A tale of Hralf, Hewer of Sagas, in which Hralf runs afoul of the lore. This story precedes “Hralf and the Fan Boy”. See the Short Fiction link, above, for the rest of the Hralf stories.
An interview with Hamlin Papier, retired lorist of Clutterback City.
Welcome, welcome. Please, do come in! This is my study, not that I study these days. Have a seat.
My wife informed me that you have an interest in Hralf the leonin. I presume you wish to know more regarding the suit brought against him by Wingston Thromley? Excellent. I’ve gathered and reviewed all of the relevant transcripts and depositions, as you can see from these stacks here on my desk. I should be able to answer any questions you may have.
Before I begin, may I inquire as to your reasons for making these inquiries?
Truly? Bless my soul. I had no idea.
Twenty-seven years ago, on the eighth day of the month of Casimir, a lorist named Wingston Thromley came to the offices of Bounty Snare, then as now an arcane reclamation firm in this city, and served Hralf, the self-named Last of the Veldt-Lords, with a summons calling him to appear in the lore court of His Grace the Earl of Clutterness, there to answer for “gross and egregious violations of the Lore.” The aforementioned Thromley claimed to represent an organization called the Planar Purity League of New Peldentown.
What were the charges? All in good time, sir, all in good time. The aforesaid summons did not go into details.
Hralf and his companions brought the papers to one Master Answard Halidom, their supervisor at Bounty Snare; and Bounty Snare brought the case to me. That was on the ninth of Casimir. I met with Hralf and his companions on the tenth. Briefly, for as I say we had as yet no details.
Why to me? A firm like Bounty Snare is no more immune to the processes of the Lore than any other; indeed, less so, as the nature of their business requires them to interact with the Deep Lore to a larger extent than most others. In short, Bounty Snare had me on retainer in those days.
Which companions, specifically? Palantir Iluvril, an elf from Sundfall; and Sarvalur Lightfoot, a halfling of no fixed city. These two were present with Hralf throughout the case, being his partners in his work for Bounty Snare.
At this meeting I described to them the usual process of a case in the Courts of Lore. Would you like me to do the same for you? Or shall I simply describe the events as they occurred?
Very good. I also asked Hralf if he had any acquaintance or enemy in New Peldentown. I have his answer here:
“An absence of acquaintance, a freedom from foes, the people of Peldentown are unblessed by my being.”
If only I had inquired more deeply, we might all have been spared a great deal of foolishness. Still, that’s all words on the transcript at this late date.
The Earl’s Court of Lore convened on the twelfth of Casimir for a preliminary hearing, with Archlorist the Honorable Horace Markwether presiding.
We began with the reading of the charges, to wit—
Set the scene? How do you mean?
Oh, I see. You understand, I do not keep records of such minute details—
Very well, just so long as it is understood that I am not speaking from the record.
This would have been in the old Hall of Court on the east side of the Earl’s palace. It was torn down twenty years or so ago to make room for the Earl’s menagerie—not, so the Earl was pleased to quip, a very large change—and we were moved to the New Court here in town. So you must imagine us in a once fine hall, now shabby and with creaking floors. Archlorist Markwether sits at his bench on the dais at the front of the room, with his clerk at a small desk to one side. He is regal, rotund, and round of shoulder, and bandy-legged with it though you can’t see that unless he stands up. His clerk at that time would have been, ah, yes, here it is: young Malindrome.
I still think of him as young Malindrome, alas, for he perished in a tragic record spill not long after.
We—my client, his companions, and I—are standing below and to the left.
Wingston Thromley is standing below and to the right.
Behind us stand the gathered crowd of on-lookers: a small crowd as I recall, the case involving no one of great moment in the city.
Standing, yes. In my time I heard the Archlorist expound on that on many occasions. “Keeps things moving,” he would say. “If I allowed them to sit, they might just settle in for the day, and then where would I be?”
Wingston Thromley? Very well.
