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Old 03-18-2015
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Broken Homes

Felica pulled the fur of her coats collar tight around her neck as she stepped out of the house, a bitter wind hunted through the streets of Aquor cutting at exposed flesh like frozen knives.

Word had spread that the two dwarven contractors requested by the Thayans to help with rebuilding parts of the town were set to arrive today with the first wagons of supplies. She wasn't sure how this would pan out with the recent arrival of Pendraig and her hordes, but the prospect of earning a decent pay packet was simply too appealing to ignore.

In the lee of her building two Zakharan's stood muttering darkly in their thick, impenetrable tongue. From their huddled stances and irritable movement she thought it was a safe bet that they were complaining about the cold. In a way she'd miss the strange comfort of Gritz, the gnoll who'd often stood guard there, they certainly hadn't become friends but he'd saved her from the predations of a less than savoury newcomer and she'd taken a certain amusement at the childish joy he found in simple pranks and his whooping laugh. It was weird she supposed, to take more comfort from a local monster than in these new kohl eyed strangers.

She looked at the floor as she passed the Zakharan's. Eyes down, body language expressing mute worthlessness, not worth the effort of goading or tormenting. The hardships of recent years had taught her, taught everyone, to keep their heads down and their hopes low.

Once, she mused as she passed the shattered windows of the neighbouring house, itís windows still nothing but broken glass voids stopped up with mixed timber and rags, this had been a happy place, its population peaking and troughing in time with the yearly and social calendars. In spring the town would be gaily decked out in ribbons and garlands for the first week of Greengrass and the festivities led by the clergy of Chauntea, zesty fresh tones and fresh plucked flowers to match the vitality of the season, farmers would sell their lambs or calves while horse traders jostled to sell their stock as the best for ploughs, hunting or riding. Nobles would pass through the crowds like glittering beacons of finery, resplendent in the latest fashions. Crisp ciders would be drunk, or sharp spirits mixed with fresh spring fruit while lamb or veal roasted over pits. In the evening they word gather around bonfires to listen to the ribald stories of bards and gypsies, using the excuse of cold nights to snuggle close under the influence of springs heady mix of food, drink and the promise of hedonistic nights.

Summer passed in a haze of work, the houses of nobility, rich merchants and those who aspired to either filled for months on end, escaping from the summer fug of the cities tight packed streets and noise. Summer meant hard work and long hours for the common people of Aquor and the many workers who migrated to the town's good times, but the money earned kept most in good health through the lesser months between the peaks.

Her mother had once told her of the old autumn fairs, at once hedonistic and sombre affairs headed by the clergy of Chauntea and Myrkul. The had celebrated the great bounty of autumn with parties and festivities that culminated in a Bacchanalian weekend where the fountains ran with wine, bakeries sold with ciambella al mosto, soft sweet buns made with the pressings of the grape harvest. Vendors lined the streets hawking rich autumnal soups, porcetta from aromatic pigs slow roasting over fires, all the trappings of the local vineyards, each competing to offer the finest of vintages for refined palettes while selling bottle upon bottle of fresh romanella, a sparkling red wine made with the dregs of the harvest. Through this cacophony of celebration and fun wove the grand parade, led by the clergy of chauntea, bedecked in emerald and ruby grapes and all the rich warm tones of autumn's bounty, their attendants running to and fro with amphorae of wine to fill glasses raised in her honour. At the rear of the parade would come a priest of Myrkul in somber garment, preceded by young children who would cast fallen leaves as a carpet for his role as father autumn, the end of summers vitality and the end of all things. Between the two the many groups and organisations of Aquor and Sundren city, each competing for the finest costume or loudest noise as the parade passed by.

After the autumn festival the nobles and their retinues would trickle away, returning in occasional bursts for weekends of hunting around the town, trackers and guides rented their services, some years might even bring a servant of Malar to lead grand hunts against the rarest or most dangerous of prey for those who had the bravery and money to embark upon such adventures.

Midwinter brought another spike in population, though no where near the numbers of the warmer festivities. Here the two fey camps competed with each other as best they could, the clergy of Sune holding lavish winter themed parties and hot mulled wine while the clergy of Auril, descended from their frozen temple at Ghiemreadh to lead a festival of ice and dancing on the frozen surface of AzíGema lake. While their events competed for numbers and enjoyment they were always timed to allow the population to attend the most important parts of both, minimising the risk of upsetting the clergy of either.

But Aquor wasn't that place any more. The nobles and their money had left, their once fine houses now served as squats for the families who had run to the town in panic so long ago, whole families packed into rooms stripped bare by looters, antiques and valuables smashed for firewood.

Could the old festivals return? Once the Aurilites at the winter fair had stood be awe inspiring beauty amid to counteract the numbing cold of winter, grace and beauty amongst the deadliness. But the snow jaguars had changed that, destroyed the relationship auril had with the town as surely as they'd smashed every window and door in the town, extinguished the trust along with every fire.

Pendraigs return was a good thing, they had always been popular with the townsfolk, good landlords to many people, but their return brought many troubles. Would more nobles return, and if so what would happen to the folk who'd made their home in what had been the broken bones of town? Would the Pendraigs bailiffs be going house to house, turning the already half broken people into the street to fend for themselves? Would they be blamed for the destruction in the town, she imagined gibbets and gallows lining the towns entrances packed with the people she'd called friends. Would they be charged, perhaps packed off in crammed cartloads to toil in debtors prison. Or perhaps they'd take what the only real thing the people had of value, sold as slaves to these dark skinned Zakharan's and shipped around the world to their distant home.

Changes had arrived again in Aquor, and just as with the past they brought precious little comfort to Felica.
It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do a little - Do what you can.
Sydney Smith.
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