Malesaria thanked the woman crewing the street food stall and went back on his
way, pulling his clothes tighter around him. He had lived in Vanzograd for well
over a year now and still he had not accustomed himself to the damnable cold.
He wore a thick pale fur coat over his Clan colours and still the wind and the
cobbled streets seemed to cut through to his very bones. At least his hands
were warm. Balathu was somewhat of a regular at the food-stalls of the larger
streets. While the food of the city was nothing like the cuisine of his clan,
it was at least very nourishing. It needed to be. Compared to the nomadic
trader lifestyle of the Clans, the Vaulters led hard lives in the cold shadows
of the Horlaken mountain-range. Even after the Great Quake had drastically changed
life in the surrounding regions the range was still massive, towering over the
city even at this distance. How anyone could even think of living there was
beyond the Clan ambassador. Pity about their coffee though. He thought.
The mountain-folk brewed the beverage but they did not seem to care about the
taste of it. Just that it kept a man warm and working for a few more hours.
He kept a
careful hold on the 2 large pies he had purchased as he extricated himself from
the crowd. The two guards on watch outside his ambassadorial house saluted at
his approach. They were residents of Vanzograd, their guard-uniform adorned
with a simplified version of Balathu’s own clan colours. Hands fully occupied
with his large breakfast he simply nodded in return. The embassy building was
much like every other building in Vanzograd, a square grey-blue block. In
deference to the style of his clan some embroidered canvases had been hung up
along the sides. While he appreciated the gesture, it did little to alleviate
the brick-like nature of the architecture. One of the guards opened the
steel-blue titanium gate and followed him to the door. It was not locked.
Balathu kept all his items of true worth on his person. The door opened, he
thanked the guard and went inside. A large luxurious carpet covered the room of
his entrance hall from wall to wall. He had brought it with him when he had
travelled to the city. Soothing to the eyes. He hurried through the hall and
into the personal dining hall, tracking mud and grime from the streets with him
and over the carpet. Ultimately not his problem, and besides, there was likely
going to be a lot more dirt coming through before the day was done. The 2
meat-pies were set on the spacious round dining table and the lid of a pot put
over each to preserve the heat. After closing the door to the windowed kitchen,
Balathu Malesaria sat down gently in one of the low chairs surrounding the
table and carved a slice of pie for himself. While the meal was ultimately not
intended for him, he had also not had a bite to eat since waking. One thing he
had achieved during his time in the city was to shake the Early-Bird habits of
his clan. With the onset of winter close at hand and the trade deals of the
summer finalised he had little to do but wait for correspondence. However, this
morning he had gotten up bright and early.
the slice of pie up and took a sizeable bite. It was a far cry from the dishes
of home or the ambassadorial dinners at the various embassies of the city, but
it was hearty and at perfect temperature. Licking his fingers, he quickly
wolfed down the remainder of the slice. The house was silent except for him. They
won’t mind if I take a little more. With a deft cut of the knife a much
smaller slice was freed. With habits formed from a hundred formal dinners
Balathu reached for his drink only to close his hand around nothing. Grumbling
his annoyance, mostly at his own forgetfulness, Balathu got up from his chair
and poured a cup of water from a chilled pitcher. It would not need to be
artificially cooled for much longer. The Clanner shuddered involuntarily at the
thought of Vanzograd growing even colder.
back to the dining room and gently sat down. It was his own home but the guests
he would be entertaining made him feel uncomfortable. Without looking he
reached for the slice of pie he had cut just a moment ago. His hand found only
crumbs. Dumbfounded, he looked at the tray. The knife was where he had left it,
but the small slice was gone.
for this?” The voice was feminine and sharp as a knife. Balathu nearly
jumped out of the chair he was in.
standing by his kitchen doorway was short but clearly muscular, skin-tone a
kind of dark greyish brown, as though she was caught in the light of twilight.
A swirling design of Dust-tattoos belied the mottled appearance. Her black hair
was tied up in a long braid that went past her shoulders. Her clothes were so
dark-blue as to be nearly black and clung tightly to her form, the various
straps and belts brimming with weapons and tools. The man in him wanted to see
what was hidden beneath those mottled clothes. The Clanner in him knew that
would be akin to asking to see the jaws of a lion up close. Fascinating,
Soininen, I did not notice your arrival.” He could see the slightest
flicker of a grin on her face at the quiver in his voice.
was rather the point of hiring us, was it not? ” Kiira Soininen responded
before eating the rest of the slice she had silently taken from his plate. Her
Dust-radiant eyes never left him, “And neither me nor Kaleva appreciate
being called Lady. That is a trapping of the city-folk.”
resisted the urge to clear his throat. “Ah, but my people are nomads, not
people of the cities, and yet we still refer to women of dignity as
over to the table. “As I said, neither of us are ladies.”
Now he had
to resist the urge to back away. The shades he had hired all had an air of
danger about them. “I take that your amiable mood means the job went
laid one pie above the other and lifted them with a sure grip. “I doubt
you will hear much of it aside from rumour-mongers but yes, the warehouse was
emptied of supplies. When we have rested, and the situation permits it, we
intend to move onto the next objective.”
good, good. I believe I can arrange for an advance payment once the second task
has been carried out.” He could think of little else to say as the
Forgotten woman nodded briefly at him then walked out of the dining hall
without a sound, pies in hand.