CHAPTER VIII: HARD HABIT TO BREAK

A SANTHARIAN NOVEL

 
Darkling Abroad   
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Introduction. Viresse writes some more in her private journal, sorting out her thoughts. But yet more questions arise out of these, and Viresse cannot answer them... or at least she isn't willing to.

 

iresse countiued to walk around the streets for some time. It never felt as if she wasn't supposed to be out. While she was sure it was after midnight outside, the whole town of Tyr Thromgolin was still lively with traders, miners and others wandering around the fire lit town. It was liberating.

She came to the town square and was relieved. It was wide and not so full of people as the streets were. It almost seemed dead enough to pass for late evening. And she noticed that this was where the majority of the pubs were. Which was good - she felt like getting quite drunk and leaving Rube behind.

Well, it wasn't entirely his fault that his friends were jerks. They were just that way because they didn't know any better. They were rich privileged humans, who seemed to be pets of the King, almost - almost all of that stuff was for that house and it seemed the Lady Beth was keeping it for herself rather than trading it. Maybe that's what her deal was. She was a trader for the King. Who didn't see it suitable to trade the King's treasures?

But so be it. She didn't care. Or she shoudn't. The woman would die in thirty years or so. That comforted Viresse a great bit. She always had things to hold over human's heads. Sometimes it saved her sanity. Humans could be cruel creatures.
 

She thought of the humans she knew at the Compendium. Well, not all were terrible. Some could be, but she thought that humans were inherently good. But perhaps that was because she was inherently wicked. So she thought she had proven in her station in life - if she could be good, then humans could be evil.

Viresse wandered over to a bench flanking the square and sighed, and hid behind her hands. What a stressful world this was. There was too much going on, and not often enough was there a lull for her to grasp her footing. It was stressful, and sometimes she liked ot snap from that stress. This trip was making her admit that sometimes - sometimes, not all the time - that she needed to snap and break things or be rude. It was her nature to do so, so why hold it in?

She grabbed her satchel, and pulled an inkwell and a quill. If any time was better to write, she'd not encountered it yet. She dipped the quill and began to write.
 

"It is inherent nature for me to be wicked. Then why do I feel the inclination to be kind? And if I so wish to be kind, then why do I feel so liberated when I am wicked? I am confused. But I don't mind. Should I mind?

No matter. It will happen. It will continue to happen. All I can do is handle it as it comes. Some people deserve the wicked treatment I can bestow upon them, others don't. A case by case basis. I can't seem to do it any other way."

Viresse read what she wrote. She came to another conclusion.
 

"I've never really had a problem with controlling myself before. It's always been particularly easy. Keep quiet, and meancing stares to silent those that annoyed me. But now - I feel as if I need to physically threaten. Is it because of Rube? Why would it be because of Rube? Is it this situation he's created? The tension? I can't be sure.

Perhaps - a more plausible idea for my violent nature - the idea of visiting the Paelelon. Ive never met an Eophyrhim, but am picking up the notion that they are wicked and bloodthirsty, and I wonder if I am acting in a similar fashoin to prepare myself for them. It will be like home - among those that understand the ways of the drow. No fear, and all respect. But... I've had dreams. Dreams that make me feel comfortable, but then a fear arises. They are violent. Very violent. I fear that. I really do. But I'll just have to wait and see."

Viresse looked up. Across the way was Rube. He hadn't seen her. She quite wasn't sure what to say to him - all she could do was just duck her head and hope she wasn't seen. She wan't sure if she wanted to talk, let alone see Rube again.

She tried to concentrate on writing, but soon she felt a presence nearby. She looked up, and saw Rube looking down at her.

"Hey," he said simply.

"Hey," Viresse answered. She sat still for a few moments, unable to think of what to say next.

"She's a snake," Rube said.

Viresse looked up, slightly confused. "What?"

