The next morning Kassia and the others headed down to the interrogation room. Kassia waited impatiently while the guards brought Ma’yen in. She’d dressed in riding leathers with more than one knife peeking out. She’d thought about the sword briefly out of amusement, but figured that was overkill.
A few minutes later the door opened, held on each side with another guard leading with his wher was Ma’yen, his arms shackled behind his back and his legs also in shackles to keep him from running. Foreth was watching Ardeth closely outside, just in case.
M’ayen was furious. The bronzerider was kept to a slow careful shuffle by the manacles, and by the results of several nights attempting to sleep in a cell. Still there was no repentance in his gaze and he looked from Kassia to each of her Weyrleaders, glaring as though they were the ones at fault.
“Weyrwoman,” he said coldly. “This is a sharding pantomime, I must say.”
“You’re welcome to keep thinking that,” she said, offering him a smile that was just as cold. “This is your chance to admit to anything you have done. It won’t likely change much, but it’d look better for you.”
N'shen stood dutifully behind Kassia, dressed formally, but not in his absolute best. He watched M'ayen closely and let Kassia be the one to speak.
Raobehr stood aside and watched. He was prepared to read formal charges when and if he was directed to do so and to take notes on the proceedings to keep a record of everything the parties said. He was honored, as it seemed, to have become someone trustworthy enough to keep such records.
On the opposite side to N’shen was R’tal, though he was keeping as much of an eye on Kassia as he was M’ayen. Just in case the stress got to her, just in case he needed to step in.
Still it was Kassia M’ayen directed his words to, chin held high. “And what? You’ll threaten Ardeth again if you decide you don’t like the truth?”
“Nope,” she said with a shake of her head. “I already have all the information I need. I’m just curious whether you’re man enough to tell it yourself or whether you’ll stick to being a coward. Or we can just have the charges and sentencing read.”
“Fine then.” M’ayen didn’t break eye contact. “Have your Harper write this down. According to the Weyrwoman’s orders I attempted to impose order on the Candidates following an event where eggs were nearly harmed due to their misbehaviour. According to her wishes I attempted to instill discipline in means that were strict but did not include physical punishment. Later, when a Candidate illegally broke onto the Sands to Impress the Weyrwoman gave the order to find out who aided him and as she requested I interrogated a Candidate who was clearly involved as he was minding the new Weyrling’s firelizard..”
Raobehr dutifully recorded what M'ayen said. He had no stake in the outcome, and he showed no offense at being referred to as though he were not present.
“Fine, keep being cowardly,” Kassia said. “We’ll just go through the charges then.” She started through the charges, “Imposing bodily harm to a minor, abuse of power...” rolling through them until finishing with, “One last chance to say something for yourself before we pronounce your punishment.”
M’ayen was silent this time, still glaring, refusing to be cowed.
Outside though Ardeth was starting to look fidgety, far more anxious than his rider about the outcome. ((Please. Don’t let her hurt him.)) He would plead for M’ayen even if his rider refused to plead for himself.
((Yours is receiving the punishment he brought upon himself,)) Foreth told him.
“Manual labour?” He almost spat the words and it was a moment before that last announcement impacted. His eyes widened slightly. “You.. you would not dare!”
“I would and I’d put out a messenger to the Weyr so people know to come and watch,” Kassia said, not at all surprised that it was the manual labor part he objected to the most. “Give your hands something better to do than injuring young Candidates.”
“I thought your policy was that Arolos does not use physical punishment?” He was too angry to be worried about it, and besides, a lifetime of applying a cane or a belt to various children’s hands and behinds had almost served to convince him himself that this was very little as far as punishment went. The future pain did not worry him; the humiliation did. “Or are you not even telling those lies to yourself any more?”
"Sentencing for criminals and punishment for discipline are two entirely different matters," said N'shen, unable to listen to M'ayen impugn Kassia any further. "Or do you contend that this sentence doesn't fit the crime?"
“You’re an adult who committed serious crimes,” Kassia said, unmoved. She fondled the Silk Dagger. “Trust me, I know that it’s far from what a greenrider would get for transgressions at Fort. Real or perceived. This isn’t Fort, but nor will be lenient on a man who thinks it’s okay to terrorize children.”
