Closed [The Drunken Fish] I am a disappointed drudge, sir. (Kynier)

Dovey and Kynier meet at the tavern where Dovey is enslaved.

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[The Drunken Fish] I am a disappointed drudge, sir. (Kynier)

Postby Dovey on June 28th, 2018, 2:52 am

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27 Summer, 518 AV
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They had lied to her. They had struck her. They had trussed her up like a pig. They had carried her off in the crowded little hold of a boat that smelled like horse piss, and unpacked her in a city she didn't know where that looked about ready to fall to pieces, and then these petchers - these dogpetchers, sons of harlots and hanged men, miserablest little devotees of Rhysol that ever had the gall to draw breath - had sold her (a Freeborn!) to a fat, foul old Lucy-midget barkeep that thought he was a petchin' Dynasty head and entitled to rule the world. A man that thought she, Dovey, rightly as free as the air and with the brand to prove it, would cringe from him in terror and obey his every command.

And of course, he was absolutely right.

Uncoiling from the comforting ball she'd briefly curled herself into - it was just too hot for that shyke - Dovey thumped onto her back. She spreadeagled herself, stretching the tension out of her limbs, the fingers of her left hand just brushing the edge of the next pallet over. Petch her if it hadn't been nice silently lashing those men one more time with every word they deserved.

Petch her if it had done so much as a lick of lasting good.

Staring at the ceiling of the dingy little room, Dovey sighed so forcefully it was almost a moan. No fear of disturbing anyone; the pallet beside her was empty, its occupant downstairs serving beer, and the girl huddled by the far wall was snoring loud enough to wake herself if she'd been going to wake at all anytime soon. Father Manowar liked to keep the girls who shared a room on different shifts; it meant a returning slave could roust the next one out, and nobody else had to come up and fetch them.

And as if that thought had summoned her, the resident of the next pallet over slipped quietly in through the door.

Dovey groaned at the girl's arrival, and flopped against the thin mattress as though she were powerless to get up. "Jane! Jane, take my shift too, please."

Jane scoffed, not unkindly, and dropped front first onto her own pallet. "Not a chance, woman," she said, resting her cheek against the cloth beneath her so that she faced Dovey. "Been up since dawn and you know it. Get."

With a rueful twist to her lips, Dovey clambered to her feet.

It wasn't really the long hours, she reflected, emerging onto the second-floor balcony and shutting the door carefully behind her. The hours were long, and they did tire her, specially as she couldn't loaf at all for fear of Father Manowar coming round the bar and clouting her upside the head; but she'd run herself ragged for work before, during hungry seasons in Kenash. What wore her down was the pointlessness of it. She'd head downstairs and serve ale into the night, and sweet-talk rowdy customers into paying for what they'd bought, and when she went to bed in the morning nothing would be different - not by so much as a copper miza in her pocket. So it had gone yesterday, and so tomorrow too. What was the point of living the same day over and over again?

She threaded her way across the crowded balcony toward the stairs, trying not to make any unnecessary eye contact. She still had to work, of course - pointless or not. No good living the meaningfullest life of all if you weren't eating, and she wouldn't be fed out of the kindness of Manowar's heart. She padded down the creaky wooden staircase and into the crush of revelers, looking out for anyone with an empty mug, or anyone who had sat down without getting a drink from the bar.


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[The Drunken Fish] I am a disappointed drudge, sir. (Kynier)

Postby Kynier on June 28th, 2018, 10:49 pm

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Baroque Bay never ceased to amaze him. It wasn’t in what he saw or the dealings that may have occurred within this part of the city. It was the ambience. In the salt water air there wasn’t the hint of fight or flight one could sense elsewhere. The sailors and laborers here were all dedicated to their profession instead of finding out what they could take away from the person next to them. Perhaps Kynier was being naïve. Maybe he was just happy that his sense of touch had finally returned after twenty days of nullification. Overgiving was a real Khur-va. Though without the deprivation he wouldn’t have been able to enjoy his own perception of things.

Walking through the narrow alleys he occasionally grazed the wall a finger. The porous stones of the brick were slick with moisture. The humidity was uncomfortable with the summer heat, but that didn’t stop him from smiling. Sweat lined his body and soaked into his cotton brown shirt. He had rolled the sleeves up past his elbows exposing his almost unnoticeably tanned skin. Overtop he wore his dark green vest with its many concealed compartments which held larceny tools and personal treasures. His dark cotton pants were tucked into his high boots. A short sword and dagger hung on his belt, while an assassin’s dagger was stowed away in his boot.

For nearly a bell he had been roaming the alleys looking for a particular beggar. Old Wayd was his name, if Kynier recalled correctly. It had been sometime since he last saw the beggar and was curious if there was any news of note to be had. Not quite where he had meet him last time, but close, the old man sat in the shade looking at the harbor. Kynier softened his steps and came up from behind. He tested to see how close he would be before the beggar took notice. When he was in weapon’s reach the old beggar still hadn’t noticed him. The hollering and clanging of ships unloading their holds had disguised his approach. Kynier stood to his full height and smiled.

