I've not long ago bought a Penguin Classic's edition of James Joyce's Dubliners. It's one of my favourite collections of short stories. These stories show everyday life in Dublin and move from childhood to death. Everyday things happen to everyday people in everyday life. I thought it would be fun to have a thread for "everyday life in a fantasy town".
I've named the town "Mitha", but I'm bad with names, and I don't like that particular name, so if anyone comes up with another, don't hesitate to use it. I haven't used the name "Mitha" in my story yet.
So this is a thread for people who'd enjoy creating a world by displaying the everyday life of everyday people. Have fun, if you're so inclined.
April 3rd, 2005, 06:34 AM
The cacophony of children playing was nothing like music, no matter what Corwin Sharyll used to say when he was still roaming the lands as a travelling Bard, when people still listened to bards. In the morning, his back had hurt badly, and he'd had trouble rising out of bed. The pain had subsided, but the mood was ruined. He was going to spend the day reminiscing about the good old days, when he loved to tell stories and play the lute and sing, and people actually loved to listen. Ah, the good old days!
He threw open the class room door, and the noise stopped instantly. Children scuttled to their seats focussing their attention upon him, as he entered and walked towards his desk. He had never had any problem silencing the children, and for that he was grateful. They were a bit afraid of him, he assumed, and it suited him fine, as this meant he did not have to use the cane for the boys, nor the ruler for the girls. It was the scars, he thought, the legacy of his encounter with a fledgling griffon way down south. The beast had raked his face with its sharp claws in fright, as he'd accidently stumbled upon the nest. The children did not know this, and they would not learn of it, if he could help it.
He went through the list and the children answerd, "Yes, sir!" one after the other, announcing their presence. Children of farmers, locksmiths, barbers... And they were learning to read and write. Personally, he blamed the modern books. Printed things made by machines with little love from those who operated them. He'd been aware of them when he was little, but he'd laughed, then. Who would want to lock out the world and piece together a story from letters on a page? Who would trust words when their wielder was absent and could not be questioned as to their meaning? He had underestimated their power. Had he known what he knew now, he would have joined an actor's company, instead.
The first doubts about his choice of profession came when he saw a man in ragged chlothes sit by the window in an inn. A sunbeam fell through the window, illuminating a parchment before him. He wielded a quill, slowly, awkwardly. His lips moved with every stroke. A pint of ale stood untouched beside the parchment.
Reading and writing. It used to be just lords and priests and merchants, but now it was farmers and locksmiths and barbers as well. And all an aged bard could do was go with the flow and teach the children how to read and write.
After Corwin was through with the list, he took the history book from a drawer and placed it on the desk. It was a huge, heavy thing, and, in his eyes, a tomb for words. Slowly he rose, feeling the absence of pain in his back like a threat, like a warning, when he should enjoy the moment. "So, who can tell me what story we have read, yesterday?" he asked into the quiet classroom. "Yes, Charba?"
"We read about how General Swift and his brave men defeated the hordes of the evil demon Shywarith!" the boy exclaimed. The boy's fervor sent a fleeting pleasantness through him, not powerful enough to trigger a smile, but pervasive enough to lodge itself in his heart and mind and fuel the idea, that perhaps, the written word was not all bad, and might have a power of its own. A new kind of power, untested and unpredictable. Change. Wasn't that was life was about?
"Shywarith wasn't a demon." The soft, defiant voice of Shiorahn. None but the elfin girl would dare speak up unbidden. But, then, she had attended this class since before he had taken the job as teacher. She still looked exactly as she had those seven years ago, when he first saw her. He saw children grow in height. He heard their voices change. But Shiorahn stayed the same. He knew about elven longevity, but experiencing it first hand was something else altogether.
