Time to go all A Song of Ice and Fire like with the post titles, ’cause we’re about to see some stuff go down here. Yesterday you saw the opening paragraph to the scene, but now–well, wrote six hundred words last night and almost fourteen hundred and fifty words this morning, so that scene I thought would be about a thousand words ended up going double that.
Let’s see how this sets up, because we already know it’s going down:
(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)
There were many Mistresses of Judgment since 1684, with three men joining the ranks during the Twentieth Century. Professor Ramona Chai, the martial arts and weapons instructor, was the current Mistress of Judgment, having assumed the roll when she began teaching during the 1999-2000 school year, and had done much in the last ten years to ensures combat was safe while also allowing witches to work out their differences by using all the skills they possessed.
Gwydion Manor was where all combat skills were taught, and it was here the witches of Salem settled their difference in Judgment Trails. This was Ramona’s world, and here her word was, for the most part, law. Such was her impartiality that not one of her judgments had been overturned by the Ruling Council of the school: the four administrative leaders—the Headmistress, Trevor, Isis, and Coraline—and the five Coven Leaders.
So this is something that’s been around a long time, with variations on the rules over the centuries. At least we know Ramona isn’t going unleash zombies on Lisa and Annie, though that might make for some funny stuff, you know?
It goes without saying that any time you have an event with a few hundred years of history behind it, you’re going to have a bit of ritual to go with the proceedings. It’s no different at Salem, where they still refer to the holidays by their old, traditional names:
There were nearly sixty students inside the Manor when Professor Chai stepped onto the fourteen by fourteen meter mat with the white ten meter competition circle set in the center. She waited for a hush to fall over the spectators before speaking. “I welcome all students to this trail, and ask that for the duration of the procedures that you remain behind the red line surrounding the mat, which is there for your own safety.
“We are gathered because there are two students who are unable to resolve their differences amicably, and the aggrieved party has requested a judgment by trial, which is the right of any student at Salem. This trial will proceed obeying the rules set down by the Mistresses of Judgment, from the first days of the school until the present.” Ramona scanned the gathered crowd. “And woe be unto those individuals who believe they are above those rules, for they will quickly discover they are not.” She looked straight ahead. “Now, who is the aggrieved party? Step forward and be recognized.”
And that’s it: the game is afoot. At his point Annie could just walk away . . .
Annie gave Kerry’s hand a long, firm squeeze before separating herself from the other students. She stopped at the edge of the white circle. “That would be me, Professor.”
Ramona waved her forward. “Remove your shoes and come to the center of the ring.” Annie so as instructed and entered the ring. “State your name, coven, and education level.”
Annie softly cleared her throat. “Annie Kirilova, Cernunnos Coven, B Level.”
“Welcome, Annie.” Ramona once more scanned the students beyond the mat. “Is the aggrieving party present? Step forward and be recognized.”
A few seconds later Lisa stepped out of the crowd, removed her shoes, and stepped onto the mat. “That would be me.”
“Come to the center of the ring; state your name, coven, and education level.”
Lisa stopped about three meters from Annie and crossed her arms. “Lisa Glissandi, Åsgårdsreia Coven, B Level.”
Everyone is now here with a whole bunch of people watching, getting ready to watch the magic fly. Knowing that combat should be the last resort, Ramona explains the rules to both girls:
Ramona gave both girls a nod of acknowledgment. “Welcome to Gwydion Manor. Before we continue, I will ask: can this disagreement be resolved without combat? Lisa, as you are the aggrieving party, it is up to you to decide this mater.”
Lisa appeared to give the matter a few seconds of thought before shaking her head. She looked directly at Annie. “Bitch there wants a fight, she’ll get one.”
“I understand.” Ramona turned to Annie. “As the aggrieved party you have to right to walk away and ask for administrative punishment. There is no shame in reconsidering your decision and leaving the matter to the instructors.”
Annie had decided on her answer that afternoon during Advanced Formulistic Magic. “The things she said to me in front of the other students—” She shook her head. “I’m sorry, Professor: I can’t walk away.”
“I understand.” Ramona approached the two girl and stopped about two meters from them. “Then we will proceed with the Trial. As you may or may not know, a Judgment Trial allows an aggrieved student to seek their own justice from an aggrieving student. This justice is sought through combat, with the outcome varied. Should the aggrieved student win, they are allowed to pronounce a fair judgment upon the aggriever. I am the final arbiter of said judgment, and should I find it excessive I will demand modifications or, in some cases, a new judgment.
“Should the aggriever win, though, they escape judgment, and no further action shall be taken against them for that particular action.” She eyed Lisa hard. “They will be put on notice, however, that their continued bad action will likely result in their standing before me in this location once more.”
Ramona’s emphases on particular is to show that once this trial is over, their conflict for this matter is over. Should Lisa start talking shit to Annie the moment they walk out of the building, Annie has the right to haul her ass right back inside and start again. The teacher is also letting Lisa know that should she continue being a mouthy bitch, she’s gonna find herself standing on the mat again and again.
With things laid out, and knowing that it’s time to rumble, we can expect things to go smoothly–right? Right?
Ramona paused to allow her words to sink in before continuing. “If there are no questions, we can—”
“I have one.”
Annie felt her chest tighten the moment Lisa spoke. For the last few hours she’d suffered through the nagging feeling that Lisa may try something to alter their confrontation, and if it were going to happen, now was the time . . .
Ramona turned to Lisa. “Yes?”
“Well, it’s not really a question; it’s more something else—” She crossed her arms. “I want a champion.”
