Solo [The Drunken Fish] Kindness

An old man visits the Drunken Fish one raucous evening.

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[The Drunken Fish] Kindness

Postby Dovey on July 14th, 2018, 11:41 pm

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52 Summer, 518 AV
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"Others"


Outside the windows the night was pitch-dark. As she passed them by Dovey could see her reflection in them, a forlorn and bedraggled little creature with features slightly distorted by the uneven glass. In each of her thin hands she held a brimming tankard of ale, drops of which ran down the sides of the mugs and splashed on the filthy floor as she navigated the ever-shifting crowd.

The drinks were for a couple who had been cavorting at the tavern since before Dovey's shift began, downing enough ale to fill the Suvan Sea and becoming steadily less tolerable the drunker they grew. The last time she had refilled their mugs they had shouted at her about the price - which was the same as it had been every previous time they had paid for new drinks - and then the man had made an insulting comment about her breasts, which had caused the woman to break down laughing in her seat. Dovey wished with all her heart that she could leave them to wait all night for their ale.

But if she refused to serve the Fish's patrons, she would be in for far more trouble than a pair of big-mouthed louts could give her; so she waded reluctantly through the mass of unwashed bodies packed into the tavern, in the direction of the couple's table.

Halfway there she was stopped by a hoarse shout from behind her. "Hoy! Barmaid!"

Turning, she saw an incongruous sight for a tavern: a frail old man, who stood still shorter than she herself, flagging her down from where he stood leaning on a little table whose sole other occupant was a young sailor passed out drunk. Too bemused by the minor spectacle to remember her annoyance at that unceremonious greeting, Dovey turned and picked her way over to the stranger. She took the opportunity to rest the two tankards she carried on the surface of the table. "Yes? What do you need?"

The old man cleared his throat thoroughly. "I see I've caught ye busy," he began in a low, reedy voice - Dovey had to bend closer to hear every word - "so I won't demand ye stop at once an' help me. But when ye can, barmaid, do fetch me a chair! My poor legs may collapse below me if I cain't sit soon, an' there's no seat to be had that I can find."

"Ah - yes," said Dovey awkwardly, caught off her guard. She was seldom addressed in such polite tones by the Fish's patrons - let alone afforded the consideration of noticing that she had others to serve as well. But at the same time it rankled to be addressed simply as 'barmaid', perhaps more so for the contrast with the old man's general demeanor. And in addition to all this, there was something in the man's voice which distracted her, calling out for her attention. Beneath the rough Sunberth drawl, something familiar -

But there was no time to think about it now. A little further out on the tavern floor she had a drunken pair of baboons who might grow violently impatient if she didn't soon bring them their ale.

[Word count: 528]


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Last edited by Dovey on July 16th, 2018, 1:58 am, edited 1 time in total.
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[The Drunken Fish] Kindness

Postby Dovey on July 15th, 2018, 1:26 am

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52 Summer, 518 AV
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"As you say," Dovey replied accordingly, lifting the tankards slightly off the surface of the table, "I have these. So - "

"Yes, of course," the old man interrupted, waving one liver-spotted hand . "Go an' deliver them - just come back to me quick when you're done, an' have mercy on a poor soul's feet!"

"I will," Dovey promised. She thought it rather a shame that none of the patrons had given up their chair to the frail old fellow - but that was Sunberth, she supposed, crude and discourteous to the last. She only hoped no one would stab the man before the night was out.

She set off once more, aiming for the table where the couple sat, but forced to pick an erratic, weaving path between clusters of patrons who were far too busy with their drinking to make room for a barmaid to slip by. Those few she did have to nudge in order to find any way past them at all universally grumbled or sneered at her as they shuffled a bare few inches to the side; her heartbeat always quickened at those moments, the fear that someone might try to do something to her flashing to the forefront of her mind. But no one did worse than mumble a disparaging comment or two as she passed them, and in relatively short order she had reached the table she had been seeking.

Not that that was any great relief. At the sight of Dovey the woman sat up, stretching her long arms luxuriously above her head, and snarled, "Where the petch've you been?"

Half a hundred sarcastic answers fought to emerge from Dovey's lips, but she held them back. These two had been awful enough to her with no provocation; what might they do if she returned their rudeness with her own? "I apologize," she replied instead, her voice stiff and stilted with the lie. "But here are your drinks now - "

She was lowering the first tankard to the table when she felt it caught away from her, and ale slop over her hand. The woman raised the mug to her lips and took a long, careless draft; then, ale dripping down the sides of her chin in two little rivulets, she weighed the mug in her hand a moment before dashing its remaining contents straight into Dovey's face.

