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A Festival in Zhaltev

A Festival in Zhaltev

Post by Metarie on

*I'm gonna marysue the hell out of this and bring in all sort of hollywood falseness* :P

It was festival time and so they came. The caravan's painted and decorated wooden shells creaked, but they kept out the rain and snow. Her brother was restless and snappy.

"Hush, I am tired of hearing you complain. Go bed Alyona again and work out all that grumpiness. I need you in a good mood when it is time to perform."

Andrei grinned wolflishly at Serah and disappeared, leaving her to hang the silk scarves and other goods they would sell. Serah snorted and muttered to herself.

They were distant relations to the current clan, but had not sworn the blood oath to Zhaltev. No, the Rostislav family were fierce and free, and that was the way the liked it. BUT, that did not mean, when they were summoned to Zhaltev they could afford to ignore the summons.

And, so, here they were. A stall was set-up with a variety of wares. Grandpapa, wrinkled like a prune, kept a sharp eye out for anyone who might think to steal.


"Yes, Grandmama?"

"Go to the market. We need salt, vegetables, and a chicken."

"Yes, Grandmama."

Serah smiled at her Grandpapa and gave him a kiss on the top of his head, before holding out her hand. Grandpapa scowled, but his eyes twinkled as he placed Zhaltevian coins in her palm.

"Don't forget to argue. You know they'll charge you more because we aren't from the city, bah!" Grandpapa spat at the ground, though he was so old and dry nothing came out. "Ppt! Ppt!"

"Oh, Grandpapa!"

For now, Serah was dressed as modestly as any young woman would, though the modest design did little to hide the roundness of her hip and bust. Later, she would go out with her brother and drum up business for their performance.

"Where's that Andrei? He should accompany his sister!"

"I can handle myself, Grandpapa. Don't worry! I am Rostislav, no?" Serah bared a set of white, strong teeth whose canines bore a hint of a point.

"BAH!" Her grandfather waved her off with a scoff. "Just go and hurry back." He reached for his violin and checked it over lovingly as he watched her walk away.

"It's your fault she looks like that, Veronika!"

Veronika laughed loudly. "You didn't have a problem with the way I used to look, Viktor. If I recall, you couldn't keep your paws off me! Andrei gets that from you, you know!" The pair were old, but still loved each other deeply.

Sunlight glistened on Serah's black hair, which had been plaited in a long, thick rope that hung over her shoulder. The basket rested on her hip as she moved from stall to stall, picking up this vegetable, that fruit. Her eyes were dark, too, a dark, dark brown. Serah carried herself well. Her back was straight and her hips swayed when she walked with sure steps through the market. She let her nose do most of the selecting. Once she'd selected the vegetables, next was finding the salt and the chickens. The chickens were the easiest to find with their squawking and flutter of noise. Though tasty, she dislike dealing with them. She'd save that until last.

Now... to find the salt seller.

Re: A Festival in Zhaltev

Post by Aleksis on

Aleksis walked up the pathway to the city, the loaded bags on his yoke swinging side to side. The salt seller would be pleased today, the load he was bringing in seemed to strain the hard wood of the yoke and the thick ropes that held up his packages. He entered through the open gate. The gate was always open here, though it didn't seem to matter any. All the walls were torn down, he could just walk around it. He wasn't very sure how the gate even still stood. Maybe the metal poles that looked to have originally been bolted to the stone walls that lay crumbled around it. It probably hadn't been shut since the walls were torn down, was probably too cold and rusted to do anything but break. But he liked entering by the gate.

The stench, and he did think it a stench, of the city hit him as soon as he passed under it. Body odor, animal odor, scent trails, territory markings, even the smell of raw meat that sat in the shops for sale, he could smell it all. It had given him headaches when he had first came to the city. Now he just wrinkled his nose a bit and kept walking. The salt that he carried was something that while not very glamorous, was pretty important to the city. It was a good trade item, and it could help keep some of the meat good for a bit longer. That helped sell meat to the traders, since apparently the southerners liked the tough mammoth jerky the people made here.

