Result 12 – Part 2

The lump groans and stirs then eventually sits up. Another older man around Finnegan’s age, the first thing you notice is his striking green eyes, which contrast against his golden skin and black hair. Though, you only see his eyes for a moment before he bends forward to cough; a horrible, chesty one. Finnegan looks concerned as Leif has his coughing fit, wringing the corner of his sleeve, but afterwards, Leif waves dismissively.

“I’m fine, don’t worry.” His voice is quite raspy.

He stretches and takes a moment to take stock of the situation. He notices you and gives you a polite nod, then turns back to Finnegan.

“What’s going on? Is Silas back yet?”

Finnegan shakes his head.

“No, but I got ya somethin’ to eat thanks to our friend ‘ere.”

He introduces you to Leif and tells him about your help. Leif thanks you as well as Finnegan offers him some fruit and bread. He has another coughing fit and you ask him if he needs to see a doctor. He shakes his head but Melora seems to disagree.

“No, it’s fine. It’s just a cold! You guys don’t need to worry so much.”

Melora complains to herself, muttering something about “smoglung”. Both she and Finnegan seem to be of the opinion that Leif is going to expire at any moment.

Leif munches on a ripped-off chunk of bread as he asks what the other two are planning to do next. Melora is going to get back to work but just wanted to check in on him, and Finnegan explains where he’s taking you.

After another slight coughing fit, Leif points out that the Jamboree isn’t open yet; the gates remain closed until 1 p.m., so you have a while to wait. Finnegan scratches his head.

“Well, I s’ppose I could just show ya where it is now so ya can see it for yourself then be on your way…”

It’s OK; you’re in no hurry and don’t have anything planned either. Though, right now you’re more interested in this…place. You glance around, taking in the ragged scene, and as you scan past Leif again, you suddenly notice a large, black and white head peering out from under a pile of rags beside him. Big brown eyes stare up at you. The head huffs.

A dog! You hadn’t noticed it before; you thought that lump there was just a pile of rags. You didn’t realise it was a rag-covered pile of dog.

Rufle the dog

(Ai-generated image produced using Stable Diffusion)

The dog lets out a big yawn, stretches, slips out from under his blankets and then immediately saunters toward you.

“Ah, Rufle’s awake. Don’t you worry about ‘im, madam; ‘e won’t ‘urt you” Finnegan says.

He is quite a big thing, all scraggly and smelly, but seems quite laid back as he passively sniffs you. He wuffs at you after determining you’re alright, then stands on his back legs and rests his paws on you as he attempts to lick your face, but he quickly turns and heads back over to Leif when Leif calls his name.

“C’mon now, leave her. Here…”

Leif hands him a short piece of thick rope with a knot in it, which Rufle takes and begins to methodically chew on after lying back down beside Leif.

You watch the dog for a few moments, before asking the beggars how they ended up living on the streets. Surely they haven’t always been there.

“No, but it certainly feels like forever!” Melora practically yells.

She reckons she’s been on the streets for at least 5 years. Finnegan can hardly remember. “5 or 7” years, according to him. Leif has only been homeless for about a year now, and the not-present Silas is estimated to have been homeless for 6 years.

That’s a long time to be living rough, and, based on the state of the place, was no doubt a hellish experience. But surely, in all that time, they’ve had some help or support or opportunities to get out from somewhere?

Melora and Finn tell you a bit more about their situation and experiences, with raspy Leif chiming in every now and then. They aren’t all completely destitute and have been able to earn some money doing manual labour and odd jobs in the factories, and by the canal and docks, though in recent times, those opportunities have been drying up due to increased competition; the over-abundance of low-paid workers, and increasing amount of beggars.

Similarly, they weren’t always living in such a terrible condition; the 5 of them had their own little camp elsewhere, but relatively recently were forced to relocate when the new landlord of the building they were squatting near would not tolerate their presence. Shortly after their arrival here, Leif got sick, and now Melora is quite convinced that they’re all going to die in this disease-riddled place. Her words make you worry for your own health for a moment.

Aside from begging, and the occasional odd job, they are able to get a meal at a local soup kitchen every now and then, and in exchange for some heavy lifting at a nearby washhouse, they’re able to periodically get their clothes cleaned and gain access to a few scraps of soap.

That reminds you that you wanted to get your travelling gear cleaned and ready for when you decide to hit the road again.

There is also a charity group which comes around and offers some very limited support where they can.

Despite their struggles, they seem to handling their situation well, though you consider that they haven’t been living in this camp for long; how long would it take before they become as lifeless and despondent as the rest of the people living here?

You ask them what they were doing before they fell on hard times.

Melora, a former seamstress, rented a room above the tailor’s shop where she worked. As competition from a nearby factory grew, customers dwindled, leading to the shop’s closure and demolition. Now homeless, Melora’s outdated skills limited her opportunities.

“Unfortunately, in Durna, the moment ya end up on the streets, most folks tend to treat ya as if ya cursed, and they won’t give ya no chances, no matter yer potential,” she says.

Working-class Finnegan always had to work hard for the bare minimum of survival, but steadily found himself working harder and harder for less and less. When his landlord suddenly increased the rent, which he was already struggling to pay, Finnegan had no choice but to leave. He continued trying to work whilst sleeping and scavenging for food wherever he could, but it wasn’t long before he too became “cursed”, and his opportunities all but dried up.

Leif was living a good life and was a relatively well-paid worker in one of the local factories. A workplace injury put an end to that; no longer able to work, he lost his job, and with no income and increasing medical bills, he was eventually evicted as well. Shortly after, he found Rufle, a stray puppy trapped down a drain, and rescued him.

Silas is the odd one out, coming from a wealthy family that remains so. His downfall came from something to do with an arranged marriage falling through, and his family completely disowning him in the process. He ended up leaving his home town and wound up in Durna. The details of his story are sketchy; he doesn’t talk about it at all, and asking him will make him uncomfortable; Melora warns you not to ask him for more details if you ever see him.

Home sweet home

(Ai-generated image produced using Stable Diffusion)

You look around the camp; the squalor framed by decent buildings, not 10 minutes away from an opulent park and grandiose structures. There is definitely money to spare in this city, but it’s clear that the distribution is very skewed. There seems to be minimal efforts to improve the situation, but there’s so much more that could be done. No doubt the local politicians and wealthy land and business owners are dragging their feet and making excuses, whilst continuing to squeeze every last fin out of the lower classes.

The beggars murmur in partial agreement, though they do have to concede that a few members of the government do seem to doing more than just give empty promises. One “Marion Drexler” seems to be the most prominent, often being seen at shelters and managing programs to address the rising homelessness. She at least seems to be determined to do something and is in charge of a small task force.

That’s a little heartening. Maybe there’s a grain of hope at least.

But, in the meantime, life goes on like this anyway, and they’re managing as best they can. And, of course, kind individuals like you make a world of difference. The three of them thank you again, and Rufle barks excitedly, all four of them having shared some of the food in Finnegan’s basket. He asks if you’re ready to see where the Grand Jamboree is being held. You tell him yes, and ask him if he can also point you in the direction of the local washhouse. He’s happy to oblige and hops up, ready to lead the way. Melora gets up as well, announcing to the others that she’s going to head back out to finish her rounds. You bid Melora, Leif and Rufle goodbye, and follow Finnegan as he leads you back onto the main road.

The fresh air of the street suddenly hits you; you’re no longer immersed in the stagnant smell of smoke and sewage. You take a few moments to breathe this sweet, clean air, then set off after Finnegan as he continues down the road.

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