From the introduction:
Children played at sticks pretending towards soldiery and villainy. Soldiers played at sticks to learn the basics of weaponry and how to plant a pike.
Now rough men and rougher women play at sticks for a livelihood (a lively one indeed). Highways are haunted by club toting thieves, shepherd crook wielding brigands. Those that get caught, even for murder, mostly take their medicine in the levies. Some even comeback (to well-hidden stashes) with a pension to boot.
Goods still have to be moved and folk still need safe travel. The constabulary and shire reeves are little more than bought and paid for private guards. Bribery, long a tradition in the kingdom, exploded into prominent acceptance as such minor functionaries suddenly tasted power.
And so men and women learned to defend themselves, some well enough to sell their skills or try their wits against the wilderness.