Harry mumbled, and went to lay down on the pallet Sarai had occupied.
Draco took the only other available bed, which was Baba Yaga’s, though he did not know it.
Within moments, they were asleep, worn to a thread by the day’s events.
“How are they?” asked Sarai, coming up and touching him lightly on the shoulder.
“Sick and hurting from the dark magic,” Severus said gravely. He cast Jarillion such a look of hatred that the other flinched and shivered.
“We can cleanse and purify them in the Pools of Replenishment in the palace,” Sarai told him. “And the Queen’s Healers are the best in this realm at healing wounds caused by using dark magic. They will do all they can to help the boys and Nesmay.”
Severus nodded woodenly. He just wanted them better so he could take them back home where they belonged. He glanced up and saw Baba Yaga lean over Jarillion and pull something off of him with a sharp yank.
“This, I believe, is my property,” she said coldly, holding up a silver teardrop shaped amulet inset with a single large amber cabochon. “No more traveling back and forth to the mortal realm for you, little prince. Not if I have anything to say about it.” She carefully hung the amulet around her neck.
“Why would you?” asked Jarillion sullenly.
“Oh, I don’t know. Perhaps because it shall be me who carries out your sentence, whatever it may be.” Baba Yaga smirked. “You might long for death, little prince, but I doubt such mercy shall be granted you.”
Jarillion stared up at her, a cold terror griping his vitals. “No . . . anyone but you . . .”
“Coward!” sneered the Potions Master. “You can torment little children but when it comes to facing the consequences for your crimes, you whine and beg for mercy.” He walked over and glared down at the prince. “Let me ask you something, Jarillion. How much mercy did you show my sons when you taught them the ways of dark magic? How much kindness did you show Nesmay, you depraved piece of dung? Were it not for the fact that I am bound by an oath I swore to leave you unharmed so the Queens’ could administer fae justice, I would show you what I learned as a spy in Voldemort’s camp and your own mother would not recognize you when I was through!”
The fury in Severus’ eyes burned hotter than magma, and all of them could feel the rage that swept through the tall wizard, it crackled and surged about him like lightning before the onslaught of a storm. Only Snape’s iron control kept it leashed and even then it was not without effort.
Jarillion had always sneered at the idea that any mortal sorcerer was as powerful as a High Court fae, mortals were inferior, both as a species and as magic-wielders. Now, however, gazing into the enraged Snape’s eyes, he discovered there was nothing inferior about the master wizard’s magic, and it chilled him to the marrow of his bones. He almost felt . . . grateful he would not be left to Snape’s mercy. Almost.
Sarai came and gently drew Severus away. “Come, Sev. Dwelling on revenge shall only poison you in the end. He will get what is due him, and so will the traitors. Titania will see to that, and even Maeve will make recompense for the wrong done to you.”
“Why would she care?”
“It is a point of honor, and even Unseelie have honor still,” Sarai replied. She led Snape to the table and fixed him a cup of Baba Yaga’s strong tea, then sat next to him. She knew, none better, that after the battle rage had flown, it left you feeling weary to your bones.
Severus looked at her, only then seeing the bloodstained armor. “Sarai, are you injured? All that blood . . .”
“Very little is mine. Most is the frost giant’s. When I gave him the death blow, he bled like a stuck pig.” She told him. “I have a few small cuts and bruises, nothing you need to worry about.”
“Are you sure?”
“Positive.” She began to remove the bloodstained armor, and Severus assisted her. Beneath her cuirass was a long linen padded shirt and it was stained with blood. She quickly removed it and beneath that was a sleeveless tunic. Her arms were covered with small nicks and one or two longer scratches, but nothing serious.
Still, Severus carefully anointed them with some of his healing salve, his touch deft and gentle. “There. Now you won’t die of blood poisoning.”
“Thank you, beloved,” she murmured, kissing him quickly upon the lips. “Why don’t you get some rest too? I shall clean up my armor and then join you.”
“Very well.” He acquiesced, and then glided across the hut to make himself a bed near his sons with some spare blankets and a pillow he had in his rucksack.
Sarai glanced out of the corner of her eye at Baba Yaga and Jarillion, knowing that the Queen of Exiles would keep an eye on the prince. Sarai removed a bottle of some armor cleaning solution from her pack and set to polishing and cleaning. If anything, it would keep her busy so she was not tempted to beat the Winter fae senseless with her bare hands.