Apparently there was a Festival coming soon. Traders were coming in from all over, the Travelers and their bright covered wagons were in the distance and right next to the city, depending on where you looked or how 'in' with the people of the city they were. It was going to be interesting for him, considering that the only things close to a festival he had ever experienced was the Harvest Festival where everyone ate some food and drank a little bit. But here it was supposed to be something lively, something fun. That worked just fine for him. A few horns of beer, maybe some of that Jorvyk stuff, and he'd be right as rain.

Finally getting to Melinik's salt stall, Aleksis sat down the great yoke and rolled his shoulders. That was his fifth load of the day, and probably his last. His shoulders were hurting, his eyes were stinging from having salt in them, and he created a cloud when he patted his ushanka out on his leg.

"Ah, little Aleksi, so, you bring me another load today, yes?"
"No Melinik. I'm done for the day, besides, they have no more loads to bring. Everyone is leaving early to take bath and get ready for the Festival."

The portly merchant waved a hand, making a dismissive noise. "The Festival is nothing special. But at least take a seat, have some water. I'll give you the payment in a moment."

Aleksis sat down, and Melinki started to ply his wares out into the streets. "Salt! Fresh salt for sale! Freshly brought from the sea, you won't find any as fresh as this salt I have here!"

Re: A Festival in Zhaltev

Post by Metarie on

Serah looked at a twine of golden fabric. It was sturdy enough, but it was cheap. Theirs was better. She smiled to herself. The salt seller's voice caught her attention and she looked up, cocking her head to the side. Turning on her heel, she followed the voice to the stall. Ah, good!

This, then she could return, start the potatoes, and finish the repairs to her costume.

"I'll take five kilograms."

Melinik's eyes gleamed happily, but then he eyed Serah shrewdly. The pair began to barter, but Serah had been born and raised amongst travelers.

"Uncle! Are you trying to kid me? No. No more than four for five."

"Six and no less!"

"Oh, uncle! Can't you see the amount of things I had to buy today? And my brother, is off somewhere else." Serah stared up at Melinik with her dark eyes wide and a little pout on her lips. "Please, Uncle? My grandmama only gave me four to spend." Melinik stared back at her.

Serah continued to stare. Melinik began to waver.

"Ah, ah, ah! five and that's my final!" Serah beamed at the man.

"Oh uncle, thank you!"

"You, I'll pay you a drach to carry it for me. Would you?" Serah turned her gaze to Aleksis, thinking he was Melinik's son or other relation there to help with the stall.

Melinik guffawed with a giant laugh. "He doesn't work for me. See what that will get you!" Melinik passed over a glass of water to Aleksis.

"Oh?" She smiled at Aleksis anyway. "But, you'll still help, yes?"

Re: A Festival in Zhaltev

Post by Aleksis on

"Spasibo, dyadya." He said the last word with a twinkle in his eye, draining the cup as soon as his hands touched it. That was good. He was always thirsty, his throat always lined with salt, and eating snow didn't help, it just cut his lips all to shit and back. He knew he wouldn't get another free drink from the old man, and he was deep enough in his debts to shrewd people in this cunning city. He rose from the seat, leaning back with his hands on his lower back to push forward, the pleasant sound of popping vertebrae carrying over the noise of the market atmosphere.

He tilted his head to the side at the little woman, shrugging his shoulders. A drach to carry five kilograms of salt? He carried five times that in a load, per side. He smacked his lips together, hoping for some hidden moisture there, but there was none to be found. What did he care for a drach? He wanted water.

"Let me collect from Uncle here," The word was again said in a joking manner, as he nudged Melinik in the ribs, "And I'll carry it for you. Keep your drach, but I'll take a water skin, full. Deal?"

Re: A Festival in Zhaltev

Post by Metarie on

Serah took a step back when the man stood up. He was tall. Very, very tall, and that said a lot coming from her. She was tall for her gender and he towered over her by a foot, maybe more. Her eyes widened as she realized the man was also bare chested. His arms! They were the size of trees! Serah's eyes widened. The hair that covered his chest, arms, and upper back didn't bother her at all. Men were supposed to have hair.

This man made her brother look PUNY in comparison and Andrei was not a small man.

