Medievia Mudslinger

December 2nd, 2001

Cry Freedom! - By Rapscallion

Rapscallion kicked at the scarce straw that passed for his bedding and sulked to himself. With a mournful expression he gazed out of the narrow window that looked onto the surface of the street and watched ankles go by without concern. There wasn't anything to do in the prison cells under the City of Medievia courthouse, though he refused to accept that this was part of their purpose. His only companion didn't seem to take any notice so he sat down on the thickest and cleanest wad of straw he could find and brooded. It simply wasn't fair!

He wasn't a creature to be chained and bound like this. He was a creature of the open road or welcoming tavern, those that he hadn't helped to knock down that is. A man of habit, he missed the chance to wake up staring at the underside of a beer-stained table. For that matter he missed the table and almost sobbed every time he thought of Griselda's ale. A single tear of sorrow leaked to travel down one dirty cheek as he thought of how the interest on his bar tab would be adding up.

"So, what you in for?" a cracked and wheezy voice asked. Rapscallion blinked and came out of his reverie with a start, and looked up to see a fellow prisoner dressed in rags. The rail-thin man looked down at him and cackled noisily.

"Five years," Rapscallion answered miserably, looking around the cell without enthusiasm.

"No, no, no! What did you do?" the old lag inquired nosily. He'd given up the cackling for the moment, Rapscallion was pleased to note. With a shrug the mage leaned back against the cold wall and stared into space. Prisoner cred was very much in vogue and he wanted to fit in as well as he could.

"Well, it's a long story but I can best sum it up with the court case," he replied slowly. The old prisoner nodded in encouragement and gave the sort of expression that suggested he had plenty of time. He didn't even blink as the wavy lines began, introducing the flashback sequence.

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"Reginald..."

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"Reginald?" cackled the prisoner gleefully, interrupting the recitation heartlessly. "You're called Reginald?" Rapscallion nodded glumly and wiped the old man's spittle from his face.

"It's my full name - they always read that out in court before they try you," he protested. "I didn't get to choose it, right?" He continued with the narration.

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"Reginald Arbuthnot..."

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"Arbuthnot?" crowed the prisoner with delight. Rapscallion scowled at him and the old man fell silent, though his grin in the wan light spoke volumes.

"If I could continue?" Rapscallion pouted, dreading the next words of the story.

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"Reginald Arbuthnot Peregrine..."

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Rapscallion paused and looked at the prisoner carefully, but he was watching with an attentive expression. "Aren't you going to interrupt?" he asked peevishly.

"What for? It's not like you've come out with another unusual name or anything," the old man protested. Rapscallion blinked.

"Oh, right. You don't want to make anything of the name 'Peregrine' then?"

"Why should I? Perfectly normal name if you ask me." The old man shrugged casually.

"Good," stated Rapscallion, feeling slightly relieved.

"Lots of people are named after ducks," the prisoner mused thoughtfully. "I used to know a Bill Mallard once..."

"It's not a duck!" Rapscallion shouted. "It's a savage bird of prey with great big talons and a sharp beak!" The prisoner blinked at the outburst and stared at Rapscallion's face determinedly for a moment.

"Mmmm, so - did you have a big nose as a child then?" he asked tactlessly.

"Do you mind?" Rapscallion retorted. "Right, back on with the tale."

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"Reginald Arbuthnot Peregrine Scallion," the Judge read out carefully from the sheet before him. Rapscallion stood up in the witness box and nodded politely to the bewigged man. With a groan he noticed that half the jurors were asleep, though one was attracting the attention of a court official. The Judge stopped his reading and politely waited while the official brought a scrap of paper over to him. After a moment's thought he turned to the juror and said, "I think it's a type of duck, similar to a Mallard but smaller." The juror nodded and smiled before returning to his seat.

"Hey!" Rapscallion protested, but the Judge cut him off.

"The prisoner will remain silent while the charges are read out to him!" he bellowed. After a moment to compose himself he continued in a more normal tone of voice. "It appears there are a number of charges against you, an unprecedented number in fact. Is the Commander of the Guards here?" A slight disturbance at the rear of the courtroom allowed a burly man clad in the full guardman's armor to make his way to the Judge's bench.

"Yes, your Honor?" The Commander looked up at the Judge expectantly.

"Tell me, commander, this is a lot of charges. Some of them appear to be several hundred years old. Can you substantiate them all?" The Judge peered at the commander over the top of the sheets of paper he was holding.

