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The White Pawn XV

The White Pawn XV

A hard banging at the door interrupted Meradith while she was going over the seating arrangements for all the guests at the feast, for the fourth time that morning, for which William was grateful, he hadn't a mind for wedding plans. In fact, he didn't see the need for it to be so extravagant. He wasn't a lord or royal; though Katrina's family was wealthy, and friends with some nobles in the Grasslands, she herself wasn't noble either. Truth be told he wanted something simple, quiet, and small.

He answered the door, on the other side was an average looking man in a smoky-blue uniform. "The commander is requesting your immediate presence at the barracks; it 's urgent." The guard said.

Given his fall out with the commander, he would normally argue with the summons; more out of spite than anything. But anything was better than the droll wedding plans, and this was the perfect excuse for him to take off. "I'll be right out," he said without a second thought.

The guard nodded, and William shut the door and rushed to grab his uniform. "Who was that?" Katrina called out to him from the kitchen.

"The commander, it's an emergency," he replied, donning his uniform and armor. He may be exaggerating that last part, but then again the commander was furious with him before, and his suspension should have been far longer than this, so any urgent summons must be nothing less than an emergency. He fastened his sword belt while Katrina argued with him from the other side of the house, he didn't listen and was out the door while she still argued.

Guards were shuffling out of the barracks by the time William got there. All the captains were present too, even the ones on evening shifts. Commander Jorden, however, wasn't present among them, so William pushed past the men, struggling against the tide of them just to get into the barracks. The mess hall was clearing out of men as William looked around for Jorden when he heard a shout from the second floor, "Royce!" Commander Jorden shouted down to him from the balcony with such fury William instinctively put a hand on the hilt of his sword.

"Get your ass up here now!" Jorden commanded.

William rushed up the stairs; feeling greatly irritated all of the sudden. One minute I'm suspended the next I'm his lap dog, William thought to himself as he ascended the stairs and walked down the hall to the commander’s office.

Inside the room was a mess, books, and ledgers scattered to the floor, along with random papers. A map of the city was pinned to the desk with various areas circled and numbered on it. Jorden was leaning heavy on his cane, deciding whether or not to sit down and relax, or stay standing. In the end, he decided to kick away his chair, with his good leg and leaned over the desk to stare down at the map.

"Ser, what happened to you?" William asked cautiously, not wanting to enrage the commander further.

"I was attacked last night," the commander explained. "By some armed thugs, they killed three of my personal guard and bludgeoned my leg too. But this wasn't no random mugging, and for certain this wasn't the only attack on us either."

That last part confused William, "Ser?" he inquired.

"There have been attacks against us, most in the dead of night, unknown people have been killing off our men."

This was news to William. "How long has this been going on?"

"Quite recently, oh but I got that last one alive. Took some convincing but I made him talk. It's that Baron that I've been getting reports about. He's been killing off my men, our men, trying to intimidate us, to eliminate us. That Son of a Whore thinks he can run this city?" He was back to yelling now. "The kings own city! We're going to find him, and when we do, I'll kill him Three times over!"

William cleared his throat, "I didn't know you took threats against the city so personal, or is this because the attack directly on you?" The last thing he should be doing was taunting the commander, but he was still upset with him for the recent events that transpired. And now he has to put his investigation on hold again when he's so close to proving Walden Fen's innocence.

Jorden sneered at him in silence, then took a breath to calm himself. "I lived almost my entire life in this city, boy." He was no longer yelling, but his rage hadn't subsided a bit. "I was here when taxes came so high that the very people, and these guards, banded together to rebel against the crown, the Sky Cloaks and them Serpent gang. Held the city hostage and was out for the king’s head until taxes were lowered, and people could feed their families again."

"I know the history, ser," William commented passively.

"Do you?" He scoffed. "You know what they didn't tell you about that history; it 's who really suffered the most during that time. The common folks, crime was at an all-time high with the Sky Cloaks no longer doing their civil duty. Half the city burned, the other half was raped endlessly.

"I was but a poor lad on Wall street when my mother had her throat cut by a man, old as I am now, stealing the last bit of stale bread we had. You know how I survived those days after that? I got a knife and stabbed and sliced anyone that had any food on them; rusty old one as it was, still did the job."

"That's quite a tragic story ser, but I fail to see what it has to do with any of this."

"Do you know why I joined the Sky Cloaks, despite it being their fault that the city fell into such ruin, by not doing their jobs, hmm?"

"No, but I'm sure you'll tell me soon."

"I did it to make sure that the city never fell into such chaos again. But I never became commander, until recently. Took me years alone to become captain, and that's because I wasn't so forgiving as the others. No, to me you steal from someone you lose a hand. You rape, or murder, you get your bloody head cut off! I wanted those low life scum to know what it means to be afraid of those with more power than yourself, to understand you can't do as you please regardless of who it is you harm in the process.

