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 The Heat of a Desert Land (OPEN)
Marbrand de Fontaine
Posted: Apr 9 2012, 02:44 AM


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The heat. That was the worst part about this desert. Not the dark-skinned people with their strange beliefs, or the sand that got absolutely everywhere, it was the ever pervasive heat that truly got to a man. It wasn't like the heat of battle, all sweat soaked and bloody. Aknatar's heat was a dry thing that drank the moisture right out of a person. Sweat barely had a chance to cool the skin before a dry wind would steal it away.

Still, as much as heat was a constant annoyance, this desert had its advantages too. The foreign spirits that flowed along the trade routes from the east lit a fire in his belly that the wines and ales of Tetel'ac could not compare to, and the women! You had those that followed their god's word to the letter, and then others who... Well, let's just say they did things that would make a proper Rodani lady blush several different shades of red.

It was the spirits that Marbrand Redaxe was enjoying now, having already taken his fill of the plump serving serving woman that the tented establishment he had taken to frequenting employed. Though perhaps 'taken' was not the most accurate of terms, a few coins and she had come to that union willingly.

The establishment was surprisingly quiet this evening, considering the fact that Mars was within a three mile radius of it, there should have been a dull yet raucous roar at the very least. He must have been in a more melancholy mood than usual, for the only sounds that touched his hearing was the slight drone of idle chatter from the patrons around him, and wet ripping sound of his teeth tearing off another piece of meat from his leg of mutton. Two chews and then a swallow, chased down with another slug of that eastern spirit; it was a comfortable rhythm interrupted only occasionally by the scrape of leather and metal on rough wood as he repositioned himself on the bench he currently occupied.

Once the meat was finally finished, he took the bone in two immense hands and snapped it in twain; as though it were little more than a thin twig, and proceeded to suck the marrow from it. Dal'ib was a prosperous enough city, it was unlikely he would starve here, but Marbrand de Fontaine had been on too many campaigns to waste any sort of precious sustenance, especially not the sort he'd payed good money for.

“Barkeep! Another flagon of whatever it is you call this stuff,” he called out (though 'boomed' might have been a closer term, a man of Marbrand's size was never particularly quiet). A few of the soldiers he knew had started taking bets on what the cheap eastern spirits were made of, potatoes were in the lead the last he'd checked, though from the taste paint might have been a closer guess.
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Kateb
Posted: Apr 9 2012, 04:57 PM


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The older man in charge of the establishment turned around and gave the young man scrubbing the faux counter a solid smack on the back of the head.

Kateb closed his eyes tightly, holding his breath a moment as he fought a brief spell of dizziness. Of course, that was just the beginning. This sort of thing had been going on all day and most of the week. A customer hollered fir something, food or liquor, and then the proprietor turned around and gave Kateb a whack and started jabbering at him (as he was now) in the native language.
"Stupid boy! the proprietor shouted, spittle flying "you are so useless! Can't you hear the customers? You are no good! You are a waste of my money! Pour the foreigner another!Now!" the speech came hard and fast, words shortening and tumbling one over another and all within a mere second of that soldier's call.

Had Kateb not been smacked he would have immediately jumped up to pour the man another. In fact, the slap meant to hasten Kateb had slowed him. The young man knew his job. He had bagged the proprietor until he'd given him the position and he worked tirelessly to keep it. There was a line of boys just waiting for the position. Sure, Kateb could always fall back on thieving and begging and herding goats, but everyone championed the benefits of a "solid" job...so he'd decided to try it. So far it sucked, though it was nice walk home at the end of the day with a carefully guarded pocket of coin.

Anyway, back to now.

Dropping the scrub-brush, Kateb sprung from his knees and grabbed a pitcher of the moonshine- esque liquor and began to jog in a rushed manner to where the soldier sat.

Kateb, like the proprietor, had no real opinion of soldiers. He was cautious around them because as far as he knew they tended to kill folks that fell underfoot, but he had been drawn to them several times due to the simPle fact that they seemed to always have cash and spent it proliferously. That's really why this establishment had sprung up here. Liquids that sinners and foreigners wanted. Food, different than that served at mess. Women... The proprietor didn't care! Money was money and he would get it any way he could while the getting was good.

I seem to have digressed again.

