Down Gangos Way

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Location: between the southern Sands and great north Wilds

Down Gangos Way

Post by Patris » Sat Jul 25, 2020 3:26 pm

Dug into the eastern face of the rock steps that led up toward the caves of Gangos Port and down toward dry dock, The Barnacle was, literally, a hole in the wall. Fronted by a wooden façade that housed two unmatching windows and a crooked door, it was tucked into a seedy corner and saw very little light of day. Inside it was one main room: a damp, lamp-lit cave with a low ceiling and salvaged wooden furniture. A dozen empty barrels had been arranged and planked to create a makeshift bartop.

In the back of the room a large crack in the rock wall served as a passage into the network of tunnels that connected with the larger caves beyond. With a beachwood stick and scrap of gauzy blue dress, the crack was covered by a makeshift drape that blew inwards with a cool, salty breeze. At the nearest table to it, tucked into the back curve of the rock wall, the breeze was a welcome whisper across the tanned skin of the man locked in a game of cards with a tortle and a Gerudo draped in little more than a red sash. The three sat in chairs made from more barrels, scooped out and padded with palm fronds.

“Call,” he said, throwing more rough gems into the sizable mound of mixed coins, stones, and shells in the middle of the table. A few pieces of the woman’s jewelry were also in the pile. “Three serpents, earth high,” he continued, flipping his hand over.

This wrested a snort from the woman, who threw her cards down without revealing, and a trumpeting, horn-like laugh through the nose of the tortle. It sounded like someone blowing through an old bone. “You doubled on three serpents?” it asked, spreading three dragons on the table with a black flippered hand. “Beens in the desert too long, pedro…” and it scooped the pot toward it, leaving the next round’s ante behind.

“Padre,” the Gerudo corrected it, rubbing her suddenly naked fingers as she threw an ante from her dwindled pile. They’d been playing for several hours and the tortle had collected the chimera’s share of the table, leaving the other two to vie for the leftovers. Other players had already been eliminated. Altogether there were certainly thousands upon the table.

“You mean these?” the man asked as he reached for the bevy of gold and silver charms hanging from a thin leather strap around his neck. Shirt hanging open, sleeves rolled to his biceps, bare feet upon the cool rock floor, he looked as if he’d just strolled in from the beach. Flipping through them, there was an ankh, crucifix, pentacle, star and crescent, and triskelion, among others from many other faiths. He began to rub one between two fingers and anted up.

“Mmph,” the tortle nodded as it dealt the next hand. Its black head was run nose-to-neck with two thick, yellow stripes. The same color appeared on its shell and other appendages in other patterns. “Beens in the desert too long,” it said again, sorting its cards and tossing in its opening bet. “You looks arrãsžen... dunne, Tifesi?”

“He does,” the Gerudo replied, her emerald eyes raking the man’s chest over the top of her cards. “What’ve you been doing out there?” she asked him.

He sorted and threw in his bet. “Hunting,” he replied coolly. Then, before either of them could ask, “Sandkings.” This wrested an upnod and brief lean-in from the Gerudo, giving the man the opportunity for a peek as she threw in her bet, though he didn’t take it. Her gesture seemed to express approval.

“Never heards of,” the tortle said, before craning its neck to bellow at the barkeep as it dealt the next tier of cards, “More brine!”

That day’s tender at The Barnacle was a ruddy brown desert kobold of the spinyhorn variety. At the tortle’s call he quickly appeared at their table with a towel and oversized pitcher of the house specialty—made mostly from the fermented liquid byproduct of fish processing. A good batch tastes something like carbonated pickle juice; a bad one something more like the underside of a pier at low tide. That day’s batch had already passed its prime, and for the size of the pitcher the kobold couldn’t help but spill some as he refilled the tortle’s wooden stein. “Oys, oys,” he hissed as he wiped up best he could, “Good good here, Keygo?” he asked the tortle, but then quickly left the table before an answer came.

Keygo threw in its bet, triple the first tier’s. The man matched it, and raised his own. Tifesi too threw in.

“Beens round The Cove, padre?” Keygo asked as it dealt the final tier, its beak managing the closest thing it could to a grin. “Theys deep sea arrãillë ins for spawning,” it said, one yellow eye rolling in the direction of the woman as the other regarded the cards. “Theys all swollen ins the tetållås,” and it clapped a cupping flipper to its breastplate. Then it threw in its bet, again triple the prior.

The man considered his cards, the Gerudo’s increasing glances, and the tortle’s chatter. “Not I,” he finally said. “Just been beer and seafood since I been back… I see, I raise,” and he added to the center pile double the bet before taking a deep swill from his own stein. His cache dwindled.

Tifesi hissed through her teeth. If her eyes had been daggers her cards would have been shredded. With no other option, she went all in. “Call,” she said, and revealed three dragons, air high. This prompted Keygo to fold, and the man to look her in in the face in earnest.

“Sorry, darlin’,” he said, and flipped over four dragons.

Sav’orr vehvi! she cursed, and shoved back from the table. Rising from her barrel, her eyes dragged over the man one more time before she retreated to the bar. The kobold scrambled to pour her something strong.

