The Copper Knight I
Derren watched helplessly as his father grew worse every day, now no longer able to leave his bed, he lay there getting sicker and sicker. When he came home after work he went to bed without a word or food, just collapsed on top of the straw bed. He slept for two days straight and then when he woke he was weak and could hardly move about, let alone work.
Soon enough their food storage ran out, the coin they saved up did not last long. So it was up to Derren to provide for them now, every day he walked the streets near the South-West Wall, with its cracked stones and foul smells, just to search for whatever work he could find. He would take whatever he could get, polishing a knight's armor for a few coppers, dancing like a monkey for some drunken fools outside a tavern, anything that paid him was work, far as he was concerned. He made just enough to buy food for him and his dad, but he couldn't save anything to buy him what he really needed: medicine.
And still every day Derren was out there, walking those streets constantly searching for work, until the day his dad didn't wake up. Then, he no longer walked those streets to find work, he lived on them. His father was too far behind in the king’s taxes and after he passed away they took the house and Derren was kicked out, not for lack of trying to stop them though, he put up a fight, but they had sharp blades, and didn't hesitate to point them at his throat when he knocked them down.
Work suddenly became scarce since he had one change of clothes and hadn't bathed in a long time. Eventually, it stopped altogether and for days straight he starved; alone and dismal he rotted away in a closed off alley resting his back against a crate. He no longer had the energy to move and try to find work, no longer had the care either.
Derren was settled on the idea of death, just letting all his hardships slip away to him as he closed his eyes and never opened them again. His father did it, and he was the strongest man he knew, so how could he, a twelve-year-old boy, expect to do any better. And yet, when that biscuit landed in his lap, absent minded of where it came, after a mere glance he scooped it up and devoured it; suddenly remembering how hungry he was.
"There's more where that came from," A scraggly haired boy with baggy clothes said to him. "That is if you're good enough. I seen you around doing them odd jobs, even dancing like a monkey for a bit O' coin. Pretty messed up I think, what I kid has to do to survive in 'ere."
"What do you want from me?" Derren asked finishing his biscuit.
"I want to give you a chance at a real life. None of that dancing for coin shite. Come with me, I see you that you won't ever go hungry again." The boy offered out his hand and Derren, with little thought, took it.
Tom O Three's is what the boy called himself. He was a year younger than Derren but was a master of the streets. He always ran with two other boys, hence his name. A trio of bandits they were and Tom was the best of them. He taught Derren everything he knew about surviving in the city, "by stealing what you need from them that don't deserve it." That's what Tom said to him when Derren questioned it.
But aside from putting food in his belly, it was actually rather fun running with Tom, and his other boy Lander. They could snatch just about anything from anyone, for the next couple of years it was Derren was having the time of his life. But Tom changed as he got older, began going for bigger scores, they travelled to wealthier districts in the city to steal from people even less deserving.
It wasn't easy with all the guards around and their clothes made them stand out, before too long they couldn't even walk down those streets, the guards noticed an increase of theft since their arrival and now blocked them from going through. They should have quit there, but Tom was no longer satisfied with the smaller scores they had gone back to. He had a taste of the finer things and wanted more; Lander too for the most part.
Derren on the other hand just wanted something different from his life besides stealing from others. And when Tom returned to them both with a big score, one that might give Derren a chance for something more in his life afterwards, he stopped thinking as clearly as before.
The new target was a gambling house, and not a small one either. The Silver Lotus was a good sized building with two floors, made from hardwood and painted exquisitely. The curved sign above the entrance had the house name written in with gold paint and had a silver lotus flower in the backdrop of it; even the front doors had a silver lotus painted on them.
A pair of guards stood at the entrance to the house, guarding it against any unwanted gamblers. But Tom didn't plan on going in through the front. He had them all quietly scaling across a nearby roof to access a side window, it was scary doing it in the dark where they could hardly see, but the gambling house was well lit so they just needed to get close enough to it without falling off.
