With Tharus not available they had to juggle the guard assignments for the rest of the swing. I ended up as third guard with Parn and Hollath, two young men who spent a lot of their spare time showing off their sword moves and wishing the border disputes with Amaydya would start up again. They seemed open to including me in their circle until it became clear that I was never going to stab anybody and I didn’t hate Amaydyans.
But I have to give it to them that they showed me a new part of the job very professionally. We had the morning shift near a bureau in the Comet Halls, where a trio of clerks, two human and one lauran, were dealing with a long queue of people and their problems. The problems included tax disputes, property disputes, inheritance disputes, contract disputes… We didn’t have to stand at guard on this post, but it was harder work anyway. We had to keep an eye on the queue at all times, just to make sure there weren’t any fist disputes or even knife disputes.
Also Parn and Hollath showed me how we could make things easier for the people in line. If an old woman had a big sack of papers to show the clerks, one of us carried it for her; one of us watched a man’s young son while he took his daughter to change her soaks. Sometimes we could advise them that they were in the wrong queue or even the wrong building. “The whole point is we’re trying to make the palace work better,” Parn told me. “If my ma has to come in here for a port clearance permit, she should be able to see the right person fast. That’s how I think about it.”
It was good. I got water for people. I learned a lot about what the different bureaux were in the palace, and what they did. I made the clerks’ acquaintance. (Ebe, Rodara, and Ellewen.) And one fellow slipped me a few pennies for getting him into the bureau, even though it was his turn anyway.
After my shift I visited Ambe to see how she was doing with Tharus. Her door was locked, though, and she wasn’t answering knocks.