Friday, 31 May 2019

Level Zero - Nobles & Gutternsipes

Every city at some point in its history, upon reaching a certain size, comes to realise its most tragic feature is the vast number of dirty, poorly behaved, terribly educated children occupying its streets and causing more than merely minor mischief. There is no romance to their often all-too-short lives, for theirs is a lot of unrelenting suffering: a daily battle for survival in an unforgiving landscape. 

The city of Tethis, nearly 900 years since the collapse of the once-great empire, was at that point in its history: swollen and cracked from corruption, teeming with hordes of unwashed urchins. These children formed their own gangs or tribes... some even assembled murderous cults of personality, and launched holy crusades against rival factions.

The question for which no-one had an answer was where the children had come from. Myths abounded, of course, ranging from the unlikely (they are all the bastard children of the House of Thrane) to the absurd (they are really rats assuming human form). The prosaic truth would never be accepted, by virtue of the mirror it held up to all of Tethis' citizens: these were all children who had been abandoned by, or fled from, families who were incapable of raising them. What's more, the culture they had developed was tacitly encouraged by some of the less scrupulous merchant families: some of the children's' gangs helped to run racketeering and smuggling on their behalf ,as well as supplying fences with reliable goods. Some of those merchant families, though lowly in status, were rich in coin, and they were cunning enough to keep the status quo in place.

Kob had grown up on Tethis' streets but was a teenager now. It was time to think about his future. Sure, he'd made it this far on his own wits, but he had wits enough to know that it was more luck than anything else. And he was grateful for it, too: his profile had been low enough that neither the guard nor the merchants knew his name. Neither renown nor notoriety interested him.

"Once they know who you are, they own you."


The words fell from his lips almost involuntarily, as a silent alarm sounded in the back of his head. Striding through the lanes, doing a very poor job of travelling incognito, was the fugitive Meles. The cry had been sounded a few hours ago when the body of the boy's elderly father, Patriarch of House Taddese, had been discovered. He had been murdered, and Meles' blade had been found beside the corpse. Kob would recognise that face anywhere: he remembered watching the  Taddese barge sail by on the first day of the year, and seeing the handsome face of tall young Meles beaming at the crowd.

"Arrogant prick."

Kob saw shades of that arrogance in the halfhearted attempt the fugitive had made to disguise his clothing, whilst still keeping his feet shod in the leather boots of a military cadet. Most of all it was evident in the purposeful urgency with which he traversed the crowded lane: Meles looked like a prince leading an army to war. Kob saw an opportunity.

Meles was convinced that he had melted seamlessly into the crowd. In spite of the fear, sadness, and anger that welled deep inside of him, he was just a little excited to be carrying out this most daring escapade. The guards on the south side were all in the pocket of his stepmother, that much was evident, but if he could make it to the academy undetected, he felt certain that the legate would believe his story. He was an old friend of his father's, as well as his teacher. The two of them would probably raise an army together, clash with the household guards of his stepmother's allies and ultimately overcome their obstacles. Maybe even Queen Pina might notice him then. Maybe she would consider him a worthy suitor-

There was a tug at his belt. Meles spun around, quick as lightning, grabbing Kob's wrist. The guttersnipe opened his fist to reveal a coin purse.

"Sorry, it was just so tempting..."

Meles considered calling the guard, but recalling his predicament, merely pulled Kob close to him to whisper a threat in his ear:

"Try that again and I'll cut off all your fingers."

Kob merely nodded, his eyes wide with apparent fear. Meles smirked as the he watched the pickpocket scurry away into the throng.

The young noble's self-satisfied grin swiftly faded when he realised the coin purse he had retrieved was not his own, after all. He had been duped, and now he faced an unfortunate choice: continue to safety entirely bereft of  gold, or risk capture in pursuit of the vagrant.

Meles spat on the ground, sprinting after the vanishing figure of Kob. 


***

Backgrounds for the Realms of the Indigo River:

    Disinherited Noble
  • Roll 5d4 for each stat, dropping lowest dice
  • Assign rolls to stats of your choice
  • Competent with swords, bows, spears and all simple weapons
  • Establish a reason for your character's status: family conspiracy, forbidden love, dishonourable conduct etc.
  • Marmite: either loved or hated by other nobles, never in between, and usually hated.


    Ayiti (guttersnipe, street kid)
  • Rolls 4d4 for each stat in order, but swap the highest score for dex
  • Competent with improvised weapons, slings and knives
  • Competent with lock picks
  • Competent with ******

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