"Of course, your Honor," the Commander announced with a certainty that made Rapscallion wince. "We've been able to procure witnesses for all of them. Some needed a little necromancy, but we've added it to the prosecution costs for when the defendant is found guilty." The Judge affected not to have noticed and ran his eyes down the list of charges.

"Theft and usury, fine. Baenlyr rustling, I can believe. Venturing into the catacombs without a license..." The Judge peered at the defendant critically for a moment. "Hmm, I could almost accept that without evidence. Genocide?"

"Well, yes your Honor. It's not safe for a janitor around here, my Lord. He's got more kills to his name than the entire history of the new adventurer's guild put together, you see," the commander explained. With a sigh the Judge put the sheets of paper down and stared at the commander.

"Let me see, you presented the same charges for the last three defendants. Is there something I should know here?" he asked mildly.

"It's a new anti-crime initiative, my Lord," the commander explained. "We have a number of unsolved crimes on the books and if we convict someone of them then we can close them." He smiled happily for a moment as the Judge digested this.

"So, the man I convicted this morning for jaywalking and raining asteroids down on Riverton was really just in for jaywalking, am I correct?" The commander screwed up his face and thought about it for a moment.

"Well, if you put it like that, your Honor, then I would say it's a matter for the lawyers with the expensive fees. But I will add that our profiling team thought his eyebrows were close enough to meeting to suggest that he would have done it if he had a chance." The Judge sighed wearily.

"Your profiling team being Scruff who was last seen walking away with a large bag of bones, correct?"

"I'd not like to comment as it may affect the outcome of the trial, your Honor," the Commander of the Guards replied with a carefully neutral face.

"So, what is the defendant really accused of, Commander?" the Judge asked carefully.

"Er, well, disturbing the peace, your Honor." The Judge nodded in satisfaction and took a sip of water.

"We'll deal with that charge first, and then if it doesn't stick then we'll drag out the rest. Does that meet your approval?" he asked and the guard commander nodded cheerfully. Rapscallion swayed slightly in the defendant's stand and awaited the inevitable. "Very well," the Judge continued, "We shall deal with the first charge for now. Disturbing the peace is a serious crime, though I don't think we've had any genuine peace around here for a while, really," he added. "How do you plead?"

"Please don't execute me, your honor!" Rapscallion said from down on his knees. The Judge frowned down at him from his podium and banged his gavel.

"Add reciting old jokes to the spare charges would you? Right, let's have the evidence." The prosecutor stood up and cleared his throat even as Rapscallion regained his seat. He was less than happy - that was a perfectly good plea for mercy that he's wasted there. Philistines.

"Your Honor, I call the first witness. A. Guardsman."

An ordinary guard walked to the witness box and stood there at attention. "I promise to tell the truth, the whole trust and nothing but the truth, so help me Vryce," he announced before launching into his evidence. "Your Honor, it so happened that on the third day of Justice in the month of the Frost Giant, that I was walking along the Dragon's Tail when I heard a commotion."

"Objection, your Honor!" Rapscallion called out and all eyes turned to him. "Er, your Honor, it was more a ruckus than a commotion."

"Really?" asked the Judge, peering down at him.

"Er, yes. A ruckus is completely different to a commotion - I should know as I've I've caused a few. A ruckus has a more gritty feeling." Every eye remained on him for a moment before the judge continued.

"I see. Let the jury note that the word 'commotion' should be struck from the record and replaced with 'ruckus'. Let them also note that this is likely to be a very long trial." With a nod the Judge indicated that the guard should continue.

"I heard a... ruckus and wandered into the Taverna Altruistica where the... ruckus was in progress. I summoned assistance and ventured forth, striking ruckusers dead where they stood. In the center of the... ruckus was the defendant, cowering and sniveling in a heap of wreckage."

"Objection your Honor. That wasn't sniveling, it was more whimpering than anything else. Sniveling is wetter." Rapscallion sat back in his seat, feeling that he had the hang of this 'defend yourself' system they'd offered him. It must be a good system - they'd smiled at him when they asked if he wanted to try it out. The Judge wearily motioned for this to be struck from the record as well.

"So, had he offended a lot of people?" he asked.

"Not exactly, your Honor," the Guard continued. "He'd been reciting poetry."

"Poetry? You mean as in 'Bawdy Ballads'?" The judge appeared confused. "We have gods for dealing with people who are rude, as well you know. Why didn't you pray for assistance?"

