• Mature • Focus (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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Kasoria
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Focus (Graded)

Wed Jun 12, 2019 5:26 am

14th Zi'da, 716
South Side
3rd break



Continued from here


They were celebrating already, and he didn't like it.

It was carousing and partying and cheering like the war was over, but he could taste it in the air. The way they smiled and laughed more. Shared the same boasts and twittered about the same moments in their grand battle from trials before. Tomlin, Hadden and Millard, all carrying themselves with swinging shoulders now. As if they'd become men instead of youngsters after driving back Vorund's men. Nellie was giggling in a corner with some new kid, one of Wattle's old gang. Him and Juvie and a handful of others had arrived a couple of trials before. Wanting to bask in the glory of the Men That Had Defied Old Man Vorund.

Silvester pursed his lips and set down his quill. Another burst of laughter from below. What sounded like a toast being made. He massaged his tired eyes and muttered a curse in a language far from this cramped, smoky city.

Defied, yes. Dented, yes. But not defeated. Not even close. Not yet.

"Fortudinus all over again."

"Wassat, boss?"

The older man opened his eyes and found Haev staring down at him with those wide, cow-like eyes. Almost as big as one, too. Loyal and unimaginative, but watchful and skilled with his fists. Exactly what a man of brains would need; one composed almost entirely of muscle. He kept pouring himself a fresh jug as he looked, forgetting to stop until the wine was sloshing over his hand. Silvester sighed as the bodyguard cursed. Mayhap when this was done with, he could afford a better class of enforcer.

Have to do for now.

"General Fortudinus," he said slowly, betraying his cultured Rynmere upbringing. "A leader from across the ocean, a few centuries ago. He beat the Eternal Empire in six battles, one after another. Slayed more and more of their soldiers in each. By the end of the sixth, his army was convinced they were invincible. So before the seventh, they had a great feast within sight of the Empire's camp, as if to mock them for the victory to come."

"Bet they crumped the fuckers too, eh?"

Silvester sighed and shook his head. So little subtlety. So little foresight. This was what he had to work with and corral into an effective syndicate.

"No. At dawn, rather than wait for the general's army to form up, the Empire's legions fell on his camp while his men were still recovering from wine and whores and presumptuous celebrations. Barely two men in ten survived. Fortudinus himself tried to rally his bodyguard for a last stand, and was riddled with arrows before he could shed one drop of blood." He reached for his own cup and took a modest sip. He didn't want his penmanship to suffer. "You see the lesson here??"

"Erm... dunt drink 'fore a battle?"

Silvester looked out the window and into the night. Though there wasn't much of that to see from this angle. Just the city of Etzos, towering and blazing with lights, with industry, with bustle and a million souls and more all feverishly making money. This was the first place he'd owned when he'd come here ten arcs before, set just outside the city walls. It used to be a watermill, many years before, astride the Southwood River. The wooden wheel was long gone, though. Silvester never knew what the former owners, the original builders, had done or not done to leave this place abandoned. Mayhap it was simply not a good investment for them anymore?

But it was for me, he said with a slight, nostalgic smile. Open spaces all around. Close to the road. Room inside for stores, and beds, and supplies. And most of all, a tunnel to the sewer underneath.

"Erm... boss?"

"Hmm? Sorry, Haev, I was miles away. No, the point of the story is-"

There was a crash from below. Then, even more infuriatingly, a burst of high, loud laughter. So it wasn't enough they'd damaged something, they had the cheek to fucking jest about it, too? The indulgence in the older man's eyes withered to nothing. Replaced with scorn and simmering anger. "Right, that's enough. Get down there and tell those fucking brats to mind their manners."

"Yes, boss."

Now that, Haev could do without any explanation needed. He lumbered off, hefting his bronze-wrapped cudgel like it was a part of his arm. Silvester contented himself with leaning back in his chair and listening to the drama unfold. The heavy footfalls. The queries amidst the laughter. Then the thick, wet sounds of flesh being battered. Screams, cut short. Pleading. Haev's rockfall voice growling and grinding up through the floorboards. And finally, the door...

