Learning the Ropes
Join Date: Apr 2004
Keeper of the Cremidel Staff, Ch.1 revised
Hello, everyone. This is a regular story rather than a fanfiction one. All characters are my own creations. Each chapter will be no shorter than 6 pages in Microsoft Word. It does not take place on this planet. Though it does have a medieval setting in the place the character lives, influence from a much more advanced continent to the east can be seen in some parts. As with most stories, it will not pick up in plot until the next few chapters.
Chapter 1: The Peasant of H'lindoria
It was a cold, windy afternoon in February. Snow fell upon the H'lindorian ground as peasants walked through the town square. H'lindoria was small compared to its neighbors, but large when compared to the villages of the south.
Galqi, a wispy homeless commoner of the city of medium build, clutched her walking stick that was holding her up gingerly. It was thin and easily breakable, but it was the biggest one she could find. All the trees nearby had been cut down for wood to build new houses. She dared not venture out of the city.
Yesterday afternoon, after working for the farmer a few blocks down from where she "lived" in a cardboard box, she had been paid enough to stay in the local inn for a day. She almost hated being there; it reminded her of what she used to have long ago.
"Still, I'm better off than some people in this town. If I can get enough food in this hotel to last through the next week, I'll do alright," Galqi told herself. She planned to go down to the free continental breakfast in the lobby every thirty or forty minutes with a disguise, then sneak the food back to her room.
Her ragged brown skirt and long, purple hair fluttered in the wind as she moved her staff forward and dragged herself towards it. The wind was blowing harder now; she had to find the inn before the sun went down.
She got out the map of H'lindoria that Farmer Aswen gave her, then looked around for landmarks. To the right of the street was Falad's Bakery and to the left was Kilindar Road. She looked at the map again. "That way," she said aloud, going left.
Watching the other people in the city walk along entertained her and gave her something to focus on. It kept her mind off her hunger and the horrible winter weather. The clacking of horse hooves on stone echoed throughout the streets. Nearby a carriage was being pulled by the horses that she heard. Large, economy-sized carriages had recently been invented, allowing many people to travel without blistering their feet.
The driver pulled the red reins and whipped the horses, which turned to the left as they neared the corner. Galqi lifted up her shirt to cover up her mouth and nose, then ran after the black carriage and jumped onto the back of it.
"I hope this is going in the same direction I am," she thought. The sunset had started, painting the sky luminous, beautiful shades of pink and purple.
Inside, the old man driving the carriage heard the loud thump when Galqi jumped onto it. Immediately the carriage stopped. She wiped away beads of sweat from her forehead, thinking that this couldn't be good. The driver got up from his seat and went towards the back to check and see if anyone was there. He thought that it might have just been a pothole. The driver opened the door, pushing Galqi over before she could even hear it creek.
Her shirt had fallen down from her mouth and nose when she fell. Now the old man could easily give a description of the peasant trying to steal a free ride to the police, if she chose to run away.
"Hello, there. Need any help?" asked the old man in a redneck South Kabolkian accent, offering his wrinkly hand. The words were pronounced quickly and mashed together. The pipe in his mouth bobbed up and down as he spoke, tickling his silver mustache. He wore a black robe with a hood that covered his hair. His back seemed permanently arched.
Galqi grabbed his hand and was pulled up onto the metal plate she was standing on a few minutes ago. The old man turned to her and said, "Where you headed?"
"I'm going to the Nalakar Inn on Kilindar Road," she replied. "We're on Kilindar Road, aren't we?"
"Yep. Got any money? Can't ride on my taxi carriage without money. I think a trip this long comes to about...165 Olid."
"I haven't any money to spare, sir," mumbled Galqi timidly, twiddling her thumbs.
"Hm, well. That seems to be the case with most passengers I get these days. The economy over here is going to pot. Maybe you could pay me in something other than money?" suggested the old man, leading her inside.