“Hello Wayd,” he said suddenly and loudly. The old man cried out and his body shook as it tried to determine where to run. He never got off his rump but just fell over, shaking. Kynier chuckled as the beggar glared up at him.

“You trying to give me a Dust Nap?” the man said bitterly. He regained his composer and sat against the alley in the shade again. Indignant were his eyes as they peered up at the spy. He held out a hand expectantly.

Kynier shook his head, “Information first, Wayd. If it’s any good you get paid.” Bitterly the man sucked on his teeth as he looked out at the harbor again.

“Lots of ships coming in. More with slaves than usual. Heard the Vino been around and asking questions.” Kynier pondered that for a moment as he also looked out at the harbor. Ships of various shapes and sizes were docked at nearly every pier available. A larger vessel with three masts caught his eye for some reason.

“What sort of questions?”
The beggar shrugged. “Ships. Maybe buying some, or hiring some. They haven’t been by all that much.” The beggar looked up at Kynier with hopeful eyes. Kynier met the man’s eyes and kept his expression blank.
“You said there were more slave ships than normal. Have all the slaves been going to the market?”
Wayd shook his head, long gray hair and beard flopping as he did. “Some been taken to the Drunk Fish. Others to other places. Some just went right back on the ship.” Kynier reached into his pocket and tossed the old man a silver. Something along the lines of delight bloomed on the beggar’s face.
“If the Vino come back and ask more questions, try to learn what exactly it is they’re asking. If you can do that you may get some extra silver. Wayd nodded his head as he clutched his new coin tightly to his chest. Kynier stepped out of the shade to walk along the docks. It made sense for the Vino to be asking about ships. They had their own private docks yet they weren’t every really used. Maybe they were expanding again.

Kynier made his way to the Drunken Fish. His appetite was for more than food and a less than hot beverage. He didn’t understand why there would be slaves at a tavern. To satisfy his curiosity he entered the three storied building. Inside was filled with tumultuous activity and conversation. People were lounging, drinking, and playing games to ease their daily burden. Kynier looked around and saw a vacant place at the bar with a good vantage point. He settled himself there and was able to easily observe the stairway to the next floor, the bar, as well as most of the table area without needing to turn his head much.

For a few chimes he sat there. One hand was feeling the wooden surface of the counter. The residual sticky texture of spilt beer and blood coating the surface. The other hand strummed rhythmically with his fingers. He soaked in the sensation of both actions, getting drunk in a different way from the rest of the patrons. Until a small, thin, dark haired girl climbed down the stairs. Her watery blue eyes quickly scanned the bar until they rested on him. From the way her dark brows hovered over her eyes he guessed she was a barmaid. When she came over to him he gave her a polite smile.

“I would like a meal please, sausage pork and vegetables. And clean, cold water if it’s available.” His eyes took in her simple clothes and shoulder length, stringy, dark hair. The barmaid looked as though she hadn’t bathed in days. Kynier felt there was a little irony there, being a stone’s throw from the docks. But that only meant she was working long and hard. Subconsciously, his fingers continued to strum the counter.
Sometimes the only way to win is by relinquishing a superior position.

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[The Drunken Fish] I am a disappointed drudge, sir. (Kynier)

Postby Dovey on June 30th, 2018, 2:58 am

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It took Dovey a good few ticks to spot anybody who needed serving. Here there was a table of gamblers, each with a foaming mug - there a skinny lad devouring a plate full of unidentifiable meat, who looked like he might bite if anyone came too near. Drunk toughs crowded her on all sides, laughing, obstructing her view; she ducked past and squeezed between them, making for the long bar by the wall. At least there she could get her back against something.

Standing by the wall was a little quieter, and she took the moment to glance up and down the line of patrons at the bar. A bartender stood ready to serve them if they liked, but perhaps - yes, there - a tall young fellow, who sat drumming his fingers on the bar, had nothing yet in front of him. She edged over to him and was met with a smile, which put her a little at ease.

He ordered at once, answering her habitual "would'y'like anything?" before she could even ask it. He wanted a meal not just drink, which explained why the bartender hadn't taken care of him, but his second request made her pause in dull surprise. "Ah. We've got water." (Gods, that 'we' still stuck in her throat.) "I dunno how clean it is, though." And making it cleaner would likely involve boiling it, which wouldn't exactly help when it came to the water being cold. "You sure you don't just want something weak? Small ale?"

She observed him curiously while she waited for his answer. It was strange enough that he'd come into a tavern and ask for water - why not just find a street vendor to sell you a meal, if you didn't want a strong drink with it? - but the man seemed an odd customer in more ways than that. He had greeted her so politely, for one thing. She guessed he wasn't a sailor, as the majority of the Fish's patrons were; he didn't have the rough voice or the rough clothing of most of the men around them - and most convincingly, he didn't want to get drunk.

Then there was that incessant tapping, tapping, tapping on the countertop. Dovey had thought it was a gesture of impatience at first, but it had continued without faltering as he placed his order, and now with his attention on her it seemed the motion might not be conscious at all. She'd guess he was drugged up on something or other, but there were no other signs of that; his voice was perfectly lucid and his eyes were clear. An odd customer, indeed.

