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Each turn of the new moon, Mouse sits at the foot of the Lantern Bridge, begging for alms.

It is an old tradition of the family. It is in fact so old that their records, five hundred years back and meticulously copied (mostly by children learning their calligraphy), speak of it as an ongoing practice. There is no story with the tradition - but there is practicality.

It is not always the Lantern Bridge. Some days it is the Horse Bridge, or the Gold Bridge, or the Gate of the Blue Reach. But Mouse prefers the Lantern Bridge - and her view over the flat length to the far gate.

Mouse adjusts her tattered shroud, extends her bowl mutely. What few coins fall into the rough interior of her vessel will go later to a temple that feeds the same poor she is pretending to be. The rags will be boiled, to keep away anything untoward in their ratty lengths.

And Mouse sits, drawing no more attention than any other beggar. Perhaps less.

Most of the days she's sat of her life, there are a bare handful of coins. Some days, a strutting merchant will feel great compassion and empty their pockets of their spare pennies. Even more rarely, the nobility of the city (fine patrons all of the temples and shelters, and the rare physicians in the poor wards), will drop a silver or even gold coin.

When Mouse has finished her watch, she slips away in the twilight. She carefully notes how many coins have crossed the bowl: how many caravans crossed the Lantern Bridge. Later, after she has bathed, she will meet for dinner with her parents.

Over a table of marble, they will look at the numbers: how many tradesmen, how many caravans, how many coins. Over the moons, such things are but correlation: correlation, may, eventually correspond to causation.

And if nothing else, humility is good for a strutting merchant.

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