The courtroom was crowded with curious onlookers; no seat had been left unfilled. The judge was perched behind the long table at the top of the dais, the masked jury hidden in the wings. The accused was chained to the floor, muscles straining as he fought his bonds. The judge stood, and silence swept through the courtroom as the sentence was read aloud for the congregation to hear.

“For crimes against state and king, you shall be stripped of name, rank, and possessions.”

Hands swooped in and tore at his clothes, removing the jacket and shirt he wore, along with all his adornments.

“You shall be exiled from this place until such a time as you learn the import of what you have done.”

His right horn was broken, a high, keening cry leaving him as the shard was shoved into what remained of the sash about his waist.

“You shall be a wanderer until you learn the value of the family you have forsaken.”

Heat made the skin at the nape of his neck prickle, and then the brand made contact. He gritted his teeth and bore the pain, eyes squeezing shut as his skull was engulfed in white-hot agony.

“You have been branded as an outcast. You may not return unless the mark is removed, and your sins are forgiven.”

The chains were released from the floor and he was dragged limply toward the doors of the courtroom, unable to stand on his own.

“Bear your guilt through eternity; bear the pain of your people, the shame brought on by your actions. Know no rest until you see what it is you have destroyed.”


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