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Legends of Taltos:Crusaders


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"I'll show ya then, then...if I don't forget to.", replies Janara with a satsified grin.

 

As the boat continues through the city, Janara begins to wonder just how large the city is, and where the boat is going. Excusing herself from Malachias, she ventures from one person to another trying to find out where the boat is going and how much longer before it gets there.

 

First she approaches Jasmine who is still tending to Freen. Freen is peacefully asleep as if by a sleep enchantment, so she asks Jasmine, "Where're we goin?".

 

"To our destination." replies the brown-skinned woman innocently.

 

"Well, where's that at?", asks the confused Janara.

 

"You would have to ask Mustafa Freen or one of the Reptus that are his friends."

 

With a nod and a thnkyou, Janara finds herself back amidst the group of creatures surrounding the arm-wrestling match. Neither the reptus nor Joe seem to have budged each other at all. Joe is grinning in spite of what must be a painful contest. Janara seeks out one of the reptus that had spoken earlier to Freen and gets his attention with a timid tap to his shoulder.

 

"Kamukh tahu manu-kele, aya?", she asks the creature.

 

The reptus' reply is in a mixture of several languages, two of which she recognizes as orcish and reptus, only one of which she understands. The only two words she understands are 'no' and 'hungry'. As the reptus answers her, he points to himself.

 

"Ss..s..saya..bukan.... um...", she stammers, backing away slowly but not breaking eye contact. Hoping the creature does not follow after her, she makes her way back to Jasmine.

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As things calm down or the barge, Jasmine regards Rune for several moments, finally speaking to the dwarf for the first time. "Excuse my ignorance, but I was afraid of you, because of the stories...you are dark, like me. Are you one of the desert dwarves told of in the Hakirian legends?"

 

 

"I don't know about any legends, but I have heard a bit of family history about some of my ancestors living far to the south of Taltos. It is said that that is where our skin color originates. I wouldn't know, I've never been."

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Jasmine stares again at the dwarf. "The legends of my people tell of some who have found great gifts in the desert....gems or pieces of fine craftsmanship. With these items were pictorial messages of something wanted...in trade. Those who took the offered items, and returned the trade, were soon partners in often lucrative ventures. Those who took the items, and did not honor the trade, had great misfortune befall them, though quite deservedly. The dwarves never revealed themselves until their trust was complete. We believe they live in the underground caves and passages....."

 

 

Joe and the hulking reptus strain for a few minutes longer. Neither can gain any advantage. As the barge approaches it's landfall, the half-orc looks his opponent in the eye, "I don't think I'm gonna beat ya, before we get off the boat....". The reptus nods agreement, releases Joe's grip, and claps him on the arm. "Here, I lost..." says Joe, handing over an orate jeweled dagger, taken in the darkspawn tunnels. The Reptus takes it, handling over an egg sized lump of amber, an ancient dragonfly encased therein. The two warriors again lock hands, in friendship. Joe eases over to Janara, holding out the amber. "Here , I got this for ya".

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Janara looks at the gift with amazement and curiosity and then smiles broadly at Joe, not entirely sure how to say what she means, but knowing she needs to say something.

 

"Thanks, Joe. You always gimme such good gifts. This'un's the best yet."

 

Still grinning, she quickly returns to where Aridwyn is, almost knocking Malachias down in her giddy haste.

 

"Lookit what Joe got for me! It's gotta be magical or somethin'. He won it offa that reptus there, an' it's got a dead dragonfly stuck in the middle of it."

 

She passes the object to Aridwyn, finding it curious how the thing so quickly grew warm in her hand unike any stone or piece of glazed crockery she has ever held. It also is very transparent, almost like glass, but yet there are no bubbles or ripples in it like any windowglass or drinking glass she has ever seen.

 

"I wanna give him a gift too, but I don't know what yet."

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Jasmine stares again at the dwarf. "The legends of my people tell of some who have found great gifts in the desert....gems or pieces of fine craftsmanship. With these items were pictorial messages of something wanted...in trade. Those who took the offered items, and returned the trade, were soon partners in often lucrative ventures. Those who took the items, and did not honor the trade, had great misfortune befall them, though quite deservedly. The dwarves never revealed themselves until their trust was complete. We believe they live in the underground caves and passages....."

 

 

"Sounds like these desert dwarves aren't much different than those of Aizen Krahl, Jasmine," Rune answers with a smile. "And I suspect that they are pretty much the same throughout the universe."

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"Yeah..everywhere's got humans. I know Elfs live an awful long time so if they was here first, there'd be a whole lot more of 'em than there are..right? I s'pose there'd be more Orcs too but the Crusaders ain't about to let 'em overrun Taltos... 'nless you count Haff-orcs as Orcs.. but... "

 

"Though we elves have been here a long time, by necessity we must keep our numbers small," Aridwyn murmurs, half to herself. "Since elves lead such long lives, we must have but small families lest we tax the land beyond what it can sustain." She reflects to herself that orcs' short lifespans may have something to do with their large numbers, but does not voice it out of consideration for Janara. "My people say that the Reptus too have been here for many years; they are spoken of in our history of this region."

 

Still grinning, she quickly returns to where Aridwyn is, almost knocking Malachias down in her giddy haste.

 

"Lookit what Joe got for me! It's gotta be magical or somethin'. He won it offa that reptus there, an' it's got a dead dragonfly stuck in the middle of it."

