@MilaM Habbo RP was a looooooooooooong time ago for me. Like.. 2008 or so, in the Mafia RP on habbo Netherlands.
As for the whole 'people on the outside bitching' thing, I'm honestly neutral. If it were any sort of minor thing that prompted it I'd be wholly against it, but forcing your own ideas onto a player and essentially trying to control their character is not an okay thing. People shouldn't just keep quiet about that.
<Snipped quote by Odin>
Nobody sat behind a monitor thinking 'Oh let me make somebody feel like shit.', at least not that I am aware of. Players reached their boiling point, and instead of it being listened to privately, it was forced to be aired out in the form of a rant.
<Snipped quote by Odin>
uh. this is you moments earlier.
<Snipped quote by Odin>
I mean, sure, I may have jumped to conclusions, but I'm also doing what you're asking. Forcing a direct confrontation instead of throwing shade at you subtly.
I kind of find the whole 'don't throw shade at people' thing hilarious because people are going to do that anyway, and it coming from the mouth of RPGuild's most confrontational and consistently hot-watered member doesn't really make the stance gain any favors.
...I debated on whether or not to keep that last part in because it was a bit rude, but I think it proves a point.
@Odin I mean, you can take this in context all you want but, taking the offending post in question into account
<Snipped quote by Raddum>
having been on the receiving end of one of these situaitons, I just kind of agree with the sentiment in general. Recent conflicts or not, it's still a reasonable thing to bitch about and something I am, in fact, still bitching about. Only prolly in a different context.
can't we all just like, vent without having someone getting on our ass because 'muh morals'? attack the stance, not the person.
I think it comes to a simple decision.
Do you really want to go out of your way to confront some random internet dude and earn nothing from that, or do you prefer to vent off a bit to people that may or may not want to listen to you but are all gathered in a literal "shout your grievances here" room and then follow your routine as normal?
It takes some effort to learn, but burning bridges (or taking the chance for that to happen) hardly is the best way to tackle disagreements.
Despite having made her feelings heard quite clearly, Najla found that there was no satisfaction to be gained in this. Rather, she was treated to Ketill’s imitation of starvation, performed with that cursed grin on his face. As much as she would have liked to ignore his words as she could have before in the Sultanate, they held a direct influence on her life now. Still, they did little to influence her thoughts, even as she responded with silence. Starvation wasn’t the death that awaited her.
Najla had no intention of explaining her thoughts on this matter in front of her brother. Basim already had plenty to worry about in regards to her safety, adding her own fears onto it would only make it worse. A cut throat was one thing, starvation another, but a death preceded by violations and humiliations was a death Najla was not prepared to tolerate, nor explain to Basim. Rather, she kept silent about it, her eyes remaining on Ketill just long enough to constitute a glare before she tore them off. It wouldn’t have mattered even if he knew the truth, it was Ketill’s decision to allow the men in. He didn’t care enough for her wellbeing to change his mind for that reason. Rather, Najla simply tried to occupy herself until the men returned from hunting, holding her promise not to speak on the matter any longer. Instead, she simply spoke to Ketill, responding to his comments on starvation without even looking at him.
“I’d rather not die at all.”
These words were spoken somewhat naively, more so for the satisfaction of speaking than the substance itself. She was no longer able to simply hope that death would not find her, now she was in a position where difficult decisions would have to be made to ensure that. Najla had been made well aware of that, but hoped that she would have some say in the manner of her death, at the least. Even that would be a blessing, and so she fell silent, keeping to her promise until the men returned.
They did so long after she had initially fallen silent, and though they did not return empty-handed, it did little to ease Najla regarding their return. Rather, it’d made it quite clear that these extra hands might be a necessity in this land, an easy fact to understand, but a difficult one to swallow. More than just hands or meat however, the men brought with them an interesting notion, though one that served to make Najla more nervous than anything. Better lands, one that Ketill would have to go see, leaving Basim and Najla alone with two of these newcomers. At least she wasn’t going to be completely alone with them, so perhaps Ketill had at least listened to her concern on this notion. It still wasn’t enough to placate her, for while Najla would not have been happy to be left alone, being left with her brother was little different, for neither could fight off the men if it would come to that. Still, Najla said nothing, though her eyes followed Ketill as he packed his items, first moving to that cloak he’d worked so hard for.
It might have made him a fearsome sight to the others who saw him wearing it, but Najla had initially thought it was somewhat funny, if not in a way that would make her laugh. Despite her people’s lack of familiarity with bears, it seemed they had been right in determining what this man was. The notion brought the barest hint of a grin to her face as he put it on, though this quickly faded when he walked by the men’s stash, taking…something. She hadn’t seen what, for her attention had been focused on the cloak, and thankfully, Najla seemed to be the only one who had noticed it.
