Kazimier returned home with his prisoner, Jyslyn.Kazimier's apartment, Wildwood, the Sylvan Forest
Jyslan sank deeper into the tub. While not the luxury she had in her family's holdings, just getting clean felt sensuous after the hike through the woods. The tub wasn't long enough for the dark elf to stretch out her legs; her knees poked above the water. Jyslyn splashed water over them with her left hand, her ink black skin glistening. Her right hand, though, was chained overhead to a rafter, making bathing a challenge. Jyslyn didn't fault her guard; if their positions were switched, the dark elf wouldn't have bothered with untying her.
Kaleena hammered on the door. "Are you finished?" she called.
Jyslyn ran her fngers through her copper red hair, grimacing on feeling the grime in it. "Will you help me with my hair?" She wasn't sure if the amusement in her tone would carry through the door or even be appreciated by her guard.
The door slammed open. Kaleena stormed inside. "You are done. Out of the tub."
Jyslyn pulled herself up. "I need to dry off." She stepped out of the tub, keeping her back to her guard.
Kaleena hurled a towel at the dark elf. "The Council is expecting you."
"I could be faster if I had both hands free." Jyslyn began towelling herself off.
"And if I had wings, I could fly." Kaleena glowered at the dark elf. Her expression changed on seeing the blistering skin on the woman's back. "What happened to you? I mean, your back."
"I spent too much time under the sun." Jyslyn finished by drying her legs. "I am ready to get dressed."
Kaleena handed the dress over to the dark elf. After a moment, she cursed under her breath. "Of course they don't send clothes without sleeves."
"Maybe they want me to try to escape? It seems far easier than allowing me further into your city to enact my nefarious plan to do . . . something."
"And have me be the executioner?" Kaleena unlocked the manacle from Jyslyn's wrist. "That sounds cold blooded to me."
Jyslyn rubbed her wrist. "If I were violent, you'd see it as defending yourself." She stepped into the dress, pulling it up. "I need your help."
Kaleena took a step back. "My help?"
"With the dress. It doesn't stay on my shoulders."
Kaleena laughed, surprising herself. "Turn." The Captain of the Watch approached the dark elf. "It ties in back." Kaleena began closing up the back of the dress. "Let me know if it's too tight."
Jyslyn shrugged her shoulders. "It feels fine. There is a lot of cloth."
"I've heard about the fashion worn where you're from. Not my first choice, either." Kaleena gave the dark elf room. "There."
Jyslyn twirled around on her bare feet. The floor length skirt flared out. She examined the long sleeves. "I won't suffer under the sun in this." The dark elf held out a sleeve. "Is there meaning to the colour?"
Kaleena grimaced. "Grey is for the condemned."
"The Council is waiting." Kaleena handed a pair of grey slippers to Jyslyn. Put these on, then I'll get the shackles."
Jyslyn stepped into the slippers, then held out her wrists. "I am ready."
Kaleena retrieved the iron bands. There were two sets connected by a heavy chain. The Captain of the watch snapped one set on Jyslyn's wrists. She then eyed the second set. "The Council wants this as hard as possible for you." Kaleena held up the second set of shackles to let the dark elf see them. "There's no way you'll walk fast enough to get to the Council's chambers before sunset in these."
"But if I am to wear them, then you should put them on me."
"You're not going to escape. You don't even have a, how did you put it? 'A nefarious plan to do . . . something.'" Kaleena sighed. "Jyslyn, right? Jyslyn, the leg irons will have you shuffling and stumbling. You deserve some dignity. My orders were to deliver you to the Council with you in those shackles. They don't say when I am supposed to put them on you." Kaleena handed the leg irons to Jyslyn. "Carry them. I'll put them on you when we're closer to the Council Hall."
The Captain of the Watch guided her charge through the walkways of the city in the trees. Jyslyn took in the sights, admiring how Wildwood grew from the living trees. The deeper into the city she went, the more she saw how the trees were shaped to provide homes and shops. The city's residents weren't as impressed with her. They moved aside, pressing against the bark-lined walls to give Jyslyn and her guard room to rush past. Jyslyn noted the fear on their faces.
