Making of a Realm

The Fort, the Lizards and the Crazy Hermit

(a page out of the journal of Ameno Uzume)

4713, Autumn

Autumn is here (or as locals call it, Fall. I suppose it has something to do with the fact that "leaves fall" during this time of year). So far, I must confess, it's the season I love most in the Greenbelt. When I lived in Minkai I loved Spring, in no small part due to the cherry blossoms. Here… well. It's just not the same. But Autumn, now that was a surprise for me. The verdant landscape gave way to a palette of brown, orange and golden hues. The weather is still good enough to go out without wrapping yourself in a blanket, and it's nice to see the carpets of leaves covering everything, like tatami mats covering beaten dirt ground.  

We'll still have good weather for exploring and according to all evidence, Fumidai will do well during the following Winter, which leaves me very happy. At Council today, we looked over the state of our crops and granaries and everything seems better than could be expected. 

Of course, we also raised the issue of our dear friend Grigori. I sent the dissent-spreading bard packing, but the issue remained with us. Monkey – being Monkey – decided to follow him after he left the duel. He followed him right out of Fumidai and away before realizing he was journeying too far from the city. So whomever Grigori ran to, it wasn't close by. 

And we are sure he ran to someone. What possible interest could Grigori have to raise unrest in Fumidai? We all agree that there is more to this, all we need to understand is what, and who benefits from spreading chaos in our realm. Our first guess, of course, was our neighbors. The other groups that set off to explore the Stolen Lands the same as us. Lord Garress thinks this is a very real possibility: from what he's been hearing, and out of the four original parties, we seem to be well ahead of our competition. Akiros, however, believes this must be the work of the River Lords. And Oleg thinks noble house of Brevoy…

Nagata will consult with his "birdies" as he's taken to call the dead-drop information box, and we'll see what he brings back.   

Takeshi also brough up the subject of offering the vacant Marshal position in our Council to Turgut. He thinks the hobgoblin would be perfect for the job. I saw a few odd faces around the table, ranging from amusement to disbelief, but the more Bear spoke about it, the more convinced the rest of the Council seemed. So Takeshi will offer him the job sometime soon. In fact, when last we left Turgut, he was being dragged off to the Flowing Silver for drinks with the folk from Fumidai. I think they wouldn't be contrary to the idea. 

As for us, we'll be doing some more… "gallivanting" (sidenote: I did look up the word and it means very much what I thought it might. On hindsight maybe I shouldn't have sent Grigori packing. I should've brought him along to "gallivant" with us for a while, see how he liked it…) to unknown territory in the meantime. 

Takeshi was hoping he would be able to find Turgut before we left, but predictably, the druid is no longer in Fumidai. Takeshi believes he might have decided to pay a visit to Lady Tiressia, so that's where we'll be headed first. 

*

As it turns out, Lady Tiressia did see Turgut: he came to visit her shortly after we brought him to Fumidai. She was pleasantly surprised to make his acquaintance. I recall we discussed several issues with Turgut for the time he accompanied us in our travels, and one such was the same subject we discussed with Tiressia: something amiss within the First World. The dead unicorn and the fleeting displacement we witnessed on the marsh. The Lady and Turgut also spoke at length about the issue, and Turgut is off investigating what he can. We presented our idea to bring Turgut into Council and she agrees he would be a valuable asset. She'll even forward a message to him, asking him to be in Fumidai in time for our next Council. 

We even got permission to spend the night at her grove safely before setting off to explore! It's much preferrable than camping in the wild. Camping is never safe, despite the fact I know Monkey (and Bear, now more than ever, since he won't be needing to sleep more than two hours a night) are watching over the rest of the group. I spent most of the evening reading from my journal and retelling our adventures to her. 

As we were leaving the grove the following morning, Nagata broached another subject that's been giving him grief: all the lizardfolk we left at the fortified island when we collected Thig Tannersen. He feels the lizardfolk will be trouble sooner or later, and would like to take care of them before they decide to take care of us. Takeshi agrees – we'll see to it when we're returning from this expedition. 

