• Solo • The death of a tax collector

Rosamond investigates the case of the murdered tax collector

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Rosamond
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The death of a tax collector

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The Death of a Tax Collector

An investigation during Ymiden 716, Days 21 to 39/49
Continues from Mapomania

I'm going to divide this long thread up on a series of 3-4 Ymiden 716 threads when I have the "whole" story.

THE WAY TO THE MARKET

Date: 21 Ymiden 716
Location: On the way from Smarter Charts to The Citizen's Free Market

Now when they had a map Rosamond felt more confident. She stopped briefly to unfold it and figure out the best way to The Citizen's Free Market. First she scanned the map in search of their current position. When she had identified it by comparing the map to the surroundings and also asking a bypasser, she felt sure she knew where they were standing.
Then she searched on the map until she found the market area. These two points found, she was able to take out a course and decide how to go there.

"Look here Sandro." She could as well teach the boy to use the map too, now when it was unfolded. "First I found out where we are right now. And I also checked my assumptions with a bypasser. So this means we know where we are standing right now. Next, I searched the map and found the market ... here!" She pointed it out on the map. "So now we will walk this way." She showed the boy the way they were going to take, by tracing it with her fingertip, very carefully, as she didn't want to damage the map.

"Do you understand ?" As Sandro wasn't able to ask questions, she found it best to check. The boy nodded. It meant yes, she supposed.

"Good. I'm going to look around in the market. You can look around too, but make sure to stay within sight so I can tell you when it's time to move on. Understood?"

The boy nodded again. Satisfied with the response, she folded the map carefully and put it in a pocket inside her cloak. Then they were off, following the route she had chosen. In a little while they arrived to the market as planned. Rosamond congratulated herself to the purchase of the high detail map. It had been expensive, but was already paying off.
Last edited by Rosamond on Sun Sep 04, 2016 3:59 pm, edited 7 times in total. word count: 384
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The death of a tax collector I

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IN THE MARKET FOR GOSSIP - THE NUTSELLER

Date: 21 Ymiden 716
Location: The Citizen's Free Market

The marketplace was a huge, cramped, varied collection of tents, booths, barrels and blankets, propping up multi-colored goods of every flavor and function. Rosamond had heard that about anything one could want to buy could be found there. She strolled in and all the sights, sounds and smells of the place rolled in over her. It was like entering a slightly different world, full of wonders. Although she wasn’t there to shop but to work, she still reacted to the energetic atmosphere.

Merchants and craftsmen where shouting about their wares of course. She wasn’t surprised to hear competitors trying to outshout each other, like they were convinced the winner of the verbal wars would get all the customers. Stunned for a moment she stopped right inside the edge of the market quarters and just listened to the constant noise of voices, and let her gaze wander over everything in sight. Where to start ...

She felt Sandro take her hand and looked down at him. This had become a habit, as looking at him was the only way to communicate. The boy gave her pleading eyes, much like the dog Hazard used to do when he wanted a tidbit. When she asked him what he meant, he pointed at a woman who sat on a blanket on the ground to the right of where they were standing. An assortment of small paper cones with dried fruit and nuts were for sale.

Rosamond’s first impulse had been to say no of course. But the saleswoman intercepted this and started talking before Rosamond had a chance to say anything. An unstoppable river of words was unleashed on her, and most of it seemed to be about how cute the scraggy kid was; the saleswoman seemed to see a hitherto unknown beauty, talent and extraordinarily high value in the boy.

She praised him for how silent he was.

"Not at all like those spoilt and demanding children who would whine and pout and nag and throw tantrums." A well-behaved boy, she called him, and congratulated Rosamond. Surely she would want to reward such exemplary personality and behavior with a small paper cone full of cheap but exquisite sweets, for only five copper nels? Sandro pulled hopefully at her hand. Rosamond had a feeling she was taking the first step on the road to ruin, but somehow it felt stupid to not spend five copper nels on the loyalty of an errand boy she hoped to find useful. “Alright then” she said. “Pick the one you want ...” The boy immediately bent down and grabbed one of the small paper cones, while Rosamond opened her purse.

As she was going to part with five copper nels, Rosamond thought that she could as well try to get some information into the bargain. It was a natural opportunity to chat about what interested her, without raising suspicions. While Sandro put a dried nut in his mouth and started to chew at it happily, she pretended to search for the right coins in her purse, acting like it was hard to find them at once.

“Wait a little bit, I know I put ...” she said, doing her best to gain time. “Well, I was so shaken by how far it has gone in this city, with that dead taxman and all, weird times indeed, or as I said to my neighbor, where will this end? But I guess you have already hear many people say the same thing today?“

“It’s the topic of the day” the saleswoman agreed. “Everybody’s wondering who’s behind the murder. Some think it’s one of those false taxmen. But others say it’s understandable if somebody just got enough of the taxes and lost it ... badly beaten he was, they say, so some think it may have been about something else, maybe something criminal. Not that there’s such a big difference between taxmen and criminals, if you ask me, and ...”