She kept an eye on Ketill as he kneeled next to her and Basim to pack his things, though for the most part it seemed as if her attention was still towards the men. She was curious as to what he’d taken, but did not want to draw attention to it either. Still, it seemed Ketill would show her quite soon, for Najla took the object silently when he passed it to her, smoothly hiding under the fold of her skirt for now. It had been a relief to realize what it was and Najla was grateful that he had passed it to her, realizing that Basim would probably not want a knife in her hand after the last incident. Now, he could not take it from her for fear of drawing attention to it, not that Najla intended to use it for that purpose anyways. If all went well, she wouldn’t want to use it at all. She did not answer Ketill’s words with her own, simply watching him as he stood to leave with Grettir, as if he had said nothing at all.
The interactions between the men and Najla and Basim were awkward at first. They could think of little to talk about and it seemed as if the men were still worried as to the language barrier, for initially, they would only talk amongst the two of them. Though Najla and Basim could understand what they were saying, at least when their accents didn’t get in the way, they found that the men’s actions were quick to explain their words when they began to start cooking for the night. A pleasant surprise to Najla, but one that brought a smile to Basim’s face.
<“Nothing’s funny. I’m just happy that I won’t be eating your cooking tonight.”>
Najla stood as she spoke those words, her hand gripping the knife carefully. It was easy to hide it as she slipped away from the men, moving behind that wicker wall, and gently placing the knife under some of the furs. A knife was little comfort when not on hand, but hiding it on her person forever wasn’t an option either. It was quite obvious as to why Ketill had given it to her, though it seemed the men were calm for now, that there would be no need to use it as such. For a little while, she lingered near the furs and the knife, waiting until some time had passed before Najla would allow herself to ease. However, it seemed there was no need, and though it was some time after Basim had offered to help Arngeir, Najla would move to rejoin them, the knife hidden away among the furs. Boredom was enough of a motivator to convince her to rejoin the others, it seemed, and she entertained herself by listening to Basim explain her homeland to these strangers, interjecting every so often when he needed clarification. For the most part however, she remained silent, desperate for something to occupy her time. There were a few tasks available, such as the whole process of spinning rope, but these occupied her hands, not her mind.
Basim’s conversation with Arngeir provided at least some distraction then, though it amused Najla to listen to the way Arngeir was engaging with Basim, as if he were a child telling a made-up story. If she returned to the Sultanate with stories of endless snow and bodies swinging from trees, they’d likely treat her stories much the same way. While Basim’s explanation of taxes and tributes was amusing, Najla’s eyes shot up to Basim as he began to discuss the sand-tribes, mentioning that Ketill had fought against them. There was no panic in her gaze, for nothing would happen if these men knew. Nothing would happen if the whole Sultanate knew. But it was still not the sort of story that aided a reputation, and Najla might have been quite pleased that Hadski interrupted, if it had not been for the words themselves.
She had not expected that one of the men would hold an animosity towards Ketill already, and Arngeir’s explanation only served to bring a small frown onto her face. At least Basim was thoughtful enough not to speak any more on it, moving the conversation along without mentioning that his ‘time before’ would have been as a Servant of another God. If Hadski had a dislike for Broacienians, Najla found herself fearing how much farther that would extend if he knew what the tattoos on Ketills forehead represented. They had some familiarity with Broacien clearly, but the north did not see many Servants, so she would not have been surprised to hear they didn’t know of the title. If Ketill’s ability to ensure loyalty from these men depended on their belief that he was a Broacienian, it could be just as bad that he was accompanied by these two foreigners from an imaginary land. Both uncomfortable notions, and Najla was glad that Ketill and Grettir returned to interrupt these thoughts, not for the sight of the men, but the knowledge that their presence meant Hadski’s words would be halted for now.
They were, for some time, as this makeshift group gathered around the fire to listen to Ketill’s plans. It was strange for Najla to listen to him lay out plans for the new house, for though she had grown used to this voice he’d used when he was commanding them, the substance behind his words was far different. Before, it’d always been more in the form of vague threats, but now he was speaking as if he had a long-term plan in mind, and intended the others to agree with him. He sounded far more like a chief than the brutish soldier who’d dragged them over the mountains, but that did not mean he looked any more like a chief in Najla’s eyes. They were far too familiar for that. Still, it seemed the other men were more receptive to the notion, agreeing with Ketill’s plans willingly.
All but one of them, a man who Najla had firmly expected to stay silent. She had expected that Hadski would be less comfortable expressing his thoughts with Ketill sitting in front of him, but it seemed he held no such restraint. Her eyes widened slightly when Hadski had been about to call him a pig, and though Grettir was quick to silence that, Najla’s eyes remained on Ketill, as if waiting for him to react. When she had called him a dog, she had been thrown out in the snow to die, but Ketill responded to Hadski with nothing but words. They were enough to silence him now, allowing them to finish up the rest of their planning. It would only be temporary however, that much was clear, for the tension still felt thick in the air.
