Disaster Strikes

Prompt: Human jackals for every human disaster

Ezra woke with a start as an explosion shook his home. He clambered out of bed, hardly pausing to tug a jacket on over his pajamas or shove his feet into loose shoes. Then, he hurried down the steps and outside.

He could see smoke rising from nearby buildings. The postal office was on fire. People were on the street. Some were hurrying away from the fire and smoke, others were rushing in to see if they could help.

Ezra caught the eyes of one passerby. “What’s going on?” he asked, shaking his head.

“Someone attacked the city,” she said. “They said on the radios to go to the shelters right away.” She hurried passed, joining the stream of people heading away from the destruction. Now, Ezra knew where they were going to.

Shivering, Ezra looked up at the sky and frowned. He was about to follow the other people towards the shelter, when he noticed two people at the window of the shop across from his gallery. The window was shattered.

Ezra’s eyes widened as he saw the pair start to enter. As they did, a third came out, his pack bulging with stolen supplies. “Hey,” Ezra shouted, running over to the man. “What are you doing?”

Before he could say another word, he felt fire sear through his chest. He crumpled to his knees and looked down. His jacket was cut across the front. Blood was spreading through the material. He slumped forward.

Around him, there was shouting. Then, someone was rolling him onto his back. Soft brown eyes locked on his. “It’s all right, honey,” the woman said. “Don’t try to speak, just lie still.” She set her hands on his chest and murmured and incantation.

Wandering Thoughts

Prompt: where we will, we’ll roam

“Have they come back with any kind of statement?” Eishi said, looking from Joram to Henry. He released an explosive sigh. “The not knowing is maddening!”

“And scary,” Henry added. He fussed with his overlong sleeves for a moment. “I mean… are the rest of us in any kind of danger?”

Joram sighed and then looked up as the door opened. Barnabas and Amera entered, with Keenan close behind. “Hey,” he said. His greeting was casual, but Joram knew him well enough to see how tense he was.

“What?” Joram said, standing. “What have your people learned, Keenan?”

Keenan grimaced. “We found the man who killed Cassidy, but he’s not talking,” he said. “He doesn’t need to tell us much, though. We know this: Edith and Mari were… pressured to retire when they did. Their lives were threatened. Cassidy might have received the same threats, but that’s not confirmed.”

“Dear Lord,” Joram breathed. “Why? Who?”

“Not sure of the who,” Keenan admitted. “We know why, though.” He shook his head. “A faction within the Republican party – more extreme than most of the members – wants to keep power in the hands of a few. They feel that those few should be racially Shynian and, apperently, they’ll stop at nothing to see that happen.”

“So,” Henry said, his brows furrowing. “Are the rest of us in danger?”

“Our evidence says you aren’t,” Keenan said. “However, I’m still worried enough that I’m going to leave you all under protection a while longer.”

He bowed, then, and slipped out of the room. Joram shook his head and glanced around at his fellows. All of them were deep in thought. The idea that someone would threaten Mari and Edith to retire – that someone would kill Cassidy – over such a petty reason was madness. Joram knew that not all republicans were like that. Barnabas was a republican and had been nothing but kind to them.

“I… can’t focus on work right now,” Joram said, shaking his head. “It’s like my thoughts are a hamster on a wheel. All I can think about is – is Cassidy and Edith and Mari.”

“We’ll convene this afternoon,” Barnabas said, nodding. “I’ll inform the clerks that we’re taking the morning off.” He bowed and slipped out of the room, leaving the rest to their wandering thoughts.

Going Home

Prompt: Two ways of getting home

“So,” Joram said, as soon as the last of them had filed into the antechamber. “We’re off for the holiday?”

“Two weeks of free time,” Barnabas agreed. He looked at Eishi and frowned. “This is your home region.”

“It is,” he agreed. “I have a house just twenty minutes walk from here.” His brows furrowed and he said, “You all have longer treks, in order to go home, though. Is that right?”