Rosamond had managed to start the research in a not too obvious way, and picked up a small piece of gossip. The woman’s verbiage seemed unlimited. But there wasn’t really anything more of interest to Rosamond. The most important information right now was that there could be more hearsay to pick up, as it was the topic of the day. Rosamond paid the five copper nels and continued in among the stalls, tents, boots, barrels and blankets.

Sandro followed her, eating his sweets, silent as always.

OOC: -5 Copper Nels for sweets
Last edited by Rosamond on Sun Aug 28, 2016 6:59 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 776
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The death of a tax collector I

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IN THE MARKET FOR GOSSIP - BADLY PUNCHED LANTERNS

Date:21 Ymiden 716
Location: The Citizen's Free Market

As they continued along the market streets, they came to a particularly shabby brown tent, where an old man who matched the tent perfectly sat selling lanterns. Rosamond wouldn't have stopped there, if not for the fact that the lanterns made a bell ring. She had seen this kind of lanterns before, and she knew exactly when and where. It was the kind of lanterns they were so fond of at Inn For Dinner. They were small, cylindrical and entirely made of metal, with patterns of punched holes. Each lantern was no bigger than an average tea cup, and had a metal handle on the top.

She quite liked them.

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The seller's face was furrowed and what remained of his hair was of a color she would have described as dirty white. It had looked like he was sleeping. But when she stopped he immediately opened his eyes; they were bloodshot and made him look unexpectedly dangerous despite his high age. Rosamond nearly flinched when he looked intently at her, but she made an effort to keep cool and act unaffected.

“Looking for lanterns, are ye?” The man’s voice was raspy. Rosamond found it easier to imagine him robbing somebody than selling things. She would have walked away, if not for the fact that she really was interested in the lanterns. They were of a practical size, portable so they could be placed where they were needed for the moment, and of metal so they wouldn’t break easily. And, important, they didn’t look so expensive. She might be able to afford more than one of them.

“They look a bit battered” she said, aiming to speak down the value.

“Battered?” The seller laughed like it was the best joke he had heard in a long time. He continued seamlessly to an attack of coughing that made him shake and nearly fall from the crate he sat on. For a few trills it looked really bad and Rosamond felt a pang of genuine fear. She didn’t know much about medicine, but she had heard about people who died after they got something stuck in the throat and their body failed at getting rid of it by coughing. Vague notions about saving people by punching them in the back came to her mind. The cautiousness she had felt just a few trills before seemed out of place now. She stepped around the table and patted the old man hard on the back, between the shoulder blades, trying to do something to save him, in case he was about to suffocate. This resulted in a few growled words in between the cough. If she wasn’t mistaken it meant her attempts at amateur medicine wasn’t exactly appreciated by the patient. She left him to heal himself if he could, while she stepped back to the customer side of the table again.

“A bit battered? You bet! These lanterns have definitely been punched” he said when he had recovered. Now when he wasn’t coughing anymore he seemed to reconsider his reaction to her attentions. “Didn’t mean that shit about taking your paws off me, sorry ma’am, you can pat my back any time. Promise. Come back in here, lass, eh?”

“I thought you were in distress” she informed him. “You were coughing like the chewing had stuck in your windpipe.”

“Hey don’t you start to harass a harmless old man selling lanterns! First you beat me and now this! I get more than enough ranting already from Raellen ... that bitch of a niece ... sorry ma’am, sorry, but what kind of niece is it that tasks her own dear old uncle Vince with a lousy market seller job, after all I have done for her and taught her? Just asking!”

“I’m not harassing ...”

“Shut up!” His voice and the glare he gave her had a quality that made Rosamond promptly shut up. She felt Sandro grab her hand and try to pull her with him. She looked at the boy. When she met his eyes he held his hand up and pointed eagerly towards a stall further down the market lane. It wasn’t even possible for her to see from a distance what they were selling there. She had no idea why Sandro would all of a sudden find it important to go there.

“What is it Sandro?” she asked, regretting the question as soon as he started to make more signs with his free hand, like he was trying to answer.

“Hold, hoooold, hold a bit ma’am! Weren’t you going to buy some nice lanterns and save a poor old man from the ordeal of sitting here all day and maybe die of the hardships he’s been given ? Your boy can wait a bit for the sausages and ham he is nagging about, it’s just good to not spoil the brats! Just look at me ... I spoilt Raellen and gave her everything she pointed at...but just look at how she’s treating me now. She's telling me I have to be useful and earn my liquor ! Can you believe she referred to the high taxes as the reason? Taxes! What, like she wouldn’t know very well how to deal with tax collectors and ... troubles’n shit.” He drew his breath, and fabricating a sob ended the speech in a voice that was dripping of false sentimentality “My little cute, lovely Rae! How could she do this to me? It may become my death!”

