The Tursdi Countryside
Large estates and woods spread across the horizon, and a number of small farms also dot the countryside. Tursdi is a small, agricultural country filled with most peasants of mixed backgrounds and traditions. It shows in the many different ways they construct their houses and the colorful clothing that they wear.
Near a large track of woods lies the wide fields of the Duke Keschnay. Normally these fields would be full of workers harvesting the grain crops, but around lunchtime, the fields are strangely quiet and empty.
A soft crunching of underbrush heralds the arrival of a lone Jupani walking through the woods, pausing as he comes to the edge and surveys the fields. He takes in the land with his deep brown eyes, shadowed by the cowl of a deep green hood, and stray wisps of black head-hair. He brushes the strands aside with a leather glove, then adjusts the quiver and bow slung over his back and habitually pats his belt, reassuring himself that the flute is still in its sheath and hasn't fallen out somewhere along the way.
A small stirring in the underbrush proceeds ahead of the Jupani, as small animals, noticeably the ears of a rabbit as it scurries past, but otherwise all is silent.
The Jupani pauses to sniff at the air, trying to catch any scents that might tell him more of this place and who or what he might find in this part of the country. And maybe any signs of trouble or danger. Not that he's expecting any, but there's always that possibility.
There is nothing much out of the ordinary in the scents of the place, the gentle woods, the straw smell of ripe grain from the fields, and a few ghost scents of the workers that would normally be out working. There is also just the tinge of the smell of cooking meat coming from further in that direction.
The Jupani, without thinking about it, licks his chops upon encountering the scent of cooking meat. He sighs, though, patting his empty coin pouch. Even if there's a meal to be had, it won't be had until he's earned it.
At last, he decides to move forward, stepping out of the woods, and into the open, following the most travelled path, and hoping it will bring him to a settlement.
There is the sound of chattering, hushed by distance, ahead, as a few early returning workers appear through he fields. Most of them are Korvs, but there are a few other mixed species, including Khattas and Cervani. They wear clothes in a wild array of colors; it seems the statement is more to clash than to match among them.
The Jupani walks along at a regular lope. He casts a wary eye to the sky, gauging it for the weather and then smiles, ready to nod and wave and make some casual greeting as soon as he meets anyone.
The sky is cloudy and gray, but rain promises to come later than sooner, from the looks of the clouds. One of the Korvs does greet him, with a scratchy, "KAW!"
The Jupani bows his head. "Greetings and well met. I am Malachi, farwalker and collector of tales. Pray tell, might there be a settlement near by, where one such as I might be able to find a place to rest my head for the night?"
The Korv chuckles, or at least as close to it as someone with a beak can get, "Dere is ze master's house abouts half a mile and ze workers quarters, but you von't find much more beyond dose. Perhaps you will finds fortune with the mistress of ze house. She is ze kinds one widh stchrangers."
Malachi nods again. "Might I inquire what might be the name of the master, and the name of this region?"
A couple of the other workers who happen to hear laugh. "Vhy, this is the estates of ze Duke Keschnay, vealthiest farma in ze whole region of Tursdi, ze old shour puss." The Korv makes a face.
"I tought everyone new zhat."
Malachi shakes his head. "I am sorry, but I have not heard of him before. You see, I am a traveller, and have not come this way before. But I hope that I shall make a good impression upon the household. I thank you greatly for your assistance, and pray for a good day to you."
The workers continue to laugh as they wander off to their places. The Korv waves as he continues on.
Malachi raises an eyebrow at such easily-dispensed mirth over such a matter. He waves farewell to the Korv, and lopes along, headed in the direction of the indicated house.
As the Jupani does continue, the smell of the cooking meat grows stronger, and soon he can see a group of houses, not much more than hovels really, belonging to the workers.
Malachi continues walking along, adjusting his cloak over one shoulder, taking long strides toward the distant house.
There is a burst of laughter and talking, and soon Malachi can see a group of workers around a fire, and a lovely Khatta in fur-lined robes standing and addressing them.
Malachi smiles and nods to the workers and the lovely Khatta as he passes.
"Vell, if you asks me," she says as he gets close enough to hear, "Mark should put ze roosta in ze cow stalls. Zhat way, dey would have a clock to know vhen to produce milk… " Another burst of laughter follows.
The Khatta waves to Malachi, "Vhy, hello dere! Are you searching for someding?"
One of the workers turns over the bit of roast still on the fire. A stong whiff of it wafts past Malachi's nose.
Malachi halts in mid-step, and nods. "Yes, m'lady. I am headed for the house of the master, Duke Keschnay. I am a traveller from parts afar, and wish to see if there might be some way I might earn my keep enough for a place to shelter for the night, and company to exchange tales with. I am a collector of tales, you see."
