Once a day, the capital of Harmatia was silent. It wasn’t for a lack of people. In fact the point at which the sun surrendered to the horizon always guaranteed a larger crowd than the morning market. This is because dusk is when the knight patrol starts, and no one wants to miss the start of the knight patrol.
A tiny dot appeared against the canvas of the darkening sky. As it flew closer to the city the anticipation of the crowd grew. It started off as a buzz in the air, until the crowd erupted into open cheering. Zachary, leader of the knight patrol, had arrived.
By now Zachary had honed his arrival to the point of being a fine art. When he reached the city he would always pause for a moment. In that moment the last rays of the sun struck his scales and they glimmered like black diamonds.
The arrival of the dragon had quickly become an important tradition for the kingdom of Harmatia. It was said that villagers would travel from miles away just to be in the city to see Zachary appear. They would make the long journey, witness the event and then leave in the morning. As well as being an important event it was also Zachary’s favourite time of day.
“You could just transform within the city” Rufus often pointed out “
“But Rufus” Zachary would always reply “where would be the fun in that?”
“Are your dramatic entrances really worth the required ten mile trip out of the city?”
“They are when they annoy you this much”
Rufus would inevitably end these conversations with at least one eye brow raised and Zachary always enjoyed it. Irritating Rufus was the second best part of Zachary’s evening. Though to be fair, irritating Rufus was something that Zachary got to do almost all day every day.
Of course the other flaw in making an incredibly showy, but impressive (if Zachary didn’t mind saying so himself) entrance is that Zachary never remembered to actually talk to his men about the plans for that night’s patrol.
“You could just have the meeting before your big entrance” Rufus often suggested
“But then I wouldn’t be able to make my pre patrol journeys”
“Yet another reason why are they are a complete waste of time”
The meeting with the knights went as they usually did. Everyone knew what was expected of them and everyone knew where they needed to be. It was a perfectly run team.
Out on the streets Zachary felt alert. It seemed strange to some that he would patrol the streets in his human form after making such an effort to demonstrate his dragon from but in truth the transformation was only good for big fights or when you knew where your target was and needed to catch them quickly. The city had so many little pathways and side streets that turning into a dragon before you knew if you needed to was kind of impractical.
“Zachary” Rufus called to him
“You don’t need to yell” Zachary retorted “I’m right here”
A look of confusion flashed across Rufus’ face “I didn’t say anything”.
Zachary shrugged it off as hearing things and continued on his way. Now that the spectacle of the day had passed, the city was quiet.
“Zachary” there it was again. Zachary went to reply but he didn’t think Rufus’ lips were even moving. Zachary sighed, he must have been more tired than he realised. Those long meetings that King Sverrin forced him to attend really didn’t help.
Zachary didn’t care for official city meetings. Supposedly they were to come to a decision about whatever vital matter was affecting the city that moment, but somehow very little ever seemed to get decided. It was perhaps the most depressingly dull paradox that he had ever come across.
“What!” Zachary snapped. He turned to Rufus to ask why he kept calling his name, sure that Rufus was playing a trick. But Rufus wasn’t there. That didn’t make any sense. He had just been standing next to Zachary a moment ago.
Standing up ahead of him was a small boy. He looked frightened. His eyes were wide, his skin was pale and he seemed rooted to the spot. Zachary drew closer to him, to see if he was alright and the child let out a deafening scream. Without another word the child turned and ran.
Zachary chased after the child. At this time of night that boy could accidentally run into just about anything and Zachary was afraid for his safety. What was he evening doing out this late?
Before long the child tripped and hit the ground with a thud. Concerned for his safety Zachary went ran over to him. The child was dead. His face had become fixed in the expression of terror that he had been wearing moments ago and his skin had gone from pale to a pearl white.
Zachary searched for any sign of what might have caused this when he noticed his hands. They were covered in blood. There were no signs of blood on the body, where had it come from? He stepped back in shock and suddenly the city erupted into screaming.
“Zachary wake up or I’m just leaving you here to explain why you overslept again!”
Zachary groaned and stirred from his slumber. For a moment he was happy that it had all been a dream. There was no screaming child. Then it hit him. There was no “knight patrol”.
There was a night patrol. Everybody loathed it, even Zachary. There was no good natured banter with Rufus anymore, there was an edge to it now. Even if neither of them wanted to talk about it. Sverrin had died long before he had the chance to become king, now that brat Jionathan was next in line to the throne. And worst of all he was no hero of the people, everyone feared him.
The blood was still on his hands.