Chapter Seventeen/Mortimer on Trial
Restrained with shackles on his wrists, Mortimer Becile was led from the throne room, surrounded by dozens of combined-forces soldiers. Georgia Jones watched him, only half-sure that he wouldn’t suffer abuse once out of her sight, then jogged off to find Lilah and N’Gretty.
He watched Jones go out of the corner of his eye and held onto the thought that the woman intended to protect him as he proceeded toward an unknown future. To his surprise, he met with no physical violence. There were sneers and some muttered verbal abuse for sure, but otherwise he was treated as a high-ranking prisoner-of-war against genteel societies ought to be treated. Emerging from the castle through the front gate he was taken aback at the scene of destruction all around him. Becile automatons lay scattered here and there and a few casualties on the other side were being attended to. Three airships waited for them, their propellers turning slowly and engines humming.
“Right this way, Mr. Becile,” a lieutenant said and motioned for the four soldiers that surrounded Mortimer with weapons at the ready to proceed onto one of the ships. He glanced back once at the charred landscape of his birthplace and secretly wished never to see it again. Everyone he had grown up with had either fled or been killed by his brother. If his people had remained, Mortimer thought, perhaps he’d have a desire to help rebuild, but aside from wanting to help clean up the pollution that generations of his bloodline had produced, he had no love for Asininia. Instead, in looking over his shoulder, he hoped to glimpse his true love, but he was disappointed to see only soldiers.
The airship was not a military vessel, merely a civilian airliner pressed into service, and accordingly there was no brig in which to hold him. Instead, he was directed to a banquette in the passenger section surrounded by the four men and women who had escorted him on board. They seated him against the window and asked that he keep his cuffed hands still for the duration of the voyage but did not otherwise restrain him. Mortimer relaxed into the plush leather bench seat, glanced out the window and did a double take as he saw the half-dragon and the love of his life march toward another waiting airship.
Where were they going? Would they be taken to New Pieland as well? Would she be able to visit him? Would he ever see her again?
This last thought made his stomach turn as she climbed the steps up to the ship, clutching the box of power cores tightly to her chest. Perhaps a swift judgment awaited him and he would be locked away in a prison cell for the rest of his days once more. If he had been a more hot-headed individual, this thought might have made him rebel and try to escape. Thanks to the beard covering most of his face he could put it in his hands and in moments his ability would persuade them to release him. Instead, the ever-calm Mortimer shuddered and forced himself to consider all possible outcomes. The same tact that kept him alive for seven years came in handy once again. He was a good man and they were reasonable people, not crazed despots. He would be exonerated and reunited with Delilah. The ship launched and in a short while rose above the dense, polluted smog layer that nearly always covered the island kingdom. Though positive-thinking was difficult to muster, the soft leather seat, pleasant temperature, and the sun on his skin helped put a small, hopeful smile on his lips.
So lost in his own thoughts, he didn’t register the tension surrounding him. The four guards shifted in their seats. They believed, for all they knew, that they were guarding a lunatic who had tried to mass-murder the people of their respective countries. With his matted hair, greying, scraggly red beard, shredded clothes and pungent body odor Mortimer certainly fit the bill. He sighed and closed his eyes. Someone cleared their throat. He opened them, realized their awkwardness and straightened up in his seat. He tried to smile wanly to reassure them but just then his stomach growled loudly for a good three seconds. There was a beat of silence and the guards stared at him. Mortimer pursed his lips for a moment then burst out laughing at the absurdity of it all.
By the time they arrived in New Pieland, Mortimer had been fed, given a shave and a clean uniform to wear, and he and the guards were on a first-name basis.
Not twenty-four hours later Mortimer sat in a modest room with a high ceiling in a courthouse in Biscuit Town, New Pieland. At eight in the morning, the Council of Nine had already gathered, eager to calm the citizens who were distressed at the idea of a Becile setting foot in their country. This military-styled court had a middle-aged ghost woman for the defense and a young satyr for the prosecution. The satyr would try to prove that Mortimer was to blame for developing and threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction and the ghost would attempt to prove that “Mortimer” was actually Eustace and therefore innocent. Before they could do anything but bring these points into the record, the doors burst open and N’Gretty strode in with a handful of clerks trying in vain to hold him back. “I have waited long enough. I shall give this tes-ti-mo-ny now!” he barked. He protected a pouch strapped to his chest containing his brother’s egg with one hand and shook his free fist.
