(1312-02-08) Foreigners Gonna Foreign
Summary: One foreigner meets another on the pier.
RL Date: 1312-02-02
Related: None
andrei tancred 


Fortune laid the foundation for the grand port of Marsilikos; look how the arms of the land spread wide to embrace the setting of the sun, welcoming a bay of still waters rendered all the more peaceful by the presence of a small island to the south, on the flanks of which the waves cut themselves into powerless ripples as they move in from the sea. But whatever Fortune gave the d'Angelines their cunning and craft has improved to a hum of efficiency and culture. The natural bay has had its curved shores sharpened into straight edges bolstered with ridges of heavy stones on which the tides have left long mark when the waters are low, algae and barnacles hung onto the rugged stones. Then stone foundations have been piled out into the harbor to hold up wide wooden pillars and the great treated slats of the piers and boardwalks which extend into the bay, now at wider intervals for massive trading vessels, now at shorter intervals for private fishing and pleasure yachts.

The southern arm of the bay is reserved for the great southern fleet of the d'Angeline Royal Navy, which is headquartered here in Marsilikos, and is ever a hub of activity, the giant slips outfitted to haul the massive warships up into the air for repairs, while further inland on the southern peninsula a forest of masts rises into the air where new ships are being built and old ones repaired in full drydock. Between the naval slips and the drydock rises the stately edifice of the southern naval headquarters, glistening with huge latticed windows on the upper floors. Beyond the headquarters rises the massive fortified promontory of the Citadel, with bleached-white parapets and fluttering banners.

Markets and vendors throng the plaza at the innermost fold of the harbor where civilian and military seamen alike might find a bite to eat, supplies for their next mission, a good drink or a little bit of companionship. Far in the bay, that little isle sports a lofty lighthouse to guide the ships in by night.

It is a winter day. The weather is cool and flurrying.

There's more than one foreigner in this city, particularly at the docks and on the busy piers. No one would look twice just because some blond merchant in a coat of a foreign cut wanders past; except that there seems to be two of him. Two men, very much alike, stand for a while on the pier, discussing a shipment being unloaded. After a while, one of them heads off towards the city while the other remains standing, watching the shipment, tapping a silver-tipped walking stick against the cobblestones. He certainly has a north-eastern air about him, though he's entirely too soft of appearance to look Skaldi.

As it happens, there's an unusual abundance of foreigners at the port today - mostly working-class types instead of softer folks in better-cut garments. People from all over the region have never known the d'Angelines to be especially hospitable to aliens (except the sort who swim in a pool of gold coins at their keep and can easily afford the marques of several courtesans.) But that's not much different from other places, isn't it?

It's certainly not true for one certain Skaldi sat upon a mooring with a skewer of mystery meat he's snacking on. He has eschewed iron and steel today, wearing clothes typical of the local freedmen, sturdy and practical and colorful but otherwise unadorned. However, he does still wear his sword. He's staring off towards the sea, appearing lost in thought.

Perhaps its the unusualness of seeing a man in Skaldi attires on a pier in Marsilikos. More likely the fact that no one seems particularly eager to try to shove a sword or a spear in the man. In either case, the curiosity of the other foreigner, the soft looking one, is piqued and he wanders to stand behind the man. For a while he is silent though making no attempt to remain unnoticed. Eventually, though, he murmurs, "Well, you're certainly fair from home, mein Herr."

His accent isn't Skaldian but it is close. Somewhere along the border, perhaps, far north-east of here, down in the mountaineous regions.

The Skaldi does not immediately pose a response, but the statement snaps him out of his little daydream. His jaw works for a heartbeat and then he takes another bite from his skewer. There's no alert shift in his posture, so perhaps he doesn't get the feeling he's in danger. His movement remains languid as he rises to brush his right hand on his hose and turn around .. then look down. He does embody another aspect of the stereotype by being a veritable brick wall of a person.

When he finally replies, it is low and in d'Angeline: his grasp of the language is good, but heavily tainted by his origin. "Aye, that I am. Who asks?"

