Saturday, April Fourth, 246
Before My Watch
The sarden mutt will be the death of me. If I am to e'er get a good nights rest, t'will only be when I greet my God in the next realm, and the beast might well follow me there, too! It was six of the morning, again, which meant I'd gotten a good four hours of sleep. Groaning, I got reluctantly out of my nice, comfy bed, dressed in my Players garb (today I wore a green dress with blue butterfly embroideries and a blue-and-green butterfly mask), though I had hours yet before work, and took my dog out to do his business. Master Foal gave me a surprised look, and I waved at him with a yawn, afore Jinglenob finished and we headed into town. I wanted breakfast, and to maybe see if I could find a new employer, though that was doubtful this early in the morn.
We stopped at my Mama's bakery, and I smiled tiredly at Fintel, Maggie, and Jesabel as they started setting the morning's business up. I kissed them each on the cheek, and ordered four spiced turnovers and two meatpies (those going straight to Jinglenob with a turnover). Yawning, I leaned against the counter, off to the side, and smiled at another of Kindles rusher friends as the cove nodded to me sleepily. We always had a guard, so as no one could start any trouble. It was one of the reasons no one tried stealing from our stalls. Our guards were paid in free meals and ale, not as much as they could drink, but still. It was better then nothing at all, right? And they could always say no if they had a job needing to be done.
"Kienta!" A familiar voice called; I turned curiously to see Ersken and Verene jogging towards me, grinning with a two-year Dog I recognized as Phelan at their back. I stuck a finger to my lips and shushed them scoldingly, smiling slightly as they looked me over with wide eyes. They knew I Played in the mornings, but they'd yet to ever see me in my garb.
"We're goin' to Beka's to make sure she's not goin' to become a mushroom," Verene told me, grinning easily. I smiled, turned, and signed at Jesabel, who was closest as Fintel and Maggie were handing out pasties to a mot and cove that looked to be in a rush.
"Aye, aye, sister!" my sibling cheered, turning and snatching up a linen-lined basket, and beginning to fill it with patties, pastries, and fritters, humming a familiar tune, which Verene and I both knew and all three of us started singing together, grinning as the other Puppy and I locked hands and spun around in a bit of a dance for those watching. When the song finished, I dug four silver nobles from my purse, tossed them on the counter, and darted down the street, grinning as my siblings shouted after me, complaining. My fellow Puppies ran after me with Phelan in tow, laughing, and soon we slowed to a walk as we came upon Nipcopper Close, and soon enough Beka's lodging house. As soon as we were through the doors, Ersken took a deep breath and began to yell,
"Beka! Beka!" We started up the steps, me and Verene grinning at each other as he continued. "Beka, you are not hiding in your rooms all day! You are having fun with your friends! You know, friends?" Verene added her bit next as we got even closer.
"Beka, they's more to life than sleepin' an' walkin' your Watch!" Her Blue Harbor accent was thick and playful, as always, and I was as fond of it now as I was when I first heard it a year ago in the recruitment yard.
"Beka, I mean it!" Ersken started up again as we reached the top of the stairs. "You will open this door and—" He halted in the already open door, blinking like a startled doe, and we three almost collided with his back. I giggled. "You're—Hello," he managed to say to Kora and Aniki, who were sitting on Beka's floor, apparently eating breakfast with her. "Bek, you—um…" Kora looked at him sidelong and smiled. Ersken was done for. He turns shy as Beka when a pretty mot bats her lashes at him. Then Aniki got to her feet, and I grinned. She's half a head taller then him, and more woman then he'd know what to do with. Verene started to giggle while I fought not to, and pushed past him to step into the room, offering the swordswoman her hand.
"We're Beka's friends. We came to keep her from turnin' into a mushroom. I'm Verene, tha's Phelan, tha's Kienta, an' th' spaniel pup is Ersken. He's sweet. Don't bruise him." Ersken turned beet color.
"Kienta?" Aniki said, startled, and I wiggled my fingers at her playfully, while Jinglenob, who had decided to take the stairs at a slower pace behind Phelan, woofed and pushed his way forward. "Ah, and Jinglenob as well, I see," she said, reaching over and giving my brute a scratch when he padded over to her. "We saw you two sing and dance yesterday, as Wintry Rose and assistant." She grinned. "Nice work for a mute Puppy," she said; I grinned and shrugged. She turned her attention back to Verene.
"We're moving in, so we invited Beka to breakfast," she told the Blue Harbor mot, as we finally got into the room. "That's my friend Kora on the floor. She's living downstairs now. I'm Aniki. We met Beka, Kienta, and their pets at the Rogue's Court." I took a seat between Beka and Kora, grinning at the mage, and uncovered my basket of food, setting it in the middle as everyone started settling on the ground in a circle.
