Mid-Day in the Bazaar
The sun is out, clouds drift by, but hardly ever obscure the glow of that golden orb as it shines down on a section of the city which is on the border between beauty and squalor. It's the Bazaar, located in a section of town officially designated "for future expansion", but as long as the bribes go to the right places and nothing gets out of hand, vendors are tolerated to set up their booths and hawk wares from parts near and far. Street musicians and other performers earn a few shekels here and there and provide welcome distractions for those who stroll along, taking in the carnival atmosphere. The well-to-do and the not-so-well-to-do can be seen here, more of a mix than one will find anywhere else in Rephidim. In light of this, one should watch one's pouch, and there are occasional Templar patrols of Jupani and zelaks to keep the peace.
"Left-handed squeeps! Get yer left-handed squeeps! You want one, you NEED one!" "Hey. These are all blue. Aren't they supposed to be red?" "Hey, these are the NEW type of squeep. New, improved BLUE squeeps."
A grizzled white wolf with a patch over one eye, and a male Savanite standing to each side, hawks his latest ivory-fashioned wares. "WHITE squeeps! Made of pure ivory from the distant Savan! They don't get any better than THIS!"
Fenter meanders down the aisles of the bazaar. "I wonder if Haskalah had any idea what she started when she sent us out on that foolish quest." He mumbles to himself as he listens to the hawking.
A vixen in fine attire walks along, her dress rustling, as she tows along a much smaller kit. "Mama, what's a squeep?" "Hush, child. You can ask your father when you get home."
Ahead, there are several booths sporting squeeps. In fact, some of the items look rather familiar to the raccoon as being for sale well before anyone heard of a squeep, but they seem to have acquired new names in order to jump on the bandwagon for the latest Bazaar fad. Amazingly, some people are actually BUYING these things.
Fenter says, "I suppose I should be grateful that the merchants seem a bit more… hygenic than the plumbers."
Greasy aromas drift on the air, giving advance warning to the presence of Binter's Shack, just around the corner, past Squeep Central. Bright, fluttering flags attest to its current location, and several folks eager for cheap and filling (if not necessarily nutritional) food mill about the entrance to the tent.
Just across from Binter's Shack, there's a gap where no booth has been set up (not a common sight), but it's currently occupied by a brown bat dressed in black and blue, playing a double flute, somehow managing a 'duet' with it, while a brown-shelled Vykarin accompanies her on the drums. (It would seem Vykarins' musical talents only extend to whatever instrument they can pound on in time.)
The raccoon's stomach reminds him that he hasn't had a bite in almost two whole hours! He digs around in his pockets, counting out the remaining change from the copper coin Haskala generously donated. "Hmm… just enough left over to procure a sandwich."
Fenter pauses (at the protesting growls of his stomach) to listen to the bat. ( A piper? I've heard of music being used to summon creatures… hmmm. )
The brown bat continues playing, stepping in time in a way that sets several bells on her costume jingling. A few shekels make their way into the wide-brimmed hat she has laying out right in front of the Vykarin. (No doubt the Vykarin also serves to dissuade any stickyfingers from swiping the hat and its contents. He may look big and goofy and happy right now, but few appreciate getting chewed on by one of those creatures.)
('Few', you ask? You mean someone actually appreciates this? Nevermind that. Let's get on with the story.)
From within the tent with the sign that reads, "Binter's Shack", there are several pounding noises, and a couple of surprised-sounding "eeps".
Fenter seems oddly facinated by the top of the bat's head. His stomach, on the other hand, holds very little interest. Unfortunately his stomach has yet to figure out how to manipulate its owner's arms and legs like its upstairs neighbor, mister brain.
The brown bat has long, mostly straight, black hair with a high sheen in the early afternoon sunlight. It waves slightly in the breeze that makes its way down the street in this corridor between all these faceless, boarded up and run-down buildings.
In fact, the way the wind stirs it, and the way the bat moves in time with the music, one could almost imagine the hair having a life of its own.
Fenter thinks, . o O ( A wig, it must be. I know that if I were an Eeee, I wouldn't want to be caught with a hairstyle like that. )
There's a shriek from within Binter's Shack, followed by a chorus of squeaking noises, and the sounds of clattering and crashing and tinkling and shouting and crashing and all those other sound effects one would associate with something greatly disturbing the peace in a crowded restaurant.
Fenter glances back at Binter's. "Oh dear… I do hope this doesn't cause me to lose my lunch."
