The beggar knelt down in the busy marketplace, head down and hands cupped together, watching the feet of the more fortunate, as they hustled past.
The few that remained in place, haggled with the merchants over the price of gaudy jewellery and expensive silks, fine wines and cheap perfumes. He’d been here in this spot for three days now, stole it from another beggar who was unable to fight back due to malnutrition.
It was a good spot. The marketplace was a straight alleyway, with stalls on either side of the wide thoroughfare. He was positioned right in the heart of it, in view of all the exits and notable stalls.
Two copper herons. A good day’s haul for a beggar in Rashupp, a small pustule of a town deep within the Jandhu Empire. Two coppers would allow him to eat, keep him alive one more day. Two coppers could also get him killed if he was not careful, not all beggars followed traditional methods of getting their coin. There were enough dead bodies, lining the dark corners of the streets bearing the red smile to attest to that.
His knees were aching; he would need to move soon, but he feared he would lose this spot, what is a little bit of discomfort, in light of a copper heron he thought to himself, that and this was a good spot. Shaded from the blazing midday suns, he was could wear his thick wraps that covered him from head to toe so that when the suns set and the temperature plummeted at night he would not die from exposure.
A copper was placed into his hands, and the beggar looked up. A small noble child had foregone a sugary treat and instead given her heron to him. He smiled under his wraps, generosity like that would not last long; it would be drilled out of her by her parents before the year was out.
He looked around the market for the thousandth time this day. The owner of the silk stall was arguing over the price of silk with a portly man, his face shaven clean to mark him as noble.
This was a good spot. There was plenty of traffic, coming and going. More chance for him to get some coppers and the merchants pretended he didn’t exist. A good compromise, if you valued your life on the streets. And he did value his life, as miserable as it was, it was still his life.
The beggar lowered his head again and dreamed of better days. A childhood spent in a bustling city, a stark contrast to Rashupp, yet further south where it was cooler, nicer, and cleaner. His childhood ended at twelve when he became a servant to a demanding master, slave more like it as he had no choice in the matter. “Choosing” they had called it, yet the child had no choice he recalled with bitter memories. Now, that was ancient history. All he was now was a beggar, a vagrant spending his life one copper at a time, one day at a time.
A commotion in the distant brought him back to reality. A street urchin was creating a distraction over by the fruit vendor, while a second boy snuck outside the owner’s view and swiped an assortment of wares. It was a relatively common occurrence here at the markets. He didn’t know why the merchants didn’t hire guards, or why patrols weren’t more common here. But none of that was any of his concern. All he cared about were coppers, and getting enough of them to keep breathing.
The beggar closed his eyes, he was so tired. Sleep would come easily tonight, but he would need to find a safe place to rest first or find himself with the red smile and empty pockets. The silk merchant and the fat noble were still haggling for a price when another coin was placed into his hand.
He opened his eyes and saw a gold heron, a fortune for a beggar but to him, it was the sign that he needed. It was time to leave his nice little spot. The beggar stood up and deftly pocketed the coin, his mind was focused as he snaked his way through the crowd. It was time. His eyes fixed on the silk merchant and his large customer, who was inspecting a roll of the red silk, while the merchant rattled off a thousand inane details.
This was a good spot. It gave him a perfect view of his target, no matter where he went in the marketplace. This was a good spot. He was able to blend into the environment, without drawing any undue attention to himself, and the foot traffic in both directions would hide both his approach and his escape. This was a good spot for an assassin he thought to himself as he drew closer to his target. It was time.
The beggar collided with the silk merchant, and earned a quick shove for his troubles, propelling him straight into the noble, who grunted under the impact. The beggar apologised and scurried off disappearing back into the crowd.
A scream was heard shortly after, as the noble dropped to the floor dead, blood pooling from a wound in his chest. By “coincidence”, a guard patrol arrived just in time and seized the merchant, a bloody dagger hidden under his robes marking him as the murderer.
He was blaming some dirty beggar, as the guards dragged him off kicking and screaming. In an alleyway not far from the marketplace a man with red hair, dressed in black pulled the hood up on his cloak and smiled.
“Sometimes, it pays to have more than one dagger,” he said to himself as he finished binding the fresh cut to his hand with a portion of his wraps, the rest of his disguise was discarded amongst the garbage that lined the alleyway.
This is my entry into the Short-Story Challenge for April. I hope that this fits the brief which was “A Whole New World,” where we need to change the way either we, the readers or the way the sim in the story thinks.
To that end, I tried to do both – It is set in another world (my Ironbound world, but thousands of years in the past) and the main character had to fully immerse himself in his character as a Beggar in order to succeed. I hope that you enjoyed my little tale.