• Closed • Full House

Kasoria

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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Oberan
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Full House

Sun Sep 16, 2018 3:41 pm



The 20th of Saun 718

“Name?”

“Wulford Silva, plus one.”

A slight pause. The sound of pen scratching on paper.

“Enjoy yourselves tonight, Mr. Silva. Madam.”

They nodded in response, and the line moved forward just a little bit.

“Name?”

“Edgar Endeldram”

Another pause, longer than the last. It kept on going, and the man in the line grew more and more nervous with each passing trill.

“You’re not on the list,” the nasal deathblow came, sounding very much like ‘please leave’.

“That’s impossible! I should be on the list, this must be a mistake!”

“I’m sorry Mr. Endeldarm, the list doesn’t lie.”

“But that’s--”

“Unless you can show me your invitation, I cannot let you enter.”
The clerk shared a sad smile with the man. There wasn’t any pity to be found in it though.

“Invitation! Of course! Of course. I have it right here, just a trill.” He rummaged through the pockets of his vest as well as his trousers, but his search didn’t yield any results. “Oh… I know, I must have left it at home,” he tried sheepishly. The list-bearer’s expression didn’t change. “I swear I did! Please, this is a mistake, please overlook--” He inched closer to the entrance, and immediately two bouncers stepped forward, ready to interfere. Edgar went pale, gave another feeble attempt at negotiation, then quickly left when it became clear the patience of the secretary was growing thin.

Once again the line moved forwards.

“Name?”

Oberan tugged at his revers, then grabbed in his pocket for the folded piece of paper. One flick of the wrist to unfurl it, showing the text to the bouncer.

“Johannes Vanalles,” Oberan responded confidently. He tucked the invitation back in his pocket as a man standing next to the barrel-chested bouncer browsed through the many names on the list, finger going up and down the pages. It took a little while, but then his eyes stopped moving and he looked up from the clipboard momentarily. There was something about his gaze that made Oberan feel as if the man was sizing him up, a slight frown appearing on his brow. Evidently he didn’t find anything concrete, his focus turning back to the list, where he ticked a small box next to the name.

“Enjoy yourself tonight, Mr. Vanalles,” the secretary spoke nasally, his frown not quite having disappeared just yet.

“Thank you. I intend to,” the Mortalborn stated. He then stepped through the doorway, neither of the two security guards moving a muscle as he did. A small grin tugged at the corners of his mouth, but Oberan recovered quickly, stifling it before it could fully break his façade.

Once past the next set of doors and actually inside, Oberan first made his way over to the register where he exchanged a sum of money into gambling chips, then sat himself down at one of the many tables where card games were played. A little warmup wouldn’t hurt at all, and if he lost…well, it wasn’t his money.

He didn’t really pay that much attention to the first game, losing as a result, but the information he gathered while playing would help him in the long run. Layout of the room, the amount of personnel, the obvious security guards and those that might be undercover –or maybe they were just dodgy-looking customers, he really couldn’t blame them without being hypocritical. Loads of chips were changing owners, most of them returning to the house, though some were turned over to lucky –or skilled, who could say?—customers en masse.

Tongue came out to lick his lips, but then the corners of his mouth drooped as the first cards on the table were revealed. The Mortalborn shook his head and folded, cutting his losses. No use in playing recklessly now without the cash to burn.

Besides, he was not here to waste it in the first few games he played. The plan was to be here as long as possible, make the most of his time and money. Add to the coin he possessed, not to the debt he was in.

Last edited by Oberan on Mon Sep 17, 2018 8:43 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 710
Just because I shouldn't doesn't mean I won't.

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Kasoria
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Re: Full House

Mon Sep 17, 2018 12:33 am

"Anythin' else, lads?"

"Nah, think that's the lot, sir."

"Aye, same f'me."

Thank Fuck fer that...

It had been a lot of hashing out and finger-pointing and posturing, for the most part. Kasoria was reminded more of alley cat circling each other, or dogs in a fighting pit, instead of two villains who should have fucking well known better than the first place. Better than to let petty shite escalate until their mutual master had to drag them both in by the scuffs of their necks, like Mummy would to a couple of unruly children.

The silent killer allowed himself the briefest hint of a smile at the analogy. It worked, but only up to a point. Served more to mock than to elaborate, although there was no denying that once Bangun Vorund put his foot down, that was that. No more brewing street war, no more bodies in gutters or brawls in contested locations. Half the reason that Vorund had been able to survive for as long as he had, was because he was useful to the Powers That Be. Because he was able to control and regulate the animals on the South Side, and had the pull and numbers and money and sheer fucking grit to stamp down on trouble before it could become a matter of public alarm.

He kept things quiet. Quiet and profitable and in the shadows or the gutters. He'd be fucked if these two idiots would bugger that up for him.

"Good," the man at the head of the table said, getting to his feet, signaling the summit was over. His two underlings did the same, and the pair of bodyguards-slash-lieutenants they'd brought with them took a step forwards. "It's settled. Efram? You get the toping house an' the knocking shop. Shaun? The street corners, whether it be cunt or powders or herbs sold on 'em."

Both racketeers were a league or two below Vorund, but they had ambitions. Dreams of expansion into bigger rackets, deeper purses, that their names would ring out louder and bloodier across the underworld. But they were right next to each other, and that had resulted in... friction. Now the man they both paid every season for the privilege to operate had settled their dispute. The rackets along the section of the ring they'd been scrapping over had been neatly divided and, as far as Kasoria could see, rather fairly.

Another reason the old man's stayed around for so long, he thought as hands were shaken and drinks emptied. He makes money for everyone.

But that wasn't the only reason, and he knew it. Another big reason was, well... him. More and more visible, this arc. Out of the shadows and his comfortable disguise of "The Raggedy Man", which had become more a whispered tale than an insult. He could see the muscle they'd brought and hell, these middle-league gangsters themselves cast wary looks at him. Standing so quietly and politely at the side of his boss. Sweeping a cool, neutral gaze across all of them as they'd entered the room and taken their seats.

There were six of them to his one (two, counting Vorund, and he knew that old stoat still had some killing in his bones). Outnumbered, and yet he could almost hear their assholes pucker when they saw him.

Been a busy arc, he reminded himself. Those Yoof thieves, Styes and his boys, Stacks... not to mention that shite in the tunnels.

That was the clincher, he thought. Fighting a Shadow Bitch and living to tell the tale. Not that he did, of course. He wasn't nearly so stupid. But word got around, like it always did. Walls had ears and all that bollocks, but he suspected someone had talked. Marbry, the bearded man whose name he never got, someone else who put the story together... and no-one was going to ask him, of course.

"Right. Now get out an' give me some a' yer money." Vorund let the poor attempt at humor pass with more laughter than it deserved, before gesturing them to the door of the spacious backroom. "Go, go, out with you. There's chips on tick for yeh both at the register, on me."

"Thanks, Mister Vorund."

"Much obliged, sir."

There was more of that, more hand shaking, more muttered oaths of loyalty and obedience. Kasoria did his best not to roll his eyes, at least until the door had closed again. Then Vorund turned back around and chuckled at the unimpressed face of his enforcer.

"Didn't think much a' that?"

"Heard it before from dead men. No-one's a traitor, 'til they are."

"Fates and Fucking," Vorund said with a mock-dismayed shake of his head. "Cynical cunt, aren't you?"

