For Joe Trangata
“If we could solve the problems of all people’s troubles, you can go home again, but you might have to solve a crime.”
The crowd laughed appreciatively at the baron’s joke, and Josephine tried to hide her annoyance.
“Well, that’s a lovely sentiment for a novel,” Josephine smiled, playing to the audience both in the throne room and watching remotely through the magic mirrors at home, “but do you mean to release her?” She looked at the baron, her expression trying to show him that the time for banter was gone, that serious decisions must be made now. She looked back at the hunched form of the girl in the defendant’s box. “This girl has been ripped from her time and place.” She paused to let that sink in, waiting for the low murmuring of the courtiers to quiet. “Wrongfully taken to our world.”
She turned away from the baron then, addressing the crowd. It wasn’t up to them, not at all, but their reaction would likely sway the regent. “She has no knowledge of our customs,” she told the eager viewers, some of whom began to nod in agreement. “She does not speak our language. She likely has no understanding of what has happened to her. We all know how dangerous magic can be to the outsiders.” The girl began to shudder a little, hiding her face in her long blonde hair.
Right on cue, Josephine noted. Good girl. “The only decent thing to do is to send her back where she came from as soon as possible.”
She turned back to the baron, noting the slight annoyance on his face, and felt the heat rise in his chest. Baron Genshaft did not do well with annoyance. Josephine tried not to look up at the walls of the chamber. She didn’t need to see the former representatives who had displeased the lord, faces frozen in agony in their respective magical prisons, trapped until the Baron chose to release them. Occasionally, on a particularly uneventful day, the Baron would release one, listen to the blubbering and pleading for a time, and then kill them. It was a fine line to walk, representing those who were brought before his throne. She wanted to please her ruler, mostly because she enjoyed being alive, but she also had an obligation to her clients. Some of them deserved the punishment, no doubt, but not this one.
The girl had come over by mistake, stumbled through a door and been picked up by one of the palace’s trackers. They came through like that every now and then. It was her job to represent them, to speak for them. Sometimes, Baron Genshaft let them go without a fight, bored by the question. Sometimes he kept them for a while, to play with. And sometimes he killed them right there in the throne room.
Josephine had coached the girl as best as she could, using the limited language the spell gave her: Keep your head down. Don’t challenge him in any way. Don’t look like you even know what’s going on. If you’re clueless, you’re no fun. He’ll be bored and let you go.
As she waited for the verdict, Josephine hoped she was right this time.