She stood before the council, her courage weathered but intact. It had taken weeks for them to finally catch up to her, and when they finally did she allowed them to capture her. She was tired of the cat and mouse. She would much rather be a caged panther.
“What do you say for yourself?” Ringwolm, the council elder addressed her.
She said nothing. The scent of leather and various colognes and perfumes lazily drifted through the council chambers. The air in the room felt stifling. She had a hard time breathing in the stuffy air.
The council shifted uncomfortably in their seats. The three men and three women – all in old age – stared at her, perplexed and at the same time irritated at her appearance. The audience behind her seemed just as irritated.
She knew it had to do with her tattoos. Tattoos were taboo. Outlawed long ago. It wasn’t the sole reason they had been hunting her, but the tats scattered across Verona’s body didn’t help her blend in. Not in this utopia of civil imprisonment.
“You will be charged, you understand?”
Again, she said nothing. She knew they would charge her. She expected to go to the Brack cells in southern Shert. It was where they expected her to spend the last of her days. Unfortunately for them, they knew nothing about her and didn’t want to know anything about her. They would simply judge her. And that would inevitably be their downfall.
Her tats told a story they didn’t want to hear. The eagle on her left hindquarters was a symbol of freedom. She had it emblazoned on her when she visited the United States some years back. That was a land of freedom…before it was destroyed.
The small square made of dots on the inside of her wrist represented the rebel group she had been leader over during the Synergy Wars. Each dot was a soldier who served under her. And each dot was a soldier she got killed.
The long purple pinstripe tat running down the side of her leg represented her position in the Dualoy Battles that took place two years prior. She was a commander, a position she never felt she deserved after getting her team killed in the Synergy Wars.
The angel wings she had underneath each breast represented the unknown figure who saved her the night she was about to be gang raped. He came out of nowhere, slaughtered everyone who had set eyes on her, and then vanished just as mysteriously. She wondered if it had been her good friend Sylvester, from the days of the Synergy Wars. But he had died under her command, so it couldn’t have been him…
The flowers on her arms, the lettering on her knuckles, the strange creatures running rampant across her shins…each one told a story. The story of her life. Ironically, she was an open book, but nobody she came across here in Ceraldel wanted to read the pages, they just wanted to skip directly to rash judgments.
The old man who had been speaking to her slammed his fists against the top of the mahogany counter behind which the council members sat. His face flushed, and he looked at her with bloodshot eyes. “Why won’t you speak? Why won’t you defend yourself? You stand there, looking like an idiot, like one of the punks who used to roam these streets before we did away with your kind. If you don’t speak, we will cut out your tongue, and you will be forced to live out your days a mute. Is that what you want?”
She cleared her throat. “You don’t care what I want. Cut out my tongue. My story will still be told.”