Conducting a Tribunal in her living room was not foremost in Roxanne’s thoughts when she made out her interior design plan. But when it became apparent that this was the only way forward that would avoid forcing Fara to engage in battle with one of the greatest immortal swordmasters in the known Web of Worlds, she allowed some flexibility with her furniture placement.
Initially, she’d suggested that the Tribunal judges (Roxanne, Ariela and Gabriela) seat themselves on the couch, thinking that her antique coffee table (which she claimed was made from the preserved timbers of a ship once sailed by Belgememnon himself) would suffice as a “Long Table of Justice.” Gabriela objected to this, stating that the couch offered seating that was far too low to the ground for Tribunal judges, and would put the judges at a position inferior to both champions and accused.
Roxanne knew this herself, of course, but had made the effort to be convincing only because she knew the alternative was moving her dining room table (a priceless import, of Elven craftsmanship, made from Toroian redwood and faintly magical from its tree’s connection to Toroia’s Crystal of Earth). Which, of course, she ended up having to do anyway.
“Ahh, yes,” Gabriela said, as Terry and Osprey hefted the table into place. She held her hand over the table’s surface, and seemed to feel the ambient mana lingering in the finished wood. “This will make for a fine Long Table of Justice.”
The chairs that went with the table weren’t part of the same set; and, thankfully, no manpower needed to be used to move them. For they were living Polterchairs that Roxanne had acquired some time ago, and had left in storage until the big move to Albrook. The Polterchairs, originating from the Mana Dimension as they did, recognized the importance of a Valkyrie Tribunal, and felt more honored than they had ever been to take part in such an august ceremony. There actually was a small scuffle over which three chairs would actually get to serve the Tribunal, and then which of those three would serve as the central seat (on which Gabriela the Grave would sit). Other Polterchairs were employed further down the living room as seats for the Champions and the Accused.
According to the traditions of the Tribunal, all participants must be unarmed. So, one by one, the Valkyries deposited their weapons on the antique coffee table: Roxanne’s spear Daedalus, Astrid’s twin blades Tyrfing and Levateinn, Gabriela’s greataxe Reklarsbane, and Ariela’s double-bladed spear Maidenleaf (the weapon’s name given ironically, in long forgotten antiquity, by one of Ariela’s cruel sisters in commemoration of Ariela’s epithet “Open-Legs”). Not wanting to feel left out, Osprey reached under the couch, produced Shiva’s Edge and placed it on the table next to the Valkyrie weapons. The Valkyries seemed to not especially care.
As Astrid looked down on the table piled with weapons, she glanced at Fara.
“Well?” the Valkyrie said, her tone expectant.
“Well what?” Fara honestly had no clue what problem Astrid could have had with her now.
“Your weapon,” Astrid said. “Lay it on the table.”
Fara pursed her lips, and padded herself down. “Sorry. Must’ve left it my other sweatpants.”
Roxanne sighed. “Fara…”
“Well, I don’t know what you’re expecting,” Fara said. “The sword’s a part of me. I literally can never be separated from it, ever.”
“Not even figuratively,” Osprey called out from the couch, where he was happily playing single-player Manacalibur.
“It’s more for gesture and ceremony than anything else,” Roxanne explained, laying a consoling hand on Fara’s shoulder.
Fara rolled her eyes. “All right.” She manifested the sword and placed it on the pile of other weapons. Astrid smirked, victoriously, and Fara shot her a dirty look as she walked by.
Roxanne appointed Terry as Master of Arms, and had him put on his Shield armor to fill the role (because the Master of Arms of the Tribunal must be armed, and the armor was, in effect, Terry’s main weapon now). This actually made Terry a little upset, because it meant he wouldn’t be able to reclaim his dignity from Osprey during the Tribunal (the Shield’s gauntlets were a little too bulky to work a Manaseed controller).
“Some of this decor should be changed,” Astrid objected. She looked over the Long Table of Justice and regarded the mantle behind it, dominated at its center by a masterfully-carved Damcyanese harp. “We are not in a music hall, or a place where the cowardly village artists seek refuge from battle. I was lead to believe that you train warriors in this house, Roxanne.”
“Training as we speak,” Osprey called out, his eyes never leaving the TV screen, where he was losing badly against secret boss Thanatos on “omnicidal” difficulty. (that move where he disappeared from the screen and manifested two giant skeletal attack-hands was absolutely destroying Osprey, and mutilating the pads of his thumbs in the process)
Roxanne crossed her arms and levelled an icy stare at Astrid. “My home is decorated with trophies from my many, many victorious battles. Many of the more recent acquisitions, including that harp, were trophies won by my student, Fara.”