Silvester frowned.

The door... not opening?

"Boss?!" Haev appeared at the top of the stairs, face twisted in confusion. "The door won't open!"

"I can hear that!" Silvester snarled, getting up to his feet and noticing something with only half his brain. "Try the back one!"

"s'locked, too!"

Silvester opened his mouth again, and the thing... well, two things that he'd noticed became all he could think about. The first was that the familiar sight of his two sentries on the road to the watermill were gone. No silhouettes, no guardian shadows. Just empty patches of ground. The second was that flickering, uncertain flare of light. Now he could see what it was. He almost pressed his face to the glass as he saw-

"Boss, wadaya see?" Haev said, doubt creeping into his voice, as all around him the sounds of celebration were replaced with confused mumbling. "What's-"

Silvester's eyes widened as he saw flames flare into life. Around the blaze, he could make out a bottle, and a man carrying it. Liquid sloshed inside, and the faceless man drew back his arm-

"Fuck." The scholar from Rynmere felt his bowels loosen. "We're trapped."

He turned to begin yelling orders, just as the arsonist hurled the fire bottle at the nearest window.
Last edited by Kasoria on Sat Jun 22, 2019 4:09 pm, edited 3 times in total. word count: 1040
"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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Re: Focus, Commitment, and Sheer Will

Wed Jun 19, 2019 4:04 am

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2nd break

"I swear I heard chains."

"I swear you've been too hard at the fuckin' brandy, boy."

"Pfft. Brandy. Like we can afford that shite. Well, not-"

"Yet!"

"Yet!"

The two youths exchanged a laugh rich with victory they'd not quite earned. But what was such a trifle to men such as them? They, who were smart enough to get onto the winning team, the younger team. They, that had balls and cunning where their enemy was decrepit and toothless. Hasker and Mithos, a couple of gutter brothers who'd grown up practically next to each other in the South Oh'Pee. Running the same scams, the same cons, the same mischief, always side by side. They'd been Wattle's stooges until a few trials before, then they were set adrift as that poison-pushing wanker was laid to waste, along with every other bastard who worked for him.

Word was, Old Man Vorund had set his Hound down there to put Wattle straight. Hasker swore that he'd saw the man leave afterwards, covered in blood and stumbling with his wounds. Led by a boy that looked familiar but they couldn't quite name... until they'd come working for Mister Sil.

"Ah, the wayward son," their new master had said with a sad shake of his head. "Captured or turned, I know not. Still... he'll come back into the fold, eventually. We have a means to ensure that."

Mithos took another swig of wine to wash away the smile on the older man's face. The low moaning he'd heard from the bedroom that was always locked. A girl, by the sound of it. That fucking ox Haev had chuckled at some private joke, and he'd made a point to chuckle along with him. Always best, when ingratiating yourself. Get along with people. Laugh. Smile. Be a part of the fun, not the victim of it.

Like her.

"When are we headin' back in, anyway?" Mithos wrapped his coat firmer around himself, threadbare as it was. The wind seemed to be chasing itself down the road from the city, scattering dead leaves as it went. "Been out here all fuckin' night."

"When they come get us, idiot." Hasker stamped his feet and scoffed. Always he had to be The Responsible One. "We gotta do the shitty stuff 'fore they start lettin' us into anythin' else. S'like back wiv' Wattle."

"Thought things were gonna be diff'rent?"

"Well, they are," Hasker said, keeping his eyes on the dark road heading back to Etzos. Shite, he could have sworn he heard chains, that time. "But not yet. Not until Sil finishes his war."

"So that means we'll-"

"We ain't gonna do shite, but what we have to do," Hasker said, rounding on his oldest friend with a stern gaze. "We are gonna stick with the winning side, but stay off the front lines, y'hear?"

"Line of what?"

"Just... do as I tell ya." He had the time but not the patience to explain to Mithos the benefits of doing the bare bloody minimum, and letting the hard nuts do the actual fighting. Not on a cold night like this. "Gimme that bot-"

"Shit. Y'hear that?"