"Learned from the best."

"Fuck you, too."

Both men smiled at each other. A rare moment of camaraderie, from two who were not comrades. One was master, the other servant, and the former knew the latter was only thus because of an oath sworn long ago. Were it not for that, and the favor he'd done for him eleven arcs ago, this man might very well take coin to open his throat like hundreds before him. But Vorund didn't think too deeply into that. Instead he finished his own drink and nodded at the bottle. Kasoria slid it across the table to him.

"Do me a favor? Send Ilos in on yer way out, he should be arriving."

"Youse don't want me in here?"

"With Ilos?" Vorund snorted, nose crinkling. "Think I can handle him if he gets lippy, Kas. Nah, get out an' keep an eye on those to cunts, leastways until one of 'em leaves. Don't want too much booze an' whatever the fuck else they're sellin' at the bar an' in the privy makin' 'em think they can scrap in here."

Kasoria nodded and didn't question further. The casino was a floater, but quite an advanced one. Locations for the season were chosen far in advance, with all the furnishings and luxuries required purchased ahead of time. Word was sent out the night before to those trusted to spread it around only to those with coin and discretion... and lo! Come the next night, there was an orderly and well-dressed trickle of swells and gamblers and minor nobility, seeking fortune and adventure in the hidden gambling hall.

Vorund was not about to let a brawl break out here. Hence why he was sending Kasoria.

Seems to be a trend, the assassin thought to himself as he went outside and was immediately assaulted by all the sounds and smells of a thronged, lucrative gaming parlor. Want something done, send me.

Now, now. Don't get cocky.


"Getcha somethin'?"

"Water." He said to the bartender, choosing a spot at the bar where he could keep an eye on Efram and Shaun both, and their respective duos. "With honey."

Probably the first time he's heard that tonight, Kasoria thought, but damned if the man didn't come back without a word, and with his order. He took a sip and gave a wry toast. The 'tender just snorted and dirfted away, already assailed by a dozen waving hands demanding service. Kasoria kept his gaze roving across the casino. Tagged and burned those two faces into his mind, and kept them always in sight.

But soon his gaze wandered. Moved around. Looked for extra threats and problems, because the one you were looking for was rarely the only one. Over rolling dice and cards revealed. A couple of spinning, colored wheels, surrounded by men and women who held their breaths as they waited for them to stop. Colored bricks and tiles, slapped or slid down into esoteric formations. All games of chance, winners and losers all, bent and seated around them like supplicants at altars.

And the boss gets a cut of it all, Kasoria thought with a smirk. Because the house always-

The cup paused halfway to his face. The thought ended as if he'd been hit by a baton across the eyes. His eyes latched onto a familiar face, five tables away.

Or, more accurately, a familiar beard.
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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
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Re: Full House

Mon Sep 17, 2018 8:42 pm


Fuck.

None of the three other leftover players folded.

With each person revealing their cards, his brow grew sweatier.

Four of a kind.

Flush.

Full house.

Two pair.

The last hand was Oberan’s. He cursed loudly, and slammed his fists onto the table hard enough to make the stacks of chips the dealer was sliding towards the lucky winner topple over. The dealer shot him a dirty glare, a warning of sorts, and Oberan swallowed his tirade, let the accusing finger fall back to his side, and plopped back into his seat.

Well, for just a moment, then he realized he was out of chips, and angrily got up again.

“Shouldn’t gone all in,” the winner snickered. “Actually, you shouldn’t even play at all with a tell that obvious, and a garbage hand.”

Oberan mimed the man’s words back at him, likened the man’s mother to a dog’s asshole, then quickly backed off as the dealer began raising his arm to call over some security. The rules of this place were clear to everyone inside, and the staff were all to eager to enforce them.

“Alright, alright,” he complied, “Easy there, I’m calm. Calm as a placid ocean.” Just before the storm wrecks the shore and drags all ships into the deep, he thought, but he didn’t add that in. Instead he straightened his tie with enough indignation to make an insulted noble jealous, and strode off muttering curses under his breath.

Meager winnings, lost. Starting chips, lost.

All he had left was the rest of his ‘borrowed’ coin. It wasn’t even half of what he’d started out playing with, which hadn't been a whole lot in and of itself. The Mortalborn left the bustling crowd in favor of a more isolated space where he could actually think, and where he hoped the wall of cigar-smoke would be less thick. No such luck in regards to the latter, but away from the playing area and the bar there was less commotion. Tall tables with those taking a break from the entertainment, either to mope about their losses, or gloat about their victories. There were also those who simply didn’t dabble in the various ways of losing money. They were the smart ones, for sure. Smart, but boring. No risk, no reward. No stakes, no thrill –and wouldn’t you know it, thrill was part of Oberan’s identity.

He ignored the conversationalists, let his gaze sweep over the various activities, and considered his options. Stop playing, and leave with the money he had left. Nah. Dive back in, cross his fingers and hope he win big. Winning big would do wonders for his mood, if he left with much more coin than he entered with, well, he might even return the clothes to the man he’d locked in the closet.

Unlikely though. Very much so. One huge victory netting him a heap of playing chips? Low odds. If he wanted to rack up winnings, he would need to play safe. Bet on those roulettes, black or red, small winnings, small losses. Some fun to be had with that. It was essentially still fifty-fifty.

Or he could go back to the cards. Cheat. Win.

Naturally, the dealer was a problem. In pubs and taverns there were no dealers. Cheating there was easy. Just slip a card or two into your sleeve, get better odds at winning. No such thing possible with a dealer though. Bribing wouldn’t work either, he didn’t have the coin for it. Besides, the folks running the establishment probably payed better to keep cheaters out.

There were other ways to cheat though, one in particular Oberan had a monopoly on. But he’d have to keep it up for a long time, which would result in nasty consequences he wasn’t willing to face. Not because he’d get caught mind you. They’d never find out. Still, it wasn’t feasible. Maybe he’d save that for the last game, if he really started to get desperate.

What was left then? Loaded dice weren’t subtle, and he didn’t have any to begin with, so that wasn't an option either.

As he thought, he felt nothing but empty glass beneath his fingers. The little bowl of nuts was empty now, and he hadn’t even realized he’d been eating them. Their salty taste still lingered in his mouth, coming from the little morsels stuck between his teeth. Clever bastards. Now he needed a drink.

With a sigh he pushed himself away from the table and headed into the throbbing mass of people trying to get the bartender’s attention, waving their hands, yelling their orders, slapping coin on the mahogany counter. Of course the drinks wouldn’t be free. What did he think this was, charity?

He pushed past the first layer of squirming patrons, slipping in between little spaces where he could find them, not bothering to try and get to the bar in a straight line. This was no different than a busy market in the Commercial Circle, a veritable tide of people that would swallow you whole and drag you along unless you knew how to navigate. Slip through here and there, skirt past people without pushing and forcing it. Working with the crowd, not against it, and you could pass without too much problems.

It gave him an idea. Brilliant, simply brilliant. Why hadn’t he thought of this before? What use was there in a fox pretending to be a chicken in a chicken coop, trying to fill his belly with the fodder the farmers fed their poultry with? There was a whole hunting ground right before his eyes! Why take the chicken feed if you could take the chickens themselves?

No-one would even expect a pickpocket roaming around at an exclusive gambling event.

