Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Roads of Bone, Chapter 8: Exile

I am doing a little experiment.  I am going to write a series of chapters in a fantasy world of my creation and see if it goes anywhere.  Since I have not prewritten this story and have no outline, it will probably end up a convoluted mess.  I do not know how often I will be able to update this or if it will ever finish.  This is the link to CHAPTER 1.  (I have also found that I have to go back and clean up very broken sentences in previous chapters.  This is why I need an editor.  I understand what I am writing, but I need to make sure other people do too.)

Chapter 8: Exile
            As Pasgard walked off toward the tea house, Malachite rubbed the sides of his head.  He knew that there was a way to secure passage out of Orchard Town, but he was going to have to mention how important his family was, rather than relying on how amazing he was.  His frustration mounting, he found resolve, "Yeah, I'm doing this now."
            A random man walking by glanced over thinking Malachite was addressing him and then kept walking after grunting dismissively.
            Malachite went to the holding house he had been keeping his armaments, cloths, and coin, and changed.  Holding houses were common for those who moved along the river with any frequency, keeping an account of coin allowed access to a secure room to keep a chest of valuables.  This also meant not having to carry physical currency everywhere, instead relying on paper notes that could stand in for the money, if the holding house burnt down it would be impossible to claim your money, or they could be robbed and you possessions taken, but overall it allowed hard currency that might otherwise sit in a pocket to instead sit in a secure building, also allowed the holding house to make investments in shipments or even parts of LLC's, or farms to draw earnings from.  Most holding houses were part of a larger guild that could connect and insure the validity of the bonds in multiple cities, using numerous books and messages to help everyone keep track.  Since Malachite's family had coin and goods in every city on the Southern fork of the Color Line he could store his things safely in nearly any city on the continent.
            Malachite striped off his flashy doublet, mismatched pant legs, gold codpiece, and giant black velvet hat.  Donning in place his dark green doublet emblazoned with the dark red two headed bull, brown slacks, and a bronze circlet with the little bronze bull horns which never looked properly symmetrical.  The circlet being the only clothing that was more preposterous than what he had worn before.  Then ruffling thru a box of rings and jewelry, finally locating his own signet ring, the rest having been plundered from some raid in the Confederate Kingdoms or the Caliphate.
            The seal of Viscount Malachite Johansson the IV of the County of Hasenburg, (future) Warden of Southern Color, and Emissary to the Painted People.  A leather binder of parchments holding his title to office and a credit slip.  In the six years he had not been home he had avoided using his father's credit to buy one scrap of clothing, now he was using it to ship some old fat man who had yet to pay him anything.
            Perhaps I am under spell, he wondered.  Perhaps I just pity him.
            Leaving the holding house he started walking the docks.  Pass, pass, pass, yes.  It was the first LLC mercenary sailor he could see with an important looking hat standing next to a ship that looked too gorgeous to have ever been in a real fight.  "Hello, I am from Hasenburg," he said in introduction, tightening his posture and adding a slightly posh accent to his voice.  "Have you perhaps done business with my County in the past?"
            The sailor turned, black leather breast plate, polished bronze shoulder pauldrons, a bicorn hat with a bronze broach of two fish, and a face so bearded there were little whiskers that connected the eyebrows to the sideburns.  Sun brown, taller than Malachite, a golden tooth filled smile, and a bottom lip packed with slop (a weed that was treated with flavors to be sucked on thru the day to freshen breath or get its user euphoric dependent on the strength).  "Aye," he said, extending a hand.  "I am Captain Quintus of the Freshwater Shark.  You a baron who needs a ride home?"
            "Not a baron, and no," said Malachite, shaking hands and looking over the ship.  "I am trying to get to Bone and would like passage."
            "I never head to Bone," said Quintus.  "Their navy doesn't hire sell sails."
            Liar on both counts, thought Malachite, pacing and looking the ship up and down.  "That is a shame, because I notice that your ship looks fantastic, if they did pay you would earn top dollar."
