Clocks and Boxes — Part 13: Trial

The number of people at the exorcism had gradually ballooned. Donna had originally intended to perform the ceremony herself, and had only added Christian under sufferance. But with Christian there, of course Gwen had to be there too. Then Fanaka had found out what was going on, so of course Nalda was there as his plus one. To top it off, the entire ritual was taking place in the deserted Handy Pavilion. The whole thing felt more like a reunion than an exorcism now.

Donna sighed and watched as Christian retrieved the Evil Brownie from the hidey-hole where the creature had been hidden. The little creature was tied up head to foot, but didn't seem the least bit put out by this.

"We mean to exorcise you, dread spirit," Donna said.

The Brownie made a little motion under its ropes that Donna took to be a shrug.

"So this creature..." Fanaka began.

"It's a Brownie," Donna said. "They are European household spirits, but sometimes found in Australia. They perform household chores, but if they are ever given a piece of clothing then they are freed. And if, as in this case, they are given a pulley, well God help us all."

"Ja, it is like dat story about der little creatures that made shoes," Nalda said.

"Foot Fetish Frolics 7?" Christian said.

There was a moment's silence. "What?" Christian said, defensively.

"She meant the Elves and the Shoemaker, love," Gwen said.

Christian went fire engine red. "Yeah, I knew that. Just kidding. Anyway, it's more like Harry Potter. You know, how that creep had that little minion who always did his bidding..."

"You mean Hermione?" Nalda said. "Ach, I don't know why she did not travel back in time and murder..."

Donna stamped her foot on the concrete floor sending echoes through the dusty shelves. "That's enough mangling pop cultural references," she said. "Point is, this was a benevolent creature, and now it's turned evil. It nearly destroyed the world when it was monkeying with your superweapon, Fanaka. We have to exorcise it."

Now the Brownie spoke up: "You're serious? I was basically a slave. I manipulated my master to win my freedom. Who are you to judge me?"

Donna turned to argue with the Brownie, but found the words dying in her mouth. "What?"

"You heard," the Brownie said. "I was basically a slave, forced to do whatever my master ordered me to do. 'Clean the toilet, Brownie,' 'make my breakfast, Brownie.'"

"Hopefully not in that order," Gwen said.

"That's not helpful, Gwen," Donna said. "Look, you're a Brownie. Serving people is what you do."

"So slavery is fine, so long as the slaves are naturally occuring?" the Brownie said.

"Yes. Well, no. Obviously not..." Donna trailed off. She suddenly missed Sadie and her moral clarity, even more than usual.

There was silence for a moment. The assembled Pavilionites glanced from the exorcism circle chalked on the floor, with its candles and its hideous clock and back to the Brownie.

"Yeah..." Gwen said slowly. "But even so, you could have tried to get some clothing and gone free that way. You know pulleys turn Brownines pure evil."

"Yes, but my master knew about the clothing thing," the Brownie said. "Big Harry Potter fan, so he was. There was no way he was going for that, so I had to have him get me a pulley."

"Why do pulley's turn Brownies evil?" Fanaka said.

Gwen shrugged. "Speaking as a dryad myself, it's hard to explain. We fair folk are... we just are as we are. We are bound by rules, and that's just the way it is."

"But... but... he's evil," Donna said helplessly. "He tried to destroy the world."

"No, I tried to create havok with a strange machine," the Brownie said. "I didn't know it could destroy the world. Why would there be a world-destroying machine just lying around? What sort of monster would build such a thing?"

All eyes fell on Fanaka, who merely looked irritated. "There was a hiccup or two with the superweapon prototype. But I'm sure a beta version..."

Donna ignored him. She was squinting at the Brownie. It was no bigger than a child, it was immobilised with ropes and it was still causing chaos. What harm could it do if it were allowed to go free?

"I tink ve should still exorcise der creature," Nalda said. "Your soft flesh-morality must not stand in der vay of dat."

"I don't know," Gwen said. "I think we should at least think it through before we condemn him."

Donna looked at Christian, hoping that he at least would back her up. "Like a trial," Christian said.

The Brownie smirked. Damn it! Donna realised that he had been hoping for someone to say that. Waiting for it. Planning for it.

As if on queue, up came a the corner of the plastic sheeting that hung over the nearest shelving unit. Out trotted a figure, less than a foot high. He wore a green coat, knee-breeches and curly shoes, all made of the same glazed ceramic as the rest of his body. Over that, it wore a robe made from a piece of black silk, and on top of his pointy hat was balanced a tiny barrister's wig made of newspaper.

"Whar's me cloient?" it said. "Objection! Sidebar! Sure, and yer out of order. Faith and bedad, ye canna handle the truth!"

Donna looked down at the lawyer/garden gnome, willing this apparition to make some sort of logical sense.

"This is my defense counsel, Mr. Seamus O'Consolidatedshanghaipotteryworks," the Brownie said.

"QC," Seamus added. "Also esq," he continued, though he pronounced it 'eskw'.

Christian looked as if he was going to say something, but Nalda clapped a cyborg hand over his mouth. "I call judge!" she said.

"I suppose that makes you prosecutor, Donna," Gwen said.

Donna rubbed her eyes wearily. "Yes," she said. "I suppose it does.

Next -- Part 14: Delivery

Previously -- Part 12: Music

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