Shiorahn was the daughter of rich merchants who lived in Silkweaver Lane. Their slanting, emerald eyes and small build made them out to be sylvan elves, though from where they came they would not say. They sent their daughter to a commoner's school, and they wouldn't comment on why, but their money was welcome and the headmaster did not ask questions. Shiorahn herself had once said that a bit of human education would not hurt her. He had, then, asked her whether it was not a waste of time, learning the same things year after year, and she had replied that she did not learn the same things year after year; there were so many different boys and girls to study. An image had shot through Corwin's head, of human children drifting through her life like mayflies, fragile things, interesting to study.
"If Shywarith wasn't a demon, then, what was he?" Corwin asked, feeling like an actor, for between them the topic had come up before.
"General Swift called him an evil man. Swift's grandchildren were convinced he was possessed by a devil. And a few generations on Shywarith was a demon. It was all very funny, my grandfather says."
"Your just a lying elf!" Charba said, and he would have said more, but the blood rushed to his face and he stared at the desk as he caught sight of Corwin's frown. His apology was barely audible.
A smug smile played on Shiorahn's implausibly old, impossibly young face.
April 5th, 2005, 03:02 PM
When he was a child, Hadran used to dream of swimming in the Aethe. When he was at home, he used to play in the creek nearby that flowed down from the mountain, and he imagined that the light fairies who lived in the waves of the Aethe would come and tell him stories, and then take him to fantastic lands. He used to throw stones in the creek, and imagine the stones like the strange seacreatures that could skirt over the Aethe. He had read stories of them, and was continually fascinated by their elongated ears and skin like glass, so clear that it was difficult to actually witness one, and only if you were lucky, could you chance to see the sun or moon reflected as they turned their arms and hunted the alleys of the Aethe for their daily feed.
He would always come home, his clothes soaking, and his body shaking in chills. His mother would set him on a chair, and pull a blanket over his body, and bring him a hot drink of chrysanth tea. The honey-like flavor would ooze down his throat, and he usually fell asleep. However, whenever he awoke, he would receive a horrible scolding from his mother, and he would be excused from being able to leave the house unattended for one week. Instead, he was given duties to which Hadran believed himself to be the only child on this side of the world to be given - sweeping, pulling weeds from the garden in front, and polishing the trophies his father had received during the dark battles of Celenthia's civil war.
Hadran's merchant stall bustled with activity. He looked away from the golden sword trophy, and felt the stillness and heaviness of life sink onto him. His mother used to tell him that his father had sustained a scar on his left arm from a certain demon sword, but while he was down on the ground and the demon laughed in his victory, his father thrust a knife through the demon's gullet, piercing the creature to a tree. Although for many years his father could not use that arm, Hadron was told, he still fought with his other arm just as bravely in the wars. It was for that first wound, though, that his father received the trophy.
But people were not interested in trophies now. Demons walked the streets, their red and golden eyes like burning scars. After the Treaty of Mitha, the glorious city had invited the citizens of F'gol, the Emperor of the demon armies, to come into city and become citizens, to which many of them took the opportunity straight away, as F'gol was a greedy and lecherous creature, whose insatiable curiosity about magic had driven the two nation-states to war in the first place.
And now his father's trophy was on the selling block. Hadron imagined that if the time ever came to sell his family heirlooms, he would feel a pain so dark that he could no longer bear it, and would be forced to remove the heirlooms from his stall, but the pain didn't come. His life, which he spent since graduating from the university in a general stupor between working for the guard and then apprenticing under the mage Kaalath, and then finally taking a journey to the ancient temple of Nemenae, had ended with his humiliation for completing the required rituals, and for seven years now he toiled in the alleyways of Mitha's trade district, trying to make a living outside of his shame.
The people walked by his stall, indifferent to his pain. Curse them anyways, Hadron thought to himself. But he was a proper merchant, bound to the laws of the guild, and would not mutter such things aloud. People would stop by his stall, their eyes pouring across his wares, and then move on, oblivious to the danging coins in their pockets or to Hadron's now expert smile.
