The Merry Bowmen of Dale: Journeying East

Pull out your pack and head on down to the Prancing Pony for some great Role Playing (try to stay in character)!

Postby The_Fool » Tue May 09, 2006 11:39 pm

Time passed. The roll of the wagon lulled him, clearing his mind. A light sweat still covered him but the dizziness had left. Clearing his throat Façade sat forward in his inner sanctuary, speaking up in cracked tones. “Vodi?”

Jiyadan wondered if he should tell the man not to speak thus to him anymore. He hesitated a moment, then looked back. "What is it, Façade?"

“Is there water?” he crawled forward, rocking slightly on hands and knees as he made his way to the front of the wagon, positioning himself closer to S’hliyan’s side. The movement of the wheels made his head reel. “I have….a great thirst.”

"I believe there is some just behind me," he said, taking one hand from the reigns to wave it in the general direction where he meant.

Façade leant back against the wood, holding himself steady with both hands as he searched in the dark. The night did not make it easy to discern one shadow from another and he was finding it hard to focus well enough. A slow and heavy sigh fell from his lips as they jolted over a pothole in the road. The heavy thump of the water skin against his shin signalled the water’s presence. Fumbling in the darkness he found it and uncorked the skin with trembling fingers. For a moment he drank in silence, gulping water whilst the moonlight struggled to light their way.

When he had drunk his fill he settled closer to S’hliyan, leaning back far enough that the shadow of the wagon’s cover left him and the moon cast a silvery shadow upon his face. He studied the Easterling intensely, judgmental in his silence. If it made him uncomfortable the man gave no sign, though his gaze flicked to meet his own. Façade let the silence between them grow, never breaking the fierce eye contact he had established though S’hliyan’s flickered from time to time to watch the road ahead.

After some time, Jiyadan looked back down at Façade. "Are you comfortable enough?"

Façade regarded him for a moment before answering. When he did his voice was soft, still a little dry about the edges, as if he were on the verge of a cold. “That is not something Masters ask their slaves.”

"It is something I am asking you," Jiyadan replied, his own voice soft as if trying to speak that which he could not find the words for.

“Yes,” Façade murmured, and for the first time the ghost of a smile graced his lips. “You are strange to do so. I have yet to decide if you are practising a cruel joke at my expense.” If he had not suspected beyond any doubt that S’hliyan was no Slaver the Fool would never have spoken so brashly. But the night held in it the spice of the unusual.

At that, Jiyadan let his gaze linger for some time. Taking a deep breath, he looked back to the horses before speaking. "There is no joke being played, Façade. Nothing at your expense."

The Fool laughed; a brisk chuckle that tickled his throat. He paused, swallowing, and wiped distractedly at his hot forehead. “Quite the….sheep in wolf’s clothing, aren’t we?” The wagon jolted over a rock and he grimaced, pain lancing across his ribs. “Or maybe….maybe you are just a wolf. Ready to pass on the sacrificial lamb.”

"You are in no danger," Jiyadan replied evenly. He glanced back, his eyes trailing further to the cushions. "You should use the cushions, you are badly injured."

Façade snorted and stayed where he was. “I am in no danger. Why should I trust you? Why should I believe anything you say? You own me.”

"In which case, you would have little choice, hmm?"

The dry rasp of a laugh that fell from his lips was a mockery of mirth. “Very clever Vodi S’hliyan.” Façade’s eyes were bright, feverish in the dark. “But not good enough I’m afraid. I should already have been knocked across the face for this insolence. What stays your hand? A weak will? It cannot be kindness. Nobody in this cruel world knows what kindness is anymore.” The bitterness in his voice was as hard and sharp as cold steel.

Jiyadan looked back at him again, his face downcast. He knew well the cruelty that this land could deal. "You are not entirely wrong," he sighed. "This is a cruel world in which we find ourselves."

“Do not pretend you share my plight,” Façade spat back, anger getting the better of him. “You are free. Yet I am to be dumped and left to rot. Oh, I am sorry Master, to ‘heal’.”

"Would you rather be ridden to your death? I have no such skill to tend your wounds, Façade, and you are certainly in no shape to journey. It is against my own will that I must take you with me now. You should have stayed in Mahlaad to heal."

“Better dead than a slave,” Façade replied hotly. He could not understand why he could not quell his irritation and annoyed he brushed viciously at the strands of hair that stuck to his damp cheeks.

"There are worse fates in life than death, to be sure," Jiyadan murmured softly in agreement.

