In Pursuit of Bread

A small-time guard gets a bee in her bonnet about a certain small-time thief.

Please identify your neighbourhood location in the Topic Tag: Arata, Deja Point, Hlunn, Cinnamon Hill, The Turtle, Nutmeg Hill, The Gripe, The Pipeworks, Carptown, Windward Market, and Three Flowers.
Niusha pezre Tsel Rhokesh
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Jun 10, 2019 4:53 pm
Topics: 2
Race: Wick
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Writer: Graf
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Fri Jun 14, 2019 12:46 pm

windward market, thul'ka
late afternoon on the 5th of loshis, 2719
today, more than ever, Niusha missed the steppe.

The air was as thick as soup, it seemed to her, and just as warm. In the open grasslands, up north, the Flood Season had brought her pleasure; now, it only seemed to compound the grime of city living. Her apartment had a leak which she had tried and failed to patch over many times. There was no choice but to keep the tiny window open – she felt she might suffocate if she did not – but she swore that she could smell the fish all the way from Carptown, carried by the heavy, wet breeze.

The Flood Season, though, meant business. If she felt lethargic, the city was the opposite, energized and buoyant. She’d never yet seen a summer in Thul’ka, but the fall and winter had seemed lively enough; it was the liveliest place she’d ever been in, and now that the temperatures were rising, it only seemed livelier. Her competition, the mercenary companies, were thriving: the Vein was stirring, the merchant oligarchs of the city raising their heads in search of profit. There was not a place in Thul’ka, not a place in the Eastern Erg, it seemed, where some deal wasn’t being made, where somebody did not need their precious goods guarded, swords to escort a caravan, someone out of the way so they could fill the vacuum. The whole city bloomed with power and opportunity.

And Niusha was guarding a tiny bakery in Windward Market.

It was one of the hottest days she’d seen this year, to boot. Stalls crouched all along the street, busy with bright awnings that rippled in the warm wind; shopkeepers sat and fanned themselves. People in all colors and manners of dress thronged along the street, poking their heads into stalls, chattering and laughing with one another.

Niusha had grown accustomed to the clamor of Thul’ka’s mercantile districts, the chatter of so many voices like a knot through which she could not even follow a single thread. For the most part, she had stopped trying, though she often wondered if it would hurt people to speak more slowly and clearly when they wanted to be understood. She understood Estuan very well – signed it more eloquently than many native speakers – but in a place like this, with the buzz all around, she could only catch snatches of words and phrases; she struggled to parse the language, had to shut her eyes and think of the words and sign them to herself before she understood. She was getting better, but throw Mugrobi and Riverword into the mix, and she was terribly confused.

Alin pez Kaveh’s wasn’t exactly the hardest establishment to guard, however – nor the worst place to spend your time. Even outside, you could smell baking bread from the opened windows, along with the pleasant, yeasty smell of rising dough; occasionally, you’d catch a whiff of nutmeg and honey and cardamom. A few freshly-baked loaves sat on a table near the door, looking crusty, flour-dusted, and perfectly imperfect. Niusha stood nearby, just underneath an open window, feeling sleepier and sleepier in the late afternoon heat.

So she leaned back, swatting a gnat that’d had the misfortune of landing on her arm. She rolled her shoulders, feeling them crackle with tension and then relax. Every once in awhile, she’d lean her head back against the wall, feel herself drift off… and then jerk awake again, scanning the street with keen eyes. Coughing and shifting from foot to foot, as if she’d never dared to drift off.

And then she would shut her eyes again.

A man’s sharp voice came swimming out of the market chatter: “Rhokesh?”

Niusha’s head jerked up; she grunted, blinking. The door to the bakery was open, and in the doorway stood pez Kaveh, face flushed deeply, apron and hands dusted thickly with white. Niusha stared at him for a moment, then inclined her head, resting her hand on the hilt of the knife at her belt.

“Huh.” With a raised eyebrow, the baker went back indoors.

Sighing, Niusha settled back against the wall. The smell of nutmeg was growing stronger from the window, and she wondered idly what had just come out of the oven. Something good, no doubt. With her palm still resting – loosely – on the pommel, she shut her eyes again.
Last edited by Niusha pezre Tsel Rhokesh on Fri Jun 14, 2019 3:16 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 782

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Faizra pezre Taci
Posts: 13
Joined: Mon Jun 03, 2019 4:59 pm
Topics: 5
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Writer: moralhazard
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Fri Jun 14, 2019 2:49 pm

Late Afternoon, 5th Loshis, 2719
Windward Market, Thul Ka
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Faizra sat against one of the walls of Windward Market, head resting back against the dirty stone, one scrawny arm extended with an open hand, gaze drifting over passing shoppers. A shadow fell over her, and the wika looked up with a scowl.

