The new captain of the Durham city guard shook his head. Shou didn’t really want the position with all the messes he would have to deal with, but he couldn’t really refuse it. Not with the former captain of the city guard’s corpse in front of him with a crushed head that had moments before not been crushed.
First there were all the bodies in the banquet hall of the lord of the city’s manor. They were shrivelled and twisted by dark magic. That wasn’t hard to tell. Sure, there were a few bodies dead by more traditional means- and Shou was pretty sure on how that had happened- but he wasn’t going to press the issue. Barrett Ravenhall had completely ignored everyone trying to stop him from reaching the captain of the guard, up to the point that the captain himself stabbing Barrett with a sword had only managed to barely break his skin. Shou wasn’t going to fight that. Besides, he believed the story. He knew the captain of the guard had been covering things up, but there wasn’t exactly anyone to report it to, so he’d played the dutiful second in command. When he had to make some people disappear, sometimes they just so happened to get out of the city alive. They were still gone.
Shou remembered when the previous lord had ruled. Things had been good. Not perfect, but good. When the lord died and his sister-in-law took over, Shou knew things were suspicious. He also had a grudge for being passed over for promotion to captain of the guard when the previous one went missing… but he realized later he had been lucky.
Now, everything was a mess. Bodies in the banquet hall were one thing. The people those bodies had once been came with some other problems- but Shou kept bringing up he hadn’t been the captain of the guard at the time. He also mentioned how disgruntled people were with some of the living rich people in the city, and that he wasn’t sure if he could protect everyone from potential riots. That helped shut people up. The other bodies were a problem of their own. Shou didn’t know if zombies were real, but there were a lot of dead bodies inside some secret rooms in the manor. Someone was going to be very unhappy about that. Maybe he’d go for an early retirement. However, he wasn’t going to try to cover it up. That would have been the case even if he hadn’t felt his life was immediately threatened.
He still had to collect taxes on the merchants coming through. Guards were necessary and had to be paid. When they complained, he reminded them how much worse the taxes had been a few days before. The merchants grumbled and groused, but they were still willing to pay. Shou hoped they would spread the word that Durham was almost a functional city again.
Barrett and Reina split up after staying a few days in Durham to make sure things were on the right track- and that Artur wasn’t still around somewhere. Reina was heading back towards Stredo, while Barrett was stopping by Triridge.
Triridge took some care to enter because the guards weren’t just going to stop watching for Barrett because Melody and Denton were dead. In fact, that might be even more reason for them to watch out for him. However, he wanted to see how the city was doing. He just didn’t want guards bothering him, so he kept his visit more covert.
The streets of Triridge were familiar, but not in a comforting way. Most of Barrett memories of the city were bad. However, there were a few good ones. Barrett knocked on a familiar door. It was late enough he should be home…
After a short time, Simon opened the door. “Oh, hello, Barrett.”
Barrett smiled, “It’s very like you to continue living in this tiny place even after all that money I gave you.”
“Well, I did have to replace the door,” Simon laughed. “But really, they money helped quite a lot. I opened up a new place to care for the poor.” Simon waved Barrett inside, then gestured to his table, “I don’t invite people inside anymore… because we don’t fit. We’ve managed to get some help from other members of the community, too. Without the watchful eyes of Melody and Denton, there are a few more generous souls… and some of them weren’t particularly thrilled when they heard how the church of Ristos was actually handling their donations. My shelter doesn’t look like much, but we have two meals every day.”
“That’s why I chose you…” Barrett nodded, “You did so much with just the little money you had before. I thought you could do better with more.”
“I’ve done my best. I have even been able to expand my business as well as the shelter. With regular work, people do better and don’t need the shelter so much.”
The next day, Barrett went to visit the shelter for breakfast. While there, he saw that several of those who had previously been eating with Simon were now working to feed others. The food was simple, but it was filling.
There was also a donation box, and Barrett left a few coins. He might have left more, but it wasn’t good for them to rely on random large donations from him. That was useful while they got started, but they had run just fine for years afterwards. There was no reason to cause another large disruption.
As a whole, Triridge still had many poor people- but unlike in Durham, they were able to go out on the streets without worry. The temporary mayor assigned by Melody had been doing a decent job- perhaps they could be better, but Barrett thought that was true of anyone trying to run a city. He had still collected taxes for Melody, but that was the normal order of things- and he had been reasonable enough to not drive off business. Barrett was glad, because he didn’t want to disrupt any more cities. He was lucky Triridge had ended up better off after he left it in the state it had been. He hoped Durham did half as well.