"You took too long, 's gotten warm," she slurred, as Dovey stood frozen, with her mouth open in a little 'o' of surprise. "Get me another." And she thrust the now-empty mug at Dovey.

Dovey took it and set down the other mug as if in a dream, sliding it across the table towards the man, but he made a hard sound of derision. "You heard my girl," he said, leaning forward across the table and staring Dovey down. "'S warm! 'S boilin' hot! I don' wanna drink this swill!" And he pushed it roughly back towards her. "Be glad I'm not throwin' it too."

Dovey retrieved the second tankard, a sour, cold feeling settling in her heart.

[Word count: 508]


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[The Drunken Fish] Kindness

Postby Dovey on July 15th, 2018, 2:15 am

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"I'll still need..."

Dovey hesitated, desperately wishing she were anywhere else - which would just mean some other unfortunate barmaid would have to attend to these two, but at the moment she was past caring. They only wanted someone to abuse, didn't they? They didn't care what she said, they'd find some way to make it offend them, just so they'd have an excuse to bully her. And her next words were sure to rankle them in truth, as well as in pretense.

But she had to say it. Manowar had his bartenders keep records to be sure he wasn't stiffed. "I'll need the coin for these."

The woman actually laughed. "Ya think we're payin' for your pig slop?" she said. "Petch off!"

"Miss - " Dovey began desperately, but the woman forestalled her plea by shooting to her feet. She was tall in the first place, and she positively towered over Dovey.

"Don' you 'miss' me, you vagik!" she shouted into the barmaid's face. "I swear - " she poked a finger aggressively at Dovey's nose - "I swear to any god you want, my lad and I'll kick the shyke outta you if you don' get us those drinks. Now!"

Letting out a little yelp, Dovey stumbled backwards. "I will, I will!" she cried, and vanished into the crowd with all the haste she could manage. Behind her, she could hear the pair begin to laugh.

What do I do now?

She had been in this situation not a sennight ago, and while technically her plan to steal the required alcohol had succeeded, it had also incited a tavern-wide brawl which had put her in more fear of harm than the original problem had done. She wasn't going to try that again.

She could, in theory, tell Manowar that customers were refusing to pay. She hadn't thought of that last time until after it was too late, so unnatural it seemed to ask him for help as opposed to avoiding him at nearly any cost; but he had enough muscle - both hired and on his own body - to get the mizas he wanted out of the belligerent couple. And while he was a horrible, unreasonable man, Dovey didn't think he was so entirely unreasonable as to blame her for the situation.

The couple would surely know it was she who had snitched on them, should she do so; and if they remembered anything of tonight when they awoke tomorrow, they might remember that. She wouldn't put it past the pair to make good on their threat to her, then. Still, she didn't really have any other choice -

A hand on her arm made her jump, and she whipped her head round to see who had touched her. There beside her stood the old man, wobbling slightly, a sympathetic smile stretched across his wrinkled face.

"I heard an angry lady shouting," he said, "an' I thought it might've been at ye." He gestured at her face, from which drops of ale still occasionally fell to land on the bodice of her dress. "I see I was right."

[Word count: 512]


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[The Drunken Fish] Kindness

Postby Dovey on July 15th, 2018, 10:38 pm

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52 Summer, 518 AV
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"I - yes," said Dovey, and fell silent; a long, trembling exhale shook her frame. She hadn't even wiped the ale from her face. Was she already so used to this degradation? Already used to acting like - like a -

No. Hold tight to your dignity, woman, never let it go. She rubbed her face briefly on her sleeve, screwed her eyes shut against the world for a moment; beside her she heard the old man tsk. "There now," he said gently, "never ye fear. The night'll be over yet. Serve the nasty lady an' have it over with; don't ye worry about me, I can wait fer my chair - "

She opened her eyes at that, looking at him briefly before turning her gaze to the floor. "I can't serve her," she said in a fast monotone, "because they won't pay me for the drink she threw at me, so I have to tell Father Manowar but they'll know it was me that told, and I'm afraid of them." She stared at her scuffed boots, clutching the pair of tankards to her chest.

"Poor dear child, never ye fear." His quavering hand on her elbow again. "We'll work the thing out. Would it help if I paid for the ale?"

She raised her eyes, staring at him with naked disbelief. But he only returned her gaze, ever smiling, his rheumy blue eyes gentle as they searched her own. So - "Yes," she answered hoarsely. "Yes, it would help," and she wanted to collapse into his arms.

