I'm sorry I haven't updated for soooo long! I've just been having loads of exams at Uni, so that's kept me pretty busy, but now I'm free!!! I'll celebrate the fact by uploading the final chapter of DoD for you all. Enjoy :)

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"Your Honour, contrary to what we have heard thus far during this trial, I would like to suggest that the murder of Mr. Cydran Daiinno was very much provoked, and if I may say, deserved."

Keziah examined the defence lawyer from head to foot, taking in his solid stature, determined expression, and thick, greying hair. Apart from the fact that Xienna had persuaded him to take on the case, the girl knew nothing about him. It made her uncomfortable that she was so unacquainted with the person who could save or damn her best friend, but she forced herself to watch the proceedings in stony silence.

"It seems strange to me that Mr. Daiinno didn't take Mierra Tymekk to the hospital when he knew she was ill, and it is even more convenient that he buried her himself to avoid having to get a death certificate. Although there are very few people who knew the late Mrs. Tymekk well enough to comment, I would further like to point out that she had no history of serious illness."

As he continued to speak, addressing and dismissing each issue that had been raised by the opposition in a quiet, steady voice, Keziah felt her spirits begin to rise. People seemed to be listening, and even accepting, what the man was saying, which was a great improvement on anything said so far. She began to think Kiv had a chance.

"The demise of the late Miss Zera Tymekk is even more suspicious. According to friends of the Tymekk family, who still live in the region, the young girl was 'sweet and gentle, with no thoughts of leaving the home for the violence of the city'. Evidence has been found in the garden of the Tymekk family home, indicating that a body was once buried there, probably within the last ten years. I now call upon exhibit one to be brought before the court."

Exhibit one was dutifully displayed on the big screen at the front of the courtroom, and it did not take long for Keziah to realise what it was.

"Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, may I present the medical report of the defendant following the abduction incident last year. May I draw your attention to the third paragraph in particular, where the medical practitioner explicitly states that there were signs of serious previous injuries, dating back to around the time of the defendant's abuse at the hands of his stepfather. The doctor also explains that at the time of the rescue last year, the defendant was very near death, and had to be resuscitated several times. There may be no direct evidence, apart from the defendant's claim, that Mr. Daiinno was personally responsible for the abduction, but there is also no proof that he wasn't, and this extensive list of injuries certainly gives the defendant a legitimate motive for murder.

"As to the non-existence of the late Fyel Tymekk, that surely cannot be taken seriously. Friends of the Tymekk family remember that there were definitely three children. Although once again we have no solid proof that Mr. Daiinno did murder Mr. Fyel Tymekk, the defendant has no reason to lie, and certainly no motive to invent an entirely fictitious brother."

After lunch it was his turn to summon witnesses, and Keziah fidgeted nervously as she watched Xienna take the stage, knowing she would be next.

"Xienna Mieren, how long have you know the defendant?" the defence lawyer began.

"Since he came to the Army Training Academy of Veta almost four years ago." Keziah admired how calm and composed her Kerita trainer sounded, and hoped she could give the same impression. Public speaking had never been one of her talents.

"And how would you describe you relationship with the defendant."

"I have been training him in the art of Kerita for these past four years, and can assure you that he is one of the most talented students in the academy where this discipline is concerned. I have come to know him as someone who will carry out the tasks he is set to the best of his ability without complaining or contradicting."

It never occurred to Keziah that her friend might be slightly embarrassed by his trainer's unusual praise; she just assumed that the woman was stating undeniable facts.

"Would you describe the defendant as someone who makes rash, impulsive decisions, or is ruled by his emotions?"

"Not at all," Xienna denied. "If he must do something questionable, it would only be after he has considered all the aspects of it."

"So you are implying that he would have considered killing Mr Daiinno before he actually went about it."

"Definitely, and I also doubt that it will ever happen again. You can't know to what extent Daiinno ruined Ki…Zael's life. It was a matter of kill or be killed."

"Thank you."

Keziah's mouth was dry as she stepped up to the rostrum at her summons. The room seemed a lot larger and more intimidating when standing at the front of it. Kiv still was not looking at her, but for the first time she appreciated this.

"Witness, please identify yourself." The lawyer smiled at her kindly, and although Keziah did not usually respond to comforting gestures on principle, she started to feel more comfortable.

"Keziah Vaia, a trainee from the Army Training Academy of Veta."

"And how long have you known the defendant, Miss Vaia?"

"For nearly two years," Keziah said clearly, pleased at how calm she sounded. "He taught me Kerita when I first arrived."

"How long would you say you have been friends?"

"A year," the girl replied after a couple of seconds of consideration. She was not sure the first year's uneasy acquaintance counted as 'friendship'.

"And I understand you were abducted last summer along with the defendant."

"Yeah…I mean, that is correct, sir." She saw Xienna's lips twitch with amusement as the memorised phrase from their impromptu lesson was pronounced awkwardly.

"Who was in charge of that episode, Miss Vaia?"

"It was Zael's step-father, Cydran Daiinno." Of that she could be perfectly certain.

