Chapter 4

As the figure passed, Maddy saw the sunlight reflect off of a pair of spectacles.

“It seems the young miss’s money was unfortunately misspent.”  The hooded figure paused in front of Mitchell, raised his cane, and poked the end of it into Mitchell’s chest, who tried to swat it away.

“What business is it of yours, old man? It’s not my fault that the girl put her trust in the wrong barrister.”

Maddy didn’t see the cane leave Mitchell’s chest, but the next thing she knew, she heard a crack and the slimy barrister slumped to the ground. The figure looked down at the barrister satisfied and continued walking towards the judge, stopping next to Jack.

“ORDER! ORDER! ORDER! I WILL HAVE ORDER!”

The judge’s voice cracked on the third repetition.

“So help me God, I will throw the lot of you in the stocks for this insolence.”

“Now, now, Henry. No need for idle threats.”

The figure finally removed his hooded cloak to reveal the old pawnbroker, dressed in tattered linens.

“I happened to be in the neighborhood and sensed something was amiss, so I thought I would drop in on my old friend. It seems you haven’t changed a bit.”

“And you, Lord Malcolm Dorian Trafford, have seen better days. I never expected to see you again after your expulsion from the Council, but you’ve really taken to the life of a vagabond.”

“Vagabond? That’s a bit unfair, Henry.” Trafford paused and looked down at his clothing and chuckled.

“Point taken, but you don’t become the least successful pawnbroker in all of New Wales by dressing like a nobleman.”

“Enough banter, Trafford. Why are you here?”

“Well, your .. Lordship, is it? I seemingly funded this boy’s defense, which turned out to be piss poor.”  Trafford reached back with his cane to nudge the head of the unconscious barrister. “So, I’m here to step in on his behalf and argue for his innocence.”

“How very thoughtful of you, but seeing as how you are not a barrister…”

“You’re quite right, but I am still a lord, am I not? Therefore I may appear before any court in the Kingdom.”

“You were expelled from the Council!”

“Yes, but only the King has the power to strip me of my peerage, and seeing as how we’ve not heard from him in quite some time, I still remain Baron of New Leicester, with all the spoils that entails.  May I proceed?”

The judge stared at the pawnbroker for what seemed liked hours before silently indicating that he could continue.

“Thank you, your Lordship. Now, if I may put the boy on the stand, so that I can ask him a few questions?”

“You may.”

“Excellent.” Lord Trafford motioned for Jack to sit in the chair to the right of the judge.

“Now, Jack, are you a citizen of New Britain?”

“No sir, I’ve never heard of it.”

“And you have not been ordered to report to basic training, correct?”

“No sir, I’ve never even fired a gun before.”

“And you are not currently serving in the militia, correct?”

“What militia?”

“And you are not currently attending Woolwich, correct?”

“I’ve never heard of that school.”

“And you are not currently attending Portsmouth, correct?”

“No sir, is that in England?”

“Right, and so to sum up, you have never served nor were ever asked to serve in His Majesty’s armed forces?”

“I.. I live in America, so I wouldn’t have…”

“Thank you, young man, you may step down.”

Jack walked down from the stand and gave Maddy a quizzical look.

“Interesting guy you found, I hope he knows what’s he’s doing,” said Jack in a whisper.

“I never thought he would show up here. I didn’t even tell him what I needed the money for!”

“It wouldn’t be the first weird thing to happen today.”

Maddy started to say something, but Lord Trafford had turned back toward the judge.

“Your Lordship, I believe the young man’s testimony clearly demonstrates that he cannot be guilty of deserting an army he was never part of to begin with.  I therefore respectfully submit that this Court should release this young man and allow him to return to his family.”

Maddy couldn’t tell if the judge was actually considering Lord Trafford’s argument or was merely toying with them, but it was a good five minutes before the judge finally responded.

“Lord Trafford, as much as it pains me to say this, you make a compelling argument, and I have no choice but to find the boy not guilty of desertion, but…”

Maddy, Jack and Grort erupted in cheer.  Maddy turned to thank Lord Trafford, but the pawnbroker’s expression had turned melancholy.

