Result 13 – Part 5

A short walk later, you and Ameronis enter the built-up, industrial complex, with its intricate weave of tents and makeshift structures between them. Ameronis regards the place silently and with a grim expression, carefully avoiding the rubbish and dirty puddles as best she can. It’s a little confusing finding your way around; but you think this is the right away. You keep an eye out though, looking at those you pass by to make sure that none of them are actually Finnegan or his friends. None of them fit the bill and you move on until you see two men having a serious discussion, accompanied by a large, scraggly, black-and-white dog. Rufle! You then reassess the two men and recognise one of them as Leif. The other man you don’t know.

You point them out to Ameronis, then saunter over, calling out to Leif. The two men and dog look over, and Leif recognises and greets you, while Rufle wags his tail.

After some brief introductions where you introduce Ameronis to the two men, Rufle introduces himself to Ameronis, much to her delight, and Leif introduces the other man as Silas, the the beggar that was missing from the camp the last time you were here, Leif asks what brings you and Ameronis. You tell him about the bread that you brought, and that you just wanted to check in and see how they’re doing. You’re glad to see he’s up and about today; apparently, he hasn’t expired from smoglung yet. He laughs.

“No! Like I said, it was just a cold! I still have a lingering cough, but I’ll be over that in no time. But, never mind that though; you’re too kind. You don’t have to go out of your way to help us, though the food is greatly appropriated…”

You dismiss his concern with a wave. Nonsense! It’s no trouble and you want to help, even a little. You hand him the bag of buns, which Rufle starts sniffing towards; Leif is pleasantly surprised by how many there are; more than he was expecting. He takes out a bun and gives it to Rufle, who immediately scarfs it down. Leif pats him on the back.

“C’mon, we’ll take this back to the tent”.

He leads the way, with Rufle following at his heel and Ameronis following close behind. Silas lingers for a moment before following, looking grim. You take up the rear.

Return to the tent city

(Ai-generated image produced using Stable Diffusion)

Finnegan is at the tent this time, keeping watch over their limited belongings while the others are away; Melora is absent this time. Upon seeing you, Finnegan’s face lights up; a great amount of joy permeating this otherwise bleak existence.

“Ah, Miss Valine! Welcome back! It’s good t’see ya! What you doin’ in ‘ere? This ain’t no place for the likes of you nor your respectable friend there…”

When Leif tells him about the buns, this only causes Finnegan to resume his singing songs of praise for you. You had forgotten about that, but can’t help but smile at his simple happiness. After a few more introductions again, you sit on a crate and listen as Finnegan and Leif report on how they’ve been doing the past couple of days, while Ameronis crouches nearby and scratches a squirming Rufle on his belly.

Life in this camp is terrible, as you’d expect, but collectively, the beggars have been able to get a little work in the nearby factories, enough to earn a few coins, and have been able to get soup from the soup kitchen the last two nights, so they haven’t been entirely destitute. That’s good to hear. But, there still doesn’t seem to be any immediate solution to getting out of this situation. Finnegan is managing fine, and Leif is doing better today. Melora is off working, so will soon have a few more coins. Not too bad. On the other hand, something seems to be troubling Silas. You think back; he did seem to be having an important discussion with Leif; a discussion that you interrupted. Oops.

You apologise for that and ask if Silas is OK and if there’s anything you can help with. If anyone is sick and needs medicine, you’re still willing to buy some…

Silas shakes his head. “No, no. It’s nothing. Just a minor inconvenience. Nothing to trouble yourself with”.

Contrasted against Finnegan, he is very well-spoken and seems very out of place here. He wears an old, scuffed suit that has certainly seen better days. It would have been a very fine thing, once. He is not as tall and lanky as Leif, but is more-so than Finnegan. Cream-skinned with wavy brown hair, a perfectly trimmed moustache, and light brown eyes, there is a certain melancholy behind them.

A minor inconvenience is no trouble at all, and if there’s anything you can do to help at all…

Finnegan, having no idea what anyone’s talking about, pipes up.

“Go on, Silas; what’s got you all ruffled?”

Leif glances at Silas but doesn’t say anything. Silas sighs.

“I just… heh. I just discovered that someone I don’t like has something that belongs to me, and I have no real way of getting it back.”

“Who ‘as what now?” says Finnegan.

“Presumably you can’t go to the police and report it stolen?” asks Ameronis.

Silas shakes his head. “They’d not help. They wouldn’t even listen. If anything, they’d claim I’m lying.”

