Friday, September 11, 2015

Practical Magic: Shakel Stories (Practical Magic #8)

Deidre sat with her sister and Cal’s parents listening to testimony from Shakel. Her Aunt Dot was serving on the council along with a Spell-Caster and a Healer. Shakel had tried to insist that Dot be dismissed as part of the council since she was a relative of one of the deceased she would be biased. There was discussion held but Dot’s integrity was held in too high of a regard for anyone to believe she could be biased against what ever facts were presented. Dot herself suggested that another Prophet whose identity would be kept a secret was allowed to listen and give an opinion as well. If their opinion did not match the council’s there would be an investigation as to why. Then Shakel tried to insist there could not be a valid council against him as he was a Sorcerer; not just holding one gift but all of them. This was also dismissed as the evidence showed he held the four gifts through spells not through natural means. He was a Spell-Caster. A gifted Spell-Caster, but still a Spell-Caster.

Shakel’s followers, the ones that were with him on the day of the ambush and those that had been discovered hiding in the woods nearby had already been brought before their own councils. The judgments against them had been split and varied. Some knew about Shakel’s plans and some did not. Some had followed him willing and some had been compelled. Either through spells or through blackmail. Those that had been compelled due to spells were being held in a secure facility until after Shakel’s trial was complete. The feeling was they could not be punished for crimes they had no control over, and many had no memory of committing them. But they could not be left free while Shakel still held sway over them. If what they said was true, and they all believed it to be, they would not be free from his influence until his death. Those that had been blackmailed were punished accordingly. Committing a crime to hide your own misdeeds was dealt with much more harshly than those that had committed crimes to protect a family member who had been threatened.

It had taken a few weeks to get through all of the trials leading to this one. Even at the speed their justice system worked there were just so many people to try and so much testimony to get through it took time. And all through those trials Deidre had sat in the front row and listened. Listened to people give testimony about crimes that eventually led to the slaughter of a squadron of 6 of their top Warriors including Cal. And finally today she would hear from Shakel himself. The courtroom was filled to capacity with members of The Gifted. Victims and family of the victims filled the first few rows of the courtroom. The remainder held members of the press and people who had lined up early to be witness to the trial.

The stories that were circulating about The Sorcerer Shakel and his crimes were already taking on legendary status. That he could perform spells that no one had ever dared try. That he was the greatest of the Healers, the most powerful of the Warriors a Prophet beyond measure. People wanted to hear him speak. To learn about him. Because though his crimes were many, theft, bribery, murder, his reputation was larger. Deidre had listened to people speaking of him in almost reverent tones and it had infuriated her. He was a coward. He protected himself by using other people to do his dirty work. He had used spells to compel people to commit crimes in his name. He had ambushed her husband and sucked the life from him slowly and painfully while their daughter watched helpless, thinking it was only a nightmare.

There were those who had wondered if Shakel would remain silent. To deny them testimony. Make them rule on only the evidence given by others. But they should not have worried. Once Shakel started talking he did not stop. Obviously a man in love with his own ideas he told them everything he had planned, everything he had done, and everything that he would still do. He believed that the path that was being taken during The Joining was the wrong one. Why should The Gifted interact with The Others? We owed them nothing. Had they not prosecuted our kind over and over again? If one of us was found among them did they not call us Witches or Monsters and have us killed? Were there not periods where it was not enough to live separately but they felt the need to hunt us down? To seek us out? The Others only wanted The Joining now because they were scared. There were things happening they could not explain, problems they could not solve they knew that we could. But why should we? Why should we ever help them? When we knew, deep down we knew that once the wild magics were found and quelled The Others would see us as a threat again. Would start to preach against us again. Would hunt us and kill us again. Why should we let them?

He spoke like an Evangelist. Theatrical. Flamboyant. Persuasive. Deidre understood how he got his followers in the first place. There were others among The Gifted who felt this way. Not all felt it to the degree that Shakel did, they did not think The Others should be subjugated and held in contempt, but many felt that mixing with them, allowing them to see how many of The Gifted lived among them was a dangerous idea. Deidre and Cal had discussed it at length with Aric over many family dinners. Aric had to admit that that were those among The Others that still felt The Gifted were evil. Evil at their very core. Any and all magic was to be forbidden. But for the most part people in both groups felt that they should learn to live together. That there were things each had to offer the other.

Shakel continued to speak about the spells he had used. He was not ashamed, he was proud. Proud to have found the old books tucked away in a family attic. Books with spells that had been deemed illegal. How could a spell be illegal to a Spell-Caster? Who was anyone in the government to decide how an individual used their own gift? And if he was able to use those spells, to master those spells to become stronger, to grant himself gifts that nature had not given him by birth then who was the council to try and take them from him? He was a Sorcerer! He could heal a wound or cause one! He was a Warrior! He could plan a battle, see an enemy for who they were! He was a Prophet! He could see in to your thoughts and know what your greatest fears and desires were! He was a Spell-Caster! Had he not learned how to master the spells of his ancestors? Had he not accomplished greater deeds than any other before him? Had he not learned where The Gift was held in each of us and learned how to use it for himself and had he not generously shared with his followers that power? He should not be on trial. He should not be punished. He should be lauded and made a leader among The Gifted! The strong should rule the weak! That was the way of the natural world. Protecting the sheep from the wolf was foolish, the wolf would find a way.

