The gallery for those privileged citizens of Lord’s Hill overlooked the Common’s Hall in the most delightfully ironic way that it made Squire want to chuck every time he sat down on his wooden seat and looked over the rails down at the common folk who were forced to stand together like stalks of wheat planted in the most poorly planned field ever planted. They rubbed shoulders, stood on the tips of their toes, and pressed their own railing where Watchmen stood with menacing glares on their frozen faces. There had already been several beatings, commoners dragged out of the Commons to be taught the ways of respect before the Magistrate. There were plenty of places in the city where you could make a scene, but this was not one of them.
The Magistrate, a fat Tyrantine who cared less about Trennon than he did about opinions of goats, entered the courtroom and approached his elevated seat to sit down before the masses, clearing his throat to signal the guards. They thumped their staves against the stone floor of the Commons, sending three sharp cracks through the great room. Squire didn’t sit like the others in their beautifully carved chairs. He stood in the back, barely catching a glimpse of half of the court while he leaned against a support column.
“Order!” Magistrate Rizvan’s beard twitched distinctly when his mouth moved. His rotund head covered by the elaborate hat that the Tyrantines provided him for his illustrious position. “Today, we shall hear from Faolan Brogan, father of the murdered Padraig Brogan and we shall conclude the proceedings by hearing testimony from the accused. I will have silence and I will have order. The Watch has been ordered to remove any who dare to insult this courtroom.”
There were no murmurs, no whispers. Squire noticed that the nobles all nodded in agreement, as if every sound was an affront to their own personal time and dignity. Squire liked a good show and there was nothing like the masses getting angry at a Tyrantine. Rizvan was a particularly deplorable Tyrantine. The moment Rizvan took his appointment in Trennon, Squire had noticed plenty of particularly annoying changes. More people were hanged, the poor were denied status, rising tradesmen and craftsmen left for neighboring cities to avoid higher taxation, and Pretty Peri from the River Pearl suddenly vanished, only to be seen in the finest silks, walking the estate of the Magistrate’s Chambers, her crimson hair locked away from any lonely man with a ransom to spend on a night for the ages. Squire had been poignantly hurt by the last.
“Faolan Brogan,” the Magistrate boomed. “You may rise and speak.”
“Thank you, your Highness,” Faolan wore the clothes of a grieving father, a man who had lost this fourth son, though by the look of it, he had lost his only. Faolan did not look like the man who was behind every inn, every whorehouse, every thug, and every brute in Trennon. He looked the part of a wounded lion, a man in fine clothes, but with defeated eyes that begged for justice. Justice against a boy old enough to be a squire. “My boy, he was a good lad. He had his faults, but he was just a lad. I knew that in time he’d grow to see the right in the world, but that was robbed from him. It was robbed from him by the meddling Bishop and his minions, who have incited violence and rebellion in the heart of our city. They knew that my boy was my heart and soul and so they took him from me. They slit his throat and those of his friends. Friends that Gerwen and his lackeys have slandered and made a mockery of in this very court.”
Several voices, those Squire assumed were from off duty Watchmen, bubbled up from the standing gallery and the Magistrate’s lofty head turned in challenging rage to the hidden faces that tested his patience. A single Watchman thumped the butt of his staff sharply against the stone and the voices were quelled again.
“My boy is dead, your Highness,” Faolan continued, his eyes fixed upon the magistrate. “No father should ever have to tell his wife that their boy is dead. I ask only that you do what is right by the law of the land, the law written so wisely by the Tyrantine magistrates of old. I ask that the boy be hanged so that the people of Trennon may know that there is still justice in this city, not by my hands, or the Watch’s hands, but by the hands of those who truly rule this city, the Tyrantine Viziers. Thank you, your Highness.”
Faolan, playing the part of the noble loyalist, slinked back to the table where his wife, a woman too homely and matronly to have any beauty left in her, sat stone faced. There were no tears on her cheeks, no glass in her eyes, and now sorrow in her features. This was a hard woman. Squire tried to imagine coming home to that and shivered.
The Magistrate did not move in his chair. He simply looked to Gerwen who nodded and then gave the gesture for his men to bring the main attraction to the court. This was the moment that everyone had been waiting for, the moment that they all held their breath for. He was a living legend, something that had spread through the city like fire. Squire had never met a Chosen or a Saint, but he imagined that it would be a lot like waiting to see the boy. Everyone had opinions about him, and strong ones at that. There was no one who simply shrugged their shoulders when they spoke of the boy. Fire filled their eyes or ice chilled their veins when he came up in conversation and he was always on the tip of everyone’s tongue.
