Leather bound chairs sat atop a heightened scaffold that overtook the cornerstone room, one of many built around the old civil courthouse.
In these chairs sat four men - men of special power, men whose grandfathers and even great grandfathers had served before them. They were the council.
Below the scaffold looking upward silently, stood an elderly gentleman. One that had eluded the council since the beginning process of executive order 13603.
For a moment, silence and recognition crossed each member's face. It was indeed a rare treat such as this day that they would live to see the most wanted criminal stand before them.
"Carver? Tristian Carver?" the middle councilman asked, his voice stonily calm as he waited for his prisoner to glance at him. When the other man finally obliged he knew right away, there was no mistaking that face.
"It has been a very long time my friend," the other man confirmed with a sullen smile, bringing his shackled hands together, folding them at the front.
"You are aware as to why you're here are you not, Tristian?" the other beside him asked, catching the prisoner off guard.
"For my just rewards? Is that not why all men stand before you? To make sure the council seek justice to those of the government that have been wronged? To beg like dogs before they're executed? You tell me councilman, I am merely an old man - perhaps my memory has slipped on the ever-changing laws imposed by our government, our president…you," Tristian glowered, before cringing as the man who had stood quietly behind him suddenly moved.
"Don't," the middle judge ordered with a held hand, stopping any harm that would potentially come to the prisoner.
Tristian smirked, turning to his guard that had stopped mid punch.
"Good dog," Tristian chortled, but found himself on his knees a moment later with his legs kicked out from underneath him.
"Stay!" the guard ordered, his voice booming across the walls, allowing it to carry around the room in a sharp, vicious echo. This rendered the whole courtroom silent from the outburst, including the benches that had been set off to the side with other prisoners awaiting their judgment. Above the quiet was a small gasp - it had settled to such dead air, that only the one sound penetrated through.
Despite the aging woman that had run to his side and knelt down, there was little error in mistaking her radiant beauty even after all these years.
"Nevaeh," his smile genuine as he spoke her name, the same name he had years ago damned.
"Tristian, please… please stop. We don't want to hurt you-we want to understand, we want to understand why you… why now?" her voice trailed off as the rest of the courtroom looked on speechless.
"I'm tired of fighting, I'm tired of running, and I'm sick of hiding. We've been fighting this war for forty-nine long years, with barely a dent to show for it. If I'm to die today then I want it to be standing with dignity, not on this floor like a dog."
Tristian sneered, turning his head from the woman's touch as bittersweet thoughts spun their silk webs around his memory, the very essence of her smell taking him back to them.
"Kind sir?" she addressed the guard, her voice soft and angelic, "bring him a chair. He needn't be on this floor like a common prisoner,"
The guard looked to the council, receiving the nod to do as she asked.
He complied with a bow, leaving the woman's side.
"I don't need your charity. If you did me anymore favors, I'm almost sure my heart would stop," Tristian glared, his eyes seeking the floor for distraction from the scar on her cheek - one that he should be adorning.
"Yes, but I'm not doing it out of charity. I'm doing it for a friend," she defended, gently guiding his head back to her own.
"My husband and I owe you many thanks for what you did for us, you probably don't remember-"Neveah started but fell silent again as his brown orbs looked into her vibrant green ones.
"I remember that day, I remember it because I'm responsible for your capture. I was supposed to make an example out of the both of you but…Jonathan wouldn't let me," Tristian sighed, his body being helped from the ground into a soft leather chair by the guard who had just moments ago knocked him to the ground.
"Thank you," he offered the guard who only responded with a nod.
"Jonathan and Alexander Carver, they too have charges of their own to answer to. May we acquire the location of where they may be?" the judge at the end of the scaffold asked, a pen in his hand as he sat taking notes.
"I'm afraid they died councilman, a long time ago. Consider it a justice served," Tristian relented, his brown eyes softening.
"How do we know you are telling the truth? This is a war Mister Carver, an enemy is not easily fooled by the lying tongue of their foe. I'm afraid we will need more than just your word," the end judge continued, staring him down.
Tristian closed his eyes as he willed himself to keep a calm and even temper, reminding himself that he didn't hold the cards and if he laid his hand down at that moment he would lose. So he took a deep breath and opened his eyes again.
"In my pocket lays my brother's cross. On the cross is a splatter of blood. His blood. His body was burned to ash and the remains buried somewhere safe. My other brother - Alex, he was buried beside Jon a few years later. I carry his wedding ring on the same chain I carry Jon's cross. If you want me to tell you where their ash is so you can go dig them up, I'm sorry but that's not happening. If it means anything to you though I have a small vile of their ashes I carry on a necklace - pull my shirt collar back and see for yourself," Tristian offered, feeling Neveah do as he suggested, her finger tinkering with the small glass vile that laid neatly around his neck…along with his own wedding ring.
"You kept your wedding ring?" Neveah asked somewhat surprised, standing back away from him and up toward the middle judge without waiting for his response. "Darling, I need to get some air," she let him know before exiting quickly through the double oak doors.
The middle judge watched the elder woman leave. It had taken him a moment to realize why she had gotten so upset.
"Guards? Remove his jewellery and anything else he may have on him. Bring them to me and return to your posts," he ordered of them tiredly, unaffected as the chained prisoner began to stand in protest but didn't make it up all the way before the guards were on him.
"Wait! Wait a second, for God sakes wait!" Tristian yelled as they began to feel up his body, their hands trying to make quick work of the chains around his neck.
The guards let up as Tristian's voice grew, his breath heaving in and out with exhaustion.
"I'll give you the jewellery, just don't break the chains. They're old and fragile. I have nothing else except an old family picture in my back pocket," he told the guards - his hands shaking as he struggled with his restraints to remove the precious metal from around his neck. Somehow though and with a smaller amount of force, the guards finally got the jewellery from the old man's neck and brought it to the judge.
For a moment more the silence hung in the air as each piece of the man's jewellery was examined and set aside.
"I'm curious to see this photo, bring that to me as well," he finally ordered, looking down at his old friend with guarded curiosity.
Tristian's head slumped down to the floor as the guard next to him pulled it with ease from its protected space and did as he was told.
The middle councilman seemed to smile at the picture he had received, faintly remembering the day it was taken.
"I barely remember that day and quite frankly I'm surprised you even have a picture with us together. I am your sworn enemy after all," he quipped, masking his tone in a bitter question.
"No," Tristian said, shaking his head before looking back up again, "you were my friend…and I still believe, in some small way, that you remember more than you're letting on. We have history and even though the years haven't been kind, I truly believe as a friend - hell, a blood brother - you will oversee that my death is dignified and my execution quick."
The judge could only stare on in disbelief at the boldness in the prisoner's voice before turning to his guards.
"Throw him back into the pit, make sure everything is removed from his cell.
Leave him in his shackles and have a guard outside his door at all times. We have other cases to attend to today and I do not have time to list all of the charges against him. We will proceed with sentencing two days from today; Sunday, December 27, 2065. See to it he is given neither food nor drink in the time of his awaiting sentence," the judge ordered, pausing to glance at the photo once more before tearing it in half, "may God have mercy on you Tristian."
Tristian stood calmly from the chair, his eyes still light in emotion as they never left the middle judge.
"Merry Christmas to you as well Adrian. May it, you and your family be blessed," Tristian smiled, as he was forcibly taken from the courthouse and back toward the prison building.