The Ringing of the Bells – Part 1

The city of Laketown was awakened abruptly by the ringing of bells. A thunderous roar resounded across the entire city, from the West wall to the Lake Gate and Fish Port. Every citizen was alerted, as though with shouts from above. “TREA-SON! TREA-SON! TREA-SON!” It started from the Blue Palace on Crown Hill. Then it echoed from the Tower of the Guard. Soon, it was coming from dozens of towers and turrets all over the city.

The Capitol Guard sprang into action as fast as the bells did. The palace was secured, all the gates were shut, guardsmen began combing through the city, and a sizeable detachment was sent to secure Port Town and the two ports. But despite the Guard’s efforts, it was simply too late. Before anyone realized what had happened and before the bells even began to ring, the traitor had already exited through the River Gate into Port Town.

Two guardsmen were walking towards the gate up the main road when the bells began to ring. They had just given up their post at Fish Port, turned in their weapons, and were on their way back into the city. They shared a fearful look. The ringing of the bells could mean many things. It could mean that they were about to endure a siege from a hostile army, or worse, combat a large insurrection within the city.

They ran toward the River Gate to meet with the guardsmen standing post there and find out what they were in for. There were few people out on the streets this early, but they ran into several on their way. Most of them were commoners, whom they told to get inside and that everything would be well. Not far from the gate, they saw a nobleman. He wore a black cape, a brown leather vest, a black tunic underneath, dark brown trousers, and a pair of shiny black boots. A silver brooch in the shape of a fox was pinned to his cape at the shoulder. It was the Royal Justice. He was responsible for judging and prosecuting highly dangerous, as well as highborn, criminals.

“Lord Devoue!” Bart, one of the guardsmen, cried out. “Do you know what the bells are ringing for?”

“They are ringing for my sake. A traitor has escaped from the palace.”

“And you came out yourself in pursuit?” The Justice was known to be more hands-on than other nobles. They took his silence and rush to get past them as a yes.

“You should rendezvous with the guardsmen at the gate, they need more men to secure that post.”

The two guardsmen were puzzled by this for a moment, as Lord Devoue himself was heading in the opposite direction. But they took it as a command from someone who understood the situation better, and continued on toward the gate.

When they reached it, it was already shut. But they could see a guardsman in a turret above the right side of the gate.

“Ho there! Do you need us here?” This time, it was Andre who spoke.

“I’m not sure,” the guardsman in the turret shouted back, “but a rider is approaching down the main road, looks like he’ll inform us. Standby, maybe you’re needed on that side of the wall.”

The whole situation seemed more and more peculiar to the two guardsmen. But they took this moment to catch their breath after running up the street.

The sound of bells was deafening. One was ringing in the turret on the left side of the gate. It filled them with a sense of dread. Their stomachs were churning, and their mouths were dry. They were dizzy. It was the fourth hour, and they had been up since midnight. Bart started to feel the beginnings of a headache.

After a few moments, the gate began to open. The guardsman they spoke to earlier shouted from the turret. “It’s Lord Devoue. He’s a traitor! And he’s trying to escape.”

A stab of painful shock hit them both. They turned on their heels. Andre shouted back to the guardsman in the turret, and the one on horseback who had just come through the gates. “We just passed him on our way here!”

The man on horseback began to trot past them. “Where did he-“

“He was headed towards Fish Port.”

“Heading.”

The rider broke into a canter. Bart and Andre followed as fast as they could.

They couldn’t see far. The city was covered in fog. It hovered over the streets like a giant grey blanket. Luckily for them, Lord Devoue hadn’t been able to get very far. They saw him up ahead. It looked like in his rush to flee he had crashed into a stack of crates filled with oranges, and caused some commotion. A few people gathered around as a merchant came out of his home to see his goods spilled across the cobbles.

“My oranges! What have you done?” He bellowed, before realizing that it was a noble that was sprawled on the ground amongst crates and oranges. Lord Devoue picked himself up, and saw the guardsmen approaching. He grabbed an empty crate, and smashed it in the horse’s face as the rider approached him. The poor beast reeled and went out of control. A large splinter was lodged in its’ eye. The rider was struggling to stay seated, let alone regain control. Lord Devoue disapeared into an alley behind the citrus merchant’s house. Moments later, Bart and Andre arrived at the scene. They slowed down for a moment, but then continued on in pursuit of the traitor. There was no time to help the rider who had fallen off his horse, or the merchant who’s goods were being taken by passersby in a free-for-all.

They stayed on the traitor’s heels like a pair of wolves on the hunt. Their exhaustion gave way to a fixated determination and unyielding vigour. Lord Devoue’s betrayal was not abstract to them. The thought of how easy it would have been to stop him then and there on the street, when they had first met him, filled their mouths with ash and acid. But thoughts of what could have been did not stay at the forefront of their minds for long. They were a hungry pair of wolves, and their prey was getting away.

Devoue began to weave through the intricate alleys of Port Town. Left and right, and right again. Then left and back on his course. His cape fluttered behind him as though a pair of wings. As though he was about to fly away from their grasp.

Bart got close enough and grabbed hold of it, digging his heels into the ground to come to a stop. But before they could catch him, Devoue undid the strap and flinged the cape at their faces. Andre swatted it aside, but Bert lost his balance and stumbled backwards. He lost the feeling of solid ground beneath him and the next thing he knew, he was on the ground.

All he saw was a grey mist. He felt as though he had just downed a pint of strong ale. His body turned stiff and numb. He felt something tickling his head. It suddenly felt like he was in a puddle of something wet and sticky. He reached up with his hand to feel it.

‘A pomegranate,’ he thought. ‘I must have fallen on an old pomegranate. That’s rich.’

Then the grey turned to black and his hand dropped to the ground.

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