• Graded • [Foster's Landing] Off To See The Wizard

Zipper

With the escalation of hostilities between Etzos and Rhakros, a series of small walled towns is being established as a network of early warnings and defenses against Rhakros' reprisals. Only the very bravest and most formidable of characters should risk themselves on the Witches' Wilds frontier.

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Kasoria
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Posts: 308
Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2016 3:34 am
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Sun May 13, 2018 6:41 am

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30th Trial, Ashan, Arc 718
Foster's Landing
23rd break
He was a man that disliked exaggeration, unless it was in some book he was devouring. People were so prone to heaping superlatives on events, individuals, histories, places, like all of creation was a pile of pinnacles all jostling for the greatest acclaim or notoriety. That was not his experience of life. Many things were both good and bad, and plenty were boring. But the vast majority of life was somewhere in between, and depended entirely on who was doing the beholding. So he was a man that reserved judgement until he was faced with the occasion, and then he applied a vocabulary that few knew was admirably broad.

So when Kasoria attached the word "unbearable" to his experience thus far with Ilos, he was barely exaggerating.

"Still stinks of shit down there." More scraping. The young man looking somewhere between a seizure and a limp as he dragged his boot across the damp wood of the pier. "Why in the hells did they have animals roaming about on the deck, anyway?"

"Stops them getting stir-crazy," Kasoria said, and didn't waste more words than that. He wasn't hear to sight-see, or enjoy Ilos' discomfort (although he was, of course). He kept his eyes on every crate and chest and pile of trash and cargo big enough to hide a lurking assassin. Boats lined the sturdy spit of wood that stretched into the mouth of the Southwood River, yawning and gaping until it split into an ocean that drowned the horizon.

Or would, if the fog wasn't covering it. And covering half the boats. So he had to keep his head on a swivel and his eyes constantly moving and all the while-

"Fucking stupid, if you ask me. And why couldn't we take a private boat, eh? Would have hardly been an extravagance."

"People take less note of the barges. Private boat, raises eyebrows. Wrong people remember visitors rich or important enough to own their own ship."

He didn't know why he volunteered the information. He could tell from Ilos' contemplative little "hmm" that loudmouthed as he could be, he still knew useful information when he heard it. But these cogent moments had been like clear skies in a hurricane. Ever since they'd left Etzos, ten days before, he'd been whining and complaining and scuttling off from their patch on the barge, demanding - demanding! - blankets and food and warmth and drink. More than once, Kasoria had looked down at his sleeping form and thought...

So easy. And who would care? I mean, really?

"'The wrong people'," the younger man repeated after a while, capping the words off with a short, bark of a laugh and a hawk of spittle into the black water. "Wouldn't be any of them around if we were taking care of business better."

Kasoria kept walking. Kept watching. He wasn't getting drawn into this. Ilos had been fishing more than once since they'd left the Big Rock. His tone careless, but his words... they made Kasoria's skin tighten. Hairs shudder across his scalp at odd moments. He'd always known Ilos had ambition; Vorund wouldn't have pulled him up from the gutter otherwise. But the last few seasons, the pressures and stresses, the new, shadowy threat that seemed to be looming over the South Side... now Kasoria saw something mutinous in Vorund's right hand.

Spoiling for a fight, is all, he told himself yet again, steel-capped boots beating out a steady beat on the boards. There was someone at the end of the pier. He's a kid. Wants to prove himself. Good with numbers and figures, true, but his blood's up, too.

You were like that once.


Kasoria blinked. No. He wasn't. So why was he lying to himself? More voices started to crowd his mind and he shook them away angrily, hair flailing for a moment like a nest of snakes. Damn it all, he didn't need to think this way! His master had sent him to watch the back of his second, his voice, his lieutenant, and so that's what he had to do. He couldn't afford to let anything slip and allow his mind to wander.

He knew whom he was meeting with, after all. Ilos didn't.

Ah. That was why he was truly nervous, he decided. Because their respective master couldn't be away from all his myriad of schemes and affairs in Etzos, so there the two of them were instead, lieutenant and enforcer, his left and right hands. Kasoria saw the wisdom in sending them both: Ilos alone would... Fates, it almost made him smirk into his chest-long beard at how she would have chewed him up, with his pomade and silk shirt. No... that was why Kasoria was there. A walking, breathing message from Vorund that said "yes, we know he's young, but he's still the underboss of Bangun Vorund."

"Our contact, I take it?"

"Yes."

"... then why are you going for your blade?"

Kasoria looked down and saw he was, indeed, holding the handle of his gladius. Thumb caressing the end of the hilt like a worry stone. He blinked and wondered if it would matter, drawing such a weapon, if she was... unhappy, with what he'd been up to a season ago. Because that was why they were down here, by the salt and the sand. If it was Etzos business, that's where they'd be discussing it. But they were in Foster's, and since Vorund's other enterprises had been studiously ignored by her, that left-

The Charon. Marvelous.

"Let it go, man," Ilos said with a suppressed groan, as if he was chastising a servant. Which Kasoria assumed he thought he was doing. "Just keep your hands keep and be ready to, I don't know, leap to my defense, or whatever it is you do. But I wouldn't worry." Ilos turned from the help to the figure standing straight as a hammered rivet at the end of the pier. Still mired in fog and darkness and yet seeming to stare right at them. "We're as valuable to her as she is to us, that's what the boss tells me. He even said-"

"Sir? We don't want to keep her waiting."

Ilos' jaw tightened and torqued for a moment, like something angry was trying to pry its way from his mouth. Kasoria just looked up at him with his half-closed, patient, doleful eyes. There were benefits to being five-feet-five-inches and skinny even in his good clothes: people looked down on you, literally and figuratively, and assumed the Fates had cursed you enough without adding to it. Ilos got that same expression on his face, sneering in his eyes if not his lips, and finally spat out.

"Come on, then."

He marched ahead, determined not to let this ragged little shit walk ahead of him when they met their contact with the Black Guard. Ilos' eyes were alight, burning with the fire of the opportunities blazing in his mind. Finally, he was making real contacts! Three arcs and Vorund had never trusted him this far, but now... well, bugger though all this nonsense with the Al'Arghael, it was making the old boy rely on him more. And now, here he was.

A windswept pier. A secret meeting. Captains of the underworld and the Fatesdamned Blackjack colluding. This is a big step, Ilos. Don't screw it up.

Kasoria kept his mind as clear as he could as they approached. The two of them stepped from the fog and their shapes lost their blur and shadowy lines. One of them in his late twenties, maybe early thirties. Neat, carefully trimmed facial hair. Silk, fine cotton, leather boots, and a half-cloak. Dandyish, if would have been if not for the broken nose and the mismatched knuckles that spoke of a young man that had come up hard, and taken a liking for the expensive prizes of a dark profession.

The other was shorter by a good few inches, lighter by a good few pounds. He was stiller. Lacked the swagger and confidence of the younger man he was trailing behind... or at least he seemed to. Because the eyes under a raging mess of black hair did not waver as they looked at her. Metal and leather creaked under his coat, the handle of a gladius peeking from his hip... and there were doubtless over sharp, definitive devices elsewhere.

