[A Kingdom Story]
In the Capital, where the King resided, and previously, tyrants of the worst sort, things were changing.
In the city it was now somewhat organised; the “every man for himself” mentality was beginning to fade away.
The Captain of the Watch reflected on this. It seemed to him that the new King was trying to do something here, something he’d read in a book once. “Social engineering” it was called, and to the Captain, it sounded like something a tyrant would do in dark places and with terse announcements to the population, who would slink away and plot against the tyrant, but never actually get as far as doing anything, because they Secret Watch knew what they were thinking before they thought it.
The King didn’t have any truck with that sort of thing. Once the Last Wizard had arrived, the King had had a purge. His purge consisted of finding the members of the Secret Watch other, visible, employment. The King knew who they were and where they lived. He knew the families, and so did everyone else. The King promised to make an example of anyone seeking reprisals for actions taken under the old regime, and, since the King was clearly a man of his word, everyone was very, careful, to live and let live.
So now, he, Captain Smith was in charge of the Watch, and the Watch had to really watch out because the King didn’t like miscreants in the and expected the Watch to do something about it. This was both a source of satisfaction and frustration to Captain Smith. On the one hand, he could now chase down wrongdoers safe in the knowledge that his judgement would be respected, the King had just one favourite according to rumour, and it sounded to Eric Smith more like an apprentice more than a favourite; on the other hand, the wrongdoers were a bit more vehement about getting away, because there was actual justice in the city rather than the laissez-faire dispensing of whatever the tyrant was feeling that day.
Eric Smith, a plain man with a plain name. His father had been a smith, and his father before him, and his before him. Eric could use a hammer before he could walk properly. By the time he was seven, he could fold a short sword almost as good as his dad’s. By the time he was ten, his dad had sent him to apprentice to a silversmith, and then when the silversmith had taught him everything he could, another blacksmith in another town. His dad said that the experience would do him good, seeing how other men worked. And it did.
Then came the news from home that his Dad had died. And then when he went home to comfort his mother and take over the family business, he found that his sister had shown an interest, and while the apprenticeship took Eric away from home, she learned everything that their father knew and was just about as good as he was at blacksmithing. He learned something else important as well, he learned that his father had been killed by a cutpurse who had taken exception to his refusal to part with his takings for the day. Eric had been puzzled by this, because his father was a big man and in ordinary circumstances, Eric couldn’t see that anyone would take any kind of advantage of him.
“Ah, well,” said the Captain of the Palace Guard, which is what used to pass for the Watch in those days, “the fellow hamstrung him first, and then cut his throat. Nasty business. Fellows usually settle for a light stabbing and run away with the money. This one really had it in for your dad.” he continued, with about the level of sensitivity the citizenry had come to expect from the Guard.
So Eric left his sister and his mother, who seemed to be managing, and effected a career change in another country far away. He learned detective work and clues and forensics, such as they were at this time, and above all, he learned how to use the law, whatever it was, and to track down miscreants who made the life of the citizenry miserable. He became a good constable, a good Sargeant, and in time he was ready to move back home, just as the new King came to the throne, and was looking for a new Captain of the newly formed City Watch.
It was a short conversation.
“And what are you going to do when you’ve found your father’s killer, Sergeant?” Smith had more sense than the ask the king how he knew.
“I shall bring the miscreant before you for judgement, my King.” He said with simple truth, “And then I shall continue to protect the city, as I have been trained to do.”
“And don’t you want to carry on your father’s legacy? I understand you have considerable skill in the area of black and white Smithing.” Said the King. “It would be understandable.”
“Yes, sir. I daresay I’ll keep my skills in my spare time, such as it is, but I want justice for me, and it would only be fair to use my skills to find justice to the rest of the city.” Smith replied firmly. “And in any event, my sister doing just fine.”
“And where is justice the be found, Captain?” Eric Smith managed to keep a straight face, but the King was smiling.
“I will find it where ever my men walk, King, and in the dark corners,” Eric paused, “at first anyway.” He considered for a moment. “I think I’ll find it in the palace from now on too.” He concluded.
“Yes, Captain. That is the aim.”
Published January 2022