“I’m taking the train,” Joram said, nodding. He looked at Amera and said, “You’re going with us, right?”

She nodded. Turning to Henry, she tilted her head to one side. “How are you getting home for the holiday, Henry?” she asked, frowning.

“I haven’t decided yet,” he admitted. His brows furrowed and he said, “I can’t drive, so that leaves taking the train or a boat.”

“I don’t trust the train,” Barnabas said, shaking his head firmly. He looked horrified for a moment and added, “The stories you hear about what can happen… I’m driving home.”

Henry frowned and shook his head. “I’ll decide tomorrow,” he said.

A Wandering Oak

Prompt: No time for spreadin’ roots

“What’s wrong with it?” Amera asked, frowning at the tree. It’s branches were nearly naked. Only a few leaves hung from the ends. It looked weak and sick. She looked at Joram and scowled. “Not enough sun?”

Joram shook his head. “It’s a wandering oak,” he said. He pointed as the tree shifted and swayed for a moment. Then, it tugged up its roots and moved across the garden to another location.

Henry shook his head. “Foolish tree,” he called. “Ya ain’t never gonna get better ‘less you stay someplace a day or so. Pickin’ up and movin’ don’t give ya no time ta spread yer roots!” He looked back at the other judges and blinked. “What?”

“You… your accent was rather thick just then, Henry,” Barnabas said. He smiled. “I don’t believe I’d heard it so pronounced until just then.”

Grinning, Henry said, “I try and watch how I speak when I’m with y’all or in court. That there tree don’t care ‘bout grammar and such like, though.”

Eishi shook his head slightly. “I think your accent is charming, Henry,” he said, smiling. “I believe the others will agree with me when I say: you don’t have to watch your speech on our account.”

“He’s right, Henry,” Joram agreed. “Just be yourself. We won’t judge you for it.”

“Thank’e,” Henry said, beaming at them.

Sending Out Shoots

Prompt: The Open Road, The Bitter Song, The Heavy Load

“You grew up in a wayside tavern?” Barnabas said, arching an eyebrow at Eishi. He took a sip of his wine and shook his head. “What was that like?”

“Well,” Eishi said, scowling, “People would stop and rest from the road. They’d bring news from other parts of the land, as well as music or arts that we’d never seen before. All in all, it was rather pleasant.”

“It must have been hard during the Occupation,” Joram said, frowning. “I’ve heard that the Berklians would demand free lodgings if they passed by such places close to evening.”

“They did,” Eishi confirmed. “Lodgings, drink, food… Whatever they wanted they took and we were meant to bow and scrape and thank them for their thieving.” He shook his head. “That was part of the reason my parents wanted me educated. They saved every bit of coin they could and held it aside, for my future education.”

“They wanted a different life for you,” Amera said. A faint smile touched her lips. “I bet they’re glad they made that choice now.”

Eishi smiled wanly. “I’d like to think so,” he said. “They… aren’t around anymore. My mother took sick and my father died in a fire.” For a moment, he looked troubled. Then, he seemed to shake dark thoughts away and he smiled. “My inheritance was enough to get me away from that little wayside tavern – let me see the wide world I’d always only heard of before.”

“Like a plant sending out shoots,” Henry said, grinning brightly. Even if the parent plant dies, the little ones live on, sometimes under better conditions than the parent did.” For a moment, everyone stared at him.

“You,” Barnabas murmured, “will never cease to amaze me.”

Hurry up and Wait

Prompt: Escape all that waiting and staying

“Is it always like this?” Barnabas asked, looking at the others. Joram frowned slightly, so he said, “Hurry up to get here at a certain time and then wait for them to be ready for us.”

Joram shrugged. “I think it’s that way for all large bureaucracies,” he said. “What do they say in the military? Hurry up and wait?” He chuckled softly at his joke and shrugged. Then, his brows furrowed. “Who’s leading us today?”

Henry grinned. “You are,” he said.

Grimacing, Joram sighed. “Feels like it’s always my turn,” he said.

