A Trial of Judgment: The Final Reckoning  

We have come to the final moments, the last part of what ended up being a long scene, longer than I’d anticipated, or maybe not.  Sometimes I think these are gonna run longer or shorter and I’m always surprised.  But, no, I’m always a little surprised.

I did pass another milestone last night:  one hundred ten thousand words written.  And since I ended up with a little over twelve hundred words last night, I went one more and made it one hundred and eleven thousand.  It’s another nice point, and the next up are one hundred twenty thousand (of course), and one hundred twenty-five thousand, or an eighth of a million, if you’re fractionally inclined.  At the rate I’m zipping along I should reach one hundred and fifty thousand in about forty days, or some time around the end of September.

Here is it, nice and pretty, not hand drawn like Annie zapping someone.

Here is it, nice and pretty, not hand drawn like Annie zapping someone.

The match is over, so what happens next?  Well, things happen . . . and stuff.  Like–

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

“And stop.” Professor Chai raised her arms over her head as she issued the command. “Annie, please return to your starting position—” As Annie touched down, dissipated her magic, and walked back to where she’d begun the trial, the professor turned to Nurse Bianca, who had come over from the hospital and was now giving Rikkard a quick checkup. “Is he good?” Bianca nodded before patting the boy on the shoulder. “Good—” Ramona headed for the center of the mat and motioned for her two combatants to join her. “Please come.”

Annie walked slowly to the center of the mat and stopped about a meter from Rikkard, who seemed just a bit unsteady on his feet: she expected that was the reason Nurse Bianca a step behind him. The left few spells left her a bit winded, but that was passing quickly, and in another minute no one would know she’d just participated in her first judgment trial.

Ramona held out her hands to both combatants. “Please face each other—” They both adjusted their stances so they were face-to-face. “—and bow.” Both students executed a short bow, and for the first time since they’d met a slight smile appeared on Rikkard’s face. “I want to congratulate you both for the honor you showed each other, and the fact that there no penalties were registered against either of you.” She folded her hands across her torso. “Well done.”

Rikkard extended his right hand towards Annie. “Good match. And congratulations.”

Even though she wasn’t yet declared the winner, Annie was as aware of the outcome as the boy across from her. “Thank you.” She shook his hand. “And a good match from you as well.”

He exhaled slowly. “You should consider going out for your coven’s combat team.”

She shook her head. “I only fight when it’s necessary.”

His smile grew wider. “Probably best for the rest of us.”

“Rikkard, you may leave. You fought a good battle: thank you for your participation.” Ramona gave him a slight nod right before Bianca placed her hands on his shoulders and jaunted away. She then turned to the girl on her right. “Annie, you are the victor of this trial, and the moment has come to pass judgment. Do you which to continue?”

There wasn’t any need to ask Annie twice. “Yes, Professor.”

 

Rikkard is a good sport about getting his ass handed to him, and his remark about it probably being best Annie isn’t in a combat club is telling, because it would seem that most of the people he faces don’t have the same skills Annie has.  Probably because they aren’t little sorceresses who can handle their Morte spells . . .

It’s also sort of telling that he gets jaunted off to the hospital right away for a check-up, because Annie juiced his ass probably harder than Lovecraft zapped Kerry back when their first started.  Helena, however, was using “invisible” charges, which is to say she was using Kerry’s electrical field, the one generated by his body.  Annie’s not quite there, but she’s close to doing that.  She just needs a, um, “partner” for testing.

Now it’s judgment time, and Lisa has to pay the piper–and Annie isn’t playing a cute, dancy pop song right now–

 

Ramona turned her gaze upon the gathered students. “Lisa, please come forward.” The girl stepped away from a small group of students and slowly approached. “Come to the center of the mat and face Annie.” The professor waited until both girls were standing before her, facing each other. While Annie appeared calm and relaxed, Lisa seemed understandably pensive. “Lisa, your champion has lost this trial, and in accordance with trial protocol, you are required to face Annie’s judgment.” She turned to victor. “Annie, you have twenty-four hours to issue your judgment against Lisa—”

“I won’t need that much time, Professor.” Annie stared down the smoldering Lisa. “I’m prepared to pass judgment now.”

“You may proceed.”

