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Paradigm: Oil and Water
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Omega Vision
Face Flowed Into Her Eyes

Gender: Male
Location: Miami Metropolitan Area

Paradigm: Oil and Water

Chapter I

There’s nothing more frightening than a man who enjoys his job. That goes double when the man in question is also a torture master. Uzay was his name, or so he said. He was short even by Adrakan standards; standing straight he was hardly level with my shoulder. He had small leering eyes, crenellated yellow teeth, and greasy short black hair. He wore clothes of fine silk made dirty and musty by too many days and nights spent in the sweat tinged dungeon beneath the palace of the Bey of Bruçlik. Like I said, he enjoyed his job.

“You have an impressive constitution, I must say,” Uzay said as he brandished a clean sewing needle, waving it in front of my face so that I knew exactly what it was.

I wanted to snarl at him, wanted to spit in his face, but I knew as bad as things were now someone like Uzay could always make them much, much worse.

So I just bared my teeth and ground them, attempting to pass it off as a smile. “I thank you kindly,” I answered in Galaronian, “You have an impressive command of the Galaronian language, I must say.” I tried to mimic his unctuous tone.

I was mostly naked, my skin covered in lesions and scrapes from various tiny but painful instruments. My arms and legs were shackled at the wrists to the arms of the seat and at the ankles to the floor by leather straps and iron chains while a snug barbed collar bit into the flesh of my neck. The collar was connected to a chain affixed to the wall; it kept me from turning my head more than a few inches in any direction.

My feet were on coals just hot enough to inflict a steady and modest agony to my sensitive soles. My face, never really all that glamorous a countenance, was bloodied and bruised by blows from fists wrapped in copper wire. Believe it or not, I’d experienced worse. So had Chylla, but only because she and I experienced practically everything together.
Uzay cracked a smile and nodded enthusiastically. “Yes yes. My father was a diplomat and a merchant, I lived for many years in your land,” his tone almost turned wistful, “The city’s name was Yardale.”

“Big city,” I said, trying to keep my tone flat and push away the pain. Talking to a torturer was a trick I’d been taught in the Royal Academy of the King’s Knights. It served a number of purposes, in this case the aim was to stall and distract Uzay. The more time he spent talking, the longer I had to regain my strength and formulate a plan. There was also the hope that if I held out long enough my friends would break into the room in a dramatic fashion and liberate me. But you were never supposed to count on that.

At this point I think it’s proper to introduce myself, for those of you who don’t know me. My name is Royjat Guryev. I’m a fairly normal person: average height, average weight, and mostly average looks. Mud colored eyes, plain features, pale skin, crispy brown hair, a scraggly beard, and a vigorous but unglamorous body. Oh, and lest I forget, there’s a faerie whose soul is connected to mine. Her name is Chylla.

At the moment that Uzay was torturing me she was still hidden from view, sealed inside a leather traveling bag piled up on a table with all my other belongings, including my sword. It was just a yard or two away so I didn’t feel any significant discomfort, but if Uzay decided at any point to pick up the bag and throw it across the room the increased distance could’ve potentially killed me.

The proper name for what Chylla and I shared was a soul-link. It was forged from the passions of a mutually accidental encounter (don’t strain yourself trying to figure the logistics of it) and was very much a double edged sword. On one hand I drew from Chylla a number of minor magical talents and increased physical prowess, which included pain tolerance. On the other hand neither of us could stray more than a few yards from one another without feeling deathly sick and we were always aware of the other’s pain, pleasure, and emotional state.

In this case poor Chylla felt Uzay’s torture just the same as if he was torturing her himself. If I listened closely I could hear muffled, mouselike squeaks coming from Chylla’s bag: whimpers. We’d both been asleep when the bey’s guards caught us: I in bed and Chylla in the bag. Ordinarily Chylla wouldn’t have been bound up just because I was shackled, but I suspected that the fact my shackles were iron had some kind of reciprocal effect on the little faerie. Iron wasn’t exactly poison to Chylla herself, but it was ruinous to her magic.

When Uzay drove the needle under my right index fingernail all the way to the bone I clacked my teeth together and bit down on my bottom lip to stifle a scream. Chylla wasn’t so disciplined, the noise she made caused one of the big guards standing at the doorway to jerk his head around, looking for a mouse I supposed.

“So how’d you like Yardale?” I asked from behind a clenched jaw, my fingers now making impressions in the wooden chair arm.

Uzay’s eyes lit up. “I loved it. Beautiful summers and springs, friendly townsfolk, and many libertine girls,” he paused and stroked his stubbly chin thoughtfully, “Have you been there?”

“’Fraid not,” I answered, “Been to Port Pontiff though, that’s not far.”

“Tell me, Royjat, do the people of the quays still sing the song ‘Brother Paisley’?” He flashed those gapped yellow teeth again. I could hardly believe it, that a bawdy tavern song sung by southern port sailors would have ever come up in conversation in the Kingdom of Adraka, much less in a dungeon. Small world, isn’t it?

I snorted, the sound as amused as it was pained then broke into song, my voice a low, morose tenor, injecting a bit of a crass southern inflection to match the song.

“Brother Paisley, wild and crazy, he really makes those wenches red.
Brother Paisley, always says-he: drink and drink ‘til yer dead.”
At the next bar Uzay joined in, his singing voice like rusted hinges. We sang the first two verses of the tasteless ditty before sharing a laugh; mine with much less humor than his.

“Charming, very charming,” Uzay declared, clapping his hands together. The two guards, neither of which spoke any Galaronian exchanged confused looks. Chylla’s confusion pulsed through me just as my pain, irritation, and undue bemusement at the situation flooded into her.

“Haven’t heard it in five years,” I said with a chuckle.

His eyes suddenly turned sober as he stared right at me. “If I might be candid, Royjat?”

“Roy,” I suggested. Only family and strangers called me Royjat. Well, family, strangers, and a certain godlike wizard, but that’s neither here nor there.

“Well, Roy, the truth is I don’t think you’re guilty at all,” he admitted with a slight frown.

My expression mirrored his. “What do you mean?”

“The accusation is that you seduced and deflowered the bey’s daughter,” Uzay explained.

“Yeah?” I arched a brow.

“Well to be perfectly honest, you are not her type,” he leaned in close, close enough that I might have been able to bite his nose off if I was quick enough, “Between the two of us, she is not the most chaste of Wahamalik’s fold,” he spoke the name of the Khar’dan deity with a kind of vulgar utility that I didn’t think possible from even the most profane of Adrakans. Uzay was as godless as they came, “I’ve heard many rumors about the qualities of her real partners, not the ‘seducers’ the bey rounds up,” he snickered, “You are not her type.”

In spite of everything, I managed to be offended. “What do you mean by that? What’s wrong with me?”

Masculine pride is a stupid, stupid thing.

“The thing between your legs,” he chuckled, then leaned even closer, pressing his mouth to my ear conspiratorially, “She’s interested in mares, not stallions.”

Well, that was interesting to know. “So…you know I’m innocent,” I spoke slowly, my tone graven, “But you’re torturing me to death anyway…because the bey’s daughter has a secret that her father doesn’t want getting out. Is that all correct?”

“Quite so. Nasty business, isn’t it?” He sounded pretty damn cheerful about it.


__________________

“Where the longleaf pines are whispering
to him who loved them so.
Where the faint murmurs now dwindling
echo o’er tide and shore."

-A Grave Epitaph in Santa Rosa County, Florida; I wish I could remember the man's name.

