Rags vs Riches

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  1. The small group of militia Emera had stationed for patrol that day were taking up the space of her small shelter. The house itself wasn't much, four walls made of mud brick, reinforced with wood she chopped and gathered from the forest. There was an area in the center that was a bit lower than the rest of the floor where she made a fire, and a makeshift window and door carved into the wall facing the street, both of which were covered by tattered cloth. A small cot was located in the far corner right next to extra It wasn't much , but it was more of a home to Emera than she's ever had in her life, and she knows this little shelter has been a place to stay for several of the folk in the area when they fell upon desperate times. only about fourteen square feet total, but it provided sufficient shelter and a safe place for the militia to meet before patrol.

    Currently, there was a gathering of a few men and women who had just finished a small hunt with her into the forests. Their catches were strung up and Emera was currently dividing up the rations to be handed out by the markets. They had quite the load this time, the young soldier was proud of what they had accomplished. They had been making hunts into the forests at least once a week now, typically at night when the larger animals moved about and they could be ready for the smaller rodents and birds to arise in the morning and catch them while they were just getting out of their shelters.

    The hunting parties had been lucky as of late, bringing in some large game in recent trips much to the dismay of the poachers. Most of the poachers didn't appreciate Emera and her crew giving out food for the townspeople. After all, now the townsfolk had another means of obtaining food and the poachers lost much of their profits as a result and were now forced to lower their prices in order to compete and sell their meats. All Emera had to say on that was "Good." The poachers in Low Town have been taking advantage of the desperation of the starving for too long now, they deserve more than just a small loss of coin. However, just because they freely handed out food rations didn't mean that the rest of the animal went to waste. The meat was the only part of the animal they gave out, the hides, furs and bones were sold in the blackmarket to make a profit and used to fund further operations.

    Once the rations were divided and times were assigned to each of the men and women when and where they would be handing out rations, Emera dismissed them from her home. A few stuck behind and her patrol was planning out their route for the night, but she noticed a few still folk shifting on their feet in the crowded room and lingering, looking slightly nervous and unsure. The woman sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose, the dirt on her fingertips smudging slightly on her face. "Okay, out with it," she said as she crossed her arms in front of her and leaned against the front wall of the shelter. She had the cloth covering the window rolled up so she could see out into the market. Dusk would be soon approaching and the sky was currently tinged pink with its light. The villagers in the market were finishing their shopping and stands were packing up for the night, but things were still bustling. Emera herself felt quite exhausted after having spent the night hunting in the forests, but she tried not to let it show for she still had much to do today.

    "Tis true, Emera?" one of the women, Joanna, spoke up, bringing Emera's attention back to the situation at hand. "What they say?"

    "You'll haveta be more specific, Jo," Emera commented lightly, a smirk upon her lips and a brow lifted upwards. She knew exactly what they wanted to know, but felt like dragging it out nonetheless.

    "Well - tha- that th' King really made it official?," she finally spilled. The others beside her shifted on their feet uncomfortably, but leaned in closer as they wanted to hear what she was going to say.

    "Aye," Emera nodded. " 'appened not a weeks ago. We'll see what 'appens." And the words were sent with a firm nod that spoke to the others that she was done speaking about the matter. Joanna looked as if she were about to ask something else but thought better of it before shaking herself, seemingly more confused than before and the others quickly shuffled after her.

    Emera collapsed on her cot and stared at the dried mud roof and the glimpses of sunlight peaking in through the window to her side. She had been patrolling late in the day near dusk near the walls for gangs that had reportedly been planning to scale the wall into the high town when she had spotted a man dressed as if he himself wanted to be target of all the gangs in Low Town what with all the finery he wore. He was a messenger apparently. Even to this day, Emera was stunned by just how different the Riches were from them. The way they spoke and carried themselves was so incredibly structured as if they were still as dignified and orderly as the kingdom was when it was at its most prosperous before the plague struck. The man, Emera hadn't quite caught his name, had come with an announcement from the King himself, a king they had seldom heard about prior. There were few people in the Low Town courtyard by that point in the day, but the young soldier figured that was kind of the point. The messenger had looked uncomfortable and unsure and mildly disgusted by the area around him, as if he wanted to encounter as few people as possible and get back to the clean side Eamon. Few people had seen Riches since before the plague, although more have been spotted in recent months. People were stunned at the announcement. Not because of the contents of the message, after all, rumors had been going around for some time now that something was happening in the High Towns, everyone could practically guess as to what exactly it was. But up until the messenger showed up, all those were simple rumors that were easy to dismiss. Not so much anymore. Some folk still didn't believe it to be true, but Emera had heard it for herself. As much as Emera wanted to spit at the idea and claim that there were more important things to do than play dignitary to a bunch of nobles who would sneer down the bridge of their noses to them all, she also knew what this meant for her people and knew very well to take advantage. This was exactly what Eamon needed, a second chance.

