Bog's World

Altogether elsewhere

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Welcome to Corvis

When Cygnar isn't horse drawn, its coal fired and steam driven. For much of the time, a pall of smog shadows the great cities of the Iron Kingdoms from the mills, turning even bright days dim. Outside the front door of most houses is a man-hole opening into a coal cellar. The coal-man carried, on one distorted shoulder, a hundredweight sack that he drops, mouth down, directly over the coal-hole with a single flick of the body.

In the more well to do areas of major cities, side streets are gas-lit, if lit is not too strong a word for the faint pools of light around each lamp post. At dusk a lamp lighter runs from post to post carrying a long pole with a flame and a hook on top; the hook opened the tap, the flame lit the jet. Pretty grim it is, too, on the cobblestones by a Cygnaran-built gasworks on a wet winter night in the choking smell of gas. Gasometers, where gas was stored, are great steel cylinders that rise and sink in and out of holes in the ground as they fill and empty.

Many pubs, on the other hand, are bright and glittering and therefore perhaps all the more inviting. They are made brighter by big mirrors, etched with the names of ales or gin or whiskey, covering the walls so that reflected gaslight filled the place. Although this too in turn is dimmed as the evening wears on, by the tobacco smoke which stained the ceilings first yellow, then brown. A sharp smell of beer seeped into the street. So did noise: Pubs are loud. People seem to sing quite readily (the whistling delivery boy or trades-man is commonplace) to entertain themselves and many pubs employ itinerant musicians to entertain their clientele.

But of course pubs produce drunkenness. As soon as the Corvis City Watch was formed in 544AR, it had to deal with street drinkers, whose main crime (then as today) was to make the place look untidy. In the more up town ‘bourgs, this was a very grave matter, for they may have repelled the well-bred visitors upon whose patronage the economy of these areas almost entirely depended. Therefore, a person could be arrested and jailed simply for being drunk in a public place, or for sleeping in the open air. A first offender might be ordered to leave the city, but punishments for repeat offences were exceptionally harsh: even knocking on a rich person's door and politely requesting a few pennies or some bread attracted harsh punishment. For example, Ellen Robon, aged 67, was jailed for 14 days after "a lady" complained of her begging at Eversfield Place.

When fines were imposed, the magistrates knew the miscreants could not pay, and that enabled them to remove the offender from the public eye by jailing them for 14 or 21 days in the lock-up in Courthouse Street. (In 587AR "serial beggar" Saralle Harvett was sentenced to a month.) And the lock up means that someone else from their family has to go out and earn.

Popular amongst the Church of Morrow is the view that the employment of children in the city’s mills is the product of a conspiracy. It would have been the work of a moment for the city council to outlaw child labour, or to halt the worst excesses of it. But instead, for too long they turned a blind eye, all too happy to believe the claptrap they were fed by the manufacturers about mill conditions being idyllic. So the mill owners were allowed to carry on growing rich and fat at the expense of lost innocence, rationalising their exploitation of toddlers as young as four and five by claiming that industry, and therefore the country, could not survive without it.

If the manufacturers were bad, their enforcers were worse. At best callous, at worst frighteningly sadistic, the spinning-room overseer had the task of maintaining production. He did it by instilling fear and inflicting pain - children were beaten simply to keep them awake towards the end of their 14 or 15-hour day. What man could live with himself knowing that he had to beat small children for a living?

And then there were the parents. Over the decades, many apologists have claimed that parents had little choice in the matter: They either allowed their children to work in the mill, or the family starved. But this is over-simplification. The pittance earned by even three or four children was not enough to keep a family - there had to be an adult breadwinner and the money the youngsters brought home too often found its way via the father into the tavern-keeper's pocket.

There are few wealthy persons in Corvis. There are few enlightened persons in Corvis. Even fewer fall into both camps. For the vast majority in Corvis, as in the other major cities of Western Immorean, life is harsh and toil, unceasing. And as imminent war compounds the social ills caused by the nascent industrialisation, it’s only likely to get worse.


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