A Light in Darkness
This article describes Tepestani trials in general and contains common or readily available knowledge. It was written specifically for Bryonna’s trial and may make some mention of expected or actual procedures specific to that trial. Trials, like all the most important rituals of the church of Belenus, takes place in the open air under the light of the sun.
- Night Before The remains of the last convicted burned here are removed and interred elsewhere. The area is given a quick cleaning leaving only a bare patch of earth. Many of the men of the town work together to bring in seasoned split wood. A special stake of green holly is brought in to serve as the post.
- Sunrise – mid morning A gang of men under the watchful eye of Finn and two other brothers drive the new post deep into the ground using loops of chain ending in plates and large mallets. The chains have to be adjusted often to keep the plates at waist high while the post is driven in, but the work is not unfamiliar. Once the green wood is driven deep into the earth and no two men can move it, they begin stacking the fire wood. The wood is arranged in a careful sun burst pattern around the base of the post then stacked at least four feet high in the center leaving plenty of room for air.
- Mid morning The men stand aside and the members of the inquisition take over. Blessed holy oils are liberally applied to the dry wood to ensure a rapid start. Countless witchting gourds are broken open, their seeds scattered in a ring around the base to keep the fey spirit from escaping. Many prayers and blessings are said over the site of the execution.
- Late morning – almost noon The three justices, in this case Finn, Hannett & Wyan himself, retire to pray for wisdom and strength in the coming proceedings. A group of carpenters and builders bring out and begin to erect the podium where the judges will sit and testimony will be given. A crowd begins to gather. A trial is one of the few occasions in which the Tepestani allow themselves time away from work, most of the town will be here. Many carry torches, rocks, rotten fruit and other implements to join in the fey slaughter should the trial come to that end. Most of those who will give testimony are in the audience at this point.
- Just before noon The accused is brought out. They are bound, hoodwinked and gagged. This will prevent them from identifying or cursing those who stand in their judgement. Surrounded by four inquisitors the accused is guided up to the holly post and there chained in the center of the pile. The noise of the crowd is overwhelming and only the presence of a growing number of inquisitors keeps them from tearing the accused apart on sight.
- Noon Under the highest light of Belenus the justices emerge from the church to the roaring adulation of their crowd. They move with confidence and dignity to the newly erected podium and take their seats. The trial begins when the lead justice crashes the hilt of his ceremonial sickle into a large worked iron symbol in the shape of a seven pointed star. A hush falls and an opening statement is read.
- Noon – ? Testimony is given lasting no later that sun down. First the inquisition presents its case. In theory this evidence is given to Belenus, who stands in attendance. In reality it is the triumvirate who makes the judgement. After they are finished there is an opportunity for an advocate to speak and call witnesses on behalf of the accused. When it is finished the panel may call a brief recess to discuss or they may simply render judgement there.
- The accused is innocent Doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. The accused is free to rejoin society and is openly accepted. If resentful over their treatment, those accused generally keep their mouths shut.
- The accused is bheicht fauihk raiocht (“bewitched”) The accused did the deed for which he is charged, but he was enscrolled by the fey. The bewitched are not in control of their actions and thus not responsible. The bewitched are generally chastised,, given light punishments, but ultimately return to their lives. They forever after are viewed with suspicion, however, as they are proven to be susceptible to fey seduction. The upside is that the accused gets to live. To obtain a “bewitched” ruling, it’s pretty much inevitable that the actual guilty party must be brought to the light. It’s thus highly advantageous to find and defeat the fey responsible before the trial or, failing that, to finger someone else.
- The accused is a fealltoir (“fey consort”) A fey consort is a mortal who has been seduced — who willingly serves the fey and has thus turned to evil. If a fey consort is found guilty, and if it has not yet been done, a full confession is extracted, by torture if necessary. That done, the despised traitor to humanity is swiftly executed by whatever means is most convenient — hanging, stoning or drowning. The Tepestani bury the corpses of those so executed at crossroads, believing that doing so prevents the guilty spirit from finding its way home.
- The accused is actually one of the fey (a true fey, a hag, etc) a creature of darkness To achieve this ruling, the Inquisition needs to prove that the accused has supernatural powers. Any creature with innate spell-like abilities is pretty much guilty, and if you’re a wizard who casts a noticeable spell in town, you will have a hard time proving that it’s not something you can do at will. They fey are forced to confess, as above, and are then burned at the stake.