Where few want to be found [Underground] (Graded)

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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Vidao Reymisi
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Where few want to be found [Underground] (Graded)

Sun Jun 17, 2018 1:25 pm

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14th Trial of Ymiden, Arc 718


Most cities Vidao had visited had some form of "under the surface" network. Usually a collection of less than savory individuals and masked locations, with the main purpose of subverting money and goods from those who would tax it, take a cut, or take it entirely. Such "undergrounds", Reymisi found, were great places to make some real coin. The risks were usually higher, but the reward always greater.

This place, however, was quite literally, underground. After putting a few coin in a few palms, Vidao got directions to a culvert, which he quite literally fell into, and down, until he hit the slime and sludge soaked bottom. From there he trudged through the muck, and the gods knows what else, until he arrived at a cross between two tunnels.

"Right and then left."
he muttered under his breath. He followed those exact directions, and then found himself at a set of stone stairs, hidden behind a crack in the tunnel wall. There was virtually no light, and the mercenary used his sense of smell and touch to navigate down.

"Damn!"
he cussed, as he tripped on the last step, and practically fell into the long tunnel way at the bottom. Now, however, there was at least torch light. Not much, but enough. And water. Running water. Off in the distance, but consistently there. He followed the tunnel, heading in the direction of the scattered torches, hoping he would eventually find someone, or some place, to indicate he had found his way into Etzos Underground...
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Where few want to be found [Underground]

Wed Jun 20, 2018 9:53 pm

If new to the city, many would be unaware that there was what was considered the "Main" entrance to The Underground. Since the cave-in during the shadowbeast attacks, this under-level of commerce had suffered a marked lack of patrons. The Grand race had not been run last arc, as a cleared track that did not infringe upon the "holdings" of any of the questionable businesses there, had not been completed. But the race was finally on track to follow its mid-Saun scheduling this arc.

With the weather growing hotter, a few of those beginning to reacquire their bravery began to dare the shadowy hallways once again. These numbers were quickly halved upon encountering the usual ill-kempt lay-abouts, whose agendas were best served by hiding in shadows. The braver half often followed suit, finding a sudden lack of strength-in-numbers. But they were generally kept company, upon departure, by the coarse laughter of those thugs standing guard over their bosses' new territorial boundaries.

There were areas routinely patrolled by the Black Guard, and there was no conflicting claims on those. And where the borders of law and chaos met, bribes kept lawlessness in check. The system had worked for as long as anyone could remember. Anyone violating a paid "Confirmation of Boundary" to the Black Guard found the city's police force siding against them - at least those in enough current disfavor to have drawn such duty - as well as the thugs belonging to whichever "landowner" had been violated.

But there were those that sought the recesses of the Underground for safety as well...

Most minor litigations were settled in the Ten-Trial Games in the Arena, before a crowd that established in inarguable settlement. Not generally to the death, these fights, but accidents happened now and then. Glennon Marbry, the Finance Handler of a successful surface business, had hired a champion to settle his game; a common enough occurrence when the "challenged" was so obviously ill-suited to survive the ordeal.

But the ease with which victory had been achieved drew skeptical eyes upon the outcome. It was decided, if not ever officially confirmed, that Marbry's champion, or Marbry himself, or some other agent of his, had poisoned his adversary, and the game was ruled null and void.

There was an unspoken rule, understood by anyone who had lived in Etzos for any length of time, that such dishonor invited a reciprocal gesture. What this meant to Marbry, was that if he did not fight for himself, any champion he hired was open game for "rigging". As trials passed, Marbry was unanimously denied the services of any and all gifted fighters.

So with only a trial left before the game, he summoned such courage as he'd never before embraced, and entered the underground to meet with the one who would be in position to accept a counter offer. It had been over a card game gone wrong, in which questionable techniques had netted Marbry 200 gold nel. He was now there to offer five times that to the man who had accused him of cheating.

In exchange, he would ask that his adversary let it be publicly known that it had been a mistake. But while Marbry found it satisfactory to pay this sum to regain his good name, The other man found the embarrassment of such a public admission not worth any price.

Marbry was not such a fool as to bring the money with him, but the escort that he was "encouraged" to accept, to return him to the surface, so he'd be around for the game, was not about to let him leave the Underground with the weighty stain of dishonorably acquired nel. No, they would do the right thing, and relieve him of it. The point at which the two thugs decided to begin "encouraging" Marbry is the situation upon which Vidao stumbles.