It would not be her problem for some time, though Najla would have plenty of opportunity to dwell on it. As boring as the winter had been, it was nearly worse now, for she was left on her own a great deal of the time. At first, it had been a blessing, for she did not have to worry about these strange men when they were out piecing together Ketill’s plans. It was not long before it turned into something much different than a blessing, and Najla was hard-pressed to find ways to occupy her time as the days went on. There were always some tasks that needed doing, for the others would often come home tired and hungry, so Najla at least had to do enough to make certain they’d have food and a clean place to rest their heads, but these sorts of chores took up far less of her day than she would’ve liked.
Without the endless varieties of pleasure in the Sultanate, she was forced to find new ways to occupy her time, none of which were as pleasurable. This time alone brought about a number of new tasks for her, some useful, like spinning rope, while others, like her quest to make kohl out of charcoal, were far more self-serving. Regardless of how many tasks she tried to fill her time, it did little to kill the aching tension the solitude brought.
At least the men returned during the night, for though Najla did not see the shadow of her brother again after the first incident, she was not foolish enough to believe it had disappeared forever. During the day, while she tried to occupy herself otherwise, she could still feel a presence lingering in the air, one Najla couldn’t explain. Perhaps the solitude was beginning to drive her mad, it certainly felt as if that was the case. Still, enduring those months of slowly building insanity felt worth it once the houses had been completed, and they could finally move so that she wasn’t left alone to fall into that insanity. Working on the farm wasn’t even a massive burden, despite Najla’s initial annoyance that Ketill had wanted her to work on it. But once she had learned what to do, it felt nice to have something new to do, after months of keeping cooped up with the same repetitive tasks. Even better, she was greeted with her own room at the end of it all, a comfort she feared she’d long abandoned.
Najla had been working on the farm, kneeled down in between where they’d plotted the seeds, pulling out every bit of grass that wasn’t meant to be there. It was mundane, dull work, and she didn’t even know enough regarding farming practices to understand much of its purpose, but it was done with no complaint. That work had stopped however, when she heard the sound of her brothers voice, calling out for Ketill as he returned. It startled her briefly, and Najla stood, brushing her hands off on her dress as she watched Basim run towards Ketill, followed by a familiar figure and an unfamiliar one. Her eyes followed the new figure cautiously, though he did not seem to be as great of a threat, if any, compared to the men before. He was older, alone, and the calm nature of the others was enough to tell her this was no threat.
While that thought eased her nerves, it did little to ease her curiosity. It was strange to see people continually appear, especially as Najla had believed before that no one but them lived here. Regardless, she was not given much time to ponder on it, for Najla heard her name being called. It was an irritating notion to be called like that, but she walked towards Ketill anyways. His command was received with no indication that she’d heard it or intended to do so, but Najla simply turned and walked into the house, abandoning whatever she’d been doing in the farm. Two furs, so that man and another. Whoever it was, Najla found herself hoping it was not another man as she set up the furs.
Once she was done, Najla did not turn to go back to her work, but walked into the storage room, where Basim was rearranging some items. It seemed that while she was not going to ask for answers from Ketill, she was going to get them from someone at least.
<“Who is this man you brought?”>
<“He’s a carpenter apparently. Lives alone with his wife.”> Basim replied even as he moved some items around, not thinking twice before he passed off a handful of supplies to Najla, leaving her to hold them until he could store them somewhere else. <“Are you happy to hear there will be another woman?”>
<“So long as she’s a better cook than I am.”> Najla watched as Basim stepped back, trying to gauge if he had created enough room even as she spoke. <“Ketill’s little village is growing quickly. How many more do you think he’ll invite?”>
Basim shrugged then, reaching out to take the supplies he’d passed off to his sister. Najla handed them over, and he stuffed them away as he replied to her.
<“I don’t know. I’m not quite sure what he intends to do. I also don’t know enough about farming to know how many we can sustain here.”>
<“You think he’ll take in as many as we can sustain?”>
<“Hopefully not more than that. Why, are you upset? I thought you were bored with just us.”>
<“I am bored. Besides, it’s not like these newcomers are dangerous, it doesn’t matter if I don’t trust them.”>
<“Right. It’s Ketill you don’t trust.”>
Najla did not respond to that, though Basim’s glance at her expression was enough to confirm that they both knew he had spoken the truth. It was impossible for Najla to trust Ketill without knowing what his intentions were and he seemed to have little desire to share that information. Basim seemed more ready to accept Ketill’s leadership, which was understandable, but served to irritate Najla at the same time. He was no fool, to trust him completely, and Najla believed he would side with her above all others regardless. Blood loyalties were impossible to surpass.
Najla had not been entirely sure what to make of these newcomers at first. It was not like when Ketill had brought the men in, for these people were far older, and posed no threat. More than anything, Najla was quite grateful to have another woman join their new ‘village’ even if she did not tell her so. She had been even more grateful for the bed the woman’s husband had made for her, and so Najla had been friendly to the woman, though not particularly open. It was nice to have a helping hand with her own tasks, especially from someone that knew what she was doing. Still, they were strangers, and Najla had left it up to the woman to bridge that gap. At her introduction, Najla offered her a small smile. Interesting was not quite the word she would have used.