"You were there when Crookshank pitched his fit?" asked Phelan, looking at the four of us, eyes bright with interest. "The word is he tried to kill the Rogue. Some Scanran pretty boy saved ol' Kayfer's life." I nearly choked on my bite of apple turnover as Rosto stepped into the doorway, eyes narrowed and face cool.
"That 'pretty boy' would be me," he said slowly; everyone with their back to the door way turned to look, while Pounce gave the mrt that was his laugh, and Jinglenob grinned like a, well, jinglenob. I grinned at him and gave him a wink, before I reached up, took off my mask, and laid it gently to one side, while Jinglenob flopped down behind me with a yawn. "I brought fresh food," the Scanran continued, holding up his own, large basket, and soon the eight of us were eating breakfast cheerfully, splitting fresh-baked oatmeal, rye bread, my Mama's baking, and other treats. Rosto had brought soft cheese to put on the bread, which made him a good fellow in all us Puppy's and Phelan's eyes.
"So why do they call you the Piper?" Verene asked, when he'd been introduced all around. She was sat right close to him, as was her habit when a handsome cove was about. She'd an eye for good-looking coves.
"I play well enough, don't I, girls?" he asked; Aniki and Kora nodded. Rosto smiled. It was a razor blade smile that got me curious to what was spinning in that blond head of his. But, to make his point, Rosto took a flute from his tunic and began to play. He was very good. And me and Verene once again recognized the song at the same time, and began to sing together. Verene has a beautiful voice, and I've tried to convince her time and again to join me as a Player in the mornings, but she declines. Kora danced for us, and while Rosto and Phelan got into talks about a wandering mage they both knew, I sadly put on my mask again, bid farewell until tomorrow, and I headed off to Faraway's.
The nobleman wasn't there today, but I got an uncommon amount of silver and copper nobles, and a larger crowd then usual. I whispered in a few lads' ears to spread word that Wintry Rose was looking for a new employer from ten of the morning to two of the afternoon, and gave them a copper each. If Faraway heard of it, I'd tell him honest enough I didn't like his attitude and was lookin' for someone ta treat me nicer, and that it was his fault.
I left Mama with twelve silver nobles and twelve copper nobles even, but she told me to keep all the coppers, 'case I need to feed some Birdies. I love my Mama…
I'm home now, dressed for my Watch, and ready for the Cesspool tonight. I write this with an unsteady hand, my body all a-quivering, and Jinglenob ain't much better, he's so eager. He's a fighting dog, so a'course he's gonna like the Cesspool brawls he helps me in. I only hope I won't get him killed.
Black God watch over me and Jinglenob, and my friends and Dogs, too, while I'm at it!
After My Watch
Written at three of the Morning…
After Practice, my Dogs, Jinglenob, and I headed straight into the heart of the Cesspool, down past Koskeynen and towards Stormwing. Mumpers and common folk that ran there, along with doxies and spintries and others of their ilk, called to us by name, though they knew me only as "Fighter Pup" by now. Finch and Ferrows sneered and leered and spat insults and threats alike at rushers and Rats not worth the kiss of our batons, while my beast and I walked at their heels, eyes bright, muscles tense, and ready for the first fight to start.
We hadn't very long to wait, actually.
It was just after we'd come close to Viperwind Alley (a small street with a famble-full of homes, mostly a place for low-cost doxies and spintries to take their johns and janes for a quick swive) that we happened upon a small brawl. Twenty, mayhaps thirty, coves and mots were having at it without care for whose nob they caved in as long as they got one. We three looked at one another and lunged into the fray, Finch and Ferrows yelling at the cracknobs to disperse and go on about their business.
O'course, people tend ta not like it when you interrupt their fun, and the mob turned on us. Immediately, we started up the whistle for assistance, while we cracked nobs, elbows, hands, knees, shins, and gems alike, while Jinglenob snapped left, right, and center on whatever unlucky cove or mot was in front of him. People were fleeing into the shadows, bleeding or bruised, whilst others were jumping in to help their friends, or mayhaps just take their turn at tryin' ta send my Dogs to my God. And me as well, I found out, as I had to block a cove with a blade as was heading for my belly.