Several dark little forms come bursting out from underneath the folds of the tent. Some larger forms come bursting THROUGH the tent, some with the aid of sharp objects, aiming to create their own hasty exit rather than dealing with the tangle of bodies at the main flap. It would seem Binter's Shack is losing its clientele rather quickly … as well as a swarm of little six-legged rodent-types known as vermites.
The panic soon spreads as the vermites some carrying morsels of food escape and scatter, scurrying into any available cover … and sometimes up a nearby leg.
Fenter says, "AAAAHHHH!!!!"
There are a couple of little prickly, fuzzy … THINGS … clinging to Fenter's leg, just below the knee, underneath his dre … er … robe.
Fenter yells to the bat, "You there! I know what you're up toOOOAIUEEEKK!" He starts hopping madly from foot to foot as he tries to dislodge the vermites.
The brown bat lets out a shriek as a bunch of the little vermin run up to her. Her song is most definitely over, and her audience is distracted by other concerns. The Vykarin sniffs at a couple of vermites that scurry by. *CHOMP* He munches, a satisfied look on his face.
Fenter says, "I surrender! I surrender! Call them off!"
The brown bat is doing a new dance now It's the Vermite Shriek-and-Stomp.
There's a creak from the poles holding up Binter's Shack … and soon a good portion of the tent collapses, several bulges in the tent struggling about under the canvas.
The two shivering and squeaking vermites cling stubbornly to Fenter's legfur, their long tails whipping about.
A chef with an oversized meat-tenderizer-cum-warhammer dashes about in the chaos, wielding it menacingly and shouting curses at the scampering vermin.
Fenter attempts a new strategy, he topples over (right onto the Eeee's hat) and ceases to move. ( They never attack if they think you're dead. I'm very good at playing dead, lots of practice on park benches and such. )
The Vykarin Rrrrrs? at the raccoon toppling into Vielanika's hat, sending the shekels scattering. "Reef!" he barks, and grrrrrrs.
Fenter opens one eye and whispers to the Vykarin, "Shush! Can't you tell when a person's trying to pretend he's dead?" He promptly closes his eyes again and sticks his legs in the air to simulate rigormortis.
The Vykarin doesn't seem impressed. He growls some more, then leans over toward the raccoon's tail, opening his mouth wide…
The little vermites, now that Fenter is lying still, take this opportunity to crawl further up his leg.
Fenter wiggles (muscle spasms you know… corpses get those for a bit) and attempts not to laugh as the vermites tickle him.
The brown bat squeals, hopping about, trying to swat and stomp on the little vermin that pester her.
The Vykarin RRRRRRRRs loudly, his jaw clamped on the raccoon's posterior.
The brown bat shrieks to the Vykarin, "RAWRII! Stop biting that girl, and HELP ME!"
Fenter forgets about the fact that he's supposed to be a corpse for awhile. "Now see here… you… er… lobster!"
The Vykarin lets go of the raccoon and whines. He mutters to the raccoon, "Reef." With that, he tries to scoop up the scattered coins.
Fenter whines. Assaulted, wounded, and now insulted…
One of the vermites is now working its way right along the raccoon's ribs. The other one is on the other side, and seems to have found a nice cozy place under his armpit.
Both of the vermites start squirming and fidgeting around as if they're doing a dance number of their own in the raccoon's fur. Maybe they're nesting or something obscure like that. Or maybe they're simply possessed by evil spirits and bent on tickling the raccoon out of his wits.
Fenter shoots upwards to his feet (a few errant shekels stick to his back… along with the bat's hat). He wiggles around and makes very odd gurgling noises.
The Vykarin starts growling again. "REEF!" he barks, and leaps up and snaps at the hat.
"RAWRIIIIIII!" the brown bat cries out again, this time less a command than a desperate plea.
Fenter says, "AHHH!!! I'm done for!"
The Vykarin seems oblivious to any vermites crawling about on himself. As he would likely say, if questioned on the matter, "Runch!"
However, the Vykarin's mouth is now full with the rim of the bat's hat, as he rushes over with what shekels and half-shekels he could save (and a few six-legged rodents clinging to him) toward the dancing bat.
Fenter says, "If I knew who my mother was… I believe I'd *ouch* shout something like 'mother!', but I *eek* don't know who my mother is… so I can't… I'll have to think of some other noble last words… "
*CHOMP* *CHOMP* (munch munch) *CHOMP* (pounce) *GULP!* The Vykarin starts dancing around as well. Maybe this is some sort of ritual to drive away evil vermite-possessing spirits?