In the darkness Façade’s features took on a look of such imploring honesty that there could be no doubting the strength of his desire. “Then let me stay with you. Wolf or sheep you are the only man I have met who does not strike me for so much as breathing in a manner that displeases him. Please, I…I beg you!”

"I will not leave you to any harm, Façade. You will be well tended."

“You don’t know that!” Façade exclaimed, pushing himself upwards insistently. Another dip in the road caused him to sway unsteadily, a bony elbow hitting the wood with a crack. He barely felt it, a sudden tightening of his mouth the only indication he had registered the injury at all. He took a deep breath, shaking his head as a wave of dizziness engulfed him. “You don’t know anything….If I stay still….” A shudder passed through him as he recalled Bhenan’s dogs in the courtyard. The man’s serpentine hiss in his ear. “If I stay I am dead. He will find me.”

The vehement appeal in the man's voice gave Jiyadan a moment's pause and he looked back, his face lined with concern. Resting one hand on Façade's shoulder, he squeezed gently to reassure him. "I would not leave you with anyone who would cause you further harm. If I did not care for your wellbeing, I would not have... have bought you in the first place."

The look the Fool gave him was pure regret. He shook his head, and his eyes spoke of a resigned sorrow. “You try to do so much S’hliyan. But you only make things worse. No matter. Soon your hands will be washed of me.”

He turned away from Jiyadan, his disappointment hanging heavy in the night, a dark shadow that dimmed the light in his amber-brown eyes. “I am going to sleep now,” he said softly, removing himself from the Easterling’s grip and curling up in the cushions as another wave of nausea assaulted his senses. “Akanika s'akhi. (The night will come) It always does.”
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Postby The_Fool » Thu May 11, 2006 6:26 pm

The caged bird whistled dutifully, fluffing its brilliant plumage in competition with the ornate gilt of its cage. Disdainfully tossing aside his silk robe and opulent jewellery Bhenan found himself wishing his Uncle had less attachment to the stupid things. They hung in nearly every room of the house, chirping and singing. A veritable aviary of tuneless musicians.

Kicking aside a spare shoe Bhenan threw himself down into a chair, slumping gracefully into it as he stared moodily out across the private garden onto which his quarters opened. The scent of jasmine hung heavy in the warm night air, a welcome respite after the heavy scent of dinner. Which, he thought with some irritability, his Uncle had had the nerve to leave. Business matters to attend to. Bhenan had been livid. That pompous bo’risebrayn. To teach him a lesson Bhenan had made certain his favoured servant had suffered. The corners of his mouth twitched upwards in the ghastly mockery of a smile as he remembered the way she had screamed when his eating utensil had found its way into the back of her unprotected hand.

The smile faded, Bhenan’s expression turning petulant once more. One hennaed nail tapped against the polished wood of the chair’s arm, eyes lined in emerald green narrowing slightly as he stared out into the darkness. This entire journey was proving far too fruitless for his liking. He suspected that his darling Uncle was hiding something from him. The slave he had sent ahead of him had given two days grace to discover the whereabouts of Khaül’s exquisite Westron slave. He was not a common sight. He was for sale. He should not be hard to find. Which drew Bhenan to the deplorable conclusion that his Uncle was hiding the slave from him intentionally. Suddenly he wished with acidic venom that he had done more than maim that servant’s hand. The hennaed nails dug into the chair’s arm, spidery fingers tense as the talons of a hunting falcon.

There was an explosive bark, a skittering of canine nails on the floor followed by Htiet’s sharp command. The dogs paid him no heed, thundering into their Master’s bedchamber, the panting bodyguard hard on their heels.

“Harak-damned tsaykat!” Htiet threw the snapped leather leads at the head of Izis. The dog growled and snapped at him before leaping onto the bed and making itself comfortable.

“Htiet!” Bhenan threw out the reprimand violently, turning in his chair to fix his soldier with a look of pure malevolence. “Throw anything at my dogs again and I will throw you to them instead.”

Htiet snapped to attention, back straight, heels together as he bowed low. “My apologies Ba’radan S’ravashiv Bhenan. It shall not happen again.”

“See that it doesn’t.” Bhenan rose languorously, brushing the tips of his fingers over Azis’ sleek skull as he passed. “Where are my slaves Htiet? I grow tired of sitting in an empty room.” His beautiful eyes blazed, that girlish mouth working into a sneer. “Has my dear Uncle decided to free them too?”

Htiet remained bowed, hands pressed together in supplication. “Ba’radan, I have news I think you should hear.”

