“It’s always the blacks on trial, never the whites. Why should we be held more accountable? What happened to equality?”shouted a face hidden in the gathering. It was almost lost in the hubbub, but not to Athonia’s ears.
“Settle down, settle down. This trial is not about blacks or whites. It is a simple moralistic choice between right and wrong, between truth and lies. We do not need antagonistic, self-serving cries from the gallery. Now settle down and be quiet or I will have you all removed,” Athonia shouted.
The gallery fell to silence. Athonia remained standing until everyone had taken their seats. “Bring forth the accused,” she commanded.
A door opened in the corner of the room. Two tall muscular men dressed in black robes entered first. Following behind was a gracile young woman, draped in a thin black dress. Her feet were bare revealing her striking red painted toenails. She hung her head low as she followed her chaperones to the table and chair positioned in the centre of the room.
She sat down facing Athonia and her two advisers. The chaperones stood on either side of her.
“Melissa — you have been accused of betraying your coven. How do you plead?” Athonia stared down at Melissa, waiting for the predicted answer.
“Not guilty.” Melissa refused to make eye contact as muttering rose throughout the gallery.
“Silence. You have been warned,” Athonia said addressing the gallery. She looked to her left once the noise had abated. “Josephine, if you will.”
Josephine hauled herself to her feet. What she lacked in grace, she made up for in determination. “Melissa please state your full name.”
“And the name of your coven?”
“ The Awakened Tree.”
“By pleading not guilty, do you deny mistreating your sister witch Annie Thruxton?”
The gallery became unsettled again, but one look from Athonia put an end to any chance of a disturbance.
“You deny organising secret gatherings, excluding Annie Thruxton and other white witches?”
“You don’t? Would you care to explain yourself?”
Melissa stood up and fixed her eyes upon Josephine.
“We were simply trying out some forgotten spells. They were dark magik spells. For them to be successful we needed witches who practised the dark arts. We needed black witches. I’ve got nothing against white witches. Some of my best friends are white.”
“And were these spells aimed at Annie?”
The gallery erupted. It wasn’t the answer they were expecting. Immediately Athonia stood to her feet. “Out, out now,” she bellowed.
The gallery emptied quicker than it had filled. “Please continue,” Athonia said to Josephine.
“Why did you cast these spells at Annie? What were they for?”
“Not all dark spells are negative. Spells aren’t good or bad, it’s the intent behind them that matters.”
“Are you suggesting you cast spells on Annie for her own good?” Athonia interjected.
“Yes I am. We all learnt that Annie has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, given only a matter of weeks to live. We were all devastated. We felt helpless. That was when I remembered what you said Athonia. You said black magik can provide the best hope to those people who need to gain strength through fighting back. So that’s what we did. We wanted to give her the strength to fight back. We planned to stimulate her immune system, to make her body generate more white blood cells. It was a risk, but we love Annie. We couldn’t stand by and let that evil consume her.”
Josephine was at a loss for words. Athonia gestured to her to sit down. “Is this true? Do you have cancer Annie?” She looked towards the woman sat to her right.
Annie had a tear balancing on her cheek. “I have — sorry, I mean I did. They said it was a miracle. I was given the all-clear this morning.”
Melissa raised her hands to her mouth and began to cry.
“I’m so sorry Melissa, I thought you were turning away from me as I was dying. You made me feel so alone and excluded. Yet all the time you were working FOR me, trying to save me.” Annie attempted to hold back her tears. “Forgive me, please.”
“Of course Annie, my only thought was for you,” said Melissa, sobbing.
Athonia slammed her gavel on her desk. “I think we all owe you an apology Melissa and our gratitude. This Council hearing is over.”