And . . . wrong. As the saying goes, once a punk-ass bitch, always a punk-ass bitch, and Lisa apparently wants to hang onto that title. As you can imagine this isn’t sitting well with certain people–
Annie slowly turned towards Lisa. “Really?”
Ramona knew the rules: there wasn’t anyone out of line with Lisa’s request. She was, however, bound to question the request. “Why is that, Lisa?”
“Annie’s a sorceress and a better witch when it comes to magic.” Lisa cast a sideways glance at her opponent. “She’s also in your advanced class, which means she’s a better fighter. So I can’t hope to beat her, can I?”
“All that may be true, Lisa—” Ramona turned a puzzled look upon the student. “Why continue then?”
“Like I said, little bitch wants a fight—” Lisa smirked. “May as well give her one.”
Though Ramona didn’t care at all for Lisa’s reasoning, there was nothing in the rules that prevented her from taking this course of action, and that it was well within her rights to have someone fight in her stead. “As you wish. The rules state that you have twenty-four hours to present a champion—”
“I have one.”
It was Ramona’s turn to smirk. “I see you came prepared.” She turned her gaze to the students beyond the mat. “Who stands as champion for the aggriever?”
In technical terms, this is known as a dick move, but there’s nothing in the rules which state Lisa can’t ask for someone to beat on Annie while she stands on the sidelines and laugh. The reason one asks for a champion is to avoid being bullied by a stronger opponent who has pulled them into a contest for bullshit reasons. Of course Lisa isn’t getting pulled into this trial for bogus reasons, and she is correct when she says Annie could probably tear her ass up with little difficultly, but still–she’s gaming the system to get the better of someone she went out of her way to piss off, and now she’s going to walk.
On top of which–
A tall boy with dark hair stepped out of the crowd. “That would be me, Professor.”
Ramona waved him forward. “Step forward and be recognized.”
Annie watched him slowly remove his shoes, noticing the four stars on the lapel of his jacket, all tinted in the colors of Åsgårdsreia Coven. As he walked onto the mat, Annie finally realized that Lisa’s desire for confrontation wasn’t an accident—
Ramona waited until the boy was directly behind Lisa before saying anything. “State your name, coven, and education level.”
The boy spoke in a low, soft voice. “Rikkard Tuominen, Åsgårdsreia Coven, D Level.”
“And do you swear truthfully that you stand as Lisa’s champion?”
Ramona nodded. “Thank you. Lisa, you may leave the mat.” She waited until Lisa was back safe within the throng of students before she turned to the remaining girl. “Annie, I must inform you that Rikkard is a member of the Åsgårdsreia Combat Team, and that he is currently competing in his second year on their A Team.” She allowed herself a deep breath so Annie could gather her thoughts. “You have the right to reject this champion, but if you do so Lisa has twenty-four hours to choose a second one should she so wish. If you reject that person, and Lisa continues to demand a champion, you will have the choice of either fighting that individual or forfeiting the trial.” Ramona massaged the back of her left hand. “You also have the option of walking away from the trial if you so wish, with the results for doing so remaining the same as already indicated.”
So not only an older kid from her coven, but one skilled in combat–though I wonder if he’d have stood for Lisa if he knew about Annie’s performance in combat. After all, this boy from Finland–which is where he’s from, trust me–probably hasn’t had to go up against Deconstructors, since if he were a member of the school’s Rapid Response Team, Ramona would have mentioned the fact.
Needless to say Annie’s not happy, and now she has to think about the coming battle.
Annie looked her new opponent over, feeling a slight rage take hold. Lisa must have had to do quite a bit of convincing to get someone from her coven combat team to fight for her. It was all obvious now: Lisa would goad Annie into a Judgment Trial, bring forth a champion, and force Annie to walk away in embarrassment—or be beaten in combat, which would produce the same result. “Professor?”
“May I have a few minutes to consider my options?”
Ramona nodded. “I’ll give you five minutes to decide.”
“Thank you.” She turned and walked off the mat. She headed directly for Kerry, who was already over the red line, standing alone and waiting for her. She stopped just within arm’s reach of her soul mate and looked into his eyes. She shook her head slowly and spoke softly so they wouldn’t be overheard. “She set me up.”
“Yeah, well . . .” Kerry took Annie’s hand. “It is Lisa.”
“Yes, it is.” She glanced over her shoulder. “She’s a coward.”
“Yeah, she’s being a twat for sure.” Kerry exhaled slowly. “Sweetie—”
Annie turned back. “Yes?”
He nodded towards the students a few meters away on his right. “I’m gonna stand over here and watch you kick this guy’s butt—okay?”
She couldn’t hide her smile. “You think so?”
“I know so.”
She wrapped her arms around Kerry and kissed him slowly and with passion. “Thank you, my love.”
“Any time, my little sarmi.” He glanced over her shoulder towards the mat before gazing into her eyes. “Go get ‘em, Tiger.”
She kissed Kerry once more, then released him and strode towards the center of the mat. “Professor, this champion is acceptable.” She stopped the moment she crossed the competition circle and stood with confidence. “May we proceed?”
And the moral of the story is when your boyfriend says he’s gonna watch you kick someone’s ass, you don’t want to disappoint. I like how I played out the scene between them, because Annie doesn’t ask Kerry if he feels she’s doing the right thing, and he give her dire warnings about what might come. He knows her mind was made up before they ever entered the building, and given that they’ve faced death together, he knows Annie can handle herself. Also, always being the geek, Kerry laid a classic comic book line on Annie, something Mary Jane Watson would say to Peter Parker before Spiderman headed off into New York City to tear up a few bad guys.
What next now? Why, the rules, that’s what.
Actually, you do . . .