• Solo • III. The Scent (Graded)

Atop a stony plateau overlooking the lands of central Idalos, and growing wealthy from the gem stones pulled from the rocky soil, Etzos is a bastion of independence; firm in its belief that man should rule Idalos, not be servants of the vain Immortals who nearly destroyed it. But can the many factions set aside their conflicting agendas and see this through?

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Kasoria
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III. The Scent (Graded)

Sun Nov 10, 2019 4:38 am

10th Trial, Vhalar, 719
Commercial Circle
3rd break


Continued from here

"It's... well... it's a bit..."

"Hard t'believe?"

"Actually... no. Not really."

The little man cocked his head to one side, and Moira was immediately reminded of what they used to call him. Vorund's Hound. Bloodhound, sometimes, when his violence had to be preceded by a hunt. The image, the overlapping personas, struck her as bizarre for a moment. The tics of a dog, the body of a man, the mutations of something neither, and less, and more. Sitting opposite her, drinking tea, like one of her friends from the Lady's Social Compact. She shook her head again and poured herself a fresh glass. "One to warm, another to loosen", as her husband used to say.

If something like Kasoria can be walking around the city, well... how strange can all this be?

"If it was four, five arcs ago? I'd have scoffed and called you a madman. But... things are changing. Fates, that's what usually happens when half the city and all living around her are wiped out or go running from the land. I know most of the Council survived, of course-" she spared a small sneer, mirrored by Kasoria. Bettered herself, she had, but she'd never lost her quiet contempt for the "nobility" that had always run Etzos from on high. No matter the calamity, the moneyed and well-off always found a way to clamber over corpses to breath another trial's air. "-but the way the city is run, the direction, the tone..."

Kasoria thought back on what he'd seen over the last few seasons. Especially on the journey back from Rhakros' burning ruins. They'd been bloody and cleaved and exhausted and horrified... but they'd won. That buoyed them. Yet Kasoria had noticed something more, on the long trials marching back home. The word of an Immortal, spoken not with clear, honest contempt but a sort of grudging respect. As one would for an enemy turned unlikely ally. Mayhap with the hope they would remain so.

He couldn't believe it. That his own block, his own men, his own people, would be speaking such of an Immortal! Who had clearly used them like cats-paws against a rival! A drooling fucking idiot could have surmised her "help" as such, yet trial after trial, he felt the mood shift. There was a gratitude embedded in the Etzori Army, if not respect or affection. They brought it back with them like a disease, like an infection, spreading it to all those citizens and spirits who remained in the city.

"If ever Sintra wanted t'make 'erself public inna city, it'd be now." He said with a shrug, as if it was obvious. "She an' 'er little crawly babies helped us, dint they? Dint ask fer shite fer it, either. Still ain't. But she will, and now-"

"Now the Council will be unlikely to deny her-"

"-especially if she's already got slaves on the fuckin' Council."

Speculation fed into deduction and bounced from mouth to mouth as the potential plot was laid out. Moira looked into her glass and drained half of it with a single, thirsty slug. She was't a fool. She knew no city, no matter how ravenously anti-Immortal, could keep the followers of those monsters out. In the dark, deep places, the cults and priests and chanting slaves waited. Festered. Expanded. Who could tell how long the Arch-Manipulator had been building towards this? Buying influence, building numbers, subtly moving pieces this way and that, until she was ready to step into the light.

"Bangun used to say, the best way to make friends of your enemies, is to find an even bigger enemy of you both. Maybe the truce won't last longer than the battle, but you can build on it." She nodded to herself as she finished her drink. "Aye. That sounds like what this is."

Kasoria leaned forward, shoudlers bobbing for a moment like a cat about to pounce.

"That's why I need t'see yer husband's notes, ma'am. Cuz what his contacts mighta' known, could point me inna right direction. It's... like a chain. They're the first link. Then it's those assassin bastards workin' for the spider bitch. Then it's the people they know, that they've been usin'. And finally, the people above them. The rich folk an' the powerful." He shook his head and sipped at the tea, now growing disappointingly lukewarm. "Can't jus' pull the leaves off a weed, ma'am. Gotta rip it up by the roots, make sure it don't come back."

Moira nodded and Kasoria hoped nothing more would be needed. He hadn't mentioned Marshal Webb; that nugget alone could have gotten her killed, if she breathed it to anyone else. That it existed in Kasoria's own skull was a worry enough. Part of him wanted to spread the truth as wide and as fast as he could. Let the whole damn city know that Marshal Webb was little more that a stooge of an Immortal.