"Wouldn't mind a few eels from Squiddy Jack's," Ilos said, grinning like a chimp as he repeated the phrase he'd been given by Vorund. The way this Blackjack bitch would know he was the one she had to speak to. "Safe trip, I trust?"

Kasoria slid across the salt-stained boards, almost without sound. He looked over the edge of the pier, then behind the woman, and finally back the way they came. Then he shifted his stance so he could see off into the bay, and back down the pier, with a twist of his head one way or another. Then he pointedly did not rest his hand on his gladius, but folded both together and let his betters talk.

He was the bodyguard, after all. Those blokes didn't talk; they watched.
"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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Zipper
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Fri May 18, 2018 10:04 am

For someone who had the personal manners of a particularly brutish shark, Zipper O’Connor had a surprising amount of respect for business etiquette. It was an odd combinations of traits that, instead of cancelling each other out, came together in a mad alchemist’s lab to birth a creature that was in equal parts uptight, vicious, prissy, and remarkably easy to offend. She had a list of rules for anything upwards of a formal meeting that no one really measured up to, least of all the bottom dwelling criminal scum that seemed to take so much pride stamping on anything south of personal hygiene.

Her rules were, in her esteemed opinion, very simple ones.

For example, don’t be late.

For example, dress for the occasion.

For example, when the acting boss of an organized crime family reigning over a huge amount of turf in, let’s say hypothetically, the bulk of South Etzos’s underworld sends you a missive that states in no uncertain terms that he will be coming down personally to redress an oversight of turf boundaries, ensuring that no mutually costly errors would ever happen again-

He shows up.

She didn’t turn her head when they arrived. Her Attuner’s sight caught them through the bloody fog as they approached side-by-side; a man who dressed for a party and a man who dressed for utility, for battle, for whatever the opposite of a party was. They were inversions in many ways, almost comically so, as if they were had personally coordinated their physical traits and wardrobe to personally give her as much visual whiplash as possible.

Overdressed and underdressed.

Neatly groomed and a caveman from 217.

Tall and short.

Old and, well, older.

Green and very, very red.

Just the little details she could glean from her arcane sight that made up Ilos the underboss and Kasoria the soldier.

Only one of them was truly familiar to her and it wasn’t the metrosexual.

Last very important detail: neither of them were Bangun Vorund.

---

If Kasoria was inclined towards stillness, Zipper was practically a statue. She didn’t move to greet them as they approached, seemingly content to stare out into the foggy sea, her hands gripping the wooden rails just a little too tightly. Even without her full face in view, it was clear she wore what she seemed to believe was a neutral expression on her face - which meant she looked intensely crossed. Her dress code was a middle ground between the excesses of Ilos and the almost poverty-stricken minimalism of Kasoria: White, ruffle-trim blouse, clean leather pants, and boots that didn’t look they would never know the concept of mud. Her usual aggressive hairstyle was abandoned for a casual ponytail this fine trial.

She was younger than Ilos by a decade. At least. Pretty and fit. Probably didn't work a trial in her life if she so pleased.

She didn’t speak for a bit, didn’t acknowledge or reply with own code response. She simply continued staring out into the ocean blue, as if she hadn’t heard him the first time-

“Eels come cheap for two silver nels,” she said, still not turning, still not deigning to look at him. “Get them while they’re slippery.”

The words rang out again: Bangun Vorund wasn’t here.

“Safe trip, I trust?” the underboss said.

She hated that kind of small talk from too-smooth strangers. She really hated it.

“No.” she said curtly. “Lost a lot of weight, haven’t you? Waistline’s gone, complexion’s improved, your arms don’t shake anymore, you’re a younger man now and I congratulate you for that, Mister Vorund.” Zipper said, finally turning one angry eye to look at Ilos. “But let’s say say that by some unlikely chance that you are not the magically de-aged, revitalized version of crime boss Bangun Vorund, I would have to chance this question: WHERE. THE FUCK. IS HE?” She shouted the last five words as she turned to face Ilos fully, an ugly snarl on her too-pretty, too-young face, expecting an explanation.

She kept a magical eye on Kasoria. She've seen to much of his handiwork to dismiss his presence, nor would she have chanced such an outburst, for mutiple reasons, if Vorund was here.
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Kasoria
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Sat May 19, 2018 2:47 am

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"WHERE. THE FUCK. IS HE?”

All in all, it could have gone worse. Of course, it could have gone far better, but if there was a scale existent in creation for such a rendezvous and all possible events surrounding it, Kasoria would have to say that those five explosions of animalistic fury were... probably in the good half.

For the most part.

"I... Bangun had to-"

Kasoria winced, and not at the hesitation, which could be fatal enough in their world. All it denoted was weakness. A smart man, a capable man, he kept his lips shut and his mind ticking over until he was ready for the words to come. He marshaled them in ranks and then set them out like an army to do battle. He didn't spew them carelessly, desperately, especially at one disinclined to be patient.

It was the "Bangun" that did it, though. The familiarity. Kasoria's master had always been just that to him: 'Master', or 'Sir'. When he was talking to anyone else, it was "Mister Vorund". There were not exceptions, and it was a discipline that reminded him well where he stood in the world. But hearing Ilos stutter the word, thumb rubbing nervously against his fore- and middle-finger as he searched for more words, Kasoria felt those hairs shudder across his skin again.

Boy really doesn't know his place. Talking like the man's his equal.

"He... He has important business to attend, and-"

"And what did you assume this meeting was, hm?" Zipper spat words like she was throwing daggers, or shooting arrows, or anything else that hurtled deadly intent across the open air. Kasoria had to look away for a moment to hide the ghost of a smile. "Do you think it is important business to me, traveling down to this stinking river, to this stinking town, to stand on this FUCKING dock, all to meet with a gangster? Actually, don't answer that. I couldn't care less what you think about anything. I care what Bangun Vorund thinks, or says, or does-"

A glare flicked Kasoria's way, fast as as snake's tongue and just as foreboding. Yes, yes, point taken.

"-and you, as we have established, are most certainly NOT. FUCKING. HIM! So, I suggest you fuck right off where you came from, and tell him-"

"That's why he sent me, young one."

There was a short, stunned silence on the end of the dock that seemed to extend much longer than the handful of trills that it did. Something smelly and feathery landed on a broken beam and regarded the odd trio of bipeds with mad avian eyes. It chewed at something stuck to the inside of it's mouth. The smacking, grating sound was all they could hear for a moment.

Kasoria kept his gaze on the twin infernos the girl seemed to have carved into her face, and he remembered that he'd chosen his words well for himself, if poorly for her. "Young one". It sounded better in Ith'ession, which he guessed all of them spoke. In that older, more interpretive tongue, it was something close to "future man or woman". It wasn't meant to be patronizing, in fact it was almost laudable: recognizing one of fews years as having the potential to be so much more than than the brief stock of wisdom that they had. Reminded both speak and audience that wisdom would come, some day.

