Cooperative Fiction

Skip to content

Things to do in Marn when you're Wanted

"Let's not forget a 'stupid ol' man who sleeps with trash,'" Dorcas added. "That would be the male alternative to the bitter hag, wouldn' it?" She glanced back at him with a half-smile to indicate the lightness of her intent, if indeed her tone didn't carry it.

"But, eh, maybe Udorl is thinkin' about you now. Wantin' t'be here with you, 'f she could." Dorcas let that one roll around on her tongue as she stared forward. Her eyes glazed over, slightly. Her stocking-clad legs bobbed restlessly, awkward to move and useless to motivate the horse from where she sat. They looked like the tensely dangling limbs of a marionette. "Y'think . . . I mean, I wonder 'f Kenny's thinkin' about me. Maybe he's wishin' . . ." She trailed off and pressed her lips together firmly to stop herself from trailing back on.

"No, Dor. I dun care what Udorl thinks. Y'gotta understand - I'm gettin kinda old. Been married, been in love more times 'n I kin count. Things ain't the same no more. There was nothin' there with Udorl. Just sex... Which I might add we didna 'ave 'cause someone'd get all twisted up 'bout it. I'd be real surprised if she gave it a second thought, cause I sure didna. Woman like that, she'll go after th' next guy walks through 'er door."

Chrishton had his feet in the stirrups and the reigns in his hands, which he kept around Dorcas' sides. Not nearly as limp or uncomfortable as she was, he provided her with some firm support. He seemed quite at home riding. It was just another one of the little things he seemed to know how to do well.

"I'll bet Kenny's wishin' that, Dor, but this ain't 'bout 'im, is it?"
You are confusing bets and marriages, Madam. One must always honour a bet.
- Valmont

Dorcas's lips reformed into a pout without her realizing. Of course her confusing relationship with Mydjeken felt like something incredibly important; a boy was interested in her, and she was--despite her reservations--interested too. The only explanation that came forth in her adolescent reason was that Chris just didn't understand.

Chrishton was using the terms "love" and "more times than I can count" in the same sentence, yet Dorcas could certainly count this crush she had on Mydjeken, and she wasn't about to mess around with words like "love." The idea that perhaps Chris had some wisdom to offer was not even considered. He just didn't understand.

Dorcas was quiet for a long while, staring off at the uneven horizon that bobbed with every tedious step of the horse. Her gaze lowered, and though to her own eyes, the features of her face were but vague lumps of dark and light, she became aware of the dark pout there on her lips. Thoughtfully, she drew her lips in.

She looked with determination down at Chris's hands on the reins, near her waist. He was just like a parent--he didn't understand some of these things. Still, he was a comfort. She wouldn't bother explaining that he didn't understand. Part of her wanted to keep that feeling she was nursing, those thoughts of Mydjeken, to herself, like a secret; part of her was just telling herself to sit on it, think about it for a while before getting worked up one way or another.

Without thinking, she brought up something else. "I'll be sixteen soon," she said with her chin lifted.

Chrishton wasn't sure if Dorcas understood what he was saying or not. Not only was she only a quarter of his age, but she was a girl. It was hard enough to try and remember exactly what it was like to be 16 without having to try and put himself in a girl's shoes.

Still, he usually connected with youth fairly well. Most youngsters liked his dirty humor and careless attitude. Never around long enough to play a father figure properly, he thought he could do a good job of it if he tried. If he wanted to.

His hope was that she would remember things he said and see them from a different light later... Except that he found very little to communicate to her with words. She was in a different place than he ever was.

"Sixteen huh. Figured y'were older, but I bet y'get that a lot. Too busy in th'ead fer a sixteen year old. I was on th'road too at that age, but things were real different. Did a lot less thinkin', lot more stupid shit."

As they traveled along, Chrishton began to get concerned about the horse. The weight of both of them on it for an extended trip couldn't be good.

"'ere" He said while pushing the reigns into Dorcas' hands. He then placed his hands on her hips for support so that he could hop off the saddle. From then on he continued on foot beside her, which was not much slower than when they were both riding.

"Y'dun talk an awful lot 'bout yer old home y'know, Dor. Y'miss it much? This place kin get a bit scary sometimes."
You are confusing bets and marriages, Madam. One must always honour a bet.
- Valmont

Dorcas held the reins too tightly at first; her wrists stiffened and the bit jerked at the horse's mouth for a brief moment. She relaxed her grip quickly enough that the horse didn't take a false signal to halt. The old beast wasn't spirited enough to protest much, but merely arced its head tightly in annoyance. Dorcas leaned forward to pat behind its ear reassuringly. The old thing was beyond the age of temperamental fits, and also beyond preening for affection. It didn't respond to her pittance in friendship. Likely, time would also be the factor in Dorcas eventually losing her abundance of spirit. Only the passing of years would chip away at her youthful brashness.