Thromley was unknown to me, being from New Peldentown, nor had I ever heard of his client, the Planar Purity League. He was a slight man, young for a lorist, but unremarkably dressed—for we lorists have ever affected the most sober attire. You must not imagine that prior to my retirement I dressed as you see me now! Thromley was gifted with a long nose and a pugnacious attitude wholly at odds with his size, and I remember wondering how he achieved his majority with his nose still unbroken. You may take it that he was not seeking to make friends in Clutterback City.
Nor did he.
The charges were read by Clerk Malindrome. I have a copy here to hand.
Item One, that leonins are not native to this plane nor has anyone ever seen one other than Hralf the so-called Saga-Hewer, whether in the southern veldt-lands or anywhere else; and therefore Hralf’s claims to be the last representative of a local tribe lost to plague are absurd and untrue. As such, he must be an interloper from another plane.
At these words Hralf growled softly. I had cautioned him not to speak, but I am sure everyone in court heard him mutter the words “Blood and bones broken!”
“Was there something, Lorist Papier?” asked the Archlorist in the driest of tones, looking at us over his spectacles.
“We beg your pardon, my lord. My client will endeavor to restrain himself, I assure you.”
“See that he does, Lorist Papier.”
I noticed Thromley looking insufferably smug as he pointedly ignored the interchange.
No, that last is not in the record, but I remember it clearly for it was a habit of his. Many was the time that I wished to unleash the leonin upon him!
But I shall continue.
Item Two, that Hralf’s avocation of a peculiar form of alliterative verse is utterly inconsistent with what is known of the culture of the leonin on those planes where they properly reside, and would be more suited to barbarians who reside in the frozen wastes to the north of the Imperium.
Item Three, that his insistence on the use of stone tablets is similarly inconsistent with leonin culture.
Hralf, I fear, began to bristle.
Item Four, that veldt-dwelling barbarians would more properly record their history on tanned skins, if they had the inclination to record it at all, being peoples of oral rather than written tradition.
Item Five, that while tablets of fired clay are not unheard of, and carved inscriptions on stone steles, obelisks, and other monuments are found everywhere, no culture in the known multiverse has ever made a practice of recording their history on portable tablets of actual stone.
Hralf put a protective hand on the sack at his waist, and I noticed Sarvalur Lightfoot exchange a worried glance with Palantir Illuvril.
Item Six, that his sagas constitute an unwarranted and wholly mendacious attempt to blacken the name of the noble race of cheetahs, now tragically so few among us.
Hralf snorted softly; I looked up at Hralf’s face and found it in a profound sneer. The Archlorist cast an eye at him.
“You have something to say, Master Hralf?”
But I put a hand on his arm, and shook my head. It was at this moment, I believe, that I realized that I would need to procure a platform on which to stand, so that I could whisper in my client’s ear as needed.
Item Seven, that Hralf’s attempts to extend the Lore infringe on the rights and prerogatives of the Guild of Lorists, and further that this extension is so vast and so egregious as to call for extreme penalties.
Item Eight and last, that his so-called “sagas” do not reflect any authentic expression of the Lore, and that further the defendant’s efforts to promulgate and publish these works constitute an ahistorical attempt to pollute the Lore of this plane with details that are manifestly untrue, leading to the misinformation and discomfort of future generations of lorists and a great confusion under heaven.
Archlorist Markwether’s eyebrows had risen at Item Seven, and at the conclusion of the reading he addressed Thromley as follows:
“Lorist Thromley, I must inform you that these are the silliest charges that have ever appeared in my court.” His tone, I may say, was amused rather than stern.
Thromley drew himself up to his full height. “It is no risible matter, my lord,” he said. “The defendant’s actions strike at the heart of our way of life!”
“‘Our way of life,’ Lorist Thromley? By ‘our’ do you mean the Guild of Lorists, or the Imperium in general?”
“The Imperium, my lord. It is to the advantage of everyone in our society that the Lore remain clear and undefiled.”
“Really? My word.” Archlorist Markwether pursed his lips. “Well, at least it shouldn’t be boring. And what penalty do you believe these charges call for?”
“Total expungement of this leonin and his so-called lore, my lord.”
“Expungement?” The Archlorist was shocked, and so was I. “Surely a simple redaction would suffice?”
“My client will only be satisfied with expungement, my lord.”
