> Dark Age of the Empire (VE side story)
Topic: Dark Age of the Empire (VE side story)
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[VE-ARMY] 2nd Lieutenant
[VE-ICS] Privateer Captain
Post Number: 1213
Total Posts: 1218
Joined: Apr 2008
Dark Age of the Empire (VE side story)
February 9, 2020 10:38:28 PM
A heavy sort of wind, almost sweaty, rolled sluggishly into the small port-hole windows hewn roughly out of the cliff-homes that faced the bay, and settled about on the floors and table tops in each rocky hovel that permitted it entrance. Early risers and peasants who clung to the narrow roads cut diagonally up and down the side of the cliffs could hear dehumidifying vents snapping on and off in the homes which crowded the edge of the walkways; sucking in the saturated mist and exhaling back out warm, dry air for hovel occupants. Fish-scaled mercats lounged on window sills and door-thresholds, soaking in the heat waves that came from within the peasant homes before arbitrarily deciding they were too warm, and electing to drive from the cliffside road walls into great cool bay coves below. Everywhere there was laziness, heaviness, and a constant struggle between cool and warm, wet and dry. The tense struggle was the way of life for those who lived at the reaches of the jurisdiction of the city of Merclifstead.
Nearest to the great lapping waves was one such house which was constantly doused by the spray of water hitting rock hour after constant hour. Whereas most homes on this cliff-side were notably cut from a hard blue-grey rock, this house, and others near it which braved the seaspray, was thickly coated with matted greenery. Here and there budded forth small shoots from the mossy growth, these of a lighter shade of green, tipped with red. The vegetation sprawled up and down the length of the hovel which was half-formed from the cliffside and half embedded within it, but did not normally grow over the edge of window sills and into doorways. Yet, in this one house, the seaweed had begun to invade the inner areas of the window and door; overnight, the quick growing, thin and spindly branches had gone the length of the window sill and now hung a full five inches inside the home. And as the morning dew and condensation from the rising of the sun began to occur, a small droplet of water grew on the end of the branchlet, growing larger and larger while dragging the vegetation down with it, until at last the droplet had grown too large, and it fell from the mossy shoot down onto the helpless victim below it.
Retin Ockplou opened one eye wearily, and wrinkled his nose and face as he felt the dew-drop roll down the seams in his wrinkled face. A second drip had him sitting up in bed with a hand over his face as he panicked and thought that there was a serious leak in his roof that needed to be dealt with. In a moment he saw that the sea lichens had merely grown through the windows, and with some excitement, went over to a sideboard to take out a delicate piece of clippers. He took the lichen branch in his hand, and angling the clippers so as to not permanently damage the trunklet, he sliced through the stem and held the amputated remainder in his hand. Three light-green buds protruded from it, each of them crowned with blood-red tips. These three he deftly popped off of the stem with his thumb and forefinger and placed in a pot-like instrument for cooking. Then he took the leaves and with incredible speed ripped each off of the stem without damaging any of them; these he placed in the bottom of a mug for brewing with hot water. The budless and leafless stem he tossed into a small canister filled with other naked stems to be bundled and brought to the falleen who mastered the wharf, Och Nil Mer. He would buy them for a modest price to later be sold to weavers and thread-makers in the city.
Returning to the kitchen stove, Retin ignited two burners, placing a kettle over one and the pan with the three lichen buds over the other. He Drizzled some lichenseed oil over them (a luxury in the winter-months, but abundant enough in these early spring weeks to warrant its use for breakfast) and listened happily as they sizzled and rolled around in the pan, occasionally making snapping noises and vibrating softly in the hot oil, lifting the pan every now and then to cautiously make sure that they did not overcook or burn on any side. At last they began to break open, two at first, and then a moment later the third one. As they broke, out poured a light purple fluid, similar in texture to egg-white, and a round soft nut many shades darker of purple. Retin removed the green and red-tipped shells and tossed them in a bin for compost, and then flipped the cooked bud innards until the light purple fluid was solid and rubbery and the dark nut was browned and steaming. He slid them off the pan and onto a plate for eating just as the kettle whistled. After pouring the hot water into the mug with lichenleaves, he waited for a few minutes, prayed to his community’s divinity for thanksgiving of the meal and petitions for the day, and proceeded to chop up and eat the lichen proteins while he sipped at the tea.
As soon as Retin cut through the soft, grainy, and brown yolkish nut of the bud, he knew that the harvest was ready.
