Morning Patrol by Michael Gardiner

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It was a quiet and still morning; the sun was barely visible over the rooftops and the streets were empty. The smoke from cook-fires was only just beginning to rise from countless chimneys to permeate the air, and the muted sounds of waking and rising were playing out around him. It was Wards favourite time for the first hour or so, he felt he had the city to himself, to observe its clean slate before the taint of day-to-day life set in. He was on a familiar beat today, leaving the Southern Watchtower to loop around the dockside cliffs and over the Tower Hill.

It was a journey he had made countless times over the years and involved a full day of walking. His leg was still stiff from the early hours before dawn, where the air carried a chill that promised of the winter to come. As he walked he brought his fist down rhythmically onto his thigh in an attempt to work some heat into the muscle. It would get worse, he knew, as the season turned, and he would soon need to rely on the salves to walk till nightfall. Not a day went by without some sort of reminder of the end of his military career, dying in a ditch with his leg near cleaved in two, but some days were worse than others.

As he walked down main avenues and twisted alleyways, Wards mind turned to the city itself, as it was often known to do in his silent patrol. He had called it home and walked its streets for fifteen years, learning its layout and secrets. He had arrived only a year before the Teshi trade agreements were signed, when the small dockside town was suddenly thrust into the center of an economic trade route. He had observed the frantic construction, the grand increases in scale, the sudden influx of wealth, and all they did to transform Kent into the sprawling, fashionable, despicable city it was today.

Even now the sheer scale of Kent still surprised Ward. When he first began his employment with the City Watch he was assigned a beat that could be completed in an hour. He knew every building, most of the residents, and was well known himself. The town had a singular sense of identity and form. In the intervening years however, whole suburbs began to distinguish themselves from each other both in appearance and inhabitants. Individual segregation between classes shifted to whole areas; poverty became pronounced in some parts of the city while wealth naturally gravitated towards others. Certain races and nationalities established their own distinct neighbourhoods that closely resembled their ancestral homelands, and old blood wars continued in the streets.

It bothered Ward that there were whole neighbourhoods where he was not welcome, and even areas where he shouldn't walk for fear of death, simply on account of his place of birth or the lord that he served. The community that once held Kent together was gone, and in its place was a boiling pot of cultures, religions and ideals, fought over banquet tables and in the dark alleys. The sense of identity was lost and Ward felt he was losing his connection to the heart of the city.

He slowly climbed the stone steps of Tower Hill and paused at the top to observe the view to the north.

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