The throne room
Summer palace, Seelie court:
Severus Snape and his two sons sat in the first tier of benches nearest the throne, as they were distant kin to the royal family, and also because they were the ones with the chief grievances against Prince Jarillion. All of them were dressed in clean pressed robes fine enough for court, as a matter of fact they were wearing similar clothing to the night of the revel, for it would not do to appear disheveled in court. Nesmay had been whisked off to see the Healers, Titania had been horrified at the condition her granddaughter was in, and vowed that the ones responsible for this would pay sevenfold for what they had done to the girl. She had bid her Chief Healer to do his best to bring Nesmay back to full health. After hearing Sarai’s and Severus’ report, as well as meeting with Baba Yaga, whom she had not seen in over a hundred years, Titania summoned Maeve to her, for she had to know about her reckless son and the Accords that had been broken.
All of that had happened some two hours prior to this moment, and now all three queens were seated upon the dais, Titania on her ivory throne carved with images of Summer, Maeve on her onyx throne carved with images of Winter, and Gloriana on her jade throne, carved with images of her time in the mortal realm. The Queen of Exiles had cast off her mortal Glamour and now appeared as she truly was, fae royalty, but her eyes were hard and bright, eyes that had seen and done much, and endured much pain and sorrow. Maeve had gone frost-pale upon seeing the sister she had wronged so many centuries ago returned to the Summerlands, and realizing that old grievances were about to come due, both hers and her son’s.
Off to the right of the dais was a special tier of chairs, in them were seated Titania’s children and eldest grandchildren, in order of age. Oberon was first, followed by Morgana, Aubrey, and Balin. Next were Morgana’s children and Aubrey’s and finally Malchiar. None of them knew why they had been summoned, save for the fact that it concerned an attack upon several family members by a member of the Winter Court.
On the lefthand side were the Summer Council, Titania’s advisors and her Ministers of Affairs. They knew only that there had been a grave breach of the Accords and were called to witness the queens’ judgment.
Surrounding the queens were the Blades and a few of Maeve’s personal guard, Gloriana had a handful of honor guards lent her by Titania, they wore her livery of a tree weeping an amber tear surrounded by three snowflakes, which was something she had created for this occasion, since she did not have a formal court like her sisters.
The fae herald, whose name was Robin Goodfellow, no relation to Shakespeare’s Puck of world renown, cleared his throat and spoke in a ringing voice that could be heard all over the hall. “Hear ye! Hear ye! By royal command of Her Majesty, Titania, Summer Queen, you have been summoned to witness the trial of one Prince Jarillion Nightdusk, accused of violating the most sacred and binding Accords between Winter and Summer by Lord Severus Snape, Heir to Prince Manor and Master Wizard and his two sons, Lords Harry Snape and Draco Malfoy, and Lady Nesmayallindra Highstar, who cannot attend due to severe injury, but Captain Sarai Kinsalari Valinek shall speak in her stead.” He tapped a long white baton on the floor three times. “All rise.”
Everyone rose and bowed to the three monarchs.
“Bring in the accused, Captain!”
The large doors at the far end of the hall swung open, and Sarai, now back in her armor and uniform, marched Jarillion up the long aisle, with Cafall pacing them, and every so often snarling at the prince. Jarillion was still wearing the same clothes he had been during the battle, except now he wore manacles upon his wrists instead of being bound by ropes, and the Collar of Obedience was still around his neck. Jarillion marched up without a hint of humility in his stance, he was all Royal Arrogance and Indignation, haughty and cold.
Sarai brought him almost to the edge of the dais, but then she halted, and Titania extended a hand and a glowing green circle etched itself upon the floor about Jarillion’s feet. “This is the Circle of Judgment, which shall not be broken until we have rendered judgment upon thee, Jarillion Nightdusk.”
She waved a hand, and Sarai stepped back, Cafall following, to stand next to Severus.
“Prince Jarillion Nightdusk, you stand accused by Lord Severus Snape of abducting his two sons and his ward, my granddaughter Nesmayallindra Highstar, and intending them grievous bodily and spiritual harm. He further states that you intended to make his children into dark mages and to forcibly marry Nesmayallindra, despite the fact that no betrothal agreement was ever contracted between our realms. Such a thing is forbidden by the Accords and has broken the peace between Summer and Winter. What say you to these charges?”