"The knife of Juliard, who slew a hundred witches in three nights, would you consider such a rare and beautiful artifact?" Indeed, it was not, but only a common knife that Hadron had received from his Order in the guild, which had certain writing engraved on the blade so that it seemed like it was from Juliard. It was a reproduction, but people were people and enjoyed their trifles.
This was a bad month though. When Hadron had first gone to the backroom in his small home and retrieved the trophy, he promised to himself that if he would not take another trophy. This would be the only one. Until he could pay back his loans to the mage Kaalath. Then he would be able to start over. Truly. Perhaps another apprenticeship, although Hadron worried he was getting too old, and was without a wife. Yes, perhaps there were more important things to think about.
A young elf stopped by his booth, wearing a golden brocade shirt, with a dangling crystal bracelet hanging around her wrist. Hadron put on his smile, and began to work.
April 6th, 2005, 12:28 AM
Two men in an alley leaned into either wall. On one side the dark one was adjusting his glasses as he held his book. His shoulder shook as it rubbed against the wall of The Journey. The other man was glaring at the first, picking his nails with a knife, grinding his teeth with every quiver of his companion's mustache. An explosion of laughter escaped the lips of his dark companion; he threw his knife to the ground and reached for the book. His companion swatted the arm away like he would the flies swarming the garbage heaped at the end of the alley. The other man grabbed at the book and caught a corner.
Mickey watched the two struggling as he ground Kantweed into his pipe. His mouth was smiling slightly even if his eyes were not. After he lit his pipe he shouldered his pouch and walked east down Dove Road. His hands shuffled into his vest pocket as he turned left on Spirit Street. He stopped under the great green sign of Grunt's Pub. His hand came out of his pocket with one Crown, four Horsewood, a strip of leather and a puff of lint. The door opened as he grabbed for it.
An Elf walked out through the door. He was nearly to the sidewalk when his head turned. He raised an eyebrow, stopping. "Mickey, eh?"
Mickey returned the hand to his pocket. "Yeah, Aldin, right?"
Aldin smiled and held out his hand. "That's it. Well met."
Shaking the hand, Mickey turned an eye to the pub. "Well, I never thought to see you around here."
Chuckling, Aldin placed his delicate fingers in the angled side pockets of his fine Elven tailored jacket. "Nor I, but business is business, what?"
"I guess. So you must be busy then." Mickey turned slightly towards the doorway.
"Oh, that's certain. But not too busy for an old peer, eh? Mind you, I've got a great deal of paper work. Oh, but I'm waiting for a fellow, you see. This investor. Shipping needs insurance nowadays, what? Nasty business with pirates and all. Mind you, losses due to Kraken and the like are down so maybe it's a trade off, right? But, now, enough doom and gloom, what's new under the sun for you?"
"Well - "
"Now, myself it's business. I imagine the same for you. You always were good for a scam, what?"
"Not really, look - "
"That's shocking! Royally so. Of us all I would have supposed you to have amassed more wealth than I. So what happened?"
"I really don't have the time, Aldin. Surely, I'm Hungry." Mickey turned again.
"Oh, yes... Well don't let me keep you. Must attend to the appetite. Say, do you know the quickest way to the Apostle of Aaron Temple?" Aldin brushed at his lapel as he cocked his head.
Mickey turned back and pointed down the street. "Right at the end."
Aldin grinned and his perfect white teeth nearly glittered in the sunlight. He turned and began walking, waving over his shoulder. "Well, good seeing you, and thanks: can't make a good investor wait, what?"
Mickey opened the door and walked into the bar. "I guess not."
The place was nearly empty. A Kegman was unloading barrels in the back from his cart in the alley. A slight breeze ran through the small pub. Most of the chairs were still stacked on the tables. Rosalia came out of the bathroom, a rag in one hand, and a mop in the other. Grunt was sitting on a stool behind the bar. He was holding a book and chuckling to himself.
"Grunt, a pint and a bowl if you please." Mickey climbed onto a stool by the bar.