Upon entering, Galqi noticed all the walls and the ceiling inside the carriage were painted dark blue. There were two unpainted wooden boards attached to each side of the room by chains. A stool was placed in the front. She assumed it was the driver's seat, because there were holes for the reins to go through. A window was above each sitting place. The glow of the fireplace on the north wall made the purple carpet glimmer.
Galqi wondered what the old driver had in mind. She sat down on the right side, noticing the carpet seemed to be made of velvet as she walked. The man sat on the opposite side.
"As you can see, I'm not as young as I used to be. When I was a child in school I made an oath to myself to learn every bit of information I could get my hands on. As I had planned, I became a scholar after I graduated. Unfortunately, my age seems to have caused all that knowledge to slip through my fingers. I would appreciate it if you gave me something---something to help me remember," the driver said.
There was a forlorn expression in his eyes. He puffed rings of smoke from his pipe as he waited, which disappeared into the air as they rose. Galqi searched her mind for a fact that wasn't too obvious or that would take too long to explain, but probably would be one he didn't know.
"For starters...where did you get that staff there that you're leaning on?" he asked, leaning over curiously.
"Do you mean my walking stick? I found it somewhere south of the town square a month ago. I think it was by the alchemist's shop?" recalled Galqi.
"May I feel it?" he questioned, extending a hand towards it. Outside the horses neighed angrily. They didn't seem to want to wait any longer.
"Err---sure." Galqi was hesitant about letting someone else hold it, but this seemed to be someone she could trust.
The old man turned it to a horizontal position, then held it up to his face for a closer look and stroked it gently, trying to feel every crack in the wood. He put his ear next to it-not that he would ever hear any sound-and even licked it. Galqi was slightly creeped out at this point. He had done more than he had asked to do.
"Yes, this is definitely what I've been looking for," he said, handing it back to Galqi. "Your ride will be free. I'm going to the Nalakar Inn, anyway. I usually don't bother giving out my name to passengers, but it's Aganar Willowbow." His pipe almost fell out of his mouth, but he grabbed it in time.
"My name is Galqi---Galqi Lillyblossom. I'm very grateful for the trip, sir," she replied as she turned around to look out the window. The sun had gone down and the cold night had arrived, but this wasn't a problem. Now she wouldn't have to walk through it to the inn. It had stopped snowing, anyhow.
For some time, no sound was heard within the carriage, except for the crackling of the fire. After a few minutes of watching the people, the houses, and the stores they were passing, Galqi turned around. Aganar had gone back to driving the carriage. The sound of horse hooves hitting stone had begun again.
Galqi looked through the front driver's window and watched the horses while fiddling with the ends of her purple hair. She took out her map and gazed at the page that had a close-up of H'lindoria, then darted her eyes to Kilindar Street. It was about 8 miles to the inn and the horses were traveling at about four miles an hour.
"Do you mind if I go to sleep over here?" she asked.
"Not at all. Go ahead," said Aganar, keeping his eyes on the road. "It's only about eight o' clock, though."
"Wake me up in two hours," said Galqi, yawning and lying down on the wooden bench. She had been used to going to sleep early, being homeless. If you didn't fall asleep before night came, the coldness would keep you up. After a few minutes of ignoring potholes, she had fallen into a deep slumber. Aganar tried his best not to disturb his tired passenger.
Nearly two hours later, Galqi felt the carriage stop, but she ignored it and rolled over, clutching the iron chain holding up the board she was sleeping on. Aganar got up from the driver’s seat and walked over, shaking Galqi’s shoulders.
“We’re at the inn,” he said. She mumbled something, and then went back to sleep. “Get up, we’re here.”
The ragged peasant let go of the iron chain and rolled over again, onto the floor. “Ugh…what happened?”
“We’ve arrived at the Nalakar Inn. Let’s go inside. I’m sure the beds there are much more comfortable than the boards in here,” Aganar said. “Besides, they stop registration at eleven.”
