When last we left Anya, she was heading down to the bakery with some coins and a mission to get some sweetbreads for Rhona. As she walks down the streets, which are quiet (a very hungover quiet), she gets the feeling she’s being watched. She keeps a wary eye around her and notices that someone is shadowing her. Finding the bakery, she walks in and asks for two pastries, watching the reflections of her surroundings for anyone trailing her. She doesn’t see anything by the time she gets the warm rolls. She heads back to the inn, feeling a little better that there is a problem that she can really engage herself with — being followed. Employing tricks she learned, she manages to shake her tail and reverses her path to see who is trailing her. Sadly, her tail is gone now. Heading back to the inn, she opens the door to the room with cooling rolls. Rhona is awake and pouring some tea with a sizeable breakfast set before her. Skein’s Glow proudly announces that breakfast is served. Anya looks over everything — this is a breakfast that would feed a small squad. She sets her bag with two sweet rolls on the corner of the table. Rhona takes out the rolls and takes a bite (almost going into orgasms). Anya doubles up on the sausages and bacon while Rhona takes a little of everything else. They review their plans for the rest of the day…which are mostly dance, drink and have no worries for a week. Anya gets a little behind it, but she isn’t going to tell Rhona about being followed. It’s their honeymoon after all.
The meal put away and cleaned up, the pair head out to see if any taverns are either opening early or never closed. Rhona reaches to grab her mandolin, but Anya manages to talk her out of it (no one works on their honeymoon). They head down and find a dance hall that didn’t bother to close. The pair come in and hear that this dance hall is the beginning of the Long Dance — a contest in which a group of people start at one place and dance, drink and carouse to be judged by their peers. Whoever makes it through to the end is crowned the Master of the Dance and will get a carafe of wine and a nifty title to defend next year. Rhona pulls Anya along and registers, holding up their bracelet clad arms to show. The organizer congratulates them and tells them the rules: someone from the audience chooses a song or a style and the group dances. Those that are voted favorably get to advance, while the losers are eliminated from competition, but not from the general drinking or dances. The winners are rewarded at the finals stage (think of this as So You Think You Can Dance turned into a pub crawl) with a little pocket money (wagers are common, but not deadly serious). THey are told that the event will begin in a few minutes, so they have a chance to get some refreshments and food, as there will be little time in between dances.
Anya asks that Rhona wear both Skein’s Glow (which she is wearing as a cloak over her jacket) and Wandersfar (which Rhona is wearing), but that they don’t use them to sway the outcome in her favor. This is a contest of stamina and grace after all, there is no need for cheating (as it goes against Anya’s principles). Rhona politely and respectfully chides her for her competitive spirit.
“I’m not being competitive. I just want to win.”
The dance starts with a morning waltz. People quickly partner up and dance. Out of the original crowd of 23 couples and a throng of hundreds of followers, ten couples are removed and Anya and Rhona continue on. A whirlwind of drinks and they find themselves at the next dance hall where the music is a little more lively and the judging a little more discriminating. Anya and Rhona hang on, while Anya notices that there is someone in the periphery of the crowd. She tells Rhona to watch that particular person…there is something about him that she doesn’t like. Rhona pooh-poohs it away and they continue dancing. The crowd is now down by four and they head to the next hall. Anya watches and as sure as anything, there he is. As the next dance starts, Anya is told she has to dance or forfeit (not a horrible thing all around, but asking Anya to throw a match of any sort — being it fighting, dancing or tiddlywinks is out of the question). Anya dances on with Rhona, making sure that she tries to keep the stalker in view. In the confusion of switching dance halls, she loses the stalker.
The dance continues on, getting slightly more athletic and the heroines are suffering from Anya’s divided attention. They are narrowly eliminated from competition. The leader calls for a “halftime” so that the dancers can relax and get something to eat. Anya looks out a window to see what time it is. It’s late afternoon now. She makes a quick meal, sitting with Rhona, but seems more intent on trying to find the stalker. Rhona asks her if there is any danger. She honestly doesn’t know, but doesn’t want to take chances.