The Archlorist then turned to me. “And now, Lorist Papier, have you anything to say?”
Hralf’s mouth opened, but I tightened my grip on his arm.
“Yes, your honor. I agree with your overall assessment of the charges, and request that Item Seven in particular be struck.” The Archlorist nodded. “Lorist Thromley claims that it is the sole prerogative of the Guild of Lorists to extend the Lore. This claim is absurd on the face of it. You know as well as I that extending the Lore is what people do; we lorists merely strive to keep up. I admit that it is unusual for a single individual to extend the Lore in such large measure in so short a time, but it is by no means unheard of. I draw your attention to the case of Master Omfrey Gallanders and the Lost Kingdom of Patella. Needlessly, I am sure.”
“I am sure,” said Archlorist Markwether, raising an eyebrow.
Thromley scowled blackly, but Markwether gave him no time to object.
“No, Lorist Thromley, it won’t do. As inconvenient as it may be for you and yours, the Lore is a record of the doings of every member of our land, not the private possession of the Guild of Lorists. I quite agree with Lorist Papier. Clerk, strike Item Seven of the charges.”
Young Malindrome made a notation as the Archlorist continued.
“And how does your client plead, Lorist Papier? Fictitious or not fictitious?”
“Not fictitious, your lordship.”
The Archlorist looked Hralf up and down.
“He certainly seems to be. Very well, we shall reconvene in two days’ time to hear your client’s defense. And I will note that I am quite looking forward to it. Court is adjourned.”
Was not the entire list of charges similarly absurd on the face of it?
By no means, sir, by no means! Allow me to explain.
The Lore of the Land is its soul, its guidebook, that which brings order out of chaos and permits the narrative of life to flow unhindered. It is the Lore that allows events, however turbulent they may be in passing, to unfold as they ought, that allows the men and women of these lands to navigate them to a satisfactory (if sometimes fatal) conclusion. Errors in the Lore result in perplexity, endless disputes, and all manner of other ills.
I am put in mind of the case of Bovril the Adventurer, who left records of his exploits across all the lands we now call the Imperium. He amassed quite the fortune from his endeavors, which he deposited with a banker of note in Caskendia. On his untimely death the banker was required to pass this fortune along to Bovril’s heirs, who came from another land entirely—and herein lay the difficulty, for the records were—I shudder to say it—inconsistent. The bank’s records said that Bovril haled from the borough of East Norfolk in Wessenschaft; but those retained at the Caskendian Guild Hall stated that he came from North Suffolk in Essenschaft.
The banker and the guild jointly investigated the matter, and found that there were those in both locales who were happy to claim him as close kin; that indeed, according to the local records that he had been born and bred in both places, simultaneously as it were.
It is not uncommon for a wanderer, a sailor, let us say, to have a family in more than one town; but it is nearly unheard of for a man to have more than one set of parents. And yet, for Bovril, this was indeed the case!
Things proceeded much as you might imagine. Orville of East Norfolk, Bovril’s father’s eldest brother’s son and putative heir in Wessenschaft, brought suit against Norville of North Suffolk, Bovril’s father’s eldest brother’s son and putative heir in Essenschaft. Norville naturally brought a counter-suit. Both had family letters and small knick-knacks showing unequivocally their relation to the great hero; and yet the two families, though undeniably similar in manifold ways, were demonstrably unrelated to each other! For some centuries past, ever since an event the records call the Great Sundering, Wessenschaft and Essenschaft had been divided the one from another by a chasm of bottomless depth that prevented all intercourse between them.
This is, of course, all too absurd; but the local records were unassailable. The resulting suits are unresolved to this day, and I am reliably informed that the administration of the city of Caskendia is underwritten in large measure by the confiscated interest on Bovril’s still undistributed gains.
I have often pondered the case of Orville vs. Norville; it almost seems to have resulted from the error of a careless and absent-minded scribe who wrote Essenschaft when he meant Wessenschaft, as though such a slip of the pen could bring an entire land into being. It is a fanciful notion to be sure, and yet some of the guild’s theoreticians think that it might be the case in all truth. On this view, the Great Sundering would be the most visible sign of this most egregious of errors.