As for Lionel "Coffin" Velvet, the man in charge of Marbry's opposition, he sent a number of other thugs out to ensure the non-interference of "citizens". This will be the situation anyone else will encounter at first.
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Vidao Reymisi
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Where few want to be found [Underground]

Wed Jun 20, 2018 10:31 pm

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The steady presence of running water hissing in the background was broken only by Vidao's foot steps for at least a quarter break. The tunnels seemed to meander on forever, and it didn't take long for Reymisi to regret his dive into the subterranean. But then, something else broke the aqueous orchestra darksong.

Voices. A couple of different ones, best Vidao could tell. At this point just loud enough to distinguish above the drone of water. There was some movement sounds as well. Scuffling, perhaps? Regardless, it was enough to make the big man stop in his tracks. He looked down the tunnel, as far as he could. The bend in the passage, like many before it, reflected the dancing light of the torches. On the far wall this time, however, was something more. Shadows. Large ones, three in all. Reymisi reached for his weapon, a decently crafted, well used bastard sword. Near silently he drew the weapon off his side, and raised it to a neutral place in front of him. Before he intentionally let himself known to them, Vidao would pause some strides before the turn, to listen to any conversation that might be taking place. What they said was of critical importance to the mercenary, for his involvement, if allowed to remain voluntary, would depend upon it. A drunkard trying to stumble back to the surface would be of no interest to him, nor would children playing with sticks. If the spoken words among the providers of the shadows was of almost anything else, Reymisi would make his move, rounding the corner to where he was clearly visible to the thugs and Marbry, speaking in a tone that spoke all business, no nonsense.

"Well, well, what in Faldrun's Flames is going on here?"
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Kasoria
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Where few want to be found [Underground]

Thu Jun 21, 2018 3:37 am

"Happy Hunting."

The woman left the words ringing in his ear as he got up from here booth and went on his way. His pocket was a few nels lighter, but nothing so valuable as information was free in Etzos. Still, the real value came from the experience: as in, a lifetime immersed in this shadow world, of both corporeal sunlight and moral turpitude. Lifetime enough to learn how to kill and kill again, then sleep without so much as a toss or turn to trouble you. Long enough to learn how to do so quietly, quickly, with your bare hands and blades and anything else you could grab.

Most of all, enough to know who had information, who had the right information, and what their price for sparing it was. Kasoria was, in many ways, a modest man, but not a self-detractor. He knew he had skills, and his head was full of valuable lessons in the Etzos underworld. But his master, the man who had sent him into this laybrinth... he'd been the one with a name he could start with. An old woman who owned a place where stolen wares came to vanish, after their bearers were paid and their names never noted. She knew things, heard things, and Vorund was hoping she'd point his favorite killer in the right direction.

It still amazed Kasoria, that after twenty years of merciless, relentless, nigh-certain destruction and retaliation visited upon all that had dared stand before Bangun Vorund... some wankers still thought they could steal from him and get away from it. Outright theft or missing interest payments, it was all the same to the crime boss of South Etzos. It was a little more unusual for Kasoria to be dispatched, but... well...

Things have been quiet, the little man in the ragged clothes thought, as he shuffled down the half-lit tunnel. Could be the calm before the storm, but still... enjoy it while it lasts.

Except he didn't. Because it meant he was sent to track down Underground-bound debtors instead of doing what he did best. Granted, it was something of a challenge, and it paid, and Maureen had told him he had a couple of "friends" (likely hired, rather than hanging around out of loyalty) aiding him in the underworld, but... still. Kasoria felt a nagging absence, which hadn't left him since he'd found the winding way down from the streets into the strange and pitiless world, somewhere between the suns and the hells.

"Nod'a huntah," he mumbled drunkenly to himself as he passed a couple of cowl'd figures. No reason he couldn't work on his "act" while he thought allowed. "Do ovah fing. Do't better. Dis... Dis dff... diff-"

He heard the voices, but the change that came over him was more akin to a wolf smelling blood. His body stiffened for a half-trill; by the time the other half had passed, his limbs were loose and keen, hands flexing for a moment under his shit-smelling cloak. A plethora of sharp, deadly tools were hidden under there, but there was no point in revealing them until he was sure what that was.

You already know, an old and instinctive voice whispered to him. You know that tone. The pleading edge. The rough demand. The threat hanging in the air like a fresh corpse on a gibbet. You know what lies down that hallway.

Then Kasoria heard a booming voice, an outright demand for answers that dared to address an Immortal in this, a city founded by those that had killed one. Kasoria almost flinched at the invocation, but quickly got past it. A new player in the farce, it seemed. Further down, around that corner, where torches throw shadows long and huge and indistinct. He could go and look, but... why bother?