"Someone even more a stranger as he does not even dress the part yet," the other man replies good-naturedly. "But also someone who has heard nothing for a week and a half but 'we tolerate you because you fought the Skaldi'. I have no quarrel with you, mein Herr. I was simply surprised, given how the d'Angeline seem to swear by their hatred of your people."

"The hatred travels both directions," he rumbles back, taking another sliver of meat off the stick to chew, careful not to get anything stuck in his beard. He sizes the other man up briefly. "But it is strongest at the borders. The inner provinces of this land are somewhat less anxious - and our other tribes have other concerns. Here, it is a war many hear at the taverns and in books, but the veterans are fewer."

"And perhaps those who are not veterans all the more eager to speak of the enemy they wish they could fight, except that it might inconvenience them a little and perhaps dirty their fine coats?" The merchant's blue eyes glitter with amusement. He is unarmoured and indeed, carries no sword or other visible means of self defence; not as much as an armed guard hovering nearby. Only that walking stick which, possibly, could slap somebody across the fingers really hard. "But it is rude of me to speculate on another foreigner's reasons to visit Marsilikos without presenting my own. My name is Andrei Anghelescu. I am here to seek the advice of the city's fine chirurgeons and healers."

"It is the breechcloth that is likely soiled in such a case," the towering Skaldi observes with a hint of dispassion. "I am sure some of them will find war to their taste. It is not for everyone." By the way those brilliant blues look the merchant up and down, he seems to have decided Andrei sits firmly in the latter category. That, or it could be the mention of required healing. That one's probably more likely. He takes a small step forward, grunting. "Tancred, retainer to House Baphinol." He extends his hand, palm up, but shares : "I have heard myself the finest healers hail from Tiberium."

Anghelescu may dress soft but at least his grip is firm; he clasps the other man's hand not in the gentle touch fashion of a courtier but in that of one soldier to another, a grasp of underarms and a nod. "I'm not very familiar yet with the names and rankings of the noble houses of Terre d'Ange," he admits. "I'll venture to assume that it is a house of some importance. Tiberium is perhaps somewhere I might seek next if I find myself in no luck here."

"It is a house of this province and held in high esteem. The House has invited several skilled healers and doctors to stay here, sir," Tancred replies, his tune changing slightly, perhaps when he gets some impression there's a bit more to this stranger than he seems. Still, he remains overall relaxed. "You may want to write to the house - I am headed directly by the Baronesse de Monteaux, Louna Baphinol, who is one of those that had made such arrangements." He exhales slightly. "Many are said to come to Terre d' Ange for healing of the spirit as well."

I think that might perhaps be reaching a little high for a foreigner of little consequence," the other man muses. "Though I must admit that the gentry here seems — more approachable than in many places I have had the fortune of travelling through. Perhaps it is the seaport that makes them more curious towards strangers?"

He falls silent a moment, looking at a merchantman slowly gliding towards the pier until eventually, she bumps against it and dock workers hurry to catch her ropes and moor her safely. "We have no ocean in the Chowat," the merchant says eventually. "I am fascinated to no end by it. Sailors at the inn yonder " he nods at the Kraken's door to the street " tell me that great wars are fought at sea. I wonder whom they fight."

"They will not hang you for sending them a friendly message," he notes, taking the last bit of meat off the skewer before discarding it off the edge and into the water. "The higher one goes, the more restraint you will need, but I have found many tolerant, if not approving of me. There are a few who take exception." The other foreigner likely knows at least one. He tucks his thumbs into his belt, gaze growing a little distant at the mention of the ocean. "The sea is all at once fell and terrible and deathly, but as joined with a sailor close as his own spouse, and with the storm his fated enemy. More sailors fall to wind and rain than a pirate's blade." He shrugs one shoulder slightly. "I had spent several years aboard before now. There, they cared less of my blood if I knew my knots."

"I should not be surprised to learn that when at the whims of sea and pirates and weather, one learns to appreciate any man who can and will wield a blade or tie a proper knot," Anghelescu agrees. "Not unlike a company of soldiers trapped behind the lines in enemy land, I suspect. I have never been to sea. For all I know, I might prove myself a complete embarrassment, spending my time out there hanging over the railing."

