World of Light > Enter Marcus

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Last edited by Dkittels on 2008-07-26 23:09:05

Enter Marcus

By Dkittels

Marcus was so transfixed on the tattered parchment in his hand that he almost didn't notice he had wandered into a settlement. His toe brushed up against the side of a pitched tent, forcing his eyes from the letter just in time to keep him from falling in to the campus wall. Delicately he folded the paper back up and replaced it in his threadbare vest pocket, giving it two good pats for safe keeping.
No longer distracted, Marcus's body immediately protested the last week's journey with dull aches and sharp pains. He was able to ignore such things, and thanks to his nature he was able to travel without food or water, so long as his will held out. Still, a night's sleep on a padded surface would go a long ways towards setting his mind straight and maybe offering some relief. More importantly though, there were people here... people who might have answers.
As he limped into town, his bad leg dragging slightly in the sand, he was surprised no one had approached him yet. The entire settlement was comprised of tents that looked to have been placed only recently, judging by how misshapen the sand near each one was. Still, Marcus could spot hardly anyone outside save for a few horses that were lazily drinking from metal troughs set next to covered wagons whose paths through the sand were still fresh behind them. Nearby Marcus spotted only one person, and old man man of short stature (no thanks in part to the bend to his back) who was kneeling over a variety of yellowing plants set in rows inside a wooden box planter that was almost as big as him.
Marcus walked towards the man unnoticed, despite the fact he was making no effort to hide his presence. He was hovering over the plants with a rusty watering can in one hand and a pair of shears in the other, a look of concern plain on his bristly, unshaven face. Every once and a while he would uncertainly sprinkle some water on top of one of the more pathetic looking plants, but already small pools of undrained water at the base of the stems. Finally, the old man shook his head and pulled the water can away, then approached one of the larger, wilting plants with the shears in his shaking, unsure hand.
Marcus frowned. "There's no need for that."
The old man looked up and gave a small, weak cry. He took one short step back, nearly falling over in the process. However even with the sun behind him Marcus cast only the shadow of a thin, tired young man favoring one leg. It was far from an imposing figure.
"You scared me half to the dark world so you did young man." The old gardener said, still not completely comfortable. "I'd ask if you're new 'cept I know we've taken no one new in since traveling this desert. Strange place for a lone man to stumble into."
"You need to take those plants out of the sun." Marcus stated.
The old man blinked. "Out of the sun...?"
"This desert sunlight is too much for them." Marcus pointed towards one of the smaller sprigs. "That's Lorenroot right?"
The old man nodded.
"And that's Jaiceweed?"
The man nodded again. "I think..."
"Those are plants from back west and they aren't meant for this kind of heat and sun. Keep them in indirect sunlight for a few days and they'll be just fine. But for goddesses' sake don't butcher the things."
"I mean, are you.. are you sure?" The man, slightly flustered, looked to his shears and then back to the plants again.
Marcus merely nodded. "I am positive. I've got some experience with these types. Just get them out of the heat, give them less sun, and they'll be fine."
"Well I certainly hope so they were a gift and something that would be great to have on the journey and... oh I just hope it's not too late."
"It's not too late." Marcus said, his voice betraying a hint of impatience.
The old man looked back to him and smiled. "Well then.... as I was saying before not very common to see folks wander in to Wanderer Camps in places like this but, well, we'd be mighty glad to have you and I'd like to show my own personal thanks for helpin me out today..."
"Wanderer Camps?"
The old man looked slightly perplexed. "Don't tell me you came strolling in here without being familier with the Wanderers?"
Marcus shrugged. "Never heard of you."
The old man laughed. "Well are you looking for a place to sleep tonight? And food and drink?"
"I'm as fed and watered as I need to be, but a soft surface and refuge from the sun would be very appreciated."
"Well then." The old man was now all smiles. "I've got just the place for you."

