Flashback Hanging around the gallows

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A lawless town of anarchists, built on the ruins of an ancient mining city. [Lore]

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Hanging around the gallows

Postby Farren on June 30th, 2022, 9:21 pm

32nd of Fall, 516 AV

“What’d he do?” Farren asked

“That MONSTER there was using magic to murder women and children and gods know what else!” A man beside them ranted, and Farren felt a tug on her elbow as Cleon pulled her away from the outburst. She was confused, and a little scared at the man’s reaction. There was so much hatred in his tone, and she had to figure that the man knew someone who had been killed by the fellow that was being lead up onto the gallows platform. A thick crowd had come to attend his execution, and everywhere she looked she saw angry faces spewing vitriol at the man on the platform.

He didn’t look at all like the monster they were saying he was. The man looked small, old and frail. He had been stripped naked and dragged across the platform to where they were currently fitting a rope around his neck. His hair was dark gray, and scraggly, his face pleading around the gag they’d worked into his mouth. Farren almost felt bad for him, but if he’d really done even a little of what they’d said he’d done then he deserved everything he was about to get. She felt conflicted about seeing such suffering playing out before her, and almost forgot about the real reason they had come here in the first place.

Crowds like this were Cleon’s favorite because it wasn’t too hard to find some drunk lout in need of their pockets getting picked, and often times Farren didn’t even need to lift a finger to help. Especially with a distraction like this playing out in front of everyone, and the crowd smelling like a brewery already even though it was scarcely midday. She supposed they really didn’t need an excuse to drink, her parents certainly didn’t so the general coarseness of this audience didn’t surprise her in the slightest. Nearby she even heard a few people placing bets on how the man would be executed and how long it would take him to expire. She didn’t know what expire meant but she had a inkling that it meant dying given the situation.

It took a significant amount of effort to tear her eyes away from the sight, but eventually she did to find Cleon leading them further into the thick of it. Here the people where practically standing shoulder to should, and no one paid much mind to a couple of children weaving their way through the crowd unless it was to swat at them for getting in the way. Farren did her best to keep her head down to avoid the brunt of the abuse, though she did sneak a glance once or twice towards the stage.

They were putting the noose over the man’s neck now but instead of just hanging him, one of the men who had brought him up onto the platform pulled out a wicked looking knife. He was showing it now theatrically to the crowd while the man broke out into a loud fit of sobbing. Farren gulped and looked away, not wanting to see that next part but it didn’t end up mattering anyways. The way those sobs turned into screams so suddenly would stay with her for a long time to come. She almost looked up at the stage to see what the man had done to make the other one scream so horribly, but this time Cleon noticed her and stood in front of the violence, pushing them further along a much taller crowd of people so they no longer had a glimpse of the carnage. But those screams…

Farren realized she was shaking like a leaf as Cleon held onto her, and she leaned into the reassurance of his touch. She suddenly felt very dirty being pressed up shoulder to shoulder with this crowd, or in their case, shoulder to hip. Like what was happening up there was somehow her fault now just because she was a part of this crowd, standing there watching, cheering even. The sound made her sick to her stomach. She kept her eyes averted and put them to better use watching the hands of the people in around her. It was hard to avoid being touched in a crowd like this, but sometimes she could keep it to a minimum if they thought they would be caught doing it. Except for the more brazen ones who sneaked in a pinch, or grab anyways. If they went any further than that though, Cleon had given her a sharp eating knife and told her to drive it in the most painful spot either of them could imagine. At least before this display on the gallows anyways.

She still cringed to hear the man scream, and her small right hand tightened around the eating knife, holding it pointed down with her arm tucked against her side. Her eyes flicked from Cleon over towards the other people around them whom where fortunately very intent on the scene unfolding. Farren didn’t actually see the nick, but pretty soon he was leading them away from the crowd where she got pinched and jostled a few more times before the emerged onto a narrow lane, away from the glut of people that clogged up its entrance. Cleon was walking fast so she did too, not daring to look back, and not really wanting to as the screams intensified.