The satyr prosecutor ducked behind the bench and the ghost defender gestured to the witness stand. “Very well,” the president of the Council of Nine, an elderly bald man with green skin nodded (not wanting to provoke a half-dragon) and the ghost asked him to identify Mortimer Becile.
Standing just in front of the stand, N’Gretty looked around, sniffed the air and raised a brow. “He’s right there,” he said and pointed to Mortimer. “Though, he looks different.”
“He had a beard and long hair and he stank more.”
There was a chuckle from one of the Nine.
The ghost picked up a piece of paper. “This is a photo taken of Mr. Becile, yesterday,” she said and held up Exhibit A: a photo taken just before he got on the airship appearing bedraggled and distraught. “And where did you meet him?”
“In a dungeon in the castle.”
“Where he was imprisoned. Was he in good health?”
The satyr raised a brow.
“Then how is it he is well today?”
“I gave him this,” N’Gretty lifted the half-empty bottle of magic elixir for them to see.
“A magic health restorative produced by and given only to real dragons?”
“Why did you cure the man who stole your brother’s egg?’
“First, I did not know it was him at the time, and two, he didn’t do it.”
“How do you know that?”
“He was almost dead. Been in prison for years. The other one did it.”
“The other one?”
“Short, weasel-looking, black hair, false arm. Dead now.”
“Him. Can I go now?”
“Soon.” The ghost woman smiled. “N’Gretty, what do you think of Mortimer Becile?”
He stood a bit straighter and raised his chin. “He is a true man.”
“Why is that?”
“He gave up his life, his kingdom, and his happiness in order to do what is right.”
“That will be all, thank you.”
The prosecution declined to cross examine the witness, choosing to remain behind the bench until he was gone. N’Gretty snorted, crossed the room (no one dared tell him not to approach the prisoner) and with his free hand shook Mortimer’s. “Good luck,” he said quietly.
“Thank you,” the former king whispered back.
When the room had calmed and reorganized the defense called its next witness. As soon as she entered, Lilah’s eyes darted around the room until she saw him and when she did, relief washed visibly over her. She took the stand and stared hard at Mortimer with a strange, quivering smile on her lips. Like N’Gretty, she carried her precious cargo strapped to her chest with one arm resting on it as if she too were keeping an egg warm.
The green-skinned president nodded to her. “Please state your name for the record.”
“Delilah Moreau-Walter.” A murmur signaled surprise from some of the Nine. A few who had met her in Verk nodded.
“How did you meet Mortimer Becile?”
She continued to stare at him. “I helped him find the Cavalcadium’s Dandytown branch office when he was lost in the park in October of 1994.”
The murmur was loud enough for the president to pound his gavel. Mortimer blinked at her, but the strange, intense look on her face gave him some reassurance that she wasn’t trying to get him killed. She went on to explain everything, holding only the most intimate details back, of how he’d tried to join the Cavalcadium, how he’d been discovered, that she hadn’t reported him because she was certain that he had only meant to make things better for everyone.
“How can you be sure?” sneered the satyr prosecutor.
She took a deep breath and smiled pleasantly. “Because I love him.”
Mortimer sat stock still. The world seemed to fade away and all he could see was her. Then her image blurred and he was a little startled to find he was crying. His incorporeal defendant could not get him a tissue, so the tears fell freely from his cheeks onto the table in front of him. As she was dismissed, Lilah moved toward the door slowly, still staring at him as she went until she left the room.
Thursday, July 24th, 2003
Lilah’s trip back to Verk was uneventful and she arrived at 15 Plum Street exhausted and a bundle of nerves. Using all of his strength, Gilmore simultaneously drew her a bath, began preparing her favorite comfort meal (Verkian hen and gravy with ojotubers and popgreens), and assisted her as she almost fell into the house. He made to take the box from around her neck, but Lilah held fast to it and looked up at her servant with a tired but beaming smile. “I rescued them, Gilmore,” she said. “I got them back.”
