• Solo • Defenestration

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Ashan 56th Arc 721

His hands trembled as he tried to fit the key in the lock, bronze clattering against metal casing. He muttered impatient curses, sweat gathering on his palms and brow, itching in his armpits, and trickling down his back. Grabbing his own hand by the wrist, he managed to stabilize the shaking enough to slide the key in. The mechanism clacked, latch sliding into its slot within the frame.

Not enough, not enough!

He fiddled with a small door chain, pushing it in place, then threaded a padlock through a set of metal plates attached to both the door and its frame. Heavy-duty with a thick bolt, it wouldn’t bend or break easily. Just to be sure he jammed a chair –polished oak with plush cushioning—under the doorhandle. In normal circumstances a waste of good furniture, but now a bargain if it’d save his life.

Dabbing his forehead with a handkerchief, he tried to calm his breathing to no avail. On the floors below echoed the sounds of battle. Warcries and screams of pain, loud bangs and booms as bodies hit the floor. A horrible rumbling as walls broke down, shaking the whole building to the point that he feared it’d collapse in on itself like a house of cards.

It soon stopped, as did the cacophony happening below. For a couple moments it grew uncomfortably quiet. His breath caught in his throat as he listened with pinched-shut eyes, hearing no sound but the thumping of his own racing heart. Maybe they got him? he dared hope, knowing full well victory wouldn’t come paired with silence. Unless there’s only a couple survivors…

Dagget jumped as the doorhandle jerked up and down in quick succession, knocking on the backrest of the chair he’d had jammed underneath. Curses carried through the wood of the door, then something smacked against it with a fleshy thud. The door rattled a bit, but did not budge. Neither did the latch, the bar, or the chair. Another thud, more curses.

But this couldn’t be Rokas. Firstly, he wouldn’t cuss like that. Second, there should be more of an impact when he tried to break down the door. Louder, harder, more force. This was someone smaller, much smaller. Which meant it was that filthy rat.

Daggett snickered softly despite the situation. He needn’t fear if it was just that rodent. He’d never get through the door. Soon enough Arun would come back up the stairs and deal with him, and this whole nightmare would be over. Sure, he’d have to clean up the mess Rokas and Milaq had made, recruit more men to compensate for those he lost tonight. Not that it mattered much. In return he could present the Desert Ogre’s sand-covered corpse. Both to Gaenell and to the part of himself that’d been nagging in the back of his mind ever since he’d dropped Rokas in the Southwood. Now it would finally shut up.

Perhaps tonight was a good night after all!

Quiet returned. The banging on the door had stopped. Instead the creaky staircase squeaked under the weight of a large man. Arun was on his way. No doubt Milaq frantically searched for a way to escape or hide. Almost everyone did when Arun came for them.


The door strained in its frame, smashing against the metal that kept it in place. Seemingly bulging into the room as a large body impacted it in exactly the way he feared. Loud, hard, violent. Nothing like the weak attempts from before. The smugness he’d allowed to creep up his face evaporated in an instant. His hope shattered into tiny pieces and plinked down onto the floorboards around his feet.

No, no, no, no!

Daggett backed away, slow at first, but a second crash against the wood sent him rushing for the heavy desk in the back of the room. Wiping his brow, he rooted in the top drawer for the dagger hidden there. Another bang resounded, and this time the whole door toppled into the room, frame and locks and all. No bricks or stone, no parts of the wall. Those pulsed and shifted at the edges of a rectangular hole where the door had been, settling on a new shape.

A figure strode in, brutish and looming, a man with the build of a large bear. A layer of sand and soil coated his skin. Fire blazed to life around his colossal fists, as he approached without haste, the building rumbling with each step. Baring teeth in a grin that held no humor or sympathy, only malice and the promise of hurt, and a lot of anticipation.

“Missed me, Daggett?”