She shook herself a little. Staring was rude. "I'll get your order," she said, and went to fetch it for him.

If he'd changed his request to small ale or something else alcoholic, she'd catch the bartender's eye and ask him to fetch it down from the shelves for the man. Either way she turned and headed back across the room, her heart rate picking up a little as it always did when she had to push through the Fish's rough crowd. What a difference being a slave makes, she thought bitterly; she'd never been timid in a rowdy bar before her kidnapping. But then too, she'd seen a man stabbed in her first days here, and his killer walk away utterly unafraid. Not the kind of tavern she'd set foot inside if she had the choice, even free.

She came to the kitchen door and slipped through, into an entirely different and far more welcoming chaos. One man stirred the contents of three separate pans by turns, crouched over the big hearth where they cooked. A girl watched a pot hanging in another hearth, and a small army of cooks ran about attending to various menial tasks. Dovey approached the girl, who seemed to have the least to do at the moment, and relayed the man's order.

The girl tilted her head. "He didn't say what sorta dish?"

"No, just what to put in it."

"I'll make it a stew then. Least work." And she turned away to fetch another pot.

If the man had maintained his original drink request, Dovey would catch the arm of one of the other kitchen hands and ask him for a cup of cold water. He shrugged and moved off, taking up a dipper and filling it from an open barrel while Dovey watched. He poured the water into a tall glass and brought it back to her.

She gave the glass's contents a cursory inspection. It looked clear enough to her, relatively speaking. This was the water used for cooking, so of course there was no detritus floating about inside; a slight cloudy tint was all anyone might object to.

If the man had withdrawn his request for water, Dovey would wait about in the kitchen for his stew to be ready. Otherwise she'd go straight out with his glass and come back for the stew. Either way, when his whole order was laid out before him she made to move off and help another customer.

Then, on impulse, she hesitated.

Why should she rush back out onto that crowded floor? She felt far safer with the bar to her side than stranded in the midst of a pack of drunk sailors and ne'er-do-wells. This man was armed, true, but he wasn't drunk, and he didn't seem the type to attack a person at the drop of a hat. He was polite. Wasn't it part of her job to chat with patrons, make them feel welcome?

She'd try it. If he didn't want to talk he didn't, but it was worth a go.

"Hey, what's your name, sir?" she asked amiably.



[Word count: 958]


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[The Drunken Fish] I am a disappointed drudge, sir. (Kynier)

Postby Kynier on June 30th, 2018, 12:51 pm

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As it always happened the first time he was served at a tavern, or experienced help from a new server, the request for water had been perplexing. It was different for this girl however. From how she made the suggestion of a weaker beverage Kynier speculated that she was a recently new server. All his time eavesdropping and he never heard a barmaid make a suggestion that wasn’t asked for. Kynier arched an eyebrow at her when and paused in his strumming. “No, thank you. And I’ll take whatever water that you have available.” Expecting that to be the end of it Kynier started viewing the scene around him, fingers strumming.

For a few ticks she stood there staring at him. He tried to ignore it but couldn’t help to look back at her gaze. Eventually she broke herself from whatever thoughts she had and left. Kynier shook his head curiously.

The rest of the tavern filled up more, though it didn’t seem possible. One thing that Kynier quickly learned was how rambunctious the sailors were. At a table a “friendly” argument began to unfold, in the form of fists. No one around seemed to pay any attention to the ordeal. The soft clump of a glass on the counter brought him back from the spectacle. The barmaid had quickly retrieved his water and left. Kynier picked it up and inspected the glass’s contents. Cloudy fluid swirled as he dipped a finger in to shift it around. When he withdrew it he rubbed the finger against his thumb. No grainy texture to be noticed. “Mudway water,” he mumbled to himself. It was a little worrisome how he was getting accustomed to drinking this. With a shrug he sipped on his beverage as he waited for his food.

After a few chimes the barmaid returned with a bowl of stew. Stem rolled off its rim as Kynier’s stomach growled in anticipation. Kynier took the spoon that she offered and stirred the vegetables with the chunks of sausage. A sharp, quiet exhale of amusement left his nose. The quality of chefs were definitely below the No Man’s Land. A hot stew on a hot day. Kynier did not voice his slight dissatisfaction to the barmaid but quietly stirred the stew to help it cool down. The girl turned to leave but stopped in her tracks for a moment. When she turned to ask his name he was blowing on a spoonful.

“My name’s Kynier.” As he raised his eyes to meet her he noticed a strange mark on the back her wrist. Some sort of burn was just noticeable under her clothing. After a few ticks of looking at it he brought his gaze up to her water blue eyes. They lacked the intensity of a Svefran yet still had an eye-catching quality to them. “What is your name, miss?” Kynier took a bite of the stew. The heat on his tongue made him dance the meal around in his mouth as he gave a surprised exhale around the food.

