Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Guide to the City: The Peasants

The Guide to the City series of articles describes the background for the Gierburg game setting. In this first installment we take a loof at the lowest of the low: the average citizen of the Free City.

Born in Gierburg. Die in Gierburg. Born in the gutter, die in the gutter. Everythin’ else issa step-up.

Gutter-scum, peasant, citizen, down-trodden, poor, starving, bedraggled, stinking, continue as you will along the same vein, the average life of a Gierburg peasant is two-score and ten years of misery. You get born to parents who can barely feed you, survive till you get old enough to earn money to eat, settle down with someone to start a family and continue the cycle, dying at some point from malnutrition, sickness, an accident, murder or age. A peasant is a peasant is a peasant is a peasant and nothing tends to change that.

    The population of south Gierburg is around fifty thousand peasants and there is simply not enough food or money to go around them all. The buildings are old, stinking of rot, mildew, damp and faeces, the streets are worse, the water from the well is always going to be dirty and the food verging on the rotten.

    Yet south Gierburg is different from place to place. Southwest Gierburg is marginally less crowded and stinking, the buildings newer (i.e. less than three centuries old), the food slightly better, fresher. You also see a more ethnic range of faces here, whether it is the mildly tanned faces of Estragian immigrants, the rough-hewed faces from Cregger or a flirtatious minx from the shores of the Blue Bay. They have come to Gierburg to make their fortunes, or their parents or grandparents did and so have become locked into the misery pervading the city. If they seem less pitiable than the rest, it is simply because the communities they have founded around themselves help bear the burden of crushing poverty, so that neighbours help their neighbours.

    Along the Docks, the faces become huskier, covered in beards during winter and burnt red in summer from working in all weathers in the docks. The houses here are smaller, crammed close together; where the families all come from dockers and longshoremen, long lines of family. Here the faces are leaner, but the fire in their eyes says that they know how important they are to the city. No dock, no Gierburg, and these are a proud set of citizens, proud to do an honest and hard day’s labour. If something is skimmed off the side, it will put food on the table, but they are not thieves.

    South of here, you find the barricades and inside these cordons, a whole new world of suffering has risen its ugly head, as families who were once merely poor and hungry are now broke and starving, fighting over the remaining scraps as if they were dogs. They are trapped through no fault of their own and seek release, either by fleeing the barriers or by fleeing their life. Everyday brings new turmoil as a gang claims new turf, the Gang War continues unabated and a rising Black Market has put a price on everything, from table scraps to the virginity of a young girl sold by her family for food on the table.

    The Southeast is still the worst in the city by a wide margin. Here the buildings are crammed together, whole rooms filled with a single family in a building with maybe a dozen rooms. Here the poverty has ground out all hope, where the cries of a hungry child will go unanswered and a body in the street will always be naked because the clothing is precious. Those streets sandwiched between 8th and 9th Avenue and running south from 14th are the hardest hit, whether because they are the oldest or the most secluded is unknown. There are no beggars here, for there is no money to be begged for. The women here are too old, too scrawny, and too hungry to sell their bodies. The men work whatever jobs they can get, all too often for the most meagre amount of money they can get and resort to casual theft to get food for an evening meal. The south-east is where the poor go to die and it is no surprise that months can go by before anyone will open a neighbour’s door to see if they are all right, only to find a body, or, in some cases, bodies of a whole family.

An agitator is speaking to the masses.
    With nothing to live for in many cases, some of the citizens have gotten angry, pointing fingers across the river at their fat neighbours and screaming to their contemporaries about the problems they face and the solution. Some of these agitators believe that the time has come for change, violent change. They see the Charlatans as the start of that and want to continue the fight for that change. More than a few ears are starting to listen to these revolutionaries and some of those ears agree.

Written by Rev Larny
Figures painted by Simon Bradley of Stone Cold Lead. See more photos here.

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