Naturally, playtime would be over if he wasn't subtle about it. People would notice if they were suddenly all missing their wallets. There was a way around it however, and Oberan was fairly sure his hands were swift and light enough to get away with it. Nothing too farfetched, he simply had to put the wallets back after taking some coin or chips. Nothing too difficult in a dense and unsuspecting crowd like this one right here.

And when he deemed he'd gathered a respectable amount? Why, he'd go right back to gambling, of course!
word count: 1098
Just because I shouldn't doesn't mean I won't.

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Kasoria
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Re: Full House

Wed Sep 19, 2018 10:20 pm

It wasn't that he was seeing the angle; he simply wasn't expecting to see the angle that was true. The biggest obstacle to being truly insightful, isn't being stupid or ignorant or lazy, it's not having the imagination. To step back from the room, the board, the setting, the story, and think that anything is possible.

Honestly, he had no excuse. Forty-five arcs old in Etzos... anyone is capable of anything. But back that, on that night? All he saw was the stupid sod who'd helped him. For some fucking reason.

Wonder what he's drinking?

That was Kasoria's first thought as he slid off his stool, keeping his eyes on the bearded man. He was walking around quite a bit, from the bar to the privy to the tables and the games, apparently not having much luck with One so trying out Many instead. That wasn't unusual.

He seemed to bump into people quite a bit. That was unusual. So unusual that some ancient, nameless, omniscient corner of Kasoria's mind stirred and hissed into life. Always sensitive to the suspicious and questionable. It gnawed and buzzed for a moment, but he batted it away like an errant gnat. His eyes were still full of the sight of the man, the memory of him, giving him power that he did not understand, to hold his ground against a murderous bitch made of shadow and injured pride.

Would have killed me, too. But he helped me. I'd be dead without him.

Kasoria sighed softly, and nodded almost imperceptibly. He didn't have many lines. He had a code, but you could scrawl it on your palm and still have space for a short shopping list. He lived in a world where loyalty and honor and trust weren't just laughable concepts, they were alien to most and lethal to the foolish. He was seen as somewhat of a freak for the "loyalty" he exhibited to Vorund, with very few realizing that had more to do with two unknown lives far to the west of Etzos, rather than him being such a darned decent guy.

But the bearded man saved his life. He stood between everything he was and had and could be, and all of it being snatched away and cast into oblivion. The killer did not forget a thing like that, and he felt he had to repay... erm...

"Fuck," he muttered softly, finishing his glass of water "Gotta sort that out, first."

Aren't you on the fucking job, boy?

Which was a good point. As he moved through the swirl of bodies, sliding and slipping around the Well-To-Do and Eager-To-Wager, he kept his gaze flickering back to Efram and Shaun. The two were still keeping their distance from each other, and the same went for their guardians. They were at their own tables, bodyguards at their shoulders, enjoying the free chips, the looks of fear they mistook for respect, the power it seemed to give them.

But most importantly of all, they weren't playing silly buggers. Good. All he needed to know.

Kasoria kept moving, kept walking, until he found that crown of messy brown hair in front of him. He'd been quite squirmy, in point of fact. Gone on a weird route that took him across the room and them boomeranging back to the bar again. Kasoria guessed he didn't like the look of the tables, and a made a point to ask why. With his neat appearance and clothes, the man did have the slight whiff of a gambler about him... and since he had magic, Kasoria knew that meant he had to be watched.

The unseen but indefatigable. Shite you don't want around games of chance.

"Lucky night?"

That was all he said, as he planted his arse on the stool next to Oberan and smiled at his brief, stunned look of incomprehension. He wasn't quite the hideous, stinking, feral animal the man had met in the tunnels. His clothes were a fair bit poorer than the finery around them, but they were clean, and pressed. Hidden weapons were tucked in various places, even up his sleeves, but right now all he wore openly was his old gladius. Then again, age didn't mean much to steel, so long as you kept it sharp.

"Least I can do is buy youse a drink," he said without any other preamble, holding up a hand for the bartender, who knew better than to keep this one waiting. "An' ask yer name."
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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
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Re: Full House

Thu Sep 20, 2018 7:29 pm



He was on a roll.

Unexpecting targets were easy prey, his fingers felt supple and flexible. Swift and light of touch. Coin and chip both switched owners, practically flowing into Oberan’s pockets. One hand removed wallets from their hiding spots, the other grabbed some of what was inside, then the first placed the purse back. He had to be focused to work this fast, losing himself in coordinating every single motion of his hands and every deliberate collision with his target, in detection of the opportunities presented to him, in the subtlety it required. Anything could go wrong at any time, without warning. Someone could be watching him, seeing his actions for what they truly where.

Not that he’d know before he’d be grabbed by the security; he could not also divide his focus to what wasn’t in his immediate vicinity. He’d falter, slow down, and lose his subtle touch. This was all he was capable off at the moment.

Back in the trial, he’d scoffed at this level of skill, call it amateurish. Call those who took pride in it fools. Now? Well, now he was the one taking pride in the skill he’d regained, even if it was but a sliver of his former glory. To equal his prior abilities, he’d have to be faster still, his touch would need to be unnoticeable, so he wouldn’t need to distract the people he was pickpocketing.

Then again, it had taken him twenty arcs to get to that point, refining his technique as much as possible, cutting out all that wasn’t needed. Now he didn’t need to figure all that out anymore. He didn’t need to condition his muscles to remember. They already did. What he needed was to get faster, without losing control over his fingers. Every season he improved, little by little.

Before he knew it he was at the counter, hands gripping the smooth wood of the oblong shape, pockets heavy with chips. Oberan took a moment to transfer them into his own wallet, movements just as practiced and swift as the ones used to get the money out.

Bartender didn’t pay him any attention yet. The man was too busy serving others, darting to and fro with drinks and liquor, seemingly prioritizing those with finer clothes and the look of impatience painted on their face.

Oberan supposed he maybe should have robbed someone wealthier. He could match the haughtiness with which highborn nobles looked down their noses at the rabble, and his hair and beard were groomed to make him appear more distinguished, but the clothes made the man, and at the moment he was just a more-or-less well-off merchant.

He possessed some measure of patience though, so he didn’t mind too much. Well, until he noticed the bartender considering whether or not to serve him or someone else first, and deciding on the latter a couple times. Brow furrowed, finger started tapping the wood impatiently.

The voice from beside him startled him, head snapping to that direction almost immediately. Oberan was sure there hadn’t been anyone there mere trills before. He let his eyes explore the other man’s face, not sure if they’d met before. Something about this guy did spark a sense of recognition, but what exactly remained uncertain.
“Could be better,” he responded, still putting the pieces together.

Small stature, long hair, beard… but it didn’t fit. No gag-reflex inducing smell clinging around him, no tattered rags wrapped around his body, and—

Oh, of course.

“The new look doesn’t suit you,” the Mortalborn stated, trying to remain calm even as his mind was racing. If he was here, then his boss probably wasn’t too far away. Oberan had done some listening since last time they’d met, keeping an ear out for the names that had been dropped in the tunnels of the Underground. It was surprising how much information could be obtained by simply being in the right place willing to pay attention to the conversations around you.

No surprise then that he felt the cold sweat start to prick under his armpits.

