20 Time #3 – A Thief’s Commentary

For background, see Finally on a Roll (also see Enter the Spin-Off Novels)

I lounged on the roof of a house, eating the sandwich I stole from the street vendor. The wooden shingles were warm from the afternoon sun. Any other person would find sitting on the steep peak of the roof hazardous, but I had much practice and it didn’t bother me, as long as I kept near the chimney for support.

Today, there were some Inspectors in the plaza below. I took another bite out of my treat, lettuce crunching, as I tuned in to their words.
There was a tall, middle-aged man with blonde hair standing on the scaffolding they used for hangings. He had gathered a huge crowd of villagers around him.

He raised a finger in the air. “… you owe him your gratitude, as your magnanimous King created the Royal Inspectors with the sole intention of keeping you safe from people that would do you harm.”

I grinned. They’re doing one of their propaganda speeches again. I made myself comfortable and set in for my entertainment.

The Inspector raised a copy of the kingdom law. “Without the Inspectors, thieves would run rampant through our streets, stealing from us all. There would be no privacy! Your jewels, your hard-earned wages, gone before your eyes!”

Wrong. I polished off my contraband sandwich. My family monopolizes this town’s crime, everything within this town’s bounds is our territory and ours alone. And we don’t steal from the poor villagers the Inspector was thoroughly frightening.

“Your taxes go straight into the Inspector community, to their suppliers, to ensure that this never comes to pass!” The crowd sighed in relief. One devout villager cried a praise to the heavens.

The Inspector went on. “And think of the assassins, the vicious mercenaries that prowl the gutters at night. Think of your wives and your children, asleep in their homes. Who will protect them if they should be threatened?”

“The Inspectors!” cheered multiple people in a dissonant stagger.

“Our sole duty is to you, my people!” The man put a hand onto his shining breastplate. “You are our charge! You’ve seen the hangings on this very scaffolding, seen evil incarnate crushed under the heel of justice! Your streets are clean and safe, thanks to my fellow Inspectors!”
The crowd applauded openly. There were calls of, “Eternal thanks!” and “Your courage is amazing!” and “Saints, every one of you!”

More like chumps, I chuckled. You’d be surprised how few of these revered figures actually do any work. I bet none of the officers before you have put their lives on the line since they were promoted. Poor, blind souls.

“Never forget who protects your village, never forget that this land has the lowest crime rates in all of the Nine Kingdoms, because of your Inspectors!” The man spread his arms with his final exclamation, sucking up the cheers and the love from the gullible masses before him.
I snorted out loud, and the shingle that my right foot was braced against slipped out of its moorings, clattering down the roof’s slope and crashing through the fabric of a fruit-seller’s awning.

By the time the Inspectors’ heads whipped to the roof, I was already over the peak and shimmying down the trellis on the opposite side.

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