At once he reached down to fumble with his purse, knotted tightly shut and then tied to his belt by the ends of its rawhide strings. It took him more than a chime to undo the bonds attaching it to his waist, and when he began on the double-knots holding it shut, his hands shaking so that the coins inside the purse jingled together, Dovey held out her hand. "Let me."

After a moment he handed her the purse. She worked at the tight knots, digging her fingernails between the strands until at last the bag sagged open in her hand. Then she passed it back to him, and he dug clumsily inside. "Now, how much are these drinks?"

"Eight copper mizas for two," Dovey replied, "but - " She paused, dipping a finger into the full mug of ale. "I thought so. They said it was warm, but it isn't, not much more than coming out of the bottle. I'll just hand them this one back and you'll only need to give up four coppers."

The old man actually grinned at that. "Bless your thoughtfulness. I'm not rich." And after scrabbling for a few moments in his bag, he turned up four of the little coins and dropped them into her outstretched hand. "Don't see why they should mind warm ale anyhow."

"They shouldn't - they probably don't, they're just awful." Dovey was coming back to herself now. She wished she could fetch a chair for the gentleman now, but if she took too long in bringing the couple their ale, they would only take offense again and she'd have the very same problem on her hands. But - she looked at him, tottering slightly as he had been doing since he first approached her away from the table he'd been leaning on. Surely she could help him a little, without waiting.

[Word count: 562]


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[The Drunken Fish] Kindness

Postby Dovey on July 16th, 2018, 12:17 am

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52 Summer, 518 AV
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Dovey had set the tankards down on the nearest table while she worked to unknot the old man's purse; now she picked them back up, but clutched both handles together in one hand. Extending the other arm, fist tight around the four mizas, she offered her elbow to the old man. "Let me help you back to your table."

He chuckled lightly. "Thankee, dear. It's not my table - but being asleep, the fellow using it cain't mind me sharing."

"Then you're at the Fish alone?"

"I've not got many friends in the city, child. Let alone the tavern."

"Neither do I." Her tone was heartfelt.

They had been walking as they spoke, and in a few more ticks they reached the table where the old man had been resting. Its younger occupant was still out cold, now snoring fit to blow off the roof, so Dovey left her companion resting contentedly in his previous spot, and moved on towards the bar.

Once there, she fetched the requisite ale from the bartender, handed off the four copper mizas to him, and hurried back across the room. She wanted to speak more to the old man, and that meant finishing the disagreeable chore of attending to that horrible couple.

She was half afraid one or both would toss their ale in her face again, but it seemed they had grown impatient to actually drink their beverages, rather than using them merely to torment the staff. The man slammed back his ale as soon as Dovey timidly handed it over, tossing a handful of copper-rimmed coins across the table at her. "Get outta here," the woman slurred, tipping back in her seat as she sucked at the foam of her ale. "We're sick a' you." So the barmaid went, counting the coins she'd been given - and blessed be Xyna, there were actually eight of them.

She wove her way the full distance back to the bar to hand off the money before she returned to the old man; ill fortune had beset her tonight, and she didn't want to take any chance of losing those coins somehow. So it took her a few chimes to reach him, but when she did, he was leaning on the table in the same attitude she had left him in, gazing out into the rowdy tavern with every appearance of contentment.

"Barmaid!" he exclaimed happily when he saw her, and straightened up from his slouch.

"Yes," said Dovey. "Well, shall we find you a chair?"

He leaned on her arm again as they searched, walking with little shuffling steps ill-suited to navigating the crowd. It seemed every seat in the place was filled. They had made a full circle round the room and not found a place for the old man to rest, when Dovey thought of the kitchen.

[Word count: 472]


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Last edited by Dovey on July 16th, 2018, 2:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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[The Drunken Fish] Kindness

Postby Dovey on July 16th, 2018, 1:56 am

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52 Summer, 518 AV
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Surely the cooks could not mind a frail old fellow resting his legs in there for a while? And it would be a place to talk for a moment, without the danger of another patron calling her away. So she steered them in the proper direction, keeping her arm steady beneath the pressure of the old man's grip, until they had come free of the crowd and stepped through the kitchen doorway.

"You can rest in here," said Dovey. "I'm sorry, I only just had the idea - "

"Oh, nonsense," said the old man amiably. "Look, there's a stool. Young fellow!" He raised his voice, calling out to a gangly lad struggling under the weight of a huge pot of water. The lad startled and sloshed water across the floor.

"Goodness," said the old man, unperturbed. "Young fellow, may we use that stool?" He pointed.

Dovey's chest tightened in apprehension, but the boy didn't seem to resent them for the mishap. "Er - of course," he replied, before turning back to his previous task.