The Khatta smiles and clasps her hands together. "Veally? I am de Duke's vife, Noella. I vould love to hear your stories." There is a murmur among the workers behind her, and a couple grin, "Vould you care to sit down and have some lunch?" She flourishes at the roast.
Malachi bows, smiling. "Most certainly, Lady Noella! I would be most grateful, and more than glad to share a tale with you." He looks around at the group, then finds a suitable spot to sit down to rest his legs.
Noella walks the circle, loosely following the Jupani "Bernard, do give a plate to … oh dear, vhat vas your name again?"
"My pardon, m'lady," Malachi says. "I had forgotten to say! I am Malachi, a farwalker from the untamed lands."
A Korv pulls out a chitin plate, and pokes the roast with a long poker, tearing off some meat. He hands to Malachi as another worker leans over and asks him in a low voice, "So, stranger, you say you tells stories. Do you also dance?" He grins.
Malachi smirks, then shakes his head. "I haven't a bone of rhythm in my body, I must say, save for that I can play a passable tune on my flute." He pats the leather sheath at his side, which holds not a weapon, but a hand-crafted instrument. He eagerly takes the hunk of meat, tearing into it hungrily, in a typically Jupani fashion, making short order of it.
"Norman, don'ts be so impolite!" Noella exclaims then turns back to Malachi, "Ve have a custom for dose who join us for lunch also dance for us. But perhaps you won't be so bahd. Now, tell us more about vhere you come from."
Malachi makes an amused smile at this. "Well, I have come from many places, since my parents were wanderers since my first remembrance. I was a foundling, taken in by an old Korv couple, who lived out of their wagon, along with the others who travelled with them from place to place, mostly across the wilderness and ruins of Sylvania."
Malachi adds, "So it was that I picked up a few different languages along the way, since Sylvania was not the extend of the band's travels. And I found the wilderness to be much to my liking. When my adoptive parents passed on," he says with a faint frown, "I decided to head out on my own, with the forests I felt I knew well enough, rather than to simply follow the wagons. I greatly treasure the ability to choose the course of my travels, when I have the chance."
The Korv, Bernard, says, "Vell then, you should fit in with most of us, ve are also mostly nomads and vanderers by life … well, except for Noella. I am surprised you do not dance better"
Malachi smiles faintly. "Many of the wanderers are great dancers, yes, but it is not so popular among Korvs."
"Yes," Noella continues, tapping her fingers in explanation, "I am ze daughter of ze Duke Gronyan. Vell, he vould have been king, but zhat purchase hardly seemed vorth it, after all, ze king cost de same, but you had to spend more time shooting at the peasants who revolted."
"Oh," Malachi says, raising an eyebrow at this.
The Korv grins, "You think so, stranger? Then shall we have a dance together? We'll see just how vell a Korv can dance… "
Malachi nods to the Korv. "That would be welcome, sir."
The wolf adds, "Should we dance, first, or is it a tale that would be more to your fancy?"
"Yes, Noella says, and launches once more into explanation, oblivious to Bernard, "Take my husband, Mark, for example. He vas a businessman from Rephidim, and he bought his dukeship for three gold pieces… It cost more for foreigners to get into government, you know… "
Malachi silences himself, his ears perking up, as he senses he might be GETTING a tale in the bargain.
The Korv hops up and perches on one leg, while the other workers start calling out rowdily. Noella comes back to reality. "Oh, goodness."
Malachi sighs, faintly disappointed, then gets back up to his feet. "I suppose a tale can wait," he says with a wink, then bows to the Korv.
Another of the workers pulls out a violin and quickly starts playing lively tunewhile the others clap hands and rally. The Korv does a quick jig on the log, then hops of, and dances around the fire, another worker occasionally joining him.
Malachi claps and stomps a foot, watching, then pulls out his own flute, picking up the melody and playing an accompaniment. When he sees an opening, he joins in, skipping in time, joining in the circle, playing on his flute as he steps along, occasionally turning this way or that as he goes.
The workers call out approval, and tap their own feet. The Korv seems a bit surprised, "So, you cannot dance, eh, stranger?" He begins a new challenge, juggling several plates while dancing.
Malachi smiles a bit at this definition of "dancing", but ventures no reply, preferring to stick with his music. He skips along, unable to juggle plates as the Korv does … but his accompaniment takes on a more merry and rapid progression of notes, "juggling" said notes in musical fashion.
All during this time, Noella merely stands at the edge of the circle, smiling quietly. Now she calls out, "Come on, Malachi. Show dem vhat you can do." She picks up a plate and tosses it in his direction.
*KLUNK* The plate whacks Malachi on the head, causing him to drop his flute and stumble. Apparently juggling is not in his repertoire.
There is a gasp amidst the workers, and the last think Malachi sees is a lovely Khatta leaning over him, several locks falling form her hood. "Oh dear. Vhy didn't you catch it?" before he passes out.