Galqi got off the floorboard and yawned heavily, stretching her arms upwards. “Okay, I’m up.” She walked over to the back of the carriage, opened the door, and hopped down onto the snow-covered stone parking lot. The carriage driver followed her. He puffed the tobacco left in his pipe, then put it into the front pocket of the coat he was wearing.
Galqi stood back from the inn, wanting to see it all at once. The Nalakar Inn, about four stories tall, was the tallest building in H’lindoria. Aganar knew she had never been here before from this. He, on the other hand, stayed here every night. Galqi figured he must have saved a lot of money from back before he started losing his memories.
“Big, isn’t it?” commented Aganar. Galqi noticed she had left her mouth agape in awe and closed it. “We’ve got to go put my horses over in the barn. It’s next to the lobby entrance, so we won’t have to walk far.”
He took one pair of reins and handed the other pair to Galqi. The horse snorted angrily and clopped its right hoof on the ground at having to be led by a stranger. Both horses had black manes and a patch of white spots upon their backs. The horse Aganar led had an ivory-colored tail, while Galqi’s had a black one.
Most of the parking lot was empty, though other carriages occupied some of the spaces. The people who made it didn’t seem to have bothered drawing boundaries for separating the spaces. The barn was painted like the barns most people imagine. It was coated red with white-coated boards covering each door in an X shape. The roof was a brownish black. The building itself was about one fourth the size of the inn next to it.
“You open the door while I lead them both inside,” said Aganar, taking Galqi’s reins. She put her hands around the bronze doorknob and pulled with all her strength. The barn doors seemed to be twice as tall as she was, and her arms were weak and bony from lack of food. She had managed to pull it out about five inches, but her bare feet couldn’t get a good grip on the pavement. The door slammed, pulling Galqi into it.
“Hold on, let me try again,” requested Galqi, hoping Aganar wasn’t getting impatient. This time she opened the door enough for them all to get in. She followed them all into the barn and held the stall door open for the horses.
While the carriage driver tended to his horses, Galqi, a curious girl by nature, ventured over to the other stalls to look at the other horses. Not only horses were there. Pet birds, cats, and dogs were kept there, too. A tabby brushed against Galqi’s legs and purred, begging for a scratch behind the ears. She kneeled down and answered its request.
Aganar put a lock on the stall and tiptoed back over to the entrance, hoping not to disturb the residents of the barn. “Come on, let’s go before registration closes,” he urged. They both pushed on the door and worked together to close it carefully behind them. “Don’t walk, run!”
Galqi used her staff to help her pole vault and make each step a little longer. The lobby seemed farther away from the barn than it seemed to be when they were going there. Furthermore, the old carriage driver seemed unusually quick for his age. Finally they arrived at the lobby entrance. The doors automatically opened for them as they stepped onto the rubber welcome matt.
“Don’t be surprised at that. Whoever built the Nalakar Inn was from the eastern side of the Nalk Ocean. They’re more advanced over there,” said Aganar. The Nalk Ocean separated the continent of Kabolk from the other four continents. “I think they’re only allowed to do a few business ventures like these every few decades. We’re so lucky.”
It seemed like magic to Galqi, who wanted to step in and out of the building to watch the process over and over. Of course, she kept this to herself. The lobby’s floor was made of varnished wood. They hadn’t put in carpeting like in the carriage, but it was nicer than having to walk on rough stone and gravel.
Aganar rang the bell on the front counter when they approached the registration desk. Apparently kebits and monsters were discriminated against on Kabolk. On the counter was a poster that said, “Kebits and Nadilians stay in rooms on Floor 1 ONLY!”
Somebody was organizing files behind the glass that walked around behind the counter. The worker behind the glass looked up eventually and came out. “I’m very sorry, sir. People don’t usually register after ten o’clock. Now, how many nights will you be staying?” she asked.
The worker wore a red T-shirt with a nametag and Nalakar Inn’s logo on it, a small rooster perch on a white fence. Galqi supposed it was to advertise their free breakfast. Freckles dotted her face below her auburn hair, tied back into a ponytail.