“You’re supposed to be dead!” Daggett shivered, clutching his dagger and backing away further, taking a little comfort out of the desk that sat between him and Rokas as a shield. Clinging to the idea that he could postpone the inevitable as long as it kept them separate—

A vicious blast of wind flipped it sideways lengthwise, smashed it into the wall where it broke apart with a high-pitched apology of splintering wood. Drawers clattered out. Pens and inkwells, paperweights, the near-empty bottle of Doughal & Smiths and Daggett's favorite rocks glass rained onto the floorboards, followed by a multitude of papers landing softly atop the mess. Daggett retreated further, heart in his throat and stomach flopping like suffocating fish. Bumped into the windowsill of the window behind him. Knuckles white and palms soaked, he held his dagger in front of him, tip pointed at Rokas’s chest. It jittered all over the place.

"Ah, well. Didn't feel like dying. Do you?"

“Stay away! Don’t come any closer!”

The Defier raised a burning hand. Daggett flinched, head jerking away with eyes shut. Red hot pain whipped his wrists, fingers loosening their slick grasp. He yelped, eyes flying open just in time to see his weapon be flung across the room, clattering onto the floor far out of reach.

Rokas’s shadow fell over him a moment later, one of his giant hands clamping around his face. Yelling and screaming, Daggett flailed within his unforgiving grip, fire searing his flesh and features. His skin boiled and melted and smoked, welting wherever the flames licked. He struggled in agony, clawing at the hand that held him, roaring when the fire scorched his fingers.

With a grunt of effort, Rokas spun to build up momentum, dragging his unfortunate victim along, then cast him through the window. Glass cracked, then shattered, ripping through Daggett’s fine clothes as he was forced through. Glittering like stardust in the moonlight as it followed in his wake, tumbling three stories down toward the cobbles of the Oh’Pee.

He heard the wind laughing and howling past him. A roar, a taunt. Mocking him for not having wings. Teasing him with the possibility of swelling large enough to catch him, as it would for Rokas. But the elements loathed Daggett just as much as Rokas did. They cursed his name instead, spat it out, then spat on it. Stole his breath away, squeezed it out as he screamed and fell and flailed. It seemed to take forever and no time at all.

Then he smashed into the hard and vindictive dirt street, back first, head and limbs second. Earth hammered him without mercy, breaking ribs, a leg, and dislocating a shoulder. Rocked the brain inside Daggett’s skull, forced the air out of his lungs. Cutting off the panicked screeching. Turned it into a breathless gasping, then a groan and cough that launched thick globs of saliva mixed with blood.

Slowly, painfully, Daggett tried to move, wincing and hissing. All of his body felt like one huge bruise, one whole fracture snaking through all of his bones. But he had to move. He had to. Up on the second floor, Rokas watched him writhe, flashing his teeth in a rare show of glee. It promised more pain, more hurt, more blood, more screams, more fear. Then death at the end. Payback. Daggett had to move.

And he did. Flopping on his belly to crawl like a worm in the dirt, kicking with his good leg, clawing with his good arm. Biting through the agony shooting through his body, begging him to just stop, rest, and not move for a season. He ignored it as best he could, prioritizing his survival. He needed to fight if he wanted to get away with his life.
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Re: Defenestration

From the remnants of the broken second-story window, Rokas watched impassively as Daggett plummeted. Wind harassed him, pushing him down faster. Earth compacted where he landed, harder, more solid. Creating more of an impact. For a few seconds, he lied very still, one of his legs bent at an odd angle. Then his eyes rolled around in their sockets again, and his mouth opened and closed like a choking fish’s. Not dead just yet, it seemed. Daggett was like some sort of cockroach; surprisingly hardy.

All the better. If falling down a few stories was all it took to kill him, it wouldn’t be worth the patience and planning he’d done in preparation. Perhaps it wouldn’t even be worth the effort of seeking revenge in the first place. What satisfaction was there to be found in killing a fragile being? If you had to be careful not to take things too far and accidentally snuff out his existence prematurely?

