A #Crux short story. IDK how long this one will be. It's about refugees and tyrants and revolutionaries and madness and more. Maybe it's slightly relevant outside of Crux. Maybe it's just a nice story. I hope it's a nice story.
From Maralda Inculti's collected stories, circa Firerose, 1785 AO.
Liberties and freedoms sought by Revolution have costs. Afterward one can assess if the costs were worth it. For some out of Ainesia, those costs still sting years later.
Unatoly Yretetzi en Volkstorm owned Yretetzi Shoes in the Grand Bazaar. The short streets in that part of the Grand Bazaar were full of Ainesians. Yretetzi's black and red brick shop sits between a Volkstormi coffee Cafe and an arcade of Ainesian clothiers. Yretetzi Shoes isn't an upscale shop. Nothing Yretetzi sold could ever be considered great fashion.
That day I brought Ueda with me to talk with Unatoly. Her story isn't only the Ainesian tale of madness run amok in her home nation. The Revolution drove many aristocratic families like hers into exile.
We both stood out in the Salish-heavy neighborhood. Even I, with my dark black Tomish hair, stood out in the neighborhood. So immigrants from Ainesia had come to the Grand Bazaar over the past two decades. The mercantile center of Crux had swelled. It filled the once sparse valley into a vibrant commercial center.
"Unatoly?" I asked as soon as I opened the door. Ueda followed me inside.
"Shoes." Ueda studied a rack of them inside the tiny shop. The Tengu never wore any sort of shoes I'd seen. "Curious things. They intrigue me, if not for how much you folk put effort into them."
"Not all of us have talons," I smiled at my Raven-headed friend. I hoped she'd provide some questions for Unatoly I couldn't think of. A different angle.
Stories like this express what Crux is. A melting pot of so many different folk from around the Maru Sea. Any insights could only help me to share it. Maybe that could help Ainesians in exile like Unatoly.
"Unatoly?" I called again.
A tired Salish woman walked in from the back. Her stained trousers and shirt dripped with sweat. Dirty and sweat covered her brow. She smelled of some sort of glue or solvent. I guessed she must've been at work at something in the back of her shop. Her white Salish hair had flecks of black in it. Her dark brown eyes recognized me.
Life had been hard for Unatoly. But she was only ten years older than me. She had refused to let her flight from Volkstorm keep her down.
"Ah." Unatoly took my hand, kissing it in her Ainesian way. She acted the part of a lady, even though she had on dirty work clothes. "Miss Inculti, you've come back?
Still interested in those boots we discussed?"
"Boots?" Ueda asked, her voice sounded intrigued.
"Uh... no," I told Unatoly. I bowed my head in greeting. Aristocratic manners were something for my father, not me. They always made me nervous.
"I'm here for your story," I said. "Like we'd discussed."
"My story." The words seemed to make Unatoly shift uncomfortably. She seemed to change. "Just a moment."
The cobbler and seamstress moved to the door of the shop. She flipped the sign on the door from open to close. Unatoly locked it.
"This is Ueda, she's a friend," I explained. "She's also curious, in her own way. I'd hoped she might ask questions I might not think of."
"Tea?" Unatoly asked. "Maybe coffee? I have something in the pot in the back... and..."
The Salish woman let out a sigh.
"If you've changed your mind I can come later-"
"No," Unatoly told me. "Sorry, it's just been a long time. Dredging up memories from ten years ago. A different life, you know? I grew up the heiress to the Comte en Dragunrun. For Volkstorm, we were never the largest or most powerful house. But I had beautiful dresses. Blue ones. Teal. One had images of house sigil, the flying dragon, I would wear my hair up with dragon hide and ribbons with it. I never had to work my whole life.
"Growing up, I'd have found the idea of me pressing leather into shoes... laughable. Serf's work it is. Yet here I am, making a life of it."
Then Unatoly told us how she fled her ancestral home. Why she couldn't even trust the servants she'd grown up with.