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----- if i fall, if i die ----- (abby & xig)

Xigbar · 29 · 1139

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Offline Xigbar

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Before the sun there were stars, before stars there was dark, and before dark there was magic. With the cycle of the world, magic was always present to create and destroy, veins of power rushing through the corners and cracks of tectonic plates, gushing from the earth's crust like geysers. Without this, nothing would be.

In the beginning, elementals moved and shaped the world; mountains, rivers, forests, oceans, volcanoes, deserts, and with time this land became the home to the colossi. As their name suggests, these were mighty beasts, ruling the mortal plane of this world above all else. Pure magic rippled beneath their flesh and their hunger was insatiable.

Next were the Gods, coming into a world so fresh and wild, and a famished danger that lurked around every corner. The colossi were many at that time, dominating the land; and though Gods were weaker, a meal for monsters, they were far more intelligent. With time the strongest were able to sustain some form of life above the world, living in a plane above the mortal coil. Those not able to ascend, or those choosing not to, were eventually food for the fauna.

Gods came into existence with cunning, with power to manipulate the world around them, and with the ability to create just as the world created them. But unlike the world, their power was not infinite; with creation came a price.

Years of hiding from the colossi that ruled the earth below finally came to an end when Mortals were brought to this world. The Gods were desperate, trying to find a way to live in a world where they too were born, victim to the slaughter. The sacrifice to bring mortals into the world was great and while they still had considerable power, these ethereal beings sacrificed their infinite source of magic in exchange for new life.

Mortals produced, flourished, and consumed the land. Soon, they were also consuming the colossi. Lands that were once soaked in magic soon dried and withered as mortal beings plagued the earth. That is what the Gods had created; a plague unto the world, one that would grow, develop, gorge, destroy. In time, the land was overrun and colossi were pressed into smaller and smaller parts of the world. But it wasn't long before mortals also found them and consumed them as well. Weakened by the lack of magic that once seeped the earth, colossi were eventually wiped away, and a new beast ruled supreme.

The Gods could finally live in harmony in the world they were meant to call home.

The struggle for power is the oldest conflict of existence. A reoccurring conflict that would be reenacted time and time again. Gods against Gods, Mortals against Mortals, and eventually Mortals against Gods.

"Now, this conflict is different, and while these fights are still fresh, the conflict runs deep. God hunters are on the next rung of existence and the power they hold hasn't been seen since colossi ruled the world; these beings, while Mortal, are able to kill Gods - forever."

There was silence around him, eyes focused on the storyteller, hesitant to speak lest they interrupt his story. He took a deep drink, set his mug down, licked his lips.

"These God hunters, I cannot say where they get their power from, but they are strong and the magic they hold is unlike any that has been developed in our time. None are safe from the hunters; no mortal, no God."

Hermit gestured around them, to the dingy tavern, a smile on his face. His voice took an uplifting tone.

"But we needn't worry about that here, I imagine. Being a city of His Holy Grace, this place should be safe from God hunters, otherworldly conflict." He grinned. "But enough of that, let me tell you of the other beings of our world! If you ever get out of this little city and see the world, it's worth it. So worth it. Along with humans, like you all, the Gods created the fae, werebeasts, all numbers of magnificent beings. The world is a colorful collective of curious creatures, just waiting to be discovered..."

With a brief swig from his mug, he quickly dropped it and reached behind him to sling his lute around into his lap. He plucked a few chords.

"In fact, I have a song that might encourage you all to see the world yourselves..."

The people around him crowded closer, young children, teenaged girls, one or two drunks that had simply fallen asleep at the table he was at. Those awake lifted, eyes wide, as he moved into song, voice carrying tales of fantasy and whim.

A few tables away, someone scoffed, glaring at the bard as the music drifted to them.

"Of course we get a song as soon as we're about to go over this," he grunted, unrolling a parchment across the table. Flattened against the wood, held down by three empty mugs, it was completely blank, save two small black dots in adjacent corners of the page. He pulled the wide-brimmed scarf down from around his mouth and chin, enough to show a scarred lip, a bit of stubble on his chin. Resting one hand on the hat on his head, he brought his other hand down to the paper. One finger rested on a black dot.

"I think we've been over it a few too many times already," he muttered, glancing to his companions, "but I want to get this right. There's no room for fuck ups." His voice was stern, jaw clenched. Looking down to the paper, he continued.

"The Veiled Market starts when the sun is at it's highest point in the sky. We'll already be there, waiting. I've seen the caravan go there already three times this week, and today is the big day when the best available are shown to the highest bidders... That's where our friend will be."

As he spoke he dragged his finger along the page, a black line flowing from the dot on the paper and following his pointer, words ebbing out from the ink and settling in locations of the city. The line depicted the Veiled Market half way into the underbelly of the city, the dredges where only the worst of the black market resided. There were contraband magics, heretical paraphernalia, unregulated drugs, and in the Veiled Market were the slave trades.

He wrapped his finger around the words of their target, then moved on.

"Once it's done, we head here," his finger weaved, the edges of alleyways highlighted with his finger print, "and that will be our ticket out. The dinghy will be there waiting."

Glancing up with cool gray eyes, he carefully examined his companions' faces.

"Good? Any last minute thoughts here?"

He certainly hoped not. Only a few hours remained before they needed to be out there and waiting, ready for their good, good 'friend'.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2019, 07:29:15 PM by Xigbar »

Offline yelloskello

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Perhaps an hour and a half before the meeting between the three rogues, before the song, before the story, but within the confines of the tavern, there was a woman. And she was dreaming.

At first, there was nothing. A peaceful darkness, devoid of sense, of time, of anything. Coldness and nondescript color reached her first, so subtle she barely noticed them until they were all around her. Definition came next.

The images were faint. Fading in, out, and in once again. Sounds were weak, wisping through the scenes as they played and replayed in her head. Her other senses were no more than vague notions, or a simple knowledge of how things must have been. Nothing lasted long in this foggy nightmare, but nothing had lasted particularly long in the genuine moment, either.

But the adrenaline, the emotions running at a high she'd seldom experienced... Those were crystal clear.

Dark passageways. Frigid and damp, and growing moreso as she descended, taking narrow paths less traveled. There was light, a shimmering blue, but she could barely make out the source here. Bottles? Vases? Containers of all shapes and sizes, filled to the brim with...

The scene changed again. Figures, no more than silhouettes, entered her field of vision. Her feet stopped faster than the rest of herself, making her wobble as she quickly ducked to hide behind the corner. Her breath was caught in her throat. Electricity ran down her spine, commanding her arms to tuck in and her legs to cease movement. She'd been so noisy. She was sure she was caught. After a moment that lingered too long, she dared to peek out again, and they were gone.

She hesitated, swaying--where did they go?--before forcing herself to move again. She was trembling. The images faded away.

Color returned, faint in the murky darkness at the edges of her vision: a glint of red under cold light. The place she was in now was silent, distant from the manmade passages of shaped stone and old magic. Her shoulders slumped, and she let herself catch her breath. She was safe here--and sure of it, even if she wasn't sure why.

It was a moment before she truly realized what she was looking at, before it sank in that this was not the grandiose altar she had expected--but where she was meant to be, all the same. She hesitated again, this time not out of fear, but confusion. She took a step forward, into the sliver of light that trickled in from the crevice above.

Two trees. Their dark, gnarled branches entangled in one another, forming an arch. She could feel the hair standing on the back of her neck. A leaf, red and gold and one of only a sparse handful remaining, fluttered to the ground to join their rotting kin.

There was a sound—forceful, cracking, but barely echoing in the chamber. An eye opened.

And then she awoke.


Carolyn Bellgood was in a cold sweat when her eyes snapped open, having rendered her thin clothes uncomfortably damp. She didn't move for a long moment, letting herself acclimate to her peaceful surroundings after the vivid, chaotic dream; letting her emotions die down, letting her heart slow. Carefully, she righted herself, barely taking in what made up her surroundings before her gaze settled on the window to the lefthand side. She could hear the noises of daily life just outside, sounds that had been absent when she'd arrived the previous night; she was surprised it hadn't awakened her sooner. She'd always been a light sleeper. Then again, last night had been the first time she'd seen a bed in a week.

A week. It had been a week since she'd scoured the temple and fled with her life. A week too long, as far as she was concerned.

She'd thought of nothing else but how to return to the temple since the moment she'd deemed herself safe from its denizens, but was painfully aware that trying to re-enter the sacred place would be a fruitless effort in her current state. She had to regroup--had to find shelter, get rest, get food, get help. She was useless if she didn't have her strength. Her supplies were already dwindling to nothing, and she couldn't rely on...

Sheer determination had kept her going until she arrived at the city of Langsley--and kept her going still when she was pointed in the direction of Borvaria, the slums on the outskirts, the only place that could accomodate her lackluster funds. The room and her dinner--an exceptionally bland meal--had cost her most of what marks she had remaining, but she hadn't noticed; she was too tired to be anything but thankful that she hadn't been turned away. From there, the time between checking in and passing out was a blur, assumedly with that bland meal somewhere inbetween.

Glancing down at herself now, she noted that she hadn't even bothered to take off her boots. In fact, she was starting to realize several things about herself: how much her body ached. How the elements had done considerable damage to her clothes.

How much she stank.

A shower came first. The water was lukewarm and slowly growing colder, but she didn't much care, concentrating on making sure every inch of her body was thoroughly scrubbed. Face, shoulders, arms, legs, from top to bottom, head to toe--and only stopping when she found something worth her concern. Lifting her right foot had revealed a marking on the sole: a faded thing, resembling a human skull, but with enough distortion to it to suggest it was closer to a birthmark than a tattoo. A birthmark she'd never had before.

Her chest tightened for a moment.

As she finished drying herself and went for the bathroom door, catching her own reflection in the mirror gave Carrie momentary pause. She had no idea how far the denizens of the temple were willing to stray to find her; for all she knew, she could step outside and be struck down. A change in appearance was necessary.

Cutting away the bulk of her blonde hair was a quick and messy job. She barely took a moment to look at her handiwork once she was done. It wasn't pretty, but it would do. She had more concerning matters than looking neatly trimmed.

Clean, dry, and dressed, Carrie's next order of business was to hurry back down to the dining hall of the inn, intent on only remaining long enough to eat breakfast. After ordering herself another bland meal, she set herself down at one of the tables, slung her pack around to dig about inside it, and began to take inventory of the essentials.

A loaf of stale bread and some jerky. A half-filled flask. After ordering that bland meal, three marks. Not exactly ample provisions for a return mission to a temple several days away.

The gentle thud of a bowl of bland being set before her briefly snapped her out of her trance. She looked up to the barmaid and gave her a weak smile, which faded when she saw the look of pity she received in return.

Lookin' worse for wear, Care.

Sighing, she turned her attention back to what was on the table, gently stirring the contents of her bowl with one hand while thumbing at the measly stack of marks with the other.

She needed people. She needed transportation. She needed experts. She needed protection.

More than anything, she needed money.

“Mm. Yeah. I’ve got a question, sir—why's this plan suck so hard?”

Carrie wasn’t sure what had made her tune in to the conversation just two tables away, but she’d caught the question, loud and clear. Without turning her head, her eyes flicked over, taking note of those speaking. The three rogues. A woman on one side—the speaker—with a head of black curls framing the sour look on her face. The collar of her jacket was up – no doubt to obscure her features somewhat. Across from her was a man, his hood momentarily lowered as the three of them parlayed, revealing a brown, well-defined face.

The third figure, with the hat, the scarf… She couldn’t make out so much of them.

“Gods, Moret, why don’t you just yell it?” Lowered Hood hissed. If Carrie hadn’t been paying attention now, she would have missed it. The woman—Moret, evidently—sniffed, glancing at him only briefly before turning her attention back to hat-and-scarf.

“My point still stands.” She’d lowered her voice to more appropriate levels, now. “I still think the tokens are a shite idea, and we should'a come here sooner, scouted the area.”

“It's the most best chance we've got, though. We get our hands on even one of those, and we're in.”

Hardly. Like you said, M—”

Hat-and-scarf was ‘M’, evidently.

“—we got one chance at this. We fuck up at the front gate in front of His Holy Grace and all his scummy pals, we’re never gonna see him again. What if we get caught pickpocketing? What if they, I dunno, use a lick've common sense and actually look at the three of us? We're not exactly Veiled Market Material, here, and i'd be hard-pressed to believe they've never dealt with Problem Folks like ourselves before."

It took an active show of willpower for Carolyn to not turn her head. The Veiled Market, huh? She'd heard of that before--only once or twice, during the drunken ramblings of a thief, but she was familiar with the concept, the place, the business held there... Maybe the bit of information this Moret woman was looking for. This could be the exact kind of opportunity she needed: a good chunk of change in return for some shady business.

Dropping her spoon into her bland meal, she started to put away her meager supplies again—but not too quickly. She didn’t want to let on that she’d overheard.

Moret leaned back, eyeing the two.

"This is too risky, and you both know i'm right.”

Offline yelloskello

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M kept his finger on the parchment, the ink vibrating slowly from his finger like water colors. He finally dragged it back down to the second point on the paper, all ink disappearing, and he removed his touch from the page in order to roll it back up between both hands.

"If you have a better idea here, I'm all damn ears, but so far this is the best we've been able to come up with, Moret." He scoffed. "If you prefer you can go and leave now if you want. I'm sure Lorey and I can pull this off without you."

His fists tightened around the parchment, twisting it far beyond it's capabilities, until it finally ripped in half. He tucked the remnants into the inside of his coat.

"This is risky. Of course it is." M leaned forward gently, casting his gaze down at the table top. "...but what else can we do? I can't sit by like this."

Hesitating, M reached up to his hat, pushing it back slightly to look at his companions. The guilt, the hurt, the sadness, was finally visible on his face.

"...I mean, there... might even be a chance he's still... He could be there. If we just give up on this," M paused briefly as new, full mugs were brought around to their table, tugging his hat back down and giving the waitress a nod of appreciation. He took breath.

"If we give up on this," he continued softly, "we could be giving up on a chance to save him."



Moret, as well as Lorey, had gone silent as the barmaid came their way. All eyes had set on her for one brief but awkward moment, then easily looked back to M as soon as she'd left. Moret leaned in.

"I'm not saying we give up on it," she said, calmly, quietly, "i'm saying there are better ways to go about it. We don't have to put ourselves at so much risk here. We don't have to put him at risk."

"Well. Like he said," Lorey responded, shifting slightly in his seat, resting his elbows on the table and his hands just in front of his mouth. "What do you suggest we do? We don't have time to scout--not if there doesn't end up being some back route, we'd just be screwing ourselves."

"Could find someone who knows the area. Someone we could pay off," Moret responded, brow furrowing as she brainstormed. "Someone--someone who's--"

"An expert?"

The light, lilting voice with the deep southwest accent broke the crowd of whispers like a bolt of lightning. Lorey and Moret both jumped in their seats--Lorey pushing himself against M, putting himself between the hidden figure and this stranger, while Moret had gone stiff as a board, frozen where she'd moved to, eyes wide.

A streetrat, was Moret's first thought upon looking at the wide-eyed creature standing at the end of the table. Every inch of the woman suggested as much: the thin figure hidden beneath a few layers of clothes that were, to put it mildly, in a state of disrepair; the odd patchwork bag hanging from one shoulder that had clearly been forged from the remains of lesser bags; the makeshift "haircut" that may have been done blind...

