James Rainport sent patrols out and maintained the security of Northwich as per instruction. He hated his post, but excelled at it.
James was personable with his staff but adversarial with authority. It had always been that way for James.
Lord Rainport, his father, had been unreasonably domineering and overbearing throughout James’ life with everything family related.
As a child, James was initially afraid of his father until he discovered he could push back. The beatings stopped midway through James’ teenage years when he grew much larger than his father. The battles of will continued into adulthood.
Unbeknownst to James, he was a little like his father but vowed not to be.
Quite naturally, James threw a letter into the hearth that his father sent by messenger. Plausible deniability of receiving it empowered James. He could only imagine the ridiculous instructions it may have contained. He grinned when he thought about it.
For now, he would tolerate Brother and follow his direction until his tour was completed. He begrudgingly liked Brother’s fair, no nonsense approach. When his tour was over, he was unsure what his next move would be.
James pondered the security concerns of Northwich and gave direction to fortify key points of the village as Brother had. Unlike Brother, James had the insight of how fortifications function from an academic level. He would construct a watchtower at a high point in the town and implement a signal system for advanced response.
While he knew the reason for the first settlement, James wondered why Brother was commissioned to rebuild.
He had overheard his father, Lord Rainport talk about the potential military significance of Northwich in meetings at their estate with other nobles.
Apparently thunderbirds had been raised in a secret training program to attack enemy positions. The program was based in Northwich.
The effort ended in a disaster that was covered up.
It was privileged information James knew to keep to himself for the security of the kingdom.
James considered the convicts that Brother took with him from La Longi.
17 men had been impressed upon to resettle Northwich. Among them were thieves, robbers, and murderers. Every one of them was facing a lengthy sentence, disfiguring punishment or death. Freedom for the 17 was conditional to agreement of one year of labor for Brother.
One did not make the trip because his crime was too unthinkable even for a hardened criminal. He was buried in a shallow grave. It was called “prison justice” by the 16.
This was common knowledge in Northwich.
Every convict bore the branding of Silent Gallows and Last Rites. Northwich would likely be a permanent home for them as no village would accept such a mark.
The 16 were granted tracts of land and they became tenants of Northwich. Families and shirttail relations arrived and the area could be a hot mess of social issues.
With Brother’s guidance, pumpkins and squash were harvested. Winter wheat and garlic were planted. There was not enough to go around due to the unexpected influx of people and it would be a hard winter.
As James Rainport contemplated, he heard wailing in the convict corner of Northwich. He walked to the houses and discovered that a man had beat his wife and he was talking about it with his friends. As he approached, the men began to yell at James and tell him to mind his own business. Life experience as a guard on patrol had taught James to stay away from such affairs without plenty of back up. There was often more to the story and it was a good way for a guard to get hurt.
Several men and women with sticks approached.
James blew a horn to sound an alarm and drew his sword.
James gave direction for the two groups to stay their distance and both groups began to yell at James to leave.
There was no honor in shedding blood here and James stepped out from the center of the two groups.
An onlooker yelled,
” dig a hole!”
Several guards arrived to assist James.
The commotion drew the attention of all 16 families. There was going to be a brawl and James would have to take a life to end it. This was certain.
The anticipated violence did not happen.
In an orderly fashion, a stake was driven into the ground a circle was drawn in the dirt with another stake and string. A near perfectly round hole was dug about chest high.
The man and his wife were brought before the 16 families. The man had his left arm secured behind his back and he was led into the hole and given a stout club about 3 feet long. The woman was given a similar implement.
On a signal, fighting began. The wife proceeded to try and beat her husband with the club and the husband defended himself and tried to get a hit in as well from the disadvantage of the hole.
It was clear to James that a resolution would come of this argument and it was relatively fair combat. He did not intervene but kept close watch.
The husband and the woman were both clearly embarrassed. The rules were simple. First blood ended the dispute. No interference.
The husband must have been more embarrassed than she. As he took a feeble swing at her leg, the woman stepped on his club and devastated him with blows to his head. The husband slumped into the hole and the crowd of convicts and their families cheered.
The wife raised her club and yelled profanities.
Her demeanor changed and she yelled for someone to help her get her husband out of the hole. She was clearly as distraught as she had been triumphant just seconds earlier.
He was out cold and blood trickled from his head.
” that’s not in the rules to help!” Someone yelled. Several family members helped take him home despite whatever the “rules” were.
A convict approached James
“That’s how we handle our business. We do our thing. You do yours.”
The crowd dispersed as quickly as it assembled.
James was dumbfounded.
Aa he left the dispute area, another man approached James and asked him to play draughts. No sooner did he refuse when a group of men came from seemingly nowhere.
“Boo that man!” he cried. The men yelled “Boooo” in James’ direction. He checked his sword. His ears were red from anger at the insult.
” why are you grabbing your sword, Raincoat?”
James was livid.
“Rainport. You will address me as Guard Rainport.”
A convict said, “Guard Rainport, all we want to do is play checkers with you. Red or black? Your choice.”
James played several rounds and went back to work. The convicts seemed genuinely appreciative.