Though he hadn’t lost his sense of taste, eating just had been unusual without the ability to feel the food in his mouth. The softened texture of meat and vegetables that rolled around his tongue was immensely satisfying. The stew also tasted good. But it was still too hot and he stirred his bowl more as he listened to her name. Dovey. “How long have you been serving at the Drunken Fish?” Kynier guessed that it hadn’t been long. There was tension in her shoulders as she moved about. The girl was uncomfortable with something here. While taverns in general were a breeding ground for mischief and spontaneous brawling, this one was much more energetic. Sailors glad to have the ground beneath their feet again and seeking the pleasures of living a shore. Kynier didn’t find the environment here too comforting either. All the shouting and commotion had caused his spare hand to drift towards his belt as though he may need to draw his blade and quickly. Kynier blew on another spoonful of his meal as he watched the barmaid. For some reason she was drawing his attention the most in this place. Maybe it was the conversation. Maybe it was that it was that too many people were attempting to shout over each other to effectively eavesdrop.

Kynier took out the coin for his meal and set it on the counter. A few silvers remained in his hand as he debated a thought in his mind. The ears of a barmaid could prove useful. The question was how observant could she be? “Could you answer a question for me Dovey? I heard a rumor of slaves being brought to this tavern. Is there any truth in that?”



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[The Drunken Fish] I am a disappointed drudge, sir. (Kynier)

Postby Dovey on July 1st, 2018, 12:43 am

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Kynier. Interesting name; she wondered where he came from. He was looking at her Freeborn brand now, she realized, following his eyes. That made her uncomfortable by reflex, and she moved to cover it with her sleeve. But with her hand on the mark she paused, considering; why should she hide it here? Shouldn't she wear it proudly, the evidence that she had been unjustly enslaved? After a moment she dropped her hand to her side, the brand still visible. He met her eyes then, his gaze still searching, curious. "What is your name, miss?"

"My name's Dovey," she replied with a little grin, forgetting any other observation for her gladness that Kynier was interested in talking. Behind them a fight was going strong, a problem between gamblers if Dovey had to guess, though really it could be anything. Some drunks didn't need an excuse to throw punches! But no matter to her for now; she was safely ensconced by the bar as long as this more civilized and considerably more sober fellow wanted to chat. She'd readily humor him, answer his questions so long as he wished to ask them, and she was eager to show it.

"I've just been here since the start of the season," she replied to his first query, her shoulders hunching a little in displeasure at the memory of her arrival. "Not the start even - I didn't come 'til days past the first. I'm not used to it yet." And I hope I never will be, she added silently - but he didn't want to hear her complain like that, and what mattered now was keeping him engaged in the conversation.

He was quiet for a moment after that, cooling his stew with his breath and watching her appraisingly. She shifted under his gaze. If he wanted to talk why didn't he talk? - there were certainly more interesting things in sight than a little barmaid. For instance the fistfight at their backs; she could hear cries of "hit harder!" and "get 'em!" which suggested it had collected its own little crowd of spectators. The sort of crowd I'd be part of, back in Kenash. Petch, why had Mother ever dragged them away?

The sound of coin on the bar brought her back to reality, with a jolt of self-reproach - was she about to be sent off through the crowd to give old Manowar the money for the meal, just because she'd gone and let her maudlin thoughts distract her again? But no; Kynier said nothing to dismiss her, only eyed her in that odd appraising way. After a few ticks he spoke, and Dovey's whole sense of the situation shifted in a moment.

The way he kept looking at her, cool-eyed, as though calculating something. His sparing and well-measured words. This was not a man who was looking for a mere entertaining conversation - well of course he wasn't - he had ordered water, for gods' sake! Nobody would do that who had relaxation on his mind. She should have realized that at once, not gone on thinking she had to people-please.

But she hadn't had a clue until he had asked that second question. She still had hardly a clue what he did want, exactly - what his motives ultimately were in coming to the Fish. But that moment of consideration before he spoke, the way he had worded his inquiry? 'Could you answer a question for me?' He was here looking to know things, and not idle gossip either.

Dovey didn't stop to consider her motives in answering, but the sense of being useful voluntarily, and of giving information perhaps even against Manowar's wishes, spurred her on far more than the mere promise of being out of the crowd a few more chimes.

She nodded, vigorously and at once. "It's perfectly true - that's how I was brought here - me and two other girls - though I haven't seen them except in passing since then. Most of us barmaids are enslaved, and there's a lot of us." Was that silver she saw in his hand? Shyke, a bribe? Would she go to bed this morning with money to her name?

Behind them the fight seemed to be cooling down, the spectators' cheers and groans growing sparser and less enthusiastic. The noise of the crowd bled slowly off from that node, dispersing itself across the ramshackle tavern. A drunk wandering away from the scene managed to elbow Dovey in the spine on his way past her; she didn't so much as flinch. She wet her lips, considering what else she could tell to Kynier that he might want to know.



[Word count: 771]


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[The Drunken Fish] I am a disappointed drudge, sir. (Kynier)

Postby Kynier on July 1st, 2018, 3:26 am

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A watchful eye was kept on the brawl behind Dovey. While he had never entered one with a sailor, Kynier had heard stories about their savage brutality from life on the seas. From what he could see it was going to remain contained to those that started it and wouldn’t spread to the spectators around them. He watched the transition in her demeanor as realization arouse within. Kynier couldn’t help but smile each time he saw that expression cross someone’s face in this line of work. That sense of usefulness with the potential of reward. Those sea blessed blues tracked the silver in his hand and compelled the lips to answer his question.