“BUT, although the young man has not deserted, he is of military age and resident in New Britain,”  said the judge, whose mouth had formed into a wicked grin. “Under writ from the Council, I have no choice but to draft him into His Majesty’s armed forces and I order him to report to Central Command within one week of today, August 21, 2014.  This Court is now adjourned, good day.”

***

The room fell silent as the judge retreated through the camouflaged door, interrupted only by the intermittent groans of Mitchell. Jack joined Maddy and Grort in the first row of benches behind the front table, and Lord Trafford walked slowly towards them.

“I don’t understand,” said Maddy. “I thought we had won!”

“Evidently, the judge wanted to settle an old score with me through your brother. I knew it was a risk, but the army, from what I gather, is a lot more pleasant than the dank mine where Jack was headed.”

“Now see here, Lord, don’t go talkin’ about our mines like that!” said Grort, glaring at Trafford.

“Master dwarf, you know better than I that no human would ever be allowed in a dwarven mine. No, where Jack was headed was a place far, far worse. The Council first commissioned the Lothian Mines before my expulsion, under pretenses of circumventing the steep Dwarven tariffs. They’ve yet to bear fruit, but it provides a convenient place to stick undesirables. That reminds me…”

Trafford reached into a pocket in his cloak and withdrew two small objects, placing them each in Jack and Maddy’s hands.  Jack looked down to see his pocket watch. With all of the craziness of the day, he hadn’t realized it was missing. He looked over and saw Maddy fastening her necklace back around her neck.

“Seeing as how your barrister turned out to be a dud, the least I can do is to return your valuables.  Now, if we hurry, we can catch a ferry downriver and arrive in the capital by the morning.”

Jack clutched the pocket watch tightly in his hand.

“No!”  Everyone turned to look at him in surprise.

“I’ve fallen off a cliff, been captured by Redcoats escaped from Colonial Williamsburg and was nearly sent to die in a mine. I’m not going anywhere until someone tells me where the hell we are!”

Trafford turned and put his hand on Jack’s shoulder.

“I understand your frustration, son. But time is of the essence and we need to catch that ferry. I’ll explain what I can on the way.”

The sun was beginning to set as the four of them walked down the courthouse steps.  Jack could see streetlights illuminating the wide avenue in both directions; but where the light came from, he could not tell.

“They’re wisplights, courtesy of our friends across the river,” said Trafford. “Part of the Treaty of ‘72. Evidently, the elves didn’t like the smell of gas wafting into the forest, so they practically insisted that we take them. Me, I miss the yellow glow of the gaslights.”

“You and me both,” said Grort. “Where do ya think the gas came from to power those lights? Meddlesome elves.”

“No offense to your kin, but both you and the Woodlands have been meddling in our affairs when it suits you for hundreds of years. Not that we don’t appreciate the meddling.”  Grort’s face became animated at the last comment, but Trafford held up his hand before Grort could respond. “There will be plenty of time to discuss politics later, but I promised the boy some answers.”

Trafford motioned for Jack and Maddy to walk closer to him as they turned off the main avenue. Whereas the main avenue had some sense of order, with blocks appearing at near-equal intervals, this side street soon branched into a dozen different directions.

“I suspect we’re already drawing enough unwanted attention between your clothes and our friend Grort here, so stay close.”

That proved somewhat difficult, as Trafford switched to a dizzying pace and kept turning down a new street every few steps.  Jack now suspected that the cane was just for show.