So we set off once more. Six hours into our search we found what looks like the start of a river. Not very far off we could see what looked like a stone outpost – elven, judging from what detail we could make out above the treetops. The outpost was obviously abandoned for long but seemed mostly whole. Nagata took to the ground and said there were no tracks of relevance to be found here. 

Before making a bee line for the place we went around it, ensuring nothing evil, upset or hungry was in the vicinity. As we went, most eyes were trained on the ruins, trying to get more details. The outpost was once apparently composed of four watchtowers connected by tall, thick, crescent-shaped walls, making for a mostly round structure overall. At the center, a larger tower rose up to well above the treetops. As we went around we found one of the crescent-shaped outer walls had collapsed, providing a place of entry. Takeshi couldn't tell if time had crumbled this wall or if it was due to some form of attack, but whatever took it also did a job on one of the four watchtowers: it seemed crumbled into rubble from out there. If not for the taller, central tower we might have missed the place altogether. Vines covered most of the building and walls, effectively blending it into the surroundings. 

Of course, the Ameno family could never resist a ruin, so we decided to stop and investigate. 

While there was a gate, closed fast by sturdy wooden doors, we went in through the breached wall, which brought us to a courtyard overgrown with weed – in some places as tall as my waist (sidenote: which isn't saying much, it means most of the others had underbrush up to their legs). Instead of accompanying us as we tried to pass over the rubble, Monkey climbed up the wall beside us to get a bird's eye view of the place. Even as Nagata rejoined us down here to say that all seemed clear, Oksana approached the central tower and took to the air to try and peep inside through one of the muderholes. She said it was dark inside – so dark she couldn't make anything out. 

From the inside of the fort, we could tell all the watchtowers had their own door for access, but there were a few differences between them. The newest-looking one was on the southeast tower, we could tell it even without Takeshi's engineering expertise confirming it. The northwest watchtower also had a door, but it was almost impossible to make it out beneath all of the vines choking the building – and amongst those vines also were humanoid skulls, seemingly entwined in the vegetation, in an almost decorative manner. The northeast tower had no roof, and judging by what little we could see through the windows, its insides had collapsed, leaving it almost a hollow silo. The last of the watchtowers was gone altogether, collapsed long ago. 

As for the central tower, two arches opened into it, and peeking inside we could see a wide, round chamber with a vaulted ceiling and a stone stairway leading up. Frescoes depicting elves at hunt or play once decorated the inside walls, but they were so faded we could hardly make them out. Well, at least that's how I described it to the group – it was dark inside, with light filtering through the entrances but reaching very little into the actual chamber. Oksana told us she believed there was some magical darkness effect at play on the upper levels, which kept her from making out what's inside. 

We tentatively walked inside the central tower first, but just as soon as we went in, Nagata demanded everyone leave again – he had spotted something amiss. We rushed back outside once again, with Nagata at the back of the line to make sure everybody left safely. Just as he was about to vacate the chamber as well, a whoosh of purple mist spread from nowhere and filled the chamber – Monkey left in the nick of time! I looked at Oksana for clarification and she said that from the whiffs she was getting, it was likely poisonous gas. 

Once the gas had dissipated, Nagata told us all to stay put while he searched for more… "surprises". And he said it in a way such that nobody begged to disagree. Once he gave us an assurance the place was cleared we returned inside and made our way upstairs, with Monkey taking point and myself closing the line. The climbing took a while – it was a very tall tower – but of a sudden we stopped, and I heard Takeshi talking to someone, asking what they were doing here. And just afterwards I heard the naginata's blade cutting the air, which told me there was combat at the top of the stairs! In front of me, Oksana began chanting a spell, and even if I couldn't see from my position, I knew there was trouble. As I reached for the shamisen to begin playing, I heard a sibbilating voice above calling: "Defend me!", it demanded. I didn't know what was going on, but began playing anyway, even as Oksana in front of me finished her chanting and threw a snowball into the room. A raspy voice responded by uttering a curse of idiocy at her – which landed straight in Oksana's indifference, and rolled away harmlessly. 

