Anyway, here's the first part of chapter one. It's too long to post all of chapter 1 in one blog post. With luck, I'll have a cover for it next week. In the mean time, I have included a picture of a typical medieval man-at-arms to give you an idea of what Watt 's armor looked like. Not exactly, but more or less. Enjoy!
Chapter 1, Part 1
This was the first day of his life as a hero, Watt thought as he made his way through the city market. He had his father's helm and mail, a very nice coat of plate to wear over it that he'd claimed from the body of a horse thief, a halberd he'd made himself, and a writ of recommendation from his father's overlord to get him through the door. In a matter of minutes, he'd present it to the captain of the Kampton City Guard, and then he wouldn't be the third son of a village blacksmith any longer. He'd be a real man-at-arms, serving in a real militia, living in a real city. Why, it wouldn't surprise him if he found himself knighted by the end of the year. Yes, his future was looking bright indeed.
The market was bustling with people, all of them noisy and moving like they had important places to go, so it took Watt several minutes to realize that he wasn't seeing anyone actually buying or selling anything. How odd, he thought. What kind of market didn't have merchants? Maybe this square wasn't the market, he rationalized. He'd never been to a city, after all. Maybe city markets were someplace other that the central square like they were in small hamlets. He shrugged off the thought and turned into the building marked "guard barracks".
"Name and business," the disinterested guard at the watch desk said in a nasal voice.
"Ah, my name is Watt, from South Umptonshire Village," he replied, turning the last bit into a question. The older man just stared at him, probably because he could care less where Watt hailed from. He flushed and hurried on, "My father's overlord sent me here with a writ of recommendation so I could joint the city guard."
"Captain!" the board guardsman bellowed over his shoulder, causing Watt jump at the unexpectedness of it. "We got us another bumpkin wanting a job!"
"Bumpkin?" Watt repeated, aghast. Granted, he didn't have any real military experience, just what he'd gained from helping out at his father's overlord's keep, but he was pretty sure bellowing at one's commanding officer wasn't very professional. Or appropriate. The lout hadn't even glanced at the writ that was being offered for his inspection.
"What of it?" a belligerent voice replied from a room behind the watch desk. "Send 'im away. I got no rations to feed another useless mouth and no patience to train up another bumpkin into something I do have a use for!"
"I wasn't aware that simply being from a smaller hamlet marked me an inexperienced bumpkin," Watt said darkly. "In fact, I have brought a recommendation from my previous lord to prove my worth, if only you'd look at it."
The sound of a wood chair protesting at being dragged over flagstone floors had both him and the insulant guard cringing. A moment later, the biggest, meanest, dirtiest man Watt had ever laid eyes on squeezed through the door of the back office. Watt eyed the man apprehensively for a moment before realizing the filthy state of the guard captain's clothes was not due to sloth but rather battle grime. He also realized that the big man didn't look hungover, but rather very tired, as if he'd not found his bed since the day before at least.
"Well then," the captain said once he'd gotten his considerable bulk into the front room. "Let's see these papers you're going on about."
Watt gulped as he handed the writ he'd been so very proud of a moment ago over. As the grizzled old warrior looked them over, Watt looked the captain over. That was one seriously huge man, bigger than even his father, who'd been blacksmithing since he was old enough to hold the tongs. Watt himself was a fairly large man, too, since he'd also been wielding the tongs since he was old enough to hold them.
The captain dwarfed them both in hight alone, but the man was also fat. Not the blubbery kind of fat lazy people managed to accumulate, either. He was swathed in the kind of hard fat that old warriors developed after decades of harsh living. His father always said that old warriors got that way because they'd learned to eat whenever they could, which translated into extra girth in peace times and extra armor during war. Judging by the state of him, the captain wasn't experiencing a period of peace right now.
“Any reason you just handed me yer mum’s shopping list, boy?” the captain growled after a moment. Watt just looked at him stunned for a moment, before narrowing his eyes. The captain wasn’t looking at him, only starring at the writ like he found it quite unusual.
“I take it you cannot read?” Watt said cautiously. Most people couldn’t, he knew, and those who managed to attain a high rank in life without learning tended to be very touchy about it.
“I can read,” the captain said, finally raising his appraising gaze to Watt. “And now I know you can, too. The captain slapped the papers back into Watt's chest. "You're not completely inexperienced and you have yer letters, but I still don't have the extra rations to feed you and you still need training in how to be a guard rather than a part time sheep chaser. I’m sorry lad, but I cannot use you."
"You do look as though you are in need of some men-at-arms, if you don't mind me saying so," Watt said defensively. He really didn't want to have to go back home and admit defeat. He'd made a bit of an ass of himself about making his own way in the world when his father had tried to marry him off to the daughter of a son-less smith a few villages over. If he couldn't find work here, he was doomed to marry Bertha, who was a good fifteen years older than him, and he knew it.
"You are not a man-at-arms, though, boy," the captain sneered. "You are a semi-educated bumpkin who chased a few petty criminals and now thinks to pass that off as something greater."
There were a dozen things Watt thought to say to that, but he voiced none of them. It wouldn't matter one way or another how witty his reply might be, the captain wasn't going to listen. He pursed his lips and nodded, saying nothing. It was something he'd seen his father do when confronted with irrationally hostile people, and it seemed to him that Father always came off looking better for simply pursing his lips, nodding, and walking away.
"And another thing, whelp," the giant said as Watt turned his back. He paused and simply waited, not turning back for fear the old warrior would realize he was bluffing. "Good luck finding work on this side of the river," the man continued. "There's not enough food to be had since the spring squalls swelled the rivers and washed out all the bridges except Troll's Gate."
"And woke the troll," muttered the desk guard mulishly. Watt frowned and turned his head to look at the two men. They were completely serious, he realized.
"I realize that a simple bumpkin like me has no where near your vast experience," he said slowly, realizing his snarky reply was a mistake but unable to stop himself. "Only, it seems to me that rolling in the mud with a troll isn't likely to vanquish it. But what do I know of such things. I'm nothing more than a part time sheep chaser trying to pass myself off as something greater." He faced forward and walked as calmly as he could out of the guardhouse and back out to the street beyond.
"If you're so bloody talented, why don't you go do something about the troll!" the captain roared at Watt's retreating back. Watt tossed a smirk back over his shoulder though he didn't feel the least bit superior at the moment.
"It seems I'll have to since there's no work on this side of the river no way to the other side without passing your friend."