Kasoria wished he'd used the Ith'ession word. Maybe she'd have got the reference. But in Common, it just sounded... condescending. And this was perhaps the last person in Foster's Landing Kasoria wanted to antagonize. So he shifted his stance a little and faced her square on, small and callused hands clasped together in front of him. He looked almost like some strange, bedraggled hermit-monk, words oddly soft and measured for a man that all present knew made his living from wholesale murder.

Sometimes with those very same, peacefully folded, bare hands.

"Mister Vorund-" he stressed the word without looking at a still-speechless Ilos, and hoped he struck the right chord "-wanted to come himself, but you know there have been... upheavals, in the city recently. His presence is needed. People need to know he is there, on the cobbles, and he will hear of any dissent and trouble. It's harder to convince them of that when one is three days downriver."

Ilos took a breath and Kasoria plowed on, determined not to let this young fool screw it up. He could see Zipper's mouth snap shut with a click of enamel. Her lips pressed close and hard into a thin, white line. The infernos did not abate, or extinguish, but they were contained. She would leash them until she had more information, more intelligence, more knowledge.

"Ilos is Mister Vorund's chief lieutenant," he said smoothly, gesturing to the younger man and Fates' Fuckery, the little sod seemed to swell two feet just upon hearing it. His chest puffed out a little and he turned back to Zipper with a faint "exactly!" look on his face. "He knows the arrangements that Mister Vorund has with everyone of note. You included. A man like Mister Vorund does not let just anyone so deeply into his confidences. But he knew that Ilos simply showing up would not be enough. So he sent another face you would recognize."

Kasoria took a step towards the young woman. Some reptilian part of his brain, that hadn't changed in thirty-five arcs aside from getting meaner and less merciful, calculated grabs, tosses, lunges, strikes, throws, kicks, combinations, all in the trill it took from one foot to rise and then fall. He never considered any of them. He'd seen Zipper conjure magic with her hands. He'd seen her beat the teeth from a man twice her size, with naught but a copper kettle. He'd listened to her talk, and explain, and extrapolate, and he'd realized quickly that a mind that dwarfed his own was at work in that pretty, young, and serious head.

What she had planned. What she had prepared for. What she knew and could take revenge upon, if she was so crossed... that's what stayed his hand.

For the most part.

"When have you ever seen me, and not seen Mister Vorund as well? How serious, how important do you think he knows this meeting is, if I'm here, and not close by to him back in The Big Rock?"

There wasn't a smile. Such a thing was rarely gifted to other humans. Kasoria didn't like or trust enough of them to warrant the gesture. But there was the suggestion, the softening of muscles usually kept rigidly alert... the dance of light and mirth in his eyes, like fairie shadows at dawn and gone just as quickly. Which was surprising all by itself. Zipper was not like him. She was a uniform, a government stooge, a trickster and a schemer and a mage and over the arcs he had known her, Kasoria had seen some gaping holes where parts of a normal soul should be.

But still he liked her. Broken thing that he was, drawn to his own vibration.

"I've hardly a busy social life, after all."

Impudent little backstabbing cunt!

"That will be enough, Kasoria, and thank you." Ilos said, moving forward a little without stepping in between the old man and young woman. He threw Kasoria a look that didn't even warrant a blink: the wounded pride and paranoid fears of Ilos were not something he worried about. "But the man speaks the truth, Mistress. Bangun Vorund is a great man, but he is still a man, and his body must stay where it is most needed. I was entrusted to speak with you about recent events and coming... confrontations."

From Kasoria, the pause before the word sounded like one who appreciated language, finding just the right one amidst thousands. Like an artist choosing just the right stroke of a brush to fill in a glaring, offensive patch of canvas.

From Ilos, it came with a smile and a stress that made it a few inches away from a proposition, or a man reveling in being able to pluck four-syllable words from his mind like the great intellect he believed he was.

The killer closed his eyes for a moment, and he made a point not to breath the sigh that should have come with the gesture. Instead he stepped back, knowing his place, and let his betters talk. His role was to watch, and to guard. Now he could embrace that again, with the meeting steered back onto the right path.
"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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Zipper
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Mon Jun 11, 2018 3:08 pm

Kasoria’s answer did not satisfy her at all.

It did, however, satisfy the tedious, two-faced balancing act that was business etiquette: justification had been given for the old man’s absence, the assassin in the two-copper clothes had vocalized a sufficiently detailed explanation that saved her face, however much she felt to the contrary, and emphasized her importance to the Southside in the proceedings to follow with this alleged second-in-command. Additionally, she had caught this Ilos off guard, opened her mouth wide and bared her fangs. Played a game of chicken with him that he clearly didn’t have the balls to feign.

She dreaded for the Southside’s chances if this was to be their future. Gangui called her a paper pusher but he’d never seen a true moneyman squirm at a confrontation before.

Regardless, she had the negotiator’s high ground now; the speaker’s edge.

“Yes, thank him.” she said sardonically, turning her attention to her nails. How many mistakes had he made? How many unspoken blunders had he committed in the time it took to go through the social niceties. He might as well bared his belly and let her dig deep and tear out his entrails. From what intel she could draw up, she had expected more steel from the man before her: street rat who slowly clawed his way up the food-chain to a position of consigliere, to a position just shy of the throne itself - and all she saw was an overdressed mouse with a small heart and shrunken balls.

Unfair assessment, perhaps; they knew she was a mage. They knew she was a damn good mage.

Didn’t care. Their problem.

Kasoria on the other hand… well, he matched his legend. He was no sorcerer, though rumours abound that he had found some sorcery in the depths of the underground, for no man could kill that well and claim to be wholly mortal. But she was beyond the superstitions of the low criminal dredges who subscribed mysticism to excellence.

Okay, she scanned him for a spark once. Maybe twice.

She liked to think they were friends, for a given value of the term. They had a history, occasional bouts of coordination, a brief mentorship in Ki'Enaq where she learned more in a week than she did in a year with those Blackjack instructors. She had even offered him a side gig he seemed less reluctant to take than she thought he would, and he seemed to even like her at times. She returned the gesture. Somewhat. That was, as far as she knew, close enough to something resembling friendship.

Couldn’t really afford more than that with business.

She lost interest in her nails and went back to eye contact with the too-still Ilos. Her chill blue gaze matching his very convincing attempt to appear calm and collected - but you couldn’t shove a wind spirit back into a box once you set it free, and he couldn’t take back his earlier inelegant blubbering.

First impressions counted. He would be defined by that every time they met for a long, long time.

Longer; she wasn’t gonna let him forget it.

“The Charon.” she finally said. “Let it not be said that I am an unreasonable person; your explanation can come before my accusations.” she offered graciously, a brow perked in anticipation for this latest blast of painted bullshit.

“Mister Vorund,” Ah, there it was. No more insolent Bangun. Slip corrected when the tongue got to stretch itself. “Would like to extend his apologies for the absence of notification.”