He admitted casting spells to rob other Gifted of their lives and their gifts. He admitted stealing supplies to feed and clothe his followers. He admitted to planning the ambush that had killed Cal and his company. He denied none of his crimes, only that they were crimes at all. He called the death of Cal unfortunate but self defense. The things he had stolen he had taken because there was a need for them. And as the leader of his group it was his duty to fill the needs. Those that were too weak to defend themselves were not his problem. Those that were strong enough he took in to his own group. He felt no remorse.

After giving his testimony he was placed back in his hold cell to await the verdict. The council came to their conclusion quickly. He was guilty on all counts. The punishment would be death. After the verdict was read Deidre stood and spoke, “I declare the right of choosing.” A murmur went through the courtroom. Most death penalties were carried out by the court anonymously. But the right of choosing was an old law that had never been struck from the books. It stated that the closest living relative to the deceased could choose the executioner. Dot cleared her throat, “As the wife of Calvin Springwater leader of the company that was murdered you have the right. Are there any others who would challenge Deidre Springwater’s right of choosing?” As there was more than one victim in his crimes other family members could step forward. Deidre knew they would not. Most people let the court decide. She was not most people. After a few moments Dot spoke again, “Deidre Springwater you have been granted the right of choosing, who do you select?” Deidre looked at Shakel, “I will do this myself.” And Shakel smiled and nodded his head.

Dot conferred briefly with the other council members. “As this is your right and your choosing, Deidre Springwater you are granted the power of execution of Shakel. Thank you all for your time and attention. Court is dismissed.”

And with that people began to shuffle out of the courtroom. Deidre was escorted to the council chambers where she would be given instructions on the execution. She was informed that the proceedings would be witnessed by the council. It was believed that if you sentenced one to death you must then watch your sentence put in action. Taking a life was not something to be done lightly even if the reasons were sound. She would be the only one in the room with Shakel though, all others would be watching from behind a mirror. She was allowed to choose her weapon. Poison, gun, knife, rope, anything that she could use to kill Shakel. But she could not torture him. Whatever she used must bring death swiftly. This was justice not revenge.

Deidre nodded and signed the official paperwork stating she understood her duties as executioner. She chose her knife as the weapon she would use. One of the council members had suggested using another weapon instead of her personal one. Deidre smiled at him and he saw the full Warrior behind her eyes. “My knife.” Then Dot spoke again. “There was one irregularity that came during the sentencing. He does not think he will die. He does not believe you will kill him to be exact. I could see it and so could two other Prophets in the courtroom. He believes he will be free by tonight. I don’t know what he has planned I can’t see that, but I do know he is fully confident that you will not be able to kill him.” Deidre looked at her aunt, “Thank you for the warning.” Dot took her niece’s hand and leaned in to whisper final words of strength. Deidre listened and nodded her head. Kissing her Aunt and nodding to the other members of the council she steeled herself to the job ahead.

Deidre entered the room with Shakel. It was a plain room for the serious business that was to be conducted here. Shakel sat in a chair across a table from where Deidre herself took a seat. It resembled an interrogation room more than an execution chamber. The only restraint Shakel wore was the bracelet that had been placed on him at the time of his arrest. It was a plain looking silver bracelet but it had been infused with numerous spells and charms that would prevent Shakel from using any magic while he wore it. Shakel smiled at Deidre, “I knew you would claim the right. I had every faith in you.”

Deidre leaned back casually, “So this is all going according to your plan? This is where you wanted to be? Sitting across a table from me? Waiting for death?”

Shakel waved a hand at Deidre dismissively, “Let’s not talk of death. That’s not why you claimed the right is it? You wanted answers, maybe how I was able to ambush an entire company of Warriors? Or what Cal’s last words were? What do you want to know?”

Deidre sat up and leaned on the table, “I don’t want to ask you anything. I just wanted to look at you. To see you. To let you see me. I think people deserve to see their death coming. And that’s what I am, Stan, your death. Yes, yes, I know you like to go by Shakel, but I think right now it’s time for a little more honesty. You are Stan. You’re a Spell-Caster who always felt that you didn’t get as much credit as you should have. After all Spell-Casting is the only one of the gifts that we all can do, right? Everyone knows a few simple spells they can perform. Now a true Spell-Caster has a great aptitude, has command over magics that don’t need a written spell, and can be great in their own right, but it’s still the most basic of the gifts isn’t it?” To prove her point Deidre opened her hand and a bright purple flame danced in her palm for a moment before disappearing. “Even The Others have Spell-Casters, though they generally perform tricks for children at parties.”

