I stopped counting two hundred and thirty-seven days in. That was the day the magistrate told me that I only had eight more hours of community service to earn my freedom. Magistrate also followed that up with “I’m going to see to it you never get those eight hours, filthy orc”.
The jail cell was getting smaller.
Meanwhile rumors floated into my shrinking cell, talk of evil overlords growing powerful in different corners of the Seven Realms. Any one of those overlords would need orcs like me, making up their faceless hordes in black armor, ever-ready to do his/her evil bidding while raking in pillage and employment benefits like decent co-pays for dental and a viable retirement plan.
It was a great time to be a henchman, and here I was serving time. The new fish in the cell next to me wouldn’t stop crying. And the warden was pissing in my water ration with religious tradition.
Speaking of, it was lunchtime in the dungeon. The other dungeon dwellers, humans naturally, complained about the food like they complained about everything else down here. I was still trying to figure out how anybody had the stones to complain about a consistent meal of bread and gruel. Seriously? This was a banquet ball compared to Lord Dreadbane’s death marches… back when he was on the scene we basically had to eat any orc that fell to exhaustion.
Old Lord Dreadbane… man, did he have a great incentives program.
I could hear the warden making his rounds with the food cart, with the squee squee of the wheels and the clang of tin bowls that he tossed at despondent prisoners. When he got to me, my water was surprisingly clear.
“What? None of your homemade lemonade?”
“I ain’t forgot about you, sweetness. My proprietary blend’s in there alright… I’m just giving most of it to crybaby next to you. Maybe it’ll dry his throat out enough for him to shut up.”
“Good plan. What’s his deal anyway?”
“One of them weird races. Centaur, brought in for lewd conduct.”
Warden glared down at the next cell. “Enough already, princess pony!” he shouted as he squeaked his wheels down to where the centaur was.
Sooner or later (you never knew which one was which down here), the centaur’s crying downgraded to sniffling. That was about the time the elf came to visit him.
I saw the elf scowling into the centaur’s cell, looking all dapper and tall and blonde.
“You’re a disgusting sack of filth. I’m going to see to it that you never leave this cell unless it’s as glue, dog food, and transplant organs. You make me sick. I’ll see you in an hour.”
The elf left and I called out to the centaur. “Man, the District Attorney really has it in for you.”
“District Attorney? No, that was my court-appointed lawyer. And here I was thinking he wouldn’t care about my case since I wasn’t paying him anything.”
“Sorry for what? This is great! He’s an elf. And his designer look lets me know he’s a professional. I’m sure he won’t let personal feelings get in the way of doing his job.”
“Why in blue-green blazes are you so sure of that?”
“Duh… he’s an elf.”
Again with the myth of elvish nobility. Every race looked up to those lanky bastards just cause they were elves. Most orcs knew their secret; they used most of their fairy magic shrinking their guts or making their faces beautifully aquiline or keeping their hair from having split ends. That’s cause if they just let themselves go natural most of them would end up looking like orcs, and then where would they be? In dark armor marching for dark lords to make ends meet, no doubt.
Screw this centaur. It would be just desserts to see him hang from his stupid notion of bright and right elvish goodness. I turned to do some pushups and an idea hit me.
Public defense counted as community service.
If the centaur requested it, no way the magistrate could say no.
“Hey centaur, what’s your name?”
“Nice to meet you, Moxie. I’m Anglewood. Listen, I think you deserve more for your defense. Someone who’s not only a true professional, but someone who is passionate about your case and will work tirelessly for at least eight hours to see you free.”
“Sounds nice. But no one will defend me because I can’t pay.”
“I’ll defend you.”
“You? What do you know about the legal system?”
“I’m an evil henchman for hire. I’ve been in and out of jail since I was a kid. What don’t I know about the legal system?”
It took about three hours to make all the necessary arrangements and prepare the defense. That meant five hours away from freedom.
Moxie took the time to relay the particulars of his case to me from his cell. Like I cared. I took a nap.
The courtroom was full of angry townsfolk. I was glad they had to leave their torches and pitchforks outside.
The District Attorney was the same elf that was acting as Moxie’s public defendant a few hours ago. Guess he got a taste of half-horse meat and refused to let go. The jury box was full of the same lanky elves.
Everyone was looking at me like I was on trial, including my client.
“Dear Judge?” the centaur asked. “Can I change my mind about my lawyer?”
I pulled his human head down to my level. “What are you doing?”
“I thought you were a human. If I knew you were an orc I would have said no in the first place.”
My other hand pointed to the jurors. “Your racism isn’t exactly warming any hearts over there in the jury box and I’d be kicking your horse’s ass right now if I hadn’t sworn an oath to defend it.”
