Lotye O’Tulvar was not the only person arrested during the search of the square where the panicking ghosts had attacked, but she was the one with which the guardian patrol commander was most pleased. She had fought the hardest and given his people the scratches and bruises to prove it. Someone that desperate to escape must be guilty of something.
The veteran law officer grinned as two strong men held her pinioned while others used the cords they carried on their belts, one of the many tools and symbols of their profession, to bind her legs and arms. Around her full blue skirts the cords were wound until she looked like a furious silk-clad roast, trussed for the oven.
“Right,” declared the gruff, broken-nosed guardian as his suspect glared at him from behind the veil of her luxuriant hair, “who’s got a barrow?”
In short order, a barrow was borrowed, and in the borrowed barrow Lotye was wheeled through the twisting lanes of Sesus, City of the Seas — the colorful and occasionally cursing triumph of this short procession of guardians, proud in their straightened green and gold coats and dusty green gaiters with the gold buttons, marching with their tricorn hats upon their heads and their hands resting on their sword hilts, except for the one pushing Lotye along.
It took a while to make it through the variously curious, amused and oblivious crowds to the central keep of the guardians, where their brethren from the square and other parts of the city congregated and brought their prizes — pickpockets, brigands, drunkards, and assassins, as well as those that might very well be innocent of wrong. Out in the streets was not the place to sort out what might be dredged up in the broad net of the law. That’s what the keep was for.
The central keep, located in the very heart of the ancient city, would have been an imposing tower of stone if not for the many other buildings clustered around and clinging to it. As was, it seemed more like a beehive than a garrison and jail, with one small door at the street, letting guardians and ruffians and attorneys and others in and out of what seemed like merely a high, sort of curved wall, all day long. But inside was the hub of the royal city’s law enforcement.
Here, Lotye would be lifted from her undignified conveyance, and carried up to the registrar marshall’s desk to be logged in on “suspicion of criminal or mischievous wizardry.” This would put a mark on her papers, and one of the staff wizards would have to be called to search her person. “Safety first” was the by-word of the Sesus Guardian Force. The informal charge, pending interrogation, would also catch the attention of the lawyers in their deep blue robes, with their white wigs hung over their arms like towels, who hung about the city’s several keeps, looking for clients. Interrupting their chit-chat of sports and courtesans and so forth, they would slip in by the guardians to press their cards upon the presumed-innocent woman, tucking the little bits of paper into her hands, her bonds, even the top edge of her bodice, while decrying her treatment and promising to come to her cell shortly to discuss her plea.
Thus written up and sealed into record, Lotye would then be transferred up the winding stairs of the tower to the cells and dropped onto a pallet of straw in little more than a cubby hole with “window” the size of two bricks. She would be kept bound until the resident forensic wizard had gone through her pockets and secured the various strange or innocuous items he might find in a Box of Nothing, enchanted to contain the aura and spells of wizards’ possessions.
“Those are they,” the patrol commander declared as his wizard colleague held up the card bearing the image of the three madmen. “Those are the apparitions that attacked the crowd.” His joy was palpable. He had caught the perpetrator.
But the forensic wizard was not so sure. There was a strong aura to the two playing cards, yet no vibration to match from the young eorman woman who carried them. Placing them in the box with the rest of her effects, he said, “Time will tell, time will tell. I suppose we can untie her legs now.”
“Yes,” agreed a lawyer in the corridor, “untie my client at once.”
“Your client?” cried another a little further along.
And the guardians merely laughed.