When Chrishton placed his hands on her hips, she didn't flinch at all; she was becoming accustomed to the reality of this sort of physical contact on their trip. She didn't respond to Chris's comment about looking older than her years, but merely gazed over his head to view the horizon from her elevated position. She titled her chin upward just a little. Yes, she had heard that before.

Eventually settling into her comfort with guiding the horse--it wasn't much of a task, considering their pace and path--Dorcas let one hand free of the reins so she could stroke her cat while pondering Chrishton's question.

"Ya, I miss me 'owm," she said matter-of-factly, her natural accent creeping back in over the bastard twang she had acquired through her time in Marn. "Mother, me--my Da. Schoowl--but . . . that's wot I came 'ere avoidin'. I miss . . . lear-- . . . learnin' things I c'n git, that make sinse." Her eyelids fluttered downward like dust-choked moth's wings. "Nothin' at owl makes sinse innymore."

Gravel made crunching sounds beneath his shoes when Chrishton hit the ground, and the infrequency of rain on the Sooqui plane ensured that there was a long cloud of dust being kicked up behind them along the road. The air was so still that the cloud just hung in place behind them until it gradually began to drift down and fade away. There was nothing else to be seen up ahead. It could be hours before they reached even something as insignificant as another copse of trees.

"That ain't true. Th'important shit makes sense, yer just ignorin' it tryin' t'figure out th'stupid shit 'at dun make sense." He spoke while taking the horse by the reigns to walk it so that she didn't have to worry about handling it anymore, leaving her free to play with the cat. "Y'gotta see through shit t'know what's real and what ain't, and what's important and what ain't. What's important right now is y'got yerself, y'know who y'are. Y'got yer cat, an' y'know who 'e is. Y've got a weird family back in Marn y'kin run back to if things go t'shit. An', most important, y'got me.

"If y'think 'bout it, all that shit makes sense. The rest doesna 'aveta."
You are confusing bets and marriages, Madam. One must always honour a bet.
- Valmont

Dorcas straightened the line of her mouth and thin line of bright blood oozed from a dry crack in her lower lip. She looked up at a cloudless sky and scoffed in forced sort of good nature.

"Pithy," she spat in response to his advice. She seemed to be clinging to her academic rhetoric at a time like this, when she was tired and as a loss for solutions. Dorcas looked back down at Chris and a bit of emotion boiled up; her defenses against her own moodiness were worn down.

"An' you're damn rait it's stoopid. Bunch of nonsense, and nobody's got the brains t'figure out wot can't be so!" The edge of a tantrum lingered on her voice, but she held herself together. The old horse didn't respond to her unintentional tugging of his reins. There were no rooms to retreat to or doors to slam at the moment, so there would be no tantrum for Dorcas. She stared straight ahead to keep herself in check lest she embarrass herself.

"Owl I'm sayin'," she started again, her voice steeled with an attempt at composure, "is that you can't igspect people to b'have civil in a . . . community . . . if they've no respect at'all for reality." Dorcas heaved a sigh and went on. "I could start with you, playin' the hero with your--your tricks! I've got you now, sure, but how 'bout when the next bitch swims into view? Same story as Udorl? Or d'you take the bait . . . ?"

Dorcas found her tone had risen, and she lowered her voice to a mutter, perhaps more to herself than to Chrishton. "Davrib thinks Udorl's a witch. But no fuckin' excuses, I know what she is, she's a dog and a whore."

Finally Chrishton raised his voice a notch.

"'Ey! Cool it down a notch, Dor. I telled ya I th'deal with that an' I fuckin' cut it off with 'er fer a reason. I'll sleep with who I wanna, when I wanna, an' I dun care 'ow yer little teenage arse is gonna judge me fer it. Y'either trust me or ya don't. Seein' as 'ow yer in th'middle o' buttfuck nowhere on a dirt road with no food cause o' me, I'd say y've already thrown yer money inta m'pot, so quit harassin' me 'bout that an' let it ride."

His chiding was followed up by a long silence while he let it settle and tried to make it clear that he wasn't upset, just putting things bluntly to quiet her up. The two of them traversed a good way across Thar Fain before he started talking again. The sun was cresting the highest point it would reach in the sky.

