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Fanfic: Diamond in the Rough

Postby AthenAltena on Thu Sep 10, 2009 3:32 am

People who follow my DA might have seen this already, but I figured I'd put it here too. It's mainly about Tor's dad and his life with her mother, and at the moment I have two parts to it.

----

Ganikin turned into the market district and glanced around. If what he’d heard in the upper city was true, the place should be somewhere around here.

He was in his 150s, with a short, stocky build that often caused people to underestimate his physical strength. He had thoughtful green eyes like a scholar’s, but they could just as quickly turn hard as steel when he was threatened. His hair was naturally a dark grey that he kept trimmed close to his head, though a few stray tufts on the top always managed to rebel against his attempts to comb them down.

As he moved from stall to stall his leg pained him, reminding him again why he was doing this. He’d been fighting with a band of mercenaries since his 60s and had avoided serious injury until last month, when a lucky spearman had gotten through his defenses with a strike to his thigh that almost made him die from blood loss. Their healer had done her best and managed to save the leg, and though she’d told him multiple times that it would probably not affect his ability to fight he’d had enough. With nary a goodbye he’d set out on his own and come back to the city to look for a real job.

He walked by a food stand and felt his stomach growl at the smell, but alas he had only enough money to get him through one more meal. He probably still had family somewhere in the city, but he neither cared about them nor particularly wanted to see them again. He’d left them on a bad enough note that going back would just be tempting fate, and he’d already seen enough of his blood outside his body for one lifetime.

But luckily fighting was not his only skill. When money was short, which was often, he made jewelry from whatever was on hand and sold it to pay for food. They weren’t exactly made for an Ill’haress, but he thought they were decent enough, and it had gotten him through more than one tough period. And if what he’d overheard was correct, there was a jewelry shop right around here that was looking for another worker.

Now if only he could find the damn place. This made the third time he’d walked down this one street looking for it. He finally swallowed his pride and asked the owner of a meat pie stand, but it was only after he forked over a few of his remaining coins for a dry and tasteless pastry she pointed him in the right direction. He then found himself standing in front of a small storefront that apart from a sign advertising its wares looked just like any other dwelling on the street. He shrugged and stepped through the split cloth curtain that served as a door, figuring that it was at least worth a shot.

Once he was inside it was apparent that the tradesmen who had described it the place “small” were not kidding. Besides the counter and a small forge in the corner there was only enough room for two adults to stand side by side. Another curtain in the back separated what he supposed was the living area from the rest of the shop, but so far he could see no signs of life or of the owners.

“Hello!” he called after taking a moment to inspect the jewelry under the counter. “Is anyone here?”

“Just a moment!” called a voice from the back, and a moment later a woman came out from the back. She was tall and willowy with a rounded face, but any illusions of softness were crushed by the sight of her blue-grey eyes and the intensity within them. Her hair was dyed orange and hung down her back in a long braid, and several gold circlets adorned her arms and wrists. She was certainly beautiful, but Ganikin got the distinct impression that she was not one to put up with any sort of nonsense, especially not from males. He would have to play this carefully.

“Can I help you?” she said as she examined him and his worn equipment. It was clear from her expression that she didn’t expect him to buy anything, but she hadn’t thrown him out yet, so he still had a chance.

“Yes Ma’am,” he said, linking his hands behind his back. “I heard that you’re looking for another worker, and I’m here to offer my services.”

Her eyebrow curved up as if asking “Oh really?” but he kept his composure. She was obviously trying to catch him off balance, but he’d been prepared for this.

“Do you have any experience making jewelry?” she asked after a moment.

“I do,” he said, reaching into his pocket for the last piece he hadn’t sold. It was a simple circlet of intertwined gold and silver that he’d made from scrap metal, but he was proud of it and considered it to be some of his best work. He handed it to her and let her inspect it for a moment until she looked back up at him.

“I take it you have a metal affinity?”

“Yes Ma’am,” he answered with a small smile.

“Did you use a forge for this?”

“No Ma’am, just my mana.”

