Poster: Brendan O'Sionna
Post # 16
steepled fingers, tapping the tips at the bottom of his sharply lined
chin. His eyes narrowed and he looked Brendan up and down again, sizing
him up, figuring him out. "Exactly how old are you?" The one
called Horsesnort glanced up at him as he bent, collecting the items
that had been added to the evening's stash. With his head turned away
from Cracker and looking to Brendan, he overemphasized the mouthing of
the number sixteen. In fact, the young boy standing just to his right
whispered the same number, covering it up with a feigned sneeze that
sounded quite legit. No doubt he used that while he pulled his tricks
Brendan managed to look sheepish,and down at the ground. "Not
sure." He mumbled, lying easily. "Learned to read when I was
on a ship where the captain thought I should be educated. Same with the
numbers. Said I'd never get anywhere if I didn't learn." He looked
back up at Cracker and shrugged. "Guessing anywhere from sixteen to
eighteen but no proof." He didn't feel bad about not telling the
truth. After all, that was how he survived at times. He was wondering
too what became of the youngsters when they became older. Did Cracker
kick them out, send them to someone else. He might be finding out, and
that would likely not be a good thing!
The tapping stopped, as did the study and the man's hands lowered to his
sides. "I would have guessed older, but we'll go with sixteen for
now. As to the Crumbs, you'll soon know them all, and be able to track
them as easily as if they stood in this room. It will be up to them to
find you...and check in so to speak. Two at a time for the half hour
following the hour and then it starts again at the next strike of the
grand. You decide where. We'll see how it goes and here's hoping, for
your sake, it goes well. From this night on, you'll be known as The
Scales, since you'll be the conscience of every soul here save one. Get
yourself something to eat tonight, Scales. Horsesnort will show you
where you sleep." He looked out to the mass gathering waving his
skinny arms in a full circle in front of him. "All of you,
eat...and get to bed."
"Aye, sir." What in the hell had he gotten himself into?! He
should have just let the knife go, but well, one job was as good as
another. The only problem was how would he watch the docks? That could
be figured out later. Hopefully. It had to be! He turned to figure out
which one was Horsesnort and waited. Hell, this might be fun. Just had
to figure out where they could find him without gaining too much
attention. The docks might even work out though not loading cargo. He
suppressed a smile as he looked over the Crumbs. This could even be
As they boys collected their plates, they wandered over, introducing
themselves to Scales. One of them lingered a moment, fingering his piece
of bread. "Last fella' wandered around on the dock, made it easier
for us to find him and kept us up there and working. He didn't last long
though." He tore off a bite, finishing his comment through his
chewing. "Turned eighteen three weeks later."
He waited for the youngsters to fill up first, then looked down at the
boy. "What happened to him after that?" He asked, food
suddenly forgotten. Not for long though. He was reminded by one of the
others that he needed to eat. He nodded then looked at the boy that had
The boy shrugged to Brendan's question, cutting a quick look to where
Cracker had been, then back up to Scales. "Dunno. They
just...aren't here no more." Since everyone had started to mull
around again, grabbing their food and breaking off in their groups,
Cracker made his way to a back corridor followed by the two boys who had
collected the sacks of goods. The spindly man paused and cut a look
around his shoulder. "Scales." He called out to the room
although Brendan stood out amongst all the smaller children and could be
easily spotted. "When you're done eating...come back here to
count." That said, the man turned and continued out of sight down
the hallway. The boy by Brendan looked up to him, eyes wide. "Looks
like he's gonna put you to work right away. Hope you weren't telling no
fibs 'bout countin'."
Just not here no more. That sounded ominous but his attention was drawn
to Cracker. "Aye, sir." He called out then looked down.
"No, I wasn't fibbing. I can count." He ate quickly, not
really taking his full share and headed out of the room. It was
strangely quiet and almost lonely without all the Crumbs mulling about
though he wasn't sure how long he could take a full room of children.
This could get out of control very quickly and he knew he'd have to be
Only one door waited at the end of that corridor, and it was open, the
light from within oozing out into the darker hallway. Inside could be
heard the clinking and shuffling of the spoils being divided up. The low
rumble of a male voice in muted conversation filtered into the mix,
heard but not understood from any distance.