“I say that Lord Snape and his lover, Captain Valinek, did invade my private residence with help from the Witch of the North, my former tutor, with the intent of doing me harm. I say further that his sons were under a binding oath of apprenticeship to me, as was Nesmayallindra. I’ll admit I did abduct Nesmay, but bride-stealing is an accepted custom among the Unseelie.” Jarillion said smoothly.
Severus stood up. “She is under age, Your Grace!” he growled. “And without a betrothal contract, any attempt by you to make her a bride is kidnapping. Furthermore, what reason do you give for kidnapping my sons? Were you going to marry them as well and start a harem?”
There were titters at Snape’s biting sarcasm, but Titania held up a hand and all noise ceased. “You shall answer Lord Severus’ question. By what right did you kidnap his sons?”
Jarillion grimaced, then said, thinking fast, “I but sought to provide companionship for my bride, Your Majesty.”
Titania frowned sharply. “If, as you say, that was the reason, why did you not come to me and ask formally for her hand? Why would you break the peace by resorting to kidnapping? If your intentions towards my granddaughter were honorable, you should have sought permission from both your mother and me.” She turned to Maeve. “Did he come to you then, sister, and request to bind himself to my House?”
Maeve shook her head. “He did not.” Ice dripped from her tone and the look she shot her offspring should have flayed him on the spot.
Jarillion cringed. “Your Majesty, I would have told you sooner, but I wished for some time to get acquainted and to let her become accustomed to our ways before I introduced her to the court.”
“I see. And was that why you were hiding in the Waste in your flying keep, beneath a time shift?” Maeve asked, each word edged in frost. “You know the penalty for breaking the Accords, my son, I taught you that myself. She is not of age, therefore formal consent of a betrothal is required from your aunt and myself! Were you so hot for her that your wits turned to sludge? Fool!”
Jarillion flinched as though she had struck him. Then he rallied. “But . . . Your Majesties . . .I did seek out a family member to request permission to court Nesmayallindra. And our meeting was witnessed as well.”
“Oh?” Titania looked livid. “Might I ask who dared to usurp my authority and consent to your . . .proposal?”
Jarillion looked uneasy, then all at once, he smiled, a sharp toothy grin. “It is not meet that I reveal my contact to you, however, since I cannot refuse a direct request, my queen . . .I approached your heir apparent, Prince Oberon, and requested an audience. However, Prince Oberon was not available to see me then, so he sent his heir, Prince Malchiar in his stead, giving the prince the authority to treat with me. It was witnessed by the Minister of the Interior, Lord Morhavan.” He pointed to a tall Seelie lord wearing gold and green silks, who had gone gray at the Winter prince’s words.
For one endless moment, there was dead silence in the hall.
No one moved. No one even breathed.
There came a soft rumbling in the air, as of thunder about to break, and then everyone present felt the unmistakable lash of the Summer Queen’s wrath. Titania’s eyes flashed electric green and she cried softly, “Guards! Seize Lord Morhavan, Prince Malchiar and . . .Prince Oberon.”
The Blades moved them, swifter than thought.
“Your Majesty!” cried the Seelie lord. “I crave pardon! I did not know that your permission had not been sought.”
The guards placed magical manacles on all of them and hauled them up to the dais, and within seconds they were all standing in Circles of Judgment.
Lord Morhavan looked like he was about to pass out, Malchiar looked pale and stunned, only Oberon retained his haughty demeanor.
“Mother, this is ridiculous. You cannot arrest me, I’m your heir, by the Mother’s Eyes!”
“Oberon, be silent until spoken to!” snapped the queen. “If you were indeed involved in this sordid wretched affair, you have much to answer for! Heir or no, you are not exempt from the queens’ justice.” She turned back to Jarillion. “So . . . after you were granted permission to court Nesmay, how did you find her, for she was no longer at her residence of Graystone manor or indeed in this realm.”
“Queen Titania, I was told she was made a ward of Lord Snape and was at his residence of Prince Manor by Prince Malchiar. He informed me that you had grown tired of the brat’s uncontrolled wild mortal magic and cast her from your court. He further told me that the wards on Prince Manor would not permit an Unseelie to pass them. I then asked how I could gain access to the mortal world, and he asked his father, who told him about the mortal sorcerers’ bazaar, called Diagon Alley. Using a portal, I traveled to the mortal realm and awaited my betrothed there. It was not long before she made her presence known, having caused a shop to explode with her unpredictable magic. I simply waited for the right time to find her.”
