Part 4) Mokha
Mokha Nathorah could see the distant figures of his travelling companions ahead of him on the road. He had decided that a quick revisit to his place of capture might yield some of his missing supplies or maybe if he was really lucky, his sitar.
Neither of the other two had wanted to come with him, the idea of returning to the bandit camp so soon after they had slaughtered his captors had clearly disturbed Adwin. While it did not seem anything involving himself held any interest to the woman. Yet, with his usual good cheer he had told them he would catch up with them later and had diverted to the bandit stronghold.
The gorge really was a nice hideaway, especially for the purposes of robbing travellers. He and Shak had heard that bandits were along the eastward road, robbing people and attacking homesteads in the area just outside of Sharlok’s FreeHold. Luck had not been with them or at least not him, as the bandits had been camped out at their boulder mound lookout and neither he, nor Shak, had suspected that the two friendly chaps willing to share their camp had nefarious intent.
They had shared food and been offered water as was the custom of hospitality in these wild reaches. Though after they had settled for the night and started to drift towards sleep the roguish pair had grabbed them. In the brief struggle that followed Shak had broken free and made a run for it. Mokha had not been as lucky and spent the next few eight-days in captivity, their hand cart, instruments, drugs and other needful things had been taken. Sadly the villagers of Lekas had recovered very little of it, he had hoped it was just an issue of things being overlooked and not a matter of his belongings being consumed or destroyed.
He knew that the bandits had helped themselves to some of his drugs, but not all of them as they seemed unfamiliar with many of the things he and Shak had brought with them. The valuables; his sitar, Shak’s lute and cloak, had not been left in the common camp. He suspected they were with the leader of the bandits. He and his women had a place down a passage out the back end of the upper caves, Mokha never had the chance to go down that way.
Until he did. To be fair to his new companions, the bandit caves were a stinking bloody mess. There had also been some nasty dogs and rodents skulking about, but Mokha knew wards against such base creatures and they had not bothered him. The villagers had left the bandits where they had fallen, taken most of the useful things from the main cave. He had followed two sets of bloody footprints down the short cave. An opening in the ceiling with three narrow steps and a bit of a reach to boost up to the next level, which was another short tunnel dug through the earth. That passage lead into a spacious sod house with stone lined walls, the dogs had not reached this area yet, the rats reluctantly scurried away as he had walked about the room.
What a fight this had been. Two of the dead had been shot, the arrows removed. Two more of the dead had been cut down with a sword. The last of the bodies in the common area of the house was a bigger fellow, he had been stabbed in the guts, cut with a hatchet or small axe twice along the upper left shoulder and his head had been bashed in by having it repeatedly smashed against a small cast iron stove. Furniture was broken, a number of instruments had also been smashed, including his sitar. Crock wear had been knocked over and smashed, food was strewn across part of the room and it looked like a fire had smouldered for a while against the north wall. He had found two more bodies in the adjoining stables. All of the livestock and accoutrements had been taken by the villagers as had most of the undamaged household goods.
He picked up the shattered pieces of his instrument and cried a bit. He salvaged a few of the tuning keys and some of the strings and then took useful bits from a long necked lute and a small guitar-like thing he has unfamiliar with.
Mokha took a bit of dried blood from one of the bandits and smudged it between thumb and finger as he cast a seeking spell. Specifically seeking that which was hidden. As he had expected the bandits had a couple of stashes. One was up in the loft, which seemed to be the main sleeping area, a loose stone in the wall revealed a deep cavity filled with some of Shak’s and his drugs as well a couple of bottles of what appeared to be dwarven brandy. The other stash was in the stable loft, a small satchel with a pouch within, stuffed into a bucket and stashed behind a bale of hay. It contained a few silver coins and odd pieces of jewellery, he had also found Shak’s cloak laid across someone’s bed in the stable loft.
He could have searched more, but having recovered some of his stash was great and he now had plenty of valuables to buy more drugs when he reached GreensBridge. Besides, the other two moved fast and he did not relish the idea of camping alone on the side of the road. He did not really enjoy being alone. He took a pinch of stimroot from a small pouch, he placed the ground root under his tongue and quickened his pace.
Mokha did not actually catch up to them until after they had stopped to make camp. Even when Tipper had spotted him the duo had paused for only a brief moment, then Adwin had waved and shouted something that could not be heard and they hiked on ahead of him for the rest of the afternoon. As he walked up to the camp Tipper was throwing a tarp over a grass hut Mokha assumed she had woven while Adwin was dressing a couple of birds. A small fire burned in a small hole Adwin dug in the ground, dung and grass smouldering.