And then there were two. The man made quick work of scooping his winnings, shuffling, and dealing the next set of cards. They both took a moment to sort their opening hand. “I’ve eaten my weight in crab twice over,” he said as he threw in a large opening bet.

“If crabs you likes, theys razortooths up Rhy’Din Town way,” the tortle said, matching and raising. “Theys a bounty, there so many.”

The man tossed in the raised bet and dealt the next tier. “I could always eat more crab.” He quadrupled the opening bet, pushing a sizeable mound toward the center.

Keygo’s unpaired eyes drifted separately between its cards, the quickly grown pile of loot, and an unknown spot on the rock ceiling. A few moments passed before they regained sync and dropped low so Keygo could count out the bet, and then again, double it. “Finna fin thaway, sees my cousin Kaito, cash in these spines,” and it threw a sidenod in the direction of a sack unseen beneath the table.

The man flicked at his cards and cast a quick, wavering eye in the direction of the nod before matching the tortle’s raise. This didn’t leave him much left to play with. He dealt the final tier. More moments passed as they considered their cards. Then, finally, “All in,” he said, pushing the last of his lot into the middle.

Keygo didn’t laugh this time. Its yellow eyes darted. “You donnanuff all in for my all in,” it quipped. “What else?” and its eyes took stock of him.

“Just these,” the man replied, taking the charms from around his neck to add to the pile.

“No no, donnanuff,” and the tortle clucked. It leaned forward. “Crysknife.”

It was the man’s turn to laugh, though his hand moved protectively to the blade at his thigh. “Then what else you got?” he asked, throwing a dismissive gesture at the small fortune on the table.

From one of the pouches strapped around its shell, the tortle produced a flipperful of multicolored rupees, but the man shook his head, and his expression strained. Clearly wealth would not be the answer. In sudden desperation at the real chance for such a rare weapon, Keygo then began to pull from its pouches and add to the pile whatever litter it could find: wads of paper currency, scraps of cargo records, travel vouchers to Port Rhydin, a coupon for a “free swim” at The Cove. Finally, the tortle pulled the sack from beneath the table and splashed it atop the hoarded fortune, sending coins and gems scattering. Keygo opened it, and it stank worse than the brine. “Spiny shark fins, silver mark bounty proofs hunts…”

“Christ,” the man winced, waved a hand before his nose. “I thought that smell was you.” But he straightened to pull the knife and its sheath from his thigh and laid them down to seal the bet.

Keygo laughed again, loudly this time, trumpeting victory. “Calls!” it cried, and spread its cards. “Four wyverns, fire high!” and it slapped the table, sending a few coins to the floor.

“Four wyverns, water,” the man replied, revealing the winning hand.

“Whuh...” the tortle’s yellow eyes ran akimbo for a moment in disbelief, and then narrowed to murderous slits to focus on the man. “You cheats!” it honked, rising sharply, claws extended.

But the man’s hands were lightning fast. They disappeared from view, and instead the tips of two gun barrels popped up from below the table’s edge. With the easy drop of both thumbs to pull the hammers down, there was the unmistakable click-click of death about to strike.

A shrill whistle from the direction of the bar pierced the tension and snatched both their sideways glances. Voes! Tifesi snapped, her emerald eyes flashing. In one hand she gripped the hilt of her curved sword, and with the other she grabbed the red fabric of her sash and gave it a fanning whip to flash three golden droplets: the insignia of the Sirens. She spoke no more; the display had said it all.

The man’s eyes rolled back to the tortle. “Walk the red code…”

“... or walks the Red Code,” Keygo gurgled. Then it spat and shoved the table, scattering some rupees to the ground. Grârk you, prôg,” the tortle chided, and stomped angrily through the cave, disturbing everything in its wake. It slammed out the door and was gone. The man, alone at the table, slowly eased the hammers back to rest.

Sa’oten, look at you,” Tifesi said with an appreciative gaze, hands falling to her hips.

First making quick work of returning the guns to their holsters and the crysknife to his thigh, the man then closed the sack and returned the leather strap of religious icons to his neck. For possibly the first time all day, he offered the woman a crooked smile and said, “Wish you wouldn’t.” He rose to his bare feet to begin filling the many deep pockets of his cargo pants with the loot scattered over the table.

“Come on,” she crooned, assuming a contrapposto pose. “Give me a chance to earn some of my money back.”

He set aside all the jewelry she’d lost, and a portion of the hoard he couldn’t fit into his pockets. Throwing her an upnod that it was okay to approach, he began rifling through, folding, and tucking the various papers into his shirt pockets, some of them unseen.

Sarqso,” she breathed, clearly relieved, and began putting on her lost treasures. “Thank you,” she said.

“Mmn,” he replied, eyes scanning the travel vouchers to Port Rhydin.

“Come on, voe,” she cooed, trying again. She gave another little lean-in. “What’re you doing the next few hours?”

“Sorry, darlin’,” the man said, eyes moving from the vouchers to the sack of fins on the table. “Looks like I’ve got a boat to catch.”
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