Grunt turned his grin slowly straightening out. "Let's see what you got Mick."
His eyes narrowing, Mickey pulled three Horsewood from his pocket and placed them on the bar. "Some friend."
"Yeah, well I got more than one mouth to feed pal." Grunt then turned and yelled at Rosalia. "Get a bowl for me will you?"
As Rosalia nodded and headed into the back, the Kegman came to the bar. He handed a slip of paper to Grunt and waited for it to be signed. Looking over the bar, the Kegman nodded at the book. "Nearly forgot publishing day myself. How was the crowd when you got yours friend?"
Grunt patted his book and smiled. "I get mine delivered."
Mickey snorted. "Mouths to feed, right?" He nodded at the Kegman. "I was just over there. It's a circus."
The Kegman frowned and walked away. "Damn."
As the Kegman left Rosalia came to the bar and plopped a bowl of boiled cabbage in front of Mickey. She leaned in and whispered. "Extra helping for a great lad."
Mickey smiled. "Thanks Rosey." He sat forward and blew on the steaming bowl. "Say Grunt, you pouring me a pint or what?"
Grunt looked up from the book he had started thumbing through again. "Oh! Sorry Mick." He poured the pint and slid it to Mickey. "Say have you been following 'The Great Adventure' Mick?"
Mickey sighed. "Yeah."
"Well I'll lend you my copy when I'm done. You'll like this one."
"Thanks again Grunt."
After a short while Mickey pushed the empty bowl away and took a gulp of beer. "Say Grunt. You talk to that Elf that came out before me?"
Grunt looked up from his book. His lips parted slightly and he raised an eyebrow before nodding. "Oh yeah, the gabby one. I know he was talking, but he wasn't saying much."
"Did he mention what his business was?"
"Something about sewage... Was that it? No - it was salvage. Why?"
"I don't know. Not many Elves in this bar."
"Yeah. But he was one of them Rads, I thought anyway."
"I don't think he was even from Glyndor, Grunt." Mickey took another gulp of beer.
Grunt rolled his eyes. "Well I never got to travel as much as you, so I wouldn't really know. He just seemed the type; y'know gold-greedy as a dwarf."
"I guess.” Mickey sat up then and stretched. “I’ll be off Grunt.”
“Well come by tomorrow. I may have some business for you.”
Nodding as he exited, Mickey shouldered his pouch and went out the door. “Will do.”
Grunt went back to his book.
June 9th, 2005, 10:41 AM
Big city, bright city. No clouds today, and the sun merciless. Relief: to duck into the gloom of man made cave, to dart for shadow and rest.
Vexx inner eye-lids slid open, as he surveyed the beam of bright sunlight that shone through the entrance. Suspiciously, he cocked his head. A smell permeated his nostrils. Guts: dried, long dead, bloodless, but guts none the less. So, the sonomantic artifacts required death? Vexx glanced around. Various artifacts hung on the walls, wood shapes with oval bodies and slender necks. And across them, the guts, the dired, ancient guts. So dry that Vexx couldn't even tell the creature. They probably did not use their own.
"Good day..." a voice boomed in a jolly bass, but drew out slow, silent, uncertain: "...sir?"
"G'day," Vexx hissed.
"You must have come for Lord C'Cyth's Lute?" The Artificer was tall and thin, even for a human.
"Yes, artifact. I get Lute, Master give money." Vexx glanced upwards.
The Artificer squinted. "I was hoping to receive payment, now."
"Give Lute. Master pay. I serf, not fit to carry money. Master generous. Not worry."
"Well, I suppose," the Artificer said. "You wait, while I will get the instrument." The man shook his body and turned to leave the room. Soon after, another man, younger, with sparse hair across his face, entered. Vexx watched but made no move to greet.
"You are an imp?" the man asked.
"Yes, imp," Vexx replied. "You slave?"
