South of Mancera: The Everwatch Incident, Part Five
"Thank you," Alex says quietly. "I understand your distrust of me. Bide a while, and I will try to prove myself to you."
Rulf goes up the stairs, and shuts the cellar door. Alex turns and shoves the table against the wall. Beneath the table there's a trap door. You follow Alex into a tunnel which leads from beneath the inn. You come up from the tunnel into a room smelling of dust.
You can hear water close by, and Alex whispers, "This is an old warehouse; the running water foils the hunting hounds and seeking spells that the guards use. We've got it set up to rest."
She guides you to some pallets made up of lots of blankets piled on top of bags of grain
Elennalura sighs inwardly, wishing only briefly for tents under trees, but at least she can hear frogs and running water from here.

Alex seems to have set her own sleeping pallet up near a window, but she doesn't lie down to rest, instead propping herself up in the corner so that she can see out the window without allowing herself to be seen.

Her voice is quiet as she says, "Let me try to explain what has happened in this town."

After a long moment, she begins. "It comes down to money, in the end. The city has always been in a bad spot money wise - we're right on the edge of the border not only with those Sanganese bastards but with the crazies down in Adelghani too. The mines belong to the Crown, but they've also always been a strong part of the economy here. The river...that's been our life blood. Without the river, we would dry up and blow away and be nothing but a tiny mining town, I think."

Her eyes roam the scenery outside the window. "For years my family has served the Council - my grandfather was the Mayor, and my father nearly won the place of Mayor after him. When he lost it to Farnell, we all thought it was simply a piece of bad luck and Farnell's own good strategy, politically speaking. He got the poor on his side, you see..."

She glances at you. "He did that by endorsing the creation of the manufactory. There were so many men out of work...miners who'd been injured badly enough that they couldn't work in the mines any more, their women and children...we had a bad problem, even under my grandfather, with thieves and beggars. The streets were filthy with them, and really you either had to pay the Thieves' Guild for their bloody "insurance," or you walked the streets heavily armed and in groups. They hunted the streets in packs..."

"But then Farnell managed to get the Council to allow the building of the manufactory - and suddenly all those men had jobs. Their wives could work; their children could even find a place in the factory. Suddenly there was more money in the town - and the thieves were evaporating. Not all of them, but a large number just...vanished. Probably because they didn't need to steal bread to feed their babies any more. They weren't rich - but most of them had never wanted to be rich, they just wanted to be able to feed their children. Then, when Grandfather passed away, Farnell had all these people behind him, saying that his vision was what the town needed to run the thieves out for good."

She sighs. "At first it looked like they were right. Farnell got Mayor; the Thieves' Guild got sloppy, and one night there was a big raid. Next morning, a dozen men were hung for leading the thieves. I wasn't at their trial, but I'm given to understand that the legal forms were observed. And at the time, no one even thought twice about how quickly the Guild had gone down, they were too happy to know they could for once walk the streets without fear of being ganged up on by ruffians."

"Then Farnell hired these new guards - the Protectors as he calls them - they aren't part of the City Watch. They answer to him and only to him, but he's managed so far to keep that little fact a secret from anyone outside the city. Most especially from Royal authorities. He said the Protectors were only to help the Watch, he said he didn't want to hire them on city payroll so that he wouldn't have to raise taxes..."

Her teeth show in the rising moonlight. "Yet the taxes are double what they were under my grandfather, and half of those taxes go to Farnell."

"It's gotten worse in the last five years. To be honest, things have gone downhill quickly since the two new factories opened. They seem to always be looking for workers...they'll hire anyone - man, woman, child, doesn't matter. But I don't know what they're doing with all those workers. I mean, things get made, but no one ever sees the workers again. They live and sleep in the factory dormitory, they eat there, and they don't leave. If they've got family in town, the family gets brought regular bags of money - the paycheck, they say. It seems awfully strange to me though - why not take a day of rest every week?"

"Then this...mania...people were starting to ask a lot of questions, just like I do. Why weren't there any of the laborers coming back out of the factories? Why was the river starting to smell bad? It doesn't harm the boats that use it for travel, but let me tell you, it's not safe to eat the fish from the river any more. Something's wrong, but when people started to ask, this priest turned up."

"At first it seemed just a passing fad, a really strong move towards Pelor worship, nothing to pay attention to. But then suddenly every other cleric of every other god just up and left town. We all saw them walking out, it was like a huge pilgrimage was going on, and none of them would answer anyone about why they were going."

"Then it got bad. The Protectors doubled in number, and started collecting weekly "taxes" which go straight to the Temple. It's an enforced tithe...with the muscle of Farnell behind it. More and more, the Priest and the Mayor seem to be working together. They started outlawing things - they widened the definition of vagrancy to include people performing in the street, or putting out a beggar's bowl. At first people were fine with that - it got a lot of the beggars off the streets and put to work, for their benefit. Then, the laws started getting passed about prostitutes. There were a lot of respectable women that were just fine with those laws, because for a while, the whores were getting out of paying any taxes at all, and making a huge profit off the respectable ladies' husbands. But they claim that there is no difference between a whore and a musician or an actor...and the people are getting scared. Last week, Mama Woodwright's daughter was hauled off to jail for singing while she hung out the washing...! And she hasn't been seen since. Her Mama tried to find her at the jail, but they say she's not there and that she never's horrible."
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