“All rise!” The courtroom’s hushed silence broke as the packed gallery clambered off their benches in noisy answer to the bailiff’s call.
I sighed and rose at Luna’s tug on my chains, ignoring the princess’s glare and adding my own metallic clinking to the din.
Ritual! What a waste of energy! I thought, as everypony waited for the wide door that led into the judge’s chambers to open. The hubbub died quickly as the judge emerged, dressed in black robes and a powdered white wig through which projected a long lavender horn.
“The honorable Princess Twilight Sparkle presiding,” announced the bailiff. With a swish of her robes the mare in question took her seat behind the huge oak desk on a raised platform.
Princess Twilight Sparkle. I chuckled. She looked like a slightly taller version of that neurotic stage magician who raked in the bits at the Casino. The same dark blue bangs sporting a red and purple stripe struggled to remain under the wig, giving her otherwise sobre demeanour just a hint of frazzled chaos.
My old boss would have approved. Yeah, Eris, the one I killed. And just for those of you keeping count: I also ended the miserable life of the one who called himself my master before her. I guess I’m not exactly what you would call a model employee!
Judge Sparkle banged her gavel. “This court is in session. Please be seated.”
Her voice was rather ordinary, sounding nothing like what I imagined of a mare who could fight off major baddies left and right, take a throne and keep it against multiple rivals. But apparently she had, and did, and incomprehensibly had left her predecessors alive, as if they would never dream of trying to take back what was once theirs! I failed to see how she might even be able to last a second faced with a real warrior. Moon would have… I forced myself to squash the thought. Thinking of her brought up too many bitter memories, especially with Luna sitting there next to me, a constant reminder of what… and who, I had lost.
Belatedly I noticed that everypony had resumed their seats, so I did the same, to further rattling from my fetters.
Princess Twilight Sparkle looked directly at me, limpid eyes open, neither friendly nor hostile. I stared back, wondering what she saw in the pony before her, and if my resemblance to that other princess might play in my favour. We locked gazes for what felt like minutes, her expression betraying nothing but mild concern. In the end it was I who looked away first, because truly, what did it matter? Nothing had worked out as I had planned when I chose to come here. I had been a fool, and now I would pay the price.
“The defendant shall rise.”
Apparently, the exercise of justice in Equestria is taken literally!
I rose unprompted this time, and was surprised when Luna rose with me. I presumed this was part of the role she chose to play in these proceedings, despite the fact that I had not asked her to be my counsel. In all honesty, I was both perplexed and bothered. Perplexed, as I couldn’t understand why she would again intercede on my behalf. Bothered, that in so doing she might further diminish her own standing in this alternate Equestria so different from that which I had known.
“Princess Daybreaker,” said the judge, “you stand accused of engaging in the reckless use of life-threatening magic in a public place, of willfully endangering several sapient beings including six of minor age, of gravely injuring a sentient being of minor age, of disturbing the peace of Trottingham, and of resisting arrest when confronted by agents of the crown.”
I almost laughed out loud! Disturbing the peace! Scaring a few foals! If only they knew of even a fraction of what I had done for my previous employers! Oh, and better still, calling me Princess! I wanted to laugh, but for some reason my breath caught in my throat. I coughed and was about to tell this recent vintage alicorn just what I thought of her charges, when Princess Luna spoke up besides me.
“The defense pleads not guilty, your honor!” she said, to gasps from the audience.
I don’t know who was the most surprised in that courtroom. I was probably not far from the top of that list, but judging from the expression on her face Princess Twilight Sparkle stood ahead of me in line!
Sparkle’s glare hardened. “On what grounds? I remind the counsel for the defense that the defendant’s actions were witnessed by multiple individuals who have given sworn depositions, as well as by the guardponies dispatched in response to the initial reports of a disturbance.”
I turned to Luna, mystified. I wasn’t surprised that charges were brought against me, it’s just that they seemed so trivial, hardly worth a trial. I would have thought that if Equestria’s ruler decided to sit in judgement she would have ensured I was charged with some juicy major crimes! I certainly had no shortage of such in my past from which she could pick her favorites!
Luna replied in a steady voice. “On the grounds that Princess Daybreaker hath arrived in Equestria with a most dated and incomplete reckoning of our society, that upon her arrival she met hostility forthwith, had reasonable cause to think that she was in mortal jeopardy, and reacted in self-defense to that perceived risk.”
A hush fell over the courtroom, followed by a rising buzz as the ponies in the spectators’ gallery behind me digested Luna’s words.
I admit, I would never have considered such a gambit. In my experience, power made its own rules. Trials were just a way to draw out the entertainment of punishing those who challenged that power and lost. It served to keep the rest of the population scared and in line, an oft repeated lesson from the Pony of Shadows, learned from the earliest days of my recollection as my sister and I were forged into the tools of his many conquests, often by pitting us against each other.
My ruminations were interrupted by the banging of the judge’s gavel loudly trying to quiet the courtroom, where it seemed every pony was trying to have a conversation with every other pony simultaneously.
“Order, order!“ Twilight Sparkle lowered the gavel as the noise in the room receded. “Very well. Let the clerk enter into the record that the defendant pleads not guilty. The court is now adjourned until one PM tomorrow.” She banged the gavel once more, and rose. The bailiff again called out “All rise” and then followed her out through the big doors which closed behind them.
I turned to Luna standing next to me. “I still can’t imagine why you’re doing this! You’re being a foal!” I turned away and refused to look back at her or answer her calls as the guardponies led me back to my cell.