WARNING! The following page contains spoilers for the lore and story of Worlds Adrift
"You are here," said the court clerk, "in the presence of the Mercantile Authority of Ten-Rui, and so the scrutiny of the Kioki Unity. We are present the Warlock of Metal to conduct proceedings."
Beneath the noble benches is the public viewing gallery, and below that, an intricate wooden rood screen. The Warlock of Metal jangles in from behind it. He is robed, and wears the ceremonial helm of the Mercantile Authority - a downy 'coonskin topped with an oversized replica of a coin.
"The charges brought against you are very serious," says Metal, stepping into the chalk circle, specially constructed for the assizes. He removes a copper coin from his moneybag, dips it into candle wax, then rolls it along a wooden floorboard. The jury and the gallery watch its journey, gasping as it loses speed, begins to wibble-wobble, and finally ripples flat. Metal steps out of the circle, and walks the length of the room. He peers over the object like a heron, and happy with the outcome, returns the coin to his pocket.
"Tell me sir..." he says, so loudly, that even the backbenchers are awoken from their slumber.
"...which member of the Mercantile Authority allowed you to trade in precious stones? If he or she is in this room, point to him now."
The accused, who is dressed entirely in saffron yellow, points sheepishly to the Nabob Vulio, who grimaces back at him.
Nabob Vulio?" says Metal with faux surprise, "a man of status and bearing. Surely Nabob you impugn this claim?"
"I do, and I don't," replies the cadaverous Vulio.
There are whispers of "shame!" and "accomplice!" from the gallery, but they fall quickly silent when Metal draws himself up, and to restore order, holds out the fronds of his gown. He looks at the fleabitten crowd with contempt.
Come now, do you really think the Nabob would bring this case to court himself, if he were guilty in any of its aspects? No, the Nabob announces the facts only out of honesty."
The Nabob looks pleased with himself as Metal continues, Something tells me there is more to the matter, which your innocent involvement will shortly reveal. Did you, Nabob, or did you not, grant this man a trader's licence?"
"I did," says Vulio.
"Because he made fitting contribution to your company and its subsidiaries?"
"And what terms were agreed?"
"It was agreed that this man, would be licensed to purvey Atlas to the Court of the Empress."
"Ah!" says Metal, pointing upwards in understanding, "and I presume, exclusively Atlas?"
"That's right, your eminence," says Vulio smugly.
"Bring forth the witness."
A shrew-like girl appears from behind the rood. She has fine and dainty hands, and is clearly in the employ of the Empress as a handmaiden.
"Dear girl, do you recognize this man, and how?"
"I do. He is the aforementioned purveyor of Atlas, who latterly brought us emeralds and rubies of fine quality, at a very decent price," she said, more sweetly than perhaps befit the circumstances.
At this point, the accused, who feels the walls closing in, takes it upon himself to shortcut his cross-examination.
"So bloody what?! I sold some stones cheaper than someone else. What am I s'posed to do when me mine runs dry of greenstone?"
There is jeering and laughter in the gallery, and even the nobility in the tier above titter at the audacity of the fellow. Metal smiles, and bows, and applause reigns all around, but for the accused, who the sparrow guards chaperone outside. He kicks and fights all the way to the door.
"So, jurors, the verdict is clear, what of the sentence?"
The six jurors all wear Empress green. Their faces are solemn and veiled. Their spokeswoman scratches the verdict on the clay slate, and hands it to the sparrow guard, who in turn passes it to Metal.
"Interesting," he says, looking perturbed, "they have elected to vote for leniency."
There is a groan from the gallery.
"For this senseless crime, he will be exiled from the Unity forthwith. All his possessions, currency and assets are to be kept safe by the Mercantile Authority. He will be taken by skyship to a place of marooning, and left to live out his days despised and alone."
There is a final hurrah from the gallery, and then the court clerk summons the next victim.