He hadn’t known at the time, but this one had a bit of a reputation –not that he needed rumors to tell him he’d rather not get on the bad side the ‘beggar’. Or on his master's. Currently though, he was very much aware that he was treading on thin ice. Very thin ice.

Fuck.

As if compelled by magic, the bartender rushed over as soon as he saw the little man waving, not quite looking nervous or afraid, but certainly uncomfortable. “Very generous of you,” Oberan said, “Darington Whiskey, please.” The bartender’s eyes flicked to Kasoria then, waiting for either the man’s order, or to be dismissed, after which he quickly set out to fetch the drinks. Within less than two bits the beverages were placed before the two men. There was no need for payment.

“Thank you very much.” The thief raised his glass a little, then sipped of the amber spirit, letting it burn in his mouth a little before he swallowed. “My name’s Oberan,” he continued, having considered giving the name of his cover, but there was little doubt that the ‘beggar’ had seen through it already. No need to keep up the charade. “You’re Vorund’s dog, aren’t you?” He paused for a moment, gesturing with a hand that he was about to rephrase that. “Well, not a dog… Bloodhound.” It wasn’t meant or said scathingly.

Oh, yes, Oberan had done his homework, but not on this place. He’d caught wind of it only a trial ago or so, when he’d come across the invitation on the job. At the time he’d been ecstatic, smelling opportunity. Now, despite the scent no longer wafting off the little fellow next to him, Oberan smelled death. His own. There was no doubt that the killer would be able to lethally wound him before he had time to react –be it with his body or his gifts—should the hairy fellow go for the kill. Yes, Oberan could knock out the Ragged Man for a couple breaks by just taking his thrill away, but that didn’t mean he would last long enough to manage.

Things were looking grim. The Mortalborn wasn’t sure how Vorund ran these places, but he was fairly sure that picking pockets of the guests would be a one way ticket to the afterlife. Setting an example and the like. Cheating would probably not be taken lightly either, but the legitimate guests would probably get a stern warning. Oberan… most likely wouldn’t get a warning at all, since he wasn’t invited in the first place.

It was a good thing he hadn’t acted on the desire to take the purse of the guy on his other side right before the little killer arrived.

Maybe it would be best if he behaved for now, and watched his step tonight. Now he no longer was a face in the crowd, he would be noticed by at least one set of eyes, and suspicious behavior wouldn’t escape scrutiny. Oberan needed more chips to actually make a profit tonight though, and he still had to gamble as well if he had to fit in. With what he had now, he wouldn’t be playing a lot of games.

What to do?

For now, he’d enjoy this whiskey, and make conversation. It could very well be his last, depending on what he’d do later –or was seen doing, rather.

“Catch the shadowbitch yet?” And then: “How’d you stay standing when she did her—whatsitcalled?—blackout thingy?” As far as he was aware, it wasn’t a targeted ability. If it was though, well, he’d have been wrong, but he didn’t think it was that accurate. Maybe he should pester that little girl about it sometime. Perhaps see if he could build a resistance to it.

word count: 1369
Just because I shouldn't doesn't mean I won't.

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Kasoria
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Re: Full House

Sat Sep 22, 2018 3:13 am

Contrary to what most thought, Kasoria was not one to spill blood wantonly. His blade was in the service of Bangun Vorund, at his command only. Before that, it was for hire, for coin, for contract, and violence for it's own sake... no... there was simply no gain in it. One could argue that spurning this impudent fop, with his vagabond nobility and educated accent, could have profited his reputation. Burnished it, with yet another clueless soul "educated" as to why the Raggedy Man was to be feared.

But he saved your life, and no offence was meant, he told himself, watching the man drink down his glass and relish every drop. Hard to hate a man who knows a good whiskey, too.

"Dog, bloodhound, beast... terrier, one on occasion, actually." He chuckled and sipped at the simple sweetened water in his cup. Just honey, and nothing more. A few queer looks were directed at such a childish drink, but none at the drinker, of course. The little man shook his head and gestured vaguely to himself. "Because of my size, I'd wager."

The man - no, Oberan, remember? - touched on... her, and Kasoria's face hardened a touch. When his master's name was mentioned, his jaw twitched, and little else. He knew it wasn't necessarily a bad thing, but it was one more example to him of how much and how fast things were changing. In the past, he'd been completely isolated from Vorund's organization. No-one lnew him, save for Bangun, Ilos, and a couple of trusted bodyguards. He operated under anyone's notice, most often swaddled in rags, limping around the city, known by reputation and fell deeds alone. But now...

Now you accompany him to meetings. Now you act as his voice, not just his wrath. Now people know your true name.

Kasoria studied his reflection in the water. Around him the tumult of the casino dimmed, as his thoughts darkened. The scribes and mystics of old said that daemons could be bound to service, if only their true name was known. He remembered that more and more, these days. To be feared and yet known... it made a man vulnerable. And there were so many snares that wicked men had to entrap daemons.

"Have t'be huntin', be be catchin', and I ain't," he almost mumbled the words, mindful of the answer his new friend was expecting but still lost in his thoughts. Finally he breathed in sharply, face upturned, and remembered his manners. Such as they were. "They call it 'The Gift of Shadows'. Evil fuckin' thing. She used it on me before, long back. No sight, no sound, no arms or legs, no... just nothing. Just your head in a void, screaming without a voice."

He blinked, and a passing woman looked at him in horror. He was rarely so poetic, nor so open with his memories. But Oberan was pleasant enough company, if cocky and sly. Then again, what other company could a man like him expect? Other than dour executioners like himself. Kasoria's face contorted into a rueful smile and he rolled his eyes.

"Course, I don't need t'tell you that, do I? Buggeration knows why it didn't work on me last time," he lied with a shrug, sipping at some more water and being sure to keep his eyes on Oberan's. Not look away, not evade his gaze. Not reveal his deception, let alone the token that had saved his life from the Naerikk was in his pocket as they spoke. Ever-shadowed and imbued with runic power that he still barely understood, but useful all the same. "An' speakin' of magic..."

The killer decided in the space of a trill, the time it took to lean closer as if in conspiracy. It had been nagging and gnawing at him ever since they'd left that tunnel together, and Oberan had vanished from his back within moments. Hardly a polite gesture, but the man didn't stick a knife in it first, so that was a plus for an Etzosi like Kasoria. But he'd never got a chance to ask exactly what had saved his life.

Idalos was not some unimaginable world, where the ether and the wyrd were mere fantasies, childhood tales outgrown in adulthood and replaced with cold, barren logic. No, in that realm, it was all too real... and all too varied. Kasoria wanted to know What and Which and, if they had time, How. So he leaned a little closer and gestured for the bartender again. Another glass might loosen the man's lips a touch, and if he were a true Darington's man, it was unlikely he'd turn it down.

"What magic was it, that you used on me, down there?" He saw a flash of fear across the man's face, and assumed it was the fact Kasoria knew he'd used magic on him that had caused it. He held up a placating hand. "Ain't gonna complain, not this time. Saved us both, didn't it? Gave me strength, gave me... I dunno... energy I shouldn't have had." Placating became pointing, and Kasoria's yellowed grin was behind it. "Energy from you. So... what was it? I gotta know."