Old Post Aug 27th, 2011 12:41 AM
Omega Vision is currently offline Click here to Send Omega Vision a Private Message Find more posts by Omega Vision Edit/Delete Message Reply w/Quote Quick Quote
Omega Vision
Face Flowed Into Her Eyes

Gender: Male
Location: Miami Metropolitan Area

I nodded once, my expression barren. It was only partly an act at this point. “May I request something?”

“Ordinarily I’d deny any last requests,” Uzay explained with a friendly, crooked grin, “But you’ve been pleasant conversation. So I’ll hear you out.”

I repressed the urge to smirk. “I’d like a final swig of brandy, I’m parched,” I suspected that Uzay wasn’t much for the Adrakan prohibition of liquor, wine, and ale. I also suspected that as a man who’d lived on the southern coast of the Kingdom of Paradigm he’d sampled quite a few fine liquors and brews. Only foreigners could buy, sell, produce, and consume hard drink in the Kingdom of Adraka, and even then it was seen by the local populace as something akin to barely legal depravity.

His eyes widened and his mouth opened just a bit. His features straightened as he forced his excitement down. He turned to the guards and gave some order in the Adrakan tongue, no doubt some pretext to get them to leave. The big men traded looks and shrugged before stepping out, leaving me alone with Uzay.

Perfect.

The torture master stepped back and regarded me with the steady, greedy gaze of a hungry fox. “You have…brandy?”

I nodded, holding back the smirk was now more taxing than blocking out the pain. “The little leather pouch. There’s a flask.”

Uzay’s excitement stiffened and his eyes narrowed. “The guards would have searched it and disposed of it.”

“Trust me, they missed it. I know, I watched them go through my things,” I said with a small smile. Chylla had many talents, some of which I could barely understand. One of them was the power of subtle misdirection. By expending just a little of her power she could cause a person to overlook something. In this case she’d managed to cause the guards to forget to search her bag.

He paused, his features pensive. “Is this some trick?” he asked. I managed to not gulp, and faced him with the steady gaze of a champion swindler.

“Do I look like a person who could trick anyone?” I asked, completely in earnest. For all his deviousness and skill with language, Uzay didn’t strike me as particularly bright or disciplined. The mere idea that there might actually be brandy in my pouch did away with any craft and judgment the man possessed.

He chuckled to himself, shaking his head at me before he sauntered over to the table where Chylla lay. I could feel Chylla’s fear, anger, and anticipation more acutely now that the pain was beginning to subside. She’d heard every word of the conversation and knew damn well what I was planning. Restrained in her bag she might have been, but she wasn’t helpless, Uzay proved that. Uzay drew the bag open expecting to find a precious flask of rare liquor. Maybe he would have shared some with me; maybe he’d have drunk it all just to spite me. It’s a moot point, instead of brandy he found himself face to face with a creature straight from a child’s bedtime yarn.

A small violet sun exploded from the pouch and engulfed the small dungeon.

Chapter II



The hot coals, broken iron chain links, small blood spatters, and wood splinters littered the floor of the small dank room. One of the hefty guards groaned while the other just twitched. They’d burst in just in time to see me shattering the chains and straps that bound me to the chair. Aided by my faerie strength and the burning anger that Uzay’s torture had kindled I’d made short work of them without even taking up my sword.

Chylla emerged from the bag the very second the fight ended, fluttering like an oversized insect around the room before alighting on my shoulder. When she landed and her skin touched mine, the wounds on that shoulder closed up rapidly, the pain faded, replaced by happy warmth.

She smirked. “Thy craft in the art of battle is hardly inadequate now,” she said, evidently not feeling in good enough a mood to lend me actual praise.

Classic Chylla.

Chylla was exactly what I always imagined as a child when I heard the word ‘faerie’: a humanoid figure about seven inches high, inhumanly beautiful with marble white skin, a mass of luxuriant scarlet curls for hair, delicate facial features, a lithe build, emerald eyes, and four silvery insect wings protruding naturally from her smooth back.
I snorted as I stepped into my trousers.

Getting them on was difficult given that the shackles that had bound my ankles were still on me, but as a knight I’d been drilled to get dressed and armored in the worst of conditions as fast as possible. With a thick collar on my neck, cumbersome shackles affixed to my ankles and wrists, and with most of my flesh tender from Uzay’s treatment I still managed to get fully dressed in the time it would take most men to tie a bootlace.

Before coming to Khar’dan I wore heavy clothes to conceal a coat of mail. It didn’t take two days under the merciless desert sun to force me to reevaluate my wardrobe. My outfit consisted of light tan robes over a padded leather vest over a white cotton shirt, a pair of simple brown linen trousers, black leather riding boots, a fine leather belt and scabbard stolen from a man named ‘L.T.’, and last but not least a pair of rather comfortable black leather gloves created by a demon prince.
Who says demons never did anything good for anyone?

“What now?” Chylla asked after I was dressed, surveying the room with quiet unease.

I looked to Uzay’s limp form and scowled as I saw him twitch. Uzay was coming to; the initial mind-crippling effect of Chylla’s light now wearing off. I took my sword from the table, squeezing the familiar grip and feeling whole once more. A knight, even a deserter knight, is never really complete without a sword in his hand. I used to own a beautiful knight’s blade: silvered steel with a gold and leather, gem studded hilt. The blade in my hand now looked like three feet of rusty scrap iron clumsily hammered into a T shape, but for its humble appearance it was strong and sharp enough.

Besides, it was a gift.

Uzay let out a weak groan and peeled his face away from the dirty floor where a small puddle of spittle had formed. I considered taking my blade and loping his head off right then and there. A voice somewhere from the dark corner of my mind whispered a protest.

No. Too good for him. Too quick.

I sheathed my sword.

Righteous fury burned through my veins and my limbs surged with ungainly strength only a man pushed too far can summon. I jammed the toe of my right boot in Uzay’s ribcage and to my satisfaction felt the bone shatter and heard a pop, soon followed by a high, cracking screech as Uzay was violently shaken from his stupor. I saw his lips move as if to form words: maybe a plea, maybe a curse.

It didn’t matter; I didn’t want to hear anything out of him. So the next place I kicked was his throat. I’ve been struck in the throat before: after the testicles and the nose it’s just about the most vulnerable, sensitive area on a man’s body. Uzay’s whole body lurched and tumbled from the force of the kick but all that came from his mouth was a dry, pained croak. I didn’t stop there. I kept kicking him, stomping him, light blows by my standards really, but given Uzay’s small size and build and my strength they were all devastating.

After about a dozen kicks I bent over and hauled the shuddering mass that had formerly been Uzay the torture master by his throat, hefting him with one hand as if he were made of wicker and feathers. There was a tinny sound in my ear: something indistinct, something pleading. Uzay, I was sure, though his lips weren’t moving.

“Shut up Uzay,” I snarled, the sound somehow distant. Things started to fall out of focus as a profound haze crept over my senses, and all I was aware of was the exhilarating, intoxicating power I felt and the pure joy that came from seeing Uzay’s face turn to purple and scarlet mush from my blows. I don’t know how many times I hit him, I don’t know if I even tried to keep count. I just know that it all stopped with one shrill protest.

‘ROY! STOP!’ It was a mental cry, a message sent through the soul-link directly to my mind, bypassing my ears and all other barriers.

Chylla.