...And the look in her eyes. Pure desperation. She was trying to hide it, and not doing such a great job. A drug addict, maybe. Borvarian, most likely.

The moment of silence made the newcomer shift uneasily after a moment. She cleared her throat.

"Um," she said, forcing a small, weak smile. "Sorry. Didn't mean to, to startle. ...Not an undercover guard, or nothin', f'that's what yer worried about."

Moret watched as the woman raised a hand slightly, began to make... Some gesture--but then hesitated, and stopped. Her brow furrowed, and her gaze moved back to the perceived drug addict's face. The woman's already sad little smile started to fade.

"Jus'... Thought... Maybe I could help."



When the streetrat had turned up, M felt his heart jump, but he didn't let it show; in the moment, his head was too wrapped in their plan to let anything throw him. Gently touching Lorey's shoulder, he leaned around the man to look at the newcomer under the brim of his hat.

"Been listening," he stated, watching her closely. He reached up to push his hat back out of his face, a scarred eyebrow rising. "How much did you hear?"

Clearly enough to think she could be some use. Clearly enough to become a possible problem...



For a moment, Carolyn's voice caught in her own throat. She'd done her fair share of shady work in the past, that much was true, but something this questionable--allying herself with three criminals, trying to break into a slavery ring for gods know what reason--was a little beyond her. She didn't know how to talk to people like this. She didn't know how to sell.

That wasn't going to stop her from trying.

"--Uh," she stammered, "y'know. Enough. ...That--that'cha want into the Veiled Market, aye?"

A pause as she waited for an answer, and when none came, she quickly picked up again.

"I'm. M'familiar with it. The market, that is--the area really."

She wasn't.

"Could get'cha in."

She didn't know if she could.

The information was old, and the knowledge of that fact banged about in the back of her head. They could've fixed up those broken walls, removed the fallen ladders, torn down the abandoned buildings that made up the road into the market. It was going to be pure luck for her to even find the starting point of that hidden path, and based on what?


The woman giggled, hiding her mouth behind her hand, the fire crackling as if to emphasize her musical laugh. She leaned into her partner, who gently reached to take the bottle from her.

"It's a joke. The entire market," she said. "A sickening joke, but a joke nonetheless. Paint themselves as the--"

She extended a hand, a look of false wonder crossing her face.

"--the very image of hhhiiiigh society..."


Carrie pursed her lips. At least the memory rang clear. ...Clear enough. Squaring up her shoulders, she looked M firmly in the eye. She could do this. She had to.

"...For some cash. Or a favor, whichever suits ya."



M was quiet, eyes focused squarely on Carolyn's face as she spoke, as she fell silent, as she made her offer. He tapped his finger on the table top, letting the street urchin linger there for a moment.

Finally he stilled his hand and beckoned her closer.

"What are you looking for in exchange?" He eyed her again. "You want money, name the price. You want a favor, name the task. Whatever you want, make it very clear what you're offering for because otherwise you'll be nothing but a liability. Tell me what you need, and so long as this all goes well, you'll get everything you want."

He was willing to take the chance. What other choice did he have? It couldn't be any riskier than putting a bet on their pick pocketing scheme; and, at the very least, this woman was completely expendable if it came down to it. But if she could make this job easier, he was willing to at least give it a try.

Offline yelloskello

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Moret watched with a vague sneer on her face as Carolyn took a deep, visible breath of relief, the desperation in her eyes fading just a little. This little straggler had gotten past the hard part, and now, here it came--some request for an overly exorbitant amount of marks, probably. Or just drugs, straight-up. Moret was well-aware the three of them certainly looked like the drug-toting sort.

And, hell, anyone who thought that wasn't entirely wrong.

"Money, yes," Carolyn said, forgetting that she was repeating herself in her nervousness. Moret snorted, earning her a glance from the blonde. After a moment, Carolyn stammered on, redirecting her gaze back to M.

"...At least enough for a week's worth'a supplies. ..An' to hire someone, maybe."

Moret's little sneer fell some. Not quite what she thought it'd be for. Could be an excuse. But why?

"Or--or if you've got the means, i've gotta get down t'Baradhi. N' quick."

Okay. So. Not drugs. Lorey shifted a little, resting an arm on the table. "Can I ask why?" he asked.

Carolyn looked to him, hesitating.

"...Don't think it matters," she finally said, and then she was right back to looking at M. It wasn't hard to tell he was the leader of the bunch, and thus, the one she was interested in talking to. Her hand gently touched the surface of the table.

"Can I sit?"



Picking up his drink with one hand, M moved it out of the way and gestured to the empty seat between Lorey and himself.

"Be my guest," he replied, bringing his mug to his lips.

Supplies, she wanted to hire someone, Baradhi... Perhaps not the typical streetrat after all.

It meant she actually had something to really lose by double crossing them. So long as she was telling the truth, of course.

Wiping his mouth on his sleeve, he put his drink back down and pulled the scarf around his neck back over his face slightly. It had a faint stench of smoke, he wrinkled his nose lightly.

"We can do both for you if you really can help," M said, almost lazily. "Enough money to get you by for some time, a ride out of this hole, should be enough of a trade."

He glanced at her.

"Again, provided you actually get us inside..."



As M spoke, Carolyn had rounded the table, easily slipping into the seat between the two men. Her gaze had never left the unconventional ringleader, and when he agreed--easily, no less--to her terms, she lit up like a tree at winter solstice. Eyes wide, back straight, she barely uttered a 'really?' before noticing her own unprofessional show of emotions. Blinking rapidly, she shook her head a little as she regained her bearings.

"Uh--yes. Yes, 'course I can," she said. She'd only just sat down, but now she was itching to move again, to get on the road. She never could've imagined this would go so well.

"So, what? When d'we go? Soon?"

She sure as hell hoped so. The sooner she was getting back to Baradhi, the better. She didn't know how much time she had.

In fact, she may have run out of time already.



Taking another sip, M wagged his finger at the woman, tsking her.

"Not so fast now. Recall now, this is in exchange for your services. You need to help us first."

The man quickly finished off his drink and lowered his mug with a firm clunk. Sliding it away, he then turned to face Carolyn, pushing his hat back out of his face, pulling his scarf down to reveal his face properly to her.

His eyes, intense, were cold steel, shadowed by tired bags and heavy lids. Scars marred his dark skin, his jaw, across the bridge of his nose, one breaking up the arch of his eyebrow, an X above his temple and leading into the roots of his hair. A few strands of locs fell from the bridge of his hat, framing his face with silver beads and ornaments. Lips pulled into a thin line, it was clear the situation, whatever it was they were up to, had him tense.

"I need a name, for starters. And after that, I need to know how you plan to help us. If you're plan leaves us more liable or at risk than our current plan, I'm not going to wait until we're balls deep in this to find that out."

He brought a hand up to point at her, his glove softly squeaking with his clenched hand.

"You said you can get us in."



Carolyn was silent a moment as she collected herself, her thoughts. She wished she was in someone else's shoes; the shoes of the thief who had slipped so easily in and out of the veiled market, what, how many times?


The thief let her hand drop, and her head lolled over to smirk at Carrie.

"I've stolen from their stores seven times in the last three years, just after market, and helped a dozen slaves escape at that. For such a
high-class establishment, their security's pathetic." She looked away, back to the crackling fire, and picked up a stick to toss it into the flame. "They put everybody at the front. You avoid the workers in the buildings out back, bringing people back and forth, and it's easy pickings. Don't even need help, really."

"But you wouldn't mind it," said her partner. She looked up to him, and a giddy little smile crossed her face.

"I wouldn't mind it, no."


"...There's another way in," Carrie finally said after taking a deep breath. "A--well. It's a bit of a chore t'find, but s'there. Security's shite in the back, where they keep the--the slaves, on high days. Got everybody up front, lettin' who's who in. You know th'way in--"

She smiled, shrugging her shoulders a little--it's just so easy, the gesture said.

"--you basically got free reign of the place, long as y'watch where yer goin'."

"Oh, yeah?" Moret asked, raising a brow. Her head tilted slightly, brow furrowing in mock scrutiny. "And where is this 'other way that's there?'"

Carrie gave her an uneasy smile. "Well. I'd be a bittuva fool t'just tell you, wouldn' I?"

By the way Moret was leering, she clearly didn't care for the answer. Carrie watched her for a moment, then looked back to M.

"...Bellgood, by th'way. Is my name. That is."



M took the information in carefully, running Bellgood's words through his mind. A back way in. He'd done some scouting of the city, getting a feel for the layout of the streets, had relayed it back to Moret and Lorey a dozen times over, but he'd never found a way to come at the Veiled Market from the back. Maybe if he'd had the time to give the place a more thorough inspection... There was no time though.

"Bellgood, then." He rolled his teeth over his lips, thinking. "Alright then. A back way. You show us in, we'll get what we need. We'll meet you outside, on the west side, for your payment."

He glanced at Lorey and Moret, looking over their faces closely.

"Thoughts? Questions? Comments?" M specifically eyed Moret at the end, knowing she probably had a few comments to make regardless of if she was asked for them or not.



Sure enough, Moret--shifting in her seat--had indeed opened her mouth, ready to voice whatever concerns or annoyances she might have--but Carrie beat her to the punch.

"Yeah, actually, thought. Comment," she said, frowning for the first time since she'd approached the table. "Y'not gonna meet me anywhere but right outside the back way t'the Veiled Market. Y'think i'm stupid enough t'just... Just fuck off an' wait for a bunch'a shadies that might never come?"

Moret closed her mouth. That was surprisingly assertive. Carrie continued.

"No. Noo, no. There's one way in, an' one way out, and my arse is gonna be parked right there. Aye?"



Wrinkling his nose lightly, M eyed the blonde for a moment, tapping his fingers against the table.

"Listen. I get the concern, you don't want to be fucked over just as much as us." He eyed his companions again then back to Bellgood. "But you can believe me right now when I tell you, you want nothing to do with our business here. You want your money, your ticket out of his pit, and you want to be as far from the Veiled Market as possible."

His brow creased.

"Can't control what you do though, in the end. But don't say I never warned you."

Sure he didn't know this woman from a face in the crowd but he knew he didn't want to drag anyone else down into his dirt than necessary.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2019, 08:01:29 PM by yelloskello »

Offline yelloskello

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"Fine by me," Carolyn said, leaning back in her seat and crossing her arms. If the firm tone of her voice and the vaguely disgruntled appearance on her face didn't give her an air of stubbornness, that gesture certainly did. "I fully acknowledge yer warning, an' i'm throwin' it in the fuckin' garbage. I'll be right outside the market when ya come out, an' tha'ss that."

It wasn't as if she could really get herself in any more trouble, at this point. She'd already broken the vase--might as well smash a few more while she was still around.

She glanced over to the other denizens of the table, who were watching her intently. After a brief moment, Lorey looked over to Moret, waiting for the complaints that had been on the tip of the woman's tongue...

...And instead, she simply shrugged. A little smile crossed Carolyn's face.

"S'what now?"



A sigh escaped M's lips and he leaned forward in his chair slightly, resting an elbow on the table and laying his face in his palm.

"Now we just wait," he said tiredly. It had been days since he'd slept properly; it just figured now he would start to feel it, of all times.

There had been a short period of time where he'd actually drifted off, propped up by his arm but otherwise slouching enough to demonstrate that he had, in fact, fallen asleep. Clattering by the bar made short work of his roughly fifteen minute nap and he lifted his head slightly, cheek on the heel of his palm, eyes tracing the lines of the wood table.

An hour passed and, leaving a few coins on the table, they finally made their way to the door. Coming out into the light, M shielded his eyes with his hand, peering out into the bright busy street. They still had a few hours til the Veiled Market made its appearance but they couldn't afford to miss any opportunities. After all, they still had to enter the underbelly of the city.

M looked to their new companion and gave her a nod.

"Lead the way, Bellgood."



Carolyn, who had been taking in the busy sight of the street, glanced over to M when he spoke--and realized that he was intending for her to lead them all the way to the market.

In Borvaria.

A city she'd never been to until the night before.

She opened her mouth, but no sound came out. Fuck. She'd made it out of the inn, and already compromised herself--

And then Lorey started to walk. Carolyn felt a wave of dull pain as every muscle in her relaxed, and she started to follow.

Moret, however, hung back with M, keeping a slower pace behind their other two companions. She leered lightly at the back of the newcomer, and didn't take her eyes off her as she spoke to M.

"...This wasn't what I had in mind when I said we should find someone," she said in a low voice.



M trudged along beside Moret, his hands in the pockets of his coat. He kept his head down.

"Well what would you have instead?" he muttered, kicking aside a rock in the road. He reached up to loosen the scarf around his face, continuing to speak. "I'm doing the best I can here, Rak. It was this or hunt someone down and hope we find a damn pass into this place. It's not easy to pin down a good plan in less than a week."



"I know, I know," Moret--or, as better known by her given name, Rak--hissed, making a small gesture of frustration. "That's--whatever, doing the best with what we've got, I guess, but..."

She trailed off briefly, then finally glanced over to M out of the corner of her eye.

"...Letting her on the ship? Really?"



"Look, if it gets her to help us, I don't care what it takes." He sounded increasingly frustrated. "She's going to help us and if giving her a ride is what will get her loyalty, then gods damn me, she's getting a ride."

The man frowned, furrowing his brow.

"Besides," he justified, "we bring her with us, that's one less person who can rat on us once this is all done. No ties, no connections to this place after we leave. It works out better that way."



Rak ruminated on this for a moment, her mouth bunched up in a subtle expression of displeasure. After a moment, though, she sighed, rolling her eyes. Her shoulders relaxed.

"Guess that's true," she conceded, with notable reluctance. She glanced ahead once again--Lorey and Bellgood appeared to be talking. About what, she wasn't sure. When she spoke, she'd lowered her voice.

"...Hope you know what you're doing, Mez."


The walk into the underbelly was a long one, down winding roads and through bustling crowds. At one point, Carrie had thought she'd been lost by the others--only to jump when Lorey found her, touching her arm and once again leading her in the right way. She wasn't oblivious: the sneaking suspicion that Lorey knew she was in over her head was becoming more and more pronounced as they went on, but not once did he try to say anything. She wondered how long that might last: until she made a mistake? Until she was no longer useful?

She supposed there was only one way to find out.

As they descended farther into the city, the change in scenery was evident. While Borvaria had not been an impressive place by any length of the imagination, the closer they came to the underbelly, the worse their surroundings became. What had originally been sparse sightings of homeless folks became more of a regular recurrence; time and time again, Carrie would catch people giving her shady glances that made her skin crawl; at least once, as a breeze swept through the area, she caught the unmistakable scent of Ether Rum. A dreamhouse, she'd guess. If that got away with existing here, then they were in new and dangerous territory indeed.

She'd seen the edges of the great aqueduct above the buildings of the city as they approached, but it was only now that she could really take in its full grandeur: the massive arches that towered far over her head, branching off and travelling farther into the city, polished bright and white far above--and then gradating into stain squalor near the ground.

