Nah. From Recruitment:
"Optional: for 1 free potion of your choice, give me the following info: Your ultimate goal as a character, and three NPC's your character is associated--one friend, one neutral, and one enemy."
If that's potions up to third level, well! :P Will wait for GM to chime in on that. Chiquq's profile, a little better put together than in my application, should now be complete. Note that a lot of my gear is carried by Ila.
By a knight of ghosts and shadows
I summoned am to tourney
Ten leagues beyond the wide world's end:
Methinks it is no journey.
- Tom O'Bedlam
A ways from your yurt
There is a cave, facing the north.
There a company of aza is gathered---
They might be dangerous.
This cave requires a great offering-payment,
A wicked evil is brewing there.
A stranger will arrive to visit you,
He is placing his foot in the stirrup.
Together with him shall come a spirit from the land of Erlik,
He is waiting at the roof of your yurt.
-Seree Khertek, Tuvan shaman
No tribal rite has yet been recorded which attempts to keep winter from descending;
on the contrary: the rites all prepare the community to endure, together with the rest of nature,
the season of the terrible cold.
- Joseph Campbell
Can a man who is warm understand one who is freezing?
- Aleksander Solzhenitsyn
* * *
Demgazi is a tiny town with a distinctly Qadiran feel; despite the wars of the Grand Campaign and supposed enmity between Taldans and Qadirans, the people are of mixed heritage here and the symbol of Sarenrae is shown openly, unlike in larger Zimar. In the one cafe, people chatter about local goings-on, and in the riverside tavern, The Noisy Naga, the talk is even louder--and the brew and Qeleshite-tinged spicy food is certainly stronger. It is here that people from nearby Heldren or other travelers have gathered on the riverfront to take a mid-day meal. You are among those gathered.
*laughs* No worries.
(To Imendri, Chiquq is currently speaking in Hallit.)
"Cha!" Chiquq exclaims to Imendri as she waves at her tongue and grabs for a cup of the fermented goat's milk that is served here. "I will never understand the southerns, ani ('brother,' she is using it despite their distant familial connection as a friendly term). So this man, his son dies because he is foolish and does not respect the world and the beasts, nor listen to his guide. Upon my own Ila, I bring his body back, as a kindness. He does not offer me food, nor a place by the hearth, but instead he says there is blood between us, for the life of his child. Have you heard anything so foolish?"
Chiquq drains her milk, her indignation over Hillsfar's treatment momentarily swallowed up by the thick goat-milk. She lowers the clay mug, and wipes at her mouth with the back of her hand. "Anyway, if this is not enough, they put fire in their food, here! This soup burns my tongue!"
The Kellid woman pokes suspiciously at her lentil soup with the carved wooden spoon, then shrugs and has some more. Food is food, even if it makes her eyes and nose water, and anyway, she likes trying new things.
"But you have lived in their big city, yes? Do they have food-that-burns there as well?"
Imendri points a massive finger at a pepper. "Oh those? Haha, yes, they do. It's good stuff though! Extra warmth is never a bad thing, even when I was in Absalom and it was already hot. Food-that-burns was one of the few things I really enjoyed while in the south." Imendri's smile drops for a second. "...but are you alright? Really? I've got no problem finding that man and cutting him in half, longways."
Smiling again, Imendri reaches out for his own mug of goat milk, and serves himself some spiced soup, which he hungrily devours. Maybe it's the mild madness of half-elven blood that makes him like the peppers. Who knows?
Chiquq scrunches up her nose at Imendri, grinning. "You may have all of the 'peppers' then, from my dish. Is it hotter than this in Absalom? It is orc-damn hot plenty here-- I cannot take any more clothes off or I will be naked among strangers." Chiquq's big grin doesn't falter at the thought.
She is not in fact, naked, but the relatively balmy weather of border-Taldor means that Chiquq is dressed in a sleeveless leather vest and a pair of baggy doehide trousers, and currently, barefoot as well. She is still sweating a good deal, but owns nothing like the light cottons and flowing fabrics that the people of Demgazi wisely use to stay cool. Chiquq drags her sweaty hair off her neck as she looks enviously at a young Taldan girl in a loose, airy shift. Maybe she needs to buy one of those, she thinks.
Poor Ila, though. Her mammoth cannot take off her fur. Chiquq wonders if she could shave the small mastodon... Imendri's question drags her attention back.
Chiquq laughs loudly enough that people at the nearest table glance over. "Me? Alright! I am rock, he is wind against the mountain. Much wind, much noise, no meaning. Anyway he is not worth your blade, brother." Chiquq's grin is sly. "Won't you have blood between you and all their chiefs here, if you did cut and gut him?"
