Villain, 18

If You’re after Justice, It’s Best to Consider Whose Justice You’re after

Ao3 Link

“How many more?”

“Just two.”

Sam sighed. Part of being the king was hearing the concerns of his people. For some stupid reason, they thought he cared. So today he’d been sitting court, listening to the whinging of what had seemed like everyone in the Fury Plateau. He thought he’d been handling it all pretty well, if he did say so himself.

He’d let Henry pronounce judgement on most of the cases that weren’t important or interesting enough to merit Sam’s attention. And if Henry was too lenient—he hadn’t ordered a single person tortured or executed—that was okay. Let them all be grateful that Sam was in a good enough mood not to contradict him.

“Send the next one in, then,” Sam said with a gesture. “And I want a bath prepared for when we’re done.”

“Okay,” was all Henry said, and that was enough. He was a surprisingly good attendant. He got done all the things Sam wanted him to do. It was kind of annoying at times; it didn’t give Sam much opportunity to punish him. But Henry being obedient was kind of fun in itself. For now.

Footsteps sounded, three sets. A guard and two others. “Your Majesty,” the guard said formally. “Two farmers, one accused of stealing the other’s cow.”

Sam sighed. Peasants were so boring. Henry started to talk, but Sam sat up straight. “Which of you stole the cow?”

Both men started to talk at once, and Sam scowled. “The first one of you who lies is going to get a hot poker to your tongue. And I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that I am not someone who can be lied to.”

That shut them both up. Henry sighed a little beside him, which he always did when Sam decided to arbitrate. But never audibly, so it was only Sam who could hear it. He was getting a little cheeky, was Henry.

Finally, one man worked up the courage to talk. “It was him, your Majesty! He stole it, right out of my field, and put it in his barn, said it was his!”

Sam was silent for a minute. “I don’t hear you denying it,” he said.

“He’s always letting it graze in my field. It’s practically my cow, your Majesty, and he’s already got five others.”

Sam sighed. So stupid. “How much is a cow worth?”

“Maybe about five silvers, up to ten if it’s a good breeding cow,” Henry supplied.

Sam thought about it for a second. “Pay him for the cow. He’s been negligent in caring for it; you can keep it.”

“Thank you, your Majesty.”

“Cut off his hand,” Sam told the guard. “We don’t want to encourage theft in my kingdom, after all.”

It was, Sam thought, a measured response. One that Henry wouldn’t complain about later like he often liked to when Sam punished people. “Wait, your Majesty!” The sound of drawing steel filled the air. “I’ll give it back, I’ll give it back, please!”

“You broke the law. You think you can fix it just by reversing what you did?” Sam asked.

“Please, I won’t do it again, have mercy, your Majesty! I have three children! I barely feed my family as it is!”

“You shouldn’t have had three children, then. Maybe you’d be happier with fewer.” Sam sighed. “I’m willing to be lenient, this time—if your neighbour drops his charges against you and you return what you stole and pay him the cost of the cow. How does he feel about that proposition?”

If it were Sam, he’d still insist that the man’s hand be removed, to prevent future theft. But Sam was curious about how someone else would react in this situation—Henry, he knew, would be forgiving, and he was curious which route the farmer would take.

“I…I’ll drop the charges, your Majesty. Please don’t cut his hand off.”

Sam sighed again. “Fine. Get out of here, both of you. And settle your problems yourselves next time, because I promise I’m only going to be generous once.”

There was some bowing and scraping, and finally they were gone. “Bring in the next one,” Sam called, leaning back on the throne again. “People are so stupid. Over a cow? Do they not have more important things to worry about?”

“Cows are the most important thing in their worlds, Sam.”

“I wonder what it’s like to be so small,” Sam mused, as the guard brought in two more sets of footfalls.

“Your Majesty,” the guard called. “Two peasants, accusing members of your guard of the rape of their daughter.”

“How terrible,” Sam said to them, as Henry went a bit still beside him. His backside was really sore from sitting on the stupid throne so long. “Tell me what happened.”