Fortunately, Daggett was a cockroach. He struggled with all his might, hoping against hope he’d survive. Pushing his broken and battered body up, mounting a desperate attempt at escape, fighting tooth and claw to cling to stay alive. Yes, it was far more fulfilling to crush the life out of someone when they struggled.

Which was exactly why Rokas had gone along with Milaq’s tedious plan, despite the risk that working with him entailed. A gamble, indeed, but one that’d paid out in full.

Rokas let a grin spread across his sand-covered features. In his mind he went over the long list of Daggett’s transgressions, counting them and making sure he hadn’t forgotten any. He’d make Daggett feel every single one. His death needn’t be quick. Having caught him unawares, Rokas had an abundance of time, after all.

Earth groaned behind him. A warning of shattered masonry and splinters of baked clay that cracked under a soft leather boot. Scraped over wood. Slow, steady. Prowling ever closer. A ways off still, but easily crossed with a couple long and rapid steps. Wind hissed past an exposed metal edge, still wet with a runny, but curdling liquid. It played with exhaled breaths, hot and eager, but silent and controlled.

Ah, of course. He’d expected nothing less.

Rokas did not look behind, did not take his eyes off Daggett. Instead he took a single step forward, onto the windowsill, between some stubborn yet wicked sharp shards of glass still clinging to the frame. He had to duck to fit through, had to punch away some glass to not get cut as he folded himself through. Head first, then shoulders and torso, then finally legs. Standing on top of the sill for a brief moment, feeling the wind rush past his face in excitement. A muffled curse came from behind, stone grit crunching quickly now. Rokas whispered a few soft words, and hopped off.

Then he fell. Like a boulder tumbling down a mountainside and into a ravine. Fast, heavy, stone-faced. Wind laughing past, tugging at his limbs, cradling him. Delivering him into earth’s care in a few fractions of a second. Both feet touched the ground, knees bending, hands reaching down for balance. Earth powdered, softening in an instant. Soft, loose soil, and softer still. Dust as fine and gentle as silk. Broke his fall, absorbed the impact, unwilling to hurt him.

Rokas rose slow, a wave of nausea rippling the ground as if it were the deck of a ship. It’d gotten worse, he didn’t have much left to give. He stepped out of his little crater, sand and dust streaming off his body. Daggett yelped, hastened his movement, crawling faster over the road with one working arm and one functioning leg. But the dirt refused to cooperate anymore, denied him any purchase. Left him flailing instead, helpless as packed earth turned to sand and slipped between his fingers.

“This is as far as you go, Daggett,” Rokas said. There was a hint of malice in his voice. A bit of gloating in anticipation of what would come next. “It’s the end of the line.”

Daggett flopped on his back, eyes wide, fixed on Rokas’s giant frame. His foot kicked uselessly in the too-soft dirt, hoping to find something to push off from.

“You’re making a mistake,” Daggett sputtered, “I’ve made powerful allies while you were gone. They won’t take kindly to my death! They take these things seriously. They won’t stand for it. It’s a matter of principle. They’ll make an example out of you. You’ll be hunted in turn! There’s no benefit in killing me--”

Rokas took a step forward. “The benefit is your death itself. My momentary satisfaction. Not having to deal with you anymore in the future.”

“No-no-no, wait, wait! I- I- I have money. I can pay you! How much do you want? Name your price, I’ll pay it in full! I’ll get out of your hair too! I promise! I swear on my mother’s soul! You’ll never see me again. I’ll not get involved with you ever again! Not directly or indirectly! W-what do you say? That’s what you want, right?”

Another step. His voice was chilly, his gaze frozen. “Ah, but it’s a matter of principle for me as well. You’ll need to be made an example out of, so the message comes across.”

“I got the message! Loud and clear! I’ll—I’ll spread the word not to mess with you! I’ll use every connection I have! No-one will come for you. No-one! So, please--”

Another step, the distance between Rokas and Daggett almost nonexistent now. “A little bit late now, don’t you think? You should have thought of that before concocting your little plan.” His voice rose, monotone melting away as he grew more heated. Emotions etched with harsh lines into his face. Words gradually loudening. Speaking faster, with more fury seeping through. “Before dumping me in the Southwood! Before trying to turn the elements against me! Before severing my connection with them! Before hiding me from their sight and having them kill me!”