Harry stood up, along with Draco.
Titania looked at them. “You wish to refute that statement?”
“Yes, Your Majesty. Prince Jarillion ambushed us. He was waiting for us down the mouth of an alley, and not just to talk to Nesmay like he says. He just wanted to kidnap her, and when she told him to let her go, he . . .he put that collar thing around her neck and when we—my brother and I—tried to stop him, he knocked us out and took us with him to his fortress. He knew who I was, who Draco was, I had the Prince Manor amulet on, he broke it though and left it lying in the dirt there, so I couldn’t be traced by it.” Harry took the amulet out from under his shirt and showed it to the queen. “He didn’t have Nesmay’s interests at heart when he stole her, he only considered himself. If he did truly care about her, he would have never put that collar on her. He didn’t want a wife, Your Majesty, he wanted a slave.”
“You lie!” Jarillion snarled.
“By my magic and my Name, I swear it’s true!” Harry said firmly.
A collective gasp went around the hall. An eager groom could perhaps be forgiven his excesses, but what Harry had sworn to implied a terrible dishonor to the royal house of Summer. And since nothing had happened when Harry had made the oath on his magic, that meant he had spoken the plain unvarnished truth.
“It would seem not, young Jarillion,” cackled Gloriana. “You were an untrustworthy apprentice to me, I see no reason why you should change now. Young Snape, do tell us more of Jarillion’s hosipitality.”
Harry did, revealing all of the Winter prince’s cruelties, seconded by Draco, and then further seconded by Sarai, who had spoken to Nesmay when she had woken briefly from her fever induced sleep. Sarai told the court of how Jarillion had forced her obedience using the collar and had also tried to make her into his dark queen by making her use dark magic.
Draco revealed how he had tried to help all of them by only agreeing to so much of Jarillion’s dark purpose, and the struggle they had to maintain their sense of self and their own free will. “I know using the dark magic tainted us, it can’t be helped, but the fact that we weren’t really willing to learn . . . well, I hope it means that we can be free of it someday.”
“He used mind control on us too,” Harry added. “I fought it off, but . . .I think he hurt me really bad when I did it. I have headaches all the time now.”
Titania cast them a look of compassion. “After this ordeal is over, children, I shall see what may be done to heal you. No child should be subject to forbidden spells of command or forced to dabble in dark magic.”
“But what if they were not, sister?” came Maeve’s cool voice. “It is known that the blond boy was taught some of the dark ways by his sire. Once you drink from the dark cup . . .”
“You are forever enslaved?” Titania finished. “Not so, Maeve. You know as well as I that a true dark disciple need not be forced into learning, it is the path they chose. These children were corrupted by your son, an abomination even for your kind. Moreover, he dared to lay hands upon a child of the royal house, and to collar her like a beast! That shall not be tolerated.”
Maeve sighed. “It is so, sister. A debt is owed. My son shall pay it, for he knew better.”
“Mother, what are you saying?” cried the prince.
The Winter Queen cast her son a cold look, her masses of dark hair falling over her pearl gray sparkling dress like a cloak. She was beautiful, the way frost on glass was beautiful, or a cool winter’s day, when snow glistened upon the edges of the trees. Beautiful and hard as a chilling frost. “I am saying, Jarillion, that you have brought shame upon our House. You acted like a bloody idiot, treating a highborn daughter the way you did and then abducting her relatives as well. You would have done better to go down fighting Lord Snape than surrender and bring more shame upon us. Once, I would have overlooked your transgressions, put them down to hot blooded youth, but this . . . you have gone too far. Now you are beyond the pale and as such, judgment shall be pronounced as it would for any criminal in my realm.”
“Criminal! I am your son!” shouted Jarillion, desperation in his tone.
“You mean you were my son,” Maeve declared coldly. Then she gave him a dismissive glance, as she might have a dog that had urinated in the hall.
Jarillion gaped at her, disbelieving. Then he snarled, “You coldhearted bitch! You’ve done worse in your time . . .Mother!”
Maeve snorted. “Perhaps. But I never broke the laws of this realm, and therein lies all the difference.”
“You’ve tortured the children of mortals!” spat her son.