Kaleena slower her pace as a tall building came into view. She took the leg irons from Jyslyn and fastened them around her ankles. The Captain of the Guard gave the dark elf an apologetic look, then led her to a set of ornate gates, again, grown instead of carved from the trees making up the building. The guards on duty snapped to attention, letting Kaleena and Jyslyn through. One fell in behind, keeping pace with the shuffling dark elf.
Jyslyn kept her eyes fixed straight ahead as Kaleena brought her to a large chamber. The dark elf recognized Matriarchs Starpetal, Sundew, and Moonflower seated at a long, curved table, along with six other elderly women. Behind each of the seated women were their aides, all standing. Jyslyn saw Kazimier behind Matriarch Starpetal. She nodded to him, then returned to facing forward. Kaleena bowed to the Council, then returned to the doorway.
"This is the Accursed that has all of Wildwood abuzz?" the woman sitting at the middle of the curved table said. "Come closer, child."
Jyslyn took several small steps towards the table, hampered by the short chain between her ankles. She willed herself to remain impassive.
Martriach Moonflower scowled at the dark elf. "How many of you are there?"
"Just the one, Matriarch."
Moonflower sputtered. The woman in the centre held up her hand to prevent an outburst from the matriarch. "What is your name, child?"
"And your family?"
"I do not think they will acknowledge me now, Matriarch, not with me being here."
The Sundew matriarch cleared her throat. "If I may, Matriarch Oakfeather?" The woman in the centre nodded to her. "The question on all our minds myst be asked. Why are you here?"
"As Kazimier mentioned," Matriarch Starpetal said. "Atonement for what? Are you here representing yourself or your entire homeland and people?"
"Just myself. My people aren't likely to admit that what they did was wrong, at least from their view." Jyslyn shook her head. "I am here because of what happened to a village of yours thirty years ago. I do not know the name of it, but it was near where two small rivers met. Every villager was slaughtered."
Murmurs broke out from the matriarch's staff. Oakfeather picked up a gavel and hammered the table. "Enough!" As the commotion died down, she asked, "Did you kill the villagers yourself, child?"
"No, Matriarch. I was not alone. I was there with my sisters and brother. Together, we killed every last surface elf we found."
"How many died by your hand?" Moonflower demanded.
Jyslyn shrugged. "I did not keep count. I did not see the point."
Moonflower narrowed her eyes. "Your kind live to slaughter."
"I saw that what happened that night was wrong."
"And you expect us to forgive you now?" Sundew asked.
"No, Matriarch. When I left my home, I did not expect forgiveness. I did not expect mercy. I will accept whatever punishment you see fit."
Oakfeather leaned forward in her seat. "And if the punishment is death?"
"Then so be it."
Jyslyn saw Kazimier slipping through the crowd as the council meeting broke up. Kaleena, though, reached her first. The dark elf let the Captain of the Watch take her by the arm.
"Kaleena, wait!" Kazimier caught up to women. "Jyslyn." He let his voice trail off.
The dark elf gave Kazimier what she hoped was a sympathetic smile. "I did not lie to you. I am here for atonement."
Kazimier shot a glance at the Matriarchs as they entered their inner sanctum. "Jyslyn, they could sentence you to death."
"I know." Jyslyn rubbed the surface elf's arm. "I knew that death was a possibility when I made out for the surface. I did not come here blind, Kazimier."
Kaleena put a hand on Kazimier's shoulder. "Kazi, there's nothing you can do. If Jyslyn was part of that slaughter--"
"I was there, Kazimier. I thank you for your kindness when you found me, but there is a price to be paid."
A man in the livery of the Watch marched up to Kaleena. "Captain, the Council wants the prisoner in the Central Garden."
Jyslyn saw the look exchanged between Kazimier and Kaleena. "I should like to see this garden," she said. "If this will be my last day, I want to see the beauty of your city."
The execution of Jyslyn.