“It has certainly been an experience, but I’m pleased that it is over.” Najla replied, likely to most welcoming phrase she’d uttered to any of the newcomers. She paused briefly to pour some water over the plants, though her tone was friendly when she spoke up again. “I’m Najla.”
The woman smiled in response. Silence fell briefly, for despite their friendliness, there was little to say just yet. While Sif likely had a lot of questions about Najla’s background, unlike the others, she seemed content to wait until they were more familiar before asking about it. While it left them with little in common to talk about besides the tasks before them, Najla seemed happy not to talk about her home with this woman. Rather, she moved to start a topic quickly, pouncing on just about anything to talk about.
“How long have you been living in these parts?”
“Quite some time. We used to have neighbors, but it has been a while since then.”
“You clearly love your husband dearly then. I could not survive so many winters alone with another.”
Sif smiled slightly, emptying the last of the water. “I suppose. Children would have made it easier, but it was not our fate.” She straightened up, her eyes moving over Najla as she imitated Sif’s behavior, pouring out the bucket. “You have no children? I’ve seen none here.”
Najla shook her head, but Sif continued. “You are young, there is still time.”
Somehow, this conversation felt worse than talking about her home. Najla felt no pain at the fact that she had no children. She would have been happy to bear Osman’s children, but that was long ago, and there was no man for whom she’d be willing to take that on now. Clearly, Sif had imagined that there was a chance it might happen for Najla, likely assuming that she wanted the same. It made sense after all, it seemed that across all the cultures Najla had seen, a woman’s value was determined by the number of children she brought into the world. Bearing children was not a thought Najla despised, but the man Sif had assumed she’d bear them for was one Najla could never tolerate. Perhaps the time would never come now.
“I suppose, if it is willed so.”
It was a careful response, spoken as she was setting the bucket down on the ground briefly to inspect the hem of her dress. It had been torn, but Najla had yet to bother and try and fix it. By inspecting it, Najla had drawn Sif’s attention to it as well, who quickly changed topics, as if she sensed Najla’s discomfort.
“I’ll prepare food tonight if you need time to repair it.”
“No, it’s not about time.” Najla straightened up then. “I just don’t know how.”
“You don’t know how to sew?”
She could have laughed at her surprise. It wasn’t a difficult skill to pick up, Najla had seen that. However, she did not want to try it out on one of the few items of clothing she had, in fear of runining it further. However, Sif seemed rather shocked at the notion that Najla had no idea of how to begin. She’d been around her enough to see that any skills Najla carried in her basic tasks were those learned by trial and error, but had likely assumed there was at least some reason Ketill kept her around. Now, Najla’s admission had left her searching for such a reason again.
“No. I never learned.”
“Did your mother never teach you?”
Najla laughed softly at that, shaking her head again. Reaching down, she grabbed the now-empty bucket. “No. My mother taught me many things, but none that come in use here.” Without missing a beat, she looked over the crops they’d watered. “Do we need to get any more water?”
Sif shook her head at that, turning to move back into the house. Najla followed, not questioning her judgment. After all, it seemed the woman knew a few things about farming, whereas Najla wasn’t capable of doing much besides following orders on it. Her experience with farming had been limited to the most basic understanding of some irrigation techniques the Sawarim used, useless here even if she knew how to use the systems.
“What have you been doing with your clothes until now?”
“Giving them people who knew how to fix it. Unfortunately, we’ve been around men for quite a while.”
She paused briefly, looking up at the woman, suddenly concerned that the woman would assume Najla wanted to throw this chore onto her. It was not a fear she would have held before, but the notion of carrying owns one weight was a conscious effort for her now.
"I won’t ask you to fix it, but perhaps you could teach me how? I would try to take some tasks from you in return, to lighten your burden.”
“No need.” The woman smiled kindly at Najla. “Teaching you would be sure to lighten my burden in the long term anyhow.”
It was a smart sentiment, and Najla was quick to express her appreciation. For once, she seemed ready to put the work in willingly, and not under the threat of being pushed out into the snow if she refused to do so. Perhaps it was because the boredom of the month before her had convinced her that any task was better than doing nothing at all, or perhaps it was because throwing the burden of any task onto this woman was undesirable. Regardless, the two continued about their tasks together, and as soon as dinner had been set to cook, Sif sat beside Najla, teaching her how to push the needle through and fix her dress. It made the conversation far easier, as they could talk about the task at hand rather than any background they didn’t want to get into.
It turned out rather quickly that having Sif aid Najla was a more massive help than she could have imagined. They did not act quite like friends, for Sif had been living alone with her husband for some time, and Najla had rarely had friends outside her own blood. It was awkward for each of them to pretend as such. Still, Najla enjoyed her company, if only because it provided a break from the monotony her usual routine held. They’d speak mostly about the chores at hand, for Sif had a great deal to teach her. Sometimes, the woman had tried to prod deeper into Najla’s background, which went differently depending on the circumstances. Najla was receptive to questions about her homeland, but once Sif had ventured farther, asking how she’d been brought here, the conversation ended abruptly. The women held a solemn understanding after that.
