By Divine Right:The Darkwater Saga 0.5By: Patrick W. Carr
The unaccustomed fatigue that weighted my arms and legs and filled my head with sand should have warned me, but I didn’t yet suspect I’d already been in the city that morning. I stepped out of the small windowless room I shared with Gareth into early dawn in the city of Bunard. The view from my vantage point in the watch barracks of King Laidir’s tor would never compete with those higher up, but even so I looked down on most of the city. Only the towers of the four cathedrals at the north end of the nobles’ quarter rose above me.
A hint of orange, like the first tentative swipe of a painter’s fire, lit the sections of the city divided from each other according to station and income by the broad gray flows of the Rinwash River. Farthest south, I could just make out the poor quarter, a warren of wooden buildings in a constant state of disrepair populated by those whose livelihoods it was my duty to curtail.
A hint of movement, perhaps a cart hauling vegetables across one of the massive arched stone bridges spanning the Rinwash, drew my gaze north to the lower merchants’ quarter. The sprawl of modest homes was filled with simple tradesmen whose lives were defined by the goods they provided to the city of Bunard and the kingdom of Collum it ruled. Somewhere down in their crowded midst lay the home that had birthed me, but not the family. Only stone and wood endured.
Closer to the tor still, came the upper merchants’ quarter. The houses were still quite close together, but they commanded more space, and if lights burned in them at this early hour it would be by the servants’ bidding, not the owners. The master merchants, those who often held partial gifts, had amassed fortunes large enough that their owners almost wielded power on a level with Laidir’s nobles. All they lacked was a title.
I began my descent, unable to avoid catching sight of the nobles’ quarter, closer to the tor than any save the cathedrals of the four orders, their estates here in the city only slightly less massive than their keeps perched high on the hills and mountains of the lands governed by the king. In Bunard, each estate sat on an acre or more of land, separated from its fellows by suspicion and high granite walls.
Directly below my perch I looked almost straight down to the wide stretch of the Rinwash that separated Laidir’s seat from all others, a thousand-year-old reminder of the continent’s divine order. I descended the tor and set my feet toward the guardroom, where my superior, Jeb, would be waiting to give me my duty assignment for the day.
I nodded to the guard at the door.
“Going back into the city already, Willet?” Actus asked.
I squeezed my eyes shut and groped for a response that would conceal my ignorance. “Drawing double duty always makes me wonder what I did to displease Aer.”
“Agreed.” The answer came in a clear tenor that didn’t match the grizzled face and graying hair that went with it. “I didn’t know you had drawn it as well.”
Oh, Aer, where had I been? I nodded without answering and moved past Actus into the domed rock cavern at the base of Laidir’s tor that housed the city watch and the prison cells justice demanded.
I stopped to check my clothes for blood once I’d passed from Actus’s view, pulling my cloak around to examine the edges before I rolled my wrists to check my sleeves. I breathed a silent prayer of relief. They were clean.
“What’s the matter with you, Willet Dura?” a voice called. “Hurry up. You’re late.”
I straightened myself and my clothes and reported. The question, like so many from the captain, didn’t require an answer.
Jeb looked me up and down, his huge hands flexing as they always did whenever their owner was in thought. Like the rest of us in the watch, Jeb bore scars from the last war with Owmead nine years prior. What made him different was that all of his scars seemed to be on his flesh, a fact that made me jealous enough to dislike him on a regular basis.
“You’ll be with me, Dura, since you’ve already seen the body. Congratulations—you don’t have to sneak around on this one.”
I nodded, trying not to look surprised, before I demurred. “Shouldn’t someone else go, Captain? I’ve never investigated a killing before.”