For a moment, Carrie was lost, her head craned back, simply taking the sight in. She hadn't even noticed it when she entered the city the night before... How had she ever missed it?


She jumped. It was Lorey again, watching her with a raised brow and an amused smile. He nodded his head, and they both started off again.

The underbelly had Carolyn on edge from the moment they set foot in it. If the shady sort who populated the outer rim had made her uncomfortable, this place was redefining the word. It was a place of secrets: boarded up buildings with shadows whispering by the windows, figures hurrying from place to place with their heads down and their hands in their pockets, keeping their faces out of sight, people speaking to each other while pretending they were simply loitering in close vicinity. More than once, Carrie peeked down an alleyway and found herself looking at a line of rickety stalls, set up to be taken down at a moment's notice.

Her hand was placed firmly on her patchwork bag the entire leg of the journey.

She had been distracted by watching the fifth person she'd seen accidentally bumping into a drunkard when Lorey put a hand on her shoulder, pulling her to a stop. She looked to him, then to where he was looking.

They were there.

The veiled market was just as nondescript as its name might suggest. At most times of the day, one might think it just a little corner of the underbelly: a circle of tightly-knit buildings that were entered by a narrow road. In truth, the only thing that gave it away as their destination was the entourage surrounding the entrance, stopping and speaking with anyone who dared to come close to the area. She could barely see past the entrance... But there seemed to already be quite a few people there.

She took a deep breath, exchanged a quick glance with Lorey, and then began to stroll off to the left. Time to find the path.

Behind the two of them, but keeping a careful eye to make sure they weren't lost, Rak was following. She glanced over to M--Or Mez, as she'd called him, and barely nodded to the entrance.

"How we doing on time?"

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Carefully he weaved through the crowd, being sure to keep an eye on his people, and Bellgood especially. He doubted this could be a trap, there was no way He would know they were there, but as they grew closer and closer to the Veiled Market he was feeling increasingly anxious, paranoid that perhaps he had made the wrong decision. He was holding two lives in his hands, he wasn't going to lose them.

Mez looked to his companion, giving a nod towards the beginnings of the market.

"We're good. They'll be starting soon, we have enough time."

He narrowly avoided colliding into someone.

Hopefully Bellgood has us going the right way, he thought, looking up at the blonde ahead of them.



What Mez would see--occasionally glimpsing out of sight for a split second as someone blocked his field of vision passing by--was Bellgood, keeping close to the buildings that lined the market, running her hand along the stone. She'd slowed down some, her head turned, her eyes kept upward. She looked as if she was concentrating, or determined--perhaps the entrance was hidden by a button, a lever, something she had to find and trigger...

...In truth, Carolyn's heart was pounding in her chest, and she hoped she could fake this long enough to find the path.


"They've got this... Walkway, basically," the thief continued, shifting herself comfortable to lounge against her partner's lap. "Shitty thing. Looks like a collection of random junk strewn across walls and roofs, but I imagine if it was any more conspicuous, others would've noticed it by now."

A little grin crossed her face as her hand touched the ground, feeling for something. "Honestly, i'm not sure if some other thief had set it up, or if it was sheer luck."

A pause.


"Mm," her partner grunted.

"The wine's gone. What--oh. You shitter."

Her partner grinned past the bottle's mouth and tilted his head back to take a quick swig. Carrie snorted.

"So what's this random junk look like, ay?"

Done giving her partner a leery stink eye, the thief turned her attention back to their blonde companion.

"Well, it starts with a tight squeeze into a little courtyard..."


The farther around the market's walls Carrie moved, the more the crowds seemed to thin. They were coming up on a dead end - a few abandoned hovels pressed against a high wall. The area seemed to be populated by squatters alone - Rak didn't even catch sight of a lick of shady business.

Soon, the group was going to begin to round back, to return to the crowds. Carrie was beginning to feel her face heating up, a sweat coming on, a little ways after they reached the back of the buildings--

And then, there it was.

It was little more than a crack in the wall - the thief hadn't been kidding when she'd called it a tight squeeze. Carrie was lucky that she was a slip of a thing, otherwise she might have not been able to fit through it without a good deal of struggling. Stopping in front of the crevice, she peered in, and a grin crossed her face: sure enough, the courtyard. Well, sort of - it was more of a patch of grass, surrounded by three buildings that were closely packed together. From here, she could see the stack of crates, the low wall they could cross, the hanging ropes tightly knotted together--

She look back over her shoulder, turning after a moment. There were the two buildings close enough together to hop from. The ladder that had fallen, providing a makeshift bridge that led away from the market--and the open windows that led to a shallow platform which led one back.

What would have otherwise been an invisible coincidence of junk now shown clearly to her. She couldn't un-see the way in.

Looking back over her shoulder when she felt the nudge, she came face to face with Rak, the latter's brow furrowed in confusion and skepticism. Carrie nodded to the crevice--which Rak peered into--and then directed her to the buildings to the left of them.

It took her a moment, but when it dawned on her, Rak straightened, face relaxing.

"Well, holy shit."

"I'll be waitin' right past the crack," Carrie said, grinning. She was positively giddy - she owed that thief a drink. No, a dinner. "G'luck, with... Whatever it is yer doin'."



There it was. Surprisingly, the street rat hadn't been lying, and frankly Mez was relieved. He moved closer to the crack, looking back to Bellgood.

"Thank you," he said, sincerity in his voice. He shimmied into the crack, speaking as he went. "This shouldn't take long, hopefully. Just remember, stay as far away from the market as possible..."

Coming into a more open space, he looked out at the mess ahead of them. Well, it was still better than trying to go through the front door.

He didn't wait for his companions, starting into the obstacle course as soon as he'd assessed where to begin.



Carrie had been surprised. After M's show of annoyance, of frustration, of utter exhaustion, of apathy, she hadn't expected to hear him say something so... Genuinely emotional. She watched him move into the tiny courtyard--backing up again so that Rak and Lorey may move in after him--and then, finally, slipped in herself.

"I'll be right here when y'get back," she said, watching as Rak ambled up onto the wall after Mez, and then Lorey after her.

Before they completely disappeared further on the path, Lorey looked back to her, brow knitted in worry.

"You hear yelling? Screaming? We don't show up shortly after? ...Run. Alright? Please."

Carolyn frowned, but after a moment, nodded. She didn't think she'd ever been so invested in a stranger's livelihood--or that a stranger had ever been so invested in her's.



It took some maneuvering to get to the top but a few minutes later they were there, a flat roof with a few potted plants scattered in the corners.

Mez leaned down, nearly crouching, as he walked to the center of the rooftop. He couldn't see the market place from there, but he was sure that they would be able to see them once they got close enough to the edge. Keeping low, he drifted to one of the corners, keeping behind the tall lattice where tomatoes hung heavy from their vine. Using it for cover, he peered down to the clearing below, where people had already begun to congregate.

"Where is he," the man hissed softly, letting out a curse as he scanned the crowd. He didn't see him. Panic was beginning to set in. What if he didn't show?

Quickly, he hurried back to his companions.

"I don't see him. Go and take a look, maybe it's just me..." He knelt down, slinging around the pouch that hung from his hip. "We'll have to get down there, mingle in, keep a look out for him.."

From the pouch he retrieved three soft masks, fairly plain, unobtrusive.

"Do you think he might be wearing a mask? He's never been afraid to show his support for the slave trade, maybe he'd be more brazen than most..."

There was still a hint of panic in his voice, his grip tight enough on the masks to whiten his knuckles.



Lorey was the first to take his mask, taking the opportunity to put both of his hands around one of Mez's. He was serene, compared to Mez's panicked visage--he had to be.

Someone had to be.

"Mez. It hasn't started yet--not truly," he said, voice calm and even. "He'll be here. There's no reason he wouldn't be. We've got time."

Raising his eyebrows, he gave him a pointed look--then was interrupted as Rak, on the edge of the building, spoke.

"Speak of sin."

Instead of waiting to retrieve her own mask, she'd done as Mez had directed, looking out upon the crowd just in time to catch their target's grand entrance. She glanced back to Mez, a sneering smile on her face.

"He's here."



Mez took a deep breath and slowly crouched over to the edge where Rak was. Staying hidden, he peered down at the crowd.

There he was. Black hair pulled up into a ponytail, a wide brimmed mustache, golden robes covering a rotund belly, and a black silk mask, small, barely covering his face. He obviously thought the idea of hiding his identity to be quaint, doing it merely for the experience.

Cornelius Black.

Mez watched for a moment as their target wedged himself into the front of the crowd, flicking his wrist and fanning himself with a wide, intricate fan.


Giving Rak a small nudged, Mez offered her the last mask and moved back onto the roof.

"We need to get close, wait for the right time. Rak, you get those bombs set up. Scope it out, do what you can. Just need a good distraction. Don't let anyone see you." He unraveled the scarf from around his neck; needed to be able to move easily, comfortably. "Mattie, you watch my back, keep an eye on those guards."

He pulled on the mask, adjusting it briefly, then looked up.

"And I want both of you keeping your eyes open for quick escapes. If things go sour I want you to get out of here."



Rak had been in the middle of putting on her mask, but Mez's words gave her pause. She looked to him, a frown clear on her face.

"Mez, we're not leaving without you," she said firmly, before pausing again. She finished putting on the mask. "Well--maybe Mattie will, but i'll be fucked."

"Rak--" Mattie began, but the woman held up a hand.

"I came here knowing what I was getting into, i'm not a fool. If something happens? I'm staying, and i'm raising hell."

Stopping at the far edge of the roof, she looked back to the men, gave a nod, and dropped down to the low roof below. She could already see the flimsily patched-up gap in the building; no doubt that was going to bring her to the back.

Mattie stood still, staring at where she had been, before looking to Mez.

"She really does care about you, y'know."

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Mez watched her go, staring for a moment at the place where she had just been. Sometimes he appreciated how refreshing her attitude was and he smiled faintly.

He turned his gaze back to Mattie.

"Yeah. It's easy to forget."

Reaching a hand up, he pat the man on the shoulder, letting it linger on the last one and giving a squeeze.

"You do what needs to be done. There are no good souls down there."

He straightened up and took a step back, turned on the front of his foot, and jumped one foot, to the other foot, then the other, and right off the ledge. If he'd been tired before, you'd have guessed he'd had a full night's sleep, a back rub, and a glass of good whiskey since then.

The rush of the moment gave him all the energy he would need to finish this job. It wasn't long now...



Something in Mez's words squeezed at Mattie's heart, put an expression of pain on his face. Keeping close to the lattice, he took one last look over the edge.

He could see them now: the languid souls being led from the back of the circle of buildings and into the market proper. Bent, exhausted, trying to withhold tears of their own--he knew that expression. He still saw it, sometimes, on the faces of people he cared deeply about.

The thought made his heart hurt in a different way. Mez was right: there were no good souls down there.

Perhaps, except, for them.


Slipping into the crowd was easy enough for Rak. She'd hung back long enough, watching as the market workers began to escort out the slaves, and then simply slipped out on the tail end of them. She moved quickly, keeping her head down and close to the walls--exactly where she needed to be, as it was. She didn't look up, didn't check her surroundings, as she rounded the area, keeping her movements quick and subtle: a hand against the wall, and the tiny smoke bomb fell from the sleeve of her jacket into her hand. One hint of magic later, and it was easily embedded in the wall.

And again. And again. And again.

She had the bombs set up around half the circle when she let one drop to the ground at a moment of expert timing, and with a quick kick, sent it rolling under the stage upon which the slaves would be sold.

Meanwhile, intermingled with the crowd, Mattie had Mez within his sights, but was careful to not stay too close. They couldn't risk being pinpointed for suspicious behavior, so he had to be ready to act fast once everything began. He was rigid, keeping his head turned to the stage, but never letting his gaze leave Mez.

It would be any second now...



Thump. Thu-thump. Thu-thump. Thump.

Time felt slow, the crowd dimming in his mind. He weaved carefully passed bodies. His own body was in autopilot, making a beeline for Cornelius Black. A slave trader, a kidnapper, a murderer...

Mez could see the back of his target's head and he sped up, his breath quickening, his manners slipping as he bumped passed people now, not caring if they commented on his rudeness. He was so close now.

In the few front rows, seats were provided for those most prominent. Cornelius was settled in the third most row, which had fewer seats taken. He was able to spread out, relax.

"Fine day isn't it."

Cornelius was made aware of a companion at his side and he looked to his right to see a man sitting in the seat next to him. He didn't remember when this man had sat down. In fact, he didn't remember seeing this man in the last few days of auctioning. He narrowed his eyes and scoffed.

"Would be finer without rabble like you thinking they're important. You realize these seats are reserved?" He smirked, reaching over and flicked up the brim of the stranger's hat, hard enough to knock it off his head and send it to the ground between his legs. "And they aren't reserved for the likes of you."

But as he said this, he realized there was something... strange about this man, something familiar.

And then he felt it. Eyes wide, Cornelius stared down at the masked stranger as a knife was pressed against his side.

"I think they can make an exception," the stranger replied, glancing up at Cornelius out of the corner of his mask.

"Nice to see you again, Black. Have you gotten fatter since we last met?"

Cornelius fidgeted, but the knife was pressed in harder and he stopped.

"Who are you," the slave trader hissed, "and what do you want from me? Money? I can give you money..."

The stranger was quiet, almost as if contemplating, but instead he pressed the knife in harder and Cornelius flinched.

"What I want is impossible to get, I'm afraid." The stranger stared silently for a moment, his grip on the knife almost painful. "As for who I am..."

He reached up to his face with a gloved hand, tucking a finger under his mask, and he pulled it up just enough to make eye contact, face to face. Cornelius' expressed dropped, the color draining from his cheeks.

The expression on Mez's face was one of pure malice, almost crazed, as he stared into Cornelius' face.

"Oh now you remember. Good, because I want my face to be the last thing you remember before you bleed out on this street."

The knife stuck in firmly into Black's side. Suddenly Cornelius let out shrill cry, his arms flailing at Mez, his chair falling back, and now people were staring.

Mez grit his teeth; fuck, there was no time. Without even pulling his mask back down, he rushed, straddling Cornelius' fat belly and stabbing his gut, his chest, his face. Screams were starting to erupt from the crowd as blood splattered across the cobblestone around the two men. The attack was pure bloodlust and Mez was lost in it, slashing and stabbing anywhere he could, blood coating his arms, smattering his face, making the knife slick in his hands.

"You bastard!"

Thump. Thu... Thump. Thump... ...thump... thu....



Rak had been waiting for the signal. The bombs were supposed to go off first, and in their cover, Mez would do what he had to. It was going to be as quick as a blink of an eye--they were in, they were done, they were out, a panicking crowd covering it all.

And then the screaming began.

Mattie had begun to panic the moment he saw Mez's mask lift. He'd been far away--too far away, and pushing his way through the crowd was a process he could barely speed up by being forceful. He had wanted to yell his captain's name--but that was an even worse idea. M? No, it would just draw attention to himself. He opened his mouth to yell--to simply scream--

And then the bombs went off.

The force of the explosions, though small, were enough to damage the surrounding buildings. Rocks shot like shrapnel, and those close enough fell to the ground, shrieking, as smoke filled the market. Mattie felt his heart sink. He couldn't see Mez anymore, he couldn't, he couldn't--

And then, almost stumbling over the seats, he could. His captain, atop his victim, covered in blood and entirely exposed.

