“Court dress has acquired its own unique style,” Dog, his manservant, agreed.
Sir Edric scowled. “This is nonsense. Can’t someone else do this?”
“I’m afraid, sir, this is the price of seniority and commanding the respect of the Privy Council.”
“You mean I’m the only man left who is neither peasant nor pestilent?”
Dog cleared his throat. “The plague has sadly laid almost everyone low, sir.”
“Yes, I saw the black ribbons on Lord Chancellor Malthus’ house this morning and paid an impromptu visit to comfort Felicity, whether she be his wife or widow.”
His gorgeous, frisky wife/widow.
“How was he, sir?”
The knight stared into the mirror and tilted his wig fractionally. “Tragically, he survived. Anyway, I’m just about ready. Go announce me, would you?”
Dog bowed, opened the double doors to the courtroom, stepped inside and bellowed that Sir Edric Greenlock, the Hero of Hornska, was present.
Sir Edric strode in, the witnesses, clerks, soldiery and nosy buggers in the public gallery all rising before him. He occupied the judge’s chair, seized the disappointingly small hammer and smashed it down. “Sit down. And march the criminal scum in, would you?”
Everybody sat down, and a pair of guards stomped off and dragged in a tanned fellow with a ragged cap and dubious moustache.
Sir Edric shuffled his papers, hunting for what the miscreant had done. “Jerome Tatterfinch, you stand accused of… chicken smuggling. Apparently.” He turned from the court and whispered to Dog, “Is this a real case, or is Lawrence mocking me?”
“Andelic golden cocks are very rare, sir, and removing them from the Kingdom of Andelias is considered a crime against that state. As a friend of Andelias, Awyndel has pledged to consider it a crime as well.”
Whoever knew being a handler of cocks could get one in trouble?
Jerome’s moustache wobbled with anxiety. “I didn’t know it was a crime! Be merciful, your honour.”
Sir Edric struck his desk with the hammer, and enjoyed it so much he did it a second time for good measure. “Silence, criminal. If you’re confessing, this will be a rather short trial.”
Jerome fished a half-eaten carrot from his trouser pocket and started munching noisily.
The knight sighed. “And stop bloody masticating!”
The defendant took his hands out of his pockets.
Poor people really should be educated.
Sir Edric glared at the public gallery to silence the tittering onlookers, and stroked his beard thoughtfully. “Tell me the circumstances of your fowl crime. And I should warn you, stupidity is not considered a mitigating factor.”
“I was going to visit my brother-in-law in Andelias, chatting about the forthcoming journey in the pub, when a shady fellow asked if I could pick up a chicken for him in return for two solidi. So, I, er, said yes.”
Sir Edic’s stomach rumbled. “Describe this creature. And be aware that I grow less lenient the hungrier I get.”
“It was an Ursk. Said his name was Morf Low-Calljack.”
Orff No-Balsac, you clot. The nine foot lunatic will owe me one for this.
Sir Edric smashed down the hammer. “Clearly you are suffering from paranoid delusions which have impaired your memory and judgement,” the knight proclaimed. “The cock shall be returned to Andelias, and you are sentenced to magical therapy at the hands of the Lady High Sorceress. This trial is over.”