The Gaunt One!
| Race: Human
Alignment: Chaotic Good
Accumulated Building Points: 0
| Class: Barbarian
(For Next Level: 400)
| Ability Scores:
15/91 STR (Dmg. +3, Feat of Str. +8)
06/66 INT (Att. -2)
12/02 WIS (Init. +1, Def. +1)
11/40 DEX (Init. +2, Att. +0, Def. +0)
06/18 CHA (Turning Mod. -4)
| Honour Score: 9
Honour Category: Low
(Honour Window: 6-10)
Honour Bonuses or Penalties:
|Hit Points: 40||Threshold of Pain: 12|
| Patron God(s): TBC
Quirks & Flaws:
Obsessive-Compulsive (the Gods)
| Sex: Male
Age: 21 years
Height: 81 inches (6’9"/2.05m)
Weight: 203 lbs (14st 7lbs/92kg)
Animal Training (dogs)C 58%, Appraisal (furs & pelts) 12%, Artistry (singing) 16%, Botany 19%, Cooking/Baking 12%, Direction Sense 14%, Fire-BuildingU/C 34%, Language (Thylli)N 81%, Language (Merchant’s Tongue) 27%, Leatherworking 24%, Musician (specify instrument; no transcription) 15%, ObservationU (-40% penalty: Nearsighted) 12%, Religion (specify faith) 35%, Scrutiny (+10% bonus: Nearsighted) 24%, Survival (sub-arctic tundra; +50% mastery level bonus in Hoarland)U/C 28%, TrackingU/C 52%, Weather Sense 22%.
|U = Universal Skill, N = Native Language (Universal), C = Class Core Skill|
Crack Shot (short bow), Long Distance Running, Stout, Physical Conditioning.
Weapons: Bearded Axe, Broadsword, Hand Axe (both melee & thrown), Knife (both melee & thrown), Spear, Short Bow.
Armour: Light, Shield.
Other: Etiquette/Manners (Hoarland), Glersee, Hiking/Road Marching, Laborer, Skinning/Tanning.
Bearded Axe: +1 Attack, +1 Defense, +1 Speed, +1 Damage.
Short Bow: +1 Attack, +1 Speed.
Size Large for initial hit point determination
-1 DR per level vs. natural Hoarland animals (inc. giant versions)
+2 Damage bonus in unarmed combat
Size Medium for HPs & knock backs
May purchase Language (Merchant’s Tongue) at 50% cost
[Still to do: 49 silver pieces to spend on equipment.]
In another time and place, ugly as Pyry is in his 21 years of age, he would have had the body of a god; a super-lean, strong and muscled athlete. In his lands and amongst the clansmen, he is a sickly, if not cursed, ugly duckling that will not make it past the next winter. But then, everybody is proven wrong for the last 21 years.
Blond and blue-eyed, like the rest of his clansmen, Pyry Kolkko as he is called (Pyry the Gaunt) is unusual in that his 2.05 meters are not accompanied by the broad physique usual to the northern climates, but by a measly 92 kilos. Lacking the belly and high amounts of body fat that characterize the Hoarlanders, Pyry appears to be in a constant state of starvation. The impression is nothing but deceptive though, since the gaunt one has many times shown his strength and fearlessness in front of others, not to mention the consumption of the average piglet in one sitting. He walks straight and proud, looking everybody in the eyes, in that heavy and non-presumptuous way that the so-called Barbarians usually do.
It is difficult to say whether Pyry is truly ugly. Maybe he is just an averagely looking man being thought of as ugly because of his brisk behaviour, an often unthoughtful approach, as well as the stench that his craft carries. Dressed in the usual practical and warm garments of his tribe (furs in the deep winter, hides and cotton in the warmer months), he customarily carries what is needed to survive the harsh climates. Deeply religious, he wears good luck charms on the wrist of his right arm, paying his tributes to [three gods to be inserted]. When on watch he is armed with a beautiful skeggöx (a bearded-axe) with a repeating rectangular pattern. Practical and usable as this great arm is, it also appears to be a family heirloom. Rumor has it that it is not his, and who knows how such an ugly man obtained it. When hunting Pyry uses his short bow, the skeggöx being nothing but a hindrance. He never parts from his knife, used in pretty much everything from skinning to prepare for a fire. A skinner and tanner of relative renown, Pyry is avoided even more during the time of the year that he is treating his material. The stench is foul and agonizing for the free spirits of the wind and the snow.