The point was, what happened next was purely accident and by no means conjured of ill feelings. No, the simple fact was Kayeb was jogging through a crowded space with a pitcher whilst thinking about escaping the proprietor's future smacks. He was Not paying attention and as he drew within an arm's length of Marbrand's table his foot got caught on the taut extension of one of the tent's interior ropes.

He jerked, he fumbled - oh, he tried! - but he had been on the opposite side of the table from Mars and as the pitcher flew out of his hands, and the liquor flew out of the pitcher...well, all Kateb could do was let fly a curse.

Undoubtedly the pitcher would crash down on the table. And the liquor...
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Marbrand de Fontaine
Posted: Apr 15 2012, 06:44 AM


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Mars watched as the rather dramatic scene unfolded in front of him. All he'd asked for was a simple refill, and he'd barely even asked for it before the proprietor started yelling at the boy who'd been scrubbing the roughly hewn counter, one of the few pieces of wood in the entire establishment, shouting in the near incomprehensible gobbledygook that passed for a language here in Aknatar. The big captain had managed to pick up one or two words and phrases during his time campaigning in this desert, things like 'stop', 'now' and 'how much'. Certainly not enough to pick up more than a couple of words out of the heated, one-sided dialogue.

As a knight Marbrand probably should have stood up in defence of the scrubbing boy when the proprietor struck him. That was one of the oaths wasn't it? To protect those who could not protect themselves. Not that knights like that really existed, or if they did, they certainly did last very long in this world. Half the time it was all a person could do to protect themselves, let alone anyone else. The boy ought to learn to stick up for himself anyway, that was how a man survived. Besides, Mars was a soldier first, a knight second, and soldiers did what they were told and everything else could be damned.

Regardless of the owner's hostility towards his employee, the liquor was soon on its way; so things couldn't have been too bad. Or at least, they wouldn't have been if the clumsy boy had managed to place his feet where they ought to have been placed. Instead he was tripping, and...

Marbrand stood violently as the clay pitcher shattered on the table in front of him, splashing a generous amount of the alcoholic liquid down his front. For the briefest of moments he almost let his anger get the better of him. The idiotic boy was so slight, he could probably crush him with one hand, or grasp the boy's head in both hands and squeeze until his eyes turned to jelly. That wave of anger washed over the knight quickly, and was soon replaced by booming laughter that shook his entire frame.

“Well, I knew I'd be leaving here stinking of this stuff, but I thought I'd get at least half of it in me instead of on!” he roared, though there was no malice in his voice, simply volume born of his extreme size.

“Though you won't see a single Bronze from me for that, even if I do take most of it with me when I go.”
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Kateb
Posted: Apr 15 2012, 06:44 PM


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There were no words to describe the feeling of dread that ripped its way through Kateb's stomach and like an ice-age worked its way to the tips of his fingers. He had caught himself now, but standing still was caught, utterly frozen in those few awkward seconds where nothing could be done but wait for the inevitable. HIs face lit up, his eyes wide as he saw the soldier scoot with frightening reflex to his feet...but it was too late. The pitcher cracked open and the liquor stayed in motion screaming its way right onto his clothes.

"Oh, Aalaam..." Kateb whispered, frozen still in his shock, embarrassment and fear - but mostly fear. If this guy didn't punish him for this himself the proprietor most certainly would. Surely, losing his job would be the least of his worries. As it was the area of the impromptu tavern surrounding this "incident" had gone quiet...

Oh, and when that man finally got to speaking any chance that this might somehow be ignored was immediately erased.

Now Kateb couldn't speak common fluently, and the proprietor was only a little better himself, but he could understand tone - and it had to be admitted that the tone that was coming out of this soldier's mouth wasn't really what Kateb would have expected. There was no angry screaming or dirty gestures. His voice was loud, sure...but he didn't really sound...terribly angry...

From what Kateb could gather however, the man was now going to leave because either he or it stank and...something about having half of it (presumably the liquor) spill on him. Kateb eyed the soaked cloth on the man skeptically; surely there was more than half upon him! It was the whole thing!

And then he said something about "bronze" - the money. Undoubtedly he wouldn't pay it. Damn it. That was coming out o Kateb's hide. Not that he'd expected the soldier to pay of course.

hot from embarrassment and heart racing for fear Kateb pulled a rag from his sash and hustled forward to the tall, fear-inspiring man, and cloth extended before him made a move to dab and wipe at the man's front.