Fenter says, "Mister bat? Pleeeeeeease call off your little pets. I won't tell anyone about your horrible little wig… "
The vermites keep working their way along the raccoon. One has worked its way to the top of his head, and is now entrenched underneath his hat. Another has just managed to climb up on his nose and is wiggling its whiskers as it meets the raccoon's cross-eyed gaze.
Fenter aieeeeeees! and promptly falls over again.
"Mister?! MISTER?!?" Vielanika pauses long enough from her dance to scowl at the raccoon. "Just because I'm not OOOOOO!" She fumes, but another squeaking vermite catches her attention again, and she squeals and resumes stomping and swatting.
The raccoon's vision is filled with the upside-down face of a Vykarin. A Vykarin with biiiiig teeth. "Rrrrrrrrrrr."
The two vermites squeak!
Fenter says, "Ahhh! He's going to bite my face off!"
*snap!* *gulp!* *snap!* *gulp!*
And then the Vykarin is gone.
Fenter cracks open an eye (which is still there, whole and healthy.)
Some of the booths on this street have been knocked over, and it looks like the area has been mostly vacated. The vendors either had the presence of mind to quickly head off with their valuables, or else enterprising young kavis did the trick for them.
Nearby, an exhausted bat is lying on the ground, reclining against a stone wall, panting, and twitching at any sound which might be another one of those foul little rodents.
Fenter sits upright and pats himself, dislodging the last couple of clinging shekels from his back.
A very contented-looking (though perhaps overstuffed) Vykarin rolls over nearby. *urp* He patpats his tummy. "Ekruze re."
Fenter tries to sneak over to the collapsed Eeee.
The bat, nervous as she seems, is far too exhausted and distracted to really notice. (She's more looking down on the ground for little scurrying rodents, not big raccoons in dresses.)
Fenter reaches out and attempts to peel off the bat's wig. "Ah-hah!" He proclaims… then noticing that it doesn't seem to come off… he tries again. "Ah-ha… oh darn. It's stuck."
Fenter says, "What did you do… nail it on?"
"OW! OW! You MANIAC! STOP IT!" The bat swats at Fenter.
Rawrii looks at the raccoon, but decides he's too stuffed to add a bit more of Raccoon Tail to his diet. *urp*
Fenter erks and tries to duck the swinging arms. "Now see here you! You're not fooling anyone! I'm onto your little game… and dressing up like a girl won't fool anyone either. I should kn-… er… nevermind."
The bat gasps! "Dressing up like a girl? Why … why you! OOOOO!" She staggers back to her feet.
Fenter shakes his head. "You're not fooling anyone. I saw you summoning those vermites with your little pipe… and then using your lobster friend to hide the evidence."
The brown bat says, "Of all the! … I'm Vielanika Nightsong, a member in good standing with the Bards' Guild. And this is Rawrii He's a Vykarin, not a LOBSTER."
Fenter says, "A likely story, Professor Wyckid. Now now… you think I've not run into you enough times to be able to see through your little disguises?"
Rawrii rrrs, "Rorsrer?" He growls. "Rawrii Ryrarin!"
Vielanika narrows her eyes. "I've got nothing to prove to you, you … charlatan. I have no idea what you have in mind, MADAME, but I'll have no part in it."
Fenter 'casually' strolls around the bat, making a point to have her standing between him and the Vykarin.
Rawrii trots up, with the wide-brimmed hat in his mouth. "Rff?"
Vielanika grabs the profferred hat, wipes it on her trouser-leg to remove some of the Vykarin-slobber, and adjusts it on her head.
"Madame?!?!!?" He sputters, "Now see here!"
Vielanika cocks an eyebrow at Fenter. "So you're … "
Rawrii rrrs, "Rorrrerrer?" Unfortunately, he doesn't come with subtitles.
Fenter blinks! "Here now! I don't know what you're about to insinuate… but I assure you, sir, that my mage's code forbids any such thing. (… one of the reasons why they stick me in such a goofy robe, I think… )"
Vielanika pokes Fenter in the chest. "YOU see here! Just because you dress up as a woman doesn't mean you should assume that everyone ELSE is a man dressing up as a woman! No WONDER you're such a raving lunatic!"
Rawrii's tongue is lolling now. He looks amused. His head starts bobbing up and down as he wheeze-laughs.
Fenter makes a few pop clicking noises at Rawrii. "So, is Wyckid forcing you to serve him or are you being paid?"
Rawrii rrrrs? He click-rawrf-pops back at Fenter, "Who's Wyckid?" (Or, as it comes out, more something like "Ryckit?")