The alley turned and so did they down a mostly deserted row that ran between several slumped house that were packed tightly against one another like fish about to go to market. Cleon stopped when there was just enough space between one of the houses for a child to slip through, and he did, followed quickly by Farren who put away her knife before squeezing into the narrow gap. Fortunately it didn’t stay narrow for long, and widened as they reached the rear of the two houses into a tight open gap that was barely wide enough for them to stand side by side. He turned to face her, pulling out a few baubles that he’d managed to knick and Farren gave him a warm smile.

“How much do you think that’ll fetch?” She asked hopefully, her voice edged with caution. Hope was a dangerous thing on these streets. She listened quietly to what Cleon had to say, nodding occasionally while slowly growing anxious that they might have to go out there again, and disappointed that her brother hadn’t managed to grab more but she felt guilty for thinking such a thing, knowing he really didn’t have control over what they brought in from a crowd of strangers. Farren bit her lower lip.

“Okay, well do you want to go back out?” She asked cautiously, the hesitance clear in her voice and was immediately relieved to hear his reassurances to the contrary. Instead he lead them out of the little gap they were in, further between the houses for a few chimes. It was always distinctly uncomfortable sidling between these narrow shacks, and occasionally even painful as the wood dug into her back, and front. The stone houses were worse for sidling through. There were always awkward edges poking into her back, leaving nasty scratches. Fortunately there weren’t many of those around in the Sunset Quarter because they traveled like this a lot. They reckoned it made them harder to follow if it came to that, and neither of them wanted to be tracked back to where they were keeping Faye. She was too important to risk. It didn’t take them very long to make it back to the orphanage where Faye was being watched over. It was probably the easiest building to find in the quarter given its size in comparison to the rest of the much smaller buildings in the slum, and Farren was relieved when they finally caught sight of the place. Her whole body was tired, but especially her feet, the undersides of which were sore and ached all the way up her ankle. Pretty soon she’d be able to sit down, play with Faye and eat whatever Cleon managed to get with their day’s haul. It was enough to almost make her smile.

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Hanging around the gallows

Postby Cleon on June 30th, 2022, 9:23 pm


Cleon eyed the crowd apprehensively. More than half of them seemed drunk, and pretty much every eye was fixed on the platform which was the only reason why he thought it was worth the risk in the first place. Everyone was standing so tightly packed together that it would be hard to make their way through, but once they had, picking a pocket or two shouldn’t be that hard as people were getting jostled all the time as they craned to get a good look at the show. It was one of the few times he didn’t feel the slightest bit guilty about thinking of picking a pocket because this crowd was full of the people at their vilest, cheering on a doomed man that was being slowly walked across the platform.

He didn’t spare the man a glance, knowing full well what was going to happen to him soon. Instead he remained focused on the crowd, waiting for an opening and taking it as soon as it shifted to offer the slightest of gaps. Pulling Farren along behind him, he wedged his way into the gap before it closed around him, people pressing in on his back and sides. It was one of the few times that being so much younger than most everyone around them came as a plus as most towered over them which meant Cleon and Farren weren’t getting in the way of anyone’s view. For this reason, they went mostly ignored as Cleon pushed his way through. His eyes kept darting to belts and pockets while occasionally glancing up at faces while he tried to sort out a mark from all of this chaos.

The crowd was constantly shifting amongst themselves, pressing into the slightest bit of space if it allowed them to get a better view of the platform. It made it hard to make their way across, but he’d already known that going in. So long as he looked like he knew where he was going, he didn’t have nearly as much trouble making his way across, but the tick he looked the slightest bit lost, that’s when the shoving started, forcing him to drag Farren further into the thick of the crowd. He was glad he had given her the knife before all of this. They weren’t the only individuals that might look to do something opportunistic, and someone might try to snatch two seemingly unattended children. Cleon kept one of his own eating knives at the ready, sharpened on the edge of a stone, but crudely done so most of it was beat to shite. Didn’t matter though for the way Cleon planned to use it if it came to that. He’d bury it in the softest spot he could reach of any man that groped or grabbed him but after a while of traveling through the crowd, he decided to just use it if they tried to drag him out of the crowd. Not only was it hard to tell who was groping or pinching him, but he didn’t want to attract undo attention to himself or his sister. They were here to nick a few things and get out. Thats it.