It had also made the distribution of chores far easier, especially once Najla had gotten better at certain tasks. Tending the farm and cooking were their greatest priorities, making certain that they’d be able to last through the days ahead and the winter to come. Najla had taken two buckets down to the river, filling it up with water. Sif had offered to help, but Najla had left her to the cooking, offering to do this on her own. Still, it was an irritating task, more so because she hated lugging that heavy water bucket more than anything. For this reason, Najla was initially grateful to see a small group of the men standing around, spotting her brothers curly hair amongst them. It’d be easy to hand it off to him and ask him to take it back, but once she saw the other two men standing with him, Najla thought twice about it. Arngeir stood beside Basim, likely as the two had just come back from hunting, and Hadski was with them as well. It was an odd sight, as he’d made nearly every effort to isolate himself, but Najla didn’t think twice as to why. Instead, she moved towards the river instead, intending to fill up the bucket and return home.
She had filled up the bucket when suddenly, Najla heard Basim call her name, and looked up to see him moving towards her quickly. Just behind him was Arngeir walking slower, and Hadski just behind him. Arngeir had been a more familiar sight to Najla recently, as he’d been taking her brother hunting out far more often. It was a notion that’d made her nervous at first, but the man had seemed decent enough. At least, he was decent to Basim, and Najla seemed satisfied enough with that. She turned towards them, taking a few steps to meet the men, though it would be Basim that closed the distance. Setting the bucket of water down at her feet, Najla wiped her hands on her dress as Basim turned back to look at Arngeir, speaking as the man approached.
“Najla, we need you to settle something.”
The question was seemingly asked to Basim and Arngeir together, leaving either open to answer the question. Had she wanted to speak to Basim, Najla simply would’ve used her native tongue, but they had learned to hold back on speaking it if possible. While speaking their mother tongue was only done out of ease, it seemed to leave the men somewhat uneasy. Understandably enough, it seemed to leave the impression that their words weren’t meant for other ears, and so both Najla and Basim had come to the unspoken conclusion that they would speak Sawarim in private. This left her question open to both, and so it was Arngeir that responded, his tone a mixture of disbelief and humor. Clearly, he believed Basim was joking.
“Your brother is trying to have me believe that the sand in your land is not always settled, but that storms of it rip through your lands. Ah-ahsoof?”
Najla laughed at his pronunciation of the word, her eyes bright as she turned them on Basim, wondering exactly what had led to this conversation. She would not have been able to understand the word if not for his previous explanation, but even if she hadn’t, Basim was quick to fill her in.
“Ahsifet Ramaliye. And the sand is usually settled, it just storms sometimes.”
“Without rain or snow, it storms?”
“It’s…it’s like a storm. Kind of. I haven’t seen enough of either.”
Again, Najla’s laughter interrupted Basim, though she seemed far more ready to interrupt now. Otherwise, she’d spend her whole day watching a boy who had never seen a sandstorm explain it to a man who had never seen sand.
“We call it a storm because we do not know storms like yours. For us, our storms are only sand, picked up by the wind and carried across the desert in massive clouds, taller than you could ever imagine. It’s why so many of our cities have high walls, else our people would be buried.”
There was a confidence in her voice, one that stemmed from years of knowing the desert as her home. Though Basim seemed somewhat pleased to have been proven right, Arngeir seemed hesitant, likely because he assumed Najla would side with her brother regardless.
“Is sand dangerous enough to justify high walls?”
“Oh yes. The sand will fill your chest if you are not careful, and bury you if you are not quick. The storms appear without warning, if you have been in the desert long enough, you can see the movements in the sand as the wind picks up. Usually however, there are only seconds between the cloud on the horizon and your chance to find shelter. Men try to outrun them sometimes but…”
She shrugged here, clearly indicating that it was not a possibility. Arngeir seemed enthralled at her explanation, shocked that a people managed to survive in such a land. Najla held many of those same surprises here. Rather than explain herself further, Najla reached down for the bucket, hoping to end the conversation before Hadski approached their small group. However, Arngeir, who held no worries about his approach, was quick to utter another question.
“You speak like you’ve seen them, have you?”
“Once, while I was traveling.”
“How did you survive it?”
“I waited.” Najla smiled at her own words, resting the bucket against her hip. “You cover your mouth and find shelter, and hope that the sands don’t pick up your shelter as well. There is no other way. Ask Ketill, I am sure he has seen them.”
A great deal of that story had been left out, but it was not one that Najla was willing to explain. Arngeir already had great difficulty believing some of the more basic parts of their homeland, how was she going to be able to explain a concept of a royal family to him? That she had never been in danger, that there were guards willing to lay their lives down for those they believed to be appointed to such power by god? Even if she could manage that, convincing Arngeir that she and Basim had been members of such a family would be near impossible. Rather than bother, she quickly reached down to grab the bucket she had filled, holding it up and out towards Basim.