“Four hundred years ago, the British began their colonization of America. Within a hundred years, they had finished settling most of the East Coast. Naturally, the Crown turned its sights elsewhere. The Spanish and the Portuguese had beaten it to South America, Africa was a mystery, and India had unfortunately been ceded to the East India Trading Company.  Rumors of a lost continent had been around for hundreds of years, but no one had ever thought of launching an official expedition to find it. That was, until 1742, when the Crown held a secret audience with Warrick Hargrave, previously the captain of a New York-based merchant ship.  What was said at the meeting or how Hargrave even got the meeting remains a mystery, but this much we do know. Three months later, the Crown ordered the HMS Anglesea to escort a small group of ships belonging to the recently-commissioned New Britain Trading Company, headed by none other than Hargrave.  The result was a disaster.  The Anglesea sank after colliding with a breakwater not one hour out of port and the rest of ships got caught in the wreckage. Hargrave was disgraced and never heard from again.

“But that’s not what really happened, is it?” asked Jack.

“No, for obvious reasons, the whole story was a cover.  The Crown didn’t want it getting out that there was an unspoiled continent for the taking, lest it have to fight the rest of Europe on yet another front. Of course, this was before anyone realized that the natives of this continent were a far cry from the ones in America. If Hargrave styled himself as the next Cortes, those expectations were shattered upon landing, when he found representatives from the Woodlands and the Mountains waiting for him. The Treaty of Landing, as it was later called, was signed that night.  Fortunately for Hargrave, the terms were favorable enough: the New Britain Trading Company was granted the land along the river valley between the Woodlands and the Mountains so long as no human ever strayed into either dominion uninvited. The elves and the dwarves asked for little in return, as they considered us curiosities more than anything and were happy to have us as a buffer and sometime-trading partner. Hargrave left within the week to report back to the Crown.  His ship returned, but he did not. Instead, the First Governing Council of New Britain arrived to take control of the colony from the now-dissolved Trading Company.  Ah, here we are.”

Trafford had led them down an alley which dead-ended at a pair of cellar doors.

“This isn’t the pawn shop,” said Maddy.

“No, my lady, it isn’t. I don’t actually keep anything of valuable at the shop. If you’ll kindly wait here, I’ll be back in a minute.”

Trafford produced a key from his cloak, unlocked the doors, and descended into the darkness. As the old man disappeared, Jack saw a small piece of paper fall out of his cloak.  Maddy, deep in conversation with Grort, seemed not to notice. Jack bent down to pick up the paper, which he now saw was a folded piece of parchment. He unfolded it to find three words written in silver ink.

“They are coming.”

Chapter 3

The watch weighed heavily in Maddy’s pocket as she and Grort approached the city gates. She had almost left it behind, but Grort had spotted it in the dirt next to Jack’s backpack. “We dwarves have the silversight,” he explained. “Useful down in the mines.”  After all of her bad luck so far, finding Jack’s watch in the bushes felt like things had maybe started to turn. She instinctively grasped the necklace under her shirt, which had been a present from Nana on her 10th birthday, along with Jack’s watch.  The necklace, a simple rectangle made of silver was originally a present from their late grandfather to Nana on their wedding night; the watch, her gift to him.

The city gate rose above abridging stone walls.  A single soldier stood watch in the middle of the gate, although Maddy could hear echoing footsteps atop the walls in either direction.  The soldier looked coldly at Maddy and Grort, raising an eye at Maddy’s clothes.

“State your business in New Wales.”

“Well sir, my brother’s been…”

“… been waiting for us to arrive with the new shipment from Stonelands, sir,” interrupted Grort.

“What’s in the shipment?”

“It’s three…”

“Stop. I want to hear it from the girl, dwarf.”

Grort started to say something to the guard, but Maddy held her hand out to stop him. She turned and gave the soldier a steel gaze, paused for a second, and began to speak in an echoing voice.

“It’s three pounds of fresh pipe weed, bound for the capital.  I’ll mind you not to tarry us further, else my buyer will want to know who was responsible for his leaf going stale and I don’t think he’ll be too happy to come down river and deal with the likes of you, guard.”

A rush of color returned to Maddy’s face as she finished speaking. She didn’t even wait for the soldier to motion them through the gate, as she grabbed Grort by the arm and walked through.  Turning back, Maddy could see the soldier’s mouth gaped open.

“What was that, lass?”