She glanced to the left at the door to the music room. “Our robots. I have their cores. They’re coming home.” Tears rolled down her face and Gilmore glowed nearly fuchsia with joy.
“Oh, Miss! What wonderful news! And I believe there is more of that waiting for you. Your brother called, he has something quite amazing he wishes to tell you.”
Lilah raised a brow. “Good news?” she asked. He nodded several times, barely able to contain the secret and made his mistress laugh. “I’ve had a pretty eventful week. Can it wait a while longer?”
“Most certainly.” Gilmore unlaced her boots. The fuchsia glow dimming only slightly. “You need rest, Miss. A bath, some food, then sleep.”
“Agreed!” she chimed and began to climb the stairs but stopped and turned to face him with pinched brows. “Oh, but if Georgia calls, put her through. I need to speak to her.”
“Very good,” he bowed and dissipated to go check on dinner.
Friday, July 25th, 2003, Earth
Peter Moreau-Walter felt his kantan vibrate in his pocket and hurriedly excused himself from an R&D meeting in the office wing of his massive family estate. He didn’t have to guess who was calling him. “Where are you?” he asked as the image of his sister congealed on the device’s screen.
“Plum Street. Peter, I’m coming home.”
He shook his head. “You just said you were home.”
Her image grinned to split her face. “No, I’m coming home. Drop everything you’re doing, get the Reed and head to the lab portal. I’ll be there in a second.”
“A-a second! Lilah, what the hell’s going on?”
“See you soon!” She closed the connection.
Peter laughed and looked around, wondering where the cameras were and called “the Reed” on his wrist communicator.
“Esteemed Councilmembers,” Georgia Jones began. She stood before their dais, grasped the lapels of her pin-striped suit jacket and did her best imitation of a lawyer. “Before you adjourn this court to render verdict, as the chairman of the formerly secret Asininia Monitoring Committee, I will present to you the following observation.” She took slow, deliberately wandering steps as she spoke. “As Miss Moreau-Walter informed us, Mortimer Becile had infiltrated the Cavalcadium almost nine years ago! I firmly believe that if our committee had made her aware of its existence, she would certainly have let us know. Instead, she was of the mind that the Cavalcadium simply wished to forget that the Beciles had ever existed, just as she and her family did. As she informed us, learning her dear Morton’s true identity was traumatic! Easy to understand given all the Beciles have done to the Moreau-Walters through the decades. However, Miss Moreau-Walter also admitted that she loves Mortimer Becile, still!” Jones turned and gave him a sly smirk to which he blushed slightly. “And other witnesses this week have confirmed that he isn’t like the rest of his ilk.”
Jones paced a little quicker to the dais and pulled something from the pocket of her jacket. “I would like the council to examine these,” she said and held them forward. A smallish fawn-woman took a pair of handcuffs from her and passed them along to the others. “Cold Iron Cuffs. They do no harm, but as the council surely knows they limit various fey, magic, and mime abilities.”
Mortimer took a deep breath as he realized what she was about to do. When the cuffs had passed through all nine hands she took them back and crossed to Mortimer. “Mr. Becile, the cuffs you are currently wearing are steel, is that correct?”
“Yes, Miss Jones.”
“Would you be so kind as to put these on?”
“Of course,” he said and held his hands out for her to attach the large, dark grey metal cuffs to his already restricted wrists.
“And, Mr. Becile, would you tell us why someone should want to cuff you this way?”
He nodded and the color fell from his face. Nearly everyone in the court gasped and loud murmuring had to be suppressed with the gavel.
“As you can see, Mortimer Becile is a half-mime! His late mother having been a mime courtesan called Yue-bing. He is gifted with the Power of Influence - one of the most powerful of the varied Mime abilities, limited here by the cold iron cuffs. At any point from the moment he surrendered, Mortimer Becile could have walked right out of this courtroom and there would have been nothing anyone could have done to stop him! But!” Jones turned to face the dais again. “He stayed. Why? Because Mortimer is a good man and he did not do what he is accused of and he knows it.” Jones grinned as she noted the positive change in the councilmembers’ posture. “As do I.”