She nodded and handed it back to him. “I’m impressed, most people can’t do this level of detail with mana alone. Alright, I’ll give you a chance. What’s your name?”

“Ganikin.”

She looked sidelong and him and smiled. “I’m Aya’la, and you don’t have to keep calling me ‘Ma’am’. Just Aya will do.”

“Yes Ma… Aya.”

This made her smile as she turned away and moved to the back of the shop.

“I’ll show you around. It’s a bit cramped in here, but it worked for my mother and me, so it should work for us too.”

Ganikin grinned as he followed her through the curtain into the living area. This was working out even better than he’d predicted. He not only had a job and a place to stay, but a beautiful woman to share it with. Who could ask for anything more?

TBC
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AthenAltena
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Re: Fanfic: Diamond in the Rough

Postby AthenAltena on Fri Oct 02, 2009 2:06 pm

Part II!

----

“Come here, Gani,” a woman’s voice drifted up to his ears, and Ganikin knew that he was both dreaming and seeing a memory. His younger self saw the face of a Dokkalfar woman break out into a smile as he walked up to her bed and put his hand in hers.

“What is it, grandmamma?”

Zha’linth looked at her grandson and ruffled the rebellious tufts of hair on his head. Despite the fact that she had not aged a day since the Moon’s Age her face seemed more shadowed as of late, and it seemed to Ganikin that the deep blue of her hair had lost some of its luster lately.

“I just wanted to see you better. These old eyes of mine aren’t as good as they used to be.”

Though she laughed as she said this, Ganikin felt his stomach twist into a knot at the unspoken implication that she would not be with them much longer. He clutched her hand tighter and stayed there until his mother called him from somewhere outside, and though he wished nothing more than to stay inside he left his grandmother after giving her a quick peck on the cheek.

The house was the same tired shack as always, and Ganikin realized with some distress that he had remembered it being nicer, though it was probably just nostalgia talking. It barely stood upright and had only just enough room for the five people who lived there, and even then they often found themselves bumping into each other. Out in what could charitably be called the front yard his brother and sister were breaking rocks to try and find any metal that could be sold, but as usual they were turning up nothing.

Dalnin and Ninlil looked up at him as he came out, but as usual he saw nothing but disdain in their expressions. Ninlil was older by a decade while Dalnin was a few years younger, but despite their age difference they got along and merely took out the frustrations on Ganikin for reasons he had never quite understood.

“Where’s mom?” Ganikin asked, though the fact that he had to ask them did not please him at all.

“Out back,” Ninlil said curtly, bringing her hammer down on another rock. For his part Dalnin said nothing and ignored him, so Ganikin left them alone and met his mother Naur’ka at the back door, where she was sitting on an upturned bucket and turning a coin over in her hand pensively.

“What is it mother?” Ganikin asked, but he could tell already that whatever she had to say would not be good news. She turned her green eyes on him and sat up straighter, and though the color of her eyes and hair were only slightly lighter versions of her mother’s she had none of Zha’linth’s warmth.

“We’re short on money again,” she said grimly. “I’m sending you and your brother to the mine for a few days.”

Ganikin’s heart sank at that. The last time he had worked in the mine he and Dalnin had nearly suffocated in a cave-in before help arrived, and he’d sworn at the time that he’d never do that again. He took a deep breath and looked his mother straight in the eye.

“No.”

She blinked, and then a frown crossed her face.

“What do you mean by that, young man?”

“I mean, no,” he continued, balling his fists at his side. “I won’t do it again. I nearly died the last time we did that, and if Dalnin has to go alone so be it. I won’t –”

He was cut off as his mother rode to her feet and struck him across the face, the heavy silver ring she wore on her hand increasing the impact. He stumbled and had to catch himself on the side of the house.

“Do you think I don’t know that?! It’s this or sell you off to the mine permanently, we’re in that much trouble! If you weren’t the only person my mother talked to I’d have done it long ago! If that’s what you really want I’ll go myself and risk getting killed, just stay here with my mother and keep wasting space like you always do!”