His expression quickly changed to a sour look. Barmaids as slaves. The idea of someone having to undergo such derogatory labor against their will and solely for someone else’s profit. It disgusted him. But the old beggar had been right. Kynier critically inspected Dovey. Unlike Kelski this girl bore no collar, nor an obscene amount of piercings to indicate ownership. Maybe it was that mark on her wrist. After a moment Kynier didn’t think so. Dovey was self-conscious about that mark and its meaning, whatever it may be.

The petty fight behind her came to an end and the audience began to disperse. Kynier watched the drunkard elbow his way past Dovey with contempt. The girl bore it without reaction. It was perhaps only a small slight she had to suffer working here. Her and the others. Kynier set his hand down on her side of the counter gently and immediately took it back. A silver mizza resting where his hand had been. In her eyes was a hunger to be useful, he could see. Kynier did not know if Dovey had any flexibility to spend any coin he gave her. But what he understood from other accounts, slaves cherished anything that they could claim as their own.

From an information collector’s standpoint Kynier wondered how much this barmaid could actually tell him. Having been recently shipped in, she may not have any understanding of Sunberth’s social environments. Though Baroque Bay was a bit of an exception to that. Kynier thought on it for a moment. The beggar could be the eyes while she provided the ears. His eyes settled on hers again. “There is a group here in Sunberth, the Vino, they have been inquiring about ships. Have you seen or heard anything about? They’re a growing power in the slave trade.” He hoped that the hint would assist her memory. Kynier knew it was unlikely, but most information gathering bore no fruit. And now, Dovey would be more aware to look and listen for it.

Kynier ate some more of his stew. Closer to a more appropriate temperature, it was more enjoyable now. He took a few quick bites as he listened to Dovey’s answer. Kynier opened his mouth to ask another question, but quickly closed it as a larger, later aged man lumbered over next to him. The man’s cheeks were flushed red and the smell of alcohol was prominent on his breath. “Dovey!” he said loudly, “I sertinly hope tha you’re a keepin’ this fello’ in good company.” The man gave Kynier a heavy slap on the shoulder. Kynier pitched forward uncomfortably. The man was much stronger than he looked. Kynier felt the skin of his shoulder tingle as the blood rushed towards it. “Lissen sir,” he sat down next to Kynier and leaned in close. The man’s repulsive breath choked him as he spoke. Spittle flicking from his lips as he did. “There’s a set o’ private rooms,” he lifted his eyebrows repeatedly, “if you happen to meet a girl that strikes your fancy. Perhaps, even Dovey?” The man looked at the barmaid in wonder for an instant before slapping Kynier’s shoulder again with a laugh. “But who e’er it may be, the rates are very reasonable. Jus’ let me know or any of the maids. They’ll take care o’ ya,” he wasn’t able to finish the sentence before he burst out into drunken laughter. Kynier feigned a small laugh for the man wishing he would take his leave of them. Before he did though, the man raised a glass as though they had made a toast. His inebriated gaze fell on Kynier’s half cup of water and he began to grumble. “Dovey,” irritation in his tone, “What’re ya standin’ there for when this man don’t even have a proper drink yet?”

“No it’s fine,” Kynier tried to say, but the large man shushed him. Kynier saw the ire in the man’s beady, bloodshot eyes growing. There wasn’t anything he could do without being very drastic. Kynier turned his gaze to Dovey and gave a small nod. To avoid having her get in trouble, he would be compliant.



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[The Drunken Fish] I am a disappointed drudge, sir. (Kynier)

Postby Dovey on July 2nd, 2018, 1:07 am

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Dovey stared at the little silver coin for a tense half-tick before sliding it from the counter into her hand. She closed her small fist around it for a moment, feeling the metal edges jut into the flesh of her palm. It was only a silver miza; gods knew she shouldn't be so excited, shouldn't have nearly this much trouble processing what had just occurred. But by Xyna, it was money! She'd feared she would never - well, she hadn't seen her way to earning coin again anytime soon, that was all. On impulse she lifted a foot to within arm's reach, and slipped the coin inside her boot. It rolled across the contours of her ankle and settled on its edge beside her big toe.

Remembering her manners, she lowered her foot again. "Thank you," she told Kynier politely.

His next question somewhat dampened her enthusiasm; she knew nothing more about the powers of Sunberth than what little she'd overheard from patrons or been told by her room-mates. She could make something up, of course - the prospect of more silver tempted her - but Kynier seemed too professional to fall for that from her, and besides, misleading him now seemed dirty. He had given her money; he'd been respectful and kind.

So she shrugged apologetically and told him the truth. "I've heard people say 'Vino', but I don't know anything about them. Oh - I don't think the slavers who kidnapped me were Vino," she offered, hoping this only information she had could somehow be useful. "They never said the word, and they didn't act like any sort of power." Contempt flavored her voice. "Other than that..." She shrugged again, silently willing Kynier not to go looking for a more knowledgeable informant.