The child picked up the wooden trinket.
‘Hey, leave that down!’, shouted the gaunt child. The other child looked annoyed.
’It’s mine! I found it lying down!’
‘No you didn’t!‘, retorted the gaunt child, panting from running. ’I left it there a while ago. My dad carved it for me’.
‘Your dad’s dead’, said the other child. ‘And you are ugly’.
The gaunt child was furious. ‘He was alive when he carved it! And you are stupid with big ears!’, he shouted.
‘Your dad died because you are ugly!’
‘Give me my toy back!’
‘Your dad died like a woman!’
‘Give me my toy back now and go away!’. The gaunt child started shoving the other one.
‘Your dad was cursed by magic! You are cursed!’
‘No he wasn’t! He was ill!’
‘Then why didn’t the healer heal him? He died cursed! He wasn’t a man! You aren’t a man!’
The gaunt one attacked. The two boys slipped down on the mud. They were punching and kicking, fighting with the fury of young bulls but with hits so ineffective they couldn’t harm themselves even if the sun decided to stand still.
’It’s mine! Mine!’
The other boy let the toy go.
’It’s just a stupid piece of wood. You can have it! You are cursed and dishonored like your dad! My daddy says so! My uncle says so!’ The boy started backtracking, afraid of a new retaliation.
‘And you are filthy and a coward!’ The gaunt one picked a hefty handful of mud and slung it to him, hitting him in the back as the other boy was running away.
He had his toy back. But there was nothing more he could do.
It was warm under the blankets, but the boy was shaking. It wasn’t cold; he was afraid. His sister was already asleep, her body warming him.
‘Mother’. ‘Mother’, he whispered, clenching his grip tighter on her waist.
‘What is it big boy?’, said his mother, almost half-asleep.
‘Are we cursed by wizards?’, he said with a hesitant voice.
‘Of course we aren’t!‘, said the mother in a soft, soothing voice, caressing his blonde hair. ’We never had anything to do with them’.
‘Then why do the others say we are cursed?’
‘Because they are mean my love. There are many mean people in the world, you know’.
‘Did dad die like a woman’? The boy feared the answer.
‘Did he seem like a woman to you?’, half-whispered the woman. He turned around, and saw that in the twilight her fiery eyes were looking at him intently, at peace.
‘No..’, the boy said. ‘But why did he die?’
‘Because he was ill’. The woman shed a tear, but in the dancing shadows of the room the boy did not notice.
‘And why didn’t the healer do something?’
‘Because she couldn’t.’ The woman sensed new questions coming up. ‘Because not everything can be done. No fisherman can catch all the fish. No hunter can kill all the game. No bard can know all the songs’.
‘Is the healer mean?’
The mother smiled in the twilight. It’s easy for small children to get confused.
‘No, she is not. But she doesn’t know everything and she couldn’t help your dad.’
‘Nobody could? Can I become a healer?’
’Don’t say that. This is a woman’s job and not for a man like you’.
‘But nobody? Nobody?’
‘The Gods could’. The woman shed another unseen tear.
‘Why didn’t they?’ The boy was ready to start crying.
‘Because they wanted your dad with them’.
The boy stayed silent.
‘Now your dad is with them. In the divine glaciers, with furs and food and jewelry that would buy kingdoms. You will go there too. But to do that, you do what your mother tells you and you pray. And right now, your mother says that you should sleep,’ she said with a playful tone. She kissed him on the forehead and tightened the blanket above all three of them.
The boy closed his eyes and prayed to the gods. He prayed, and prayed, and fell asleep before he even really started.
The night was peaceful.
The pretty girl was crying loudly.
’What’s going on here?‘, exclaimed the mother upon entering the hut. The boy was looking around, perplexed. Unapologetic, yet guilty.
’He killed Pupu!’, the girl shrilled. It was impossible to stop the sobbing.
‘What?! You killed the dog?!’, she shrieked. The boy cowered back instantly.
‘A snake bit him! He was lying on the floor, flapping himself around! He was foaming mum!’