"So sorry!" he said breathlessly in Common, keeping his eyes strained on the man's chest. "Sorry, so sorry!"
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Marbrand de Fontaine
Posted: Apr 26 2012, 11:49 AM


Unregistered









Aalaam... That was their god wasn't it? The one with all the queer rules about liquor and women wearing too much clothing. Thank the Goddess (a proper god there, at least) only the noble families seemed to take a particularly hard-line stance on that topic, Aknatar was a boring enough place already without taking away what little flesh the common women showed.

“No need to get religious about it boy, I'll not be yanking your head from your shoulders today.” Or any day, if they were both lucky. Things in Aknatar seemed relatively settled at the moment, a people's uprising seemed rather unlikely, but on the off chance it did happen it would be a bloody affair. To tell the truth, part of Mars wanted that, wanted nothing more to get his axe wet with a bit of blood. He'd never kill an innocent, that was true, but how exactly was a man supposed to define an innocent? A goatherd with a scythe hammered into a polearm could kill you just as dead as a professional soldier, no matter how 'innocent' they'd been to begin with. Dal'ib was fairly well secured though, and this boy seemed too timid to be the sort to take up the hammered scythe in anger.

“Don't apologise boy, it's a sign of weakness. Have the common tongue do you? Or is 'sorry' all you know? Oh bugger it, bring me another, and two cups; I've never killed a man I was sharing a drink with, that ought to keep you safe enough,” he said, shuffling a little to the right of where he stood before sitting back down, so as to avoid the small puddle that had gathered on his former seat on the bench.

((So sorry it's taken me this long to get this up, I was really not prepared for what university dumped on my head this semester.))
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Kateb
Posted: Apr 30 2012, 11:13 PM


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((Don't apologise boy, it's a sign of weakness.))

Would Kateb ever become a goatherd with a scythe hammered into a polearm? Would he ever pick up a blade or bow or sharp edge of broken pottery against these foreign invaders? Never alne, that was for sure, and whether he'd even bother until it was absolutely necessary was questionable, to. He wasn't a pacifist, but he wasn't a fighter. He stole, he did odd jobs, he took care of his two "little brothers." There just wasn't a place or need for killing in his life. Killing had never been the way to a loaf of bread or sip of water. Not yet. Probably never.

The man talked fast in that foreign tongue, and Kateb frowned as he stared up at the giant, staring at his mouth in an effort to catch every word he knew. By the time he'd translated a few though the rest had seemingly passed him by and Kateb was left with fragmented sentences to stitch together and make sense of.

So he just nodded, a natural reaction to trying to make things go smoothly.

His tone was forgiving and his words suggested that Kateb wasn't in as much trouble from him as he would be from his boss. Something about not apologizing and the common tongue (probably asking him if he knew it which Kateb was left at a loss to answer as he wasn't sure if his sketchy knowledge constituted "knowing" the language) and the demand for "two cups" - an order he could interpret well.

"Kateb!" the proprietor was screaming now and Kateb closed his eyes, imagining the beating that was sure to come for this. That yell meant that he had seen it and had only just recovered from his horrified shock. Surely the man wuld be overtly cruel now to show the soldier that it had really not been a personal offense and that he would not approve of it.

Great.

Opening his eyes, Kateb pulled back from where he had been wiping the soldier down and, nodding at his request, turned to make his way quickly back to the proprietor.

Who greeted him with a sound smack to the back of the head and the Aknatari threat of a sandal up his ass. The sharp chattering began again, the boss jabbering violently as Kateb gathered another pitcher of liquor and two glasses. He didn't quite understand that the soldier wanted to drink with him, but the man had asked for it and so he would receive. That was the rule here. You made good on your payments and you got whatever you asked for.
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Marbrand de Fontaine
Posted: May 1 2012, 10:52 PM


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Mars watched as the bewildered and terrified boy tried to take in what he was saying, obviously only picking up every few words. That was a no to speaking common then. Ah well, it wasn't like the big man had been hoping for any great conversation. He continued to watch as the boy nodded nervously and returned to the bar when the proprietor shouted out a word Marbrand didn't recognise; 'kateb', probably the kid's name, from the way he jumped to acknowledge it.

And then the man struck his worker, and the gargantuan soldier who had only just sat himself back down shot back up like an arrow, nearly knocking the table over as his big legs slammed into them in his haste to stand, not that the heavy collision seemed to effect him in the slightest. He stood there, perfectly still, and uttered a single sentence.

