Fate Comes to Call
Antonio D’Angelinep=. An Orphan’s Story:
The Trials and Tribulations of Antonio D’Angeline
I owe my life to dear old Stephan D’Angeline. He is not gentle reader my actual father, but instead he is the man responsible for rescuing me from an early violent death in the slums of Tescana. He was a wise old man, his back stooped with age and many seasons of wanderlust and exploration. In truth he only had settled down in his later years to raise orphaned and abandoned children when his advanced age finally prevented him from traveling. It was fortunate for me that he did, for anyone else in that cold hearted town would most likely have stabbed me or worse for attempting to steal from them.
The old world port city of Tescana is very intolerant of the gypsy people. Though many gypsies live a rough, broken existence in its poorest slums, guttersnipes such as myself without a living family to cling desperately to are treated with even more scorn and ridicule. These children then often turn to the savage street gangs to survive, while the lucky ones who live more than a year or two get recruited into the small number of thieves guilds in town. I was most certainly no exception in attempting to join those ranks. I became quite good at begging very quickly. Older children would offer “skill lessons” in return for a steady supply of food or information. I made it a point to learn all I could of the harbor area, braving the guards and drunken sailors to learn anything that could keep my stomach better than empty and my “skills” (such as they were) sharp.
Stephan seemed such an easy mark at the time. I remember that moment so clearly that it pains me to recall it still. How could that withered shell of a man and his purse not fall into my waiting palm? Overconfidence is a true curse in the very young and I believed I still had the upper hand even when Stephan trapped my wrist in his strong vice like grip. Then when he gave me a solid thump on the back of my head I cursed him in my native Gypsy tongue and prepared to respond in kind. Several more solid thumps on the back of my suddenly tender head encouraged me to cease that line of thought. Only now realizing the true scope of my folly, I tried desperately to escape.
Instead of a continued beating or dagger thrust into my chest however, I was surprised when Stephan actually began to talk to me. Looking back now I realize that this was an interrogation of course, but verbal interrogation was absolutely unheard of for street rat children like me in the mean streets of Tescana. I remember being shocked to the core when it dawned on me that the man was actually paying attention to the words that seemed to fall out of my mouth. I was too young to lie and too scared to try. Soon enough I found myself telling this stranger I had just attempted to rob the true story of my parents death. He seemed moved by that. As the rest of my tale of woe spun out around us Stephan ultimately decided to take me over to The Royal Exploration Society to “Have a proper telling of my troubles”. I was scared to death at that point of course but the prospect of a meal of my very own that I didn’t have to fight anyone for was too good to pass up.
As some of you may know, the Royal Exploration Society maintains its chapter house in the city of Tescana. A large and foreboding place, its stone edifice is a marvel of modern stone masonry. A building like that takes many people to clean and maintain its massive structure and surrounding grounds. What Stephan had come to realize in his advancing years was that gathering a fairly large cadre of the cities homeless children there fulfilled two of his main objectives in life in his senior years. One was improving the life of the street urchins that came into his care who absolutely had no one else to turn to. The second was the cleaning, polishing and upkeep of the building and grounds of the place he considered his personal temple. Some of you may think it great folly to revere a large gaudy building of stone and burnished metal as a cathedral to exploration and travel. Some of you, no many of you may think it folly to even attempt to “redeem” the homeless gypsy children of Tescana and other cities. For us street kids however, that “temple” of the Royal Exploration Society stood for one thing.
It meant a life free from stealing just to survive. Free from fighting for the mostly green week old bread that the baker threw out every ten day. It meant so much to the starving and poor children of Tescana that over two hundred former street rats turned out for Stephan’s funeral when he passed many years later. What does one life matter? For many hundreds of the poorest most broken gypsy children of Tescana it mattered more than anything else in the world.
It wasn’t easy. Stephan and the society enforced upon us harsh rules and stricture. They forced all of the youths who wished to stay within their walls to learn, to read and write, to clean ourselves and our building, to draw and copy the great many official maps that the society releases of strange and exotic places each year. They asked us to “become more than what you were, to rise above the hatred and bigotry of the city, and to find a meaningful life of exploration and wonder.” Most of us were so young that we listened to these words and took them to heart. The Royal Society had inadvertently learned a great secret. That if you take these small starving children off of the streets and start the learning process at a very young age, that great things will happen. It certainly did in my case I assure you.
Stephan and the Royal Exploration Society paid me for my labors in one coin only. But that payment I have learned is more valuable than any other on this earth. Knowledge.
Knowledge of lands that I hope to one day see with my own eyes. Ancient languages of long dead people that may shed light upon new and undiscovered ruins to explore. Maps of far flung places in all four corners of the globe and lost temples of old civilizations that I hope to one day stand upon and document for my peers at the society. For I am a journeyman in the Royal Exploration Society these days.
Stephan D’Angleine died five years ago today. I had the opportunity before he passed to tell him that I had taken his last name to both honor him and carry on his legacy. Many of us former street rats did the same, it is the power of one mans legacy. The only thing my mentor asked in return for taking his name was that I “go forth boldly and tread upon this land for the joy of exploration and the wonders that you can find there.” So it is that I leave the old world to explore the new and document properly what I find for the sake of all and the sake of knowledge. When I see my mentor again in this world or the next I want to make sure that I have plenty of good tales to tell.