What do I think? Regarding Orville vs. Norville, I admit I am at a loss. And yet I maintain, sir, that it is our chief task as lorists to keep the Lore of the Land free from this kind of error; to scotch small errors of fact while the true facts are still attainable; to prevent the propagation of that which might in time lead (if the theoreticians are correct) to the rending of the planes. Truly, sir, such things lead only to tears and hair-loss, however advantageous they might be to some.
Yes, hair-loss. When I was a young man I had a head of hair that was the admiration of all who knew me; and look at me now.
One might in all truth describe me so, sir; you have the right of it.
But I digress.
The workings of the Courts of Lore?
Oh, sir, there isn’t enough time in the day, I assure you. I will say that discrepancy hearings of this scope were and are blessedly rare. The Guild employs couriers who carry new additions to the Lore from guildhouse to guildhouse, where junior lorists work to disambiguate, deduplicate, and deconflict all such, so as to maintain consistency across the realm. Even I put in my time at this work; you may say that it is a rite of passage. And so, even cases of great complexity are usually handled quietly, within the guild. Only cases involving large sums of money or prominent individuals lead to public hearings, as a rule. Thus, Thromley’s suit was in all ways peculiar.
Yes, it is quite a task. I am proud of my time as a trial lorist, but you must not imagine that all lorists are so glamorously employed. By no means, sir. The junior lorist’s task is quiet, painstaking, and never-ending.
On the thirteenth of Casimir I met with Hralf and his companions to go over the charges; and we returned to the Old Court on the fourteenth.
The scene, as you call it, would have been more or less as I described it before, with two significant exceptions. First, with permission from the Archlorist I had arranged for a platform or pedestal on which to stand, the better to communicate quietly with my client; and second, the back of the hall was now so full that the Archlorist was forced to call in members of the Earl’s guard to maintain order. A circus never fails of its audience, sir, at least in my experience.
The Archlorist began the hearing by asking me to answer the charges on Hralf’s behalf.
“Yes, my lord. In re: Item One, that the leonin are unknown on this plane, my client states that his tribe most certainly had resided in the veldt-lands since time out of mind, right up until their recent destruction by plague.”
“And how recent was this?”
“About five years ago, sir. My client is unsure of the precise Imperial date.”
“I see. And have you any evidence of this claim?”
“My client has offered to recite his entire genealogy, going back to the founder of his line, Hroar the Mighty. In lieu of this I present this transcript, prepared by my clerk.”
“Objection!” said Lorist Thromley. “This is yet another attempt to pollute the Lore!”
“Overruled. It seems a lengthy document, Lorist Papier.”
“Yes, my lord: ‘seven tablets’ full of cat’s begats’ as my clerk put it.”
“Heh,” said the Archlorist. “Yes, Lorist Thromley, I see you. You shall have your turn in due time. Please carry on, Lorist Papier.”
“Yes, my lord. In re: Item Two, the use of alliterative verse, my client states unequivocally that whatever other folk might do in other places, all of the tribe’s history and tales were told in this form.”
“Did your client have anything else to say?”
“Yes, my lord. He said, ‘A speaker of slander, a liar of libel, blood and bones broken his mouth to be muzzling!'”
“Oh, dear. Is this true, Master Hralf?”
Hralf nodded decisively. The Archlorist gave him a dark look. “Was this intended as a threat, Lorist Papier?”
“More as a value judgement, my lord. I have cautioned my client to be less, ah, extravagant in his speech.”
“See that he does. Proceed.”
“In re: Items Three and Four, the use of stone as opposed to skins, my client states that sizable stone outcroppings are by no means unknown in the veldt-lands; that his tribe has a certain sacred place associated with the largest of these; and that the lore of the tribe was carved into stone here as a safety measure.”
“A safety measure, Lorist Papier? Against what?”
“The untimely death of the Teller of Tales, my lord. The tribe’s Teller of Tales was responsible for preserving the tribe’s history, for teaching it word-for-word to his apprentice, and for telling the tales publicly to the rest of the tribe.”
“And has your client seen these carvings?”
“Of a certainty, my lord, for he was in fact the Teller’s apprentice, and visited this place with him on a yearly basis. He is well-acquainted with them and the accommodations made there-in.”