‘I hate you! I hate you!’, shouted the girl with the rivers of tears.
Now the mother noticed the blood stain on the floor. Her son had indeed slit the dog’s throat.
‘Where Where did you put him?’
The boy was almost in tears. ‘I burnt him outside’.
So that was the lingering stench she smelt while coming back to the log.
She slapped him hard, twice and thrice and more until her hands hurt and his cheeks were the red of a blooming raspberry.
‘Why do you have to be so stupid? Why?’
His mother would sing. She sang well, songs of love and fame and fortune, of high mountains and never ending travels, and he would hear her while doing his chores. But he would never forget the day he saw the man who played music.
He wasn’t strong, nor well built. His beard was sparse and his face looked boyish with the freckles (‘freckles!’, he thought). But he sang with a deep voice, sweeter and fuller than pine honey, and had this weird-looking instrument in his lap, producing sounds with his fingers that nothing else can.
And the gaunt one gaped during all his song playing, and he promised to himself that one day he would learn to play and sing too.
‘Mum? Is that you?’ There was no reply. He shouted again. ‘Mum?’
‘Hei Pyry!’ She was still far from the log, yet she was smiling.
’What’s wrong now, my Snowstorm?’
‘I don’t know. It’s kind of hazy when I look too far away’.
Her heart raced. But she didn’t show it at all. ‘Ah, so it came’! She smiled.
‘What came?’, he asked, troubled.
‘Nothing. It’s normal. Just like your dad. He wasn’t too good in seeing that far either, you know?’
‘I thought he was a great archer’.
‘He was. But because of practice and intuition. And maybe luck. But he wasn’t as sharp eyed as the ravens in the sky. Hey, why are you sad now?’
‘I will never be a good archer.’
‘There is a trick though!’
She pulled out a knife with an ancient handle. Wasn’t it the one his grandfather had crafted his mum? ‘I want you to find me the crack on its handle’.
He looked at it for a few moments. Indeed, there was a minor crack, no longer than a scratch. Only somebody looking for it would have seen it. ’That’s easy, it’s right here.’
‘Easy for you! I have never seen it in my life!
’What? But it’s right there.’
‘And I can’t see it. You can. See now, that is not so bad!’
‘No’, he said smiling. ‘I guess it isn’t’.
The smell of acrid smoke in the log only added to the tension.
‘No’, exclaimed the burly man.
The gaunt man, standing like the other, tensed even more. He bit his tongue. They were looking intently at each other.
‘Why?’, he said, almost swallowing the word.
The burly man narrowed his eyes.
‘Because you are stupid and ugly, that’s why!’
‘I brought you triple the dowry, and all these deers I killed and skinned mys-’
‘I told you no, boy! My daughter will not get a man as ugly as you!’
‘But she loves me!’
‘No she doesn’t!’
‘You are lying!’ The gaunt man had crossed the line.
‘A measly boy calls me a liar?’, shouted the burly man, his hawkish eyes burning. ‘How dare you dishonor me?’
‘I came for your daughter’, shouted back the gaunt man, ‘and I brought triple the dowry! It is you who dishonors me!’.
It all happened in an instant. The burly man, enraged, reached for the great axe hanging from the walls of the log. The gaunt, young man almost gaped by the unexpected move and would have surely been dead had the burly man wanted to strike him down.
But he didn’t. Because the burly man shoved, no, forced the axe upon the other’s chest.
‘You filthy rat! You hedgehog! You leave my log right now!’
The gaunt man thought he was hit. But there he was, still in the middle of the log, the burly man shoving him out, and him, miraculously having in his arms and chest the other man’s great axe.
‘This is my father’s axe! You hear me, orphan chicken? My FATHER’S! It’s worth the animals! Get out, GET OUT, and never talk to my daughter again!’
The gaunt one’s eyes had gone watery. He stumbled back. ‘But I don’t want your axe! I want your daughter!’ He was partially trembling, still holding awkwardly the great instrument against his chest.
‘You are stupid, boy! Stupid! Brave and stupid at the same time’, and the man didn’t stop for an instant shoving the gaunt one outside the log while shouting, ‘because how much has love blinded you to stupidity to come and ask for my daughter, MY daughter, when your mother turned me down 17 winters ago?’
