In this most austere proceeding, the assembled dignitaries were sat in silence at the head of the hall. The tribunal was the most exceptional in recent times. No Wolf younger than four hundred years sat on this conclave, waiting for the proceedings to begin. Twelve jurors had been chosen but that is where the similarity to a human court ended. These Wolves were not sitting to determine the accused guilty – because as it was the Sentinel that had accused them - they were guilty until they could prove themselves innocent – the Jurors were there, as tradition dictated, to witness that the procedure was held in the proper manner.
Above the awaiting assemblage, in galleries on three sides of the hall, other Wolves were gathered. The younger or less influential Wolves – those not invited to participate in this most historic event - spoke in muted tones, creating an indistinct murmur that hung almost tangible in the air. Most had to stand as seats had been removed in order that more Wolves could attend. Many of the discussions ran into one another, one Wolf overhearing his neighbours’ conversation and giving his input and then passing the information he had gleaned onto his group. Most were discussing the forthcoming trial, but what was also catching everyone’s attention – congregation and Jury alike - was the fact that the three sat at the Head of the hall were Victoria – the Lycaeon herself - and the two Wolves flanking her, both of whom had not been seen since the Middle Ages and had almost passed into legend.
Jakob – former ruler of his own pack in Bavaria before swearing allegiance to the Lycaeon sat at her right hand, as fierce a protectorate of the legacy he had once opposed as any.
And Niall – the ancient Celt and staunch supporter of Victoria - as he was with Anton before her - sat at her left hand.
Questions were asked amongst the audience as to who these two Wolves could be. Not many knew either by sight, but some knew of them and these Wolves were not slow at passing on the information.
Victoria and her advocates were studying reams of documents, maps and scrolls. They had each received copies of all documentation on agreeing to stand as arbiter and had been studying them for weeks. Red – or Hazel as she had to be referred to in her official capacity - had made comprehensive reports on all the accusations she had made, citing not a few Wolves as willing witness and others not-so-willing – all were compelled to attend, even though their written statement was enough. They looked up as the Custodian’s Runner approached and awaited acknowledgement. Victoria nodded to him and he bowed in the proper manner, then he leaned forward to inform the trio: “The Custodian wishes to advise our Lycaeon and Elders that the Sentinel Exemplar is here and she is fully prepared.”
Victoria answered, “Very well, our thanks to the Custodian. Are the accused assembled?”
“Yes Lycaeon, they arrived a short time ago.”
Victoria nodded and the Runner left to return to the Custodian’s side. Victoria nodded to the Custodian.
It seemed uncanny how the incessant drone that had been present, all at once was silenced in favour of an apprehensive stillness.
From a door in the only wall that did not have a gallery above it, a lone figure stepped out onto the floor and the hush detonated into derisive jeers and heckling.
Hazel ignored the insults and contempt, even the ‘bitch’ comments. Today she would hold herself in consummate superiority. Today the Prophesy came to another fork and it was of ultimate significance that the correct path was taken, the proper ceremonies conducted and appropriate respect to traditions and elders afforded. She had no way of knowing if any of her actions or reactions to particular circumstances could influence the outcome – of either this trial or the prophecy – and so she had decided to take whichever path was directed by using her knowledge and power as Sentinel and take the consequences for good or bad.
Hazel approached the Lycaeon’s bench from the back; she skirted around, turned to face the table and halted a few feet from it to give a deep bow as mark of respect to Victoria, then turned to each of her colleagues and bowed to them, as she had to the Lycaeon. Victoria looked up, past Hazel at the howling mob and as one, they became silent once more. Then Hazel turned to the awaiting dozen jurors and faced them square on. The Custodian stood central between the Jury and the Lycaeon.
“Sentinel, as representative of our ruling classes and emissary to our society we charge you to produce evidence and substantiation in order that our First Laws and bloodlines remain consistent, unimpaired and irrevocable. Can you?”
Hazel nodded once and said: “Yes.” Then she held out the bulging folder of documents, copies of which, Victoria, Jakob and Niall already had. With a slight bow, the Custodian’s Runner took the folder and placed it on the desk to the left of the Lycaeon where the Custodian would sit. Hazel took her place at a table to the right of the Lycaeon; the small table was bare except for a jug of water and a glass.
A gasp from the audience was heard and it seemed all but Hazel and the Lycaeon’s table contributed to the sound. The three Wolves that had entered via the same doorway as Hazel were recognised by all attending.
Phillipe took the front, as youngest Wolf, then Darius.
With a deliberate and obvious measure of putting a greater distance between himself and the previous two, Emilio the Elder strode onto the floor, wielding his stick more like a weapon than a walking aid. His presence was what had elicited the gasp of surprise.
The three were directed to sit opposite the Jury. Four chairs had been placed and Darius and Phillipe sat alongside each other. Emilio, again with due consideration, sat apart from them and Hazel got the feeling that he would have moved his chair further if he could. Emilio looked at Hazel with a neutral stare, neither venomous, nor affable. Phillipe did not look at the Jury, Hazel, or his Lycaeon. He did see who the two flanking her were and could not prevent the disbelief from showing on his face. Darius glared at every one in turn, leaving his most malevolent stare until last – for Hazel. She saw him from the corner of her eye, but pretended not to notice.
The Custodian stepped to the centre of the room, facing the collected Wolves. His voice rang out clearly. “This trial will begin immediately. It will not cease until verdicts have been given on all three Wolves. Once the trail is ended, any judgements will be decided forthwith according to the crime - and be it execution, ostracism or acquittal - that too will be expeditious.” Then he turned to the accused: “Phillipe Marchand, Darius Mauvoisin, Emilio Lovari the Elder: You are charged with Traitorous acts against Wolfkind. Poisoning. Murder. The manufacture of Throwbacks and most serious: Amassing an army in order to overthrow the Lycaeon and her Bloodline.”
The watching Wolves were abuzz with excitement at the announcement of the charges.
Hazel was watching the accused, she saw the look on Emilio’s face, it was a mask of absolute fury and he turned slowly to Darius and Phillipe. As the phrase goes: ‘If looks could kill’, there would have been no further need for the trial.