“Strikhedonia – The pleasure of being able to say “to hell with it,”” from this prompt list.
“Cut off his hand,” Henry ordered, making himself look at the accused man as he did. It was getting easier, to look at them while he did this. It was getting easier to order things like this for petty crimes like stealing some corn. Henry didn’t even need to spend time anymore telling himself that it was better this way, because if he didn’t do this, Sam would do something worse.
He kept his face impassive as the guard carried out his order, removing the man and bring the next one forward. Today was a day for Sam to pass judgement on people whose crimes were specifically against the crown. All of them were stupid things like stealing some food from one of Sam’s fields, striking or spitting at a guard, slandering the Sorcerer King.
The next one was brought forward, the charges read. He’d thrown a rock at one of Sam’s guards as the guard had ridden by. “I did it, and I’d do it again, your Majesty, the man insisted, vehement. Too vehement. Grown men who were past thirty didn’t throw rocks at guards.
Henry wondered if Sam realized that the man was covering so his child wouldn‘t be punished.
“You will pay a fine of five silver pieces as the price of disrepsect,” Henry told him, once the man had finished confessing. “And…”
“Hang him,” Sam interrupted, from his place on the throne.
“That should put a stop to any future disrespect, no?” Sam said. He rubbed at his forehead. “Hang him.”
“Your Majesty, I…”
“Was I misheard? You confessed to your crime, unless you’re now about to tell me that someone else threw that rock?“
Oh, so he did know. Fuck. Henry sighed. “You heard your king.” He gestured to the guards to remove the man, who went quietly, in shock. A quiet descended over the room.
“The next one,” Sam called, waving his hand vaguely.
Henry leaned down. “Do you have a headache?”
“These fucking people are my headache,” Sam grumbled.
“I can do it if you want to go lay down,” Henry offered, because he had to offer. He had to at least try to stop Sam from killing a bunch of mostly innocent people.
Sam started to say something, then winced. “Fine. I don’t want to find out that you did something stupid after.”
“I know,” Henry said, a little surprised that that had worked.
Sam sighed, got up and descended the dais. “You’re all boring. I’m appointing Henry to deal with you all in my place.”
And he turned, left the throne room through the side door, left Henry standing there.
Henry put his hand on the back of the throne, waiting for Sam to leave. “Bring the next one forward,” he said, watching the guards. They were watching him back, as they often did. They’d been watching him this whole time, especially while he’d been talking to Sam, quietly so they couldn’t hear. They all looked like they weren’t sure what to expect, which was often how Sam’s guards looked at Henry.
Because, Henry realized just then, to them it had looked like he had just sent Sam away.
Henry knew that people in the castle were afraid of him. He spend significant time with Sam and was still intact and apparently sane, he had killed Solomon, and he occasionally killed guards who had wronged him ages ago.
Now Henry wondered.
He looked at Lowell, a squirrelly, pinched-looking man who was the head of Sam’s guard. Henry didn’t like him, mostly because he liked to rape children. Sam liked him just fine. “Bring that last man back,” he ordered.
“I said, bring him back,” Henry repeated, moving around and sitting on the throne. “Bring all of them back, actually. Everyone we’ve seen today.”
After a moment’s indecision, Lowell nodded at some guards by the door, and they left. There was some quiet muttering around the room, but Henry ignored it, not saying anything. The guards returned with the man Sam had sentenced to hanging, and with the three from before him, the man whose hand Henry had cut off, the two before him who’d suffered the same punishment. There were fifteen more besides them, waiting for judgement.
Henry looked at the man whose child had thrown a rock at a guard. And he smiled. Sam was going to be pissed later. But in that moment, Henry didn’t care. He just…ignored that, a strange feeling coming over him for a minute.
“The crown pardons you,” Henry said.
A hush fell. “M-my lord?”
“I said you’re pardoned. You can go. Do ensure that this doesn’t happen again.”
“Th-thank you, my lord!” the man cried, falling to his knees. “Thank you…”
Henry nodded. “You’re all pardoned. All of you. You three…” He pointed at the three who’d come first. “You’ll be compensated in gold for the loss of your hands.”
The throne room seemed to explode in crying and shouts. “Sir!” Lowell said, stepping close to the dais. “You…you can’t do that!”
Henry fixed him with a look. “I think I can, Lowell. I think we all heard Sam say he was appointing me to deal with this, didn’t you?”
“His majesty is going to be angry.”
“Only if he finds out,” Henry said, nodding. “And only at me. So you can decide. You can worry about Sam being mad at me. Or you can worry about me being mad at you. And maybe consider how replaceable you are while you’re at it.”
Lowell visibly recoiled, paling a little. “Of course, sir. My apologies.” He gestured towards his guards, who went about unshackling everyone in the line.
“Those three will be given fifty gold pieces each, and everyone will be given a fifteen-pound bag of food from the castle larders for the inconvenience,” Henry said, sitting back a little and waving. “See it done, now.”
Henry sat and watched as the guards did as he said, as the people he’d pardoned thanked him, the three he’d maimed perhaps less effusively, and he tried not to grin like an idiot. Sam was going to be pissed later. If he found out. But it was worth it.
Besides, Henry thought. Sam being angry was part of the fun.