“Kofi’s lookin’ fer ya,” The scrawny urchin standing in front of Faizra jerked her chin at the older woman, bony hands on her narrow hips as if she was every inch a woman already. She spat off to the side, as if to clear the name from her mouth.

“What you know ‘bout it?” Faizra asked, closing her hand over the scant two coins she’d earned begging.

The girl thrust one filthy hand out, raising an eyebrow.

Faizra scowled. “‘N why should I give you more ‘n a smack?”

“You ent the sort,” the girl spat again, and wriggled dirty fingers.

“I ent soft neither,” Faizra rose from her spot against the wall, spitting on the ground, and turned to walk away.

“He says he’s gon’ t’kill ye,” the little girl called after her. “‘N those desemi ‘f his, they’ll tell ‘im ‘f they sees you sittin’. ‘Cause he wants t’ do it personal.”

Faizra scowled, standing still on the cobblestones still damp from that morning’s rain. She was light-headed with hunger; pouring rains had kept her inside all the morning, and she’d barely gotten settled against one of the walls in Windward Market when the urchin had come calling.

Faizra turned and walked back. Two coins weren’t enough for even a bit of food; if she couldn’t sit and beg, she’d need another way to get food today, and carrying around a few extra coins wouldn’t make much difference one way or another. She slapped the coins into the girl’s hand, then smacked her upside the head.

“Don’t go stickin’ yer neck out,” Faizra told her, scowling. “Ye ent got enough ‘f one f’r it, ye chen?”

The girl scowled, rubbing the side of her head. “Ye‘re t’ one who took his eye, ea?”

“Ea,” Faizra shrugged.

The girl nodded, gripping the coins tight in her bony fist. She turned and fled down the street, vanishing between the market stalls with the ease of long practice.

Faizra scowled. She ought to have known better - but Windward Market in the rainy season was like a fat, flopping fish in the river, shining its belly up at you as you stood above it with a spear. Faizra’s stomach rumbled at the thought of it, imagining the taste of fish speared and cooked over flame, torn apart with bare fingers, blowing on bites so you could eat them without burning your mouth.

Faizra walked down the street, idly weaving her way between shouting merchants and hurrying customers. She wore a once-white cloak, ratty and stained, over a breastband and flowing pants. A brightly colored shirt was wrapped around her head as if it were a scarf, the dirty bits hidden in the folds. Her stomach grumbled again, the ache of hungry making it hard to think. At least it was easy to keep from being thirsty during the rainy season; one just had to stand outside, hands cupped, and drink from Hulali’s open mouth.

She felt something tickle the back of her next and stopped, glancing around. She didn’t see anyone, but Faizra scowled nonetheless. Day was mostly gone already – getting to Windward market after the morning rains had taken most of it. Since Kofi’d forced her out, she’d spent her begging days in the Liar’s Market, but the takings weren’t anywhere near as good. His fault she’d come close to starving, or else hers for being oveka.

“Bhe,” Faizra spat on the ground again, ignoring a startled curse from a nearby shopper. She squinted up at the sun, shining thickly through the heavy damp of the afternoon. By the time she’d reach Liar’s Market, it’d be the night crowd, and it wasn’t much use begging from the night crowd. Faizra’s stomach twisted beneath her ribs, throbbing painfully.

The air smelled mostly like wet dog during the rainy season, but the market was the best place for something else. She could smell meat sizzling on a hot grill, fresh baked bread wafting into the air, the sour tang of yogurt. Faizra glanced around; the bread at least was coming from a nearby stall, the hot, damp wind that swept through the market picking up the yeast.

And the guard looked to be asleep.

Faizra weighed her options, hands opening and closing at her sides. She crossed towards the shop and joined the flow of people looking to pass it, walking with her gaze straight forward, looking at the shop and the guard out of the corner of her eye, not head on. She walked, walked, walked – and as she passed the shop, dirty but talented hands flashed out, snagging one of the still-hot loaves of bread off the table near the door.

Faizra pulled the bread tight against her side, shifting the cloak to cover it, and kept walking, never changing her pace or stride, not looking back, ears alert for any sound from the half-asleep guard behind her. Her mouth watered at the thought of the bread, but there wasn’t time to stop and eat, not yet. First, she needed to get away, and clean.

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