Chylla was begging me to stop. I suddenly realized what the tinny noise in my ear was. It was Chylla, frantically pleading that I stay my hand. Her emotions suddenly hit me like a wave, washing over me and drenching me in her fear, shame, and revulsion.

“What?!” I heard myself yelling, my voice tinged with an ugly malignance I wasn’t at all used to hearing. I glared at Chylla, she shuddered.

“Please, I beg thee, no more,” she said, reaching out and touching my cheek with a tiny warm hand, “I do not wish to feel such things any longer,” she sounded like she was on the verge of tears. Abruptly, my anger faded. The heat in veins subsided and in its wake I was left cold, clammy, and weak.

I’d never felt such hatred before, I’d never wanted so badly to make another living thing feel pain, I’d never wanted to see a man broken as ardently as I had Uzay just a moment ago. Uzay was quite miraculously still breathing, but only barely. He couldn’t have had less than a dozen shattered bones, and his face was practically concave at this point. I let him drop from my grasp and he hit the floor like a sack of grain. My knees felt weak, my stomach was turning over on itself, and hands were shaking uncontrollably.

“I…I…,” I trailed off, unsure of what to say; “…I don’t know what happened. I’ve never felt like that before.”

Chylla was silent, she stared at Uzay and then at me, biting her lip and shuddering.

“I’m sorry,” I said softly, as much to myself as to Chylla.


__________________

“Where the longleaf pines are whispering
to him who loved them so.
Where the faint murmurs now dwindling
echo o’er tide and shore."

-A Grave Epitaph in Santa Rosa County, Florida; I wish I could remember the man's name.

Old Post Aug 27th, 2011 12:45 AM
Omega Vision is currently offline Click here to Send Omega Vision a Private Message Find more posts by Omega Vision Edit/Delete Message Reply w/Quote Quick Quote
Omega Vision
Face Flowed Into Her Eyes

Gender: Male
Location: Miami Metropolitan Area

There was a short period of painful, nauseating silence as we stared at one another. Neither I nor Chylla were the nicest, most forgiving, most gentle people you could meet, not by half. Chylla in particular had a mean streak, a certain scorn for most mortals that led to a less than appreciative view of their worth. She didn’t seem to consider theft a crime if she could profit by it. She’d seen me kill men without batting an eye: she’d helped me kill men.

But this was different. Those were all in the heat of battle against armed foes who posed a direct and real threat. Uzay was a craven, crooked son of a *****, but he’d been as helpless as a child once I’d broken free. I’d brutalized a helpless man and enjoyed it. For just a moment, I’d been just like Uzay.

The silence broke when one of the floored guards stirred to consciousness. He blinked his bruised eyes and rolled on the floor sluggishly as if weighed down by his heavy mail, the spectacle in some ways reminding me of an upside down turtle trying to rock itself upright. Out of the shame, revulsion, and exhaustion that thought managed to coax a weak chuckle out of me. Somehow that gave me strength, returned some warmth to my limbs.

Warmth and strength.

I charged at the guard, a full sprint.

And passed him by. I wasn’t in the mood for fighting anymore.

I left through the dungeon door and I ran until my lungs burned and my legs ached from weariness. I stopped to pant for just a second while Chylla crawled back into her safe little pouch to recuperate. Then I started running again. I moved through empty, dark corridors that became progressively cleaner the further away I got from the dungeon. I dashed up spiral stairs, hearing distant music from flutes, stringed, instruments, and drums.

Eventually I reached the ground floor of the palace proper and the décor suddenly transformed from somber bare stone to white plaster walls richly decorated by paintings, tapestries, opulent Duhran rugs, and trophies of all varieties and lit by oil lamps. I stopped in front of one of the trophies: a small ivory hunting horn with a gem-studded golden mouth piece mounted on the wall on a hardwood display tablet.

Chylla squeaked from inside of her bag. “Wherefore hath thou stopped?”

“The bey owes me something,” I said tersely as I removed the little decorative horn from its plaque and stuffing it into one of the voluminous pockets in my robes. There were always plenty of less than upright folk willing to fence small treasures like the horn. The ivory alone would be worth a few coins, but with the mouthpiece and the gems it would fetch me enough to buy a month’s worth of dining at the local inn. Not that I intended to stay for that long in Bruçlik now that I was considered a criminal and infidel. Same story everywhere I’d been since deserting.

Chylla seemed to sense my train of thought. “Thinkst thou we shall always be brigands in the law’s eye?”

There was a snarl from the far end of the hall. “Orada dur!” I wheeled around to see a trio of armed palace guards rushing toward me with swords drawn and regarding me with severe expressions that made me think they’d just been having a lemon eating completion. I considered fleeing, but a pair of guards appeared from the opposite end, swords also drawn, faces snarling and spitting words in their bizarre tongue, words I could only assume from context were insults or challenges to my mother’s fidelity.

“I am not a whatever you just called me!” I growled, drawing my own blade from its scabbard with a grating rasp. The first guard to come into range swung his blade—kilij was the proper name for it I believe—at my neck in a wide, overhand arc, aiming to hew my head from its shoulders. My response was sluggish by my standards, but more than fast enough to parry the slash. The man snarled as I shoved my blade forward with strength no man my size had a right to, pushing the guard back and throwing him off balance.

The next guard came from behind, in what he likely believed was my blind spot. But his heavy boots and the hard marble floor betrayed his approach, and I batted aside his stroke almost dismissively, aiming a counter slash at his chest that severed polished rings and nicked the flesh beneath them. It didn’t take me long to realize that these men had never seen real combat against a trained and experienced armed foe.

“Don’t worry, I’m sure there will be plenty of legless children to fight tomorrow,” I said behind a fierce grin as the third man to approach lost his sword and the hand holding it to my humble blade. As averse as I was to fighting when it could be avoided, there was always something intoxicating about a good scrap. The sickly feeling from earlier in the dungeon was now merely a shadow hovering in the corner of my mind, a slight chilliness in my toes.

I felt Chylla’s excitement rise as some of my battle lust bled into her. She’d never admit it, but she liked a good fight too, so long as she was on the winning end. The man with the severed hand shrieked and fell on his side, cursing and rolling as he struggled in vain to stop the bleeding with his pink cloak. As he tumbled about one of his compatriots tripped over him and landed on his face with a crunch as something small but vital broke. Maybe his nose, maybe a finger.
The bey definitely needed better help.

Poor fighters they might have been, the guards did outnumber me, and once they had all closed the gap things became much more difficult. Kiliji flashed through the air in dazzling arcs, gleaming in the lamp light as the four remaining guards hacked at me in hopes of overwhelming my defenses by brute force and numbers. The hallway became a confusing blur of motion and sound as I twirled about and met their blades, relying now more on sound than on sight to anticipate and track their strokes and thrusts.

They were novices and didn’t know that there was more to swordplay than waving your weapon about. I educated one of them in one of the finer points of combat by blocking a clumsy slash and then exploiting an opening in his defenses with a hard kick to his stomach that sent him crashing into the wall. At the same time one of the guards to my rear brought his blade down with a scream, tearing through my robes and cutting through the leather padding below to the soft flesh of my shoulder.

Pain lanced through me as my shoulder suddenly turned unbearably hot, the fresh wound stinging mercilessly. He’d missed the artery, but not by much. From inside the pouch Chylla let out a muffled groan. I pivoted, attacking the offending guard with an unsophisticated but devastatingly powerful slash. He moved his kilij to intercept but it didn’t matter. There was a shower of sparks and the guard let out a surprised yelp when his sword shattered into three pieces as if it had been brittle clay rather than steel.