The sneer disappeared and one of Bhenan’s hands snaked out, grabbing Htiet by the jaw, forcing his face upwards as rage flared beneath the emerald green of his painted lids. “Don’t assume to think for me Htiet. That is not your job. Now be a good dog and go fetch my anan.” Bhenan shivered a little in delight as he stared Htiet down, enjoying the rough feel of the man’s beard beneath his fingers. “Sometimes I wonder why I picked you. You would think someone as insignificant as you, Htiet, would understand just how lucky he is to hold the title of bodyguard a little better.” Tossing Htiet’s head aside before flouncing across to his bed. Collecting Izis’ lethal snout in his hands he kissed the dog on its nose. Behind him he was satisfied to hear Htiet silently obeying his orders. The fact that he could feel the prickle of the man’s wounded pride and anger in the air only made him smile the wider. He may have gone too far this time. But then, what was life if it wasn’t a little dangerous?

A strong hand held a delicate glass cup out to him, the liquid contents laced with the opiate Bhenan had requested. Glancing coyly out of the corner of his eyes Bhenan took the glass from Htiet, laughing outright at his stony expression. “Oh dear Htiet. Have I angered you terribly? How callous of me. How about I make if up to you. I’ll actually listen to your ‘urgent’ news.” Leaning back on the bed Bhenan took a simpering sip of his drink, eyeing his bodyguard over the rim. For a few moments Htiet remained silent. Delighted Bhenan laughed again, extending a leg to nudge the soldier’s shin with the toe of his gold sandal. “Now, now Htiet. Don’t sulk. It’s so unattractive in a man of such masculine attributes.”

“I see the harak-anan is improving your humour,” Htiet grunted.

“I see it is not improving yours.” The Ba’radan S’ravsahiv took another sip, moistening his lips with the tip of a pink tongue.

For a moment Htiet was silent, his expression blank apart from a slight crinkle in his brow. “Ba’radan, I think your Uncle has just sent your desired target away from the compound under the care of a tall male Easterling and a pearly-haired foreigner. It was dark, but there are lamps enough to light the gloom of the courtyard near the gates. I was walking Azis and Izis. Your Uncle….he mentioned your name. I do not think he thought I could hear him. The slave the Easterling was trying to give over to him….” he trailed off, his frown deepening.

“What about it?” Bhenan hissed, leaning forward now, the glass in his hand trembling a little. The perfect angel’s face filled with so terrible a fury it could have made the gods flinch.

“He was terrified Ba’radan. Of your dogs. As if he knew from experience just what they are capable of.”

Silence. Bhenan said nothing at all and yet his entire body quivered. “Sa kai bo'risebrayn!!!” The glass flew from his hand, hitting the wall opposite and shattering with a deafening crash.
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Postby SilverScribe » Sat May 13, 2006 12:15 pm

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After a few unsettling moments where Yitak's gelding and her warhorse snapped and fretted at each other, she got the large wagon underway, trundling heavily after Jiyadan. From her vantage point, she could see the Westron, fretting and tossing in his padded nest. She pressed her lips together tightly. He was in for a very bad time of it.

After a time, her stomach growled and she reached under the seat, glad that she had rescued a portion of the food Jiyadan had taken from Zar Calekh's haven. As she munched on a roll and some of the cold but still deliciously spicy strips of cooked meat, she saw movement on the road far ahead where the nomad rode. All thoughts of food disappeared. She narrowed her eyes and quickly counted the blue robed, mounted figures that appeared on the road. Three Ash-Gareh.

As the wagons drew up even with Givi, Jiyadan slowed his wagon and stopped, forcing Scribbles to do the same. She held the reins loosely in her left hand while under her cloak her right hand crossed her body to rest on the hilt of the big broadsword. She didn't sense immediate danger, but here in the East, there was no way to be sure. After a short conversation that Scribbles could only catch snatches of, the Ash-Gareh melted away and Givi gave an all clear before once more riding on ahead. Scribbles relaxed and taking the reins in both hands, clucked at the horses. They lurched into motion once again, Jiyadan now pushing the horses harder. The night was waning and Shyst was still a good distance away.

The increased speed made the ride rougher, the wagons jouncing more heavily over the hard packed road. Whether it was this or just simple restlessness, she watched as the Westron stirred from his padded nest and made his way to the front of the wagon, settling himself behind the driver's bench to one side of where Jiyadan sat. After a few spoken words he began to search among the wagon's contents. Had Jiyadan any weapons among all that gear? Concerned, she urged her horses on until they were closer behind the lead wagon.

She blew out a silent breath of relief when the Westron merely lifted a waterskin and drank deeply. Still, it would not go amiss to keep an eye on him, there was something unsettling in his manner and the few bits of conversation she could catch over the night wind and the creak and rumble of the wagons did little to settle her suspicions. Only when the Westron returned to his place and curled up did she relax.

