Jump to content

Asadin's Learning Adventure


Recommended Posts

This story was originally written for Epic Extreme's monthly writing exercise, but I figured I might as well give a cross posting for those who don't visit regularly over there. Feel free to let the criticisms flow forth, it's always good for the writing experience.


For those of you waiting for Aklon, yes I did lose some time writing this, but hey, it's character background, it really is! :)





“Is this right?â€Â


“More curve to the character, master Asadin,†the tutor responded, “then the sharp rise.â€Â


Asadin’s older sister Jamila pushed her calligraphy work toward him across the large desk. “Here, Din, like mine.â€Â


Asadin frowned at his sister’s impossibly neat writing. “I’m not going to need any of this. What use is pretty writing to anyone?â€Â


“You might be surprised,†responded his tutor, “proper calligraphy will mark you as an educated and cultured man. It will impress officials and merchant nobles. Perhaps not the most obvious of skills, but I guarantee you will not regret the learning of it.â€Â


“I suppose so,†Asadin said, trying to rein in the dubiousness in his voice, “Is this better?â€Â


The tutor nodded approvingly, “Yes, much. It is almost highsun, so I think it is time to break for the midday meal. Return in one and one half hours and we will continue with some mathematics.â€Â


“Thank you, professor Aklon,†both children responded in unison as they rose from the desk.






Asadin wandered around the house’s garden, munching on a ripe peach. All this writing is just foolish, no matter what tutor Aklon thinks, Asadin thought as he listened to the sounds of the bustling city outside the walls of his home.


That’s where I need to be, I need to learn about the people. What they want to buy, how to make them want to buy from me, how to spot dishonest people. Asadin’s chewing slowed as he looked out at the towers of the city. I’ve got an hour and a quarter left. Why not?


The house guards would never let him walk unescorted about the city, so going out the front door was clearly not an option. Fortunately, Asadin was a rather athletic boy, and a quick scout around the wall’s perimeter revealed an outbuilding against the wall that he could climb onto the roof of. From there, Asadin hauled himself over the edge of the wall and dropped, a little roughly, into the alley behind his home.


Following the cacophony of noise, Asadin made his way down the broad streets of the wealthier districts of Tajar, City of Trade, towards the great marketplace on the banks of the river. The journey was not a long one and despite some curious looks from some of the citizens he passed, Asadin soon turned a corner and walked into the fringes of the market. Just as he remembered from his last visit in the company of his father, the market was a sprawling dance of chaos, crowded with people, goods and smells.


Asadin wandered among the stalls, watching the customers and merchants haggling, testing goods, paying and walking on. After some time of watching the citizenry go about their business, the boy decided that he had seen enough to try to make use of his mercantile skills.


After considering his options, Asadin thought it might be best if he started small, just in case things weren’t quite so easy as he’d thought. With that in his mind, the boy walked up to a fruit seller and nonchalantly began to inspect the stall’s wares.


“Ah, most noble sir,†said the stall’s owner, taking in Asadin’s fine garments, “your presence graces my humble plot in our glorious city’s market. What articles from my poor, unworthy establishment have caught your eye?â€Â


Asadin paused before responding, emulating the vague disinterest he’d seen form a number of patrons of other establishments. “These figs here,†he said, waving a hand, “would make a suitable repast. I will give you a copper coin for a pound.â€Â


“Oh, the noble young sir clearly knows the limits of such poor fruits,†replied the stall owner, “yet my otherwise work-shy husband trekked many miles to bring these hence from Sikak. Look again, most knowledgeable one. Are these figs not perhaps a little more succulent than they first appear? Taste one, my lord, and tell me that a pound is worth less than four meager coins.â€Â


Asadin took the opportunity to taste a fig, but carefully kept his expression neutral. As the stallholder had said, the fig was in fact most succulent and very tasty. Jamila would like these Asadin thought, but said instead, “They are as I expected, damp within, but tasteless. They’ve had a poor season in Sikak. One coin for a pound.â€Â


“Oh, undoubtedly the season has been poor, master of the orchards, but of the terrible fruits issuing forth from Sikak, these otherwise humble fruits are amongst the best. For the transport costs alone, I would be making a beggar of myself if I did not ask at least three coins.â€Â


“Even a work-shy husband must be able to buy fruit this poor cheaply,†said the boy, “Two coins, to cover your costs.â€Â


“Three coins, my lord, and take with your figs a double handful of dates, fresh from Huzuz this morning.â€Â


“Done and done.â€Â





Several minutes later, Asadin had tucked the figs into his embroidered shirt and was merrily snacking on dates, feeling rather pleased with himself. He decided that since things with the fruit vendor had gone so well, he could try something harder before going home. Thus surveying the bazaar for an additional challenge, Asadin spied a boy of about his own age, wandering in a similar way to himself. The boy seemed very familiar with his surroundings, so Asadin thought that here he might find someone who could show him a harder merchant to work against.


“Hello there,†said Asadin as he approached the boy, “I see you’re out alone in the market, just like me.â€Â


The other boy, dressed much more shabbily than Asadin looked him over and answered cautiously, “yes, sir, I am.â€Â


“Don’t call me sir. My name’s Asadin, son of Khadaz, of the house of Qisim,†Asadin smiled broadly, “but you can call me Asadin. Can I know your name?â€Â




“Just Aziz?â€Â


“I, er, don’t know who my father was.â€Â


“Oh.†Asadin thought about this, for he’d never met anyone who didn’t know their father before, though he had heard that it sometimes happened. “Well, you could call yourself Aziz, son of Aziz. I heard a priestess once say that every morning a man wakes up as the son of what he did yesterday, so it wouldn’t be a lie. And who would know?â€Â


Aziz grinned at this, “You’re right, not even the gods could argue with that one. Why are you alone? Shouldn’t you have servants or something with you?â€Â


“Oh, they’d stop me from doing anything interesting. I wanted to look around the market on my own, see everything that goes on, see if I could gull some of the merchants. Hey, you want some dates?â€Â


“Thanks,†said Aziz, taking one or two of the fruits, and then a handful in response to Asadin’s continued proffering of the linen parcel containing them. “I practically live in the bazaar, I could take you all around, if you like.â€Â


“That’d be very kind of you. Where’s an interesting spot?â€Â


“There’s always something going on at the weaponsmiths.â€Â


“Sounds great, let’s go.â€Â






The two boys wandered through the market, watching the endless life of the city flow by, the performance of the daily drama of human existence. Asadin and Aziz slowly began to chat, finding that they were both avid listeners of the storytellers, and ended up swapping fragments of their favourite stories, Asadin’s original purpose in coming to the market now utterly forgotten. The two had completely circled the market by now and as the two shared a laugh over the exploits of Salah Clevertongue, the distant temple bells tolled out the change of hours.


“By the lies of the Efreeti!†Asadin exclaimed, “I’m half an hour late. Fate be merciful, the professor’s going to have me doing calligraphy until my hands drop off. I’m sorry Aziz, I have to go.â€Â


“Can’t you-†Aziz stopped abruptly, casting a glance over Asadin’s shoulder. “Yes, you should go. Quick, before your professor gets even madder.â€Â


“Right. Which way is north?â€Â


“That way, hurry Asadin, before-â€Â


“Well, well. What do we have here?†a new voice rang out, a voice tinged with far too much amusement for Asadin’s liking. “It appears we have a lost little boy, all alone in the market.â€Â


Asadin turned around to face the newcomer and found himself facing four men of various sizes, all unshaven, all armed and all looking at him like his pet cat looked at the birds that flew into the garden. “No, I’m alright, thank you,†he said, eyes flicking as the men moved to hedge him against the wall of a building, “I can find my own way.â€Â


“Nonsense, little boy,†responded the largest of the men, white teeth gleaming amongst a huge bushy black beard. “we’ll show you the way home. And I hope you’ll see fit to reward us generously for our help. How good of you to bring him to us, Aziz.â€Â


Asadin looked across at Aziz, who turned his eyes to the ground and would not meet his gaze. “I see what you’ve done,†Asadin said, “you’ve forced Aziz to help you rob people. Well, I won’t let you use him to rob me!†With his last exclamation, Asadin pulled out his knife and held it before him, in a rough approximation of the way he’d seen knives held for fights in plays.


The large man’s teeth gleamed as his smile broadened beneath his beard and his companions chuckled evilly looking at the boy holding out an ornamental fruit peeler to hold off four grown men. “Come now, little boy,†the large man said, “Some of that pretty jewelry and a coin or two from your pouch isn’t much to part with to come home safe, now is it? You never know who you might meet walking home alone.â€Â


Asadin’s initial burst of bravery began to turn to ice in his veins as the large man’s compatriots edged closer and put hands on their weapons, but he tightened his grip on his knife and tried to keep his voice steady. “You can’t rob me here, all these people will tell the mamluks, and you’ll be punished!â€Â


The big man just laughed at this. “The mamluks would reward us for helping a rich little boy, not punish us. I think you don’t understand what we’re doing. No one would object to the poor asking for alms, now would they?â€Â


The large man’s companions stepped even closer, and Asadin pressed himself against the wall behind him.


This time, the big man himself was the one to step closer. “Now boy, time is wasting, you really should hurry.â€Â


“Indeed he should,†said a new voice, one that filled Asadin with relief. “The boy is most late for his lessons.â€Â


The cluster of men surrounding Asadin shifted towards the new voice, revealing the form of Aklon, who stood with arms folded a little way off.


One of the big man’s companions snarled. “It’s no business of yours, foreigner. Find somewhere else to stick your watery eyes.â€Â


“On the contrary,†responded Aklon, “I am the tutor of this boy, so his prompt attendance at lessons is entirely my business.â€Â


The big man made a small motion with his hand, and two of his companions stepped towards Aklon, one on each side of him. “Might you then see fit to reward us?â€Â


Aklon smiled pleasantly and unhitched a small pouch from his belt. “Of course. You have taken such good care of the lad, how could I not?â€Â


The small pouch sailed into the hands of the big man, who opened it and inspected the contents. “There is not much here, friend scholar.â€Â


“All I have at the moment,†Aklon responded. “Sadly, a tutor earns so little in a city of trade. If you wish for greater recompense, then you may of course come with me to the house of the boy. I am sure that Lady Qisim would be pleased to give you something when she hears just how you have taken care of her son.â€Â


By the time Aklon had finished speaking, the smile had vanished from his face and his eyes had locked with those of the leader of the thugs. The two men stared at each other for but a moment, but it was a moment that seemed to stretch for an hour to Asadin, and probably to the remaining thugs, judging from their uneasy fidgeting.


The big man finally broke the silence. “I’m sure the lady of Qisim would be very generous with her gifts,†he said, motioning his companions away, “but like I told the boy, we are in a hurry. A thousand thanks for the expansive assault on your own purse, noble tutor.â€Â


The smile returned to Aklon’s face, “Think nothing of it, my good sir. A noble deed deserves reward. Come master Asadin, we also have much to do.â€Â


Asadin quickly scuttled between the thugs to stand beside his tutor. “What about Aziz? He needs our help.â€Â


Aklon looked across at Asadin’s ragged new friend and back to the leader of the thugs. “No, master Asadin, he does not. He is among friends, of one sort or another.â€Â


“But, professor, we have to-â€Â


“No. We are done here. However, perhaps later Aziz will find the time to come to the house of Qisim, seeing as his friends are too busy to do so. There he might help himself to some more suitable reward.â€Â






A few streets later, Asadin broke his silence, “Professor, why did you give those men money? They were robbers and we should have called the mamluks on them.â€Â


“Assuming that they did not attempt to kill us both for attempting that, calling the mamluks would have done absolutely nothing.â€Â


“But they were going to rob me!â€Â


“Thugs they may have been, but they were not fools. They had not done anything against the law and had we called for the mamluks, they would have been able to claim that the boy and the foreigner had simply mistaken their intentions.â€Â


“But there were other people there who could have told the mamluks what was happening.â€Â


“Those people knew the robbers and were afraid of them. Or, more likely, the group they are a part of. They would not speak for us. To pay the thugs was the only way to reliably get them to leave us in peace.â€Â


“But even if the mamluks wouldn’t have done anything, you wouldn’t have lost your money.â€Â


“We are using a lot of ‘but’s this afternoon, are we not? There was a chance that my calling for assistance would have resulted in harm to you as the robbers made good their escape. I do not believe I could have prevented such harm with certainty, so a few coins gave them some reward for their efforts and made the prospect of arrest, injury or death for just a few more coins far less attractive.â€Â


“Oh. What about Aziz?â€Â


“Aziz is safe enough. If he wishes to leave the life he has now, the path is open to him." Aklon paused for a moment. "You were very brave today, master Asadin, to stand against those robbers. If you like, I will speak to your mother and see if I can convince her to allow me to train you to fight properly.â€Â


“Like Salah Clevertongue?â€Â


“Like Salah Clevertongue.â€Â


“Oh yes, professor, yes please!â€Â


“Good. Then I will speak to her when we have completed today’s lessons.â€Â


“Great! Uh... professor?â€Â


“Yes, master Asadin?â€Â


“You’re not going to punish me for sneaking out?â€Â


“No. I think the lesson is well taken.â€Â


“Thank you.â€Â


“Do not thank me. You have not yet begun your battle training.â€Â

Link to comment


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...