13th Dentis, 2704
It was early, still the kind of inverse twilight where the world's colours hadn't quite come into their own for the day. The damp air was cold as ice, a chill that bit at you with salivating jaws, its drool dampening every surface, its fettid breath clouding every pane of glass, only to break free in slobbering trails to chase downwards towards the sill. It wasn't quite cold enough for the frost and the freeze, but when it was the drool trails would freeze mid-flow upon the glass, and mid-drip from the edges of gutters, and the surface moisture would transform into swirling frost patterns as if the autumn mist had somehow become trapped upon the pavements and woodwork.
None of that mattered to Oisin Ocasta though. He had already braved the cold this morning, for now at least, and was barricaded inside the comparative warmth of the Nobody Inn. Perhaps the dawn hours were an odd time to find a man armed with a mop, carving a path through a sea of damp and grime in varying states of dry: but that was when he was paid to be here, a few coins exchanged for a little manual labour, and so he didn't question it too deeply. At least the main room of the tavern was relatively deserted at such a time: those with rooms had managed to crawl their way upstairs, those few who did not had usually staggered back to their ships or slept their way far enough into a hangover to be expelled onto the street with minimal effort. Even the earliest of the next day's drinkers were still hours away, busy with whatever arduous tasks earned them the coin that they spent on drinking away the memory of those same arduous tasks.
The mop squelched its way unpleasantly back into the bucket, and Oisin leaned against it like a crutch for a moment, using a small patch on the back of his wrist to mop a few beads of sweat from his brow. It wasn't the work, so much as the atmosphere that still lingered in the Nobody Inn. The fire had been prodded into embers and left to die the night before, but the tavern's thick walls clung to the residual heat desperately, the muggy air thick with the aroma of stale smoke, stale beer, and stale piss from the drunkards who'd managed to get themselves a little too far gone. It was hardly glamorous work, but a Wick took what a Wick could get.
A shoulder protested as Oisin tried to move in a way that displeased it: another reminder of what a Wick could get. It was the sort of thing that happened from time to time: someone had a bad day, drank enough to feel inclined to do something about it, and set their sights on the very next person who irked them. For Oisin, his very existence was apparently irksome to many. Galdori hated him for his impure field, and for having the audacity to still live in the city he'd grown up in, rather than in one of the out-of-sight travelling Wick communities where they didn't have to be reminded of his existence. Humans on the other hand, they had a whole spectrum of grievances towards Oisin, but most of it amounted to one simple thing: a rare opportunity for the downtrodden to stamp on something society deemed was beneath even them. Deep down, everyone in Old Rose Harbor was a wounded animal, and it didn't take much to compel them to lash out.
Such things were a fact of life for Oisin though, and facts of life were things you learned to live with. Oisin had adapted, and he'd paid attention so that he could learn how to. The weather was turning, which meant that life at sea was getting increasingly unpleasant: best to avoid the docks, then, if you didn't want to be a punching bag for sailors and fisherman having a rough day; doubly so if you didn't want to run the risk of getting upended off one of the docks into the icy-cold Dentis water below. Tavern work was only safe in the transitional parts of the year, though, especially if you planned on working when patrons were actually there: at the height of summer, or the depths of winter, it was either too damn hot or too damn cold for most people's liking, and so people were more inclined to drink than ever. More patrons, mixed with more alcohol, was exactly the kind of volatile situation that Oisin had learned to avoid. Come Achtus, he'd probably have moved onto the stables: the winter months were often their busiest time, with people travelling less, and animals needing more care to sustain them. It was peaceful work, out of sight and mind of most; but trying to drive a shovel through half-frozen horse shit in the dead of winter made mopping up the half-digested contents of strangers' stomachs seem downright pleasant by comparison.
A hand slid beneath the collar of Oisin's shirt and settled onto the offending shoulder, his eyes falling closed as monite words began to mutter themselves from his lips. He told the mona a story, a simple and all-too-familiar fable. Once upon a time there was a Wick: a foolish Wick, who took a wrong turn down a bad alley, and caught a man up to things he shouldn't have been, with a younger man in line to collect a few coins for his troubles. The sight wasn't something that phased the Wick in the slightest, but the older man wasn't willing to risk the Wick's judgement - nor, more importantly, the judgement of his wife - and so he had beat the Wick to ensure his silence, as if a broken jaw would force the Wick to hold his tongue. The Wick had found a healer to help with his jaw, but in the days since, the aftermath of the older man's cane and boots had begun to plague him. Fortunately, the Wick had friends: an entire world of friends, imperceptible to the eye but always there, who had never failed him in his time of need.
As he spoke, Oisin felt the soothing wave of contentment sweep across his shoulder as the pain gently faded. A whispered word of monite gratitude was uttered into the tavern air, and his shoulder rolled and flexed, testing the success of his latest dose of magical healing. Not perfect, but good enough: and besides, he wasn't greedy. His injuries would heal on their own, they always did; all he needed was a little help from his mona's friends to make it through the rest of his task, and then his shoulder could have all the rest it wanted - for a few hours, at least.
Oisin's mind returned to the task at hand, but the universe, it seemed, had other ideas. The Wick caught a glimpse of something before he heard it, movement out of the corner of his eye, beyond the condensation-clouded windows, before the sound of urgent rapping on the tavern door. "We're closed," he called, threading a path between loud enough to be heard outside, but not enough to disturb the floor above; but the knocking repeated itself, and a face appeared at one of the clouded panes of glass. A familiar face, in fact. Tom
"Alioe's pockmarked face," he cursed under his breath, setting aside the mop and crossing the tavern floor with a mix of frustration, resignation, and worry. The door was unbolted and open before Oisin completed his sentiment, aimed at the source of the disturbance directly this time. "What the hell kind of trouble have you gotten yourself into this time?"