Would your father actually try to send people out to kill you?
“Wouldn’t be surprised. Congratulations, blessed wife, this is your life now.”
The break comes to an end and the dancing continues through several more halls, leaving Rhona and Anya merrily exhausted at the last hall where it comes down to our couple and a very athletic looking pair from Ozur-Soren proper. The dance starts — three dances, each couple gets to choose one and the Master of Ceremonies picks the final. Rhona picks a lively drinking tune and they dance…not badly. The other couple picks a very active dance and they do well. The Master of Ceremonies picks a cantata and they go at it…with the couple from Ozur-Soren winning. Anya, knowing that being a gracious loser is an equally important skill as being a good winner, congratulates the couple. They say that the two gave them a run for their money. Now everyone joins in the dance, picking partners pell-mell. Rhona and Anya end up getting swept apart, but they trust each other.
Anya finds herself in an alley and she sobers up quickly. The guy stalking her closes the door behind her and takes out a single knife.
“Cheslav sends their regards.”
Anya snorts and comments that Cheslav can’t even be bothered to send their own students, that they have to hire out people to get beaten. The thug comments that Anya is drunk and can’t even unsheathe her weapons. Anya punches one guy, knees another and shoves a third down the alleyway. Even drunk, her training takes over and she holds her own…until someone manages to get run head first into a wall. Before one of them can actually finish her off, the local constabulary scatter the ones able to move. Running on instinct, Anya takes off in a direction to avoid having awkward questions (while she’s not a member of the Scholarship, she’s still a Tarjentian and there are some lingering bad blood between the two).
Running down the street, with blood streaming down her face, she’s called to a door deep in another shadowed alley. She takes it, thinking that at least she’s not in the view of the guards when she’s pulled through the doorway into a room with a stack of books almost twice as tall as she is. This is Ozur-Soren’s other legacy: The Great Keep. Every tale, bit of news, experiment and whatever is recorded here. This is the Library of Alexandria on steroids and raw cow meat. The man tends to her wounds while asking her questions about what’s been happening, particularly with the Scholarship. Anya makes a couple of reports, also commenting on what’s happened with her (‘would make a good tale’) and asking if they have any Tales of Kaspar Tarjen.
“Do I?” He does. While almost every Tarjentian can recite their favorite tale, Anya takes it one step further: she knows about 90% of the tales…by memory. Kaspar Tarjen is the (obviously) the founder of the Scholarship and the source of a lot of folklore. Think of the Tall Tales from the American West, but enshrined in an almost religious sense. The scholar there remarks that there will always be a need for as Kaspar…maybe not in Tarjen, but certainly somewhere in the world someone needs an almost mythic figure to look up to. Anya regards Kaspar as almost a father figure.
Then it hits her. Her purpose in life. What she can do.
She’s going to be like Kaspar. She’s going to fight the evil in the world.
She thanks the scholar and makes her way back to the inn. Anya tells Rhona the idea she had, for a second we might think that Rhona would find this a little silly. Instead, she asks when can they start. Anya says they’ll find the next ship out back to the mainland…but she needs to do this without Skein’s Glow and Wandersfar. The pair understand — they feel it is about time to part ways and be of service to someone else. They give each of them a parting gift — a metal pin that other Rahsaya will recognise as marking them as allies. The pair head down to the docks, pausing to find a young lady who appears passed out by a seedy tavern door. Anya sets the Regalia down next to her (leading off on another tale with the two) and head to a ship. Wherever they go, they will be together until the end.
…and that’s the quick and dirty run down on “Daughter of the Mountain”. This is really just a preliminary look. Things are going to change around and get expanded upon, so what you see here might not even be the same story. I am looking forward to doing this as my Nanowrimo project. Hopefully be then I’ll have a better idea as to what’s going to happen.
On news of a much better sort: My Novel Got Reviewed! 4 Stars! Run and check it out!
Wow — look at the time, I need to get some sleep. Thanks for sticking around with me on this. Tomorrow, I hope to have something else to talk about. Until then, good friends…