• Graded • Bigger Fish (Finnegan)

Atop a stony plateau overlooking the lands of central Idalos, and growing wealthy from the gem stones pulled from the rocky soil, Etzos is a bastion of independence; firm in its belief that man should rule Idalos, not be servants of the vain Immortals who nearly destroyed it. But can the many factions set aside their conflicting agendas and see this through?

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Kasoria
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Bigger Fish (Finnegan)

Mon Feb 19, 2018 2:53 am

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13th Trial of Zi'da, Arc 716
Outer Perimeter
23rd break
There was the oldest profession, plied by fallen women the world over (though in Kasoria's experience, a canny whore could make more in a season than honest work could next in an arc). Then there was the second, thievery, pilfering, taking what wasn't yours and getting away with it, because you wanted it and someone else had it. He didn't know and couldn't begin to know how to ask when men like Vorund first emerged, but when they did, something just as simple, and just as understandable was introduced.

Territory. This bit of land? It belongs to me. If you want to do anything that makes money on this land, you give me some of it. Don't want to? Then these rather grim men with swords and spears would like a word with you...

Kasoria was aware that he was essentially describing something called "government" at the same time, but the principle was the same. Whether it was the City of Etzos and its lands beyond the walls, or Vordund's stretch of hard-won turf ranging from the Commercial Circle to the Outer Perimeter, land had rulers, which meant they had subjects.

And the peasants are revolting.

The beggar man limped and shuffled from street to street and few marked his passing. That was the benefit of being a beggar, after all. People either pitied you or ignored you; either way, even noticing you was a chore, and one hurried through at all costs. He'd meandered his way from the back of Vorund's warehouse to here, the sprawl of lower, ruder, closer buildings huddled up against the main walls of Etzos.

He looked around and took in street both ancient to the eye and new to the senses. Etzos was a city built on itself, sewers and avenues demolished and filled in, raised and re-purposed... but not too much had changed since he was a boy. The faces were different, and the graffiti... not nearly as artful, in his opinion, but the map he'd burned onto the soles of his feet across four decades and change was still accurate.

"Need somethin', ol' man?"

He peered around from under his hat, set and focus gaze softening as his eyes widened. Play the part. Old man. Dotty. Grasping his hands together, twitching a little. Old derelict. Running on bad drugs and cheap booze and sheer, animal instinct. He'd done it before. Trying to pass himself off to some kid lounging at a street corner wasn't a challenge.

Especially this street corner.
"They've been doing well, pushing their weeds and powders, but I've been hearing things. Seems like they're branching out. Couple of extra corners. But they're not paying the tax on those, and that's a problem."
"Y-You g-got some-some-somethin', to... ah..." Kasoria shuffled forwards, bent over and even smaller than usual. The great benefit of being a little man was no-one ever saw you as a thread. Even this boy, scarcely into his fourteenth arc, was almost his height. Street-smart and sneering, just another beggar, bum, hobo, junkie, customer. Especially the last one. "I... I have this..."

A palm full of gold gleamed in his palm, then vanished again. He could see the greed in the spotter's eyes. Praise for his work from his boss, or outright theft from Kasoria, it was hard to tell. But the little man knew he'd have no trouble getting directions now.

This was the intersection Vorund told him about. Not the couple further down the avenue that were... unregulated, to put it one way, but the main hub of Wattle and Semyon's business. A handful of boys leaned and lounged and paced and were moved on every break or two by Guardsmen, only to circle back after a few bears and resume their positions.

An old, familiar dance. Furtive figures glided over to them, and were directed down an alley... like the one Kasoria was pointed down... and told which door to knock on. The boy even squeezed his shoulder as Kasoria started walking away.

"Tell 'em Juvie sent you, eh? That's how they'll knew yer good."

Kasoria knew it was a lie the moment the rascal spoke it, but it didn't matter. Instead he smiled and nodded, too much of both, just a doddery old addict looking for a fix. He stumbled and hustled past trash and windows boarded or barred, until he came to the steel-ribbed monstrosity he'd been pointed to. He looked back and found Juvie nodding enthusiastically, an inch away from running over and shoving him and his coin through the door.
"No, not all of them. A couple, fine, but not the lot. They're not worth shit to me dead. Just send a message. Make some examples. If it comes down to it... Semyon. Wattle's the brains. He makes it work. Semyon's more the muscle and, well... that's far more replaceable."
The structure boomed as he rapped on it and a looking slat slid open. Baleful eyes peered out and zipped up and down his straggly frame.

"Wadaya want?"

"Er, the, ah, the boy, um, Juvie, he said, I-" the gold gleam was dancing in his hand now, as if waving at them, catching the sun and wiggling all over those unimpressed eyes. "I-I don't know, I mean, I haven't been here, and-"

"Look, just tell us what you want, give us the coin, and we'll pass it through the grate." Kasoria could have grinned at his tone. Condescending as a judge to an imbecile. And he'd been worried they'd be a difficult sell? "That's how it works and-"

"N-N-No, no, no, sir! No, that's-that's what happened to me mate Lars an'an'an he, he was good, like, an'an they still took his coin and-"

"Fuck's sake, old timer, we haven't got-"

"B-But I told him, din't I, told him it-it didn't look like-like a good place, but-but-buuuuuut he didn't listen, so..."

Memories were moving his lips. The old neighborhood. Old faces. Now dead faces. Weed-burners and powder-chasers, puffing and snorting and devouring their troubles away, and their insides with them. He'd gawped at them growing up, seeing trembling figures in doorways and vacant buildings, or haunting the underground in their rags, eyes ever-hungry. Speech and words never straight or solid. Language hammered into paste by their daemons, spewing out in shards at anyone who'd listen.

Kasoria remembered their madness, and tried to make it his own. Then make it more annoying.

"O... Okay... Okay, fuck ME!"

With an oath the slat slammed shut and bolts like the gates of hells ground open and loose. Heavy steel defenses, thick enough to stop a mage for a while. But now they opened for a scared-looking man who was holding his hat in his hands, working the brim of it around and around, looking up at the two beefy faces in the doorway like a mouse at lions.

"Geddin here, but don't get fuckin' comfy!"

"Ye-Yes, sir, thank you sir, thank you!"

Juvie watched as the old man scuttled inside, and the door slammed shut behind him. He smirked to himself and sauntered back to his post, imagining the nice little bonus he'd get from that handful of gold nels. As he went, he paused for a moment.

Strange. He could have sworn he'd heard... something. Something shouted, then cut off, like an ax had fallen on the words and speaker both. He grimaced reflectively... then shrugged.

Probably nothing.
"You show them what happens when you think you can get one over on me, and forget I've got more eyes on these streets than rats and lizards. Do what you do, but remember: I don't need a house full of corpses. I need some scared-stiff little turds who'll pay on time, and in full, on fucking everything, not just what they feel like cutting me in on."

The little man pushed himself off the wall and set his hat on his head. No jittery jangle to his movements. No egg-wide stare of a simpleton. Every movement was calculated and economical; every lift of his eyes was calm and cold as the gladius sheathed under his cloak. He nodded at his master and said simply, "I'll handle it."

Vorund watched Kasoria walk away to do just that.
Thanks (again!) to Rumor for her super-thoughtful template!
Last edited by Kasoria on Sun Apr 08, 2018 2:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
"This is the life we choose, the life we lead. And there is only one guarantee: none of us will see Heaven."
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Finnegan O'Connor
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Bigger Fish (Finnegan)

Tue Feb 20, 2018 1:37 pm

Bigger Fish


Etzos - 13th Zi'da, 716


“Crossing” they called it. Smuggling would be the common word for it. Racketeering is what the bureaucrats spoke of, shaking their law-making heads in the morning afore lining their pockets with bribes in the evening. Rich, fancy-like pricks sleeping on pillows stuffed with golden nels wagged their powdered fingers and dubbed the practice abuse of the poor and common folk. Finn called it survival.

The crumbs and morsels that orphans were raised on, by hand, sufficed up until the tenth arc or so, and Finn had the distinct misfortune of having recently turned eleven. Perhaps he wouldn't have needed the odd extra copper if he'd been a quiet, still, and attentive child, conserving what precious little energy could be gained from two hot meals a'day. Instead he was cursed with the same lively, red-blooded spirit that his sister possessed and like her, he couldn’t sit still.

It had been a few arcs since his sister had first taken him into the Etzos underground, that dark, festering place that the caretakers oft warned against. But they had forgotten that there was nothing more alluring to a child than forbidden things.

For the longest while he had simply been known as Zipper's little brother. The other O'Connor. A name etched into the collective subconscious of The Etzos underground by his beloved sister. Ever since she'd left, the crooks and villains she’d been in cahoots with had set their sights on him; the bright-eyed, mousy counterpart to Zipper's snide demeanour. Aye, she was bolder, tougher, more of a fighter, but she’d had big shitting mouth too. Young lightfoot was much less of hassle and his wandering ways were perfectly suited for the occasional crossing.

Crossing was simple enough for eleven-year-olds to comprehend: carry a package from A to B, and don’t stop for anything or anyone, no questions asked. Sure seemed simple enough to greedy little children wanting to make a quick buck or earn bragging rights with their shithead friends. Worst that could happen was being battered into a cripple by a rival gang, but the goods were rarely worth the effort.