He'd carry that load for a water skin? Yes, she knew how precious water could be. Serah eyed the man from head to toe and back again. "For that, you'll have to bring the chickens, too."

Re: A Festival in Zhaltev

Post by Aleksis on

He waved a hand at her as Melinik counted the payment out, and Aleksis took it with a grin, placing it in his hat before pulling it back down on his head. Carry chickens? That was fine too, as long as they were easy to carry. He wasn't trying to keep his hands on three or four of them if they weren't tied together. He was used to carrying dead weight, not the squirming kind. But if it got him a fresh water skin, to wash the salt and tiredness from his throat instead of having to dunk his head into a fetid rain barrel, he would be willing to change how he had to work a little bit. But he drew the line at chickens and salt. He wasn't carrying the shopping she had already done for her as well. That had been bought prior, so that was not allowed to be part of their deal.

On second glance, she wasn't exactly short. He was sure that she would be considered tall standing next to a regular woman, but to Aleksis, she was still short. By at least foot. He rolled his neck, then easily lifting up the five kilos of salt and slinging it onto one boulder like shoulder. He stuck his mammoth mitt in her general direction.

"Before we move on, introductions, yes? I am Aleksis, but you may call me Aleksi. And I agree to carry the salt and the chickens for one water skin, full. Do these terms sound agreeable?"

Re: A Festival in Zhaltev

Post by Metarie on

Serah grinned and stuck her hand out to take his. His hand engulfed hers.

"I am Serah Rostislava." Serah gave one good shake to Aleksi's hand. "Done and done!"

With that, she made her way back to the livestock area. "Over here, over here..." Serah gestured. Once there she arranged for three chickens to be put into a seal-able wooden box. The box had slats big enough the chickens could stick their heads out, but not get away. She watched anxiously until she was sure the chickens were situated safely.

This was perfect! She adjusted the her basket, so it sat more comfortably on her hip.

"We are just over here."

"Just over here" turned out to be the outskirts of the market, next to a stall near to a semi-circle of caravans.

"Grandmama! Grandpapa! Come meet Aleksi. He had brought the chickens and salt for us in exchange for a skin of water." Serah put the vegetables near a makeshift table.

"Andrei, I know you're done by now! You go to the river and bring back our payment and a barrel of water!" There was the sound of grumbling, then growling, then cart wheels. "Don't mind him, he's always grumpy."

"Ah, ah, ah!" Grandmama tutted as she looked over Aleksi, the chickens, the salt, and the other things Serah had brought. "Here, here.." Grandmama gestured where the chickens and their box should go.

Apparently, Serah's arrival spawned a flurry of activity. "Please, sit, Andrei will return soon. Here, drink, while you wait. Are you hungry?" A bowl of some kind of stew was passed to Aleksi along with a wooden cup filled with clear liquid, that upon scent was defintely NOT water.

"I need to go get changed," Serah patted Aleki's hand. "Grandmama will take care of you until Andrei returns."

Re: A Festival in Zhaltev

Post by Aleksis on

The chickens and salt were easy enough to carry, but this woman, this Serah, she walked so slow. The chickens pecked at his fingers as he carried the box, but he didn't mind it much. It was more like a feeling of pressure against the thick and work hardened callouses of his fingers anyways. They could probably smell the wolf side to him, and it made them nervous. Or so he would figure, but Aleksi wasn't very smart, so he was probably wrong. He would leave that up to the higher thinkers than him. It would explain why animals in Zhaltev had to be sold and killed quickly or they started to get sick from nerve related things. All the predators smells in the air, no way to get away. But again, he decided to leave that to others that were better thinkers than him.

After what felt like an eternity of walking, the finally arrived at her wagons. If he knew that the walk was going to take this long, he would have asked for two water skins instead of just one. As soon as they entered the semi-circle, the place exploded into a whirlwind of light, colors, and sounds. Belobog above, these people were like magpies! So bright! So loud! The last time he had heard this much chattering, he had been under a tree full of birds on his travels to the city. Though it could be comparable to any group of grandmothers on market day.