No doubt the old man had thought Marcus would find the night with the Wanderers titillating and exciting, but it actually took a great deal of effort for Marcus to not look bored, let alone smile. All manner of food and drink was put out on makeshift tables or, in some cases, blankets strewn across the desert floor. There were two different bands playing two very distinct styles of music, though the played at so close a distance they seemed to simply merge into one cacophony of noise. And then there were the ice fires, which were like nothing Marcus had ever seen before... buckets filled with ice strewn about, misting over their sides, and throwing out cool breezes the way a fire might radiate heat.
There were folks of all ages, save that no children were present, which was just as well considering how freely the wine flowed and how loosely lips flapped. The old folks mostly kept to themselves, sitting in clusters and clapping to the music. The old man Marcus had spoken with earlier was rarely far from the wine, and after only a few hours in was barely able to sit up.
The younger folks, however, dance nearer the music and ice. They seemed to care not one whit about what clothes they were wearing, let alone how much, but Marcus saw no efforts from the elder folks to enforce modesty. The men and women were both lean, and in some cases pretty, and there were a few well toned ladies that offered Marcus flirtatious smiles, at least until they noticed him walking with a considerable limp. He considered trying his luck, as the girls seemed less concerned about WHO they were worth in their mirth, just as long as they were with SOMEONE, but he decided he was not in the mood. If anything, he was more concerned about getting what information he could out of these people before they all passed out drunk. Besides, if these folks were really the wanderers their name implied, they might know more than the simple villagers that populated the small farming towns he had already passed on his way. And his best bet, he decided, would probably be the older folks. Thankfully, the one he had already befriended hadn't passed out yet.
Marcus walked over to where he had been sitting and offered a curt greeting. The older man looked up to him with a drunken grin. "Enjoying yerrself?"
"Absolutely." Marcus lied.
"Good, good, though I notice you aren't dancing."
"Never been one for dancing. Besides..." Marcus gestured towards his leg.
"Ah yes, that. Quite a tragedy that, moreso if you're really alone traipsin across the desert. Just why are you doin such a thing boy?"
"Well that's what I came to talk to you about." Marcus gently pulled the letter from his vest pocket. Even among the noise of the party and the odor of the desert mixed with the dry aroma of the ice fire, the pleasant scent of the letter managed to fill Marcus's nostrils. It calmed him, and he felt some of the aches in his body dull. "I imagine from what you've told me that you've seen a lot of this land."
"Indeed I have boy."
"Well, can you read this?' He handed the letter to the old man, though his skin prickled a bit as he let go of it. "Please. Be careful."
The old man seemed to sober up a bit as he held the piece of off white parchment, unfolding it gently. When his eyes rested on the lettering, his brow lifted. After less than a minute of glancing at it he turned back to Marcus. "M'boy, I have to say, I've never seen anything like this in my long life."
Marcus's heart sank. "Nothing?"
The old man shook his head. "It's beautiful writing, whoever did it. Very feminine. But we don't have a lot of languages around here, and I know the ones we do have, and this ain't it. Don't even resemble any ancient scripts."
The man offered it back to Marcus reluctantly with a slight look of remorse. When he got it back Marcus hurriedly placed it back into his pocket. "Do you at least have any idea of where I might look."
"My boy, I've been all over this world. Several times in fact. Across oceans and through kingdoms, in homes and prisons and palaces. And I swear I've never seen anything like that letter. Even the scent.... I've never smelled. That is a very unusual parchment you have there.... where did you get it, if you don't mind me asking?"
"In a bottle... on the beach. In a secluded place, far to the west."
"Fascinating. And you've come all the way out here seeking answers from a bottle you found on an ocean beach on the opposite side of the continent?"
"Any chance you would be willing to part with it?"
Marcus's hand flew to his chest pocket where the letter was kept. He heard a slight crinkle and immediately regretted the action. "N... no."
"Calm down boy, just askin. Such an unusual thing would be worth quite a bit to my kind, but don't worry, I'll not ask further. It's just that..."
The conversation was broken by the loud, piercing sound of a cymbal being battered continuously. Marcus looked up for a moment, then suddenly felt the surprisingly strong grip of the old man clamped to his forearm.
He looked down to the man, who had an intense look on his face. "It's the Gerudo, boy, you'd better hide boy because you'll never be able to outrun them."
Marcus looked around and saw the once cheerful crowds immediately dissipated. The young girls and the old folks immediately clutched for each other, scurrying back towards the tents, while the young men seemed gripped by terror. Some ran off towards the tents, others towards the darkness of the surrounding desert, while still others ran towards the source of the sound. In his bewilderment Marcus wanted to ask what was going on, but when he turned back towards the old man he found he was already gone.
Unsure of what to do with himself, Marcus decided to try sprinting in a random direction. Not ten paces into his flight he spotted another man in the distance trying his best to get away, when from out of the darkness a horse and rider in full sprint appeared. Due to the speed and darkness Marcus could barely make out their shapes, and in an instant all were gone, though the dwindling sound of a screaming man could be heard in the above the clamor.
Marcus swiveled on his good leg, unsure of what to do next, and realizing in his terror that he was completely visible in the surrounding torchlight. He heard another man scream in the distance, and then another. Finally, he decided to run for the tents, but as he turned around he was greeted by two women on horseback. One was so immediately intimidating that Marcus couldn't take his eyes off her... she was a tall woman with blazing red hair peppered by streaks of silver. She was an older woman, probably in her forties, with skin like stretched leather. Despite her age, however, her bared arms and midriff made it immediately apparent that if she wanted she could toss Marcus across the desert and back again.
"He is lame." The other woman stated dryly. "And thin and looks weak. Should we pass this one."
The intimidating woman smiled, her edges painted by cruelty. "No, I think this one will be perfect for Esmerelda. Capture him immediately."
Marcus was barely able to utter a sound before he felt a blunt blow on the back of his head, and things quickly went black.

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