"Magic ain't illegal in Keltaris or Eyropa th'way it is in Marn. Folks got some kinda etiquette 'bout not runnin' around usin' it willy nilly, but yer gon' see more stuff there'n ya did in Marn. Whate'er shit goes down, try'n keep yer 'ead on yer shoulders. People're just people, any way y'look at it, whether they respect yer reality or not...

"An' most of 'em are still suckers'n idiots."
You are confusing bets and marriages, Madam. One must always honour a bet.
- Valmont

Dorcas stewed quietly for a long time after Chrishton chewed her out. The dusty plains had taken the wind out of her sails--with nowhere to stomp off to, she had to keep her temper in check, lest it lead her into confrontations that had no escape. Chrishton's dalliance--or lack thereof--with Udorl was clearly still a sticking point with Dorcas. Between her father, whose young girlfriend she'd mentioned once or twice, with no love lost, and her obvious fondness for a boy who frequently departed her company for a romp with Udorl, it stood to reason that the girl had issues with male abandonment. She had taken full-on the insult of Chris's erstwhile attraction to the hussy of her grudges.

With the horizon bobbing hazily in the distance, smudged with dirt and the vague outlines of what one could only hope were minor copses of trees, Dorcas let herself drift toward a neutral state of mind. She thought of the sorry state of Mydjeken after he'd stumbled home wretched, and still with a broken nose. She could keep herself from lingering too fondly on him if she held onto that image. With his brother surely returned home by that point, he probably didn't even have the luxury of a fawning sister-in-law salving his wounds--both physical and emotional.

When Chrishton broke the silence again, Dorcas looked down at him, and her expression had softened, like a rotten piece of fruit, into a picture of concern that belied her internal state. She looked sad and thoughtful as she considered what she said about Keltaris. The very name of the city sounded bright, like a comet or a star.

"You know, where I'm from," she said, "we gen'rally think people ought to be let to do wot they want, 'sept hurt others." Her cat stretched lazily at the base of the horse's lanky neck. "It's when people get controlled too tightly, it gets complicated . .. dang'rous."

Dorcas's expression thinned as she considered what she'd just said in relation to her thoughts on these things she didn't understand. "Seems like, though, when a whole society is . . . beholden to a . . . an intellectually flawed ideology . . . I just wish there were some sort of power in place to rule with some sense."

"Eyropa's more like that I s'pose. Theogios was big on democracy, givin' people voices in government 'n shit like that, makin' it fair. Big on tolerance, so them puradynes can'na get the kinda control they got in Marn. It's nicer, when yer livin' there, t'be able t'do what ya want without folks like battlemages breathin' down yer neck...

"But things ain't so simple. Ya got yer own ideology there, Dor. Thinking people oughtta be able t'do what they want. Go over t'Tian Xia, pitch that idea t'them people. See what they think o' yer ideology, if it's... uh... intellectually flawed."

Chrishton struggled somewhat to use intelligent wording to express himself, but he was capable of engaging in the discussion none the less. Clearly he had given issues like this some consideration, or at least heard the opinions of others on them.

"They make it work out east. They got their Emperor, an' this uh... this tiered social setup. Like y'got yer workin' folks, yer fightin' folks, an folks higher up just got more rights'n th'ones on the bottom. An' y'd THINK a guy like me'd 'ave a real 'ard time gettin' along in a place like that. But I dun. I like it there. Folks got respect fer eachother in a different way. It's got order an' tradition, somethin' Eyropa dun got. Maybe I'll take y'there some day, show y'what I mean. When yer older.

Marn's got somethin' Eyropa dun got also. They got unity an' power, an fer a place so small, that place is real dangerous."
You are confusing bets and marriages, Madam. One must always honour a bet.
- Valmont

Political science aside, Dorcas blushed faintly when Chrishton mentioned the idea of taking her somewhere else "someday." After all, he did seem truly invested in their friendship, and if she could keep things like that in mind, maybe she could get over his dalliances. Maybe.

She struggled to piece together what he said about Tian Xia, retroactively. "Well . . ." she started "Well see, it's not the governance that's intellectually, ye know . . . flawed. I mean, wot I'm towking about is to believe so . . . strongly . . . in utter falsehoods. Well, how do you govern . . . morons?" She cringed a little at herself for her word choice, but went on hastily. "Like if there's no sense in them."

