I happened upon a rather unpleasant scene when I finally reached the castle. It seemed to be my talent, arriving on unpleasant scenes. My life had been full of them, starting with my birth. And at the time, there was little I could do about it.
Much like now.
It looked like a battle had broken out on the castle grounds. A few bodies lay strewn about in various contortions, riderless horses were rearing and snorting, and men with torches milled about uncertainly. The only ones who actually appeared as if they had a purpose were the ones loading the corpses onto carts.
"Ah Marshal Twynam!" A man called from the glowing sea onlookers. "What a timely arrival!"
"Whoa Eldun" I murmured softly as I reigned my horse in. I gave the place a cursory glance then fixed a glare on the crowd.
"Those who do not need to be here, would do well to go back to their homes" I suggested. When nobody moved, my scowl deepened while my voice grew.
"Now! Or I'll hang the lot of you for breaking curfew."
"We don't have a curfew sir" ventured a man in the front. I turned to look at him as I stepped down from Eldun, never once taking my eyes from his.
"Is that so?" I asked with mock curiosity. "Come forward young man. What is your name?"
"Bradford sir" he answered as he stepped out.
"Bradford. Do you know how to read or write Bradford?"
"No sir, my father never taught me my letters."
I turned back and rifled through the saddlebags slung over my steed. Producing a quill, I turned back to the peasant.
"Hold this for me, would you?" I asked. The man nodded and held out a hand. I dropped the quill into it and pulled out my dagger. Before he could react, I made two small cuts and pulled a piece of cloth from his shirt.
Then another cut on his outstretched arm.
Bradford grimaced and let out a pitiful yelp. I sheathed my blade, and retrieved my quill from the peasant's hand. Dipping it in the the blood that was pooling from the cut, I began to scrawl a message on the piece of cloth. When I had finished, I showed the piece of cloth to Bradford and those behind him.
Then I pinned it to his arm with the quill.
"That," I gestured to Bradford as he fell into a writhing heap, "Is your new curfew." I smiled grimly at the congregation before issuing one last command.
The crowd thinned quickly, and after a minute there was no one left, save one man.
"Impressive Marshal Twynam! I guess I don't need to have any doubts about your ability to handle foolish peasants."
"If you are interested in my ability, then you must be my superior. Are you the Constable of Hamish?"
"Bah, Constable sounds so... formal. I am the Sheriff of Hamish, the very same that summoned you here."
I accepted his hand as he offered it and gave it a firm shake.
"It appears that you already know who I am. Might I enquire as to the purpose of my visit?"
The Sheriff's face grew serious, "Oh you are here for more than a visit Marshall Twynam. You have been called here to take up a new commission!"
I hadn't expected that. The Constable of Garrenway, the one who passed along my summons, had failed to mention a new post. Not that it was in any way surprising. The Constable was old and absent-minded. That was why I was the one people came to when there was a problem.
"I am honored Sheriff...?"
"Birmingham. Sheriff Edwin Birmingham."
"Well met. Why have I been given a new commission here sir? Do you not have another Marshal?"
"I did. His service to me was terminated rather suddenly."
I quirked an eyebrow, "Terminated by what sir?"
He gestured to the mess around us.
"By the very same rabble who did this. The group commonly known as the Night Hawks."