“As well he should. Turkeys swarmed the boat not a day after.”

“Turkeys?”

“The Sons of Justice,” Zipper explained, doing her best not to roll her eyes. She failed. Miserably. “Foster’s silver nel answer to the Black Guard. Chop chop, fucko, do your homework.”

To his credit, IIos didn’t bristle at that or show any sign of his earlier weakness. He simply calmly went on, his zone of expertise found and regrounded. “Duly noted. I would also like to ask Kasoria, the agent responsible for the act, to apologize personally to you. I understand this unauthorized hit has caused much-”

“Nope. Don’t need the sword to say ‘sorry, miss’. Find another scapegoat to placate me.”

He did bristle now.

They were being… awfully civil to her. Even she knew, mage or not, black guard or not, there were limits to how far she could push this kind of obnoxious, flippant behaviour. The answer, of course, was in the ‘confrontations’ IIos had mentioned earlier. It was no -or rather, no longer- secret that a certain feathered-covered would-be warlord had been taking in gangs, building an army out of errant crews of gangbangers and planning to march on the rest of the underworld.

They wanted assurances. They wanted old contracts guaranteed.

“The man who leads the Sons is, to put it mildly, not exactly corruption-friendly. He will pursue this to the ends of the tether - and that is a very, very long tether. I’ve led him on a false trail for now, but I have my own duties here in Foster’s. I cannot afford to clean up messes that shouldn’t be. What assurances will I have that this will not happen again?”
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Kasoria
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Thu Jun 14, 2018 5:26 pm

Fuck, she's in that sort of mood.

The assassin blinked. Had he been drugged? Poisoned? Was the mist rolling off the sea impregnated with some ethereal property that was making him forget who the fuck he was dealing with? Given the world he lived in, the latter was as likely as the first two. But it took Kasoria a moment to realize it wasn't the thought itself that surprised him. It was the tone, that his own mind had whispered it. Almost with a mental grumble and a sigh, as if he were talking to his-

Fuck. Well, that definitely isn't the case.

The emissaries from the underworld and the in-between world (for that was what Zipper's nexus in the Black Guard always seemed to be to Kasoria's eyes) continued to parlay. Kasoria stayed silent and listened. Even when Ilos made some smarmy, oily attempt to dump a wagon-load of shit on his head, his only response was to stare at him for a trill or three, then turn back to his duties.

Unauthorized. That had been the word that sparked a brief, molten spark in his heart. That was when Ilos stepped over an esoteric line that Kasoria toed into the sand. He did not do anything without the authorization of his master, of their master, Bangun Vorund, Lord of the South. Shifting blame was one thing, but implying... betrayal? Hinting at the actions of a renegade?

Kasoria's hands tightened into fists for just a moment. Hard enough for his callused knuckles to glow white as they clenched... and then he relaxed again. The boy was learning, and he was paranoid in the way that only the supremely selfish and hateful could be. He assumed treachery from all, because he was capable of it; he throw his fellows to the wolves without qualm or even need, because he assumed all would do the same to him.

The little man with the beard sighed softly, and kept watching.

Watching. Scanning the mist and shadows. Noting and logging every creak of wood and call from bird and beast and man. Using the sounds to guess locations and mayhap intents. But half an ear, at least, was always cocked towards his betters, negotiating on the edge of the continent, with the sea rolling out into the blackness of the horizon.

Charon. Cheval. Renks. He didn't forget the names, and wouldn't... for a while. But eventually they would become grey, vague, and hazy things in his mind. The arcs would wind on and he'd need to frown and rack his memory for a recollection. How many had it been? Could he even begin to guess? Fifty? A hundred? Two hundred? Too many? Too few?

Kasoria blinked. A ragged little man on the edge of a pier, looking like everything but what he was, and the substance of his thoughts. He forgot them, because they did not matter. But the ones that came back, to haunt him in the circumstances of their passing... they got to live a little longer.

"Madam, our business with the Charon was, I can assure you, purely a one-time misadventure-"

"So you admit it was a misadventure? You admit that sending an assassin to Foster's Landing - at this time, in this period of turmoil - was bloody stupid and fucking dangerous for all concerned?"

"I... We... Mister Vorund," Kasoria winced again. Shifting blade with every sentence was not a good way to get on Zipper's good side. Especially when she was eyeing Ilos like a mouse she wanted to swallow whole. "Saw the opportunity to settle an old grudge against a man who would threaten his life and position, if allowed to roam free. As you doubtless know-" he gestured to the scruffy man at their side "-he sent only his best to settle that score. I am sure Kasoria left no loose ends."

He admitted it: he was taken by surprise. He couldn't remember the last time the pompous, selfish little sod had every tossed a compliment his way. Any chance to denigrate to criticize, and Ilos was all over it like perfume on a whore. But such glowing praise... that was unusual. Thus is made Kasoria frown a touch, and just as he was about to take it as some sign Ilos was finally growing up, finally understanding the benefits of displaying a united front, even to their allies... he sighed again.

Still hanging it all on me, just making it sound sweeter. Build me up into the best, so if anything turns up that could trouble us, it's still my fault. Fate's and Fucking, boy...

"Are you deaf, or imbecilic?" Kasoria's jaw twitched crazily under his beard for a moment. He could not laugh. Not here. It would bloody well ruin the mood of the meeting. "Because if you're not one or the other, or both, then you simply don't respect me. And that will do nothing but put me in a mood that will seem like this one look like unbridled fucking euphoria."

She did not ask about the Charon, he noted to himself. One of the things Zipper and he had in mind: they did not waste words, for they enjoyed language. Thus, they did not ask questions they cared not to know the answers of. She did not speak of the past, or reasons, or excuses, or loose ends. She looked to the future, and asked of it. And you, boy?

"I... Madam?"

You wasted her time.

"How fucking old do I look to y-"

"There'll be no further mortal business in Foster's Landing."

Once again, it was the hired help that provided those calm, level words. Wanker that he was, Ilos looked about fit to burst a carotid artery, rather than grateful the scruffy little bugger had saved his stuttering arse from Zipper's continued verbal evisceration. Instead he seemed ready to lay his knuckles across Kasoria's face, like he would a disrespectful servant.

Kasoria paid him no mind. The lady was his concern, not his peacock of a ward. She was the one that needed to be appeased and reassured, not Ilos' fragile ego. Even as she replied to him, bubbling tar dripping from her every word, he ran though the faces and names from those days two seasons ago. These... Turkeys, whoever the fuck they were and whatever madman thought to name them as such, were on the trail. But if there was no trail, if there were no witnesses or evidence, no stories to be told or pieces to put together...

"Five bodies, Kasoria," Zipper said, voice harder and denser now. Ilos managed a smirk, assuming utterly the wrong thing from her tone. He heard scolding and blame; Kasoria heard her talking to a man, not berating a boy wasting her time. "This isn't Etzos. You can't just sweep five bodies into the catacombs and whistle on your way. This is Foster's Landing. It was the talk of the town for most of a season."