"Take that pigsticker elsewhere," Finch suggested to the cove cheerfully from my shoulder, afore he slammed his sap up into the bottom his jaw, makin' his eyes roll back as the nap-tap was well-delivered and he fell to be trampled by his uncaring fellows. I nodded to my training Dog, then turned and started in to help a mot as looked to want nothing more than to go home, and started fighting the coves as were ganged up about her and bellowing like bulls. Jinglenob yelped as a mot hit him with a rock, and I sent a furious blow upon her, snarling fit for a four-legged dog myself, until she shrieked sommat 'bout demons and evil spirits and ran off, sobbin' for the Goddess's and Mirthos mercy. I turned barred teeth on the coves about the woman as wanted to leave, and they shifted back from me a bit as Jinglenob joined me, snarling as we moved on them.
"She's cursed eyes," one of them, big and rough as any river dodger, muttered, and moved back as he and his mates made the Sign afore they turned and shoved their way out of the fight and took off. The mot scrabbled gratefully out after them, glancing back over her shoulder fearfully, and I spat on the ground, growling, afore I turned my "cursed eyes" back to the writhing bodies about me, and went in swinging, while, from the corner of my eye, I saw two more pairs of Dogs come jogging towards us, answering our summons.
With the four extra Dogs help, we broke up the fight quick-like, and hobbled the cove that had tried to stick me (as well as three others who'd tried to stick Finch and Ferrows as well), and sent them off with the other Dogs to be sent to the Cages. Then we continued on our Watch, after I checked Jinglenob after that mot had hit him. He had some scratches, but none that bled too much. I'll ask Cail tomorrow for sommat for his sores, and mayhap ask Mama for some salve for my Dogs….mayhaps not even for the full price of two silver nobles each.
Three more brawls, each as bad as that first, and we stopped halfway through our watch for dinner at a tavern, where the bread and chicken was dry from being cooked too long, but the potatoes, beans, and corn tasted well enough. The mot that dropped off our meal offered Finch and Ferrows some extra sugar I a back room after the meal, which they politely turned down, but promised to maybe check in on later. She was a pretty enough mot, but she kept glaring sommat awful at me, so I barred my teeth and had Jinglenob growl at her, sending her scurrying. It earned me a half-hearted scuff from Ferrows.
"No' nice there, Bails," He chided, smirking. "A cove could get ta thinkin' yez was a jealous sort o' mot, if 'e t'weren't careful-like." I snorted, gave him an amused look, and scratched Jinglenob on the ruff. We left a few minutes later, and soon enough found ourselves following the cries of some cove as was calling for Dogs. He was scared and big-eyed, pointing down an alley, and there we found the body of a woman all hacked to pieces. I grimaced, and Finch sent out the whistle for a murder. Jinglenob leaned against my thigh silently, and then started sniffing about while I eyed the corpse, my stomach all in greasy knots and rolling, threatening to come up out my mouth and embarrass me sommat awful.
She'd been a pretty mot, from what I could tell of her bloody face, with large blue eyes and dark blond hair that was curly. She looked to be about twenty-five, mayhaps twenty-eight. I'm better at mots ages then Beka, who was top of our class at guessing with coves ages. The dead mot had been wearing a blue-dyed wool dress, sommat quite a few Lower City mots can own, but the shoe, that was still on the foot that lay a good ways away from where t'was supposed to, was an expensive kind of soft leather slipper, the kind a mot'll wear when she goes out to see a cove as taken her fancy.
"Hello there," Phelan's voice greeted as he padded up to my side, his scent hound, Achoo, at his side. She was a silly thing, and had gotten her name for her habit of sneezing whenever she got the scent. "See you've got sommat right nasty, here," he said, wincing slightly as he eyed the mess that splattered all across the alley floor. Jinglenob woofed, and trotted over, making Achoo duck down low, tail tucked close and nervous. He was thrice her size, poor mot. As my beast assured the amber–furred mongrel that he wasn't going to eat her, I glanced over my shoulder, to see Phelan's partner talkin' with my Dogs as they waited on Springbrook and Evermore, muttering about what they'd do if the two Dogs were canoodling on Watch again.
Finally, the two others arrived, panting and disheveled, and muttered sommat about dropping Rats off, and sharing a water flask. My Dogs gave them the same dark looks they usually aimed my way, then we all returned our attention to the dead mot. Achoo, now much happier that she knew Jinglenob meant her no harm, was casting her snout about, trying to find a scent, and whining something awful. After ten minutes, she walked over to Phelan, tail tucked and body hunched, looking miserable, and whined up at him. Phelan cursed and shook his head, then knelt and comforted his hound while his partner explained.
"The killer had his scent magicked," he told us with a dark scowl towards the alley. "He's made it so he can't be tracked by hounds." Jinglenob growled, then went over and licked Achoo on the head a few times, which made her tail wag feebly. Poor hound had been so happy to get to work, and now she wouldn't get to chase this murderin' Rat. My Dogs scowled at the alley as well.
