Pavis back

Banter among the riff-raff

When they return to camp Graylor and Egil offer to show Khan round the camp, at least the surface areas, the temple will have to wait until Khan is accepted by the Legion.

"Irnar, why don't you look after Urush. We will show Khan the sights. I'm sure Urush would be keener to see the bottom of a tankard than meet with officers of the Legion." Graylor gently dismisses the two men.

“Come on.” Irnar calls to Urush as he leads him through the camp, weaving between tents and partially restored buildings with canvas roofs. Nothing is fully permanent. Yet. Some small additions to walls to make the tent roofing easier, but nothing to demonstrate that this will be their permanent home. Yet. Soon the smells of cooking intrude on even Urush’s nose, Irnar’s more sensitive organ had been full of the scent of fish stew almost since they hit camp. It had taken him considerable self control to stop salivating. Wouldn’t do to dribble before the officers. A mere soldier must wait his turn. He thought wryly to himself.

The two men pass round the last corner and stumble into a real kitchen. Here had been some major changes, a hearth had been cleared, walls finished to at least chest high, flat stone slabs had been raised to form tables on which the cooks could work. The fire pits were now a thing of the past. Irnar whirled round the kitchen in a flurry of outrageous flattery and deft movements. Whilst only getting two bowls of stew and some bread, Urush finds apples casually tossed to him behind the back of the cook, warm pasties were filtched from the table where they were cooling, and a flask of mead disappeared. Thus laden the men exit from under the distrustful glare of the cook, pausing only to dip themselves a tankard of ale one the way out. Thus laden the men find their way to a convenient spot to rest, eat and drink.

“What do you think of our humble camp then?” Irnar asks, having devoted some time to consuming their impromptu feast.

The tusker goes about the serious business of extracting a lump of gristle from between his fangs as he ponders Irnar's question. Finally his questing fingernail pops the offending morsel free and he crunches it noisily before replying.

"It's not to bad all round, I'se seen worse for sure. Then again, I camped with trolls fer a bit, so you should be worrying if I 'adn't seen worse. Bit short of women. Food's good, mind, so I ain't complaining."

"Pavis has it's share of beauties from what little I've seen. And we should have some time for sport while our betters are about their business. There is a healer I have been meaning to look up, but haven't had the time. I'll see if she has a friend or two!"

Urush grins broadly. "Aye, see that you do! A healer and a friend or two would do fine for me too. Have to leave some time left for drinking."

“The food has picked up, even since yesterday. All that kitchen business wasn’t in use this morning!”

"Well I came along at the right time then. I have this feeling that your lot are in the business of fighting 'orrible things, often as not, and if I'se absolutely 'ave to go risk getting my face sucked off by something nasty or getting sacrificed by mad priests of awful gods with unpronouncable names, I'm buggered if I'm doing it on an empty stomach."

“Now that we have finished eating, do you mind if I try your bow. I have never seen such a monstrous thing as that!” Irnar asks.

Urush fondly runs a hand down the glossy black stave as he answers.

"Aye, she's a fine one, making 'ems a special trick of some of the fellows back home. In the forest we 'ave these beetles, huge things, not too quick but they'll eat anything that doesn't move for long. They're tricky bastards to hunt as they've got armour all over the place, but if you're cunning you can do it. Once you've got your dead beetle, you hack its jaws off and bring 'em back to Gorash and his sons, who are all right clever buggers for certain. Pay 'em right and they make you a bow like this. Mind you, this is nothing compared to the bow on a fellow I met in the mountains. Gron 'e was called, tribe called the Grotaron. You'd call me a liar if I told you how hard his little pigsticker was to pull. Of course he was about twice as tall as you, built like a rhino and had three arms, so he 'ad some advantages in the archery department. He also had no head, which must be a blessing after a hard night's drinking. Anyway, let me string her for you, she can be a bit testy 'till you 'ave the way of her."

Urush springs upright and grasps the bowstave in both hands. Wrapping his leg behind the stave he begins to strain mightily while uttering a string of curses. Veins bulge beneath the tusker's charcoal skin, beads of perspiration ooze oilily down his brow and his vertebrae crack audibly at one point. Finally he bends the stave far enough to loop the free end of the bowstring over the tip and lets the bow spring free. He grins, offering the weapon to Irnar.

"There you go, enjoy 'er"

Irnar takes them to the edge of camp where he has set up a target of sorts. He strains at Urush’s bow but can hardly draw it half way before he has to give up.

“That is some bow my friend. I need to find a more suitable one for myself.” Irnar pats his bow fondly. “This is great for hunting and un-armoured opponents, but I need something with more punch if I am going to face more armoured men. I will have to find out if this bunch of sword lovers have anything useable. Though I suspect that the majority wouldn’t know a bow from their staffs. Not that they seem to have a use for them either.”

He laughs loudly. Which is immediately followed by a piercing squawk and noisy quacking. Behind the low wall to their left Irnar’s laugh had startled Blackbeak who had been sunning himself.