“I don’t know! I froze for a second and then out of nowhere, my lips started moving and the words just came out.”

“Well whatever it was, it sure did the trick. That soldier’s not likely to trifle with you ever again.”

Maddy looked out into the city. Rows of small houses interspersed with larger brick buildings and church spires dotted the landscape. Ship masts poked out from the horizon and a breeze brought a foul stench from their direction. Her mind wandered to the family trip to colonial Williamsburg they had taken two summers ago, but the people milling about the street were definitely not actors and they did not seem eager to explain to Maddy how a butter churn worked.

“Welcome to New Wales. It’s not pretty, but the people are hardworking and decent, which is more than I can say about their cousins in the capital.  I’ve spent many a night’s drinkin’ with the shipbuilders down at the wharf.”

“You’re sure this is where they would have taken Jack?”

“Aye. They won’t have bothered to ship him down river just yet, not before his trial anyway.”

“His trial?”

“Yes, an interesting system you humans have.  We dwarves would rather settle our problems with fightin’, drinkin’, or seein’ who can withstand the dragon fire forge the longest, but it’s not for everyone, I suppose.  You’ll need to hire Jack a barrister for him to have any chance of winning.”

“But I don’t have any money!”

“True, but you have a lot of weird and interesting stuff in that pack, don’t ya?”

“Yes, but…”

“This way. The best brokers are on Piccadilly Street.”

A bell rang when Maddy opened the door to the pawn shop. Dust kicked up under her feet as she and Grort maneuvered around the myriad shelves piled high with odd-looking objects. Maddy stopped at the counter in the back of the shop, where an old man in spectacles was napping behind a glass window.

“Umm, sir?”

The old man did not stir. Maddy rapped on the glass. No response.

“Sir! It’s urgent!”

The old man’s eyes slowly opened.

“Mmm? We’re closed. Good day.”

The old man closed his eyes, as Maddy stood in front of the window, perplexed.

“Step aside, lass. I’ll handle this.”

Grort withdrew something from his coat and slammed it onto the counter.  When the layers of collected dust settled again, Maddy saw that it was a large hammer. Intricate symbols decorated the ornate handle and continued up onto the metal.  The old man eyed it through his spectacles, but remained silent.

“Don’t make me use this, old man. I don’t want to have to clean glass shards out of my beard again.  Now, the lass would like to speak with ya. Are ya still going to sit there, pretending to sleep?”

“I didn’t think it possible to inlay Argosh oak with silver, impressive. From the runes on the head, this looks like it hails from the dank pit that it is Eysteinn Hall.”

“And what would ya know of Eysteinn? We’ve had no human visitors for more than a quarter span.”

“Oh, just what I hear from passersby. Now, as the hammer is unfortunately not within my budget, what does the young lady have to show me?”

***

“By the grace of his excellency, George III, King of Great Britain, King of Ireland, and Duke of Hanover, may his rule never cease, this court is called to order.”

Jack had not noticed the tiny old man who had entered through a camouflaged door in the back and quickly rose to his feet. He had earned the ire of the guard on the way over by constantly stopping to gawk at the city. The buildings all looked normal enough, if one ignored the fundamental absurdity of being in a land filled with elves and dwarves, but something seemed off to Jack.  The rows of wooden houses all gave off an other-worldly glow and none of the windows he passed showed his reflection. Unfortunately, each time Jack had stopped to take a closer look, the guard would whack him with the butt of his musket and he now had matching pains in his back to go with the one on his head.

Jack’s cellmate did not seem as concerned with ceremony, and by the time he eventually stood up, blood was dripping from his nose. The judge, clad in an unkempt silver wig and dusty robes, peered down at the two prisoners from his perch.

“Prisoner 9286, step forward!”

The old man wiped the blood from his upper lip and spit at the floor towards the judge. The guard raised his musket, but before he could rain another blow, the judge held up his hand.

“I appreciate your enthusiasm, Private, but there will be plenty of opportunities for 9286 to become familiar with a blunt object where he’s going.”

