Mysha had hoped that the smell of fish would weaken when she finally got off the boat; to her disappointment however, it seemed like she had tracked it to its source. The town of Pashni was small, as predicted, and dirty as her father had warned; but as Mysha wanders, eyes wide, from the ship to the shore, she can’t suppress the excitement welling up from within. She is really here. She has crossed the Uzki Strait. She has reached The Continent. Her wonderment is interrupted by a particularly large chev pushing past and almost knocking her over; he eyes Mysha curiously for just a moment before continuing. Mysha realises that she must stand out somewhat. Added to the fact that she is small, even for a Yansk, she is still wearing the travelling clothes specially made by her mother back home; a deep, blue cloak over a white tunic with red stitching; red and yellow flowers sewn into the shoulders and cuffs. A stark contrast to the leather and wool in black, brown and grey the local populace seemed to prefer. Like most yansk, her fur was light grey, her tail thin; looking around and the bustling dock she can tick off every chev stereotype she’d ever heard; most were brown or black furred, with deformed ears, grating voices and thick, lazy tails. “Whiskers like wire and teeth like shards of glass” was what her Nana would say. The chev’s milling about here about seemed even bulkier even than Ulf, the one chev Mysha had ever known. He was the postmaster back home and was usually in a bad mood. Mysha was sorry to say that she was scared of him. But being here, now, surrounded by chevs and hundreds of kilometres from home, Mysha is more excited than terrified.
Besides, the captain of Mysha booked her passage on is a chev, and he had been nice enough. In fact, he’d recommended a place to stay. Didn’t know much about trade caravans, but he knew that The Tidy Corner was a decent place to get a night’s sleep. And where to find it. With his directions Mysha began to navigate the town. She managed pretty well, only becoming a little lost because she kept stopping to look around. If she was honest she would say that Pashni looked very much like Fisha, the town in Hamlin she embarked from. The big difference was that Pashni was on The Continent, and that made all the difference. She eventually found her destination however. It is the largest building on the main street at two-stories high. It has wide glass windows flanking the door, but they are so caked with old mud and dust that it’s impossible to see anything through them. A wooden sign swings from a bracket above the door; it has a picture of a flagon, a bed and a haunch of meat on it. Nowhere is The Tidy Corner named, but this is the place as described, Mysha was certain.
Stepping inside, it takes some moments for Mysha’s eyes to adjust. When they do, she stops cold. The creature behind the bar was, in a word, hideous. Mysha can’t help but wince a little as she steps carefully toward it. She assumes it’s smiling, but it’s hard to tell with its face flattened out as it is. It was taller than any chev she’d seen, and its fur was all on the top of its head. Its skin is dark and, in this light, it looks wet. When it speaks its voice is low, and Mysha is surprised that it is speaking Yazik, “Afternoon little one. What can I get you?” Mysha is so stunned that she is momentarily silent. The creature continues, “Just here for a drink, or looking for a room?”
Mysha shakes away her hesitation, “Uh, a room. Thankyou.”
The creature indicates a stool at the bar, and Mysha realises that she is standing in the middle of the tavern. She takes his offer and seats herself at the bar. The closer view of the creature doesn’t improve it.
“How long are you expecting to stay?”
Mysha barely registers the question, no longer able to contain herself, “You’re a human, aren’t you?”
It doesn’t miss a beat in responding, “Yes. You fresh off the boat from Hamlin?” Mysha nods in response, the human’s smile widens, “Well, nice to meet you. I’m the first human you’ve seen?” Again, Mysha nodded. “They get better,” the human laughs. Mysha hadn’t expected to see any humans this side of the Divide. All of the stories she’d heard about them came rushing back. She had never believed the ones from Nana; tales about long-armed troll-like creatures that leaped on chev children and gobbled them up. What little her father spoke about them seemed much more reasonable; lazy and unruly, with a penchant for violence. Not evil, but they didn’t share the industrious nature, nor the natural intelligence, of the Yansk. Even chevs had more potential than humans, being children of The Great Owl and therefore kin to the Yansk. Maybe back in their homeland things were different but the humans on The Continent, shipped there to fight a failed war, now survived only by sucking the begrudging teat of their Elvish overlords.
“So, just one night?” It is the human talking.
“I’m not sure. I’m looking to travel. To see more of The Continent. Hoping to hop on with a caravan. Do you know when they leave?”
The human cocked his head as if he’d just forgotten how to speak Yazik, “You’re, uh, just going to jump in with a caravan and wander?” Mysha nodded.
“You really are a freshie. How old are you…” He draws out his question, prompting Mysha to relate her name, “Mysha, ok. How old are you Mysha?”
“Almost 20.” She was 17. The human casts his eyes around the inn, indicating the space with his hand, “This is the nicest place in Pashni; and Pashni is the nicest place this side of The Divide.” The smell of fish was suddenly very apparent again and Mysha too looks about. The room is dark, despite it being midday outside. The few lit candles seemed to cast more shadow than light. There is another smell too; something stale. On one wall an old deer head is mounted; it has been stuffed, poorly. A mix of tables of various heights and shapes are strewn at random around the room, with odd amounts of chairs nearby. A sleeping chev rests his head on one of the tables, murmuring to himself. Mysha’s heart sinks a little. A key clatters to the bar in front of her.
“That’s the only guest room that locks Mysha. I assume it’s the one you’ll be wanting.” Mysha picks up the key slowly, suddenly feeling very small. The human continues, “Chev named Rumney usually has a caravan leave at the start of the month. He’s got an office on the dock. Best bet for a ride outta here.” The human pauses, considering his next words, “Fella named Solgrim has an office at the docks as well. He can book you a passage home. If you need it.”
Mysha has a little to eat before heading up to her room; it’s chev food, but the human cooks ok. The room is the last one at the end of the hall on the second floor. Mysha realises that she’s never been on the second floor of a building before, but for some reason the excitement doesn’t come. Her room is simple, but livable, and Mysha locks the door behind her after entering. Through the window Mysha can see all the way back to the docks. Three ships sit offshore, waiting to take goods and passengers back to Hamlin.
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