Recovering quickly from the shock the guard dropped his now useless weapon and with a maddened scream lowered his head, pointing the tip of his spiked helmet at me before he lurched forward, no doubt intending to gore me on the vicious point.

Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either.

I sidestepped, simultaneously parrying an ungainly strike from the first guard and watched the other guard rush through the now empty air and slam right into the wall, burying his helmet spike into the plaster wall. The impact evidently knocked him unconscious, for he now slumped forward with his face pressed to the wall, held up by the helmet’s strap. After that the remaining guards stopped pressing me and skittered away, establishing a kind of loose circle surrounding me, standing just out of sword range.


__________________

“Where the longleaf pines are whispering
to him who loved them so.
Where the faint murmurs now dwindling
echo o’er tide and shore."

-A Grave Epitaph in Santa Rosa County, Florida; I wish I could remember the man's name.

Old Post Aug 27th, 2011 12:46 AM
Omega Vision is currently offline Click here to Send Omega Vision a Private Message Find more posts by Omega Vision Edit/Delete Message Reply w/Quote Quick Quote
Omega Vision
Face Flowed Into Her Eyes

Gender: Male
Location: Miami Metropolitan Area

Though their faces were set in hateful glares there was a kind of fear in their dark eyes, as if I were some kind of dangerous monster or beast. I jerked forward, feigning a lunge and the guard I faced flinched back, his snarl turning to a gasp for just an instant. And just like that, I realized the battle had been won.

These men were terrified of me, they realized that they were outmatched in almost every way, ill equipped to fight someone of my skills and physical prowess. They were fighting out of self-defense now.
Keeping my sword close at hand and facing the guards with a stern, steady glare, I spoke to them in a commanding tone, using one of the few Adrakan words I’d picked up. “Defol!”

The word was useful for getting rid of the grubby little urchins who’d solicit charity from passing outlanders, it essentially just meant ‘shove off’. The guards understood immediately despite my poor pronunciation and cautiously they peeled away, regrouping and then shuffling back with their swords pointed at me until they reached a safe distance at which point they simply rushed off down the hallway and out of sight as if the devil were on their back. They left their comrades behind to bleed out from their wounds.

I was about to sheathe my sword when a voice spoke, in near-perfect Galaronian. “I fear it is as you say, that these men have only experience fighting the helpless and the weak,” the voice was strong and mellow, touched with an accent foreign to Adraka.

Still possessed by the manic fervor of battle I spun hard and lunged at the new threat, thrusting my longsword at the man’s center of mass. There was a clean blur of motion and the robed figure drew a Khar’dan steel kilij, intercepting my thrust and gently redirecting it so that it stabbed through empty air. With his other hand he drew a beautiful Duhran scimitar from a scabbard on his waist and forced me to step back with a quick, clean slash.

The man didn’t press forward, rather he stepped back, his swords held ready at his sides and his face locked in a stern, level gaze. I got a good look at him as we faced off. The first thing I noticed was that he wasn’t an Adrakan. Adrakans were generally short people with frizzy black hair, skin the color of sand, narrow, beady eyes, and rounded noses. This man’s looks, while still foreign seemed more familiar to me, in the right light he might have even passed for a good old Kovy man.

He was a little taller than me and had about the same build, maybe a tad lighter, with a mane of tousled dark brown hair, lightly tanned skin, and a thick beard connected to a rather impressive set of curled whiskers. His features were strong and noble, particularly his straight, angular nose and the pair of intelligent brown eyes set under a kneaded brow. He wore robes of red and blue silk with a mantle draped over his shoulders: the hide of an exotic beast with black and white striped fur. Colorful feathers decorated the hem of his mantle, and a well-crafted leather falconer’s glove graced his right hand.

“Please, put your sword away, I do not mean you harm,” the man said calmly.

My response was immediate. “Heard that one before.” I wasn’t the most trusting of men, even when I wasn’t in a hostile place crawling with guards who’d attempt to kill me on sight. I had no reason to trust this man, especially considering how he’d managed to sneak up on me. Any man who could creep up undetected by my keen senses had to be dangerous.

The man sighed and sheathed his blades, a look of disappointment crossing his features. “Those guards will return soon with greater numbers, I doubt even one of your skill can outfight a dozen or more of the bey’s guards in an enclosed space such as this.” I lowered my sword and frowned, the man’s words all sounded reasonable, and him sheathing his swords was certainly a nice gesture. But I was no fool.
I scowled at the man and took a step forward, pointing my sword so that it tickled the man’s throat. He scarcely flinched.

“Give me a name, now.”

The man raised his palms to me in a gesture urging restraint and patience. “Yusuf. Yusuf Khaled Avesta,” he said, pronouncing the name with a kind of relish that suggested it was an important one.

“That’s not an Adrakan name,” I said, still looking at the man with suspicion, my blade held to his throat.

“I see your mind is as quick as your lunge,” the man replied coolly. I wasn’t sure, but I got the impression there was some sarcasm somewhere in there.

“What do you want?” I growled.

“To help you,” he said softly, “And to help myself in the process. I watched your battle with the guards; I never thought I might have the opportunity to recruit a former King’s Knight.”

That remark hit me like a fist. Few people could recognize a King’s Knight simply by observing their technique with a sword. Those that could were generally very dangerous, very clever individuals.

I didn’t let it throw me too much though. “What do you mean, recruit?” I demanded.

“I can explain once we are safe, it is too dangerous to talk here where the guards may find us,” he said, not at all unnerved by the blade to his throat, “Now I’m going to step away and turn my back to you, and you are going to follow me to safety.”

I blinked. He said it like it had already happened, as if I had no choice in the matter. “You make a move and I’ll kill you, understand?” I said, baring my teeth at him.

He was nonplussed. “No you won’t. You may have killed men before, but you are not a murderer. You cannot kill in cold blood.” He said it with unequivocal certitude.

He was right of course, but I couldn’t let him know that. “Bullshit.” I pressed the tip of my sword closer, making a small cut on the skin of his throat.

With another sigh he stepped away and turned his back to me. “Either kill me now or put that rusted relic away and follow me.” He spoke with his back to me, his tone commanding and stern, like a father scolding a child. Part of me was enraged by his brazen gesture. But most of me realized he was right, I didn’t have it in me to stab a man in the back like that.

Sometimes I hated having a conscience.

I didn’t say a thing to the man; I just sheathed my blade and glared at his back, crossing my arms and probably looking like an overgrown sullen child.

Though I couldn’t see his face I had the impression that he was grinning. He flicked a hand forward. “Please, follow me.”


__________________

“Where the longleaf pines are whispering
to him who loved them so.
Where the faint murmurs now dwindling
echo o’er tide and shore."

-A Grave Epitaph in Santa Rosa County, Florida; I wish I could remember the man's name.

Old Post Aug 27th, 2011 01:05 AM
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Omega Vision
Face Flowed Into Her Eyes

Gender: Male
Location: Miami Metropolitan Area

Chapter III

Bruçlik was a small city --little more than a town really—on the southwestern coast of Adraka. It was an important trade harbor in the Gulf of Druze home to twelve thousand people, about a quarter of which were foreign born, most of them merchants. Foreigners in Adraka were better treated than those in the neighboring Kharim Sultanate from which me and my friends had recently migrated, but not by much. The Adrakans were loath to learn any foreign tongues, even Kharimar, and unfortunately neither I nor any of my friends spoke Adrakani particularly well.

