The prison cell was not what she thought it would be. She was chained, certainly, but instead of hard stone floors and damp walls, it was furnished in a dark lacquered wood. The purpose of her chains seemed to be to keep her looking at the primary feature of the room, a tall mirror surrounded by a pitch black frame that almost seemed to drink in the light of the room, the flames in all the lanterns drawn towards it.
Her crime was the theft of a hen and a rooster, done by her own admission in a moment of madness after finding her own little flock decimated by the hallmarks of a hungry and sly fox. Her neighbour had plenty of them, she told the court. It was only two chickens, and they had been kept in cramped conditions.
The court, made up members of the town council, were quick to rule. While the circumstances were distressing, and the two chickens had been returned, there was still the need for some punishment to dissuade her from any further crimes. As such, she had been brought before the Mirror.
As the flickering flames found themselves drawn towards it, the same occurred with her eyes. And as she stared into the reflection of herself, dressed in a brown peasants smock with a woolen cape of dowdy gray, the reflection stared back into her. Their eyes made contact, and the punishment began.
A runaway train of thoughts, of the strife her simple act of theft brought to the town, to her own life, and to the neighbour she stole from. It span out from there, a twisted pensee wherein her actions lead her to more acts of theft, the effects of those crimes building like a tide as it swept through the community. Her reflection became a bitter mockery of herself, with cruel eyes and a self-satisfied smirk plastering her face, her appearance changing to one of wealth even as glimpses under the fine drapery and clothing revealed a black, rotting husk. The contagion soon crept up, spreading to her face as it drained all the pride and arrogance out. Then any glimmers of good and hope were snuffed out as the affliction made her features grotesque and putrid.
She was screaming, sobbing, desperately wrenching at her bindings to turn away from the vision presented to her, being forced into her mind by the mystical artifact. A heaving stomach gave way to retching. And then it was over. The vision had stopped, the guards had come back in to unchain her and carefully lead her out.
“What…” she stammered, her throat dry. “How… how long was I…”
“Just five minutes.” The guard replied. “By order of the Town Council, you’ve served your sentence. Go in peace and abide by the law. Your husband is waiting for you outside.”