“Given her history, throwing her in a bottomless hole should come as a blessing. All of her offenses are not only jailable, they’re grounds for execution.”
Stuck as she was in the chair where she’d been placed for the ‘trial’, Coral had to consider her options. Behind her, the harbor called to her. She knew her ship wasn’t there, but she wanted to turn, to look for the familiar sight of the smoothed bow and the patchy sails.
Patchy, mostly because she had a bad habit of ‘borrowing’ sails from the ships she sank.
The judge leaned over his chair. “Will you say nothing in your defense, Miss Coralie?”
She hated when they called her that. Why couldn’t humans get it right? It was Coral—and technically, it was Captain Coral.
Technical, mostly because she only really had any command when they were engaging with slavers or mermaids.
“No,” she answered. Her tone remained impassive.
“Then you will make no attempts to deny the charges of frequent piracy, maiming sailors and evading justice?”
She contemplated it for only a moment. She had done most of those things. “I’d like to offer an amendment to the charges,” she replied.
“Oh?” That came from the prosecutor. “What would that be?”
“Maiming sailors. I don’t maim sailors. I do however, maim slavers and all of the ships I sank are ones that engage in enslaving and capturing mermaids.”
It brought an uproar from the men around her and Coral smiled only a little more while the judge banged his gavel against his stand to beat down the level of sound in the courtroom. Just once she looked out the window towards the harbor while the judge tried to restore order.
“Enough!” The judge thundered. “We are holding trial today in a court of justice. Miss Coralie. How will you plead to the charges?”
“What will my sentence be for pleading guilty?”
“You’ll be executed,” he answered.
“Then may I request my execution to be drowning in the ocean?”
Another murmur from the crowd, but hushed. She heard it all the same—this was a trick. There had to be something up her sleeve.
“I will…allow it,” he said. “How will you plead?”
“Guilty on all counts.”
More rumbling, but the judge only inclined his head and brought his gavel down. “Then we are agreed,” he said. “At dusk you will be tied to a rock and thrown into the ocean.”
“Until then, you will be placed in a holding cell,” he said. “Bailiff?”
“Yes, Your Honor.”
The bailiff came around to loop an arm under her legs and lift her out of the chair. Coral smiled a little as he carried her out, humming softly to herself as he continued to move her through the courthouse and to the holding cell.
“I can set you facing the window,” he said.
“Please. I want to watch the sunset.”
“What would you like for your last meal?” he asked as he set her down. “I can have something nice brought in. Perhaps some cake?”
Coral laughed and used her arms to push herself upright. “Actually, I hear about ham and pork all the time. Could I bother you for some? I’ve never had any.”
He nodded, somewhat sadly, but stood there for a moment. “You don’t seem upset at all.”
“I’m returning to the ocean, of course I’m not.”
“But you’re to be executed. You’ll die.”
“All things die. That’s an inevitable part of life. That execution won’t be what kills me.”
He studied her and nodded. “I’ll bring in some nice, sliced ham for you a little later, Miss Coralie.”
He left, shutting the door behind him. Coral inhaled and settled back. The sun would be setting soon, and she would be going back to the ocean.
Idly, she slid her sleeve up to scratch at the scales there. The rock might slow her down, but she wasn’t concerned. Once in the water, her scales and her fins would reappear. She’d just swim back to her ship.
Back to her ship, and to whatever other mermaids needed her help.
by A.J. Helms