“At the risk of sounding cliche,” the man continued, one hand on his hip, the other on the hilt of the sword hanging from his waist, “it’s your money or your life.” The man looked smugly around the room at the few remaining kitchen patrons and the dozen or so young children as his men stood ready with their swords out and hunger in their eyes. He was a tall brute of a man, quite intimidating even without the weaponry. His long, black beard had not been kept up with in the slightest, and a leather half cape hung from one shoulder. He probably thought it made him look like one of the buccaneers from the Wharf District, and it might have if it had been worn over the usual sailor’s garb rather than the workman’s uniform that was so common in the Black.

“Are you daft?” Agnes called out. She was not intimidated in the slightest by their audacity. “There’s barely enough money in this room to shine your shoes. If you boys want a cup of stew, get in line. Otherwise, I’ll kindly ask you to be on your way.”

“I don’t like your tone, crone,” the leader said, glowering at her. “You in charge of this establishment?”

“I am,” she glowered back, crossing her arms as she began slowly heading in his direction. Many of the kids were squirming and crying in fright.. She tried her best to calm them as she walked by. “And I’ll tell you again. There’s no money here, nothing to steal. This is a charitable organization, a haven for the down and out. Even the lowest crook wouldn’t be so disgraceful as to rob us.”

“That so?” he clucked. “You hear that, boys? Grandma here thinks we’re disgraces, thinks we shouldn’t be picking on her.” His men chuckled at that, but halfheartedly. Most of them felt she was probably right, and the rest were too dumb to follow along in the conversation. “Well,” he continued, “I’ll tell you this, Grandma, I don’t particularly care what you think. You’ve got people flowing through here all day in and out. I’ve been watching. So I figure you’ve got to be charging all those folks something to stay in business. You got some cash here. I know it.”

“You want our cash?” she spat, “Fine, this way. I’ll show you our cash.” She shook her head and stomped off toward the back of the room, waving at him to follow. She reached the back and pulled a small metal box out from behind the serving station, plopping it down on a nearby table. “There’s the money,” she growled, shoving it at them. The leader opened it up and dumped out two small silver marks on the table.

He flew into a rage and slammed the box down on the floor. “Quit holding out on me, crone!”

One of the kids took the distraction as an opportunity to run, making a beeline straight for the door but was caught by one of the armed men before she could get anywhere. “Hey boss,” the man cried out, “little runt tried to escape.”

“Hold on to her,” the leader barked, “maybe Grandma needs some motivation.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” Agnes hissed.

The leader turned around slowly, about to go into a speech when the doors burst open again from the outside. Four figures in colored hoods and masks poured through and struck a pose. “Never fear citizens!” they cried in near unison. “We are here to help!”

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