"Did he at any time directly identify himself as the defendant's stepfather?"

Keziah forced her mind back to the incident, frowning as she tried to remember everything the b------ had said up there in the mountains. Suddenly she recalled their first meeting, where Cydran had been taunting the newly-captured Kiv: '…it's not every day a father gets to beat up his son…'

"He did, sir," Keziah confirmed. "He also admitted outright that he killed Zael's mother. The whole point of the abduction was to try and get Zael to say where his brother was so that Cydran could go and kill him."

"He told you all that directly?"

"Yes sir." Keziah could remember it more clearly than she liked now, and doubted the memory would fade quickly enough for her liking. Relating the episode felt like re-living a bad dream, with questions interspersed to dredge up the really awful times she had omitted to mention, and by the time she reached the end she was fighting to keep from shaking. The lawyer seemed to realise how much the interview had unbalanced her, and sent her back to her seat.

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Thinking over the day's events, Keziah felt quite optimistic as she slapped a layer of white paint on the bathroom wall as neatly as she knew how. The lawyer had got a good reception from the jury, and she could sense that the atmosphere had changed, if only slightly in Kiv's favour.

"How did you get such a good lawyer?" she asked Xienna, who was installing some shelves above the sink. Her trainer also seemed calmer tonight, but Keziah was intrigued to catch a moment of awkward hesitation in the woman's voice as she answered the question.

"We were…are…friends," she faltered. "I've known him a long time."

"Was he at the academy?"

"No. I met him when I was in the army. He's a…civilian."

"He seems nice…good at his job anyway."

"Yes…he is." Keziah sneaked in a sideways glance at the woman's face, and was stunned to see that her cheeks were slightly pinker than usual.

"Is he married?" she asked gleefully, but keeping her voice perfectly calm.

" No, why do you ask?" Xienna seemed even more flustered now, and muttered that she was going to get more paint. When Keziah checked in her absence, she saw that the pot was still nearly full. She grinned cheekily. It would be the last time she would get even near to a smile for a very long time.

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"It's not enough."

Suze looked up at the unexpected phrase, wondering how long he and Nevrian had been sitting there in silence. They had returned to the academy together after the trial, Suze having offered his friend a room for the night to save a long journey home, but there had been very little in the way of amicable conversation.

"What's not enough?" the training master asked morosely, stretching his limbs in tired reluctance.

"The defence…Mazekke's defence today. It won't be enough to stop him from being sent down for a good long time."

"Yeah, but it's looking less likely that he'll hang for it," Suze amended, for once optimistic.

"Putting a lad like that behind bars for the rest of his life…well, you might just as well kill him." Nevrian was not following his friend's example where encouragement was concerned. "He'll probably kill himself after a few years. People like him aren't meant to be caged."

"I don't think you're in a position to make such judgements, Nev," Suze cut in bluntly. "You know hardly anything about him. You're not the one who has been training him for the past four years."

"Three years."

Suze glowered icily at his companion, but Nevrian met the stare with complete equanimity. A glare that could make even the hardiest trainee begin to sweat hardly seemed to bother the agent at all.

"I did some research in my free time," he explained casually. "Nothing else to do in a city this big."

"I'm warning you, Nevrian Hezan," Suze growled. "Don't meddle. Don't get any more mixed up with these trainees than you absolutely have to. And it beats me as to why you have to at all."

"Firstly," the other man countered calmly, "looking up someone's background isn't really meddling. I haven't actually taken any action…yet. And secondly, I'm not entirely sure why I'm getting involved with Mazekke's case either. It just seems the right thing to do for Kierad's son. Don't you care to remember those days?"

"Not really." Suze's terse reply gave away absolutely nothing.

"You've changed." Disappointed.

"We've all changed." Uncompromising.

"It's incredible how far apart life can drive four friends who used to be so inseparable. I suppose our little group could never really hope to recover after Robban defected, and then when Kierad died …"

"Why are you bringing this up?" Suze interrupted, his voice tight with controlled emotion. "We don't have to remember what happened."

"Why not? Just because we were the two who escaped death, it doesn't mean we got away scot free, and it certainly doesn't mean we can just pretend nothing happened. I often wonder if we were right to…"

"Nev." The quiet pain in Suze's voice did what any amount of shouting would never have achieved. Nevrian stopped, glancing at the training master.

"I just wanted to check you hadn't forgotten," he muttered apologetically. "I just think that we should forgive the sins of the past, whoever committed them, and if backing Mazekke is the only way we can still be friends with Kierad…well, I'm willing to do it."

"And Robban?" Suze's voice was bitter. "You'd help any kid of his?"

"He never had any," the agent snapped, almost defensively.

"That's not the point. Would you forgive him?"

There was a long pause, but Nevrian finally shook his head. "Some things can't be forgiven."

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"Zael Tymekk."