“Would you do me a favor and carry this one up into the house? Sif will be waiting for it.”
“Why don’t you?”
“I don’t want to carry two. Come on, it’ll make your arms strong.”
Najla had hoped that her urging Basim away would mean the other two men dispersed as well, but it turned out she was only half-right. Basim took the bucket, though not without complaint, for he knew she wasn’t giving him this task to help strengthen him. As Najla turned and reached for the empty bucket on the ground, ready to fill it, Arngeir took off as well. One presence however, remained, and did not disappear even when Najla turned her back to him, continuing about her business to make it clear the conversation was over. It seemed however, that this presence had different intentions.
“Arngeir believes you’re lying about your lands.”
“It seems so. He believes they are too harsh for men to survive in.”
“But Ketill has.”
The distaste in his voice was easy to hear, and unmasked. This was not like the Sultanate, where they’d watch their words and emotions to keep their true self hidden. These Northmen seemed far more up-front about their feelings, and though it made situations like this uncomfortable, at least it made their purpose easier to discern. Najla filled up the bucket, thinking through her words for a moment before she spoke again. Suddenly, she was thinking through her words quite carefully, whereas with Basim she had spoken more freely, though a man like Hadski would not see the difference. Whatever he had hoped to get by inciting this conversation, Najla did not want to give it to him.
“Yes. It is unsurprising, the north is as unforgiving as my home, if not more so.”
“Northerners yes, but Broacienians-“
“They preach a lot of cruelty, for such soft men.”
Najla’s words cut him off, and Hadski frowned slightly, clearly surprised by her words. For her part, Najla kept a grin on her face, as if she was enjoying this conversation. Both the tone of her voice and the words that followed sounded as if she was merely joking with this man, but Ketill or Basim would’ve easily been able to tell that she did not mean it, that her words were merely an attempt to build some common ground with a man who clearly did not want it built.
“I agree with you Hadski, I have no love for them either. I am quite familiar with Broacienians, and never because I wanted to be. I might have preferred staying in their soft lands, but they are soft people for it.”
“Does that mean you were brought here against your will then?”
No sound came as response, for Najla left the now-full bucket on the grass and straightened up, turning her body fully towards Hadski now. It was easier than to reply to Hadski immediately, pretending as if she did not know why he was asking. It was quite clear that Najla had no softness towards Ketill, she had never tried to pretend otherwise, though she had never tried to be hateful to him either. It was clearly not a subject anyone with knowledge on the matter enjoyed talking about, therefore, anything more about their relationship could only be built through assumptions. Perhaps he believed she held a similar hatred, or that Najla would let some words slip that could help further Hadski’s own grievances. Regardless, he would find that Najla had not forgotten his grievances against Ketill, and although she did not trust him, she trusted Hadski far less.
“He did not bring me. Not the way you mean. I am as free as you are.”
It was true, though not quite. She could leave at any time, but it would do little more than guarantee a swift death, Ketill had proven as much. But for now, Najla was not quite worried about telling the truth to this man. Najla could not tell what Hadski had assumed of her relationship with Ketill, but she could guess. Likely, the others had assumed as much of their relationship as well and she had done nothing to prove or deny such guesses either way. So long as they believed she belonged to Ketill in that manner, none of the men would dare to take her from him. None would be able to beat him in a fight and even if they could, there was no reason besides her exotic nature and the sheer lack of other women present to do so. Still, she believed this unspoken assumption would be enough to keep the threat stifled within her mind, even if Ketill might never have acted on it. Hopefully, even men like Hadski would fear Ketill enough to keep away from her, though the way he stepped forwards told Najla not to place all her faith in this fear.
“A free woman who hates Broacienians would not willingly give herself to one.”
“Ketill is not a Broacienian.”
Yes, he had been ‘Servant’ to her people, but he was not a Servant any longer. He had not been Servant then either, though Najla had learned that later, but he would be Servant so long as it benefitted her to believe he was one. Now, it was a past that would serve no purpose but to muddy whatever claim he was trying to stake here. While she was still somewhat uncertain about what that claim was, it was clear that it not in her best interest to thwart it.
“He spent years there, you should know-“
“I know his life quite well. I have known him to be a northerner longer than I knew what that meant.”
He did not take well to the way she had cut off his words, Najla could tell. It was a habit pulled over from her days as a Sultana, and likely one she’d never let go of. Still, a free man of the north did not quiet as easily as a slave from the Sultanate would. His anger was not something she was taking lightly, even if it was directed at Ketill, rather than her. Hadski’s assumption about their relationship did guarantee her some protection, but tying them together also made her an easier target for his anger. If he thought taking her would anger Ketill, then it was only natural she’d be an easy way to get back at him. Najla reached down to pick up the bucket, but before she could walk towards the plot and end the conversation, he spoke up again, his tone angrier than before.
“You don’t know what a northerner is, or else you’d know being a ‘chief’s’ trophy doesn’t allow you to talk that way to a true northerner.”
