A young man is dead, and the look of terror etched on his face is the stuff of nightmares. A thirteen-year-old boy stands accused, but is he a dark sorcerer or an innocent whose unusual gift is being exploited by another? Defense advocate Killandrio Bludd thinks he knows the answer, but as the trial nears its shocking conclusion, he’s in a race against time to find the only witness who knows the full truth and can tell the whole story—the last witness.
The name Killandrio Bludd is well known among certain elements of society in the eastern realms of the known world. These realms include Rynland, where I was born and have lived for many years, as well as South Rynland, Migador, and the Hirple Realm. Further west, the people of Brythyn and Telna have most certainly picked up rumors associated with the name. And even in the far west, the Voths, Acrinites, and Wyndorans have at least caught the odd whisper. As for the Gurgeonites, I prefer not to think about them.
Among some groups, the name is rightly celebrated. These include the cutpurses, the highwaymen, the whores, the gamblers, the smugglers, the thieves, the brawlers, the swindlers, the hoaxers, and the occasional kidnappers and cutthroats.
The name Killandrio Bludd is also famous—or perhaps I should say infamous—among various other segments of society. These are the lying sheriffs, bribe-taking constables, corrupt lord chief accusers, stone-hearted judges, dishonest nobles, and greedy landowners. Among this latter group I am decidedly less popular than I am among the former.
I’m an advocate at law, and my clients consist almost entirely of members of the first group, along with those accused of burglary and murder and the like but who are, in truth, innocent of any crime. Innocence, sadly, is no guarantee that the falsely accused will go free. In many cases, innocence is all but irrelevant.
As for defending the accused at trial, I care not whether they’re innocent or guilty. I’ll defend any of them in court with a fierceness that would do a wounded mother blayger proud. That aggressiveness and the actions that go with it have set the bribe-taking officials, corrupt lord chief accusers, dishonest sheriffs, heartless judges, and greedy landowners against me. In truth, nearly all the common folk despise me as well. Most of the fine, upstanding citizens of the known world would just as soon see me hang alongside those I defend.
I say, bugger them all. Give me whores and thieves and other wretches over petty officials, haughty nobles, smug lords of the manor, and merciless commoners.
My latest wretch—that is to say, my latest client—was a local man of meager intelligence and even skimpier means named Runce Peskin. Runce’s trial was taking place in Sarika, a town in the western part of Rynland. Since he had no wealth, the freykon of the local querl had promised to pay me for the privilege of defending him. The ulders and freykons of Rynland believe strongly in charity and forgiveness, bless them all, and I’m always happy to help them attain their noble ambitions. Most of the ulders and freykons of the other realms are just as corrupt and hypocritical as our dishonest sheriffs and scheming judges.
A Bite Of… Richard Dalglish
Why do you write?
I enjoy using the language. I’m one of those people for whom essay questions hold no terrors. Writing is engrossing and challenging and often gratifying. It engages the brain and requires craftsmanship, which a writer can continue to improve. Every piece, from a letter to the editor to a 92,000-word novel, is unique. Each sentence (or the vast majority, anyway) is unique. No such sentence existed until I wrote it. To me that’s weirdly fascinating.
You can have four guests at a dinner party. Name the four people living, dead or fictional you would invite.
I’d love to speak with Thomas Jefferson to chat about politics, government, education, wine, and pretty much anything else, and to hear what he has to say about Sally Hemings. Dian Fossey because I love gorillas and want to talk to someone who knew them well. Peter O’Toole because he would be massively entertaining and engaging and because I love his work. Ruth Bader Ginsberg because she’s led a remarkable life and because I’d like to learn more about the law from someone I respect.
What is worse, ignorance or stupidity?
Ignorance because it’s so often wilful. If someone is genuinely stupid, I might pity them. And though we all make mistakes, occasionally act petty, and fall prey to confirmation bias, I find it difficult to forgive the kind of wilful, aggressive ignorance that so many people seem to enjoy wallowing in these days.
Richard Dalglish is the former managing editor of Jewelers’ Circular Keystone, a business magazine covering the fine-jewelry industry. He has a degree in English from Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, Pa., and lives in Yardley, Pa., with his wife and cat. The Last Witness: A Fantasy Legal Thriller is his fourth novel. You can find him on Instagram, Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter.