Joined: Fri Nov 18, 2005 11:35 pm
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Sean O'Connell, at your service.
There are lots of people out there who say their life was painful, but when I say it about my childhood I'm dead serious. My young life was full of lumps, bruises, black eyes, scuffs, scrapes these were the badges of my family. You could say our family crest was a meaty fist on a field of black and blue.
You see, my father is a big drinker. No, wait, scratch that. He's a drunk. Plain and simply put, the man is never sober. From what I have learned, I think he gets drunk to forget. My father always assumed he was meant for better, for something glorious or important. Too bad he never could swing a sword at the broad side of a moored frigate.
Father just never realized that people like us were not meant for anything more than back breaking work. Now, don't get me wrong, the man's not lazy or anything. Far from it, really. He's a stevedore down at the docks for Theus' sake. He just always wanted something more for himself than a wife and a load of kids he never asked for. Course, we came in handy when he found a use for us.
As the years went on, Father spent more and more time in the tavern after his shifts at the dock. I know now of course, that he was trying his best to drown his dreams before he came home to the six reminders of his plain old ordinary life. You know, his family three sons, two daughters, and a homely wife. It eventually got to the point where Mum couldn't afford to feed us all on the meager amount my father had left after his drinking.
My brother Angus was always a big eater, that boy can put down the food I tell ya. It him the hardest when we had to scrape for food and started to go hungry, so of course it was him that tried to fix the situation first. One morning after a particularly pitiful dinner of soggy cabbage soup he woke up early with our Da and followed him to work. He came back that day looking more tired and beaten than I've ever seen him before. Turns out he got work on the same team with our father. From that point on he beat himself half to death every day and brought every single coin home to the family. All he ever asked for was a full belly. That was exactly what he got for a few weeks. Until of course my father found his second worst vice, gambling. He started tossing the bones every night at the tavern, and losing as much money there as he spent on his liquor.
It wasn't long after his gambling started that we all started feeling hungry again. My sister Rose felt it was now her job as the second oldest to find a job to put money on the table. She went looking for work and got hired on by the baker in town. Once those coins found their way into his hand, our patriarch was finally hit by a realization. His oldest two children were working and giving him everything they made. It was almost as if he were making three times his normal wage. He had three more workers ready to go, waiting in the wings. Once he realized that, he started looking in my direction. One evening after a fine meal of roast lamb and potatoes, he hit me with the biggest surprise of my life.
"Boy, you best be getting some sleep. We're up at sunrise in the mornin', and yer goin down to the docks wi me and yer brother." He picked some shreds of lamb from his teeth. "Bout time you made a little use of yerself, lad."
"No way! Are you kidding me? I'm a skinny little fourteen year old kid! How am I going to survive as a stevedore? You have got to be joking!" Before I had a chance to say anything more the back of his hand hit me square in the jaw. He took off his belt and started whipping me like a boss on a slaver ship. When he'd finished I crawled onto my cold bed and tried not to cry too loudly. It was at that moment that I made up my mind to find the best job I could, and make as much as I was able to. I would help the family of course, but I would also help myself. Staying in this place would do nothing but get dear old Sean O'Connell killed before his twentieth summer.
During the night while everyone was asleep I snuck out of the dilapidated shack that we called a home, and made my way down to the Merchant's Quarter. I realized that the richest people in our area of town were the merchants they provided us all with the things we needed every day, for a price of course. That was a job I was suited to for sure. So I found a secluded spot and sat there the whole night through. I was never bothered once by any of the many urchin gangs that prowl the city at night. They must have seen all the cuts and bruises I already had and assumed one of the other gangs had already done me over.
When the sun came up, I went shop by shop looking for work. Not a one would give me even the slightest glance. A fourteen year old boy was good for nothing in this town it seemed. The majority of the merchants just chased me off, assuming I was just another lout looking for a handout.
There were only a few choices left in the Quarter, none of which gave me high hopes. I took a deep breath, steeled my nerves, and stepped right intoPhoenix's Phine Philters an alchemist's shop. Everything around me was immediately different than anything I had experienced ever before. The walls were covered in blackboards with lists of potions written on them, their prices off to the side. There was a counter that came to about my chest, around 4 feet high. Behind that counter were racks and racks of glass bottles, each one labeled in a clear hand. A large mortar and pestle sat on another polished wood counter and below that counter were more racks. These were filled with empty glass vials. Standing behind the first counter was a tall thin man dressed in pristine clothes. From what I could see he was wearing a pale blue tunic under a nut brown doublet. He wore small wire rimmed glasses, and had wispy salt and pepper hair. Across the counter a big burly Highlander was talking to him, he was obviously unhappy.
"Well, how do I know it's actually gointa work? How do I know it'll do the healin I need when the healin needs done? I ain't ne'er heard heard anythin good bout you y'know."
"You'll know because I said it would Seamus Fitzpatrick. I know what you need this Major Wounds potion for, and I can't say I agree with it. Be that as it may, I wouldn't stand in the way of an honest sale. I don't cheat my customers." He leans his head forward and looks down his nose at his persistent customer.
"I ain't wastin no money on no phony potions. I need proof. I need something more than the word of a man what ain't got the sense to like a good fightin match." The fighter sniffed in disdain and I saw my chance.
"Excuse me, sir?" And I patted the waist of the Highlander. "Perhaps I could help you with your problem?" I reached up and plucked the glass vial from his fingers. Biting the cork, I popped it out of the glass tube.
When I stuck my finger into the the liquid I was surprised to find that it was thick and just a bit warm. I took that little dab on my finger and rubbed it straight onto the cut over my right eye. It started to tingle and it hurt like pins and needles in my skin.
The big fighter jumped back and stared at me as if I'd jump out of my body any second. He leaned closer and looked at my eye. His fingers reached out and brushed across the cut.
"Did it hurt, lad?"
"Not really sir, especially not as bad as what it healed. " I said with a smile on my face.
"It just sealed itself right up. Sewed itself together tighter than a tailor's stitchery."
"Well then, I guess we're agreed here right? It's certainly no phony, it's the real thing if ever I saw it, right?" I handed the corked vial back to him. "If it were me, I think I'd pay this man for a job well done and concentrate more on your fight." His laugh exploded from his lungs with enough force to blow me back a step.
"Why lad, I think ye have a point there. I dinnae think it'd work, but you proved me wrong." He jingled around in his belt pouch and slid a few coins across the gleaming wood of the counter. "Here ye are Mr. Phoenix. I'll be sure to come a' callin' next time I'm needin a bit of help after my er, show."
"Thank you Seamus. I hope your fight goes your way. Just don't hurt the other fellow too badly." They nodded and smiled and the bigger man left the shop. "You young scallywag, what's your name?"
"Sean O'Connell, sir."
"Sean O'Connell indeed, lad. Have you ever sold anything before? " He ran his hand over his graying mustache and adjusted his spectacles.
"No, sir, but I can learn. I'd work real hard too. If- if you'd have me that is."
"Alright then, lad. Let me show you around Phoenix 's Phine Philters."
He then showed me around and started teaching me the art of salesmanship. At the end of the day he handed me a golden guilder and told me to keep that as my share of the healing potion sale. I ran straight home with that gold piece and handed it to my mother. She beamed with pride, I don't think I'd seen her so happy before, nor have I seen her that happy since.
It took me a couple of years of working with Mr. Phoenix before my little savings grew to an amount I was prepared to use. A few months into my eighteenth summer I moved all of my meager belongings out of the family house. I went in during the day when everyone was out taking care of their own business, and packed up all my things. I'd left a note for my mother apologizing for leaving her, but telling her where I was going. I also let her know that even though I couldn't be here with her anymore I would make sure she never wanted for anything ever again.
