A long day of telling fortunes is finally complete.
Once the line of customers has dwindled to nothing, the Ane packs away her cushions, table, tent, and other tools of her trade, stashing them under the racks of costumes at the rear of her wagon. She changes from her voluminous skirt and veil to a pair of comfortable trousers and a loose braid hanging over her pointed shoulder. It’s not quite as theatrical as her working attire, but it’s comfortable enough to live in before she’s expected to play the part of the exotic, mysterious, liminal character that earns her coin.
The day’s take was quite large for a single stretch of work, earning Ane enough gold and silver to make the average person salivate: over a month’s pay for a laborer, and half that of a soldier. Of course this is after nearly a month of no pay for Ane in transit, with great peril along the way. The daily take is likely to decrease the longer the caravan stays, but there’s definitely something to say for that “splash” the troupe makes when it first hits a settlement.
As she steps back out to the light of the shardflies, Ane feels a faint tugging in her chest… It’s strange, warm, and feels like a “call” coming from afar underneath the vine-shaded groves of Paakoponde. It has a distinctly “violet” feel to it, and points in some vague (yet consistent) direction through the rest of the city.
Ane considers her options. She’s tempted to hang around and see how Korin’s doing — maybe Jiselmo’s decided to give him a break for once, though she doubts it — but they aren’t going to be in Paakoponde for much longer. It might be better to take some time to walk around, plus she’s got the day’s generous earnings at her disposal…
Ane decides to have a wander around the city. Not too far, just enough to peruse the wares of the merchants she missed on her first run through the marketplace, and maybe to find something to eat that isn’t chopon stew for dinner. So, with gold in her pocketbag and that strange, wordless melody humming on her lips, she sets off to see what the swampy city has in store.
As Ane begins to take her stroll through the city, she begins to get a better sense of the place. There are practically no “streets,” with onlylarge pathways between colossal, bulging tree-trunks. Even the bridges over the marshes are just massive roots. Some of the larger areas like the market are half-mindedly paved; however, it’s a clear imposition from a foreign power. The occupying force of Skilhouran soldiers must have demanded that the ground be clothed in stone, lest they track mud with their gleaming sabatons. Now that the soldiers have been driven to a scant outpost on the city’s outskirts, the cobbled stones seem like a mere memory.
The local establishments seem to defy this sort of organization anyway. A business’ level of wealth tracks directly to how high it’s situated on or within one of the towering trees, the poor tucked under roots with mud-brick walls, the wealthy tacked onto high-branches with rope, thatch, and salvaged wood.
The wealthiest establishments defy sense and reside within the actual body of trees without cleaving the wood. They rest within strange hollows, where trees seem to part themselves to allow for it. It doesn’t seem to be the work of laborers, but more seems like the tree itself opened up for them These higher-income locales aren’t separated into blocks, and sometimes a bawdy tavern and a jewelry store might even be in the same tree.
Along the main thoroughfare, the marketplace has an interesting array of curiosities to peruse. While there are no wooden goods to be found, the Paakoese are no strangers to animal products and metallurgy. A hunter’s tent may display all manner of trinkets, from ivory horns to fur cloaks. Many are fond of the more esoteric approach, presenting preserved bones from skull-to-spine-to-femur-to-toe for many implied purposes.
The jewelry stalls tend to favor stones and uncut gems, oft setting them within metals typical to the earth nearby. They adhere to a belief that this makes the trinket more “whole,” leading to particular combinations, like shining copper and striped malachite, or tarnished tin and amber-like cassiterite.
Finally, there are a few shadowy, bead-curtained tents that boast even more exotic trinkets… Just days ago, Korin the actor was cursed by the proprietor of one of these shops.
The faint tug in Ane’s chest continues to “track” — pointing beyond the grand temple on the horizon, a stepped pyramid shadowing the main thoroughfare. Despite the imposing structure, Ane feels the call from her dreams like a small, pathetic thread of memory.
Ane is almost drunk on the gold in her pocketbag — she spends some of it artlessly, on objects of seemingly little practical use. It’s a pattern she’s developed over years of feast-or-famine earnings, and it helps her stretch her coins when times are lean: Allow herself a few miters to spend on silly luxuries, to ease the bite of poverty and make it that much easier to hold onto the rest.
She purchases a unique specimen from a seller of curiosities first; a raven’s skull, cleaned by nature, devoid of animal flesh but stained by moss and pigment-rich mud all around its many, many eye holes. Then a bit of rough lodolite, wound around with aged copper as fine as a thread. Flecks of green, like bits of lichen or the tops of miniscule trees, adorn the heart of the stone in ways invisible to her (at least, as long as she lacks the eyes to see past the stone’s surface). Still, something about it gives her a pleasant tingle when she holds it, so she slips the stone into her basket and happily hands over the gold… After, of course, a bit of haggling.
Though the pit of her stomach inexorably pulls her toward the temple, she tries to fight the feeling. This is not her city, and, whatever strange things it may place in her dreams, she does not have the luxury of time.
Maybe a cold drink and a bit of puffroot might help dispel the nagging tug of the temple…