As a result we tended to stick to the areas that most non-Adrakans frequented: the docks, the inns, and the taverns.
I was panting when I dragged my ragged carcass to the heavy and worn blackwood door of the Revontulet. Chylla was in her travel bag, catching some light rest.

Lucky little faerie. My legs were like rubber, my lungs were on fire, and my heart was pounding so violently that I feared it might actually burst out of my chest. In one hand I held the hilt of my sword, my knuckles white. In my other hand was a round gray stone the size of a chicken’s egg made from some chalky material with a luminescent blue sigil inscribed on its surface. As Yusuf told me, it was a contact stone, something I could break in the event that I wished to speak with him again. He had done as promised, and I had him to thank for escaping from the bey’s palace without a kilij buried to the hilt in my ass. But before parting he made me an offer, one I considered even as I ran all the way across Bruçlik to the Revontulet.

The Revontulet was a small but cozy inn, one of Bruçlik’s five establishments owned and operated by foreigners. In this case it was a crusty Pohjoin man named Uhro who’d built it, in the fashion of his homeland: bare timber with a timber roof rather than the fine whitewashed wooden walls and crimson clay tiled ceilings that the Adrakans preferred. As a result it stood out starkly amid the native buildings, a bastion of heterodoxy and foreignness.

Tired as I was it was a chore simply to lift my sword and rap the pommel against the heavy door to signal my arrival. There was about twenty seconds of barren silence before I heard something metal click and a lock turning. The door creaked a moment later and a blocky mass of muscle and fiery red hair appeared in the opening. Dub, as everyone called him, was from Álainn, an island south of Adraka and east of Grenbergen.

Dub wasn’t tall or particularly well toned, but he possessed an earthy bigness of frame and a rough mien that made him an effective doorman. Since our first meeting I was convinced that at least one of his parents had been a bear. His features --at least those not hidden by his long shaggy curtains of red hair or the miniature forest he called a beard—were rough, blunt, and ugly as the tip of an oak truncheon. Like all Állines he was of pale complexion, and if he stepped out under the Adrakan sun for more than a few seconds he’d get a nasty burn. I’d never seen him without one. It made him irritable.

He eyed me and then looked to the sword I clutched in my other hand with a kind of languid suspicion. His arms were crossed, and I could see the bulging muscle of his forearms where it mingled with pale fat.

“Goin heavy, aye?” His accent was almost incomprehensible, but at least he spoke Galaronian. I grunted something that didn’t mean anything in any language then sheathed my sword, prompting an approving nod from Dub. He uncrossed his arms then shuffled his great bulk out of the way, opening the door wide enough so that I could clear him and step inside.

“Yer friends are back there,” he said, pointing with a meaty finger to a table in the far corner of the Revontulet with a few familiar faces seated around it. I nodded to him, managing a tired grin and then started to walk, only to be stopped two paces in by Dub’s huge hairy right arm. If I’d been up to it, I could have just pushed past him. Big a man as Dub was he’d be a poor match against my magically fortified strength. But I wasn’t up to it. About the only thing I was up for was collapsing onto a soft pillow, or perhaps a nice pair of breasts. Either way, I felt like collapsing.

“What is it?” I grumbled out, shooting Dub a sour look.

The half-bear cracked a smile. “It’d be a little rude were you not to tell me where you been to get all them scars. You been seeing the local doxies again? I told ya friend, they’re like cats.”

I frowned then grumbled. “Bey’s palace. Tortured. Trumped up charges. Tired. Thirsty. Hungry.”

Dub chuckled, his large stomach jiggling. “A story for later then?”

I gave him a shallow nod then pushed aside his arm and continued into the tavern. The Revontulet consisted of an upstairs with a dozen small bed rooms over a ground floor comprised of one large central room with about a dozen tables and a large counter where a tall, spare straw haired man wearing a blue shirt and brown trousers stood watching every little movement like a hawk, his unblinking eyes an unnaturally pale blue. Uhro was his name, and he was from Pohjoin, a land in far off Hassarnia, to the north of my ancestral homeland: Kova. He hated me, not for anything I’d done, but for what I was.

Forgive me for having been born a Kovy.

Neither of us said a word or made a gesture acknowledging the other. I moved on as quickly as my tired legs could take me to the table where my friends were sitting. Five months prior I might have hesitated to call most of them friends, even the term ‘companion’ might have tickled a wrong nerve or two. Now it was hard to think of them as anything else. Okay, so at times I considered them ‘annoying people who I accidentally became entangled with and am now emotionally invested in’, but for the most part, they were friends.

The first to notice me was Tobias, a tall, thin wizard clad in gray robes with a hat that looked like an upside down fruit bowl made of lacquered wicker. He was silent and composed, and he regarded my injuries and haggard look with quiet concern evident in his canted gray eyes. Tobias Xushang was odd in a lot of ways, yet at the same time he was all too often the most well adjusted among our dysfunctional little band. He gestured with one hand to an empty seat without saying a word, his attention partway directed at the raucous story telling going on just to the side of him.

Blasedir Marrack sat to the right of Tobias. Blasedir was what a knight was supposed to look like: tall, muscular, and handsome enough to impregnate women by smiling in their general direction. He had short golden-blond hair that never seemed to get dirty, bright green eyes always full of cheer, and a broad white smile. Like Dub, Blasedir suffered from constant sunburns since coming to Khar’dan, yet he never seemed to let it wear on him or bog down his spirits.

Blasedir was my oldest and truest friend, and as much as I cared about him I could never claim to be as good or loyal to him as he was to me. If Blasedir got it in his head that he could help me by cutting off one of his hands he’d be asking around for a good cleaver. He wasn’t much for brains, but he had just about everything else in spades. Blasedir was too engorged in his lover’s bawdy story to even notice my arrival, or anything else for that matter. I’d long since learned to stop begrudging him for it; it was hard for any healthy man not to pay attention to Varina.


__________________

“Where the longleaf pines are whispering
to him who loved them so.
Where the faint murmurs now dwindling
echo o’er tide and shore."

-A Grave Epitaph in Santa Rosa County, Florida; I wish I could remember the man's name.

Old Post Aug 28th, 2011 10:35 PM
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Omega Vision
Face Flowed Into Her Eyes

Gender: Male
Location: Miami Metropolitan Area

Varina Sophie Cramoisi was five feet two inches and one hundred fifteen pounds of supple curves, verdant green skin, taut muscle, and ebony curls. The first time I’d laid eyes upon her I’d practically passed out from the sudden loss of blood to my brain. Like all verds she had skin the color of healthy grass and an accent that was at times sultry and at other times grating or downright infuriating. Physically she was everything you could want in a woman, with a face like an angel and a body like a goddess. And she was a princess. A princess who’d abandoned her station, but a princess nonetheless. Her clothes were humble enough: tan robes like mine underneath which she wore nothing more than a black leather bodice and a pair of matching trousers.

When I sat down Varina was busy telling the others about her latest conquest in lurid detail, her gorgeous violet eyes sparkling with frenzy and her rich dark lips grinning between every word. Evidently Varina had just returned from a third encounter with a local girl who favored her own sex. Varina, I’d discovered, was of the opinion that sticking to just one sex was boring, even quaint. It wasn’t something I’d often encountered, or something I’d been brought up to accept, yet at the same time it was pretty low on the list of Varina’s quirks that made me uncomfortable. The act itself mattered less in this case than the person in question.