Daggett cowered, good arm raised protectively over his face, eyes pinched shut. His functioning leg drawn up to his chest, attempting to become as small as possible and escape notice. Rokas took a deep breath, regained his composure.

“We spent a long time pondering on how to go about this. How do we want to kill you? Crush you with rocks? Blast you into the sky and let you splatter on the ground? Burn you until you’re nothing but blackened bones and scattered ashes? Or perhaps I should just beat you into a bloody paste? Wrap my hands around your neck and squeeze until you turn purple and your eyes burst from your sockets?” He tilted his head as if considering once again. “They’re all good options. But there’s only one death that fits you; the one you planned for me. I thought long and hard about it, I hope you appreciate the irony.”

Ignoring Daggett’s further burbling pleas, Rokas focused on the voices of the elements, tuned his ears to one in particular. One of the four had been scorned just the same as Rokas, held a grudge as strong as his. He called to it, beckoned it into existence. The nausea worsened, balance unstable, world rolling up and down. More so than usual, causing his stomach to lurch and threaten to vomit. The whole of his skull was subject to immense pressure, shattering at the temples.

But he didn’t need much. Just a little would do.

Fire roared behind him, its heat shattering windows. Flames burst forth from the holes, licked sooth all over the outside. For all the delicious fabric in the tailor shop, it’d held back quite admirably, all things considered. Rokas pushed its voice away, relegated it to background noise along with the sweeping whispers of the wind.

Water materialized, fine droplets floating in mind-air, coalescing into a bubble bigger than Daggett’s head. Its surface rippled and jiggled, a translucent pearl of water so pure it’d barely be visible broad daylight. In the dark of night it would have been almost impossible to spot, if not for the flickering orange of the fire outlining its edges. It hung there for only a moment, then it lost its shape and flowed toward Daggett.

The man whimpered, kicking and flailing to get away, and actually finding purchase now. Rokas was too close to his limit to focus on directing two elements at once. Water demanded his full attention, and he gifted it gladly.

It engulfed Daggett’s head, covering his face, reforming into a sphere. Air bubbles leapt out his nostrils and mouth as he yelped in surprise. He regretted it instantly, expression already growing desperate. His one good arm swung up, hand clawing at the water, unable to hold it. He slapped at it then, but the water’s surface barely splashed at all. He began scooping instead, throwing the small volume that didn’t slip through his fingers onto the ground. Rokas let him. The effort was futile. By the time Daggett had diminished the sphere significantly, he’d already have drowned.

Daggett’s movements grew more and more frantic, more rushed. He thrashed and writhed, flailing as if trying to swim. He belched out a stream of bubbles as his breath ran out and his lungs burned, begged for air. Face twisted in a silent scream, distorted by the water. Still his convulsions quickened, body now aware it sat on the brink of death, but unable to change anything about it.

Fire snapped, wind hissed. Teeth clenched and brow frowning, Rokas shushed them. Earth crunched, insistent, warning. Feet slapped the dirt ground, the smell of scorched clothes and hair approached. Rokas looked over his right shoulder, saw nothing. Pain flashed above his left hip then as something slick pierced skin and flesh.

His focus shattered, the water bubble rained down and splashed formless on the ground. Daggett spat out liquid and gasped, drawing in deep lungfuls in between coughs. Rokas glanced to his left, attention now on the scorpion whose stinger still sat embedded in his flesh.

“Abysmal timing as always, Milaq the Shanker!” he growled through clenched teeth. He wrapped one hand around his wrist as Milaq tried to pull his knife out –likely to stab a second time.

“Perfectly on time, “ the Shanker hissed back, “Daggett's mine!” He stopped pulling and pushed his blade deeper again, then twisted, causing Rokas to groan and loosen his grip. Milaq quickly jerked his arm and knife free, and stepped back. “But first I’ll kill you! Y’didn’t think I’d have let it go, right?”