Following directions of the woman called Grandmama, he sat down the cargo he had carried over for them. Then he somehow found himself sitting down with a bowl of stew and a cup in his hand. He looked around for a moment. How had that even happened? He shrugged as the woman he had made contract with walked away, and lifted the cup of water to his lips. Which immediately told him that it wasn't water. He coughed at the taste hitting his tongue, and then looked at the old woman.

"Is this lamp oil?"

Re: A Festival in Zhaltev

Post by Metarie on

Grandmama gave a cackle of a laugh.

"Hee! Hee! Hee! No, that's házipálinka! You don't like it? Big man like you? It's good for whatever ails you. Drink! Eat! Your water will be here soon." Grandmama patted Aleksi's large forearm with her withered, old one.

A few children appeared out of nowhere as did another older woman. This woman was not as old as grandmama and was most likely the children's mother given the way she was admonishing them about something in their native tongue. The words seemed a mix of Zhaltevian regional dialects and something further southwest.

A little girl paused to look at Aleksi, her eyes as wide as saucers. She had black glossy curls and hazel eyes. The girl lifted her hand once, to wave at Aleksi, before running off. A little boy stopped when the girl had stopped. He wore a scowl on his face when he realized the girl was paying attention to Aleksi. The boy's hair was more brown than black and was cropped short. His ears were slightly pointed. After the girl ran off, the boy stuck his tongue out at Aleksi, then made a break for it. Both had to be somewhere around the ages of 4 or 6.

An attractive woman, this one definitely brunette, sauntered out of one of the caravans. She smiled at Aleksi as if he were a tasty morsel.

"Alyona," Grandmama called out. "Go watch the stall. Grandpapa needs to take care of the chickens." Alyona pouted and gave Aleksi a wink before doing as she was told.

"Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. That one... she's always in heat." Grandmama muttered under her breath. "Poor Andrei. He'll never have a moments peace with that one, but ahh... what can you do?"

Around Aleksi, the family came together, dispersed, and came together once more. Grandmama introduced those who came to the table and took up a bowl of food. Finally, finally after at least thirty minutes, the sound of a cart's creaking wheels could be heard.

When the cart appeared, it was attached to a wolf. On the cart, were two barrels.

"Ah, good, good..." The wolf brought the small cart and its cargo to toward the table. The sound of creaking wood was replaced by the sound of creaking bones. Andrei had returned. The man stood naked in the center of the camp as if it were the most natural thing to do.

"Andrei! We have a guest." With a smack, Grandmama slapped Andrei on the rear. "Put your clothes on..." Grandmama muttered a few choice words under her breath at the young man. Andrei neatly side stepped most of the blow and took up his clothes from the cart.

"We're all shifters here, grandmama. What does it matter?" This said even as he pulled on his pants and approached the table. "I'll go get the water skin for you." This was said to Aleksi.

"After that, you will need to give him two. Two, you hear me?"

Andrei grinned. "Yes, Grandmama. Where's Serah?"

"Getting ready."

Andrei snorted. "She takes too long and she'll miss out on dinner." Andrei picked up a wooden bowl and sipped from it. "Well, speak of the dog and it appears."

Serah emerged from a caravan wearing her dancing outfit. The skirt lay low on her hips and golden bells softly jingled with every sway and motion. Her stomach was bare but for a blue gem in her belly button. Bracelets encircled her wrists. The top was snug, laced, and gilded in gold fabric. Her black hair was still in its braid. She'd loosen it when it was time to dance.

"You know I can hear you bad-mouthing me, right?" She carried two empty skins in her right hand and moved to the barrels of fresh water. Lifting a lid, she began to fill them.

"Aleksi, I hope you weren't traumatized by my brother's love of his own body. He has no manners." This was said as she moved to the table and placed the skins before him.

"As promised, your payment and an extra in recompense for Andrei's poor manners. We'll be performing in the square tonight. I hope we see you there." Serah smiled at Aleksi.

Looking around, she found a clean bowl and served herself. "Grandmama, you did wonderful with this!" She inhaled the savory aroma with a satisfied smile. Taking a seat across from Aleksi, Serah took a bite from a wooden spoon.

"Have you lived in the City all your life?"

