O is for the Orphanage of Saint Rutha

The Old World is harsh indeed, and even in the metropolitan, and highly civilised Marienburg, many young people still lose their lives way to early. As a result the city, like all others, is teaming with orphans - ejected due to ailing or deceased parents, or because they were chosen as the strongest of the children, and the most capable of fending for themselves during hard times.

Whatever the reason, the children have few places to go. The tenants of Haendryk preach that economic success is a sign of divine favour, and poverty is the affliction given to sinners. As such, 'charity' is hardly known of within the walls. Some children then turn to street gangs, such as The Captains in Kruiersmuur. The others, who are lucky, find their way to the Orphanage of Saint Rutha.

Originally established as a Shallyan mission, the Orphanage eventually fell on rather hard times as they became unable to pay for the simplest objects or meals for the children under their care. Terrified of what to do, the priesthood turned to one of their newest members some years back - Brother Albertus Cobbius.

Albertus Cobbius, 'little' brother of Lea-Jan Cobbius, is and always was a very large and powerfully built man who grew up on the wrong side of the canal. In his early years, he took to street fighting in the local and illegal pit-fighting competitions, where he made a name for himself as one of the most terrifying men imaginable. What made him so unsettling to fight was that you could read in his eyes, every second that he was beating the life out of you, that he truly, deeply, wished that he never had to hurt another person again. Poverty forces terrible circumstances on us all.

Around about the time that Lea-Jan took control of the Stevedores & Teamsters Guild, and Albertus had some money to escape his life, the two brothers had a falling out. Albertus refused to condone the terrible things he and his brother were forced to do during their poverty to survive, and as such stripped himself of all his old ties and joined the Shallyan church as a penitent.

The Shallyans were dismayed to have a former pit-fighter, let alone a man join their ranks, and consistently attempted to pass him off to other orders - including attempting to send him to Middenheim to become an Ulrican. They tried everything, even giving him the basest jobs, such as begging. It was there that they realised his worth.

No one is quite sure what it is about Brother Albertus, but everyone agrees - you just can't say "No" to him forever. Whether it is his build, his sympathetic yet determined eyes, his knowing smile, or the guilt that he manages to fold into every phrase, but Albertus has never been turned away. He can squeeze even a spare Guilder off the tightest merchant in town!

So, when the Orphanage was failing, they sent Brother Albertus in to fix things up. Within a year, it was a booming success. The original building has since adopted the two neighbouring buildings as part of the complex (a generous show of charity from the local business owners), and the walls and roof are slowly being renovated to fix all drafts and drips. The orphans who live in the walls now number up to 30 at any one time, from the earliest ages up to 14 years old - each of them leaving with a solid apprenticeship hardly fought for by Brother Albertus and the child themselves. And every night they go to sleep with full bellies, paid for by the army of beggars that Albertus has trained.

For, Brother Albertus does indeed teach them a lot! He teaches them how to persistently ask for charity, and even how to handle themselves in a street fight (never how to hurt, but always how to disarm). He teaches them how to read and write, and on subjects he himself doesn't know, he manages to convince others to come and tutor the kids. Now, every week, more and more tutors are coming to the Orphanage - Anders Versalion, the local doktor, comes to check up on them all and teach them first aid, Haam Markvalt, a local revolutionary, teaches them oratory, public speaking, and poetry, and merchants from House Fooger have even been seen to come by and teach them proper business acumen!

Truly, the good work that Brother Albertus does now is enough to rub away the sins of his past. Let us just hope his old enemies agree, and don't come back to hurt him, now that he has something to lose...