"And yet," Kasoria said, making sure she was finished before trotting out his reply. "I see no wanted posters bearing my likeness, or the name of Bangun Vorund. No-one knows the why, just the what. This place is a haven for pirates and scum washed up from the coast. Captain Renks could have incurred the wrath of more than some gangster three days up-river. There were five bodies, because four of them were in my way. I wish it could have been just the man I was sent for."

A shrug. A bob of his shoulders, and the lives of four men seemed to be shaken off like a mug of spilled ale.

"It was not to be. So four witnesses were removed, and now there is nothing to link them, or anything else from the Charon, to myself, to our master, and certainly not to you."

"I would suggest you make sure of that."

That seagull still had something caught in his mouth. Now it was trying to suck it out. That wet, bizarre sound was all that could be heard for a few trills, as the neat, cold young woman and the ragged, stoic old man regarded each other. Water lapped gently but even that seemed still by the unspoken implication, the hinted order that had just touched the air. Ilos' fidgeting told Kasoria that the younger man had missed it. He made a mental note to talk to Vorund about the boy; if he couldn't pick up on stuff like this, he needed to go back to his desk until he fucking well could.

Faces. Names. People who'd aided him, people who knew why he was in Foster's Landing two seasons ago. Only two stuck in his mind: the bargeman and the innkeeper. Neither knew the why. Cheval's name was a mystery to them. But was it worth the risk? If pressed, if questioned... the list shrunk to one man.

Because Ol' Slattery had been grilled and questioned and raked over hot coals by the Black Guard back home; hard men and enforcers of law who were as rough as half the gangers they went after. Twenty years he'd been smuggling and plying his trade, and his reputation for keeping his fucking mouth shut was as much a boon to him as his vessel. So, he could be relied upon. But that last one, with his wet eyes and nervous manner...

"... I will."

And like that, the decision was made.

"Well, now you've been reassured, Madam, we can move onto-"

Kasoria spoke without breaking eye contact with Zipper. Like Ilos was not even there.

"Give us a moment, Ilos."

Even the seagull thought that was a little much, and Kasoria thought he could go fuck himself, too. So much had been exchanged in the last bit that he found his reserve of self-control starting to fray. Staring into Zipper's eyes, battling with her foul mood and merciless nature, he'd been ground away bit by bit until his awful, honest self was there. He could close his eyes and see many long bits of her chewing Ilos into paste and spitting him back out to mumble and stutter flattery, with little of any substance being accomplished.

He knew he was there was a silent vouchsafe for the man; that Vorund had sent him to show that he could be trusted, but now the negotiation had begun, he could see that would take far too long. Ilos spoke with the word and will of Bangun Vorund, and in Etzos, he might be enough. Hells, in Foster's Landing it was enough. but not with someone like Zipper. Someone whose mind was naught but steel and gears and icy intellect.

Kasoria was getting old, or at least older. His patience was in short supply and being even near this girl again was making him remember it. Just like how she had gone from a bludgeoned, stilted fighter, bloodied at his feet, to an implacable, tactical brawler a mere seven trials later. He'd been her teacher, after all. A favor for his master, though these days he wondered if Vorund hadn't got something more than just the gratitude of the intelligence officer out of it. Kasoria knew how she fought, now. He'd trained her. Taught her the tricks and amoral savagery that the Black Guard shied away from in the training program.

Seven trials, and a half-dozen more incidents dotted across the years. Like candles in the darkness. Watching her grow up and advance and harden and ossify. Feeling a pang for her whenever he did and that, there, that feeling, that illegal and foolish connection, was what prompted him - him - to issue such an order to Ilos.

Who stood there, trembling with rage, not about to fucking take it.

Up to you now, young one. My words are not enough.

"Who... Kasoria, who in the world-"

"Listen to the man and fuck off for a moment, sonny. We need to catch up."

Now the seagull sounded like it was choking to death. Then there was a mass of furious flapping and the sound remained... which was when Kasoria realized that it was coming from Ilos. Who was very close to choking on his own rage and exploding with indignity all over the wet wood. For long trills he stood there, impotent and red-faced, but Kasoria had to hand it to him... he knew when a position was untenable. He breathed deep and exhaled. He let his shoulders slump... and finally bowed curtly to the lady from the Black Guard.

"As you wish... madam."

Yeah, had to get one last dig in, didn't you?

Kasoria watched him go, until he was a vague, grey blur halfway down the pier, before turning back to Zipper. His face seemed to morph as he looked at her. Lips curling into the kind of disapproving grimace that a parent might give a child. Not one soaked with the potential for violent punishment, but one that spoke of vague disappointment that the beholder could have acted better, but did not. Yet even in that disappointment was a strange, conditional fondness.

"I don't have time for you to play with your food," he said, keeping his voice low even though they were alone, moving forward so they were side by side, staring out at the same stretch of saltwater. "We'd be here all night if you kept toying with him."
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Thu Jun 14, 2018 7:37 pm

Watching Ilos jabber away like a headless vulture reminded her that her opinion was just that: an opinion. For all the talk of street honor and gutter justice and how much simpler it was walking in shadow than light, politics was politics was politics. The underworld, at the highest level that mattered, also had its bureaucrats, had its checks, had its masters to please and allies to placate.

Had its Ilos’ you painfully, desperately wanted to kill but simply couldn't.

She stared at Kasoria because she was very ready to kill the perfumed whore if she saw his mouth move again.

She could end him in a hundred ways, yes, but each of these ways would splinter off into just as many complications:

Vorund’s regrettably necessary retaliation to assert that him and his weren’t to be fucked around with.

A burned-to-ashes bridge with the south and a blacklist from their not inconsiderable number of close associates.

The death of her Word. They called her mean, they called her bitch, they called a cunt and an unlaid hag and any number of foul things behind her back - but nobody could say she broke the unspoken code, and a parley was only a parley when you didn’t blow a hole through the emissary’s chest.

A public exposure of the breakdown of their relationship that would do neither of them any good, even as they were forced to act against each other. She had client relationships with some of the South’s adversaries. Some of these adversaries knew but didn’t care, others grudgingly accepted the neutral role of a fixer for the sake of her services, both mundane and magical. Some suspected and others didn’t know - but all parties would be forced to publicly address it to their organisations and the underworld at large should such an issue come to light. On Vorund’s end, it was be seen as another chink in the armour; the latest toll of the bell that rang The South’s time was over. Come ye, jackals, for the lion roars his last.

And, of course, there was the very immediate possibility that Kasoria, as a matter of honor, would just yank her by the hair, slit her throat, tie a rock to her foot and let the fishes find her.

She could kill him too. She just wasn’t willing to gamble her chances while he was within 15 feet of her.

And wasn’t that her entire life under Tovyrn and Vuda in a nutshell? She had as much power as you could stuff into a slender, perfectly moisturized human frame and she was still slave to a system that she couldn’t punch her way out of-

Madam

Oh, he didn’t.

Madam

Madam

Madam

How did the saying go? Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, the third time is war.