The home I bought was in the Merchant's Quarter of course. Quite small compared to many of the others in the area, but it was suitable for a bachelor of my social graces. I paid a fairly hefty sum for the dingy two room building out of the stash I'd hid from my father for four years. It was nice to look around me and know that I owned everything I could see.
For once in my life I actually enjoyed my evenings. I'd come home and build a fire in the hearth, nestle my favorite chair up close and enjoy a glass of wine with a little dinner. Then I would pull out my notes from the shop and go over everything that Mr. Phoenix had taught me that day. Tips and techniques for knowing which thing a customer was looking for, though afraid to ask. Ingredient lists and techniques for more elixirs, ones I had yet to fully master. That was pretty much my nightly routine. Until that is, my father came by for a visit.
One night as I sat before the fire poring over more notes, a knock came at my door. When I answered it my father stood before me. As you can imagine he wasn't in the greatest of moods. He pushed his way past me and slammed the door shut behind him. Once he'd gotten past me he turned, and I felt the familiar sting of his backhand across my mouth. That was when the fists started flying. They hit me with shocking force in a beating like I'd never had before. Many a bone broke as a result of his unbridled fury during that night. It seemed like hours of endless agony before he'd finally worn himself out on me. He wiped his bloody hands on my brand new tablecloth and tossed back what was left in my wine glass. Kneeling beside me, he leaned in close to my ear.
"No son of mine will ever pretend to be better than the pigsnot that he is. You are mine boy, I own you. Starting tomorrow you will move back under my roof, and you will sell this rat infested hole. You will then give me every penny." He paused a moment to take a pull from the wine bottle in his hand. "You will also keep working that pitiful job you have so you can pay me for the privilege of staying in your family's home." He took another long pull from the wine bottle. "If you live that long that is." With a parting kick to the ribs he left me lying there in a pool of my own blood to die.
Theus was with me that day, for I had brought home all the samples from the day's lesson in healing potions. I don't know how, but I somehow managed to drag my bag over and I downed each of the potions within before passing out from the pain.
The next morning I woke up and immediately packed everything I could carry. I went into the shop and explained the Mr. Phoenix that I couldn't come into work that day because I needed to find a new and hidden home to live in. He handed me an advance on my pay and told me to do whatever it took to find myself a new place to live.
Having worked at the shop for nearly five years I had some connections in the city, even some connections with some of the more unsavory residents. Thanks to a few friends of mine I got a nice and spacious room above a "warehouse" in the Noble Quarter. The warehouse was constantly filtering "workers" in and out at all hours of the day. There was a standing order left with the men that no one was to be allowed up to my room without my express permission ahead of time. A better security system I have not yet seen.
The only problem with this arrangement was that I couldn't see my family ever again really. If I were to visit them my father would certainly hurt them as bad as he'd hurt me, to get some information from them. Months went by, and I'd not spoken to my mother or any of my siblings. As the week was coming to a close the door to Phoenix 's Phine Philters opened just before closing time, and in walked my sister Rose.
She had somehow found out that I was still in town and came to see me. Apparently since my new security force went into effect Da had been completely unbearable. He'd taken to staying out all night long on his drinking binges and never coming home. His job was dangerously close to being taken away from him. Rose was afraid of what would happen if he lost his job, how they would handle him then. I convinced her that the entire family had to stick together and do whatever it took to rid themselves of him. I told her I would help however I could. We set up a schedule of meeting times, one week I would meet her in the bakery and slip her some extra coins in my bread purchase, and the next she would come into the shop and get the funds from me there. In this way they could save up the money they needed and eventually get out from underneath the tyrant that our father had become.
Our little ruse worked perfectly, and the few times that mother needed money for something important, it was there in the savings, so the family never went hungry. Everything was working smoothly until I woke up one morning in the jail of an Ussuran noble, but that is a story for another time.
Akodo Harubi * Lion Clan Barrel Lid Master * Yojimbo