As Derren quickly found out that was the easy part. The buildings were close together, but they still had a leap to make in order to go through the second-floor window on the side of the gambling house. Tom had the hardest part; he jumped the eight-foot gap and landed carelessly onto the small wooden frame wrapped around the building.
Tom slipped and fell, catching on the frame with his fingertips. He struggled, but very steadily made progress onto climbing back up. When his feet were back on the frame, he began working on opening the window. Derren couldn't see what he was doing, but somehow Tom managed to get that window unlocked and opened it up for them. He climbed in then signaled for Lander and Derren to follow.
Lander went first, making the jump without effort, catching the inside of the window without any noise and climbed inside just as quiet. Derren was next, he got a running start and overshot the jump greatly. He slammed into the side with a loud thud and barely caught the window, even then his foot slipped and he was dangling helplessly until Tom and Lander grabbed his arms and pulled him up.
They allowed a moment to relax when Derren was in, and then searched out a lantern in the dark. Tom found one on the desk and got it light with a flint from his pocket. He turned it up to a medium light and they surveyed the room, what little they could see, searching out for "the safe."
At the far end of the room, inside the wall itself, was a dark metal box with a spin dial on it numbered up to 100. Tom turned to them and said, "That's it boys, our ticket to a better life, no more scurrying about like rats searching for crumbs."
He got one step before the door to the room flew open and a pair of guards came in, armed and fierce. Lander let out a cry of distress before turning to flee out of the window, shouting, Run!" As he went. When he got within reach of the window though, the guard fired his crossbow and Lander fell short of escape.
Derren turned to his friend, "Noo!" he cried. He made a move to run to him until a sharp blow hit him in the back of his head and he started seeing spots, and the room spun so fast that he couldn't stand anymore. He fell to the floor, the spots growing darker and larger until all he saw was darkness.
Derren later woke up with his hands bound behind him with rope in a chair. Tom was there too, sitting across from him, also bound. He tried to speak, but all that came out was a disgruntled moan. His head was aching like someone had hit him with a rock, and he was still a little dizzy.
Before long the two guards in sky-blue uniforms, who had ambushed them at the gambling house, came into the desolate little room. "Got a tip about you three," one of the guards said. "Perry, I believe he was, looks like you trusted the wrong informant. That rat sold you out for a silver bit."
"Already killed one of your buddies," the other guard said. "Normally that'd be enough for us, batter you up a bit send you on the way. But the boss wants you to be made an example of, and that wide pig pays us too much to let you both go. So here's the deal, one of you gets a beating and then hobbles out of here, never to be seen around the Silver Lotus again. Understand?"
Derren understood them perfectly, and wanted to shout at them to piss off, but all that came out from his mouth was more incoherent moans. And the harder he tried to speak the more the room would spin, and soon the spots started coming back to him so he stopped trying and waited.
But nothing came to him, Tom said something and the guards started shuffling about him. But Derren couldn't see properly, nor hear anything correctly either. It sounded like a struggle. Was Tom fighting them? He asked himself.
He then struggled to break his own bonds and help Tom, but once again the more he struggled to do anything the worse he felt. But he continued trying to escape his bounds, even going as far as to rock the chair until falling over. And faster the room spun, the black dots appeared again, until finally everything was dark once more.
It all felt like a dream to Derren, waking up with his whole body hurting like someone tossed him down a hill with lots of small rocks. His recovery was slow, and he spent most of it walking around slowly, and painfully, trying to find out what happened to Tom and Lander. He refused to believe Lander had died that night at the gambling house, and Tom... The thought of losing him was too inconceivable.
And yet he looked around everywhere for them, talking to everyone he knew. They all said the exact same thing, they heard news about their attempt to steal from the gambling house, and how they were caught and suddenly were missing, and presumed dead. While their bodies never turned up eventually Derren had to believe the worst when he never found them, that they were dead.
And over time he recovered and hunted, hunted the one who betrayed them. The man who sold Tom the information, only to turn around and sell him out for a few more coins, was called Perry the Mole. He had a pug nose, was some good pounds on the heavy side, wore dirty brown clothes, and lived underground in a cellar home.