Once it was over and the line moved up, I managed to put together what had happened, more or less. The stairs ended in a great circular chamber, about forty feet tall and with a grand skylight. On the floor lay what looked like an elven woman in a flowing white dress – she was dead. Takeshi told me of how Nagata and him had spotted her from the top of the stairs, and before much conversation could ensue, he muttered a prayer to Shizuru to look upon this creature and call it out for what it was. And to his eyes, she glowed with an aura of evil. Somehow, the woman realized he knew, and at once began dancing, putting an enchantment on Nagata and bidding him to defend her from the rest of us! It might have worked on Nagata, but Takeshi was unimpressed, and fortunately he and Oksana managed to take the woman down swiftly. I don't know what we'd do if Nagata, dazed as he was by the enchantment, was to turn against us. (sidenote: well I suppose I do – Oksana would have to try to make him sleep before he hurt us or we hurt him!

Taking a close look at the woman, her resemblance to an elf seemed to be fading somewhat, and Oksana is sure this was some kind of evil fey. A lot of elven-looking statuary and clothing sat in this chamber, and we took the lighter pieces to sell. We'll have to return for the rest at a later date. It's early in the expedition and we don't want to risk getting overencumbered. (sidenote: it's bad enough walking about in the wild, let alone walking about in the wild with cargo… I can't really complain, though, as collecting junk has earned us a fair amount of coin so far. In fact, most of our finances depend on an old local adventuring proverb that claims that if a given piece is not attached to the floor, it should be picked up and sold elsewhere. Taxation in Fumidai goes right into the state coffers. Our own pockets depend on "appropriating" unneeded gear and objects.)

Returning to the courtyard we decided to continue our exploration with the northwest tower – the one with the vines and skulls. Getting to the door wasn't easy. The vines were almost like rubber, and pulling them away required quite some chopping, tugging and cursing. It became all the more frustrating when we finally cleared the door and couldn't open it, as it seemed barred from within. Oksana once again took to the air and tried to peek through a murderhole, telling us that the inside seemed to have collapsed as well, and become overgrown with vines from the inside as well as the outside. I asked that she took me up to have a look myself, and I noticed something odd. The vines on the inside seemed almost alive. I could swear on Shizuru's golden katana that they moved even as I looked at them. Returning to the ground, I told my brothers I suspected this were assassin vines, and that the skulls outside were not decorative, they were remains of meals. For the time being, we decided to leave it well enough alone. At a later date, we'll return to clear it out. 

So instead, we crossed the courtyard to see the southeastern tower. The one with the newest door. And up close, there was no question: the original door had been replaced. Which told us, of course, someone dwelled here. Perhaps the lady upstairs?

With a scare already under his belt, Nagata checked for traps before we tried to open it. When he found it clear, he simply turned the knob and threw it. And indeed, the chamber inside was furnished and appeared to be lived in, but whatever lived in here wasn't good. The first image I got from the inside was of a wall covered up to the ceiling with hair, bloody scalps in many stages of stiffness someone had simply nailed to the wall. From the size of the furniture I could tell it was someone small, smaller even than me – so it was not the abode of the lady upstairs for sure. But if not her, who could have done this?

Just as I was about to open my mouth and share my reasoning, Oksana yelped behind me, and I turned on my heels to look at her, just in time to see a flash of green rushing behind the central tower, and Oksana clutching a wound on her flank! She yelled it was a quickling – a kind of evil fey that moves faster than the eye can see, and it had rushed at her from behind her back, stabbed at her, and ran away again. Nagata stood in the doorway, his eyes scouting for the green flash, and Takeshi and I got ready to go into action. Still nursing the nasty wound, Oksana went airborne, but told us she couldn't see it. The creature had, for all intents and purposes, vanished

So Monkey tried to call it out, yelling into the courtyard that if the thing wanted its room intact, it better show its face. We waited quietly for a reply, and one came, giddily saying he'd get it back eventually. Takeshi rushed in the direction of the sound, but his lunge hit only empty air. 