With that Naur’ka stormed off to the front of the house, taking Dalnin and Ninlil with her once she had gathered her things. Ganikin lay against the side of the house for a while longer as he tried to calm his breathing. Things must really be bad, for he had never before been struck like that.

Once he’d calmed down he made his way back inside and to Zha’linth’s bedside. She was sleeping soundly and had apparently not heard the scuffle outside, and for that Ganikin was grateful. He settled in on a chair next to her, and a few minutes later she opened one eye and looked at him.

“That bad, huh?” she said, and Ganikin knew that she had indeed heard. He sighed and scratched the back of his head.

“Don’t worry love,” she said, pushing up on her elbows so she was at his eye level. “My daughter has always had a temper, I’m just sad she directed it at you,” she lay her palm against the cheek that had been struck, and her warmth seemed to soothe the pain.

“I’ll tell you a secret,” she said. “I know I don’t have much time left. I’ve been away from the sun too long, and my poor heart can’t take it anymore. But after I go I want you to flee, for the moment I’m gone your mother’s eyes will turn to the slave market, and I don’t want that to happen to you.”

She leaned up and kissed him on the forehead. “I know that I shouldn’t pick favorites, but you’re the only one who listens to me. Do this for your grandmamma, if not for yourself.”

He blinked back tears and held her hand for a few moments. He didn’t want to lose her, but he could tell that what she said was true, all of it.

A moon-turn later her words came true, and once the initial weeping over her death had passed Ganikin saw his mother’s grim gaze turn on him. Taking his grandmother’s words to heart he packed and left that night without a second glance, determined to keep his word to the only person in his family he had ever truly loved.

----

Ganikin awoke to the sound of merchants announcing their wares, and after the initial confusion he realized he was still in Aya’la’s shop, and lay on a thin mattress on the floor of the back room.

He glanced upwards and saw that Aya’la was watching him with a pensive expression from her own bed, which due to the space consisted of a simple roll on the top of one of the worktables.

“Is something wrong?” he asked, but she shook her head.

“You were talking in your sleep,” she said, brushing a strand of her bright orange hair, which now hung loose, away from her face.

He sighed and put his hands behind his head.

“Did you ever know a Dokkalfar?”

“My great-grandmother was one,” Aya’la said, turning over onto her back so she was looking at him upside down. “I never met her, though. Did you know one?”

He nodded and closed his eyes as he remembered Zha'linth's face.

“My grandmother was born on the surface. She lived for just about 1000 years down here before her heart couldn’t take it. After she died…” he trailed off, wondering if he should tell the whole story, but after a moment he realized that he at the very least owed Aya'la the truth, even if it betrayed a part of him he wasn't proud of. “Well, she was the only thing keeping me at home, really. She’d tell me stories of the lands she lived in and the exodus, and I’d tell her of goings on in the city once she became too ill to go out.” He felt himself fighting back tears as he continued to speak. “Her last request was that I leave, since she thought my mother would sell me off to slavers once she was gone. I left the night she died and haven’t seen my family since.”

“Was she right about your mother?” Aya’la asked, and Ganikin could not tell by her face what she was thinking.

“I think so,” he said after a moment. “I didn’t want to find out. It’s tough to be poor in the city, people do desperate things, and I think my mother was at the breaking point.”

Aya’la nodded and swung her legs down from her bed, carefully avoiding stepping on him as she went to the mirror on the back wall and began to comb out her long hair.

“That can happen to even the best people, not that it excuses her. I’ve been relatively lucky since I have this to support me, but since my mother died it’s been hard to keep this place afloat on my own.” She turned to look at him and smiled. “That is, it was until my wonderful new worker showed up and saved the day.”

Ganikin felt himself blushing. “Oh come now, I’m not that good.”

She swept over to him and gave him a quick peck on the cheek before she moved out into the main room of the shop.

“Says you,” she called, sticking her head through the curtain and giving him a sly grin. “And if my profit margins are any indication, if I had two of you I’d be competition for the Ill’haress by now. But even the one has been more than I ever asked for.”

With that she blew him a kiss and disappeared behind the curtain again, leaving him to sit and thank his grandmother for her final bit of wisdom and all it had brought him.
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