Perry was notorious for giving out bad deals, the information he had wasn't always on time. But now and again he had some amazing gems which were worth a fortune to a good thief. The knowledge on the gambling house was his latest gem, and his last, after everyone heard about what happened to Tom and his crew, who searched out the job, Perry became unable to sell info to anyone anymore.
And so when Derren came to him with the lie of wanting to buy some good thieving information Perry opened his doors to him. Derren followed him inside his shabby little home. And soon as Perry opened up the latch on the floor, to his underground area, Derren stuck the small blade he had hidden in his belt, covered by his tunic, into Perry's side. He pulled it out and stabbed him again, then he kept stabbing him until Perry stopped squealing in pain, then he kicked his body down into the cellar and slammed shut the latch.
His next move was to start saving up as many of the coins he snatched from people, he took to wealthier districts when he could slip in. After a couple months, he had enough to buy several small casks of oil and hire a few fellow street rats to aid him in a job. Before much longer he was ready to bring down the place that had ruined his new life and murdered his friends.
Derren walked up to the Silver Lotus' front doors, the guards standing on either side, staring at him as he approached the building. Soon as he got close enough to them, he pulled his dagger and thrust his hands out at them. Piercing their throats simultaneously, he pulled back and they collapsed choking on their own blood.
He sheathed the daggers in his belt and let out a sharp whistle. Moments later a handful of boys near his age came running out from their dark corners, faces wrapped up in linen, and carrying two small oil casks under their arms. One of them had a torch that he handed to Derren as he went inside.
Soon as they were in, the boys chucked the oil casks all around the house, aiming for tables, the walls and support beams. The casks exploded from the sharp impact and the oil was all around the building, the kids ran out, their job complete. And before anyone truly knew what was going on Derren tossed the torch onto an oil spot, and within a minute, the whole bottom floor was on fire.
Mere hours after setting the Gambling house on fire Derren was captured by the city guards and thrown into the dungeons. They said he was to be facing the noose. Until a lord approached him and made him an offer he couldn't refuse.
Derren then spent the next three years living in the castle atop the hill, the very same castle where the king lived. And day after day he trained with Lord Gerald, the man who released him from the dungeons and saved him from the noose. His manners were also refined, but he was very limited in who he could talk with. Most days he was alone, training by himself to pass the time.
Finally, the day came when Gerald said he was to pay back his debt to him, and he was inducted into the City Watch. His past dealings with the Sky Cloaks made him less than happy with his new job. But in less than a year, he was elevated to Captain and was in charge of the men he seemed to loathe.
Strange enough his new position made him closer to the men working under him, he was sent immediately down to the Southern Gate of the city. Down there it was almost always chaos and it was hard work getting it in order but something in him changed, he cared about the peace down there, he didn't believe that life should be like that all the time. Merchants squabbling over small territory to sell their goods, people of all ages picking pockets, or even the daily fist fights that drew in more people each time.
With what few men he had, Derren put order to the chaos down there. He forbid his men from using their weapons for a time but insisted they didn't pull their punches. Slowly but surely the street fights became less and less, the people they caught breaking the law would get beaten, but not too badly. Mostly bruises and a few days of pain, the only times Derren allowed his men, or himself, to draw their weapons or point their spears at someone, was when the person had their own weapon.
This display of restraint brought more confidence and respect back to the guards down at Trader Square, which is what was needed above all. The daily brawls ended, the pickpocketing became far less common, and the merchants had designated areas to sell their wares. Of course, things were still rather noisy down there, the occasional scuffle happened, as to be expected, but as much as it would get that area was peaceful.
And then a self-named lord, called The Baron, started selling out a strange candy to the common people, turning them violent, unpredictable, and always needing more; like their life depended on it. Chaos returned once again and started slowly spreading out through the whole city. It wouldn’t be too long before Derren had to allow his men the use of their weapons to handle the far more violent people.
Once again he was starting to bring some semblance of order back to that area until the commander died, and Lord Gerald assigned him to keep a close eye on William Royce. A job he accepted reluctantly.