Searching for a Purpose

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The heat was annoying to say the least, and for probably the hundredth time, Usasa wiped away sweat from her brow and shook her shirt loose of her sweaty body. It probably wasn't as hot as things could likely get in the desert and wastelands, but regardless, it was enough to bring a frown to Usasa's face.

As always, Usasa ignored the humming/whirring noises created by her mechanical lower arm. She did keep it covered though and left the sleeves of her shirt rolled down rather than up despite the heat. She didn't like to draw attention to her arm or herself by putting the limb on display. It wasn't something she was particularly proud of, but she was happy to have a semi functioning limb.

It had turned out that being a thief was not a good occupation for her and she knew she'd never resort to the occupation her mother had had. Not that she cared about her mother anyway. The woman had same as abandoned her to her own devices as soon as she was old enough to walk. And it wasn't until many years later that Usasa understood what the occupation was that her mother had had. Good riddance, she thought to herself as she walked along the streets of the lower city, her movements easy and practiced even as her eyes scanned the shops and people, looking for any sign of help needed. Help in the form of a job, that was. Usasa was getting dangerously low on funds, so much so that she hadn't eaten for at least a day and a half now if not longer. And the wanna be doctor that had given her her arm, had said she must find a job and become a productive member of society. She just didn't know how she'd do that. She couldn't write, though she had figured out how to read to a degree. Though her level of comprehension when reading was quite low. And handling any kind of writing stilus with her artificial limb was difficult to say the least.

Finally, after what seemed hours in the heat, Usasa spotted a sign in the window of a shop that said, "Help Wanted". She didn't know what the shop sold or who patronized it but they needed help and maybe she could help. Wiping the sweat away one last time she then put her cloth away in her back pocket and with a deep breath and prayer of hope, entered the shop.

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Re: Searching for a Purpose

Octosday, 28th of Marpenoth, year 650 of the Fifth Era<br />
Village of Arena, Desert Ward<br />
The Lower City, Capa City, Capere

Capa City has never been a city for the weak. That was even more true now than it ever has been in the time before Ablution. The rich and powerful became more rich and powerful, using their wealth to crush any opposition to their power and lifestyle. The crime families, though loosely governed, kept the Lower City in their grasps. The strong endured and the weak faded away, forced below the smog where they were all but forgotten until finally they succumbed to Spector's call. Some may think to leave Capa City, but such would be foolish. As hard as life was within the great walls of the old city, it was far worse in the burning sands of the Pyre or the magic scorched wastes of the world. "At least the smog and the shadow shields us from the burning sun," some would say.

While not the poorest of the villages in Capa City, Arena still was a harsh place to live if you were poor. Especially in the Lower City, and even more so in the region known as the Desert Ward, away from the money-making arena from which the village drew its name. The Desert Ward was called so because of its placement on the ever encroaching sands of the Pyre. Separated from the inner village and by the ruins of the Old City by walls old and new, the Ward of the Lower City was as unforgiving as any desert. Few legitimate shops could be found here, though plenty of businesses of a shadier nature could be easily found. Those that were in the Desert Ward of the Lower City were here because they had to be, not because they wanted to be. And to survive, they had to either be strong or very cunning.

The sand-battered help wanted sign hung precariously from a rusted chain beneath the dim glow of a light struggling to stay lit. It hung to one of the metal supports that made possible the city above, in front of a building that proclaimed to deal with literature and artifacts. Though if that was the true business of this enterprise was anyone's guess. "Treasures Forgotten" was the name of the store, and if one was to peer in through the grime covered windows, they'd see a varied assortment of books and old heirlooms. How such a business survived in the Lower City is perhaps the larger mystery.

From the shadows, a couple of men come stumbling. They saw the girl perhaps before she saw them. Drunk both from ale and from lust, the two practically salivated at the prospect of a good time and relieve for their throbbing loins. Slowly they made their way closer to the girl, their faces turned in a terrible leer, until the door to the establishment flung open and from it came the explosion of a gun firing. The two men, startled, run back to the shadows and a harsh, elderly voice calls from the doorway, "Well get goin' then girly. It ain't gonna be long before other's come 'round, and I ain't gonna be 'ere forever ya' know."

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Re: Searching for a Purpose

Perhaps she had seen the drunkards and perhaps not. What garnered and held Usasa's attention though, until things went awry, was what she saw through the grubby windows of the shop. She hadn't yet entered, being caught by what she saw within, but still she was close to the door. Close enough that when the door banged open and the shot rang out scaring the drunkards away, Usasa jumped and clapped her hands over her ears, ducking down after her initial jump of shock.

