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Written on a wall right in front of them, in huge letters were the words:




That didn’t sound too bad and as going back was not an option anyway, Alice continued into a Courtroom. It was just like she had seen in movies, all wood and seats and tables and things, but it was nearly empty.  

Inside there was a sleeping owl wearing a tatty, nearly white wig, perched on a swing. Eventually one eye opened and slowly the other, then it twisted around to look behind. The wig remained stationary as if with a life of its own. It had a large beak of yellow and brown which gave it a sinister air. The owl, who certainly looked wise, ponderously directed its attention to the little girl in front of him.

“Are you case number one? I do hope so” The voice sounded serious and each syllable perfect and slowly delivered.

Alice shook her head.

“So you don’t have a dispute I can settle. A row with a friend or neighbour perhaps? A ridiculous spat with a relation, a pointless slight, a silly disagreement that you can’t resolve, an endless argument?”

“No I don’t, is that what you do?”

“Are you sure you don’t have a problem? That’s a shame” said the hanging Judge. “Settling arguments by common sense is sadly, not very common. I am here to help make the final decision. Aided by them.” The owl indicated a jury of dozing newts.

“But they’re asleep” commented Alice, noticing that every single one of the little brown creatures was curled up and snoring.

“They are not asleep they are resting with their eyes closed. Don’t be fooled by how they look. They will be available when they are needed.”

“Can they understand what is going on?” The whole set up was very puzzling.

 “Of course, they are very intelligent, they speak many languages, they are cleverer than they appear.”

“What languages do they speak?” Alice was certain a newt couldn’t talk, surely that would have been on the television.

The judge looked at her, the wig had slipped slightly, and a robin almost the size of the owl’s head suddenly appeared and using its beak and a flurry of wings moved the head piece carefully, correcting it a few times and repositioned it.

 “They know Newtonian of course, Fish, and Toad.” It was the robin speaking. “Some even know a little Drangonfly, but what use that is I can’t imagine.” Then with the deftest of movements of its beak made a final adjustment to a rogue hair, and flew onto a perch nearby.

 “Do they speak English?”

 “It’s not necessary.”

 “But how do they know what is going on?”

 “They don’t need to, the Judge tells them how to vote.”

Alice was truly baffled.

“How can that be fair? I thought a jury was meant to make their own decision.”

The robin was clearly exasperated. “This is the Court of Common Sense, there is only one answer and it is always obvious, so the Judge just has to tell them how to vote, it is all very reasonable.”

She still wasn’t convinced “And what do the complainers say?”

“We haven’t had any yet, you see no one really wants an honest result, they just want to win. If they were reasonable they wouldn’t be here, would they?”

“So nobody comes, because they are afraid they might lose?”

“That’s it exactly.” Chimed in the owl. “Just too much selfishness out there.” He waved his wing in front of him, somehow encompassing all that could be seen with that simple gesture.

“The Queen is very disappointed. After all this was her idea, following that business with her husband Prince Brian and Lord Num.”

“And what was that, business?” Enquired Alice, wondering about the wasted effort in producing such a splendid courtroom that would probably never be used.

“As you are a stranger, I will tell you, but only once, so do not yawn, interrupt, fidget, pick your teeth, look at your toes, sneeze, scratch or ask questions.”

Having been told not to do any of these things immediately needed to yawn, sneeze, scratch and look at her toes all at the same time. It took a great deal of self control, indeed more than she ever had used before, to comply with the demand.

“Are you sitting comfortably?”

She nodded, sliding into a huge beautifully carved chair that seemed to cuddle around her. It was so nice that there was a danger of falling asleep, so pulled on an ear lobe when her eyes felt like closing, which was quite often. The owls voice had such a soothing sound and the seat so pleasant that it was an almost impossible task. The robin could see the problem and flew over and landed on the edges the chair. Every time her head drooped a little he would give a gentle peck, just enough to keep her awake and listening.

“The Prince Brian, was in dispute with his neighbour Lord Num over the fence between the two kingdoms. You know, the one everybody sits on when they can’t make up their mind. It was becoming so crowded with his subjects that it was in danger of falling down. So the Prince proposed to give it a pointed top so no one would linger and decisions would have to be made. What he didn’t know was the Lord was secretly selling prevarication juice to the visitors.”

“What drink is that? I’m sure I’ve never heard of it!”

The owl looked around as if to impart some great secret. “It’s a mixture of Argue Oil, seeds from the Unsure Tree and extracts from the Maybe Bush, blended with Confusion Water. It is very tasty but you can never decide if you want more.”

“So this Duke was making money from all the people sitting on the fence, is that right?”

“Oh yes. And the juice just made them stay longer. When the Prince found out he was furious indeed. He couldn’t banish Lord Num as he was not one of his people, but challenged him to a duel of magic. Of course a Prince can’t fight and so nominated his best wizard, Ozo, who had been telling everyone of his skills, thinking that he would never be asked to actually do anything.

Num likewise chose an expert skilled at wizardry.

If they had just sat down and discussed the situation and used common sense to come to a solution then there would never have been the senseless battle of the spells. But they really didn’t want the matter to be settled like that, and neither would back down.”

By now poor Alice was really tired and the robin had to peck quite hard and she squeaked loud enough to make the Judge give a stern look to both of them. He continued.

“The Duke was at one end of the courtyard, the Prince at the other, their wives next to them when the confrontation was to take place. Beside each of them was there chosen champion. A loud trumpet blast announced the commencement of the battle. I was there to see fair play, which wasn’t very fair, because one was very adept, and the other, I have to admit, totally useless.”

The Owl took a deep breath, as if the mere memory was a burden. The wig was beginning to slip forward again and the robin had to fly over and do a little adjustment before the story could continue.

“So they started with gentle spells, ticklers and gigglers, you know the sort of thing. The Duke’s wizard was very skilled, the Princes was not. Ozo had only read a book on magic and did not really know what he was doing. But he did have one spell that he had perfected, the ‘Turn To Stone.’

It was a very dangerous move to make, after all he had only suffered some itching and chuckling fits himself, barely anything. And it was possible to avoid those if one knew how. But he wanted to impress. That was a mistake, he hurled the spell across the courtyard, but the Dukes man was ready though and blocked it. Unfortunately it bounced back and struck the nearest guard, who instantly turned to sand. However when one dabbles in the dark arts sometimes mistakes happen. The spell ricocheted off, hit the ceiling, flew straight down and struck the Prince, turning him into a stone frog! He has remained that way ever since.”

“Surely the spell can be reversed?” It was a sensible question.

“That’s the tragedy! No one knows how to reverse it. 

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