From this, we began a game of cat and mouse with the quickling – every now and then we'd see the green flash that told us he was close by, and tried to catch it to no avail. As I waited for the flash to hint at where the thing was I felt a piercing pain to my side, and realized it had gotten behind me! I turned in time to see the flash – and I began to feel sickly. It occurred to me that the blade must be poisoned, infected with disease, or both! When he got away from me Takeshi swung at him and was almost sure the blade had hit, but it did nothing to slow it down! 

Of course, there were four of us, and (at least as far as we knew) one of him. We simply had to be patient, careful, and wait in ambush. Takeshi told me to lean on the watchtower wall to make sure the thing couldn't get to my back, and waited. Once the green flash was visible we went at it with everything we had, being ready to spring to it as soon as we saw it. Finally, and after nearly an hour of tense hide-and-seek, the quickling met its end at the edge of a naginata. We took down the scalps, Takeshi said a prayer for the lost souls, and we burned the lot of them. 

I was still feeling a little woozy by the time we were done, but didn't complain. Oksana told me I'd be okay, and there was still a tower to see to the northeast. This one was almost completely destroyed and hollow. The inside gave out and pooled on the bottom of the tower, in a heap of broken stone. Amongst the stones we found some bodies, mostly old and in various states of decay. Most of them weren't whole, but the… aff… head count… told us between sixteen and eighteen people had perished here. At first I thought that they might have died when the tower collapsed, but Takeshi disagreed. He said there was too much of a time difference between the state of the bodies and the state of the stones. Likely these were the poor owners of the scalps in the quickling's den. But why would he toss them here?

And suddenly I was covered in rats. 

Yes, rats.

Lots of them.

All over me.

So many rats.

(sidenote: when I am a venerable old lady writing my memoirs for posterity, there are of course moments that will not be mentioned, even though they happened. I intend to tell the truth of our adventures and nothing but, but omitting is not lying. And I will certainly omit the moment when I was standing next to an ungodly amount of dead bodies and a wave of hungry rats swallowed me, biting and scratching and trying to make me the next meal. I know, when I put it like that it sounds like an exciting peril. What's not so exciting is Ameno Uzume, Grand Diplomat of Fumidai, running about like a headless chicken shouting "GET'EM OFF! GET'EM OFF! GET'EM OFF! GET'EM OFF!", waving her arms and doing the "I-have-vermin-in-my-clothes" dance. I would very much like to outlive the tale of this lovely moment, thank you.)

So let us just say we dealt with the rats by way of Oksana's thundercloud and the last charges of my wand of burning hands. Keeping in mind I was swimming in rats at the time I used it, I think my aim was true enough to get the brunt of them off me, so Takeshi could then unceremoniously collect me from their midst (sidenote: or rather, grab me by an arm and yank me away while I waved the spent wand every which way I thought I saw a rat) and let the thundercloud finish the work. 

Once we had all calmed down (sidenote: once I had stopped screaming), we took some time to dig a common grave outside and give all of these poor people a decent burial. By the time we were done covering the hole, daylight was fleeting. We walked away from the abandoned outpost and made camp by the river's edge. Night was, fortunately, uneventful – a good thing because between the poison, the hide-and-seek game with the quickling and running around screaming for a quarter hour, I was exhausted. 

(sidenote: as soon as I return to Fumidai I will take the mother of all hot baths in creation. I feel pasty from exertion, I smell like rat and the expedition isn't over yet.)

We continued the expedition towards marshlands, which very quickly approached the "swamp" description with everything it implies – watery ground, foul smells and mosquito clouds. It's good to see that things may change, but Monkey is still Monkey, and the quickest way to find trouble is to ask him to find us a place to camp. On one of these nights, while he was looking for a place to sleep, he interrupted two mating monitor lizards we then had to fight off. (sidenote: in the lizards' defense, we walked in on them…

On another such nights, while we were sleeping, a herd of river elks ran by us. Well, not exactly by – more like over. I curled into a ball in my sleeping bag and prayed to Shizuru not to have my head crushed by a hoof, but when the herd had passed, we were alright. Sleeping again that night was out of the question, but we were alright. 