"There we are! Very good, very good," the old man said, and left Dovey's arm to shuffle his way over to the stool. He settled down atop it with a sigh of satisfaction. "Now if only it had a back! But we cain't have everything, can we, barmaid?"

"No," replied Dovey, coming to stand beside him. She was no longer offended by being barmaided, not by the old man; he had been so kind to her that she could not see it as a slight against her, but only as a harmless eccentricity. "I don't think I ever properly thanked you for helping me."

"No need!" He laughed. "Got me a place to sit, didn't it?"

"But that's not why you did it," she pressed. "You were so kind, and I was a stranger, and - well, folk don't usually - not here - "

"Ye want to know why I helped ye." The old man's face grew more serious, though the twinkle remained in his blue eyes, looking up into hers. Dovey opened her mouth to reply, hesitated, then simply nodded.

"Because ye needed it so," he said softly, "but more than that, because it's not often in the last fifteen years I've met a Kenashian slave."

[Word count: 376]


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Last edited by Dovey on July 16th, 2018, 1:58 am, edited 1 time in total.
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[The Drunken Fish] Kindness

Postby Dovey on July 16th, 2018, 1:57 am

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52 Summer, 518 AV
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Dovey gasped softly. His accent - under the rough notes of Sunberth, that was the twang she'd recognized! But then - a man from Kenash would understand. Out of all the folk she'd met here, even the kind ones, perhaps he alone - she pushed her left sleeve up her arm, and held out her bare wrist for him to see. There was her Freeborn brand, proof of the injustice of her enslavement, and it didn't matter that he could do nothing about it. She only wanted someone to know what a mistake had been made -

He looked down at the mark for a long moment; then, lifting his eyes to meet hers, he reached for the sagging skin of his cheek and stretched it taut. Beneath his fingers, faint but unmistakable, formed the swirling brand with which the Draer family marked their slaves.

Dovey stared, unable to comprehend. "You - were freed?" she asked haltingly.

"I escaped," he replied.

"How - ?"

"I stole a casinor." His voice was weary. "They nearly caught me, but there was a storm. I think they thought I drowned."

"And you've been here - ?"

"Fifteen years. Free. Just as I was when I was a boy." There was a hint of hardness in his tone now. He raised a hand to the wrist she still held extended in front of her, tracing the brand's stylized lettering. His eyes held hers. " An' ye. I thought ye understood."

Dovey's breath caught in her throat. She kept silence for a moment as they gazed into each other's faces - the old freeman and the young slave, each bearing a meaningless brand. "I think I do," she whispered. "I think I do, now."

He was still for a few ticks more, and Dovey mirrored him, feeling somehow frozen where she stood. Then he moved again, withdrew his hand, and the spell was broken.

"I have somethin' here," he said gruffly, "that I think ye could use." His fingers fumbled around his collar before they caught a piece of rough string which had been concealed beneath his shirt. He drew the loop over his head; dangling from it was a pendant of swirling golden wire, bearing within it a white-blue crystalline stone which gleamed in the firelight. The old man clamped a hand quickly around the pendant, concealing it from view. "It should help ye find what ye wish to find."

"I don't understand." Dovey was holding out an open hand, but the old man slipped the loop of string over her head, tucking the pendant beneath the collar of her dress.

"Keep it hidden or it'll be taken," he said. "An' now ye should get back to your work, before you're missed." He rose from his seat and shuffled to the kitchen door. "I'm glad to've met ye, barmaid."

"Wait!" Dovey sprang forward after him - straight into a cook who had chosen that moment to rush past carrying a live chicken. The cook yelped; Dovey, being the less substantial one of the human pair, fell down; the chicken made a sound which was unnervingly similar to a sapient being's scream. And by the time Dovey had been helped up and dusted off and the chicken had been prevented from running headlong beneath the feet of the tavern crowd, the old man was nowhere to be found.

[Word count: 551]


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Dovey
One unlucky girl
 
Posts: 258
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[The Drunken Fish] Kindness

Postby Kynier on August 2nd, 2018, 4:15 am

Grades!


Skill Rewards
  • Logic +1
  • Observation +5
  • Persuasion +1
  • Socialization +4

Lores Learned
  • Amulet of Desire: Helps find what you need
  • Freeborn: A meaningless status
  • Old Man: From Kenash
  • Old Man: Was a Draer family slave
  • Self: Never let go of your dignity
  • The Drunken Fish: Some patrons are just cruel

This was a really enjoyable thread to read! If you have an questions or concerns about your grade please feel free to PM me.
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