The gaunt one fell down on his back outside of the log, the great axe always on his chest. He scrambled backwards and started running, turning to look at the man every few steps. A tear dropped on his cheek. The burly man, with watery eyes himself, shut the door with a bang.
And the snow continued falling.
The gaunt man was already asleep. His mother was sitting next to him, caressing his shoulder. She didn’t wish to cry. But she was visibly shaking.
‘My only son’, she whispered to the sleeping man. ‘I love you and I would kill for you. Yet everyday I pray to the snow and the winds to make you think and judge your actions’. Her voice was breaking, unheard as it was. ‘You are strong and swift and sturdy, hardworking and benign but I pray and I pray that you think, think before you act. Because asking for his daughter was the wrong thing to do. The wrong thing. And you said nothing to nobody before doing it.’ The woman wept. ‘You can do better than your dad. But first you have to live. And a fool can be easily parted from his life’. She let go of him and held her face while silently sobbing. A tear fell on the blade of the great axe that lied on the floor.
The gaunt man was dreaming of the gods laughing at his expense. And while sleeping, he was muttering a prayer.
The dwarf and his companion were looking at him from the benches outside that tavern overlooking the open market.
‘How sick is that man over there or what? And the guards let him inside the walls?’, said the black bearded man.
The dwarf swallowed another big gulp of his beer. ‘Nay, he ain’t nowhere sick. But people say he been cursed by wizards. His father died from nuthin’. He just burned away, like ‘em candles. He was dying for months. BURRRRP!’
‘Even more so! A cursed son of a cursed man inside the walls! And the guards let him!’ A couple of other people stopped talking and looked wearily at the two companions.
’Don’t get your spirits up and don’t start shouting, you fool. ‘sides, that’s airtalk. Mean nothing and I ain’t believin’ it. The lad’s neither ill nor cursed.’
‘And how do you know?’, half-whispered now the black bearded man. ‘The dwarf gods told you in the latrine?’ The man laughed alone, revealing his yellow and black teeth.
‘I have seen ’im gulp as much beer as I do, ya moron! Somebody twice as big as him but as stoopid as yer face told him that he didn’t have it. Them clansmen dont take it lightly, ya know? So the Gaunt One, Kolkko in his language, tells him with this thick speech of his, ‘you talk from your ass and you fart from your mouth! Like the women you talk! But Ill drink you this small barrel here in one go and you’ll give me what’s on that fat pouch of yours. Because that’s how men settle, and you go nowhere before that’s done.’ You should ‘ave seen the other guy’s face! He wanted to rip him. Three men were holding him!’
‘I wonder why…’
‘But Kolkko thear said again, ’you have honour? Or just talk?’ and the burly man couldn’t do anything because he was challenged. So he shouted ‘you can’t drink half of that you son of a hare, you sickly chicken!‘. And Kolkko looked at him with this face, mocking him, and suddenly got serious and you won’t believe what he did next.’
‘He farted from his left ear?’
The black bearded man laughed heartily. ‘You are making this up. This is incredible! Hey, another beer for the dwarf storyteller here!’
‘I am making up nuthin’ thear being other men too! He said a small prayer in his own speech, grabbed the barrel and started drinking. And finished it in one go! He burped loudly, put the barrel in its place, and went on to leave. The people around didn’t believe their eyes! The burly man was dead in his tracks. Even the men holding him had dropped their jaws!’
‘Ok, so he can drink. So what?’
‘So what?! As he was leaving, passing next to the burly round guy, he shoved him, grabbed his pouch and ripped it from his belt!’
‘Oh man’! The black bearded man was giggling.
‘It was a riot! The burly guy hurls himself on Kolkko, everybody backs up because it’s a honour thing now, you see?, and bangs him straight in the face with his head!’
‘Hehe, he got what he deserved!’
‘You don’t get it! The blow was mighty but Kolkko thear hadn’t flinched at all! The man thought Kolkko was falling, so started slapping him in the face, the way you hit a woman, to humiliate him. He slapped him some foar or five times, hard enough to decapitate ‘im. And the other guy was takin’ it, doin’ nuthin’!’
’That’s why he looks stupid to me…’
‘So the other man stops, kinda wondering… and Kolkko hits him with his knuckles, straight in the face! Man fell like a log! With one single blow!’