The real threat however, was far less obvious. Gangs ran on manpower and manpower was a scarce good. Countless arrogant little fools had tried to make inways in the Etzos underground and countless more had gone the way of the economy, their ideals and aspirations buried half a mile out of town, six feet deep into the ground.

Couriers served another purpose entirely. No self-respecting gang would let children carry half a of fortune worth of goods. The boys and girls playing at criminals were simply recruits, carefully monitored by the upper echelons and slowly reeled in on the Big Boss’ command. Some never made it past being couriers, others were deployed as sneaks or spies instead. Time separated the weak from the strong, the dumb from the smart, until only the cleverest, most profitable little pups remained, and so the wheel kept on turning.
--
A little shop at the edge of a small plaza had burned out some arcs ago. The original owner hadn’t had the coin to pay for repairs and the bureaucracy lacked the resolve to demolish the decrepit little building. Soon enough vermin came home to roost. The roof was gone, the living room was nothing but destroyed furniture and charred beams, but the cellar had been spared and it was from here that The Rues plotted their overtake of the Etzos underworld.

Guided by weak candlelight, Finn carefully descended the steep set of stairs leading into the cellar. Tomlin, Hadden and Millard sipped whiskey and played cards in the corner while Nellie studied a map spread out over the largest of three tables. A rack of arms, or ‘persuaders’ as Silvester lovingly called them, lined the far wall, next to which none other than the sly man himself sat kicked back in a chair, sighing softly as he rolled a golden necklace over between his fingers, a crooked smile on his face. 716 would go down as an excellent fiscal year.

Betty was first to spot him. She had a sweet, pale face sprayed with light freckles, framed by dark curls. She’d crossed into adulthood less than an arc ago, and over the five or six occasions Finn had come to pick up messages at the Rues they’d become like brother and sister, like how it was supposed to be.

“He’s ‘ere,” she said, looking up from the last table where she had just finished sealing two letters with red wax. Silvester glanced up from the small chest in his lap and send a charlatan’s smile in Finn’s direction. “Ah!” he started jovially, “Thought I heard something! Come in! Come in! Let me have a look at you!”

Finn shuffled toward Silvester. The ringleader wasn’t large or broad or tall like his stooges but his wrinkled face testified to his many years in the business. He was a Professor from Rynmere’s university Finn had heard. A scholar bored with retirement.

“You grew!” Silvester said as Finn stepped into the light.

“You wunna be careful with ‘im Silv,” Tomlin said. “He’ll be a monster sumday. Wont’ya Finn?” It was always the same lie, but he grinned nevertheless and rolled up his sleeve to flex his muscle. Silvester let out an approving laugh before taking the two letters from Betty and handing them over to Finn. His expression grew serious. “This one’s important Finn.”

“How important like?” he asked as he rolled down his sleeve again.

“Double rate.”

His eyes widened a little. “Double?” Who for?”

“Wattle. He has a hold in the old community hall. Outer ring. Know where that is?”

Finn nodded. He knew Etzos like the inside of his pocket, except for the innermost rings perhaps. Didn’t frequent those often.

“Good boy,” Silvester nodded. “Dark one’s the decoy. Make sure it gets delivered today. Once you're done, come back here for your payment.”

Finn bent over to stuff the lightest of the two envelopes in his boot. Black Guard hadn’t frisked him yet, but if they did, he’d hand them the dark, brown envelope in the pocket of his coat. He tipped his cap in Silvester direction and turned to leave when Betty shot up at his side. “I’ll show you out,” she said before slinging an arm over his shoulder, gently urging him back toward the stairway.

“Bet, dun make ‘im soft,” Tomlin grumbled from the corner.

“Get fucked”

“I wouldn’t mind!” Tomlin barked after them with a laugh. Finn flashed a quick grin and was rewarded with an irritated eye roll from Bet, followed by a shove in the direction of the stairs. “Boys…” he thought he heard her mutter.
--
“Whoa whoa whoa!”

Finn skidded to a halt before the wrought-iron gate. Just his luck that Juvie was spottin’ today.

“Are ye fookin dumb?” The older boy’s irritating voice sounded as he caught up with Finn. “Where d’you tink yer goin?”
Finn jutted his chin toward the red-bricked community hall behind the fence. The place was only a few arcs old, built on the instruction of career politicians in some vain attempt to unite the community. The only uniting it had done was that every ass in the outer ring considered it a big shitting waste of money.

Juvie planted a grubby hand on his shoulder. “C’mon hand it over, I’ll deliver it.” The smarmy spotter stretched out his hand but Finn rolled his shoulder instead. “Shit no,” he answered, “I do the deliverin’.” He pushed past Juvie and pulled the gate open.

“Oy!”

The dirt path ahead lead to a set of tall double doors. Closed.

“OY!”

The crunching of loose stones in the dirt betrayed Juvie’s approach. Finn bolted, knowing that Juvie wouldn’t have such a big mouth inside. Gavin and his nephew Taylor guarded Wattle and his interests and while the two weren't the brightest, they were shitting huge like. Wattle called them his bulldogs.

Finn stopped in his tracks at the other side of the door. Juvie nearly smashed into him from behind.

“The fook do ye thi-”

The spotter’s voice trailed off. Gavin “The Giant” and his braindead nephew were broad, strong men who could smash rocks with their bare hands, and yet both were on the floor. Taylor had his throat cut it looked like as blood dripped from his neck down his shoulders and pooled near his feet on the tiled stone floor. Gavin had a nasty headwound, but could still be alive.

Juvie raced over to the downed giant, checking for a pulse in the man’s neck. It didn’t look good. “Oh shit. I’m gonna get help. You get the fook outta here, d’ya hear? Shit, shit, shit...” and with that Juvie turned and fled the way they'd come.

Finn turned too but instead started toward another set of doors, separating the broad hallway from the main lounge. “Mr. Semyon!” He called. “Mr. Wattle!” No response. His shoulder slammed against the door, swinging it wide open. Once on the other side, he froze. More carnage. Two more bodies lay sprawled on the floor amid a pile of smashed furniture. A broken grandfather clock in the corner tolled its death rattle. “Mr. Wattle!” Finn rushed over to the stout, slumped frame in the middle of the room, dressed in blood soaked silk. “Mr. Wa-”
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Kasoria
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Bigger Fish (Finnegan)

Wed Feb 21, 2018 3:30 am

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It was stupid and prideful and it would have served him right if he'd gotten killed. But at least he learned something out of it.

"A'right, les' geddon wiv' it, yeah?"

Taylor didn't think much of the scrawny little sod staring up at him, oddly not so twitchy now he was inside. In fairness, though, that was probably because of the cold. Dump though the place was, they kept a fire burning all trial. It was their base after all, fortress and quarters both. He kept talking as the man looked over his shoulder, watching Uncle Gavin laboriously ram home each of the bolts.

Of which there were plenty. The boss had one horrible old cunt mad at him, apparently. Had to be careful.

"Now, what'd you been needin' an'-"

The man dropped his hat. Not by accident. Not by moving. His fingers just flexed, and the hat fell to the ground... and Taylor saw the briefest flash of something across the junkie's face.

Mostly the fact that it didn't look like him anymore.

Kasoria didn't give the hulking idiot a chance to act on his surprise. The hat drop was another old trick. Introduce the unexpected, the odd and senseless, and people's first reaction was... nothing. They had to pause and shut down for a trill or two, just to absorb what they were seeing.

Kasoria did a lot of his best work in those trills. That was was no exception... until it fucked up, anyway.

His right arm shot out and a tight row of knuckles slammed into Taylor's throat, once, twice, killing his words and sending him choking and staggering-

"Tay-"

-Kasoria was already wheeling around, dealing with Problem #2. Gavin was on one knee, closing the last bolt, and Immortal Blood he was a big sod. Even down there he was almost as tall as Kasoria, and he intended to keep him there by-

-lashing out with a booted foot at the side of his bent knee, drawing a yelp of pain and lunging at the same moment, grabbing handfuls of hair on either side of his head and heaving back then forward-

CRACK

-slamming the old man's head into the steel-studded door. Once, twice, three times, yanking then shoving, smashing, pasting blood and skin and cartlidge across it and exulting in his black little heart as he did. It sounded like someone else knocking, nothing more. One man muted by the throat punches, another soon to be unconscious, and no-one any wiser to his-

"He... Help!" He turned at the noise, Gavin's bloody head still in his hands, man already fading to black. Taylor heaved air into his throat like a whale surfacing, and Kasoria was too slow no matter what he did. "BOSS! MISTER WAT-"

It was instinct, and anger, melded together in a heated trill. Kasoria's face collapsed into a mask of fury, and he let go of Gavin, whirling around to face Taylor again. The big man was fumbling for the knife at his belt, and Kasoria was drawing his gladius as he spun, drawing and slashing up and around as he went, shimmering arc of steel coming with a roar of anger-

-then scarlet-

-and Taylor shouted no more with a ragged mouth leering out of his throat. He stood there for a single, imbecilic second, still holding his knife, eyes popping open, other hand turning red as he tried to staunch the floor. His lips worked but a fountain was all his mouth seemed good for. He swallowed and what he tried to digest spewed back out of the hole instead. He fell back and Kasoria cursed himself.

A knife would have done it better. Something small, hidden by the hat. Could have cut his throat, not just punched it, and then dealt with the other one. But no, you had to be sodding clever-

"T... Ty..."