The man leant slightly forward, an expression on his face that Vexx had learnt to read as surprise. "Slave? No, I'm Master Phinn's apprentice. One day, I will make fine lutes, like Master Phinn." A laugh followed.
Vexx retreated into the corner, bowing slightly. "I sorry. Not wish insult." But the man did not appear angry.
"Oh, don't worry. There are no slaves in the Kingdom. We..." the men's spine straightened and his chin rose. "...are free!"
Not for the first time had Vexx heard of the human concept of freedom. A free person was the opposite of a slave. Vexx had thought long and hard on this. A slave served and got nothing out of it, but the satisfaction of serving well. By this definition, an imp was the equivalent of a slave. Bred to serve, and good at serving, an imp led a safe life in caves, protected by their demonic masters, while their masters put their life on the line in the big lands. Only few imps ever left their caves. Only those, whose masters travelled abroad and would not come back.
But an imp was free. Free to breed with any other imp he chooses. Free to go wherever he wanted. If an imp left its cave, well... bad things could happen to it, and if it tried to go back home it might find a dissatisfied master: an absent servant was a bad servant. And it might not be let back inside.
So if a free man was the opposite of a slave, and an imp was the demonic equivalent of a slave, then the opposite of an imp was the equivalent of a free man. But what was the opposite of an imp? And, if he ever found out, would he want to be that? Humans seemed to imply that he did. That he wanted to be his own opposite.
The Artificer returned with one of the sonomantic artifacts in his hands. He gave his apprentice a look, and the apprentice turned away. Was this an example of freedom. Was the apprentice not a slave? But Vexx had no time to wonder, as the man bowed down to him, presenting the arifact, carefully with both hands.
"This Lute?" Vexx asked, breathing in the smell that emanated from the thing, so close now to hs nostrils. Filtering out the polished wood, he identified the intestinal dustiness of the strings. Could it be... sheep?
"Yes, and a fine one. Ambassador C'Cyth will be pleased."
You kill sheep for this? Vexx wanted to ask, but dared not. Instead, he said: "Master tell me to listen. I tell whether powerful artifact, and then take or leave."
The Artificer's brow wrinkeled, but he stood up straight and placed the arifact before his chest. "I am not a Bard, you need to know. I make the lutes, but they will not sound as well in my hands as they would in a Bard's. You will not get the full extent of the beauty this lute is capable of. Please, bear this in mind."
Vexx cocked his head. "Is it dangerous, when mishandled?"
A while the artificer just stared down at Vexx, but then he chuckled. "Oh, slightly unpleasant at most. And those with keen hearing might throw pots at me." He chuckled again, and then his fingers handled the guts.
Sounds erupted in the man-cave, such as Vexx had never heard before. His ears rose slightly, involuntarily, trying to take in more of the sounds. So strange, like a knife sliding of a plate, like the wind whistling through the Crystal Caverns, but ordered and layered. Vexx felt a wave of alien energy surge through his bones, and somewhere in the back of his mind he was afraid of the alien power tugging at his soul, but his foremost being was drawn to the source. He had seen mice behave like he must behave now, when faced with snakes. Sonomancy was indeed powerful human magic. He had dismissed the accounts as rumours, but now, he no longer could.
"Stop!" he finally rasped. And the Artificer took his hands from the lute, and the sound stopped, and the silence that followed left an odd sadness where relief should be.
June 16th, 2005, 12:14 PM
Yaz was not an old man nor he was a young one. He thought of himself as ripe but recognized his days as a mighty warrior were past, he was now no more than an adequate warrior. Self-deprecatingly, he told the wagon driver the only thing he could fight and expect to vanquish these days were his passions. For a man of his age, he thought he retained a decent lot of passions though he ruefully acknowledged to himself that some he had enjoyed as a much younger man no longer appealed to him.