She wanted to turn back, to snap at him for calling him what he did, but Najla knew she was in no position to do so. They were not isolated, she knew Hadski would not do anything to hurt her here, when there were so many to witness and so few who would defend him in that instance. But they would not always be among others, and she might not always have the threat of her presumed ties to Ketill to stave him off. Forcing herself to maintain a calm composure, Najla picked up the bucket, turning around to look Hadski in the eyes now.
“I had intended no offense, I hope your intentions were the same. Now excuse me, I have some work to finish.”
With that to end the conversation, Najla turned around and began to walk back towards the house, leaving Hadski to his own devices. Clearly, she knew that Hadski had intended to offend her, that his anger had gotten in the way of his better judgment. Whatever he had wanted from her, he would never get now, but that did not ease Najla’s thoughts. Rather, they consumed them as she returned to the plot, forcing herself not to look back to see if he had left.
It was difficult at first for Najla to decide what to do about the conversation, or Hadski himself. The way he isolated himself was worrisome in itself, and it did not seem as if his attitude would change despite the growing population of their ‘village’. Though he had not acted on his animosity towards Ketill, their conversation had left her with an uneasy feeling in her stomach. The way he spoke to her regarding Ketill reminded her of her time in the Sultanate, the way she’d learned to pry into conversations and wrench out every bit of information he could get. It did not feel much the same way, for the man’s thoughts had been no secret during the conversation, but surely, the end goal was the same. He wanted something from her, something he could hold up to the others as proof that Ketill was more Broacienian than northerner. There could be no good reason that followed.
The decision to tell Ketill about the conversation was easy, but Najla resolved not to tell him about the assumptions that had laid the foundation for most of it. Perhaps he’d heard from the men himself, or perhaps they knew well enough to keep silent on it. Regardless, it was not an idea she wanted in Ketill’s head, even if it only meant he’d set out to make sure they knew the truth. With that decision made, Najla only waited a few days after the conversation, watching Hadski carefully in the few moments they saw each other during the day. Truthfully, these moments were few and far between, as they both busied themselves with different tasks, and Hadski had seen fit to isolate himself anyways. The few moments had not been entirely awkward either, but the tension was palpable, if only to the two of them.
She wanted to keep it that way, not willing to spread any knowledge among their small community. At least, not any further than she would spread it, for she was certain that Hadski would never tell his friends about the conversation, since it had been so fruitless for him. There was simply nothing for him to tell, besides the fact that Najla had been slightly rude to him. That’d be understandable enough to anyone who heard, certainly. With such a desire, it seemed strange that she’d want to tell Ketill about what happened. It wasn’t like she expected him to do anything regarding the matter after all, especially not when picking a fight with Hadski might mean they’d lose Grettir and Arngeir too. And for whatever reason, Ketill needed them.
It made enough sense to her. More hands, more skill, these meant more food, and a greater chance of surviving the winter. Najla had only needed to see one of these winters before she resolved not to see another in the same manner, watching their food supply slowly dwindling. Yet, something about Ketill’s great plan felt…off. He’d already mentioned that she’d had some sort of place in these plans, the only reason he’d taken Yasamin’s life instead of her own. However, Najla had found no clarity as to what these were. He was not a man who had ever desired power for the sake of it, but now he had taken to gathering men, men who called him ‘chief’. A strange notion, but her future here might have depended on her understanding it.
It was only a couple of days after the conversation had occurred before Najla was ready to tell Ketill. She waited until the night came, not for any semblance of privacy, but because there was work to be done, and they’d have to wait till it was finished. It was an entirely strange notion to Najla, who used to call Ketill to her at all hours. The others had gone to their respective houses, and Najla sat with Sif in the main hall, eyes squinted over some scrap of fabric she’d been practicing on. Luckily, Basim had headed off to sleep somewhat early, but Najla’s eyes had been watching for Ketill, waiting for him to do the same. When she saw him stand, Najla followed suit, bidding Sif and her husband a good night before she put away the scrap of fabric. Just before Ketill could enter the hallway that led into their rooms, Najla reached him. Her voice was a low whisper even before they moved through the door. It wasn’t loud enough for anyone to hear, but it was obvious to any who saw them that she’d be speaking to him. Likely, no one would think twice on it, though for Najla it was a small step towards keeping a delicate pretense.
“I need to speak with you. Privately.” With a glance at Basim’s closed door, Najla gestured towards Ketill’s room, ignoring how strange it felt to ask. “Do you mind?”
When Ketill had let her into the room, Najla stepped in, looking around the area. She’d never seen the inside of Ketill’s room until now and though it was not much different from hers, she looked around it as if she’d find something in it. It was much larger than hers, a thought that brought a hint of a grin to her face as she moved towards the table, seating herself in one of the chairs without asking. There didn’t seem to be a point in asking, clearly she’d make herself comfortable either way.
There was only a brief moment of silence, in which Najla raised her eyes to meet Ketills. She’d give so much to just get into his mind for a few moments, to learn all she needed and leave so that she’d never have to speak to him again. Instead, she found herself knowing little to nothing, forcing her to speak, so that she might eventually pull something worth knowing.