He had turned back to his stew, but once she finished her answer he swallowed his bite and opened his mouth to speak again. Dovey was so focused on Kynier, she didn't realize that the embodied stink of ale who had approached the bar in the meantime was her owner - until his voice cracked through the air, practically shouting her name.

She flinched, hard, one hand scrabbling for purchase on the rough edge of the bar's countertop. All the anxiety she'd lost in the safe, slow conversation with Kynier came roaring back with a vengeance, setting her heart racing with instinctive guilty fear. The coin in her boot was cold against her skin, and she silently prayed her thanks - to Ovek and Xyna and whoever else might be listening - that she'd thought to immediately hide it away.

Manowar was still speaking - if speaking was not too gentle a word for it. Having been badly startled, it took Dovey a couple of ticks to realize this wasn't an angry drunken roar coming from his mouth, but a congenial one. That knowledge allowed her first wave of panic to subside, but every interaction with this drunken brute was a fear-ridden one for her.

Nor did Manowar's next words ease that fear. Her stomach seized, turned, as he described the use of the private rooms to the man beside her. Some of the more striking barmaids were favorites there, one of them free and willing, the rest cowed into submission; Dovey herself had not borne the horror of visiting those rooms as yet, and she hoped to all the gods she never would. (Who was the god of not getting raped? She ought to pray to that one.) At least Kynier seemed uncomfortable with the conversation, and although she harbored no illusions that the near-stranger would be any kind of protection against her owner, she could not resist the impulse to duck a little and lean to the side so that his tall frame would partially block her from Manowar's view.

For a moment she thought the sudden irritation in the man's next words was due to her movement. But no - looking at the bar, the sausage-like finger pointing to Kynier's glass of water told her all she needed to know, even before he finished his sentence. She peeked past Kynier, hoping he would explain and calm the huge man down, but one look at those angry eyes told her that wasn't an option. Kynier nodded subtly to her, and she waited for no further encouragement.

"Yessir I'm sorry!" The words came out in an indistinct jumble; she'd wanted to sound calming and placatory, but she couldn't control her tone. The small pile of mizas on the bar caught her eye - she'd never stored away Kynier's pay for his meal - and she pushed them toward Manowar in appeasement. "Here's the money for his stew - " and she darted round the bar, coming up behind the bartender and tapping urgently at his shoulder.

He swung round, looking mildly concerned at the fear on her face. "What, what's gone wrong?"

Dovey jerked her head in Manowar's direction. He was now occupied in counting the coins she had given him - the money-grubber. A ball of anger bloomed in the pit of her stomach.

"Well, what do you need then?" asked the bartender.

She took a long breath, blowing it out through her nose. Someone to bash that man's head in."Just a glass of ale."

"Right you are." The bartender turned away, taking a bottle from one shelf and a glass from another before setting them both gently down on the bar and uncorking the bottle. Dovey watched him pour the ale, trying to settle the racing of her heart. When the glass was full the bartender simply set it down in front of Kynier - which was the point of sitting at a bar, as Manowar well ought to know, unless you didn't want to drink in the first place. But no, he'd made it a problem and blamed the barmaid.

She hesitated behind the bar, fear fluttering inside her while anger sat hard in her gut. She knew neither emotion would come to anything; she couldn't defend herself against the burly man who'd bought her life, let alone do anything to punish him. And in his state he might grow quickly incensed at her for loitering here. So she came back round the bar, standing to Kynier's side with jaw clenched and eyes lowered, avoiding the gaze of the big man who sat like a spider on his splintered bar-stool and tucked away the coins his slave had earned him.



[Word count: 1063]


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[The Drunken Fish] I am a disappointed drudge, sir. (Kynier)

Postby Kynier on July 3rd, 2018, 3:34 am

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A better understanding of the tavern’s operation came easily. The oaf of a man used intimidation against those physically smaller than him, especially when he had the misconception that their life was somehow his to control. Dovey instantly entered a frantic state, shoving the money across the counter towards the drunkard before scurrying away to the bartender. Kynier watched the owner count the coins as though he expected to be scammed. The man mumbled incoherently to himself as his thick fingers worked around the coins in hand. Only a moment later did Dovey return accompanied by the bartender, and a cup of ale.

The owner’s attention broke as he slurred something at the bartender. The man tapped the counter in front of him meaningfully as he did. Kynier had no understanding of it, but the bartender must have learned the subtleties of this drunken communication. He poured another cup of ale and gave it to the man. Manowar giggled gleefully as he took the cup and raised it up at Kynier. He held it there for a few ticks expectantly. Begrudgingly Kynier lifted his cup and clanked it against the other. Kynier held the cup to his lips and made a fast tipping motion with his hand and head simultaneously. Only a little of the ale entered his mouth this way while some more dribbled down the side of his mouth. Manowar swigged the entire thing down at once.

