Title: The Want of a Nail
Dammo Yol - June 12, 2010 11:26 PM (GMT)
There was the definite sound of footsteps outside the cargo room. One was more accentuated than the other. It came softly, then it grew, as the person approaching the door came closer. Clank, clank, clank, clank was the addendum.
A louder clank marked the unlocking of the door. It opened with a droning squeaking and was shut with an echoing thud as the figure of the fourteen-year-old boy made its way, heavily, inside the room. Heavily, for he was carrying two buckets of water.
Light eyes travelled to the faces there, for a moment, and they widened. Nonetheless, his steps did not falter until he was fairly close to the cages. His nose wrinkled at the smell. He let one of the buckets to the ground, whilst holding on to the other. Then, splash! The water was thrown onto the first cage, then, the second on the second.
Dammo smiled to himself, feeling accomplished. He'd have to go for another fill, but, tired as he was, he was allowed a little bit of a respite. The Captain had told him to give a few splashes, but he'd never clearly outlined when to do so or how long he had. Besides... he hadn't seen slaves on a ship in quite the while. And some of these were very, very pretty.
Zurikan Ta'bur - June 12, 2010 11:34 PM (GMT)
Korina was trying -- gently -- to shake her awake. Between that and the clanking, Zuri was hard-pressed to get the sleep she desired. Muttering angrily, she batted Korina's hand away and rolled away just in time to get cold water to her face.
Shrieking (on reflex), Zuri shot up. The rats sleeping around her scattering, squeaking angrily and disappearing into the darkness of the ship. Fuck, lost the rats was her first thought. The next was fury. "Hey, what the hell is wrong with you?" she snarled in the direction the water had come from. She was soaking wet. Yeah, that was going to make her little foray into slavery so much more comfortable.
Standing carefully, she held her arms out to either side, trying to shake some of the moisture off.
Angrily, she swiped her long hair out of her face, and glared ineffectually around in the darkness. "You have got something bad coming for you," she threatened, eyes narrowed as she tried to make sense of things in the lacking light.
Dammo Yol - June 13, 2010 01:17 AM (GMT)
Dammo blinked in surprise. Was one of the slaves bad mouthing him?
Oooh, right! They didn't know better yet. Didn't he hear that they'd been recently captured?
Dammo couldn't help feeling sorry for them, especially for the girl. He wondered how many whiplash wounds she'd need to learn to be docile. And the other didn't have a mark. He wondered why. His pity for any of them decreased considerably when the former started threatening him. The boy frowned and folded his arms to his chest.
"Right," he grunted, glaring right back at her. It didn't really help that his voice hadn't quite formed yet. It was getting there... "Forgive me if I don't cry meself to sleep."
What part of this didn't she get? She was a slave now. No matter how pretty she was... she had less rights than Dammo, and he was just a lowly cabin boy-sailor person.
"What's yer problem anyway!?" he snapped at her, taking a step forward, towards the cages. "D'ya want to stay filth?"
Zurikan Ta'bur - June 14, 2010 01:24 AM (GMT)
Her eyes narrowed, gaze finally bearing down on him as he spoke. Shaking with fury at this treatment -- how could they? She was a shaman! -- Zuri clenched her teeth and spat a few words between them. "Oh, you will," she promised, groping for the cage bars and gripping them tightly. Pretending they were his little neck.
There were a few squeaks from the darkness as the rats returned from their frenzied hiding places. Calming a bit at their reappearance, Zuri surveyed the lad.
Tiny. Just a boy.
"Filth is my future, apparently." She looked like a caged animal. Wild. Angry. Her fingers were flexing around the bars as though she were stretching claws. "And incredible, writhing agony will be yours in a moment, if you don't apologize. And especially if you ever toss freezing water on me again. Understand?"
Dammo Yol - June 14, 2010 10:24 AM (GMT)
Dammo sulked. Usually slaves were scared and mopy, begging and crying. She was a handful, wasn't she? The boy wondered if the pretty girl next to her was going to take her place in nastiness once this one was sleeping.
Suddenly, his face lit up.
"Oh hi there..." he said very calmly and quietly, kneeling down to look at something rightmost of the cages. He smiled as the rat crawled down from a crate and skidded to the cages. Dammo always had to keep the cats they set loose when they were docked from them. It wasn't that he didn't want their supplies whole or anything... but, sometimes, they were the only living souls in there that he felt... weren't judging him.
Some of the slaves whimpered.
"Quiet!" the boy urged, hissed. Don't scare them away! Seriously, they as bad as drunken sailors... ...okay maybe not.
Wait. Was that Rina? Drest's stupid nickname for the rat - which may or may not have even been a female. The stupid cook didn't know left from right on most days; Dammo couldn't expect him to know genders. Far beyond the man's intelligence capabilities.