He waited for his answer and flicked a glance to his side as he took another drink. Efram and Shaun. Their monkeys. All located in a few trills... still playing like good little boys. He was still under orders, but that didn't mean he couldn't do a little investigation by himself.
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Re: Full House

Sun Sep 23, 2018 8:01 pm



One on occasion, he said, and Oberan let out a chuckle along with the little killer, if only because his limited knowledge on dog breeds made one of them rather unlikely. As far as the Mortalborn knew, a terrier was one of those little lapdogs highborn women liked to tote along with them, dressing them up in ridiculous little vests, sometimes even tying their hair in some ridiculous style.

To picture Kasoria as one of those… well, it was simply ridiculous. Not to mention, those little yappers were all bark and no bite, which was about as far as you could get from the hairy man’s reputation. If there was anything he’d heard about the man, it was that the people who –presumably—had gotten a visit either pretended not to know who the killer was, strongly denied having had any run-in with the man, or had mysteriously disappeared.

Small size or not, Kasoria backed up his bark with a whole lot of bite.

Oberan watched as Vorund’s man drank his simple drink, wondering when he’d last heard anyone order it. Long time ago, the memories revealed, and he’d asked the bartender for it himself. Fruit juice had been too expensive, and water was just water. A nice dollop of honey fixed that nicely. Still, even as a child he’d preferred fruit juice to this. Couldn’t beat a good ol’ whiskey either.

He paid no mind to the mutterings of the man, they didn’t make much sense to him –though they did succeed in making a shiver run his spine. Perhaps it meant something, perhaps it didn’t. Without context it was hard to tell. The idea that it was a response to the question did occur to him, but no matter how you looked at it, the younger, older looking man was simply taking to himself.

Probably hadn’t run into her yet if he was muttering negatives.

The actual answer came after that, complete with an accurate description of what it felt like to be the subject of such an attack. No surprise then, when he revealed it had been used on him before. The way he talked about it was not some second hand tale. Oberan nodded slowly, swishing his beverage around, staring at the swirling liquid, only occasionally glancing up to watch his surroundings.

“I’m quite aware of its effects, indeed,” he spoke wryly, not really enjoying remembering it all. Horrible experience. Enough to drive a man mad. If there hadn’t been a battle raging on next to his prone body, Oberan wouldn’t have gotten up quite as quickly or easily. In fact, he’d needed time to process it all afterwards, and the sensation of being completely cut off from his body had haunted him in his sleep for several trials. He’d woken up a couple times during those, unable to move, a heavy weight on his chest, helpless in his own body. Not quite the same, but certainly equal in horror it inflicted—no, scratch that, it had been worse. Being subjected to the Gift plunged one into nothingness, alone with their thoughts, but what he’d experienced at night allowed awareness of their body, yet denied the control over it. To simply lie there, paralyzed, unable to even move his eyes around –he’d take the Gift any trial.

Then again, he’d probably get more night terrors afterwards.

“Maybe she wanted a fair fight,” he mused, though he really doubted that a Naerikk would grant a mere man such an honor. The frown on his brow could have spelled the word doubt and it wouldn’t have made a difference. “Didn’t she say she’d relied too much on that ability though?” he murmured, stroking his beard with one hand.

A shrug then, and he savored the last of his whiskey, placing the glass on the counter carefully, letting the bottom cover a darker spot of the wood. Not much later there was a replacement in its stead, holding more of the amber spirit. He raised his eyebrows quizzically, then hefted the glass a little in appreciation, bringing it to his lips. Right before it reached his lips, the killer’s question made him freeze on the spot for a brief moment. Then he continued on like nothing had happened, sipping the drink like before, still relishing the taste.

He sighed then.

Since he’d noticed –which Oberan had hoped he wouldn’t—there was little he could do to deny it. But how to explain? And how much of it truthfully. “People are far more capable than they think they are,” the Mortalborn shrugged. “I merely tricked your mind into believing you had more to offer. I forcibly removed your limiters for a short while, as it were, allowing to release your full potential.” Hopefully that would prove to be an acceptable explanation that didn’t come back to bite him. It wasn’t too far from the truth, except that he made it sound less remarkable than it actually was, and diminished his own part in it all.

“I’d rather keep this under wraps,” he added, shooting his conversation partner a meaningful glance. “I’d appreciate if you would too.” Surely a man such as he would need no reminder to the value of knowledge, and secrets. Considering the vengeful shadow assassin lurking about too, well, Oberan was sure the killer would be able to make the connection. For all the excitement he needed in his life, he liked to decided on the funny business he was involved in, rather than be dragged in without his knowledge. Though the latter did have its own merits.

“Keeping an eye on someone?” the Mortalborn queried, Kasoria’s sideways glances had not gone by entirely unnoticed, though he wasn’t able to determine who or what he was looking at. Now that he knew the joint had been set up by Vorund, it wasn’t inconceivable that the killer next to him was here to preserve the peace, and add some weight to the warnings of the staff. Good thing he’d complied before things had turned ugly, then. Not for the first time that night, Oberan decided to thread carefully. To be contented with such meager winnings though… difficult. Impossible.

“There’s trouble brewing over there,” he said, nudging with his drink before taking a swig. A couple gamblers arguing with one of the staff manning a spinning red-and-black wheel. Their words were drowned out in the hubbub around the bar, and even if it had been quiet around, the noise in the gambling room still wouldn’t have allowed to hear. The body language gave a lot away, but even so it could be easy to miss it in a large crowd such as this. Oberan kept a close eye on the man next to him, curious as to how he’d react to it. And to what happened to troublemakers who crossed the line.

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Re: Full House

Mon Sep 24, 2018 9:57 pm

Kasoria snorted so hard at the notion that he almost choked on his honeyed water. A fair fight? In the Etzos underground? Fates, but this one must be new.

Only a fresh body arriving in the city would harbor such a naive - nay, insane - concept when applied to the denizens of the underworld. Chivalry and noble combat wasn't so much scorned as it was unheard of; oh, of course, you got the occasional questing knight or mercenary from the Eastern Lands, where fighting was more a thing done on battlefields than alleys and bars. Soldiers from the Etzosi Army sometimes went bad (or worse, depending on your cynicism) and became sellswords, bringing some vestige of their regulations to their profession.

But these were rare, and didn't last. Mainly because they ended up fighting some dirty cunt who most certainly did not fight fair.

"If it was me, I'd use it every chance I got and would'nae feel bad about it. Not once." He smiled and gave a mock salute before drinking. "Trust me, she's much the same. Ran into her before. She threw a bunch of her lands at me, just to get me tired an' bloody fer when she decided to show up." He chuckled and shook his head. One time out of many. Out of dozens, that he should have died, but did not. He still couldn't decide if the Fates loved him, or kept him alive to suffer. "Think me an' her are even, now. Course, she probably doesn't think the same..."

Problem for another trial.

He stayed quiet asOberan explained his own gift, without actually giving him much of an explanation. Kasoria frowned as Oberan spoke. The man might think it was because he was struggling to understand the concept... or he might be more perceptive, and see it was because he knew when his question was being evaded. No name attached, no disciplines, yet he spoke as if it were all Kasoria needed to know.

But when he asked him to keep it quiet, the assassin nodded and shrugged.

"Not a problem. Can see why yuh'd not like that t'get about."

A man who keeps secrets. A man who tampers with the minds of others. A man who followed a killer into a room with another, without hesitation.

Aye
, Kasoria thought, putting all these pieces together and shooting Oberan an appraising look over the rim of his cup. Not a man with both feet on the lawful, I'd wager.