It was as if his mind shut down at this point. Pushing aside chairs, he didn't think, didn't speak, simply grabbed Mez and jerked him off of the corpse of his victim, forcefully dragging him away. Even with his heart racing, barely sure which direction he was moving in, he kept moving--then turned when he heard the shrill noise of the flare firing into the sky.

Rak's flare. She wasn't supposed to use it, but she knew they'd be lost. He made a beeline for the sound.

As soon as Rak came into view, waiting at the door to the back buildings, Mattie shoved Mez to her--and she, in turn, shoved the captain into the building.

"Don't you dare stop for anything," she barked at him.


Carolyn had taken to sitting down on the ground within the tiny courtyard, taking a moment to appreciate the peace: a moment of quiet to gather her thoughts. To plan. They were going to pay her - good. She'd have to negotiate the exact price, but that could wait, until they were on the... Caravan, probably. Seemed likely that the three were part of a mercenary band. Once she got to Baradhi, she would have to lie low, being that close to the temple - but if she could find someone, anyone, crazy enough to take the job...

...Maybe... Maybe these people... Well, they seemed to be the sort who might--

And then the screaming began.

Carolyn's head shot up, eyes wide, looking to the crevice in the wall. Slowly, she stood, creeping towards the crack to peek out of it. She could see telltale signs of people looking to the market in confusion, but whatever madness was going on within had not yet spread outward.

Then, the dull booms of bombs--one, two, then three and four at the same time. She jumped as screaming turned to shrieking. Her heart was beginning to race.

If we aren't back shortly... Run. Please.

She moved away from the crack, looking up to the makeshift path, and began a countdown from thirty.

Please... Gods, please.



Mez was completely silent. Covered in blood, the knife still gripped in his hand and coated in gore, he was only focused on running.

The screaming echoed behind them and as they ducked and weaved through the trash obstacle to their freedom, he heard the dull cracks and thumping of structures crumbling along side cries of terror. Clearly they'd done more damage than expected.

By the time they arrived back at the entrance Mez had loosened up, finally coming into himself and noticing the amount of blood on him. He slowed, standing in front of the exit and looking down at his arms, hand still clutching his weapon.




Carolyn's heart had been pounding out of her chest as she looked up at nothing. By the time she had reached the 10's, she felt a little dizzy. They weren't going to show. She would have to run--probably get out of town, go elsewhere, start all over again. This was going to put her even farther behind.

They're dead. You're too late. This is setting you back farther, you've got no chance--

She felt herself finally breathe when she saw Mez come into view--and then her breath hitched again when she saw the state he was in. She watched him move to the exit, eyes wide, speechless.

Mattie and Rak were down just after him. Mez was only able to catch his breath for barely a moment before Rak was shoving him along again, hissing 'go, go'. Her hands were trembling.

Mattie was right behind her, catching Carolyn's wrist and pulling her along, slipping through the crevice with ease--but Carolyn hissed as her arm scraped along the stone, ripping skin. This didn't stop Mattie. This didn't stop any of them.

"Which way, Mez?" Rak hissed, not moving even though she wasn't sure which way to go. She knew it was down an alley--alleys--but in her panic, she wasn't sure which.



Considering the state he was in, Mez was fairly calm. It was the quietest and calmest he had felt in weeks.

At Rak's question, he looked around, getting his bearings. If they went right, down passed the bridge, next to the dump...

He gave them a nod and a brief, "This way," and was running off through the alley in front of them. There was a break in the wall that surrounded Borvaria; that was their only chance of escape. A dinghy was just a little ways from the opening, all they needed to do was get in and get out. Gods be with us, he thought, skirting around the corner and jumping down stairs two by two.

They passed under the bridge, only to have to stop and backtrack. Guards were starting to patrol the streets now; the only thing they could do was hide in the shadows of the bridge and wait for the patrol to pass. Soon, they were off again, Mez leading the way through the street and to the dump. He could see the walls of the slums, the towering aqueduct, and they were so close.

Mez didn't wait for help moving a large sheet of metal from the opening. He pushed it aside, nearly getting hit with it's weight, and stood by the opening to usher the others through.



Neither Rak nor Mattie hesitated to hurry through, though Carrie almost stumbled as Mattie pulled her along. She'd hesitated, slowing for barely a moment to truly take in Mez's state--his clothes, spattered in blood, and his face, surprisingly devoid of emotion--before she caught herself and picked up the pace again.

"W-where are we goin'?" she panted, and Mattie looked back to her.

"Dinghy. Once we're on it, we're home free," he responded. He was shocked: for all intents, this had gone smoother than he had ever imagined.

...Well, almost. As he looked back to Carrie, his gaze, only for a moment, swiveled back to Mez.

This was going to be a problem.

Rak was the first to reach the dinghy, and didn't wait for the others to hop in, tie herself in, and start the vessel up. By the time it was up and running, Mattie was in--helping Carrie get herself situated--and then reaching for Mez to help him in too.

To Carrie, the last five minutes had been a blur. One moment, she'd been waiting in silence. If asked later, her next memory was on that dinghy, lifting off, and the gentle buzz as they whizzed through the air.

Otherwise, silence. Mattie was watching the ground, and Rak--despite driving the thing--was staring at Mez, wide-eyed. Shocked. Furious.

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Mez was quiet, but far more peaceful than he'd been earlier. He seemed less tense, more calm, even covered in blood. But the longer they flew, slowly he started to look just as sad as before, gazing off the side in silence.

They had to fly for a while, nearly twenty minutes, before they were in the vicinity of where they needed to be. Looking ahead of them, Mez gave a nod to a large hill ahead of them.

"Just beyond there," he reminded tiredly.



Carolyn, only a few minutes into the ride, had gotten lost in her own little world. Staring down into the dinghy--not daring to look over the edge, lest her anxiety increase tenfold--she began to wonder just what sort of group she'd allied herself with. What had happened in that market? Was that his blood?

Something told her no. Something told her she'd just made herself an accomplice to assault--or worse.

It was Mez's gentle direction that snapped her out of it. Blinking, she looked up and in the direction they were flying. She tilted her head up, shifting herself to one side to try to get a better look over the hilltop, but Mattie's hand gently put her back in her seat. She glanced over to him. He didn't look much better than the others.

They breached the hilltop after another moment, and from there, their destination was unmistakable. They weren't going to a caravan.

They were going to a ship.



When the bright flaming red sails came into view, Mez felt his entire body relax. They were so close to home. He visibly relaxed, slumping down slowly as they came closer.

People were already congregated on the deck, waving them in, rushing around to get prepared for their landing.

As they descended, Mez looked to Mattie.

"Might as well bring Bellgood to the kitchen, get her something to eat. Give us time to deal with..." He frowned. "...everything else."



Mattie looked over to his captain, nodding wordlessly. He had remained calm for the hardest part of their mission, but now, the emotion was setting in as the reality of the consequences weighed down on his conscience. The justified killing of a slaver was one thing; dealing with Mez's undeniable new reputation as a criminal wanted for murder of nobility? They were going to have some long nights ahead of them.

The first two to approach the dinghy, ready to help move it to its correct location and secure it, were a woman and--as far as Carrie was concerned--a hell of a man. While she hadn't been able to discern the features from a distance, up close, she could tell the woman was--an elf? Half-elf? Perhaps from the forest clans. Shorter, pudgy, olive-toned, with hair tied into two low pigtails. It was easier to discern what the man was: a half-orc, no doubt. The slight greenish tint to his otherwise brown skin and the tusks gave it away, but he lacked the orcish features of a pureblood. And, gods, was he huge--well over six feet tall, and built like a brick wall... But that face. He looked worried. And, when he saw the state of his captain, he looked scared. He pulled to a full stop, while the half elf slowed, her brow knitting as well.

"Cap? What the hell?" she picked up the pace as the dinghy landed and Rak turned the engine off, offering her hand to help him out. "You look like a damn blood sacrifice. Who in the fuck?"

She'd looked away as she finally noticed Mattie, helping... Some shaking stranger onto the deck. Sure, it was a gangly little blonde, but... Mez must have known those weren't interchangeable. Mattie simply gave her a worried look as he ushered this new person off--and the two, the elf and orc, looked back to their captain.

It was the orc who spoke next, his voice soft.

"...He... He wasn't there, was he."



Mez felt the last bit of energy that kept him going leave him as his feet touched the deck. It was so good to be home, but... Why didn't he feel happy? He would have to think on that later, perhaps after a few hard drinks.

He looked up to the half orc, glancing to the elf crew member briefly, then back. The look on his face said it all, but he spoke still.

"No, Lil Bear. He... He's gone. He's been gone."

"Well is Black dead?"
"Probably, from the looks of it..."

Mez looked over, lips pulled thin as he eyed a pair of twins, two young men of identical face, body shape, tan skin, and sandy brown hair. The only thing separating them were their eyes, one with bright forest green, the other with sky blue.

"Yeah. Black's dead." He took a deep breath, sighed. "It's over."



And yet, there was no response to Mez's final statement. Silence overran the deck: there was no celebration for the small team's victory... More of a reverence. There wasn't a smile among them - eyes were downcast. The half orc--Lil' Bear--was even silently crying.

Rak, as she stepped off the dinghy, clapped Mez on the back.

"Get a shower. Get some rest," she grunted, heading for the door belowdeck, where Mattie and Carolyn had gone. "We're gonna have us a fucking talk later."


"I'm sorry."

Carolyn glanced over her shoulder. She and Mattie had just reached the bottom of the stairs; the scene from above was out of sight and out of mind. Looking back, she simply saw Mattie's face, a perfect picture of sorrow and regret, haloed by the light from above deck.

"This isn't..." he continued, "this isn't the norm. We've just... Things have been rough. I'm sorry you had to be involved in this."

After a moment of hesitation, the woman simply shook her head.

"...No, it... It don't matter. M'not worried about it."

A lie, but it got a remorseful smile out of the pirate. He cleared his throat, looking off.

"Uh. ...I've got a little bit of business to take care of, but, i'm going to put you in some capable hands, alright? If you'll follow me."

Slipping easily past her, he started down further into the ship. Carolyn carefully followed, finally taking in her surroundings as they went.

"Scar!" Mattie called. "Scar, I need your help with something!"



There was bustling from the small hallway leading from the dining area into the sleeping quarters, and in moments a door swung open and a woman, dark skin, red masses of ringlets held back with a blue bandana, bright red lipstick poked out of the lit room with a broom in her hands. When she saw Mattie her eyed widened and she quickly set the broom aside.

"Mattie, you're back. That... that means Mez is too? And Rak? Is everyone okay? How did it go?" She paused, noticing Carolyn. "And who's this?"

Offline Xigbar

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There was bustling from the small hallway leading from the dining area into the sleeping quarters, and in moments a door swung open and a woman, dark skin, red masses of ringlets held back with a blue bandana, bright red lipstick poked out of the lit room with a broom in her hands. When she saw Mattie her eyed widened and she quickly set the broom aside.

"Mattie, you're back. That... that means Mez is too? And Rak? Is everyone okay? How did it go?" She paused, noticing Carolyn. "And who's this?"


"Uh," Mattie stammered, forcing a little smile at the woman - it didn't look real in the least. "Yes. Everybody's back, everybody's... Everybody's fine--"

"Mez is a fucking idiot, though."

Both Mattie and Carolyn's heads whipped around, watching as Rak stomped past, heading for the further depths of the ship. She stopped at the door though, turning and pointing at him.

"We're fucked. We're fucked, and it's all his stupid, impulsive, emotional, damnable fault. Every damn privateer this side of Mohoja is gonna be looking for him! Looking for us!"

"Rak," Mattie said softly, but it was too late. She was gone, leaving them in silence. Slowly, Mattie looked back to the woman. Scar, he'd called her.

"...This... This is Bell, uh--"

"Bellgood," Carrie said softly.

"Bellgood." He put his hands on her shoulders. "She's, uh. Riding with us, for the time being. Helped us out. I need to, uh--"

He looked back up the stairs, then back, an apologetic smile on her face.

"Could you... Get her situated, maybe?"


Scarlett nodded slowly, glancing back where Rak had disappeared then to Bellgood. She managed a weak smile. Clearly she was more concerned about what happened, but she wasn't going to leave this woman to figure her own way around. The redhead beckoned to her, descending back into the room she had come from.

"Well, my name is Scarlett, it's nice to meet you. So, Bellgood, are you, ah, hungry? Thirsty? I'll have to see if I can find some clothes for you, I might have some things that'll fit." She had moved to the counter, busying herself in the cabinet.

The room was definitely a kitchen, with a stove, preparation stations, and a door to what was most likely a cupboard. A kettle was boiling on the stove already and Scarlett had produced a mug for herself.


As Carolyn followed this new woman away, farther into the ship, she glanced over her shoulder and watched as Mattie hurried his way back up to the deck. She was still hardly paying attention as she entered the kitchen, looking around her absent-mindedly.

Things were moving so fast...

"Uh. Uh, yeah," she murmured. "Yeah, I could use a drink. ...An', um. Clothes. Jus' something to get me by, 'till I can... Patch m'self up..."

She finally looked to Scarlett, brow furrowed. No point pretending things were alright.

"What in th'fuck is going on?"


Scarlett had set a second mug down on the counter as the newcomer asked the real question of the day. She frowned down at the counter, gaze drifting to the kettle that had finally started to whistle, and she let out a sigh as she moved to pour hot water into each cup.

"I'm not sure how much you know," she began, setting tea bags in both cups. She maneuvered the two mugs and the pot of sugar between both hands and brought them over to the table. One mug was set in front of Carolyn.

"One of our crew, our first mate, was... killed about two months ago. The man our captain went to see today was the one who did it." She settled into the seat across. "He was kidnapped, retaliation for an attack on his ship last year that freed over five hundred slaves. We took something of his so he took something of ours..."

The woman paused, eyes on the water slowly turning as the tea bag steeped. She looked up.

"What happened out there? Is Mez okay? Something must have gone wrong for Rak to be that angry..."


Carolyn had slowly taken a seat as Scarlett explained the circumstances, never taking her eyes off the woman, listening intently. At Scarlett's inquiry, her brow furrowed, and she opened and closed her mouth, looking for the words.

"I... Look, I wasn' there for most of it," she admitted. "I got 'em in. Waited outside. Mez, right? Yer--yer captain, aye? He told me I didn' want to be anywhere near this shite."

She was fairly certain he was right, now. But it had been worth it. It had to be worth it.

"So I didn' go in. ...I heard screaming, an' they were back half a minute later, an' yer guy, jus'..."

She gestured from her face, moving her hand downwards.

"Entire front, blood, fuckin'... Everywhere. Didn' see any open wounds on 'im, though. Not even a tear--jus' lost that hat, I think. Everybody got out a'right, it looks like. I mean--" She glanced at her own forearm, torn up from the broken wall, and held it up. "'Bout th'worst of it. ...Aside from..."

She could only figure the blood had belonged to the man they'd gone to 'see'. She trailed off; not much more needed to be said on the subject. Looking down at her mug, she clasped it in both her hands. It was a pleasant warmth against her palms.

"...S'all I know. M'sorry."