Moxie slapped my hand away from his head. “You ever been horse stomped and elbow dropped all at once? Cause I’m telling you, there’s a first time for everything.”
“Enough,” the judge interrupted. “Pervert centaurs don’t get much leeway round here. You made your bed, now lie in it, or sleep on it standing up, or do whatever it is your kind does when its bedtime.”
That’s how the trial of the decade for this small township started.
The elf called his first witness. While they talked yada yada, I was getting an earful of Moxie’s disappointment. “I could have had a professional looking lawyer like that. No, I got roped into having an orc who wears dirty tattered rags for a business suit.”
“Dude, I live in a dungeon, not a palace parapet. Get over it.”
“Your witness,” the elf told me.
“What? That’s it?” It had only been like three minutes.
“That’s why they call these things open and shut,” the elf sneered.
I milked the witness for everything it was worth. I tried to ask him all sorts of questions like what did he have for breakfast and did he have plans on going back to school, but the elf kept citing relevance. Judge explained I had to stick to the point. Even so, you’d be surprised how long you can drag a point out… I’ve been in enough quarterly meetings with dread overlords to know. Here’s an exerpt:
Me: What did you see, Farmer Brown?
FB: Well, that perbert asked the lil lady for sensual favors.
Me: No. That’s what you maybe thought you heard. We’ll get to that later. What did you see?
FB: I saw that naked man-horse perbert gyrating like he beside hisself with his wanton perbersion. And he reared up so the lil lady could see his horsey parts.
Me: What do you mean by you “saw”?
FB: I was looking square at him.
Me: With one eye or both eyes?
FB: Both eyes, dead set.
Me: So you looked at his horsey parts?
Me: His horsey parts. Your attention was dead set, both eyes squarely focused on his horsey parts as he reared up?
FB: You is a right perbert yaself.
Me: I wasn’t the one gazing at another guy’s horsey parts and evading questions about it.
Elf: That wasn’t a question, your honor.
Me: Was I the one gazing at another guy’s horsey parts and evading questions about it, or was that you Farmer Brown?
By the time I was done with sight and the other four senses I had killed an hour and a half off my community service.
Before I took my seat, I gave that elf the backside of my middle finger. Screw him and the forest he prances around in.
The elf stood up enraged and spoke to the judge. “Your Honor, before I call the character witness, I posit that the defense attorney is motivated to defend his client for purely self serving reasons that present a conflict of interest. I motion that his community service be rescinded in the event that he fails his client.”
“What’s he saying?” I asked the judge.
“He’s saying if you don’t win, you don’t get no community service hours. And I agree. Motion granted.”
And the hammer came down.
“Can you do that?”
“I’m the judge. I can do whatever I want.”
“Sir, I need a break.”
“You mean a recess?”
“If you want to go outside and play during the break that’s cool with me, have your recess. Me? I need a break.”
“And me? I didn’t become judge to worry about the filthy needs of filthy orcs.”
Now I had to focus on the case, for reals. So I put my fantasies of breaking the elf’s lithe little legs on the back burner and looked at the case file that had been sitting on my table the whole time.
Ms. Lily White was accusing Moxie Centaur of soliciting sex. Also cited was indecent exposure and willingness to engage in unlawful acts with a minor.
Lily was sitting at the prosecution’s table. I must have really been in the zone thinking about beating down his highness elf, cause this was the first time I noticed her. She looked so demure and innocent. I bet the jury was lapping that up.
And on the stand now was Farmer Dell, telling the whole wide world how Lily White was as pure as the driven fricking snow.
That accursed elf was working this case with evil precision.
Me? I wasn’t going back to jail without a fight. I was going to fight evil precision with evil brute strong arm tactics.
It was my witness.
Me: Do you have any tasty children?
Me: Sorry. School age children?
FD: Yes. Four.
Me: A deliciously round number. And you’ve kept the same wife all these years?
Me: There’s character in fidelity and stability. So her back’s grown strong like yours working your land?
Me: Excellent. You look like a hard working individual. That says a lot about your character. I’m sure her back, just like yours, is well suited to working your farm or enduring never-ending hours in a forced labor camp.
FD: Um, thanks?
Me: No, thank you. And where do you live? Out deep in the fields, well past the outskirts of town and any town sentry patrols, yes?
FD: Uh, yeah.
Me: Close to the northern road, so it’s real easy to find, even on moonless nights?
Me: He’s right, scratch it. I’m sure it was just a personal question anyway. Ok, Farmer Dell, would you say you’re a man of confidence?