Gavin's voice was the epitome of pitiful. Already broken, words sliding out through shattered teeth and puffy lips. Staring with bloody eyes at his cousin, who was showing such promise and loyalty, bleeding out bare feet away. Kasoria was in no mood to be merciful. He loomed over the big man, enjoying the moment, the reversal, the sheer disbelief in that ravaged face-

-stomped on it, once, twice, until something cracked and Gavin was still and silent. Neck, nose, skull, he didn't care. Just that he wasn't moving... and quiet. So he could close his eyes for a moment...

The criticizing voice was banished (fuck knew there'd be time for it later). He closed his eyes and just listened. To creaking wood and crackling timbers in a fireplace. Floorboards shifting and squeaking. Voices low and high upstairs, gabbled words and chair legs sliding across the floor in the next-

Next room. That way.

-eyes snapped open as urgent feet moved towards the double doors in front of him. Shadows flitted on the other side, papers and coins and a voice of command, another querying, and the assassin was already moving, gladius held tight and ready as the door-

-opened, bearded youth appearing in it-

"Fuck!"

-launched back into the lounge as Kasoria's boot to the chest sent him flying. Stayed on his feet, though. The boy was game, and had his balance. The sword he held didn't even go down as he crashed into the broad, hand-carved desk that looked far too pricey for the half-abandoned hovel. Kasoria stepped to and took in the room. Parchment littered the floor, some torn from books, so old scrolls, yellowed and dusty and new and bright elsewhere. A man with a barrel-chest was squatting down behind it, and sounded like he was shoveling coins and trinkets into something else.

His eyes went wide as he saw Kasoria. Didn't take a mind-reader to guess who was the Master, and who was the Muscle. The youth went for him with a snarl, sword feinting high and to the right, then slashing diagonally across Kasoria's chest-

-clanging into his gladius instead, impact giving the smaller man and opening to lunge forward, left leg swinging low-

-slamming into the youth's leg from the side, bending the knee obscenely inward for a trill-

"Fucker!"

Wattle, apparently, had some stones. Kasoria blinked as he grabbed one of the plush chairs next to the table and swung it at him like some massive club. Quite the impressive sight, if ill-considered. He clearly wasn't a man used to physical efforts, and the chair was heavy wood. Kasoria slid away across the floorboards before it could knock him clear off his feet-

-and it smashed into the swordsman instead.

"Fucksake!"

"Shit, Derick-"

The assassin watched Derick careen over the table, rolling into a grandfather clock that seemed to fall over with great and graceful ceremony. He ducked away before it could land flat across his back, charging at Kasoria and ignoring the efforts of his boss, screaming for blood and thrusting low-

-and the smaller man jerked to the side, letting it pierce empty air instead of his stomach, free hand snapping out to grab Derick's at the wrist-

-gladius coming down at the same time-

Wattle blanched as Derick's hand and the sword it was clutching dropped from his wrist with a spray of blood. The lad shrieked for half-a-trill before this mad little fucker who smelled like piss stabbed the gladius he was waving into his throat, twisted and made the slit a gushing hole instead, then yanked it out again. Derick coughed through a new hole, then fell forwards, and Wattle darted for the door, grabbing his satchel.

Not bloody likely.

Kasoria let out a bellow like an animal as he leg shot out, throwing his hips into the movement and hammering a nearby chair into Wattle's path. The tubby pusher went clean over it but primal fear can push a body far. He seemed to bounce clean off his shins and back to his feet, scrambling for the door as Kasoria flitted over, gladius coming down-

Remember the conditions. Dead men don't pay.

Another shriek as Wattle felt the back of his left leg transform into an oasis of blazing fire, along with losing all control over it. He slumped over, already trying to spit out a deal as the beggar grabbed him by the shoulder and forced him backward, slamming onto his arse against the desk. He clutched at his leg, staring, disbelieving and already in shock, at his tendon slashed clean through.

"You-You... Fuck, you crippled me, you-" Something hard and sharp and cold and wet and warm pressed under his chin. Derick's blood still fresh on it. Wattle's eyes crossed as he looked along it... up it... into an expression that didn't care. "I... Fuck... what do you-"

"You are Wattle." It was a statement, not a question. Given what he'd seen so far, and the sight of his bulldogs sprawled out lifeless where the man had just come from, Wattle judged it smarter not to bullshit, and nodded. "Vorund says, next time you try to cheat him, he won't stop with your muscle."

"Look, please, just don't-"

Someone ran upstairs. Not a rat, not a dog, the unmistakable pace and pitch of running feet. More than one pair. Both men - killer and dealer - looked up for a moment, and Kasoria did some tactical math. Three already taken care of, one dead, one crippled message sent... but where was Semyon? He was the muscle, the physical threat, and he needed to get the same message. In fact, the math demanded he die. Wattle could get a new sword-hand, but Semyon alive, affronted the way that fighters like him tended to get by this invasion... no, it was safer this way. More definite.

But he wasn't alone. That was less of a concern to Kasoria, more a factor... and eventually.

The gladius lowered. He spoke as he walked swiftly to the door, words clipped and barring no argument.

"Stay here."

"F... Fuck you... too..."

Stay here. That's a fucking laugh, Wattle thought, still staring in horrified fascination at the ugly bite taken out of half his sodding leg. He could see the tendon flopping around at the bottom, like a taut cable severed and useless. Stay here? Like he had the option of going elsewhere? He'd have dearly loved to spew out some more words but the lithe little cunt was already gone, slamming the doors shut behind him, just out of spite, apparently.

His satchel was still close by, and he hugged it close. All his efforts. All his plans and careful wheeling, cunning dealing, all in that satchel. Semyon and his helpers sorted the gear upstairs, separating it up for sale, but the proceeds, the profits, the point of all they were doing, he kept that down here. Protected by fierce, loyal men who... were now probably dead. One definitely was.

"Shit," he spat, shuffling away from Derick's spreading blood pool as best he could, and trying to get comfortable with one leg now useless. "Fucking... Vorund..."

Commotion outside. Sounded like... was that Juvie? The thought occurred to him and then vanished before he could shout out. Fuck, his mouth was dry. Blood was still pumping out of him, soaking his hand and then his hand soaked his shirt and shitting, sodding, fucking hells, this wasn't cheap! Why in the fuck was this happening? So he got independent-minded. So Sem and him decided to expand. Vorund was still getting his percentage, every ten fucking trials... why did he need to know about-

“Mr. Semyon!”

A new voice. Younger, but oddly almost as rough, and... concerned. Wattle blinked, sweat crowding his lashes. Must be hearing things.

“Mr. Wattle!”

At the sound of his own name, hiss spirit seemed to rise, or was that just more of that primitive fear? Either way, words fought their way through his parched throat and he called out... or gargled out, anyway. Hells Fuck, what was wrong with him? Was he bleeding out already? He started to paw at his belt as the door were blown open, trying to pull it off with fumbling fingers. Something to stop the bleeding, anything.

“Mr. Wattle!"

He looked up into a face warring between fear and courage, and youth and manhood. He'd seen the latter on plenty of kids around there. All looking for meaning and pride, gold and status. As much as they could find in this shithole, anyway. There'd been dozens of them through his employ. Some lasted, some didn't. Some moved on and were never heard from again; a handful moved up, worked with Semyon, even watched corners for them or ended up like Derick, on guard duty.

The rest... well, they'd ended up like Derick, too.

“Mr. Wa-”

Something heavy and screaming crashed through a window upstairs. The sound seemed to dive through the air, and landed with the sound like a bad of wet steaks slapping into the street outside. Boy and man both gawped at the dirty window where a brief, flying figure had passed... then crashed down. Permanently.

"Who... Who are... Fuck it, never mind." New plan, new hope, new plan, new pawn, all of it banished the pain for frantic trills and set Wattle's hands to clawing at the tables edges. "Help... Help me, and this satchel... out of here..." By a miracle, he got up on one leg. Dripping blood as he did, exhausted and with white flashes of pain racking him, but determined. Not wanting any part of the muted cursing and shouting and screams above them. "... and... and I'll make ya rich, boy."
"This is the life we choose, the life we lead. And there is only one guarantee: none of us will see Heaven."
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Finnegan O'Connor
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Bigger Fish (Finnegan)

Tue Feb 27, 2018 8:34 pm

Bigger Fish


Etzos - 13th Zi'da, 716


Any promise of riches fell on deaf ears. Finn had already moved to help Mr. Wattle back on his feet, putting his shoulder under the man’s armpit and dragging the dripping sack of flesh back toward the door. Wattle didn’t stand for long. One step forward saw his weight collapse on Finn’s narrow shoulders and nearly toppling the boy in the process, but the man grit his teeth and placed another foot forward, staining the ground with a red footprint. Stumbling and groaning the odd pair made it toward the tall, double doors and Wattle’s confidence grew as a view of the street came in sight.

Just as they stepped outside a panting Juvie, followed by two older man, one armed with a club, the other with two daggers, came rushing toward them. Semyon’s snarling dogs. Their paths crossed on the front porch and for a moment they seemed to hesitate as they caught the last dying screams of some poor sod or another.

“Bring me the fuck-” Wattle grimaced as he clutched his wound and stumbled. “Bring me the fucker’s head!”

The two men nodded and raced into the building and upstairs, determined to visit such hellish violence and cruelty on the man who’d trespassed onto their territory. Juvie stood frozen near the wrought-iron gate, his eyes wide as Finn and Wattle stumbled closer.