Listening to Bellgood speak made the woman worry more, but she knew for now there was nothing that she could do. Mez didn't need her along with everyone else crowding around him trying to see if he was okay. There would be plenty of time for that later.

Scarlett managed a weak smile and shook her head.

"It's alright. I'm sorry you had to be involved in this." She paused. "Mattie said you helped them? What has you on the ship with us now?"


"Ah," Carrie said softly, first raising the mug to her lips and taking a sip before she answered. Her face scrunched a little: still too hot.

"I was jus'... In the right place at the right time, I s'pose," she continued. "Overheard 'em talkin' about needin' a way into the market, an'... Wouldn' you know, it, I knew a way in."

A smile of mock-amusement flickered on her face for barely a moment before her brow furrowed again, and her lips pursed.

"..I jus'.. I needed to get to Baradhi. Need, not needed. Got some..."

Her fingers tightened on the mug a little. She was holding something in.

"...I got important business there, an' yer boss, he said he'd get me there post-haste."

A pause. She tilted her head lightly from one side to another.

"An', y'know, money, an' whatnot." Best way to deflect from the previous point. "Was in a bit of a tight spot, an' it just... I couldn't pass it up."

Her gaze briefly dropped away from Scarlett's face.

"...M'here at a bad time, m'sure," she said. "Look--I won't get in yer way. Any of you. Won't even know m'here."


"I see. That's generous of him..." She slowly smiled, tilting her head at the blonde.

"Hey, don't worry. You helped them, you're out guest. I'll set a hammock for you, make sure you have everything you need while you're here, and we'll get you to where you need to go."

She gestured to the room.

"I'm always working away in here, so if you ever need anything you just come and find me. I'll have to give you a tour later, once things have settled down a bit. Introduce you to everyone at dinner."

Scarlett took a sip of tea, then continued.

"And... if Mez decides to come around for dinner, don't mind his attitude. He... took Yahle's death the hardest. He's still in mourning."


Carrie looked up to the woman once again, putting on a sad smile. "They were close?"


At Carrie's words, Scarlett's smile faded drastically, her lips pulling thin. She glanced down.

"They, ah..." The woman looked uncomfortable. She bit her lip. "They were, yes. Best friends, lovers... I mean. They used to be a couple. I think they still wanted to be. Certainly spent enough time together to be." She shook her head. "But things change, people change. ...and now, they don't have each other to change together."


Carrie's own smile fell. The very thought brought out emotions in her--deep ones, ones she thought she'd buried a long, long time ago, as well as ones still fresh and painful. The sorrow of a loss she wish she could have prevented, a life, a future with so much promise that was taken away against her will... And the spikes of anxiety from a newer, rawer fear.

She swallowed hard, well-aware that she barely knew the man... But she could empathize.

"I see," she said softly. Silence hung heavy in the air for a pregnant moment, and then she looked back to Scarlett, plastering a smile on her face.

"You were sayin' somethin' about a hammock, aye?"


Scarlett smiled, taking the opportunity to drop the subject and move on. She was grateful for Carrie's change in subject.

"Sure, let me show you to the bunks, get you settled in..." She stood up, moving to the door and opening it, holding it so Carrie could leave.

"There's an empty one over here, and it's in the corner so it'll give you some privacy. There's a box in the far corner with extra blankets, pillows..."

She gravitated to the box and started to dig inside, pulling out a dark green blanket and a pillow. Both in hand, she moved to the empty hammock and set them in the bed.

"It stays pretty cool down here so if you feel like you need an extra blanket help yourself. The crew can be a bit noisy going to bed so if they give you any trouble just tell me and I'll set them straight."


Carolyn smiled weakly, moving over to the hammock and gently setting herself down in it. Immediately, she wasn't fond of the contraption--the lack of solidity was inherently uncomfortable to her--but aside from minor shifting and a tiny grimace as she adjusted, she didn't let on. Looking up to Scarlett, she gave her a better smile.

"Thank you, Scarlett. I... You've no idea how thankful I am, for all'a this," she said. After a small pause, she added: "Though, um. If you don't mind, I think... ...It's been a very long day, I think i'm gonna take some time to just... Relax."


After Scarlett had departed, Carolyn had found herself once again in silence, left with her own thoughts. She simply sat for a long time, trying to quell the anxiety in her chest, before finally making an attempt to make herself comfortable on the hammock. At the very least, she needed some semblance of rest; she hadn't been kidding when she'd said it had been a long day.

She didn't sleep, no matter how long she kept her eyes closed, and was alert when one of the crew came to fetch her for dinner. She had a feeling most nights, this was the high point for their day: a time to be together, to be loud and drink and feel like the family she had a notion they were. Even now, spirits weren't completely lost... But it was quieter, and she understood why.

For pirates, they were a kind enough bunch, and she couldn't say they didn't try for her. She was introduced to them all as soon as she'd walked into the room: the twins, mechanics by trade, the source of most problems onboard the ship. Gurd, the first mate, who had a strange sense of serenity to him as far as Carolyn was concerned. A spritely thing who went by Petra, who acted as the crew's doctor--and briefly departed, mid-supper, to go get supplies to treat Carolyn's arm. She wouldn't take no for an answer, either.

Moret was properly named as Rak, and Lorey introduced himself as Mateo before listing off a number of general laborers onboard the ship, such as Hector, who went by Lil' Bear, Delaney, Benny, and the half-elf who, for lack of a proper name, was referred to generally as Lucy. Judging by the furtive looks among the crew, it seemed a few of them had better ideas of what to call her.

Carolyn, aside from speaking when spoken to, hadn't said much during the meal. Even with their welcoming attitude... This wasn't her place to be.

Mez never showed his face. She wasn't surprised. Nobody seemed to be.

The night rolled on easily. Carolyn helped clean up dinner alongside Lil' Bear and Scarlett as the crew dispersed to get some rest, keeping up gentle conversation with the two of them. Lil' Bear was an anxious, soft-spoken soul--but by the time the dishes were cleaned, he seemed to have relaxed some in Carolyn's presence. After that was done, she returned to her hammock. A tour of the ship could wait until morning.

It was an hour before she felt sleep beginning to take her--and one more hour before another tense, unpleasant nightmare ripped her from sleep. From there, every time she tried to drift off, any shifting in the hammock would give her a sense of falling, and she was right back up again.

It was well past midnight when she gave up and abandoned the hammock, creeping past the crew to return to the deck. She was sure some fresh air would help.

Well, maybe not sure. But she hoped.

She was almost to the top of the staircase when the sound of banging made her jump. Pressing herself as far as she could to the side of the staircase, she peeked through the doorway curiously, looking for the source of the sound.

It wasn't much of a puzzle to figure that one out: she wasn't the only one awake at this early hour. Not only did light leak through the crevices along the doors to the captain's quarters, but someone was standing before it, knocking on it with a heavy fist. In the pale moonlight, she could recognize the lean, fit figure, the head of black curls: Rak.

Shit. She shouldn't be privy to this. She took a single step back down the stairs... Then stopped.

'That insatiable curiosity is going to get you killed, girl.'

She wrinkled her nose at the thought; she could still hear the speaker's voice ringing true, even years later. And, just as it ever was, spite kept her planted firmly on the stairs, barely looking out to watch what would happen.


It took a few minutes for there to be any sort of response. Inside the room, Mez had fallen asleep at his desk, half a glass of scotch still in his hand, half a bottle resting by his other. He'd just opened the bottle that evening. So all things considered, when he heard a knock on the door, he didn't much care. But as the knocking persisted, became louder, he groaned softly and lifted his head. His eyes burned and he wiped away the remnants of tears.

Mez groaned and straightened up in his chair. The only light in the room was dim glowing from the lantern on his desk, dozens of small balls of magic floating inside and illuminating the desk with blue light. The knocking persisted.

"M'comin," he said, only loud enough for himself to hear.

He scooted his chair back, using it and the desk to push himself to his feet. Since he'd come back he'd at least bathed, though perhaps not as well as he could have; there was still blood under his nails, a bit in his hair caked onto silver beads hanging from his long dark locs. He scooped what remained of his drink before shuffling over to the door and opened it.

Face to face with Rak, he was too tired to regret it.

"Rak," he began, knowing what was waiting for him.


If Mez knew what was coming, Rak was all too happy to deliver. The second the door was open enough, her fist came around in a sharp right hook, straight to the hollow of his cheek.

Carrie jumped, one hand going to her mouth, the other clutching the railing. Gods above.

Rak didn't give Mez time to recover, stepping into the room, her face contorted in fury. She couldn't yell--that would risk waking the crew--but it was no guessing game that if she could, she damn well would be.

"What the fuck is wrong with you, you selfish dolt?" she hissed. "Do you even know what you've done?!"
« Last Edit: May 27, 2019, 08:44:58 PM by Xigbar »

Offline yelloskello

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Mez barely had the strength to keep from falling over from the punch, his glass falling to the ground with a thud and splashing their feet with the remnants of his scotch. He leaned against the door frame, hand at his face and lightly rubbing where he'd been punched. The pain was dull but it still woke him up a bit.

He glanced up at her.

"I fucked up," he managed, attempting to straighten up. "I really fucked it all up."

It was his fault. All of it was...



"You're damn fucking right you did!" Rak barked, raising her leg--not for a kick, but to push Mez to the floor with force to his stomach. If the punch had almost knocked him over, he was going to be easy to topple. She advanced on him further, standing over him, pinning him to the ground with a boot on his chest.

She leaned over him, leering.

"We could've gotten out easy, Mez, if you hadn't let your idiot feelings get the better of you. If you'd followed the godforsaken plan. This would be over. We'd be safe, but now?"

She leaned into her leg, increasing the pressure.

"Now i'd give it about a day before your face is plastered on every damn board two hundred miles from Langsley. About a day before every government-owned ship is scouring the skies for us, and about a god damn day before every single person on this ship is pegged as an accomplice to fucking murder!"

Carrie winced. Well, that confirmed the worst of her suspicions.

"You've damned us, Mez!"



He gripped her leg with both hands, trying to lift it off his chest. He squirmed, making noises of upset.

"I know, I fucking know. I fucked all of us. I did..." He winced. "I'm sorry, Rak, I..."

Mez gulped.

"I don't know what came over me. It all happened to fast. He started... started freaking out, I couldn't... I didn't have time." He tugged at her leg. "But do you think I haven't been thinking about all that since we got back? Since it happened? I'm fully damn aware, so why the hell do you have to come in and rub it in my face?!"

He didn't care about the volume of his voice. Sure, he wasn't shouting yet, but he still wasn't bothering to talk in a whisper.



"Because this is what you deserve, Mez," Rak growled, pressing down hard on his chest one last time before she finally stepped off of him. "I don't give a flying fuck how hard you've been beating yourself up. You know what I care about?"

She threw an arm out, gesturing out the door.

"What happens to them! To me! To--"

Her voice died down.

"To Petra."

She glared down at the man hard, body stiff, fists clenched. She was taking a moment to recollect herself--she had to, in order to maintain some modicum of restraint.

"She and I are fucking gone the next time we make port, Mez. I'm not going to let us go down because of you. I'm just not. And you... Get your shit together, or step down. You've got a damn crew to take care of."



Mez started to sit up, propping himself with his arm and scooting his legs away from Rak. He glanced up at her, glaring for a moment.

"Fine. Fine, fucking go. Fuck off and die for all I care." He started to push himself up. "F-Fuck you, Rak. I don't need you to tell me how to do my fucking job. So fuck you..."

The scotch was really getting the best of him now.



This time, Rak didn't say anything, but her expression spoke for her. She was angry--furious--but holding something bad that had her stiff as an iron rod. But more than that...

...More than that, she was disgusted.

She turned for the door, but paused at the doorframe. After a moment's consideration, she turned back to the captain.

"If anything happens to Petra because of this, i'll kill you myself."

With that, she left, slamming the door behind her and storming across the deck. Carrie gasped, turning and practically flying down the stairs on light feet. She'd just managed to scramble out of sight, pressing herself against a wall, as Rak began her descent.

The pirate stopped halfway down the stairs, catching herself for a moment before sitting down, the moonlight hard on her back. Face in her hands, she didn't make a sound, but Carrie could see her shoulders shaking with shuddery breaths...

And then, with a sniff and a deep breath, running a hand through her hair, she was up again, heading farther into the ship.

Carrie stayed where she was for one, two, three more minutes--until she felt safe enough to step back into the light, looking down after where Rak had gone. During the day, she could at least hear the creak of the boards and the thuds of footsteps almost at all times. Now, at the dead of night, the silence was almost eerie.

She moved up the stairs with great care, as if she expected to get caught, and peeked across the deck once again. It was empty now, peaceful as could be, the only sign of life being the lights barely visible from the captain's cabin.

The sight made her hesitate.

She moved her way across the deck, wincing once when a board creaked and then opting to take lighter steps, stopping in front of the closed door. She wasn't entirely sure what she was doing, but her fist raised, came so close to gently knocking...

But she stopped herself, slowly lowering her hand. He didn't need this. He didn't even know her. She was being foolish.



Fate had it that Carrie wouldn't have a choice. Only a few seconds after she'd lowered her hand, the door swung open, and the captain was stood in front of her, stopped in his place at the sight of her. He looked worse for wear, his eyes bloodshot, clothes frumpled, smelling of liquor.

"Bellgood," he stated, not moving from where he was stood. "F'you need something you can ask any of the crew. I have something I need to do..."



Carrie's heart leapt in her chest when she realized the door was opening, and when Mez saw her, she was stiff as a board, breath caught in her throat. She made a little sound, then--finally--found her voice.

"N... No," she said softly, "I don't need--I mean, I just..."

She could already see the redness from where Rak had punched him. No way that wasn't going to be a nasty bruise in just a few hours. She looked him in the eye once again, her shoulders relaxing.

"...Are... Are you okay?"



He stared at her a moment, silently closing the door behind him as he stepped out of his room. The light of the moon cast particularly dark shadows on his face that evening, highlighting the expression on his face.

"No, I'm not," he finally replied, gently brushing passed her and moving toward the ship railings. His hand gripped one of the ropes tied down to the railing, quickly unraveling it around his arm, and he climbed up onto the edge and jumped down over it without another word.

A few moments later and a whirring sound started up. He rose up in a dinghy and zipped into the night.



Carolyn had felt a thin, whining string of anxiety rise in her chest as she watched the captain move off to the side of the ship. A little sound of protest had left her mouth--what, exactly, was he needing to do?--and she'd started running over when she saw him disappear over the edge, her stomach lurching.

What stopped her again was the sound, and she slowly moved to the railing as she watched the dinghy zip away.

It was barely half a minute before she'd lost sight of him, and could no longer hear the gentle whir.

Slowly, she let herself crumple to the ground as the high whine of anxiety left her, her back pressed to the railings. She was finally getting that fresh air, but now, she felt more stressed than ever. She'd caught the ride she so desperately needed, sure, but what had she stepped into? A crew wrought with tragedy, a captain who--as far as she could tell--had just disappeared, and... Gods. Who honestly knew if he was coming back, after what had just happened?

She had enough problems of her own, and now, she'd have to contend with this as well. She was depending on these people--they were depending on these people--and now... Now she wasn't even sure she'd make it to Baradhi in time, all things considered. The thought made her sick.