He moved slowly, and quietly, looking into the door first before
stepping inside. Making a quick study of the room, he finally did and
waited for Cracker to notice him. Somehow he felt this was going to be a
much better job then loading and unloading ships.
The movement at the opening brought all eyes in that direction and
Cracker shoo'ed the other two away with a flick of his hand. "Come
in, Scales. Take a seat here and we'll start. Did you get enough to
He gave a half smile to the two lads as they walked passed then moved
over to the seat mentioned. "Aye, I did." He didn't mention he
had just finished eating when he realized his knife was gone, or that it
was likely among the loot in front of them. "I'm ready to
begin." He studied the man a moment then meet his gaze easy enough.
Never show fear. He remembered that lesson all too well.
Cracker had started to look down, shifting some of the goods into
smaller stacks, but Brendan's confident gaze had the man do a
double-take in his direction. For a moment their eyes held, but it was
Cracker who lowered his away first to continue with his work. "Who
are you, Scales?" Long, thin fingers were quick with plucking out
valuables with one hand and placing them to the side while the other did
the same with less profitable goods. He didn't fully look back over to
the young man, just darted a glance now and again as if to make sure
there was no threat.
Brendan looked down after Cracker, watching as the man sorted the take.
He was quiet a moment then shrugged. "Just a sea dog without a
ship, trying to stay alive in a place I don't really know." He
shrugged slightly. "I was stranded on another island because I was
sick and left behind. Figured Tortuga would be a good place to start
over." He shook his head. "Bit of a fool there." That was
as honest an answer Cracker was going to get and if it didn't satisfy
the man, they'd go from there.
The skinny man nodded as he listened. "Foolishness doesn't make for
a long life, Scales." He didn't say anymore regarding Brendan's
answer, just started explaining what each object in the pile would bring
when taken to the streets to trade, where to do that swap of gold for
goods, who to speak with, who to avoid.
Brendan just nodded, figuring the man might catch that movement. He put
his arms on the table, leaning forward as he listened to the man.
Occasionally he'd ask a question, pointing out an object, or about one
of the people he mentioned. It wasn't too hard and he was sure he would
do well enough. "What about the city guard? Do I need to worry
about them beyond the usual?" He had met a couple, but not more
then a hello, this is. And goodbye. *
Now that question had those nimble fingers stopping and Cracker tilted a
head to look to Brendan. "If they figure out who you are, to me,
you will. So best, you aren't a bit of a fool there, eh?" The thin
lips narrowed even more into a tightened smile then he turned back to
his work. "The Watch isn't giving over any favors to me or my boys.
Bit of a briar in their otherwise productive garden. But I'd rather be a
fast spreading briar than a lily for all its lovely adoration, rather
more difficult to snatch out a briar without at least getting pricked
deep and good. We do well here, Scales. The boys have nowhere else to go
and they are safe here. They have each other. A cover over their heads,
food in their bellies. No. The Watch don't like us much, but we're here
to stay by God and anyone what threatens that..." He turned his
attention back to the sorting. "...is as good as dead."
"They seem happy enough." He nodded. "Food in the belly,
a safe place to sleep. I'll do me best to watch over them." He
recognized the threat but said nothing to it. "What happens when
they... when I get too old?" He looked down, frowning. "You
said you have an age limit." Poseidon's beard, he hoped he sounded
worried enough! This was a dangerous game, but Brendan couldn't resist.
It was almost mild after the past few months.
His fingers were quick, this underground lord, and it was obvious with
what he picked up, looked at, tossed aside or added to the pile that he
had long been at it, and was good at it, and had been long at it because
of his -- diligence. "Boys are less likely to spend more than a
night, two, in the hole if they get caught. None of my boys would give
me away, they know where they have to return to once they get out. But
you reach that age of majority? The game plan changes...can't trust a
man that no longer needs me." A cant of head turned a squinting
look to Brendan. "Not likely a foolish lad will last long out there
on his own anyway, which puts us all in jeopardy. I only just met you,
Scales. But you seem the sort that might last down here. You've got
backbone and brains. The boys look up to you already...and it has
nothing to do with your height. Not sure I believe your age...but I'm
willing to overlook that. I plan on living forever, you know." A
crooked pull at one side of his lips. "Might not...so who then will
look after my boys?"
"Sometimes loyalty stays. You're giving them something they didn't
have before." He shrugged, then grinned. "Thank you for that.