But now, this season, this arc, would that see his head on a pike by nightfall? After the Siege, and Rhakros, and that spider cunt aiding us? After all the praise for her you heard on the march back?

Kasoria ground his teeth and tried to loosen them with that rest of his tea. Then he got to his feet, catching Moira's attention with the movement.

"His study. I need t'see it. Search it. Ev'ry crevice."

"I don't know what you expect to find," Moira said, rising with stiff slowness. "The lawyers went over the room after he died."

"Aye, well," Kasoria said with a soft smile, letting the older woman lead the way. "They wuz lookin' fer deeds an' titles an' such. Weren't thinkin' like sneaky bastards. Fortunately, I'm a very sneaky bastard, so I'll be lookin' a wee bit differently..."
word count: 1026
"This is the life we choose, the life we lead. And there is only one guarantee: none of us will see Heaven."
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Kasoria
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Re: III. The Scent

Sun Nov 10, 2019 11:52 pm

He didn't know Where or How. All he had in his mind was the What. Something was secreted in that room, in some cleverly-hidden crevice, and he needed to find it. Because if it was worth hiding, it was worth having. That said... it wasn't much to go on.

All right. Let's try and be logical about this.

Kasoria stepped into the middle of the study as Moira unlocked the door. It smelled of dust and stale air. He didn't need to ask if she'd disturbed it since his death. The desk in front of the book shelf had been swept clean of papers and files. Clearly the work of the lawyers. He looked around, and saw few other places documents would be hiding. A pair of chairs before the desk, a leather-wrapped one on wheels behind it... a couch by the far wall, another, shorter desk... and that was it. Checking the drawers was a matter of moments. The couch, too. Looking for slices or slits where papers could be stuffed... but nothing.

Fine. Furniture's a bust. Try the walls.

Moira raised an eyebrow as the little man went along each wall, tapping and listening afterwards like he was trying to get a tune out of them. Looking for hollow spot, apparently. He went back and forth, up and down... but found nothing. Then he got on his hands and knees, which was the point Moira decided to make herself comfortable. She walked over to the couch he'd already checked and watched the man truly become canine. Checking the floorboards, pulling up the rug, feeling along the edges of the boards... nothing.

"Damnit."

"Would you like some more tea?"

Kasoria turned his eyes back to the desk and gave an amused little snort.

"What's so amusing?"

"A break ago, I was an intruder you'd a' hacked apart wi' that parang," the assassin said as he prowled back to the desk. "Now yer offerin' me refreshment."

Moira rolled her eyes as the assassin wriggled his way under the desk. Checking underneath it, feeling for anything fastened or lashed to the underside of the drawers. He pulled each one out, and felt nothing. "Well, a lot can change in that time."

Kasoria sighed as yet another empty drawer without so much as dust under it greeted his eyes and fingers. "True enough, I s'pose" he said with a sigh, tapping the bottom of the drawer a moment later for emphasis. "Be good t'have some warmth in me... before..."

TOK

He froze. Moira frowned as she rose. He was like a deer at a glade, who'd just heard a hunter's boot snap a twig. So still. Barely breathing. He frowned, looked at the drawer again... and tapped his finger again.

TOK-TOK

"That... sounded hollow."

"Aye," Kasoria said, putting the flat of his hand against the bottom of the drawer and shifting his head around to the side. "An' 'less my eyes are fadin'... there's some space between this hand an' that'n that a plank a' wood wouldn't explain."

Tea was forgotten. Moira found herself sucked into his excitement, as the man pried and pulled the drawer from where it rested. He examined it, inside and out. Clearly there was some switch, or clever little hook, and if he found it-

CRACK

"... or you could break it over your knee, yes."

Kasoria ignored her. His senses were solely for the thin sheaf of papers hidden between the wood. He let the ruins of the drawer fall to the floor and devoured them, page by page. Secrets and lies. Information about who was fucking over and scamming who, who'd been a bad man and a worse husband, even on the verge of treachery... and lo, on the final page, information about those who had "magik cunnekshuns".

Old Man never did learn his letters all the way.

"I think this is it."

"Oh. Then you'll be leaving?"