He said it four times. She would remember that. If she ever found herself standing over him as he lay bleeding into the earth, she knew exactly the words to condemn him with.

But her pettiness could wait.

She didn’t even care about the Charon anymore. The damage was done and she had said her piece. Any bollocking on her end was akin to the noise a snobby restaurant goer made after finding a fly in her soup in anticipation of getting a free meal - she was strengthening her position for the real reason Vorund’s pet dogs (A tiny poodle and an old shadow hound) had come down to personally apologize.

She could guess what was going to be asked, and she knew her answer as clear as the sky wasn’t.

And then Kasoria had to ruined that. All that humiliation, all that little jabs in the flake he called verbal armour, all the putdowns tossed aside just as Ilos was tossed aside, sent away like a disobedient puppy. He spluttered, of course, he protested, he-

Moved when he was told to move.

As Kasoria regarded the fading blur in the distance that was a Ilos-shaped dog retreating with his tail between his legs, he might have noticed a sudden jerk of movement, as if the underboss had tripped over a pebble or a sudden jut of rising wood beneath his boots forged from etheric power. Who knew.

And in the moment where Kasoria shifted his attention from him to her, Zipper sorted through her faces and picked the one they both wanted to see.

Not friendly - she never could do friendly. Implish wasn’t the word either. Polite? Ha. Coy? Please. Respectful? Warmer, but no. It was a hint of all and none at the same. She had known long ago that Kasoria -or Kassy, as she called him- had a family he never saw. She had known that he was far more amenable to her when she played the not-daughter, the could-have-been but never was.

She liked playing it too, she guessed.

He was the only thing resembling a mentor in her life that wasn’t a distant, vicious archmage or… Oh damn. That was a narrow list.

A small smile came on. The blank, impersonal hunger in her chill blue eyes faded, and she allowed her hands to rest on the rails; her idea of simulating casualness.

She gave a sheepish shrug, sharing a brief stare with him before they mutually looked out to the sea.

“Is he a fag?” she asked, robbing away his reproach with what she considered levity.
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Sun Jun 17, 2018 4:26 am

He would not allow her to spar with him. He only enjoyed that when it was in some pokey basement under the Citadel, hard to find and well-padded against noise. She did much the same there: utilized that formidable mind of hers to set her enemies to confusion and doubt. Snapped of barbs and observations like he would punches and kicks. Kasoria sighed and into it crept just a hint, a dram of the father not even a handful of folk knew he was.

She was still young, after all. They both forgot that, and sometimes it mattered.

"Not that I've heard. Wouldn't much matter if he was. He does his job, and he's loyal."

He knew the role that he had to play, and what was expected. This was hardly first parlay, after all. But that same restlessness was still kneading at his tight shoulders; scratching behind his tired eyes. He'd had his fill of secrets and subtleties and shadow politics. Twenty arcs of it, immersed in an underworld where today's paymaster was tomorrow's target, and your fellows one night could be facing you across the cobbles before the hangover had worn off. Kasoria didn't know how Vorund could stand it, lasting decades in a world where everything, every companion and associate, every gesture and deal, could be playing you false and mortally so.

"Mister Vorund wants to know if you'll back him, should him and the Al'Angyryl come to blows."

There it was. No pretense or prevarications; no codes or hints or fishing for much the same. Too honest a man: that's what Vorund had said about him, more than once. In the earlier days, maybe, when he was younger and he still had some sort of rigid code holding him back. Nowadays it was an impatience, an irritability, that seemed to curse all men approaching his age. Kasoria's lips curled in one corner as he remembered tell his master that he had to have a mind like a corkscrew, to survive for arcs in the business he was in.

"Aye, maybe," the old gang chief said, smirking over the top of his mug. "But y'know what's more of a thing? Survivin' as long as you have, when y'don't have one."

He blinked and her reply was fresh in his ears. Still with a playful-if-bladed bounce to it, but he did not presume to catch Zipper in an off mood. She was a woman with interests all over Etzos, and he'd guess she was used to such meetings. The stakes and the circumstances... they might alter, but most of her parlays were underlined in blood, he'd wager.

"Define 'back him'. I'm not in the war business."

The assassin licked his lips and leaned on the guard-rail. It was only after it groaned under him that he wondered if that was a smart idea. But he wanted to give his body some modicum of relaxation as his mind raced. Trying to think like... no... no, that was useless. Thinking like Vorund, or even fucking Ilos...he wouldn't know where to begin. So he stepped back from it all, from the city and the seasons, tried to look at it all like some great gaming boards. Millions of pieces, always shuffling around the tiles, moving as certainly and as obliviously as carved pawns.

"Whatever you think of my master, you know he's a businessman. You can work with that... concept. They want a quiet world and steady profits. Can you tell me that's what the Al want? Do you even KNOW what they want?"

He was on safe enough ground, there. He'd buried more loud, pugnacious, tattoo-and-piercings-covered "renegades" across the arcs to know the difference between them, and a man who was in it for the long haul. He knew that the Black Guard were corrupt, and probably always would be, but the men that led them... they understood that the graft and vice their underlings fell prey to was but a microsm of the city as a whole.

There would always be crime, and criminals. Always illicit services and goods for sale, and organized bands that sprang up to peddle them. Better to have that cacophony of shadowy economics in the hands of a man who you could deal with, as a ruler. Someone who was a mirror to your own interests: he wanted peace, and quiet, with minimal, messy, wasteful bloodshed, and maximum return on his investments.

That was Bangun Vorund. That was how he'd lasted so long. Because he was the safe option. But these others...

"The way I hear of them talked of, it's like a... cult. Like the old days, before we kicked the Immortal bastards out the city."

There was a flicker of movement, but Kasoria didn't see her odd, frowning expression taking him in. She'd heard the tone of his voice, the layers to it, like paint splashed and smeared onto a surface usually cold and stolid as rock. But he was still looking out into the darkness. A tightness, a hardness, something old and bitter and terrible... it stretched the skin under his mounds of hair. From the side, he looked like a wolf that had been raised and clothed and talked to walk upright, but it had never really taken. That animal heat had never left, just been smothered.

Zipper felt the hatred in the word he called the closest thing Idalos had to gods, and was so certain he was not capable of such emotion. She'd seen him kill, butcher, maim, cripple, and most of the time there had been a perverse serenity to him. Somewhere between a dance and a duty, enjoyed for its form and challenge, but never indulged as many of his peers seemed to. But even talking about them, that drew-

Memories, she reminded herself. She'd read his file. Not the one that had gone around the Black Guard personnel offices a dozen or so times, frustratingly free of convictions and absolutely choked with rumors and hearsay. From the file that had been locked. Presumably destroyed. But in Etzos... information isn't a thing so quickly obliterated.

She knew that more than most men she'd met in her life, Kasoria had more reason to hate the Immortals. For what they'd failed to do, and what they'd allowed to happen.

"Ideology's a moot point if you can't win. That's your war chief?"

