The Road To Belor's Folly

by Peter M

It is really quite annoying having to move out of a spacious and comfortable town house to some dank and damp-ridden country house which has not been lived in for far too many a year. It is most vexing that after all this time I can still only afford such a dingy little place. It is all the fault of those other nobles, who praise my courage and my good deeds and who then fail utterly to do anything more concrete about it, such as donating funds to save the West. I hate this house. Still a man must eat.

My new initiative for the West has proved quite popular. Maria de Errana just last week congratulated me on how I was cleaning up the streets of “our wondrous city”. As an afterthought she mentioned how good it must be for the orphans themselves, indeed “A new lease of life and all that” were her exact words. Gods I despise most of these simpering little nobles who couldn’t even wipe their own arses without some servant to help them.

They see the street urchins, the homeless children, the orphans and the waifs and strays as problems to be brushed under the carpet or sent away to the West. They don’t imagine that it is all their fault, the way they hoard their money. And the grain. I remember the last time food was really short, the nobles all had banquets and feasts whilst we starved in the streets. The worst of it is when they pretend to care and go out into the streets handing out bread as if that will make up for all the hurt.

“Lord de Velland, I am sorry to bother you, but the new children have arrived. What should we do with them Lord? It might perhaps be kinder not to chamber them in the cellars in wait for the next caravan off to the West, after all last time two of them caught cold and died.”.

This my prissy manservant. This is what you get for taking recommendations from that inbred pack of scum who call themselves noble. My last manservant was far better, and it was simply unfortunate that he disturbed me feeding. He should have known better than to come down without knocking. A man must eat and it was damned inconvenient having to dispose of his body.

“The cellars will be perfectly acceptable. It will harden them for their journey into the West. If it will appease your conscience Weyland, think of it as a kindness that the weakest need not even begin that arduous journey.”

Of course it is not the weakest who die, but then who but another waif can tell the difference between frailty and taut, knotted toughness in these children of the streets. Nor of course do they die of colds. When I think about it I find it amazing that anyone could possibly believe that children who have spent their lives surviving in the cold and wet could catch a cold that would kill them in a cellar.

Timing is always a factor. It takes two or three days to round up enough waifs and strays to make it worth bringing them here and caravans only leave every fortnight, if that often and of course I need to hire people to catch them and different people to escort them out to the West. Otherwise the discrepancy in numbers might become too obvious.

I know for a fact that at some of the richer banquets and feasts a whole range of foods will be set out, ready to be consumed. The guests will be invited to smell and gaze at the food and it will then all be thrown away and a new banquet will be laid out. This food the guests will be allowed to eat. A whole banquet of food used simply to stimulate the senses of a group of sweaty, obese nobles who have no notion even of what it is to go hungry. When I think of that I feel like breaking those weaklings over my knee and discarding their shattered bodies by the wayside.

And yet I understand something of what is behind it. When Weyland is asleep and Erica is gone I unlock the door to the cellar and descend into that darkness. I bring with me a candle for light and with it I can see the tiny little faces of some seven street urchins. The youngest might be six and the eldest no more than eleven or twelve. After that they become too difficult to catch easily, so my hirelings concentrate on the younger ones. I sit down on the cold, rough earthen floor and smile to myself. It is uneven and not yet properly packed down again. I turn my smile to the children, it is a warm encompassing smile.

“Now, now, there is no need to cry. Most of you will be going on a big adventure tomorrow and I am sure the rest will follow shortly. You will be given food every day and in the West you will be apprenticed to some kindly master who will teach you a trade. As I said, most of you will be leaving tomorrow, but for those of you who aren’t, I realise that it will not be all that much fun away from your young friends. Because of this I propose a special treat for you, why not come upstairs and we shall have some dinner together.”

It is good, they have been calmed a little. I have my eyes on two of them specifically. They look robust, if thin and less afraid than the others. It tastes so much better when the transition is from serenity to bowel-rending terror. A man must eat.

I take the two I picked out upstairs and sit them at a table. I then lay out for them food such as they will never have seen before and yet which only some months ago would have been normal fare for me. I let them eat this meal and give them second helpings of anything they might desire. It is the least I can do for them, for I am not a monster.

It is trivially easy to stun one with a knock over the head from behind and grab the other, putting my hand over his mouth to stop any screams. It is at that point that I really see them both. The moon has come out from behind a cloud and shines down through the kitchen window bathing everything in a pale blue light. These two orphans, whose parents probably died serving some ineffectual noble who sent them out to fight the Red Gryphon rather than do so themselves, are in this light absolutely innocent and beautiful. I wonder how anyone could ever bear to hurt such precious things.

But a man must eat.

misc/fiction/folly.txt · Last modified: 2011/03/31 20:28 by osj01
Except where otherwise noted, content on this wiki is licensed under the following license:CC Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported