PANTHERA and LEO
On Trial For Treason (part 7)
by Bevie James
Once again Panthera was obliged to continue her story. She told how Pelage had caught her, but instead of dealing her any kind of death blow, Pelage spoke of the wealth of grain in Lower Earth and how it could be of benefit to True Earth. But Panthera had refused her offer to be a partner. After that, Leo arrived and was able to dissipate the wall of water under Pelage’s control. Pelage melded into Onca and Panthera into Leo. Then the chase was on.
It did not last long, however. In just a few furlongs Panthera had caught Pelage and held her in her arms.
“And then what happened?” asked Ursa Drake.
Panthera blushed. “She begged me not to send her back. Reminding me of how – things had been. Then she said she had deliberately not struck at the lighthouse.”
“And so you let her go?”
Panthera didn’t know whether to be proud or ashamed, but in true cat form she held Ursa Drake’s stare.
There was a moment’s silence before Simthara spoke, breaking the thoughtful quiet.
“I think that proves it well enough. Don’t you think?”
“Yes, I do,” said Panteskus.
“Then you agree with me?” said Simthara, sounding more than a little surprised.
Panteskus looked apologetic. “Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you had come to sense. I see that is not so.”
“Adjudicator! Must I be insulted like this?”
“Do you have a preference?” asked Panteskus. “I can insult you any way you wish.”
“Enough!” said Ursa Drake. “Panteskus, that is hardly the attitude I should expect from a judicial member.”
Panteskus bowed his head. “Forgive me, Adjudicator.”
“It is not me who you have offended.”
“Very good. Forgive me, Simthara.”
Simthara only nodded. She didn’t believe Panteskus’ sincerity any more than Panthera did.
“So what are you claiming this proves?” asked Ursa Drake.
“That Pelage is not a traitor, and therefore neither is Panthera,” said Panteskus.
“How does it prove that?” said Simthara. “What I see is a traitor gone to Lower Earth for the purpose of personal gain, and another traitor who let her go when she had the chance to bring her back to stand trial.”
“You see what you are wont to see, as ever,” said Panteskus. “However, did not Panthera say Pelage spoke of the benefit of the grain to the people of Khat? She did not talk about personal reward.”
“She said us,” said Simthar.
“Yes, us. As in everybody who lives in Khat. Not Pelage and Panthera alone.”
“That is not what Panthera meant, and you know it!”
“Panthera did not make the statement. She is only relating things as she understood them with her conscious mind. But now, in reflection, I believe it is clear Pelage’s intent was simply to bring help to the People of Khat. It is true we are suffering a food shortage.”
“Which Pelage seeks to take advantage of by making profit on our suffering,” said Simthara.
“There is no evidence of that,’ said Panteskus. “In fact, the evidence suggests otherwise.”
Panteskus’ argument seemed to have caught Simthara off guard. But the Ape Woman was not stymied.
“Even so. To steal grain from Lower Earth is not lawful.”
“You mean it has not been sanctioned,” said Panteskus. “Technically, it has not been outlawed.”
“You are making a mockery of this trial!” Simthara stormed.
Ursa Drake raised her hands in a motion of silence.
“I think Panteskus has raised some valid points. However, it will take Pelage to answer the truth of his claims. Until we know, we cannot determine your fate, Panthera. Therefore, this is my decision: You will return to Lower Earth and find Pelage again. She must return to answer the questions raised.”
“And if she refuses?” asked Simthara.
Ursa put her hands back onto the table. “Then we will know.”