“Your Majesty, your…guards came to our village recruiting. They banged on our door when they heard we had a son, and they…” the man broke off for a moment, voice trembling.

“I can’t do anything if you don’t tell me what happened,” Sam said, impatient. He wanted that bath.

“They…our daughter was there, and the three of them, your Majesty, the violated her, right there. They laughed while they did it! She’s only fourteen, and now she’s pregnant with one of those pigs’ bastards!”

“I understand,” Sam said with a sigh. “And you have a son as well.”

“Yes, he’s twelve and he watched while they did that to his sister. Can you imagine what that does to a young boy?”

“I can imagine,” Sam told the man dryly. The boy had probably been jealous. “I’m surprised you’re not happy. Normally people are excited to be grandparents, aren’t they?”

“Your Majesty!” The wife’s voice was a near shriek that hurt Sam’s ears. “Nobody wants children under these circumstances.”

“I understand there are tinctures women can drink to ensure that pregnancies fail, in that case.”

“That’s hardly the point!”

“Yes, of course.” Apparently there was a point. Sam had missed that. “Is it possible to identify the guards responsible?” he asked Henry.

Before Henry could answer, the wife did. “We know their faces, and besides—that man right there was one of them!”

She must have been indicating one of the guards. Sam didn’t know which one, but there were a few scattered around the room. “Come forward,” he called, and heard footfalls from his left. “Your name?”

“Dana, your Majesty.” He sounded quite young himself.

“There are too many screaming babies in the world, Dana. Rape the boy next time, it’s basically the same.”

“Understood, sir.” There was a clanking of metal. Dana sounded smug. Henry’s silence was audible.

“You and your two friends will return to that village and pay the girl—Henry, what did you say a breeding cow was worth? Ten silvers each to her to pay for the expenses of having a child.”

“Is that supposed to be a joke?” the peasant man demanded in a shrill shout. “We demand he be put to death!”

Sam tilted his head. “That isn’t going to reverse your daughter’s rape, and I care more about having living guards than your need for revenge. I’m done with you, get out.” If they’d wanted the guards killed, they should have arranged for it to happen themselves.

“Listen here, you cross-eyed son of a bitch, you don’t get to…”

Sam straightened a little on the throne, opening his mouth as a cold rage swept through him, the Forces shuddering over the surface of his skin as he reached out.

“Guard,” Henry called, before Sam could do anything. “Take him to the dungeon. You’re under arrest—that is your king you’re addressing.”

There was a lot of shouting, from the man, cursing Sam, from the woman, begging them not to, but he was taken from the throne room, hollering about justice all the way. “Please, please don’t!” his wife cried. “He didn’t mean it, he didn’t!”

“Shut up,” Henry told her, voice hard. “You came here for the king’s justice and you got it. If you weren’t willing to accept what you heard, then you shouldn’t have come.”

“You’re monsters, both of you!”

Sam’s hand was clenched into a fist on the arm of the throne, but he smiled at that. “Says the woman who did nothing to stop her daughter being raped. I’m willing to bet you didn’t offer yourself in her place, did you? I’m sure your husband didn’t either.”


“Dana, you and your two friends will escort this woman back to her village and pay the girl her due.” He smiled. “And since the family is short one parent to provide, they’re going to need some extra income. You can inform the son that he’s been hired as one of my castle servants, I’m sure his family will appreciate the money, and having one less mouth to feed.”

More clanking of metal. “Yes, your Majesty!” Footsteps, and the crying woman was dragged from the room. The throne room doors closed behind her. Sam made an annoyed noise.

“That was cruel,” Henry told him.

“I want that man tortured to death.” Sam wanted to torture him to death personally.

“If you keep him alive and let him go in a few weeks, he can tell other people what happened and warn them not to do the same thing.”

“Did you not hear me, Henry?” Sam hissed, finding his breathing coming heavier than usual. He didn’t know why he was so angry about the vapid insult of a mindless peasant.

“You can’t torture everyone who insults you, Sam.” Henry was keeping his voice down, enough that the guards probably couldn’t hear.

“I think you underestimate how good I am at torturing people.”