When she felt the gentle nudge against her leg, she jumped, looking up with wide eyes. It was as if she'd been pulled out of a trance.

"Morning," Mattie said gently, smiling weakly down at her. He looked tired--no doubt he'd just woken up. No shirt, cotton pants, his blanket wrapped around his shoulders, and his shoulder-length hair messy enough to make her's look normal.

Carrie blinked. "...Morning," she echoed, after a moment. "What... What are you..?"

"Doing up?" Mattie looked out. "Heard a lot of stomping, and then a dinghy starting up. Wanted to make sure everything was okay."

Carrie followed his gaze out into the clear moonlit sky. "...Yer captain just took off."

"Mm. ...Yeah, that's... That's been happening. He always comes back by morning, and i'm sure this is no different."

He hoped, anyways.

Carrie didn't question it. He, obviously, would have a better idea of it than she would. The man looked down to her, putting on a small grin--and for the first time, Carrie got a good look at the mouthful of sharp teeth he was sporting. A beastfolk, maybe?

"And how about you, ay? Didn't come up here to watch a man fall apart, i'm assuming."

A painful comment, but he was trying to keep decent spirits. Carrie looked down, picking at her own fingers, then shrugged.

"I'unno how you all can sleep on those damn hammocks. Gives me a fuckin' heart attack every time I move."

Mattie was silent for a moment, simply watching the woman, his little grin falling into a soft smile. Carrie looked up at him, meeting the kind look with a scrutinizing one of her own.

"Look, I'unno why yer bein' so nice to me, but if you're--y'know--trynna get in good--"

"I'm gay, dummy."

That shut her up quick. She opened her mouth, then closed it, feeling grateful for the poor lighting that helped hide her reddening face. Mattie's smile widened, and he snorted in amusement.

"...Because you're scared. Lonely. Am I wrong?"

She didn't respond. Didn't make eye contact. He moved to sit down next to her, letting out a sigh and pulling his legs up to rest his arms on his knees. His eyes were turned to the sky--bright and swirling with a sea of stars.

"I guess i've got a soft spot for people like that."

The two of them sat in silence for a long time, enjoying the quiet. Carrie had to admit--it was nice, having someone there with her. The last week had been hard--never stopping, always terrified, and so painfully, utterly alone. The company made her feel safe.

"Want me to fix your hair?"

Carrie blinked, looking over to the pirate, who was watching her, waiting for an answer. Finally, she managed a little smile of her own.

"...Yeah. Please."

The two stood and headed for the door belowdeck, Carrie trailing a little ways behind Mateo. After a moment, she slowed to a stop.

"It's... Mateo, right? Mattie?" she asked. Mattie turned to look back at her, only giving her a small nod. Smiling a little wider, she came over, extending her hand.




Morning when on as usual. The crew went about their chores, checking riggings, repairing any rips or tears, securing ropes. But it was quieter than normal, people seemed more tired, and something felt like it was missing.

That something flew up to the ship from below, hovering beside the deck. Mez was later than usual, which a few people noticed, but they helped him bring the dinghy on board and tied it down while the captain stepped out. Tired, as usual.

His first mate approached, a tall, dark man with thick, loose locs, and gestured to his captain.

"Good morning, Captain," Gurd said. He motioned away from the crew. "Shall I give you report?"

Mez nodded, reaching his hands up to pull his hair back out of his face. The punch from the night before was leaving a dark, purpling bruise.

Gurd noticed it, but he knew better than to ask in front of everyone. He simply started to walk, leading the captain away.

They were out of sight before Gurd addressed the injury, watching Mez's face carefully. He'd know if the man was lying.

"It's nothing," the captain lied. Gurd tsked.

"What happened?" he asked again, his expression never changing. Mez looked away, recalling the night, feeling shameful, embarrassed.

"...It was Rak," he finally said, brow creasing. "She... approached me about what happened down there. I was drunk. I said some things I shouldn't have... Things I didn't mean..."

"So she punched you because of your words?"

Mez glanced up, shook his head.

"No, the punch came first. Then she yelled at me and I yelled back. I was in a real bad way."

The pair were quiet, the silence weighing down. They knew what was next.

"...What happened, Mez."

The captain felt his heart racing. He gulped.

"...They all saw me. They saw me and now everyone's in danger." He pressed his hand to his face. "We need to have a meeting. With everyone. Tell people in a hour, I need to go wash up. I might've thrown up in the dinghy last night..."

Gurd nodded. He put a hand on his captain's shoulder.

"We will work through this."

Giving it a small squeeze, he stepped away, going off to announce to the crew the news. Mez sighed, feeling sick, and slipped back off into his room.



Carrie was coming up from belowdeck just in time to see Mez's return, barely catching sight of him as he disappeared back into his quarters. She was just as tired as the rest of them, but for different reasons: the haircut, slow and surprisingly intimate, had been dragged out by her and Mattie talking throughout it. He'd told her more about the crew--about how he'd joined, and brought Lil' Bear with him. About their captain. About Yahle.

She'd told him, with some hesitance, about her business in Baradhi. He'd been silent in response, long enough to make her feel that anxiousness rising in her chest again.

"You should talk to Mez about that," he'd said, and she tried to turn her head--but he'd gently turned it back, reminding her with a 'tsk'ing sound that he was working on the back of her hair. Her brow had furrowed.

"He's got enough on his plate," she responded, eyes falling back down to the kitchen table before her.

"True, but... I still think you should." He ran a thumb over the short hair at the nape of her neck, holding longer hair out of the way as he evened out ends. "You need help. That's evident. ...And I think, if anyone onboard this ship is going to sympathize right now... It'd be Mez."

After the haircut, he'd helped her set up a cot to replace the hammock, but even then she didn't sleep. She'd laid there, staring at the ceiling, thinking of her options until she drifted off--and then woke up only an hour later as the rest of the crew prepped for the day.

The crew had found her some clothes to get her by until she could wash and patch her own. Rak--working fueled by anger, refusing to acknowledge Mez's return--had glanced up when she noticed the woman coming onto the deck, and was impressed at just how different she looked. Her honey-colored hair was barely fuzz at the back of her neck now, gradually reaching the length of a few silky inches at the top of her head, and her lithe figure fit well in the form-fitting trousers and loose white shirt. She looked clean. Looked alert.

Not a street rat after all, Rak supposed.

Both of them, however, soon had their attention pulled elsewhere. Gurd's approach was hard not to notice, and Rak turned to face the first mate while Carrie had moved to find one of the more familiar faces, a Comfort Person: Scarlett, in this case.

"Gurd," Rak said, crossing her arms. She was ready for whatever repercussions of the previous night she was sure there would be. "What's happening?"



Gurd stopped before Rak and slowly put his hands on his hips.

"He wants to have a meeting. In one hour, with the entire crew." He lowered his voice, speaking only to Rak.

"I hear that mistakes were made, Rak. You have every right to be upset." He sighed softly and shook his head. "Mez did not mean the things he said last night. He owes you an apology, one that I expect he will give you shortly."

Gurd continued, lowering his arms.

"I do not know what this meeting will entail. I suggest you try to talk with him beforehand if you can, though. With him in this state, it's hard to tell."



Rak leered gently at the man, taking in his words, letting them ruminate. She didn't seem happy with the response - not one bit.

"He can cram an apology up his tight ass," she grumbled, turning back to her work, letting the statement hang in the air for a good ten, twenty seconds before she finally relented. "But i'll talk to him. I guess. If you insist."

She glanced back to Gurd again, the glint still in her eye.

"He gonna be sober for this meeting?"



Gurd eyed her a moment, his response clear on his face.

"I don't know," he admitted. "I hope so." Even the first mate, usually such a stoic, unreadable man, seemed worried. He simply gave Rak a nod, moving to turn away.

"One hour. I will see you then." And with that he started across the deck, starting to wave other crew members over.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2019, 08:40:21 PM by yelloskello »

Offline Xigbar

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Rak slowed her work, watching as the first mate walked away, and gave a heavy huff. This was far from the first time 'private talks' with the captain had been necessary after something or other - in fact, begrudging apologies on one side or another were fairly common, especially after a night of heavy drinking.

...This... This was different, though. He was in a different place. This wasn't a scuffle over nothing. Apologies weren't going to fix things this time around.

She made quick work of her given tasks and handed off her remaining one to a nearby member of the crew, giving a brief explanation of 'pressing matters, thanks for your help' and walking away before they could protest. Standing before the door, it took her a long moment before she could swallow her pride and bring herself to knock. Finally, she rolled her eyes, raising one hand and tapping on the door with the back of it. She was being a petulant child, and would need to get this over with eventually.

Might as well be now.


The door opened surprisingly quickly, Mez standing in the doorway in possibly the cleanest white shirt he'd worn in some time and fitted pants. He still looked tired, that seemed like a constant state of existence for the man, but at least he seemed more put together. When he saw Rak at the door he felt his heart drop but he gave her a little nod.

"Rak. Something I can help you with?" He didn't sound angry, he didn't even sound apologetic. His tone was neutral but confident, as if he'd come to a decision and decided to stick to it. His hair was pulled back out of his face, his room illuminated by soft light.

He gestured lightly inside.

"Did you want to come in?"


"Not particularly," Rak said, but she knew that, in truth, she'd have to regardless. She'd been leaning on the doorframe and pushed off easily, slipping past him and stepping into the room. Once in its midst, she began to slowly turn, looking over the area with a leering, judgmental eye.

"How in the fuck can you breathe in here."

Before he could answer, she shut her eyes, shaking her head, getting herself back on track. Huffing briefly, she looked back over to him.

"Gurd said we should talk before your big meeting, so--" she raised her arms, then let them fall to her side. "Let's talk. What are you telling the crew, Mez?"


Mez shut the door slowly behind them, lingering there for a moment before turning to look at Rak. He didn't answer right away, instead drifting to his desk where a few scrolls were laid out.

"They deserve to know what's going on, the danger they're in, and they deserve to have a choice." He put his hand on the desk, tapping it lightly, before turning to face Rak. "I'm giving them an out. I don't want any of them to be at risk because of me, not unwillingly."

He sighed.

"I was stupid, I let myself get carried away. I can't change that. All I can do is make sure I take care of those involved..."


Rak moved, sitting herself down on the edge of the bed and putting her feet up on the edge of its frame. She watched Mez carefully, chewing on a spot on the inside of her mouth as she considered his words. It was probably the first logical decision Mez had really made since Yahle died - if not a little self-punishing, but at this point, there wasn't much she or anyone could do about that.

"...And what then?" she asked, raising an eyebrow. "Bring on new crew to replace whoever leaves, put them in harm's way? Quit piracy altogether, start up a--" she waved a hand. "A small business? Or are you hoping they all love you so much that you can air your guilt and they'll stay with you anyway?"

It sounded harsh, but was a genuine question on her part. While she wasn't sure Mez might intend the latter, it was what she suspected might happen anyways. There weren't many people on that ship who would up and leave Mez. Hell--she and Petra had a fairly on-again-off-again job on the ship, and it had taken a long talk to convince Petra that they were better off leaving.

"What are you going to do about you, Mez? The price that's going to be on your head?"


Mez rubbed his temples lightly. These are all things he had been thinking about too.

"...ultimately, it's going to be up to them. They can do whatever they want, I'm not going to try to guilt them into staying with me. I'm not going to hold it against them if they leave either, just like I'm not holding it against you or Petra for leaving. It's for the best."

He heaved a big sigh and dropped into the chair by his desk, shaking his head.

"I want to hear what they think. I want to get their side of this. I mean, they knew, we all knew, there would be a risk of being caught when we went down there to kill Black, but that was only a possibility. I made it a reality."

The captain leaned back, scooping the papers off the desk.

"Worst comes to worst, Gurd would make a great captain. Regardless of what happens, I'll figure out how to deal with this bounty when it hits. Might have to visit the Council and ask for a favor..."


Rak sighed. It was almost pleasant, getting to talk to a clear-headed Mez--or, clearer-headed, anyway. She certainly didn't think he was a foolish captain--if he was, she never would have come aboard the ship in the first place--but the place he'd been in after Yahle's death had her... Concerned. She still was, too. Getting back to some semblance of normalcy was going to be a long, arduous process.

But, at least, she was getting to have an honest conversation with him.

She stood, moving over to stand in front of Mez, arms crossed. After a moment, she let out a little sigh. "...Whatever it is you do, you've got my well-wishes," she said. "I hope you don't get anyone killed. I hope you don't get yourself killed."

A pause.

"...This doesn't mean i'm changing my decision, though, and i've already talked to Petra. We're gone in Baradhi, when you drop the gangly blonde off."


Mez nodded.

"That's fine. I was just making preparations that..."

He held out the paper.

"I have a guy that'll meet us there. Can bring you anywhere you need to go. Reputable, trusted. I can give you two some money, some supplies, so you aren't out there roughing it..." He frowned. "It's the least I can do."


Rak gave Mez an unimpressed look, tilting her head slightly as she peered down at him.

"If you think we'd be 'roughing it', you clearly don't know us well enough. We've left your ship before, and we can do it again," she said. Putting her hand on top of his, she pushed it back down to the desk for him to put the paper back down.

"You're gonna need those resources more than we will."

She moved away from him--from the desk--and went for the door. Just before opening it, she looked back, pointing assertively at him.

"And don't think this means I feel bad 'bout that bruise. Or that I forgive you for being a dumb fuck." She lowered the finger, glaring at him. "Lucky you're a cute dumb fuck, or--so help you--I dunno how you'd get by."

Another pause. She glanced around the room.

"...Clean up your damn room. What am I, your mom? And you probably need to actually talk to our new Borvarian Princess. Pretty sure you have some negotiations of compensation that need to be covered before she fucks off."

And then she was gone once again.


Mez sighed and shook his head. That's what he gets for trying to help... But at least she wasn't glaring him down, no more than usual anyway. He stood from his seat, moving around his room to address any last minute business he needed to take care of before he faced his crew. He knew he had to address it carefully...

An hour passed and the crew was congregated on the deck, waiting for their captain to join them. Gurd stood at attention, prepared to stand by Mez whatever decision he decided to make. He trusted the captain to make the right choices for himself and his crew.

Finally, the captain's quarters opened and Mez stepped out, rolling his sleeves up as he went. It wasn't until now that the newcomer would see that one of his arms was completely metal, intricate plates and screws, though it was hard to tell how far the prosthetic reached up. There seemed to be more to him than what met the eye at first.

The crew slowly quieted down as he gestured to them, asking for silence. Once he had that, he began speaking.

"As you all know, the job we went down into Borvaria for was successful. Black is dead, we finally have justice."

There were a few nods, the twins whistled in cheer. Mez eyed them briefly then continued.

"I should say it was mostly successful. I was seen killing him. They saw my face. I'm not sure how long it'll take but I'm sure they'll have enough witnesses to figure out a good idea of what I look like. So at the very least, I'm a wanted man." He paused. "Well. More wanted now. You generally don't get off scott free for the murder of nobility."

Mez hesitate. He scanned his crew, watching him intently, and he cleared his throat.

"...because of this, everyone on this ship is at risk. This wasn't supposed to happen. We were supposed to get in, get the job done, and get out, and even though there was always the risk of getting caught, we put precautions in to prevent it. But I fucked that up. I'll fully admit it, it was my fault. And now, because of me, you all are in danger.