She was no fool, and though she didn't have any weapons on her, she knew to avoid guns and people firing them. But with her hands over her ringing ears and crouched where she was by the steps into the shop, she looked up and saw what she thought was an old man. The fleeing drunkards a distant memory.

When certain that the man would not shoot her as well, Usasa stood and lowered her hands from her ears. They still rang to an extent but normal sounds were coming back slowly but surely. Walking up the first step and braving what could be the wrath of some old man, Usasa said in a loud voice, "Thank you." She didn't realize that she was speaking so loudly. To her, her voice sounded normal, but when her hearing fully returned, she would know and not speak quite so loudly. "You're looking fer help?" she asked, again in a louder than necessary voice. She shrugged slender shoulders, her lean frame clearly showing her bones and indicating to any who cared to notice that she didn't get to eat very often. "I can help," she said. "I be a fast learner, and done taught myself how to read." Her voice was getting more normal by the minute as her hearing returned. "Give me a chance. You won't be sorry."

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Re: Searching for a Purpose

An unnatural shadow seems to hide all that is standing in the doorway, except of course the long barrel of an antiquated shot gun, but the voice left little to the imagination. The way the voice sounded, the scratchiness of it, the bass, there was no mistaking that its source was an old man. Or quite a skilled audiomancer. The man seems to stay in the strange shadow for a moment longer, perhaps studying the odd girl before him. Finally, he responds, "Won't be sorry will I?" A hoarse laugher billows from the darkness, "Maybe it's you who should be 'a hopin' not to be sorry?"

The shadow that had made its home in the doorway soon fades away to reveal a warmly lit room, cramped with all kinds of nic-nacs and antiques. The old man, silver elf perhaps but definitely an elf, walked back behind a large cherry wood counter and bent over to look for something within. "Well, ya' comin' in then lass?" He calls out his back still facing the door, his suspender-supported leather britches rising high to meet the doorway as he dug around behind the counter, his shotgun within his own reach. "Close tha' damn door when you do. An' try nuttin' funny now girly, I got eyes in tha' shadows, and will just as quickly blow a new air hole in yer pretty little face if'n you try to rob me."

Within moments he stands back up holding a clipboard with a parchment on it, a quill pen in his other hand. He was wearing brass spectacles, the kind used for reading that only cover the lower half of his eyes and a plaid, button up shirt. His hair was a wild mix of gray and white and he made no attempt to comb it. His thin frame and frail face expressed clearly that he cared not of others opinions of his appearance.

The old man hands out the clipboard and pen. "I need ya' to fill this out fer me, just somethin' to show me yer name, any experience you might be havin', and of course to show me you can read an' write. Ink is right there on tha' counter."

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Re: Searching for a Purpose

When the way was clear, the old man having stepped aside to let her in, Usasa's eyes grew wide with eager interest as she gazed within the shop. The grubby windows hadn't been able to show her a very clear picture of what was inside, but now that she could see in through the doorway, the things she saw amazed her. On silent feet, though her mechanical arm still whirring away, she entered the shop and shut the door behind her as instructed.

Pretty? No, he didn't mean it the way it initially sounded. It was just a phrase, nothing more, she told herself. As he dug around behind the counter, Usasa was clearly transfixed by all the antiques and she wanted nothing more than to pick them up, take them apart and figure them out.

But then he handed her the clip board with parchment and a quill. She took it in her left hand, leaving her mechanical right hand and arm down at her side. He needed to know if she could read and write, and what experience she had?! But the only one of those things she could do was read and that not very well. She hesitated and swallowed hard. There was no faking her way out of this, she'd have to tell him the awkward truth. He likely wouldn't want any excuses, and likely he'd think of her words as excuses, but maybe he'd understand? Please Mogen, let the old man understand, she prayed silently.

Swallowing once more and then taking a deep breath, she held the clipboard and quill out to him. "I can't fill this out," she said as calmly as she could, but to the trained listener, they'd hear the quaver in her voice. "I can read it. I just can't write out the answers." In haste to make him understand and seeing the look on his face she hurried on, not to explain but to prove that she could be of some help. "I know that makes me seem useless, but I truly can learn things after being shown only once or twice. I'm a hard worker, or at least I know I can be, but I need a chance to prove that to you. Do you have a task that needs doing? Someway I can prove my worth without having to try and do something I've never done before." Pausing, she swallowed again and kept her gaze fixed on the old man.