Kynier did not swallow the fluid but sucked it to the back corner of his mouth as he wiped his chin. With a wet belch the owner laughed and again slapped Kynier on the shoulder with a laugh. The effort to not spray out the fluid in his mouth was nearly too much. Somehow he managed to keep it in and feigned a smile. “Dovey, make sur you satisfy his needs. Whatever the’ are!” The oaf laughed again and moved along to another section of the tavern. By this time the bartender had also already left. Only Dovey remained. He noted how much she… how less tense she was when the man left them. Kynier held up the cup of ale to his mouth, eyes engaged with Dovey’s. Gently he spit the contents of his mouth back into the cup.

The taste of the ale lingered strongly on his tongue, making him very thirsty. He took a draft of his water, nearly emptying it and rinsed his mouth before swallowing. “Very charming fellow,” he said with dull sarcasm. Kynier took another bite of the stew to help washout the malty taste of the ale. He carefully watched Dovey’s body language now that the ordeal was done with. He had noticed that when she cowered it had been in his direction. That made him wonder about the treatment the barmaids received when there was no one around.

His mind went back to the words she had said earlier. It came as no surprise that she hadn’t heard anything about it. Kynier reached into his pocket to pay for the ale, and had an extra gold mizza pinched between his pointer and middle finger. The look in her eyes and eagerness to get a silver was apparent. Dovey must receive nothing for her time here and valued anything offered to her. He had a rule that he only paid informants in silver. But that was when he dealt with whores and beggars. Perhaps it was sympathy, or perhaps that the beggars and whores had more opportunity to gain wealth than Dovey. Regardless, Kynier lightly tapped the counter with the side of the gold coin.

“Dovey, I’m always looking for more information. And not just about the Vino, either. But I don’t always know where to find it and can use help in my search.” At that he set the coin down in front of her and watched her carefully. “Anytime you hear something I find useful…” he indicated the payment on the counter before her.

With another bite of his stew he watched and waited for her response.
Sometimes the only way to win is by relinquishing a superior position.

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[The Drunken Fish] I am a disappointed drudge, sir. (Kynier)

Postby Dovey on July 8th, 2018, 3:22 am

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As Manowar poured his newest cup of ale eagerly down his gullet, and Kynier joined him in a significantly more subdued version of the innkeeper's exuberent movements, Dovey stood waiting. Her eyes stayed down, her posture straight and still; she listened as cups clanked, as Manowar belched and made various unreciprocated noises of merriment.

The worst thing about all this was the helplessness, always. Here he was who could take away her food, who could beat her, who could have her raped, who could sell her or kill her at any time he pleased. And in the face of all that peril, when everything natural in her cried out to flee - she must stand still and wait. For he also fed her, and clothed her, and kept a roof over her head, and even if she ran away and he did not send folk to track her down, she would surely die then, alone and penniless in this strange and brutal city.

At times she could almost think of the man as another bad employer. She'd had her share of those; when Manowar was safely across the room, drinking and acting cheerful with some dandy he wanted to impress, she could scoff at him in her mind or with another barmaid and feel as if she were still carrying luggage for snobbish merchants on the docks. But then - moments like this one. When his anger both arose and died without warning, when he was half-way to under the table with all he'd drunk, and she knew that any harm he did her would mean no more to him than damage to a piece of the tavern's furniture - and yet she could not run -

To what could it be compared? It was like nothing Dovey knew.

She nodded at Manowar's instructions, saying nothing; she believed his fit of ire was done with, yet the less she garnered his attention the less risk she thought she took. And then at last he wandered away, off perhaps to harass some other barmaid.

Dovey shook her shoulders lightly, and blinked as if to clear her eyes of some contaminant. There. She was all right. She had come through it again. The girl raised her eyes to meet Kynier's as she noticed his gaze was on her; he lifted his cup and, much to her astonishment, let ale spill over his lip and back into its previous vessel. At once he turned and took a long drink of his water.

This was too much. Nerves weakened by that tense encounter, and mind aching for some relief, some catharsis, Dovey leaned against the bar and quietly began to laugh.

Kynier's sarcasm only prolonged her fit of giggles; a fresh burst of laughter followed his statement, the tension draining quickly out of her. Its departure left her a trifle weak, as though she had undergone some sudden physical ordeal, and she found herself sagging against the bar, her elbow lowering so that her entire forearm supported her there. She tilted her head back, stretching her neck. "He's a regular gentleman, isn't he? A real delight." Her words were quiet by instinct; still, something in her felt slightly reckless, as though in keeping up that fearful submission a spring had drawn tight inside her, and now that she had temporary safety, it sprang in the opposite direction.

Dovey's laughter had not quite played itself out; one last involuntary chuckle, weak and with a slightly hysterical tone, escaped as Kynier felt through his pocket. Then the episode was finished entirely - and not least because she had spied the glint of gold among the little collection of copper-rimmed coins in his hand.

Well, petch a fish!

Unless he wanted her to make change - she tried to spy how many copper mizas were in the man's grasp. But having put down the rest, he tapped the gold piece against the counter - as if he still needed to get her attention - and his words made it very clear that he was offering another bribe.

