This is the first chapter and introduction, of Kings Courier. This is pure fantasy, in a different world to N.A.P.E..
Movo ran through the channels that weaved through the darker streets of the city. He was carrying a piece of yellow parchment on behalf of Mr. Wimbole, and he was heading for the legal district. Movo didn’t know what was on the parchment. That was part of the deal and the code of the runners, the boys and girls who worked the streets delivering messages for the business people and individuals rich enough to be able to afford their services.
Sure enough it was only a penny to take a message between any two points in the city, but that penny would not go far. It was five pence for a meal at any reasonable inn or hostelry, but a busy runner might only be able to make two or three trips each day by the time he had sent a message and then waited for the receiver to write a response.
The best runners were those who could run fast and knew the city streets and alley-ways well enough that they could get between their destinations quickly and with the minimum of fuss. Sometimes that meant taking risks, like slipping through a shop or factory and risking the owner’s ire, and for others it meant simply being aware of the time of day. A closed gate or door could cause backtracking and delay your delivery. Or worse, if your message was important and you were being followed, the last thing you wanted was to enter a dead end and run into the very people who were tailing you.
The penny was cheap, but it was a token of guarantee for the sender that the message would reach its destination safely, and without the runner reading it. The rule was never written down, but it was common knowledge. A runner known to be unfaithful in his unsworn oath would find difficulty finding work, and would more likely end up in the employ of the shadier parts of the city.
Movo, however, was faithful to his word. At 13 years old he had been a runner for a full four years, having been apprenticed, if that was the right term, at nine. Being one of the older runners meant that he was allowed to carry notes for some of the more exclusive clients. His size also meant that he was less prone to being pushed around by some of the bullies who would patrol the streets. While his long legs and stocky upper body made him ideal not only for running, but also for barging his way past when the need came.
For the right message there could be a premium paid by a businessman looking to step on the toes of a rival. There was less money in private messages, but they too could be a target if the contents could easily be used for the purposes of blackmail. The problem was that there was no way to tell whether the message you carrying was for business or pleasure, and so all runners could be treated as fair game.
Splashing his way through a series of puddles along an alley with high sided, blackened, brick walls, Movo coughed as the smoke from the local blacksmiths blew across the alley.
It was only the briefest trip through the smoke, but he knew that he would be smelling the hot coke from the smith for the rest of the day, and probably for the rest of the week. Still, it was the quickest method of passing through a section of the city with larger communal blocks of housing, and would save him almost 20 minutes compared to traveling down the main street.
At this time of day - just before the mid-afternoon break - Chauncey Street would be heaving with cart horses and wagons as the overnight deliveries on their way to the local towns would start heading towards the walls of the city.
Running on foot would not help you avoid the perils of the horses, or the tokens that they left behind on the street ready to trip up the normally sure-footed runners. It would only take a minor traffic problem, or a spill of molasses or worse to cause Movo to have to take an even longer diversion. Much better to simply avoid the problem in the first place, even if it did take him through parts of the city he would rather avoid.
As he turned into a small street, he noticed out of the corner of his eye that an old lady with a massive bundle on her back was crossing into the alley he next wanted to run through. The bundle would make it impossible to pass her for at least five minutes before they hit the first junction, and he had no idea whether she would again end up taking the same alley he was heading for.
There was another way, though, he could continue down this street and join the alley later as the road swept round the corner, but that would add even more time to his route than simply following the old lady.
Making a split second decision, he ducked under a street vendor who was trying to sell baskets and squeezed into the alley, just a few steps before the old woman made it, his grubby white shirt catching on the stones as he slipped past. As he continued running down the alley, he checked his shirt for any visible tear. It seemed he had been lucky. A replacement shirt would cost twenty pence, and that was not money he could afford at the minute.
He hoped that Mr. Silverkin would not notice once he arrived at the grand house of one of the richest families in the city. Simon Silverkin was not only a wealthy man, but he was also a member of the King’s court. His membership was not because of any special skill, but as one of the more powerful members of the city the king thought it wise to keep Mr. Silverkin involved in the running of the city, even though it was no secret the king didn’t like him.
As Movo crossed the grand plaza as he left the alley, he could see the statue of Sir Trevor on top of a tall plinth, riding his horse and saluting to the citizens walking and working on the square.
The Silverkin house was behind a tall set of iron gates, blackened all except for the tops, which had been painted gold. The tops alternated between different designs, from balls and spades to four-leafed clovers. Behind the gates sat an imposing house in sand colored stone with windows and balconies across the entire face of the building to help advertise how many rooms the house had. In Khapur City, the size of your house and the number of windows was as much an indication of your wealth as the number of rings and jewelry you wore.
Despite the relatively simple design, it was obvious the family were trying to compete with the palace just a few streets away. Although the Silverkin mansion was nowhere near the size of palace, the obvious show of opulence and wealth was a good indication of the belief in their own importance within the city.
It wasn’t a view shared by everybody.
As Movo approach the gates he gave a nod to the guard as he slowed to a steady walking pace. Most people that headed towards the gates would be scrutinized more closely, but Movo was a regular visitor and was waved through a smaller gate to the side of the main entrance. If he was to earn a tip when he arrived, he needed to get to the head of the household as quickly as possible.