Liling

As a table top RPG gamer I keep tabs on many game systems. Here you will find stories and shorts inspired by these systems.
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Wraithwriter
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Liling

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It was the same dream. She stood starring at a building, its windows boarded up and an intricate sign hanging crookedly reading: The Jeweler’s Eye. Once it was the business of a well to do jeweler who’d fallen into debt thanks to a series of poor choices. Lesson to learn: Careful who you bed.

A lovely young customer fell in love with a piece and offered a more amorous form of tender. Foolishly the jeweler agreed, and as misfortune would have it, this was all it took for a new life to bloom. The girl’s father brought the hammer of law upon the jeweler, demanding that he pay the highest sum for Honor’s Tithe.

It was into this that Liling was born. Spending the first two years of life in the care of wet nurses on a remote country estate she grew healthy and loved. Then came the time when she was pulled from that life and thrust into the world of a dilapidated jeweler’s shop.

Three years passed and the jeweler struggled to feed her and make ends meet. At five she started to run the streets seeking the means to feed herself. Another two years and the jeweler died, the shop closed, and she was without shelter. She’d have died if not for a faithful mark gone awry.

He was an easy mark, a drunkard swaying wildly in broad daylight. The stalking and staging went perfectly, but when she went for the purse his hand struck like a viper to grasp her wrist in an iron grip. Her partners, other urchins, ran off leaving her to suffer whatever came alone. With eyes screwed tightly shut she waited for the following blow to the head, but none came.

Confused, she opened her eyes and looked up into a pair of bright, sober green eye. They seemed to pierce deep into her soul to see the pain and anger of neglect rooted there. When the eyes blinked the spell was gone.

“You must be Liling,” came a soft timbered voice from the owner of the eyes. The fact that this stranger knew her name elicited an attempt to escape, but the hand held firm. “You look much like your mother. However, why did I catch you trying to make free of my purse?” His eyes then took in the rest of her appearance and a look of concern came over his gruff face. “By the look of you something is amiss. Come, to the jeweler’s at once.”

She found herself being pulled along at a quick pace forcing her the skip along more than walk. “Sir, there is no need for this really,” she uttered between gasps for air. “Please don’t pull me back there, I beg you!” But it was too late, before them was the abandoned shop with its boarded-up windows and crooked sign.

“Well this changes things a bit,” the man announced to the air, but she did not hear him. Her attention was trained on the building she’d ran away from not more than a week before. She wondered if the human buzzards had cleared the place out. Had her father been given a proper burial, or had he been unceremoniously tossed into a ditch with the other destitute of the city? Questions not meant for a seven-year-old to contemplate, but here she was. Strong arms picked her up and began to carry her away; however, her eyes never left the building till her line of sight was blocked.

She buried her face in the man’s shoulder. “It’s ok little one, it’s over now,” the man muttered rubbing her back in a comforting way. As they moved along, tantalizing smells adrift on the air made her belly rumble. “Let’s get you some food before that stomach decides to stop growling and attacks. We’re almost to my inn.” With that he picked up his already inhuman pace.

Quickly the front of another building loomed above them. Looking over her shoulder, Liling saw two large windows flanking a green painted door, above the door hung a sign she could not read. Stepping up to the door the man opened it to walk into a busy common room. Here the delicious smells were stronger eliciting another growl from her stomach.

“Don’t worry little beast, we shall put some food in you shortly.” Pushing his way through the lunch crowd he claimed a small table against a wall closest to the kitchen. Depositing her in a chair he took another before raising a hand to get the attention of one of the workers.

It took a bit, but a young hurried looking man eventually made his way over. “What can I get ya sir?”

“Two of your lunch specials, ale for me, and water for the child.”

“Right. Two specials, ale, and water. Anything else?” At the man’s head shake the server disappeared into the kitchen.

“Right! While we’re waiting on our meal, I suppose I owe you an explanation.” With this he sized her up, a small waif of a thing in tattered clothes. “Yes, well the short tale is your father sent a letter advising of his illness, and your mother dispatched another to me. Sadly, with the slowness of the mail I arrived too late it seems.”