Kasoria sighed and looked up at the several hundred books on the wall. This list was useful. It could all he'd require... but "could" wouldn't cut it, if he was going after an Immortal and her human slaves. If there was even a chance that additional information was hidden within the room, he had to look for it. He folded the papers and made them vanish within his cloak. Then he shook his head and rubbed his hand quickly over his face.

"Not quite. I'll take that tea now, if yeh don't mind..."
word count: 777
"This is the life we choose, the life we lead. And there is only one guarantee: none of us will see Heaven."
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Kasoria
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Re: III. The Scent

Mon Nov 11, 2019 12:23 am

Image
He didn't try to make a game out of it or anything like that. There was no way he could make this "entertaining". He just started at the top corner of the shelves, picked up a book... and opening it. From cover to cover, listening to the pages rustle and whip against each other. Upside down, of course, so anything hidden within would fall out. Then he'd replace it, and go on to the next.

Open. Rustle. Whip. Shake. Replace. Repeat.

"Here's another."

Kasoria just grunted as the second cup of tea was presented to him. Fates, but he could actually go for some of that blacker, stronger stuff he'd seen them quaffing in Rharne. Seemed to be just the ticket to keep men awake. But that was Rharne, and he was not there. Instead he took a scalding sip of the tea and hissed through his teeth at the pain. Good a thing as any to keep you awake. Then he cleared his throat and studied what he'd done so far.

One and a half shelves. Three and a half to go.

"No more luck, I'm guessing?"

"Nothin' but pages. Kind I don't want t'see." He paused for a second and looked over his shoulder. "Should be done in 'bout a break. Maybe a little more."

Moira settled back in to her place on the couch and waved away his concerns. It wasn't like she was getting back to sleep anytime soon. She rather enjoyed watching him. The focus of the man was... unnerving, but impressive. He'd set himself on a path and was determined to reach the end of it. Book after book, page after page, revealing nothing. But who was to say the last one, or the middle one, wouldn't have what he wanted? So Kasoria kept going. As the bits stretched into breaks and the pitch darkness outside started to lighten almost imperceptibly. As Moira's head started to bob in her seat, sleep starting to claim her until-

"Ha!"

"Hmm?"

Her head shot up with a start and she saw Kasoria grinning in triumph. A book with a square space cut into the pages was in one hand; the folded piece of paper was in the other. He put down one and unfolded the other. As Moira hobbled over, she could see there were lines and marking on it, not writing. She reached his side and saw it was a... map. She frowned and saw the vague shape of the Citadel in the center of it. But the lines and channels leading to it... they weren't from the street.

"That's... the Underground?"

"Aye," Kasoria breathed, like a man awed. "Passages. Secret ones, but the look'uv it. Ways... into the Citadel, from the Comm'See. Dunno if they're guarded or not, but if he was hidin' 'em this well..."

Moira's eyebrows shot up in surprise. She didn't need the sentence finished. The Citadel was nigh-impregnable from direct assault. High walls and centuries-old defenses would make any siege a suicidal waste of time; even Lisirra only had a chance because half the population was either dying of plague or starving. Of course, there were tunnels under it, like there was passages under all Etzos. But the Council had long ago hunted down and either blocked or fortified every one... yet in front of her, were apparently back channels. Secret ways and means.

How much would another city pay for this? How much would an assassin, or a traitor, or any man that dwells and deals in darkness?

Her face fell. She looked up, and saw as if anew the coal-black eyes, the whirling pseduo-cloak, and a hundred takes from Bangun about his "bloody-handed Kas" came back to him. A dweller and dealer in darkness, if ever there was one... and now, she'd helped him find secret ways into the heart of her city. She opened her mouth to speak-

"Miss Vorund?! MISS VORUND?!"

The man and woman turned to the door at the same time. Just as heavy feet started pounding up the stairs. The hollering continued and Kasoria sighed, sinking his chin to his chest and pinching the bridge of his nose.

"Shite... which one'a the idiot's is that?"
word count: 735
"This is the life we choose, the life we lead. And there is only one guarantee: none of us will see Heaven."
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Kasoria
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Re: III. The Scent

Mon Nov 11, 2019 2:16 am

"Oh fuck oh fuck oh shit oh fuck me MISSUS VORUND-?!"

"Fates, I'm here, boy! Enough with the noise, please!"

Stavos' heart leaped into his throat as he heard the crotchety old biddy. Fates, he could have slipped her the sausage, he was that relieved! His run was a loping, staggering thing, sending him bouncing off walls and wooden sidings as he hurtled upwards. His sword was gripped in his hand again, and as he rounded the corner he hoped he wouldn't need it-

"Mistress, I... I..."