Not that he'd confront the man with that, of course. It wasn't his way. Much like his duty tonight, he watched, and he observed. He looked for chinks and weaknesses, advantages and possible problems. He knew what to look for, at least, when it came to Oberan and his strange ability. He remembered how it felt, swelling with power from a reservoir he didn't even know he had inside him. Remove limiters? Well, that sounded about right.

Not giving from him, but allowing you to take more from within. Clever.

"Hmm? Oh." He had to quit getting distracted like that. He glanced again at the two sets of gangsters circulating around the casino. A look every bit, that was the rough rule he'd made for himself. Enough time for him to get in between them, if need be. "Aye. Somethin' like that."

No more did he speak, and he wondered if the stylish fellow saw the irony of his silence. Tight-lipped by nature, Kasoria wasn't one to speak idly about his master, his duties, or his actions. Even revealing that he'd know Charone in the past was quite a departure for him... though he doubted Oberan would find many in the way of witnesses to the act, nor did he give a name. He shook his head slightly and ran his eyes across the sea of humanity.

"What's yer favor tonight, eh? Card tables are gettin' pretty full again, might want to get in quick while-"

Then Oberan spoke again, and Kasoria damned this place and it's noise. Even in a tavern, you could hear trouble before it got to you. The rising rumble of discontent; the ripple of querulous, fearful voices around it. In this place, with music and carousing and gaming and drinking, he turned and saw the errant patrons arguing in... almost silence. He straightened up and saw a couple of Vorund's underlings already gravitating towards them, and...

Damn.

Shaun and his duo were at the other table. He didn't need that nonsense spilling over. So he got up, finishing his drink with a jerk of his arm and placing the cup upside down. He gave Oberan a nod as he departed.

"'scuse me."

"Excuse me"? Since when were you so fucking civilized?

Kasoria ignored the scoffing little voice as he dipped and slid and danced through the crowd. Every step sent him stumbling into someone, it seemed, or out of the way of someone else. He enjoyed the novelty of... well, friends was pushing it most assuredly, but the idea of having a discussion that didn't revolve around business. He could count his friends on one hand and have fingers to spare; no harm in talking with someone that wasn't a cat, and enjoying himself.

Long as it doesn't effect the job... and it isn't.

He proved that a few moments later when he entered that vacuum of space around the table. The two gamblers were arguing with each other, the security, the dealer, and things were not getting resolved. Just louder. Kasoria was behind one of them when he spat something vile and foreign at the dealer, hand coming behind him and gripping a handle-

-to a blade that never got a chance to be used-

"Shit!"

-because he stamped hard on the back of the gambler's knee and sent him crashing down to the other. A heartbeat later, his right hand gripped the gambler's knife wrist, yanking it up behind his back as his left hand held him secure by the shoulder.

The man cried out again, fear and pain replacing indignation now. Kasoria yanked up his arm a little higher, straining tendons and muscles until the knife clattered to the ground. His voice was a low, dangerous hiss as the man knelt there, not daring to move and invite more pain.

"Try this shite again, an' I'll take that fuckin' hand along wiv' the blade." He shoved the man forwards into the arms of the two guards. "Toss the cunt out an' make sure he don't come back in." He turned from the brief commotion, catching Shaun's eye as he did so, before turning back to the dealer. "A'right, woman. Get this table back an' runnin'."

"Y-Yes, sir."

The little man didn't pause to take in any acclaim or praise, or even excess attention. As soon as the vacuum started to fill again, he slipped back into the crowd, eager to be on his way and back on some corner perch. Besides, he'd already made his point to Shaun, at least. I'm still here, I'm still watching, don't fuck about. Then a familiar face crossed his path and his arm shot out-

"S-Sir?"

The clerk from the entrance. Face going from pinched and annoyed to mildly confused when he saw Mister Vorund's... ah... associate halting his progress.

"That man over by the bar-" he nodded to Oberan, who was-

Gone. Of course. Kasoria suspected that might be the case. That's twice he's fucking well done that.

"What m-"

"Taller than me. Brown hair. Brown beard." He rapped off the clothes Oberan wore, the colors, and finally the clerk's face seemed to relax. Mind making a picture of all he'd been told. "You remember him?"

"Ah, yes, sir," he said, consulting the little board he carried around with the guest list fastened to it. "A... Johannes Vanalles."

False name. Big surprise.

"Know anything about him?"

"Well..."

Kasoria frowned and cocked his head to one side. Something was very off with the clerk. He was frowning at the name on the sheet, like he was trying to remember something that was unpleasant. Kasoria had learned the looks of many men in his life; right there, he saw one of a man who suspected, but did not know, yet could not shake that feeling.

"What's wrong?"

"I, ah... I'm almost certain that Johannes Vanalles was a shorter, rounder man, sir. And... more than that, he was born and raised here. The man you just described, that walked in the door-"

"Wasn't."

The two men stood there sharing a mutual moment of "fuck, this isn't good". The clerk because he'd let in a man he wasn't sure of, an imposter in fine threads, who could be here for nefarious purposes... which could easily get his throat cut, considering the patron of the casinio. Kasoria was feeling much the same, tempered with a fair bit of annoyance at himself. What did he expect, after all?

But what will you do now? That's the real question.

Magnus cleared his throat after a moment and Kasoria realized he couldn't spend all night on this. Oberan was not what he appeared to be. He had guile, and cunning, and magic, and tricks enough to use a false name and face. So why was he here? What was his game? Had he a con running, seeking to cheat Vorund out of coin? Or were falsehoods so basic and ordinary for him that he adopted them as another man would a cloak and boots? He didn't know, he couldn't know, unless he... asked. Impolitely.

"I'll keep an eye on him," he said firmly, patting Magnus on the shoulder and sending him away... but not before: "Geda' couple of the lads to get the backroom ready, though. Just in case."

"Will do, sir."

He scurried off and Kasoria continued his rounds. Looking for another spot where he could observe as much of the casino as possible. Keeping an eye on the previously warring racketeers, their empty-headed protectors... and now, looking for a familiar crown of brown hair and a brown beard under it. Circulating like a shark among the shoal.

Fuck's your game, mate...?
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Re: Full House

Wed Sep 26, 2018 8:04 pm



The killer nearly choked on his water, and Oberan waited for a trill to see if he’d just drop dead right then and there. It would be quite an amusing end for a man like that; not killed in battle by an adversary, not killed by old age, but by simply choking on his drink. Such a ridiculous way to die. Just like tripping over a loose stone on the street and hitting your head in a most unfortunate way.

Which was probably how the Mortalborn himself would leave his mortal coil behind. That, or something equally stupid.

“Fair, I suppose.” To each their own. Personally, if he were in either Kasoria’s or the Naerikk’s shoes, he’d let his targets know how easily he could have offed them. Perhaps show it off too. The target wouldn’t be on the receiving end of the ability though. Instead, the Mortalborn’d gloat and refuse to use it on them, just for the sake of displaying the gap in strength. Drive home that he didn’t need it to kill them.

Maybe for the best that he wasn’t in the same business as Kasoria then. Probably wouldn’t live too long.