Fenter says, "Luna… HAH! Likely story. Then explain why you summoned up those vermites? I saw you use your little flute thing. Don't you think I read about such things with my guild training?"
Fenter blinks at Rawrii and points to Vielanika.
Rawrii barks, "Reeranika!" (It comes across the same whether it's in Vykarin or Rephidim Standard.)
Vielanika hmphs at Fenter. "I'd like to see you PROVE you're with the Mage's Guild, eh?"
Fenter pop-clicks to the Vykarin, "Ah… so Reeranika is forcing you to work for Ryckit? Or perhaps they're being held prisoner… something horrible I'll bet… "
Behind the scene, a hunch-backed, ragged-looking black-furred fennec bum with a really bad hair day shuffles down the street, dragging one foot.
Fenter says, "Proof… proof… yes, Just a moment. And while I dig my ring out, I suppose you can prove you're a member of the bar'd guild?"
Fenter pulls off his hat and rummages through it. After finding nothing he starts digging through his pockets, then his sleeves, then the insides of his robe. All the time the bat and the Vykarin catch little glints of silver from his finger.
Vielanika hrmphs, and shows off her Bards' Guild ring. "Will this suffice?"
Fenter's face pales a bit. "Oh dear… er… I mean… yes. Yes it does."
The bat's guild ring, incidentally, doesn't look like anything terribly valuable in terms of material. But then, bards are not exactly known for being wealthy. If the ring were worth much, they'd be too tempted to pawn it off for a few meals.
Vielanika hisses, "And I am a girl. If you don't take my word for it … I'll just have to sic Rawrii on you."
A kavi merchant pushes a cart down the street. "New slurp-away!" He proclaims. "Powdered alum, one application on the fur and you'll never have to worry about slurps again!"
Rawrii grins, his tail thumping back and forth.
A few people are starting to mill back into the area. Even with a major disaster, no part of the Bazaar stays unused for long. In fact, a booth has already sprouted up while no one was looking. "Meat pies! Fresh meat pies! Get 'em while they're hot!"
Fenter drums his fingers together, and suddenly notices his guild ring. "Er… that won't be necessary… but would you mind… yanking on your hair a bit?" He holds out his hand to display the tarnished mage guild ring.
Vielanika glowers at the raccoon. "I think you've already yanked on my hair sufficiently. I do NOT wear a wig." She relents enough to take off her hat, run her hands through her hair, and shake-shakes it, letting the raven strands dance about. She hmphs, looking down her nose at the raccoon and his ring, hardly believing what she sees.
"Chaos," she mutters, "You've got to be a Chaos Mage."
"Vermite traps! Get yer vermite traps!" another hawker cries out. A swarm of Bazaar-goers soon beat a path to his booth.
Fenter coughs. "That's right." He shifts around nervously, digging through the shekels in his pocket. "Sorry for the trouble, ma'am. It's just that with the flute… and the vermites… and you being a bat… well. what was I to think. It seemed like something HE would do."
Vielanika gives the raccoon a puzzled look. "And, what might be your name?"
The raccoon sweeps off his hat (the first gesture of politeness he's shown so far!), "My name's Fenter, milady." He pulls his hat back down on his head. "I don't suppose I could buy you and your lob-, I mean… your Vykarin friend lunch as a means to compensate you for the… er… trouble I've caused?" ( There goes happy hour… )
Vielanika raises her eyebrows. "Well. At least you have some manners."
Rawrii, previously seemingly stuffed to capacity, already is licking his chops. "Root?"
Fenter says, "Of course! My grandfather made me take charm school before I entered the guild… to help me with my table manners, he said."
Fenter erks at Rawrii. ( There goes happy hour for the rest of the week! )
The bat gives Fenter a dubious look. "Very well. Obviously, Binter's Shack is out of the question… "
Rawrii's tongue lolls, as he regards the raccoon in a more favorable light: provider of munchies!
Fenter says, "Oh… there's places all over the Bazaar, and none know its delicasies better than I, my lady." He looks around. "I believe there's Mardo's Smoke-Tent just around the corner… the food's a trifle burnt, but nothing that can't be eaten."
Fenter click-pop-growls to Rawrii, "You… er… do eat your food cooked, don't you?"
Rawrii grins, pop-click-growling back, "If I don't eat it before the cook gets it!"
Vielanika hmms. "Well then, lead on, O Mage Fenter. Is that your first name or your last name, by the way?"
Fenter offers his arm to the bat. "Fenter is my first name… as for my last, well… let us just say that I am in the mage's guild because I don't tell anyone my last name."