Conversion: Chapter 5, Part 1

Living Story Excerpt

Chapter 5: The ram finally slowed in Kharanos. By now, night had fully fallen. Seryth was hungry, and there were good smells coming from the tavern. "Stay here and don't get into trouble," he told the imp. The imp followed him anyway. The dwarves didn't seem to mint it, though, if they even noticed, and given the general level of drunkeness in the tavern, Seryth wasn't sure if they even did that. He asked a dwarf that seemed a little more curvy than the others where he could get something to eat. "Ye don't work, ye don't eat," said the dwarf, and handed him a requisition for boar meat and troll shimmerweed. Sighing, Seryth tramped back out into the snow... "Hey, at least you can get the bounty for the trolls while you're at it," said the imp, and then it quickly dodged a snowball.

Setting Translations

Kharanos = Svenby

When I’m stumped for a name, I’ll often look up words in a language that has the right look and feel for the culture I’m trying to name things in. For Tarith, this language is Old Norse (when it isn’t plain English). Svenby comes from the words for “rest” and “village”, and is probably used as a frequent stopover for travelers coming up the north-south road to Castellea.

troll = rukh-sham

Although trolls will eventually get another analog in this setting, for the purposes of Seryth’s Story, rukh-shami will stand in here.

shimmerweed = rukh-sham teeth

Since the shimmerweed is less of a plot item and more of a quest objective, I will once again make use of the implied bounty on rukh-sham teeth in its place.

Writing Process

At first I had to do a little research, to see about how far Castellea and Stonefield are from one another and hence how long it’d take Sirith to travel to Stonefield. As I already have a map drawn out for Talmenor, including a distance scale based on the Avaliet isle being about the same size as England, I determined the distance was around 100 miles, one way. Assuming a riding ram travels the same speed as a horse, it’d take Sirith anywhere from two to five days to reach it. So even if he didn’t stop when “the ram finally slowed”, he would have to make a rest stop somewhere along the way, and so it was worth adding in a scene detailing what happens when he tries to stay the night at a village.

When I got to the part about the innkeeper being suspicious of him due to his race, the scene started to write itself. Though adding in random battles, as many novels based on roleplaying games do, is going to be a bit ungainly in the future, I’m rather happy how this all tied in to the ongoing racism Sirith faces, this Kharanos scene, and the ympe’s offer to teach Sirith magic.

The Prose

The ram finally slowed as they came up on the next town. Farmhouses and fields became more common as Sirith drew closer, and the road became more busy. He cast a glare at the cat, warning it silently to not reveal its true nature, then pulled his mount to a stop up front of what he assumed was the inn, on account of the many windows peeping out of its two stories.

The inn had the look of someone deciding to come along and build two neighboring buildings into each other. The section on the right was built of stone, each piece of differing sizes, and Sirith couldn’t tell how they all held together without collapsing. The building on the left was newer, half-timbered, and the stucco between the dark wooden supports looked newly washed, so white was it. The two were connected with more dark boards laid vertically, holding up a shake-shingled roof and an additional cloudy window.

Sirith hitched the ram outside the doorway on the left and pushed his way inside. A quieter atmosphere than either Castellea or Timberfalls greeted him, as the guests here were all clustered around individual tables; some were talking across the aisle, but most were keeping to themselves. Sirith squinted as his eyes adjusted to the dimmer light, then he walked down the center of the room. As usual, a few of the locals paused and eyed him suspiciously, and, as usual, he ignored them.

What he took to be the innkeeper put her hands on her hips as he approached. She was a Little Folk and a hairy one, with little whiskers about her round nose and the beginning of sideburns coming down out of her tawny-blonde hair.

“A bed, please,” said Sirith.

“Inn’s full,” said the Little Folk.

Sirith glanced around, to find many of the other patrons staring at him. One even slipped sideways from his table of four to occupy the empty tables nearest as Sirith’s eyes swept over him. Sirith scowled at the insinuated exclusion, even as his heart sank.

It was likely he would face similar antipathy in each village he tried to bunk at. His money was low, and something curdled within him at the thought of using it to buy a bit of tolerance, much like a bribe. “Okay. What do I need to do to earn a room?” he asked tiredly.

“Depends,” said the Little Folk. “You aren’t allied with rukh-shami, are you?”

“Allied…? No.” Was this town, too, suffering from rukh-sham attacks?

The Little Folk was nodding, though her gaze was still speculative. “There you go, then. Go prove it, and put that deadly akor’mar magic to use!”

Sirith stifled a sigh, wondering what wild stories she had been told of his people to put it in such a way. “Very well. Where are they?”

The Little Folk started bobbing her head faster as it seemed likely that she had secured Sirith’s services. Her voice picked up the same tempo: “There’s been a raiding party coming out of the hills to the southeast every evening. Oh, we got it covered as far as the town defense goes, but I’m sure the merchant trains would be appreciative of your help. Bring back some of their teeth, and I’ll find a room for ye, sure enough.”

“I couldn’t get a bite to eat, first?”

The Little Folk’s swiftly narrowing eyes answered that question. This time, Sirith sighed out loud.

“You’d better have a good plate full for me when I get back,” he growled, “or maybe I’ll take the teeth of a few of your guests on the way out!”

It wasn’t a smart thing to say, but beyond deepening the scowls of the other patrons in the room, no one bothered him as Sirith stalked back to the door. One even shifted her chair out of his way so he could more easily pass by without touching her.

Sirith noted it. Perhaps that would be a useful tactic in the future, if he couldn’t get cooperation any other way. It would help if he had the power to back his threats up, of course.

He walked outside and untied his ram, leading it into the middle of the street before boosting himself on top it. “No food?” complained the cat as he kicked the riding goat into a trot.

“Be quiet!” snapped Sirith, not feeling in the mood to deal with the ympe’s taunts.

“No one’s around,” the cat continued cheekily anyway. “Seriously, though, I thought you were stopping over for a late lunch or something. What gives?”

“They want my rukh-sham extermination services, apparently.”

“Oh, fancy,” said the cat, “but I didn’t think you were much of a fighter. You don’t have no sword, and you can’t even cast a spell to make your ram go faster. Oh, what’s a little akor’mar to do, in a country what hates his guts?”

Sirith pulled the ram up abruptly, his neck itching in irritation. He hated to admit that the ympe was right, but he saw no other way around it: he needed its help.

“Maybe I’ll allow you to teach me a couple of spells,” he said.

Purr-fect,” said the cat, indeed purring as it said the word.

“We’ll stop once we find somewhere more secluded,” said Sirith, restarting the ram’s forward progress. “These people are jumpy enough without having to see your teaching methods.”

“That would make them jump,” said the cat slyly.

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