"Lady Beth Cutter. She's a snake." Rube said. He looked off for a few seconds." She was a trader for the King for a while, made good money too. But due to her less than savory trading practices, the King opted to hide her off rather than get rid of her." He looked back to Viresse. "I can't stand her. "

"Really, could have fooled me." Viresse turned away.

"Hey - I have to entertain her. She's the one that pays me." He sighed. "She likes to do that - invite people and then belittle them for her own amusement. I like what you said, but she's never going to change." He looked around the square, then returned to look at Viresse. "I'm sorry you had to endure that. I knew it was going to happen to me- I didn't want it to happen to you, which is why I sent you off. I hope you didn't mind." Rube sighed.

"I'm sorry," he added.

Viresse looked up. "I know. It wasn't your fault."

Rube sat down next to her on the bench. They were both quiet for a few minutes. Finally, Rube broke the silence. "You've seen around town?"

"Yea. It's different. Kind of nice. Dwarves aren't as judgemental, in fact, They don't really look up so I can get away without much complications." Viresse looked to Rube. In fact, the humans on the street aren't so brutal either. It's - because we all don't fit in, we all are the same."

Rube nodded. "It's not a bad town. Just... out of the way."

"Yea." Viresse nodded slowly, then noticed he was sitting differently than he did when he sat on the wagon. Somethimg was off. She then noticed an extra sword at his waist. "What's that?" Viresse asked.

"This?" Rube teasingly queried, stood up and pulled a long, curved sword out of the scabbard at his waist. Viresse also stood up and took a step back as he swung it a few times. The loping curve of the handle and the blade making his reckless thrusting and swinging look clumsy, for it was designed with a more elegant approach to swordplay. "I got it off E'bei - a smithy in town. People come from all over Santharia to bid on his stuff." Rube looked up. "If you're lucky, he'll throw the bidding out the window if you buy it up front." He stopped swinging and set it flat ways in his palm as he looked over the blade.

Viresse cocked her head. "An elven smith?" The idea didn't strike her as being odd. Cor'hm were great smiths - they were hailed as being master smiths in Nybelmar. But she had not known that there were elven smiths among the wood-elves of Santharia.

"Yea... E'bei Ean'r, a Sanhorrhim. They're good craftsmen, and once, they were good warriors. But they've pretty much become peaceful since the High Wars, but their talents as smiths are quite decent. Especially E'bei - it's rumored he's a Goltherrhim."

Viresse shook her head slowly, she didn't really understand what he spoke of. Wars, tribes... she didn't know much of those ones. Perhaps some research was in order. She set the idea aside and looked to Rube. "Can I see it?" she asked.

Rube looked at her for seconds that seemed a bit long, there was a hint of something familiar in his eye that she had seen other people possess, but not Rube, at least, not yet. It was most likely fear - he was about to hand over a sword to a drow.

"You're my ride to Elsreth. I promise I won't do anything bloodthirsty or evil," she smirked, and Rube laughed in an embarassed manner, and the fear left him. He held out the sword, the elegant ergonomic curved handle warm as she wrapped her pale hand around the waxed leather shaft.

Viresse held it in one hand and reached her armed hand out straight before her. She closed one eye and looked down the blade - it looked evenly worked. She held up her other hand and with a gentle toss, swicted hands. The weight seemed even too - a fair amount in the handle, with a decent arched counterbabance along the curved blade. It had a blood channel down the middle, not normal for elven blades, but as Rube had said, people do travel for his work, so she quickly assumed he crafted for human purposes. There was also a hand guard, another human notion.

Viresse rotated her wrist, and let the sword's blade cut a circle in the air, the light glinting off the blade and throwing a dancing beam of light all across the square. And then she closed her eyes as she stood, sword extended before her in a slight thrust.