You're on the job, another old but far more sensible voice reminded him. So do the job. You're not down here to play spectator, hero, or bandit.

Kasoria grunted in agreement and started to careen back around, already racking his memory for a fresh mental route through these tunnels. His destination, a possible hidey-hole that this thief had absconded to, was hardly accessible solely by this way. He had patience, and he had time. He'd waste no sleep or idle thoughts on what could have been, what had he missed, who could he have met... Kasoria was old, or felt as much. Such musings were best left to younger men.

But he found his way blocked by a beautiful, seductive, and thoroughly unwelcome sight. One that had his hand slide closer to his karambit. An unfamiliar feeling, too much like fear for his liking, pooled in the bottom of his stomach, and Kasoria all but bared his teeth at the newcomer.
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Last edited by Kasoria on Tue Jun 26, 2018 10:01 pm, edited 2 times in total. word count: 824
"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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Where few want to be found [Underground]

Mon Jun 25, 2018 10:39 am

Anyone who had lived in Etzos for an extended period of time had heard of the Underground. The maze-like tunnel system underneath the city proper. A shady place, not just because of the lack of light, but also the people dwelling there. Outcasts, thugs, crooks… the whole package. As one of the individuals with an occupation that was not exactly legal, Oberan had visited the Underground a few times already. Not enough to really know his way around, but there were helpful guides present who’d gladly lead the way for those with coin.

His was a little girl who could have passed as an effeminate boy. Or a boy with long hair and a higher pitch voice than was usually present in ten arc olds. Or was it a normal voice for such a young child to have? Oberan was certain that Finn’s voice was much deeper –when it broke anyway—and he was about the same age. Then again, the child’s style of dress and general lack of hygiene made it rather difficult to determine their gender, not really an indicator of either. Long hair really wasn’t either, nor was the voice, Bran decided.

“How much did you get for that junk?” the child asked as the thief exited the shop.

“Probably less than it’s worth,” Bran shrugged, seeing the shopkeeper rub his hands together through the window of the small building. “But I got rid of it, and got paid for my trouble.”

That was the most important aspect anyway. While he had probably sold the junk, as his guide had called it, for seventy-five percent or less of its value, he didn’t have any use for them himself, and it’d just take up space if he didn’t sell it. To him it was useless junk indeed, but to someone else, it might be treasure.

“How much?” she repeated.

“I got the price I asked for, Steph,” the thief responded. He’d been prepared for some haggling, but the shopkeeper had readily accepted the price. One more indicator he might have been scammed. Not that he cared too much.

“My name’s Sam.”

“Yes, yes, whatever. Your boss will get her ten percent cut, don’t worry.”

“So you say. You’d better pay.” Her eyes narrowed in a not so subtle threat.

“I’m hurt. Do I look that untrustworthy?” he mocked, wiping away imaginary tears.

She didn’t say anything in response, simply shrugging and gesturing for the Mortalborn to follow. The girl led him back the way he came, traversing the maze without any visible shreds of doubt or loss of direction. She trudged on with Oberan in her wake, going left and right and left again at intersections, seemingly needing no environmental clues to know where exactly she found herself at. The Mortalborn wondered if she had Avriel blood in her. Being part carrier pigeon Avriel would explain a lot.

They’d been walking for a while when Faldrun’s name bounced off the walls as an echo, causing Oberan’s brows to quirk. Etzos’ policy being to “leave the Immortals at the door” meant very few ever invoked the names of the deities most of Idalos worshipped in public, if at all. And when it was done, it wasn’t usually this loud.

By the tension in his guide’s shoulders, it was clear she’d heard it too, but she didn’t change direction. They headed towards the source of the voice still, and before long they found their way blocked by a couple thugs. A ragged looking man stood near them, probably wanting to pass.

“We’ll have to go round,” Sam said, voice quivering. She turned around and pushed past Oberan in the other direction, but he grabbed her arm to stop her. “What?”

“We’ll push through,” he stated.

“Are you mad?” she hissed, looking rather pale even in the dim light.

He shrugged. “I’m curious.”

“We shouldn’t get involved. This is a bad idea. A very bad idea.”

Another shrug. “Hasn’t stopped me before. Won’t stop me now.”

She crossed her arms and stomped her little foot, making a splash. “I’m not going. You go by yourself. Pay up, this is the end of our deal.”

The little girl held out her hand expectantly, her expression bossy. Oberan waved her words away and began walking towards the thugs blocking the path. “I’ll go take a look. I’ll pay you when I get back. Wait here.”

