The official Owse Gandolo prided himself on his watchfulness and perspicacity, and in his private thoughts titled himself ‘Gandolo of the Clear Vigil’, ‘Ever-Aware Gandolo’, and similar important-sounding names. His penchant for perception proved him in good stead, for it was he that noticed Patta Noutley’s limp in the Scrountsville Arson Case and thus proved charges against that pyrotechnic villain, and it was he that detected the lie in Flickfinger Gaam’s one remaining eye and uncovered the murderer of Vhcan the Rewarded’s fourteenth son. And it was watchful Gandolo that had been the first to notice the fluctuation in corn prices at the Tertiary Docks, and make for himself a fortune buying low and selling starvation-level high. In short, an open and careful eye made Owse Gandolo the great success he was, and when the Demi-Monarch sought amongst his government for an official to clean up crimeful Tapper Town, Gandolo was the first name on every adviser’s lips.

And so on the seventh day of the month in which pigs are bled and children required to shave the crowns of their heads, Owse Gandolo’s retinue and luggage arrived in Tapper Town in a great chain of carriages, oxcarts, and flat-footed porters. In Gabril House, a vast manse of stone-brick and marbleized wood on the outskirts of town, Gandolo and his personal fortune were installed–for he was loath to dwell so long apart from his treasure, upon which his watchful eye watched with particular and personal interest. Possessions secure, Gandolo went immediately to the Boss of the town, and introduced himself.

“I am Owse Gandolo the Preternaturally Vigilant, and I have come to rid Tapper Town of its larcenies and unlawful offenses,” he said with expanded chest and firm chin, and the Boss and his aides rejoiced, for at last the Demi-Monarch had sent them a man equal to the thieves and purse-grabbers that plagued the town.

In the first month of his new program, ever-aware Gandolo imprisoned the matriarchal Rotomor Gang and the triplet harridan sisters that commanded it, hung the notorious filcher Scynod of the Prehensile Feet, and chased a boisterous company of apes-turned-highwaymen from the Regretful Tomb Way all the way across the river Snat. Soon, merchants could pitch their stalls unharassed and traders no longer negotiated with one another at crossbow-point, and the people of Tapper Town prospered as never before. Gandolo’s first spectacular month was followed by a second, and third, and with each the unlawfulness of the entire district decreased until it seemed a mere unpleasant dream half-remembered and best forgot.

But Gandolo remained vigilant, stomping through street and square, alert eyes glaring beneath taut brows like bent bowstrings. And one day in the month of fodder-burning and the taking of cold baths, Gandolo of the Watchful Eye spied a few shifty-looking men lurking around a merchant’s jade shop, eyeing the expensive wares with the kind of ferrety greed seen in the faces of takers and breakers the world over. Clearly, such men were thieves, and Gandolo settled in the shadows to watch them with utmost care and deliberation and await the commission of their crime.

Soon an unexpected thing occurred–one of the shrewd-faced men broke away from the crowd, and approached Gandolo there in the shadows. Holding a knowing finger to the side of his nose in the universal gesture of conspiracy, the man bleated: “Ho, friend, I see you’ve a-gone and spotted us and, since you have, no harm in saying so. Keep a distance, and there’ll be a piece of jade or curl of silver wire for you when we’ve pulled the job, and no tongues need wag at the end of it.” And with a wink and a nod and further gestures designed to seal the deal the thief slunk back into the street, to join his fellow scum.

Extraordinary, thought Gandolo, clearly they have not recognized me despite my official’s robes, despite the growing reputation of Gandolo the Sharply Scrying. He smiled on reflection, for the fools had given themselves away more readily than simple observation on his part could achieve. Delighted, Gandolo settled into the shadows and waited for the crime to unfold, thinking of the many ways he would capture the dastards, and how with resounding phrase and ringing condemnation he would condemn them at the block–he, whom they had thought to turn into a co-conspirator. Gandolo waited, ever watchful, eyes straining with hawk-like intensity.

Gandolo waited and waited.

Shadows crept into the streets, and the crowds ebbed. Braziers were lit, and revelers replaced buyers, and merchants packed up their wares and moved away to their homes or sheds. The thieves had come and gone as evening approached, moving in and out of the crowd, finally disappearing altogether as Gandolo waited for their return. As the jade seller gathered his things Gandolo tensed, waiting for the daring theft that was sure to come–but none occurred, and the little merchant he had watched all day sauntered off under escort. Gandolo emerged into the street frowning, disappointed and confused. Yawning, he made for home.

It wasn’t until he returned to Gabril House, his feet ringing hollowly in its vast, empty spaces, to see his entire fortune gone save for a few unnoticed crumbs, that Gandolo understood what had happened at last. That he could see all too clearly.

Bill Ward is a freelance writer out of Baltimore, Maryland. He has sold fiction to Murky Depths, Flashing Swords, Every Day Fiction, Darwin’s Evolutions, Kaleidotrope and the anthologies The Return of the Sword, The Age of Blood & Snow, and Desolate Places. In addition Bill has written background material and serial fiction for fantasy and science fiction games, has done editing for small press ventures, and is co-editor of the Magic & Mechanica Anthology from Ricasso Press. To read his fiction or check out his weekly book reviews please visit

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