Braegan delicately adjusts his right glove as he shifts in his seat to look at the source of the laughter at the table behind him. Kellids. Strange people. But, looking around at the eclectic group gathering in the Noisy Naga, the kellids fit right in in kind of a 'we're all travelers' sort of way. He gives a half-grin at the girl's mention of 'hot foods'. When she looks up from a sip of her ... whatever-it-is-she's-drinking, Braegan widens it to his fullest, charmingest grin and gives her a wink before nodding and turning back around. People liked Braegan's slightly-crooked grin. They always had.
He turns back around to be find Lairn and Brigitte watching him. Lairn with an eyebrow raised critically and Brigitte smiling with open, youthful enthusiasm.
"What?" Braegan responds with an affected, casual innocence, "I was just looking around. Nothing wrong with trying to prime the audience a little bit before taking the stage."
Lairn's eyes roll. Brigitte giggles. Braegan winks back at his younger sister, but addresses Lairn with a knowing tone that is guaranteed to get her back up. "Oh, come on, Lairn ... if you want me to introduce you to the big, strong, handsome kellid man, all you have to do is ask."
Trying to forestall her retaliation, he changes the subject. "Have either of you seen my aunt? She said she'd be here."
Ravaged by time, a withered old crone hobbles into the tavern. Her brown shift is threadbare, patched, and not entirely clean. Her one eye - dark and bird-bright - sweeps the room with fierce curiosity. Her other eye, a rheumy and clouded white thing seems to regard nothing in particular while challenging everyone whose glance falls on her for more than a moment.
The woman's claw-like and gnarled hand runs idly through the tangled grey and white mop of unkempt hair that weighs down her bony shoulders and winds across her hunched back. Somehow her quick fingers find and pluck a fat spider from the chaos of hair. She examines the creature then puts it back.
Mahb shuffles to the bar and takes one of two empty seats. Of its own accord, the hump of her back shifts beneath the hair and moves onto her shoulder. A rough-feathered raven emerges, hops onto the bar, and then onto the empty stool beside the hag.
Mahb looks to the tavern-keep, "Ale for me. A thimble's worth of mead for the bird." Seeing nothing odd in her request, Mahb's head swivels to regard the only familiar faces in the tavern - those of Braegan, Lairn, and Brigitte. She gives them all a nod and the poor makings of a smile... an almost unheard of display of friendliness from the crone.
The tavern-keep nods to Mahb as if she's seen worse--she looks pretty tough herself--and flicks a thumb to the back. "Heard you were comin'. Your songbird and other Heldren folk are on the riverfront. 'E should be singing soon. It's sunny out there," she concludes, with a smile that almost challenges the witch to leave the dark front room, with the smells of afternoon tea and dinner meals already beginning from the basement kitchen.
Out on the porch, Braegan is given a nod by the waitress; now's a good as time as any to give a song. She hefts up several empty platters--rather strong as well, must be the owner's daughter--and gives another nod to the Kellids, this time directed to his giggling relatives, and then a wink.
Chiqug and Imendri notice the crowd quieting a little and some attention directed to the tiny stage at the upriver end of the riverfront area.
The woman's word earn her an amused (and shaggy) raised eyebrow as well as an approving grunt from Mahb. A woman with sand... good.
"Sun don't scare me none, sister. I only burst into flames when enterin' churches." she chuckles. To the small shot glass of mead, she adds the fat spider from her hair and expertly pierces its abdomen with a sharp fingernail. She swirls the leggy corpse into the drink then drops the shot in front of the bird.
Mahb sweeps up her own mug as she slides from the stool and salutes the tavernkeep with it. "Best I see the songbird and leave the other bird here to mind my seat. Pye, whattaya say to anyone trying to take meh chair?"
Braegan is in the middle of waving Mahb over when he sees the waitress’s signal. ”Welp,” he says to Lairn and Birgitte, ”I guess that’d be me.”
He stands up, his gray eyes sweeping the room to get one last look from among the crowd. He’s a clean-shaven young man with Ulfen features, a few years shy of twenty years old. Handsome in a striking, nontraditional way. And though his features are Ulfen, his dark clothes—chosen to draw the eye—are of Taldan make. He’s a few inches short of six feet, thin almost to the point of ganglyness, and when he begins snaking between the tables towards the small stage, he moves with an easy confidence.
He steps up, turns around, and gives the crowd his crooked grin. Without preamble, he begins singing in a rich, warm baritone.
Perform: Sing: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (10) + 8 = 18
With a wink to the pair of kellids, he begins a song about an unlikely meeting between two great northern hunters—a kellid man and a long-tooth ice-lion—who find it necessary to determine who is greater. What starts as a simple competition of skills escalates to such feats as who can fit more squirrels in his mouth, who can woo a bigger mastodon, and who’s … water melts snow faster. In the end, it is the man’s woman who comes out on top, wearing the ice-lion’s pelt for a shawl and the man’s stones as a necklace.