Either way, that didn’t explain why the Raggedy Man had been unaffected by the Gift of Shadows. Clearly that Naerikk would, if Kasoria’s story was true, not have let the opportunity of an easy kill slip by. Moreover, Oberan believed he’d seen Graeslin the Pirate use her own Gift of Shadows back during the jailbreak, knocking out a multitude of blackjacks –and some of her own crewmates who’d been fighting them. As heartless she might be, he didn’t believe she would have hit them with it if she could have helped it. It reminded him of his own Shenanigan Sphere, which he couldn’t aim. Which targeted everything and everyone inside its range without distinction. If the Gift was the same, then how had Kasoria remained standing?

Perhaps the killer really didn’t know. Or, he was hiding something.

Who was he to know which it was? Perhaps if he’d been acquainted with the killer for a longer time than two brief encounters, maybe he’d been able to tell. Now though? It really could be either.

The man excused himself when his attention was directed to the brewing trouble, and Oberan gave him a quick nod. He didn’t mind. Not that he remained seated. Instead he emptied the last sip of whiskey, slid of the barstool, and followed the hairy man into the crowd. Tailing wasn’t that much of a challenge when the target wasn’t trying to get away, or when he knew where they were going. Calling it front row seats to the spectacle would be a bit much, but the view was more than good enough for Oberan to witness the brutal efficiency with which one of the troublemakers was brought to his knees and disarmed.

Very Etzos style of combat, if his eye wasn’t deceiving him. Expectedly high proficiency at employing it as well, striking exactly where he wanted to get a desired effect, twisting where it hurt, holding in a way that rendered the caught limb useless. Pure speed, unhindered by hesitation or thought. Muscle memory sharpened like that knife he’d been carrying in the Underground.

Could he dodge that? Oberan was quite confident in his limber body, in his reflexes, and in his footwork. Ten arcs ago, he’d not have given it a second thought. But idleness had made him rusty, and without a reason to rely on fisticuffs or long-ranged combat, he’d neglected rebuilding what he’d once been capable off. The level of Agudo he could muster now would do him little good. Perhaps he could dodge, but the counterattacks which his style mostly relied on were useless if his strikes weren’t as fast as they needed to be. He’d only give his opponent a way to pin him down.

Now if he boosted his abilities to the max with Thrill, if he entered what he liked to call the Berserker State—He’d still be a wreck afterwards though.

The right course of action was clear: if the killer came for him, leg it.

Oberan left the scene as Kasoria ordered the proceedings to continue, and gamblers began to regain their clout, racing back to the wheel. The Mortalborn flowed through like water, making use of the opportunity to steal some more, then headed over to the card tables. Good advice wasn’t to be ignored, after all. Maybe he’d win this time.

Sadly, he was too late, finding no spots left open for an extra player. Dice might be an equally entertaining way to try and test his luck, but he didn’t know the game they played here, and there didn’t seem to be any skill involved. He went back to the spinning wheels instead.

Really, the rate at which he lost money was most impressive.

When he placed his bets on black, the ball rolled into a red section. When he went for red, it stopped on black. The times he didn’t alter his next bet to reflect the color that had won the previous round, the ball still favored the color Oberan hadn’t chosen. Out of spite, just because he refused to leave without winning once, he placed bets on both colors, smirking to himself prematurely. The ball mocked him by choosing the one green spot on the entire wheel.

Of course he accused the staff of cheating, of course he cried out that the game was rigged, that there had to be some way they prevented the ball from stopping in a spot where too many people would win. Then when he saw the expression on the face of the wheel’s spinmeister –or whatever these people were called—he reminded himself he didn’t want an angry Dressed-uppedy Man cracking down on him. He coughed once in his hand, and continued in a civilized manner, saying there was no problem after all. On the inside, however, he seethed, and was determined to prove he’d seen through them.

So he bet quite a lot on the color that did not have as much bets placed on it, making sure the total on his color still was less than on the opposite color.

He still lost.

Frustrated, the Mortalborn stomped away, teeth gnashing and fists clenched. Dice it was! Rules could be explained, and weighted dice could be recognized.

Naturally, the dice were just as unwilling to grant him riches as the rest of the place. They weren’t tampered with, he could tell, and he’d seen other people win with the exact same dice, which only made matters worse. It just wasn’t his night tonight. Luck was not on his side. That was something he would have to accept, it seemed.

But Oberan refused to lose. He refused to leave emptyhanded. Going back home with no profit to speak off? Preposterous! Then why had he even come in the first place? If luck wasn’t willing to side with him, he’d force it to.

Just a little push against the table when his dice rolled, right before they’d land on an unfavorable face. A little bump, and the die teetered the other way, creating a score worthy of all wagers this round. Oberan grinned widely, the dark clouds within his mind rolling away so the sun could shine through—

“Reroll, that doesn’t count.”

“Excuse me?”

No more sun, pitch black thunderheads as far as the eye could see.

“You bumped the table. That’s interference. It doesn’t count,” the overseer said again.

“What? No! That’s bull! Straight up bull! I didn’t hit it! I did not hit it! I did not!” The Mortalborn’s voice grew louder with each short sentence, the indignation rising along with it. “He bumped into me--” he pointed at the person behind him, who had been standing rather close. In fact, there was a whole crowd around all tables, all waiting for their turn while they watched. “—so it’s his fault! You can’t penalize me for that! I didn’t do anything!”

“Hey now, I didn’t even touch you!”

“You’re a fucking liar! You practically pushed me over the table! You’ve been bumping into me the whole time because you want me to stop playing!”

“I’m the lair? You’re the liar! If I say I didn’t touch you, then I didn’t fucking touch you! You’re just trying to pass the blame ‘cause you’ve been caught cheating!”

“How dare you, you silver-spooned cum guzzling warthog! Your mothe--”

“One more word from either of you,” the diceman spoke calmly, nostrils flaring, “and I’ll have the both of you brought back outside where you can accuse each other as much as you want.” His eyes shot venom. “Now, reroll, or I’ll consider this as a forfeit.”

Oberan chose the former, blew on the dice as he cluttered them in his clasped hands, prayed for victory, and sent them tumbling over the green velvet. Big surprise— it didn’t manage to equal his previous score. All the money that would have been his was transferred to someone else. The glare he sent her way was meant to curse her into extreme poverty for the rest of her miserable life.

“Place your bets.” A glance at Oberan’s stacks. “That’s not enough to cover even the minimum wager,” diceman spoke. The message was clear, and once more did the Mortalborn leave a table with less chips than he’d arrived. The man behind him was quick to take his place, a mocking smirk on his face.

Out of spite, Oberan nicked his purse when they passed each other.

This was it then. There was no other choice. He didn’t want it to come to this, but the cheating staff had driven him to it.

A pickpocket did what a pickpocket had to do.

word count: 1714
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Re: Full House

Fri Sep 28, 2018 11:15 pm

I saw that. Fucking well wish I hadn't, but I did.

The little man didn't react when he saw Oberan's hand dip close to the stuff dealer, and then come back with a hint of leather clutched by quick fingers. If he hadn't suspected the man in the first place, he wouldn't have been watching him, after all. He'd been living in the underworld for too long to ignore his instincts, when they started to form some kind of coherence. Whenever there is doubt, there is no doubt, he reminded himself as he watched the bearded, increasingly frustrated gambler make his rounds, trying to find a game that liked him. If you suspect, you suspect for a reason. The hard part is not thinking you see proof for that, but waiting until you do.