Without a word he stood up (albeit carefully) and disappeared behind the cracked door.
Minutes later, he was back.
Whispered, "Here you go." The he threw the tiniest bit of cheese at one of them. He then outright glared at the madwoman, showing her exactly how little he cared about her empty threats. She was in a cage, anyway, wasn't she? Hardly imposing or threatening. Or anything, really... except stinky.
Zurikan Ta'bur - June 14, 2010 06:01 PM (GMT)
Zurikan waited, tense and quiet, when the boy approached the rat, feeling the sudden tension in the animal's body as if it were her own. Rats were short-sighted. When it recognized him, it relaxed a bit, less prone to flee, although it was not stupid enough to abandon the notion.
She felt her own anger ease, against her will. She always had had a soft spot for those who could find it within themselves to be kind to animals, especially the dirty forgotten ones like the rats.
Of course, she knew better. She knew good stories about rats and their folk.
Zuri closed her eyes. She could feel the rat's expectation of food, and it lengthened her own belly, brought to her echoes of taste: stale bread, crumbling cheese. The rat expected it so thoroughly that it even took a step after the boy when he left, swamped with confusion for a moment.
Then the boy returned, and tossed the food.
Zuri lost the rat, then, as it scampered to its hiding place with its prize. She knew she could hold onto it if she wanted, but was suddenly feeling charitable. She let it go, and folded her arms around the bars of the cage, leaning into them. Her voice, when she spoke, was pitched low and vibrant, the power of absolute vocal control. She could make her voice do things that would make a city singer envious, she was sure. "Did you ever hear the story," she began, her voice low and husky like a whisper. Like she was telling a secret. "Of the King of Rats?"
Dammo Yol - June 15, 2010 01:28 AM (GMT)
One moment he was being threatened with truly gruesome things and the next he was being told stories...?! Dammo frowned, unsatisfied... almost insulted. Well... quite insulted.
"M'not a child," he mumbled, disgruntled. Did she think she could win him over with a story?! Like some five-year-old with the attention span of a snail on Dragonsalt? Oooooh no... Dammo was smarter than that. Much more capable than being distracted and enchanted by a story. He'd been a child once. Once, and not again. Just once. Many people had been children just once.
However, he'd never heard stories about a king of rats... King of beasts... yes. Of dagons... of mortals... of Gods, even! But king of creatures as lowly and helpless as rats...? No.
So, mumbling, despite himself and quite, quite embarrassed, he said: "But... no, I haven't."
Zurikan Ta'bur - June 15, 2010 06:22 PM (GMT)
He told her, in the affronted tone of a child, that he wasn't, in fact, a child. She disagreed, but she remembered being that age. She remembered feeling desperate to prove herself as able and independent, and the sheer indignity of the patronizing she had had to endure. The trouble with adults was that they often assumed children were stupid. Children weren't stupid. Just inexperienced.
But they knew when they were being condescended to.
Zuri waited. She felt satisfied when he proved that his curiosity was greater than his affronted attitude. It was usually the case with children, and she felt that that was a good manner in which children to live.
She began to speak, her tone at times low, at times higher, always cultured, always heavy like velvet. There were no storytellers like shamans. Anywhere.
"A long, long time ago, a young boy wandered the desert, his hair red like flame and his eyes yellow as the sand. He had gotten lost, you see, and couldn't find his way back out, for back then the desert was much, much bigger.
One day, while he wandered towards the sunrise, he found a city. It was a magnificent looking city, with buildings so high they faded into the sky, and gardens so lush their bright greenness hurt his eyes. But, though the city was beautiful and the gardens filled with fruit, it was completely empty. Confused but relieved, the boy began to eat all the fruit he could fit into his hungry stomach.
All day, he ate, and ate, and drank the water from the clear pools in the garden and the fountains.
When night came, he fell asleep beneath an orange tree, thinking to himself that he would stay in the empty city forever and enjoy as much fruit as he wanted for all time.
In the middle of the night, though, he awoke to a ferocious pricking! Coming awake, he realized that he had been tied down with tiny ropes, and he was surrounded by rats wielding long rose thorns that they poked into his arms and his legs. As they poked, they shouted their fury: Who was this boy, who stole their precious fruit, and dirtied their perfect water with his sandy hands? He would pay for what he had done! He would be roasted that evening and made into a beautiful banquet.
Frantic, the clever boy told them: 'You can't eat me. I'm the child of the god of rats!'
The rats fell silent, their beady little eyes suspicious. Finally, an old, wise rat came forward, and asked, 'How can this be so? We have lived for many years under the reign of the humans, and they would kick us and set their cats on us. We have taken the city from them, but we remember their stories. There was no god of rats!'