“I’m already checked in for the next month,” replied Aganar to the inn worker’s question. “The woman behind me is staying here for the next week,” he said. He reached into his right pocket and handed Galqi a handful of Olid. She took a step forward and stood beside Aganar.
“We charge 100 Olid per day, 500 Olid per week, and 1750 Olid per month. Are you sure you will be staying for only a week?” asked the worker lady.
Galqi could tell she was getting paid based on how much money she made for the inn. “No thanks. Only a week,” said Galqi. She didn’t think Aganar had given her enough for an entire month. She put two golden coins on the counter. On one side was the number 250 and on the other was a picture of King Baladar, the old king that unified all the currency of all the countries in the world of Olidar about 200 years ago.
Galqi was handed a clipboard with a form on it and a pen. She searched for a blank space, and then proceeded to put in her full name, the time she checked in, and how long she was staying. She handed it back, not filling in the space for room number.
“I assume you would like to stay in the room next to your friend. What’s his room number?” asked the hotel worker.
“It’s 237,” said Aganar.
“238 is occupied right now, so you’ll be getting room 236,” she said, handing the keys to Galqi while filling in the room number. “You’ll find the elevator next to the ice and snack machines.”
They walked over to the elevator and Aganar pressed the button. A few minutes later, a centaur came out of the machine. The device had mesmerized Galqi again. Never before had she seen such magic. The old man had noticed her worry and explained how it works on their way up. The jolt from when the elevator started had caught her off guard. Gas lamps tied to the ceiling by candles lighted the entire elevator and shaded all the white walls of the elevator with a flickering light orange.
“It’s supposed to combine the knowledge of the humans over on the continent east of us with the magic of the kebits on the continent south of us. If the cord ever breaks, the levitation field on the bottom will make sure it doesn’t crash,” finished the carriage driver as they stepped out of the elevator.
“We’re here. You’re room is 237, right?”
“Yep. Yours is 236. Good night.”
"Good night,” Galqi replied. She went to her room, opened it with the key, and sighed. She didn’t bother to look around. Immediately she walked over to the bed and fell facedown into the silky sheets, dreaming of the adventures yet to come the following day.
The next morning Galqi awoke in a fetal position on the bed. She shielded her eyes from the blinding light coming through the window while reaching an arm down the back of her shirt and scratching her back. She stretched and yawned loudly, trying to fight the temptation to close the curtains and go back to sleep.
The lobby and elevator of the inn may have been advanced, but they hadn’t bothered sprucing up the rooms. “They probably thought us Kabolkians were used to this,” thought Galqi. Well, they were. The queen-size bed she had slept on had a fancy pattern on the sheets, a thorny rose on a black background.
On each side of it was a table with an unlit gas lamp on it. Galqi turned the knob at the base of each, and then the flames began to dance within the glass, which kept it from spreading. The curtains at the edges of the window had the same pattern as the one of the bed. A plain, white wall surrounded them. Across from the bed was another wall with a mirror mounted on it. Judging from the position of the sun, it was about 10:00 A.M. She had slept over fourteen hours, counting the two in the carriage.
“Not much to see here,” Galqi said. Suddenly she realized that Aganar had given her more gold than she needed for staying the week. She must have slept with it in her palm all night. After counting it twice, she was sure that it amounted to exactly 167 Olid. Some was from Aganar, but most was from what she was going to use to stay at the inn for a day. She deposited the money into her right pocket on her ragged skirt, grabbed her walking stick, and then exited the room and locked the door with her key.
She knocked on the door of Room 237. There was no reply. “He must still be sleeping. He is an old man, after all,” Galqi thought, quietly creeping over to the elevator. She entered, pressed the button, and held on to the rail, preparing for the elevator to drop. Thoughts of why Aganar was so obsessed with the staff itched at her brain. She dwelled on them as the elevator came down.
Last edited by Dark Ellen : 04-11-2004 at 05:01 PM.
Reason: grammar and plot revisions