“You lay a hand on that boy again and I'll cut your cock off, then make you eat it,” he said. He said, not shouted. There was no anger in his voice, but rather a matter-of-fact sort of tone, as though what he was saying was the most perfectly normal thing to say, implying the gap between threat and deed was very small indeed. The proprietor couldn't know it, but the Captain of Horse was deadly serious. A soldier's life was a privilege earned, not a right given, and that sort of mentality did not grant the any particular sanctity to the life of a single innkeeper with anger management problems. Hah! Anger management problems, as though Marbrand was really the man to be judgemental about that.
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Kateb
Posted: May 6 2012, 08:45 AM


Unregistered









[Sorry about this being late, I've been crazy busy these last days, too. Can't wait for school to end]

Both Kateb and the proprietor, and just about everyone else in the place, paused in the middle of what they were ding and turned their eyes to the soldier when he stood. The bang of the table jumping would have probably been enough to get anyone's attention if the man hadn't been a giant an the subject of the latest alcohol embarrassment, but the fact that he was only made him more popular of a speaker. Frankly, people were interested in what he was about to say.

And, let's be honest, he delivered.

“You lay a hand on that boy again and I'll cut your cock off, then make you eat it,” he said, not shouted, in common. Those who could understand it shared looks of amusement and anticipation for some sort of show-down or fight, but the truth was that the vast majority of them only got the word "cock," if they had interpreted very much at all. His tone was calm and flat, so the gist of a threat was hard to interpret.

The proprietor hesitated, staring at Marbrand as he interpreted the words, but "lay a hand" was lost in translation and the resulting mix of "boy," "cock," and "eat it" ("cut" didn't make sense and so was discarded as a misinterpretation) had the proprietor thinking that maybe the soldier was in some way interested in a bit more of Kateb's company - never mind tat the man had already had himself a woman of the establishment.

Kateb's own interpretation was somewhat different and slightly more accurate .

So the proprietor turned to Kateb and jabbered off again in Aknatari, and Kateb shuffled to gather the two clay cups and the jug of moonshine and, once again, head across the floor. The proprietor's eyes were burning a hole in the back of his head, but Kateb moved carefully, watching for any ropes or pegs or evil-patrons' legs sticking out to catch him...and he finally made it to his destination.

Silent, he placed the cups down and, standing beside the table, reached to pour the liquor into the cup nearest Mars.
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Marbrand de Fontaine
Posted: May 15 2012, 11:49 PM


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Had Mars known what the proprietor’s broken understanding of his language had made of his threat, the giant of a man might well have carried it out then and there. As it was, the innkeeper’s response was adequate, if somewhat lacking in the fear it ought to have contained if he’d understood just what Marbrand had been saying.

The boy was returning with his liquor, that was the really important thing. Mars sat back down in anticipation of the fiery liquid, but when the boy reached to pour it, the knight had to stop him, taking the jug to pour for himself.

“Can you blame me lad? I’m still sitting in the dregs of your last attempt to pour me a drink,” he said with a laugh.

“Go on then boy, take a seat,” he finished, indicating the bench across from him as he began to pour the second of the cups in front of him, rough clay that gave whatever liquid that came to reside in them an earthy flavour. Though in truth, he wasn’t drinking this swill for the delicacy of its taste. Pushing the second cup towards the other side of the long table, where he had already indicated Kateb ought place himself, he spoke one final word.

“Sit.”
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Kateb
Posted: Jun 10 2012, 10:54 PM


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The young man's eyes slid t the proprietor, and then, ignoring whatever expression he found there, he looked once more at the soldier and took the offered seat. Somehow, rejecting this foreigner's offer seemed to carry a higher price even than briefly abandoning his boss to pour drinks and scrub counters alone; and secondly, that Kateb did not particularly want to pour drinks and scrub counters and found something exciting in sitting down for a drink with this man.

Not that Kateb was particularly well-practiced in the arts of drinking. He was lucky, generally, if he could find a simple well for a simple ladle of water.

Under the table, Kateb grabbed his own knees in an attempt to still himself, letting the sweat of his palms absorb into the cloth of his garment, but he shook his head once, to set the hair farther back on his head and watched the soldier expectantly.

