The first night William spent in the manor, some of the guards arranged a clandestine meetings.
“Look, all I’m saying is, it’s justice if we kill him. We’ll be avenging Lord Harridan. If one of us happens to take over as lord at the same time… So much the better. I’m sure you wouldn’t mind some revenge either.”
The guard who had escorted Lord Harridan shook his head, “No way, I’m out. I’m taking my chance and leaving.”
“Oh come on,” one of the other guards said, “When did you become such a wimp? I can’t believe Lord Harridan let you be his personal escort.”
“He let me do it because I was the strongest of us. Let me remind you of something. He’s dead now.” He tapped his head, wincing, “You ever think of that? This guy killed him and was basically unscratched. Before that… he did this to my helmet, with his bare hand.” The escort held up a dented helmet.
“Oh please,” one of the other guards took the helmet from him, then strained, crushing it between his hands. “That doesn’t mean much.”
“It means a whole lot more with your head inside it. Look, all I’m saying is, you can’t beat the guy one on one, and he’s got the title now. Even though he just got it, the other lords will get testy if you band together to kill him. Sure, they might not kill you, but they sure as heck ain’t gonna let you be a lord.”
“Whatever. You didn’t even see the fight. He probably pulled out some kind of trick.”
“In front of a dozen other lords?” he waved his hand dismissively, “Whatever, I’m leaving tomorrow morning. Have fun with your stupid meeting, I need to sleep.” With that, he was out the door. He took a few steps then turned down the corridor toward his part of the barracks.
In the morning, most of the guards gathered to see their former comrade off. Some of them were more enthusiastic about it, and others were there just because it was something to do. In the end, he walked out with just a sack of his personal belongings, down the long road toward anything else.
“My, it sure is nice to see such loyalty among comrades.”
The guards all turned at the sound of his voice. Many of them snapped to attention, “Greetings, Lord Rutten.”
“Good morning to you as well.” William stared wistfully at the sky, “It is sad to see a comrade go, but he was not going to be a good fit. Perhaps he will find a better life elsewhere. Speaking of which…” William moved to stand in front one of the guards, “No greeting for your new lord?”
The guard shrugged, “Well, you haven’t yet done anything to be deserving of that title. In fact, I was thinking that…” He reached his hand for his hip, where there was a sword resting. Then, William suddenly stabbed his staff by his side, to behind him.
Using the rebound from striking the person behind him, William swung his staff down and forward, adding even more momentum by taking a step. His staff then completed the arc to swing up into the first guard’s chin. There was a horrible cracking sound, before finally the thump as the body behind William hit the floor. William grinned, and stretched, “Honestly, did you guys think I wouldn’t notice you moving around like that? I’m not blind.” Of course, none of those sneaking up on him had been within his vision, so that didn’t actually matter.
There were a number of sounds as another half-dozen guards readied an assortment of swords and warhammers. They rushed forward, but in a half-circular formation to avoid interfering with each other. They even coordinated their attacks so that when William stepped in to kill one of them, their attacks targeted him at the same time. Unfortunately for them, none of their attacks made any significant mark, either missing or merely grazing… while one of them died under William’s staff. Then, one after another, they fell. In the span of a half dozen seconds, seven guards had died.
There was only one remaining, but before William could target him, there was a horrible sound of metal scraping on metal, the hard sound of stone cracking, and an extremely unpleasant squishing sound as the two halves of the guard felt to the floor. Behind him, a guard pulled back his halberd and shook it off.
William looked at the guard. “That was a pretty fast reaction. Trying to get in good with your new lord?”
The guard scratched his head sheepishly. “Honestly… no offense meant Lord Rutten… I just didn’t like that guy.”
William shrugged. “Well, your honesty is appreciated.” He looked at the bodies around him. Except for the one that was bisected, most of them left fairly clean bodies, with at most a small amount of blood. He shook his head, “Someone has to clean this up, and it’s not going to be me. I’m sure the servants can do the scrubbing, but the bodies… Do we have somewhere to put them?”
One of the other guards spoke up, “Umm, Lord Rutten, I believe there is a portion of the garden where nothing is growing right now. We can leave them there until they can be properly disposed of.”
William waved his hand. “That would be fine. Have a nice day, everyone.”
The former personal escort of Lord Harridan walked down the road. He hummed a tune to himself. Losing his job wasn’t great… but it could have been worse. He thought he heard some sort of commotion behind him, but didn’t turn to look. It wasn’t any of his business anymore. No, his business was leaving while the new lord was still being merciful. He shivered, remembering the scene from the previous night. While the new lord was perfectly pleasant, seeing him in the dark was terrifying, especially when he had just turned the corner from a clandestine meeting. He had just barely managed not to cry out in terror. Even the dismissive wave to tell him to keep moving only settled his nerves, and it took him some time to fall asleep… but here he was, out of the manor, and alive. That was good. He considered stopping at one of the little towns nearby, but some of those were technically on land owned by the lord, and not just governed by him. He hadn’t been told he couldn’t stay there… but it was better not to chance it. He continued to hum to himself. Sometimes, a change in occupation wasn’t so bad.