He could swear he heard her say that if he died at least she’d be able to take all his coin from his corpse. The thief paid it no mind though. He was a Mortalborn, what was the worst that could happen?
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Just because I shouldn't doesn't mean I won't.

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Where few want to be found [Underground]

Tue Jun 26, 2018 5:23 am

Inky and Crank put their "persuasion" of Marbry on hold to gauge the level of threat posed by the newcomer. It was not so much the idea that the man with the bastard sword was being considered a physical threat. The two thugs were experienced in the ways of violence, and were confident of their ability to deal with a trespasser on the "Velvet Carpet", which was how most who knew of such things referred to their boss' turf in the Underground.

No, the threat was more in the chance of word getting to the surface and reaching the ears of some of the more honest and resolute members of the guard. - Thetros save them if that sarding avriel bitch, Nightshit, should hear of it. - The idea that a single man would interfere in "business", especially at two-to-one odds, when it did not involve him, raised two immediate questions.

DID it involve him? Was he the old fart's nephew or something? Heir to Marbry's business? If that was the case, he might just be here to witness first hand, the head hitting the stone.

And WAS there only one of them? Both of these questions were cause to go check the man out, as well as what or who else may be waiting around the corner.

Crank exchanged a long-established look with his teammate, and Inky nodded, breaking off to approach the stranger, as Crank locked a more formidable hold on their prisoner. He stalked slowly toward the sword wielder, keeping his hands out a bit from his sides, as if to show there was no cause to attack. A do-gooder like this newcomer was undoubtedly one of those that would never strike without cause.

"So hey-ya, budsie. Whys-a ya gotta stick-a nose wher't ain't blongin'? Too easy drawin' th'rong clusion, budsie. You jes' turn e'selfa round and make tracks back-a the sunlites, yes? O-yes, thatta be best fer'all, I'm thinkie." His voice was all tranquility and calm as he reached to pat Vidao with an extended left hand. He was anticipating the newcomer watching that hand, as many would be most concerned about a stranger's hand touching them.

But there was something more odd about the way he still held the right hand out, the way an unaccountable wrinkle at the right wrist of his shirt did not loosen with the easy swings of the arms with which he'd approached. Inky finally gave one last shake of that extended right arm, and the cloth still did not come loose to hang normally.

The situation became suddenly clearer as Marbry managed to gasp "Save me!"

Inky's easy expression turned oddly regretful, as if the old man's comment had created a 'point-of-no-return'; and he tried to hide a more forceful shake of the arm inside an exaggerated shrug. It probably would occur to any trained fighter that a bastard sword was not the best weapon for close-in fighting, like what was likely to occur in these cramped Underground tunnels. That thought would be flash followed by the realization that a dagger would be.

There was that frozen tableau, as Inky and Vidao locked eyes; eyes which made no collective effort to hide what they both knew was about to happen. Inky's effort was to use his left hand to grab hold of Vidao, for leverage to bring him in close where a dagger would be most useful. A dagger like the kind shady men kept up their sleeves, loaded on spring releases, to slide into a moving arm as it began a strike seemingly unarmed. A strike precisely like the one Inky was making with his right hand as a loud, springing click sounded from his swinging right arm.
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Raellen Charone, prime 'Fixer' for The Fence, one of the largest criminal organizations in Etzos, or the world, for that matter, watched the fun ensue in the tunnel from the comfort of the shadows. She would have liked to watch blood spill from all four men, if fate would allow.

But such was not the case this night. She had pressing business of a more direct sort. A client had gotten himself in the same sort of situation this fool Marbry had done. Not with 'Velvet' or his men, but with one that flowed in the same vein. Hers was a protection gig this night, which was not her usual calling. But there was anticipation that Vorund was on the far side of this little dispute, and she was the best agent to neutralize the killer drunk Big V liked to employ.

She had no idea if this was a direct debt being called in, or a favor being done on one of Vorund's friends' behalf. But she was there to give the visitor cause to return to his boss with the understanding that there were higher causes to be served than vengeance; like profits. And if she had to kill the sloppy little fuck, Kasorius, or whatever he called himself, to do it, so be it.

He'd been given the one warning The Fence was usually inclined to give. If it was someone else that came calling, she'd allow another warning; the kind that came when reduced to a quivering mass through the use of her Naerikk 'Gift', and had a knife pressed to a throat by her assistant. Those that knew the naerikk trick usually knew that once inflicted on a victim, the naer herself could not approach, as the shadow essence depriving them of all
their senses, would lash back at her with reciprocal stunning impact.