The weight of the sword was just right, and it was familiar. Viresse absently slipped into a long-memorized sword display, one that her mother had taught her when she was only 50 or so. It was meant to ward away those that would attempt to gain rank on her, as well as attract a desirable, strong mate. It was useless for battle, but encompassed all the techniques needed for a strong fight - balanced turns, a splayed bow, and many moves that required placement of the blades in opposition to the thrust, a high handed sword for downward strikes, and low-set moves that threw off the balance of the enemy to place them close to the upward thrusted blade. There were also several sweeping levels of blade maneuvers - head swipes, belly-splitting slashing, and leg sweeps made more vicious with the inclusion of a blade.

When Viresse finished the routine committed to memory. She knew there were far more moves, but could not remember them. She took a deep breath and opened her eyes. And was shocked.

A crowd had gathered around her and Rube, who had backed up a fair amount as to avoid getting struck by Viresse's unhindered dance. The whole mob seemed scared and awed at the same time, and Viresse quickly walked over to Rube, whispered an apology and gave him back his sword. He was beaming widely, despite the crowd. Viresse turned to exit, but found the crowd squeezing closer, murmuring. Some began to throw coins, while others began to curse. Viresse, unsure of what to do with the mixed crowd reaction, only covered her head and barreled through the people, walking as fast as she could to the nearest door. She glanced up only slightly as she shoved the door open, the crowd noise of mixed cheers and jeers straggling to follow her inside.

Viresse was glad to know that she had entered a tavern. These people hadn't been outside, so they didn't see what she did. But they were staring oddly, as all do at her. There were more humans than dwarves in this establishment. She sighed, swept her black hair over one shoulder, and sat at a table facing the door, hoping Rube would follow her. She hoped he wasn't hurt. She doubted he was. So she waited.

It took a long time before Rube finally entered. He walked slowly, seemingly clutching his belly. Maybe he had been hurt. Viresse cursed herself, and rose from her seat to help Rube sit down.

"I'm fine," he mumbled breathlessly. He took a slow seat at the table, letting his stomach jut out as if he were an expectant mother. He was also making noise as he moved - a cheerful, jangling sound. Viresse furrowed her brows in confusion as he raised his hand and gestured the bartender for drinks.

"You wouldn't believe, Viresse," Rube said with a smirk, as he leaned across the table, his chin in his hand. He cupped his hand across his mouth so only she could see and hear what he said. "We're near rich!" He said, then quickly looked around to make sure no one heard. He reached a hand udner the table, and Viresse saw his upper arm move, and a jangling response to the action. He smiled widely. "It's all in my tunic - over fifty san!"

Viresse cocked a brow. " I'm only worth fifty san? That's not a whole lot."

Rube shook his head. "But imagine - if you did this all over the place, that's at least fifty san a town. And people constantly move, so if you stayed in one spot in town for a day or so and did that roughly every half hour in a high-traffic area, that's probably close to five hundred san a day!"

Viresse nodded slowly in agreement, but her face clearly showed she didn't like the idea so much. " You mean - like begging?"

"No, not like begging. They are paying you to do your trick. They don't have to pay - but its very nice of them if they do." He smirked. "It's like doing an assassin job - you do your thing, they pay you, you move on."

Viresse nodded a bit quicker. "I see. But I don't entirely like it. I don't want to be a freak show. Cor knows I'm a freak in these lands as is - I don't need people to stare at me any more than they do. And what if they recognize me? 'Hey Viresse, you're that sword dancer - show us a dance!' I'm not going to enjoy that." She sighed. "That whole thing was an accident. I don't want to do it again. It's just nice to know that in times of difficulty, I can pick up a quick snip of coinage."

The barmaid brought two mugs of light blonde ale, and set them on the table. Rube fished out about five san and handed them to her. She nodded and left.

Rube picked up a mug. "Okay. I understand."

Viresse picked up her own mug. "Thank you."

"No problem." He nodded and took a swing of ale. He set it down and layed his hands on the table, lacing his fingers. He then got up, reached beneath the table, and set the sheathed elven sword on the table.

Viresse took a swig of ale herself, then set the mug down, eyeing the sword. " What are you doing?" she asked.