            "It is," said Quintus.  "And it does with others."
            "How many Bloody river pirates have you fended off?"
            "Never need to," said Quintus.  "They run when they know what is coming."
            Another lie.  Why lie?  Especially when he's clearly bad at it.  Mercenaries are not pristine, and a pristine ship would not stay pristine.  A ship would take arrow hits, burns from dropped lanterns, something needed to be broken having shown some kind of combat.  "So you are just in Orchard to fill up on oarsmen who can swing swords?  And heading where after that?"
            "We are taking on men and headed south to your fiefdom," replied Quintus.  "I really would help you if you were going our way or if we ever went the other.  You seem well to do and I wouldn't leave you hanging if it weren't any trouble.  I'm somewhat part of the informal Navy of Hasenburg."
            "Watch that language Captain," said Malachite.  "Bit potentially treasonous there, Hasenburg has no Navy that they would wish to challenge any power that wishes to regulate the Color Line.  We are cowboys and free rafters, not a military," and Malachite winked.  The Maunder Empire despised the idea of other militaries having any presence near them.  They knew about them and did nothing about them so long as they were not called a formal military.
            Quintus returned the wink.  And they both took a pause.  "I think you should come aboard," said Quintus.
            "The Freshwater Shark looks more beautiful even from the deck," said Malachite to his host.  "The sort of place that makes one's hair blow majestically, caught in the winds of adventure even when only following the current."
            "Showing off that reading we royalty are so known for?" said the Captain.
            "It is rare that I run into someone else who had to suffer it," said Malachite.  "Which cousin of mine are you."
            "Who even knows at this point," said Quintus smirking.  "My father named me after his captain from when he served in the Maunder Legion.  My mother is from the romantic kingdoms way in the south.  And I work for a living."
            "The silver fish are freshwater sharks, that means you are the distant ones, past Red Clay near Port Padre," said Malachite.
            "No," said Captain Quintus.  "You got it.  Red Clay.  We're the Brickers, the ones with the fort."
            "When did you get a fort?" asked Malachite.  "And for that matter, when did this ship get built?  A week ago?"
            "We started building the fort the first time one of us took a trip to Orchard Town and noticed Maunder Troops taking accounting," said Quintus.  "Counting the buildings, counting people, counting ships, counting orchards, they were or are looking to project out and so we started turning the red clay into red bricks."
            "At least it isn't expensive," said Malachite.  "Hasenburg had to ship stone from the Mountains when building its bridges."
            "It's expensive in Man power but has had the unexpected benefit of making the river run faster and deeper in our area, so we are making good money as the place people can lighten their loads before the river gets steadily shallower.  I am rambling aren't I?"
            "Don't be embarrassed I do it all the time," said the Viscount.
            "I am guessing you are the Run Off Bull?" said the Captain.
            "The what?"
            "Malachite?" said the captain leaning against a mast.  "My Lord?  Is that the proper address?"
            "You know we don't do that," said Malachite, waving off the title as he took a seat on a short rum barrel, Quintus opened his mouth and raised a hand to object, but then waved it off.  "And yes, that is me.  Though that is a nickname I hadn't heard yet.  Sounds alright.  Bit cowardly for my taste."
            "Malachite," said the Captain pausing to gather his questions, while still looking at the barrel Malachite was sitting on.  "What do you need?  Really?  I can take you home, you've got to have enough glory by now."
            "Slaughtering mountain tribes that had been harassing people isn't very noble."
            "Sounds alright to me."
            "They were hungry."
            "Less alright."
            "They owned the route and were gathering a reasonable tithe," said Malachite glowering.  "The kind I've had paid a hundred times just as part of trading."
            "Okay, now you sound more like a bandit," said Quintus, walking toward the head of the ship face toward the docks and Malachite got up to follow.  "Trade is complicated, and more and more of it is getting controlled by fewer and fewer people.  Men like you and I have lots of good starting positions to be one of the people holding one of the leashes of trade.  But there is that one things standing in the way."