 

She passes the object to Aridwyn, finding it curious how the thing so quickly grew warm in her hand unike any stone or piece of glazed crockery she has ever held. It also is very transparent, almost like glass, but yet there are no bubbles or ripples in it like any windowglass or drinking glass she has ever seen.

 

Aridwyn braces herself when she sees Malachias wobble. She grins at Janara's news, and examines the amber, holding it up to the sun to admire its color and clarity. "Truly a lovely specimen. It would be much envied in Almirithil. Perhaps you could have it made into a pendant to admire all the time." Joe's getting bolder. And a good thing too, lest Janara club him on the head and carry him away!

 

"I wanna give him a gift too, but I don't know what yet."

 

"I need to do some shopping myself while we are in the Reptus city," Aridwyn replies. "You know his tastes better than I do, but we can look together, and perhaps find a setting for your amber if you wish it."

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Janara grins at Aridwyn's suggestion of shopping in the Reptus city. It had really not occurred to her that the Reptus would have shops, inns and food markets like any other town might.

 

"What kindsa things d'ya think we'll find in their shops?", she asks Aridwyn as she wonders out loud to herself. "I think the people here got lotsa money though. Lookit how they dress an' all the towers. They got more towers here than anywhere I ever seen. It's like they all live in palaces. We must look awful poor to them."

 

She thinks about how little money she has, but decides it will be exciting enough just to see more of the city even if she does not spend a single copper.

 

"D'ya think Bhoggy would wanna come with us? D'ya think many of the reptusses speak human or at least speak a little orc? When d'ya think we'll get to the krungs?

 

She hesitates a moment, sensing Aridwyn's anticipation of what both friends know will be 'the big question'.

 

"D'ya think Joe thinks I'm pretty?"

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Coming out of his over-awed state a bit, Ben moves closer to Rai and puts his arm around her waist. "Have you ever seen anything like this?" he whispers softly.

 

Rai turns and smiles at Ben. Having been caught in her own state of awe she wasn't aware of his presence but welcomes his attention. "Only through drawings. However I must say they are sub par now seeing it in person. There is so much culture to take in." She continues to take in more of the sights and sounds, smiling as she notices Joe's gift to Janara.

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A storm of activity overtakes the barge. Lines leading to the krungs are dropped, and hauled on deck by reptus sailors. A small skiff draws alongside to embark four more river trolls, who join the already present member of their fraternity in poling the vessel along it's last few hundred yards of travel, then poling it alongside the dock. They immediately take a few coins and fish from the "skipper", then return to the tiny vessel that brought them.

 

The dockside is exploding with the joyous noise of vendors, street musicians, freighthandlers, and all the other activities one would expect in a busy port. Ramps are run aboard, and willing, muscled laborers begin the task of off-loading the wagon and oxen. Soon the oxen are hitched, and the drivers box filled with the forms of Zeke znd Bhogmur.

 

Freen has awakened, smiles at the attending Jasmine, and proclaims, "I smell curries".

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Aridwyn grins broadly at Janara's barrage of questions. "I imagine they have many of the same things you'd find in the shops in Denelspire, and some things neither one of us has seen before. I doubt we look poor so much as different... or they might think some of the unfamiliar things we have are very impressive. Bhoggy might want to come with us, or he might think shopping is too girly for him now and get Joe to give him some arm-wrestling lessons instead. I'm sure many of the Reptus speak the other languages of Taltos. I imagine they keep the krungbeasts outside the city. I don't know when we'll get to them -- after we've done our business in the city, most likely. And yes," she leans forward and whispers conspiratorially, "I daresay Joe thinks you're beautiful."

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"Really?, Janara asks out loud in response to Aridwyn's whispering. Almost before the word passes her lips, she realizes that she had forgotten to keep her own voice at a whisper. Already in her mind she could hear the Mother Superior giving her allocution on the sin of vanity, though Janara only ever listened passively at best, having never cared for any of the preening and prancing that preoccupied most of the other Sisters. She never believed she had any reason to be vain. She was just plain Jane, clumsy, unkept half-orc girl with perpetually dirty hands and clothes full of patches. She holds the amber in her hand for a few moments longer before putting it away securely in one of her numerous pouches.

 

Soon the barge comes to journey's end and Janara gladly tries to help with the unloading of the various animals, though mostly keeping Nokhai from barking at the cattle and oxen and getting underfoot.

 

She is glad to be on land and a bit further away from the unfragrant river troll and his daily catch. Once it seems everybody has reclaimed their own mounts and are ready to continue toward their destination, Janara decides she would rather speak to Marcus Freen than take any more diplomatic chances with the reptus.

 

She leads her horse to where Freen and Jasmine are while her dog runs off to pester one of the drovers. He seems to have only just awakened, and comments on smelling someting he calls curries, though all Janara can smell is the overwhealming aroma of cooked meats and spices.

 

"You're the only one of us that can talk to the reptusses, Marcus Freen. You was asleep or I'd've asked you sooner, so where are we s'posed to go now? I tried askin' one of them snake people in orcish, an' he jus' gave me a dead mouse."

 

She holds out the rat, wondering if it is the smell of roasting rat that is making her mouth water. Hunger, tiredness and a nagging suspicion of Freen's intent are wearing away at her patience.

 

"Least you could do is tell us what they're sayin' an' tell them what we're sayin'. I ain't seen you do much else but get shot at since we left the Spire."

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