What Mithos lacked in foresight, he made up for in hearing. Before Hasker's ears pricked up, Mithos was staring right at the patch of darkness where the sound was coming from. Slow, strained footsteps, coming down the dirt road towards the watermill. Mithos frowned as he tried to interpret the sounds, draw shapes and form from them.

"Sounds like... an old man. Limpin', maybe. Draggin' his feet."

"Aye," Hasker said, drawing a dagger from under his coat, keeping it low and tight to his thigh. "Looks like."

He was old and bent and clothed as much in shadow as he was rags. He swayed as he walked. Dragged his left leg like it was sewn on badly to his thigh. They could smell dried blood and the faint whiff of festering flesh. As he hoved into view, the two lookouts could see the stick he carried, taking the weight for every other step. His other hand was lost in the folds of his cloak, a mass of ratty, filthy fabrics like a dozen garments stitched together.

The Southsiders weren't easily fooled by appearances. They'd run this con before, and more than that, what was a man like this doing so far from the prime begging spots of the city?

"Where youse goin', old man?" Hasker said, stepping out in front of the beggar, one hand barring his way, the other gripping his knife tighter. "Ain't no reason fer youse t'be out this far."

"Aye," Mithos added, circling around behind the hooded man, knowing his place and purpose. "Private property, this is. Best go back the way y'came."

"mluckinfermuhmate"

"You... You're lookin' fer-"

Hasker leaned closer and then immediately reared back as a fit of coughing that could have woken the dead erupted from the beggar's bearded maw. So thick and phlegm-ridden that both youths took an involuntarily step back. Memories of plague and disease festered before their eyes for a moment. This man seemed riddled with it. His whole body shook until he hawked up and spat a gob of foulness that could have half-filled a bottle. Hasker shook his head.

"A'right, old boy, back t'the Smoke y'go. C'mon, fuck off-"

He put his hand on the beggars shoulder, and the old man did something odd. He let go of his stick, and reached up to grab his wrist. Hasker felt it for only a trill, maybe two. But there was strength in that gnarled hand; far more than some gutter-dwelling beggar drunk from the South Side should have had. His words stopped and Mithos frowned. Staring over the little man's shoulder, he could see his brother's confusion. Then something else. Realization. Understanding.

Recognition.

"You." Hasker breathed the word as that hooded head tilted up, and two black eyes pinned him like dead moons. "It's y-"

The Raggedy Man knew he'd have to be quick. The watching, the planning, the approach and the disguise... all of it was married to speed of action. When the moment came, he'd still be healing and older and always, always outnumbered. So he'd have to be a sneakier cunt by far. And twice as nasty. With one hand holding Hasker steady, his other hand swept up from under his cloak, slashing diagonally up-

-holding the karambit he'd claimed from Semyon just trials before, cleaned and sharpened and trained with as best he could. Far from familiar was this blade, at least not in the same way as his old gladius. But a blade was a blade, and he was Kasoria. He'd get the knack eventually. Moreover, since this one was so attuned to unarmed combat, he needed only to do what came naturally in such quarters. Namely, a vicious uppercut-

-that instead opened up Hasker's throat as the curved blade under Kasoria's fist ripped into a soft brown beard and the softer flesh under it-

-blade coming down a moment later, reverse side slashing Hasker's arm as it came up instinctively, knocking the dagger from his hand-

"Hask!"

Kasoria swallowed a snarl as he whirled on his good leg. One down, one to go. The bark of alarm from behind him was what truly doomed Mithos. He should have just hit him. It would have been a lot quieter, too, and that was still a factor to consider. But that single, shouted word still served a purpose. It told Kasoria exactly where his head was, and as he whirled around, his elbow came up-

-smashing into the side of Mithos' skull, sending him reeling. He followed through, landing heavily on his wounded left leg with a grunt, now facing the struck, staggering boy. Before he could cry out again he lunged, left arm snapping out-

-crashing into Mithos' throat before the call to danger could be screeched into the freezing air. Leaving him choking and coughing as the karambit came down in a diagonal arc-

-ripping open the boy's neck, a red, ragged line from behind his ear to the front of his throat, then a backhand-

-a horizontal slash to match the diagonal. Mithos fell backwards. Thrashing weakly as his arteries spewed out blood at a tremendous rate. Within trills he was drowning on his own blood... much like his gutter-brother. Kasoria looked down at them both. Dying, wheezing boys. Looking at each other. Reaching for their comrade... and he looked up at the building behind them. The lights were blazing in the windows; those on the second floor, anyway. The first were all boarded up, save for slits carved into the wood. A veritable fortress, so it was. A front door and a backdoor, but no windows to pry open.