            "A stupid sense of right and wrong," said Malachite.
            "It is the damnedest thing."
            For a while they stood quietly, looking over the people moving around the piers, and out over the crowd Malachite saw Pasgard lumbering from the tea house shielding his eyes from the sun and headed over to a shop selling heavily seasoned and lightly charred lamb meat with cucumbers and probably 3 types of gourd.
            "I am helping out someone who has a sort of legend about him," said Malachite.  "He's shady in his own way, mostly that he is foreign and dark skinned even by the standard of where he comes from."
            "Skin color important to you?" asked Quintus.
            "No," said Malachite, embarrassed to have phrased it that way. "But I know that even here in Orchard, a place that sees people from the Oases all the time, the people here still act like he is going to take their children back to the Caliph to be transformed into some kind of fire warrior.  He's not some kind of djinn, just an old guy who wants one last adventure before he finally feels he did his last adventure."
            "What's in Bone?"
            "I have some friends that will be helpful, after that I will..." he stopped and looked back over the ship.  "It occurs to me, you never told me when this ship was built."
            "What do you mean?"
            "Why is this brand new ship here?" asked Malachite.  "You're building a fort.  This boat is new.  Is something happening?"
            "Just like you can't say out loud where you are headed," said Quintus.  "I can't tell you everything that is going on."
            "I am a Viscount.  I out rank you.  Don't you have to tell me?"
            "You are the Run Off Bull," said Quintus.  "When you go home you can ask."
            "Wonderful," said Malachite.
            "That's why I know you," said the Captain.  "You're the fool in the codpiece."
            "That was an expensive codpiece."
            "I'm sure," said the Captain.  "You should go home, you can't be in too deep with this desert man yet.  Just go home."
            "Home for scolding, for admonishments, for answers to why you have a new boat," said Malachite, slightly sneering.  "I'll put it off."
            "Well," said Quintus.  "I won't tell anyone I saw you."
            "That's a relief actually."
            "I will also take you to the River's Fork if you want," said the Captain.  "I tend to stop there for food anyway, they have really fresh everything."
            "Maybe I could catch a ride there once a cargo lets off some of the load from here to there."
            "It's your best option," said Quintus.  "There is a reason you can't find passage all that easy."
            "Which I will discover at home?"
            "Yes, another answer you'll find at your father's house," said the Captain, who then paused.  "Where is the codpiece?  It's like meeting Achilles without his shield.  Why are you dressed like that if you aren't going home?"
            "I thought I might use my father's credit with the shipping people to secure a ride," stupid plan.  "Or I missed dressing plainly."
            "Maybe you should go home and find out."
            "No, but that you for comparing my penis to a demi-god," said Malachite.
            "Complement?" asked the Captain in a tone.  "I compared him to a warrior that died because of hubris."
            "The fate of all great penises."
            "I will go find my friend," said Malachite, standing.  "We have a cart, horse, two big chests.  Lot of your space we'll be taking up."
            "I can make room," said the Captain.
            "I owe you," said Malachite.  "One of these days I will show up and offer you a job that will too good to resist, and you will become a great friend."
            "Good to know."
            "You have a nickname by chance?"
            "Not that I know of," said Quintus.
            "How about I call you Captain Quintus the Shark," said Malachite.
            "Seems an excessively fearsome name considering I am taking you one port and kicking you off."
            "It will help me remember you," said Malachite.  "Better than Captain Quentin the Ferry."
            "I can see how that name might confuse people," said the Captain.
            "I am otherwise awful with names," said Malachite.
            "What's your black friend's nickname?"
            "He has been given more names by more foes, than people I have yet to meet."

            And so Malachite headed back to the holding house, and changed again, circlet, doublet and trousers away.  Slashed sleeves shirt, mismatched tights, and golden codpiece on.  I am wonderful.  And then he left orders for his things to be ready to ship in an hour, and headed to get Pasgard... And some delicious over seasoned goat meat with various gourds as a side.

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