"Well. You're pretty good with a sword, but you don't have one. So I figured I'd make you a deal. I give you the sword, and I'll take the san. The money would probably be more of a bother to you, and I don't mind giving this to you. I don't think I've got the knack for it, if you know what I mean."

Viresse took another sip. "I understand the reasons, but I see no true benefit for you. What are you getting out of it?"

Rube pursed his lips. He shrugged. "Well, just cash, I guess. Consider it a gift. I know it's not entirely elven, but hey - at least it will make you rememeber me as you're hacking enemies limb from limb."

Viresse laughed. "I'm not much of a hacker - I'm more of a stabber..." She set one hand on the hilt of the sword. " So now I've got a sword and a dagger. Just like you." She smirked.

"Hey now, I hadn't thought of that!" He laughed, and took another large swig of ale. "You're quick," he added, and smiled.

"You're too kind." She quipped, and took the sword off the table, and moved to strap it to her belt.

"That's the first time I've heard a comment like that directed at me," Rube noted.

"Why? You're not nice to other travellers?" She finished attaching the sword to her belt and looked up.

"I guess - no one really says much to me..." He shrugged and took a sip of ale. Rube then kicked his feet onto the table. " But, in more than one way, you're different..."

Viresse leaned onto the table and set her chin in her hand. " I've noticed."

" I would hope you had," Rube said, and also leaned in snickering to himself at his joke.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Viresse asked, and sat up. Was he raking her over her appearance? Or her temperment? Or even her personality? She furrowed her brows. The tension at the table had risen in an odd direction she hadn't hoped it would. But it had, and Viresse had backed up to let the situation cool off. Rube cocked a brow.

"I mean. You're a beautiful elf with a strong mind and amazing sword skills - who isn't going to notice that? And those are only a few." He nodded slowly, a smile spreading across his lilting face. It seemed he hadn't drank in a while, for his tolerance threshold was being hit in a quick manner. Or... perhaps he was finally taking the chance to voice his emotions. Either way, it wasn't smart, and it was unsettling, Viresse found.

"I don't like the way that sounds." Viresse said. The tension was uncomfortable for her and it had made her bitter. She reached for the ale, hoping the cool malted beverage would calm her, but it did not - for her pale face felt as if it burned. Rube was oblivious to his insulting blunder.

"Which part?" He said. He was still smiling.
 
"Just-" Viresse sighed. "...stop talking." She took a heavier drag of ale. She really wanted the alcohol within it to hit her as quick as possible. She was getting irritable, in the way she did not like. She leaned very far back in her chair, trying to distance herself both mentally and physically from Rube. She knew he was only going to try and get closer. And he hadn't had much ale yet. Which scared her. She didn't want to fight him off. But she would, if she had to.

Viresse rubbed a pale hand over her face - as if she wanted to wick away her frustration and irritability and throw it to the floor to be swept up by the barman when he cleaned up at closing hours. She also had the urge to throw Rube to the floor, perhaps plant a foot in his stomach or grind a heel in his forehead- but that was not an answer to anything. She squeezed her eyes shut.

It could have been an answer in the Crystalwoods - a definite invitation to a besting fight in a Sevari tavern. But she wasn't in Sevari, and this frustration that arose in her; she was feeling as if she was unable to control it. She had only a faint inkling of what it was - and of what she knew of it - she did not like. She didn't need that right now. Fortunately- if she pretended not to listen to it, she could say it wasn't there. Which was fine, eventually it would fade. Wouldn't it?

Viresse picked up her ale and took a long drag. Rube had turned away from Viresse and was looking around the room with a bored and roving eye, faintly watching a barmaid serve drinks. Her corset was laced tight, and her cleavage was quite pronounced. What man wouldn't want to look at that? Viresse knew that but did the average reaction to that kind of animalistic intentions, a roll of her dark eyes. She sighed heavily.

"Rube?" She finally interjected.

"Yea?" He turned around to face her and took a drag of ale while he waited for her to speak.