She paused for some time and her blush crept and ebbed in waves as she got her tired mind working. "Maybe in th' Far East--that's the place ye're towking about?--that's wot they all want is to be in a, um, hierarchy. That's wot they want . . . people, though, they get unhappy with their place, ye know? And then they figure, well, that's not my place nor innybody's, not innymore . . . and ye know what happens from there . . ." She may well have read some radical teachings in her time. Or else she was just piecing together strings of thought in an attempt at coherence.

"Well wait," she added. She felt the weight of her own tired tongue. "I don' know a lot of happy people in Marn. Not a lot at'all. Too much control there, that the people don' want, right?

"It is dangerous."

"Eh... I seen worse places'n Marn. Y'ask them folks if they love their city. Like really love it. An' ask 'em if they'd e'er move away. They wouldna, cause they got somethin' neither you or I got, an' that's a place they know's 'ome. Y'know 'ow fuckin' 'ard it was fer me t'stay on them streets with folks thinkin' I was a criminal? Yeah 'alf of 'em wanted t'turn me in outta fear... but the other 'alf..." He shook his head. "They wanted me dead cause I'd dared - dared - t'come an' threaten their city. Y'won't find that kinda loyalty in Eyropa, lemme tell ya.

"It's safe. That means a lot t'folks. I think the danger's if y'piss 'em off."

Gradually, beaten by the sun as it crawled across the sky overhead, they traveled far enough that the monotony of the landscape showed signs of change. Hills became more pronounced, and the amount of fauna that reached past waist height gradually became more common. The only blessing the Sooqui plane offered travelers like them was that it never got unbearably hot. There was always a breeze blowing, and if anything it threatened to make things colder that night.

They passed a place beside the road that looked like the kinds of ruins in the historic district of Marn. A rough perimeter of huge chiseled stones that poked a few feet out of the dirt in various places. He explained that it was the remnants of an ancient war between the east and the west, and that the whole route they were walking along was some of the most fought over earth in the history of Pal Tahrenor.

Chrishton had enough stories to tell to fill the time all the way from Marn to keltaris if he wanted, but trying to tiptoe around Dorcas' phobias made that very difficult. He resigned himself to discussing his early life, when things were more or less 'normal' for him. His more or less nomadic times were spent traveling west through the more populated regions of Eyropa. It was more or less the type of things one would hear from any young man who had tried to survive on his own on the streets, except that somewhere along the line something must have changed because he was too well educated, even wise in his own way, to have continued as a vagrant for his entire life.
You are confusing bets and marriages, Madam. One must always honour a bet.
- Valmont

The cold came insidiously through the later half of the day. Earlier it had been pleasantly warm, with just enough breeze stirring up to stave off any stifling. As the sun drew lower to the horizon, the breezes seemed more frequent, or they simply had less heat to blow away.

At a certain point in a long tangent of Chris's about learning to throw a punch, Dorcas realized her shoulders were stiffened against the cold. She willed herself to relax, and felt a soreness melt through her arms and spine. The cold made her drowsy, and it was harder and harder to focus on sitting upright.

Some time after they passed the strange ruins, Dorcas hefted herself off the back of the horse. She needed to keep moving if she was going to stay awake, and she had been off her feet and on her rear end for long enough that the stretch of her legs was a welcome change. They could even move a little bit faster, with the poor old beast's burden lightened.

Dorcas kept up conversation mostly through eye contact, glancing across the horse's shoulders at Chrishton as they walked on either side. The dark came slowly across the land, as the light from the sun bent over the long plain for some time after it had set. The sharper details in the things she saw were the first to blur, and then as the light dimmed further, the distinguishing colors she could make out darkened as well.

Eventually, when Dorcas could only clearly see the few objects surrounding her in a several-foot radius, she would have guessed that the dark smudge of trees ahead was nothing but a trick of tired, strained eyes. But the air felt different, and the sounds of the plains were muffled as they came upon the copse.

Bedding up for the night went rather smoother than the night before. Dorcas left it to Chris to get food. She snuggled up with her cat at the trunk of a tree and dozed in utter exhaustion as Chrishton foraged. She could ignore his questionable methods that way, and besides, she wouldn't have been able to stay up if she'd wanted. Dorcas roused only to eat what she needed, and then she drooped into sleep again. She wriggled up next to Chrishton when he settled in so as to conserve a bit of heat to carry through the night.

Re: Things to do in Marn when you're Wanted

Post by Frug on

(( continued in Pal Tahrenor here: viewtopic.php?f=23&t=1836&start=60#p21805 ))
The world is an arena, not a stage. RP is a stage, not an arena.


Return to Industrial District