Re: A Festival in Zhaltev

Post by Aleksis on

"It tastes like lamp oil...." He sniffed it again before taking a small sip. That wasn't so bad. Maybe just sips would be okay for him, not a great gulp like he had taken a moment ago.

There were so many people here. Women, children, men. Little pups that stuck their tongues out at people. When the little boy did, the big man returned the gesture, throwing in a made up face for a little extra. Then the brunette woman came out, and he had a sudden feeling that he was about to get eaten. The smile she gave him was absolutely predatory. But the old woman, who he was figuring was the leader, if not in name at least in action, of this little band sent her on her way soon enough. He made mumbling noise of greeting and answer when people spoke to him. This place made his head hurt. There were so many different smells, so many different specific scents of people, that it was making his head hurt. And then a wolf changed into a man in front of him, giving Aleksis a full view of his bare ass.

Being a shifter in a city full of shifters, Aleksis was not truly bothered by nudity. But he hadn't been a member of this city very long, and had come from a very conservative village. The men weren't even allowed to work in the forests shirtless in case one of the women came to bring them lunch. Before coming here, he had never seen a woman without her clothing on. He had been teased for the first few months, called all sorts of names because he kept blushing when some wolf or bear turned into a naked woman right in front of him. He had eventually gotten over his uncomfortableness with the nude human form, but he must have been unable to hide a little bit of tension, if there words were to be heard. But what did it matter, truly? It got him an extra water skin, and that was important.

When the woman walked from the caravan, he couldn't do anything but stare at her for a moment. And then he tore his eyes away, knowing that at least the grandmother had seen him staring. If they had been visible behind his beard, his cheeks would have been bright red. But he had never seen anyone dressed that colorful, or quite like that. For some reason it was more impressive even than the nudity he was used to. Maybe because it was such a part of his everyday life now? Perhaps. He then heard her question, clearing his throat before he answered.

"N-no. I've only lived in the city for... two years now? I can't really remember. I used to leave to the south east, in the pine forests there. Very long way away." He spooned some of the stew into his mouth, chewing bits of it at the same time he blew on it to get rid of the heat. "Very small village, took me forever to find this place."

Re: A Festival in Zhaltev

Post by Metarie on

Grandmama was amused by his comment and patted his arm again with a laugh. "But, so much better for you!" She gave Aleksi a look from the corner of her eye.

"Oh, you think our little Serah is pretty, yes?" Grandmama tut-tutted with her tongue. "You should see her dance!" Grandmama elbowed Aleksi in the ribs before moving off to allow the two to talk. That is when Serah arrived at the table, taking up her meal and joining Aleksi.

"Mm, yes. We are cousins, but do not live here. We travel ...," Serah gestured to the caravans. Light glinted on the blue gem at her navel. "... during the warm months to the regional festivals and settle for a while during the cold months. Sometimes, we travel further south during the cold season."

She finished her bowl quickly. "Speaking of festivals, we are performing in the Square later. You should come." Serah looked up at Aleksi, smiling her winsome smile.


Re: A Festival in Zhaltev

Post by Aleksis on

He raised his shoulder in a half shrug, both at the grandmothers words and the woman's question. He wasn't a fan of festivals. It was hard to stand around with a large group of other predators and feel safe. Or not feel angry, or feel anxious. Small groups were fine, but when you started to get into groups the size a festival usually created, it was a bit more than he wanted. Throw in the pissing contests that always happened between the clans, and any Zhaltev festival was a recipe for at least a fight or two. Maybe even a brawl.

He spooned the last bit of food in his bowl, blowing on it slightly before taking the last bite. "Might come. Don't know just yet."

Re: A Festival in Zhaltev

Post by Metarie on

Aleksis wrote:He raised his shoulder in a half shrug, both at the grandmothers words and the woman's question. He wasn't a fan of festivals. It was hard to stand around with a large group of other predators and feel safe. Or not feel angry, or feel anxious. Small groups were fine, but when you started to get into groups the size a festival usually created, it was a bit more than he wanted. Throw in the pissing contests that always happened between the clans, and any Zhaltev festival was a recipe for at least a fight or two. Maybe even a brawl.

