The sheriff frowned deeply as he looked at the assembled criminals. One was a well-regarded member of the nobility, Tobias Merklet, adored by many of the common folk for his generous business practices. The sheriff looked at the tall young man and shook his head. “Tobias, you went too far.”
Tobias smiled wistfully. “I’m aware. I will plea my case before the king.” he chuckled as he recalled his crime. He had not thought it so criminal. He had smuggled a person out of the country. The older man he sent away was living comfortably now in another country, free of his previous life. The only evidence of any smuggling was the silly pay stub he dropped that contained a well-known smuggler’s name and his own.
The sheriff shook his head. “You broke the law. Were you a common man, you would hang.” He snorted as he looked at the next in line. It was a little girl whose jaw stuck out stubbornly. She held tightly to the stolen goods– all of it inexpensive food. Her grimy hands polluted it, and she looked like she had not been washed a day in her life. “Labor camp.” he muttered as he walked past her and looked at the next criminal.
It was a young man, known to be very meek. He bore several scars and bruises on his body, as well as fresh cuts. He was accused of murdering his mother, and claimed the woman caused all those marks. “Hanging.” he muttered coldly.
The young man collapsed and began to sob. “Trial! Trial!” he begged. “Please, sir! Please! I was defending myself!”
The sheriff ignored him and moved on. He ensured each person received a punishment that was more harsh than their crimes warranted, then turned to walk away, to allow his guards and deputies to lock up the prisoners. He dipped a quill and penned the punishments onto the surface, effectively sealing the fates of those individuals as each cell door creaked shut, ending their previous lives.
Absently, he wondered about the executioner’s absence. The man hadn’t been seen in a week, and left no notice. It would be some time before he had another, so the young man would live a time still. He lazily changed his sentence to twenty-five years of labor. If the young man was not dead by then, he would be too old to cause trouble. He did the same for each person who he gave a death sentence to. It was easier than bloodying his own hands.
The man yawned and leaned back, his day’s work done. He had no meetings at which to present himself, and he had no scheduled patrols for himself. He closed his eyes, and when he opened them, a large, intimidating man was looking down at him. “Yes?” has asked after a few moments, uncertain. He scratched at his earlobe nervously.
“Sleeping on the job should get you the same treatment as my son. I am here with his bail, and to pay off the debts of the two children you have locked up.” the man said coldly.
“Right away, sir.” He hurriedly scratched three names from the record. “Anything else, my lord?” he asked, his voice almost sniveling.
“Stop sleeping on the job, and treating children as adults, perhaps.” The nobleman glared down at the sheriff. “I hope you do not treat everyone you meet with such coldness. The people are growing more and more disgusted at how little mercy is in your soul.”
“My job entails no mercy, only law.” He forced a half-smile as he reached for the keys. “Let’s get those criminals out for you, shall we?”
Tobias’s father visibly twitched. “I will be lodging a complaint.” he muttered as the man released Tobias, the food-thief, and the mother-stabber. The older male looked at each of the three in front of him. “Tobias, go back to your wife, and tell her that you did not do something stupid. As for you two.” He looked to the child and the young man. “You two will come with me and live at my home until I can find work and a home for each of you.” He held a hand out to the small girl. “This includes food, sweet heart.” he insisted.
The little girl’s eyes lit up, and she shifted her arms around her stolen food, then reached a dirty hand towards the man’s pristine white glove. The man gripped her hand firmly, and led her and the young man out without another word, leaving Tobias alone with the sheriff.
“As you can see, us three did nothing wrong, good sheriff. Such a shame you didn’t bother to investigate, isn’t it, James?” He laughed. “Now, where is my horse?” he demanded, his cheer suddenly gone.
Soon enough, all was in order, and James the sheriff went home to his small home. He checked on his sickly wife and gave her a flower, only to find a bag of gold resting beside the woman. He plucked it up and thanked her for holding it for him, then counted every shining coin inside. With satisfaction, he tucked it away with the bribes Tobias’s father gave him.
Ah, money. Every week, he got another bag, delivered to his wife so she could hold it for him. He leaned down to kiss the woman he loved on her cool lips and smiled at her. As he saw her smile, he smiled back, then went to prepare a meal for the two of them.
In the kitchen, he was shocked to find a scruffy-looking man in cow-herder clothing, capped with a large-brimmed straw hat. He looked around the run-down room for a tool to defend himself, since he left his sword in the entrance room.
The man in the hat had tear stains on his face. “You killed her.” he snarled as he approached. He carried a whip, commonly used to tickle a cow into place. The cow-herder drew his arm back and slammed the whip into James’s arm, slicing through cloth and flesh, like a sword through soft fat. “You killed her.” Fresh tears began to slide down the cow-herder’s caved, unshaven cheeks.
James turned to flee, only to earn a second burning slice across his back. He dashed for his sword. “You killed her, and you sent me a fine.” The man trembled and whipped the sheriff again, this time across the face as the man turned to look back after retrieving his sword. James shouted in pain, and no neighbors came to his ad. The crazed mourner lashed out again and again, each time slicing flesh and sending blood to fly to every corner of the man’s untended home.
James screamed in agony as he fell. His assailant continued his rabid attack, and James soon became pale as he lost consciousness. The lashing continued until well after the body became cold. The farmer stumbled tiredly to the bedroom of the man’s wife and stared at her in shock. She was beautiful. He walked to her and slowly picked her up, carrying her away. The woman’s head hit the door frame as he carried her out, and several shards of fine porcelain fell to the floor.