Immediately on its heels, the young man spins into a series of songs intended to keep the audience guessing. Ballads, comedies, epics, and love stories, but always coming back to high energy with a foot-stomping, girl-twirling rhythm.
When he winds down after nearly ten songs, he gives a wave and laughs, ”You all sit for a bit. I need to wet my whistle before I can continue.”
Smiling, he hops down and heads over to Mahb and his sisters, sitting down heavily as he signals for a drink. ”Well, what’d you think? I thought it went pretty well, all things considered.”
He gives a half-grin at the girl's mention of 'hot foods'. When she looks up from a sip of her ... whatever-it-is-she's-drinking, Braegan widens it to his fullest, charmingest grin and gives her a wink before nodding and turning back around.
Chiquq's brows shoot up at the gaze and smile from the stranger; after a second, she returns the grin in kind, her smile creasing her round face so much that her eyes nearly vanish, before she looks back to her food. Hm, that one's not hard on the eyes, is he?
Still, Chiquq puts him out of her mind... at least until he takes the stage and begins to sing. She listens, grinning slowly as the song unfolds into a conclusion she finds satisfactory. The following songs also earn her approval, Chiquq stomping the patio floor with her bare, callused feet and tapping her mug in time.
When the Ulfen goes to sit down, Chiquq cranes back in her chair towards him. Her Taldane is thickly accented, but understandable:
"You make good music, skald! Good for the dancing! For your song-gift, a drink-gift, yes?" she says, reaching for belt pouch and the dwindling supply of coins remaining inside to her. Hillsfar had not paid her the second half of her contract fee, either; Chiquq is financially not where she likes to be at this point in her north-south personal migration cycle. Ideally, she would have a full purse here, having seen some Taldans or other southerners back safely to their warm southern homes, and she could purchase all manner of sundries for the journey north: steel tools, spices, jewelry, salt, dried fruits, flour... things that she can turn around and trade profitably for in the north.
But instead, not even half a dozen gold measures meet her fingers. Not enough for even a quarter of the things she wishes to purchase.
But Chiquq spares no significant thought for that, nor does her meager wealth impact her desire to buy the singer a drink. Money is money; she can get by perfectly well without it. Wealth, as the southern people reckon it, is here today and gone the next, so she figures she might as well spend it while she has it.
Reluctantly, Mahb takes the offered seat among the Hightowns for Braegan's performance. She has to admit that the boy had an admirable voice, sweet as his mother's in many ways. As he sings, the crone finds her toe tapping periodically to his tune; She glares at it for its betrayal.
"Well, what’d you think? I thought it went pretty well, all things considered."
Mahb is framing a response when...
"You make good music, skald! Good for the dancing! For your song-gift, a drink-gift, yes?"
The old woman chuckles, "There's an answer for you, boy. Go on, don't keep'er waitin'."
As the post-song chatter rises again and Braegan gets a few hand-claps on the back and some coin tossed his way, the sound of a small ruckus can be heard leaking from the front room. It sounds like the proprietress and two other persons. You can hear bits and pieces:
"...just some ice to sell, Jurik...Naga...midsummer drinks?"
"...Voss, calm yer man 'ere...get what yer sayin'..."
"...is cursed!! Look, Voss, it won't melt!"
The older voice urges calm, and the younger voice is full of barely restrained hysteria.
"Now, Jurik, you know the hills get a freeze every tenyear or so..."
"Not in this heat, Voss. We covered the ice in straw, sure. But it didn't melt. Not one jot."
"Hmph." That would be the owner of the Naga.
You've heard the names before--hunters who go in the Border Wood, you reckon, by their speech.
Perception: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (14) + 6 = 20
(No Kn: Local here)
Chiquq cranes her head from the song-maker to the sounds of the talking inside... talking of ice, no less. She looks bemused, her brows arching, and glances at Imendri to see if he hears this as well.
(Hallit) "Do you hear, ice that does not melt? In this heat? The man must be mad," she chuckles.
Perception: 1d20 - 1 ⇒ (13) - 1 = 12
A series of mixed emotions flash across Braegan's young features at Mahb's lukewarm response, but he covers it quickly at the kellid girl's response. Leaning back in his chair, Braegan grins back at her. "I'll never turn down a drink-gift!"
The commotion from the other room is lost on Braegan as he takes a long pull from his fresh drink-gift. He sets it down with a satisfied sigh when —
(Hallit) "Do you hear, ice that does not melt? In this heat? The man must be mad," she chuckles.