Mokha looked around, he did not see his bedroll, “Is my gear in the hut?” He asked Adwin.
Adwin looked uncomfortable, glanced at Tipper then back to Mokha, “Yeah, sorry about that.”
Tipper stepped towards him as if she was going to grab him but stopped a pace or so away and said, “First off, you invite yourself to be our travel companion and then you make Adwin carry your gear all day, now you’re guzzling water. What have you contributed? Did you satisfy your gory curiosity?”
She was obviously angry and looked like she might hurt him. Adwin gave an apologetic shrug but Mokha just smiled. “It’s alright, look, I found some odds and ends the villager’s overlooked.”
Mokha held up a small band of gold that was a bit too big to be a ring for most humans, at arms length he offered it to Tipper, “Gold for your protection on my journey to GreensBridge. I would say that’s a fifth or a weight. A generous price.”
She made a face, scrunching her nose and scowling at him. “Did you pick that from the bodies?”
“Ew, no. Nasty. You always so morbid?” He made big eyes at her and proffered the ring.
She looked him in the eye as if she was trying to pry into his soul. After a moment she grabbed it from him, she walked back to the grass hut and pulled his bedroll and the lute Lef had given him from the shelter. “You can travel with us, but you have to carry you own gear.”
He took the items and gave a little bow with a big smile. “You are wise and gracious my friend.”
“We are not friends.”
He sighed and walked away from her, holding up a marvellously crafted hair comb inlaid with stone, wood and bone making a pattern of a spread wing falcon. “And for you Adwin, and your extra efforts today on my behalf.”
Adwin took it and held it up to the setting sun, “Wow, I have never seen the like.”
“Dwarven crafted I think, it’s a shame the other one was not with it, but I thought it would make a nice gift.”
Adwin gave him a confused nod.
“Maybe someday you can find a nice lady to give it to.” He said in an overly loud voice, and walked off to a grassy edge of the camp.
He laid out his gear, in addition to the lute Lef had given him the villagers had been fairly generous. They had provided clothing, a bedroll, tarp, numerous lengths of cord, a knife, water skin as well, food for the road. His recovered drugs would not likely last until GreensBridge but the small bundle of treasures would likely get him what he needed, even in the eastern wilds. Shak’s cloak was a beautiful full mantle Tannican piece, worthy of a Kar. He hoped Shak was doing okay wherever he had ended up. Mokha felt no anger about him running away, not any longer.
After redistributing his gear, drugs and treasures, Mokha took out the lute. Maybe he would just call the lute Lef. He sat, tuned the instrument as he thought about his brief friendship with the gangly Lef. He was passionate about music. The two of them had stayed up through a couple of nights playing, talking music and songs; he was very curious about Tannican music. Mokha had to first start with an explanation of the caste system and the differences in the types of music amongst the different classes. Sadly the two lutes they had available were both the shorter necked eastern design, apparently originating in Elquin, or so Lef had said. The case being that he could not well demonstrate the differences ranges in Tannican music without taking the time to down tune or up tune the instrument.
His fingers had naturally fallen into the ease of the Kor’s Lament, one of the most common Tannican songs, with a simple mid range progression. There were over one thousand official verses to the song and many unofficial as well.
After a while he realized Adwin was standing over him, holding out an odd metal bowl. “Thought you might be hungry.”
Mokha nodded and took the bowl.
Adwin commented, “You play well, though I’ve not heard that song you played, before now. You’re from Tannica right?”
Mokha shrugged, “Not really. I’ve Tannican blood but also that of the Loopee, I think. The place I believe I was born was once part of Tannica, was not while I lived there, though from what I have heard, it is once again.”
Adwin squatted, nearby Tipper began to sing the setting of the sun, “I don’t think Tipper wants to share the hut, and she said to tell you that it’s going to rain tonight.”
“Alright, thanks for letting me know.”
“Sure, sleep well.” Adwin wondered off into the grass.
Mokha gave a wave and a smile, then ate. After he cleaned his hands with the grass and resumed playing the Kor’s Lament.
Later, when the rain started, he wrapped his lute in blanket and tarp, stripped his clothing off and spread it atop the tall grass. The night was warm and the rain felt beautiful. He had eaten some mushrooms with his supper and the colours of of the night swirled about him.