On yet another occasion we awoke in the morning to find all of our equipment had been moved. Namely, I woke to find my shamisen not next to my sleeping bag, but atop a tree. It was harmless enough, likely good fey playing around. I asked Monkey if he could go up and retrieve it, but Oksana ended up flying to get it, as Monkey woke up to find himself dressed in her silken ceremonial and was trying to take it off. 

Fun times in the wilderness!

I don't think these will make the final cut of my memoirs, either. 

*

As we moved further south in the expedition, we began to find firmer ground, and (finally) leaving the marsh behind. It was on the 8th day since we'd left Tiressia's grove that we came upon a very large mound of dead trees and fallen branches, forming numerous cave-like hollows that could only be the lairs of some kind of creature. Almost like a beaver dam on solid ground. We explored warily, with Takeshi taking point, wondering what kind of beast had built it. Considering also that every few feet we found either bones or pieces of junk, we could tell we were wise to thread carefully. 

As we turned around the trunk of a large tree we finally saw the beast that dwelt here. I imagine that it was somehow related to crocodiles – the general shape of it was similar, with the difference it didn't so much crawl with its belly to the ground as galloped like a dog or a horse, and it lacked the elongated head of the crocodile. It still boasted a mouth filled with large teeth, and spikes covered part of its cuirass. A hodag was resting by the largest lair hollow. So that lumberjack, as drunk as he might've been the night he spotted it, was right!

The creature got up as soon as it saw us, and closed the distance between itself and us in a heartbeat. I began playing even as my brothers ran past me towards it. The hodag caught Monkey first, biting and scratching him, but failing to catch him between its maw. Before Takeshi could strike, Oksana snapped her fingers and told the creature to sleep – and the hodag very obediently dropped on the ground slumbering. Then it was a matter of putting a blade to its neck, and putting it out of its misery.

Very anticlimactic, but I'm getting used to that. Oksana's sleeping spell (sidenote: she corrects me every time: it's a hex, whatever that is…) Nagata took the time to chop off the head so we could take it back as proof that the lumberjack had told the truth, and that the matter had been dealt with. 

Three days after we had felled the hodag, we began to take a turn on our expedition to head towards Fumidai while exploring as much ground as possible. So far we've been southbound, and now we're taking a slight turn eastward. As Takeshi pointed out on the map, we'll curve towards Fumidai once more, and ensure we are home in good time to get out matters in order and attend Council. 

As we were walking an area not overly far from the place where we collected Thig, Takeshi called for a halt. I peeked beside him, thinking he might had seen something ahead on the road, but everything seemed quiet to me. In Minkaian, he told us he suspected we were about to be ambushed, while at the same time pointing at random things on the side of the road to make it look like we had stopped to admire the trees. I know Takeshi feels comfortable speaking to the group in our native tongue now – Oksana spent much of the past year teaching me her language, and in turns I taught her ours, so we can communicate unimpeded when necessary. (sidenote: her accent is horrifying and hokey and there's little to do but practice to correct it, but I suppose I probably sound to her like I have something stuck in my throat when I speak in Skald…)

Nagata asked Takeshi (again, pointing at a tree and sounding much more pleasant than the situation demanded) what he'd seen, and Takeshi (making gestures towards the treetop as if he wanted to build a treehouse on it) said not to look now, but over ahead, where a group of boulders and broken logs sat beside the road, he was sure he'd seen a lizardfolk skulking in wait. They likely hadn't spotted us yet, but he wasn't taking any chances. Oksana pointed out (making some kinds of round gestures towards the tree as if she wanted to wrap it in wool) that we're not that far from where we collected Thig, so maybe this is the hunting party of braves we left behind on the lair. 

So we decided to ambush the ambushers. 

I told Nagata to pass behind Takeshi and make as if he would be going up the tree. I can render him invisible for a spell and he can approach them from behind without a problem. He whispered where he planned to be, I cast my spell, and he vanished away. Then we all walked happily toward the tree, only to go around it and sneak behind the ambushing party – true enough, Takeshi had been right. Several lizardfolk braves were waiting for someone to go down the road here, ready to pounce. Wether they were waiting for our return, or simply hunting travellers, it matters very little. They weren't leaving this place. 