The Archlorist sat up in his chair. “Your client was in line to be the next Teller of Tales?”
“Yes, my lord. This is why he is so adamant at preserving his tribe’s memory.”
“He is, in fact, claiming to be a kind of lorist, is he not?”
“In a manner of speaking, yes, he is, my lord.”
“And yet, Lorist Thromley has not included impersonation of a lorist in his list of charges. Curious. Lorist Thromley, if you persist in your black looks I shall declare you to be in contempt of this court. Lorist Papier, do continue.”
“In re: Item Five, the use of portable stone tablets, my client avers that this was an innovation of his own, given his need to leave tribal lands; and that no lack of determination by other folk would make him shirk his duties as the tribe’s de facto Teller of tales. In short, the tablets themselves are not a matter of ancient lore. Therefore, Item Five has no foundation, and I urge that it be struck.”
“I quite agree. Clerk, please do so.”
“In re: Item Six, the reputation of the cheetahs of the veldt, my client states that he himself bears scars acquired during cheetah raids; which he does, for I have seen them myself. The pattern of claw marks is quite distinctive.”
“And is your client prepared to reveal these scars to the rest of the court?”
“He is, my Lord. However, it is a matter of some delicacy—”
“Yes, I can see how little your client is wearing. The court waives the need to see the defendant’s scars. Carry on!”
“And finally, my lord, in re: Item Eight, the effect of Hralf’s sagas on the Lore of the Land, we state that Wingston Thromley’s client is entirely mistaken, as shown by our refutation of Items One through Six, and that Item Eight is therefore toothless.”
“I see. Have you anything to add?”
“Only that my client stated to me that Wingston Thromley is welcome to engage in any number of unlikely and potentially harmful acts, at which point I had to caution him again.”
“In alliterative verse, Lorist Papier?”
“Only on my client’s part, my lord.”
“Very well. Let there be silence in the court, while I consider.”
The crowd murmured softly as the Archlorist pondered.
“It seems to me,” he said at last, “that this defense stands or falls on the existence of these carvings in the deep veldt. Is your client willing to bring evidence of these carvings?”
“They are quite immovable, my lord. Given time, my client is prepared to make rubbings on parchment and bring them back to this court.”
“And who would accompany him?”
“His partners, my lord.”
“Objection,” said Lorist Thromley, who was nearly bouncing up and down in anger. “The livelihood of Master Hralf’s partners depends on his continued existence. They will naturally take his part, and their testimony is not to be trusted.”
At this, Palantir Iluvril rose to his full height.
“You have something to say?” said the Archlorist. “Please state your name for the record.”
“My name is Palantir Iluvril, my lord. And I wish to inquire whether Lorist Thromley truly means to accuse an elf of Sundfall of dishonesty.”
A gasp went up from the crowd. Lorist Thromley appeared to be rather taken aback.
“A fair question, Master Palantir; and yet in this case I regret to say that the lorist has a point. Tell me, what is the name of Bounty Snare’s chief competitor here in this city?”
“Infernal Reclamations, my lord.”
“Would Bounty Snare be willing to pay for a team from Infernal Reclamations to go investigate?”
“I have discussed this contingency with Master Halidom, my lord,” I said. “So long as Hralf and his partners are allowed to join them, Bounty Snare is quite willing.”
“And how long would such a journey require, Lorist Papier?”
“It would be a matter of several months, my lord.”
“Very well. I shall put you on the docket for the Quarterly Depictions, five months from now. Yes, Lorist Thromley?”
“My lord, my client is entitled to a swift decision,” said Thromley. “Moreover, this plan provides every opportunity for the defendant to escape the expungement he so richly deserves!”
“Lorist Thromley, I am surprised at you. First you bring a motion for total expungement, and now you wish to deny your target the opportunity to defend himself against such a final mode of termination. I assure you the Lore will wait until the truth is uncovered. Court is adjourned!”
Hralf and his companions left Clutterback City the following day, in company with an elite team from Infernal Reclamations, and I suppose I could have let the matter lie. I had no real doubt that Hralf would return with the evidence; and yet I felt there had to be more to such a strange and whimsical case as this.