Gathering her courage she added, "I told you, you wouldn't be sorry. And I meant it. Give me a chance."

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Re: Searching for a Purpose

The old elf regards the girl with a look of disdain and displeasure etched on his face. His eyes though, they betrayed the hard exterior that he had conditioned himself to as they traveled the frame of the girl and landed on the mechanical arm. "What ya' got there girly?" He says, his voice none the less gruff but a certain hint of curiosity danced through his harsh syllables. He pointed at Usasa's arm, "That there. Somethin' happen to yer real one? You make that or least know how to use it well?"

The old mad grabs the clipboard harsely, "Can't read? Tha' xodod you can't You just hadn't done it yet, is all." He looks sternly over his spectacles at Usasa, the way a stern parent or teacher might. "Listen here lass, ain't nuttin' you can't do, but plenty of things you hadn't yet done. Understand?"

The old man takes the quill and dips it in ink. "So, yea read it yes? What then are ya' called, or should I just call you 'Girly'?" He waits with the quill to the paper, ready to write out her response…

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Self consciously, Usasa put her right arm behind her back, not comfortable yet with talking about it to a stranger. Most people just accepted it as part of her and didn't think twice about it. That though, still did not make Usasa any more comfortable talking about how she had come by the limb. "Oh, this…ah well. Yes. I can use it well, I can even fix it myself provided it doesn't get too badly damaged," she said in reply.

Then he went on to say how she could do things she hadn't done before, it was just that she hadn't done them. This gave her a bit more confidence, though why the words of a strange old elf man would do that, she wasn't sure. Next he went on to ask her name and relief washed over her. He was giving her a chance. Albeit a small one, but Usasa would take any chance she could get. She needed a job, desperately. She needed food just as desperately and she longed to give the good doctor money to pay her debt to him for the arm. But mostly she wanted money for food and would work for it. No more thievery for her. Honest work, that was what she would do.

She chuckled just slightly when he asked what he should call her. "You ken call me girly if you want. But my name is Usasa." She smiled and went to stand next to the old man so she could watch him write. How people could do that fascinated her. She would have to learn. Maybe he'd teach her how to write, and maybe even help her become a better reader. But no, best not to get her hopes up too soon. One thing at a time, she reminded herself as she shifted her satchel on her person.

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The old man looks at her as if she just sprouted three heads, "U… usasa? That's a mouthful of a name, 'specially for a human girly such an yerself." He shakes his head, "I'm a probably gonna screw up its spellin' but you'll live with it." He writes down Oosasha on the paper. "I'ma just call you Sasha, that ok? You look like a Sasha." He tries to smile, but his hardened face seems stuck in a state of permanent disdain. "You cannae call me Cyrus."

The old elf puts the clipboard down, "I reckon you don't have much to tell of honest work do ye. So y'er name will just hafta do for tha' gov'ment." He paces around for a moment thinking before turning back to Usasa, "So, since I don't know what good you be, I pay you based on what jobs you do and can do when I give 'em to you. The more you can do, the more you can handle, the better I pay you. Steal from me or cheat me and they'll be cleanin' up yer remains for tha' next week. Lie to me, and yer ass is out. Understood Sasha?"

Cyrus sighs, "You'n gotta place safe ta' sleep? If'n not, I can give you a room. Would be part of yer pay of course." He rubs his hands, "So, when can ya' start? If'n you say anythin' but 'right now' you can find another job."

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Re: Searching for a Purpose

Sasha? How in the world had he gotten Sasha out of Usasa? Ah well, it was a win in her column that he was giving her this chance. That he was at least willing to give it a try. "Sasha works," she said. Holding out her right hand, the mechanical one, she waited to shake his hand. If he did take her hand, the artificial flesh would feel rubbery and out of place to him, but it was all she had to keep her arm and hand looking somewhat normal. Most people didn't comment on it unless they noticed the whirring noises coming from it as he likely had.

Skipping any further pleasantries though noting his name in her memory, she said, "I do have a place to sleep, though it's a ways from here. I'd be of more help if I could stay with you and be there if and when you need me." She regarded him with golden eyes and smiled ever so slightly. "Of course I can start now. What do you need done first?" Usasa was eager to prove herself. Since she didn't have any real experience, she needed this opportunity. Praise Mogen that Cyrus was giving her a chance.

