“Sir, please step down from the ledge.”
Iric watched anxiously as the man leaned over the bridge, staring down at the watery doom below. The man was in his silver years, several decades older than Iric, who had only recently turned nineteen. The man looked disheveled, his long dark hair unkempt, his beard untrimmed. Iric supposed the man had not been taking care of himself recently; the stench of weeks without bathing passed through the air.
“I’m here to help,” Iric said. “Please, step down and we can talk.”
Iric was a watchman, but only with a few weeks of real experience. He had yet to find himself in a situation such as this. Up to this point his job had been mostly walking, and asking people not to litter. This was his first time facing real danger. But it was the Watch’s job to protect the public, even if they didn’t protect themselves.
“My boy, you cannot imagine my pain,” the man said sorrowfully. “My son even had more years than you.”
“Had?” Iric asked.
“He’s dead,” the man said, his body shaking with the sobs. “And my wife. I have nothing left in this world, best I end it now before the despair drives me mad.”
The man was standing on the ledge of the central bridge in the city. It was a massive structure that rose over the wide canal which passed through the center of the city. Iric glanced down at the dark water; there was a significant distance between the top of the bridge and the water below. Iric didn’t know if the man could survive the fall. If he did, he would likely be too injured to fight the current of the canal. The wide gates under the bridge were half open for traffic today, amplifying the water flow.
“I can’t imagine your pain,” Iric said. “But I don’t think it’s worth giving up everything.”
The man look at Iric, his eyes covered in tears. Iric didn’t like how things were going. He had never been good at talking. He wasn’t a natural leader like Sergeant Vott. Iric unfastened the bands on his breastplate.
“I have tried to endure… I spent a month barely being able to raise myself out of bed. I cannot eat, I cannot sleep.”
“Would your wife want you to give up? What would your son think?”
“How dare you?” the man raged. “What makes a little brat like you think they can speak for my family?”
He’s getting angry. That’s good, Iric thought. He looked around to see a crowd growing. He worried that someone might antagonize the man into jumping. He knelt down and pulled off his armor.
“Your naïve if you think you can stop me, boy,” the man said.
“I’m trying to make you stop yourself,” Iric said. “Come down and I will buy you an ale.”
“Are you even old enough to drink?”
“Today would be a good day to start, don’t you think?”
“Drink doesn’t help,” the man said somberly. “Trust me on that.”
Then the man lost his balance. With arms flailing, he tumbled over, slamming his shoulder on the stone rising as he fell. Iric wasted no time; he dashed to the edge of the bridge and hurled himself over.
The water hit Iric like a godly slap across his whole body. Despite having removed his heavy breastplate, he could feel himself being dragged down by the burden of his other gear. And the current was much stronger than he expected; Iric struggled to drag himself to the surface.
When his head breached the water, he scanned for any sign of the man. Iric saw him being carried by the current, arms twirling wildly. Iric was a skilled swimmer; he had spent many hot summers treading the waves of the canal. He trusted his ability, launching himself forward, riding the flow of water.
He reached the desperate man in moments. Iric noticed that the man seemed to have changed his mind about death after meeting the specter eye to eye. This meant the man would resist rescue. Iric through an arm under the man’s armpit and rolled onto his back. He was too weighted down to float, but if he kept his momentum up, he could keep the both above the surface. With his few arm he attacked the water, grasping for friction, all the while kicking with his legs.
To the side, Iric saw figures moving. He tried to shift his direction to head to that shore. Suddenly an arrow arced above the floating pair. It had a rope tied to it. The arrow splashed some distance from Iric, dropping the rope into the water a few feet in his path. Iric thanked the gods and reached out for the rope.
With his knees resting on solid dirt, Iric gasped for breath. He waived off the hand of assistance offered to him. He wasn’t ready to stand just yet; he wanted to spend a few more minutes close to the dry earth. When he looked up he saw the round, stony face of Sergeant Vott.
“Decided to break for a swim, constable?” the large sergeant bellowed.
“The weather’s rather hot today, isn’t it sarge?” Iric said.
“Indeed,” Vott said with a massive smile. “But if you keep this up, you’re not gonna make it to corporal. I saw you eyeing Pyri’s stripes the other day, kid. You gotta be smarter than this.”
“I didn’t have a choice.”
“Yeah…” Vott sighed. “Sometimes you don’t.”
The big man reached a bearish paw down and lifted Iric to his feet as though he didn’t weight anything at all. Iric hoped he could be like Vott someday. He looked over at the wet man, being toweled down by the concerned crowd. The man nodded to Vott thankfully.
“How about that beer?” Iric said.
Thus began the adventures of Iric, city watchman. Only the gods knew what the future held for the young hero.