The boy, thinking quickly, responded calmly. 'Well, no, there wasn't, then. But times have changed out in the world. Humans love rats, now, and all rats have their own god, and it is illegal to harm them, because their god loves them so.'
'What is the name of this god?' the rat demanded.
'Jotur,' the boy responded. 'You mean you have truly not heard? He didn't come to you in a dream like he came to all the other rats?'
The rats began to despair. Jotur hadn't come to them! They were forsaken for their violence, for the fact that they had abandoned the life of the rat, for taking the lifestyle of a human instead. Without a god, how would they ever go into the afterlife? Their souls would never be judged, and would be blown about the desert for all of time, scattering through the winds and the sands until they could no longer remember who they were. What a terrible fate for a rat.
The boy, ever clever, told them, 'Don't worry. I'll go to my father straight away and tell him that you're all very good rats... although he might be upset that you tied me down and stuck me with your thorns.'
'What can we do?' the rats cried, throwing down their thorns and pressing their little paws against him, beseeching. 'Son of Jotur, tell us!'
'You must untie me.' The rats did. 'Now, you must bring me a feast, so that I need not speak to my father hungry. He will know if I am hungry, and grow angry at the thought that you were not hospitable.' The rats brought him a meal the likes of which he had never seen: fruit, clear water, wine, roasted birds.
He ate well, and told the rats he would come back with his father's decision. A parade of them followed him out of the Lost City, and waved at him from the gates.
Out in the desert, the boy waited one day and one night, and then returned to the city. When he waved to the rats, they exploded in a great cheer! 'I have spoken to my father,' he told them. 'He forgives you your transgressions, and will judge your souls when you die. But in exchange, you must let me be king of this city, and you and your children must serve me forever.' Delirious with joy, the rats agreed.
The boy grew into a man, and grew to tenderly love the rats, and never hungered for food nor human company again. The rats served him faithfully, generation after generation, until he died."
Zurikan fell silent, pensive. As a child, she had loved that story, but looking on it with adult eyes, it did not hold a great message: Cheat others and profit from their ignorance. It was funny how much a simple story could change just by aging. "He was the only king of rats the world had ever known, but surely happier than any king of men," she added, with a wry smile. "For rats are far more loyal and kind than many people are."
Behind her, Korina sighed; like all caravan people, she loved a good story. Zuri turned away from the bars, wandering back to where she'd been sitting, the wood beneath her bare feet cold and moist from the water still.
Dammo Yol - June 17, 2010 10:20 PM (GMT)
Unwillingly, Dammo listened. No, he didn't just listen... he seeped every word she said, as if it were the very milk and honey of life. You see... there are no greater audience than the sailors... men trapped at sea for long periods of time, knowing not of mother or father, not of forests or lands, but of the soft whisper of the wind and the soft enchantment of a good story.
This, however, was a story unlike Dammo had ever heard. It was... peculiar.
"That's it?" he asked, incredulous and quite abashed. His cheeks flushed red at his own reaction. The boy looked away and then back again, his face showing more conviction than before, though traces of insecurity still stained it. "Didn't they get it in the end? With no J--Ja--Jacknabby showing up in the end." Arms folded to his chest as he steered himself.
Lying was bad. Every sailor knew it. That didn't mean they didn't do it, but they knew it. There were countless stories about it. Countless tales warning about the foulness of lying. Even those with great heroes who, through their great cleverness, managed to tame the waves and charm the fiends, even then... there was a price. Dammo would have liked to believe that there was no price to be paid for the bad things men did, but that didn't make it any truer.
Zurikan Ta'bur - June 18, 2010 08:19 PM (GMT)
Was that it? Zurikan almost laughed. Her back was to him, so she let herself smile at his question. She remembered asking that same question, and finding the answer to it so unsatisfactory. Now she was going to repeat it. "Jotur," she corrected, calmly, turning to face him again. Her expression had reverted to its customary seriousness, and she took a step or two back towards the bars, hanging back from pressing against them because she was still planning sitting down and finishing her nap.
"That's it. They didn't get it because they're animals. Lies and deceit are a human thing," she explained with a shrug. "If you hit a dog six days in a row, but treat it well on the seventh... come the eighth, it won't be expecting violence at all. It will trust you."
Dammo Yol - June 26, 2010 12:11 AM (GMT)
It was almost, almost a pout.
Dogs didn't do that. Dammo was sure of it. This silly woman was just being silly. Trying to win him over with her stories. Who was she to know what was what in the world? Who was she to know what dogs did anyway? Or rats? She was just a silly girl.
His eyes travelled to the pretty one again. He wished she was speaking, not this one.
"Well okay. I need t'get more." There was a brief pause. "I'm sorry, Yer Magesty, but Cap'n said for me t'do this," Dammo said almost, almost apologetically.