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Cyrus ignores the extended hand altogether. Then again, he doesn't seem like the kind of person who freely gives out handshakes. No, Old Man Cyrus is all about hard work and respect, which makes him more like a dwarf than an elf, but Capa City has a way of changing people. Especially the Lower City. Down here, one must be strong, aware, and not afraid to get dirty if one is to survive.

Cyrus motions around the room, "Yer first task then. Been since Ablution that this damn place has been dusted. I can't quite do it 'nymore, damn back and knees will keep me up all night if I try." He walks over to a supply cabinet and opens it up, "So yer gonna do it for me. All that you need is in here. While you get to work, I'll go and open a room up for you."

Cyrus turns around back to Usasa, "Now listen here Sasha, I'm bettin' most of the things in here are older than you, maybe some twice as old. Be careful wit' em. They be our lively hood, got it?" He pauses for a moment, "Oh yeah, if'n a customer comes in, you have 'em wait for me."

Cyrus gives a hrmph before walking towards the stairs while mumbling something about girls and why does he bother.

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When she realized that he wasn't going to shake her hand, she let it fall back to her side, the whirring noises soft but still there as she flexed the mechanical fingers. Dusting huh? That couldn't be too hard although upon looking around, the layer of dust was so thick in the store, she wondered how she'd ever get all of it out of there.

Her golden eyes tracked him as he moved over to the supply cabinet and opened it. Her ears listened as he spoke and when he went to go upstairs to ready a room for her, she couldn't help the smile that crept in at the corners of her mouth. Again she praised Mogen that Cyrus was giving her this chance. Now it was her turn to prove herself.

Without another word and eager to get to doing something as well as looking at all of the items in the shop, Usasa headed over to the closet. She found a few cloths she could use for dusting and polishing and a step ladder to help her reach the items higher up. Then as she was pulling the step ladder out of the closet, an idea came to her. Or rather a realization. When it came to dusting, dust tended to fall and settle onto things. So it would be best if she started from the top and worked her way down. That way all the dust would eventually fall to the floor and she could simply sweep it up and out of the store.

With supplies in hand, Usasa started to hum even as she started to work, starting at the top and working her way down. Though she was happy to be working, she was vigilant in how she handled the items in the shop. Careful not to touch them with her mechanical hand and arm she was gentle with all of it, the globes, the old books, the binoculars and all the other neat things. From time to time when she picked up something extra interesting, she'd stop and look at it more closely, wondering about it and how it must have been used in days past. Occasionally she'd open a book and attempt to read the words within, she had taught herself somewhat how to read, but the words in the books were mostly too advanced for her.

One book in particular caught her interest. Carefully picking it up she wiped the dust from it and opened it. "Sand Demons of the Pyre" was the title of the book and as Usasa read the title out loud she mispronounced some of the words, saying instead, "Sand dem mons of the pier." Curious to know more and seeing some interesting pictures in the book she slowly flipped the pages trying to read the words. After a minute of futility in which she tried to read, she sighed and gave up. Closing the book she put it back where she had found it and got back to work dusting.

She wished she had a better understanding of words and knew better how to read. But an education had been denied her growing up due to her circumstances. She valued what she had been able to teach herself, but longed for more knowledge and understanding. One of these days, perhaps if she could earn enough money, she could pay the doctor back for her arm, and maybe even pay someone to teach her the things she longed to know.

Pushing those thoughts aside, she started humming once more and redoubled her efforts to get the store dusted and cleaned, all the while still being careful not to break anything.

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Cyrus stood at the top of the steps watching Usasa quietly. It hadn't taken the old elf long to open up and prepare the girl's room. Really, all he had to do was open a door and look around to make sure that it was suitable. It wasn't much of a room, barely large enough for the twin size mattress, three-drawer chest, and plain oak wardrobe that it held. It would be tight for the girl, but somehow Cyrus felt that it might be better than what she's accustomed to. At least it is well insulated, has a light, and no window for any of the lowlifes of the Lower City to sneak their way into. She would be safe, she would be warm, and that was enough for the old man.

Cyrus watched her for a bit longer, chuckling softly to himself when she attempted to read the book. What he thought of her was anyone's guess, but one could easily tell that he was already fond of her. Sighing, he made the rest of the way down the steps and cleared his throat loud enough to get Usasa's attention. Holding out a key, Cyrus explains, "Alright alright, that's 'nough for today. Here's th' key to yer room. Go on and git yerself settled."