When he entered the court, he had been stripped of his robes that he had been wearing once upon a time and he looked the part of someone who had received more than a few beatings. Both of his eyes were blackened, his lip was split, there was a thick bruise on his left cheek just below his ear, and he wore a fresh cut on his left forearm and what looked like a bite on his right wrist. Bedrock had not been welcoming to him. That didn’t surprise Squire. Half of the Brogan army was locked up in that prison, waiting for their sentence at the Ore Pit or Devil’s Quarry. The boy was probably only alive by Faolan’s order to see him publically hanged or beheaded.
“Henry Tanner,” the Magistrate’s voice boomed again. “You are charged with four counts of murder, inciting a riot, public disorder, brandishing a weapon within city walls, and intent to incite public uprisings. The offenses that have been laid before you are punishable by eight public executions. Before I close the proceedings and retire for my sentence, it is bestowed upon me to hear from the offender certain details, if truth can be found in his words. Do you understand?”
The boy was a rock, silent and eyes fixed upon the floor before him. Squire felt a smile creep across his face. He was a lanky creature, but there was definition in his bare arms. His features were sharp, maybe handsome if the monks ever cared about such things. His blonde hair was shaggy, no doubt sheared once a season by Borden or some other artless Father. The boy would have made a striking squire in some court in the north or a dashing tradesman, winning coin off many young wives who would have no doubt encouraged their husbands to trade with him. It was a sad waste to see him standing in manacles before Rizvan in canvas pants that barely made it past his knees. The monks had wasted him as well. That was the true crime.
It takes an ugly person to truly understand the value of beauty in the world. Handsome men and beautiful women might be aware of the privilege bestowed upon them, but the ugly, like Squire comprehended it, understood it. This boy could have the world at his fingertips with the right opportunities.
“Silence will be understood as an affirmative,” Gerwen said in a clear, angry voice. It was the only voice that he had. Squire imagined Gerwen whispering sweet nothings to his wife that could have easily been mistaken as threats at any tavern. “Speak when spoken to, boy.”
“I understand,” the boy said.
“Your name is Henry Tanner of Umberlyn,” Magistrate Rizvan said, leaning back in his chair. “You came to my city as a refugee and were welcomed into the Chapel of Saint Mirna by the compassion of the ailing Bishop Albert who unfortunately cannot make it to these proceedings. It is said that you were a silent Initiate who kept to himself. However, the image painted of you now places you as a conspiring murderer, biding your time to strike at what one might see as an oppressor. How do you wish the court to acknowledge you?”
The boy did not answer.
“Speak,” Gerwen demanded.
“Faolan Brogan and his spawn are criminals,” the boy said. The silence puckered, straining to let his voice carry. Squire found himself standing up straight and leaning in like the others in the gallery. “I did not intend to murder them, but they would have harmed Sotiris and others had I not acted. I did what I saw was right in the moment and I do not apologize for their deaths.”
“So you confess to the murders?” Magistrate Rizvan’s eyebrow raised and he tapped his bearded jaw with his finger and shook his head. “You have made my deliberation much simpler. Have you anything further to say before we conclude these events?”
The boy was silent for a moment, turning his head only slightly, as if he were looking for someone. Squire wondered who it was that he was searching for in the room, who he thought might come for him. The Chapel of Mirna had all but outcast him, turning their backs on him and wishing to strike his name from any record that might exist with him tied to their order. Squire had felt for the boy most when he heard that they wouldn’t be sending anyone to represent him or speak on his behalf.
Squire noticed that the boy finally stopped looking when he found the face that he had been searching for and it was simple to figure out who he was glaring at. He was staring straight at Faolan Brogan. The two locked eyes and Squire waited for someone to make a move. He waited for the Boy to turn away or for Faolan to say something vicious. Honestly, Squire’s money was on the boy looking away, but he held Faolan’s gaze until finally the old Mourner looked toward the Magistrate.
“I regret nothing,” the boy finally said. “I accept my fate.”
“And so you will,” the Magistrate said, waving to Gerwen.
“Remove the prisoner,” Gerwen shouted as the Magistrate rose. “This concludes the trial. Magistrate Rizvan will deliberate as is accorded by the law of Tyrantium for three days. His sentence shall be declared upon the fourth day at midday. May the gods have mercy upon the prisoner’s soul.”
