Lady,’ Macsen muttered in alarm. ‘Look out.’
Edeard’s farsight showed him Captain Ronark leading Chief Constable Walsfol into the hall. Everyone fell silent, benches were scraped across the floor as the constables stood up. Even the ge-chimps stopped moving.
Chief Constable Walsfol walked directly over to Edeard’s table. He was in his full dress uniform, an immaculate black tunic with gold buttons and scarlet epaulettes with a diamond stud. Edeard had been introduced briefly the day after he arrested Arminel; he’d actually been quite impressed with the Chief Constable. The man was in his second century, and the fact he’d fought his way to the top of the constables was evident in his manner. Walsfol was a straight-talking man, secure since his position was achieved through the support of the stations.
Walsfol saluted smartly. Edeard hurriedly returned the salute.
‘An excellent day, Constable,’ Walsfol said in his clipped aristocratic accent. ‘You have done this station proud.’
‘Thank you, sir.’
Walsfol took a pair of epaulettes from his pocket. They had a single silver star on them. ‘As a consequence of your bravery and actions in Birmingham Pool, I would like to offer you promotion to corporal.’
It might have been Edeard’s imagination, but he was sure the word ‘offer’ was stressed. But he was so relieved that this was the test Finitan had spoken of rather than Ivarl’s crude attempt at bribery he simply said, ‘Yes, sir; thank you, sir, I’d be honoured to accept.’
Captain Ronark led the applause as the Chief Constable attached the epaulettes to Edeard’s shoulders. Of course Finitan wasn’t talking about Ivarl , Edeard chided himself, the Grand Council want to know if I’m going to support their authority. Lady! Do they think I might be a challenge to them?
Walsfol finished, and saluted again.
‘Corporal Waterwalker,’ Macsen said, holding up his beer and laughing.
Edeard had now completely surrendered to the ribbing he was getting. They’d all wound up in the Olovan’s Eagle for a few celebratory drinks, claiming a small booth in the upstairs bar where they were relatively undisturbed.
‘I wonder which squads will be under your command?’ Kanseen mused. ‘Corporals are normally in charge of three.’
‘Please don’t team us up with Droal’s lot,’ Boyd said. ‘They’re worthless crap artists, and everyone knows Vilby is on the take.’
‘I didn’t know that,’ said Edeard.
‘What, with all your psychic superpowers?’ Macsen asked.
Edeard showed him the hand gesture Obron always used to employ, only to find it summoned up a mournful nostalgia that unexpectedly made his eyes water. Obron, he would be twenty-three now . . .
‘You’re going to have to think about this, Edeard,’ Kanseen said. ‘Seriously, they’re all going to watch what you do with the promotion. It’s an opportunity to put together a team of your own constables, people you know you can rely on.’
‘Yeah, yeah.’ Edeard didn’t really want to think of all the responsibility which came with his new position. Unfortunately, his problem was that he couldn’t stop worrying about what he should do next. Gangs and constables would both want to see what he was capable of: whether he was just some strong lad from the countryside happy with the attention of all the city girls, or someone who would stand up for the law and make a difference. The Orchard Palace probably want to know as well.
‘I suppose I’ll have to keep you lot,’ he said with a grand show of reluctance.
It was Boyd’s turn for the hand gesture.
‘Even Dinlay?’ Macsen said in such a soft voice only Edeard heard him.
‘Yes,’ Edeard said with a tiny directed longtalk. ‘Even Dinlay.’
Macsen scowled into his beer glass.
‘And what are you going to do with this team of yours?’ Kanseen asked earnestly. ‘It’s only fifteen people, after all.’
‘Two months ago it was just the five of us,’