Bull riding, for example, he no longer practiced. By the goddess, he wasn’t certain he could spend three days in the saddle on a proper mount much less a bull for just a few moments. More accurately, he wouldn’t bet he could spend one day in the saddle on any kind of mount. He might have to attempt it, he supposed, but he would not look forward to the event.
Still, Yaz took comfort in the fact he had his health. His frame, not yet stooped with truly advanced age, still supported the pole and buckets suspended at each end. Even when filled to capacity at around three stones each, he could manage the load on his shoulders, not feel the pressure in his lower back, not feel his legs wanting to buckle, even after the trip down hill. The load was always carried down hill to the waiting wagon
In the old days, refuse departed Mith via ditches dug along side the roads. It was efficient when it rained; putrid when it didn’t. Civilization arrived some time in the last century when a ruthless mayor set all ne’er-do-wells to laboring on the drains. Reinforced, covered, flowing with water from the river, the center of Mith now cleansed itself on a continuous basis. Folks living down stream had reservations about this civilization thing but none down stream enjoyed the influence or numbers of those upstream in Mith.
Yaz appreciated the fact that time changes everything. Where folk used to find living in the center of Mith desirable, the wealthy now found it more comfortable to live on the fringes, away from the rabble. They built their homes on hills to have views, to be in the fresher breezes blowing above Mith. The disadvantage to these advantages lay in the fact that water refused to run uphill. In fact, all known fluids refused to run uphill. This made elimination of wealthy waste problematic.
Problems, as good entrepreneurs realize, generate opportunities. Yaz wished he had been in Mith when the new fortunes were made solving plumbing problems for the wealthy. He could have been Arneth who built himself a water wagon that leaked not very much. He would have, as Arneth did, contract himself to deliver water to the wealthy. He’d have seen the minor business that would ensue in preparing cisterns capable of holding and dispensing the water thus delivered and, as owner-developer, he could have, as Arneth now did, lived on his own hill on the fringe of Mith.
More apt to Yaz’ circumstance, if he had been around at the time, he might have made the second fortune that came when Hotha built a similar wagon and contracted to carry waste away from wealthy homes. Hotha had to invent a secondary business in night soil containers to make the first business successful but Hotha had been up to the challenge. The farmers in Mith’s footprint appreciated the fertilizer; they paid well for the product.
Hotha’s descendants paid Yaz not as well as they were paid. They paid him to walk up the hills to the homes of the wealthy, gather the preceding day’s output, and lug it down the hill to the wagon. The wealthy did not allow the wagon itself to travel up the hill. The wagon smelled; they lived on the hill to avoid the smell’ so Yaz was employed to go up the hill, fetch the waste, and carry it down the hill.
Yaz’ task also required him to continuously notify the folk who might be traveling on the street he carried his burden or about to travel that street of his presence. When he carried the waste, his employers required him to sing as loudly as he might, “night soil....night soil…night soil,’ the warning expelled with every other breath.
In the three years he had been performing this task, Yaz became inured to the odors, the disdaining glances cast his direction, the taunts and jeers of children in his path. The job reduced itself to placing one foot in front of the other, sometimes easily, sometimes under pressure, singing out his mantra. Never complaining – for what good would complaining do? – Yaz performed his task day in and day out with no time off for holidays or vacation. Bowels always moved so there was always product to acquire.
No one ever asked Yaz why he did this job. His employers did not care to ask as his answer might start him to thinking there was other employment available. His customers never asked him as they wanted him to arrive and depart as quickly as possible. The children never asked him as they were too busy finding new ways to torment him. The folk he encountered in his favorite tavern never asked him because he never talked to anyone, not even the flagon he nursed. Something about his aura kept the professional women at arms length and the non-professionals even further away.
On the wall of the room Yaz rented in the back of the barn where his employers stabled their horses, Yaz marked time, a mark for each day. There were now 1149 marks. Tomorrow there would be an anniversary of sorts as there would be just 50 days to a new beginning. He had spent all these days and nights carrying waste mentally preparing for this new start; he believed he was ready.