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~Princess Luna

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Post in forum #1905 - An ongoing MLP Roleplay Thread, Rated PG-13.

“What is your full legally recognized name?”

“Tankard Longhorn, your majesty.”

“Have you any crimes you wish to confess?”

Reaching up to scratch his head, Tankard thought about that. He’d half-expected to be slapped in cuffs when he and Berry Jam had answered the summons to come up to this cloud-tower courthouse. He lowered his hoof again, thinking about what she had said about the empty courtroom and the magical lie-detector. “I’m not sure what you mean by crime, miss princess. Do you just want ones I committed by choice or are you looking for crimes I was forced into, too?”

“Any unlawful behavior on your part that you wish to confess at this time.” Luna said. “If you can truthfully claim circumstances compelled you to break the law against your will, do so. The Scales of Mendacity will verify your honest sincerity and therefore make this claim admissible evidence of your coercion.”

“Smog made me do things.” He explained about the attic full of forbidden magical artifacts, the tunnel into the cellar: working his way back to the crimes in his misspent youth. Not all of them had been forced on him, and the statute of limitations hadn’t run out on the worst few. He had a sneaky feeling it was a good idea to come completely clean.

“For all the crimes to which you have confessed I declare a verdict of guilty.” Luna said. “Coerced or no, it cannot be denied that they were crimes, they were done, and done by you.” Tankard’s heart skipped a beat. “For those crimes you performed under duress and threat of reprisal I declare you exempt from punishment due to extenuating circumstances. The blame goes to the one that coerced you. Those acts will go upon your criminal record clearly marked as such. Have you anything to say before I pass sentence upon you for the crimes for which you could offer the court no satisfactory excuse?”

Relaxing a little, or at least getting less tense, Tankard took a second to recover from his sudden fright. Whatever punishment she decided he deserved was probably going to be a lot less if he could show his sincere regret for past crimes and honest intention to fly straight from now on.

Luckily, he could do that, so he did that.

“Tankard Longhorn,” she said, “as arbiter of the law and officer of the court I hereby sentence you to no less than ten years of community service, a span judged by the calendar rather than the accumulation of hours in active service.”

His jaw dropped. He closed it too fast and caught the very tip of his tongue between his teeth. Ten years?!

“The first part of this community service shall take the form of offering the bedrooms-to-let and common room of the Brass Hoof Inn over as a temporary precinct house for the police during the period of martial law. You will not serve as a jail for captured criminals awaiting trial; simply as a place where police patrolling the surrounding part of Umbra may find beds to rest and food to eat. You will not be open to civilian business during this time. You shall provide these rooms and meals for no charge to the individual police. You shall charge the full fair market price to individual police if they wish to purchase intoxicating beverages. You will keep records of all expenses incurred by your duties and submit them weekly for prompt reimbursement from the treasury. Do not attempt to misrepresent your expenses for profit. The punishment for proven deliberate breach of your community service will be to serve out the remainder of your punishment in prison. Furthermore you shall receive a flat weekly payment above the costs. This money is for the support of your family’s needs during this time. After martial law is lifted, until ten years to the day from today have passed, you shall be free of all obligations save for a fifty percent discount for any officer of the law seeking food, beverages, or lodgings at your inn.”

Tankard almost bit his tongue again. “Princess Luna, fifty percent would ruin me. I’d be selling things cheaper than they cost me. We’d go out of business fast and end up homeless.”

“This is fifty percent of your profit margin, not net price of the offered good or service. You are not required to extend any pony credit or a ‘tab’ unless you choose.”

“Oh.” Still not great, but then it was a punishment. In fact with a lure of the discount he’d be guaranteed steady business from lots of police whose beats were in that chunk of Shadowville, and everypony who qualified for the discount had a job with a steady paycheck…but this was a punishment. What was the catch? “What if the cops get used to coming there, and decide to keep coming after my community service is up?”

“I cannot command such a thing be so, but it is my hope that the Brass Hoof Inn becomes established as what the common vernacular terms a ‘cop bar.’ Such a clientele should do much to discourage you from any temptations to crime.”

Catch located. Becoming a watering hole for off-duty cops also had an upside. It would take a rare kind of idiot to try and rob the place, or mess with Tankard’s family. This really was a punishment. His family’s budget for little luxuries would be a lot smaller for the next decade. It was also Luna making sure that his family was protected.

Tankard felt moved to stand and then bow. “Thank you for your lenience, your majesty.”

“Thank me by never giving me cause to regret it.” Her tone took away most of the sting the words could have held. “Go now and send in your wife for her hearing. I expect it to be a mere formality, given your comments regarding her character.”

Bowing again, Tankard obeyed. He felt…lighter. He had spent his entire adult life dreading, in the back of his mind, the day his crimes came to light and he had to answer for them. It was all out in the open now, the punishment had been declared. The worst had happened and turned out to be survivable. Smog was dead or fled. His ‘insurance policies’ had been defanged by the Princess of the Night, who was sweeping the twin cities cleaner than a new broom. No more crooked cops and bent politicians, no more evil pink monsters threatening his family, forcing him to dirty his hooves. All he had to do was not break the law anymore and he was untouchable. His bitten tongue hurt and he focused on the pain to avoid grinning.

All told, he didn’t really feel that punished.