“I’m not, but it’s a question of what kind of kingdom you want to be ruling. Kings do more than torment their subjects.”

King could do whatever they wanted, which Sam thought Henry should probably know, but before he could answer, the doors to the throne room opened again and he turned his head. “I thought you said we were done.”

“Apologies, your Majesty,” the guard said. “Sergeant Cole has returned.”

Oh. Oh, that was fun. One of his father’s guardsmen, he’d been away putting down a rebellion in the eastern part of the Plateau for a while. “Send him in.”

“Who’s Cole?”

It was all Sam could do not to smile. “He used to be Herbert’s second in command. Solomon liked to send him out to deal with anyone not paying proper deference to him. Cole is very creative about fixing such things.”

There was a clomping of boots and Sam could feel Henry go stiff. “Sergeant Cole, I trust you’ve put down that silly rebellion?”

“Yes, your Majesty.” Cole had a teasing voice that Sam tolerated only because he used it on everyone. He heard a knee hit the ground. “Since I wasn’t here to say it when it happened, congratulations on your ascension to the throne.”

“Thank you. I assume I can count on your continued service?”

“Of course, your Majesty. I understand you promoted Lowell to captain of the guard.”

“I did,” Sam said. Lowell wasn’t present at the moment. “If you want the job, you’re welcome to convince me you’re better for it.”

Cole made a noise of derision. “Well, I don’t need to stick it in little kids to feel like a man, for one. But I’m sure you’d prefer something more…convincing. I can make that happen.”

“Please, do.” Lowell’s preference for young children was something Sam liked about him, actually. He’d given Herbert’s kids to him after he’d killed Solomon, and everyone with children themselves knew to stay in line or else. It was useful. “I’m sure you must want to rest after your journey. Please, feel free to reacquaint yourself with the castle. We’ve redecorated a little.”

“I’ve noticed, yes.” A pause. “I’ll look forward to speaking with you again soon, your Majesty.”

“And you as well, Cole.”

Footfalls, and then they were alone again. Sam smiled, and stood with a stretch. “I want that bath now.”

“Sam.” Henry’s voice was hoarse, rough.


“He…that man, he was there.”

“I know.” Sam descended from the dais, turning to head for a side door that would take them to his rooms. “He led the party that was sent to deal with the Arkhewers when they refused to recognize Solomon’s sovereignty.” Sam paused. “Actually, I don’t know if I ever told you—Solomon ordered your family to be brought in line. That’s all. The decision to burn them was Cole’s.”

“I’m going to kill him.”

“I’m not giving him to you like I did the others. He’s useful to me.”


Sam liked that tone, that dangerous hiss. “Are you about to threaten me, Henry?”

A pause of just a second. “Please. Let me kill him.”

“Hm.” Sam pretended to think about it. “I just said I wasn’t giving him to you. I didn’t say you couldn’t kill him. His life is valuable to me and his death is valuable to you, so I want something in return, that’s all.”

“Anything you want, as long as I can kill him.”

Sam like that dedication. “Now that’s a conviction I didn’t think I’d ever hear from you, Henry. Deal. Don’t tell me you’re going to kill him humanely, please.”

“I…nobody deserves to be tortured.” That was a cracked whisper. Sam didn’t think it would be hard to widen that crack.

He reached out, found Henry’s wrist, used Order. Henry screamed as his arm caught fire, jerked back, fell over. Sam let him burn for a few seconds, before waving a hand and putting the fire out. “I just thought you might like to know what being on fire feels like,” he said when Henry had stopped screaming. Sam crouched, put a hand on Henry, paused. He just let him sit there, panting in pain, feeling what a burn really was for another few seconds before he ran his healing spell through Henry with a jolt.

Sam stood, left Henry sitting there on the floor, and turned. “And that was just your arm, imagine what it must be like over your whole body, until you die. But if you really think he deserves a painless death, that’s fine with me.”

He left Henry there, went to the door, which a guard opened for him. “And I want that man in the dungeon tortured. But keep him alive.”

Sam really wanted that bath.

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