‘As I see you and you see me. And Kolkko hear, nose bloodied and all, and nobody going near him, asks with that accent, but rather timidly for what had just happened’, and the dwarf has another gulp of beer, laughing for what’s coming up, ‘how much for that beer I drank?’ Hilarious!’
‘Hahaha, this Kolkko has spirit!’
‘And some people are laughing from nervousness, and some didn’t know what to do, and the owner says something I didn’t hear, and Kolkko opens the pouch and throws him some coins. And walks away!’
‘Maybe the boy has balls then, with the beer and the fight and all’.
‘I think he is good. But other people don’t. And many think he is sick or cursed, because of his dad and his mum and his frame and al-’
‘What about his mum now?’
‘She didn’t remarry a man that wanted her. Or anybody else. She stayed a widow, at the age of twenty two you see? She must be more than fourty now! That’s bizarre even for them clansmen and their weird customs.’
‘She out of her mind too? A woman without a man?’
‘A tough woman, at that. And if these, these… barbarians are tough, I am told their women are even worse. So I am not judging and I say, if she didn’t want to remarry, good for her. But people look at them suspiciously and talk bad. That’s why he is shunned. That’s why when he comes to the market, he sells less than his tribesmen. But if you ask me, he will have a chance one day. Maybe somewhere people don’t know him.‘.
’Let’s buy him a drink, maybe he can say nice stories’.
’Don’t be stoopid again, now. I said I ain’t believin’ nuthin’ of what the clansmen talk about. They treat the Gaunt One wrong. But you think that I’ll start befriending the men they avoid? And to whom will I sell my wares then? It’s not only business here, you fool. It’s honour!’
‘Hej’, said the middle-aged man to Pyry who was kneeling at the turn of the path. It was cold in these first hours of dusk in the forest.
‘Terve’, replied Pyry. He looked at the man with a smile. Based on his characteristics and accent, he was a Frithlander, and an ugly one at that. ‘What are you doing there?’, asked the man.
‘I am hunting!’, replied Pyry loudly, dislodging some herbs from the ground with his knife. ’It’s a fine day for a hunt!’
‘You are hunting for worms? That bow you have there isn’t so useful then!’ The man smiled.
‘No’, said Pyry jumping up from his kneeling position, ‘I am hunting for deer!’. He stumbled a few steps and almost fell. He was lightheaded; I shouldn’t get up so fast, he thought to himself.
‘And… did you find any deer in there?’ The other man laughed heartily. Pyry laughed back, regaining his balance.
‘You need herbs to cook too, no?’ He showed the other man what he was gathering. It was all forest growths and herbs and mushrooms.
The man showed one of the herbs disapprovingly, still laughing. ‘You cook with this, you will fertilize your fields yourself in a day!’.
‘I don’t have fields!‘, said Pyry laughing. ’You don’t eat the flower! You eat the root only… …after you boil it! Here, have a few! Gift from Pyry!’
The man took an intrigued face and took the herbs. ‘I am Volmar, Pyry. You are a hunter? Or a tavernier?’
‘I am a tanner. But I don’t do tanning now, I would have smelt so much the animals wouldn’t be anywhere near me. Next season again. Want to join for a deer? Easier to carry back for two people’.
Volmar laughed. ’It’s not that easy. This knee here’, he said, holding his left knee, ‘has a mind of its own. It tells me where to go and when. You might have to carry the deer and me back!’.
‘Oh’, said Pyry, ‘and how do you hunt?’
‘I don’t! I am a scribe and researcher. Others do the hunting for me. I just eat what’s on the table!‘.
’A very rich man you are then!’, said Pyry.
Volmar laughed. ‘Hardly! I am simply surrounded by books! And expensive as they might be, they are neither that expensive, nor are they mine!’.
‘So you can read…’
‘Yes, that’s the point you see. Learn and write and read for others to learn too!’
‘How can others learn to hunt, if you don’t go hunting? Just by telling them? If I don’t go hunting now and continue talking here, the animals will hear us and get scared! Also, it will rain later on!’
Volmar laughed again. ‘Rain, you say? I have to get going then and you’d better be going yourself. Animals wouldn’t get on the path, they are clever enough to know where they are in danger. A successful hunt, Pyry!‘, said Volmar, giving his hand.
