Tyrant’s Gallow, an Aphorism

            Below is another extraction from my novel, in this case a legend about an anarchistic town and its origins. I’ve preserved all the original markings, dialogue, and description from the narrative. About 1,500 words.

Hunny’s manner had worked its friendly magic on the boy, and he eagerly answered their questions, feeling liberated to speak about the city he called home. They walked mostly uphill, and though the street itself was not terribly steep, the buildings around them rose up higher than in the square. Occasionally they passed a house that looked more like a keep: iron gates and stone walls; parapets rather than shake roofs. As they passed one particularly ominous and ancient complex, Horus spoke up.
“This one belongs to Seamus Delving, in case you ever wanted to have lunch with the terror of the south sea.” He glanced back at them, “He actually loves guests. He’s quite the character.” They passed by an iron gate, flecked with rust.  Behind it a rough-looking man leaned against the wall in the gateway eating an apple. His musket, bayoneted, primed and cocked, sat beside him. He did not look up as they passed. Past him could be seen a green lawn on either side of tile walkway which led up to the house proper, made of much the same dark stone as the encircling wall.
“The city is full of people like that, if you know where to look,” Horus went on. “Lots of sailors settle here because they can buy land and property that would be off-limits to anyone but the gentry or nobility somewhere else.”
“Was the city always lawless?” Hunny asked as they turned up another, slightly narrower avenue.
“We’re not lawless, madam. We are kingless, but not lawless.”
“Who writes the laws?” Hunny said.
“God,” Munin cut in. “Or no one.”
Horus smiled and turned back to Munin. “Which god, eh?”
“Depends on the company,” Munin said.
“Nobody here care’s about heretics, sir,” Horus said. “If you’re worried about that sort of thing. Hell, the prison’s more popular than the chapel.”
“The Dreamer, then,” Munin said.
“Prometheus,” Horus said with a smile, drawing out the word. “The dragon god. It’s a good town for that, sir. A very good town indeed. I believe you will get along with the mistress quite well.”
“Neither of you have yet to answer my question,” Hunny said.
Rone smiled. “You don’t need kings to write laws, love. There are no kings in the mountains either; at least, we recognize no kingship. We have laws. They don’t have to be written in stone by a divine ruler to be real. You don’t need sheriffs and judges to execute them. When people have a need for a law, it will come to exist, and nobody will question when its justice manifests itself. The law of kings is made out of the gentry’s displeasure with the law that is.”
“Well, what law said poor Minneo could be killed because of a debt? Why doesn’t anyone stop it?” Hunny asked irritably.
“He himself wrote that law,” Horus replied, “Begging your pardon, madam. He signed a contract to that effect. He agreed to a law that would bind himself and Madam Porthagan. He chose his law, and the people here respect that. Now as to whether we’ve ever hada king; as far as records can go, there’s never been one, though the city was occupied a few times in the last thousand years or so. There is a legend, if you like to hear it.”
“Of course,” Hunny said.
“Well the story that gets told around here says that many, many years ago there was a king in Tyrant’s Gallow, only it wasn’t called Tyrant’s Gallow back then, it was called Convection, though not on account of the warm currents that keep the island’s weather pleasant up in this latitude, but because the King’s family name was Convect. Anyway, this king supposedly lived in a gold palace. He was also known to consort with wizards, and the island became a gathering place of sorts for them because of his tolerance and the distance from the mainland.”
“And now it’s a gathering place for pirates,” Hunny cut in with a chuckle.
“Begging your pardon, but we don’t tolerate pirates.  Privateers, freebooters- they’re a different sort.  Madam Porthagan has put out quite a few bounties for those foolish enough to prey on her ships, and it’s called the Gallow for more reasons than the tyrant.”
“Which you were getting to, I assume,” Hunny said.
Horus nodded. “Eventually the Church of the Twelve heard about the lavish King Convect and his cabal of dark wizards, and raised an army to put a stop to it. Some tales also say the whole affair was actually the construct of his older half-brother, who could not take the throne because he was a bastard and was forced to join the clergy and live a life of poverty.”
“Poverty?  Hardly.” Munin laughed.  “When was the last time you stepped into a church?”
“Never have, actually,” Horus replied. They turned another corner and saw the great and famous Gallow Bluffs, mottled white and grey, looming before them.  “The church has no real army, you know, so what really happened was an invasion by a few of the petty kingdoms of the lowlands, all gone by now of course, at the behest of the church, and blamed upon the will of the Twelve.  The force was overwhelming, but they were repelled from the harbor by the power of the wizards and the many inventions they had come to develop over long years of tolerance. For ten days they fought, and many of the invading force’s ships were burned.  The quest was on the verge of abandonment by the parties involved, who each held a distrust of the other.
“One night, the king’s brother took a single boat and rowed up to a beach outside the city.  He was arrested by the king’s guards, but was taken to see his brother once his true identity was learned. Everyone thought he had arrived to give the king strategic information. He feigned to give him the information he sought, but at the same time secretly poisoned his wine. The king was found dead the next day.”
“So, would the brother have become king?” Hunny asked.
“Yes, that’s exactly what happened. The king’s advisor notified him that, as the last surviving member of the Convect family, the crown had fallen to him, bastard or no. The advisor gave him the king’s crown and clothed him in lavish clothes. The new king was prepared to end hostilities with the crippled fleet, but before he could even leave the palace the admirals and a high priest walked in the front doors.  They had found the streets empty and the canons unmanned.  No guards were posted outside the palace gate. The brother, who now resembled the old king in such a way as to fool his former allies, was put in chains and dragged outside the palace. 
“They hanged him there for high apostasy in front of the mixed armies of the petty lords in an otherwise deserted street. The palace was searched, and a writ of succession was found, naming ‘Fontaine’ to be the next legal heir to the king. The high priest declared it legal and stamped it. Soon it was discovered, by virtue of a lone soldier that had traveled here before, that ‘Fontaine’ was merely the high mountain on the island. Needless to say, that man earned a poor fate for his honesty. Frustrated by the will, and unable to come to a consensus on who should rule the island, the petty princes began to argue with one another. Violence broke out and many of the armed men who came ashore were killed. The last prince, victorious and standing in the town square on a hill of dead men, declared himself king.
“At that time, the king’s advisor approached. The petty prince soon found himself surrounded by the city’s wizards, who stood on balconies and atop buildings surrounding the square, armed with strange guns and other heretical devices. They destroyed his remaining force with their forbidden technology, ending the lives of the invading soldiers in seconds. The advisor then declared the prince a criminal, and the wizards hanged him beside the new king. The advisor sent a courier to the Arch Priest in Chalandier with the stamped writ, and the island officially became ruled by the mountain.  In essence, free.”
“What happened to the king’s advisor?” Hunny asked.
“He was a wise wizard and had the golden palace rebuilt into the golden courthouse, of which he became the first chairman. The gold from the bricks and decor of the king was melted down and used as the monetary base for a new bank in the same place. It’s all legend though- even the Golden Courthouse’s records have gaps and limitations. Ah, we’re almost here.” 

Thanks for Reading!

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