When Varina let slip that the person in question was the bey’s daughter I just about jumped from my seat, a sudden intense, visceral anger exploding in my breast. I slammed a fist on the table and half expected it to crack. It didn’t, but Varina’s goblet of wine almost fell to its side, saved only by the verd’s quick reflexes.

There was a profound silence as my friends looked to me.

Blasedir, as was his wont, broke the silence. “Roy!” he said, eyes wide with joy, joy that soon turned to perturbation as he noticed my wounds and general shabby appearance, “Roy what happened?”

Varina snorted. “Looks like he visited the local doxies again.”

I flashed my teeth at her, a snarl masquerading as a grin. “Apparently someone did up the bey’s daughter, and when authorities couldn’t identify the culprit they snatched up the first ragged Kovy man they could find.” I said, staring at Varina with a look that wouldn’t have curdled milk so much as set it on fire.

Blasedir gasped. Tobias threw an exhausted glare at Varina.

Varina’s reaction was one of muted amusement that soon shifted to mock alarm. “Oh no…that’s horrible!” she said, putting just enough emotion into it to erect the illusion of concern, “And they beat you for it?”

“Beat me, tortured me, threatened to kill me,” I replied, growling now, “If it hadn’t been for a Duhran fellow who happened to be in the palace I’d still be there now, assuming I’d still be alive at all.”

“Wherefore do thou speak as if thou wert alone in torment?” Chylla chirped from inside of her pouch, miffed by me failing to include her. Pardon me for not wanting to go through life constantly referring to all of my experiences with plural pronouns.

“Oh yeah, she was there too,” I murmured, stealing Varina’s wine goblet and drinking it down. I figured she owed me that much. The wine was weak and just a little sour, but we took what we could get in Adraka. Varina didn’t comment on the theft. She was probably hoping that would be enough to mollify me. She was dead wrong. It might take a decade, but I’d make her pay for that indignity. I hated her; I hated every part of her from the top of her luxuriant ebony tresses to her perfect little green toes and all the luscious firm flesh between. But we were still friends, in the loosest sense of the word.

Tobias cleared his throat. “Varina’s sociopathic tendencies are disturbing as always, but I fear she’ll never change,” he said with a sigh, “And as regrettable as Roy and Chylla’s misfortunes are, I’m afraid we may all soon suffer if we stay here in Bruçlik.”

Blasedir frowned. “Aww…I’ve just started to feel at home here,” he said, sounding like a child who’d just been deprived of a beloved toy.

Varina got up from her seat and plopped down on Blasedir’s lap, wrapping one arm around his beefy torso while her other hand mussed his golden hair.

“Shh…don’t you fret;” she purred, planting a kiss on his cheek that made the sunburnt man turn even redder, “Remember, Blasedir, home is wherever you throw my clothes down.” The big man and his verd love shared a tawdry laugh followed by a long, wet, loud kiss peppered with little growls and smacking sounds. Loath as I was to admit it, Blasedir and Varina did have something special, even if to an outside observer it must have seemed like nothing more than mutual lust and a shared affection for tasteless humor and drink.

“Ugh…” Tobias rubbed the bridge of his nose and shook his head, “Perhaps you could both focus on the matter at hand?”

“That would be the miracle of the century,” I grumbled, rolling my eyes at the obnoxious display of affection.

Varina climbed off Blasedir and skittered back to her seat, half-sneering at Tobias and I. I heard some grunts from inside of the bag and felt Chylla’s irritation as if it were my own. With a sigh I unfastened the drawstrings of the pouch, allowing Chylla to poke the top half of her body through.

She stared daggers at Varina then hmphed, turning her gaze to me. “Wherefore haft thou not slain her?” she asked, the question totally serious.

I’d asked myself the same question many times. Two answers usually came to mind. First it was surprisingly hard to stay mad at the girl, maybe it was her looks or maybe it was the fact that deep down there really was some semblance of a heart in her. Second: I wasn’t entirely sure I could kill her. She wasn’t any kind of swordsman, but she was deucedly strong and swift, a result of her royal blood I supposed.

I’d become quite a bit stronger since our first meeting thanks to my ever-growing fae powers, but Varina still had my number at the end of the day when it came to a straight scrap. The first day we arrived at Bruçlik and came to the Revontulet we were stopped at the door by Dub. Smiling so that everyone could see her pretty white fangs Varina grabbed the big Álline by his throat (which was nearly as thick as the girl’s waist) and without any particular effort at all lifted the man off his feet and chucked him ten yards down the street like a sack of refuse. When he woke up he made the wise choice to never get in Varina’s way as long as he lived.

“I think we both know why,” Varina sneered, flicking out her tongue at me suggestively before resting her pretty head on Blasedir’s big shoulder. I tried to growl at her, but the sound was weak and strained and came out sounding like a groan.


__________________

“Where the longleaf pines are whispering
to him who loved them so.
Where the faint murmurs now dwindling
echo o’er tide and shore."

-A Grave Epitaph in Santa Rosa County, Florida; I wish I could remember the man's name.

Old Post Aug 28th, 2011 10:35 PM
Omega Vision is currently offline Click here to Send Omega Vision a Private Message Find more posts by Omega Vision Edit/Delete Message Reply w/Quote Quick Quote
Omega Vision
Face Flowed Into Her Eyes

Gender: Male
Location: Miami Metropolitan Area

Tobias spoke up, the voice of reason as always. “We should get to the stables and secure the horses,” All eyes turned to him, “The bey will be searching for Roy and anyone associated with him. They’ll also be looking to cut off the means by which he arrived in the city, be it horse or ship.”

I frowned. In all the commotion and with all the pain, anger, and exhaustion I hadn’t thought of that. Enough people had seen us arrive to recognize our mounts, they were rare things: fae steeds with unusual coats. My horse, a mare I named Bob X after those brave mounts who preceded her had a coat like a tiger’s, impossible to forget.

Varina spoke up. “Well what are we waiting for?”

“We still don’t know where to go,” Tobias replied, “The surrounding desert isn’t exactly forgiving to travelers with no direction.”

“Mayhap yon man from the palace knows of a route to safety,” Chylla suggested.

“Who?” Blasedir arched a golden brow.

“Yusuf Khaled Avesta,” I said, pulling the stone out of my pocket and showing it to the others, “He gave me this, said it would be useful for ‘facilitating future exchanges’,” I tried my best to mimic Yusuf’s languorous, slightly nasally Duhran accent.

Tobias’s eyes pulsed with recognition and his lip bent. “Avesta? He told you his name was Avesta?” he put extra emphasis on the name, just the same as Yusuf himself had.

I nodded slowly. “Yup. Is that significant?”

“Maybe, maybe not. I know of one family that goes by that name, the richest and most influential family in the Duhran Empire, after the Royal Family of course,” Tobias explained, rubbing his chin.

Varina’s ears pricked up when she heard ‘richest’. “Ooh, this sounds promising,” she rubbed her hands together and flashed her little white fangs.

Tobias’s gaze settled on the stone with its glowing sigil and his eyes narrowed pensively. “May I see that stone?”

“Zvychay̆no,” I rumbled in Kovic. Every so often I use a word or phrase of my parent’s language, usually when I’m angry, aroused, or as in this case exhausted. Tobias took the stone from my palm and held it up to the light, studying it with the meticulousness and keenness of a gem merchant inspecting a fine diamond. Without looking away from the stone Tobias asked me to describe Yusuf, which I did, giving as many details as my tired mind and weary mouth could muster out regarding the Duhran’s looks, garb, skills, and demeanor.