“Can’t you let a drulth retht in peace? But you are right about the big guy’th not knowing how to thervith their thtafth thou’” He dissolves into helpless quacking for a while.

“Enough already who’th the ugly, thtunted guy? Ith he another of your playthingth?” Blackbeak winks lewdly at Irnar.

Unfazed by Blackbeaks manor, Irnar replies. “No, hith bothth...” he starts. But can’t maintain the joke as Blackbeak's face darkens with anger, and Irnar bursts out laughing again.

“You deserved that!” He taunts the duck. “This is Urush, who may be joining the auxila if/when his boss joins the legion. Urush this is Blackbeak a deathdrake of the famed Thunder Ducks.”

“Pleathed to meet you Uruth.” A pained expression passes over the drulz face. “Why dothe everyone have thuch thilly nameth?”

Urush sizes up the feathered newcomer for a moment, scratching his buttocks ruminatively.

"Pleased to meetcha too. Blackbeak eh? I can see how you got that. In your tribe's way of naming I'd be "Mighty hunter who has three legs but walks on two", but Urush is easier on the tongue. What are these Thunder Ducks famed for, exactly, then?"

"The loudness of their farting in their baths or the noise of their complaining when there's work to be done," comes Irnar's sardonic reply.

Urush dissolves in a fit of cackling, recovering himself to add. "Heroes to a man, or bird, then. Good to hear not everyone about the camp's only concerned with what time their own funeral's going to be and how many folk they killed before breakfast."

(That evening, someone asks if Abul is back yet, and....)

Answering to his name, Abul showed up from behind a half collapsed wall. "We are here!" said the young man with his unusually deep voice.

With Abul and Yenda was a third person, a young man with a black beard, taller than them with typical Pavis outfit but Sartarite physical traits. Abul presented him.

"This is Sarger from the Lankhor Mhy temple. He is the Initiate of Hevduran I talked you about and who negotiated for us a discount for the Dark Tongue lessons. He is now coming at the camp to receive our part of the deal with some Humakti sword training. I think he will soon regret the bargain as he is too soft for real sword training but he wants to do it anyway, stubborn as any Dragon Pass inhabitant..."

Abul wasn't smiling but from the glitter in his eyes, one could tell that he was mocking the newcomer in a deadpan manner. A solid friendship and mutual comprehension had clearly already linked the two men as the young guard answered on the same tone.

"I'm a Sword Sage, not a lumberjack... I will probably have to teach more than sword wielding to some of your young apprentices, I hope I will get your agreement, Ma'am..?"

"Certainly - the Legion always pays its debts. I'm surprised Abul dragged you all the way out here, though, when there are plenty of us visiting the temple in the New City. Make sure you're back home by dark - the Rubble has enough dangerous things in it in daylight, never mind at night."

"At least you won't 'ave to look at their ugly faces at night. I'se going to be off eating zebra for weeks." The throaty voice of Urush answers from where the little tusker is sprawled on a shattered column, working his way through a plundered lunar wineskin. The erstwhile head of sentient resources, displayed proudly atop a javelin, keeps him macabre company.

- "Have you headhunters for friends?" asked then Sarger in a anguished mutter to Egil and Abul. "At the temple, we were train to fight headhunters and garroting assassins... they are the unnatural enemy of the Knowledge cult..."

"I don't know this disgusting little fellow, answered Abul cautiously. "He seems to be a servant of this western Humakti champion we found at the Sword Temple today. The silent tall guy there with a bloodied eye... he gives deadly sword lessons, don't provoke him..."

Irnar responds. "I don't know Urush is alright.. At least when he is sharing the wineskin!"

"Heroes first, whiskers. I worked up quite a thirst slaying broo lords and ogres while you were playing with dogs." The tusker takes a noisy final swallow, before proffering the skin with a wink.

Deftly plucking the skin from the small man's hand with a grin, Irnar takes a long draught.

"He had a bad case of dead bodies refusing to lie down, and if you don't have a bunch of Humakti on call then removing the head is a sure cure for that sort of problem. Aint that right Urush?"

"Aye it always seems safest. Take sweetlips there...." Urush waves a hand languidly at the severed head decorating the spike beside him. "...slip of a girl but turns out she's a rampaging monster who'd of been sure to come shambling after us from beyond the grave, had I not wisely given her the old Thanatari tonsure."

Irnar returns the skin with a flourish, taking the opportunity to whisper to Urush. "It seems to me the world is confused. Here we have a warrior lass who thinks she's a librarian and now we have a librarian who thinks he is a warrior! It's enough to make a poor alynx's head spin."

"Well you're a man who thinks he's a cat, or are you a cat that thinks it's a man, I'se as confused as you are. Count yourself lucky, blondie over there's a man who thinks he's a sword. That said, there's power in scrolls, that's one thing I 'ad to leave the forest to learn, so it's good to know who the book-keepers are."

Urush favours Sarger and Yenda with a calculating look, before going off into a long and improbable explanation of the best way to seduce a dryad
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