Tooks lost track of how much time had passed before he heard the roar of the Ralladan outside the cart. Then came the challenge of the guards at the gate, and Brylla’s voice shouting out the proper response, and with a lurch of the cart, Tooks was back home in Baycloak.
The king’s justice moved swiftly. One night in a dank cell — blissfully removed from his moldering companions, if there was any bright side to his situation — and then Tooks found himself hauled before not just the assembled Lords Magistrate, but the High Seeker and his flock of Archseekers, with King Harchald seated above them all. They’d shackled Tooks to the floor of the court, and next to him stood a scrawny arbiter who looked like he’d probably just finished his education earlier that morning. Even the most seemingly villainous were provided a defense in Baycloak, but there was nothing that provided for that defense being of any minimum quality. The youth had muttered the briefest of “Good mornings” and hadn’t so much looked at Tooks since.
The gallery was crammed with onlookers, prominent among which was Banner Malkin himself. He’d donned one of his disguises for the occasion, one of Lord Bodrick Spindle, but Tooks had known Malkin long enough to recognize him even under the elaborate sideburns and mustache. He was also the only one wearing a self-satisfied grin; the rest of the crowd bore expressions ranging from shocked curiosity to outright terror.
A good portion of that terror was focused on Tooks’ mother and the rest of the corpses. They’d been herded into a hastily constructed pen near where Tooks had been chained. Most of them were gazing about in wonder at the high dome soaring above them, adorned with ornate colorglass windows and elaborate murals. “Never thought I’d see the capital,” Widow Mabben beamed, and various gnarled and fleshless fingers pointed upward in amazement at different points of interest. Tooks’ mother looked only at her son, wringing her hands nervously, which caused gobbets of flesh to wear away and drop to the floor, and which produced many a distressed sound from the chamberlain responsible for keeping the court clean.
King Harchald stood, and the buzz of conversation faded to silence as the crowd rose with him. “My Lords Magistrate, your Vigilance,” he said with courtly nods to the dignitaries below him, “and the good people of Baycloak. We gather today to pass judgment on this foul necromancer.” He pointed at Tooks, who turned around to see who the king was talking about before remembered it was Tooks himself. “This dark sorcerer who has dared perform his heinous acts in our fair kingdom!” The crowd stamped their feet in a display of disapproval. Malkin’s grin only grew wider.
“If it pleases His Majesty,” the Most Lord Magistrate said, his gold chain of office polished to a high shine around his neck, “the Lords Magistrate have found sufficient evidence both from the testimony of Crown Companion Brylla Valhau and from our own eyes that we suggest moving directly to the pronouncement of sentence.”
“I concur,” the High Seeker said in his clear, ringing voice. “The hearts and souls of Baycloak need not be subject to the surely blasphemous details of this sinner’s deeds.”
Cheers of agreement rained down as the king, the Most Lord Magistrate and the High Seeker looked expectantly at Tooks’ arbiter. “It’s only the three most important blokes in Baycloak,” Tooks said to the youth. “Nothing to be afraid at.”
“We have no objections, m’Lord. Your Vigilance. Your majesty.” He ran the three honorifics together in a rush, then looked down at the floor.
“Did yer all there, you did, thanks,” Tooks said.
“Stop it before someone thinks I actually want to do this!” the arbiter said through a clenched jaw.
“Oh, sorry to bother you. Just me neck, is all.” Above the low buzz of the spectators, he could hear Banner Malkin’s laugh. If he wasn’t chained to the floor, Tooks would have loved nothing more than to have leapt into the gallery and given him a damn good thrashing. Oh, Tooks knew himself to be a scoundrel, but Malkin, he was a right bastard. All of this was his fault, if Tooks really thought about it. Who gave him that bad job in the first place? His hands twitched at the thought of them around Malkin’s throat, but the shackles wouldn’t allow it. Of course, they hadn’t bothered to muzzle him….
He cleared his throat. “Now wait a tick, we has a pretty big objection!” He pointed to Malkin, who was still laughing.
“Because it was Lord Bodrick Spindle what made me do it!”