This morning, I was thinking, ‘How do the poorest folks in Brinston survive?’ Here’s what we know: Brinston is built on a cliff overlooking the river. The river runs into the ocean right there. The poorest folks are the fishermen who do not own boats. They live in shacks on the sandy beach or under lean-to tents. So how do they survive?
Well, these folks have “nothing”, right? Well, then they die. So if they are alive, they must have something. I have often assumed that the poor on the beach worked for others for food. The fishermen go out before sunrise (depending a bit on the tides) and bring in as much fish and other ocean products as they can as early as they can. Then their wives hurry the catch up the stairs (up the cliff) to the Fishwives’ Market to sell. But the people of the city (even the poor folk) don’t typically want to buy whole fish. They would rather buy fish that had been gutted and cleaned. So the fishwives clean the fish in their stalls while selling it. But if the fisherman got lucky with his catch this morning, she may need help. Enter the really poor guy. (The fishermen are pretty poor, but they have boats and houses - small houses.)
So the poor guy walks the market and offers help. Some of the fishwives will want his help with the catch, so he can clean and gut the fish for her. But he needs a knife for that - and not a shiv, an actual knife. Also, if he’s working with some manner of mussels or shell fish, he might need that kind of knife too. These hard working women are not going to pay him in coins - those are too precious. They will pay him in fish and mussels. But how does he carry that? In a bucket. Also, that knife is going to see a lot of hard work today. He needs a sharpening stone. So now we know that a working poor guy in the Fishwives’ Market in Brinston needs a bucket, one or two knives (a fillet knife and a clam knife), and a sharpening stone. Now that’s pocket change for an adventurer, but this guy was supposed to have “nothing”, and now he’s got “the tools of his trade”.
OK - So he gets back to his shack and he has a bunch of fish and mussels. His life may be extremely hard work but at least he’s eating. Now you may think he trades those fish for coins or something else, but he can’t, not really. If he knew how to sell, he would probably be better off in life. We know he’s at least worse at it then the fishwives in the market are. Besides, who is going to buy fish from “a beggar”? So he plans to eat his fish and mussels. Does he have a pot? Does he have wood for a fire? Things I know about Brinston - the supply of fish is very high, so selling it (even trading it) takes skill. The supply of fuel is low, because it has to be brought in. There are too many people on the beach to think driftwood will heat their homes, and the forest is 10-20 miles away depending on which direction you head. So no matter what we think about his ability to come up with a pot, he is not going to come up with fuel on a consistent basis.
So does he die? Well, probably not. I thought - Maybe the government would provide fires for the beggars, but that doesn’t fit the culture. If he were in the USA now, he’d have a home, an EBT card, a cell phone, free internet and a bunch of other things I pay for, but he doesn’t. So they need to rely on the churches for charity. Thinking about the culture of Brinston, I developed a new religion (I’ve been doing that a lot lately). This one is now called Marina’s Merciful Ministry. They form small, almost communal homes for the beggars. The beggars are expected to come in with something, in this case fish, and the chapel will provide for the larger community using all the little things that the poor bring in from their days of working. The basic tenant of this new religion is this: Brakin (god of life and justice) gives life to the mortals, but in his sense of justice, he wants their lives to be hard. Marina (goddess of the seas) in her mercy provides for the mortals by having fish, kelp, mussels and everything else in the sea for them to harvest. Life is still hard, but with Marina’s bounty and everyone working together, all can survive.
See, I tried to figure out a beggar for my upcoming Lifestyles book, and came up with a new religion as well. Just keep asking the next question as you develop your world and it will work!