“I never expect a scorpion to be anything else than a scorpion. To not sting is to go against its nature. The question never was ‘if’, it was ‘when’. I should have guessed it’d be when it’d hurt the most.”

“Know me so well, do you? No matter, it won’t help you now. You’re exhausted an' bleeding, I’m not. You’re done for.” Milaq attacked without hesitation, knife glittering in fire’s blaze. Rokas swiped at him with a large fist, which the smaller man easily ducked underneath. Like a viper’s bite, Milaq’s knife pierced the flesh of Rokas’s thigh –the wound was shallow, but the pain was not. He threw a haymaker in retaliation, but it went wide too as Milaq took a quick step backward. His footwork resembled a dancer’s steps.

Like the Shanker said, exhaustion had soaked into Rokas’s bones. It went beyond the simple tiring of body and muscles. Even beyond his energy escaping through the hole Milaq had made in his side. This was the toll of asking many things of the elements in quick succession. Things they’d agreed to do without needing to be convinced, but a price had to be paid nonetheless.

Milaq darted back in, dodging the sloppy, uncontrolled swings with which Rokas tried to keep him at bay. Once again the blade flashed, carved a bloody line into Rokas’s torso. Avoided another punch, created another wound. Stabbing the leg again, closer to the hip this time. Pain shot up through the limb, almost made the giant buckle. He remained upright, albeit barely, but it gave Milaq the opportunity to slash yet again, then dance away.

Rokas’s breath quickly turned to ragged gasps as the battle continued, dragged out by the Shanker. None of the wounds he inflicted were fatal, or all that threatening. Every cut shallow, every stab aimed to debilitate, not kill. They hurt like hell though, and their number just kept increasing. Milaq added more wherever he could. Slipping through Rokas’s near strengthless hooks and swipes. Slicing through soil and skin, and retreating with a grin. He was playing around, toying with him. Relishing every moment. Waiting to see just how long it would take for Rokas to be worn down. Eroded like sandstone rocks in never-ending winds.

He didn’t have to wait overly long.

With a grunt and a wince, Rokas fell on his knees. Brace with his arms, placing a hand on the dirt to preserve balance and stop himself from falling on his face. Milaq’s grin widened, he switched his knife from one hand to the other and back, and his whole body tensed. Poised for just a moment, a spring compressed as far as it would go. Then his hind foot dug in the dirt, one big stride, different from all the others. Its feel was different. The intent behind it wasn’t the same. Milaq’s eyes glittered. His knife shot forward like lightning—

Milaq stumbled. The dirt underneath his feet no longer offering any purchase. His boots sank into it instead, scooping it up and spraying it in a high arc. Robbed his charge of the driving force behind it. The knife didn’t reach.

Rokas clamped a hand around Milaq’s wrist, tight as a vice, and twisted the blade aside. Yanked him closer, chest to chest. He wrapped his free arm around Milaq, embraced the smaller man in much the same way a bear did, crushing him with all the force he could muster. Pinning his arms, making sure he couldn’t escape. Milaq writhed and pushed, legs kicking the ground. Rokas didn’t fight to remain upright, didn’t bother to fight gravity too. He made it his ally instead, simply falling forwards, on top of Milaq.

Trusting his huge weight to keep the smaller man down, Rokas released his hold slowly and carefully, pushing himself halfway upright. Brought a hand to Milaq’s throat. The Shanker bit him, teeth sinking deep enough to draw blood. Expression vicious as he chomped down as hard as he could, not letting go. Rokas smashed Milaq’s nose into his skull with his other hand, then wrapped both around his throat.

He squeezed.

Harder and harder. Knuckles white, tendons taut, forearms burning. Teeth bared in a snarl.

Until Milaq’s struggling stopped. Until his head grew red, then purple. Until the light in his eyes faded to nothingness, staring wide but unseeing. Until no breaths came anymore. And a good while after still, just to be sure.