They ran and walked the horses by turns, but the pace they set was still hard on them. Scribbles knew that her warhorse could take the punishment, bred and trained for long hours on a battlefield but still she fretted as foam began to fleck the coats of both horses. The sun broke the horizon and still the road ahead remained empty, clear of any sign of habitation.

Givi had led them off the road once, just as the eastern horizon was showing a slight line of pearly light. There was a small well there, hidden among a tumble of low rocks and they stopped long enough to rest and water the horses and themselves before pressing on. She was grateful for the nomad's presence, their chances of making Shyst without dying of thirst or being ambushed had surely been multiplied a hundredfold merely with his being among them.

The sun was well up and the morning in full bloom when finally a smudge of smoke on the horizon signalled the presence of a settlement of any size. Another hour brought the walls and the inevitable sprawling settlements around them within range of her sharp peredhel eyesight, another 30 minutes and the she knew the men had caught sight of it as well. Very soon, even the smell was evident on the morning breeze, the aromatic scents of wood smoke, cooking food and the press of men and animals. The horses snorted as soon as they scented the city, it meant water and fodder and above all, rest.

She wanted three things. To be rid of the slave, sell all the excess baggage and get a very large meal, in that order.

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Postby Jiyadan » Sat May 13, 2006 8:14 pm

Shyst lay on the main North-South road through Rhun, as well as being on a major East-West crossroad. It was the largest city in the district, holding several noble households, military armories, courts, libraries and a university that drew citizens from all over the land. The city had long since outgrown its spectacular walls and spread out a considerable distance in all directions, but the wealthiest parts of the city still remained inside the walls. Beyond these outer neighborhoods sprawled fields and pasturelands, though it seemed to the approaching travelers that they lay unusually bare and brown. Another testament to the plague that ravaged the land.

For all logical purposes, Shyst would have been the major slave market but the citizens there had not wanted to deal with the dirt and vulgarities that such practices would bring, even if they benefited from the trade greatly. The citizens of Shyst were proud of their wealth and standing and did not want that darkness in their own midst. Therefore, they had pushed the market upon Mahlaad, which grew up quickly as a result, yet grew dark also, filled with the filth of the trade.

Shyst held a high standard in its own market and slave caravans were forbidden from setting camp on the outskirts of the city. Only the wealthiest of slavers could come here and often only those with estates in the city to house the slaves until sale. The market was like a gallery, each owner putting his best wares on display as the nobles or their servants would walk through the courtyard and admire them.

Each type of service offered had its own section also, from common field hand to those who could read and write, even children, each in their own specialized section of the market, and even the most unseemly practices were known to occur there. Jiyadan was grateful that nothing would require them to visit the vile place. However, as they drew closer to the city itself, a darkness of another kind loomed slightly over him.

He pushed it from his mind as he considered how well they were likely to be received. He needed only to sell these items in the market. Perhaps the Scribe and nomad did not even have to enter the city. When they were still a little ways off, already the bustle at the main gates was visible as people came and went for their morning business. The roads were filled with colour and movement, watched unblinking by the garrison on the city walls, helms and spear-heads glittering in the late morning sun. This was a proper city of Rhun, not that dung heap they had just left filled with gutter rats whose lower sections were bathed in constant blackness, in which lurked the worst foulness of the human race.

Still a good distance from the city, Jiyadan pulled his wagon to a halt and waited until the Scribe had come up even with him. The nomad stopped a little bit ahead and turned to look back, Jiyadan motioned him back with a wave. As they waited for him, he turned to the Scribe and spoke. "This is not like the city we have left. Shyst is a wealthy city that does not see fit to dirty its collective hands in the filth of the base flesh-trade. But do not think, therefore, that it does not exist here. It has merely been refined to an... art." He spat out the last word, the bitter irony thick on his tongue.

When Givi joined them, he raised his voice a little for both of them to hear. "I will be selling that cart and all its contents in the market. I... I hope to meet Zar Calekh's contact there, for Façade. There is no reason why the two of you must accompany me, though no particular reason why I must go alone either. I will leave it up to you."

As he let them think, he gazed back down on the city, his eyes tracing the lines of the city walls, the buildings, the roofs. The wind tugged at his hair as it swept through the hills, bringing with it the smells of the city, thick with amber and hyssop; not the stink and sweat of Mahlaad. His eyes came to rest on one building in particular, focused on it for some time until he realized someone was speaking. "I'm sorry, what were you saying?"
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Postby Frelga » Mon May 15, 2006 11:04 pm

"I said, I see no use in separating," Givi repeated. His first attempt at speech was swallowed by a huge yawn. This adventure would turn him into a bat, he thought, sleeping through the day, flitting around madly all night. "If all goes as smoothly as you say, we can be on our way sooner without having to find each other. If all does not go smoothly - why, it would be easier to smooth things out together."