“Thank you.” Annie’s eyes narrowed as she spoke the words she’d considered all through the afternoon’s Advanced Formulistic Magic. “Lisa, from now and until you leave this school for good, you will not speak ill of me, you will not make disparaging remarks, you will no longer make up lies about me in any public area where I could overhear you speaking.” She closed the distance between them by half, feeling Lisa’s anger burn into her. “What you said this morning was horrid and disgusting, and I will not stand for your crap any longer. I can’t control what you say about me in private, but should I ever hear you speak of me as you did today—or learn that you are the source of any nasty, perverted rumors—I will call you out again, and you will fight me without benefit of a champion.”

 

Now, it may seem like Annie should be making Lisa swab floors with her tongue, but keep in mind, if she went out of her way to lay something crazy on Lisa, Ramona would likely tell her, “No, do it again,” and Annie would need to regroup.  As it is, she just laid a gag order on Lisa to stop talking shit about her, and if she blows it, Annie’s gonna haul her back up to the manor and zap the shit out of her–which is not what Lisa wants to hear–

 

The mask of anger finally fell from Lisa’s face, and she grew panicky for the first time. She turned to Ramona. “She can’t do that.”

“Yes, she can.” Ramona spoke clear and slow. “It’s a common request from a victor that if the vanquished violates a judgment, they must enter another trial themselves.” Her head tilted slightly to the right. “As knowledgeable as you appear about judgment trials, I would have believed you’d know about that stipulation.” She turned back to Annie. “Do you have anything further to add, Annie?”

“No, Professor.” She tilted her head back just enough that it appeared she was looking down her nose at Lisa. “That is all.”

“Understood.” Ramona walked backwards a few steps and addressed every student in the room. “As Mistress of Judgments for the School of Salem I declare Annie’s judgment to be fair and evenhanded. Lisa—” She ignored the furious glare focused upon her. “—if you feel this judgment is unduly severe, you have forty-eight hours to appeal my decision, at which time I’ll bring the matter up before the Ruling Council. I should remind you that I have never had a decision overturned—” A slight upturn appeared at the left corner of Ramona’s mouth. “—though there’s always a first time.

“And with that . . .” Ramona spread her arms wide. “This Judgment Trial is over, and our business is concluded. It is now seventeen forty-six; leave now and you’ll make dinner by eighteen. Thank you for coming.” She bowed, turn, and walked off the mat and out of the room.

 

What Ramona did was, in her own way, let Lisa know she’s aware she gamed the system and lost, and if she wants to bitch about the outcome, fine, go do so, but you’re gonna lose.  Professor Chai doesn’t talk smack, but she is a firm believer in karma, and she’s knows the Karma Express pulled into the station and pretty much ran Lisa’s ass down.  Lisa’s not a Moriarty-like mastermind of intrigue:  she’s just a mean girl who thinks being a bitchy witch is cool.

She just picked the wrong person to screw with.

And someone close to Annie knows the same:

 

Annie didn’t wait to see if Lisa any something to say: she turned her back on the girl and walked towards Kerry, who had moved away from the crowd and was waiting for her just beyond the mat. “Did I disappoint?”

He shook his head. “Not in the least.” He waited until Annie had slipped on her flats before giving her a hug. “You were incredible. How do you feel?”

“Good. A little tired after that lightning shot, but—” She kissed him on the lips. “—I’m fine now.”

“So I see.” He kissed her back, holding it for several seconds. “I thought you might be tired because you’re so . . . calm. You should be really excited after that win.”

“Hum.” She shot him a impish grin. “That is not my style.”

“Oh, come on: just this once. Here—” Kerry slipped his arms around Annie’s thighs and lifted her into the air. “I’ll help you celebrate.”

Annie laughed, because she’d never had Kerry touch her this way, not with dozens of people standing around. But she liked the feeling of excitement that immediately filled her as she was hoisted into the air, and she realized he was right: she had every reason in the world to get excited, to celebrate a victory that she figured few in the room thought she’d achieve.

With Kerry holding her tight Annie leaned back and threw her arms into the air. She started laughing as she turned her gaze towards the ceiling, because not only did it feel wonderful to have emerged victorious, in that instant she realized on other thing: just like Helena, she’d given herself a reputation.

No one was going to make light of, or underestimate her, ever again.

 

Though you can probably imagine that some fool will, because now they know how Annie fights–at least in this environment–and they’ll try to match her moves and attack, because everyone wants to take out the fastest gun, right?  We’ve already shown that making Annie mad isn’t a good thing, and if you keep doing it–

You do it at your own risk.