The Raggedy Man didn't watch for any watchers from the second floor. He didn't have the time. He gritted his teeth and reached down to start dragging Mithos off the path. From here, they'd be but tall shadows in the night, watching the road. Not distinct, but vaguely visible. Their master, holed up inside his castle, would check in on them now and then, he was sure. So he didn't have any time to spare-

"Fuckin'... bastards..."

Every step strained his arm, his leg, flayed open by the same weapon that he'd used moments before. But Semyon was dead, and hadn't tried hard enough to make Kasoria the same. Now he'd finish what began that day. A bit later, the two dead-eyed boys were side by side in the ditch by the road. Kasoria turned away and forgot about them. They were just part of the plan. The other part... was in the chains he reclaimed from further up the road.

He started walking again. Keeping to the shadows, away from the nimbus of light cast by the torches set at each corner of the watermill. Heedless to the carousing from inside, the laughter and drinking and mirth of younger, careless souls. His plan was halfway complete. Now he just had to be quiet, and careful, and keep everything... contained.

Then things could get loud. Nasty. Bright and brutal. Just how he liked it.
word count: 1762
"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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Kasoria
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Re: Focus, Commitment, and Sheer Will

Thu Jun 20, 2019 2:34 am

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1st break

Juvie did not miss Wattle. But at least he'd never spent all night in a fucking sewer on the cunt's orders.

It was an important task, so he was told. Standing guard over the secret entrance to Silvester's lair. The road leading to the river, that was watched; those two bum buddies Hasker and... whatever his name was. But the real value of the place? The underground. The link to the sewer system that fed right into Etzos itself. A long, tall tunnel that ran from the Southwood River to the bowels of whatever subterranean labyrinth was at the end of it, under the city proper. Silvester had told him the tunnel came out into a cavern, a man-made cave that could have fit a house or two easily. From it a dozen other tunnels sprouted off, heading in all directions, every last one thick and fast-moving with waste and water.

"Load of fuckin' wank..."

Juvie didn't see any of this. All he saw was the endless darkness leading away from him, and the halo of torchlight under the trapdoor. He saw bare, wet bricks and a shimmering river of black water that flowed into the Southwood. It stank beyond belief. The foulness of tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, all mingled and mixing and crammed together and oozing out into that clean, cool water. Juvie squatted in his alcove and grumbled. Took refuge in his pipe of good baccy and the fact that hey, at least he wasn't up top and freezing his balls off. Say what you wanted about the tunnels, at least the were warm.

Aye, because there's a ton of fresh shit keeping-

Something skittered in the darkness. His eyes flickered at the noise, but not with any due alarm. He'd seen rats the size of cats down here. Big, mean, ugly bastards that ate other rates and laughed at arsenic. He was fairly sure the fire kept them away, but he wondered with the idle paranoia of the bored how long that would work. These were Etzori rats, after all: eventually, the threat of simple burning wouldn't be enough to-

There it was again. A grinding, scraping... shuffling. Juvie rose slowly in his nook. A shadow unfolding from a shadow. He peered out from the safety of the darkness down the tunnel and saw... nothing. But he'd heard it. Not claws on stone nor squeaking. It sounded like cloth, or leather. The drag of shoes across brick, or the rustle of a garment. The eternal lookout - first above, now below - didn't want to quit his cozy little hiding place... but Mister Sil had given him a job.

Got to prove your worth, he reminded himself. Sign on with a man, you show him you're worth the trouble. So do the job right.