While Jiyadan considered his suggestion, Givi rode a little closer to his cart and leaned down to look at the Westron. The morning sunlight wasted no color on the pallid face, bony and gleaming with sweat although the man seemed to shiver with cold.

"Is he injured?" the hillman asked Scribe. She nodded, her lips pursed - not a good sign for the sick man. Givi sighed. "Pity. He must have had some spirit once, or his master wouldn't let him to come to such harm. He is too valuable." The last word sizzled like a curse. "No matter now. Night has passed. But say - " He paused. Jiyadan's assumed name escaped his memory. S, it began with an S but then? Oh, forget it. "Do you mean to exit your… trade, then?"

"I am." Jiyadan was clearly not pleased to be reminded of his masquerade, nor did Givi blame him.

"I thought - you don't stand out too much, and I am only a sack of straw inside the blue robe, for all anyone knows. But Scribe, she cannot be mistaken for any other, nor can she easily be disguised. If she is seen, you would be marked. I could lend her my robe. Once you are done with your business, you can be followed by another man and your nomad guide, a very tall one. Or perhaps by two nomads, if there is an Ash-Gareh merchant in this market."
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Postby SilverScribe » Sat May 27, 2006 4:24 pm

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"This is not like the city we have left," Jiyadan offered quietly. "Shyst is a wealthy city that does not see fit to dirty its collective hands in the filth of the base flesh-trade. But do not think, therefore, that it does not exist here. It has merely been refined to an... art."

She made no reply, merely catalogued the information. She was relieved that they would be dropping the "slave" guise, she had never been comfortable with it though she understood why Jiyadan had suggested it in the first place. As distasteful a charade as it had been, it had covered their trek deep into the East somewhat effectively, but now, that effectiveness was at an end. They needed another way . . .

They both waited until the nomad Givi had rejoined them. "There is no reason why the two of you must accompany me," Jiyadan said, "though no particular reason why I must go alone either. I will leave it up to you."

Givi's statement about staying together made sense and she agreed silently without saying a word. It would not do for them to become separated now, if anything went wrong, Jiyadan and Givi both might be grateful for her sword. She on the other hand, was relying on Givi's knowledge of the surrounding countryside and Jiyadan's knowledge of the city and the correct market in which to dump their goods, not to mention the slave. As though he read her mind, the nomad edged his horse to the rear of Jiyadan's wagon and looked at the slave, then looked up at her. She returned his look calmly and nodded a silent affirmation to his question. She was not certain of the extent of the man's injuries, but she was fairly sure that they were not slight. And she had studied enough of herblore to recognize the taint of drug use, even if the slave's previous owner had not freely admitted drugging him she would have suspected. The man was in serious physical trouble.

She listened closely to Givi's suggestions for entering the city and when he was done, she spoke up quickly. "He makes a good point, Shliyan. Even cloaked and hooded in elven grey I will be marked, for the Eldar do not commonly travel here. Uncloaked I will stand out even more, you yourself made that clear aboard ship when we sailed the sea of Rhun. Givi's suggestion is a sound one, behind the robe and headscarf of the Ash Gareh, I will not draw any more attention than any nomad would. And I have been successfully mistaken for a man more times than I can count . . . " she trailed off. She did not need to state the obvious to Jiyadan, he was very aware of how badly she had failed trying to play a female slave.

Jiyadan waited until she fell quiet, then nodded silently for a moment before replying. "Better, now, do I understand you. Better than on the ship. That may be the best course of action for us."

Givi nodded. "But I think it best if we do not make an exhange of clothing in the middle of the road," Jiyadan pointed out. Givi shielded his eyes with his hand then swept the countryside between them and the visible but still somewhat distant city. "There is not much cover here," he replied, "and to go too far off the road will look suspicious." Scribbles nodded. "Agreed, but to be pulled just off the road because one of the horses needs looking at will not look strange at all. The wagons are large enough to cover our movements, we can check over the horses, then when we move behind the wagons, I can take your robe. You will drive the wagon, I will ride your horse and no one will be the wiser, yes?"

'Then we can dump the Westron, you can get some rest and Shliyan can buy me that big breakfast he promised me,' she thought to herself.