“True, but that is different. I never kidnapped a Seelie royal daughter and subjugated her with a collar, nor did I presume to steal away two young scions of the Prince line and attempt to convert them to darkness. I played my games with mere mortal riffraff, never my own kind . . . unless they were my subjects and due chastisement. You have no one to blame but yourself, Jarillion.”
Titania’s eyes were as hard as the desert and implacable as stone. “Having heard all of the testimony and seen the results of your handiwork with my own two eyes, I pronounce you, Jarillion, formally Nightdusk, of the Unseelie realm, guilty on all counts. What say you, sisters? Guilty or not?”
“Guilty,” came Gloriana’s response.
“Guilty,” answered Maeve, not looking at her son.
“Heard and witnessed!” intoned the council. All of them glared at Jarillion with varying degrees of disgust and revulsion, for to harm a child in such a way was one of the most forbidden things among the Seelie court.
There was a long moment of silence, pregnant with possibilities, where no one spoke and the three queens seemed to be doing nothing except looking into each other’s eyes. Harry was puzzled, until he recalled that all of the fae queens could probably mindspeak one another.
After a few minutes, which seemed to go on forever, all three queens rose and eyed the accused. Titania spoke first. “It is the judgment of all the Courts, Winter, Summer, and the Exiled, that you, Jarillion, formerly of the House of Nightdusk, be stripped of all your inheritances and titles, as your Head of House declares you unfit to hold them. Furthermore, as you attempted to enslave another fae, so shall you be enslaved and controlled with the instrument you used upon her. Also, your magic shall be stripped from you, and all spells save for the most basic be lost to you forever.”
“No!” Jarillion yelled, horror struck. “You cannot take my magic from me! I’ll die! A fae cannot live without magic.”
“Oh, they can.” Maeve purred. “It’s just a horrible life.”
“And you would sentence me to that?”
“It is just.”
Jarillion looked as though he wanted to spit at her. “For how long must I be a slave, Your Majesties?”
“That is up to your new mistress,” answered Titania. “As per our agreement, I shall give the carrying out of the sentence to Queen Gloriana, who also has a score to settle with you over thievery.”
“You would give me to her? She is not fit to command a dungbeetle, much less a prince of the Unseelie!”
“Former prince,” corrected Gloriana. “And it’s well that I am not, as you say, fit to command a dungbeetle, for you are less than dung, Jarillion! As for how long you shall be my slave, let us say that depends upon whether or not you learn your lesson. I may let you off for a day for good behavior . . .in about three hundred years.” She grinned wickedly. “You shall be my faithful servant, and learn things your mother never thought to teach you—such as humility and gratefulness and hard work, among other things. Perhaps, after some centuries, you may even learn compassion for those so-called inferior mortals you despise.”
“Never is quite a long time, boy. And I assure you, I will make you feel every minute of it, should you choose to defy me.” Gloriana warned.
“Why not just kill me then?” taunted the other.
“Because death is not a punishment and dead you learn nothing,” answered the Queen of Exiles. “This way, you have a very long time to reflect and learn the error of your ways . . . if you can.” Then she gestured and the manacles fell off of the former prince’s hands.
All three queens pointed a hand at the condemned and bolts of searing energy shot out of their hands. They struck Jarillion with jarring force, knocking him down and draining away all of his magic save basic fae spellcraft. The Unseelie screamed in agony as his magic was torn from him, leaving him gasping and twitching on the floor.
Harry flinched at the terrible screams and wanted to cover his ears. As much as he hated Jarillion for what he had done, he did not like to see him suffer. He looked at Draco, expecting his brother to be gloating over the prince’s fall, but saw that Draco was also pale and sickly looking. Severus and Sarai, however, remained stone faced. Harry wasn’t sure whether that was because they had seen such things before or because they thought Jarillion deserved to suffer as he had made others suffer.
Finally it was over.
“We have spoken. It is done,” the three chanted. Then they lowered their hands.
Jarillion remained huddled upon the floor, shuddering.
But the three queens were not yet finished dispensing justice. Now they turned to the three Summer fae responsible for giving Nesmay into the hands of her enemy. Titania turned her eagle-eyed gaze upon her traitorous son, grandson, and Minister.
All of them squirmed like mice beneath the stare of a hungry cat.