You and Ameronis look at each other. Why? What exactly happened?

A short while before you and Ameronis arrived in Derna, Silas, Leif, Finnegan, Melora and Rufle were camped elsewhere. A quieter side street in a comparatively much nicer spot, next to some peaceful shops and businesses as opposed to the noisy, smelly factories and warehouses they’re camping by now. They’d been in the old spot for a long while and did their best to keep their heads down and not get on the bad side of the business owners and landlords.

For the most part, their presence was simply tolerated, until Oliver Soza arrived on the scene.

The new owner of one of the shops they had been camped against, Soza immediately took issue with their existence and began a campaign to drive them away. At first, it was just yelling at them, then yelling along with throwing cold water on them and their belongings. He got a bit too physical with them one time, but they wouldn’t stand for that and Rufle alone was more than enough to see him off. However, after that, some ‘security guards for the shop’ showed up. Hired thugs is what they were, and they, bigger, stronger, and more than happy to get rough, took things to a new level.

Combined with Soza calling the police on the beggars daily to try and force them to move, something the law enforces couldn’t actually do but would simply encourage them to move on, the thugs would come in and tear down their structures the moment they were unguarded. The first time, Leif had stepped away to take Rufle to toilet away from the camp, and the two had returned just in time to chase the thugs off before they could do too much damage. The second time, Finnegan was guarding alone, but the three men, younger and fitter, were easily able to resist Finnegan and start trashing things. They only stopped when a couple of passing enforcers caught them and told them to stop. However, there was no penalty for the thugs, and instead, the enforcers again suggested the beggars move on.

The beggars had barely any time to pick up the pieces from that last attack, before the thugs returned again, with 2 more added to their ranks, and each of them wearing a sword. They threatened to kill Rufle if he got any closer, and unarmed, and with no way to stop the 5 thugs, the beggars could only watch as they tore down and ripped up the tents and tossed all the smaller items and furnishings into large sacks. Melora ran to go find some nearby enforcers, but when she returned with some, this pair were not at all moved by the beggar’s plight; it was too late anyway, as the camp was already down. Might as well take the hint and move along instead of illegally squatting on Soza’s plot.

With nothing left for them there, and no help from the law, the five of them were forced to rough it even more than normal, until they were able to find a spot for themselves in the tent city.

It had been an especially bitter loss. Not only had Soza watched the whole debacle from the comfort of his shop window, but the thugs had destroyed or thrown away all the limited possessions the beggars had. Everything they held dear, scraps as they were, gone, and all traces of their former home had been washed away and painted over.

Today, on his way back from a shift at one of one of the factories over on the nearby canals, Silas passed by the store. Turning to spit at the place, a well-entrenched ritual for them at this point, Silas saw, in the shop window, a couple of his trinkets, which he thought were lost forever, on display for sale in Soza’s shop window. It took all of Silas’s restraint not to smash the window with a rock and steal them back right there and then. Instead, he went straight back to the tent city where he ran into Leif.

Then you ran into them.

You and Ameronis, listen as the beggars recount their tale, and Ameronis is appalled by what happened. Leif and Finnegan join Silas in his frustration and distress. Soza destroyed their home and now he’s selling their stuff?! What other of their belongings had survived the purge? Had any of them already been sold?

Silas paces now with a pained expression.

“I can’t just walk in there and ask for them back; if those thugs are anywhere nearby, he’ll set them on them immediately. And if I go to the enforcers and tell them he stole from us, he can just claim I’m a liar and a would-be thief, and who do you think they’d listen to? The respectable, tax-paying business owner, or the dirty, stinking street scum?!”

He kicks an empty bottle down the alley; it clatters down the crowded way, causing a few complaints from other beggars who narrowly avoid being hit by it. He sighs and takes a moment to calm and compose himself again.

“I’m sorry. I just…”

Ameronis holds out a hand to stop him. “It’s OK; we understand, You don’t need to apologise.”

You nod in agreement, thinking this whole thing over.

“This is… It’s unacceptable in every way!” Ameronis continues. “We can’t let Soza get away with this!”

“But, there’s nothing we can do except let it go,” says Silas with a shrug. “I doubt if he’d even let me buy my stuff back; he’d refuse just to spite us I’m sure.”

“Hmm, probably…” says Ameronis thoughtfully. “But, there must be something.” She stares at the sky thoughtfully for a few moments, then smiles. “Tell you what; why don’t you take me to this Soza’s store so I can see exactly what we’re working with?”

Leave a comment below

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *