Aym 7 1333 YS
I thought I’d prepared myself. I knew it would be difficult, returning to Phthya, to the arrogant attitudes and petty prejudices. But I had never before been to Phthyanopolis. If you take all the horrible things about the Empire, multiply that my a thousand, then cram it all into the largest city in the world, that would only give you a slight portion of this horrible place. I cannot count the number of times I was jostled, kicked, and nearly crushed beneath the throng of so many people. A soldier nearly trampled me under his horse, then had the audacity to chastise me for being underfoot. Hello… Bantami. Thats what we do… I couldn’t even enjoy any portion of the place, for as magnificent as the architecture and artisan’s works might be, the stench and sheer numbers of ignorant and arrogant people made this experience overwhelmingly disgusting.
We Bantami are given a status less than slaves in the Empire, but here in the capitol city, everything rotten and evil are magnified tenfold. They would more easily step around a pile of dung, than give me any notice or respect. And that is how I felt, even after visiting the world famous Baths of Caracalla. Even at the baths, the women were appalled that this Bantami would befoul their sacred waters with my filth. I know that I am a tough little thing, but after two hours in the city, I was ready to cry. That, or kill somebody.
The Westering Moon had docked, and we spent a few minutes saying our goodbyes. The stench of the waterfront was worse than any I’d experienced. Captain Timolf had certainly warmed to us after the incident with the elephant. It had taken a few days in a distant port, but The Moon was repaired and restocked, and had a few new hands aboard to replace those souls lost during that fearful event. The weeks had passed too quickly and here we were, saying our goodbyes. I think it wouldn’t have been so bad if we were not disembarking directly onto a lion’s den of the arrogant multitude.
Of course, we could not even leave the gangplank of the ship unmolested. A man approached us and warned us that there was a new tax on foreigners. I of course assumed this man was trying to con us, or lead us into some sort of vile trap. For once, I was the most paranoid of the group, exceeding Dorak’s nervousness – a feat that is near to impossible. On this man’s heels were a group of city soldiery and a magistrate, collecting steep taxes and fees, and threatening to detain us and confiscate our belongings. The first man, the one who’d warned us, stepped in and told the magistrate that we were with him, and paid a bribe so they’d move along, which they ultimately did.
I was sure this man was going to swindle us, or lead us into some ambush. It turns out his name is Magnus, and he is some sort of secret police, a Praetorian. But the rest of the party bought into his scheme, and next I knew we were pushing through the throng, following him.
He led us past the docks and up a very steep ramp that led to the wealthier part of the city, resting atop a huge cliff of sorts. It was an amazing thing to see, the lower city sprawled out along the coastline. The feeling was so strange to me. I felt like a giant looking down on a vast community of ant-people, yet at the same time, I felt very small. Smaller than I usually do. I felt singularly insignificant, in a sweeping sea comprised of the insignificant.
At the top of the great walkway were men who acted important, standing upon great blocks of stone. They postulated and spoke elocutions on varied subjects: the linen taxes, moneys spent on foreign affairs, injustice against the masses. Yet their words were like rain falling on the ocean. They had no significant impact, nor were they really noticed. Again I contemplate, my love, where I truly fit in this immense world, and if one little bantami girl can make any lasting impact.
Prelate Magnus led us to the great baths, were we were segregated by gender. He described his dilemma to the men, while we ‘girls’ got to pamper ourselves. I’ll admit the baths were splendid, but the effect was tainted by the snooty women who immediately left the baths, noses in the air, when I slid into the water. They acted like someone had dropped some offal into the bath. I hate this city.
It turns out that the Prelate decided to hire foreigners to do his job for him. Something about getting some non-influential people with no political interest to investigate a murder. I think the real reason he chose us is that when things go wrong, he can blame the foreigners. We, the expendable sort. So he let us loose with a warrant allowing us to search and detain people involved with the investigation – but there was a catch. We have an overseer, a bulldog, a young newly appointed Praetorian officer. He is so green he makes spring budding flowers creep back into their folds. Full of brass and bravado, this Praetorian named Kaeso is leading us to find out who killed some rich senator’s wife, a woman who in life demeaned her husband, even in public, and had affair after affair with every famous gladiator that came to town.
If I had my way, I’d have the party just slip out the senator’s domus, and flee this sesspool of humanity before anything bad happens to us. But no, Dorak is intrigued, and Smriti would not break our oath to help Prelate Magnus. So here we are. I know things are going to fall apart. They always do.
I’ll not bore you with the details of the investigation. We are questioning witness and about to do a search of the senator’s domus. The main thing that bothers me about the whole affair is that at the burial of this elite civic-minded woman… her corpse shambled up and loped off into the city. Mormekar, even though I feel distant from him in this heathen population, would want me to investigate that part, if none other. Its part of my oath, and so I follow along, hoping that I can be of some use here.
You know, Calli, the longer I am away from you, the more lost I feel. I think my purpose as a woman, as a person, is wrapped up with you and the life we had together… before I was called away by Mormekar. Its like I have divided goals, I follow my god where he leads me, but the whole time I feel incomplete without you near. It may be that I break my vows to Him, and simply return to you. I know the work you do is important, and I long to be part of your life again. I was more whole then, I think. But now I am getting all sentimental and melancholy.
I think the pen needs rest, and so do I. But we have a long evening of investigation ahead of us. I think it very unfair of the Prelate to furnish us with such a relaxing bath, only to then put us to work. How can anyone be expected to concentrate after being so relaxed? Well, as relaxed as one can be given she is a trifling bantami surrounded by the worst filth the world has to offer.
I will let you know how this investigation pans out,
All my love,