"But that's why I wanted this meeting. You all deserve to know what happened, you all deserve to have a choice. If you want to leave, for your own safety, I'll understand. I don't want anyone to feel obligated to stay. Your lives are important to me, and when we went down there, I put all of you at risk."

He eyed the group. He gulped.

"...and if it comes to it, if I have to, I'll leave. This is as much your home as it is mine. Gurd will make a fine captain."

Finally, he took a deep breath, exhaled an anxious breath, and rubbed his forehead. Boy this had taken a lot out of him.

"Well. That's it, I guess. That's all I wanted to say. So... What do you all think?"


At first, Mez was greeted with silence as a few furtive glances spread throughout the crew. Murmurs, barely audible, went out first--but it was Lil' Bear who was the first to actually speak.

"...Sir," he said, a small, shaking hesitance in his voice. He was trying to find the right words. "Sir, without you, and without this ship... I--I can't speak for the rest of us, of course, but I know i'd probably be dead right now."

He swallowed hard.

"As far as i'm concerned, I owe you my life, and... ...And i'd bet there's a good number of people here who are in the same boat as I am. I know there are."

Looking out at the rest of the crew, a little smile came to the half-orc's face as he was greeted with a number of voices muttering in agreement. Rak, from where she was leaning against the rails, 'tsk'ed lightly. Just like she'd figured.

"So... I'm staying," Lil' Bear continued, looking over his shoulder as Mateo added: "And that means I am, too."

"If not just to see what happens," 'Lucy' piped up third.

"But what about you?"

The last voice to chime in belonged to the small woman with the immense amount of brown hair currently keeping a hand on Rak's arm: Petra, the healer. She knew she couldn't chime in among those who were staying, but there were other concerns to address.

"You can't fly around forever with a price like this on your head. ...Are... Are you going to Home?"

Carolyn glanced over at the mention of 'home', raising a brow. A base, maybe? Best she could figure.


Mez sucked on the inside of his lip thoughtfully, tapped his finger against his arm slowly.

"I think going Home would be the best option. The Council, hopefully, will give help with this... situation. It's the only option I have." He shrugged. "Unless Black's death ends up not being a big deal, maybe get lucky and everyone will be like, 'Oh phew finally someone did something about that guy."

He managed a small smile to his crew; he was still capable of a sense of humor, despite what the last few months would say. But the smile faded slightly and he continued.

"I suppose I won't truly know until I talk to them. I'll send word that way later today, set a course for there..."

He breathed deeply.

"If you want to stay, well, thank you, I appreciate it. If you want to leave, our next stop is Baradhi, and I understand and it was an honor having you aboard." He clapped his hands together. "Well, I think that's... really all there is to it. No one has to make any decisions right now. Think about what you want, come and tell me or Gurd what your decision is. Thanks everyone, you're dismissed..."

The deck erupted in talk, a few of the crew gathering up around Mez to talk to him, ask him questions, give him answers. Off by the railings, Scarlett simply shook her head. Beside her, a woman covered from the neck down in tattoos simply scoffed, running her hand through short black hair, tapping a pegleg on the deck in slight annoyance.

"Well, I know I'm staying," she commented idly. "It's not as though we don't all run the risk of being arrested at any given moment anyway. He's being dramatic."

"Maybe," Scarlett replied. She at least looked concerned. "But Petra is right, Delaney. He can't ignore this, he can't run from it. It's still something he has to address..."


Carolyn had been listening intently, then jumped a little when the entire crew broke out into wild chatter. Hanging back, watching, she only turned her attention away when she heard Scarlett addressing this other woman. Delaney, was it?

"Scar," she said softly, touching the woman's arm, "what is Home, exactly?"


Scarlett glanced over and her expression softened. She must be so lost in all this, the woman thought.

"Home is... Well, it's home. When times are troubled, pirates have a place to go, somewhere safe, secured... Pirates with families will keep their loved ones there, visit when they come to port. There's a pirate council that helps keep order, sort of how there's a thieves guild." She leaned in. "And the only way to find it is if you already know where it is..."


"I see," Carrie said, glancing back to the crowd that had amassed around the captain. So. A secret base that would be impossible to find for those not in the know. She knew what this meant for her: once she'd left the ship, there was little chance she'd ever be able to find these people again.

You should talk to Mez about it.

The thought made her brow knit a little in worry, but she couldn't help but feel that Mattie was right. They were already indebted to her for her help - and the truth coming forward that it had, indeed, been a rather brutal murder probably would put higher compensation on the table. Obviously these people were capable, too - even just one or two of them to help. And, given the circumstances...

And I think, if anybody on this ship was going to sympathize right now... It'd be Mez.

She bit her lip lightly. Well, she might as well give it a shot. For now, this was the best chance she had, and if she didn't take it, they'd be gone soon enough, likely never to be seen again.

Really, what's the worst that could happen? He says no?


Carolyn decided it would be best to wait until after dinner that night, when there were less people to notice her sneaking around in the dark. The day passed quickly: after the meeting on deck, she'd been passed from person to person, shown all about the ship, taught some of the basic ins-and-outs of working onboard a ship, which she was more than happy to do. It kept her busy. Kept her from being lost with her own thoughts.

By the time dinner rolled around, she was tired, sweaty, but in good spirits; Mez's announcement, their show of comradery, seemed to have lifted the general mood on the ship at least a little, and it was proving to be an infectious feeling. It reminded her of being a kid, a teenager, feeling so satisfied after a hard day working in a smithy, finally getting to sit down for the first time...

And, icing on the cake of higher spirits, even the captain came down to dinner that night. That seemed to send the crew over the moon.

It was as good a time as any to beg in desperation, she figured.

After dinner, as plates were being brought up and cleaned, Carolyn kept glancing over, seeing if the captain was still present. She'd been bringing in a tall pile of dishes to the kitchen when she finally saw Mez taking his leave, and damn near dropped the entire thing; in fact, the only reason she didn't was because 'Lucy' had been there to help catch them.

"Hey," the half-elf said, frowning deeply when she noticed that Carrie still wasn't even paying attention. The blonde's head whipped over, looking briefly at her, then back to the entrance as Mez disappeared from sight. She muttered a 'sorry, sorry', and then hurried away, leaving Lucy with a mess of plates in her arm. The elf stood there, glaring after her, and only yelled out, "well, clearly, not sorry enough!" after Carolyn had disappeared too.

She rounded the corner and hurried her way up the stairs as quickly as she could, stopping at the top as she found herself looking at Mez's back, already half way across the deck.

"M.. C-Captain!" she called, awkwardly, unsure of what it would be better to call him. She wasn't entirely happy with her ultimate decision, either; the word felt strange in her mouth.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2019, 09:09:09 PM by Xigbar »

Offline yelloskello

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Mez slowed when he heard the voice, turning around to look at who had called out to him. He raised a brow. Bellgood.

"You can just... call me Mez," he replied, putting his hands on his hips. "Did you need something?"

This was probably a good a time as any, he'd needed to talk to her anyway about the favors he owed her...


"Y.. Yeah. Yeah," Carrie said, moving closer to the man, meeting him where he'd stopped on the deck. "Gotta talk, as... I'm sure you know."

About what, though, he probably wasn't entirely clued in on.

She nodded towards his quarters. "In private, if tha'ss alright with you? I know there's not exactly much hustle an' bustle up here right now, but... ...S'a bit personal."


The pirate hesitated; oh, in private. In his room. Sure, in the last hour since he'd talked to Rak he had picked up a bit in there but... It was still a mess. He'd even opened a window to air it out. Hopefully that made all the difference.

"Alright, sure," he replied, not quite sure at all. He beckoned for her to follow, starting toward his room. "Haven't changed your plans, have you? For Baradhi?"


Carolyn had noticed Mez's slight hesitation, furrowing her brow ever-so-slightly as she waited for his answer. Bit of a strange thing to be unsure about. What, was he afraid to be around her without the company of others? Let her on his ship, but still didn't trust her well enough?

"Yeap. Still Baradhi," she said, stuffing her thumbs into her pockets as she followed him. It was her turn to hesitate now. "I jus'... Have been thinkin', is all. 'Bout the rest of my compensation. I mean--think it goes without sayin', the circumstances have, uh..."

She pursed her lips.

"...Changed, a touch."


His brow furrowed. Changed, huh.

"Privately," he repeated, hurrying his pace a little. What else could she want now?

The captain opened the door to his quarters, holding it for her to enter. The room was illuminated softly by magic orbs and the dimming light from outside. It was decorated with various knickknacks, the walls, the ceiling, but none of that made the room feel chaotic until one saw the disarray of the rest of the room. Books, papers, and scrolls lined the walls, overflowing from stuffed bookshelves. His bed was unmade, pillow on the floor, blankets twisted.

He gestured to the chair by the desk, deciding he would prefer to stand.

"Alright then," he began, folding his arms across his chest. "Your compensation. What do you want?"


As soon as Carrie set foot in the room, she understood full-well why Mez had been so hesitant to talk in private. She wasn't even able to hold back her little look of understanding, mouth shaping for an 'ooohh', but never actually making the sound.

For a moment, she didn't respond, simply looking around the room--but not with the judgmental eye like Rak had. No, she looked... Interested. Curious. She kept stopping on anything that looked relatively interesting, taking it in for a moment. When she noticed the state of the bed, her head tilted just a little.

Shite, what sort of contorted bullshite position is this fuck sleepin' in?

She realized, first, that she'd been in the room for too long to be so silent--and second, that Mez had actually said something. She looked back to him--then to the chair--then back to him as she slipped into the seat.

"...Well," she started, folding her hands in her lap, "initially, i'd wanted the--the money for supplies an' whatnot. As you know. ...But, um, that was before I knew I was makin' myself an accomplice t'murder."

She pursed her lips, watching him intently.

"Now... Maybe i'm havin' delusions of grandeur here, but I feel that--bein' in such a state, maybe it wouldn' be so wild for me to ask for a bit more. I mean. ...Considerin' I helped you butcher a fella. And, hell--technically, it ain't even really more, per se. 'Cause... Bugger the money. I'll make do without that--what I really need, more than anythin'... I need help, cap'n."

She paused.

"Er. Mez."


Mez stared at the woman for a moment, narrowing his eyes slightly as she spoke. Sure, she was right, and she did have every right to ask for more based on the situation... But boy, it left a taste in his mouth that he couldn't quite place.

However, he couldn't do much about it.

"...While I really dislike having someone take advantage of the situation we're all in," He huffed softly and tapped his foot, "I also feel you're in your right, under the circumstances."

The pirate rubbed his forehead gently.

"Alright... What do you want help with? I'll see what I can do..."


Carolyn felt a smile growing on her face as he spoke. She wasn't exactly one to guilt people into doing what she needed--but as it was, desperate times were calling for desperate measures, and she needed to give herself whatever leg up she could.

When he asked what she needed, though, the smile faded a little.

You're asking too much, idiot.

She was silent for a moment, glancing to the floor before lowering her head entirely as she scratched the back of the neck. She looked... Embarrassed, almost.

"...Mez, have you ever heard of the Tandenei?"


He narrowed his eyes slightly, noting her body language, and slowly took a seat on the edge of his bed. He felt like this might take some time to explain...

"The name is familiar. Isn't that an old god? Tandi something?" He tilted his head. "How far off am I?"


Carrie smiled weakly. It was a solid attempt.

"Not far. The name yer lookin' for is Tandine," she explained. She heaved a heavy sigh, took a short moment to recollect, and then set in on her explanation.

"The Tandenei are--... Were... ...Are one of the religious sects that follows her. A real old one - 'round before..." She waved a hand vaguely. "Before everythin' happened."

She knew he had to know what she was talking about then. Tandine's Despair, the event that scarred the eastern coast, was hard to erase from history when remnants of its destruction still existed in the land.

"They were assassins," she continued. "Didn't work for nobody but the goddess herself - believed in balance, an' such. A name would be given to them, an' they'd do their work, an' then everything went t'hell and they disappeared. Well. Sorta. It's more that they... They holed up.

"There's this big temple, 'bout six miles outta Baradhi, stickin' out of the mountains like a big obsidian thumb. Thing's a fuckin' fortress, Mez, an' armed to the teeth with trained assassins. They never bothered trynna go into hiding or nothin', 'cause they didn't have to - they just made sure not a damn thing could ever get in or outta the place."

She pursed her lips, frowning thoughtfully at a corner of Mez's room.

"So, 'course, I needed to get in."


The man was quiet for a moment. He relayed the information over and over in his head, considering what, exactly, she was asking.

"So, let me get this straight..." He counted on his fingers. "An ancient batch of murderers, in an ancient fortress that's supposed to be impervious to breaking in and escaping, out in the mountains..."

As he spoke, his voice took on a stronger tone of incredulousness, almost bordering humor.

"You bring up how I've brought you into a dangerous situation after being an accomplice to murder..." His eyebrows raised. "But you want help getting into somewhere that could get all of us killed..."

The pirate watched her for a moment, a twinge of a smile on the corner of his lips.

"Am I getting this right so far?"


Mez may have been laughing, but Carrie wasn't. She finally made eye contact with him for the first time--and she looked tired. Embarrassed. And there was something else there... Gods, that hint of desperation from back at the inn.

She knew she'd been asking too much.

If there's anyone on this ship who's going to sympathize...

She didn't answer him. Leaning so her elbows were on her knees, she started picking at her own fingers again.

"I got in," she said shortly. "Had an escort. Two thieves. Brilliant pair--if anyone could do it, it was them. ...They were..."

She trailed off for a moment. She couldn't look him in the eye anymore.

"I got out, but only 'cause they let themselves get caught to afford me time. I... I don't..."

When she stopped this time, it was because she was trying to hold herself together. Her head was down again, shoulders hunched, to hide the way she was squeezing her eyes shut, willing herself to not fucking cry.

"I don't know if they're still alive, but I gotta get back in there, Mez. I gotta. I--I know this sounds--sounds insane, and if you don't help, fuck me, i'll just take the money, i'll find someone, or i'll just go back in alone, but... But I..."


It didn't take him long to realize that he'd fucked up. Sitting in his room, this woman was begging for help, begging someone to save her friends, and it had only been a day since he'd done the same to her. He hesitated, brow knitting together, the amused expression dead and gone and replaced with regret, worry, empathy.

He stood up from the bed and moved over to her, lowering to one knee by her side and resting a hand on the arm of the chair.

"I'm sorry. I didn't... Alright, calm down. Bellgood, please, I'm sorry."

Mez heaved a sigh.

"Alright. Look... I'm not going to sugarcoat it, this is a big task you're asking. Could risk lives, something I've been trying to avoid doing."

He hesitated.

"...We can talk about it, okay. Maybe... Maybe figure something out. See if it's plausible. Do you remember how your friends there managed to get in? Any details about what the place looked like inside? Maybe we can see if there's a way, but... If it looks too dangerous, I can't risk the lives of my crew for a few people I don't know... You understand, right?"


"'Course I do," Carrie croaked, not daring to look at the pirate. She was frozen, trying not to let loose, to maintain some semblance of composure. She'd been doing so well--she hadn't even broken down like this when she'd been talking to Mattie...