If the old man seemed relieved by the stay of punishment, he didn’t show it.

“9286, you are accused of desertion and conspiring with seditious individuals. How do you plead?”

The old man began to open his mouth, and then paused and stared down at the ground, his lips moving silently, fists curled into balls. Finally, he began to speak.

“Ain’t no proper army that drafts old men and young boys, Your Lordship,” the old man spit again, “but far be it for a wharfsman to question the wisdom of our esteemed Council.”

Jack saw the corner of the old man’s mouth twist up slightly as he finished his speech, a look of muted triumph in his eyes. The judge’s face remained expressionless.

“10 years in the mines. Next prisoner step forward!”

Before the old man could protest, several guards appeared and dragged him out of the back of the courtroom. Jack could hear muffled screams getting softer and softer, until finally a loud whack silenced them. He turned back toward the judge, a huge lump in his throat.

“Prisoner 9287, you are accused of desertion, how do you plead?”

The doors of the courtroom swung open violently.  A tall, lanky man with greasy hair strode into the room, trailed by what Jack could only assume was a dwarf and a young girl.

“Jack, you’re all right!”

“Maddy!”

Maddy began to run up the aisle toward Jack, but several guards moved to block her path.

“SILENCE! What is the meaning of this outburst?”

“Your Honor, if I may,” said the greasy-haired man, catching up to Maddy . “I am this boy’s barrister and I’ll thank you for not starting the proceedings without giving me a minute to confer with my client.”

“God help him then, Mr. Mitchell. I’m surprised you still have not been disbarred.  I’ll have to write to my friends in the capital again once this hearing is finished.”

Jack saw Maddy glare at the barrister, as he casually pushed the guards aside and walked up to Jack.

“Disbarred? You said you were the best barrister in the city!” yelled Maddy.

“Quiet, girl! I know what I’m doing.”

The barrister turned Jack away from the judge and held out his other hand.

“Stan Mitchell. And you are?”

“Jack, J-Jack Richards.”

“It’s a pleasure, Jack. Now, what are you charged with?”

“Desertion.”

“Ooh, that’s a tough one. Don’t think I’ve handled one of those in ten years, but worry not. The judge and I are on excellent terms. I’ll smooth this whole thing out.”

“Errrr..”

“That’s a good lad. You just take a seat here and let me do the talking.”

Jack sat down on the bench and turned toward Maddy, who had found a seat behind him along with the dwarf.

“Jack! I’m so glad you’re OK! I didn’t think we’d be able to find you!”

“Me neither!”

Jack’s eyes moved past Maddy and onto the dwarf. His mouth gaped open but he couldn’t muster any words.

“I may be the first dwarf ya’ve seen, but hopefully I won’t be the last, so I’d quit your staring if I was you.”

“Sorry, sir.”

The dwarf stared back at Jack with a deadly serious look, before cracking a smile.

“Jack, this is Grort. He helped me find you..”

The bang of the judge’s gavel echoed throughout the courtroom.

“I’m sorry to interrupt this touching reunion, but we are still in the middle of a trial here.  Now, Mr. Mitchell, what say you on behalf of the boy?

“Well, Your Lordship, the boy is very sorry for deserting and he won’t do it again.  Ain’t that right, boy?”

Jack stared at the barrister and then at Maddy dumbfounded.

“This is who you hired?” whispered Jack.

“Like I said, he told us he was the best barrister in the city!”

Jack turned back toward the judge.

“That was incredibly moving, Mr. Mitchell. I’m not sure how I would get through the day without hearing the refuse that flows from your brilliant legal mind.”

“I take exception to that, Your Lordship.”

“I’m sure that you do.  Now turning back to the matter at hand. 9287, your choice of barrister was … unfortunate, and I’m afraid I have no choice but to sentence you to five years in the mi..”

The door burst open a second time and a hooded figure walked slowly into the courtroom, supported by a cane.

“Sorry I’m late everyone.”