Must be my face or something." He became more serious but still
with a glint in his eye. "The guard should thank you then. Keeping
those lads busy and off the streets at night." The grin returned
and he put his attention back on learning, well aware Cracker had not
really answered his question. Maybe he'd find out in time.
Brendan was up early the next morning, earlier then most of the lads. He
told one, Mudfly, if he remembered right that he'd be around the docks
and to spread the word. Best to stay with territory he knew. First he
stopped off at the inn, to change his clothes and let Madame Elspeth
know he'd be gone a lot but to keep his room. A little while later, he
was at the docks, speaking to the man who had hired him. He wasn't
coming back to work for the man so best to let him know. He also told
the others he hadn't recovered his knife and had gotten lost in the
city. From there, he found a vendor and bought his breakfast. He'd have
to watch his spending until he saw what and if he got paid. The gunner
found a place to sit, out of the way, and began to eat. He watched as
the docks became more and more crowded and took not of the city watch
patrols, their patterns and the times they came around. Once his
breakfast was gone and washed down with a pint of ale from a local pub,
he began to wander the docks. There was one thing about doing so, it was
common enough for folks to hang around the docks even during the day. As
long as he didn't draw notice to himself, he'd be pretty much ignored.
The large clock midtown began to strike the hour of ten when the first
pair of crumbs passed by Brendan. Not together, but they crossed the
path of Scales at exactly the same time going in opposite directions.
Neither of them looked at the 'counter', but sure enough this was
planned. From then, the lads made themselves known, in twos, always just
passing within Brendan's path for that half hour that progressed. Just
checking in, all was well so far this morning.
He caught sight of the two, went over names until he remembered and
stood up from his seat on a crate. From then on, it was the same
thing... they'd pass, he'd notice, work on remember names, and go from
there. Not hard at all and oddly enough, he felt relieved that the lads
were all safe. "Don't get attached to this," he thought to
himself. "You'll be leaving as soon as you can." He wondered
if he should mention it to Cracker but mentally shook his head. He had
no idea when it would happen and why take the chance of just
disappearing already? He realized he had yet to check the newest ships
that had ported and looked for the familiar flags with no luck.
Easy duty, this. The boys knew the routine, they kept strict to it. No
matter where Brendan wandered or took himself, the network of
communication between the Crumbs was sure, and every strike of hour to
thirty minutes after the boys crossed and always should be two of them.
Should be. At seventeen passed the hour of one only one boy crossed in
front of Brendan and when he did, no look was spared Scales, but the lad
turned his head to cast his gaze down the thoroughfare. There, Brendan
would see another boy in the grip of one of the Watch, struggling but
held firm. That boy actually looked up and over, not that he needed to.
That curly red hair was enough to give away the identity of Chickpea.
The unfortunate thing was when the lad looked over the expanse to
Brendan, one of the Watch caught that and looked too. He studied the
object of the redhead's attention a moment but then seemed to just
dismiss the older lad. It was a known fact that none of Cracker's Crumbs
were over the age of eighteen, and that fellow was not old enough to be
the man himself.
He didn't recognize that member of the Watch but it wouldn't matter if
he did. Brendan was going to have to be careful, but he'd be damned if
he'd let the boy stay caught like that. He looked away with a shrug of
his shoulders until he was sure the man had turned his attention back to
the boy. It only took a moment for him to look over to where a fruit
vendor had a stand. There was a dog with the man and the Gunner caught
up a cat that had been sunning itself. He petted it and hoped the damn
thing cooperated. When he got close to the dog, he let the cat loose,
nudging it in that direction. The dog started barking and the cat turned
to run. When it did, it startled a horse who reared. The fruit vendor
backed up into his own cart, upset it and sent the fruit rolling toward
the boy and the Watch. The horse took off in one direction, women
screamed and one rather large doxy ran right into the Watch and the boy.
And all the while, Brendan, who had stepped to the side, watched,
laughing. It had worked out better then expected. Chaos was always a
Two more lads had made to make their whereabouts known when Brendan
walked away to begin that chain reaction. They stood where they were,
joined by two others and they watched, three of the four with their
mouths open. Enthralled. Grateful. That was...ingenious! It took a
moment for them to realize they weren't in motion, so captured were they
by the sheer magnitude of confusion. It took one to jab another with an
elbow and they were moving again. They knew better than to stand
stagnant and still. With the bump, bustle, bellowing, Chickpea tore free
and took off in a dash, leaving the bewildered Watchman behind to try to
console the woman and attempt to regain some semblance of control in
this otherwise uncontrolled situation.