So she always had a thug along to do the dirty work. She did plenty of dirty work herself without the use of the trick, but her main girl was aware of this 'Kas' guy's growing reputation, and had told her to play it safe. She had already gone to her client's office, and had been surprised to find him gone. So she was waiting a few bits to see if he returned.

The appearance of Kas was both a relief and a challenge. On the one hand, if he was only arriving, he couldn't have done the job yet. On the other hand, she'd given him his warning, yet he'd come back. 'So be it.' she thought to herself, giving a tell-tale nod to her partner, who took his leave, making his way back to the office to await the ambush.

She stepped out of the shadows and faced Kas, ignoring the presence of anyone else. For all her dislike of the scruffy little killer, she had a good level of respect for him. "Fancy running into you here. One might come to the unfortunate conclusion that you have didn't take the hint I gave you last time. He's not here. If you'd like to go check the office yourself, I'm sure you already know the way."

She found some annoyance in the fact that a distraction kept her voice from the level tone with which she liked to deliver most such remarks. There was one of those little "Finders Seekers" guides escorting an adult. It was actually the canny nature of the child that concerned her. The child would quickly realize what was going on, and such information would be valuable as well as potentially troublesome if mutual enemies tried to escalate things. In fact, the tone of the young voice, and her insistence on going another way suggested she already knew who she and Kas were.

She called to the man stubbornly refusing to follow his guide, "Sir, you really ought to listen to your guide. The Tower is not always completely forthcoming with details. Not all the cave-ins have been repaired in this area..." she lied, "...and this is a...dead end." she could not quite keep the grin from her face as her eyes turned to face Kasoria upon the last two words.

 ! Message from: Maltruism
So, this is my second post. To those who may be considering jumping in, you do NOT have to be involved in either of the unfolding conflicts. You may PM me with an idea of your own, or simply "show yourself in", trusting to me to create some intrigue or danger for you.
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Vidao Reymisi
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Where few want to be found [Underground]

Tue Jun 26, 2018 9:58 pm

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Well that escalated quickly. Of course, jumping out of the shadows brandishing a big blade probably asked for it. Oh well, Vidao made his living through violence, and two more thug corpses would be two less competing for coin in this new town. Of course the mercenary had little time to ponder this, as one of the fellows was moving toward him. Video was not a veteran warrior, but he was experienced enough to recognize the approach. Draw his attention, distract and then slip in an attack. He also knew this thug wanted to cramp him up. Instinctively Reymisi stepped back, pace for pace as Inky stepped to him.

"I usually buy my partner a drink, before we dance."
Vidao said as he continued to step away from the approaching thug. The captive screamed out something about saving him, which for now Reymisi ignored. If they were both lucky, the restrained fellow would be saved by virtue of the situation that would unfold.

Then there was the movement. The anticipated movement of a strike. Vidao could here the click of the hidden weapon, but by then the fighter was already in motion himself. As soon as Inky moved to attack with his outstretched arm, Reymisi moved to dodge and counter. Down to bended knee he went, so that the thug would swing over him. At the same time both of Vidao's hands would move. His sword arm, bastard blade in hand, would swing upward to parry the thugs swing, while his off hand reached for his combat knife, which he would slide out from his waist, and then stab out and upward, aiming for the thugs abdomen.
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Kasoria
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Where few want to be found [Underground]

Sat Jun 30, 2018 1:49 am

Silence was a weapon. One he wielded as much and often as effectively as the steel he carried. It was all part of his image, his reputation, that he stalked and watched and maimed and killed, but he did not speak. Even when he did, they were not really his words. His threats were those of his master: the decrees of Bangun Vorund, delivered through his most trusted weapon. Because that was what he was. He was the will of his master, something below and yet beyond a man.

People expected him to talk. They expected some exchange, negotiation, just something human from the man about to brutalize them. But Kasoria gave them nothing. It frightened them. He'd learned that long ago. At the very least, it unsettled them. Mayhap made them do something unwise in the rush and whirl of what followed. When Raellen spoke, he took her words with stony, glowering silence. Just stood there in his ragged clothes and let them wash over him. Noisy air, blowing over an obelisk that smelled of refuse and death.

Anyone else, and it might have worked. But the memories of seven years ago weren't just bubbling up in his mind, they were roaring into his eyes like a volcano's fury. Which was ironic, considering the content of them. Nothing but... darkness. Blankness. Weakness. Helplessness. More than what she did to him, making him as useless as a newborn babe before her, Kasoria remembered that sickening, bowel-emptying feeling that consumed him before and after. The way he could not fight, could not move, could not even speak.