“Don’t just stand- aghh! Don’t stand around. Get a c-” Neither Juvie nor Finn ever found out what Wattle had meant to say as the man’s face grew pale. His gruff voice trailed off and the spittle near the corner of his mouth turned into a long, thin drool as his step faltered. “Mr. Wattle?” Finn asked through gritted teeth, his little muscles to keep the stout, fat man upright even as the pig’s entire weight started to press down on him.

“K- k-...”

Juvie was set into motion by the sudden and total collapse of a drooling, gurglin Mr. Wattle. He turned so fast his cap fell off his head and he didn’t bother to fetch it before he ran. And he ran fast, almost as if Syroa herself had come down from the high heavens with murderous intent. Meanwhile Finn could no longer support Wattle's considerable weight and stumbled just as much as Mr. Wattle before he too collapsed and was buried under the crook's elephantine weight.

Something cracked as he was crushed between hard soil and three-hundred-fifty pounds of big bones, loose skin, and fat. The sound of gruesome violence was reduced to a muffle before turning to almost perfect silence. It didn't last long. Wattle's frame shook and convulsed and the satchel slipped from the man's fat fingers, spilling gold all over the front garden. It was the music all thugs loved, the sound of bloodmoney rolling freely across cobblestone, waiting to be picked up.

Finn wheezed from underneath the swine’s form and had to use all his strength to crawl, at least partially, out from underneath. "Fuckin...c-c cunt!"

Wattle was still alive. Sobbing and choking and gurgling, but still alive.

Footsteps approached, thei rhytmic clacking like the tolling of death's bells. Finn tried to turn to see whether it was a devil or an angel that approached, but he was stuck under Wattle's massive form, unable to move, much less breathe. Had he been a follower he might’ve started to pray to some Immortal or another but instead he wished for someone else entirely. Zipper. She always showed up at times like these, when he'd waded knee-deep into shit again, she was always there to throw him a rope and pull him out of the swamp. Always had.

Not now.

The footsteps neared. They weren't hers. She wouldn't come. With a groan he kicked and pushed and crawled out from underneath Wattle’s shaking frame until only his ankles remained trapped. There wasn't much time. Finn's right hand found the handle of the dagger at Wattle’s side while his left pressed down on the nasty gash at Wattle's side, though he could not stop the man's poisoned blood from seeping between his fingers.
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Kasoria
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Bigger Fish (Finnegan)

Wed Feb 28, 2018 4:44 am

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There were men up there who would kill him, and Kasoria did not slow as he trotted up the stairs. Peeling paint and odd, white squares where pictures used to hang flashed by him as he went and-

-they wouldn't even let him wait to get up there, apparently.

Mistake. Easier to wait for me to come through the door.

Something quick and scraggly came darting out of the doorway at the top of the stairs, red hair streaming as he launched himself at the little man coming up the stairs. Sword raised high over his head, clearly think he was going to bring it hammering down on his target, smite him like some legend from the old times.

Kasoria slid hard to his left, hard enough to smack his back flat against the wall-

-and the man sailed past him, gravity and momentum merciless mistresses-

-slamming into the wall at the bottom of the bend, but he was quick, and lithe and tried to backhand at Kasoria-

-who blocked the blow with his gladius, other hand shooting out-

-grabbing that thick red hair and-

THUNK

Jumper's face smashed into the wall, and his nose shattered. Kasoria yanked him back again, pushing the gladius hard, pinning the sword and hand and arm against the wall-

THUNK

Again, harder, a scream coming out his mouth this time, and again, louder, feral-

THUNK

THUNK

CRUNCH


Sucking air and oxygen and energy into his lungs, always dancing on the edge of bloodlust, especially as Jumper's eyes went glassy and his nose as battered halfway into his brain. His legs went to jelly and he started to drop-

-Kasoria yanked back even harder, bearing the doomed man's neck-

-slit his throat with all passion of a butcher killing a sow. Red spray arced up and painted those parched white squares. Splattered the windows and dripped down, raced in rivulets and Kasoria would have noted their mortal grace-

-if he'd still been there. But he wasn't. He dropped the man, sweat from his hair still slick on his hand, and continued on his way. There was a sad little slump and sigh that blended together, but he didn't look back. That was one. How many more? Two? Four? More? He had no idea, but Semyon was probably up there. Wouldn't be far from his partner and as he passed through the doorway-

'Fucker!"

The man had a fucking spear, of all things. His chosen weapon in a house. He charged at Kasoria as he stood in the doorway, and the killer sidestepped, knocked the steel tip aside with his gladius, lunged forward as he did backhanding-

The man dropped the spear and backpedaled. Not a complete idiot, then.

Instead he want for a hunting knife, one of those huge-bladed bastards that was as thick as a sword at the middle. He tossed it from one hand to the other then hacked at Kasoria, forcing him to sway back-

-kicked out and the little man dodged him again, goading him, grinning, teeth shining white and mocking in a face split with blood-

"Little CUNT!"

That's it. Get angry. That'll help.

Hunter bellowed like a bull and charged, swinging, slashing, hacking, driving Kasoria back and back and feeling like he was winning. The little man's gladius came up and blocked him, weapons screeching and grinding together, ruddy red face leering over Kasoria as he savored the feel of the little man giving ground.

"Yer a dead man," he snarled, blade lock between them practically touching their chest as he spat the words. "Shoulda' nev-"

Kasoria's head jerked forward and Hunter's vision became a cloud of burning sparks as his nose broke. He reeled back, cursing, splitting-

-blind, just for a moment, and that's all Kasoria needed-

-parrying a wild swing, slashing down with his own-

-drawing a real scream of agony as his gladius hacked through Hunter's shoe and severed most of his toes, his balance vanishing-

Kasoria capitalized. Sidestepped around and behind the man and drove his shoulder into his back, rocketing him into the space he'd just occupied-

-in front of the window. Kasoria had learned long ago that how you won a fight didn't matter, just that you did. The bards and poets may have sung of heroes rich in valor, but they never had to sit through the stench of the battles. And precious few of the cunts had even seen an honest-to-shite Etzos street fight, where honor and nobility would just get you a knife in the back.

He didn't care what he had to do. He just wanted this obstacle out of his way.

And oh, out he went. Through the glass that exploded out into the street below, tinkling and showering down onto the cobbles a trill before his screaming soon-to-be corpse. Kasoria peered over and saw his body, twitching and barely missing an old couple that were, in true Etzos fashion, prodding him with their feet instead of fleeing.

Floorboards creaked. Behind him.

Fucking idiot-!

He turned and swung and-

-too late-

-pain raked across his back, flesh flayed open in a long, burning line-

-as he whirled around he saw a thick but agile figure duck under his swinging gladius, steel just barely nicking the tip of his hair as he fell down to one knee, avoiding the blow-

-another flash of agony, his shin, Semyon punching but not punching, a knife held in his hand, reversed, blade curved-

All this Kasoria saw in blinks, broken trills, data and factors he absorbed even as his body howled at him and he threw himself away, into the corner of the room. Blood oozing down into the back of his breeches. Leg aching already, blood in his shoes. Pain making him pant, pain making him shake, pain, pain-

Shut up and focus!

"Fat boy was right," Semyon said calmly, face as expressionless as his own as he flipped the karambit casually around the finger it was looped over, then back into his grip. Kasoria studied it as best he could in that handful of trills. It was a dagger, but curved towards him. That explained the fighting technique. A blade like that could rip up skin like paper, and you could use it to punch as well as slash. "Should have stayed away."

Semyon lunged, and Kasoria slashed wildly at him, once twice, three times, desperation only half-faked. Distance. Only thing that would save him from that thing was distance. It was a weapon for close range, an assassin's tool, so he just had to-

Don't be an idiot. You can't be up here all day wearing him down.

-dived across the wall as Semyon's punch cratered his knuckles into the wall. He yanked his hand out and went after the little fucker without mercy, Kasoria scrambling back, toppling a short table and a chair in his path-

-Semyon kicking the first aside and stepping over the other, face grim and set, outraged that this cunt had fucked with their business. All the men dead, all the trouble, a fine base of operations ruined, and that soft fuck Wattle was probably fucking off with their coin right now, or worse. So, of course, Semyon had to make it all right again. Had to get his hands dirty and his knuckles all bruised, because that was what mattered. Not Wattle and his slick fucking words; him and his will to murder.

"Not getting away from me, old man," he said as Kasoria finally came to a wall, pushing himself up it with a grunt, leg screaming under him as he did. "Just stop your squirming and-

He couldn't run anymore. And he wouldn't run away, either. Not from this broken-nosed prick with bad hair and worse breath. He lunged, thrusting feint at Semyon's side, then a slash at his knees-

-dodged, avoided, blade-tipped fist jabbing out as a rejoinder-

-Kasoria barely avoided it, swaying back so hard his knees creaked-

Too far. He yelped and the pain in his shin rattled his balance, ruined it, sent him crashing down onto one knee. Semyon leaped at his chance, swinging his foot up into Kasoria's chest-

-and the little man grunted as it connected, slamming into his chest-

But he stayed on his knee. Gladius clattering to his sides, hands grasping Semyon's boot... and keeping it there. The man above him frowned for a moment and then got it-

-a trill before Kasoria twisted, very hard, and very much the wrong way.