He saw the two boys, then four and took note. Before he could start back
in motion, they had taken off. Brendan went over to the fruit vendor and
helped him to his feet, taking an apple that was still in the cart while
the man shouted for his dog. The horse had managed not to trample anyone
before its owner got it under control and now he was yelling at the
fruit vendor. When the dog came slinking guiltily back, Brendan patted
it on his head to offer some comfort, then he moved away, enjoying the
juicy bit of fruit. He'd have to make certain, if the situation came up
again,that the Watch wasn't the same man. If he appeared to one too many
times, they'd start suspecting him. All in all, he felt pretty good.
Oh, the lads would be chattering about this tonight. No doubt about it!
How Scales had managed, single-handedly, to free Chickpea from the
unrelenting grip of the Watch without even making himself known! He was
the best Counter! Ever! Word spread quickly. And by the time night had
started to taint the sky with it's reds and golds, Cracker had already
received the news. As rumors spread, so did the magnitude of his deeds.
The Watch was beating the boy, and Scales sent out an attack dog and in
the process, tipped the fruit cart so the boys could all have an
afternoon snack and distracted the vendor by setting free the horse. He
must be friendly with the brothel because one of the doxies had at the
Watch as well for mistreating Chickpea. Wow. What a guy, that Scales.
He had no idea how the day's events would be blown out of proportion but
it didn't matter as long as the boy was safe. He came into the box to
see how things were progressing once he was certain, many times over,
that he hadn't been followed. When he came in, he looked for Chickpea,
then blinked as the boys came toward him. He backed up until he realized
they weren't going to attack him and then they all began talking at
"Hey, that was amazing" "I heard you tripped the Watch
when he passed later" "Is that your dog?' "I got some
cherries, I haven't had cherries. Ever!" "Smooth move,
Scales." "Glad you were up there with us, Scales."
"Can you introduce me to those women, Scales?" And on and on,
all tripping and tumbling each other with their words until one booming
voice bellowed out...."Armistice!" The lads broke away from
Brendan and formed their lines, prepared to offer their day's earnings.
With the lines dividing into three, Cracker looked out over the heads
and locked on Brendan. He urged him over with a wave and a point to
stand near him while the other two larger boys set up sentry to start
collecting the goods.
He was trying to speak out some too, and laughing at the same time.
"No, he wasn't my dog. I didn't get near the Watch. Absolutely no
meeting those women yet. And I didn't do half those things." He
didn't know if they heard him or not but let out a sigh of relief when
Cracker yelled out. He gave the man a slightly sheepish smile as he
joined him. Watching the boys, he realized they really did work hard,
not just to get food, but to make Cracker take notice. He could
Cracker didn't say anything to Brendan but began with his commendations.
Having a Counter once again seemed to pay off. Seemed as if the boys
wanted to impress Scales as much as they wished to appease Cracker. From
what Cracker saw dropping into the piles, there would be little that was
discarded this night. Chickpea stepped up in the middle line and tossed
his broach to the stack. "Thanks, Scales." He added, shifted
his gaze to Cracker and when the man motioned him on with his pointed
chin, the young lad took off with a grin. The next boys stepped up and
Cracker applauded their attempts with the promise of sugar cookies.
"You know, Scales." He watched those boys leave and the next
step up, congratulating them on a job well done and offering the same
reward. Those stepped away. "It's not your responsibility to
protect them up there, only to count them." A nod, words of praise
for the next three, and when they skittered away all happy with their
upcoming treats Cracker continued. "I appreciate it though."
Nothing else would be said to the young man by his side, his attention
fully on the ragamuffin horde he controlled.
Brendan just grinned at the boy and nodded then he looked at Cracker for
a moment. He looked back at the boys before he answered. "I know
but some of those men are bastards. Didn't know the one that caught him
but didn't want to take the chance." Maybe he was remembering
Leonard but his eyes became distant for just a moment before he focused
on the task at hand.