“Lord Morhavan,” she said, her voice deceptively calm, yet with steel beneath the surface. “What possessed you to witness a conversation lacking the royal presence? Especially on such a matter as a betrothal of my kin? You have served on my Council for over two hundred years. Such a mistake should not be made by one as seasoned as you.”
“I . . .I know that, Your Majesty. Forgive me, but I trusted Lord Oberon, I did not know he had not your permission to do this.”
“That may be, but why did you not mention it to me afterwards? You are normally the first to point out irregularities in procedure in the council.”
Lord Morhavan bowed his head. “Because Lord Oberon swore me to silence.”
“When? Before or after Jarillion was told to take Nesmay?”
“Fool.” Titania walked down the stairs and struck her Minister across the face.
No sooner had she touched him than he began to shrink, becoming a small donkey in the blink of an eye. “An ass you were to agree to such terms, when you knew such was not protocol, an ass you shall stay for a year and a day, Lord Morhavan.”
Then she whirled upon her son and grandson. “Well? And what have you to say for yourself, Malchiar Highstar? You know perfectly well that your cousin is under age and as such, permission from her guardian is always sought first before allowing anyone, but especially a Winter royal, to court a maiden. You knew further that Nesmayallindra did not care for Jarillion, she had made that quite clear on a number of occasions, so why then did you take it into your head to try and arrange a betrothal behind my back?”
Malchiar looked like he was about to wet himself. “P-please, Your Majesty, I thought, that is Father always said she needed a firm hand and that Prince Jarillion . . . I mean the exile . . . was the one to handle her. He said that was why you had sent her away, that she was ungovernable, and her magic too wild to be controlled any other way . . . She belonged with them, Grandmother. She has the blood of an evil sorcerer in her veins, so why shouldn’t she go and live with the Unseelie?”
“Why? Because she is my granddaughter, young one! Blood of my blood, and no one has any say in what becomes of her save me. You have overstepped your bounds, boy, in assuming you have authority while I am still living! Your father is not king yet, Malchiar, and you are cruel beyond words to condemn your cousin to a fate with one whom you know would never treat her with respect or decency.”
“She doesn’t deserve either! She’s a half-breed that belongs with mortals, she’s a blot on this family and we’re well rid of her.” Malchiar replied, allowing his jealousy and temper to get the better of him.
Titania looked at him, almost speechless with rage. “So. It has come to this. I am betrayed by my own kin. As speaks the son, so speaks the father. Oberon, how could you do such a thing to your sister’s child?”
Oberon drew himself up. “My sister’s child? Ha! She is no more a Highstar than a mongrel is a purebred. You tried your best to make us accept her, Mother, but she shall never be one of us. Not ever will I call that kin of a dark wizard, that daughter of rape, my flesh and blood. She is anathema, abomination. You should have smothered her in the cradle, or given her as a changeling to some mortal. Not allowed her to be raised as part of our family.”
“Sun, Moon, and Stars, Oberon! She is a child, and not to be held responsible for the crimes her father committed against us!”
“She is his spawn, Mother! A bad seed! I loved my sister very much, and that wicked brat caused her death. How could you expect me to love her? She has her father’s temper and his dark magic, she would have destroyed us all if she had stayed. She was uncontrollable. I did you a favor, Mother, by letting Jarillion have her.”
“A favor?” growled Severus, unable to keep silent any longer. Sarai kicked him in the ankle, but he ignored her. “Is that what you call giving a little girl into the hands of a depraved predator like Jarillion? Where I come from, we have a name for people like you, Oberon, and we send them to prison for life for doing what you did to Nesmay. You are as bad as Jarillion, worse even, for you believe you did nothing wrong. Someone ought to nail you to a wall and chop off your bloody balls!” He left no doubt as to who that someone should be.
“Severus, enough!” hissed Sarai. “Let Titania handle it!”
The Summer queen turned to face the irate Potions Master. “Peace, Lord Snape. The traitors shall be dealt with.”
“Traitor! Mother, I am no traitor!” protested Oberon.
“Me either, Grandmother,” added Malchiar.