Juvie stepped out into the torchlight. A tall, skinny figure squinting into the darkness. Nothing was moving there anymore. Some furry, feral creature probably scared at the sight of the human. Deciding it would find better scavenging back where it came from. The short sword was reassuring in his hand; his fingers flexed around it, every ripple of his muscles telling him that yes, it was still there. Sharp and hard and at his command. The boy couldn't conceive anything down there, any nameless monster in the shadows, that would shrug off two feet of sharp steel buried in its chest.

Nothing there. Just a-

Something moved. Closer, this time.

Juvie stiffened and cursed and reached up for the torch with his free hand. Freeing it from its mount on the wall, he walked down into the tunnel. Waving the blazing stick into the alcoves and nooks lining the tunnel. It wasn't as cold down there as it was above, but it was far from comfy. Despite that, sweat till ran in rivulets down his face. His sword was held ready, cocked back to thrust out into... into...

Juvie sighed as something small, furry, and outraged came trundling out of the next nook he shoved the torch into. Smaller than its brethren, it paused only to hiss menacingly at the interfering human. The human in question gave it a lazy kick as it went by, drawing a half-hearted snap of yellow teeth in response. Rat and man then went on their way, and Juvie walked back to the ladder leading to the trapdoor, shaking his head.

"Fucking stupid," he grumbled, relighting his pipe with the torch. "Like anyone would-"

There was a rustle behind him. Just that. The hem of a garment, fluttering or made fast by sudden motion. Juvie turned to face the sound, short sword coming up-

-already too late, as he saw what looked like a vast, hairy bat hurtling across the river of sewage, wings spread wide, swallowing everything around it as it flew over the filthy "water". Juvie opened his mouth to scream, the weapon in his hand forgotten, and just as the rush of air started to burst from his mouth-

SHUNK

He'd been quiet. He'd been careful. Most of all, he'd been patient, and watchful. Those selfsame things his prey should have been. For most of a break he'd been moving down the tunnel, having entered it in Etzos proper. He knew these tunnels and caverns and constructed catacombs, oh, very well. He'd been practically raised in them, played in the ancient dungeons and explored larders and cellars and caves forgotten but all save scholars and their dusty books. Many times he'd used them as his own private means of infiltration; just knowing the address of a target would be enough to inform him what tunnel, which route, how many miles of sewage he'd have to trek through.

Always worth it. Smell and infection both. Worth it for this advantage.

The torchlight had been an orange marble when he first saw it. Eventually, as it grew, he could see the ghost of movement beyond the halo of light. Someone in one of the alcoves, and then he inhaled deep... and tasted the tobacco on the air. Ah. A sentry. He could just make out the thin trail of smoke from a pipe, wafting through the filthy air. But he did not turn back. Instead he watched... and he waited... and when he moved from alcove to alcove, shadow to shadow, it was with his eyes never leaving that spot.

Above them was the roar of muted celebration. Silvester and The Rues, already commemorating their "triumph". Beating back the hulking muscle of Bangun Vorund. Sowing discord and doubt among his vassals. But they hadn't seized their moment. Not truly. It had been three days and clearly Silvester was expecting another attack, so had moved himself far from his usual haunts. Gone back to where he'd first called home.

Unfortunately, the boy Finn knew about it. Which meant Kasoria knew about it. So there he was. In the shadows. Stalking and watching and making his plans. This was the first part.

There will be a tunnel entrance. This close to the sewer outlet to the river, of course there will be. That'll be his bolthole. This is where he'll run to. So, need to make sure that's clear...

It was a six foot jump to achieve that objective. From his side of the tunnel, over the outlet, to the boy standing guard. A trifling thing on a good day, but any day where his leg still throbbed was anything but that. He resisted the urge to massage it, however briefly. He couldn't risk being spotted now. The boy whose face rankled with him, like a niggling memory he couldn't quite jostle free, had ventured out into the darkness. Seeking him. Kasoria had squatted down as far back as he could manage. He lifted his cloak over his head, in case the torch penetrated the gloom... but it didn't. Juvie was only worried about his side of the outlet. Soon he was walking back to his place by the ladder, and Kasoria slid the karambit free.

Nasty little cunt for nasty, close work like this.

