When I first arrived in the city, the first thing that hit me was the smell. Godsdamn, the smell of it all. Untold multitudes surrounded by those grimy high walls, keeping the filth in, the stink saturating the very stones the city was built on.
Pigs shit, cow shit, dog shit, cat shit, people’s shit, horse shit, sheep shit, bird shit, rat shit, rotting garbage, sour milk, spoiled meat, old vomit, stagnant dirty water, moldy middens, old rancid piss from the tanners, the sharp acrid overlays from hidden laboratories and rogue alchemists wafting on the smoke-befouled winds made your eyes water and your tongue burn. I gagged, and turned to my companion who had led me here, like an innocent calf to the slaughter, and she smiled at me, eyes shining and had the audacity to say, “We’re here! Isn’t it magnificent?”
The Merchants Guild owned some 60% of the city’s interests in both infrastructure and retail establishments. They were a powerful, arrogant lot, pushing legislation through the weak government of King Las’s illegitimate nephew, Duke Marst, and the prices in the city were criminally high. Corruption of this stranglehold on the economy was present everywhere we went. There was a fee to enter the city, fair enough, that’s common enough practice. Usually entrants pay by the head or the wheel, whichever is higher, but the Gate Watch stopped us and demanded we declare our possessions so that they could be taxed! Can you imagine?! I suffered the indignity in silence, fuming at being jabbed by my companion when I started to protest this outrageous and shameful practice, but the look she gave me chilled my blood and I knew that I was among hard men, who would tolerate no foolishness.
Not only were our incoming goods taxed, but were we informed that any large purchases made within the city limits would be taxed on the way out! This was too much! I stomped my foot to get their attention and was about to give them a lecture on the economic realities in a Fiefdom as poor as this one, but my dear companion, sweet and kind soul that she is, pushed me away like a common drunk and told me to “Shut up and keep moving”! What choice did I have in the face of such boorishness?
A young urchin boy, grimy with filth and stinking of something wet and rancid, dared to tug my sleeve and ask me if I wanted a buy a street map. I was about to tell him what I thought of his business acumen if he thought I wanted a souvenir of this wretched place, when dear Wendy, my blessed and wise companion shooed him away and spoke harshly to him, and the boy ran off, shouting some obscenity no doubt, but I was distracted by her warnings to “Never give dosh to a muddie. They is all rogues and would just as quick knife ya as steal yer purse.” I protested. “But he’s just a boy!” She gave me that shark’s grin again, the one I was growing to hate, and said, “There are no boys, here, boyo, only predators…” and her grin widened, “and prey. Don’t be prey, Mister Stitch. I don’t like cleaning up afterwards.”
I kept a record of the bills we accrued in that horrible place. Itemized are all expenses, including arbitrary government fees that I will be bringing up to Lord Scathis at next month’s open Court, mark my words, this aggressive taxation is a blight upon any decent citizen of the realm!
- Entry Fee to City: 5 silver pieces
- Import Tariff: 1 gold piece and 7 silver pieces (for perfume, a large cache of wine, a few personal possessions that do not need to be named, and my rapier and dueling buckler)
- Food and drink (4 day total): 11 gold pieces and 1 silver piece.
- Lodging: 20 gold pieces (5 gp/day)
- Weapon License: 3 gold pieces and 2 silver pieces (8 sp/day)
- Visitor’s Pass Extension: 1 gold piece
- Gate Fee (entrance into Lower City): 5 silver pieces
- Purchase of Narcotics (1000 tablets): 35 gold pieces
- Purchase of Alchemical Concoction: 15 gold pieces
- Gate Fee (re-entrance into Western City): 1 gold piece
- Bridge Fees (to cross into/from Royal Gardens): 1 gold piece
- Bribes to Watchmen: 15 gold pieces
- Export Tariff: 3 gold pieces and 4 silver pieces (double the import tariff for the same goods. The bribes got my Lower City purchases overlooked and untaxed)
The Merchants in town were bold, sarcastic scoundrels. They acted as if they could operate with impunity in this renegade economic model, and the damn bastards were right! They could!
We visited a curio shop, my vain hope that I could find something of quality to take home to my beloved Esperanz, but the only place we could find was a dim and dusty relic, with knock offs and trash crowding the filthy shelves. Cobwebs draped every corner and the light was thin and the air greasy with tallow smoke.
The proprietor was nowhere to be found. Not even perched on a broken stool behind some sad counter, as I expected. Instead we found a hand-lettered board, weathered with age and hard to read some of the crumbling words.
- Dolls: 2 sp
- Dishes: 3 cp
- Books: 1 sp
- Clothes: Man – 4 sp, Woman – 3 sp
- Lanterns: 9 sp
- Shoes: 8 cp
- Candles: 2 cp for 12
- Sewing Kits: 5 cp
- Cooking Pots: 1 sp
- Utensils: 2 cp each
- Toys: 1 sp
- Chests: 1 gp
- Furniture: 5 gp
- Decorative Items: 1 sp
- Vases: 8 cp
- Hand Tools: 5 sp
- Gadgets: 2 sp
I was aghast. Nothing here would suit my beloved’s delicate tastes. Why did I even think of coming in here. As I picked my way through the begrimed contents, I was taken aback by the sounds of shouting coming from the streets. Many angry voices seemed to be coming closer to me, and I wanted to shrink into the shadows but I was undone by the filthy wares on display, blocking my retreat.
Dear Wendy was soon at my elbow and she laughed and said “It’s just the boys comin back from the Goblinball match – gorram Lions lost again. You aren’t a Bears supporter are you?” I stared in horror. I knew she was speaking the King’s Common, but the words didn’t make sense in the order she was using them. I found it best to reply in the negative when Wendy asked similarly nonsense questions, so I did the same in this situation and remained mute, all the while drunken loud men streamed past the shop shouting variations of “Kildebares!” or some other local slang, who can say what these ruffians talk about when they aren’t stabbing one another in the street.
It wasn’t like this back home, let me assure you. 4 days in that place was long enough for me, thank the Gods I made it out alive!