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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Grimwald and the Dwarven Curse: A Mitch Gavelneck Fantasy by John Grisham

Mitch Gavelneck sank deeper into the lacquered wood of his seat. How had he, son of Roland Districtattorney and star litigator for the firm of Warlock Liebniz & Shambling Wight, come to this? He shot a quick glance to his right, hoping his client was behaving himself.

In the seat next to him, Grimwald had his leg up to his face and was picking his overstuffed feet with one of his sharp front teeth. Mitch grimaced and pulled his Giorgio Armani pinstripe cloak tighter about himself.

A goblin, for Baal’s sake. And an all-dwarf jury, too. Their beady eyes gleamed at him like coal across the dusky air of the courtroom. Each one spotted Grimwald in turn, invariably fluffing their beards in disgust.

“Must you do that?” Mitch said to his client in broken Goblish. Unfortunately, he only knew what little of the language he’d picked up on the streets of Ta’Kalaaan’Shaaz as a thieving orphan, and what he actually said amounted to an offer of boiled prunes and manual release. In any case, Grimwald paid no heed, and instead applied himself vigorously to the other foot.


The booming voice of Judge Hill Giant snapped Mitch out of his self-pity. He shot upright in his seat and spoke in a tone of practiced deference: “Yes, your honor?”

Hill Giant pointed the business end of his enormous gavel at Mitch. “Me eat you!”

“Are you saying you want to hear closing statements, your honor?”

“GAVELNECK!” He shouted again, the force of his voice sending the entire room into a tremble. He dropped his gavel. “EAT! GAVEL … EAT?” He scooped the gavel up with a meaty paw and stuffed it into his mouth.

The old bastard wasn’t going to cut him any slack, Mitch thought bitterly.

“Of course, Sir,” he said, “I’ll limit my statements.”

Sighing, Mitch took to his weary feet. If he was going to pull this out, he had to make some magic happen, and it he had to do it now. He turned to address the jury, all of whom looked grim and several of whom were giving him the finger in ways he assumed they thought subtle.

“Dwarves and Dwarvettes of the jury. May I say your beards are looking very fine today? I’d just like to say that right out of the gate.”

Mitch steepled his slender fingers and grinned in the way that had never failed to attract the interest of a lusty tavern wench at the local Inn. He plowed on.

“I’ll be brief. My client Grimwald, like all of us, exists at the behest of the Ancient and All-Knowing Elder Gods. And I believe it was Gairan, god of the plains, who put it best when at the dawn of time he spoke forth the word of law. And that holy writ, as we now interpret it in the form of Ta’Kalaaan’Shaaz City Zoning Statute J9-A, maintains that no one, not even a filthy, horrible goblin, can be forced from their rightful property due to malignancy, foul odor, or enchanted night-howls without due financial compensation from the Council of Lords. And, considering the immense emotional hardship Grimwald has undergone, he is entitled to no less than three-hundred silver pieces in punitive damages.”

The room was as silent as if someone had cast a Ward of Darkness enchantment. Tension filled the air. Had he persuaded them? The Dwarves looked at one another, psychically communicating, their hive mind buzzing with argument and conclusion. Even Judge Hill Giant’s gavel chewing seemed somehow thoughtful.

A minute of tense silence passed. Mitch fumbled in his robe pocket for his magic, jury-reading amulet. He couldn’t wait for the verdict; he had to know. He stole a glance at the talisman’s faceted face: blue. Guilty.

“Uh,” he stammered quickly, “also, may I remind the jury that this is not a criminal trial, and so cannot end in a ‘guilty’ verdict.”

A ripple of grunts swept over the jury, and the amulet flashed from blue to pink.

Damn. They were going to screw him. Grimwald would get nothing, and Mitch would likely lose his choice job at the firm. As the jury foredwarf rose from his seat, heightening him a full two inches, Mitch rapidly pondered his options. Before the stocky dwarf could open his mouth to render the verdict, Mitch had acted.

Arm raised, he spoke an incantation, and a massive sphere of roiling flame sprouted from his fingers. It grew as it tumbled towards the jury, their shocked faces now bathed in orange light. A few seconds later, and the jury box had become little more than a used tinderbox, filled with twelve perfect dwarf skeletons, each knee-deep in the ash of its late owner.

Judge Hill Giant spit his splintered gavel out in shock, spraying Grimwald and Mitch with bits of soggy wood.

In the dying glow of his own fireball, Mitch smiled.

“The defense rests.”

Michael Swaim is a humor writer whose work appears regularly on Cracked. He is also cofounder and head writer for the Internet sketch troupe Those Aren't Muskets!