Until many footsteps and rattling metal rushed towards him. Still a ways off, but close. Too close. It was too soon, Rokas should have more time. Maybe some of the thugs he’d let leave had called—no, the timing didn’t match. They’d need longer to respond. A nearby patrol perhaps? But this was Gaenell’s turf; he paid good money to for them to stay away.

Rokas rose, languid and groaning, but unable to make haste. Stumbling like a puppet without strings. Mind going white for a moment, then flooding with dark rage. That Immortals damned cockroach! Daggett was gone. Crawled away into a nearby alley during Rokas’s scuffle with Milaq? Curse that scorpion!

He took a step towards the nearest alley, dragging marks in the dirt leading that way. Daggett couldn’t have gotten far. Rokas could chase him down.

“By the authority of the High Marshall, stop right there!”

Behind him a full patrol of Blackguard stared him down, weapons ready. They all assumed combat stances, and were slowly encircling him, cutting off his path into the alleyway. Too many of them to fight by himself, especially in his current state. Earth, wind and fire growled threats, but their voices were distant. They couldn’t aid him either.

A woman bearing the insignia of an officer gestured to the other Blackguard, then addressed Rokas directly. “You are under arrest. Do not resist.”

Rokas’s eyes flicked to the alleyway, where Daggett had to be staggering away one limping step at a time. A little further with every passing moment. He could not fight all these Blackjacks, but he could perhaps break through.

He charged.

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Re: Defenestration


A tailor shop burned.

Men and women in blackguard armor drew deep breaths, strapped their weapons back to their waists. A giant covered head to toe in dirt lied defeated at their feet. Unmoving except for the slight rise and fall of his chest. One of the women –the decorations on her armor denoting her to be an officer of low rank—took position near his head, heavy cudgel in hand, and gestured to one of her comrades. They prodded the giant in the side with their boot, gingerly at first, a soft tap with the tip. Then they stomped hard, causing a groan, but the giant did not stir.

The officer signaled to couple other subordinates, but didn’t lower her cudgel. Four people approached the fallen giant, two carried rattling shackles of thick iron. Working in pairs, one duo went for the feet, the other for the hands. Grabbing limbs by the wrist and ankle to force them in position, then clasp a manacle around it, locking it tight. Only then did the officer lower her weapon and step away.

Her subordinates heaved at the giant man, grunting with effort to pull him somewhat upright between two of them. Not only was he heavy as a boulder, his oversized body was equally unwieldy to balance, and unconscious he didn’t quite cooperate. Still, they managed, grappling him underneath the armpits. Two more people stuck close to help out when needed. Another gathered up the corpse of the smaller man the giant had been strangling.

The officer ordered them to go ahead. The others yet had a job ahead of them. She assigned each a section around the blazing shop, and sent them rushing through its streets and alleys, rapping on doors and booting people out of their beds. Soon enough people in nightwear trickled into the streets, wide awake despite the late hour. She organized them into bucket lines to keep the fire under control until specialized personnel arrived. It took but a few minutes before her instructions were no longer necessary, newly arriving Etzori citizens following the established lines to join where they were needed.

It left her free to do her own section of the perimeter around the fire.

She ducked into an alleyway, passing door after door without knocking or calling out. Not yet. Deeper and deeper in until she found a pair of figures lurking in the shadows. Their features were similar, though not identical. Brothers for sure. She knew them to be twins.

“Good work back there,” the tallest said.

“Lord Barash appreciates your service,” said the second, producing a pouch that clinked, “and your discretion.”

She snatched it out of his hand, opened it and gave it a quick rummage. The full sum was there, as agreed.

“Of course.” She smiled without her eyes, slipped the pouch in a pocket. “Silence is golden, after all.”

The tallest inclined his head. “Very true. Now, if you’d excuse us. We wouldn’t want to keep you. From the looks of it, this’ll be a busy night.”

The two of them melted back into the darkness, leaving the officer by herself. She sighed, and started banging on the nearest door.
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