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Postby Jiyadan » Sat Jun 10, 2006 6:50 pm

The transfer of cloth and identity took but a few minutes and no one passed on the road to show curiosity or suspicion. Soon not one but two nomads accompanied the 'slaver' yet it did little to settle the sickness that rose within Jiyadan as they once again took to the road towards the main gates.

Scents carried on the wind as they approached, horrifying in their familiarity. Jiyadan whispered prayers to A'imha as they passed under the shadow of the old wall and through the towering gates. He had pulled his own scarf up higher to hide his face, though who would recognize him now? Who would think to pin his identity after all these years?

Façade slept still and Jiyadan was grateful for that. If fate would but cast a smile upon them for the morning, then the man would be safely in the care of men who could tend his wounds and perhaps even get him home. The man's knowledge of the Shi'uri, nay - his claim to be one of them himself! Perhaps returning him home would be easier than he suspected. It was nothing to get the man to Harad. Caravans passed between the two lands freely even now with tensions high between the kingdoms. He would speak to Zar Calekh's contact about getting him south if Façade agreed, and not risk the road west.

His eyes strayed to where the Scribe rode, then to those they passed who were curious of the slavers that rode with a nomad. Nomads were not known to often ride in cities nor openly with slavers, but the curiosity was at least of a lesser danger than if he had ridden with a woman or an Eldar. "No matter," he mumbled to himself. By noon the city and this charade would be behind them.

Jiyadan led them through the smaller streets to less notable markets, yet even here few things were easily parted with. No one wanted the cast off items of slaves and few vendors would take on such items that were of small likelihood to be sold again. He had known that not all of the things would go but he was beginning to think perhaps they would need to discard more than he had thought outside the city.

Still the westerner slept and Jiyadan wondered at how exhausted he must have been to sleep through the noise and clamour of the city. And yet no contact had yet approached them either and Jiyadan was growing in his unease at the situation. He could not take the man with them, that was not their purpose in being here and it would only hinder the task they must do.

After a string of unsuccessful attempts to unload the mats the slaves had slept on, he stopped the small group at a street cafe and offered the meal that the Scribe most obviously desired now. Though Façade would no doubt be hungry also, Jiyadan let him sleep. He would ensure he was fed when he woke and hoped it was not before they left the cafe for he would not want to make him stay hungry while he and the others ate yet he still could not risk treating the man as an equal.

The serving girl brought out tea and Jiyadan sipped it, finding a bizarre measure of comfort in the drink as his eyes kept constant watch on anyone passing by, looking unconsciously for a face that might recognize him... or one he might himself recognize. They were not far now, not far from... he cut off his thoughts abruptly.
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Postby SilverScribe » Wed Sep 06, 2006 9:23 pm

She followed, as did Givi, as Jiyadan led them a winding way through streets that slowly became narrower and narrower. Smaller, less active markets revealed themselves, tucked here and there in pockets of lesser commerce. She watched silently as Jiyadan tried, sometimes successfully but most times not, to unload the goods associated with their slave trade charade. Finally, wearied and frustrated, he led them to a small streetside café, where they could sit and yet watch the wagon where Façade yet slept on, oblivious to everything. Jiyadan offered a meal and both she and the nomad readily agreed.

She finished by wiping up the last of a savoury vegetable mixture with a generous piece of soft, warm flatbread, then took her time chewing and swallowing. It had been a very long time since she had tasted anything quite so exotic and she wanted to savour every last morsel. But finally, her plate was clean and as she drained the last of her sweet tea, she caught movement in the street behind Jiyadan. She watched without making it obvious, marking the man's movements, every glace he sent their way whenever he stopped and pretended to examine some ware or another at various stalls in the market opposite the café where they sat. She waited until she was sure, then leaned over and poured both herself and Jiyadan more tea. As she did so, she spoke quietly.

"I think the contact you have awaited now approaches."

Jiyadan nodded but made no other outward sign. Finally, the man crossed the street and entered the café. After a few moments, he returned to the street and sat at the empty table to one side of them. When the serving girl had brought him tea and a dish of figs and then left, he glanced over at Jiyadan. He said something rapidly and quietly in Eastron that she had no hope of catching and Jiyadan sipped his tea before replying. The man nodded, then paid them no more attention as he turned to his tea and figs.

She raised a single eyebrow, barely visible under the blue scarf of the Ash Gareh. Givi too, looked to Jiyadan with a question showing plainly on his face. Jiyadan leaned both elbows onto the small table and spoke, his voice low.

"He will follow us to the market, and when I try to sell the extra tent, he will offer to buy it, along with some of our other goods. I will agree and we will follow him to deliver whatever he buys."

