Session 25: The Trial of Red Lion
A night in captivity went by far too quickly—though not unpleasantly for Red Lion. Thanks to Ven turning his trial into a media circus, gods were lining up to visit him in prison and attach their names to his fame. Whether that fame would end with an execution or not, it was an opportunity for politically-minded gods to stop by and show their support… as well as wrangle the possibility of future favors.
Among the visitors was at least one who wasn’t there for political gain: Three-Tined Geshiva, the god of noodles. His corporeal form manifested as an eight-foot-tall praying mantis wearing a chef’s hat and apron, pushing a gold-trimmed noodle cart. He had heard that Red Lion was in jail and just wanted to stop by to make him a warm meal as a way of saying thanks for all the prayers. Red Lion was curious; he didn’t remember actually praying much. Geshiva explained that noodle carts were his altars, and Red Lion’s deep-seated and genuine gratitude every time he sat down for a meal qualified as a prayer. Moreover, Red Lion had consistently prostrated himself for the money to buy noodles, forgoing shelter, company, and decent clothing to enjoy a good meal. In Geshiva’s book, that made him a devout follower.
Red Lion couldn’t argue with the logic. Nor could he argue that the noodles were the best he had ever eaten. Manly tears were shed.
As the night came to a close, they had a visit from a less pleasant individual. Oberen stopped by to serve Red Lion with papers. In addition to the criminal case against him, Red Lion was now involved in a civil suit for assaulting Oberen—and he was asking for the Lion’s Roar in recompense! Ven made a snide comment about being surprised Oberen could sign papers to serve them, what with his current “disability.” Oberen smiled an ugly smile and pulled out his new hand: a cruel-looking blade welded to the end of his stump. Ven’s eyes widened in horror as he “signed” their meeting table, causing it to fall into pieces. He told her that he looked forward to shaking hands with both of them after their suit was done and departed.
By the end of the night, the venue and cast for the coming drama had been decided. The trial itself would happen in the judiciary halls of the Bureau of Heaven, while the presiding judge would be Implacable Shining Barrator, the chief of the celestial lions, known for his virtue and adherence to the old ways. While Prism approved of such a choice, Gideon thought that someone who was a little more pliable might be better in the judge’s seat. The more disturbing choice was the prosecution: Wayang, the Black Puppet Mask, the head of the Violet Bier of Sorrows. The circle was immediately convinced that his appointment was an indirect attack from the Sidereals, and pumped their friendly contacts for as much information about him as possible. Blazer would be standing for the defense, with Sankara Holtz on the sidelines to provide prompting when necessary.
The next morning, the trial was convened. The circle was somewhat intimidated by the sight of Wayang—a mummy-wrapped figure of darkness with a disturbing wooden mask as his only visible feature. He also apparently could not speak, but his gesticulations were immediately understood by all of the gods present. Blazer was sure that this was a tactic meant to put him off his game. The prosecution made the stunning revelation that they were going to drop all of the charges save one: the most severe one, consorting with the Wyld. Wayang was going for the gold his with case.
Witnesses of all stripes and colors were called. Gods ranging from Rolling Ocho to Itzcalimon, spirits of all manner, and even their old enemy, Oberen. Wayang made a prominent case against Red Lion, but Blazer’s defense was inspired. When Oberen took the stand, he was even able to get the Sidereal so worked up that he had to be physically dragged from the courtroom, screaming about how the Solars were going to be the death of everyone.
The courtroom drama was protracted and passionate, a microcosm of the continuing struggle between Heaven and Earth. Both sides had strong, compelling arguments, and both sides were committed to the righteousness of their cause. In the end, the prosecution offered a compromise: they would reduce the charge from treason against Heaven to accidental destruction of property, and Red Lion would plead guilty to the lesser charge. Red Lion agreed and submitted himself to the will of Heaven for judgment. Shining Barrator considered all to have gone well, and commended the case to his superior, Ryzala, for final dispensation.
With Oberen still in a bad way, the civil case was quietly dropped. A few gods stopped by to congratulate Red Lion on his success, but he wasn’t politically savvy enough to realize that they were mostly Bronze Faction supporters stopping by to threaten him. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.
The circle’s visit to Ryzala, the goddess of bureaucracy and paperwork—as well as one of the most powerful beings in Heaven after the Incarnae—inspired an unexpected level of terror among them. Ryzala’s corporeal form was that of an extremely tall, thin woman with a long neck and a dozen many-jointed arms. Something about her inspired primal fear in most of the circle, particularly in Red Lion and Gideon, both of whom had trouble keeping their lunch down in her presence. Despite this revulsion, they were able to put on a smiling demeanor as Ryzala handed out her judgment: Red Lion would be banished from Yu-Shan for a year, starting with the end of Calibration and lasting until the beginning of the next one. His accounts would be frozen during that time, and no god would answer his prayers on pain of punishment.
Ryzala also slipped a piece of information to Venomous Spur without the rest of the party grasping its significance. She mentioned that her rival, Taru-Han, kept meticulous records of every mortal soul’s final dispensation, up to and including records of reincarnations. Ven suspected that Ryzala had hidden motives for putting her on the path to finding her husband’s soul but kept those suspicions to herself. They thanked Ryzala profusely for her mercy and wisdom, promised fervently to never let it happen again, and got out of her office as fast as they could.
They were met soon by Lytek, who wanted to congratulate them. In the course of their happy conversation, an ominous note was brought up. They revealed to Lytek that the so-called “Abyssal Exalted” were corrupted Solars, which he had long suspected but never had enough evidence to prove. They mentioned that their friendly contacts in the Underworld had indicated that there were only one hundred or so Abyssals… which got Lytek even more worried, since as far as he knew, almost half of the Solar Exaltations were unaccounted for. That meant that something like fifty Exaltations were still missing in action…
Despite the worry, the Solars managed to relax a little. Red Lion’s fate was no longer hanging in the balance, and they still had a couple of days to enjoy the sights of Heaven. Ven slipped off alone—she had something to take care of…