After I was finished Tobias ‘hmmed’ and set the stone down in front of me. “Well the stone is a rather basic contact token: a one use ritual spell bound into a chalk pebble,” Tobias declared, still staring at the little thing, “The sigil contains the spell, and once broken will release the bound up energies. Said released energies will seek out their source and leave a latent trail between the source and the location where the sigil broke. But I’m just a tad alarmed by the fact you accepted it so readily, Roy.” Tobias made his characteristic ‘oh no, how could you do that?’ consternated face, the one where his features pinched up and his lip stiffened. I knew it well; he made it about once every hour thanks to Blasedir and Varina.

I felt my lip curling into a frown. “What do you mean, is something wrong with it?”

“No. But it isn’t difficult for even a meager magical talent to leave an intentional flaw in the sigil’s integrity, thereby causing a steady minute leak of the sigil’s essence, making for a crude but effective tracking spell. A wizard on my level could do much worse,” he picked up the stone again and shook it in front of my face, “If I had the time and the inclination, I could damn well trap a fiend in this stone and entwine the binding spell with the contact ritual. In that case upon breaking the stone the fiend would be released and invade the nearest available host body. IE: yours.” He spoke edifyingly, and though I knew he was only trying to help me and prevent foolish mistakes it was hard not to feel just a little irritated. We Kovs can’t stand to be talked down to. I mean, we don’t really like being talked to in any fashion as a rule, but talking down is especially frowned upon.

I grumbled. “Forgive me for not taking wizard lessons while I was at the Knight’s Academy,” I said with sarcasm that was clearly lost on Blasedir.

The big country boy’s expression turned desolate. “They…had those? Why did no one tell me?” Varina was fighting back a chuckle as she reassuringly patted Blasedir’s shoulder.

It was then that I felt hot, itchy aggravation emanating from Chylla, frustration that made mine seem tame. “Mayhap we might prattle less about irrelevant minutiae?”

Varina spoke up. “The winged rat is right. The more time we spend here the less we have before the bey finds us.”

I was in agreement with Varina, to my horror. “Yusuf said if I needed a means of escaping the city and if I were looking for employment he could assist me on both accounts. I just had to find someplace quiet and break the stone and wait for him to meet me.”

“And with your luck it will be with about a dozen angry palace guard in his retinue,” Varina said dryly.

I actually managed a wan smile. “I don’t think they’d feel confident taking me with fewer than thirty,” I half-boasted. Arrogance was a sentiment I could manage even at my most exhausted. Humility always took energy, “But I don’t think Yusuf means to betray us to the bey.”

“Indeed. He had many an opportunity in yon palace to do so,” Chylla added.

“But, from your tone I can only assume you still don’t fully trust him or his intentions.”

I scoffed. “I don’t really fully trust anyone,” which was mostly true, even if I said it jokingly, “But I suppose I’ll have to give you lot the benefit of the doubt if I’m to ask for your help,” my lips stretched into a weary grin.

Blasedir clapped a big gloved hand on my shoulder. “Just say what I need to do, Roy.” Blasedir never really hesitated before committing. It was simultaneously one of his most positive and most negative traits.

“I’m all ears,” Tobias said quickly.

“I’ve nothing better to do,” Varina said with a shrug.

“Have I any choice?” Chylla said with a sigh.

“Right then,” I began, standing up and stretching my sore, tired back until I heard a few cracks and pops, “I’ll explain what I have in mind on the way to the stables.”


__________________

“Where the longleaf pines are whispering
to him who loved them so.
Where the faint murmurs now dwindling
echo o’er tide and shore."

-A Grave Epitaph in Santa Rosa County, Florida; I wish I could remember the man's name.

Old Post Aug 30th, 2011 04:52 PM
Omega Vision is currently offline Click here to Send Omega Vision a Private Message Find more posts by Omega Vision Edit/Delete Message Reply w/Quote Quick Quote
Omega Vision
Face Flowed Into Her Eyes

Gender: Male
Location: Miami Metropolitan Area

Chapter IV

The nights in Bruçlik were as cold as the days were hot, cold enough that even wearing an insulated extra robe and with Chylla’s warmth flowing through me I still felt the chill in my bones. The wind picked up, an icy hiss that ruffled the folds of my robes and blew away the chunks of brittle gray chalk that lay at my feet: the remnants of the contact stone. The wind shifted directions and I caught a whiff of the nearby harbor: salt, sweat, fish, and waterlogged timber. The market place, a bustling center of commerce and socialization during the daytime was eerily empty and still at this late hour. It seemed as good a spot as any to speak with Yusuf.

Chylla shivered and the warmth within me seemed to flicker. I could see her sitting atop a lantern mounted on a pole just to my left on the street corner. She looked like a shade of herself, an image with all the colors of the real Chylla but without the substance, without the matter. Her expression was pinched and strained as if keeping up the veil was a considerable chore. This was reinforced by the fact that every few seconds I felt a leaching sensation, some of the warmth draining from my breast and migrating to the faerie. I sensed another power at work, another energy mingling with Chylla’s: a less subtle, less natural force that I knew to be Tobias’s magic. They were working together to veil themselves and the horses.

I heard a horse chuff just a few yards off and noticed that a few puffs of condensation were appearing seemingly from thin air.

I let out a low, hushed grumble. “Tobias, I can still see the horses’ breath,” I murmured. Having the horses close by was less than ideal for this situation, but we couldn’t leave them anywhere else and expect to keep them safe. At least Chylla’s magic was doing a fine job of keeping them calm, docile, and quiet.

There was a little grumble, and an invisible Tobias whispered. “Not my fault. It’s this faerie magic: too unpredictable and quite arbitrary regarding what will and won’t work properly.”

I saw shade Chylla’s eye twitch. “Thou must think not of the horses as objects, rather thou shouldst think of the horses as living things like thineself,” Chylla hissed, “Mine magic is built on perceptions and sentiment, not rules, rituals, and silly incantations. Perceive the horses as mere objects and thou wilt only veil their bodies, see them as the living things that they are and thine veil wilt conceal all.”

I heard Tobias grumbling some more, but after a few seconds it became clear that he’d followed Chylla’s advice, for the horses’ breath disappeared abruptly.

Not a moment too soon.

Yusuf appeared around the corner dressed in the same clothes as he’d worn in the palace. His stride was slow and casual, his posture upright, and his expression muted. There was a soft rustle on a nearby rooftop –Varina adjusting her stance, no doubt—and I felt my whole body tense up from fears that Yusuf would hear it. But the man was far off, and such sounds could easily be played off as a trick of the dark or some small animal rustling about. His stride and expression didn’t change.

It was only when he approached within spitting distance that a small smile grew beneath his whiskers. “Good evening,” he murmured.

I shifted my weight and tried to give off the appearance of casual disinterest. “Ev’nin,” I grunted.

There was a pause and Yusuf’s hawkish eyes roved around the market square, his gaze passing through where Tobias and Blasedir stood with the horses before settling back to me. “So, I take it you wish to hear my offer?”

“No I just felt like saying ‘hello’,” I said with a scoff.

His lip bent at the corners. When he smirked his whiskers smirked as well. “Have you ever worked as a mercenary?” he asked.