Semyon yelled as his ankle broke, Kasoria following it up a second later with a screaming jab into his balls, once and twice and-

-that karambit came at him again, a punch at his head that he barely blocked with his arm-

-roaring out as now his forearm was cut open, impact of the fist rattling his bones but the dagger did the damage and he screamed and Semyon saw fury and hatred and now he wasn't dancing over it

he
was
there.
Throwing himself at the man and tackling him down to the ground. Bleeding arm grasping Semyon's knife-hand around the wrist, other hand grabbing the bruised sack he had between his legs and squeezing, screaming as he did and Semyon was yelling higher and higher-

-now in sheer disbelief as Kasoria sunk his teeth into his fingers, biting through them, killing his grip-

He knew this madness. This strength that came from rage, howling like fire through his body, killing pain, dousing weakness and doubt... but not for long. He was cut and bleeding and they would keep dribbling until there was nothing left. He had to finish this, and fast. Wrap it up with Semyon, then Wattle, then get to a tame healer and toss some coin his way. After that-

No. Before all that. Right now. This moment.

All that matters.


Kasoria let go of Semyon's balls and reared up just far enough to cock his arm into his chest, so his fist was touching his breast bone and then come thundering down-

-slamming his forearm into Semyon's throat. The enforcer's eyes bulged, watered, streamed tears, ability to do something as trifling as breathing stolen from him in a trill, and now his karambit was forgotten-

-Kasoria yanking it from his fingers and didn't bother gripping it properly. He just wrapped his bloody fingers around it and stabbed and slashed and carved and eyes and mouth and nose and tongue until all the screaming had stopped and nothing but meat was looking back at him. He was blind and yelling and he could taste hair and spit and tears and blood in his mouth but he was alive. He was straddling a man without a face, panting, gasping, with a trophy in his hand and...

... and he had company.

Two figures. One holding two knives. The other a club. They were staring at him from the stares. Kasoria stared back. A wraith bathed in the stuff of life. His free hand groped for his gladius as he kept eye contact with them, as one would to keep predators from attacking. Eye contact. Fix them, keep them looking. Try to run, or look away, and they would see weakness.

But Kasoria was not the prey, and he knew what they saw. He ground his teeth and covered it with a snarl that rumbled from the pit of his soul, effort of rising to his feet biting at his bones like demons. His hands were filled with bloody weapons. His breeches, his coat, his face, his boots... they stank and wrung of the stuff. They'd passed the bulldogs downstairs, Derick in the front room, crippled Wattle, the cutthroat with a cut throat... and now they both looked down and realized who it was this monster had just killed.

"Th-That's... That's the boss."

Kasoria stood up to his full height, and he seemed a giant in those disbelieving eyes. He took a step. Another. They might get lucky. The rush of unholy energy was already dribbling away from him, and he was a novice when it came to using two weapons at once. He'd probably just hurl the karambit and go it solo with the gladius. Take one, for sure. Maybe cripple the other, take an eye out of him. But they might-

"... fuck this!"

Kasoria blinked, and the rabbits bolted.
+++
The stairs. Blood of the Fucking Immortals, the stairs nearly finished him.

He took them gingerly, carefully, one at a time. Stowing the karambit in his pocket and steadying himself as he went... so slowly... back where he'd come from. It seemed an age to cover the ground that before had taken him trills. Then he got to the bottom and the fact he was trailing blood of his own was forgotten, next to the fact he saw the trail of another heading out the door.

The killer scowled. No. He would not allow that fucking stooge to get away. He marched as best a man can when one leg is being uncooperative, and opened the front door-

A handful of figures peered beyond the front garden, rubbernecking, eyes wide and green with avarice as they saw... gold on the floor. Little suns, all glinting in the mud and stone, daring anyone to come hither. But they knew who owned the house, and didn't want trouble... although, they also knew that one of those men was crippled and barely-conscious on the ground in front of them...

Kasoria frowned. He seemed to have sprouted extra legs... and a hand.

... a kid?

He walked over to the odd assemblage of body parts. Aching and tired and needing a drink, any drink, long as it killed his nerves and sent him to bed. But the job wasn't over. Wattle wasn't poisoned, his blade had not been so prepared, but he bled like a woman's cunny come The Time, and there was already a puddle under him. Kasoria leaned down, and grabbed one beefy shoulder. Tried to dislodge him and... no, no good. Instead he started to lean and step back, using his weight to pull the man away-

Revealing a bloody, wide-eyed, and dagger-clutching youth under him. His other hand was clutching Wattle's leg, trying to stem the bleeding.

Kasoria let the kid have a good, long look at what he would be trying to stab, then pointed with his chin at the thing in Finn's hand.

"If yer gonna... use that, hurry up an' do it. If not... take off yer shirt an' get it wrapped around his leg. Tight."

He really hoped he didn't collapse. That would ruin the image he was trying to project. He looked away - a bold move, with an Etzos urchin at your feet, let alone one hold a knife - and gestured broadly, yet casually, at the watchers.

"Nothing to see. Move on. Means "fuck off"."
"This is the life we choose, the life we lead. And there is only one guarantee: none of us will see Heaven."
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Finnegan O'Connor
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Bigger Fish (Finnegan)

Wed Feb 28, 2018 9:48 pm

Bigger Fish


Etzos - 13th Zi'da, 716


Had he not had Fiona as his sister he would've surely cowered at the grim, savage face hovering over him. She’d introduced him to similar faces, and worse, several arcs before, when he’d still been innocently holding her hand and gawked at all the adults. Yet all those snarling, smirking, bloodthirsty faces paled in comparison to the countenance of his sister: her slow, calm voice over-articulating each word, her lips twitching with anger, her brows furrowing at him. Try as they might, no common thug, not even one splattered with blood and murderous intent burning behind his eyes, could inspire as much fear in him as her. ‘Cause she had magic and he had not. ‘Cause she was big and he was small. ‘Cause she was right and he was wrong.

She wasn’t here though. The circumstances were different. This wasn’t the first time he’d been floored, but it was the first time he was on his back and in mortal danger. For a few trills he remained as Kasoria had found him: pale, blood-soaked, and yet unflinching. As soon as the man whipped his long, dirty hair around to tell a small crowd of greedy cunts off, Finn raised his dagger hand and stabbed-

-into the ground. Groaning, he used the pommel to drag his crushed ankles out from underneath Wattle’s colossal weight. Fiona would've surely slashed the beggar’s throat the moment he turned, but he wasn't like her and Kasoria could thank the high heavens he'd encountered the younger, meeker O'Connor instead. She wouldn’t have just slashed him. She would’ve unleashed her sick, freakish magic on him and made him unrecognizably worse.

The man’s eyes clashed with his own gaze. For a trill he was determined to win the little contest, but as soon as he spotted the wild animal lingering behind those violent orbs, he averted his gaze. Wattle let out a pitiful, whining sound as Finn stood up, dusted himself off and reluctantly obeyed the killer’s command. His coat was first to land in the dirt, and then there was another coat under that until he finally pulled the cotton long-sleeved shirt over his head. Almost instantly goosebumps showed on his skin, though he was far less feeble and bony than an orphan had any right to be. He’d done well for himself.

One more thing stood out and Finn counted on the man noticing the letter stuck halfway into his pants above his left hip, no longer hidden from sight by the tunic he’d worn. Yet until the savage would demand to have it, he saw no reason to yield it. In fact, the less eager he seemed to give it, the more likely the killer would think the letter was authentic.

And so he did what he did best and pretended. He pretended to care about the decoy by quickly trying to hide it under his coat. The next instant he returned his attention to his shirt and was about to bind the cloth around Wattle’s bleeding leg when he considered that Wattle wasn’t the only one in need of bandaging. He reached for the dagger again and roughly cut up the tunic in two. Wattle screamed and kicked when he wrapped the cloth around the man’s leg and pulled it tight. “You fucking ass!”

At least he was still alive.

His eyes flicked to Kasoria before he stood up, his voice sounding far braver than he felt. “You need wun too.” He suppressed a shiver as he offered to tie a second bandage around one of the killer’s many injuries. Considering the carnage the barbarian had wrought, it seemed wise to make an attempt to be friendly and helpful, tempting though it was to pocket some of the coin strewn around them. “I can do it for y-ya,” he shivered as he stepped around Wattle’s form, “i-if you hold out yer a-arm.”
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Kasoria
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Bigger Fish (Finnegan)

Thu Mar 01, 2018 5:31 am

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Appearances mattered. Not just what things were, but what they looked like and, most importantly, what the could be. That wasn't just an old Etzos saying, spouted off by the nobles and merchants and their liveried attendants. No, the underworld that had existed for as long as the city itself, they had their own understanding.

Half of Kasoria's job was sending a message. Maintaining the appearance of strength, the power to reach out and snuff out an errant life like a man crushing a beetle. It wasn't his power, of course, but that hardly mattered. Standing there, gawped at by a handful of muttering denizens of the streets, caked in claret and holding a gladius still drip-drip-dripping onto the cobbles, he knew that the message, the appearance, the certainty of that future being visited on others, would spread far and wide.

Which is why it's really important you don't keel over right now.

“You fucking ass!”

Pain was not something that put him in a good mood, and by the time Wattle spat the words he toppled over again with a yelp. The flat of Kasoria's gladius brained him but good and he went down rubbing at his head like a schoolboy given a slap. When he looked back up, he saw something new in the midget fucker that had ruined his fucking business-

-and got the message loud and clear.