Me: A self-described confidence man, good. I like that. But confidence has a slippery slope. On one end, you know with total confidence your name is Farmer Dell. Then on the other end there’s very little confidence, say, for example, your confidence that I’ll always be locked up instead of free to roam the northern countryside with a band of blood-thirsty marauding orcs. Where on this slope is your confidence that you truly know Ms. White?
FD: Uh, since you put it that way, nowhere near my confidence that my name’s Farmer Dell.
Me: Ms. White’s no longer the little girl you used to know with a huge degree of confidence. How would you describe her behavior when new men come into town, now that she’s come of age?
FD: Well, uh, Miss Lily does get awful giddy when new jacks come through. Think they all are adventurers or heroes or some such.
Me: So you think she entertains notions of steamy escapades with every new guy that comes into town?
Me: I thought you were a confidence man.
FD: The term I would use for her behavior is wanderlust.
Me: What was the last syllable of that last word?
Me: Could you say that one more time, with confidence. And look at the jury when you say it.
Me: No further questions.
Elf tried to cite me for witness intimidation, but like I told the judge, I’m an orc. That just happens naturally. Meanwhile, I’m dressed in dirty rags. I’m much more intimidating when I’m dressed in all black armor and bearing down on an unsuspecting farmhouse in the middle of the night. And the judge had to concede the point.
Next up was Lily White. Her doleful eyes and quivering full lips had the crowd entranced.
Little witch, every word from her pubescent mouth was scissors shredding any chance I had for freedom. By the time the elf was done drawing out her story the jury was thirsty for centaur blood. It was like she was wearing a sign, “Victimized Maiden Needs Avenging”.
My witness. And I had no experience demonizing innocent looking maidens. All I knew how to do was terrorize them. I played to my strengths.
“Ms. White, how often do you fuck?”
Everyone gasped. The judge brought down his hammer.
“Now see here, you dirty orc. You can’t go asking Lily White nasty questions like that. Get some damn couth, that’s a maiden you’re talking to.”
“Ok, let’s try it this way, Ms. White. Are you still able to count how many times a random guy has put their magic wand into your hairy potter?”
More gasps, more of the hammer. “Didn’t I say stop it already?”
“But Yonor, how can I expose that she’s a rabid slut if I can’t ask her simple questions?”
“Look, if you want some sticks I’ll give you some sticks. You can stick to the events of the day in question or I can stick you back in your damn cell. Which stick you want?”
“Event stick, please.”
“Not thoroughly soaked in stupid I see. Proceed.”
I proceeded without any idea on how to proceed. It wasn’t like me to leave a maiden unterrorized.
“Ms, White, what did the defendant say to you?”
“He told me if I was up for it, he’d put his back into it and give me a ride my sweet, young body didn’t even know it had been craving.”
“Ms. White, if you’re so chaste and pure, how did you know what he was offering?”
“Well, I learned long ago in Young Maiden Chastity School that only a nasty man asks you to ride him. Seeing that he’s at least half man that makes him at least half nasty.”
“Yes. We also learned fractions in Young Maiden Chastity School, so I know what a half is.”
“What about the half that’s horse?”
“That half was naked so that makes it nasty too.”
“What do you normally do for rides?”
“Why do you keep saying I normally do this sort of thing?”
Then she started bawling.
Usually I’d have to burn down the village and cart the family off in the slave wagon to get these kinds of waterworks.
As much as I love seeing maidens cry, this was doing nothing to spring me.
I looked at the judge, whose hammer was poised to strike and I resigned myself with a nod.
“No further questions.”
The elf’s grin made me want to run over to his table and chew his face off. That’s saying a lot, cause raw elf face had a horrible plastic taste. “Prosecution rests,” he said.
“Way to tool it up,” Moxie whispered to me.
“I tooled up your mom. Why are you butt sore now?”
“You could have tried pointing out that this could have just been a simple misunderstanding, cultural differences or something. But no, stupid orc tries to harlotize Miss Innocent.”
“Wait, wasn’t that you trying to harlotize her? I mean, that’s why we’re here, after all.”
“You know, jail’s worth it at this point just to see you rotting next to me. Can I get a presumption of innocence here? You’re the one who has to get everyone else to believe I didn’t do it.”
It never occurred to me that the rat bastard didn’t do it. I mean, I spent most of my free time doing wicked things. I just assumed everybody else was doing likewise.
If I had thought him innocent, this case probably could have gone a lot better.
And what the hell did people do for fun if they weren’t doing wicked things?
“Hello!” Judge called to me, “Prosecution rests. That means wrap up your tender love moment and call your first witness.”
First witness, like I had a buffet of choices here.
