Chapter 2 of a new story.
Candle sconces ringed the cavernous High Court of Galsparth emitting the syrupy scent of beeswax but little smoke. Those, plus the four hanging chandeliers provided an abundance of light.
For the moment the room was empty save the guards and Streets. Voluminous drapes lined the windows along the left, a story above. These drapes were opened to allow a view of the night sky. Along the other wall were two covered entry ways. Murmuring from the throngs of tonight's spectators could be heard beyond the curtains. Each opening was flanked by two bailiffs.
Streets wore the gold vest indicating his station over his red security officer livery. He stood to one end of the rectangular room. Deep velvet red drapes behind him led to the holding cells and further to the dungeons of Castle Galsparth. All the bailiffs were adorned in silver cuirasses overlaying their red uniforms identifying them as members of the Security Office. Emblazoned upon the chests of all the bailiffs in the room was the Galsparth Crest; a hawk's head in profile within a sickle. Two stood at-arms with their seven-foot halberds flanking the red velvet covered doorway behind Streets.
In front of Gideon, 30-foot-long tables with attached bench seats on each side of the table were set lengthwise, 3 rows deep by 3 rows long. Each table could seat upward of 16. While food was available and eating even encouraged a single dropped fork was worthy of expulsion or the next to be tossed into the birdcage hanging 10 feet from the advocate's pulpit. High Magistrate Viktorin demanded perfect silence during his sessions. He had been known to have a candle extinguished for sputtering too loud; to say nothing of the fate of the beekeeper and candle makers.
At the far wall stood the bench of the High Magistrate, Viktorin. He would ascend the steps to his seat once the entrance drapes were sealed. Behind the bench was a single velvet curtain that led to the Offices of the Magistrate. The magistrate bench was bookended by the High Court Secretary and a podium for the advocates of condemned and plaintiff alike. To the side of the podium hung a large birdcage in which the accused were stuffed during their hearing.
Gideon stepped to a small platform on his left and climbed the half dozen steps. After he was settled, he nodded to the bailiffs at the openings of the entryways. They lifted the drapes and admitted the throngs of people. He and the bailiffs watched the people file in and locate seats for the evening's festivities.
Gideon spotted his target as soon as he entered. His red hair set him apart from the general brown to black pompadours that abounded the lineage of the Galsparth citizenry. He looked frail and meek; rather he attempted to look frail and meek. Yet Streets, a watcher of people, recognized an act. The red head was young and obviously new to the trade of intelligence. While his training had been sufficient to fool an average citizen, it was an under the table magician's trick with a missing tablecloth to a long-eared member of the sneak and trade.
The target made his way to a table near the front of the room to the right of the magistrate's bench, by the advocates pulpit. He took a seat and attempted to look nonchalant but failed. Even from his perch Gideon could see the back of his shirt was damp with sweat.
After the last of the spectators ambled in and seated Gideon nodded again to the bailiffs and they closed the drapery. As the drapes closed Gideon watched more bailiffs line up on the other side of the drapes. They would make sure no one else was able to enter or exit during the court proceedings.
Gideon watched the young man until the flutter of drapery behind the high court bench produced the Trumpeter, a large man with dark skin and a glistening bald head. The Trumpeter stepped around the bench and perched himself on a round block of stone before the high bench. Nearing 7 feet tall, his very appearance sent a hush over the crowd. The sounds of flatware scraping along plates and the clinking of glassware lessened. He was the Trumpeter and his appearance signaled the imminent arrival of High Magistrate Viktorin. The Trumpeter clasped his hands in front of his black tunic and his eyes scanned the room.
The man turned and Streets found a full shot of his face for the first time. Streets' eyesight was one of his many strengths and even from across the room he noticed the scar running from the edge of his eye. The scar disappeared under his hair. Something tugged in Streets' mind, a memory long forgotten. As he started to chase that thread of memory the Trumpeters voice boomed a single word, "Silence."
The din of dragging forks and the bustle of many hushed bodies died in that instant. Not a fly would buzz upon that one word from The Trumpeter. The Trumpeter raised his arms, palms up and everybody in the room rose like puppets. One or two benches creaked, and boots shuffled but silence still reigned. Streets continued to watch his mark. All faces save Streets and The Trumpeter watched the drapes behind the high bench.
The drapes behind the high bench parted as two boys in pale blue livery scurried through and held the drapes apart. Footsteps echoed from the dark hall beyond and High Magistrate Viktorin emerged, his black robes flowing behind him. He climbed the steps leading to his seat on the high bench and settled his narrow frame in the chair. He moved the chair forward. It's legs sliding along the stone were the only sound in the room.
He sipped from a glass on the desk, pursed his lips and scanned the room. Streets noted how Viktorin's eyes lingered for a moment on the red-haired man before continuing across the room. The young man dropped his eyes and a small smile flitted across his lips before he raised his eyes again.
