Hilari Bell

Writer of ethically ambiguous SF and fantasy for kids and teens …



“I shall pay your bail tonight,” I finished more firmly. “Then we can talk.”
Fisk contemplated me for a long moment, and then said, “No.”
“What? What do you mean, ‘No?’”
“Does that mean the prisoner refuses bail?” the guard asked precisely.
“Of course he doesn’t.”
“Yes, I do,” said Fisk. “I’ll stay here till the judicars total up my debt, then work it off.”
“You’d sit here, in gaol, rather than accept my help?” I wasn’t sure if I was more incredulous, or more angry.
“You’d be more comfortable in your own lodging, sir.” The guard eyed us both with suspicion now. He’d probably never had a prisoner refuse to leave these cells, given the choice. And who’d have thought Fisk, of all people, would be so absurdly stubborn.
“Don’t be ridiculous.” I tried not to snap at him, but I fear I failed. “I’ll get you out. Then we’ll go to a tavern and discuss this trouble you’re in, and—”
“You no longer have a right to say what I will and won’t do. Noble Sir.”
Those words had always stung, but never as they did now.
Fisk sat up, lowering both feet to the floor. If there was pain under the determination on his face, the dim light concealed it. He turned to the guard.
“I refuse bail. And if I refuse, you can’t accept it.”
Of all the lunatic, stubborn, asinine…
“No, he doesn’t,” I told the guard.
“Yes, I do,” said Fisk.
“No, you don—”
“Well, sirs.” The guard’s gaze was now very sharp. “In fact, he can refuse bail. No one ’cept a judicar can saddle a man with a debt, if he don’t choose it. May I ask who you are, and why it’s so important to you this man goes free? And what was he doing, sneaking around the university in restricted areas?”

–Scholar’s Plot
(November ’14)

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