Cleon held his composure by biting his lower lip hard, and finally deciding to stop waiting for the perfect nick which was never going to come anyways. The crowd shifted, pressing him up against the back of an older woman who smacked him then quickly seemed to regret it when she saw how young he was and as she started looking through the crowd to see if his parents were going to do something about it, Cleon slipped away but didn’t stray far, a little sore about the whole interaction. When she saw that it didn’t look like anyone was going to be taking revenge on her, the older woman turned back to look at the festivities. Cleon doubled around, and wedged himself beside her, making sure that he couldn’t be knocked into her this time. He didn’t look furtively around, not wanting to draw attention to himself as he instead looked up at the stage and fortunately couldn’t see a petching thing over the heads of the crowd as he reached blindly for the woman’s bag.

When he found it, he didn’t press against it right away, instead he just lightly touched it with his fingers while holding his hand out so it would look like he was familiar with the woman he was about to nick from, and possibly even related, which was sort of believable given the way he was leading his sister Farren around by her hand. Hopefully anyone who spied out this interaction just gave it a glance and figured that these two belonged to the woman. That was what he was betting on anyways. Of course he didn’t actually press against her, not wanting her to look back at him while he worked his fingertips under the lip of the bag, then spread out his fingers slowly to widen it. It was a small sort of bag, little more than a burlap sack really, and one she wore under her arm rather than on her back which was smart in a crowd like this. She even had her arm folded over it, supporting most of its weight which was more than a little troublesome. Cleon reckoned that she’d feel the change in weight rather quickly if he moved anything out rashly and the hole he’d made wasn’t big enough to fit both hands through.

Gritting his teeth, Cleon decided that it would have to be something small, and just hoped he would be fortunate enough to find something before something caused this woman to look back at them. His hand was firmly ensconced in the bag now as he walked his fingers deeper inside of it, even going so far as to hover near her elbow while keeping his face averted. He didn’t want anyone paying too much attention to what he was doing which again was why he had brought Farren along. It completed the picture rather nicely, and besides they were stronger when they worked together. Eventually his fingers fell over a slender metallic object that he gave a slight tug on, which to his relief slipped into his palm without much trouble. It was always a worry that the object would get hung up on something unexpected and this woman’s bag was well… a mess, stuffed with all manner of odd things that Cleon couldn’t begin to fathom on touch alone.

Slowly he walked the object back into his grip, and then came the moment of truth. He lifted it, and the woman didn’t seem to notice, although Cleon held his breath for several long interminable ticks while he waited for any sort of reaction from her. When she kept her face fixed away towards the screaming man on stage, Cleon slowly withdrew his hand from the mouth of her bag and once it had cleared the lip, he quickly darted his hand in his pocket. Impulse told him to dart away right there and then, but thinking it over Cleon didn’t think that was such a good idea. Such movement would probably draw more attention to himself, and if anyone had even so much as glimpsed at him in the past few chimes they would know what was up. So he stayed rooted to the spot for a few chimes longer, and feeling the object in his pocket, he found out disappointingly enough that it was a metal comb, likely not worth more than a copper miza if anything. Cleon got a mad impulse then and brushed his hair with the comb, which turned out to be a lot more painful than he anticipated as he ran the metal teeth through his tangled locks, ripping out more than a few strands. He supposed though in retrospect it might have been a passingly good idea because if anyone was watching they might just think he had nicked his mother’s comb to get a little brush in, and so they would keep their tongue to themselves. That was good, but it made him even more reluctant to leave the spot they were in. He felt like he had to wait now for the right opportunity for the crowd to be sufficiently distracted.