“Child? Your double standards are showing again,” M'ayen said disdainfully. “Not too much of a child to chose to Stand, not so much of a child you wouldn't have waved him into the sky if he Impressed. He was a young man, not a baby”
He glared at Kassia again. “When a young lady sneaked onto the Sands where she wasn't meant to be you treated it as a crime and punished it as such. Which was it?”
“He’d have been held until he was old enough to fly,” Kassia replied. “And that young lady was turns older. Either way, your behavior wouldn’t be tolerated toward anyone, let alone to someone who was under your watch and where you were expected to be protecting them and guiding them. Not bullying them and targeting them for abuse.”
“And I took a lazy boy who would have been very little use to anyone and by the end of it he would have made a far better rider.”
Behind Kassia R’tal held his breath, willing the man to follow that up, willing him to say something about greenriders. But no, it seemed even M’ayen knew that would be a step too far for this audience.
"The boy has been ruined for the Sands, let alone the wings. After what you've done to him, he'll never be a rider now," said N'shen. "And before you make the inevitable claim – no, you haven't done him any favors. A good Candidatemaster could have built him up. You tore him down, and he may never be the same. You are guilty of the charges against you."
M’ayen sneered. “Well, if you want your wings full of disobedient riders who plot against their Weyrwoman to sneak people onto the Sands I suppose you might have a problem.”
“You’re done.” And that was R’tal, quiet and firm. “Whether this was a crime is not up for debate. That much has already been decided.” Because otherwise M’ayen would have them debating the rights and wrongs of bullying children for the rest of the day.
“Sentence is passed,” Kassia said. “Enjoy your hard labor.” She gestured to the guards. “Take him back to his cell.”
M’ayen dug his heels in, trying hard to resist. “Wait,” he protested. “How long for?”
“Indefinitely,” Kassia said, her smile anything but pleasant. “Until you’re too infirm to do so. There’s plenty of rocks and such that need moving.”
For the first time the bronzerider’s certainty faltered a little. “That-- that’s hardly in proportion.”
Outside Ardeth was restless, anxious. ((But.. I will be able to see him?)) he queried, panicked by that. ((You can’t keep him away forever!))
“We’re the judge of that,” Kassia pointed out.
The guards gave another tug.
Foreth was there to calm him, her energy sweeping over him no matter what his rider had done. Her words were gentle. Relatively. ((Mine will not keep you away from Yours, but you won’t be doing as much together. You will be in a small Weyr where you can see him, but not fly him anywhere. Understand?))
((I can't fly any more?)) M'ayen had taken the punishment with stubborn calm and anger. Ardeth was less so. It was a shock to wake from a series of long comfortable naps to discover you were in such serious trouble -even if the truth was that left to himself Ardeth might have done precious little flying anyway. ((..Ever?))
M'ayen was still trying to hold his ground, searching for another protest he could possibly make. At present none came to mind. He appealed to the Harper finally. “You can't think this is reasonable!”
Raobehr quietly continued to transcribe the conversation and did not answer. It was not his place to intervene; it was his place to document. If he decided the sentence should be appealed, he would write up that appeal separately in accordance with whatever law was in effect in this present day.
“I do,” Kassia said simply and turned her back on him, secure in the knowledge that Brogan was watching her back.
((You can fly yourself and you two will fly in wings and drills, but otherwise, no,)) Foreth clarified. ((Yours did bad.))
For a moment Ardeth was stunned into silence and then his voice lifted in a keen to grieve what his rider wouldn't, the lost freedom and togetherness.
For a moment M'ayen's face was stricken, his dragon’s pain cutting in a way Kassia had been unable to.
N'shen thought that such an expression might have been gratifying for him to see. It was not. Instead, he only seemed inclined to mourn the person M'ayen could have been if he had chosen a different path all those Turns ago. Or if Fort had been different.
Kassia had no pity for M’ayen, but she did spare some for Ardeth. It wasn’t his fault he’d been Clutched in a Weyr where cruelty was systemically allowed and had permeated down to where even the dragons were corrupted. Ardeth would pay the price for his lifemate’s choices.
Kassia left the guards to deal with Ma’yen as she led the way out, her hand clutching the Silk Dagger.