’Happy… reading?’, replied Pyry, shaking Volmar’s hand. ‘Ask for my wares if you want skins and furs!’
‘Will do that! I’ll ask what happens to those you cook for too!’. Volmar turned and left, walking slowly down the path. Pyry smiled, setting his bow and arrows.
Looks like a good man, he thought. But, a life of reading? Buried in books? No hunting?
How boring is that?
It was cold that winter. His father was still in bed, coughing. Maybe his time wasn’t so far now, but young Pyry knew not of this. Life was going on almost as usual, his father in bed in pain, his mother always troubled and stern-faced, yet always finding the time for a smile.
There was some upheaval in the settlement, the elder was also sick. Some Frithlanders had come from far away to see him. Were they healers? Priests? Pyry didn’t know. But his mother was looking at the elder’s simple lodge every now and then, agitated.
When they came at the elder’s lodge Pyry didn’t know. Nor did he know how long they stayed. But they were leaving now, and his mother left the boiling broth in the fire, something she would have never done, and started running after them. ‘Wait, wait’, she shouted twice, before the small pose of men stopped for her. They talked for just a few moments, and one man started following her, the others heading towards their horses. They were now reaching their lodge, Pyry looking outside. ‘Out, both of you, said his mother, go out to play’. It didn’t sound like her at all.
Pyry looked at the man and gaped. He was impressive, exhuding an aura of confidence and comfort… yet not a human. Pyry could guess neither his age, nor why he was so short. He was as tall as some of the young hunters, but his looks suggested a different age. An age altogether indiscernible behind the brown wavy hair and the stunning face of the man with the pointed ears. Twenty? Thirty? More? But the man looked calm behind his angular characteristics. His presence was peaceful and calm. Pyry cautiously took a step back and exited. He had never seen a non-human before.
He was looking inside to see what’s going on. His mother lead the man next to his father, but all the talk was muffled, almost whispery. The man started examining him, or so Pyry thought. They talked, all three of them, and the man stayed for quite a while. When they finished the man rose, greeting his father good health, ‘hej’ he clearly said, and exited with his mother. Pyry run to the side of the lodge not to be in front of them and followed them a few steps behind, pretending he was playing. They talked for a few moments, hushed and in a low voice and Pyry heard none of it. But he clearly heard the last words of the man, when he stopped, looked at his mother straight in the eyes and held both her arms firmly in compassion.
‘I can’t do anything about this. Be strong’.
The man looked down and walked towards his comrades in a quickened step. His mother stood there, bringing her hands in her face.
And Pyry knew long before he learnt the word elf that he would never forget this elf’s face.
‘They tell me you sell skins and furs…’
Pyry turned around from looking at the sights and sounds of the market. ‘Yes, I…’. He immediately smiled. ‘Volmar!’ Two months had passed since they had met in the forest.
‘I see you in good health! No stomach problems with your food?’, joked the Frithlander.
Pyry laughed. ‘Only if you don’t know how to prepare it! How is your reading going? Can you now read more letters than before?’ Volmar wasn’t sure whether this was a genuine question or joke; the former seemed far more likely.
‘It doesn’t work that way. One day I might show you a few things’.
‘One day I show you how to prepare food properly! But today you are here for a good fur, no?’
‘How much for these one?’, a voice interrupted them.
Both men turned. Volmar immediately recognized the man and greeted him by name. But Pyry didn’t hear any of it. His jaw had practically dropped to the ground. He swallowed hard, and caught his good luck charms in his right hand.
Under the winter sun, in the fresh air of the market, Pyry saw a face he thought little of, but knew he would have never forgotten. The face of an elf. That elf.
‘I know you’, he said hesitantly. ‘You are a healer. You were there a few days before my father died.’
‘Hej Volmar’, the elf said. ‘What are you working about this time?’ Obviously the two others knew each other.
‘I remember you too’, the elf said to him. ‘I am not a healer, as much as I can help people in need of one. I couldn’t do anything for your father’. A few moments passed. ‘You grew up well’.
‘You are the same!’, Pyry blurted out in disbelief. Volmar and the elf laughed. Apparently they knew something he didn’t. ‘Who are you? What are you?’