Once all the goods were dispersed, Cracker dismissed the lads on to
enjoy their sugar cookies and indicated that Brendan should join him
once again in the back room. Brendan's meal was waiting for him there
and Cracker's appreciation for his deed up top was evidenced in the
choice of prime pickings provided for the young man. That, and a glass
of wine and a rather large slice of pecan pie.
He followed after Cracker, though he stepped up beside him once they
were in the hall. The sight of the meal surprised him and he looked at
Cracker, then rolled his eyes when his stomach growled. He had forgotten
to eat earlier and it was catching up to him. He gave Cracker a shrug of
his shoulders before he sat down to enjoy the meal. He'd answer question
too if Cracker had any.
Cracker didn't have any questions. He started shifting through the piles
of gold, silk, and expensive lovelies on his wide table. The other two
boys were dismissed to go enjoy their meals and just he and Brendan
remained behind that opened door. Cracker held up a pair of rather nice
boots. He wasn't really sure how these were gained, but the leather was
of the best quality and it looked as if they were rarely if ever worn.
He set those beside his chair. Hopefully they'd be the right size. Next
he brought up a gold belt buckle, the center formed in the shape of a
Raven. He whistled out his approval tipping it so Brendan could see and
then placed it on the stack closest to the Counter.
He concentrated on his meal at first, but looked up to watch Cracker.
The boots caught his notice first. They looked damn familiar. But that
buckle... he knew that buckle! It had been his, and was left behind on
the Whore when he 'died'. He put down his fork and stared at it.
"That's really... something, isn't it?" He barely kept the
emotion from his voice. Did that mean the Whore had docked? There
wouldn't be any reason for his father to keep any mementos so he wasn't
really surprised but if the Whore was here, he'd have to be doubly
cautious. "Real good work." His heart was pounding so hard
that he was sure Cracker would hear it. "Some of the jewelry will
bring good prices too, aye?"
Cracker didn't seem to notice the young man's change of emotion, he just
continued to rifle through the spoils. "Some of the finest I've
seen these past thirty years, Lad." Without even seeming to slow
his pace, he retrieved the buckle and tossed it Brendan's way. "If
that piece isn't your favorite, pick something else. After what you did
up top, you deserve more than pecan pie. One piece, mind you. The rest
you'll be counting and recording." He still didn't look Brendan's
way, but a motion of that sharp chin indicated the ledger, ink jar and
quill. "And the sooner you start, the sooner you'll find your cot.
With this fine stash, you may be at it for quite some time."
Brendan was startled but he caught the piece and nodded his thanks, a
grin appearing again. He studied the buckle a moment before slipping it
away. "It is a fine piece." Finishing up the last of his meal
quickly, he cleaned the dishes out of the way and started to work. He
had a feeling he'd be going with very little sleep this morning. He was
also trying to remember who had put a buckle down on the pile. If he
could, he might be able to find where the lad had gotten it. And if the
Whore was in port, he'd either have to fess up, or he have to make sure
he wasn't seen.
Between the two of them, Cracker and Scales, the booty was all accounted
for, with the monies expected for the plunder neatly tabulated to a
grand sum at the bottom of the final page. Cracker sat back, rubbing his
boney knuckles against his eye, squinting at Scales through the other
one. "You keep this up, Lad, and you'll be difficult to replace
when you turn eighteen." A twitch of his lip and he leaned over to
tie up the bags filled with their plunder. "Get you some sleep, you
have an hour or two left to it." Cracker moved with difficulty, so
long seated on a knobby arse on a hard, wooden chair didn't make for the
most nimble of activity following. Once standing, he shook out one long,
lean leg and then the other, pressing the protuberance of fingertips
into his lower back as he leaned backwards in a stretch. "See you
at sunset, Scales."
Brendan was nearly seeing double, but everything was taken care of and
he had managed not to splotch the ink at any time. He stood as well, and
covered his hand with his hand, then grinned at Cracker, not saying a
word about the age. "Aye, sir. Sunrise." The gunner answered
and stretched as he left the room. He might snoop around the docks once
he woke up and see what he could find out. It could be the items were
just sold off on another island, then found their way here. He was too
tired to think more about it. Two hours wasn't as good as a solid eight
but he'd manage just fine until the evening. No drinking today though or
he'd never make it! That was his last thought before he fell asleep.