The Lay of Lywood (title tentative)- on Public Houses and social structures- Casual


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Hi everyone,

I wrote this scene a while ago, and I wanted to post it here to see if it makes sense. One of the tenets of the society I'm creating is that there is a systematic method to helping those who are poor/in need that their homes cannot provide. The government runs shelters in every town and city called "Public Houses." Essentially, anyone who is disabled, has a drinking or drug problem, or needs a bed for a night can go to the Public House and receive aid, no questions asked. Some towns, like the one my MC, Ada, lives in, utilize them better than others, especially the major cities. This is a somewhat medievalist society, so there are still some societal kinks that I'm working out, but in terms of the setting imagine a small town/village with agrarian resources. This is also the first draft of a first draft. In the following passage, I would like you to critique the following-
1) does the system make sense to you, a new reader?
2) are there inconsistencies that I'm not communicating well?
3) are you able to see the pros, cons, and systemic issues that come with the government's use and perception of these Public Houses rather than the smaller towns and villages?

In this scene, Jehan and Ada are on their way to the local village to sell her herbs and tinctures to members of the town. Jehan, a general in the royal army, has returned to the village after a long "deployment" in the capital city and is on leave to visit his family. Ada was his friend growing up, and he stopped for a visit and is now escorting her into town.

General writing comments are welcome as well. Thanks!
Jehan and Ada walked slowly through the woods, their path illuminated by the green-tinged sunlight through the trees. Every so often, Ada would pause to listen to the rustle of the trees or to take some birdseed from her pouch and spread it onto the ground for the robins that waited, perched with cocked heads in their respective branches.

"Why do you do that?" Jehan asked. "Surely the birds can get along without you."

Ada shrugged and gave a small smile. "I suppose they could," she said, lightly. "But there's no harm in helping them along, I suppose. So many people see them as a nuisance and shoo them away. I'd rather make sure they don't go hungry."

Jehan shrugged noncommittally. "In Astaria, there are laws against it. Too much waste. We have spikes on the walls to keep them from roosting. Keeps the city folk happy, at any rate."

Ada wrinkled her nose. "That sounds barbaric. How would you enjoy sitting on sharp spikes, especially when you've been walking or riding all day and need to rest?"

"Well, I suppose I wouldn't. But it's useful, and they keep the beggars from sleeping on other people's property."

"Well, then where do the beggars go? Surely, there are public houses for them provided by the king? Isn't that standard for such a large city?"

"Yes, of course, naturally," Jehan answered, with a patient air of explaining something very simple to a young child. "But there are far more beggars than the public houses can handle. The king can only tax the people so much. Besides, the people must learn that they cannot always rely on the king to provide services for them. They have to pull themselves together and figure out how to get a job. They simply need to try harder."

Ada pursed her lips and fell silent. She knew there were some in the village who felt the same way about the public houses, but in the end, room was always made for beggars at their own tables, even when the local public house was full. No one in the Valley went hungry because all of their neighbors pulled together to help. She could not imagine a city where the king decided that the only other option was to turn beggars out into the street, hungry and cold.

"Jehan," she eventually said, quite softly. "Do you remember Cole? Cole Wainright, Job's son."

Jehan glanced at her quizzically. "Of course I do," he said, briskly. "We played together as boys. Our mothers were good friends. Why do you ask?"

Ada bit her lip, unsure of how to begin. "You may not have heard this, but two years ago, he was kicked in the head by their horse. It was a complete accident, they think the horse was spooked by something... a rabbit or a bee. It doesn't matter, I suppose. But the damage to Cole was irreversible. Barnabas, the Doctor and I tried everything, but his mind is not what it used to be. He suffers from memory loss. Some days he simply forgets his chores and wanders off. Other days, Barnabas and I have to wrestle him to the ground and force him to take a calming draught because he is convinced he has been kidnapped by spirits and is being held against his will. Many times, the constable has found him wandering in the streets, wondering who or where he is. The Sisters of the Reverent Order at the Public House had to teach him to feed himself, bathe himself, and even speak all over again after the accident. Without their services, Job and Martha would have to stop working in order to care for him. They would be destitute now were it not for the Public House. But now that you have your wise advice from the king, I suppose I can just tell Cole to pull himself together again. That ought to straighten things out, and he'll no longer be a burden to the town."
What you have here is pretty good. It can be used as a framing for a narrative about social critique. Personally I think it needs more dragons but that is a genre choice. I would like to know more about The Sisters of the Reverent Order. Perhaps you should add a thieves guild to show the dirty under belly of the city. "No one in the valley went hungry because all of their neighbors pulled together to help" That reminds me of the line Gandalf said about the hobbits. Good work I would love to read more about your world.
Elise! I just found this (please blame my pandemic brain) and love it. The dialogue is from someone who has really thought about her position. The world-building parts make sense. I definitely want to read more!