Kasoria almost flinched when that proof slid and slipped across his vision. The way Oberan obstructed with his body; kept eye contact, kept words flowing; made sure that all attention was up here, not down there-

Where he was picking pockets. Kasoria could hardly fail to notice the brief, vitriolic verbal scuffle between Oberan, the other player, and the long-suffering dealer. He sipped his water and watched the exchange, but when Oberan moved again he was looking down... and he saw a purse that was not his vanish into his breeches as he walked by, to the next table.

... damn.

"Sir? Is there something-"

"Mister Vanalles needs t'go to the backroom. I'm going t'give him some heart trouble, youse two come wiv' me, get ready t'scoop him up."

Magnus didn't have time to argue or query when Vorund's man swept up from the crowd and stopping in front of him. Gorch and Lyle, two long-time associates who were absolute masters at the art of looking scary and scowling, peered down at the little man like eagles would from atop a mountain. Magnus was going over the books again, the boys having just got back from "preparing the back room for guests", and now before they'd even had a chance to get back to work... here he was. Vorund's Hound. Rapping off orders with a strange, pained look in his eyes.

Magnus knew better than to question, or think too deeply, into such matters. He'd survived and prospered in Muster Vorund's employ, because he was no so curious as to do such things. Instead he nodded and looked around-

-to see The Boys already moving, following Kasoria for a moment and then splitting up. They weren't subtle or inconspicuous men at the best of times; walking side by side like human batter rams wouldn't help that. Kasoria himself ignored them both and trusted them to do their damn jobs. They both knew that Vorund had little tolerance for incompetence, especially when he deemed you valuable enough to work at such a lucrative racket.

They'll handle their business. You just handle yours.

Face grim but mind fixed, Kasoria reached into his coat pocket and slid his fingers into something cool and brass and harder than bone. Then he went to the bar.

A few bits later he was navigating the swirl of people with an amber glass in one hand. Two fingers of Darington's sloshed about in it, kept chilled by a single cube of precious ice. Most people got out of his way, not wanting to get soaked by a spillage, but he still needed to step nimbly to find whom he was looking for. Not just find him, but wait for him to get moving again.

Cards, now? Not you night at all, mate.

Finally Oberan got to his feet, shaking his head, and Kasoria worked his way through the crowd so he'd be in front of the man. His right hand was clutched close to his side, obscured heavily by the folds of his breeches and coat, his left laden with booze. When he got within a few yards of Oberan, he gave the gambler a mocking half smile, matching it with a toast that smacked of similar.

Keep moving. Get closer.

"Figured you'd need this," he said, offering the glass, body subtly turning to his right to further hide the arm at his side. That wouldn't last long, though. He doubted Oberan was foolish enough to notice something so... glaringly odd. "Seems like tonight-"

Now.

He struck in mid-sentence, as was often his way. It was a simple trick, but like all tricks, it counted on the way people were wired. They expected you to finish talking before you did something: otherwise, why start in the first place? In Kasoria's case, the words were not the aim. The distraction was. The putting at ease of Oberan, the offer of a drink, the half-smile, until instead of those things-

-his right arm became a blur, fist crowned and gleaming like a comet with a set of brass knuckles-

-blow landing with all the precision and expertise that a lifelong master of the barehanded arts could muster (pfft, like gutter brawling is an art in this fucking city?). It crashed into Oberan's torso, just above his stomach, but below his breastbone. That fleshy cluster of nerves and muscle that Kasoria knew well. Meaning he knew what it looked like when a man got struck there. Properly, mind you. A sloppy amateur would just hurt his hand on a rib or deliver a gut punch, nothing special.

But this? This was something special. It had to be. Because it needed to work, and look like something else.

He moved so fast that barely anyone saw it. All they knew was there was a hairy little man offering a drink, then a blur of movement, and suddenly the man he was talking to... couldn't breath. He'd doubled over, mouth open but not working. Lungs refusing to fill with air. Vision swimming with pain and then they could hear the hairy man saying, "Mate? Mate, are you all right? Hey, I need some help here! Oi?! Need some-"

"We have him, sir. Out the way! This man's heart has given out! C'mon, move it, people!"

The Boys knew well their roles. Oberan didn't even have times to put his hands on the ground to stop from curling up into a breathless ball before arms like tree trunks wrapped around his shoulders, under his armpits, hoisted him back up like a shepherd would an errant lamb. Gorch and Larry were bellowing at the crowd, parting them like the prow of a ship, outside arms clearing a path, inner arms carrying Oberan between them with ease... and Kasoria was bringing up the rear.

They were fast, and they were efficient. Magnus opened the door and the foursome vanished inside. Kasoria was barely over the threshold before it slammed shut behind him, and he could hear the thin man's reedy voice extolling everyone to get on and hey, special on drinks at the bar! Soon everyone would forget about the grouchy gambler who'd keeled over with a bad heart, and be back to having a fun night.

Kasoria looked on coldly as The Boys planted the now-breathing-again Oberan in a chair, and held him in place, meaty hands wrapping around his arms and the chair arms both. Kasoria withdrew a weapon from behind his back that Oberan would be familiar with. He'd seen it before, steel and curved and gleaming. He knew what the little man opposite him could do with such an odd blade.

"First off," Kasoria said, face half in shadow now, with the candles from the back room few and far between. "I know what yer magic feels like. I know when yer using it. I even think yer using it in here, on me, or the lads, I'll cut an eye outta ya an' eat it. Don't think fer a fuckin' trill that I won't." He stepped closer and rested the karambit blade against Oberan's beard, as if he were about to give him one hell of a shave. "Y'got that, Johannes?"

It was the emotion he loaded into the last word that gave him away, if a man had the insight to read him properly. Kasoria had killed more men than he could remember, often unarmed and helpless and in pokey little back rooms like this. They begged and pleaded and threatened and prayed and cursed but it all ended the same way. And he confronted them, much the same way, every time. With a detached, professional tone. Like a butcher looking down at a cow, or a rat-catcher plying his trade in a sewer.

But his voice when he spoke then... it was annoyed. Bordering on wounded. Vitriol and irritation seeped out of him, as if he were dealing with errant family or a stupid friend. Because murder was simple, and easy, and often. That last one especially made it no big deal for a man like Kasoria, but this... this was a man that had helped him. Helped him and chatted with him and now, now he'd been so cosmically stupid that he might have to-

No. No, you can work it out. You can figure something out.

"Give me one fuckin' reason," he said in a voice that ground low and inhuman, like bricks grinding together, "Why I shouldn't cut yer throat an' dump you in the sewer, fer pickin' pockets in Mister Vorund's place a' business?"

He nodded over his shoulder, and Oberan could see what made the backroom so... suitable, for guests of this nature. Namely, a stack of thick potato sacks, thick chains on a table, a grate that looked like it led straight down into the sewers... and a hacksaw. An old, rusty hacksaw.

Kasoria looked down at the man and kept the snarl of indignant fury on his face, for the benefit of The Boys. Wouldn't fit to be going soft in front of them, of course. Not so they'd run off to Mister Vorund with tales of his favorite scratcher letting people go. But even as he glared, and sneered, and ran the tip of his karambit from the jaw of Oberan's jaw up the side of his face to the corner of his eye, he repeated the same silent plea.

Make it fucking good, Oberan. I really don't want to have to kill you when I owe you.
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word count: 1781
"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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