Deirdre sits huddled in the ragged blanket, staring at the townsfolk who excitedly stream into the carnival gates. Most of them barely look at the beggars as they pass, glancing away or pretending not to notice. The few who do acknowledge the ragged figures mostly glare, scowl or even spit in their direction.
The young woman had been so hopeful after being freed from the slavers. A new life, a new start in a tiny kingdom had seemed a blessing. The small home, shared with a kind family, had been comfortable and safe. But when the beast had rampaged through the town and destroyed everything, the townsfolk had been unable to continue helping her. Of course, the Council had restored the buildings, but it was too late for Deirdre.
There are almost two dozen beggars at the carnival gates, most from the town itself. Deirdre knows most of them by name, although a few strangers dot their ranks. Several look too well-fed to have been homeless for long, and the young woman suspects a few of the carnival workers might be supplementing their wages in their off time.
And so she sits, hoping for enough from the passing townsfolk to eat regularly for a time. A few stray coppers drop into the tins here and there, mostly going to those who arrived early enough to get the good spots. A callous soul tosses a handful of coins into the midst of the beggars and laughs as they fight for the measly offerings.
The chatter of the crowd rises expectantly as a small group of Councillors approach, including several of the heroes who rescued the slave caravan. The anticipation of the beggars is palpable as the richest of the rich near the gates. Deirdre has heard that the income earned by a council member was as much as a dozen gold coins each month, enough to feed a family for a year. Even a portion of that would save every one of the poor souls outside the gates.
The pleas of the unfortunate rise in volume and desperation as the wealthy arrive, and the scramble for position nearly flattens the young woman. One of the beefy strangers treads on her foot as a council member hands out a few silver, but Deirdre still manages to collect one of the few coins. Although a pittance to the wealthy, it means eating for the next month, perhaps longer if she is careful.
Deirdre spots the holy warrior from the slave caravan battle amongst the group, and the memory of the hope she felt at her rescue is bittersweet. At least she would have been fed and sheltered as a slave. She has heard stories about the tattooed warrior’s harsh code of justice and can feel the beggars shrink back under his gaze. The young woman’s heart skips a beat when the dark-skinned man gestures for his companions to continue while he approaches the ragged group.
Much to her shock, the General of Tuskany does not admonish the beggars, or chase them from their spots, but begins to proselytize on the virtues of his goddess and her glory. He is persuasive and engaging, in a harsh and frightening way, but Deirdre finds herself nodding in hope to some of what the man says in his harsh foreign accent.
By the end of the sermon, the young woman is still hungry and cold, but perhaps feels a bit less desperate about the future. That hope grows further as the General begins handing out coins to the beggars, proclaiming them a “gift of the Sarenrae”. He is careful to ensure that every one of the unfortunate receives a donation, and harshly chastises one of the well-fed strangers when he tries to circle back for a second “gift”.
As the holy warrior reaches the young woman, she bows her head in appreciation then blinks in shock as she gazes upon the wealth dropped in her hand. Ten gold coins!?! It was an amount that would let her rebuild a life, not just eat for a time.
Tears stream down her cheeks as she gazes up into the tattooed face and manages a whisper.
“Bless you, my lord.”
The tall man smiles down at the young woman.
“No, sister. It is The Eternal Light of Grace and Compassion that you should thank.”