Astrid turned to Fara. “Truly? And tell me, Daughter of Margaret, what terrible music-loving beast did you have to slay in order to win such a pretty trophy?”
“A KN Series,” Fara said. “For those of you who don’t get out much: that’s basically a robot giant. That shoots missiles… and, lasers, I’m pretty sure.”
“Astrid, please,” Ariela intoned, “We’ve already imposed upon Roxanne a great deal, and she has been most accomodating, given her conflicting duties. Must you further inconvenience her before we’re allowed to proceed?”
Astrid scoffed. “Very well. The harp may stay.”
Ariela smiled pleasantly, and looked to Roxanne. She reached across Gabriela’s setting at the Table of Justice, and gently touched Roxanne’s hand. “Thank you for being such a gracious host, and receiving your sisters so well.”
Fara and Bim were seated together off to one side of the table, and Astrid to the other. Behind them, Osprey was on the couch playing his game (after being asked repeatedly to mute the sound, a compromise was reached and he plugged in his headset), and Terry was girded in his armor standing watch at the entrance to the hallway.
“Can we begin?” Fara asked.
“We await the arrival of one more important person,” Gabriela said.
Just then, there was a knock at the door. The Shield wasn’t sure what to do… answer the door in his armor? He panicked.
Looking back at him, Fara sighed. “I’ll get it.”
“This is most irregular,” Astrid said. “The Master of Arms should be guarding the door!”
“Clearly you gals wrote up all these rules before anybody’d ever had the concept of a secret identity,” Fara said.
Terry stood aside, and Fara opened the door to see who was there.
“Why hello there, dearie!” said Grilka. “I’ve brought sweetrolls for everyone!”
Eleod sighed. He rolled his eyes, and they came to rest on Fara. “I ought to have known… living nextdoor to a Valkyrie, sooner or later, our paths would tangle up in a mess like this.”
Fara closed the door and lead Eleod and Grilka inside.
“At last,” Gabriela said, “Our Master of the Doors is here.”
Fara blinked. “Wait, he’s here for the Tribunal?”
“They need a Mana Summoner,” Roxanne explained, “To call in witnesses from the Pure Land.”
“Eleod Vrinnicus was the nearest, it made sense to call out to him,” Gabriela explained.
“You’re sacrificing a lot of skill for convenience, madam Valkyrie,” Eleod said. “I’m a Shade priest; Grilka’s a priestess of Althenar. We’ve each got plenty of magical gifts from the elements of Shadow and Life, and in the past I have been known to conjure terrifying beasts of shadow and terror… but summoning specific individual beings from the Pure Land doesn’t exactly fall into either of our wheelhouses. As is, the only way we can effect a proper summoning like what the Tribunal needs is if we pool our powers together.”
“Two Masters of the Doors!?” Astrid stammered. “I think you stretch tradition too far.”
“Expedience is important to us here,” Ariela said. “As long as the two of them can summon, they will suffice.”
“If expedience is so important, better to let me slay the Mana Knight and be done with it,” Astrid said.
Roxanne slammed her fist on the table and rose from her seat. Gabriela calmed the North Star with a gesture.
“Astrid,” Gabriela said, her voice level like the sea on a fair day, “You may not think much of the physical space in which they are housed, but I will have you respect the sanctity of these proceedings. There will be no further outbursts.”
There was a finality in Gabriela’s tone that sent a chill through everyone present. Astrid faltered, but finally stiffened her lower lip and nodded.
“And you, Roxanne,” Gabriela turned her attention to the North Star again, “I am beginning to suspect that, perhaps, your sentiment for your apprentice may affect your ability to mete out Zahd’s justice. Am I right to fear so?”
Roxanne shook her head. “No, Gabriela,” Roxanne said. “My apprentice is no longer in danger, and I bear no sentiment for the griffin hand.”
Bim squealed slightly at this, but Fara calmed him by resting a hand on top of his body.
Gabriela smiled. “Good. Then, at last, we may begin.”
Roxanne would not allow proper gavels (traditionally, iron or bronze warhammers) to be banged on her Toroian redwood dining table. So, instead, Gabriela raised up a thick-bottomed glass whiskey tumbler, and brought it down onto a cork coaster to gavel in the Tribunal of the Griffin Hand.