Streets returned his gaze to the red-haired young man at the third table who hunched forward with his hands folded on the table in front of him. His plate empty, he would take occasional sips from the glass of water sitting to his left. Streets leaned against the wall wondering what brought this imposter to the High Court. Except for that domineering thatch of red hair he held a plain profile and seemed of little significance, which in the spy game was a blessing rather than a curse. Everything about him spoke of nothing. And that worried Streets more than anything else.
Viktorin finished his sweep of the spectators and advocates and slammed a gavel on the stumping stone. A little boy of no more than five let out a yelp at the sudden crack of the gavel. His mother yanked his arm harshly and pushed his face into her skirts. Viktorin swung his gaze at the disruption and sneered. He snapped his fingers twice to his right and two guards moved for the boy and his mother. One guard grabbed the mother and the other grabbed the boy from her skirts. The guards left the room in such a hurry with the disruptors that neither the mother's nor the boy's feet ever touched the ground. The only sounds were the fast-clumping boot steps of the guards and the shriek from the boy. The mother made not a sound. The guards disappeared with their prey behind the open set of drapes next to Gideon. The guard's boots began a decent on stairs and then the mother shrieked. Her screams became muffled as they descended deeper into the recesses of Castle Galsparth.
Two more guards replaced the two that had left. Viktorin sat with a bemused expression riding his features throughout the display. His gaze perused the crowd once more, his eyes daring anyone to make a sound. Most dropped their eyes when his passed over their heads. Shudders were rampant now and a few new onlookers stood mouths agape, yet no sounds of protest issued forth. Such was the power wielded by High Magistrate Viktorin.
Viktorin pounded his gavel once more. The Trumpeter waited a few seconds and then turned his palms down and slowly dropped his arms. The crowd moved as one and took their seats. The trumpeter took his spot behind the Magistrate.
A clerk, the court secretary and the Magistrate's advocate emerged from behind the bench and took their places. The clerk handed a sheaf of papers to the secretary which passed them to the High Magistrate. He glanced at the cases before him and nodded to the clerk who nodded to Advocate Turgin to bring forth the first protest. The boys in blue disappeared back through the opening the drapes swinging silently with their passing.
Streets ignored the cries of protest from the first of the indicted brought forth and locked into the birdcage hanging near the high bench. He followed the perimeter of the room until he was behind his mark and then ambled his way to within a few feet. As some people attempted to protest Streets' interruption of their view of the proceedings Streets ignored some and those that attempted to chastise him viewed his badge of office and they quickly returned to face front. There were some he simply turned his vicious green eyes upon and they melted beneath his stare, sharing none so much as a whimper. Sheep they were he thought and pitied the lot.
Streets felt certain the red-haired man remained oblivious to his presence and stood near to the man and stared, curious to the look that passed between Viktorin and his mark. Streets stood with his arms folded at the edge of the throng of spectators. While his long red tunic covered with golden ceremonial armor set him out from the crowd it was not unusual for members of the guard to mingle amidst the spectators.
Streets sensed the change in posture of his prey. The red-haired man's head rose a bit and his shoulders squared, followed by more obvious movement a second later. A hand disappeared beneath his breastplate and his other hand dropped to the edge of the table, gripping it with his thumb on the underside. Streets tensed and realized what had happened. The mark had moved, shifting a spoon and it caught Streets' reflection, staring directly him. The mark knew he was being watched and tensed.
This was not the first time Streets or another guard had removed a guest from the High Court. Streets slipped next to the mark and dropped a hand on the scruff of his neck while placing his blade lower. The mark felt the pressure from a steel tip against his side, just below his armpit. He froze in place, hand gripping the table and the other hand hidden beneath his breastplate.
Streets increased the pressure of the dagger and whispered in the man's ear. "You will rise slowly, or my Ranzee Dagger will slide through your third and fourth rib and nick your heart. A Ranzee death will be quick but painful." Gideon could not hide the smile from his voice. "Rather brutal from those I have seen."
A sharp intake of breath escaped and a bead of sweat seeped from the man's temple at the mention of 'Ranzee Dagger'. Ranzee poisons were fabled and favored among The Assassins of Dark Points. A running comment where a Ranzee coated blade was concerned was 'the best defense against a weapon slimed with Ranzee was distance.' The mark waited for further instructions. Streets directed the movement of the mark with his hand holding the scruff of the man's neck.
They rose together in a fluid dance of symmetry. Streets held the man close and directed his exit from the room.
Neighbors to the mark turned to glare at the interruption, saw the gold and red of Streets' office and swung back around to their view of the court proceedings.
As they disappeared through the drapes at the rear of the room Gideon caught High Magistrate Viktorin's wide eyes following them.