    It had been strange, to say the least, the encounter. After all, once the wall was constructed years back, no one from the lower towns had heard from the nobles. They could have all died from the plague behind their little walls and none of them would have been the wiser. Over the years, there were a few announcements from the interior - updates on the king and announcements of traveling parties or negotiations with other kingdoms. All matters that had no effect on them, up until recently when it was announced that there were plans being made to tear down the wall. Emera had no idea what to expect from these talks, but Emera could feel the impending change weighing in the air like a heavy blanket. Yes, things would be very different from this point on indeed.

    Emera blinked up at the ceiling, realizing she had been getting lost in her thoughts. She stood up from the cot she was occupying and reached for her Claymore. The two-handed sword's weight in her hands felt familiar and comforting and as she strapped the weapon to her back, she pulled down the cloth covering the door and window, heading out into the markets nearby before they closed up for the day and she would start patrolling.
  2. Although Lowtown consisted largely of lean-tos and shacks, several larger structures stood out amongst a landscape of shanties and hovels. These places were the burnt out husks of warehouses and shipping offices, when Lowtown was not Lowtown, but instead - just a town like any other. There had once been business deals and fortunes made in those houses - goods and cargo shipped from one end of the world to the other that had come through those stores. Now, they were dominated by gangs and thugs - ruled by warlords who rejoiced in their domination of the lower class, their reigns marked with blood and terror. In the warehouse closest to the newly erected market - a cluster of pitched tents and frightened men who pawned off beloved possessions to whoever would barter food and cloth for them - there was a different kind of warlord. He surrounded himself with those who loved him, although he did not love them in neraly the same way. He had no throne made of ill-begotten wealth, and he did not employ a wide-variety of thugs to do his bidding. He had faith, blind faith. The warehouse was the dominion of a boy - the Witch's Boy, the Healer of Lowtown - and he was called Aemin. Some people loved him, and some people loathed him; but he was the one for whom death would not touch, and in whose presence, death melted away.

    They rushed the man's broken body through the door of his warehouse, dragging his body up the stairs. They had left a trail of blood as the man's battered limbs had hit each and every one of the steps. The leader of the small pack of thugs still held the man in his arms, like a child, staring at an occupied cot as if he was uncertain of what was to be done with the body. This was Aemin's clinic, and he was the ruler of the place. He alone knew what beds would be made available. As he walked down the halls, he stared at his patients with dark, brown eyes, the gloom of the dark warehouse making pale flesh gleam. He knew what was wrong with each one as he walked past, and he knew the likelyhood of their survival. That one had the Wilting Sickness, that made your body get reduced to a dehydrated husk. She would die within the next few hours and there was nothing he could do. Aemin reached out a hand to clasp her hand as he pasted. Her sight-less, milky eyes connected with his own for a moment, before the healer continued down his trajectory. That one - that one would live. He was spitting up blood and teeth, and he was liable to lose a lot more before the Baron's Blight had run its course - but he would live, old and sickly before his time. But he would live, and he would not have without Aemin's help. He gurgled weakly as Aemin passed him, and the healer gave him a small, forced smile in return. He wanted him to live. And he knew that he would - but maybe it wasn't a blessing to live on as Aemin knew he would. That was not his choice though.

    The healer went to the man that they had brought him to, his newest patient. His only thug, a tall, dark haired man with thick eyebrows and deep blue eyes, had a bloody mess cradled in his arms. Aemin evaluated both with his dark eyes. He studied the man infront of him, lips twitching slightly, but neither smiling nor frowning. The man infront of him was much taller than he was, and broader by far. A mercenary. His name was Marius. The bloody pile of limbs askew and torn fabric and flesh was nameless, but crying and dying. His limbs were bent at strange and unnatrual angles. Aemin stared at Marius, and the mercenary answered the unasked question. His voice was gruff, but strange and strangled, as if unused to speaking; "Found 'im on tha' road side. Car' accah'den." The healer nodded in response, and reached out his pale arms to take the victim from Marius. The bloody mess of a man screamed as he was moved, but abruptly stopped screaming once his head was nestled in the crook of Aemin's arms, his face marked by gashes and flecks of shit and death. But he wouldn't die. Aemin could tell that just by looking at him. Aemin's eyes flicked up to look at Marius's, and then, they darted towards a makeshift table, made of wooden crates stacked on top of one another, covered in a relatively clean tarp. But nothing was ever really clean in Lowtown - there was always filth, from the air they breathed to the food they ate, to the blood in their veins.