The judge pronounced the name with the gravity due a ton of lead. Kiv continued to stare at his hands, still chained to the defendant's stand, and gave no indication that he was nervous at this crucial turning point in his life. After four days of tortuous waiting the jury had finally decided the verdict, and everyone concerned and many who were not had convened in the courtroom to hear it pronounced. Keziah was among the crowd, sitting next to Xienna who was grapping the girl's wrist firmly every time she raised her hand to her mouth. The trainee's nails were already bitten down to the quick from nervous tension, and a couple were even bleeding. Suze and Nevrian sat on the same bench, neither having much to say for themselves.

"From what I've heard," the judge continued, "I conclude that you are a particularly disturbed and unstable young man. However, since the psychologist hasn't diagnosed you with any particular condition, I must put it down to your circumstances, perhaps even those that are responsible for your being here today. Whatever your true motive for killing Cydran Daiinno, there can be no justification for cold-blooded murder. If revenge, however deserved, were legalised, this world would be plunged into chaos and lawlessness. As to your assault of Ms. Chemai, that shows you to be a particularly cruel and desperate individual. It is in the interests of society that you are deprived of your freedom until you realise that this conduct is unacceptable."

Keziah listened with increasing foreboding to the speech, realising quickly that this was not going to go in Kiv's favour. She found herself trying to remember, from what Xienna had told her, what the lightest sentence for murder was. Surely he would not be given more than seven years…? She shivered suddenly, imagining what Kiv would be like after seven years in claustrophobic captivity. It was selfish, she admitted freely, but she would not help wondering what the next few years of her life were going to be like, without Kiv to keep her sane. She thought she had got through the worst phase of academy life, but if Kiv was put in a prison on the other side of the planet, she could foresee worse times approaching.

"The punishment for murder is life imprisonment, and for torture you would normally receive at least five years. However, due to evidence which suggests the Mr. Diianno was not a law-abiding citizen either, I therefore sentence you to fifteen years hard labour. Court adjourned."

The sound of the hammer colliding with the wooden top of the desk did much to jerk Keziah out of her stunned shock. She turned to Xienna to check that she had heard properly, but noticed that the woman was as aghast as she was herself. In fact, no one in the defence section seemed capable of speech for a few seconds, and by that time Kiv was nearly at the door.

"Kiv…" she croaked, lurching forwards into the bench in front of her. "Wait!" Her voice was barely audible, so dry was her throat, so it could not have been her pathetic cry that made Kiv pause in the doorway to look back. He stared straight into her eyes, and allowed her less than four seconds to see into his soul before the shutters slammed down once again. The connection between them that had been forged in that short time was severed with such determination that it hurt Keziah almost like a physical pain. She allowed Xienna to guide her out of the courtroom and into Suze's hover-car; she watched as the woman turned back for a few words with her lawyer-friend; she stared dully as Nevrian accompanied her training master into the front of the car; she listened mutely as Xienna ranted all the way back to her house about the harshness of the judge, and about how the only difference between Kiv's sentence and the death penalty was in the words used. Nothing seemed to mean anything any more. Nothing seemed to matter.

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Kiv, kneeling on the floor of the high-security hover-van, wondered if it was strange that he did not care about what had happened. He could see it all panned out in his mind, a vision that the blindfold he wore could not dim: his father's funeral, his mother's death, Zera's murder, Fyel's cold body on the dirty floor of the basement, Cydran's body in the street. Try as he might, he could not conjure up any feelings of regret for what he had done. "…until you realise that this conduct is unacceptable…" the judge had said. Kiv had known at that point that he was never going to be released. The only way he was going to get out of prison would be in a coffin, something that would likely happen in the next ten years. It was common knowledge that no one survived more than six years hard labour at the particular camp he was being sent to. He was a little surprised at the severity of his sentence, labelled 'a slow death as opposed to a quick execution' by those subjected to it, but did not have the heart to question it. He did not have the heart to do anything much at the moment, and doubted that he ever would. Having to leave Keziah like that had pretty much ripped apart all that was left of him.

He lost track of time, only realising that it must have been some hours when he slumped involuntarily onto the floor, and was kicked back upright. This happened another four times before the transport eventually slowed down, manoeuvred, and finally stopped altogether. He was dragged to his feet roughly and half-carried out of the van because his feet were so numb from inaction, but the blindfold was not removed as he was pushed down what sounded like a long corridor. He wondered absently why such precautions were needed in a labour-camp. The chains were enough to keep him from foolhardy escape attempts.

After a few minutes walk he felt himself being directed through a door and into a pleasantly warm room. Only once he was kneeling submissively in the middle of the room was the blindfold removed, and he squinted in the sudden light. Once his vision had cleared enough to see his surroundings in any kind of detail, he received his second big shock of the day. Because wherever he had been taken, it certainly was not a labour-camp.

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I'd just like to thank you all for sticking with me through this story. I hope you liked it, and I'll try and get the sequel started as soon as possible. I probably won't post the first chapter for quite a while, but I'll try not to leave you in suspense too long! Thank you so much for all the reviews/encouragement/criticism - this story wouldn't exist if it wasn't for them. Happy holidays :)