the heft and the edge 26/5/2017 wkj fantasy
This is a piece of writing from
The Twist Inside (Song of Ages V. 2)
This is a selection from Part 2 - Inventions. Angren, Sigrid and a few others have made a journey to Garassa, the capital of Aegarde - I won’t dwell on their mission at this stage.
This piece gives you an idea of Angren’s priorities on his firat day in the city.
Outside it was hot and it was smelly. The Middlings sat on land to the east of one tight curve of the River Rine, between the commercial district of Garassa, commonly known as Money Hill, and the low, periodically flooded flats known as the Sinks. The smell came riding in on a Westerly breeze that had wandered importunately through the many grubby ginnels of the Sinks, and over many a seething refuse heap on its way. Angren decided it was worse now than he could ever remember – no doubt a by-product of the steadily increasing population. Every year more immigrants from Sulle Sullinor arrived and passed through on their way to a living in Bulidzhan to the south, or more than likely, ended up staying put where they first landed, trapped by circumstance, opportunity or by less than benign forces. Which is to explain that Garassa was a roiling, vibrant, lawless town, and a dangerous destination for innocents or fools, and it was getting worse. Angren couldn’t help liking the place.
He looked up at Money Hill to his right, his gaze following the rank breeze, and he couldn’t help grinning.
“No escaping the stink,” he said to himself, “even for the toffs up on the hill.”
“What d’you say, Mister?”
Angren looked down. A young lad was sitting on the road, his back to the wall of a small bakery, one leg tucked under, and the other nowhere to be seen. At his side was a basket swathed in linen to keep off the flies.
“Oh, nothing really. Just enjoying the day. Now then, what have you got in that basket?”
The lad pulled back the cloth.
“I got potato pies, sweet pancake, cheesy rolls and apple dumplin’”
“No meat then?”
“I’m the baker’s lad not the butcher’s.”
Angren chuckled. Low or High always expect a reply from a Garassan. “Right then,” he decided, “Let me have two pies, and a bag of pancakes.”
The boy fished them out. “Six coppers for a gentleman. But mind you get some fruit or sommat. Your guts won’t thank yer if you just eat pancakes. There’s a grocer over the street there.”
“Well thanks for the advice, but never mind fruit and veg, what I’m really after is a hardware man, and a decent pub – in that order.”
The lad looked him up and down, his eyes lingering on the sword strapped to Angren’s waist.
“Yer can go that way,” he said, nodding at the first street on the right – a lane winding its way down into the Sinks. “Big shop, ‘bout fifty paces, sells most everyfing you’d need; an’then just a bit furver there’s The Two Marf-fulls – good beer.”
“But not much to eat then.”
“Very funny. You’re not that new. But, one thing: you might want to watch out for the militia. They see you with that blade and they’ll be after you.”
Angren frowned. “What,” he said, “You can’t carry weapons, now?”
“Nah. Course you can. It’s just Athoff’s after all the swordsmen ‘e can get for his war. Been trawling the Sinks and the Middle for weeks, and there’s even some on the Hill been made to join up. Can be very persuasive the Militia. I were you, I’d cover it up.”
Angren glanced at the scabbard. He’d never get that down his trousers without it making him walk funny, and it was far too hot for a coat or a cloak.
“Thanks for the warning,” he said, “Think I’ll risk it though.”
“Well good luck with that.”
Angren gave him a thumbs up. As he walked away the lad began addressed himself to calling his wares:
“Nah then, come and get ‘em, come an get’em: Hot Pies, potato pies, pancakes and dumplin’s!”
Angren did have good luck. He met no Militia on the street, and certainly not in Bentley’s Ironmongery, where he picked up several bits and pieces including the oil stone he was after. Happy with his purchases, and replete with pie and pancakes, he was in a fine mood. He wandered on as directed and soon came to the large tavern with the gory painted sign he’d been looking for. It had a picture of two dragons sitting in the ruins of a palace, each of them chewing on a grisly half of King Artis the 3rd. One had a pair of legs in stripy stockings dangling from his mouth, and the other had a head and one arm protruding through monstrous, bloody teeth. The king’s mangled crown had fallen to the earth between them. The Two Mouthfulls was a common name for taverns throughout the Garassa region, and even Angren was familiar with the story. It had been one of the few history lessons he’d ever really liked, and with a message no one should forget: you have to be a bit careful when dealing with dragons.
Inside the tavern the air was cooler, but slightly musky. It was a busy place where the cleaning was never likely to keep up with the dirtying. Even now there were twenty or more people in the commons, several of them already too drunk for a weekday afternoon. As was his habit, Angren quickly found himself an out of the way seat and signalled for the barmaid to bring him a beer.
“Right away, sir,” she sang out.
Why did she have to be so bright? Any of the denizens who’d missed him coming in were now fully alerted to this newcomer in their midst. A couple of merry boys came over even before his beer arrived.
“Nah then, here’s a noo face for the Maathful. Taking a trip dahntahn?”
The speaker leered at him, his face dangerously close to Angren’s and almost begging to be punched.
“If yer lookin’ fer somfing in particliar, just you arsk. We can get yer most anyfin you want.”
His companion guffawed unnecessarily. “Might ‘ave to get a bit deeper in ve Sinks though,” he said and winked exaggeratedly. “If f’rinstance yer looking fer young leds, I know a haase…”
Angren scowled at them. “I’m not looking for anything. I just wanted a quiet pint, so why don’t you two get back to your mates and let me get on with it?”
“Vats not very friendly,” said the first. He wasn’t smiling anymore.
“Oy, you two, hop it!” It was the maid bringing his beer. “Stop bothering my customers, will you? Off you go. Any more nonsense and I’ll ban you both.”
As she spoke, Angren suddenly realized the woman was from Terremark not Garassa. She had a strong Foreigner accent, and a great mane of red hair to go with it.
The second of the two men saw him looking at her. “Ain’t she larvely when she gets stroppy?” he said.
The woman turned and whacked him on the head with the tray she was carrying. And hard too.
“Right, that’s it,” she said, “You’ve ‘ad enough, and I’ve ‘ad enough, so out you go, the both of you.”
Neither of the pair looked happy at the prospect of leaving.
“So what, Bran? You gonna make us then? Little girl like you?”
Angren made to stand up, ready to help out, but the “little girl” pushed at his chest to make him sit down again.
“And you can keep quiet an’ all. I don’t need help with these two jokers.”
She looked at the two jokers, sternly.
“I can’t help noticing,” she said with a cold edge to her voice, “but you’re still here. Did you not hear me?” and at that she looked over towards the cellar door.
They followed her gaze and then both suddenly coming to a proper understanding of their situation, they put down their drinks and ran for the door.
Angren was impressed.
“Soft southern nancies,” he said, “Never a match for us northerners.”
She gave him a grin. “That’s probably true, Foreigner or Invader. So, what’s a rich Hallingdaller doin’ in my pub then?”
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