He waits for her to take the key before responding again, his voice much softer than before, "I… eh… I am across the hall from ye'. I'm havin' a simple dinner, some sandwiches from some pork I let cook durin' th' day. If'in you want, you can come have some wit me."

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Re: Searching for a Purpose

Usasa wasn't so much as startled but she was a bit surprised when the old elf came back so quickly. She felt as if she had barely scratched the surface of the dusting but she had to admit she felt happy to see him and even happier to see the key in his hand.

As she climbed down the step ladder she thought to herself how strange and how nice it would be to have a place to stay that had a key to keep things safe. She'd never had the like before and the prospect was interesting to say the least. Setting the rag she was using down, she accepted the key and flashed the old man a warm smile.

When he mentioned her joining him for dinner her smile could only grow even as her nearly two day empty stomach grumbled in eager anticipation. "I'd love to join you for dinner. It sounds delicious," she admitted cheerily.

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Cyrus seemed to smile faintly when Usasa stated that she'd love to join him, but quickly turned away. Picking up tempo, the old elf stammered, "Well good, cause I'd hate fer you to starve. You gotta eat well to work hard, and hard work is what I expect!"

Cyrus went over to the door to lock up and turn the sign to close, "You go on now, get yerself settled." He turns back to Usasa, "I'm eatin' at 1800. Try and clean yerself up some first. There's a bathroom three doors down from your room, on the right. It's got a shower and hot water and some towels."

By now it was clear that the old elf was both nervous and excited. Who knows how long its been since anyone has actually spent time with him, let alone break bread with him. Being an old elf, which in itself is a miracle given that elves live so long so he would have had to originally been born and lived the majority of his live underground, it could have been many years indeed. Cyrus quickly made his way to the steps, well as quickly as a man of his age could, "1800 Sasha. See you then."

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"See you then," she said to his retreating back as he climbed the stairs back to the second floor. Once he was out of site, Usasa gazed down at the key in her hand. How marvelous it felt to finally have a chance to make a life for herself, to honestly make some money and get some food without having to resort to stealing. Wrapping her fingers tightly around the key, she very quietly pumped her fist in the air in celebration of her newfound freedom or life, whatever you wanted to call it. Then she stuck the key in her pocket, put up the dusting supplies and the step ladder and closed the cupboard. Picking up her satchel she walked to and up the stairs, easily finding her room as the door was already open, seemingly inviting her inside.

It was a small room, barely able to contain the three pieces of furniture it had in it. But it was larger than any place Usasa had ever slept and it had a mattress to boot. A luxury that Usasa had never had before. Heck, even the other pieces of furniture were an immense luxury for her. Thank you Mogen and thank you Cyrus for all of this, she thought both in her heart and her mind. She truly was thankful for all of it.

Setting her satchel on the top of the chest, Usasa pulled out her only spare set of clothes then headed down the hallway to where Cyrus had said that the bathroom was. Once inside she found what she needed and started to get herself cleaned up. She was very careful not to let her mechanical arm get too much water on it. The fake skin that was wrapped around it helped with that, but she was still careful. Too much water not properly dried after getting wet would rust the gears within and she couldn't have that. She had promised the doctor she'd take the uptmost care of the arm.

A short while later she was cleaned up and had changed into her spare set of clothes. They were simple and had been mended several times, the patches clearly evident, but they were no different from what she had been wearing in that respect. Damp hair hung down her back as she walked back to her room. There was one last thing she needed to do before she could go eat with Cyrus. And that was to take care of and do some maintence on her arm. Settling onto the twin mattress, she pulled her satchel close and took out the things she would need. A small screw driver, some oil and a few other things. Pulling up the sleeve of the shirt and carefully pulling back the fake skin, Usasa delicately set to work oiling and cleaning her arm. The sands from outside, had a tendency to get in places a person didn't want, even if they didn't have what Usasa had. She had to clean and care for her arm every day in order to keep the sand from destroying it. She worked diligently on it and just five minutes or so before 1800 she finished and had her things put away.

Pulling the fake skin back over the arm and securing it, Usasa pulled the sleeve down as she stood and with a gurgling and hungry stomach, headed across the hall. She knocked lightly on the door and waited for a response to let her know she could go inside. She was more than ready to eat and she felt better now that she had cleaned up and was smelling that way too.

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