"I'm keeping this," Kasoria said, voice a low rumble as he waved the karambit for a trill. "Your boy ain't gonna need it again. Remember that, next time you think you can just... shove a wall of muscle in front of yourself and Mister Vorund."

Mister Vorund. That's what he always was, coming out of Kasoria's mouth. Not just Vorund and never Bangun. He was the title, the honorific, a man set a rung above mere hustling scum by that single word. Wattle nodded and shuffled across the cobbles, trying to scrape his gold back towards the burst satchel, missing more than he clawed.

Then the kid spoke again. Kasoria turned back to him with the same cold eyes, but with a icy little spark of curiosity behind them. The boy had looked up into him and all his grisly glory, and not turned away. Didn't mess himself or babble or even flee, in point of fact. Quite the opposite. He studied him for long moments, seeing both potential and the past in the scrawny sod who willed himself to act the man.

That's how it is here. You grow up fast, or you're meat.

"My leg." The boy blinked and Kasoria pointed to the red-stained limb. "Gonna need it more. Come on, be quick now." He braced himself as best he could. Appearances mattered. No flinching, no yelping, not if he could help it. "Make sure it's good and hnnngh... tight"

The words stumbled, nearly toppled, but he managed to regain himself before the pain choked them completely. He kept the gladius low and his arm tensed. He knew from experience there were fat, juicy veins there that just would not stop pissing blood if they got nicked. Maybe the boy would chance his luck. Maybe he had another blade. Maybes. Possibilities. But there was certainly a well-used sword not far from his head, and was it more possible his face would get cleaved in half before he could scramble away.

Kasoria wouldn't bet on it. Plenty of his own blood was spattered on floorboards and cobbles now. But he kept his face stoic. Impassive. Appearances.

"Right," he managed, after the bleeding was staunched, enough for a few vital bits, anyway. "You're comin' with me." Before the kid got a chance to argue, he pulled a gold nel from his pocket. Gold. Silver alone was prized among the urchins, copper being more their daily far. A kid would do a lot for silver, but for gold? "Get me to where I need to go..." He flipped it over and an eager hand snatched it out of the air. "... you get another one. Come on."

He didn't want to waste any more time, expose himself anymore. That had taken too bloody long, and he meant that in more than one way. The Blackjacks tended to avoid the wretched hive of the Outer Perimeter, unless there was some dignitary to protect or festival to partake in... but word of a house full of dead bodies? That would draw them in. Even those self-serving wankers would be able to-

Could have been you, once. Long ago. Lifetimes ago.

The killer ceased his limping, and Finnegan wouldn't know why. One trill he was wounded and bleeding but determined, step after step made with a mask of pained will stamped over his face. Immortals, he hadn't even washed his face off, and moved like he didn't give a damn.

Then he stopped. Thoughts given a voice he didn't want to hear. He stopped and breathed in... sent it away... he didn't want to be reminded. Didn't want to see the breadth of his life and the route it had taken. He should never have left the slums, the ghettoes, the streets and sewers and the teeming vermin that lived there. Better to wallow there than know better, see better, hope for more and then-

"Enough."

Whatever that growl was directed at, Kasoria wasn't saying. Fortunately, Juvie broke him out of it.

"See to your boss," he barked as he stumped past, not even bothering to slow as the kid stared at him, jaw practically swinging on its hinges as the twitchy junkie from ten bits ago sheathed a sword. "He's feeling... under the weather."

He didn't look back, but squawks of surprise and running feet told him Wattle may indeed be crippled, be he wouldn't die. Most likely he'd be wobbling around on a cane instead and-

Wabbling Wattle. If things ain't changed too much since my day, that'll be his name by the next season.

Kasoria focused on putting distance between them and the house. The commotion dulled to a mere hubbub and then they were in a cozy alley a block or two away, him limping, one hand on Finnegan's shoulder for balance and weighing the lad down considerably less than that fat fuck. He didn't speak until they came to a row of houses that... were actually tents, in some places, or dwellings knocked up from wooden beams and scavenged bricks. Which told you a lot about the city, really: the poor were cheeky enough to steal the fucking walls off your house, if you didn't keep an eye on them.

Speaking of keeping eyes on things.

"Whatever that scrap is in... in your pocket," Kasoria said, eyes straight ahead and estimating he had another street or two before he collapsed. "I don't care. That was back when you worked for him. That ain't the case anymore. Toss it, burn it, eat it, I don't care." Another shimmer of gold, but their deal was not yet concluded. The possibility though... that was fresh enough. "Nearly there."

+++

It wasn't like he had a gambling problem; he had an income problem that couldn't keep up with his gambling. Yes, he rather liked that. As mealy-mouthed self-justification went, it was enough to make him chuckle into his second glass of hooch. He didn't even bother trying to waffle on about his boozing: that wasn't so much a problem as an accepted past of life.

One leads to the other, mayhap?

Rude, loud knocking interrupted Randolf's inner witticisms. He rolled his eyes and huffed like he was Lord Physician to The High Marshal, instead of... whatever he was. "Healer", was the term he'd heard most. Generic and common and Shit's Smile, didn't that just tell it all? The tubby man heaved up from his sofa, once plush now moth-eaten, and shuffled past tomes of medical knowledge that seemed to have eyes. And tails.

He really needed to get that woman back. The little sods would nibble away all of it soon.

"By appointment only!" He cried before he even reached the door. "My apothecary may not be in the most estimable location in this city, but anyone can visit and my assistant will happily fit you in!" Again, he rolled his eyes. The bitter false superiority of a man who'd made all the wrong choices, and preferred to blame the world at large for them. "Stop knocking! Heaven's sake, I'm not a bloody-"

He flung open wide the door, stroking as affronted a figure as a short, stout man with a beak of a nose and a thinning mess of brown hair could manage. He peered down it through the booze-haze and it didn't take long for all that affected snobbery to vanish.

Randolf knew this man. He'd seen him with-

"Mister Vorund... bids you a good day," the short man covered in blood said, leaning on the shoulder of a small boy with a man's weary eyes. "And he asks you to remember... your debts."

"Are... are you here to collect?"

"No." Kasoria pushed his way in and blinked away the shadows and spots and the deep, abiding desire to just sleep. Oh, he knew that feeling too well. He wasn't falling for it. "But you know who I am. I need your skills. Do a good enough job, and he'll forgive some of it."

It didn't take long for opportunity and self-interest to beat shock back into its corner. Randolf shut the door and bolted it, so fast Finnegan barely got a chance to scamper in behind his new... acquaintance. "Oh, well, ah, I can draw up a-"

Kasoria snorted and snatched up a bottle of something that stank in just the right way. He guzzled down a fat, soothing measure and then crumpled into the nearest chair.

"Just... sew me up. After we'll... we'll talk nels."
"This is the life we choose, the life we lead. And there is only one guarantee: none of us will see Heaven."
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Finnegan O'Connor
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Bigger Fish (Finnegan)

Sun Mar 11, 2018 1:42 am

Bigger Fish


Etzos - 13th Zi'da, 716


Finn did as told. There was a stark difference between the rules of the orphanage and the rules of life outside the safe walls. Whereas the caretakers couldn’t or wouldn’t make true on their threats whenever he stepped out of line, the likes of the man with the long greasy hair looked all too willing to make themselves understood. Finn turned his head to the side and grimaced as the stink of the man’s already festering injury wafted up his nose. A bit of aimless fumbling later the bandage was tied snug like a shoelace and Finn stood up again, retreating a pace to observe his handiwork.

A flash of gold followed by a command. He didn’t hesitate, not for the lure of gold (there was plenty strewn all over the ground) but because there was no other choice. He wasn’t stupid enough to cross the stinker that had single-handedly slaughtered most of Wattle’s men even if the ratty fellow looked ever closer to total collapse. A few trills later he’d snatched up his coat from the ground and thrown the garment on, just in time for the rat’s filthy claws to besmirch it.

Juvie, it seemed, hadn’t fled the scene completely, though he looked like he wanted to when the killer snarled at him. For a trill his wide eyes met Finn’s, then narrowed, and finally fixated on the ground until Kasoria had said his piece and stumbled on, leaving heavily on Finn's shoulder. The thug didn't weight much, but his dirty fingernails dug deep into Finn's flesh, like some vulture’s talons. Hobbling onward they passed a low archway before Finn shot a glance over his shoulder, just in time to see Juvie regain his courage and vanish around the bend to help his ailing master. A tight squeeze on his shoulder encouraged Finn to put his eyes to the front as the route to a shady apothecary was explained to him in low, pained grunts. Not a trill too soon they halted before a rickety door, where the man impatiently slammed the knocker against the shaking woodwork, clearly on his last legs. The face that opened was old and wrinkled like a bit of crumpled parchment carrying the smell of cheap pipe smoke on his breath, and the voice that came with it was as rough and shoddy as the chipped wooden exterior of what had once been a respectable business.

He wasn’t even sure if he was supposed to follow inside since he’d served his purpose getting them both to the disgruntled doctor, but snuck in at the last moment, preferring the shady company over wandering these parts alone. It was dark and muggy inside, the air smelling of whatever foul concoctions the physician was brewing in his basement. Finn followed upstairs where a few shy rays of light penetrated half-eaten curtains, waving in a chilling gust of wind. The couch didn't fare much better, and Finn thought he saw something small with a tail shoot underneath it.