The server returned to unceremoniously deposit two plates and mugs before them before moving away. “Well, let’s hold off on more explanations till you’ve eaten. Eat up young one, I don’t like your starved look.”

Liling barely heard as she attacked the food as soon as it hit the table. It was the best she could remember eating. Seasoned roasted potatoes with onions, a side of some steamed greens, and a thick meat stew with large chunks of beef or mutton. To help shovel it in and sop up the gravy, a hunk of fresh baked bread.

“Pace yourself girl, don’t want to lose that.” Stated the man as he dug into his own meal. Liling understood what he meant; she’d seen what happened to some of the other street kids she ran with. Eating to quickly after not having much food can make you sick, she didn’t want that, so she slowed her pace.

They ate in silence, her out of hard learned instinct and he out of what seemed a joy for it. Around them the crowd changed, sometimes loud and others moderate. Food was brought out of the kitchen, coins changed hands, and empty dishes were swept back from whence they came. In all it was the first pleasant meal Liling could remember since before her father got sick.

As she wiped up the last bit of gravy from her plate the man leaned back holding is mug in one hand. “Looking better already, got some color back. With your complexion one wouldn’t have laughed for thinking you a ghost before.”

This comment brought a blush to her cheeks and her hands came up to hide it. Her complexion was one of the things the other kids teased her about, calling her milk face, or simply Milky. She hate it and the nickname, and making it all worse were memories of her father saying her mother was as fair as she.

“I see I have embarrassed you, for which I am sorry.” The man took a sip of his ale and smacking his lips in appreciation. “Tell you what, you must have questions, why don’t you ask some while I finish this.” With that he waited patiently and expectantly, sipping his drink.

She wanted to just sit quietly saying nothing out of youthful spite, but her curiosity was too much. “Who are you? And what do you mean about my mother? She never cared before!?” That last was spoken in a bare whisper and tears welled in her eyes, but she did not let them fall, a street kid never cried it only showed weakness.

“All good questions little one, and don’t fear to cry as tears heal.” The man gave her a gentle smile over the rim of his mug. “You may call me Cheng, which is fitting as I am on a journey. As for your mother, answer me this: Why do you think she never cared?”

“I am here. She never came to visit, and now she sends You,” the tears of a hurting seven-year-old girl now flowed freely down her cheeks. “Why didn’t she come herself?! Why is she not here holding me in her arms right now?! She doesn’t care that’s why! I am just a mistake made for some worthless gem!” Liling’s fists were clinched, head held high as she let the repressed anger and hurt radiate out from her.

“Your anger and hurt is understandable, and warranted it would seem, but do not judge too harshly little one.” Cheng set his mug on the table before leaning forward to take her small hands in his. “Your mother is, for brevities' sake, a prisoner and unable to be where she wants.”

“After you were weened and sent to your father, she was carted off to a monastery where I lived. There she was inducted, unwillingly, into the order of nuns who cared for the place and never left. I befriended her and she told me of the daughter that was torn from her arms then whisked away. Letters would come occasionally for her containing reports of your wellbeing. On those days she would lock herself in her cell and not come out for days. When she did, she looked much like you.”

At this point Cheng pulled her into his arms to hold her as she sobbed. “I was away on business when your mother received your father’s letter, I can only imagine how she was after reading it. Though I can say this, she had to have some help writing the letter to me as not all of it was in her hand. I left my business before finishing even half the letter, but I arrived too late.”

Some time passed and shadows lengthened outside the window as Chen held her close rocking her slowly. During this time other patrons took note of them but recognized the situation if not the specifics. A server also came to clear the dishes from their table, careful to not disturb them.

Her head buried in Cheng’s shoulder, Liling took a shuddering breath. “Can we go visit her?” As the words passed her lips, she felt a sense of dread over the answer she felt coming.

“That we cannot dear child. Neither of us can venture there now that you are in my care.” Cheng gave her a brief hug at these words. “We can send letters and receive them though.”

“But I can’t read or write.” Liling almost broken into tears again.

“No worries little one, I can teach you. And while I am at it, I will impart to you my knowledge for making your way in this world with only your hands and feet.”



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