He glances curiously back to the large Skaldi. "Pray tell, are you an acquaintance, perhaps, of a Lord Fenris? I gathered that he is d'Angeline of birth but spent time in your country. I had the… shall we say, memorable experience of watching him receive a verbal dressing down from a lady that would have made me contemplate a quick retreat."

"Seasickness often deserts one in a fortnight, except in the harshest waves. But not many will brave it so long by choice. Many are impressed." Tancred folds his arms in front of his broad chest, offering a nod and slight grunt of assent to his first statement. But the second has him lift his chin slightly.

"I have not met him in the flesh, except for glimpses, sir. But some of his exploits are familiar to me, though I am uncertain whether he would receive me well. He is the lover and consort of the Baronesse Louna's husband, Gregoire, and is forbidden from stepping foot in the manse for now." Probably quite a sentence for a non-d'Angeline to swallow.

The Carpathian raises his eyebrows in surprise, then nods. "Ah. I am still familiarising myself with d'Angeline customs, mein Herr. I'll admit, I had not imagined a consort of a man to be — another man. Love as thou wilt, that is what they say, I suppose. Impressive warrior from what I saw — but no match for the tongue of the Lady Philomène. But in fairness, neither am I."

"Abhorrent practices, by the standard of many tribes of Skaldia. It remains strange to me, though I raise no objections to neither his inclination nor their open consorting." Save for a hint of distaste in the lip, but Tancred hides that rather well. "But, love as thou wilt," he repeats the platitude, "I have found at times it is pleasant." His head turns again, over to the side. "The Lady has fairly earned her reputation. Her tongue remains sharp, even if now her body cannot quite keep up. She is said to have been formidable in youth." The head turn is undone, and he regards the Carpathian. "Would you have challenged her then?"

"A man subjecting himself to another man would not be spoken well off in the Chowat either," Anghelescu murmurs. "But indeed — as long as I am neither man, I consider myself the judge of no one."

He chuckles at the idea of issuing a challenge to the Dowager Vicomtesse and lets his blue gaze wander to the waves once more before replying, "A week ago I would not have conceived of the idea of raising a sword against a woman. Now, though? I have no desire to take arms against her — I rather like her. However, she's a brash one and I would not be surprised to find myself opposite of her on the field some day. I would do her that honour, then." And with a trace of wryness he adds, "Small honour as it would be. I'm a foreigner of poor health, she'd wipe the floor with me in a matter of minutes. But you get the gist, I'm sure."

"The Lady's health is little better than yours, and you are younger. The last foreigner she had seen fit to challenge punctured her lung, sir. I would not write it off so quickly, and I have a shadow of doubt she is much more inclined to deal with your sword after you have shown you know how to use it." Tancred remains straight-faced, save for a sec spared working his jaw. "And women like that favor men at least as bold as themselves, I would wager. Though I cannot say I have ever lost to any woman I have fought," says he gifted with numerous physical advantages.

"I can't say I ever have fought a woman," Anghelescu murmurs. "That said, I hope to win her friendship — not her bedroom key." He is a tall man, but his stature is far more slender than the Skaldi's — a whippet hound next to a bear. "That does seem to be the national pastime of the d'Angeline, doesn't it? I think I have seen more young peacocks trying to impress young ladies this week past than in a decade previous. Not to mention the same young ladies trying to convince me that I need more courtesans in my life."

"What is a friend, but a lover that you don't bed?" Tancred opines in turn, broad shoulders hefted in a brief shrug. "It is the pastime of the young in all lands, sir, though some more overt than others. Deft fighting and lurid drama take away from the boredom and grant a taste of fame, and in some ways I understand why it is sought even if I myself am happier to observe." The mention of courtesans has him ask the Carpathian pensively : "Have you yet visited the Temple of Naamah, sir?"