He got one and a glimpse of the man on stage when someone through a rock and gapped his eyebrow which set the crowd off, spreading as quickly as a fire as everyone started to throw whatever they could get their hands on at the man on stage. Cleon used that distraction to distance him and Faye from the older woman while looking for his next mark. It would be a little harder now with everyone actively participating in the man’s punishment, but as luck would have it they stumbled across a few opportunities that didn’t even require him to dip his hands into any pockets. Namely he managed to pick up a few copper mizas every now and then that had dropped into the mud from all the action, and even found a leather glove that he put the mizas into before stuffing it all into his pocket.

It was time to make their way out of this crowd, before it got too unruly. He pulled his sister Farren along, looking for the easiest route out which happened to be heading for a place where the view of the stage was obscured by the platform, and so the crowd was much thinner there. Finally able to move around without having to squeeze between people, Cleon quickly lead them out from there, guiding them down the first street he came across and then squeezing between a likely gap he’d found between two houses. He didn’t think anyone was following them, and certainly didn’t see anyone coming down the deserted street, but it paid to be careful, especially in times like these. Farren came in after him and pretty soon they were standing face to face in a cramped little gap between the houses.

He tugged out the leather glove he’d stuffed into his pocket and then emptied out the contents into his palm. They were unfortunately meager. A small handful of copper rimmed mizas, and a iron comb. Cleon had know idea why the lady had a comb made out of iron and suspected it must be a weapon of some sort or at least some sort of self defense measure. He didn’t feel the least bit bad about taking that from her though, not after she had smacked him square across the face. It was the disappointment in Farren’s face that got to him, making him feel lesser as he hastily poured the mizas back into the glove and then stuffed the iron comb into it.

“Not much unfortunately.” Cleon said, and then winced at the anxiousness in Farren’s tone. He felt for her, he really did bringing her out into a crowd like that, but it wasn’t really like he had much of a choice in the matter. “Nah, this should be enough to get us by for a few days at least.” His voice was low now and distant. I might do for a day at most, and then he’d be back out again, risking his neck for a fistful of coppers. Cleon hid a grimace by looking down a gap that went further between the houses. It didn’t look so narrow that they couldn’t negotiate it so he guided her forward as he slipped between the walls. The thing about crawling between houses was to take short, shallow breaths and breath all the way in before squeezing between two somethings. Sometimes if the going was narrowing, he had to hold in a breath, as big a one he could manage just so he’d make sure he didn’t get stuck the wrong sort of way which was easy to do when he sneaked around like this.

There was almost an art to it as well, moving quietly enough that he didn’t disturb the occupants but there was a very real danger to it as well. Some of these houses were so flimsy when he pressed his back to them he felt them give with an ominous creak like the whole house was going to come down on him. He couldn’t imagine what it would be like if he crawled under one of those houses on stilts and someone walked on the floor over him. It would probably crush him. He shuddered at the thought, trying not to think like that right now as he negotiated the narrow passage with his sister in toe. The thought dug in though with claws of its own, and the first gap they got that lead out into the street he took, emerging dusty, scratched and a little more dirty than he went in. He held out his hand to help pull his sister free then they were off down the street, looking this way and that before he started steering them towards the Orphanage. For the most part it had experienced quite a bit of damage after the Djed Storm but it had been mostly rebuilt between the ensuing seasons and it was the safest place for Faye to be while they were out and about.

It stood out as one of the tallest and largest structures he’d ever seen this side of the river, although that said, it wasn’t like he was particularly well traveled in that respect. They kept mostly to this side of the river, close between where it split just to make sure that they didn’t step into territory they shouldn’t. Gangs would snatch them up in a heartbeat, and Cleon didn’t want that for any of them. When they finally caught sight of the orphanage, that is when Cleon relaxed somewhat, and Farren too for that matter. They’d manage to make it home in one piece, with a few baubles that might just get them a decent meal tonight. Cleon was happy.

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