I frowned as I considered the question and the definition of ‘mercenary’. “Not exactly. I’ve considered it though. And while I’m not sure it counts, I fought as a foreign conscript in the army of Eisenkron at the Battle of Lucretius. Have you heard of that one?”

Those hawkish brown eyes lit up with the spark of recognition at the mention of the bloody scrap between the white legion of Civa Albus and Grenbergen and its allies. “I think there are children in the Duhran Empire who have heard of that battle. You were really there?” he cocked his head to the side and stroked his beard with his falconer’s glove.

I couldn’t for the life of me resist a smug smirk. I’d survived the battle; I’d earned a little pride. “Yeah. Really nasty row, that one,” I replied smoothly. Nasty didn’t really begin to describe it. Words like ‘brutal’, ‘bloody’, ‘disorienting’, and ‘chaotic’ all fell short where the Battle of Lucretius was concerned. More men were trampled under a monstrous lizard’s feet or set ablaze by magical fire than were killed by arrows at Lucretius. It was that kind of battle.

“I can imagine,” he said smoothly, “If that’s the case then I am even more interested in you, my good man.”

Taken the wrong way, his comment could have been rather brow-raising. But I knew what he meant. “So I take it that you’re in the market for mercenaries?”

He shrugged. “Not exactly.”

“Care to explain?”

“Of course,” he cleared his throat before launching into his explanation, “Six months ago Padishah Wazim, ruler of the Duhran Empire issued a decree that each of the satraps who govern the eleven provinces would be responsible for raising another five thousand soldiers as part of an expansion of the Imperial Army.”

“Ambitious,” I remarked. I’d seen Padishah Wazim once, in a dream. He struck me as a low-key ruler, one who thought before he spoke and who didn’t constantly insist upon his own importance.

“Very ambitious,” Yusuf agreed, frowning slightly, “The problem is that my lord, the Satrap of Hasganak, governs a border province with a population heavy in women, children, slaves, and old men.”
I nodded. “You came up short.”

“Indeed. Short by close to two thousand souls,” his hawkish eyes narrowed, “My lord was quite unwilling to consider arming slaves, so he left it to me to devise a solution. It occurred to me that the Duhran Empire was in possession of a great, untapped resource: outlanders, foreign born Duhrans. These men and women cannot own land or use the courts but at the same time they are immune to taxes and conscription.

“The plan I proposed to the satrap was simple: offer suitable outlander men throughout the empire a chance to become paid soldiers in the Imperial Army for no less than three terms of honorable service, at the end of which they are to be granted full citizen’s rights and parcels of land in the wilds of Hasganak Province. The satrap was at first nervous, but after he presented it to the padishah and received great praise for his ‘brilliant idea’ he was quite eager.”

“I see,” I said softly, “So if it worked why are you here looking to recruit crusty Kovy blokes like yours truly?”

He smiled. “I have men aplenty now, but unfortunately too few of any skill or knowledge. Training the undisciplined mass of outlanders is proving quite a chore to my officers. I came to Adraka in the hopes of tempting some experienced soldiers to defect to the empire, but I have found not a single soldier of worth willing to forsake his post.”

I crossed my arms and snorted at him. “So you want me to train some peasants the finer points of combat?”

“No. I want you to teach them how to be soldiers,” Yusuf corrected.

“What’s in it for me?” I asked bluntly, trying to sound indifferent and avoid revealing that I really didn’t have any appetizing alternative.

Yusuf arched a thick brow and reached into his robe. Instinctively I tensed up and felt my sword arm twitch. From the nearby rooftop the faint sounds of Varina’s breathing –sounds I could hear only thanks to my sharper than natural hearing and the fact I was listening for them—quickened as she too prepared to strike down Yusuf should his intent prove hostile.

Yusuf didn’t draw a dagger. Instead he produced a hefty bag of jiggling coinage which he tossed my way. My hand lashed out like a hungry viper, snatching the sack from the air. I felt its weight and peered inside to confirm that it was in fact filled with authentic gold coins. I counted them one by one while the Duhran cracked a lazy, bemused smile. Yusuf knew the way to a man’s heart.

“That is advanced payment, it is yours to keep whether you agree to my offer or not,” Yusuf explained, “I think you would quite relish such an occupation. As an officer you would be paid double what the raw recruits earn.”

I put the coins back into the purse and drew the strings tight, frowning at Yusuf. “This is more than I ever made as knight.”
I was answered with another lazy grin. “I’m an Avesta. Stab us and we bleed gold.”

Tobias had been dead right about that one. I pictured Varina taking Yusuf literally and testing his claim out. It was almost enough to make much snigger.


__________________

“Where the longleaf pines are whispering
to him who loved them so.
Where the faint murmurs now dwindling
echo o’er tide and shore."

-A Grave Epitaph in Santa Rosa County, Florida; I wish I could remember the man's name.

Last edited by Omega Vision on Sep 1st, 2011 at 06:25 PM

Old Post Sep 1st, 2011 06:21 PM
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Omega Vision
Face Flowed Into Her Eyes

Gender: Male
Location: Miami Metropolitan Area

“You may refuse my offer and I will accept your refusal without offense. But I will also leave Bruçlik without you,” he looked at the space of seemingly empty air that my companions occupied and his eyes narrowed, “And as fast as those horses appear, I would not recommend fleeing into the Khar’dan desert without the proper preparations.”

For the first few seconds I failed to recognize the significance of those words. Then I remembered the horses and the shock and disbelief froze my limbs and chilled my spine. Varina let out a small growl and leapt from her hiding place just behind the chimney of a nearby shop. I saw her as little more than a blur of flesh and clothes, she landed on all fours like a cat and in the space of a heartbeat sprung to her feet and closed on Yusuf. There was a flash of silver from Varina’s robes and in the next instant Varina latched onto Yusuf’s back, her shapely and iron-strong legs wrapped like a vice around Yusuf’s body and arms. The sudden force of Varina’s weight on him staggered the Duhran, but Yusuf righted himself with admirable efficacy and barely even slouched. But he made no sound of protest; he just made an irritated scowl and adjusted to the added burden on his back and shoulders. He didn’t attempt struggling against Varina’s strength, not that it would have mattered if he did. The flash of silver I’d seen was soon revealed as a fearsome twenty inch long hunting dagger with an inscribed silvered steel blade and a fine elk horn handle. Varina held the point to Yusuf’s throat, oddly enough at exactly the same spot where I’d menaced him in the palace.

And just like in the palace Yusuf didn’t even flinch. Clearly the man had sampled his fair share of peril and then some.
Varina seized a large mass of tousled dark hair on Yusuf’s scalp as if threatening to tug on it. I knew Varina well. If she had it in her mind she could have torn the man’s scalp off with his hair with little more than a flick of her wrist.

“Ne Lutte!” the verd hissed, tugging back on Yusuf’s hair just enough to pull his ear close to those luscious dark green lips of hers.

“Je n’aime pas beaucoup pour la violence inutile, Mademoiselle,” Yusuf sighed, speaking in conciliatory sounding Verdish. The words seemed to blunt Varina’s edge just a tad, and she relaxed her grip on the man’s hair, her expression turning a shade uncertain.

But she didn’t let go.


__________________

“Where the longleaf pines are whispering
to him who loved them so.
Where the faint murmurs now dwindling
echo o’er tide and shore."

-A Grave Epitaph in Santa Rosa County, Florida; I wish I could remember the man's name.

Old Post Sep 2nd, 2011 06:21 PM
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