Takeshi called upon the prayers of Shizuru and charged in first, moving closer enough that he could be seen, and waiting for the lizardfolk to come meet their demise. I began playing, and Oksana summoned her cloud. When the lizardfolk were wary to approach Takeshi I began insulting them, viciously enough that, like before, they caught on fire. Caught between my fire and Oksana's lightning, one dropped right away. As the rest ran towards us, Takeshi began picking them off, one by one. Two managed to close in, one stumbling and missing his attack, and the other landing a vicious blow on Bear. 

Then Nagata materialized behind the group and began picking off the slowest of the lot, the wakizashi dancing in his hands. One by one, the lizardfolk fell, caught between the furious blades of the wakizashi, the devastating naginata, catching on fire and being struck by lightning. The combat didn't last very long – the last remaining survivor managed to get past Takeshi to take a slash at me, and got yelled at so viciously I must say, he spontaneously combusted into a tower of flames. 

We counted the dead foes once the battle was done, and tried to recall how many we had left behind in the fort. We couldn't very well remember how many there were the last time we were there – we left in a hurry after defeating their fake god, before the lizardfolk decided they wanted to take us out because of it. As I recall we were in bad shape from the battles inside their compound, and couldn't afford to stay and fight those many creatures. However, our answer came the following day, when we took a slight detour to visit the fort again. It was empty – whatever remained of the tribe was devastated during the reverse ambush. 

*

It was almost time to head back home by the time we met the lizardfolk braves in the road. By Takeshi's calculations we should have five days to explore some more area before we truly need to rush back to the city. Again, I don't complain: I'm dying for a hot bath and I'd like to return as soon as possible, but I know we need to make good whatever time we have. At least we were going easier now, still through light wood. On the day after we visited the now abandoned lizardfolk fort, we found yet another threat haunting the road. 

At first it seemed as if we'd met another traveller. Takeshi spotted a man coming out of the bushes ahead of us – an elderly fellow with a shaggy beard, a leopard falling in step behind him. My first idea was that we might be looking at a druid and his companion. When he saw us he walked in our direction with a spring in his step and hailed us. Takeshi introduced himself as the baron of these lands, and the man frowned and slightly wrinkled his nose at that. We asked after his name, and he refused to say it. Sometimes, when we spoke to him, he seemed to ignore us or take slightly longer than usual to answer… it seemed as if something was off with him somehow. There was an odd glint to his eyes. He seemed a little bit crazy to me. 

Once he seemingly grew bored with the conversation, the old man turned and made toward the bushes to leave. However, when he passed by Oksana he produced a dagger out of nowhere, and tried to stab at her without provocation! At once we ran to her aid, of course. Nagata, lighter than most of us, was first to reach the old man, and dropped him like a bug. Takeshi dealt with the great cat, and soon both lay dead at our feet. 

We went through his clothes and possessions, but he had nothing that would drop us a clue of who he was, what he was doing out here, and why he lashed out at us when he obviously was stepping into a fight he couldn't win. While we discussed our theories, Nagata went into the bushes, likely to find the man's tracks and see where he'd come from. Minutes later he returned and pulled down his mask, staring at me with a strange expression, and saying there was something we had to see.

We followed Monkey as he pointed down the tracks for us, and explained this could've never been a druid. Even a novice druid, if he so wishes, will leave behind no trace of his passing in the wilderness. Monkey stopped by a tree, saying the tracks led right to it. Then he knocked on the bark and we all heard the hollow sound his knuckles made against the trunk. 

It was a hollow tree.

We found Bokken's brother!!! (sidenote: I really don't want to be mean, Shizuru knows, but I should've picked up on the… similarities?) Sure enough, he was living in a hollow tree to the south! (sidenote: so maybe Bokken was the least crazy of the two? Perhaps he went crazy because his brother made him crazy?! I don't know…) The whole situation gave me the creeps all of a sudden, and while I wished we had managed to talk to the man and understand what caused that hostility or if he could be helped, from everything I heard Bokken say about him, I was glad we were no longer in danger of bumping into him. 

