3 Ashan 718
Maios wasn’t a genius. He wasn’t the only one who had figured out that a job could bring in coin, and coin meant life. Half the Dust Quarter had figured that out - the other half being either whores or thieves. The dust market was the place to go if one wanted a job. Someone with coins to spare would arrive, stand atop a crate, and say what they were looking for. Stone cutters, peons, lumberjacks… Unskilled labour more revolving around strength than true skill. The skilled didn’t belong here. Cooks, carpenters, coopers or butchers were professions unavailable to the dusk market’s rabble.
The male made his way up to the market. A crowd was gathering, mostly composed of men. They shared many qualities with him; ugly, filthy, low on coin and low on standards. What they didn’t share with him was his handicap. Having only one usable hand would be a hard sell to possible employers, and his ‘charm’ would not help. If anything, it’d help him get his other hand chopped off. Maios took refuge against the wall of a shack, the quintessential example of the Dust Quarter’s architecture; more shit than actual house.
The morning was slowly coming, the sunrays already filtering through the layers of clouds. The market was getting busier, traders setting up in the ruined stalls. The stock they sold was sub-par, but it was stock nonetheless. To avoid any temptation of spending his reduced funds, Maios waited. He tried hard not to smoke what was left of his tobacco.
In due time, someone came. A farmer, by the looks of him. Old, but not that old. Strong, but not that strong.
“I need them strong men to plow me fields!” he announced.
Strong men or not, everyone gathered there rose their arms and began making their pitches. ‘I can do that’ some cried. ‘Count me in, boss!’ said others. ‘I’m th’ strongest man I know’. Maios too had raised his hand, trying to make his own pitch, but the crowd was too wild and loud to make room for his voice. Six men were selected, Maios not amongst them. The farmer took his chosen and marched them towards their place of employment. Those without luck were left waiting for someone else.
Maios smoked a cigarette, ten more remaining. He wiped his nose and crossed his arms. Waiting was not something he liked. Being idle was amongst his greatest discomforts. He needed something to do, always. Having a busy schedule and reduced free time was his way of life. Maybe that’s why he was a good crook in his youth; there was little time to indulge in pleasures if one was stealing fifteen hours a day. He could always steal a coin purse if things got bad, but the thought was immediately rejected. He didn’t want anything to do with that. He was more likely to go to the Pit and try his luck there rather than ending in prison once again, or, Illaren forbid it, lose his other hand. There would be no hope for him then.
Someone else came by, and the horde of unemployed swarmed around him. The man, a short and somewhat fatty man wrapped in a dark cloak hadn’t even told them what he was looking for, but he was already surveying the crowd and picking his employees. He did so with a finger and, as expected, the fingers were imprecise. Fights broke out in the crowd as to who was picked, especially in the back. That’s why everyone tried to slide into the front. Suffice to say, the mass of bodies was becoming a dangerous place, and everyone squished together so tightly they could’ve merged into one ugly, smelly, and filthy creature.
Maios’ voice was unheard, but the employer landed his eyes on him nonetheless. He said something, possibly something like ‘you, the ugly one with the stubble’, but the crowd would suffocate those words. And, even if they didn’t, those around Maios would’ve qualified as well. Nevertheless, Maios believed it was he who was selected. There was no way of knowing. The man on his right punched him as he fought to come forth. Maios elbowed him in the ribs in return. The man collapsed. Few could withstand his brutish strength.
Using said strength, Maios cleared his way. He pushed and shoved, trying to make space for himself and the bag he carried on his back. It was tight, and it was difficult, but he managed to get up to the front. He was selected, indeed, as the man beckoned him forward. Then he saw his right hand, changed his mind, and sent him away with a commanding hand gesture.
No cripples allowed, apparently.