“The men have taken to calling you chief,” Najla remarked. It was not a question, despite her desire to go ahead and ask them. Old habits died hard, it seemed, though perhaps she had simply wanted to acknowledge that fact, almost as an indication that she wouldn’t be doing the same. Her next words were spoken with a slight smile on her face, a hint that perhaps they weren’t meant to be taken entirely seriously.
“You’d be a Khan in the desert, but I have seen few Khans who have gained their power in this way. Most declare the title, or take it from their fathers, but you-“
She trailed off just briefly, though her next words were familiar, ones she had spoken long before. Something about her smile seemed to suggest that she remembered speaking those words, though they had been buried deep into their mutual past.
“You are unlike any man I have ever met. Most men I’d know would gather more than a plot of land and a few hands to work it before they took on a title. Still, you did not force them to start saying it, but you have not asked them to stop either. It’s almost as if… as if you’re acting in anticipation. I don’t know what survival takes here, but for once, it seems as if you have a goal beyond merely surviving.”
It was a strange notion, and not well-explained, for Najla had not fully formed the thoughts in her own mind either. She could not explain Ketill’s actions, his desire to start a village, his sudden assumption of that leadership role, none of it made sense to her. He’d indicated that it was for survival, truly everything here seemed to be, but that just didn’t seem like enough. If he wanted to survive, and nothing more, why was she still here? He could survive easily without her, perhaps more pleasantly, and yet, he had built her a room inside his own house, perhaps indicating that he intended for her to stay. He had killed Yasamin, rather than Najla, for a reason she’d yet to understand. Yet he’d also thrown her out in the snow, left her to die once she’d slipped too far. It was a precarious situation, and the thought of the future was a curious one for Najla, who didn’t know how well she’d fit into a vision she could not see. Her eyes bored into his as she asked the next question, hoping she’d find something in them that he’d not tell her. As always however, they gave away nothing.
“What is it you anticipate? It will serve no purpose to keep me in the dark, I would only be able to aid if I know exactly what I am aiding. So, what is this goal of yours?”
There it was, with no hint of subtlety or care now, despite how she had led up to this question. Perhaps that had served a purpose as well, to show Ketill that she had a sense of what was happening, that keeping her in the dark would be meaningless. Regardless, there was no sense in asking the question in a more subtle manner. Had she been speaking to any other man, perhaps she would have tried, but her history with Ketill had taught Najla otherwise. While others would have picked at their nails, looked around the room, Najla merely studied Ketill under a calm gaze, her hands now folded gracefully in her lap. Whether he’d share his visions of the future or not, it would only matter to her so far as she could see her place in them. At least, that’s all her expression betrayed, though there seemed to be something more in the way Najla spoke to Ketill about his goals, a hint that this burgeoning sense of power was a source of interest to her, even if it was dangerous.
When Ketill would be done answering, Najla would finally take her eyes off of him, glancing around the room briefly as she thought through her next words. That had been the real reason why she was here, after all, to warn Ketill of a danger he already knew. Or more accurately, to confirm that he knew, in the hopes that something might be done about it. It would be easiest to just recount what Hadski had said to her, but that would involve betraying that Hadski had assumed Ketill had brought her from the desert for his own pleasures. A single glance at Ketill’s expression was enough to tell her to stay quiet on that front, to betray nothing regarding the conversation except that it had occurred.
“Whatever your plans, you know that Hadski does not believe you, a Broacienian, is suited to lead them. You heard him say as much, even allowed him to call you what would’ve had me thrown out in the snow.” At this, Najla shrugged. The reason for that was quite clear, seeing as Hadski brought far more food to the table than she did, but Najla still hoped to equivalate the two. “I had hoped that he’d relent, but it hasn’t happened. It won’t ever happen. I am entirely certain of that now.”
With a small sigh, Najla finally pushed herself to stand. Clearly, she wanted to end the conversation just after she’d passed her information on, not wanting to wait another moment in which he could pressure her for information. Not that she’d have a choice, but perhaps this way he’d be less inclined to hound her for it.
“Hadski approached me some days ago. He was trying to push me into saying or doing something that would prove you were a Broacienian, something he could take back to the others as proof.” Najla smiled slightly now, though she spoke as she walked towards the door, making it so that Ketill might not see. “I did not give anything to him, of course, only that I knew you as a northman. I cannot imagine he’d try again. But once should be enough for you.”
With that, Najla rested her hand on the door, but just before she turned to leave, she’d turn back to look at Ketill once more before leaving. She wouldn’t reveal anything more about the nature of the conversation if pressed, and would only give vague answers. Still, whether or not Ketill saw him as a real threat, or believed his value outweighed that threat remained to be seen.
“I do not tell you this to give you advice, I know how fruitless that would be. But to keep each other in the dark now would be unfair and unhelpful. Hadski’s a threat and should be weeded out as such.”