He saw someone in the room with her. Sitting in the chair behind Mister Vorund's desk, whole the widow sat opposite him. Fragments of wood, the wreckage of a drawer were at his feet. Stavos' jaw stayed firmly loose and open as he took in the obvious signs of mutation. Hideous and unsettling in equal measure, making the man look ghoulish and savage... yet the bored expression on his face was unmistakably human.

"I'm perfectly fine, young man. No need to-"

"Missus Vorund, get back!"

The old woman made an outraged little sound as he yanked her up and away, planting himself in between her and the figure behind the desk. Who seemed more amused than anything else, actually. He steeped his fingers in front of his face, peering at Stavos over them.

"I look like I'm inna middle a' tryin' t'kill the lady, son?"

"I ain't yer son, mage!" Oh, but this one had a rare ferocity to him. Hurt ego or in the blood, Kasoria could not quite tell. "Get outta here or I'll end yeh!"

"Stavos, for heaven's sake-"

"Stay back, Missus Vorund-"

"Oh, e-nough!"

SNAP

It was yet another shortcut he promised he wouldn't rely on, but he frankly didn't have the patience anymore. Not when his business was so close to concluded. Kasoria snapped his fingers and the witchmarks in his palms glowed with power. The white, baleful light seemed to shimmer and spread upwards from them, pulsing across his skin and finally his black eyes pulsed quickly. The little man rose to his feet and the swirling cloud of darkness finally ceased, settling over and above him like a cloak that never quite touched the rest of his body. But it moved as if it did, shifting and swaying as he stepped from around the desk.

"I put yeh on yer arse before, boy. Now put the fuckin' sword down or-"

"You will do no such thing!"

"Missus-OW!"

Stavos yelped and his free hand went up to his ear as Moira Vorund clapped him about it like he was an unruly child. He twisted around to face her, more hurt than angry. "What was that for?!"

"Because I'm the mistress of this house and you-" he turned her eyes malevolently onto Kasoria; even he felt something southwards pucker "-both of you, will bloody well listen to my orders!"

"Ma'am, this is-OW, FUCK!"

"This is Mister Kasoria. He's an old friend and a bloody idiot who should have just walked up during the trial and knocked on the door. Like a normal human being. But instead he decided to stay true to his nature and break in." Moira turned her matriarchal head to the infamous assassin. He felt the urge to shuffle awkwardly and look away. No rejoinder was coming, that was for certain. "Top marks for consistency, anyway."

"You... You mean the Raggedy-"

"Oh, whatever they called him, I don't care. Point is, he came to talk to me, and wanted to do so privately." Again she turned to Kasoria, words spoken at Stavos but directed elsewhere, so to speak. His etheral power started to wane, retreating back into himself as if even his Spark didn't want to bear witness to this fury. "Which he could have, if he'd come in through the front door! But regardless... he'd got what he came for. A chat, some tea, and a scent to follow."

Stavos squinted at her as if she'd both changed species and language in the same moment. Life was very simple for him, really. He guarded the house, and the lady. He patrolled it along with his partner. They ate and washed and slept and lived in the house, and when Missus Vorund left, they were with her. Now that simple outlooks had been muddled by complications... and smacks around the head.

"I... But he... Dev, er, Dev's hurt-"

"Is he awake yet?"

"Um, no, not yet, but he's comin' around-"

"Go down there and see to him, I'll be along shortly." Again the boy stiffened, wary eyes flickering to Kasoria. Moira turned his gaze back to hers with a hand on his cheek. So strange, how even after arcs, she remembered the tone and touch one needed to handle a young man. "Don't mind him. Off you go."

"I... Yes, Missus Vorund."

The young man paused only to give Kasoria a pointed stare. The Raggedy Man was reminded of a lamb trying to scare off a pit-lion. Still, he kept his face neutral. Until the boy was out the room and then he rolled his eyes yet again.

"You need new lads, ma'am. Bloody ridiculous, that was."

"Well, they were hardly expecting the Raggedy Man, were they? Then again, you've been declared dead so many times not even I know if this is a ghost I'm chatting with."

