entry for 8/21 world weavers championship prompt 1: Reputation approx. 1430 words
|Raen stepped up to the front door of the Baerd guild offices. The security guard on duty was new. He held a hand out stopping Raen from entering. “Miss, these are official Baerd guild offices.”
Raen cocked her head to the side and just looked at him, then she remembered she had left her messenger bag bearing her affiliation pins and patches back at the boarding house. It was her day off and she wanted to just be unencumbered by the tools of her trade. “I am a registered independent courier of this and twelve other guilds.”
“Miss, I can’t let you in without a Baerd insignia,” The young man stated his voice cracked on insignia. Raen sighed he wasn’t much older than she was. No doubt he had fought his way up into this job from the streets much as she had. She couldn’t fault him for following the letter of his job.
“Call, Captain Walters, he’ll vouch.”
“I haven’t been issued a com unit, and I can’t leave my post. So if you’ll move along…”
Raen sighed, that was when luck shone on her side. Ferguson, the woman who had been her mentor when she was learning to be a courier came out the door. “Raen! How are you doing?”
“Ms. Ferguson, you know this woman?” The young man asked.
Ferguson nodded, “This is Raen Davis.”
“The Raen Davis?”
“Yeah,” Raen blushed. This was going to be uncomfortable.
“You saved Jayden Baerd from a silver striped viper? And tracked the missing shipment of Olivery gems? I heard you used to work for Honor Baggood before he made guild master and he wanted to indoctrinate you into the Apothecary Guild. You came up from the streets too!” The guard grasped Raen’s hand and began pumping it like a city courtesy water pump handle.
Raen sighed when he finally released her hand, “So can I go in?”
“Of course Ms. Davis,” He said.
Raen rolled her head on her shoulders and looked up at the roof of the building three stories above. Then she stepped inside. The atrium was well lit by clerestory windows. It felt open and bright thanks to marble floors and landscape frescoes. To her right was a small cafeteria counter and some tables where guildmembers sat eating on their breaks. To the left were the banking counter and a lounge area where informal meetings were held. Straight ahead was the long wall with archways leading deeper into the building. Between the archways was Raen’s goal. Six-foot-high bulletin boards held notices for side jobs, other guilds offering affiliations, and bounty notices.
Raen stepped up to the first bulletin board. She scanned the notices, nothing paid well enough to justify her spending time on it. Several dangerous snakes were loose in the city but she had tired of that gig. What she really wanted was a challenge or something that gave her a sense of accomplishment.
Scanning the next bulletin board, Raen found her target. It was a notice about the mysterious deaths and disappearances of the homeless of the city, most notably children. This was a puzzle and a challenge. It offered several thousand chits for information on what exactly was happening. According to the notice, a large number of badly decomposed corpses had been discovered in the alleyways and subterranean catacombs of the city. The reward was being offered for more information, information was easy for Raen to get. Raen memorized the contact information. None of the other bulletins captured her interest. Raen turned to leave and was spotted by a group of apprentice couriers. She knew this, even though she faced the opposite direction, from their excited squeals and rapid footfalls in her direction.
“Raen! Raen! Can you check my log?” The three kids all shouted in her direction at once.
Raen grimaced, as a fully accredited journeyman courier, one of her duties was to check the logs of lower-ranked guild members. As a highly recognizable face, she had checked a lot of logs. Raen accepted the stack of books and began flipping through log entries for accuracy and detail. The fact was that none of these kids had many unsupervised entries on the books. This was probably one of their first days off. Raen held out a hand and accepted a pen. She used it to inscribe her name, the date, and her membership number in the “inspected by” section. She gave all the kids an easy pass, though one of them had handwriting verging on illegible.
That kid was probably still fairly new to literacy. Raen reflected on her own training. She had always known how to read and write but her skill set had some glaring holes. She had been inept with eating utensils at first. History and geographical studies had been similarly difficult. That said, she was a quick learner. She had the tangled web of streets, highways, and alleys of Marketown memorized within months. It was the biggest and busiest city on Tradehub. The spaceport itself was the size of the next largest city all on its own, and she knew every terminal and hanger of that complex by heart as well.
She returned the logbooks and the pen. The couriers squealed again and trotted off to a corner to compare inscriptions. Raen chuckled to herself. She headed out of the building. As she passed the security guard he gave her the guild salute. Something told her he wished he had a logbook for her to sign too.
From the guild complex, Raen went to one of the poorer quarters of the city. It was near the center of the Apothecary Guild neighborhood and for at least five years of her childhood, it had been her home. She knew the places the street kids hung out, and they knew her on sight. On the way, she bought a dozen nutrient loaves from the Sisters of Charity and a small bag of candy from her favorite sweet shop.
She reached the corner that was ultimately the turning point of her life, where one of her fellow pack members was nearly bitten by a snake. Raen had caught the snake mid-strike and the attention of then journeyman apothecary, Honor Bagood. That moment carried her from street urchin to a fully accredited and affiliated independent courier well on her way to starting her own business. The money from the reward would go straight into her fund to purchase a license to run a business or guild. Her prospective employees were the street kids of this city.
“Raen?” The familiar voice of Fred Fox caught Raen’s attention.
Fred had taken her into his pack of stray children when they were both younger. That pack had eventually evaporated as members gained either gainful employment or criminal records. Some of those kids had even been stolen in the night and sold into the off-world slave trade.
“Fred!” Raen reached out and embraced him. They became entangled in Raen’s shopping bags. After an awkward moment they separated, “Still shepherding the little ones?”
Fred smiled and gestured at a group of, particularly young kids. Beckoning them over to meet Raen, “Yes, these are some of the newest members of the pack. Kids, this is Raen Davis. She’s one of the good people you can trust.”
Raen smiled and began handing out chunks of nutrient loaves and candy, “Hey, have any of you heard about something happening to the street kids? You know, them disappearing, or being hurt.”
One of the oldest girls nodded at Raen with wide-eyed hero worship, “It comes in the night! When it is darkest. I have heard you don’t see anything. That all you hear is the sound of claws on cobblestone. If you don’t run, you’re monster food. Sometimes running doesn’t help. Some kids have split up to run away. The ones that go one way get away, the ones that run the other...”
Raen handed the girl another piece of candy. She turned to Fred, “What have you heard?”
Fred frowned, he lowered his voice and leaned in close to Raen, “I have heard there is someone or something stalking the kids, and some of the homeless adults. It has been moving from neighborhood to neighborhood. I think there is a pattern to the madness. I am worried that this neighborhood will be its next target. Can you meet me at our old camp at dark? Maybe we can protect some of these kids.”
Raen eyed him seriously, “I’ll see you tonight. I’ll bring the flashlights.”