‘I am Ainon, an elf. I am working for the church of the Caregiver. And I want to buy things you might be selling. No?’ The elf laughed at Pyry.
‘Yes, I am selling’, Pyry replied. ‘What is it that you want it for? And Volmar, how can I help you?’.
Pyry was nervous. He hadn’t done something like that before. What if the Frithlanders were as lazy and dishonourable as they were said to be?
His mother wasn’t happy in the least. Far from being a possessive one, she didn’t want her son to mix with the lowlanders. She could do nothing about it though but watch him walk away with his meager belongings. He obviously hadn’t thought anything out, but isn’t this how real men learn?
It was a few days march to the city, a route Pyry knew only too well. He recognized some of the people on his way, even though he wasn’t sure whether greeting them loudly was a good idea. Most seemed afraid by his physique and the barbed axe he was carrying, or was it his accent and manners? Frithlanders and their weird habits.
It didn’t take him long to find something he wished to do. He wanted to travel. He wanted adventure. But he wanted something familiar too. When he heard of that skinner Markus hiring people to accompany him, he had a good feeling. I know the job, maybe if the trip goes wrong I can help out with the skinning, he thought to himself. Or maybe I can hunt and cook.
So there he was now at that inn where Markus was supposed to be. He ordered an ale and told the keeper whom he was searching for. The man behind the bar nodded towards a corner where two men were sited. Through the crowd Pyry couldn’t make them out, so he consciously started towards them when a hand caught him firmly by the shoulder.
‘Now that’s a place I wouldn’t expect to see you!’ Pyry recognised the voice. He turned.
‘Volmar! And by the looks of it, you study beer-drinking!’
Volmar laughed. ‘I am only waiting for someone for a job. You might know him effectively, he is a skinner.’
‘You want to become a skinner? You pay me, I can teach you anything! Even how to cook for people you like or you don’t like!’
‘But I don’t have any money!‘, replied the Frithlander. ’Ah, there he is in the corner’.
Pyry was honestly surprised. ‘You are looking for Markus?’
‘Yes. You know him?’
‘No, but I am looking for him myself. He wants strong men to accompany him, no?’
‘So we are here for the same reason, Pyry!’.
Pyry smiled with trepidation. Was he going to lose a job he didn’t even apply for? He immediately grinned back to himself. That is nonsense. The Frithlander is a good fellow, but there is no way he is stronger than himself. He can’t hunt, he can’t cook, there is no way he would loose this job.
‘Yeah’, Pyry said absentmindedly. ’Let’s go find him!’
It wasn’t more than a few steps in the crowd when Pyry realised that one of the two men sitting in the corner was Ainon. And by the looks of it, the other was Markus indeed. Did he lose the job to Ainon? How complicated all this was.
‘I am here for the job!, Pyry shouted from two meters away through the bustle of the crowd. He practically shoved the last guy between him and the table, in between a midst of short grunts and protests which died as soon as he passed.
The man who was Markus turned his head and looked at him unphased. Ainon did the same. ’Hej Pyry’, he said.
‘Is that so?’, the skinner said. ‘Sit with us, Kolkko. If Ainon knows you, that’s good enough. And if you are here for the job, you already know what it is about and what it pays’.
That was going too fast for Pyry. ‘You mean, I got it?’ he blurted. He didn’t even greet Ainon in his confusion.
’Don’t you want it, son?‘, asked Markus disbelievingly. ’One more man and we leave first thing in the morning.’
‘You mean, you want more than one man?’. Maybe this wasn’t the cleverest thing to ask, he immediately thought.
‘Are you drunk, Kolkko? Are you sure you are good for this? Yes, I want three men!’
‘Then you get this man here behind me!’, Pyry exclaimed loudly. ‘I know him, and Ainon knows him too. Hello Ainon! Three men! Like you want!’
Markus grinned with surprise at Ainon and back at Pyry and now at Volmar, who had finally waded through the crowd. A few moments passed, in total silence, Pyry thought, inside the bustliing inn.
‘Why not?’, said Markus, gulping down from his ale. ‘No need to waste the evening looking for men when men are here’.
Pyry sat fast in the bench next to Ainon and let his beer on the table with a bang. ‘I will travel!’, he thought. ‘With people I know!’.