“Are you not? Did you or did you not authorize a betrothal without my consent? Did you or did you not go behind my back and arrange a secret meeting with a Winter royal for the express purpose of harming your own family member, and not as was the purpose of such alliances in the past, to promote peace between us? Both of you knew that Jarillion had not anything good in mind when he offered for Nesmayallindra. As her elders, it was your duty to protect her and keep her safe, not throw her to the darkhounds and pat yourselves on the back! You have betrayed not only the crown, but your family as well by handing Nesmayallindra over to Jarillion. You also indirectly put two other children, your cousins, at risk as well. What have you to say about that?”
“It was never our intention that anyone else be involved—” began Oberon.
“How did we know they’d be dumb enough to follow the stupid brat?” chimed in Malchiar.
“Can I hit him, Dad?” asked Harry, his fists clenched.
Severus reached out and grabbed his son’s shoulder. “Harry, let the queen handle it.”
Harry scowled and kicked at the floor. He so wanted to smash Malchiar’s conceited face in. The Summer prince was worse than Draco, and that was saying something.
Titania’s eyebrow rose. “So . . . it is their fault that they were kidnapped trying to protect their cousin now, is it? A cousin, might I remind you, that they had only met recently, and yet they felt more loyalty towards her than the both of you, who watched her grow up. That my own blood could do such a thing to a child—no matter who sired her—I am appalled and ashamed beyond expressing. A child is sacred, be she mortal, fae, or half-blood, no matter if she is royal or common. You were taught that before you could walk, Oberon! And you as well, Malchiar! What do you think Aislinn would do to you if she were here right now, Oberon? Would she applaud your decision to rid our House of the taint you say her child put on it? Or would she be ready to flay the skin off your back for being a bigoted heartless bastard?”
Oberon flinched at the queen’s censure. “She’s not Aislinn, Mother. And she never will be.”
“Then you do not regret what you did?”
Her son drew himself up, he was a head taller than she, and looked her in the eye. “Why would I regret getting rid of grit in my boot? Someday, Mother, you’ll thank me.”
Sarai grabbed Severus before he could hex Oberon. “Harry, get his wand!”
“Dad!” Harry said, grabbing his father’s wrist instead. “Remember what you told me?”
“Yes,” gritted the Potions Master. “But I still want to take him apart.”
Titania struck both her son and grandson across the face. “You are no longer kin of mine! I strip you off all your inheritances and titles, all of your gold and your residences. You are not fit to call yourself Highstar, nameless you shall be, and kin-wrecked you are. I cast you out, from my heart and my home—”
“Mother, don’t!” her son called.
Titania continued, ruthlessly. “—exiled from the Summer kingdom, forbidden ever to cross the threshold of my realm. Go now and dwell among the broken and lost, the dregs of the mortal realm. The fae realm is now closed to you. You shall forget you ever were mine, and know only that you have lost something precious, never to be regained, through your own cruelty.” She reached out her hand then, and touched both father and son on the forehead. They shivered and cried out. When she removed her hand, they looked at her blankly. “Go then, strangers, back to the mortal realm. From now on, your fate is in your own hands. Make of it what you will.” She clapped her hands and a small gnome appeared. “Give them food, water, and clothing for a week, as is customary. Then escort them to the borders of the kingdom and send them through the Portal.”
“Wait!” Maeve said. “There is one more thing I believe they deserve.” She quickly gestured and said, “Thy magic is bound, live thou like a mortal till your life’s end.” A bolt of ice struck both men and locked their magic away. “Thus is the judgment of the Courts.”
The gnome beckoned. “This way, sirs.” He led the dazed fae away.
Titania drew herself up and faced Severus. “Severus Snape, has your honor been satisfied? Has justice been served?”
Severus bowed. “It has, Your Majesties.”
“Then this court is adjourned. Go in peace.”
Everyone bowed and then started to depart, stunned by the unexpected turn of events. Most of Titania’s family looked shellshocked. It was the worst punishment ever handed down to a royal in thousands of years.
Gloriana snapped a leash upon Jarillion’s collar and half-dragged him from the hall.
Maeve grimaced and said, “I shall take my leave of you now, sister. ‘Till next December.”
Titania gave her a brief kiss of peace, then nodded regally.
Maeve vanished in a puff of violet smoke, leaving Titania to tend to the wounds of her now shattered family.
The Summer queen turned and looked at Harry and Draco. “Children, come. I shall have my Healers examine you and allow you to soak in the Pool of Restoration. It is the least I can do to make amends.”
Today is my birthday, so please excuse any errors in here, as I was interrupted severa times while writing by phone calls.
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