31. Aramil Augustus Is Banished

Another episode of Man Raised by Spiders, the coming-of-age story of Valentine Shelawn.

The ceremony of banishment is simple, and quickly done. Marcus, in his role as head of the Shelawn family, leads Aramil to a guard house attached to the city gate. The magistrate is waiting there in full robes and wig, along with Xardic, and seven ancient elves — the Council of Elders, also in black robes and powdered wigs.

Titus Andronicus says to Aramil, “Aramil Augustus Shelawn, do you acknowledge the gravity of crimes listed in the plea agreement you signed?”

“Yes.” Aramil looks solemn and sad. All along, Aramil has been defiant and sullen because he couldn’t understand the seriousness of his actions. He saw the robberies as an elaborate prank, or, in his darker moments, as a drug that he needed. He didn’t see them as Xardic and the magistrate and prosecutor do, as crimes that endangered other citizens and compromised the security and peace of the city. He still feels no remorse, only regret and sadness.

“Aramil Augustus Shelawn, I must ask you to surrender your documents of citizenship and heritage.”

Aramil pulls a folded piece of parchment from his cloak pocket, hands it over. Titus opens it, confirms that it’s his original birth certificate. He hands it to Xardic, who examines it and passes it on to the oldest and most wizened of the Council of Elders.

Titus continues, “Aramil Augustus, by decision of the Council of Elders, you are hereby banished from the City of Liamelia. You may not reside in Liamelia or its outskirts. You may not own property in Liamelia or its outskirts. You may not vote in elections, serve on juries, hold public office, or be married to a citizen of Liamelia. If you violate the terms of your banishment, you are liable to be prosecuted for the crimes you have committed here.

“Aramil Augustus, do you acknowledge the just punishment that has been visited upon you?”

Aramil is painfully aware that Titus has omitted his last name. Aramil Augustus is no longer a Shelawn. “Yes,” he says.

“Then go. The curse of the city is upon you.”

Aramil looks up at the magistrate, in his wig and robes, and at the grim faces ranged behind him — men he has known from childhood, including his father and uncle. Their expressions are schooled into hard, cold masks of civic pride. He nods to each of them in turn. They do not acknowledge him. It is strange: anticlimactic, but apparently final.

He turns, steps out of the city gate. The sentries close ranks behind him. It seems like there are more guards on duty than usual, as if he might make a break for it, try to return to his childhood home one last time. He knows them all by appearance, if not by name.

With a deep sense of unreality, he begins to walk down the highway. His footsteps sound loud in his own ears. Valentine is roughly 50 yards away, astride the roan, leading Aramil’s pretty chestnut mare. She’s saddled and bridled, and her saddlebags are loaded. Aramil walks up to her, strokes her soft nose, gentles her with a word. He swings himself into the saddle, takes the reins from Valentine.

“You ready?” asks Valentine.

“I was born ready. Let’s go.” They trot, and then canter, down the darkening highway away from Liamelia and the coast, towards the mountain pass and the woods of Xiomelia. Though they can feel the sun setting behind them over the city and harbor, they resolutely face to the East, where the sun will rise in the morning.

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