“Why does everything bad always happen to me?” thought Waldo. He stared at the floor and shuffled his feet as the city guards brought him to the High Court of Marjoram. “Verona always gets to go on regular adventures that are fun and interesting. Nothing bad ever happens to Fritz and Felix. This never would have happened to Mamma or Pappa or Pip.”
His heart sank into his stomach as he thought of his poor family, still lying paralyzed on the deck of the Merry Mariner, slowly suffering. “This whole stupid thing could have been avoided if they hadn’t made me so angry!” he thought, clenching his fists. “See what happens? It serves them right!” He immediately felt awful for even thinking such a thing.
The guards pushed aside two enormous wooden doors, and Waldo was led into a mighty chamber beyond. The huge room had been carved out of the peak of the very largest of Marjoram’s stone spires. The stone walls, pocked with uneven glass windows, tapered far up above to a point, from which hung a series of immense iron chandeliers. Every step Waldo took echoed across the chamber. Lined on either side of him were rows and rows of seats, upon which sat rows and rows of scowling men in robes. All eyes followed Waldo as he walked past. In front of him towered a bench which held several important-looking bearded men in elaborate hats, and a small wooden podium. Waldo guessed he was going to have to stand there and say something. Suddenly he very much wanted to go home.
“All rise for his Honorable Grand Consular Magistrate, Tarbush the Untainted!” shouted a voice, and everyone stood up. An imposing old man in the most elaborate hat and most important-looking beard took his seat at the top of the bench, and everyone sat down once more.
“We, the Esteemed Assembly of Administrators and his Honor the Grand Consular Magistrate,” droned one of the men at the end of the bench, “are collected here today to hear the pleas of one Waldo Wicklow, present, accused of disturbing the peace and—”
“Hold it,” said Grand Consular Magistrate Tarbush, silencing the Administrator with a wave. He leaned over the bench and peered down at Waldo. “Aren’t you the boy who hates his family?”
Grave mutterings and murmurs fluttered through the chambers.
“I…no!” said Waldo. He felt queasy. “I mean, I am who you think I am, I think, but I don’t really hate my family! I just…”
“Out with it!” boomed the Magistrate.
Waldo trembled. “I just said it. It just came out because they made me angry! It’s not my fault! But now they’re paralyzed, so I have to help them. If you just let me go out to find my flying tarantula—”
More mutters rumbled through the Assembly, and disapproving shaking of heads followed.
“I’ve heard enough!” thundered Magistrate Tarbush. “Waldo Wicklow, I hereby sentence you to a thousand days of public humiliation, for cruel speech to your kin!” He slammed his gavel on the bench with a crack!
At precisely the same moment, there came a shattering of glass from above, and a hideous buzzing. All eyes turned up to see the poisonous flying tarantula diving down, straight for the Magistrate himself.
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