Previously: Chapter 4 <Part 1> <Part 2>
In the City Hall courthouse, near the center of Eillumaeia, the Magistrate sat in his rich robes upon his high "throne" of a seat. He waited as the two sides presented their arguments, and then when they finished, he banged his gavel.
"The Court finds Simeon Furnnan guilty as charged."
At the end of the next case, he ruled in favor of the defendant, seeing as it was a high-ranking official who regularly swore loyalty to the Elitinati and did everything short of becoming a Novice himself. The next case was one in which the plaintiff claimed that the defendant had violated the terms of a contract between them, but the Court ruled in favor of the latter. The Magistrate was relieved to find that the next case was one in which he would rule in favor of the plaintiff, and he called a short recess.
He brought a paper with him into his office and handed it to his secretary.
"I have finished this list," he said, "does the clerk have another one for me?"
The secretary accepted the list of predetermined rulings and said, "He hasn't brought one yet, but I can check."
"Do so quickly," the Magistrate said, "I mustn't keep the jury waiting longer than necessary."
The secretary nodded and made her way briskly out to the Records office at the front of the building. She found the judicial clerk at his desk, buried up to his ears in papers as usual.
"The Magistrate needs the next list," she said crisply, as the wyrt on her shoulder massaged the soreness in her neck.
The clerk bobbed his head and made every effort to look her straight in the eye. "I haven't got it yet. I'll deliver it when I do."
"Well, be quick about it!" she snapped back.
As soon as she left, the clerk lifted some sheets to look again upon the odious List, absolutely filled with names of people who might very well be innocent—but since the government deemed them a problem, these people must be convicted and punished. Why not use the courts to do it?
The clerk grimaced and grasped his head as the pounding began again. He had been developing a splitting headache over the last few minutes, and every time it happened, he was less inclined to bring the list to the Magistrate.
Why doesn't everybody just decide to tolerate an accidental wrong? He thought. What if everyone could agree to disagree, instead of fighting over it?
What if people started taking responsibility for their own actions, instead of getting someone else to answer it for them?
There was a novel concept! The clerk began to write down the ideas as they came. If people took responsibility for their own actions, then the Magistrate would not be forced to run down a list just to meet the daily demands.
If people took responsibility and did the right thing for the benefit of others instead of just depending on the Law to tell them what to do, they would not be so callous as to take their fellow to court at the least provocation.
If people took responsibility for their actions and reactions, they could live in harmony as a society unto themselves. They wouldn't need a separate government.
In the courtroom, the Magistrate was the picture of imperiousness... But underneath his robes, he sweated most uncomfortably. How was he supposed to know what to do in these situations without a list? He tried his best to listen to the arguments back and forth. Apparently there was some sort of deal struck between them, an action for an action, or a certain amount of labor for a certain amount of money. While they talked, the Magistrate hurriedly scanned through the lawbooks, something he never had to do before. He found the law he sought and slammed his gavel down.
"You," he pointed to the plaintiff, "you just informed the court that you promised him thirty jengwa to move your furniture."
"Yes," the plaintiff huffed, "it's a very generous price."
"Generous?" the Magistrate echoed. "Hmm, I seem to recall that a moving service requres no less than fifty jengwa before they will lift a finger, and it says here in the law that no man may require another to perform a task for less than the established price."
"Well, Your Honor," the man stammered, "I thought that a small pittance between neighbors would be more like giving a gi—"
"The law includes the neighbor. You, sir," he pointed to the man, "are in contempt of the law, and this court fines you one hundred jengwa for illegal activity—and you must pay this man an additional thirty jengwa more than your original price." He slammed his gavel, and it was final.
The List came later that day, and the Magistrate was stunned to find that just by actually listening and paying attention to the laws, he had ruled in opposite of the List's dictates. How many swindlers and lawbreakers had gone free, and how many innocent people had been wrongfully convicted?
Just then, in the midst of proceedings, a black-clad figure slipped in the door. The Magistrate turned back to the droning plaintiff, but a steady hiss interrupted him. He saw a vapor rising from the corner where he had last seen the stranger. Now the stranger dropped from the ceiling (but how did he get there so quickly?) and spread the vapor over the courtroom. The Magistrate coughed as the thick cloud entered his lungs, eyes, and ears. When he recovered, the vapor had dissipated, his headache was gone, and his thoughts were much clearer than they had been in a while. With new eyes, the Magistrate looked over the lawbooks. To his astonishment, he saw that several of the laws were stringent, unjust regulations. Others were needless requirements placed on the people expressly for the purpose of control by a third party.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," he announced to the people in the courtroom, "It has come to my attention that this city's law needs some revising. Hence I and my staff will be shut here in City Hall until a new constitution can be established. I will see no more cares today. You all can settle your own differences, I am sure." He slammed his gavel for the last time.
All the gathered crowd looked at one another. Since the Magistrate mentioned it, why couldn't they settle their own differences outside of court? After all, who was to say that the other person could not be reasonable? Each person, as they exited the courtroom, received a small package and a message, slipped into the hand by an unseen person, directing them to spread the realization to law offices and courtrooms all over the city. That day, every citizen of Ellimaeia experienced freedom from the wyrts for the rest of the day.
Having done all this, Ra'dith returned to the clock tower where Laurel still struggled blindly against the mother-mind. Pulling a stylus not unlike the first one out of her belt, Ra'dith injected Laurel to wake her from her trance.
"Di—did we do it?" Laurel panted as Ra'dith raised her easily.
"Yes," the mysterious agent answered. They slowly crawled their way back to the Marketplace, unseen by those around them—mostly.
Across the Square, an unassuming soldier blinked as his wyrt went through that annoying "update" process. He could never figure out why it would need to tweak so frequently. Normally he would return to the barracks for a new one, but there were rumors that whatever company manufactured the wyrts was no longer producing them; there was a shortage of the buggers. As the soldier watched the courthouse flicker in and out if his vision, he noticed something else strange: at least two people walking together also flickered. Why would people flicker, and not just buildings? The soldier sought to follow these people. He crept down alleyways, toward the edge of town, when abruptly, the flickering stopped, and the people disappeared. The soldier looked around. So many disused, empty buildings; why did they still stand? The soldier shrugged and returned to his post. He had a duty to fulfill, one that was his responsibility. Why did he need to hunt down mysterious sighting that might not even really be there?