The first thing Barrett heard upon entering the manor was Denton’s annoying voice. Perhaps some might find it pleasant, but in that case it would have to speak pleasant words. “Do you have what you owe us yet, cousin?”
Barrett was glad that his face was covered in bandages, because his glare wouldn’t have been good for his situation. As it was, he probably paused for too long before speaking. “Not… yet. I was looking for employment, but I found the situation to be a bit more difficult than anticipated.”
“How unfortunate,” Denton grinned, “But in these trying economic times, nobody can afford to hire more help.”
“I also stopped by the bank, but they wouldn’t even let me in.”
Denton shrugged, “There’s not much that can be done about that. We can’t force them to verify your identity. We don’t run the bank.” Denton’s smile grew even more unpleasant, “If you still can’t find any work by the end of the week, I suppose we could take pity and hire you as a servant here. It’s the least we could do.”
Barrett agreed. That was absolutely the very least they could do.
Several days passed. Barrett found each day he could walk a little more easily, and visit more places. However, absolutely everywhere he went, nobody was hiring. At least, they weren’t hiring him. There were a few places that had signs indicating they were hiring. Some of those rejected Barrett on the basis of his lack of qualifications for the positions. He could accept that, if grudgingly. The others… they seemed to be mysteriously not hiring anymore. Even more strangely, the blacksmith and inn Barrett had already visited seemed to have acquired a new hire and a receptionist respectively… but not for several days after he visited.
Barrett fared no better at the bank. Even when there were different guards they had orders not to let him in. Just in case, Barrett managed to be there when several different bankers arrived… and they had him literally thrown off the property instead of merely dragged away. Many faces went onto the list.
Barrett was not stupid. He would admit that he was perhaps a bit naive, but he was not unintelligent. The shift eyes of people he asked for work, their enthusiasm to hire followed by sudden disinterest… and even his cousin’s words themselves. It wasn’t that people didn’t want to hire, but they didn’t want to hire him. A portion of the establishments simply wouldn’t consider him because of look, but the rest would have gladly accepted an educated hire, even if they weren’t trained for the specific job. They couldn’t hire him though. Nobody said it directly, but there were one or two who hinted at it, but seemed afraid to say more. Barrett’s relatives controlled the city… and they seemed to have a pretty firm grip over it as well. The bank also appeared to be deeply connected.
If he was in Durham, Barrett knew people. There was no way the bank would have denied him his money, and he could easily get help from any number of other people. If he could even get a letter to them… but he supposed even his cousin would have considered that. He had no money, and couldn’t have trusted anyone with the letter anyway. Still, it wouldn’t hurt too much to try… if he had the money. Barrett considered ways to get money. Legitimate means wouldn’t work… so the only real option seemed to be to steal some.
Perhaps that was what they wanted though. If Barrett actually stole something, his cousin and aunt would have all the excuse they needed to get him in trouble. Plus, even though they had an overabundance of wealth, stealing from them or others was still wrong. Even if the money wasn’t all obtained legitimately, there were still certain ways things had to be done. Barrett wished he hadn’t been ingrained with morals from a young age, but that was just the way things were. At the very least, things weren’t quite bad enough for that yet.
That left the option of becoming a servant to his cousin Denton and his aunt Melody. That was a shameful proposition… but no matter how unpleasant it was, feeling shame was not wrong. It was somewhat shameful for a noble to be a servant, but it was much more shameful for Barrett to be a servant to them. Barrett didn’t think for even a second that they would be easy on him, or even particularly fair.
However, the other options seemed to be… to become a criminal or leave the city. Barrett briefly considered another option. The kind fellow who provided lunch… he might take him in. Barrett quickly dismissed that. It would only put a burden on one of the few good people… and he might be implicated in whatever scheme there was against Barrett. Besides, kind as he was, would he even provide additional help to someone he’d met just once?
Barrett knew he wouldn’t last more than a day or two on the streets or outside the city, if he could even leave the city. If only he was in Durham still… but he wasn’t. Perhaps that was part of the plan. Barrett thought about it. How did he get here anyway? He was unconscious, to be sure, but it was a long trip. He couldn’t have survived just lying around for the days it would for news to travel from Durham to Triridge, let alone the trip from Triridge to Durham and back. Besides, he now knew the date… and he had not been unconscious long enough for that. In fact, he must have been taken from Durham to Triridge almost immediately after the fire. That didn’t say anything good about the situation, since he hadn’t known of Denton or Melody being in town. The wilderness was starting to look like a good idea… but Barrett’s body was still weak. He wouldn’t get far, even if he had food and some sort of real clothing and perhaps a tent. He couldn’t imagine a worse situation… except maybe… maybe his parents were alive. Maybe he had just been kidnapped. Except… it was hard to suppress actual news throughout a city. Many people had talked about the fire, and how it had killed everyone. That was when Barrett realized… he was already dead. At least, from the world’s perspective.