"Rat's as use magic ta cover their paw prints are al'ays trouble," Ferrows growled darkly; Finch nodded grimly.
"We'll probably see more of his work, so we'll all have to put some feed before our Birdies, and warn Ahuda about it," he added, shaking his head. "Lets get this mot covered and carried out, though, shall we? Someone go get a wagon." Phelan and his partner left to do that as my Dogs and I moved, carefully and respectfully placing all the pieces close together. Springbrook and Evermore left, and returned with a stained canvas they bought off a nearby cove for a few coppers, and we gently moved the dead mot onto it.
By the time the wagon came to take her to the Black Gods Temple, my Dogs and I were all soaked with blood and worse, and stank of scummer and rotting meat. I made them stop before taking her away, my childhood training raising its head, and preformed the Black Gods Last Rites for her in sign, bowing my head in prayer for a few minutes, and offering a promise to my God to pray properly for her once I returned home. Then I climbed from the wagon, nodded them off, and my Dogs and I grimly returned to our watch, hands stained red and black from her blood and street muck.
We broke up another tavern brawl, a fight between a doxie and her john, a robbery, and I personally caught a cove that still had blood on his hands and tunic from the throat he'd slit for two silver nobles and four coppers! I took pleasure in hobbling him while he babbled and begged me to let him go and show him mercy, before I had enough and had Jinglenob snarled at him. He walked silent after that, but for the occasional whimper.
When we mustered out at one, my Dogs grabbed me and silently pulled me after them to the Dogs bathing house, where they flashed their bath-passes, passed the attendants some coin, and hauled me and my dog both in. I stripped without being told and sank to my nose in the gloriously hot water, scrubbing at the dried blood from the alley mot, and worked hard to get it from every crack. Finch and Ferrows sank down in the same section as me, and also began to scrub, passing the scentless soap that was well-known to be magicked for helping with just the sort of problem we had. Jinglenob slept against the wall while the attendants took our uniformed for washing, and I dunked down, scrubbing my head hard, coming up with a soft gasp and a little light-headed from the heat.
"You know, Bails," Finch said suddenly, leaning back and eying me as I settled back and lifted a leg so I could scrub my aching feet. "You're alright, for a Puppy," he said; I blinked and eyed him, and wondered if mayhaps he'd taken a whack too many to the nob this watch. Ferrows grunted, cursing as soap got into a nasty looking scratch on his chest that he'd gotten during the first brawl of the night.
"Yez a fightin' Pup, s'no doubt," he agreed, scowling at me with his bruised face. Of course, all our faces were bruised. Brawls tended to do that, though my Dogs were always worse off then I was, since most went after them and saw me as less of a threat… Which would make you think they'd go after me, but, I guess not. "And yez sma't, s'no doubt 'bout tha' either. I suppose I like you," he said, scowling as if, for all the world, I'd just stolen his money and his mot alike. Finch nodded.
"We're agreed then, eh, Ferrows?" he said easily. "This ones a good Pup." Ferrows grunted, nodded, and went back to cursing as he again got soap in his sore. I snorted at him, and splashed water on his chest, getting most of the soap off it. He scowled at me even harder, then scrubbed at himself harder, muttering under his breath about interfering whelps. I grinned.
When the attendants returned with our clothes, we got out, and I was amused when they handed my Dogs towels but insisted on helping me dry off. I smiled and thanked them in sign when they refused coin, and was surprised when one of them signed back. Now dressed, clean, and refreshed, I left my Dogs at the door and limped my way back to Jane Street, where I stopped at the well outside my lodging house in order to rinse Jinglenob off good and well. The attendants at the bath had given him a polite scrub in the same area that they washed the scent hounds, but he hadn't been very happy being out of my sight, and was back afore they could wash all the soap from him.
Back in my room, I stripped to my breastband and loin cloth, prayed to the Black God for the alley-mots spirit at my small shrine that I'd made myself, and then put some bruise salve on my skin, so that I wouldn't have to put as much on in the morning. Finally, I sat down and I wrote all this, while I listened to Jinglenob snore softly, sprawled as he is on my bed. I will join him now, I think, because I wake early to go to breakfast tomorrow.
Black God Bless.
Birdie – informant
Garb – outfit (not actually in the books, but thought I'd explain it anyways)
Mayhaps – mix of Perhaps/Maybe
Nap-Tap – A hard hit to the bottom of the chin that, preferably, knocks the victim unconscious. Favorite move of most Dogs.
Sign – Ward against evil. Make an X over your heart with a line down the middle.
Swive – have sex (said in such a way that it could be a substitute for the word Fuck)