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~Princess Luna

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Post in forum #1905 - An ongoing MLP Roleplay Thread, Rated PG-13.

“Normal Equestrian jurisprudence,” Princess Luna said, “should be familiar to you. It does not apply in this chamber today. Martial law has been declared in Aura and Umbra. There are too many awaiting trial. Things must be expedited if they are to be swiftly concluded. I alone shall ask questions of you and I alone shall determine guilt and sentencing.”

Fantasy bit her lip but didn’t quite dare to speak. She sensed that the Princess wasn’t done speaking, and after a moment, she turned out to be correct. “This expedited process is for the benefit of the innocent swept up along with the guilty. They should be identified as soon as possible. Therefore you have the right to remain silent. If you do so, you shall be placed in magical stasis until such time as a proper trial may be arranged after martial law ends. Then you will be tried in full obedience to the normal procedures.”

Fantasy still kept quiet. Sure enough, Luna nodded to dip her horn toward the bell-hung scales on the desk before her. “These are the Scales of Mendacity. The red one responds to statements when the speaker believes they are not literally true. The blue one responds to things said with intent to deceive. If both react then the scales tip to show which was greater in the lie, deception or untruth. Note the small mirrors placed around the walls. What they see and hear is recorded. There shall be no secrecy for these trials. All will be revealed to the public once the emergency has passed. Let us now begin.”

“First question. What is your full legally recognized name?”

“Fantasy Longhorn.”

“Legal home address?”

“The Brass Hoof Inn, Old Quarter, Umbra.”

Luna picked up a quill in her magic and wrote down something brief. She spoke without looking up, seeming tired and intent on sticking to business. “You were arrested upon suspicion of criminal activity. A prefatory remark to my next question: I ask only for crimes as defined by Equestrian law, committed within Equestrian territory, for which you have not as yet been exonerated or punished. Within these limitations, have you committed any crimes? I remind you again that you can elect to remain silent and be held in stasis for a proper trial.”

Biting her lower lip, Fantasy wished she could have convinced herself that she paused in order to think. She had spent more than a few hours worrying about exactly what crimes she could rightfully be accused of doing. The list already existed. Those ominous Scales sat quiet and dark, eliminating the smallest hope she could lie about them, or even speak the technical but misleading truth.

Fear made her hesitate while she hunted for her courage. She could answer with truthful honesty or keep quiet and face the same questions later at trial. But…she’d fled an interrogation room while leaving a police pegasus unconscious on the floor. Technically she’d committed no crime there, they hadn’t arrested her yet and she didn’t need their permission to leave. But running like that sure as hayburgers looked bad. Other things looked bad and she had no proof they weren’t except her own say-so. A proper trial couldn’t use magic to see if she lied but it also couldn’t use magic to confirm she told the truth. Her fear didn’t fade but hope joined it.

That’s why Luna’s doing it this way.

Fantasy found her voice. “I have committed crimes as you defined them in your question. I committed them all under duress. Some I committed due to outside coercion and others I committed in circumstances so dire that I honestly believed the survival of myself or others demanded I act as I did.”

“A crime remains a crime, no matter the reason why you committed it. Extenuating circumstances cannot transmute guilt into innocence.” Fantasy’s blood seemed to freeze solid in her veins. Luna continued without pause. “However, I shall take extenuating circumstances into consideration when determining the appropriate punishment, if any, as Equestrian law demands.” Unable to stop herself, Fantasy slumped in relief. Luna rolled onward, soft-voiced but inexorable. “You must describe the exact nature and extent of the crimes as well as of the extenuating circumstances. Please list them in order of severity. You may sincerely believe the circumstances under which you operated warrant your actions, but I must render judgment using the guidelines and precedent for what the law recognizes as sufficient.”

“I…” Her voice cracked, she stopped to swallow and wet her lips before trying again. “I can’t talk about some things. I’m bound by magically enforced silence. I don’t know how much I can say about the bindings, and I don’t know how much I should.”

Luna’s horn flickered with magic that crackled like the visual representation of static crackling over a brush run through a dry mane. The watching magical mirrors flickered at the same time. “I have disabled the recording function and erased the last few moments so that the record halts directly after your statement of being unable to speak about some things. Are you aware of any bindings upon you, save for those I laid?”

“No.” Fantasy said.