This alcohol in front of him was obviously meant for him. But he did not touch it. The soldier had a cup, too, but he wasn't drinking yet, either. Kateb's eyes darted down, looking at the water-like appearance of the liquor, and then up, to that man. And he swallowed...waiting.

"You...want...I to...drink? With you?"

His face burned at his choppy grasp of the man's tongue, but in his mind he gave himself a pat for knowing even that much.
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Marbrand de Fontaine
Posted: Nov 16 2012, 01:35 AM


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“Better to drink with me than scrub tables for that pisspot,” he said, taking a long quaff from his own cup.

The liquor that had soaked through his clothes was actually surprisingly cooling at this point; though the heat in the tent was quickly taking the large man from drenched to pleasantly damp. All things considered, he could have been doing a lot worse than he was. Although, all things considered, he could have been killed in the last cavalry charge, or melee, or storm of a arrows, but Mar’s generally tried not to think about that... When he did... Well, another round was clearly in order.

And so he refilled his cup.

“No proper life for a lad, scrubbing tables and serving drinks like a woman. You’re scrubbing away for a few coins to keep yourself fed, I expect? Army’s the better way, his Grace is always looking for those willing to do the job, and I reckon he’ll be looking at recruiting you sandy lot sooner or later. Good pay, in the army, food too, not as good, but free.”
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Kateb
Posted: Nov 20 2012, 11:12 AM


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Kateb nodded hastily after interpreting the soldier's first string of words, and lifted his right hand awkwardly. It came up slowly, nervously, over the table's splintery wood surface until the kid had placed his fingers against the cup's smooth surface and gained traction there.

Before he pulled it towards him, however, Kateb turned his head suddenly, looking once more to the proprietor. The guy was a real asshat. He didn't pay enough; he asked for everything under the son from his youthful employee; Kateb was lucky if he got enough time during the day to eat some bread - let alone go out and ste-...get some.

Turning his head away, Kateb looked to the cup again. He'd heard that the stuff didn't taste all that good. yet something inside of him wanted to please this soldier. Why? What had this soldier ever meant to him that he should try to impress him?

Kateb didn't know, but that wasn't about to stop him from trying!

Kateb lifted the cup as Marbrand started talking again, this time about how Kateb was doing woman's work, and pressed his lips to its before slamming the small amount back.

His bravery was rewarded as anything that requires bravery generally is: with pain, disgust, horror, and beneath it all the smallest, tiniest hint of pride.

His expression imploded into a crush of twisted features as he gasped for breath through barred teeth and then exploded into a painful fit of coughing. The violent exhales bent him over the table, his one hand still grasping the cup as it rested on the table, his other grasping at his belly...until about five hacks later it finally seemed to have stopped and, eyes watering, Kateb looked up, almost bashfully, to the soldier.
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Marbrand de Fontaine
Posted: Nov 30 2012, 12:26 AM


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Coughing? Coughing! Gods be good when had he last drunk with a man who coughed and choked at a bit of a sip like that? It wasn’t even that strong this liquor (I mean, it might’ve been strong enough to turn a goat off its dinner, but only that). A tour under a bit of chainmail would do the boy a world of good, if he was still soft enough to be hacking away after that. Why, Mars had half a mind to ‘enlist’ him right then and there, on the spot. Although judging by the way he handled his booze, he’d likely find himself shanghaied by one armed company or another if he kept up with the drinking in his life.

“Well now boy; that is something you’ll have to work on now isn’t it? Trick is not to savour it, soak your tongue in this stuff and it’ll fall right off. Just a quick mouthful to kill the tooth-worms and then down like mother’s milk, you’ll get the hang of it, I’m sure.”

Although perhaps ‘sure’ was a bit of a stretch, in regards to the improvement of the lad’s drinking abilities.

“What are you called then, Mr. Lightweight?” He asked, and then, to illustrate his point, slapped his own chest firmly and intoned; “Mars. Marbrand de Fontaine.”
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This is Tetel’ac, where the women are capricious, the ale is usually tepid, and life is hard. Prince or pauper, the world is a dangerous place to play and the game of politics is far from voluntary. Whether you live in the gentle tropics, lush forests, harsh mountains, or expansive desert, every day is sure to spell adventure for those who live under the intruding thumb of the king, or amoung the hidden eyes of oh so many spies. With a kingdom on the brink of yet a second revolution, the future is a fragile thing indeed.

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