Anghelescu blinks. "Can't say I'd heard that expression before. I suppose there is some truth to it, mein Herr." Then he shakes his head as he replies, "I have not. I have visited the Coquelicot — a lady there attempts to treat my injuries and from what I am seeing, she is a quite skilled herbalist. I follow a different faith than the d'Angeline, and I'll admit that I feel rather awkward about the idea of traversing their holy grounds."

"I do not follow their faith, but their temples are open for many. Naamah's temple is a gathering ground for common and blueblood - noble - alike, and it has a bathhouse of warm water and heated stones where many visit. I have gone there myself, and seen lords and ladies and courtesans and others mingling. Perhaps you will find it to your liking." The Skaldi raises his hand to his neck and cracks it side to side.

"That does make sense. I may take your advice." The more slender man considers this for a moment, and then nods before his gaze once more traverses the heavier man. "How rude would I be if I were to ask what prompts a Skaldi to come to this southern nation to begin with? Every Skaldi I have known in the past would consider these people soft and decadent. Most Chowatti would as well, at least in the borderlands."

"They are soft and decadent," he agrees, not even denying it, "Though there is more to them than there seems, or else long ago Skaldia would have overrun the land." That does seem to sting his pride slightly, though he shakes it off with a grunt. "For that, at least, they are worth respecting, and if not for that, at least for the fine features of their women." He gazes off into the distance for a second, then offers the smaller man a slightly guarded answer : "Many circumstances have made it difficult for me to return home, and the station given me here is higher than I would have deserved in my birthplace."

The other man nods, deciding to not poke further; he may be a curious sort but it appears he has at least some tact. "I'll say, their women are very beautiful. If I had come here for a wife, I might have found myself hard pressed when it came to decide which lady to pursue." And, with a wry smile he adds, "And, of course, I would have found myself quite disappointed to learn of their resentment for foreigners. My mother was d'Angeline. I am starting to wonder how my father lured her to the Chowat exactly."

"A skilled tongue?" Is Tancred making a jest? It's rather hard to tell. "Their women are special, and not only in their loveliness. It is said that when they come of age, they must light a candle and pray to one of the angels at the temple to open their womb." He leaves a pause there, presuming that the other man needs a pause for shock. "Otherwise they cannot conceive. It is why there are few baseborn in the land, though they spend half their hours abed."

Anghelescu blinks, again. He really is new to Terre d'Ange, that much is blatantly obvious. After a moment he cedes, "Well, that really does explain a lot. Still, good on them — at least their faith directs them to pleasant pursuits rather than self-flagellation or sitting atop pillars in deserts. Or endless border wars."

"No, it does not stop them," he shuts that idea down just like that - with candor and without malice, "Though they suffer less troubles of that sort. Sir, as you are a man of some standing, here you stand lesser chances of siring a bastard that will sail home to claim his birthright in several decades." The big Skaldi slowly moves to sit back on the mooring post, watching a fishing boat this time begin to head in, done for the day.

Anghelescu braids his gloved fingers behind his back, walking stick under one arm. "There's another easy way to avoid that," he says drily. "In any case — you seem like an amicable fellow, and if I may say so, perhaps one who is closer to my own ways of thinking than most of these d'Angeline. If you find yourself idle some evening, I have come to enjoy taking a glass of the local burnwine at the Kraken over there. I'd be delighted to have company when it suits. Company in particular that does not appear to wonder whether I wish to bed it."

"Those easy ways can be less satisfying," muses the Skaldi. Well-familiar with the place in question, he turns in his seat to look in its direction. "I am amenable to this. My duties are light and free this day, after I had tilted in the morning, so I will be able to join you."

Anghelescu wisely decides to not engage in a debate of innuendos on the virtues of what his faith considers self defilement contra what the native faith here considers a proper education for a young girl; and with a Skaldi at that. There's being out of your depth, and there's being so far up a creek without a paddle that even the magpies give up and go home. Instead, he nods and inclines his head for the other man to wander along if he pleases. "Let not the day grow older before I get to sit down and have something to take the chill out of my bones. This country may be at the warm sea, but it certainly feels cold enough."

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