Friday, June 17, 2016

City of Curses: Life Is Pain 2 (Maralda's Notes)

Previously, Maralda started her interview with the sand giant and magnate, the Spice Khan.  This continues the #Crux story about the Spice Khan and the attitude of the Maliphi overall.  Enjoy!

Maralda scribbled down notes.  The hour or so of conversation with the Spice Khan had given her oodles on the nature of Maliph.  The Spice Khan's native province seemed not just exotic anymore to her.  Maralda could envision the tiny khanate in her mind, like a Maliphi twin to Crux.

"Nephkha intrigues me,"  Maralda said, looking up at the Spice Khan.

The sand giant woman had been snacking on something.  Maralda paled as her maw swallowed a cooked mass.  The huge chunk of cooked meat had been the same size as Maralda's head.  The Spice Khan ate it without chewing.

"I've only visited my father's home infrequently.  But the stunning white of the pyramids always enchants the heart, I think."  The Spice Khan said.

"Nephkha is the only places I've ever heard of that matches the Grand Bazaar in terms of commerce.  But I have a question, you mentioned sail.  What about steamships?  Haven't they altered how your people deal in trade?"

The Spice Khan let out a sigh.

"You've caught on faster than the other Khans.  They don't see that they seem to think my ships will always bring in wealth to them."

"How can they do that?"  Maralda shook her head.  "Can't they see the changes technology is going to bring?"

"How about you?"  The Spice Khan then turned the tables on Maralda.  "You are as clever as I've read.  Are you really just a tiny journalist writing for tiny print houses that never go past Zyan Street?"

Maralda shrank up.  She looked down at her empty cup.  "I... This just helps pay for my classes.  Eventually, I hope to get a novel or two written.  I have... some ideas."

"Really."  The Spice Khan drew closer.  "A clever little thing like you only has ideas for two?  I suspect you might remake the world if given the right sort of patronage."

Maralda blushed at the compliment.  She opened her mouth to reply.  Nothing came to mind.  She had trouble keeping herself from voicing one of many stories she'd stored up in the back of her mind.

"I've always considered the need for a skilled writer.  Someone who might see the real context what is going on.  Speak the truth."  The Spice Khan continued.  The sand giant pointed one of her big fingers at Maralda's head.  "Someone who could write the right things for me could be a very wealthy woman indeed, don't you think?"

"You want me to write for you?!"

"Of course, I do!  This interview is another way to introduce yourself to a good employer is it not?"

"Uh... No."  Maralda shook her head.  "I just needed the interview for the piece.  I wasn't trying to attract your attention at all."

The Spice Khan rolled one of her fingers as if waiting for gears to shift in Maralda's mind.  "C'mon.  You didn't think the Ariast Times is so strapped for stories about foreign countries do you?"

"You paid Zhamie to have me interview you?"  Maralda failed to hide the incredulity in her voice.

"Some would think you to be too young a voice.  But I like to invest in stock I think will grow into world-shattering forces."

"What do you want me to write?"

"I need someone, perhaps anonymous, to help persuade this city."  The Spice Khan smiled, her teeth gleaming in the light.  Maralda noticed how sharp they looked.  "Essays that can help drive them to support some of my more ambitious projects.  At first, you would help with essays here.  But I imagine that once you visit Soram, the Jade Lands or other exotic parts of my trade empire, you will have plenty more material to draw inspiration from.  A grand series of stories about the glorious trade of Maliph."

Maralda felt that enter her head.  She could travel the world.  She could write about all sorts of people, stories from all over.

The price, however, she had trouble to stomach.  Maralda would ride with slavers.  She'd be a fishmonger for them.  Covering for crimes against liberty with sweet songs.

She would never have to deal with her father again.  All Maralda would have to do is be willing to bend to the Spice Khan's will.  To hurt others for her own gain.

"You would have me wear a collar of gold?"  Maralda said, averting her gaze from the giant Spice Khan.  "A slave to you, shackled with coin and debts?  A slave that would paint the chains you cast into something palatable to others?"

The Spice Khan's throat let out a growl.  Maralda fell down.  Shivers over took part of her.

"You Scarless don't understand us.  You think us so barbaric compared you?  I offer you wealth and honor and you spit it out like it is poison?"  The Spice Khan slapped the barge floor next to Maralda.  The floor rattled, throwing Maralda away.


"No!"  The Spice Khan stood up.  "You are my guest.  You dare suggest I would shackle you, my guest, here in my home?  That I lack honor?  That I am like some criminal blood baron or mindbending enchantress?!"

Maralda scurried back.  Fear gripped her.  Why did she open her mouth like that?  Idiot, she thought, this is how you get yourself stepped on.

"Life is pain,"  The Spice Khan said.  "You fail to understand me or my people, despite all I've told you.  Consider my offer and leave now."

"Hold on, I didn't mean-"

The Spice Khan hissed at her.

"Do not try my patience, little Bard.  I still want your services.  I am lenient enough to not try to take you right now and show you how slaves are treated since you think you know so much.  Instead, be glad that the Khan of Nephkha would rather see your words be printed and not 'chained.'  How dare I offer such a shameful thing to you!"

Maralda hurried out of the chamber, leaving the enraged sand giant behind her.  Halfway up the dock from the Spice Khan's barge, she stopped.  Her notebook.

"Do I go back or do I leave it?"   Maralda pondered.  "Twins damn it, I have to get it back."