Down below the watch tower, the city of New Axe sharpened its focus on the task at hand.Dealing
with the criminal element under recent ministerial reforms meant that the eleven houses of law in
the justice quarter were working all 27 hours of the day. Hidden caches of gold and jewels from the
aristocrats of Old Axe would fund this wave of change.
“Bring him in,” said Judge Soleus. As the hooded and chained figure entered the Stone Court of Traitors Circle, the jury become animated with discontent. “Kill him!” shouted one. “Hang him,” said another.
“Enough,” insisted the Judge, raising his hands. “This will be a fair trial. Everybody will have a chance to speak.” Two armed guards stood watch over the prisoner on the witness stand.
“What about a fair trial for his victims?” asked a woman attired in filthy old rags. “This is a waste of time. I say we cut off his testicles now and be done with it.”
“Don’t worry,” said the man sitting next to her, playing with a rusty jagged knife, “in due time.”
“The longer you all moan and complain, the longer it will take to process him,” said the judge, eyeing the juy members. Silence ensued almost immediately. “Good, now we can begin. Lukus, if you will please…”
“Thank you Judge Soleus,” said the young prosecutor, turning to face the jury. “As you all know the hunt for this individual has been long and arduous. He has been active for many generations and has caused more deaths than the last seven World Wars combined. We owe a debt of gratitude to the bounty hunter who brought him in. The defendant has chosen to represent himself as nobody has volunteered.” A burst of laughter spread throughout the court room and even Soleus smiled.
“If you’re done making a mockery out of me, I’d like to speak,” said the hooded man, his voice was smooth and clear with a hint of pompous.
“Very well,” said the Judge, “state your full name for the record.”
“Certainly…” The prisoner lifted up his bound hands to remove his hood, revealing shoulder length dark shaggy hair that sat casually over his perfect oval face and black eyes. The female jurors looked away, knowing how dangerous his influence could be. “Over the years I’ve been called many names, but my favourite is Love. Call me Love.”
“He also goes by the name of Eros and Cupid,” said Lukus, approaching the stand. “Tell me, Love, do you know what you’ve been charged with?”
“Igniting the flames of passion, evoking deep seeded desire…”
“Demon of fornication!” shouted the woman in rags. “You took my husband from me. You bewitched him with that jezebel and now look at me. I have nothing.”
“Penny?” asked the prisoner, “I remember you… so beautiful in your youth. So soft and curvy like a ripe peach ready to be plucked,” he added, stroking his black tongue over his upper lip. “If you so desire Penny, you can have any man in this courtroom. The pain you feel can be gone. All you need to do is bring me my bow and love will be yours.”
“Don’t let this trickster fool you,” said Lukus. “He’ll say anything to save himself from death.”
“That offer is on the table for everybody here, even you Lukus. When’s the last time you had a woman in your bed? Not since Mary was killed…I’m so sorry for your loss. Together we can heal your heartbreak.”
“No!” the prosecutor objected. “Your meddling has gone on for far too long. You’re the reason we all suffer. Love does not conquer all. I’m so sick of that illusion. Scores of men and women have lost their minds and lives at the tip of your arrow, carelessly fired with no thought of consequences. Families torn apart and jealous lovers driven to murder and suicide…it must make you laugh. Do you delight in the carnage and mess that’s left behind? What would you say to the wandering offspring, the by-products of your sordid affairs?”
Emotion swelled in the dark eyes of Love. He looked around the courtroom and saw the anger and frustration in the faces of those who would decide his fate. “I’m sorry,” he said, black tears streaming down his face. “I didn’t mean for anybody to get hurt. I was just doing my job. I didn’t realise how much pain I was causing. You’re right Lukus, I must die. Love must die. Everybody here deserves closure. When I’m gone, you will be free to plan your own unions.”
“Are you pleading guilty?” asked Judge Soleus.
“On the account of your compliance, a quick and painless death will be awarded.”
“No your honour, I deserve to suffer a horrible end, an end fitting only to me. I need to feel the pain and the loss I inflicted. I need to drown myself in sorrow and self-pity. I need to look up at the stars and wonder why I was cursed. I need to cry an ocean of tears and sing a thousand miserable songs while I walk alone in the rain, longing for the other half of me, my lost soul mate, my one true…Love.”
“With our current workload, we don’t have time for all of that,” the judge replied.
“Please,” he begged, “don’t let me go out like….a stoic.”
“We’re running late as it is and we’re booked out all afternoon. We need to wrap this up now.”
“I agree,” said Lukus, “our next case will be a handful and that cage won’t hold her for much longer.”
“Love, you have been sentenced to death by hanging at dawn tomorrow in the Fog Fields. Case dismissed.” As the judge’s gavel slammed down, Love fell to he’s knees and cried out “Nooooooo!” He was then dragged kicking and screaming out of the courtroom and back to the holding chamber where he got a glimpse of the woman in the red cage. “Death, what are you doing here?”
“I guess my number is up,” she winked.
At midnight, Love heard the sound of footsteps approaching his cage.
“Is that deal still on the table?” Penny whispered through the bars.
“Of course it is. Do you have my bow?”
“Yes I’ve got it here,” she said, lifting her cloak.
“Excellent. Who do you want as your reward?”
A look of horror and sheer disgust crossed his face. “I’d rather hang you old ugly hag!”