The Magistrate was gone by the time Gerwen finished his pagan citation and Squire smiled at the sudden burst of conversation that flooded both the gallery and the standing gallery below. People didn’t care about Gerwen or what he had to say. Everyone knew what happened when someone was tried by the Magistrate. But, what they didn’t know was what Squire was all too well aware of. Now the real trial began and that was done with the shifting of coin. Thousands of Ords would shift and trade in every gambling den and every tavern across the city. Banks would transfer funds and never bat and eye or ask a question. Coffers would fill, fortunes would hang in the balance and when that boy died, so too would the hopes and fortunes of countless others in the city.
But, as Squire took the stairs down to the main gallery, he had plenty of reasons to believe that the boy would live. As he patted the Watchmen keeping the courtroom clear, he patted him on the shoulder and received a respectful nod in return. Squire felt the spark of appreciation for a plot well laid and for figures well placed. Morna had done his part and Ozan his. Gerwen, however, held the veneer of looking put off by the approach of Squire. Squire made sure that the habit of his hand resting on the pommel of his sword was placed in check. He was one of the few citizens authorized and allowed to carry a weapon, a permit that cost Bahadir a pretty coin every year to renew.
The commoners were cleared out of the Commons and coins were slapped in bare palms and wagers were struck. People were more than eager to bet on lives that weren’t their own and Squire was determined to place a few third party wagers tonight. He walked over to Gerwen who held open a side door for the Brogans to leave, never uttering a word to his long time rival and adversary. Squire would have been more than happy to end that rivalry, but it wasn’t his place and no one was paying him to solve this city’s problems.
“Squire,” Gerwen said as he closed the door. “You ever grow tired of that name?”
“Every damn day,” Squire grinned.
“You’re shameless to approach me in the Commons,” Gerwen walked over to the table where his clerks had recorded everything. They had cleared out the moment they saw Squire and the Watchmen were released as well. “I should suspect nothing less, I assume.”
“Thought you would have learned by now,” Squire said. “Your boys and girls are in leather and mail. Get some iron for them. Consider it a civil contribution.”
“I’ll consider it a bribe,” Gerwen said. “What do you want with him?”
“Bahadir will employ him,” Squire shrugged. “You kill him and you’ll have worse than Faolan to deal with. You’re smarter than Rizvan. I know that much.”
“In his own house,” Gerwen shook his head, “you’d insult his name.”
“The man’s a bloated sycophant that stole my favorite whore,” Squire grinned. “I’m not scared of him.”
“What are you scared of then, Squire?” Gerwen turned and faced him. “I didn’t think you cared about a damn thing.”
Squire was silent for a moment, looking at Gerwen’s hard eyes, the eyes of a father who had lost one of his own sons and knew just how much it hurt Faolan to bury one of his boys. Squire had worried that this might have clouded Gerwen’s appreciation for Squire’s contribution. He worried that kindred loss might have aligned age old enemies, but Gerwen was not sentimental when it came to his job. He might mourn his boy at home, but he wouldn’t let it interfere with the affairs of Trennon.
“A bunch of stinky paupers burning my house down,” Squire said. “Your people let Umberlyn burn and that puts Dorothea as the nearest place for employment and I like having a roof over my head.”
Gerwen was quiet, studying Squire as he spoke. Squire wasn’t spilling his heart out to Gerwen. They weren’t friends. They were merely a pair that had a common goal and a common problem to deal with today. Tomorrow, they would butt heads over taxation issues and Watch interference in the Iris Market.
“I’ll tell Rizvan that I have a peaceful solution,” Gerwen assured him. “I want him confined to the Iris Market and Lord’s Hill for two years, or until this situation with the Brogans has been resolved. If I see him outside of those two districts, I’ll hang him.”
“Sure you will,” Squire chuckled. “But don’t worry. I like to keep my investments close at hand.”
Squire turned to leave the Watch Commander to his thoughts and his sizeable investment that he had just received on behalf of Bahadir. It was something that made him smile. Not only was Gerwen a fairly decent and honorable man, but a just boy would walk away and Squire would make sure that he would never be in danger for facing the Brogans again. His mind was already forming the new plot in his mind, the path that he would place the boy on and what he would do to ensure that he wouldn’t be wasted or left to rot in some worthless Chapel.
“By the way,” Gerwen called to Squire. “One of your old friends entered the city this morning. Baldwin has passed back through these parts.”
And Squire felt all his blissful, happy thoughts burn away like chaff.