    The healer carried the bloody mess of a man to the tarp, and set him down as gently as he possibly could. Marius followed after him, keeping his blue eyes on Aemin's back, ever watchful and waiting, read to be made of use. As soon as the victim touched the table, however, he let out a low howl of pain, and was reduced to a blubbering mass of tears and fear. His wounds spurted fresh. Aemin nodded once to the mercenary, and Marius held down the man's shoulders, as he had done with many patients in this clinic. Aemin's white fingers pried open the victim's mouth and stuck a small branch of birch in-between his teeth. It would numb the pain - or at least alleviate some of it. The man bit down on it hard - and Aemin was thankful for the branch. Otherwise, the crunching of the bark would have beeen the crunching of his tongue. That done, Aemin's hands danced over the fractured bone, where the marrow stuck out from bruised and bloody skin. Expertly, the young man snapped the bone back into the confines of the flesh, bandaging the wound with rough-spun wool bandages. The patient shook and jolted as Aemin made the movements, but soon enough, the patient had passed out - overcome by pain. Aemin ran a hand over the man's leg, feeling the brush of his hairs against the side of his palms. He had gone into cold sweats from the shock. Now that the man was unconscious, it was easier for Aemin to work, addressing each and every one of the man's many fractures with care - smearing a paste of vinegar and pulped ground ivy into the wounds to purify and seal them. He flicked his hand toward Marius. His thug bowed his head and slipped down the stairs of the warehouse, only to emerge later, with a red-hot bit of a metal. Aemin clasped the mercenary's hand in his, and guided Marius's hands to each of the wounds, cauterizing them.

    Marius smiled at Aemin, but Aemin did not smile back. Covered in the man's blood, he slumped against the wall, and brushed some of his blonde curls out of his eyes. The healer stared at the patient's chest, and watched the life within it, the inflation and deflation of lungs, and he felt relief twitch inside of him. Marius leaned infront of him, and Aemin heard the clank of the rings that the mercenary had sewn to the leather of his jerkin. Not only did they function as some crude ringmail, they also served as the trophies of his triumphs; they were wedding rings that he had plucked off of the men and women that he had killed. Marius reached out a hand to clasp Aemin on the shoulder. "Yah'll rih', 'ealer?" Marius - like all of Aemin's devoted followers - did not call him by his name, but instead referred to him as "healer", with a mixture of fear and love. Aemin supposed that's what it was to be loved by a god. He wasn't - of course. But there was something that hea had that nobody else did - and that was magic, like in the stories. It masqueraded as the right combination of herbs, practiced alchemical procedures, but Aemin knew that it was magic. He had been chosen.

    Aemin nodded his head in response to Marius, and then grabbed the man's burly arm to pull himself up, using the mercenary as support. He was weaker than usual, frail and anemic from a combination of yarrow and wormwood that he had steeped in blood and goat's milk overnight. He would add tansy next time, and onion juice to dilue the wormwood's bitterness and the dizziness that accompanied it. He leaned against Marius, and reached up to brush a bit of the man's dark hair back, away from his ear. Aemin's lips brushed against Marius' ear, his voice cracking out in a whisper; "What news do you bring?"

    Marius stiffened slightly at the gesture, and stared straight ahead, not looking at the healer that clutched at him, his eyes focused on some part of the wall. "Tha' wah's ah' comin' dahn', 's true." Aemin tilted his head, nestling into the short bristle and stubble of the mercenary's cheek. "Tha' Rich-uns ah' callin' fer a gah'thrin' - wit' mahsks?" Marius' voice trailed upwards. He had never seen a mask. He had been born right as the walls were erected and the world was split down the middle. He was a year older than Aemin - but Aemin knew what a mask was. Deidre had told him that once, when Rags and Riches had mingled amongst one another, when there had been something inbetween, they wore masks to hide their identities, to be judged for the contents of their character rather than for their appearance. Aemin's mouth brushed against the edge of Marius' ear again - where there was a notch, from a knife gone astray. His words were breathy, soft; "I will be going. Alone." Aemin steadied himself, and turned his back on Marius, his dark eyes snapping down to the patient on the bed.

    Aemin spoke again, words soft and muffled, a mumble under his breath, "Tell the Faithful - " His brows knitted and he abruptly stopped speaking. What was to be done with his followers - the Faithful? They were too volatile, too dangerous to go to such an event - but it needed to be made clear to the Riches exactly what had happened to the Rags - what poverty that they found themselves in. What that poverty meant too - and the fact that he would not take it. He would not stand for it. His hands curled to fists at his sides. "Tell them to prepare for the noble war. Tell them to carry weapons beneath their clothes, and don masks for the occasion. We will have justice." His voice cracked, and his hand went to brush away the cold sweat gathering on his patient's forehead.

    "The woman with the Wilting Sickness will be dead within the hour. Place her body on the stove - cooking it will burn the sickness out. She'll make a good broth for the others."
    Aemin sighed softly. He could not recall the last time he had eaten something other than a former patient, a former friend. Last week, he and the patients, and his few thugs, had survived off of Emilia-soup. Prior to that, it had been the bone-marrow stew from a man named Lathias. Deidre had told him that to eat another human was to ake their strength. Aemin didn't feel strong. He felt hungry. He felt cold. He felt righteous.

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