“What’s all the commotion?” Iric said, pushing his way through the agitated and growing crowd.
“The Wizard Council’s proctor has arrived,” a relatively quiet, middle-aged woman said to him. She was shorter than most in the crowd, with shoulder length graying hair that fell from a polished copper band, roughly carved in the shape of a kestrel. She grabbed his arm, preventing him from moving further towards the more ruffled figures that gathered around the house of the Parish Assembly with arms raised in defiance.
“They don’t care for the man appointed to the post,” the woman said.
“I see that,” Iric replied. He couldn’t remember a time when people had been so riled about–what he assumed to be–such a trivial matter. “Why the controversy?”
“Cyneweard Abbey is a man whose predilections are not appreciated here in Graysand,” the woman said.
“What sort of predilections are those?” Iric said, struggling with the word.
“He denies the sanctity of the old ways. He rejects the Gods in favor of his own truth. In favor of magic.”
“That difference of opinion is common these days.”
“Young man, you know that the people of this parish hold fast to the old ways. Most of the people here trace their roots to Oddesia, either from their own lives or those of their parents. Sorun and Tirah hold great sway here.”
“You have every right to worship as you see fit,” Iric said reassuringly.
“Oh, you lovely, naive youngster. Sorun bless you.”
Iric was not sure if the woman was being genuine or patronizing.
“Master Abbey does not share your sense of inclusiveness,” the woman said. “He is convinced that magic is all that is needed to build up the world. And he is convinced that he must convince us of the same. He terrorizes our children with his truth and looks down on all of us for what he sees as backwards thinking. Worse, he uses his position as a master wizard to undermine our practices whenever he can.”
The roar of the crown increased in volume and anger.
“Why would the council appoint such a person to this parish then?”
“Isn’t that the essential question…” The woman struggled to see past the towering figures in front of her. “The proctors appointed to the parish assemblies have always been little more than advisors and monitors. We have been largely left to our own devices. Though the agents of the new Triumvirate have steadily been pushing for a more active role in our local issues. Obviously, we don’t care for such meddling. It was no mistake that they sent us such a skeptic.”
“Why not just ask for a different proctor?”
“We have no choice in the council’s appointments. That, my dear, is why these people are so angry.”
Iric was starting to assemble the puzzle in his mind. He was new to politics. He was well aware of his own naivete, but simply knowing about the handicap did nothing to fix it. He had to learn. Sergeant Vott had always told him the best way to learn about life in the city was to listen to the voice of the street. The wisdom of such advice was becoming more and and more apparent.
The idea that the Triumvirate and their council could force their way into the private affairs of these communities didn’t seem right to the young watchman. Even the Watch took a hands-off approach to their work, reacting to crises and requests for help, rather than trying to shape daily life in their favor.
Iric eyed Pyri and Byorki approaching the edge of the crowd. The two veteran watchmen must have heard the racket and come to investigate. He waved a hand, signaling them to go around to the far side. Pyri nodded.
Suddenly the sound of a slamming door rang across the packed square. The angry male voices at the head of the mob grew louder. A man called out in panic. Iric shoved his way forward. He used the firmness of his breastplate to push aside the gathered people. They parted from him like water off the bow of a ship. He reached the far end, near the Assembly House. A white-robed wizard was on the ground. A larger man stood over him, gripping him by the robes. A phalanx of angry men blocked Iric’s way.
“City Watch! Make way!” Iric screamed. The wall of men didn’t budge or even acknowledge his presence.
One of the men in the surrounding crowd, seeing the wizard begin to pull lose, leaned forward to join the fight. Iric gave him a hard kick to his back, sending him somersaulting over the combatants. The watchman broke through the gap, lifting the first attacker by the collar, off the wizard, and onto his feed. The man stared at Iric, baffled. The watchman punched him hard in the face before the rioter could regain his senses. The wizard Abbey rose to his feet, extending his hands for a spell. Iric drew his sword, the chime of sliding metal filling the square. He put the blade to the wizard’s chest.
“Enough!” He screamed. The crowd grew still and silent, except for two more bodies tumbling forward as Pyri and Byorki shoved their way to their comrade.
“How dare you!” Abbey said, staring at the blade. “What do you think you are doing Watchman?”
“Keeping the peace.”
“Then point your weapon towards these crazed rioters!”
“They are not the source of the disturbance,” Iric said, trying to sculpt his face with indignation as best he could.
“This will not stand!” Abbey shouted.
“No, it will not,” Iric said. “Please return to the Assembly House, Master Abbey, and remain there until the street has been cleared.”
“I will not…”
“You will,” Iric said resolutely. “This is a Watch matter now. We are in charge here. You will do as we say.” Pyri and Byorki spun around to support positions behind their younger comrade.
“What is your name, boy.”
“Iric, of the Western Watchhouse. My sergeant is Wissian Vott. I’m sure he will listen to any complaints you may have.”
“Vott…” The wizard seemed to consider the name. “This will certainly not go unanswered,” the middle-aged man managed to say.
“That is likely true,” Iric agreed, wondering who would end up doing the answering.
The wizard glared at the watchmen and the crowd, before conceding the fight and returning into the building. Iric slammed the large wooded shut.
The young watchman sighed a deep and weary sigh before turning back to the waiting mob. He managed to talk away one problem; he hoped he could do it again.
*Previous volumes of “The Adventures of Iric” can be found here: