"It was the end without end. The echoes of the last calamity had scarce faded. New towns grew, quarrying old cities. Dust covered the old roads, and new tracks were laid. There was harmony, except when there wasn't."
The skald triggered a tune, the synthesized pop blaring tinnily from his instrument. A pair of boots stopped in front of him: hard leather showing much use, yet trimmed with fair.
"Ho there, friend," the voice boomed from above the boots. "What tale is this you sing?"
"I sing of How Oman Won His Sword," the skald wrapped his instrument, a pulse of bass rippling through the pavement. A clink sounded in his head, as obols were deposited in his account.
"Sing it then," the boots stood impatient to listen.
Ozuun squatted on either side of a delta, a town built on pilings above a shadowed, ever-sifting swamp that was drowned and exposed with the tides. The fleet of Ozuun set out to mind their patches that floated upon the waves, and the alewives rendered beer from starchy seaweeds.
Here was a whoreson, whose mother would not let him take her name, and left him with the prostitute that sired him to raise. Oman played in the under-Ozuun, the shadowed muck beneath the walks, where all that could not be witnessed was witnessed. The Night-Market rested there in wooden hulls that would rise once more with the tides, scavengers and night-soil collectors sifted through the trash that citizens absently threw into the empty abysses that served in place of streets, thieves cut their way into houses, drugs were brewed, sighs of passion were given lustily as bleached buttocks bounced against tanned thighs.
To Oman, these were as the playthings of his childhood. He had knelt before the fat merchants, and sucked their toes as they probed; cut purses from sleeping sailors, tickled the sons and daughters of alewives, picked through rubbish for salable treasures.
Now some say there was war in the North, that the merchant-soldiers wished to merge with Ozuun; others claim there was a fey child, intersex, that Oman wished to rescue from a high tower, where they were courted; yet the Master Ricco...
"Ho friend, what Master is this?"
"Ricco was Master of Terath on the Hud, and crossed the river to brave the libraries there, and was indoctrinated after many struggles. His dissertation was written in the blood of a scholarly foe."
"And you knew this Ricco?"
"Master Ricco was my own guide on indoctrination, though I fell lame before the final trials," his instrument gave off a muted sad melody, and he plucked idly at the humming strings.
"Enough, friend, I did not wish to reopen old wounds. Tell us more of Oman, and how he won his sword..."