The Beggar’s Coins

On Sundays, I respond to a writing prompt that I enjoy.  This week, I chose the dragonition image prompt #179.  The image creeped me out (contained an antique doll), so I’m not including it this time, but the prompt words included in the story are bolded.  Because I read Longtails and reviewed it earlier, I wrote this from the perspective of human-like mice.  It may or may not be a fanfiction…

“Alms for the poor?”

I jumped when the beggar, ears ragged and fur matted with the filth of the city streets, tugged on my cloak.  Without thinking about it, my hand reached for the short-sword on my hilt, but I let the blade rest in its leather scabbard.  “I don’t carry coin I don’t intend to use for myself,” I said.  “The Church of Screel will gladly give you sup, if you’d find your way there.”

The beggar mouse showed its teeth in a haggard smile, even its rodent teeth showing signs of significant decay.  With wiley, squirming movements, it bent to my shoes and ran a curious set of dirty claws over them.  “You were going to get your shoes repaired, were you?”

I lifted a brow and squinted, curious.

“Perhaps a shoe shine will do wonders-”

“The sole is coming off, my good man.  I’m afraid I need a cobbler.”

With a cackle, the beggar spat on each of the shoes and rubbed his crusty elbow on the tops.

“What in the nine heavens are you doing!?” I shoved the beggar off, sending him sprawling onto the boardwalk.  A mouse walking by lifted her skirts and wrinkled her nose at the smelly beggar before scurrying quickly by.

The beggar pointed to my shoes, his finger shaky and voice confident.  “See, good as new.”  He smiled and gestured to my feet all the more emphatically.  “Really.”

I stuck a foot forward to examine.  Rather than the mud I expected, I saw instead a shoe with the shine of fresh leather, a sole that still possessed its original tread.  I let go of my sword and bent down to examine my two feet, finding that indeed the shoes were repaired.

“How did you do it?” I asked.  “Magic?  Wizardry?  Because if it was, you don’t need to be a beggar – the spell of mending is powerful, and you could support yourself if not make a fortune!”  I reached out to help the mouse back up from where I’d wrongly shoved him down.

The beggar tilted his head and, instead of taking my assistance, held out a palm.  “Perhaps you could give me the coins you intended for the cobbler, then?”  He lifted the hand a little higher.  “Alms?  Alms for the poor?”

I took out every chez that I owed the mouse, placing them into his hand.  “You deserve these coins for the work you’ve done.  But with all seriousness, my good fellow, how did you do it?  Just give me an honest answer.”

The mouse closed his palm greedily over the coins in his hand, stowing the money away inside his ragged cloak.  “I don’t carry wisdom I don’t intend to use for myself,” the beggar said.  “The Church of Screel will gladly fill you with knowledge, if you’d find your way there.”

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