- Markshire PCs:
The ox-drawn cart bumped and slid along over the snow-covered road. Sun-Ok shivered as she looked out from under the pile of pelts the caravan driver had gruffly tossed on top of her when she boarded in Stonemark. They were nearing a small village, with a castle of some kind just south of it.
She was tired of caravans and tired of travel—the monotony of getting from place to place, alleviated only with occasional overwhelming vistas of great natural beauty and confusing perceptions of ill-understood peoples and customs. She longed to settle somewhere for a while. Marco had passed her a pouch of coins when he’d set her on the caravan to Starcroft, blushed at her hug, and then quickly waved goodbye. The ride had been long, boring and restless. She got a brief, welcome respite on Mahal’s boat—he made a show of saying how she’d have to work to pay her passage, but he didn’t really need much help to crew the small riverboat, and with Thrakh’s referral she was able to sleep and eat her fill—regaining some of her strength as they made their way upriver to Stonemark.
When they’d arrived, she was openly awestruck by the large city, its many buildings and confusing streets, its people and their varied dress and the bizarre masks they sometimes wore. “Not right for ye either,” Drelka had said. “More of a village lass, I’ll warrant.” He’d walked her kindly but quietly through the streets to the stables, and set her on another caravan. She’d insisted on paying her own way, but had thanked him repeatedly for his help.
“This be Yar,” the driver called, “Ye’ll have to ride with another fella if’n you want to go on to Foot’old like ye said.”
Discouraged, she counted out the last of the coins Marco had given her to another driver, then climbed into his cart. He said nothing at all during the short trip, and took no pains to make her warm or comfortable. When they stopped, he went to work immediately caring for his animals and unloading the small amount of cargo they’d brought. She jumped down lightly from the cart, stretched, and said to him, “Need work—warm clothes—where go?”
He seemed startled that she had spoken to him, glanced briefly at the temple beside them, and then pointed at a hill rising behind some low buildings across this new town’s main street.
Sun-Ok frowned briefly at his rudeness, then nodded and turned toward the hill. She nearly collided with a short, thickly clothed figure walking purposefully toward the gates to her right, and she unthinkingly apologized in her own language. He stopped, stared at her for several moments, then wordlessly moved on toward the gate. He looked at the gate for a moment, then turned and walked just as purposefully back toward the other side of the town. As he passed her, he stared again, and again uttered not a word.
Shivering and unsettled, she continued on toward the hill, blundering into a small corral. She became confused among the odd pack animals gathered there and was bumped by a bear of some kind. She fell heavily to the ground, and fell again as she rose, slipping in the slushy, richly dunged snow of the corral. Three men standing nearby laughed derisively, but she rose carefully, composed herself, and walked off silently to a cave entrance up the hill. Once inside, she passed through some very large doors and closed them behind her. Warm at last, she thought, and at least, as she looked at her patched, wet and filthy robe with distress.
The merchants below had replacements, of course, and even some cloaks that looked invitingly warm, but none would extend her credit. She wandered about, growing hungry, and eventually tried a door that opened onto a marvelous, peaceful cave filled with healthy, growing plants. She wondered at the magic of the place, for the plants had water but no sunlight to speak of. She didn’t waste much time thinking about it, though, instead running about and gathering food, which she ate with gusto, sitting on a bench. The only beings in the cave were some lazy bees, so she quickly stripped out of her robe and washed it, largely ineffectively, using a nearby pail of water.
In her damp clothes, she wandered some more, finding many useful plants in the cave but still seeing no one, and eventually went through a door into a room built into the cave wall. It had ovens, presses, and tables where one could work. Again, no one was there, so she stripped once more and dried her clothes on an oven, considering her situation. If she could just find a needle, and maybe some thread, she could perhaps make some new clothes from all that cotton growing outside.
Sun-Ok dressed, went back to the merchants, and eventually managed to trade some of the food she’d gathered for enough coins to purchase a sewing kit. She returned to the cave with a new sense of purpose, sure only that she needed new and warmer clothes and that she could at least sew. She surveyed the cave more methodically, gathering cotton and several medicinal herbs, as well as food to sustain her. In the workroom, later, she decided that the clothes she could make, after much trial and error and wasted cotton, were better than what she had—at least they were whole and clean—but they really weren’t very nice.
Making something new from scratch was a lot harder than mending sails. But she did know mending, so she set about using the herbs she’d found to make healing ointments, bundling them with simple cotton bandages to make a kit people could use to heal their own injuries. She made two, again after much trial and error, then took them back to where the merchants gathered to hawk their wares.
She walked up to the first one she saw, an oddly clothed half-orc, and showed him what she’d made. He agreed to buy as many as she could produce. She wondered at that—perhaps this place was more dangerous than it appeared—but then quickly thought over the prices she had haggled at the other merchants. She’d be able to buy better clothes quickly—maybe even the barely adequate bow that bowyer was so inordinately proud of.
Sun-Ok smiled at the half-orc, and he smiled a disconcertingly tusky smile back. She didn’t care, just then, whether he was the first friendly person she’d met in this town, or whether he was considering eating her, or whether he was contemplating the profit he could make on her kits—Sun-Ok had found a job.