Harvest time for the lichen farmers of Merclifstead was in the early spring, just as the lichen moss on the seacliff rocks were budding. They were rich in nutrients, and high in protein, and served as a staple food-source for the city dwellers of Merclifstead. This was Retin’s cash-crop, and he was sorely in need of income this year, as this was the year that he intended to buy out the column of his cliff. Lichen farmers worked vertically, up and down the rock, picking the buds that grow upwards like vines on the rock. Retin had been saving for the past three years to buy out the column, that is all of the rock plots above and below him from the sea up to the ridgetop of the cliff in which his cave house was located. The whole plot was only about thirty feet wide, but at least two hundred feet tall, and would quadruple his harvest yield were he to acquire it. His current plot was in the middle of the column.
This year’s harvest should also be able to fund Retin’s first purchase of a droid to help him with the harvest. Farmers of larger plots managed the high and low picking with the use of crablike droids who climbed up and down the length of the cliff harvesting lichenbuds. They were expensive to buy, but relatively easy to maintain, and they were capable of picking seven times as many buds as a skilled man. In anticipation of the columnar purchase, Retin had arranged this morning to purchase an older model from another lichen farmer who owned the column to the west of Retin’s plot.
Having finished his breakfast, Retin Ockplou drank down the rest of his now-lukewarm lichentea and put the dishes aside on the counter to be washed up later. He put on his oil skin cap and coat which clung tightly to his head and torso and kept the brine spray in the air from penetrating through to the warm clothing beneath. Grabbing a newish-looking credit-stick, Retin stepped out onto the slick rock pathway as the door to his hovel house hissed shut behind him. The system’s sun had fully risen now and its rays were cutting through the mist and fog here and there ripping huge holes into the wet airy fabric that hung tightly to the rock and dirt below. Retin’s path wound upwards, along the cliffside and through some rocky archways about a half-mile until he finally reached the summit of the cliff in which he lived. Once summitted, he stopped to catch his breath and admire the view behind him.
He had left behind all the fog and wet cloud which was now beneath him. Where he stood, on the wide fields of blueish-green grass, the sun beat hot on his head, and the puddles on the path reflected the deep blood-orange of the star as it shone a quarter to its zenith in the sky. Behind and below him, the fog hung over the sea and cliffs like a woollen blanket, with only a few rocky cliff-crags sticking out of them every now and then. By the time he would be done buying the droid, the fog would all have rolled away. Turning around, he looked down the road and saw where his vision just began to let up a dark blob with thin smoke rising up from it. This was the Half-to-Sea Cantina, Retin’s destination this morning.
He walked quickly and easily. This was a good morning for him, and he thought the entire time about how easy it would be to pick the buds with an S5-DR unit alongside him. He hoped that the droid had been reprogrammed and had been wiped of its memory: he preferred to work alone, or at least with others who do not have the personality or disposition for gregariousness.
The Half-to-Sea Cantina was a bumpkin inn, established a hundred years ago when there was a bustling stellar shipyard business on the high cliff-flats outside Merclifstead. Now it was patronized by lichen farmers and hiding-out scoundrels too hot with the law to dare the city cantinas. The proprietor of the inn was a metal dealer out of the city, who rarely checked up on his country establishment, only bothering to come down when the rent was not paid on time. The whole building sat obtrusively on the high blue-green cliff-top plains, like a white pimple crest next to the brown-winding road which if travelled to its furthest extent would take one to the eastern gates of Merclifstead.
As Retin approached, the Ithorian bouncer made way for him, giving a short downward nod of knowingness. Vlavich was a good friend.
The inside of the cantina was dark and wet, like many interiors on the cliffs outside Merclifstead, and it smelt like wet iron and hot dirt. In the center of the round main room was the bar, unsophisticated and simple, with the pipes and pumps for unsophisticated and simple drinks rising modestly in the eye of the round of the bar. Patrons sat in the grey-stone booths around the murky joint, their faces and eyes reflecting the purple neon light which ran like a track around the perimeter top where the ceiling met the dingy walls. After a quick word with the bartender, Retin walked around to the other side of the bar where he saw another human, tall and lanky with a drunken slack-jaw and yellowy eyes.
“Retin! Retin Ockplou!” He exclaimed upon seeing his friend, and stood up out of the booth to his full height. “Over here, over here, I’ve got something I want to show you and I think you’re going to like it.”
[WM] [CCA] [QCT] [CoR] [BC] [CoZ] [AS-3]
[This message has been edited by
(edited February 24, 2020 2:58:02 AM)]
[This message has been edited by
(edited February 24, 2020 3:01:38 AM)]
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