"Would it be too much trouble to get a room here?" she asked. "With the money I earned?" She rose a brow. She knew it sounded more than what she wanted it to be, but she didn't have a choice. If she didn't get up and out - alone - soon, she would defenitely lose it. She'd lose the strength she had fought to tame - that instinctual anger that her tribe seemed to carry in her blood.

"Uhm - yea. Sure," he answered, and rose from his seat to go inquire at the bar. Viresse quickly snaked out a hand and set a heavy grasp on his wrist.

"Rube - two beds," she noted with the straigthest face possible.

Rube nodded slowly and went to the bar to get a room. But a noise caught Viresse's attention - the door to the bar slammed open. Viresse was surprised to see a familiar dwarf. After a few seconds of scrutinizing stare, she recognized him as the dwarf form the Half Way Point in the tunnel to Tyr Thromgolin. He noticed her too, and quickly made his way over and took a seat.

"You, Lady, owe me twenty san!" he said. He gestured the bartender for a beer, then turned back to the matter at hand.

"I do. And my friend has it," Viresse said. She called Rube over. He came over, and eyed the dwarf for a second.

"You get around," Rube said to Viresse. He opened his mouth to say something more but was silenced.

"Cap it, wagon boy," she said with a smirk. "Give-..." She looked at the dwarf inquisitively.

"Angorn," the Dwarf answered.

"...Angorn here, twenty san for lighting the fires- "

"Thuuth," Angorn corrected.

"...the Thuuth in the fore tunnels before the halfway point in Tyr Thromgolin." She looekd to Angorn, then to Rube.

Rube nodded slowly, although he seemed a little pained.He then made space for the barmaid to set down Angorn's ale. He fished out twenty san from his tunic, and handed it to Angorn with a bit of sad apprehension.

Angorn took the money and looked at it for a second. "I thought the agreement was GEMS." He cocked a brow, looking quite gruff. He seemed almost insulted that she hadn't stuck to her end of the deal.

"Well, Angorn, They'd probably rob me blind if I tried to - you'd be better off getting a decent deal..." Viresse nodded slowly and smiled.

"Aye, I know- but it'd be quite nice to say 'Hey, look at this gem- I got it from a drow!' You know what I mean?"
 
Viresse nodded slowly. "I understand now. But at the moment - that's not possible." She looked at the dwarf for a second. "How's this, Angorn? I am almost absolutely sure that i will come back to Tyr Thromgolin. When I do, I'll buy you twenty san of gems. Okay?" She nodded at the dwarf.

"Okay."Angorn agreed. "Your word is stone?"

"Diamond." Viresse confided.

Angorn took his ale, and drank it in a quick, sloppy manner Some beer drizzled down the braids on his beard, and he gulped loudly like a pig at slop. But he drank it all, in quick fashion. "I'll hold you to it, drow. We remember these things, we do. Angorn Cutstone will remember." He rose from the seat he sat in, and picked his helm off of his head in a salutation of sorts. "See you around..." he said, setting the helm back on his head he wandered his way out of the bar, leaving a couple of san on the bar counter as he exited.

Rube took his place, setting himself down across from Viresse. He looked a little upset.

"That was mine." He quipped coldly. He seemed bitter that she had made a deal that paid with his money.

"Fine. I owe you twenty san." Viresse answered, then diverted her attention toward the bar.

"That's not the point." Rube stated.

"What's the point then?" She whipped her head back to look at Rube. "I just took money from you for a room, and you had no problem with that. But I take money for my own needs, rather than YOURS, and I'm a bad person? I owed him that. He wouldn't have lit the fires in the forehall otherwise. You should be thanking me." She huffed loudly, then rose from her chair. "I don't mean to be offensive, but you're driving me insane right now. I need to be alone for a while. I'm going to the room, and for your safety, I would suggest you don't go up for at least half an hour." She turned around and went up the stairs to the inn level.
 


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