We found a soft spot on the earth between the hollow tree's roots where a small chest had been buried. Among other things we found a silver locket holding a portrait of a woman. The resemblance to Bokken was uncanny (minus the crazed hermit look). Perhaps it was their mother, or sister? I kept it, so that next time we visit Bokken I can return it to him, and explain what happened. 

On this note, we turned our steps towards Fumidai. 

———

UZUME'S CULTURAL EXCHANGE – The People's Ways

I've lived in the Greenbelt for over a year now, and learned much of the people and their ways. In some respects, I have noticed some behavior differences between the people of Minkai and the people of the Greenbelt. Sometimes, I have to admit, the natives have a much better approach than the Minkaians. Other times, I must say, we do things much better back home. I just decided to jot down a few of the greatest differences between our peoples. I feel like this might help me weigh them out and work through them.

Minkaians are more formal. When I first arrived here, I realized there was a stark contrast between the way people deal with each other in Brevoy and in Minkai. In contrast, Minkaians must look to the people of Brevoy as cold and stoic, whereas in Minkai, a Brevoyan would appear way too friendly. There is a social structure to be perceived, understood and respected in Minkai – you don't talk to your neighbor the same way you talk to a close acquaintance, and none of them are similar to how you address, for instance, an employee. When Takeshi was working odd jobs just a few days off the ship from Minkai, he told us of how despite the language barrier, once his employers warmed up to him, they were ready to treat him as a friend. This would never happen in Minkai if it was the other way around, and especially not with a foreigner. In Minkai, an innkeeper will not ask how the food was, and strangers gathering to hear the news around a town crier won't chat to each other about them. 

Brevoy is more diverse. In Minkai you see Minkaians. Perhaps you will sometimes see someone else but usually it's someone from Tian-Xia: their looks and clothes may differ but we mostly look the same. In Brevoy it's not so: even without counting the nonhuman folk, I've seen Varisians, Ulfen and Cheliax since I got off the ship. In Minkai it seems to matter how different you look from everyone else, whereas in Brevoy it's more of a melting pot. 

Bowing and shaking hands. Takeshi got in the habit of shaking hands with people he deals with because of how often he's given a hand to shake. This sort of contact is somewhat frowned upon back home. In Minkai you bow, and keep your hands to yourself. Bowing here is expected to happen when you're faced with a figure of great authority, like a king. Even when it happens, Brevoyans bow differently – it involves taking a step back, and doing something weird with one arm to the side and another to the chest. It's more like something out of theater than the bowing I'm used to. 

Room to stretch. Minkai is an island, and therefore space is one of the most precious commodities you can get. A wealthy man in Minkai will have a spacious home with a few choice items for decoration – in other people's minds this is a man who is doing so well he can afford to buy himself space to move about uncluttered. In Brevoy, a wealthy man will often fill his home with all manners of items, some of which are terrible or cumbersome – in other people's minds, this is a man who's doing so well he can afford to fill every empty space he owns with junk. It's a difference of perspective, really, but it tells me something about the way people think here and there. 

Brevoyans are blunt where Minkaians are subtle. In Minkai, Bear would sometimes be called a little too blunt. In Brevoy, most everyone speaks as he does. The Minkaians are always afraid to offend their neighbor, so we're very careful about how we speak to one another. Brevoyans seem to have more of an emotional cuirass. If a friend in Minkai began dating someone I don't like and asked me what I think about him, I'd probably beat around the bush, never directly speaking ill of him but dropping some subtle hints that I'm not fond of him. The other person is supposed to pick up on these hints, but never call me out on them directly. The same situation would go different in Brevoy – I'd tell the person straight out she's dating a fool and that makes her a fool too, and why haven't you dumped him yet, again? And she would probably slam me over the head with a bucket for that, and call me every name in the book…

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Pdscosta BlackJill

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