I had intended to make another entry much later tonight than now, but this can’t wait.
To preface – it has been a few hours since my last entry. The river guides the barge along at a crawl, giving us considerable time to enjoy the scenery and relax. Spiritz is fashioning a fishing-pole out of materials he can borrow from our transport, to dip a line and maybe pull up dinner. If he succeeds in catching something, I’ll stick to dried meat and cheese from our Guild provisions.
BOB is using the crates and riggings for exercise, engaging in vigorous conditioning routines despite the muggy heat rising off the river in this oppressive sun. Wilhelm sits up on some crates, watching the shore-line, intent upon the sparse trees, muddy banks, and grassy embankments. He is quiet now; earlier he engaged in friendly conversation with Lunk and Reece.
Now to the event of note, the high point of the day and cause for excitement and this entry. It was an exchange between Lunk, Calum, and Dusty. At first it was nothing. Just witty banter. Seemed harmless enough.
Dusty was being Dusty – loud, annoying, provocative, and flamboyant. He was looking to get a rise out of someone, to play the role of court jester, stir up annoyance in others for the sake of it. Shades of his display at the Guild recruitment. I think he was bored; everyone but BOB had found a shady patch of deck and was generally keeping to themselves.
Dusty went on at length about his past exploits. Prattling on about how many times he had saved his home village when he was young, defending the peasants from unlikely sorts of creatures. Or extolling a revisionist version of how he fought off all of the elf archers outside of Callia the other day, while the rest of us “self-abused with abandon”. He was figuratively kicking sand at the others, almost daring him call him out on his boastful pride. Even going so far as to take verbal shots (none aggressive) at Calum, Lunk, BOB, or any other fighter within earshot.
I thought it was more amusing than annoying, even if it was too hot out for this sort of thing. Perhaps fighters don’t get patience or a sense of humor as Class skills. I saw Calum and Lunk exchange a look, and nod in weary agreement. Lunk rose from where he sat, sized up the loudmouth, and began an oration I wish I could have transcribed in full.
He started into Dusty, first about what happened at the tavern the other night (an excellent choice of topic, in my opinion). Dusty ceded the spotlight, smirking, allowing Lunk the stage – for the moment getting what he wanted, someone to take up opposition.
Lunk ranted for what seemed like half an hour; encouraging Dusty to explain how he had managed to spectacularly fail at hitting on the redheaded fighter woman at that table. Lunk suggesting any number of possibilities, both clever and crude. At times Lunk would pause, and Calum would resume the diatribe where it left off, incisively cutting down Dusty’s boastful fantasies in a most enjoyable fashion to those in attendance, until Lunk re-engaged.
Dusty, pelted by withering jabs from these two, vacillated between self-defeatist humour and earnest attempts to counter-punch with glancing remarks back at them. He was losing ground in this war of words – for now, to the delight of the rest of the group.
At first Dusty seemed pleased that he had started a row. But as Lunk and Calum redoubled their efforts, and their barbs and allegations continued to hit on one particular theme regarding Dusty, it was plain that this poisoned Dusty’s mood. His smile was no longer genuine. His eyes flashed with anger, his fists clenched and his terse replies spat out charged with emotion.
The others saw it after I had – what started as light-hearted and friendly, was no longer so. Calum and Lunk got a sense of Dusty’s genuine, growing animosity. Without being obvious about it, they eased off, feigned a lack of interest in slaying Dusty in this lopsided tirade. They shrugged their disengagement, turned away, made to saunter off.
It was then, suddenly, almost apropos of nothing, Dusty shouted out for attention. Theirs, and the rest of the group, many of whom wished or sought to make themselves not-there. Calum and Lunk stopped in their tracks. Wary, they turned to look. I got a really uneasy feeling by their reaction. Dusty said nothing for a few seconds, collecting his words in his head.
Then, to a collection of onlookers that went from uneasy to stunned, Dusty fully and vehemently admitted that he was, indeed, undeniably, completely gay; that he “adored (the male member)” and men in general; going so far as to list, in thankfully superfical detail, any number of same-sexual congresses to which he had either engaged, or wished to engage. The words exploded from him, fast and honest and seemingly with a rage of necessity. Every single one of us was silenced, taken aback, at a complete loss for words.
No, not true. All of us were floored except for BOB – he shrugged and offhandedly said, “Yeah, that much was obvious – so ?”
I saw Reece make a beckoning motion at Spiritz; the young sorcerer dug into his pockets and deposited several gold coins in Reece’s waiting palm. Calum took a step back, eyed Dusty, seeing what he had missed before, nodding as it all made sense now. Pulp was beset by a coughing fit, perhaps to cover laughter. Xel’Xaran made some sort of symbolic gesture, poking the tips of his index fingers together. That might be some kind of Elf cultural symbolism ? I don’t know. Must ask him later.
Dusty composed himself, caught his breath. He looked at no-one, staring angrily at the river. The he stormed away from the group, kicking a crate as he passed. The rest of us shrugged at each other, and tried to find something to do. It was really awkward.
Since this happened, Dusty has remained alone at the bow of the barge.
I was not sure what to make of the incident, or how to act or react. There was a student at St-Jude’s back in Silabrek, our pal Hilian. Rumour had suggested that he and his friend M. Bison had been of that persuasion, and there was considerable evidence to support it, regardless of what name you put on it as a characterization. But it had never been an indictment of the quality of Hilian’s character. Definitely an indication, but not an indictment. No one ever made issue of it – students of the Order are an open-minded and civilized lot, by virtue of our superior intelligence and wisdom and understanding of others.
Dusty has proven a capable fighter and ally, even if he is a loudmouth and invites his own misfortunes. My hope is that this irrefutable revelation might not cause enmity within our group, or drive him away from us. I want to state my support for him, but I do not sense that now is the right time to interrupt his solitude.
Journal of Dr. Marcus Grant
Healing Cleric of Pelor, Order of St-Jude Academy (Silabrek)
11th Day, 1st day down-river from Callia, territory of Ælim.