Barnabas spread his hands. “At least once a week,” he said. Joram, he had realized after the first few days, was almost painfully shy. He was an excellent judge of character and he knew the laws well. Both of those traits served him well as a member of the High Court.

That each of them took a day each week to lead the court was the only thing that seemed to bother him. It forced him to speak for the court. Public speaking was his single weak point. Shy as he was, it was difficult for him to talk with those he knew. Addressing a crowd was almost painful.

Barnabas frowned. Perhaps that was why they were waiting. Perhaps they were hoping that, by giving Joram a few extra minutes to collect himself.

Joram sighed. “Enough with just standing here and waiting,” he said. Drawing back the curtain that separated the five judges from the main part of courtroom, he nodded. Then, they were introduced by the Bailiff and he stepped out into the open. The others formed in pairs behind him, following him into the court.

No longer burdened by what’s left behind

Henry frowned at Eishi and then poked him. “Why’re you so down?” he said, tilting his head to one side.

Eishi scowled. “Cassidy was murdered,” he said, shaking his head. “It’s not – I can’t just get over it the way the rest of you seem to have.”

“Eishi,” Joram said, his tone gentle. “It’s not that we are cold. You truly seem to be more… effected by her loss. I think Henry’s… just worried about you.”

Henry nodded. “I don’t want you to be sad, Eishi,” he murmured. “I just… don’t know how to help you.”

“Because you won’t tell us what’s really wrong,” Amera said, nodding.

For a moment, Eishi was silent. Then, he heaved a deep sigh. “We… we didn’t tell you,” he said, his voice cracking. “We weren’t sure how – how you’d feel about it – about us.”

“You and Cassidy were seeing each other?” Joram asked. He sighed and threw his arms around Eishi’s shoulders. “Take all the time you need, Eishi! I don’t know what I’d do if anything ever happened to Cianal!”

For a while, Eishi just cried softly. When, he quieted, he wiped his tears away. “Somehow,” he said, his voice faint, “I feel better. Thank you.”

“Any time,” Joram said, settling back on his own cushion once more.

that we should voyage far

“Do they do it on purpose?” Barnabas asked, looking over at Joram. The senior judge made a curious sound and Barnabas added, “It seems that they chose this place to make us travel as far as possible. Was their intention?”

Joram blinked and then looked intently at Barnabas. “You… really don’t know?” he asked, looking shocked. He didn’t wait for an answer. Instead, he looked at the others. “What about the rest of you. Do you know why this place was chosen as the home of the High Court?”

Eishi and Amera both shook their head, but Henry grinned brightly. “I know,” he said excitedly. He looked at Barnabas. Nodding proudly, he said, “This is where they wrote the constitution. The sovereign and the councils all meet in the capital, but they wanted us separate – so we’d remember that we aren’t supposed to toe any party line.”

Joram nodded. “They selected this place because it’s where our first laws were set down,” he said, his voice soft. “What better place for the High Court to meet than the one that gave birth to the laws we’re meant to uphold?”

“When you put it that way…” Barnabas said, his voice faint. He smiled faintly at Joram and then at Henry. Maybe he’d been a little harsh in his initial judgment of them. He wondered who else he’d judged wrongly.

destiny calls and I go

Barnabas had never asked to be appointed as a judge on the High Court. He certainly hadn’t wished to gain a seat because one of their prestigious number had been murdered. However, that didn’t mean he didn’t want the job – that he wouldn’t do his best at it.

As he knelt among the other four judges, he looked them over and tried to figure out his first impressions of them. Henry didn’t seem capable of taking the job seriously. Eishi looked like he wished he were somewhere else. Joram was completely inscrutable. Then, there was Amera.

She was the only woman among them now. She seemed to innocent to understand the implications of their decisions. She was soft and lovely, but there seemed to be a strength inside her – hiding just beneath the surface. It made him wonder what these people were like outside of the court. Perhaps, God willing, he’d learn that too.