She followed Kraylea up to Bezzum’s chambers, and found that Fergen and Shiena were already waiting outside. As soon as Kraylea knocked on the door, they heard Bezzum’s voice summoning them in, and they all entered the room.
The scene was much as it had been before. Bezzum was at his desk, and the four Clan Leaders were flanking him, two on each side. The Clan Leaders had grim expressions on their faces, but Bezzum looked positively chipper. This did nothing to improve Alessandra’s anxiety, nor did the sarcastic wink he gave her as she entered the room.
“The Clan Master has conferred with the Clan Leaders, and judgment has been decided,” said Vegora in an official sounding tone. “That judgment is as follows: Kraylea is to be stripped of his rank of Team Leader, and his team shall be dissolved. Furthermore, Alessandra is to be exiled from Clan Mekoval, effective immediately.” A wide grin spread across Bezzum’s face as Vegora spoke those words, but for a moment the full impact of what he said failed to hit Alessandra. All she could think at first was that anything Bezzum was so happy about couldn’t possibly be good news for her. Then, the meaning of Vegora’s words finally penetrated her mind.
“NO!” she screamed. “Exiled!? What for? What I do wrong? I wasn’t even in charge!”
“You’re bad luck, girl,” Bezzum said with open delight. “I’ve known it from the very beginning, and I was finally able to get the Clan Leaders to see it too. Twice now, ambushes have been laid for jobs that you were taking part in. Both times, multiple members of the clan have died. You’re too much of a risk. We can’t have your bad luck following us around.”
“That’s ridiculous!” Alessandra screeched. “Bad luck! I’ve never heard anything so stupid!”
“Is that so?” Bezzum sneered. “Well, the alternative is that you are a traitor. Would you rather I go with that judgment? Because the punishment for treason is death, and I would be happy to carry it out.”
“I…you…this…!” Alessandra was so overcome with rage and shock that she was reduced to incoherence.
“Get her out of my sight,” Bezzum growled with obvious glee. “Vegora, Torea, escort her out of the clanhouse. Make it clear to her that she ever sets foot in Mekoval territory again, it’ll be the last thing she does.” Alessandra opened her mouth to scream at Bezzum, to bellow that he had been the one who had betrayed her twice, but she couldn’t get a single word out before Vegora and Torea had taken her by the arms and were dragging her out of the room.
“This can’t be happening!” she yelled as she thrashed in the Clan Leaders’ grip, desperately trying to escape. “You can’t do this to me! This is wrong!”
“Hush, girl,” Torea said quietly. “You wanna make this worse for yourself? At least go out with a little bit of dignity.”
“How could you possibly go along with this, Torea?” Alessandra pleaded. “I’m not bad luck, and I’m definitely not a traitor! Bezzum’s the real traitor! He’s the only one who could have set up those ambushes!”
“Quiet,” Torea hissed. “Do you think we don’t know that? Do you think we’re really that stupid?”
“Then why are you kicking me out!” Alessandra exclaimed.
“Because our duty as Clan Leaders means we have to think of the clan as a whole, above the welfare of any one of its members,” Torea said. “Bezzum’s hatred of you has now cost the clan six members. If we let you stay, how many more clan members will finally die before he succeeds in killing you?”
“If you know he’s doing this, then fight him!” Alessandra cried, desperately. “Don’t just go along with him!”
“It’s not that simple,” Torea said, shaking her head. “Bezzum’s a good Clan Master. He’s made Clan Mekoval one of the strongest clans in the slums. Plus, he’s popular. And he’s strong. If I challenged him, I’d probably lose, and even if I won, most of the members would hate me for killing him. Like I said, I need to think of the well being of the clan above all else.”
“Please, Torea,” Alessandra said, and she was shocked to discover that she was crying. “Don’t do this. There must be another way.”
“This is the best way, for everyone involved,” Torea said sadly. “Any other way would lead to your death, and maybe the deaths of many more of our clan members. At least this way, you still have your life. Maybe you can still do something with it.”
They had reached the entrance of the clan house. Alessandra was still fighting, trying to escape from the Clan Leaders’ tight hold on her. As she fought, hot tears streamed down her face. She couldn’t believe this was happening. The clan was her life. Torea said she still had her life? Nonsense! The clan was everything! Without a clan, how was she supposed to survive in the slums? She kept fighting, knowing it was useless, knowing that even if she broke free, there was no way she wouldn’t get caught and thrown out of the house anyway. And she kept crying. Part of her was ashamed of her tears, and part of her knew that there was nothing she could do to stop them.
They reached the entrance of the house, and the two guards on duty there grabbed Alessandra by the arms, while Torea and Vegora grabbed her by the legs. Together, the four of them heaved Alessandra, still kicking and screaming and crying, out of the door and onto the street outside. As soon as she hit the ground, Alessandra was up on her feet, racing toward the door, tears streaming out behind her, but the two guards drew knives, and as they did so, Alessandra was horrified to realize that they were Mikaelo and Halidasa.
“I don’t want to kill you Alessa, but I will if I have to,” Mikaelo said in a soft, grim voice. Halidasa didn’t speak, but all trace of cheerfulness was gone from her face, and she nodded slowly.
To be continued…