"I would have done, your Honor, but it wasn't rude. I took the liberty of acquiring his papers and transcribed them into my notebook here," the guard answered, holding up a well worn pad of paper. "It's a poem about a cobblestone, your honor."

"That hardly sounds contentious," the judge protested. "Was there a problem with it?" The guard nodded solemnly.

"Indeed, your honor. One of the rules of poetry night at the Altruistica is that nobody is allowed to go to the bar while a poet is reciting, in case they disturb his concentration. I continued transcribing his poem into this notebook..." he explained, holding up another pad.

"I see. So they were deprived of ale and took offense. A rather more cultured offense than we usually have in this court," the Judge noted thoughtfully.

"... and this notebook, and this one and half of this last one," the guard continued, holding up the offending articles. The Judge blinked. "He'd been reciting for seven hours, your honor, and by a quirk of the rules the reciting poet is allowed to obtain drinks to wet his throat."

"I think we'd better hear some of this... poetry," the judge decided. "I think we can allow the defendant to recite some so that we can get a flavor of his alleged crime." The notebooks were handed to Rapscallion who shrugged and found the first verse after a little searching. Taking a deep breath, he began.
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"...and so I was sent down in short order for disturbing the peace and contempt of court for not shutting up," Rapscallion finished. He looked around and saw that his companion was scrabbling around in his own straw. "What are you doing?" he called out.

"Oh, sorry. Didn't realize you'd finished. Very interesting indeed," the prisoner lied before returning to whatever it was that he was doing. Rapscallion frowned and rose to walk over to see what was happening. His co-prisoner appeared to be fashioning the straw into some sort of shape. Perhaps he had a cunning escape plan? This demanded closer inspection.

"Just what is that?" Rapscallion asked breathlessly. The prisoner surreptitiously looked around and beckoned him closer.

"It's my ticket out of here," he confided. "You see, you know how people in prison make works of art out of matchsticks?" Rapscallion nodded. "Well, I'm making a model out of straw - I don't have any matchsticks, you see." Rapscallion stared at him for a moment as he carefully laid another piece of straw on the pile. There was something moving inside there, though the old man would probably try and make out it was a toy sailor.

"I... see. Oh, yes, I see. So you make a model and hide a weapon in it and when the guard comes in you strike him down by surprise and flee out, right?" The prisoner gave him a funny look and shook his head.

"Of course not! This is a model of the Mystara - perfect scale and just look at the rigging there! You don't get rigging like that these days, I can tell you. You see, what happens is that the guard comes in and he's an art collector and I swap it with him in exchange for a way out of here," the prisoner explained cheerfully. "He can sell it on for a good profit and we're all happy." He set back about his work with a will, a grin and a slightly unfocused look.

"I see," said Rapscallion who saw all too well. "You know, it looks more like the Fury than the Mystara," he noted critically. There may be some amusement value in this, he thought briefly but without any real hope.

"You know, you may be right," the prisoner said, patting at the shapeless mass of straw carefully. He tilted his head to one side and stared at it thoughtfully. "A couple of extra spars here or there and you're right! The romance of a pirate ship should even get me a change of clothes as well." Rapscallion sighed - clothes of any description would be a bonus for his companion, for want of a better word - and walked over to peer out of the window. 'Name that ankle' was a rather pointless pursuit right now for long skirts seemed to be in fashion. New zone with new fashions must have opened, he suspected.

Feeling miserable, he slumped in his straw and sulked. At least he had his own form personal of escapism and a poem to finish, so he cleared his throat...



"Get out and don't ever let me see you here again," the guard told him roughly. Rapscallion peered and blinked in the harsh daylight, his incarceration having caused his eyes to adjust unfavorably for normal life. The street outside the court of the City of Medievia thronged with the same sort of citizenry he had been used to so long ago.

"What are you letting me out for?" he asked hesitantly.

"Humanitarian grounds," the guard noted, pointing to the street outside and the city beyond.

"Ah, so the mayor or someone saw my case and thought it an unfair and unjust punishment? Justice prevails at last!" Rapscallion smiled smugly, happy that fate was turning to his favor for once.

"Hardly. Five years of listening to you? It's an inhumane punishment for your cellmate. He's only in for the sinking of Lattyrna and he doesn't deserve anything as bad as that. Just get out of our sight and earshot - move!" the guard screamed at him.

And move he did.

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