It was already midday, Silvar was walking through the alleys of the city. His left hand was resting on the scabbard of his longsword and his shield was strapped on his back, one strap under each armpit. He did not enjoy these parts of any town, the dirty streets and the uncivilized people that inhabit them have nothing noble about them. Still, this was the right place to try to find some of the people that Iridian recommended.
Now what was that guy's name, he thought. "Hey you, boy! he yelled at a young brat dressed only in a pair of ripped pants. Do you know someone by the name of 'Street'?" Hearing that name the boy started running without looking back. "Gods dammit! Silvar said out loud. This is taking too long."
He started walking again, he wouldn't spend all day here in the filth.
Street stood at the end of a dead end alley with near twenty other rats before him. He stood atop a dumpster as he described to them a plan to care for them all. “Thieves and assassins aren't left to want of a place to sleep or food to eat. They're not ever left alone and helpless. They have their guilds and they all look after the others. They have a place in common and they all work towards it, together.” He explained, “But we're not thieves and we're not killers. We are a clan as much as they are but without the means, without the end.”
“So, what do you suggest we do with ourselves?” Was the response given by many..
He had thought on how to earn money ever since the night he'd spent at the inn with Kaye a few nights earlier. Not only for himself but for all his family in the alley. He pondered over what they could do, especially himself, to change their station in life, to rise above the filth and famine they all lived in. He had come to conceive formalizing his primary source of income.
“I've fought many of you for a single copper coin,” He responded, “And many of you have fought each other for the same piece of copper. We do it all the time and the rest of us watch. I've fought thugs and thieves in the bars and in the square, and every time there's a crowd of people who watch. They love to see people fight. It's exciting!”
“So what? We fight and people watch?”
“Yes!” Street resounded emphatically. “They pay us to let them watch. We plan the date and time, and the place, and they have to pay to see. People also love to gamble. They'll bet on the fights and we'll broker those bets, take ten percent. We'll all have a part in it. Some of us will fight, but others will have to watch the entrance and collect the fees. We'll need people organizing the crowd and we'll need people taking the bets and handling the money. We'll need people to watch the people with money to make sure they're safe. We'll need people to announce the fighters – it has to be a show – a spectacle. And we need everybody to talk about the fights before they happen so we can draw a crowd.”
“Sounds like a big deal.”
“Of course it does. It has to be a big deal to make us all money. We need a good place to do it though. We need to be able to hold a crowd and we need to be able to secure it. As well as possible anyways – we don't have money to rent one obviously, and we need it to be legal because it has to be public. And not too far from the common district, 'cuz those with money to pay and gamble don't wanna come too far into cheap side. When we make enough money, we can get our own hall, and we can call ourselves a guild. We’ll all have a place to live and we can get running water. We can get hot water. We can get heat in the winter and food all the time. We all have to work for it. Any Ideas where to start?”
There was mumbling and murmuring as Street looked around at everyone mulling over what he was proposing, and trying to think of a suitable location. Before anyone settled on an idea or spoke out about one, a ragged boy came running around the corner. “Street!” the boy shouted, a little out of breath. “There's a guy lookin' for ya. He's a big dude with armour and stuff, not one of us for sure. He asked about you in eighteenth alley, and I just ran here.”
“Three blocks Johnny, and you're out of breath?” Street teased the youngster as he hopped off the dumpster and walked through the crowd, then patted the boy on the head on his way by. “Thanks kid, I'll go see what he wants.” Street had no idea who would be looking for him, or why. He and Kaye had arranged where and when to meet, and he didn't picture he'd be in any trouble with the law worth their while to seek him out for.
“Real big arms.” the boy elaborated as he turned to watch street walk down the alley. “Pretty scary looking, Street. And his armour's real nice. And his sword too.”
“Thanks for the warning Johnny.” Street grinned and shook his head at the boy as he turned the corner. He was quite curious to find who was looking for him and why, especially if it was someone as the boy had described.
Thinking he should be careful to give himself the advantage in a curious confrontation, Street opted to take the high ground and look for his seeker from above. Once around the corner, he scaled the side of the three story apartment building and walked along the edges looking down as he went. As he reached the end of the building, he looked over the far edge, didn't see the described man again, so took a few steps back and took a leap over the alley and tumbled across the second floor roof. He looked over the edges again as he went, and at the far side of the building he looked down and saw a man much as the boy had described. He watched him for a moment and noted the way he walked, the sway of his arms as he strode, and the weight of his steps. In great detail, Street was sizing him up for a fight and had determined he'd rather not be struck by him.
Having watched for several paces, Street Shouted down at the man. “Hey there!” Then, he knelt along the edge of the building, put his right hand down on the roof and turned on it so he would himself slide off the roof entirely. Held up by only the one hand, Street lowered swiftly but steadily from the edge of the roof and grabbed the upper lip of a window frame with his other hand. Crouching in the air, Street released the roof and set a foot on the lower lip of the same window frame. “Big scary guy, real big arms and real nice armour, and a sword too, looking for me. What do you want?”
