Do you think you understand the City? Its squalid humours rising from waste, from too many; its people, great and poor? The Old City, where the unwanted live – say not, unwanted, but uncherished. From there the workers, the cleaners, the servants come, crawling from their unlit dens when the great sun rises, and the good and great require their work.
From those unwashed middens, the beggars and thieves and assassins come. Stealing to the city when the good and noble can see them in the first case, or into the homes of the lords and rich in the others – the sun falls – no beggar into exaltation, although the beggar might say; ho, thief! The watch! Assassins work above it all, to bring the great and noble to the level of beggars and thieves – or to where all men go. Who’s to say?
Upon beggars and thieves and assassins, the great and holy prey; bringing their chants of salvation (for whom?). To work well is to be exalted, to stand by the hand of the dedicated and valorous. St Cuthbert is the name, say the missionaries, say the deacons, say the priests. Unto that name let your prayers rise. Let your chants of holy zeal arise, and hold the bowl – into it a small portion, perhaps?
The men come down from the castle, their swords and songs and spells well-used, and gold drips from their hands. To beggars, to thieves, to assassins – that last quietly, a dream of power through gold and blood – and workers hear and dream of songs of gold, monsters and steel. The prayers of the holy men rise to meet them, those who braved the castle ruins, whom in their hands hold life anew – for what is trade without gold?
The ship will sail with the sun, braving the wide Selintan; it’s rocking flow bringing it to ports and trade, where brave man’s stolen gold for spices, cloth and food is spent, to return once more to the hungry city. It eats its past, they say.
For what is its wealth but its past? Though it rises now, it rose before and in madness fell. That lies ahead, though not this morn. The lure of gold awaits.
A young girl dreams, in shanty cold, of dragons, and gold, and tales of songs – or songs of tales – of that pile of ancient stone and caves below. To her will come – salvation.