This powerful outburst of ranting and shameless tries to solicit compassion was certainly not the reason Rosamond stayed to continue the terrible conversation. She was interested in three things. Punched lanterns. The mention of tax aversion and how to deal with tax collectors. And most of all, why the unpleasant old seller thought her mute errand boy had been nagging about sausages and ham.
Last edited by Rosamond on Sun Aug 28, 2016 7:10 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 1012
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The death of a tax collector I

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THE SAUSAGE THIEF

Date: 21 Ymiden 716
Location: The Citizen's Free Market

But, as it sometimes can be, things can end all of a sudden. Right now the whole situation was abruptly interrupted and came to nothing!

Before Rosamond had time to say anything and try to get any more information, a dog came running from the stall further down, chased by a yelling shop owner who didn’t stand a chance to catch up. The dog had a string of sausages in its mouth and seemed set on keeping them at all cost. It was Rosamond’s dog, Hazard. Sandro let go of her hand and ran after the dog, and soon they both disappeared out of sight. Rosamond stood and looked after them, stupefied by the sudden surprise.

“Told you” said the old man with the lanterns, his raspy voice at same time bitter and content. “That’s how they are, the brats! He stayed with you as long as he thought you were his best bet, but as soon as that dog seemed better at giving him what he wanted, the ungrateful brat ran off! Well, he was lucky there wasn’t any patrols around, not that they would have run fast enough, ha-haaahh-ah-hah-hah-hah ...”

Rosamond feared a new dramatic coughing attack would ensue, but it didn’t. Instead he started over with the sales talk: “But ... we were speaking about these beautiful punched lanterns and how much you want to buy them ... the cost for one lantern of this superior quality is only ten gold nels. Only today though. Good price for quick sale! ”

Ten gold nels! Ridiculous. She was tired of this shit. People were asking for money for everything all the time. As it was the market they assumed she was there to shop, she could understand that, but it still annoyed her when other people were greedy. If she would listen to all their ideas about what she ought to spend money on, she would be forced to sell the horse. It wasn't like she was made of money and could afford a lot of things.

“Ten gold nels? Are you crazy? I have only about fifteen gold left for the remainder of Ymiden and Saun and when I’ve paid my basic expenses that leaves perhaps five to spend on other things. There’s not a chance I’d be able to suddenly give you ten gold nels old man ... if I had the money I’d rather spend them on an errand boy!”

Rosamond felt it was time to stop. She would come back another day. Right now she had a dog to find, and maybe also a boy, although she wasn’t even sure where to start to look for the pair. And perhaps it was best to not bother with Sandro any more? He had made her pay for sweets and he had wanted more food. Her sound sense for economy told her the boy had shown signs of being “expensive to run”. It might be best to only find the dog and not look for the kid. And also, if people though Sandro was the one who had made the animal steal, he might face a bleak fate if he was found. If they thought she was involved this could end badly for her too.

Anyways, she couldn’t afford to provide for the kid. She had no money.

As she thought this, she suddenly felt unexpectedly sad. For a moment Rosamond felt like she stood alone in an invisible bubble of silence. She had liked to have the boy around. Alright, she had even thought of trying to give him small jobs once in a while, to support him. In some meaningless moments of totally stupid daydreaming she had even figured she would teach him things and make something more of him and his life than just a faceless nameless bypassing mute urchin born to be a loser.

But it wouldn’t be. Sandro would be alone in Etzos and cope as best he could. She would perhaps never see him again.

The time for silly daydreams were over. She told herself to not be sentimental.

She found it best to not seem to nosy, so she didn’t ask for the lantern seller's name. It could even be best to never ask for anybody’s names, if you didn’t want them to try to latch on and gain favors, she thought to herself. Otherwise people could immediately start to ask for money just for existing, before she even had time to speak with them. Just look at Sandro! It was maybe just like the lantern seller had said, and the kid had seen her as a gullible fool to take advantage of?

It wouldn’t surprise her.

That was just how shitty the world was. She blamed it on the Immortals!
Last edited by Rosamond on Sun Aug 28, 2016 7:22 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 823
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The death of a tax collector

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DOG NIGHT

Date: The Night Between 21 and 22 Ymiden 716
Location: Eastern Civilian Housing District

Rosamond had been sleeping soundly, tired as she was after the long and messy day when she had failed at everything, accomplished nothing. But when the dog barked outside she woke up at once. The bark was like a thunderclap in her dream. She sat up in the bed, instantly like a soldier drilled in taking action automatically at a given command, her heart beating hard and fast, pumping all her blood out to the muscles, making her tense and wide awake. At first she hardly knew what had happened. But the next trill she heard the dog's bark again. It was Hazard. He had come home.