“It ain't that simple,” the doctor protested. “If I just stitch up with all that mud and cocking shit in there your leg’s gonna grow green with moss.” The doctor shuffled over to a cabinet with many dark bottles, murmuring and rummaging for a moment until he spun around with a smirk in his face. “Aha! Now this,” he shook the bottle, “is medicine my dears. Passed down from generations, father to son and hmm… modified for superior effect by yours truly.” He basked in silent applause before his small eyes found Finn. “Well what are you standing around for?! Your old man is bleedin’ out! Get a fresh cloth from that drawe- not that one, the other one! I'll need a scissor and the pincushion and some thread and-” The doctor shuffled around Kasoria, observing him from every angle, deciding the most cost effective way to treat Vorund’s dog.

Finn could barely keep up with the avalanche of instructions and when he'd finally gathered everything the old fart barked at him to grab a stool from the corner to put Kasoria’s leg on. “Better bite down on something,” the doctor advised before he unwinded the bandage and pressed a fresh cloth, soaked in his medicine against the wound. The cloth almost sizzled on the ruptured flesh and Finn didn't need to look at Kasoria's face to tell that the medicine stung more than a dozen angry wasps. “Fresh cloth,” the doctor ordered and Finn meekly obliged. A small puddle of blood had formed on the floor by the time the wound was cleaned. Upon the doctor’s instruction, Finn had prepared thread and needle and also another cloth, this time drenched in a flighty substance smelling of ammonia, making him feel queasy.

“Cover his mouth and nose,” the physician instructed.

“What?”

“Do as I say!”

Perhaps Kasoria knew what was coming, perhaps he even wished to protest, but his wish was denied as the cloth wrapped over his mouth and heavy air forced itself into his lungs, eating away at his vision until there was only darkness.

---

Several surprises awaited Kasoria. One of them sat huddled near a fire in the corner, legs drawn up to his chest and looking properly miserable despite the gentle roaring of the flames. Another surprise was found draped over him; a heavy blanket providing a comfortable layer of warmth. The last surprise was found in his purse, not a single piece was missing.

Finn turned from his position naar the flames that so miserably failed to comfort his stiff legs. His face was morose as he stumbled over to Kasoria as though drunk with some substance or another. “You awake?” he croaked, his voice hoarse from over use. “Can I go n-?”

“Not so fast,” the voice of the good doctor sounded, coming from below. A few heavy footsteps up the creaky stairs later, the wrinkled face hovered over Kasoria once more. “You look like dogshit,” he noted, relishing the fact that his patient would have difficulty moving. “I thought you should know that your little friend here is full of secrets.”

“It wasn't for you,” Finn said sharply to which the doctor flung the back of his hand toward Finn's face, though the reprimand never connected. “This letter here,” the doctor resumed, “provides the location of a 100 golden nels worth of payment. Here,” he threw the letter on Kasoria’s chesr. “That ought to clear my debts twice over. Now,” he started, lightly patting the sensitive leg-wound through the blanket, “the minute you can stand without crumbling like a bag of potatoes I want you both out of here, and take the backdoor. You and your ilk,” he shot a foul look at Finn who wisely kept his distance, “give my business a bad name.”
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Kasoria
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Bigger Fish (Finnegan)

Mon Mar 12, 2018 4:03 am

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Sometimes you just had to sit back and fucking take it. Not every situation could be fought or bargained or bribed or ran away from. Most times, granted, those four options were your best bet, but sometimes the doors were locked, the windows were barred, and you were going nowhere, my son. So you dug deep and you endured.

You bit down on the belt you yanked off your breeches as a thousand tiny nails were hammered into your leg. You shut your ears to the prattling, pompous ass who still sounded like he was a true and accredited physician, not a struck-off healer that sounded like a woman when he begged for more time to pay his debts.

You trusted said ass and a boy you barely knew now to kill you when that stinking rag was stuffed over your face. You met his gaze with your lips curled back as you chewed leather, promising pain or profit, it was entirely up to them.

You did these things because of two things, as different as night and day. Because cocky as they might be, arrogant as they might act, wild as they might look, you knew that The Boy and The Ass knew how their world worked. No man was alone, either in commitments nor connections, and certainly not consequences. There were always eyes and ears, the streets watching and judging. It took great lengths to make a crime truly secret, and even then there was no guarantee, as long as more than one mind knew it. Kasoria seemed to smile for a feeling, broken trill as his eyes finally rolled back into his head. Mayhap they thought it was the effects of the ammonia, but it was that first reason.

It's not just me they have to worry about. It's the man behind me.

The other reason was far simpler, far older, and you learned it the first time you found yourself knocking on the door of a man like Randolf.

Might as well be today as any other.

---

He wasn't expecting a blowjob and a brew when he awoke, but Randolf didn't even bother with civility. Didn't cunts like him have to take some kind of oath? Do no harm or some such shite. Well, he reminded himself, maddeningly reasonable after the dumpy little man had just insulted him in four different ways, nothing in there about being nice while you were not doing it.

What Randolf found while rifling through The Boy's pockets was of more interest to him. He gingerly picked up the letter - Chrien's Cunt, even raising an arm made him ache - and read the neat, educated lettering. Curious enough to pique the killer's interest, and he leaned forward to catch more of the light.

Some merchant, by the sound of it. Telling... Wattle, Semyon, either way... that their money is waiting at "the same place as last time".

Dark eyes flickered up to Randolf, enjoying his moment, relishing the inexplicable miracle of being the most powerful man in the room for a change. Paid off his debts, got himself in good with Vorund by patching up his pit-bull, even threatened to harm a boy a third his size, because by golly, didn't that just make anyone feel like a man? Now he was waving around a letter that had no street name or address or time on it and acting like he was free and clear.

Can't imagine Vorund will see it that way.

"And don't let me catch you sniffing around my entrance way, young man," Randolf said, wagging a finger in Finn's face like he was a pup to be scolded. Already slipping back into the airs he'd affected long before his dismal talent for cards and dice did him in. "I'm not some soft touch you can loiter around, hoping for scraps. The stench of you is bad enough to scare off custom. Fates, back in the old days - ha, or rather, the days soon to come! - I'd have had my man whip you within..."

Kasoria stared and stared and listened until he wasn't doing either and whatever frequency the man was twittering on passed him by completely. He closed his eyes and shut out his face, as well as his voice. He was throbbing in places that shouldn't even have had feeling in them. His head ached and his mouth was dry. Didn't he spy a mug of... ah, yes. He felt around carefully and lifted it to his lips, wetting his tongue and Fate's Fancy, the wanker was still talking.

"... have to start letting my old customers know that I'm in business, and... ah, about time!"

Boy and Ass saw Kasoria rise laboriously to his feet, as if he were some effigy being raised by unseen worshipers. As he leaned heavily against the chair, Randolf shoved a crutch under his armpit and within a few swing-steps, Kasoria got the hang of it. Key was balance, and not overreaching. Which he would undoubtedly fuck up before he got back to his house, but as long as they happened out of sight, he could live with it.

"Come on."

The first words he spoke since waking, and they were to Finn. Randolf crossed his arms and rolled his eyes and Kasoria actually fucking predicted him tut-tutting before it even happened. The man was a walking cliche, a monument to bitterness, and he would enjoy what was to follow. He limped to the backdoor, Finn taking up position on the side of him not using the crutch. Between him and the length of wood, he could almost walk properly again. Randolf was still droning on about his new business, his new life, free from debt, good luck on your "treasure hunt", tell Vorund that-

"You keep this."

That stumped the cunt. The doctor's deluge of words wasn't so much stopped up as it was damned by a mountain. He looked down as Kasoria stuffed the letter back in his hand. The pale, sweaty killer took a moment to flick a glance at his side, meeting Finn's eye-

A wink. So far the boy was unsure he'd seen it. But it was long enough to scream two words:

Watch This

"I... But-But there's, there's money here, it says-"

"Does it have a ring?"

"I... No, but-"

"Does it have a street?"

"No, b-but-"

"Does it have a time when the nels will be there?"

"No! No, butbutbut-"

It was all slipping away. Nothing more foolish than a man that crows and preens and treats his fellows like, well, dogshit before the foundation for his Big Plans are even in his purse. Or the purse of the man he owes debts to, anyway. Randolf's sneering manner was falling apart like a vase beset by flying hammers. His eyes were wide and no longer shrewd, just like his mouth was a quavering "O" words were trembling out of. Sweat hadn't sprung across his brow, it was dripping down it, and still he clutched that note.

"Then there is nothing on there. You think anyone would give the exact location of a hundred goal nels, in plain Common, on a piece of parchment that would go through Fate-knows how many hands?"

By the look of the stricken doctor's face, apparently he had. Kasoria shrugged his shoulders and turned to the door. There was nothing else left for the man to offer him, and he needed to report back to his patron.

"I will tell Mister Vorund you aided me. Saved my life, most likely. That will get a fair chunk knocked off your-"

Finn's hand was on the door handle when Randolf's own shot out and grabbed Kasoria by the bicep. Words low and venomous were pouring out of him, the anger and frustration of arcs spewing out and he made the mistake of grabbing his bad arm, which left his good one-

-able to snap across his chest and close over the doctor's grasping hand, fingers weakened but still able, gripping around the pudgy thumb and pushing it back entirely the wrong way-

Randolf yelped and thudded down to one knee as bright, blaring pain set his arm on fire. Kasoria scowled down at the man as he knelt there, panting but not panting, as if afraid to breathe, gone from victor to worm in the space of a bit. The killer pushed sharply and let go as he did, sending Randolf flying back onto his broad arse. So it wouldn't have hurt too much.