I spoke with Master Halidom at Bounty Snare; and when Wingston Thromley left for New Peldentown—for it was clear that his client would not pay for him to laze about Clutterback City for the next five months—he was followed by an agent in my employ. And when this agent returned I took his report and guarded it jealously until the time came for the Quarterly Depictions.
Hralf and his companions were there, of course, bathed and laden with many, many large scrolls of parchment; the so-called Thromley was there; and the court was once again presided over by Archlorist the Honorable Horace Markwether.
The Archlorist, bored after a long morning of depictions, brightened up considerably as he saw us arrive.
“Ah, yes, Master Hralf and his rubbings. Come in, come in!”
We came and settled into our usual spot on the left, just in front of the massed crowd.
“My lord,” began Thromley, but the Archlorist overrode him.
“No, no, Lorist Thromley, we are still hearing from the defense. You shall have your turn, I assure you. Lorist Papier?”
“My lord, my client first wishes to enter into evidence this collection of scrolls.”
“There are a lot of them, aren’t there.”
“Several hundred, my lord. A representative sample, my client tells me.”
“Indeed. And have you a witness who can speak to their creation?”
“Yes, my lord. With us is Gastilak Organgrinder, the leader of the team from Infernal Reclamations.”
Organgrinder stepped forward. Before you ask, he was a half-orc, brawny but more simply and tastefully dressed than is usual for his kin.
“Master Organgrinder,” said the Archlorist, “your team accompanied Master Hralf to the deep-veldt?”
“Yes, my lord, we did.”
“And did you see the carven records?”
“We did, my lord.”
“And these rubbings were made from those records?”
“Yes, my lord, by me and my team.”
“Well, that seems conclusive,” said the Archlorist. “Lorist Papier, have you verified that these rubbings match the defendant’s tablets?”
“I have, my lord. I have an example for you.” And here I brought forward one of the rubbings, and a matching tablet from Hralf’s sack. The Archlorist examined them carefully.
“I do not recognize the script,” he said at length, “but it is certainly consistent, the one with the other, though I would say the hand is different.”
“Naturally so, my lord.”
“Very good. Lorist Thromley—”
“A moment, my lord,” I said.
“Yes, Lorist Papier?”
“There is more. I wish to enter into the record this report made by the gnome Darvash.”
“Is this pertinent, Lorist Papier?”
“Most certainly, my lord. After the previous hearing, I engaged Darvash to follow Lorist Thromley back to New Peldentown.”
At these words, Thromley turned white, a most interesting contrast with his dark attire.
“That is most unusual, Lorist Papier,” said the Archlorist. “I trust he found something amusing—I mean, something relevant to this hearing?”
“Yes, my lord, a number of things. Master Darvash is here, my lord, if you please?”
“By all means, Lorist Papier. Do carry on.”
I motioned Darvash to join me on my platform.
“Master Darvash,” I said, “Did Thromley travel alone?”
“No, sir. He had a dwarf with him.”
“Folk do travel with dwarves, Master Darvash,” said the Archlorist. “I have done so myself on occasion.”
“Yes, my lord. Thromley and the dwarf remained together until they arrived at Pelden Bridge. Thromley crossed the river towards to New Peldentown, while the dwarf continued downriver to Old Peldentown.”
Hralf whispered, as softly as he could, “Blood and bones broken!”
“Your client has some acquaintance in Old Peldentown, Lorist Papier?” said the Archlorist.
“So I have determined, my lord,” I said. “Now, what did you do next, Master Darvash?”
Thromley looked like he’d be edging toward the door if it weren’t for the crowd in the way.
“I chose to follow the dwarf, expecting that I’d be able to trace Lorist Thromley in New Peldentown on my return.”
“The dwarf entered Old Peldentown, and went straight to a business in that city.”
“And what business was this?”
“Copperbane Publishing, sir.”
“Blood and bones broken,” whispered Hralf again. He looked sheepish, as well he might.
“And what did you discover, Master Darvash?”
“That Master Hralf had had disagreements with Master Copperbane at one time, sir. It was a matter of common talk throughout the city.”
