There are, in the opinion of Goldharbour Junior Magistrate Constantia Sedula, many compelling arguments for imposing term limits on the city’s Senior Magistrates — not the least of which is the long-serving and aptly-named Chief Magistrate Grimm’s propensity for attempting to enforce the particularly harsh statutes that were repealed decades ago, or else dozing off in the middle of sentencing.
Of course, many of the Senior Magistrates do not share their younger associate’s feeling on the matter, clinging to their Magisterial careers and privilege even after decades and decades. Not unlike, Constantia muses, barnacles clinging to the underside of an old boat.
It seems to Constantia that a large part of this Magisterial privilege is exercising the right to not do much of anything at all and have a younger subordinate deal with it. In many cases, Constantia is the younger subordinate in question.
Seated at the Magistrate’s bench in the Goldharbour Palace of Justice, Constantia looks down at the two individuals hauled in shackles before her. Constantia clears her throat and tries to affect the same aura of dignity and severity as the elder Magistrates.
Known as the Bandits of Goldharbour, and formerly known as Dirk Broadsword and Alison Steel and now once again reduced to using their much less impressive legal names.
“Harold Burg-Larsson — also known as Dirk Broadsword, also known as Chad Dashington, also known as the Ochre Pimpernel. And Aloysia Casagialla — also known as Alison Steel, also known as Delilah Blade, also known as Lizzie the Face-Scratcher, you have been found guilty of crimes against the Free Mercantile City of Goldharbour and her people,” Constantia declares. “As a Magistrate of the City, it is now my duty to pass the sentence.”
“You could let us off with a warning,” Aloysia, the former Alison Steel, offers.
Constantia responds only with a withering gaze from the bench.
“In conferring with my Senior Magistrates, Chief Magistrate Grimm advised that I should sentence you to death,” she says.
The Bandits gasp and cling desperately to each other.
“It was then pointed out to him that the death penalty was abolished in Goldharbour seventy-five years ago,” Constantia continues. “Whereupon he advised that you be sentenced to a lifetime of hard labour in the salt mines — the salt mines having been closed sixty-five years ago.”
“That’s good!” Aloysia interjects.
Constantia raises a hand to silence her. “He then suggested that you should either be keelhauled or shot out of a catapult.”
Aloysia hangs her head. “That’s bad.”
“Fortunately for you two, the practices of keelhauling and judicial catapulting have been suspended pending an appeal to the Court of Magistrates,” Constantia explains. “I imagine you will be happy to know that the Chief Magistrate stopped offering suggestions at this point.”
Largely because he had drifted off to sleep by then, but the Bandits don’t need to know that.
“So,” the erstwhile Dirk Broadsword ventures, “we’re off the hook?”
“No, Mr. Burg-Larsson, you are not off the hook,” Constantia says.
“Chief Magistrate Grimm and I have rather different philosophies when it comes to sentencing. I am, as it happens, a firm believer in rehabilitation. As such, since your crimes have wronged this city and her people, your sentence shall be to make amends by serving the city and her people.”
“You want us to be waiters?” Harold replies.
“Or maids?” Aloysia adds.
“By the powers granted to me as a Magistrate of the Free Mercantile City of Goldharbour, I hereby sentence you to twenty-four thousand hours of community service under the supervision of the Goldharbour City Guard,” Constantia declares.
Her gavel falls with decisiveness and finality.
“What about all the stuff we stole?” Harold asks. “Do we get to keep it?”
Constantia sighs and suppresses a rather uncharitable urge to reinstate the death penalty.
The adventurers of the Sisters Darkstone continue in The Valley of Appraisal, a prequel to the first three stories.