He spooned the last bit of food in his bowl, blowing on it slightly before taking the last bite. "Might come. Don't know just yet."

The smile faltered a little, but was replaced quickly.

"As you see fit, of course. Did you get enough to eat?" Food and drink were common courtesies among the travelers: share when you had it. Most things were communal.

The children came running back through, laughing. When they saw Serah all dressed up that circled around her saying her name in a sing-song way.

"Serah, Serah, Serahhhh!" Serah laughed.

"Ah, ah! No touching! I don't want dirt on my costume. Come, come. Eat your dinners. It is almost time!" The children tumbled over each other like puppies and headed toward a barrel of water. A tap was on the side. A bowl was put beneath the tap and each child allowed a little water to splash out onto hands and faces. The runoff was captured in the bowl. It would be recycled to water the herb plants that hung from the sides of the caravans.

"Let me see..." Serah nodded in approval. "It'll have to do. A full bath tomorrow, do you understand?" The boys groaned. The little girl clapped happily. Smaller bowls and spoons were doled out, along with stew. The children took up their bowls and sat on the ground near the table. The little girl wriggled every now and then until she was near to Aleksi. Finally, she sidled up to him and put her bowl next to his. Then she held out her arms to him.


Re: A Festival in Zhaltev

Post by Aleksis on

He nodded, stretching his arms up and out. His shoulders cracked, and he snarled slightly at the feeling. He hated when his bones popped, but sometimes it made him feel better. He just hated the noise. And then the children attacked. They actually arrived, no attacking, but they were loud and colorful and chattering like magpies a mile a minute. He liked children, but there weren't typically that many in Zhaltev. Or so that he had seen. Children generally weren't mean about his size, or didn't have jokes about it, and they always wanted to play.

They were given their own food, the woman promising them a bath tomorrow. He laughed softly at the boys groaning. He remembered that from his childhood well enough. He had hated bath days at home, but now he couldn't love them more. Salt dust got everywhere, and it was a bitch to get out. Water wasn't sparse in the city, but a tub big enough was. It cost money to rent, so he didn't get as many as he liked.

He heard the word, and looked down at the tiny little girl with her arms out. Looking around to make sure the adults weren't giving him the evil eye for doing it, he reached down with one arm and picked the little girl up. He wasn't exactly sure if she wanted to be up at the table or on his shoulder, but when he had been home, all of his nieces and nephews had wanted to be up on his shoulders because he was so tall. So he went with it, putting the little girl up on his shoulder.

Re: A Festival in Zhaltev

Post by Metarie on

The little girl giggled when she was swung up into the air and placed high on Aleksi's shoulder. Her arm wrapped around his hand and her hand lay flat on his forehead. Salt dust got on the girl's skin and clothes, but she didn't care.

Sereh smiled, bemused.

"I think that is the first time I have seen Felicia take so kindly to a stranger. She's our little fey one." Serah's smile and look softened. The little boy who had glared at Aleksi earlier was grumpy with Aleksi again. "Desi, don't you make that face. Felicia wanted to visit with our guest." Serah spoke to the boy without even looking. She just knew that was what he'd be doing.

Around them, the camp had come alive again. The older woman, the one who might be the children's mother and another man appeared, dressed in costumes. The man carried what looked like carved wooden clubs and had a guitar slung over his shoulder. The woman carried metal sticks with wooden handles and had a squeezebox slung across her back. Serah's brother reappeared, carrying a violin. A teen boy appeared with a hand drum slung over his shoulder. Grandpapa had a bouzouki.

Grandmama and the hungry-eyed woman would remain along with the children and a few other young adults at the camp. All in all, there was somewhere around 20 people in the camp.

"It is time. If you change your mind, please join us. We won't be far from here at all." And that was true. The performers area was only a block, if that, from their current position.

Serah flipped her black hair over her shoulder and moved off with the rest of the family members.

A small, sweet little voice sounded in Aleksi's ear.

"Mister? Will you be careful tomorrow? The tree in the roof is going to break and white will fall." Felicia's expression was solemn and her eyes were large. Her gaze was focused somewhere distant. As quickly as the look came, it passed.

"I'm hungry!" Felicia grinned.

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