"This is a trial of murder," called the High Judge, "before the Silverthorn Clan of the Moonlight Forest."
Meroxii simply sat there, bound tightly in thick creepers to a tall oak. The bark rubbed into her back. Sweat dripped into the sores. Her eyes darted from centaur to centaur, from arrowtip to gleaming arrow tip.
"You stand charged," the cold voice intoned, "of using brutal magics, to first kill Bardun, one of our oldest prophets. You are also charged of using said brutal magics to kill Sarion, a warrior, and Father Aron, our clan's grand master.
"These crimes are heinous beyond the likes we have yet seen," spat the High Judge. "Even from one as lowly as a Shadow."
"What proof do you have that I, Meroxii, daughter of Merwyn, did those things?" cried Meroxii, with as much dignity as she could muster. "I am not capable of such deeds! My ... affliction ... has not driven me mad beyond reason, I would never-"
"Silence! I have not yet finished. I call forth a witness, a witness who saw your dastardly trickery in effect!"
The centaurs stirred restlessly, as Juliexus came to the front of the clearing, her ebony coat glossy in the bleach-white moonlight, her torso slender and pale, like a birch among a thousand oaks. She was visibly shocked.
"I - I was walking in the forest," she said shakily. "I was - trying to divine the answer to a question that had been puzzling me for a long time, in the stars above, when a - a thing -
- came through the forest towards me. I can’t remember too well, but … I ended up under a tree. The – the darkness returned as Sarion, a young warrior, came to try and save me. It killed him for his efforts, but I managed to get away …
“Then I was told to run to Father Aron, to inform him of the danger, but the darkness must have – must have got there before me. It – it just absorbed him … I only survived because of the talisman Bardun’s father had given me, long ago, to shield me from the forces of darkness … but it did not save him.
"And you saw this girl, working the wretched magic?" he demanded.
"N-no, I would have noticed, as she is a two-legs."
"She could have hidden from your gaze," he pressed, "worked the atrocity from a place where -"
"You would do well to remember that my eyesight is inherently better than yours, given my position," replied Juliexus calmly. A frisson passed through the congregation. "I believe these deaths must be avenged, but this Shadow is not the one who committed the murder."
Juliexus spoke firmly. Morexii sighed inwardly with relief.
"Who else would commit such a crime?" roared the High Judge. "I see no other -"
"Did you never listen to my father?" cried Mune, stepping forward, her pure white unicorn coat gleaming magnificently. "Or Father Aron? This was the work of Herothi, the Omen of Death, who lives only to seek revenge for his imprisonment in the Underworld at the dawn of time! Two of our greatest prophets have died tonight! Do not ignore their warnings, or it will be the undoing of us all!"
Silence swept through the clearing like an icy breeze. The High Judge looked stupefied.
"Very well," he conceded. "But I refuse to believe that this Shadow has nothing to do with her. Take her away, and make sure she is secure. Court dismissed."
As Meroxii was carried away, she saw Mune drift away through the trees like a lonely ghost. Juliexus followed her away from the crowd, and put a comforting arm around her shoulders. They watched the stars turning slowly in the heavens, and the pale light of dawn had stained the eastern sky before they returned to their dwellings.