Kasoria snorted and made his way to leave. She could tell, by the way he squared his shoulders and adjusted his cloak. His actual cloak. She followed him down the stairs. Even that short span was enough time for her to wonder... was she making a terrible mistake? Was she enabling a man who murdered without qualm to do just that, and on a terrible, destabilizing level? Kasoria was a man capable of butchery on a scale most men would find impossible. She'd given him the means to inflict that not on gangers or ruffians or bandits, not even Blackjack or soldiers, but the ruling body of Etzos herself. One rampage from him, like the one she'd heard whispers of arcs and arcs ago, and he could throw the city into chaos, madness, decapitated anarchy.

But he won't. He's not looking for that. He wouldn't hurt the city.

"You need another war, don't you?"

The Raggedy Man stopped in front of the iron door. Better to go out that way than be seen on the street. For both of them. His hand was around the handle when she spoke, and he turned sharply to face her again. Concern was writ large on her fragile features, in her marble-hard eyes. Not for herself.

"What wuzzat?"

"You fought for my husband. You fought to get back here from Fate's-know-where. Then you fought against Lissira. Now the fighting is over. The war is won. So why not put down your sword and-"

"The war ain't over, until this city's free a' them."

Moira's tongue stopped as if cut off when she heard the sheer, hateful venom dripping from every word. She was reminded to an old conversation with Bangun, when he'd first mentioned Kasoria. A man of skill, and relentless professionalism. Every task he was given, he accomplished regardless of risk and cost. It was just his nature... as was hatred. Burning, implacable, fanatical hatred for the Immortals of the world. For the first time, in the last moments of his visit, she saw a glimpse of that. The ugly, ancient rage that had kept him from Vri's embrace time and time again. That had powered him through atrocity and massacre and an Immortal's city and the hellscape that same Immortal had made of his home.

"We are Etzos," he said, weight in his words driving the guttural accent from them. "We do not need those bastards interfering, no matter what. We didn't need that bitch to defeat Lissira. We could have taken Rhakros without her, too. You're right. Too much is changing. Too much has changed, and I know who is behind it. Whether it be just this spider cunt or a whole legion of her creatures, I don't care. I-"

His voice hitched. Moira saw his mind trip and fall into the past, into a place away from stone and marble and towering districts and circles. His mutated features couldn't hide the concern that flickered over his face. The deep, personal yearning to make safe the land for... himself? Her eyes widened but she did not speak. Did not dare to.

Bangun had told her something else, too. What he'd done for Kasoria to buy his loyalty... and what Kasoria would do with anyone else who knew about his son.

"... I'm tired, ma'am. I'm going home. Next time, I'll knock."

He was through the door and closing it when she spoke again.

"All wars have to end, Kasoria. Not all of them can be won, either."

He paused, and she felt a shiver of brief terrifying anger flash from his eyes. As if she'd just threatened him in some way. But no weapon stirred nor magic conjured. He closed the door behind her, and she heard footsteps in the darkness. Slapping wetly against the stones until they were lost in echo and distance.
word count: 1598
"This is the life we choose, the life we lead. And there is only one guarantee: none of us will see Heaven."
Abra
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Re: III. The Scent

Tue Nov 12, 2019 7:37 pm



Kasoria

Rewards


Knowledges:

Skill Knowledge: 
Detection: Searching for Hidden Compartments in Furniture
Detection: Knowing the Sound of a Hollow Space
Detection: Searching is Often a Matter of Grinding Patience
Intelligence: Truly Important Documents are Always Hidden
Intelligence: Maps are Valuable Sources of Information 
Politics: Placating Rivals by Fighting a Mutual Enemy

Non-Skill Knowledge: 
Etzos - The Citadel: Massively Fortified, Above and Below Ground
NPC Moira Vorund: Knows About the Sintra-Worshipers in Etzos, But Not that Marshal Webb is Among Them
NPCs Stavos and Devane: Bodyguards to Moira Vorund
Philosophy: Etzos Needs No Immortals

Loot: A detailed map of several secret passages from the Commercial Circle into the Citadel, and a list of informants kept by the late Bangun Vorund, including individuals of magical, criminal, and political influence
Injuries:
Wealth:
Renown:

EXP: 10

Feedback


I appreciated the dialogue that helped explain the backstory which made it loads easier to understand what was going on. Kasoria has a special way of convincing people to do what he wants and pointing out that its in their best interest to comply. Nice little investigative work checking all the walls and crevices… he certainly knows what he needs to do in this situation. I liked the lighthearted notes towards the end to show that Kasoria isn’t completely murder crazy. Enjoy the rewards.


word count: 219
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