Chapter 1 – Prisoner Three
From the moment he heard the gallop of approaching horses, Constable Richard Gent was certain the Safety Committee had returned from its morning mission. The hooves digging into the dirt were clearly covered with shoes, and few citizens in the town of Philos were sufficiently wealthy to shod their horses year round. The colonial government, however, was still generously funded from the continent, and so long as Gent remained constable he would make certain his town’s Safety Committee would have the equipment it needed.
Gent rose from his chair, and grabbed his short sword as he exited his office in the courthouse. He was nimble and strong, bearded and bald, and experienced from nearly two decades of protecting Philos. He had actually contemplated leading the Safety Committee mission this morning, but saw the wisdom of entrusting the job to Owen Stenson, his youngest deputy, a man eager to lead.
Stepping out from the courthouse, Gent squinted a moment in the bright summer light, then looked to his right at the approaching horses. There were four, as many as Gent had sent out that morning, always a good first sign. From his seat on the lead horse, Deputy Stenson smiled down with satisfaction as he pulled up in front of Gent.
“It appears, Constable, that the gold you used for that bribe was money well spent.”
Gent nodded, then looked beyond the horse on his right, which carried the sole cart on the mission. Gent pointed to a hooded figure, sitting on the cart with its hands tied at the back. “A present, deputy? No really, you shouldn’t.”
Deputy Stenson was already dismounting, as a stable hand arrived to lead his horse away. “Trust me, taking prisoners wasn’t part of the plan. Two of the bandits were fleeing when we arrived – their bodies are in the cart.”
“Well done.” Constable Gent would hang the corpses outside the city gates for a week. “But this other one – did he surrender?”
The twenty-five-year-old deputy with strawberry blonde hair spat on the ground, then began walking towards the cart, Gent following close. “These are Yungen’s men, Constable. They would sooner die than surrender.” As they reached the cart, Gent noticed something distinctive about the figure sitting among the two prostrate corpses, but let his deputy continue. “No, when we arrived, this one here – ” Deputy Stenson paused, shaking his head. “The brigands had accosted a band of pilgrims, on their way to the temple at Eighth Hill. Just four in the company, unguarded, the type of group the brigands were looking for, according to our informant. Indigo, our scout, saw the attack coming and we arrived within minutes. We killed the two that fled, but this one – ” Stenson spat on the ground again – “this one, had been captured by the pilgrims.”
“Captured?” Gent sounded incredulous.
“One of the pilgrims had our prisoner pinned to the ground, while another pilgrim, an Islander, bound the hands. The other two, an elderly woman and a boy, looked on – they seemed pretty harmless, but the two men subduing this poor fool, there’s obviously more to them than what they seem.”
“Indeed.” Gent glanced down at the two bodies, lifeless and bloodied and perforated, then reached for the hood of the sitting figure. “As is the case, I suspect, with our prisoner.”
The constable grabbed the front of hood, then tugged up and back, purposefully allowing his hand to strike the prisoner’s head during the unmasking. The face that now winced in the bright sunlight was that of a young woman with short black hair. She opened her eyes, blinked, and tugged at her bound arms in futility. Grimacing, she then looked down at the two men at the side of the cart.
Constable Gent clicked his tongue. “I believe – I know this one. They call her, some kind of animal, I believe.” He rubbed the top of his bald head. “A dog, perhaps.”
The woman snorted at Gent, as Deputy Stenson hummed. “I’ve heard stories, of a young female lieutenant, in Yungen’s army. Goes by the name of – Wolf.” The woman glared back in response.
“Wolf, eh?” Gent tossed the hood back into the cart. “Is that what they call you?”
The woman struggled against her bounds again, grunting angrily. Then her body slumped in resignation, as her lips curled back in a snarl directed at Gent. “Eat shit.”
The young deputy laughed. “From the little time I’ve spent with our prisoner, that appears to be the extent of her vocabulary.” He had banished amusement from his face by the time he turned back to his constable. “Since she was already subdued, we couldn’t just execute her – “
“Of course not, deputy.” Gent clapped his hands together. “This isn’t the Untamed Lands, Philos is a town of law, and justice will be served when court is in session two days from now.” He smiled back up at the woman. “Until then, we’ll keep this feral lass in a cage – I believe the third cell is currently open.”
“Very well.” Deputy Stenson waved two Safety Committee officers over to the cart. “Gentlemen, please escort Prisoner Three to her cell.”