The Best of Both Worlds

Jadzia raced around the corner and slammed into the alley wall, her fingers scrabbling desperately on the stone to find the one that would let her into the safety of the Court. She tried to block out the shouts of her pursuers, but it was no good.

They burst into the alley, the leader screaming, "There she is! She stole my bread!" Two soldiers broke from the angry mob and grabbed each of Jadzia’s arms just as she was about to climb over the wall.

"Gotcha, gypsy." the shorter guard taunted as they held her fast.

"I didn’t steal anything!" Jadzia yelled, twisting in hopes of reaching a smoke bomb. It was times like these when she wished her dagger wasn’t just for use when her life was threatened. Not that she could have got it now, anyway. The guards each held a wrist in an iron grip.

"Liar!" the merchant screamed back. "I saw you. We all know that gypsies are thieves!" The crowd behind rumbled their assent.

Jadzia yelled, "You’re the liar, you filthy..."

The taller guard slapped her face hard. "Gypsy trash, you’d better watch your mouth." he sneered. "It’s the Palace for you."

Jadzia stared at the ground, jaw clenched and eyes watering from the pain. Never. She would never go there. The place where HE had killed her parents. Jadzia wondered hysterically if another girl that looked like her had stolen some bread, or whether the baker was making it up completely. She knew she was innocent. Jadzia began to struggle again, kicking and squirming violently.

The guards started to haul her out of the alley when a voice, commanding and terrible, stopped them in their tracks.

"What’s going on here?"

The soldiers, not relaxing their hold on Jadzia, stood at attention.

Jadzia lifted her head slowly, the pounding from the pain increasing.

The crowd had parted to reveal an elegant coach stopped at the entrance to the alley. A nobleman glared at the trio. He was tall, with light brown hair and piercing blue eyes. He stood beside the carriage, its door open to reveal the beautiful lady still inside. The spell broke, and the taller soldier yanked on Jadzia’s arm, pulling her forward. "Arresting a thief, m’lord." he growled, unhappy at being questioned.

"She stole a loaf of my best bread!" the baker piped up. The crowd began to mutter angrily, impatient for ‘justice’ to be done.

The lady stepped out of the carriage. "I see no bread in her hand."

Jadzia looked up at the lady. She was met with a sight of dark brown hair and deep brown-gray eyes.

"Probably tossed it when she was running." one of the soldiers said angrily.

"If you didn't see the bread, it's just her word against his." the lady pointed to the baker. "If no one actually saw her take it..." The lady's eyes passed over the crowd, who squirmed under her righteous glare. Even the baker held his peace. "The charge won't hold up in court." the lady said assuredly, looking the soldiers in the eyes. The nobleman nodded in agreement.

Jadzia stared at her. Why was she...

"In Judge Frollo's court, it will." the taller soldier snarled, gripping Jadzia tighter and making her wince with pain.

"Frollo?" the nobleman questioned.

"Oh, new to Paris, are ya?" the shorter soldier sneered. "Frollo takes good care of thievin' gypsies like this one."

Jadzia flinched every time the minister of justice's name was spoken.

The lady seemed to take a renewed interest. "Gypsy?" she looked at Jadzia, then at her companion. The crowd had dispersed, losing interest since no immediate retribution seemed to be forthcoming. The nobleman brought out a handful of gold from his pocket.

"Since the evidence is somewhat...lacking,'d let me take care of her? With a small payment for your troubles?" He dropped the coins into the soldier's hands, who had to let go of Jadzia to catch them. "For your faithful service." the nobleman smiled, steel under velvet.

As soon as she was free, Jadzia scrambled back to the corner of the alley. She longed to head for the Court, but she couldn't reveal the passageway.

The nobleman tossed the remaining gold pieces to the baker. "For your bread."

The baker bowed and thanked him, then ran off with the money, the supposed 'thief' totally forgotten.

The soldiers looked at each other and followed the baker's example. "Just doing our duty, sir." the taller one said before walking off.

"Yes, I'm sure you were." the lady smiled after them, sarcasm heavy in her tone.

As soon as they were out of earshot, the guards congratulated each other. "Information for Frollo and gold to boot!" the shorter one laughed. "All in a day's work." grinned the other.