Did the princess slightly relax, betraying a tension that Fantasy hadn’t noticed until it vanished? “Very well. About events and times you are not able to speak, merely declare your inability to do so at such points as they arise in your testimony. You are not to state or imply that you are constrained by magical binding.”

Nodding, Fantasy forced her teeth to let go of her lower lip, which had started to feel sore. “I understand.”

“The record resumes now.” Her horn flickered, the mirrors flickered. “I have exercised my right to redact the record of this hearing in the name of imperial security. I hereby declare and confirm Miss Longhorn’s lack of criminality and immorality for all actions she took within spans of time about which she is not at liberty to speak. Please commence with listing your crimes and any circumstances you believe to be extenuating.”

Being a writer of stories, Fantasy tended to think in terms of stories. Everything flowed from one thing to another. Just listing her criminal actions and the directly related events felt like pulling small chunks from a book and presenting them in isolation. No matter how hard she tried to be both truthful and honest, she just couldn’t imagine how to present those chunks without opening the door to ponies misunderstanding them.

“Ummm…how long do I have?”

Luna’s green eyes narrowed. Fantasy felt pinned in place by that thoughtful, considering stare. “You are one of the last of the detained to face their hearing. Take your time.”

Fantasy just couldn’t imagine telling any of it without telling all of it. Even whatever mysterious Thing had temporarily granted her the ability to clairvoyantly write pages of autobiographical fact from other perspectives. Admit it, and confirm that it really was gone again. Magically spying on others without their consent was a crime, after all. She had to explain that it had been involuntary.

“I guess it began when an airship called the Snark, owned by a griffin named Brando, came to Aura with the dawn…”

Fantasy talked. Once she fell into the cadence of storytelling, she stopped really seeing the empty courtroom and Princess Luna sitting behind the high judge’s desk. She saw it all unfolding in her mind once more. Her voice went hoarse, Luna’s magic made a tall glass of something like milky tea appear before her. Drinking it did wonders for her mouth and throat, she felt like she could speak for hours and hours without discomfort.

And she ended up doing exactly that. Everything spilled out, even things privately thought by others and only revealed to her by that unnatural power. Luna listened, and some dim part of Fantasy stayed aware of the alicorn’s studied lack of expression through it all. A few times she vaguely noticed the mirrors flicker-crackling off, then on again, as Luna elected to cut some parts from the public record. She seemed to cut…most of it, really. Fantasy would bow to her judgment in this but Fantasy had to tell it true. Even if nopony else got to hear the whole story, Luna must. Luna was the pony who’d decide if she needed to be punished for any of it.

Fantasy got to the point her strange power had abandoned her again, and her story got more personal and limited in perspective. Eventually…finally…Fantasy caught up to the present moment of entering this room to face Princess Luna. Then she fell silent. It felt strange to stop, after talking for so long. She should have been hoarse, thirsty. That likely-magical glass of milky tea meant she wasn’t.

“For the crimes to which you confessed,” she said, “in the course of your narration of recent events, I declare you guilty. I declare the circumstances surrounding them to be extenuating enough to permit waiving any punishment for them. While not explicitly stated, your regret and remorse for your actions was sufficiently clear for me to be confident of their sincerity.”

Not exactly numb, Fantasy still floated in an odd kind of burned-our serenity after venting everything that had weighed on her heart and mind. “Thank you, Princess Luna.”

Luna banged her gavel and shut the mirrors off again. “If ever this clairvoyant talent manifests again, I command you report it directly to me. Go to sleep with the desire to speak to me in dreams, and I shall come. Do not summon me lightly, for I shall not tolerate abuse of this privilege I extend.”

“Okay.”

Magic built around Luna’s horn, a glimmer at first but building in an alarming way to form a crackling ball of silver-black energy perched on the tip. “I cannot permit you to make use of it while leaving me unaware of this. I hereby bind you in such a way that you cannot use your magic for any purpose after gaining conscious awareness of its emergence, to last until such time as you inform me of its emergence.”

The ball became a hair-fine bolt of silent lightning, silver as moonlight with an aura blacker than midnight in a mine. It hit Fantasy’s horn tip. She didn’t feel a thing, not even a tingle. Somehow that unnerved her more than if it had jangled every nerve and poofed all her hair on end.

“You may go.” Luna said.