No one went thirsty in Pascolo. A throat going dry had only to open its mouth. Not that this fact was appreciated. Travellers crowded under the overhangs outside the city wall, edging each other out for the dry spots. Labourers rubbed shoulders with traders, heroes with vagabonds, though few could tell the difference. There was a begrudging acceptance among the crowd, everyone hated the weather. Beggars were the only ones that dared the rain, going from group to group in search of a stray crust or a pitying noble too much coin. A pair of them walked along the edges, rain running through the holes in their caps, bare feet slapping off wet stone.
“Scuse me. Can you spare a bite?”
The old man looked up from a bowl of rice, leaving down his fork. He sniffed loudly.
“Why don’t ye get a job and earn it.”
There was a girl at his feet, barely a teen. She lowered her chopsticks, looking up in puzzlement.
“No need to be like that, old man. We’re just trying to get by.”
The old man glared at the lead beggar “Get by? Me apprentice and I spent all the morning sweeping a merchant’s stables for this. What did you ever do for a meal? Scrounge it off us decent folk?”
A trio of mercenaries edged away from the old man, annoyed by the noise. The girl finished eating and offered her half full bowl to the beggar.
“Here now!” The old man looked annoyed at being undermined “Don’t just give that away. You earned that!”
“Then I can do what I want with it, master.”
The beggars took up the bowl between them “Thank you kindly miss! Good fortune in your contracts!”
Grumbling the old man looked at his own bowl “I can’t let you go half-fed, here.”
He shovelled some rice into his mouth, then passed her the rest, keeping the fork. The girl immediately offered it to the beggars.
“Apprentice, you are in for a hiding and a half!”
She folded her arms and defied him with her gaze. The old man blinked first and chuckled.
“What’s on the up, Canio?”
“Murder, sweeper,” replied the beggar, between mouthfuls of rice.
Yllen’s jaw fell.
“I hope that’s not directed at me,” said Gundrea, picking rice from between his teeth.
“Nah way, sweeper. There’s murder in the city and it’s causing murder. Bennies keep turning up dead and everyone reckons it’s River Clan.”
Gundrea stroked his stubble “Thought they had a ceasefire.”
“Some of the nobles yap too. Their pets are being robbed. I reckon it was them southern devils. They cook dogs!”
“Nothing wrong with a bit of dog.”
“It’s murder!” Canio really loved that word.
“You’d turn down meat then?” Gundrea’s eyes twinkled
“Well, I mean… have you some?”
“If I had meat, beggar, I wouldn’t be giving it to the likes of you!” Gundrea’s voice rose
Canio responded in kind “Ahh you’re a rotten old man. You’ll share your meat with the worms soon enough!”
They exchanged a few more colourful curses before the beggars wandered on.
The mercenaries drifted back down to make room for new arrivals. Yllen glanced to either side. No one paid them the slightest attention.
“Is there anyone you don’t know?”
Gundrea grinned “If there is, I haven’t met ‘em.”