Fiat justitia, ruat caelum. – Let justice be done, though the heavens may fall.

-Anonymous Latin proverb

"Steady, steady!" Tonino backed from the bales of fabric stacked high, arms upraised, and nearly collided with a passing wheelbarrow behind him. Its driver directed a glare at him as he passed.

Antonio, the prince's butler, stalked from the kitchen door of the abbey. "What have we received so far?"

Tonino cast another wary glance at the toppling pile before him as he felt at his belt for the list. "A gross of barrels of wine, red; the same of white; 200 crates of fruit, tropical, mixed; 400 sacks of flour, fine; 200 sacks of meal; 400 crates of chickens; and 400 sides of beef. That's it for food so far today. You have the lists from yesterday and Monday."

Antonio harrumphed. "And the appointments?"

Tonino gestured at the fabric before him. "Clothing-suitable fabric of various species and patterns. I don't know the quantity yet; it's just arrived. The furniture you can see." He indicated the workmen passing all around them, bearing tables, chairs, ottomans, poufs, lounges, beds and bookcases. Tonino tried not to look at the peasants. Of course, everyone would look healthy, but there was no way to know who carried the pestilence until it was too late.

The butler glared at him. "You haven't counted the bales yet? Well, do so! Our time is running out; the Duke wishes the abbey to be fully appointed by the end of the week!"

Tonino's heart quailed; he was dropping with tiredness. "But Father—"

"But me no buts. Just do it. You can sleep later." Antonio walked away before Tonino could speak, muttering about lazy layabouts and disappointing sons.

Tonino glared at the pretty fabrics towering above him, then at the man who had brought them, who stood beside the wheelbarrow, quietly and expressionlessly witnessing Tonino's humiliation.

He jerked his head at the man. "Get that stuff inside. Put it in the nearest storeroom on the left; I'll look at it later. Stupid old nag," he muttered, ignoring the workman's nod as he turned away.

His eyes fell upon another pair of workmen, and he hastened to intercept them. "Stop! Wait a moment!"

They paused, setting down their burden on its feet. The rearmost one seemed to be restraining himself from rolling his eyes at being so interrupted by a mere footman.

Tonino ignored him too. "Who ordered this, this—thing?" He slapped the black, glossy wood and shied when the object boomed softly in reply.

The leading man shook his head. "Dunno, sir. We're just here to deliver, ain't we?" He directed his question to his partner, who turned his attention from the dirt under his fingernails long enough to nod in their general direction. The leading man dug around in his pocket and produced a dirty scrap of vellum with something thickly scrawled on it in black ink. "There, look. That's the receipt." He thrust it under Tonino's nose.

Tonino batted it away and shook his head. "Impossible. I know the Duke is mad, but why the devil would he have purchased such a—"

"Tonino! Where are you? Damn it, boy! Tonino!" Antonio's voice was high and irate.

His hands ventured upward, but he caught himself before he gripped his hair and screamed. He was a footman, after all, and he had an image to maintain. He settled for scrubbing at his eyes with a thumb and forefinger and waving his other hand at the workmen. "Damn it all. I haven't time for this. Just bring it in, and put it somewhere out of the way. This is—" He once again remembered his image, and bit back what he had been going to say. "Good day to you gentlemen." He nodded to them curtly and spun on his heel, striding back toward the gate. If his father wanted him, he'd just have to come find him.

The leading workman met his partner's eyes, and they shrugged in unison. The rearmost one bent once more, and his fingers found their old place between the clock's feet.

"Careful, now, lad! Let me get my grip before you start hauling away! This is a grandfather clock, not a blasted bale of hay!"

"I know that, y'bearded old block."

"What was that, you young weasel?"


"Yeah, thought not."

The huge black grandfather clock boomed again, very softly, as the workmen hauled it up off the flags and wobblingly carried it toward the kitchen door of the abbey.