Kasoria snorted at her words, casting a look over his shoulder at Ilos. Flagrantly trying to eavesdrop and failing miserably. Shuffling around in his fine boots, hiking up his cape a little so the edges wouldn't drag along the muck-smeared wood. The killer closed his eyes for a moment, sighing silently. The fucker grew up a five minute walk from where he had, for fuck's sake. What had gotten lost in the interim years?! Who had so grievously failed to raise the bastard properly?

"You know I've been busy. Me and the others working for him."

Now his eyes slid to her, look in them flinty and hard but winking in that way moonlight did off a blade. Oh, he knew she'd heard the reports. Those five likely lads, chopped up into offal late one night at the Market. Handsome Dom and his cronies, dispatched like cattle. The Charon and all that word entailed for them both. Messages sent, word spread, intimidation and fear propagated across the shadows and the underworld like a virus, but also like a cure.

"It's the dregs, or the ones who'd turn their coats anyway. The South Side is his, and if loyalty doesn't keep them united under Mister Vorund, you know that fear will."

For the Al'Angyryl were waging a war already: seeking to make alliances and instill terror, before they finally marched their way south. Kasoria and his ilk had been busy bastards the last two season. Spreading the Gospel of Bangun Vorund: I'm old, but I'm not dead, and I'm here, you cretinous little fuckers, and the very trill you show yourself knaves or traitors, they'll find your guts hanging from butchers' hooks.

"And as fer that one back there," Kasoria said with a shrug that spoke more of regret than of worry; like one would a cousin that you had to let sleep in your barn, because blood was blood, even if it would b easier to toss the wanker out on his ear. "He's an accountant and a useful proxy. Mister Vorund doesn't need a war chief. Wherever the war is, he'll be leading from the front."

Anyone else, and his pitch might have worked. He was hardly a negotiator, but Kasoria had force, for a man so small. A man that had stared so many doomed men in the eyes and never blinked... he carried some weight in his words. Like armor that couldn't quite be seen, it made him larger, more serious, especially when he spoke about the subject he was second most knowledgeable of.

No, not home-cooked meals on an Outer Perimeter budget. His master, the great, the wise, the cunning, and the terrible, Bangun Fucking Vor-

"All due respect, but Mister Vorund is an old man with one foot out of the game. His successor... No, success isn't a word I would ever place in a sentence with him. You've killed for him, sure, but will you be swept away with an ailing regime?"

Clearly, Zipper did not share his appraisal. He shifted his body to face hers, and she couldn't help but tense her own... and parts of her not so physically-bound. Fifteen feet, and she'd been worried. This close... she gave herself an even chance to cripple the little monster before he could do much the same to her. And she didn't know if it would be enough to actually stop him, before he settled his master's honor and-

"HA!"

The seagull and Ilos both seemed startled; the former almost smacked the latter with a surprised wing and the litany of curses that followed was both creative and humorous. Kasoria blocked it out, focusing instead on Zipper. Even the sight of Ilos vainly trying to shoo off the clueless creature wasn't as fun as what he was looking at. Another nameless emotion passed across his eyes; like a leviathan under the surface of brackish waters, hinting at form and shape, but never breaking the surface.

"Never afraid to speak the truth as you see it, were you?"

It was almost a compliment. Then his eyes shied away from hers and back across the water. Seeing waves and muddled lights and memories of his wrinkled master in the distance.

"Getting to be an old man in his world should tell you how easy it is to kill him. Plenty have tried. Forty arcs, give or take, and he's still in business."

She didn't answer, and didn't need to, and he knew that she knew that he... oh, fuck it, that's what he hated so much about all this. It wasn't so fun and witty, like it was in the novels he devoured in his free time. When all these machinations and endless verbal duels were crowding his own life. Vorund was a tough old cunt, no-one was denying that... but was was old, and getting older. Sixty-five arcs walking the world this year, and there weren't many older in their world that Kasoria knew of. If any, in point of fact.

His money and his wits kept him alive that long, he reminded himself, seeing his master with the same cold, logical, unbiased pragmatism that Zipper did. But he is old. He has no son to be his heir. Only Ilos, who will not command the respect and fear he does. So what happens next?

What if Al'Angyryl just waits for the king to die, and takes his kingdom while the dukes fight among themselves?


He knew the answer to that. It lay nowhere in Etzos, or Foster's Landing. It came with no gangland upheavals or clawing, savage conflict for the dark throne left vacant. Kasoria closed his eyes for a moment. It was all he needed. Just that fraction of time, the merest, briefest indulgence in a memory. Of a brown, chubby face, that could be serious and silly in the same breath. Of him telling his... his mother's friend, about all the monsters he'd seen, honest, swear, while out in the woods.

"We're not talking about me. We're talking about Mister Vorund, and you, and the deal you've had in place for arcs. The deal that's paid off for you both, time and time again."

Kasoria couldn't meet her gaze when he spoke, and knew that could prove... fatal. She may hear a lie in his words. May sense evasion or ulterior meaning. Was even Doubtless Kasoria unsure about his master? Would he turn traitor, as many dead men had already done? But the truth could not come to her. The old man seemed much that way, before he spoke one last time. Holding onto the guard rail and looking out into the water, like he wished they could swallow him and spit him out on a far and green hill, where a young boy was waiting.

I wish I could trust you, he whispered in his mind. And it was truly a whisper, for who knew how keen the senses of Zipper could be? I wish I could tell you, that the moment he's dead, no-one in Etzos will ever see me again. But I can't. And that's just how it is.

"I can look after myself."

That, at least, was the truth.
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Thu Jul 26, 2018 3:34 am

Two trials later, and Ilos still didn't bloody like it.

Didn't like being excluded. Didn't like that witch that spoke and dressed like a man just vanishing without a word. Didn't like how Kasoria had collected him like some child he was minding, hustling them to their tavern without a word. Didn't like the blunt, hopeless way he relayed the woman's final words to him-

"We're on our own. She won't help us."

At least it was short enough for the idiot to get it right.

The suns rose and set twice after that meeting, and they spent that time floating upriver like clothed driftwood. They'd said maybe three dozen words to each other in that time. Ilos didn't much mind that. What would he talk about with Kasoria, anyway? The man was so dull he might as well be a fucking civilian. No voices, no ribald stories, no sense of fun or camaraderie at all. He went about his bloody work with calm detachment, then fucked off until Vorund whistled him up again. He'd slept on the floor in their room, head propped up against his boots, and slept so lightly a muffled fart had his eyes snapping open.

Then he slept again. A loyal bodyguard, a gifted killer... but Ilos still didn't bloody like him. Because he didn't know his place, and he didn't show him the proper fucking respect.

Twenty arcs and more you've been at this, the gangster thought with mild disgust as the two of them watched Etzos loom closer in the horizon, a grand atrocity of civilization carved into dirt and grass and trees and water. And what do you have? Nothing. A shit heap lodgings in a shit heap part of town, no status, no business of your own, no respect, no... power. Vorund's dog, that's all. No-one even knows you're the Raggedy Man.

