The Grey Bishop I
The Baron Delight, that’s what they were calling this little pink candy that Edward was selling in this winding alley for two coppers to anyone who wanted it.
He pulled out one of Treat's from his sleeve and unwrapped it, holding it in his palm staring at the pink round candy. Just one of these would take away all his worries and make him feel better than a woman ever could: for a time. He shook his head and wrapped the Treat back up, and put it back up his sleeve. Truthfully the way people acted after eating that stuff scared him, he didn't want to end up like his customers.
No, he had ambition, strange as that was for a man like him. His grandfather was a knight, a drunken knight who beat his wife and children at home, but a man of some honor, and position. His father was a gambler, a bit of a drunk too, but not a fighter; he could never become a knight.
Both his parents beat him, his dad after a long night of failed gambling, and his mom after just a few glasses of wine. She hit harder and looked at him with disgust most days. "I knew I should married that fat baker," she said aloud after smacking him with a thick wooden spoon a few times. She reeked of Blackberry wine. "That fat oaf woulda given me a real home, not this dung hole."
She hit him a couple more times, the third blow missed and she twirled on her heels and stumbled back into the nearest chair. "'His father's a knight,' me mum said.' He'll be one too someday, and be better than some fat baker who eats his own goods, you'll see.'"
She spit in disgust, "your father never became no knight, though, did he?"
He didn't respond.
"Did he?!" She shouted at him in rage, threating to get up and beat him some more.
"No mum, he's a no good dice thrower," he said quivering in fear from her.
"That's right, ain't no knight at all. Bet that baker’s prick was as fat as him." She finished off the bottle and let it slip through her fingers. "Go get me another one boy," She said leaning back in the chair.
He went to the kitchen, but found none, course there's no more wine, barley any food either. Fortunately, for him when he returned his mother was passed out snoring.
To hell with them both, he told himself one day. After his father came home with some big winnings from the gambling house he and his mom celebrated with so much wine they both passed out drunk. That's when he took the coins his father won, and what food he could carry in his little sack and ran from home.
His heart was racing so fast and he was breathing hard just from a few minutes of running, but he didn't stop. Went straight to the stables, bought a horse and rode on as far as he could until he and the horse couldn't go anymore and needed rest. He was terrified his father and mother would find him so he never stopped for long. He stopped panicking about them once he strolled into his first city. He didn't stay there long, though, kept moving on from city to city until making it to the capital of Crownhill: the King's city.
He sighed and took a seat on the ground leaning against the wall of the alley street. I was going to make something of myself here. "I'm going to be someone real important one day," he said to himself. I been saying that for five years now, I can fight at least. But the knights only seem to take on respected and known names, and I'm too old to squire.
The Sky Cloaks might take me, they seem like a good lot, some of em. He rose to his feet. No, I am destined to be a knight! One day I'll show my mum, and boast to me dad what a great man I'd become, like his dad before him.
As the sun was falling down, and the sky darkening, a brooding figure made his way down the street towards Edward, slow and methodic in his steps. Carrying an unlit lantern in one hand and thick wooden club in the other.
Gin was a silent man with dark brown skin, shaved head and mixed layers of strong muscle and fat. He said very little and was always intimidating, in both his stature and silence. He nodded to Edward, a notion that spoke for Gin, and Edward moved on from that spot. His day was done, the coin count was nothing special and as soon as he got to the shabby little hut, he called home he could relax.
But tonight he needed a distraction, and Lisa worked. So he took a detour to the gambling house at the bottom of the hill on Raven Street. It sat in a small half circle with four other gambling houses right next to it. They called the place, The Gambler's Close, whatever the hell that meant. All the houses were owned by The Baron so it mattered not which one he went to, but he favored the center one with purple paned windows, the people in there were often more lively.
Dice, that was his muse, while others would drink ale or even go as far as to beat their wife to relieve their stress, for him it was dice. He tried ale before, so many men loved to drink their problems away, he would join them if the stuff didn't taste like piss and dirt. Wine was flavorful but far too expensive for him. And he didn't want to harm his lover, it wasn't her fault for his life.
So he turned to dice. Skulls and Roses, get a match of roses and you win, get only skulls and you lose. You toss down five dice, each with 4 skulls and 2 roses on the dice. Of course, there were other forms of dice, but Skulls and Roses were the easiest and had the most likely payout; even if the pay was often low.
But he played for fun, more than he did for coin. The last time he played for a coin is how he got into this mess in the first place. He wasn't making enough money picking up side jobs where people needed an extra pair of hands for a time, and no one would keep him around long term.
The Gambling house had three open tables with Skull and Roses dice going on, he went to one with four others sitting around it and waited patiently for his turn. He made sure to use only his money he brought with him, not the money he got from selling the Baron's strange candy. He knew better than to gamble with those coins, if his count came up short the best he would get would be a beating and he'd be in more debt to the Baron than ever before.
No, he was only in for 12 more gold bits and his debt to the Baron would be paid. He could quit selling that poison, and take Lisa with him to the Riverlands. Whether or not she would go with him, and what they'd do there, he didn't exactly know, but it was pleasant thoughts to pass the times.
For right now, though he just emptied his mind and threw the dice after they were handed to him. 4 roses, and 1 skull, he and everyone around him cheered the others half drunk and he was just happy. The payout was 8 copper bits, and he got to throw the dice again.
It was a fun night at the gambling house, but he was getting tired and stopped after winning a silver bit from 5 roses. Now he might be able to afford a decent meal, even some wine, maybe. But when he got to his small house, at the South East Corner of Wall Street, all he did was settle down with a cold meal; he decided best to save his money, maybe he and Lisa could share a hot meal another time.
After eating he stashed the coins, and the candy, under the floor boards. Unlike most people he didn't have a loose board you could pull off, that type made noise and was too easy to get past. Instead, he made the row of boards slide out just enough to fit small items under there.
And it was near impossible to slide them out with your hands at first too, you needed a thin spatula, which he had one made of steel, took it from that job he had in the Riverlands prying barnacles off the boats. He figured one day he would own a house and could make the sliding boards he wanted. He didn’t know it wouldn't be for several more years and the house would be a small hut.
The weighed dice he hid in a corner area at the back of the house, easy to grab, hard to spot. No ever saw him switch them around after he makes a couple bad rolls, and no one ever saw him switch them back before he finished either. He was careful and smart about it. Never visit too frequently, never win too much, and never cheat at any other dice game that isn't Skulls and Roses.
You win small but the odds are always in your favor. And as long as you don't switch more than three of the five dice out, and switch them back before you leave, then you're never a target for suspicion. His father may not have been good for much, but he was good at slight of hand, and turning bad odds to your favor in a dice game.
Some nights those tricks were the only thing that put food on his table. Maybe one day he wouldn't need them, but for now, he had a meal on his plate.
That night he dreamed his shadow moved without him as if it had a mind of its own. It disturbed him, greatly.