The dog. The boy. The dog and the boy.

It was pitch black in the cottage. She rose from the bed and rushed blindly to the door, lifted the sturdy metal hook that held it in place, and pushed it open. The light from the Housing zone's widely spaced lanterns barely reached her cottage. The big black dog looked like a dark shadow in the dim half-darkness when he came to her to greet her. Rosamond reached out and put her hand on his head. The animal gazed up at her; his dark eyes took on a faintly purple hue when the faint light reflected in them.

Hazard's greeting was intense, but soon over. He walked past her through the open door and disappeared into the darkness of the cottage. Rosamond stood in the doorframe, dressed in the underwear she had slept in, and felt her skin go cold in the night air. The night wasn't windy exactly, but a slight breeze moved through a patch of high grass nearby and made it rustle softly. She heard the low clicking and popping sounds of insects that were active at night. The people of the housing zone were asleep in their beds, but the darkness was full of life.

Her dog had come home alone.

The annoyment and her upset thoughts earlier in the day, at the market, had been forgotten for hours. Whatever had she been thinking? It had been stupid of her to not look for the boy at once. Rosamond went back into the cottage without closing the door. Fumbling around, she found her clothes and shoes and donned them. Now when she had the dog to help her, she was going out.

She called his name silently, several times : "Hazard. Hazard. Haaze ... come, come, come to me ..." She heard the dog move in the darkness when he finally decided to pay attention to her and followed her out. Before she left, she closed the door and pulled up the hood of her cloak.

"Search" she said, in the hopes of making him understand. She had never had time to train the dog. She could only hope that somebody else had done it at some point in the past. Search. Wasn't that the command people used to give dogs when they wanted them to track something or somebody?

"Search. Search Sandro. Search."

The big black dog turned his face towards her and looked at her. An odd sensation ran through her as she met his steady gaze. The dog had been an animal friend, in the uncomplicated way a dog is your friend, but now it felt like the two of them entered into a covenant. This feeling wasn’t something Rosamond would have been able to explain if she had tried to put words on it, but it was distinct feeling, and strong.

You and me Hazard.You and me.

The night rustled and buzzed quietly around them as they left the small yard of her house and walked along the street, heading south. Rosamond wasn't sure if it was the dog or herself who had decided which direction they would take. The outer circle followed the same circular pattern as the city proper, each row of houses and shops following the same concentric pattern. It was mostly evenly tracked. Rosamond had been told that the way the low houses of wood or adobe were arranged was meant to prevent fire from spreading too fast.

Nothing is a mere coincidence in the layout of Etzos, she thought. Every path and building is controlled and deliberate. It's strictly organized; even the seemingly more disordered and unevenly tracked zones, like the market and the crafting zone are in fact controlled and well-arranged...the dog seems to head south and surely the chance to find Sandro must be higher in the housing areas and near the market than in the crafting zone to the north ... mustn't it?

Hazard stopped to piss at a lamp post with a single simple metal lantern, fueled by cooking oil to judge from the smell. It cast a dappled light over the hooded woman, the animal and the ground around them. Rosamond knew it was irrational, but she stayed in the light for a while, looking at the houses nearby, in the hopes of spotting the boy where it would be possible to see him.

They were now near the Breaker Alley Ramp between the Eastern and the South-Eastern Housing zones, and she debated silently with herself if she would continue to the next zone or if she would give up and walk home. It was so late and the chance of finding the boy by just walking around was low. Rosamond understood this, but anxiety drove her to continue. She walked along the ramp down to the end of it, where she could easily cross the road and enter the Outer South-Eastern zone.

The South Eastern Outer Civilian Housing zone resembled the Eastern Housing zone like a twin. It was the same kind of houses, arranged according to the same principles, along streets that followed the same main pattern, lit by the same kind of widely spaced lanterns. Rosamond was sure there must be details that differed, but due to the darkness they weren't visible now. She had a surreal feeling of being back to where she had started from.

They hurried from lantern to lantern, only stopping briefly to look around. When they reached the southern approach and gate without having found even the slightest sign of Sandro being around Rosamond debated with herself again. This was a fool's errand. On the other side of the ramp was the market, which was a maze compared to the orderly housing areas. Rational thinking told her it was meaningless to go on. The only sensible thing to do was to stop running around at night and go home to sleep. The whole search was madness, madness, and she felt baffled by her own behavior. She was on the verge of turning around. But even as she thought of this, she saw Hazard run into the darkness between the lanterns, heading to the lower part of the approach. The dog seemed sure of the route it took, and the strong trust in the dog and the feeling of connection with the animal arose in her again and made her follow.

Perhaps the dog found something. A scent to follow, or a sound ... ?

They came to the lower part of the approach, crossed it and entered the market.
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