The Chosen, Chapter 2B

The man, whom until just now both the constable and deputy had believed to be a continental nobleman, laid the helmet of an Imperial Guardsman on the constable’s table. “My name is Archilochus. I am on a pilgrimage to the temple on Eighth Hill, with my sister, Crim, who is an acolyte of the temple in Eyrini.”

Deputy Stenson had overcome his surprise. “I’d expect a member of the Imperial Guard to be back on the continent defending what’s left of your realm, rather than going on holiday in the colonies.”

Archilochus did not seem at all perturbed by the deputy’s challenge. “Not all Guardsmen are needed to protect our borders. The Empire may not be as expansive as it has been in the past, but it has survived for a millennium, and retains the strength to endure. Guardsmen like myself who are not on active duty, nevertheless are bound to protect the Empire’s interests.”

“And does your duty to the Empire – ” Constable Gent waited for Archilochus’ full attention – “include spying?”

Archilochus snorted. “If I were a spy, why would I reveal my identity to you?”

“Only after lying about your identity first.” Deputy Stenson folded his arms across his chest. “We have no way to verify this new story you’re telling about yourself. For all we know, you could have purchased this helmet, or taken it from a Guardsmen you slayed.”

“An Imperial Guardian would rather STARVE, than sell his armor!” Archilochus’ voice had risen with indignation. “And impersonating a member of the Guard is a capital crime, surely you know this! No, if you must, send a messenger to the temple in Eyrini – the priests there will corroborate my story.”

Constable Gent picked up the helmet from his desk, and turned it over in his hands as he admired its craftsmanship. “You’re leaving out one important detail.” He looked up at Archilochus. “As I told you yesterday, your presence for that woman’s trial tomorrow is unnecessary, since my men saw her attack you and the boy. There was no reason for you to come here today, no reason to reveal your identity.” He handed the helmet back to the Archilochus. “So tell me, Archilochus – what business does the Imperial Guard have with us this day?”

Archilochus took the helmet from the constable, and returned it to his sack. “I’ve come to demand that you release the prisoner into my custody.”


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