Jiyadan rose and went into the café to pay for the meal. When he returned, they moved once more into the street, following one particular one for a long distance until they came to another small market. Once again, Jiyadan tried to sell various items, with the same mixture of luck. When he offered the tent to a canvas merchant, the man from the café approached, and as agreed, made a clear offer for the tent, as well as the sleeping mats and some of the extra cooking gear. He asked Jiyadan if he would be so kind as to follow with the wagons to deliver the goods, and in moments, they were winding their way out of the market.

She was tempted to take a large silent breath of relief, but deciced to wait and see if the "contact" was truly that, or a spy. If the former, they would soon be lighter of a lot of gear and one tattered Westron slave. If the latter, they might be in for a nasty surprise.

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Postby Frelga » Thu Sep 21, 2006 10:38 pm

Givi followed Jiyadan and Scribe through the succession of shabby marketplaces and shady merchants, while his impatience grew into furious amazement. What was the man doing? Why was he parading them all over the city for the sake of a few coins?

The streets grew narrower until the wagon with the sleeping Westron made a snug fit between the whitewashed walls. Givi's mare, bred in the wide desert plains, balked as they entered a knife-slit of an alley with laundry flapping on the lines stretched from roof to roof. The horse would have been happier being lead than ridden, but Givi had no wish to limp across the entire city.

The alley brought them to another little market. And how did the El Zikher come to know the back streets of Shyst so well, Givi wondered. Jiyadan launched into negotiations concerning the ragged bedding. Givi ground his teeth to keep from biting his nails.

While Jiyadan haggled, Givi looked the market over. He saw no threat. Instead, his gaze fell on the freshly painted blue shutters of a small shop, occupying a conspicuous site opposite the widest entrance to the square.

The singer ran a thumb along his jaw, bared to the wind now that Scribe sported his headscarf. Then he broke into a wide grin, and his eyes sparkled with devilment.

"Would you watch them for a few moments, Scribe?" he asked the blue-swaddled warrior, waving at Jiyadan and the sleeping Westron slave. "That shop over there, it is owned by one of my Ash-Gareh brethren. I would like a few words with him."

For a moment, Scribe's luminous eyes held his. Givi couldn't see her eyebrows under the headscarf, but he was sure that one of them must be going up. Then she nodded and the singer rode across the market square toward the shop. He looped the reins over the brass post near the doorway and went in.

Blue shutters shadowed the insides of the shop. Thin stripes of light glinted on copper pots and turquoise-studded leather, sliver brooches and long swords in red scabbards. Givi crossed the front room in three limping strides, moved a servant boy out of the way, and went into the back of the store where the blue-robed master rose to meet his impertinent visitor.

The singer's quick eye caught the man's impressive height, square shoulders, and rounded middle. The headscarf was a mere scrap of blue fabric that would have brought wrath of the desert folk on the wearer, yet the shopkeeper had not discarded it completely, as some other city-dwelling Ash-Gareh did. Before the merchant could speak, Givi dropped to his knees and pressed his forehead to the thick carpet.

"O cousin, I am far from the tents of my clan in this city. Open your hands, for I must place my life in your keeping." The florid courtesies of the Ash-Gareh flowed easily from Givi's tongue. Unless I can get by with just giving you some coins, he added to himself.

"Who in all dry sands are you?" the merchant demanded, staring at Givi's bare head and city clothes.

"I am Givi Sharvili, the Foundling of Sekkura's clan." Givi saw the shopkeeper's eyes widen - the man had heard of him. "To help a friend, I gave up the clothes the clan-mother made, and now sun is hot on my head and wind is bitter. I would gladly give many coins for a set of old robes, if you have them here."

"You let another man wear the scarf of the Ash-Gareh? Who is he?" The merchant was indignant. Givi made a show of as penitent a crouch as he was able to conjure. After a long and incredulous silence, the merchant spoke in appalled whisper. "You do not mean to say, Foundling, that you gave it to a woman to wear?"

"Alas! What was I to do? Her life and two others were in danger. Our enemies were many, with swords in their hands and gold in their purses. And she is not the sort to be forgotten by anyone who catches a mere glimpse."

"So? She is lovely, then, this woman?"

Givi pushed himself up to sit on the rug. He raised shining eyes to the ceiling, as if to contemplate beauty too exalted for words. "Men have lost their heads at meeting her," he said, thinking of Yitak's guard. "She is tall and steps out with strength. Her skin is smooth, free of blemish. Her hair is like pearls and amber. And her eyes are the color of the most prized amethyst, like Eastern sky when the setting sun touches the sands in the evening. You see now, if my friend was seen with her, his enemies would surely know him and follow him everywhere. Now, about those robes…"

For all Giv's promises of coin, he bargained hard for the clothes, in flowery phrases that made Uzmir, the merchant, laugh even as he lowered the price.