He gauged the distance. Ground his teeth against the pain already throbbing through his muscles. Then he burst forwards, cloak rustling around his feet, and as he leaped the boy turned-

-face crumbling into horror, as if one of the geists of legend had materialized before him to sup on his soul, only it was the Raggedy Man, arm stabbing out as Juvie started to-

-scream, but before his brain could give the order, his murderer's karambit punched through his eye and into his brain. The rest of Kasoria's fist pulped his nose ], but that was the least of his concerns. Juvie staggered back, into the wall, mouth working uselessly. Kasoria steadied himself and ripped the curved blade free, then punched again-

-and again, blows twins in their precision and landing, ripping open a ragged hole in Juvie's throat-

-before finishing him with another punch to the face, sending the forward-curving blade slamming into the grey matter behind his eyes. By the time Kasoria let him go, sliding down to the ground with many a twitch and gurgle, he was all but dead. His mind was firing, questioning, begging, praying, but none of it spewed forth from his lips. Kasoria looked down at him with mild disdain, and nudged him into the sewage with one foot. Fates, there was so much effluence in there, the corpse barely even made a splash. Just a wet, sucking sound, before his bloody form vanished into the sludge.

Kasoria wiped clean his blade and turned from the patch of blood which was all that Juvie had left behind him. Save for a pipe that smoldered down to dead ash, red cherry burning lower and lower. Scarlet eye watching mute the man who limped away back the way he'd come. To fetch his chains, his bottles. To deal with those he knew to be standing vigil upstairs. Because his night was far from over.

Continued here
word count: 1713
"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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Re: Focus

Mon Jul 01, 2019 10:09 am


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Thread Review

Kasoria

Kasoria
Skill Points: +10 (cannot be used for magic)
Magic XP: None.

Renown: +5 (being recognized at the last moment)

Injuries/Overstepping: None.
Wealth Points: None.
Loot: None.

Skill Knowledge:
  • Acrobatics: Leaping Over a River of Sewage
  • Acting: Hacking, Racking, Distracting Cough
  • Blades (Karambit): Downward Diagonal Strike
  • Detection: Deducing the Position of an Unseen Enemy By Their Voice
  • Detection: Smelling Tobacco in the Air
  • Tactics: Pen Them In, Burn Them Out
Non-Skill Knowledge:
  • NPC Silvester: Pretender to Vorund's Throne
  • NPC Silvester: Keeps a Fortified Watermill as a Hideout Beyond the City Walls
Notes: n/a.

Yeah, I'm going to review this whole damn series. So, first things first - don't know if it was intentional or not, but the video at the top of this thread isn't music. It's about GoT illustration work... but I still watched it. I liked the meditative comment about creating something. There's actually a lot to that short clip that can be extrapolated from illustration to writing.
Plus, who said death couldn't be beautiful?

Alright. So. Let's get into it.

Your ability to sketch NPCs and their interconnections with one another is a key aspect to your strengths as an action-thriller writer. I'd say when it comes to choosing the type of NPC required for a scene, you're as effective as Kasoria is with stealth.

Most of these NPCs are given life, only so that very life can be taken away. What this does is creates a story in which there is a world that is outside of Kas in perspective, separate from him in how it moves and operates, yet the story always comes back around to tie into the main character: Kasoria.

Everything is a stage, and almost everyone a prop, for him to to develop and perform. This level of consistency is admirable. Many other writers would get too distracted by their NPCs, they would pick them up and add them on, and create their own stories to the side. You employ one of the decent solutions for this inclination: you kill 'em off. Which, incidentally, is the way I prefer thrillers/horrors, with actual death to cap them off rather than letting things linger on and on and on.

On the more technical side of things: prose had good rhythm, descriptions were immersive, nice balance between narrative, dialogue, and action. The templates suited each scene - especially that last one.

Awesome job, enjoy your rewards, and I'll be back for the next one Mr. Wick!

PM me if you have any questions, issues or concerns.

Total Word Count: 4515 words.
Review Request Link: viewtopic.php?p=122726#p122726
stampcodehere

word count: 475
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