She took his silence from him. She took everything, and left him alive to remember it forever.

Kasoria opened his mouth, and knew immediately he'd lost their little battle. Her eyebrow quirked and she smiled, slow and nasty and with her lips pressed together. Radiating smugness. He couldn't even focus on the fracas unfolding around the corner. No longer cared about the random dramas of the underground denizens. He saw only her, and her smirking, silent victory.

... damnit.

He walked around her, getting as close as he dared without actually touching. Never taking his eyes off her voluptuous form that still managed to nauseate him. Even at a foot distant, he could feel the... difference, from her. The subtle, animal warning that told him she wasn't human. She just played the role of one. Vorund had told him about the shadow people from the south; how they wore the skins of men but were as alien as their goddess.

That, at least, made him smirk back at her. Goddess. No such thing. Not in Idalos. Just jumped-up Immortals playing such with their pet mortals. He let that thought soothe what pride he could have around her, and kept his gaze locked on hers... right until he passed her. Heading away from the conflict, deeper into the tunnels, to that damn office that damned woman had mentioned.

++++++++++

"Smartarse bitch..."

He allowed himself the brief, muted outburst, and only then because he knew he was alone. Standing in the wreckage of Hallon's "office" (and judging by the state of it, the doubtful quotation marks were well-earned), Kasoria could tell the man wasn't coming back. Drawers had been ripped out and emptied onto the floor. The table had been dragged out from the wall, pillaged and then tipped over. The closet in one wall had been stripped, with some enterprising fool leaving scrape marks at the corners and on the floor.

Which told Kasoria that his quarry had been gone a while. Long enough for the vultures to risk invading his place of business, and going hunting for anything he'd left behind. By the time Kasoria got there, not even crumbs were left.

He paced the tiny room. Crushing paper and empty ink pots as he went. Feeling the anger stew and fester and bubble within him. This was a simple job. A simple task, like countless others he'd handled over the arcs, but... but she had to come in and bugger it up. Now whenever he blinked he seemed to see her smirk, hear her mocking laugh, and the unbearable present was soon replaced by memories of that formless, soundless, nerveless nothing she'd blanketed him with, long ago. Now another frustration was piled on him and-

CRACK

With a grunt more animal than man, Kasoria whirled and lashed out at the tipped-over table. His foot connected, painful and solid, and he welcomed both the flash of agony and the cracking sound of the wood splintering open-

TONG-TONGTONGTONG

What in the...?

Something small and round and black fell out of the hole he'd made in the side of the table. A compartment, by the looks of it. Probably hidden between the drawers, or a latch under the flat surface where one sat to write, and... Kasoria stopped thinking about these things. He knelt down and saw that this odd little object wasn't black. Wasn't any color he could really see.

It was shadow. It was the stuff of light's blockage from a surface, gathered and congealed into this singular object. Curious despite himself, seeking answers in a way that quickly routed his childish anger, he reached up for a candle. He brought it closer to the pitch-black disc, nestled atop a pile of tossed papers.

"Bloody hells."

He whispered as he saw all the shadows thrown by the papers and parchment and books and pots and pens, they were all banished by the close illumination. But the shadow that hung over and around the disc... they did not move. They seemed to writhe and pulse around the metal it was made of, and even as Kasoria squinted he could see things carved onto it. Words, symbols... runes, maybe? He remembered some snatched conversation with That Bloke and That Place, ages back, about how magic items could have power carved onto them. Actual, living power, trapped into the unlikelist of objects.

Kasoria was not a mage, and had no real desire to be one. Bloody dangerous business, that. Mucking about with the primal stuff of sodding creation. But this thing... it calmed those nerves. His own mind seemed to whisper at him, goad him, draw his dirty hands closer, until with one final effort of stupid desire-

He was holding it. It wasn't hot, or cold. It simply was... much like a shadow. The assassin rose to his feet and turned the thing over in his hands. Every time he did, the shadow flitted and moved with him... but did not go away. Even when he brought the candle so close he could read those alien, undecipherable marks scratched onto the metal. Even then, the shadows did not retreat.

"Bugger me," he whispered, managing something close to an astonished snort that set his beard to quivering for a moment. "Not all a was-"

"I'm not one to say 'I told you so', but... well, no. I very much am. And I did tell you so."

The sneering voice from the door drained all that bright, peaceful curiosity from his face. His eyes became narrowed, crushed by his brows. His lips were set in a fierce, tight line. But as he turned to face the speaker, he slipped the weird thing into his pocket. No bloody way would that bitch be getting her hands on that, too.

