Derak in the Scarlet City

A Dinner of Thoughts and Plans

Dozens of white candles bring a soft half-light in the large dining room of the Ruby Dancer. The tables are half-full. The people consist of mostly merchants of the upper-middle class: people doing well enough to spend some money but not high enough to attain the place among the Virtuous. Perhaps among them are few professionals of various arts and crafts, just like me.

I have always liked the Ruby Dancer. It is a classy inn in the Hillside district and is now managed by the third generation of inn-keepers. A place of fine dining, accommodation and activities, especially acts involving dancing and expressions of the human body.

A soft boom of a small silvery gong is heard, and the waiters emerge among the tables to serve the first course of the dinner. My waiter is a woman with curvy lips and red hair. She brings me sparrow and oysters in bitterish sauce. An excellent balance to clear the palate and wake the appetite.

It is weird how quickly one falls back into his old ways, even though almost everything has changed. I taste the sauce and sip the wine just like I have done countless times before. Yet where body and senses settle in with the old, the mind cannot.

I bade farewell to Chrysal quickly, filled with combination of shame, longing and confusion. She was right of course, there was no way for me to leave my past without confronting it first. Confiding to Chrysal was the first part, but not nearly enough. Now that I had resources, I must face my adversities head on, to re-establish my presence in the city at least long enough to get access to Mask Market and perhaps something worthwile to accomplish.

My day was long and arduous. I carried my belongings in broad daylight and in my own garb. Getting settled in Ruby Dancer was mundane affair, even though after calculating my remaining wealth it is obvious that I could only reside there somewhere around a month until my funds would run out. That is, unless I can find something to reverse the flow.

Next I went shopping. Before the afternoon was finished I had bought few attires for different occasions along with the every-day trivialities a member of the city folk would need. I decided to skip tailor-made clothes at least for now.

It was not long, until I was met with a boy, perhaps ten years old. His presence was as clear to me as was the rising of sun in the morning. I was noticed and a street urchin was set on my trail to see what I was up to. I dropped a copper penny in his dirty palm and smiled.

— You can deliver a message to your master. Derak the Easterner has returned from his long voyage.

Perhaps he was sent by Daag. Even if he was not, Daag would probably get the word before long.

I used the remaining hours of daylight in contemplation of my plans. Daag, or some of his “lieutenants” would probably send an invitation at some point, as he was a man who sought you out instead of letting anyone seek him. He could hold many answers to questions that lingered in my head, yet he would as surely bring new problems to the table as well.

I would need to do an another nightly journey to hide the chest with the black crystal in one of my stashes around the city. I trusted the staff at Ruby Dancer to some extent, but it was very clear that their professional expertise would go only so far in protecting my possessions.

The main course of the evening is sautéed veel with special sauce of The Ruby, kept as a secret for three generations. A spectacular ensemble to my taste buds, which had been suffering for the most part of the last year. I couldn’t help but to wonder the senseless in all of it, regardless of the great taste.

I would need to get started on my inquiries with the Mask Market. I reviewed my sketchy memories of the matter, which mostly consisted of fragmented discussions with Papak. Nonetheless I decided that my plan would be to visit a temple of the Cult of the Unbroken Circle. I was under the impression that they were somehow related to the information exchange in the city. I vaguely remembered Papak describing the cult as a philosophical sect that was trying to abolish hierarchies from the society. Among the countless cults in the city, this one was surely not winning any competitions of popularity. I distinctively remembered laughing at the very notion when Papak brought it up, but it was not like I had anything more substantial to begin with.

The dinner was slowly descending towards a grand dessert: a combination of a sweet pie with equally sweet wine to accompany it. I spoon the pie down with absent-mindedness that surely didn’t do credit for the quality of the experience.

If I wouldn’t have restrained myself, I would have contacted Chrysal already. But what was left of my pride and dignity fought back. I needed something substantial before I would go on to set up a meeting with her. I don’t want to be a whipped dog, groveling my way to her presence.

rolled a ‘4’

Hero dice 4, 4

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2 thoughts on “A Dinner of Thoughts and Plans

  1. I decided to take a goal die, based on two distinct things in this Go. Firstly Derak decided to go forward acting as himself (even if he was incited by Chrysal to do so). Secondly he has a concrete plan now, how to attack the goal of meaning and to do it through the cult Papak had mentioned dealing with information exchange.

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  2. This is a nice turn of events, and certainly moves the action along even as it gives us more insights into Derak’s state of mind.

    Responding to Petteri’s commentary elsewhere:

    I find this turn of events quite believable and in-character; no problems.

    However, it’s true that in terms of the flow of the story, this turn is very abrupt; the delay between turns (for those of us reading in real time) makes it much more palatable, but if I were reading this in one sitting, it probably would have been to have foreshadowed this or otherwise led into it more naturally.

    The double narrative and the contrast of the dinner to Derak’s thoughts worked well for me. The descriptions of the food are just the right balance of exotic, otherworldly, and familiar enough to appeal to the reader.

    It’s nice how Derak’s attitude to the food changes throughout the meal, giving us further insights into his state of mind.

    His feelings in Chrysal are also a little surprising, but that will work well so long a short it makes sense after the fact (later in the tale, we might find out how he got there, in other words).

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