"First of all, it's 'Mister Vorund' to, heh... you and your ilk." He permitted himself a sneer. Killing didn't excite him as much as this; setting the world right in some small way. Reminding the arrogant and bluster-full of their true place within it. "Second of all, the next time you touch me, you lose something. An eye, a hand, your nose, your cock, I'm not sure yet. But you will. Thirdly..."

He didn't crouch, since that would have been more flexibility than his battered body was capable of. But he could lean. Enough that his hair fell forwards and the shadows wreathed his face. Enough that in the darkness was naught but flashes of white-and-yellow and his eyes, like coals, black and shining.

"... you're thinking, like the dumb cunt that you are, you could strike me down, aren't you? Maybe you could. I'm battered to shit and half my limbs are buggered. Maybe you could. Maybe... but then you'd have to kill the boy. Then the men that came looking for me. Then the ones that came looking for them. Then Mister Vorund, and we both know you wouldn't even get past the boy. You just see me, healer. You don't see all the others who'll come after. And they will."

The killer nodded to the scrap wadded up at Randolf's feet and Finn scooped it up, darting back to his side before the panting, almost-sobbing with rage doctor would claw it back to him. Kasoria straightened up and the back door was opened by his unofficial helper, bracing blast of cold air waking him up as good and sharp as a cup off roasted beans. He took two steps out and then remembered something.

Oh, such timing. Ain't lost my wits yet.

"And by the way," he turned to Randolf one last time, just before Finn closed the door. "A hundred nels? That would cover most of your interest, not most of your debts. Those are... quite substantial. Get used to this place, healer. This house. This smell. These sounds. These faces and people that surround you. You will be here for quite some time..."

The boy knew how to lower a curtain, that was for sure. Right as Randolf's face crumpled, as despair ripped away any dignity he still had, Finn slammed shut the door with a flourish, grinning impishly. Kasoria stared stoically down at him, and grunted. Which was as good as a laugh from him.

"Come on if you're coming, boy," was all he said, winding his way down streets and alleys, heading north. "Still need to go somewhere before I cut you loose."

It soon became clear that they were heading where it didn't smell like horseshit. Which meant only one thing in Finn's world: uphill, and to where the fancy folk lived. Sure enough, adobe and thatch and wood gave way to towering walls that were flung upward, dotted by stabbing guard towers. A constant flood of carts and horses and mules and civilians and travelers and soldiers and beggars and aristocrats and everyone in between was stumping up and down the ramp and-

Fuck. Ramp.

"Give me a hand, boy."

That was a hardly dignified hundred feet, leaning on a boy half his size, but Kasoria enjoyed the lack of stares he got. Usually his beggar disguise attracted scorn or pity, usually just the first, if it was the Blackjack. Every once in a purple sun, he'd see one of his old cadets friends. They'd see him, and squint, and he could see their minds working... and they shook their heads. No, it couldn't be. Not possible. Not Kas.

Now he was just an old cripple with his son helping him. Much less suspicious.

"This way..."

On and on they went and Kasoria was glad the cold was keeping him nice and numb. The Hot Season would have killed him just getting up that damned ramp. A few more streets, not too far from the gates, rose up a broad, plain storefront with a simple sign engraved over double doors: Vorund Storage And Leasing. No date of establishment, like many in the Commercial Circle were so proud to claim. Nothing filigreed or shiny around the doors and the windows. Just hard, solid oak and Tanwood wherever your eyes fell, and the sound of industry within.

Kasoria knocked and waited for an answer. He spoke as he did, not bothering to look down. He didn't know if the boy thought that was being dismissive, or treating him like a man who could be trusted to listen without being stared at. It could have been both. He was still a little sozzled from the ammonia.

"Once you're done here, deliver that just like you were told to. They won't hurt you, they know you're with Mister Vorund." He kept talking before the obvious question could be asked, faint footsteps audible from behind the door. "I know what you're gonna say, but I left Wattle alive for a reason. We want his business running and paying, not beat to shit and falling apart. So if they've got some nob making a buy from them, good for them. Their money is our money, and dead men don't pay shit."

He left that old Crossing truism hanging in the air as bolts slid back and the doors opened.

Thanks for Jade for the template
"This is the life we choose, the life we lead. And there is only one guarantee: none of us will see Heaven."
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Finnegan O'Connor
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Bigger Fish (Finnegan)

Mon Mar 12, 2018 2:16 pm

Bigger Fish


Etzos - 13th Zi'da, 716


The door handle was already being pushed down when Finn answered Kasoria, his voice raw with hoarseness. “I can’t-” That was as far as he got before his voice was drowned out by the creaking hinges.

Behind the oak door stood a stout, balding figure with big eyes and a neck as thick as a tree trunk. His face screwed up in disgust at the sight and smell of them before he opened the door far enough for them to enter. Inside, a choir performed the song of hard labour with hammering, sanding, and loud barking voices over the cacophony of industry.

“Who’s he?” the inevitable question came. Like many others living in the underbelly of society, Rorak favored bluntness over manners. As soon as they were inside, a squeaking, grinding noise announced the closing of two bolt locks over the door before Rorak turned around and came up at Kasoria’s side. “I’d say you’d have saved some Theodore or Montgomery from the clutches of his powdered grandma for a nice fat ransom but…” his voice trailed off as he circled around them and halted before Finn. “This one doesn’t look like much, frayin' coat and all... d'you need glasses?” he arched an eyebrow at Kasoria, “you look like dogshit, smell like it too." The thug's eyes roved over Kasoria's fresh stiches. "Did the kid give you that much trouble?”

“I wasn’t trouble, sir,” Finn piped up, a hint of concern in his voice.

“Sir? Ha!” Their balding host threw his head back in laughter. “There’s no sirs here. Not me, certainly not this arseling here- Fook me, what happened to your leg man?”

Finn’s eyes turned to soft focus as they followed Rorak’s endless chatter through the workshop, his mind drifting to how he was going to sneak past the caretakers once he would return to the safety of the orphanage. Fates, he wished that would be his only trouble, going without an evening meal wouldn't be such a steep price to pay for the day's misfortunes. Too many bells had passed. He’d have to go past Silvester first to recount what had happened and many more bells would go to waste. Come to think of it, he didn't expect to reach the comfort of his bed before dawn, if he was lucky. First he'd have to find Silvester, a challenge in of it self...

He halted, forcing Kasoria to stop too. Rorak only noticed a few paces later and when he did, he turned, his face growing dark with impatience.

“I can’t go back.”

Can't or won't? The latter could be helped.

"Wattle’s dead," he breathed.

Dead? That fat fanny? No, this was the child’s imagination surely, hadn’t seen a dead person before, didn’t know what that looked like, probably thought that if the lake of blood just grew large enough, that’d mean someone was gone ‘round the bend for good. Wattle had gotten a stern reminder from Vorund, nothing more… okay, maybe a touch more, maybe crippled for the rest of his days, but that blob would live to see the twin suns rise another day, there could be no doubt of that.

“I-” Finn shot an uneasy look between Kasoria and the door. It was closed, he knew, and yet he hoped that if he simply looked hard enough, that portal to freedom would magically swing open. If his sister had been here…

“Go on,” Rorak said impatiently as he turned to approach menacingly, “out with it then… I what?”

“I wasn’t supposed ta know! But I heard and I- I just heard, alright?”

“Heard what?” For all his light-hearted pretense, Rorak wasn’t the patient type. The veins in his neck swelled and he closed the distance between them with a large stride. “What?” he insisted.

“Silve- My boss, he wasn’t meanin’ to pay Wattle...I wasn’t eavesdropping, I swear!”

Rorak shot a look between Kasoria and the sputtering boy, trying to make sense of it all. “What the fook is he goin’ on about?”

Listen,” Finn’s voice cracked, “you don’t know what he’s like, what’s he’s capable of, what he did…” For a moment only the noise of men moving and sealing crates sounded, filling the air with glistening sawdust. “It was a trap, alright? Wattle would’ve gotten his letter and come to collect and then-” he made a cut throat gesture. “He won’t wait,” he added with a shake of his head, “Silvester’s meaning to send your Vorund a message, to let everyone know that Vorund can’t defend his own- Wattle is as good as dead. I can’t go back, I just can’t…” He bit his lips. “I didn’t want to peach but-” his eyes fell toward Kasoria’s gladius, dangling from the man’s belt. “I don’t want to be the next one,” he finished feebly.

Rorak’s dark features weren’t sure whether to look surprised or intrigued and so they settled somewhere in-between. “I can’t judge this Kas, you know I ain’t got nothing to do with whatever you’re up to but… it sounds important. If the twat isn’t lying his sorry ass off…” his voice darkened.

“No, never!” Finn shook his head vigorously, ignoring the bitter irony of what he’d just said.

“I don’t know Kas… V’s not in a good mood today and he’ll be worse if you come in like this.”

“I’m not lying.”

“What if the little rat is setting you up eh? Have you thought about that, Kas?”

“I’m not lying, Kas,” Finn hissed through his teeth. “I could've gotten away while you were nappin, but I didn't, did I? Cause if I did I'd be back with Silvester and you'd find out that he'd cleaned out Wattle and then you'd come after us... and me... an- and Betty...”
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