Istood just outside the pub located in the center of Qalaba'r. The morning sun peaked over the distant mountains and it's warmth on my face sat me in a pleasant state of mind as I emerged into the damp morning air.
I hadn't seen much of the village the night before, as I had walked in only shortly after sunset, and the moons hadn't yet risen to cast their etheral glow about the land. I casually glanced about the place, noting the location of the weapons and armor forge, for I'd want to pay the smiths a visit before I left...I'm always on the lookout for a good deal on weapons or armor.
There were already a good many people about, none of whom I knew. Most seemed a bit more experienced than myself, though I didn't let that unsettle me. I'd came here trying to peice together directions for a drunken source about some abondoned villa sitting atop a mountain somewhere. Although the drunkards details were sketchy, he did mention Qalaba'r several times, so I figured this is as good a place to start looking as any.
I consider myself a bit of an archeologist, and though I claim no real talent in deciphering the clues of the Empyrean strewn about, I find the persuit of the study inticing, nonetheless. I'd studied some of the ruins near Shoushi and Hebian-to, and was much looking forward to exploring more distant ruines.
As I understood it, the city I was in search of was until fairly recently occupied, and indeed was of either Alluvian or Gharu'ndim construction. Still, the idea of a ghost town excites me. I could only hope less pleasant residents hadn't decided to call it home.
Glancing skyward, I noted the incoming cloud bank and decided it would be of no threat to the days weather. Checking that my sparkly mace and sheild were secure, I casually set off across the central road (actually, Qalaba'r has ONLY a central road) and try my luck at the smiths.
I had been told that the two women working the forge in this town were sisters. Almina bint Atwab and her younger sister Tamara bint Atwab. I had half been expecting two danty girls, but the woman who approached me was probably considerably stronger than I.
"What we do for ya, mister?" She had asked.
I decided some small talk may help garner a price reduction should I decide to purchase. "You must be Tamara, the younger sibling," I lied.
She smiled, placing a nearly completed executioners axe on the counter between us, and causually stated that "Tha last man whos tried to sweet talkn' me ain't no longer with us. You want business, wez do business. You wants anything else, you looks somewhere else."
I shrugged helplessly. "Okay, whatchya got?"
"I gots lots of things," she motioned to the treasury or armor about the store, "question is, what yer lookin fer?"
I banged my small brass sheild with my sparkly, "Mostly a new sheild. Weight is an issue, though."
"Hey Tamara," she called to the back of the shop, "Yous got someone wantn' a sheild or some such." She picked up the axe and turned back to me, "Shes get you on the inside, there, mister."
"Thank you," I nodded. The door was open to the morning breeze so I walked right on in and up to the counter. Not seeing Tamara yet, I leaned over to see what might be available out of sight, keenly aware that Almina was keeping here eye on me.
"Whatchya wantin?" Tamara emerged into the forge area of the shop, placing a white cap onto her head, contrasting her coal black skin.
"Looking for a sheild, Ma'am. Large and light."
"Hun-huh. Yous an everyone else." She placed her hands on her hips, obviously none too thrilled about being disturbed from whatever she was doing.
"Okay," I nodded. "How about some information? Is there an abondoned town on a mountain around here somewhere?"
"No they ain't."
"Are you sure? Someone told me.."
"Theys ain't nutin round heres like that, I done said."
"Okay," I got the hint, "have a nice day, Ma'am."
"Hun-huh, yous too."
I walked back out onto the road and stretched. Patting my stomach, I realized I was in need of a little something to fill it before I sat about doing anything particually grueling. There was a pub, good for some ale, bread, and cheese at least.
There were three others in the pub as I walked in. An older, thin man sitting at the counter, face down: drunk or tired, I couldn't tell. Maybe both. About the other side of the bar sat a man and a woman. The man looked about 30, an obviously deciplined and attentive Sho who'd begun eyeing me as soon as I walked into the door. The lady sat a few seats apart from him, a dark haired Gharu'ndim fiddling with some trinkets. I've never been all that comfortable approaching women, so I decided the Sho would be my best bet.
I approached him and motioned to the seat beside him, "that seat taken?"
He stared at me for a long moment, and the slowly and deliberately turned his head to the left, away from me. Just before I walked away, he slowly turned his head to the right, staring at the seat I was pointing to, then he looked at me and shook his head.
Duh, I thought. I felt kinda stupid now, but I took the seat nonetheless, and the Sho paid me no attention. I ordered a tankard of ale, a loaf of bread, a chunk of cheese, and a few peices of fruit for my backpack. The Sho sipped at his brew occasionally, but said nothing.
I ate quickly, and finishing off the ale I wipped my mouth on my sleeve and turned back to the Sho, "you wouldn't happen to know of an abondoned city on a mountain hereabouts, would you?"
He looked up at me, slowly, and shook his head. Turning his attention back to his cup, I let my shoulders slump as I left the tavern.
Dang, I though. Guess this'll teach me to listen to drunkards. I looked around Qalaba'r again, trying to figure out what I should do. Go on asking people and stand out like a lugian, or return to Hebian-to and try my usual contacts there. Well, I'm here. May as well at least look around.
This story is incomplete, last updated May 17, 2000.