The anger flashed in Shakel’s eyes then he quickly regained his composure,“Pettiness doesn’t become you, Deidre.”

“You murdered my husband. I believe I am allowed to be petty. You asked if I was curious how you were able to ambush his company? I already know. A spell. A cheap and mean spell. One that children play on each other before they know better. You just amplified it, made it bigger. You made them see and hear what wasn’t there. They thought they were going to save a child you had taken, instead you laid a trap. It’s not complicated, or special. You played on their bravery while you hid like a coward to trap them. You want me to ask what Cal’s last words were? I already know. I know his last thoughts. I know he was thinking of me Of our child. Because as you used trickery to trap him and drain him of his life his thoughts of us were so strong they awoke our only child who witnessed his final moments. Her first vision. As Cal entered the barn thinking he would save someone else’s daughter his thoughts automatically went to his own child. And that was enough to link him to her. So she watched, thinking she was having a nightmare. But the next day she realized it hadn’t been. And then this 8 year old child defeated you. A child. She told what she had seen, reliving the details of her father’s death over and over again. Making sure the location of the coward who had trapped him was found. Identifying him. That was your undoing. You never knew what bravery was. That the courage of a child to face her own worst nightmare would bring you down. Not much of a Prophet are you?”

Shakel nodded, “Thank you for telling me that. I wondered how we were found so easily. I should have been able to see that. But the taking of the Warrior gifts was more exhausting than any other had been. Fighters to the end. If only we hadn’t slept afterward we would have been long gone before they arrived to capture us. Prophetic gifts have their limits. But a young Prophet such as your daughter would be very helpful to me.” Shakel made the threat casually.

Deidre shook her head, “You still believe you are going to walk out of this room don’t you?”

Shakel smiled, “I do. I’m going to leave and you are going to help me.” The triumph now shone in his eyes as he stood looking toward the mirror, “Watch, witness, I will allow you to live so may share the tale!”

And then he turned back to Deidre, “Now!”

Deidre cocked her head and smiled, “Now? How about in a minute? Or later? Or never? Will never work for you?”

Shakel stared at Deidre, then at the mirror again. Puzzlement taking over the haughty look of moments before.

“Sit down, Stan. Did you honestly think that was going to work? That I hadn’t felt you in my head this whole time? ‘Kill the guards outside the door. Lead me to freedom.’ And that was your whole plan? The devil is in the details, Stan. And the detail you missed is that I was raised with a sister who is a Prophet and a brother who is actually a highly gifted Spell-Caster. I learned to protect my mind as a child, above and beyond the formal training we received in school. You thought you knew how to work around my guards because I gave you doors to open. You thought the spells on your bracelet didn’t work to prevent you from entering my mind because I let you in. The only path you could walk down was the one I gave you.”

With this Deidre turned toward the mirror, “Did you see what you needed to see?” Two knocks on the glass were the response. “Thank you, Stan, thank you for trying to trap my mind. It opened yours up enough to let those behind the glass deeper in to yours. Now we know where the rest of your followers are hiding. We know where the books of spells you found are being kept so they can be destroyed. And now there is only one detail left. My right. Stand up, Stan.”

Shakel stood, his body tensing for a fight. He was not going to go down easily like a lamb led to slaughter. He would fight on his own. He could make it out of this room. All that stood between him and the door was Deidre. Kill her, take her weapons and make a break. He had faithful followers that would take him in, hide him until he rose again. He watched Deidre walking toward him slowly. She was so casual, she had no idea he was going to fight back. How dare she underestimate him. Her death would be sweet. And then he would find her daughter. Revenge would be his. As he watched her Deidre tripped over the chair Shakel had been sitting in sending it toppling to the floor with a loud bang. Shakel turned to look at the chair thinking how clumsy Deidre was, how easy she would be to take out, Deidre moved quickly behind him. “Again, looking where I tell you to look, you almost made this too easy, Stan.”

Shakel could feel Deidre holding him firmly. “You should join me, you and I together could lead The Gifted in to greatness. You have the heart of a true Warrior, stronger, more determined, think of what we could accomplish.” Deidre whispered in to his ear, “Stan, why would I want to be at your side? All you have to offer is pride and cowardice, you have no true gifts.” and before he realized what had happened she slid her knife in-between his ribs and right in to his heart.

Deidre lowered Stan to the ground then sat on the floor in front of him, she sat and watched as the life drained from his eyes. Not leaving the room until he was pronounced dead. Not leaving the facility until his body had been cremated. Signing her final statement, “Let the record show that on this date Deidre Springwater did lawfully execute Stanley Cross aka The Sorcerer Shakel”

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