The Archlorist broke in. “And what was the nature of these disagreements, Master Darvash?”
“Master Hralf wished to publish his sagas, and Copperbane declined to do so.”
“And this led to trouble?” said the Archlorist.
“Yes, my lord. Thirty days in the city jail for Master Hralf and his companion.”
The crowd began to roar, until the Archlorist banged on his bench with a wooden clapper.
“Really, good people,” said the Archlorist, “I am pleased to see you are enjoying all this as much as I am, but I must have quiet or I will clear the court.”
The crowd shuffled their feet and looked away.
“Master Hralf,” said the Archlorist, “would you care to comment?”
Hralf hung his head. “No, my lord.”
“Master Darvash,” said the Archlorist, “would you say that Copperbane might have reason for animus against the defendant?”
“Yes, my lord.”
“Objection!” said Thromley in a weak voice. “Hearsay.”
“Sustained, I am afraid. Master Hralf, would you say that Copperbane might have reason for animus against you?”
“Yes, my lord,” said Hralf in his deepest tones.
“Fascinating. Is there more, Lorist Papier?”
“Yes, my Lord. Master Darvash, what did you discover in New Peldentown?”
“A number of things. First, that the Lorist’s Guild in New Peldentown has no member named Wingston Thromley, nor any record of any resident of New Peldentown by that name.”
“None at all?”
Thromley was now looking wildly about for an opening.
“Secondly, that the Guild’s records did have an entry for the Planar Purity League, which was registered there by a certain W. Thromsley on behalf of an unnamed client in Old Peldentown.”
“Guard,” said the Archlorist, “please do restrain Lorist Thromsley; I shouldn’t wish him to miss the end of this. Please continue, Lorist Papier.”
“To make a long narrative short, my lord,” I said, “By dint of hard effort, for which he is to be commended, Darvash discovered a young man named Wilfrid Callowby, a former lorist who had been ejected from the Guild in New Peldentown for factmongering. Darvash traced his recent activities, and verified that this Callowby was in fact the man he’d followed downriver; that he had recently been out of town for some days; and that he was currently in the pay of Copperbane Publishing.”
“Master Darvash,” said the Archlorist. “Is this Wilfrid Callowby present in this court?”
“Yes, my lord. He’s standing with the guard, just over there.”
“In short, my lord,” I said, “Copperbane and my client have a history. I would not wish to go into unpleasant detail, my lord, but we have good reason to believe that this entire suit is frivolous, brought in bad faith at Copperbane’s behest as a form of retaliation against my client.”
The Archlorist raised his eyebrow. “Unpleasant detail?”
“Yes, my lord.”
“Tell me, Lorist Papier, would you and your wife be available for dinner at the end of the week?”
“Most certainly, my lord.”
“Very good. Now, Master Thromsley. Have you anything to say?”
I have seen court cases go awry, but I have never seen a lorist so close to fainting as Thromsley, or, I should say, Callowby, was at that moment. He chose to remain silent.
“Guards, you can take him away,” said the Archlorist. “As for the rest of this balderdash, I declare it null and void. Court—”
“BLOOD AND BONES BROKEN!”
“Ah, I see your client has more to say, Lorist Papier. Yes, Master Hralf?”
“Travels and travails tremendous consume coins considerable while wages wane woefully! A ruptured retaliation requires restitution!”
“I’m sorry, Master Hralf, but that is no matter for this court. Lorist Papier, please educate your client.”
“Yes, my lord.”
“I’ll send an invitation around for dinner.”
“Thank you, my lord.”
“And you might see to it that your client acquires a lorist’s license.”
“Yes, my lord.”
“And with that, the integrity of the Lore is preserved. Court is adjourned.”
And that sir, was that. Hralf was exonerated, and the case was closed. I informed him, as instructed, that the awarding of monetary damages was no business of the Earl’s Court, which was concerned solely with the integrity of the Lore. He could, if he chose, take it up with the authorities in Old Peldentown.
He declined to do so, I believe, nor did he ever receive a lorist’s license.
Was there anything else? There are many more records here for you to peruse.
No? In that case you are quite welcome.