Braegan raises his eyebrows, looking where Chiquq indicates. His response is in Hallit, though spoken in the way Taldans speak it.
(Hallit) "Maybe he is drink-mad, no? Anyway, a man could make much coin selling ice that does not melt around here." It's clear the young man is too busy having a good time to really consider the situation seriously.
Chiquq's brows dance upwards at hearing the tongue of the people from one who is not. His accent is not right, of course, but... it's intelligible. She gives the singer a crooked grin, and a little more of her attention than the casual purchase of his drink.
(Hallit) "Soft snows on you, friend. I am thinking that you are farther south than your features would claim, but here you speak in a tongue that comes from farther north still. It is good to hear it spoken."
She peers past him, trying to see inside the main room. "You are right, though-- if such a thing is true. Imendri, kinsman-- shall we go see?"
Chiquq pushes back her chair, curiosity impelling her to rise, grabbing her pack off the floor as she goes.
Brae - Mahb wasn't being lukewarm but she realises that to a young man the opinion of a pretty woman is going to rate higher than the opinion of his old aunt.
Perception: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (1) + 4 = 5
Lost in thoughts of her sister, Mahb catches onto the conversation late but falls into speaking Hallit easily.
(Hallit) "Heh? What? Drink-mad yetis?"
Perception: 1d20 + 0 ⇒ (16) + 0 = 16
At the sound from the commotion in the front room, Dezső stands and looks in the direction of the ruckus. He has been sitting quietly at a table in the corner, as inconspicuous as a tiefling with rust-colored skin and a crown of ridge-like horns can be. He wears a rather climate-inappropriate heavy long coat, with a tail shifting underneath. Those who had given him notice would have observed him quietly and impassively staring at the goings-on -- the stuffed naga over the fireplace, the witch and her familiar, the songs. All without any visible reaction. During moments of humor during the songs, the tiefling looked at those laughing around the room, a slightly quizzical expression upon his face.
Now standing, he moves over to a location from which he can observe the interaction in the front room.
Dezső won't go so far as to swing open the doors, but he will stand on the other side of the doors and listen, as nonchalantly as he can manage.
Braegan is in the middle of trying to figure out a clever response to Chiquq’s comment on his northern looks and southern accent when curiosity about the next room finally sinks in. As the young woman stands, he can’t squelch his own mounting curiosity.
He snatches up his drink as he also stands, ”I got another five or ten minutes before they’ll want me back onstage,” he mutters to his sisters, ”Stay here. I’ll get you some drinks.”
Then he switches back to Hallit. (Hallit) ”So a money-game, then? Do we think a drink-mad yeti or simply a mad man?”
He heads towards the doors, nodding and smiling along to any attention he gets from the crowd as he goes.
Braegan and Dezsõ hear more conversation:
"...take it, Voss, if you can keep yer man in check there."
"...be fine, Kerissa; now, as to the matter of payment...do have a tab..."
"...blessedbethefireofthesuntoprotectmetabarakalnnarminalshshamslihimayatli tubarik...VOSS! SARENRAE!"
The younger voice starts as a low chant under the proprietress and the older hunter chatting and rises to a shriek. The riverfront crowd is not like Heldren or other parts of Southern Taldor, who frown on naming the Qadiran goddess by name, but there are a few gasps nonetheless.
The sounds of cursing and scuffling ensue.
Guess I won't wait for Imendri. ;)
With a glance back at her kinsman, Chiquq moves over to the song-crafter who is holding the door, her curiosity impelling her forward. She warily keeps several feet's distance between her and the red-skinned, horned man-- a tuurngaq by her reckoning, some sort of killing spirit.... but the southlands are full of strange things, and she is not as afraid as she might have been at one point-- as she comes to the opened door, stepping through and looking for the trouble.
Chiquq and Braegan (and probably Deszõ):
A middle aged man, presumably Voss, is being held at blade-point by a wild eyed younger man, against the wall of the side supply hallway, which is near the right front of the front room. The proprietress has come out of the bar area, with a stout cudgel, and is eyeing the situation carefully, ready to knock Jurik on the head. In the middle of the room, there is a spilled wooden box, and the contents, hay and ice, have knocked to the floor, along with at least one formerly drinkable ale, to mingle on the tile. A few extremely meek customers are huddled in the dark corners of the front room (not a popular spot during the day anyhow).
"What is this, now?" Chiquq says, blinking several times at the violence on display. "Hey now, young buck-deer, why are you sticking steel around?"
Hands empty and raised a little at her sides, Chiquq takes a few careful steps towards the young man, trying to keep her movements cautious and non-threatening. Her gaze briefly flicks to the woman who has come out from behind the bar, giving her the tiniest of nods.