Finn and Kasoria, some time ago.
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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He could feel the howl rising, from the hearts and mind of everyone in the room. Most were but instruments to the music, playing their part but never leading the melody. The man and woman in the middle of the cellar were the conductors. From their icy disdain or bubbling fury came the call to blood. The will to violence, and there had been far too much of it for the music to stop now. Kasoria willed both his master and Zipper to cease, to talk, reach some compromise... but none was forthcoming.
That cruel, sinister blade inched closer to Finn's wet orb. So terrified he couldn't even blink, lest he risk slicing his eyelid in half.
Vorund towered over him. Genesis of a sadistic grin dancing at the corners of his mouth. This was as much nostalgia as it was business for him, now. Back in the trenches. In the mud. Getting bloody with the boys.
Zipper expressed no barbarism or fury. She was like the ice the scholars say had murdered the world countless arcs before; cold and beautiful and implacable and if you ignored her, she'd take everything from you. Vorund was. Kasoria could see it. The Blackjack mage was... marshaling something, within herself. Her two comrades inched closer to her, as if sensing it too.
Feral street-beasts they were, Vorund's muscle knew something smelled off in the air. Like burning hair. Like fresh blood. So fresh it hadn't even left the vein yet. They all seemed to square off and separate from each other in the same movement; buying time to draw a sword but staying close enough to lunge with it. Kasoria felt his hands slide to the weapons his carried. Sword and curved dagger. It was instinct, procedure, logic, as far as his world was concerned. But as the trills wore on and Finn started to sob for his sister, the thought came-
"We're sheddin' the wrong blood in 'ere."
-bursting right the fuck out of his mouth.
"The fuck was that, Kas?"
He wasn't a man who enjoyed public speaking. Mainly because he had no idea how to do it and almost everything he wanted could be gained without it. But his mouth had rebelled and now the words were spoken, never to be smudged out of memory. So the little assassin breathed in deep and stepped into the light.
"S'what that Silvester cunt wants. Us takin' chunks outta each other-" he said, nodding to a bemused-looking Zipper "-an' fuckin' wiv' them's that help us on behalf a' others. Y'ken?" There was a smattering of agreement. He swept his gaze across the crowd and sighed. This crowed was not going to be easy to sway, and in reality, it was only two of them that mattered. "He wants Vorund an' the Blackjack fightin', so he can come over an' clean up what's left... an' make his own deal right after."
Zipper didn't say anything, but didn't deny it, either. Bangun Vorund was a convenience of geography for her secretive office: a single man that held sway over half the city-spanning underworld of Etzos. He could find people and make them vanish. Do the same to money and goods. He could whistle up a small army if he needed to and he heard absolutely everything. Kasoria had seen the man greet by name men he'd never met before; compliment them on how well business was going, and what a wonderful school their children were going to. Kasoria had felt easy in the past, but now...
Now you're Vorund's Hound. You're the Raggedy Man. So use that.
"Send me. Just me. Alone."
"Oh, fer fuck's sake, man!" Vorund's profanity exploded up into the ceiling and stilled Zipper's retort. "Are you bloody mad? You've been cut up an' sliced t'ribbons an' can barely-"
"Casper's got some tonics down here, I'd wager. Someone that'd give me the edge fer a few bits, at least." He smiled crookedly, and not pleasantly. "S'all I'm gonna need, aye?"
Vorund was quiet for a moment. He knew that was the fucking truth, too. Little bastard was hell on hooves when it came to bladework. But he was battered and bloody. He was an asset in danger of being broken completely. Kasoria seemed to sense the same thoughts, and did his best to walk as firmly, as confidely, as straightly as before.
"Give it until t'night," he growled to his master, once he was a hand's span away from him. "Let 'em think yer ragin' an' panickin'. Makes 'em think they've won. The kid already told me where they're gonna go. Old brickworks, right up near the wall. Good place t'bed down, if I was pissin' everyone off so much that I had t'lie low. Give 'em until the night. When they're watchful, but watchfil fer a whole army. Not just me."
"Why d'you care?" Vorund said bliuntly, having neother the time nor patience to bother dancing around the real issue. "He's some kind an' she's some girl.."
"She's a Blackjack, an' she knows the rules. She knows that if youse kill her brother now, you'll make an enemy for life. Right there, in the heart a' the Citadel. But... if y'wait, an' let him go, alive but chained in here... an' send me? Even if I fail, y'lose nothing. More n' that, youse got the right t'kill the wee cunt, but y'don't so. She owed you. Her only brother, spared the chopping block or a livin', screamin' nightmare a' livin'. Why? Because Bangun Vorund knows good business, an' knows when a favor can be worth far more than gold or silver..."
There was a long lull. Not a quiet. There was too much stifled sobbing and whispered questions going on. Only Caspar seemed uncaring for it all. He sat in the corner and wrote new lines of black ink on the last known brandy bottle of Brevard Reach, famous South Seas buccaneer. The big men were arguing, flexing their muscles and their under-developed craniums. But the small man, the one never more than a dozen long strides from Vorund's side... he was making sense. He could see the cautious potential in the old man's eyes-
-right until his eyes snapped back to Kasoria.
"You get until nightfall tomorrow," he told him brusquely. He waved a hand over his shoulder and, like the warlord-kings of old, he was obeyed without words. Finn would be "kept safe" during the battle. Then he gestured to Kasoria with that hidden blade that had ended so many lives. "An' you best not fuckin' be wrong, mate.
word count: 1160
"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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This was a wonderful read, both for story and prose. It's a shame that it didn't get finished up as a collab. Still, the conclusion suited it well, even if it was written months later.
Between the two of you, the world of Etzos and the Etzori mannerisms came through in vibrant illustration through action, dialogue, and internal character thoughts. Finn behaves exactly like the age he is, with some limited experience and chutzpah, but ended up in over his head - which seems like it'd be easy to do in a city as nasty and interwoven as Etzos can be. On the flipside, there's Kasoria who probably has more experience with the Etzori underworld than he knows what to rightly do with.
These two playing off each other in the tense situation made for dynamic scenes. I appreciated that Finn stayed true to his attempt to keep certain people protected even under the pressure he was - and that Kasoria mostly stuck to his role and place in the gang but didn't remain passive either through his own ways to influence the direction of what happened.
As for the prose, each of you wrote successful executions of your PC's perspectives and displayed great word economy that complemented the story through each scene. Not too much, not too little, but juuuuust right.
Excellent job the both of you and enjoy your rewards!
PM me if you have any questions, issues or concerns.
Total Word Count: 11,257 words.
Review Request Link: viewtopic.php?p=122063#p122063
word count: 535