Then Kasoria turned around, and saw Raellen was not alone. And judging by the look on her face, he wasn't going anywhere.
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"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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Where few want to be found [Underground]

Sun Jul 08, 2018 12:29 am

It could be assumed that Inky was not the type who would admit that it had ever been luck that had saved him from anything. And if he lived now, it would undoubtedly be his 'exprit knifin' that he would cite as the reason he prevailed.

But the fact would remain that, in truth, a second set of manacles he'd brought along, because his partner Crank could not be trusted to remember, was in the pocket of his jacket; and one of the chain links caught the tip of Vidao's blade, preventing the well-placed knife from penetrating as deeply as it would have otherwise.

In fairness, he was totally on top of the sword's movement, locking his arm around the sword-wielding arm of his opponent to prevent any decent angled leverage. He'd been fully prepared to shift his footing to try to throw his enemy over himself into the far wall, as part of his own crouching maneuver. But the prick of the blade altered that plan.

As he shoved himself away from the big brute, he swung a booted foot at the level of the man's face. There was contact, but it seemed too solid to have actually been his head; it felt more like the wall. He grimaced with the uncertainty of his result. If kicking this guy's head hadn't caused any more give than kicking a wall, he'd be hard-pressed to beat this guy down.

On the far side of the scuffle stood Crank, now clearly finding the swordsman to be too close for his liking. He adjusted his hold on Marbry to try and get the sort of leverage a man needed to wield a skinny body as some sort of improvised shield. A "meat shield" he'd heard it cruelly referred to. Well, cruel or not, it was the best thing he could offer, though it made the threat of the knife he might have used on the old man less of a priority with both his arms tasked with his new meat shield strategy.

'Why did there haffta be dese ruttin' do-gooders gummin up the works?' The thought of intervening Black Guards, and the possibility of nothing worse than a mild jail sentence didn't look so bad all of a sudden.
The little girl wasted no time, running off to safe distance. Raellen didn't know if the child actually possessed knowledge of the Naerikk 'Gift of Shadow', but the effort to witness as little as possible touched the naer's heart to the slight degree that anything ever could. A sneer touched her smile that the female has shown good sense, whereas the male was every bit as stupid as she'd expected.

Still, he complicated things. His position greatly increased the radius upon which she would have to impose her shadow essence. But he aided her now with his arrogance and foolish overconfidence. 'Curiosity' he'd called it, as he followed along behind her. She preferred "Stupidity".

It was not as though she had to actually "track" Kasoria. She knew where he was going. And her assistant, Klutch, would be waiting in the shadows to back her up when her use of the Gift rendered her largely useless. It didn't matter, The little drunk would be helpless.

'...as well as this idiot following me.' she decided silently, in reference to Oberan.

Following Kasoria into the office location, she waited just a moment for Oberan to catch up, losing focus on what it was Kasoria was messing with. Once Oberan got close enough, it would allow her to impose a truly crippling disorientation and sensory deprivation on the both of them. She pressured her own mental focus to bring her shadowy essence to bear in preparation of her attack. This would be all too easy.

A bit of taunting was in order though first. This little pig could have left at his first sight of her. But he was intrepid enough to follow through on his mission anyway. Now he would reap his reward. "I'm not one to say 'I told you so', but... well, no. I very much am. And I did tell you so."

She took a single step in and unleashed her force to an area just short of where Klutch stood. She turned to nod at him, noting also the satisfying sag of Oberan as he tumbled to a heap in the doorway. Klutch stepped over him with a grin, and cast a sympathetic smile to his mistress in appreciation of how much it took out of her to inflict her gift. But his next few steps toward Kasoria were taken with a steadily growing look of uncertainty; the same look of uncertainty he saw crossing Miss Charone's face.

Fate had lined things up to Kasoria's benefit. Klutch, who was looking back at Raellen, stood in the way of her seeing Kasoria. Worse yet, because he was looking back at her, he was paying no attention to the little killer, who for some currently unknown reason, was not affected in the least by Raellen's attempt to disable him with her Gift.

Oberan had clearly fallen prey. But he was hardly a priority target. And being in the doorway made it essential that Kasoria die, as she could not walk back out without coming so close that her shadow essence would back-lash on her. It was the one drawback of the Gift; the naer who inflicts it could not get any closer to her victim without it crashing back into her.

But for just this first crucial trill, neither she nor Klutch realized that Kasoria stood unaffected mere feet away from them both. The only warning Raellen had was that she'd not felt as drained as she'd anticipated. It was what had caused that momentarily troubled look on her face.