"Because when criminals control the city, it's not the Royals, or the Nobles who suffer, it's the common man, rich or poor. Girls of fourteen, sometimes younger, are raped in the open street while boys of six are beaten to death just for being in a man's way when he's trying to loot someone else’s livelihood. So screw the king and the nobles, and all the games they play, I don't struggle for peace for their sake, I do it for the common man."

"I understand ser," was all William could manage to say.

"No you don't, and if you do your job, hopefully, you won't have to. This Baron, fancies himself a lord of crime? Fine, I'll be the very Judge himself, and bring the order of the god's down on him, and all who serve him."

"And what is it you want of me exactly?"

"Take thirty of your best men return to the rat's hobble. You have more dealings with that place than anyone else. Maybe after some refined questioning of the people there you can find more about this Baron. Might be he's even hiding there, be the perfect place for it."

"Ser I only have fifty-three men. That's over half my force."

"That's nonsense, Royce. There are nearly two-hundred men on Bulwark street alone."

"Yes, and sixty of them work night shifts, then there's mine during the daytime, and the rest were reordered to the direct command of the commander instead of being split between captains. So those men are directly yours ser."

Jorden sighed, "Albert's prerogative?"

William nodded.

"Fine take all your men currently under your command, and I'll reorder the others to be set back into your command during the day and Victors at night."

"That's all and well ser, but I don't believe I'll be needing that many men to find the Baron. In fact, I am sure I know how to find him with just a few men, and some time."

"Good, then get right on it." When William didn't budge Jorden looked back to him and asked, is there something else captain?"

"Well, I'm just assuming that now you have ended my suspension. But other than that yes..."

After a moment of silence Jorden asked, "And?"

"Walden Fen-" William started.

"Oh gods, not this again," Jorden said exasperated. "He's dead, alright it's over. I'd boot you from the-"

"He's innocent, and now I have proof." William cut in.

Jorden glared at him, intently searching his eyes for a hint of a bluff. There was none to be found. He looked down at his feet, shaking his head, then grabbed his chair and took a seat; his head hung low. If William did indeed have this proof of Walden's innocence and produced it, then it meant he had sent an innocent man to the gallows, one of his own men none the less.

His head still hung low he asked, "What do you want?"

"Time, time to find Albert's killers. And the one who put Walden up to this."

"Killers?" Jorden asked raising his head to look at William.

"Yes ser, I believe there was more than one. This whole thing is connected, I don't know how but I'm getting close. And whoever is behind it all knows I am, that's why they set up Walden to take the fall."

"Well just so I'm not going off blind faith alone, what is your proof exactly? Of Walden's innocence."

"I have a witness, who was there when he was conversing with a man who bribed him into his confession, and the gold he used to do it."

"How much gold does it take for a man to kill himself?"

"Thirty gold crowns."

Jorden was taken aback. "A tourney knight doesn't even make that much in all his winnings. Still-"

"I know it's the same people who killed my father ser," William said abruptly, not fully intending to. "I've been searching for his killer for over a decade ser; I lost the trail before this time... Member of the city watch or not ser, I am pursuing this and I will have my justice."

Jorden sighed, "I never found that bastard who did my mum in like that. Still the case is closed, officially speaking. But were you to find some more evidence, besides Walden's innocence, something absolute to reopen the case, then, after we have dealt with the Baron we will open the case again and it will have our full attention."

William clenched his fist, holding in his rage, he was getting somewhere but he needed to press more, yet not too much. "Give me just a month to find that evidence. I'm right on their trail but if I wait too long to act they will cover their tracks again, and it will be lost for good. After that, I guarantee you I will find this Baron, and we will bring him to the gallows, or the chopping block, or wherever you want. "

Jorden looked at him callously, "I could command you to tell me how it is you plan on finding the Baron."

"I could quit, and say that was just a bluff," William argued. "I'm the best you've got, and probably the only one who can find the Baron without turning over half the city to do so and causing riots among the common people. They already have a lot of disdain for us as it is, if you start busting down doors at random and invading homes and businesses, they'll turn on us as they have before."

"Three days," Jorden argued.

"Three weeks." William countered.

"One week," Jorden eventually said. "You have one week, then I don't care what you have found, after that your sole focus is on finding the Baron. There will be no bargaining after that, and if you fail to bring me the Baron, within a fortnight of that, you won't only be removed from the Sky Cloaks, you will be exiled from the city. These are my terms, do you agree to them?"

William knew the commander only had the power to remove him from the city watch, but the last part wasn't a bluff either. If he failed to hold up his end of the bargain than the commander would do everything in his power to remove and keep William out of the city for good.

He nodded his head, reluctantly agreeing to the biased and harsh terms set forth. He set out to leave and got to the door when the commander called out to him, "William," he said in a softer tone.

William turned back to him.

"Fire is brewing on these streets, just like it was when I was lad; cept this fire is the Baron. We need to kill it fast before it grows out of control and consumes this city."

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Copyright © © Jake Pendragon all rights reserved 2015

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