And you don't give a shit, do you?


"Comin' inta' dock, chaps," Slattery crowed from the helm, rousing the other passengers to activity. "Grab yer things and get ready to feet land under 'em again."

Ilos silently thanked the Fates for that simple pleasure alone, but it was nothing compared to being back in The Big Rock. Foster's was a fucking oke compared to it. Dirt streets, wooden buildings, shit running down them to the docks, and everywhere the stink of dead fish and saltwater. It was a bloody mockery of the city that had truly birthed it, for without the mother settlement squatting on her bounty of jewels and minerals, all the hardscrabble homesteads around her died.

This is where the money is, and the power, Ilos thought to himself as he jumped lightly onto the dock. Having those two things is the hope, but having them here? That's the dream.

He looked up and up and up and he damn well had to, because the walls rose just that high. Enough that his neck cracked and he completely missed Kasoria sidling up next to him. Little runt had made him carry his own bag, too. Something about leaving his hands free if he needed to protect him, or some such shit. Ilos accepted the necessity, but he chafed, oh, how he chafed.

Another jibe. Another example of how you don't bloody know what's good for you. I'm the one that'll succeed the old man. You want to keep your job? Your head? Best cosy up to me, you hairy little shit.


"I'm getting back on the barge. Headed down to Foster's. Tell Mister Vorund I'm handling that loose end."

Ilos was dumbstuck for a second, and only found his voice when the little man had turned away from him. Not even waiting for a damn dismissal, either! His hand shot out and gripped the man's arm. Words were starting to spew from his mouth and then he felt... muscle, under his hand. He gripped a little tighter and Kasoria turned to look at him with those lidded black eyes of his. It was like holding onto a wooden beam. No give, no... squish, just constant, weathered, callused power.

"You... You can't just go! Your job is to protect me, so who-"

"They will."

Ilos followed the assassin's jutting chin and found a pair of rolling stones (boulders, more like) parting the crowd. Terry and Shine, good lads, and Shine seemed to have some sense about him. The shoal of travelers gave the broad, beefy buggers a wide berth and their eyes were already fixed on the pair of them. Clearly Vorund had sent some additional protection, but... he couldn't have known about Kasoria's decision.

No... No, surely not.

"Slattery and Roy." Kasoria spoke again, low and close enough that the words were for Ilos alone. "Slattery's solid. He knows his business'd be dead if word got out he talked, and he'd be the same not long after. But Roy? He'll talk. Once they get round to him, and they just might, they'll beat or threaten or bribe or whatever and that'll be that. So I'm tying it off. Tell Mister Vorund."

"What about the meeting?"

"You're still holding my arm."

It definitely, most assuredly, most certainly was not a threat. The tone was wrong for it, even in the myriad of ways Ilos had heard them delivered over the years. The little man was just stating a fact of the present that he did not like, and would rather not be so. Moreover, his twin protectors had arrived, eclipsing the suns like celestial bodies themselves, dragged to earth and put to work breaking legs. Kasoria wouldn't dare assault him with the two of them so close... would he?

"You..."

Kasoria had to clench his jaw not to wrinkle his nose in disgust. Still the petulant boy. Still obsessed with his respect, what he'd earned, the endless trivia of rank that were as pointless as ribbons on a sword. You swung it. You didn't decorate it. You let Kasoria handle his business, you didn't demand he genuflect like some fucking Rharne nob at court.

He looked down at his arm... and he flexed the muscle Ilos was holding. Taut, well-kept flesh tightened and popped at his command, and the man's grip faded just a little. He looked back up, steady gaze seeming to burn hotter behind the curtain of his hair. Ilos was still finding his words, still engaging in this pointless pissing contest-

"A'right, people! One bell and then we're off again! Get some food, booze, and cunt if you can manage it, then get back here!"

Slattery broke the deadlock for them. Ilos let go, snapping his hand away as if Kasoria was somehow diseased. The little man just blinked back at him.

"I'll tell him you're doing your job. Like a good boy."

Kasoria shrugged, knowing it would annoy Ilos far more than any retort.

"As you wish."

He turned and walked back onto the barge, needing neither food nor booze nor pleasurable company. He didn't see Ilos stare at his back, nor wonder if he'd made an enemy after this trip, that meeting, how he and Zipper had frozen him out of it all. He'd much to learn and a summit with a Black Guard connection was not the place to indulge in idle education... but mayhap Kasoria would have thought it worth worrying about. But he didn't. Because he remembered Zipper's sad face and her cold eyes, the latter telling him the former was as much a mask as the beggar guise he so often wore. She would not help. Not him, not Vorund.

He likely would not see her again, and that drew his mind to memories he knew would not be repeated.

So he did not think on Ilos. Did not see the roiling anger seething across the man's thin, fine features. He couldn't see the decision made there, locked away in a special place within Ilos' mind, where dark and secret ambitions were kept. When he next saw Vorund's underboss, he was marching imperiously away, flanked by his two vast bodyguards.

"Comin' back down?"

"Aye," Kasoria said to Slattery, without looking up. "Business."

The bargeman grumbled something about Vorund "double-dipping" on him or some other such rot. Kasoria ignored him and found a quiet spot, leaned up against a barrel. He tipped his hat over his face and closed his eyes. A bell until cast off, and three days afloat ahead of him.
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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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Oberan
Approved Character
Posts: 273
Joined: Fri Jul 28, 2017 6:32 pm
Race: Mortal Born
Profession: Part-time God
Renown: -63
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Thu Jul 26, 2018 9:35 am

Review Rewards


Zapper

Points awarded: 15

Knowledge: N/A

Magic: No magic exp

Other: N/A


Kasoria

Points awarded: 15

Knowledge:

Discipline: Hiding Your Dislike of Someone
Discipline: Trust No-One, No Matter How Much You Want To
Intelligence: Using a Less Noticeable Mode of Transport
Intelligence: Identifying a Party Most Likely to Inform to the Authorities
Intelligence: Identifying an Unspoken, Hinted Order
Intimidation: Flexing Your Muscles
Negotiation: Painting Your Side as the Most Reliable Bet In a Coming War
Persuasion: Citing Recent Examples to Make Your Point
Persuasion: Using Shared History to Soothe an Angered Party
Tactics: Positioning Yourself to Watch All Avenues of Approach

Non-Skill Knowledge:
NPC Ilos: Proud Peacock, But Not Harmless
PC Zipper: Black Guard Intelligence Officer, Mage, Lethal Little Lady

Magic: No magic exp

Other: N/A

Notes:
I have actually been following this thread since the very first post and have enjoyed every word you two wrote. You both created an incredible atmosphere and your dialogue was absolutely great. I would have liked for this thread not to have been abandoned, but Kasoria managed to wrap it up in a satisfying and believable way, so I really can't complain.

Your review request is here.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns in regards to this review, feel free to PM.
Just because I shouldn't doesn't mean I won't.

"Speaking"| If it's a sentence, then it's a thought|"Others speaking"
Mortalborn Abilities | Die Roller
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