Klutch however, had no warning whatsoever...
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Where few want to be found [Underground]

Sun Jul 08, 2018 8:54 pm

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He beat back at the fear pounding up from his heart into his throat, but he couldn't stop it all. Enough made it through that his hands trembled every so slightly, until he folded them into fists. His breathing hitched for a few trills, but it neither slowed nor hurried. Not until the woman raised her hands, grinning like a cat cornering a mouse, and he knew what would follow.

Not just death. That was so common in his world that it was practically a cost of doing business. One day, you might die. That's just how things were. Could be today, tomorrow, ten arcs or twenty. Or never. It was the memory of sheer, miserable helplessness that reminded Kasoria that he was, indeed, just a man. No monster or legend, no matter how the underworld whispered.

He remembered his senses being stolen from him. All of them. Just a choking void, his soul trapped inside a body and mind that betrayed him. Thrashing in the darkness of his addled physical form, just waiting for the killing blow to hurtle him into the next world... but it never came. He awoke. He regained his faculties. Came to his feet with a warning laid over him, from The Fence, as he later discovered.

Just like how he discovered their favored enforcer was a Naerikk, and could work such a "gift" upon any she wished. No amount of martial prowess nor magical ability could protect you: she just decided, and cast, and you were helpless as a blind babe.

The knowing of that, and that he could not stop it... that brought fear, real and stinking and half-forgotten, screaming into Kasoria's mind. The stolid man she'd bought with her - a gutter killer if ever he'd seen one - and the bearded gent who'd been shadowing them all... he didn't notice these things. His eyes were on her, and he kept his face hard and disgusted and scowling right until the very end.

Give her no satisfaction, boy.

Then she raised her hands and Kasoria... he frowned. Because he did feel it. That pulse through the room. The sensation, the knowledge of something despite its lack of presence. It was like the difference between being caught in a thunderstorm, and observing the same storm three feet to your right, behind brick and glass. Kasoria moved his head-

Because you still can.

-and he looked down at his hands-

Because you can still see.

-heard a blade sigh from its sheath, held by the Gutter Killer in front of him-

Because you can hear.

Because it isn't working!


There would be time for Kasoria to piece it together. That the trinket he'd pocketed had been a ward, small but powerful, well-made and designed to counter the bewitching, numbing shadow of the Naerikk. He wasn't a stupid man, after all: one didn't survive into a fifth decade as an assassin by being that way. No, it was more that he had other priorities. They shifted and realigned in the time it took for Klutch to turn around and toss a querying frown at his Mistress. This usually worked, after all. Quite the handy advantage, it was, and Klutch had no problem with knifing a man that couldn't possibly fight back.

Best time to, after all.

Kasoria realized that he was unaffected. He could feel the power of Raellen's gift, roaring and crackling and sparking and yet there seemed to be a dome, a bubble around him that it could not pierce. The Bearded Man was slumped over - eyes wide and sightless, limbs twitching and powerless, mouth working uselessly - much like Kasoria had been, arcs before.

"Was' wrong wiv-"

But you are not. You are alive. And they wish you dead.

Klutch began to turn around as Kasoria's right hand slid to the small of his back, his left drew back-

This was all he needed to know. And he would not suffer this witch a third time.

When Klutch finished turning around, facing Kasoria again, he'd see a blur of movement from the man's side. Which would be his fist, snapping up and out and crunching into his throat. Hard enough to crush and pulp ligaments and muscle. Enough to give Klutch something else to think about other than stabbing his mark. If he even retained the presence of mind not to drop his blade and paw at a throat that was no longer working.

Giving Kasoria all the opening he'd need - a trill, maybe two - to unsheath his karambit and bring it out from his back and up in the same arcing, vicious slash. Aiming for the carotid artery at the side of Klutch's neck. The forward-curved blade would slice through vein and skin and a shower of blood would spurt forth-

-Kasoria's leg snapping out a trill after that, burying between Klutch's legs, lifting him off the ground with the impact. And that would be that for the man, he thought. Choking, bleeding out, testicles crushed and overwhelmed by pain. If his blows connected, he would be neutralized, and Kasoria would step over him like he would a half-dead dog in the street.

No. Not even that. He might speed that poor creature along to the next world. But Klutch? He had earned no such mercy. Nor would the woman he'd be staring at once Klutch was down and no longer a threat. He would stare, eyes somewhere between molten rock and polar ice, never taking them off her... as he filled his left hand with his gladius.

Both hands no reassuringly weighted with old, familiar killing pieces, only then would Kasoria permit himself a grin.

"You should have killed me last time."

Then he'd lunge.
word count: 985
"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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