Silvar had just about had enough of searching when he heard words coming from above. He looked up to see a man standing on the roof of a building. Fancy armour? Silvar thought. How can he know that I have my chainmaill under my cloak, or is he calling my shield armour? Such barbarians... His thoughts were soon swept away by the man's agility and skill.
"Well, well! he said in a loud voice, it seems that you are skilled, though your appearance leaves much to be desired." Silvar turned his body towards the man that was resting on the side of the building, his voice turned serious. "You have been recommended to me by the Lady Iridian. My name is Denethor, how would you like to earn some honest money?"
He did not feel comfortable about discussing the matter in a loud voice and in an alley full of ears. "Come down and we can talk, I mean you no harm."
“You callin' me ugly?” Street wasn't actually offended, but he asked the question seriously. Insults – even founded ones – were often a means of establishing posture over another man. To belittle a man could stand to cut his legs, as it were, and take from him some poise in any exchange. It was a sign of dominance, and an advantage one could hardly afford to give up so easily.
Right away, Street pushed off the wall and struck pavement barely more than a foot in front of the man. He had hardly crouched as he landed, choosing to take the impact through his body in favour of better posturing, and stood staring the man immediately in the eyes. The stare down was a very primal tactic – one that displayed intent and dominance – and one Street soon read wasn't likely to work on this man. “You're right.” He smirked and took two leisurely steps back. “I've had my visage messed a lot growing up, and it hasn't left me the most charming of sorts.” He motioned a hand around his face as he joked. If he couldn't raise his hairs at this man, he would shine a light and own the disadvantage, stealing the benefit from the other man.
“Money is good,” Street answered finally, stepping back again and leaning against a lower window sill, “I'd like some of that. So what is it our friend thinks I could help you with?”
As the agile man landed in front of him, Silvar tightened his right fist and his left hand grabbed the sword's pummel. Staring into the man's eyes, he saw strength and pride. Then the man backed down, clearly not because of a fear of fighting, but because he knew that Silvar would only be a source of profit if not angered. There was wisdom in this street thug.
Silvar took a step forward and continued to look the man straight in the eyes. "Ugly is not what I was going for, he spoke in a harsh voice, it is your attire that leaves much to be desired and so does your way of speaking." He removed his left hand from the sword's pummel, then he continued in a calmer tone. "But... I suppose that is not exactly your fault." He stroked his hair with his his left hand while his right hand moved to his back. It removed a small leather wine bag that was strapped to his belt. He took a drink from it then he tossed it towards Street.
"Let's get back to business. Lady Iridian said that you would be a valuable man in the mercenary unit I want to form. This means that she believes you to be capable of fighting in an organized group, that you can follow orders and treat comrades with respect. The rewards are riches and adventure, but there is always the risk that you can lose your life."
He paused, giving the man a minute to go over what he had just heard. "So, what do you think?"
Last Edit: May 23, 2013 3:45:17 GMT -5 by Ammodytes
Street caught the sac of wine in his right hand and drank from it as the man continued to speak. Given his station in life and his love of drink, Street wasn't one to turn one down when it was offered. He took a second swig as the other man asked his thoughts.
“I think there's a chance I get killed in this alley walking away from this conversation,” Street answered matter of factly as he stepped forward to hand the man back the wine bag, “stabbed and robbed of the very clothes you look down on me for. The clothes that I bought with copper I earned fighting other men in the streets, usually more than one against me, rather than steal these clothes or clothes better than these from honest merchants just trying to make a living in this city. I think there's always a chance I could die of starvation, because I gave the last few crackers I had to feed other rats; my comrades before myself. I think riches could spare me that fate, but I will not compromise myself to get them. There are guilds in this city that continue to offer me promises of wealth and adventure, but I'm no crook and I'm no killer. I've heard mercenaries can be both, so tell me what you want from me, and what you expect me to help you with.”
His answer hadn't meant to be defensive, though it may have sounded at times to be. He had meant to be concise, and explain where he was coming from in their discussion. Street wasn't a fan of misunderstandings, and there did seem to be a great gap in the worlds these two were coming from. He had definitely learned a liking for more money than he'd ever known when he spent the night at the Inn, and was certainly interested in riches, but he'd have to earn them the right way.
Silvar took the wine bag back from Street, covered it and strapped it back to his belt while listening. The value of the young man was starting to grow in his eyes, but he would not let himself be carried away by idle thoughts.
"Yes, mercenaries can be crooks. We had a few of those in the last unit I was part of. They looted the corpses of the fallen and stole goods from the families of the criminals we caught, and I despised them for it." His face betrayed the feeling of disgust. "Yet still, they were my comrades, and my life depended on them and their life depended on me. That is the way of the mercenaries. No matter where you are from, no matter what your story is, as long as you respect your comrades and protect them with your life, you are equal to them. We shared the rewards equally, we shared the burdens equally, that is how it was."
By the end of this small tale his eyes were staring at the blue sky. A slight feeling of nostalgia had taken him.