I called Moxie. The first question was the one that had been burning in my mind for hours.
“When you reared up, did you notice Farmer Brown gazing at your horsey parts?”
“Perbert!” someone yelled from the crowd.
“Relevance,” said the elf.
“Damn! Well, could you explain, in detail, exactly what your good intentions were?”
Moxie looked at Lily White and his eyes softened. He spoke enraptured. “I just wanted to give her a ride. One of those long, hard rides that leaves a maiden’s cheeks red and flustered, her bosom heaving as she gasps for every next breath and her delicate thighs quivering from the effort to stay tightly straddled astride me as I run my course. Our pace ever quickening, our muscles taut, grinding against each other in needful unison, in sweaty syncopated harmony, until we crest the hill and from the bowels of our souls comes a satisfying cry of accomplishment. You know, a good hard ride.”
The silence was deafening. I looked around. Everybody was red and flustered. Women were fanning themselves rapidly. Sweat was beading up on the judge’s brow.
“Um, ah no further questions, Yonor.”
“Good. We’re taking a recess. I have to go home and discuss matters of critical importance to my wife. Be back in one hour.”
The courtroom emptied like there was a fire.
When the session resumed, and most everyone looked noticeably more relaxed, the elf didn’t even bother to question the centaur.
So my defense rested.
This court had something called closing arguments. Basically it was free time to talk crap about the other side. I was looking forward to this because I had a whole trove of “your mama” jokes to burn that damn elf with.
“Members of the jury,” the elf began, “As elves we know something of nobility. And what this centaur did was not noble. It was very not noble…”
“Hey, what’s a jury?” Moxie asked me.
“Those are the guys that decide your guilt or innocence.”
“What? Crap! I’m screwed. They’re elves. You’re an orc. Prosecution is an elf. Who do you think they’re going to side with?”
I should have thought of that too. High and mighty elves all stuck together in their elitist attitude. They loved nothing better but to join together in their snubbing of the ‘lower races’.
Well, there was one thing.
And it was my only hope.
“…the disgusting pervert doesn’t even wear horseshoes. You know what choice has to be made,” the elf finished his argument.
And then it was my turn. I was worried cause I was relying on a speech to save the day. Who the hell relies on an orc’s talking points for salvation? I plied the only angle I thought could work with this jury.
“Esteemed elf folk, what we have here is a simple misunderstanding. I remember back when I was a little orclet, Pops would read us stories about grand elves from his book ‘Twenty Different Elves, Twenty Different Reasons to Sit Down at the Dinner Table’.
“Never mind the title. Anyway, all the coolest elves, you know the ones with the names that begin with double “l’s” and have a ton of apostrophes, those guys all rode centaurs. That was right after the unicorns got scarce once all of them decided to go gay for each other and chase rainbows.
“So the coolest elves, the most noblest and grandest of all elves, kind of like you elves here in the jury, have all rode centaurs. They even preferred centaurs to the unicorns cause they could use one of the centaur man-hands as a cup holder and the other hand could play the harmonica. That’s riding in style.
“But centaurs don’t just let any elf ride them. Nope, you had to be cool. And this centaur saw this maiden, who was pure and had clearly not been packed like a rented mule, and decided to offer her what usually only gets offered to grand and noble elves: a ride.
“She misunderstood. It happens. And her lawyer misunderstood. Cause he’s far from cool. He’s an asshole lawyer who spent his cool college years researching law crap.
“They all misunderstood. But luckily, we have a cadre of the noblest elves who can’t misunderstand. And that’s what justice is all about.”
I rested my case with that. Some crap I had totally made up, except the cookbook.
The deliberation was rapid, the decision unanimous. Moxie was a free centaur.
Elf snobbery wasn’t just for other races. None of them wanted to be the one who admitted he hadn’t rode a centaur.
Speaking of snobbery, no elf was going to take a beating like this from an orc lying down. The district attorney stood up to put the screw on me.
“I must remind your honor that the defense councilor did not complete eight hours of community service,” he told the judge.
“What are you talking about? I did eight and a half.”
“One hour was recess. It doesn’t count.”
“Yes way,” the judge said. “Recess is a break, as in a break from getting community service hours. You owe thirty minutes.”
And all this time I thought evil needed overlords to be effective.
Sooner or later (you never knew which was which down here) a voice drifted into my cell.
“You that legal orc aren’t you? I want you to take my case.”
What else was I going to do down here?
“Give me the details.”
© 2012 by James Beamon
First published in Nine: A Journal of Imaginative Fiction,, Issue 2 (June/July 2012).
Reprinted by permission of the author.
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