Later on, in her room, Dovey would second-guess herself. She would fear that Kynier was a con artist, like the one who had captured her; she would agonize over the thought that he might kidnap her from here, for some reason beyond her own understanding, and take her to a place still worse than this one. She would assure herself that she'd never trust him far enough to let him hurt her, that she'd keep her wits about her always from now on - and her traitorous mind would demand proof, which was of course impossible to give. Running a finger covertly along the edge of one of the hidden coins, she would remind herself of what she had gained, of what she could gain in the future. She'd try to breathe, to calm herself before a room-mate noticed anything was wrong.

But now? With the memory of that laughter still light in her gut, and before her the kind, solemn face of a man who had shown her real sympathy and fellow-feeling? And a bribe on the counter worth ten times its predecessor? She didn't hesitate a tick. Snatching the miza from the counter, she dropped it down the side of her boot to chase its partner, and smiled at Kynier. "Thank you. I'll keep an ear out. Come in during my shift and I'll let you know. And - " She paused a moment. "I - well, I only - thank you."

The first thanks had been manners; the second had been more fervently voiced than she was quite comfortable with. Vaguely embarrassed, Dovey did the only thing she could think to do and reverted to being a barmaid. "Is - is there anything else I can get you from the kitchens, now?"


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[The Drunken Fish] I am a disappointed drudge, sir. (Kynier)

Postby Kynier on July 10th, 2018, 4:34 am

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During his time in Sunberth, Kynier had found life was a constant struggle for the simplest things. It had an effect on a person’s mentality and their behavior, making them more callous. Yet there were rare moments to be had when what seemed beyond conception was found. This was one of those rare moments. This small framed barmaid started to laugh. A laugh so hard she couldn’t support her own weight, for all her strength was dedicated to keeping it quiet. It was infectious and Kynier lacked the immunity. At the sight of her he started laughing as well and mimicked Dovey’s effort for silence. He was calming down and about to take a drink when she made her remark about Manowar. The water touching his lips was nearly sprayed across the counter as merriment emerged again.

Gods, when was the last time he laughed that hard? It took a chime for both he and Dovey to regain their composure. And he was pleased to see how eagerly she took the gold mizza. For a while he had been working on growing his network of informants. Traipsing around the city on his own for information was far too time consuming. Dovey would be a well-placed informant, and he felt an effective one. For now at least she hadn’t allowed the city to grind away at her personality. In the midst of discomfort she was able to laugh. That was something worthy of note. Kynier nodded and smiled as she thanked him, but was a little surprised by the real thanks. Kynier paused while taking a drink of water to look at her expression of gratitude.


”You seem to be developing a weak place for female slaves. Why is that?” the voice whispered in his mind.

Then it was over with. Dovey’s body language reverted to what it was before. “Ah, yes. I would like some fruit if this place has any. Apples, grapes, doesn’t matter what it is really. Also,” he held up the now empty glass of water. While Dovey was away in the kitchen Kynier scanned the crowd. While several people were engaged in drunken gaiety there weren’t any more brawls occurring. Kynier’s eye fell on the stairs leading to the next floor. He wondered what the atmosphere was like up there. Before his next thought someone came and sat next to him at the bar. From the corner of his eye Kynier could tell the man wasn’t a sailor. His skin wasn’t colored brown or red from Syna’s light. The fellow had a medium frame and blonde hair. Kynier took another bite of his stew and pretended to ignore the man. Something about him set Kynier on edge.

The man was fidgeting as he waited. Kynier casually examined the man’s hands and arms. No brands or tattoos were visible, but several scars from combat were spread across his flesh. “Hot day today,” the man commented. Kynier gave a grunt of agreement through a mouthful of stew. A moment of uncomfortable silence lingered between. “Where’s the petching barmaid?” the fellow said irritably. He leaned forward over the counter and looked around, as though the new vantage of a foot would reveal something new. As the man did, Kynier noted a trio of daggers strapped to the man’s back. “I just want a petching drink,” he said resettling in his seat.

Kynier took the cup of ale that still sat next to him and passed it over. “Have mine, I don’t care for its taste.” He didn’t pay the man any more attention, so he didn’t notice how he grabbed the cup and threw the contents back at the side of Kynier’s head. Warm ale dowsed his cheek and hair. His reaction was that of still displeasure.

“Do I look the sort to drink a stranger’s hand offs?” Kynier wiped the fluid from his face before turning to face the man. Kynier was taller though the man had a laborer’s build to his arms and chest. They were both still seated. The blonde haired man appeared ready to leap from his position to start an altercation. Kynier was probably just the poor soul that happened to be the first encounter. He wouldn’t have it though, but didn’t want to appear meek either. So he decided to do something the man probably didn’t expect. He shrugged and returned to his stew, trying to keep the annoyance out of his eyes.

That only seemed to set the other off even more. He stood and shoved Kynier’s shoulder hard, turning him in place. “Hey! Don’t turn away from me!” he pressed in close and was attempting to intimidate Kynier with his size. The way he shifted his weight and drew back his shoulders slightly. Kynier kept his seat though he set down his spoon as he looked up at the man. He had hoped to avoid an altercation today. Didn’t look like that was going to happen though.
Sometimes the only way to win is by relinquishing a superior position.

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Kynier
Delves in Darkness
 
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