Those of you who have entered Ascar via its southern gates (the only entrance for unescorted visitors) will probably have noticed a large walled complex on your left, just as you enter the city proper. That complex is Ascar’s barracks, where the majority of the guards live.
Note: Despite the military-sounding nomenclature, guards aren’t actually “soldiers,” and Numoeath doesn’t have much concept of “army.” That explains the complete lack of more senior ranks other than “captain.” Strange, yes, but given that that the existence of other population groups is unknown, there isn’t a sense of any external force that might need repulsion. A somewhat refreshing idea, when you think about it. Anyway, guards are more of a general-purpose security force whose roles include investigating crimes and escorting travellers. And of course, obliterating any of those pesky beasts that approach too closely.
The barracks takes up a sizeable chunk of Ascar’s footprint, and naturally the buildings—and their inhabitants—need to be cared for. Today’s interview is with someone who is invisible much of the time, but she performs an essential job: that of head housekeeper in the barracks.
IC: Emily, it’s a pleasure to meet you.
E: A good morning to you, lad. You don’t mind if I call you that, do you?
IC: Uh, it’s been a while since someone called me that, but no, I don’t mind. I can guess what your job involves, but perhaps you could tell me about it in your own words?
E: Well, I’m in charge of the teams who keep the quarters in a decent state for their occupants. This includes the guards—whether they’re convoy or city—and all the captains.
IC: Isn’t there a third category of guard?
E: Yes, the royal guards. But they live separately, some even within the Royal Compound. See, the regular guards switch between convoy and city duties depending on where there’s need. But once a royal guard, always a royal guard.
E: I oversee the staff who clean the rooms and do the laundry. Sometimes I have to, well, educate some of the more rural recruits about shared accommodation and what’s expected of them. We might clean the dormitories, but residents are expected to keep their quarters tidy. Nobody’s immune from a clip round the ear.
IC: Sounds like quite a challenge. How many guards are there?
E: Hmm, difficult to be certain, since there are always dozens out on convoy. But I’d guess a thousand, give or take.
IC: You’re saying around two percent of the entire population of the realm is in the guard?
E: I never really thought about it.
IC: And what about the captains?
E: They have individual suites. It’s not just because of their higher rank, but because they often need to do private business.
IC: Oh, like discussing sensitive matters?
IC: And you said you oversee the laundry too?
E: Yes, and it can be a right challenge making sure everyone has the proper uniforms. A couple of captains forked out for tailored clothing. And if someone else gets it, there’d be a right fuss, let me tell you…
IC (laughs): I suppose you might have some stories to tell, about night-time visitors to people’s rooms and so on?
E (sniffs): None of my business. It’s a barracks, not a school. They’re all adults.