"Now, he continued with a serious voice, are mercenaries killers? Yes! Yes they are! Killing is part of your everyday job, however, you have a choice. Nobody will ever force you to go on a mission, you can inform yourself about the target and if you consider that the person in cause should not be hunted down, then you simply don't go on that mission. However, you will not get paid in that situation."
His eyes were facing Street again, he grabbed his belt with both hands and straightened his back.
"If you choose to join you will have to take up a role. There are many positions that are vacant at the moment. So tell me, what is your weapon of choice, can you fight with a shield and sword, have you ever dressed in armour, are you a decent marksman?"
Last Edit: May 28, 2013 15:00:25 GMT -5 by Ammodytes
Street thought deeply as he listened to the man's explanations. He didn't like the killing part at all. He had killed other men before, but never had he planned to ahead of time. When the man spoke of positions and listed a series of questions, Street mostly just shook his head.
“I've never held a bow, or a weapon bigger than this.” Street pulled a throwing knife from the back side of his belt. “And the clothes I'm wearing now are as much as I've ever worn. I fight man to man,” He reached behind his back and slid the blade back into his belt, “or man to men. I only ever used a knife to fight when I wasn't just fighting for me, and someone couldn't run. When men gang up – Dogs, I call them – to beat a boy or rape a girl, and the fight isn't about a copper coin to win a bet; I've killed men for that.”
Street paused a moment to think as he stared down at the ground. “So if I don't think it's right, I sit one out and let my comrades go do the dirty deed I find beneath me, then put on face and act like we're brothers when the mission suits me?” He had looked back up and was looking Denethor in the eyes again, and didn't seem approving. “That sounds two sided, like befriending the dogs and turning my back when they chase a cat.”
Silvar laughed loudly, he stroked his hair with his right hand and, as he placed it back on his belt, he started speaking with a paternal voice:
"What do you think gives birth to mercenaries, boy?" He looked at Street with slight compassion in his eyes. "Necessity! Hunger and thirst to be precise. When men need food they will do anything, and usually their choices are limited." The fatherly voice disappeared and he continued in a serious tone: "You have needs, you have dreams, and you are obviously skilled. I need men, you need money, that is all there is to it. Nobody talked of brotherhood, you share the burdens equally because that is necessary in order to survive. Call it one sided, two sided, down right dirty if you want, I do not care!" Stopping only to draw breath he continued. "The world is ugly and harsh! Gods damn it boy, you know this better than I do!"
He stopped to calm himself down. This young man was an idealist, similar to what Silvar had been when he was younger.
"I have been on many missions, he spoke quite calmly, I always turned down those that I did not find to be right. We always have a choice in life." He breathed deeply and regained his cool completely. " I can only tell you that I will choose missions that are based on justice."
Looking down at the weapon Street had revealed, he frowned slightly. "Hmm, that dagger is not of high quality. However, even that stile of fighting can come in handy." He removed a bag with coins from his belt, he extracted 20 gold pieces and handed them to Street. "Here, a token of my good will. With this money you have a choice, you can either spend it on wine and girls, or you can equip yourself. With this you can buy several steel daggers and a set of light leather armour. Should you choose the latter and if you want to fight for me, then meet me at the city gates in two days, just as the sun is setting. We shall go on a tryout mission."
Street was apprehensive in reaching for the coins, but took them without qualms of course. He had never held a gold coin, or even a silver, let alone twenty gold. He thought a little as he looked at the coins in his hand; the most he'd ever had before was probably ten or twelve copper that he brought immediately to Mr. Todd for wares he'd sold him on credit. Street reached into the front of his pants and pulled out his own empty coin sack and filled it with his new gold. It wasn't safe for a rat to carry coin on his side like people in the common areas; he'd have been far too much a target.
“I've been hungry and thirsty my hole life,” Street looked the man in the eyes again and tucked his pouch back in to his tattered pants, “but there's a line I never cross to fix that. If the question was as simple as that, I'd have been a thief or assassin long ago.” He paused a moment and shook his head slowly in thought. “I'll be there though, to see where you'd lead me. I'm not fool enough to not take a look, I just hope you're not a rich dog.”
There was certainly a lot Street could buy with the twenty gold pieces Denethor had given him, but it would eventually run out. He would be in a better position to help his brothers and sisters in the alley if he were better off himself. He'd have to be careful what to buy first, and would look to keep some aside for bigger things.
Street nodded back at Denethor bidding farewell, and watched him leave before turning himself, and walking casually back towards his group. If he could make some righteous coin with that man, he thought to himself, he could be a benefactor to his own guild of fighting rats. Even personally, this adventure Denethor promised could prove to be another interesting experience.
He had given his friends some food for thought and introduced them all to the plan. He would tell them all to think on it all and gather again at the end of the week with more ideas. In the mean time, they would look for a venue and think of means to bring people in. There was a lot to plan involved in their fighters' guild.
Within the following couple days, Street would have to think on where to spend his coin, and learn some things about armour.