The Bright Children, Chapter 5-5, “Thief”

Glancing and Shaenyll, Zyteus cleared his throat and spoke. “Here in Twillanya, our codes are simple. Do not kill; do not threaten to kill. Do not hurt; do not threaten to hurt. Do not steal or harm the property of another. These are the only real things that the council must adjudicate. Otherwise, we are but arbiters. However, there our code also states, as it has always stated, that the attempt at a crime is the same as the crime itself. We do not dole out punishments or rewards for the varied consequences of wickedness. All are the same. So you see, master Frey, your man is as much a thief as he would be had he managed to extract one of the globes from the chronolathe.”

Frey raised his chin. “I see. What does the code say about punishment?”

Zyteus’s eyes narrowed. “For one who harbors a thief, that person shall be dealt half of the punishment.”

“Half of what?”

“Thieves are given punishment relative to the size of the theft. This punishment includes restitution in addition to punitive actions.”

Frey’s eyes remained level as he repeated, “Half of what?”

“We… have yet to decide that,” Hamon said. “The chronolathe is among our most valuable items, along with the beacon. So valuable, in fact, that we forbid any to make claim of property on it.”

“We must deliberate on it,” Warka said. “Nothing like this has ever been attempted.”

Frey smiled, and for the first time since Aphella had met the man, it appeared insincere. He bowed slightly and said, “Very well, shall leave you to your decision?”

“There is testimony yet to hear,” Zyteus said. He turned toward Aphella. “Aphella, daughter of Lophella, would you give testimony in regard to the truth of Azom, accused of theft?”

“Shaenyll was with me the whole time,” Aphella said, not moving from where she sat.

“She has recused herself,” Zyteus said. “Hence we call on you, a… perhaps more neutral party.”

Aphella shared a look with Shaenyll, who nodded slightly while holding her deep frown. Slowly, Aphella stood and walked to stand in front of the long table, keeping a measurable distance between herself and Azom, who seemed to struggle against invisible bonds. The eyes of the elders looked her over.

She straightened and pulled down at the hem of her loose coat, then quickly smoothed over the wrinkles of her dress. She cleared her throat. “I was in the tower room of the chronolathe, finishing a lesson with Elder Shaenyll-”

Zyteus cleared his throat and held up his hand.

“I thought you wanted me to tell you what happened,” Aphella said.

“Let her speak,” Sabon said gruffly.

“In this format, it is we who direct the testimony,” Zyteus said. His hard eyes were locked on Aphella.

“Bah,” Sabon said.

Zyteus’s lips curled into a slight smile. “Let us begin with background. How would you describe your relationship with Frey the wanderer?”

“Light, Zyteus!” Hamon said, pushing himself forward. “We already know what happened. Let’s just assign some value to the theft and get on with it.”

Zyteus ignored him. “Aphella, you have been known to speak with, do business with, and entertain socially the man known as Frey. Do you contest this?”

“What?” Aphella said. She felt a heat rising around her collar. “What does that have to do with anything?”

“Then you do not contest that you are friends with this Frey.”

Aphella looked from Zyteus to the other elders, confusion holding her tongue to the roof of her mouth.

Zyteus went on. “What were you doing in the tower during the sleeping period?”

Aphella seemed stunned. “I was… I had a lesson with Shaenyll.”

“What kind of lesson?”

“A channeling lesson. We were working on…” Aphella racked her brain to remember the content of her lesson. It felt like it had happened weeks prior, though less than a single turn had passed. “We were working on linkages. I was moving light through various vessels, changing colors and energies-”

“You were working on lightweaving in the chamber of the chronolathe, one of our most sensitive machines?”

“What?” Aphella shook her head. “No, we worked in our regular practice room, at Shaenyll’s house.”

“Then I ask again, what were you doing in the hall tower?”

“I told you-”

“You did not.

Aphella clenched her fists, gathering up material in her dress, and stamped her foot. “Shaenyll brought me there, to look at the chronolathe.”

“Shaenyll, who is… involved with Frey.”

“Stop this Zyteus!” Shaenyll said.

Zyteus ignored her. “You are friends with Frey. Shaenyll is involved with Frey socially. You had no reason to be in the tower. We cannot make any conclusions, therefore about the credibility of you or your cohorts.” Zyteus looked around him. “Given this fact, I recommend that we discount Aphella’s testimony.”

“Enough of this,” Sabon said. “Aphella, tell us what you saw while you were in the tower.”

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