"You are a rascal without a doubt, but Sekkura made a good find," Uzmir the merchant said, handing over the package. "Mind that you bring the woman here, so I may see for myself this fabled beauty."

"I will, if only it is safe to do so." The safety foremost in Givi's mind was his own. He had not known Scribe long, but something was telling the singer that she would not welcome a request to flaunt her charms. Taking leave of the merchant, Givi exited the shop, mounted and rejoined Scribe and the still-haggling Jiyadan. The robe he stuffed into his saddle bag.

To Givi's great relief, it wasn't long before Jiyadan led them to their meal. Before long Givi found himself following a stranger who claimed to be Zar Calech's contact. Soon, he thought. Soon they would be free of the Westron, of wagons and tents that reeked with the misery of slave trade, of these treacherous alleys. Then he would don the blue headscarf and ride the hot winds, to certain danger and uncertain glory.
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Postby Jiyadan » Thu Jun 28, 2007 7:04 am

Jiyadan said nothing after they had left the small market. Nothing need be said. The contact was taking them to where they not only could be rid of the final semblance of the mask they had taken on, but also see to it that their charge was given into safe hands. His eyes flickered down to where the man still lay curled and asleep on the wagon. He wondered how tired he must be to sleep through all the noises and jostling of the markets, but soon this would be no more his concern.

He thought of the angry words exchanged between himself and the Scribe over the man. Bitter words. He hoped that such arguments could be at last put aside. He had had his fill of anger and bitterness for many lifetimes.

Still his thoughts could not be entirely quelled on the concerns that Façade had voiced about his safety. He trusted Zar Calekh and therefore would trust his contact here but he hoped that trust was not misplaced. He had to trust them.

Jiyadan did not know how much time had passed, too lost in thought to notice, until the came to a stop before large, ornately carved gate.

"We are here." They were ushered through and down a long passageway until they stepped out into an open, courtyard and garden beyond. The contrast was startling compared to the dark narrow streets they had just been lead through. The sun was bright and high and a slight breeze even found its way here. Fountains and ponds dotted the area, nestled amongst flowering beds and bushes. A small grove of fruit trees lay beyond, up against the City's outer wall which formed the furthest border.

The other three sides were formed by the wings of the main house. A covered breezeway surrounded the lower floor, and from above an occational balcony looked out over the gardens.

In the center of the gardend was a low platform covered with a pavilion whose sides were drawn back to reveal soft cushions, reclining couches and low tables. Lanterns hung from its ceiling to light the pavilion at night, yet the shade was cool and inviting during the day.

Servants came out to take the horses, though the one who reached for the Scribe's reins was quickly stopped. Bowing, he backed away.

From behind, another voice caused Jiyadan to turn as a woman, dressed with a simple elegance and followed by several servants with laden trays, came out from the house. "You are welcome here, travelers. Please, Take your rest here for a while and let us refresh you."

Their contact gave a broad smile as he gestured. "My wife, Soalna. And I you may call Yusal. Indeed, once we have your charge safely away, stay and eat with us. We will take our meal in the pavilion." His countenance seemed to improve within the privacy of his own home, and no wonder.

Jiyadan nodded and gave his warm thanks for their help, and then turned the weighty matter of his 'charge'. Several servants who had been called had already gathered around the cart to tend to Facade. A cool rag was laid across his head as some water was brushed on his lips.

"Will he live?" Jiyadan asked, watching with a bit of concern as the servants gently laid him on a litter to carry to the house. Once he was lifted from the cart, it began to empty as the various items remaining were taken away to storerooms.

"I can not yet give you any assurances, but I will say he is not the worst I have seen, though he has no doubt sustained much injury. He will be tended to the best of my ability, you have my word."

Jiyadan said nothing but watched as Facade was carried through a doorway and disappeared. He said a silent prayer and then turned back to Yusal. Now only the small band and their horses and gear remained of what had entered the City gates that morning. "Your hospitality is welcome and appreciated, thank you. As you know, my name is Jiyadan. My companions, Silverscribe and Givi."

Yusal bowed to each of them, then with a gesture, led them all to the pavilion where his wife and servants were already setting the low tables with the content of the many trays. Fruits and meats, pies and pitchers of cool drink, bread and rice and sauces all were laid out for the group. Jiyadan felt a twinge as he reclined at one of the tables, feeling the odd juxtaposition of being served at such a meal.
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