Slowly, she sat back up, rubbing her face with both hands. When she pulled them away, she was looking stoic again, as if she'd wiped the emotion clear off her face.

"I already know how to get in. S'not... Conventional, not how we got in last time, but I know it won't be guarded. I--I don't know where they'd be kept, but I remember--I remember some of it--bits and pieces, long corridors, mirrors, black doors--I think i'd passed a stockade, maybe?"

The thoughts seemed to be overwhelming. She was blinking hard and fast. "I jus'..."

Her jaw clenched, and she swallowed hard, finding calm within herself.

"M'not an expert thief, Mez. M'not a fighter. I go in there, it'd be a genuine miracle if I got out alive without help. I mean--I don't even think I could get them both out by myself. I'unno what state they're in. Could be dead weight--there's no way in hell they're gettin' treated to the high life in there. Do I look like someone who could carry two full-grown people by my lonesome?"

She managed an exceptionally mirthless laugh--closer to a skeptical wheeze, really--at the very thought. Slowly, what semblance of a bitter smile she'd had on her face fell. Now, she just looked tired again.

"..I jus' need... Someone. Anyone, who knows what they're doin'. Anyone who could even give me a sliver of a chance of gettin' them out--even jus' one person, if it came to it."

Finally, she looked at him once again, dead in the eye.

"If that ain't you, yer crew, anybody here, I wouldn' blame you for sayin' no."


This was risky. Incredibly risky. It was a lot to do for people he had no investment in, for a person he barely even knew, right after pulling such a high-stakes assassination off and already losing someone dear to him. But the desperation in her voice, the worry, the sadness, and he remembered the same desperate attempt to get help back in the tavern.

"Alright, alright," he said soothingly, trying to calm her down, trying to think. Fuck, how could he ask any of his crew to help with this after everything that had happened the last few days? Nevermind what had happened to Yahle...

He sighed.

"Let me... Let me talk it over with my first mate. See if there's something we can do to help." He carefully reached over, touched her arm, and rubbed it lightly. "I can't guarantee anything... That'd just be cruel. But I'll do my best to help you, okay? After all, you did save our skin back in Borvaria."
« Last Edit: May 27, 2019, 09:03:53 PM by yelloskello »

Offline Xigbar

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Carrie had flinched when Mez touched her arm, gaze dropping to his hand immediately. She'd stiffened, and even though it was subtle, seemed to be leaning away in a way that she didn't entirely mean to do.

"Yeah," she said shortly, getting to her feet just a little too quickly. It took her a moment to reorient, but when she did, she flashed him an awkward little smile and started for the door--

you're asking too much

--then slowed after only a step or two.

"Look, uh... I'm sorry, 'bout... It wasn' right, me trynna guilt you like that," she said. "Don't... It's askin' a lot, an' I know that, an' i'm just... Takin' a shot in the dark. You talk to yer first mate, sure, but if it comes to it..."

She had to work to plaster that smile onto her face.

"There'll be some idiot out there willin' to put themselves in the fire for a pretty penny, m'sure. You... You don't owe me."

She watched him for a long moment, taking in the sight of him surrounded by flecks of blue light, the orange tint of the setting sun through the little window dwindling to nothing at all. The lights reminded her of the temple, lining so many of the halls...

"...S'Carrie, by the way. Carolyn Bellgood. ...I mean, s'pose it doesn' much matter now, but..."


Mez let her go, looking after her as she made her way to the door. He slowly stood, staying near the chair.

"Well, Carrie... We'll talk about it tomorrow, see what we can do." The man gave her a weak smile.

"Just... Go, try to get some sleep. Gurd and I will handle it, and then we'll go from there. At the very least I can try to think if there's anyone dumb enough to help you out with this."

He then started towards the door, moving around her carefully and reaching for the knob.

"We'll figure something out. A debt is a debt. Alright?"


Carrie looked up to meet Mez's gaze. Her expression said everything she was feeling: he didn't owe her, but she knew there was no sense in trying to get him to agree. She was too tired to keep trying, anyways.

"...Thanks, Mez," was all she could muster--that, and another halfhearted smile, before she slipped out the door and started across the deck.

Gods. What was she even thinking?


What was he thinking?

Mez was pacing his room as he thought of his conversation with Carolyn. What was wrong with him? Did he really let himself get swept up in some dangerous task, that in the end wouldn't even benefit him? He let the tears of some stranger sway him into forfeiting his convictions and coming as close to promising to help her as he could without actually promising, which was essentially the same thing in the end of things.

He was keeping his hand busy, a thin rope-necklace twined between his fingers, a smooth, green stone with an inverted curve notched into it, which he rubbed his thumb over again and again and again... A gift from Yahle, something that helped him concentrate when confronted with a difficult choice. When he'd received it, Yahle took his hands and pressed it into his palms, looking him in the eyes sternly.

"I know that head of yours, Mez. It's a mess. You tend to float away in there way too often. So this? This here will help ground you. Something to weigh you down in the real world instead of that vast noggin of yours."

The memory made Mez smile. He stopped in the middle of the room, looking down at the ground, slowly lowering his hand and loosening his grip on the worry stone.

If Yahle were here, he'd know what to do, the pirate thought, grimacing painfully. He held the necklace up, looked it over carefully. It had received much use since he'd gotten it, especially in the last few months, the intend shiny with wear. On the back was a rune, simple; three dots, a line down the middle, an X at the base of the middle line.

He took one end of the necklace in each hand and tied it back around his neck.

Yahle would help. It wouldn't matter what it took, he would find a way to make it happen, to make sure this woman was taken care of.

Mez sighed.

"Of course you would," he said to the empty room, shaking his head. "You were always the savior. Even now you compel me to do the right thing, even if it is insane..."

He started for the door, thinking of what he would say. He wasn't sure how Gurd would react. Mez, going down alone with this woman to help her find her friends? It was madness. But he knew it had to be him.

Mez opened the door, walking out onto the deck, and looking around for his first mate. Better now than later...


Carrie had gone to bed as the sky was losing its last traces of oranges and warm pinks, and awoke as oranges and warm pinks were blooming once again.

She'd actually listened to Mez's advice, heading down belowdeck and taking to her cot. She was lost in the embarrassment of the conversation, her own self-pity, fear of the future--all the way up until sleep claimed her, exhaustion taking over her overactive mind. She was thankful for it now, though--going to sleep so early had her up before the rest of the crew, and the silence, the peace... She needed it.

She'd gone below first--to where the showers were, giving herself a chance to clean up before any semblance of privacy could be lost. It was short-lived, but refreshing, and she was soon dressed and on her way to the upper levels of the ship once again. She stopped only to fetch her bag stowed below her cot, but a distant sound gave her pause.

Voices. She couldn't make out what they were saying; they were speaking in soft, conversational tones, probably in the kitchen. She only waited long enough to see if she could tell who it was--she couldn't, but she had an idea regardless--before slinging her bag over her shoulder and heading for the deck.

She stopped at the top of the stairs, leaning against the doorframe lightly as she looked east. The light of the sun was just starting to peek over the horizon; the sky was like a vibrant painting, mottled with clouds. She recognized the mountain range far in the distance.

They'd be at their destination soon.

She moved over to the edge of the ship, dropping her boots on the ground at her side and leaning against the rails. One hand dipped into her bag, pulling out an apple she'd stolen from the dinner table two nights before. She took a large, juicy bite out of the thing--glancing down at it for a moment as she noted how tasty it was--and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand as she looked back out at the sunrise.

Could get used to breakfasts like this.


It wasn't long after she'd taken that first bite that the sound of footsteps could be heard on the stairs leading up to the deck. When Mez stepped out, he seemed peaceful for a change, his thumbs tucked into his pockets. His talk with Gurd had been good, and it had been long. But if there was one thing he always appreciated about the man it was his honesty; and that was something Mez needed to hear once in a while.

It had started that, truthfully, Gurd thought this a terrible idea. Mez agreed. But Gurd also admitted that often times, terrible ideas were necessary to keep balance in the world; if people only acted on good ideas, hope could never survive. Mez thought that was a bit dramatic but, otherwise, agreed.

When he stepped out onto the deck, he very much expected it to be empty; most of the crew were only just waking, and those were just the responsible ones. Of the people he expected to see out on the deck so early, Carolyn was not one of them. But, to be fair, he also realized that he really didn't know her that well at all.

So, on that note, he decided to slowly approach her, moving to sidle next to her on the railing.

"So did you manage to sleep?"


Carolyn had heard the footfalls coming up the steps--had heard him crossing the deck, too. She hadn't looked, though, simply continuing to enjoy her apple.

When he spoke, she peered at him out of the corner of her eye, acknowledging him.

"Yeh," she said, taking another large bite of the apple. She finally turned her head, looking him over with a quick glance as she took her sweet time chewing and swallowing.

"An' you... ...Yoou..." She smiled faintly. "You look like yer runnin' on yer second wind. How far off am I?"

An echo of his question from the previous night, about Tandine. She didn't even realize.


"Not far at all," he replied, looking off at the morning sky sleepily. But he also seemed content, lacking the energy to worry.

"I'm glad I caught you," Mez began, lightly covering a yawn. He continued, still riding his yawn as he spoke.

"Mm, I wanted to tell you I'm going to help you in Baradhi. It won't be easy, but I'm prepared for that. Not like anything is easy these days anyway. But you did help me, and, well, you do what you have to do for your friends, and you sure put yourself on the line for these folks so they must be important..."

He trailed off, putting his weight on the railing a bit more.

"We'll be there tomorrow morning."


Carolyn had been watching him with lidded eyes at first, but as he went on, she seemed to become far more alert. Eyes wide, brows raised, mouth just barely open enough to betray how surprised she was, it took his words a moment to sink in.

"...Are you serious?" she asked, her brow knitting a little, as if in worry. "I mean--yer not just fuckin' with me, right, 'cause that'd be a cruel joke."

Her body language changed, tense, as she posed her question. She'd taken a step away from the railing, and was keeping her arms folded, close to herself--as if to brace herself for when her worst suspicions came true.

When he didn't crack a smile, didn't let out a laugh--didn't even look guilty, or apologetic--her eyes went even wider.

"You're really gonna do it. I mean--I got across, entirely, how dangerous this was, right? I mean--I jus'--not that i'm not grateful, 'cause... Cause..."

She seemed to lose herself for a second, shaking her head as she came back. Her mouth opened, then closed.

"...There's no way in hell yer crew's gonna like this. What're you even gonna tell them? Is it just gonna be you? Does anybody else know? Do we need t'hash out more details?"

The questions were coming at a million miles an hour, and it felt like her heart was beating at the same pace.


"Gurd is going to help," he replied, sounding sleepy. "He's going to get the twins involved, too. He figured having an extra pair of hands would be helpful, and they won't question anything we give them to do."

The man straightened up, stretched his back.

"Gurd and I will handle the rest of the crew. Figure we could stop in Baradhi a day or two anyway. You and I will need to discuss a plan of getting in, getting through, and getting out; Gurd will make sure we have all the preparations needed. The twins will be our get away."


"Good. I... Tha'ss good," Carolyn stammered. She was still a little floored that this man had simply chosen to help her out of, what, the goodness of his heart? Because he 'owed' her? That seemed like insanity--she was well-aware she couldn't buy someone's help on this for less than a hefty chunk of marks, and even that was questionable. Hell, the last time she got in, it was out of love from long-term friends, and she didn't have that here, either.

It baffled her. She was grateful, but what in the hell was wrong with this man?

"So--" she started stepping away from the railings, towards his quarters, "you need all the details. A'right, we can do that--figure out somethin' solid. Now, right? I mean, gives us a good long time to make sure there ain't any holes."

There were going to be holes. Her memories of the place were spotty, flighty, fueled by adrenaline. But, she was going to give him whatever she could.


Mez watched her go, frowning gently and raising a brow.

"Right now?" he asked, walking towards her. "We still have some time, here, and I need to sleep at some point, at least from what I'm told."

Sure, sleep wasn't always a priority for him, but he was actually feeling it now. It had been a long couple of days...


Carrie was silent for a moment. Her heart was sinking in her chest--and there was no hiding it. Mez might as well have been watching the light go out of her, the way her face, her body language, changed. She'd been running hot, and he'd stolen the fuel from her. Maybe it was a trick of the early morning light, but, gods, she genuinely seemed less vibrant.

"...I... Right," she said, glancing down. "Sorry. 'Course. I mean--yeah, tha' makes sense. ...I jus' thought..."

She bit her lip briefly--then put on another one of those sad, false smiles, and started moving for the door belowdeck.

"Nevermind that. I--come get me, I guess, when yer ready, i'll... Iii'll be waitin'."


It seemed like everything this woman did was made to guilt trip him, even if it wasn't intentional (he didn't know her well enough yet to tell if it was or not). He stared after her a moment before heaving a sigh, a groan, and walked after her.

"Let me go get another cup of tea and we can at least get started," he said, moving ahead of her and going down the stairs. "Might as well start while the coals are still warm..."


Carolyn stopped, watching Mez walk past her, and a grin broke out on her face. Normally she might have been concerned that the man might actually die of sleep deprivation, but lately, her mind had been on something else--someone else--and it was hard for her to remember much else existed.

"Great!" she said, walking backwards towards Mez's quarters. "You get that, i'll get started, alright? I'll just--"

She jerked a thumb behind her, then turned, hurrying towards the room. By the time Mez might have any chance to protest, it was too late, and she'd already disappeared from sight.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2019, 09:21:23 PM by Xigbar »

Offline yelloskello

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The pirate paused at the stairs, looking back at her and attempting to stop her... but it was too late. He wrinkled his nose at the thought of a stranger in his room but, he figured, there wasn't much harm she could do in there by herself.

He returned to the deck a few minutes later with a mug of hot tea and trudged back to his room, sipping on it. He really hoped this would be worth it.

Coming up to his own bedroom door, he opened it, hoping to the Gods he wouldn't find Bellgood doing anything odd.


As soon as Carolyn had entered the room, her first order of business was rifling through Mez's things.

Not as an invasion of privacy, of course--no, she was looking for particular items, as well as familiarizing herself with what she had at her disposal. She'd done a quick scan of the floor, taking note of all the loose papers, the books, but decided that wasn't where she wanted to start. No, where she wanted to start was, of course, his desk.

She didn't waste time taking inventory on everything she saw: she was pulling open drawers, quickly filing through the contents, then closing it again. Occasionally, she'd pull out something that piqued her interest to look it over: spellscrolls, for instance. Her knowledge of the runic alphabet was somewhat rudimentary and definitely rusty, but she knew the basic spells--light, underwater breathing, growth, et cetera. At one point, she found a couple of invisibility scrolls, as well as one for communication. With whom that scroll reached, she couldn't be sure.

After a moment of thought, she dropped the three scrolls into her bag, and then continued to root around.

Paper. She was looking for paper--large, loose, unused. And ink, of course. She broke out in a satisfied grin when she finally found a large sheet rolled up in one of the larger, lower drawers--then paused as she pulled it out, and saw what was underneath.

When Mez opened the door to his room, he'd find her sitting in his chair, a box in her lap, and a few rather discrete baggies within the box. She was looking at him, brow furrowed.



Mez narrowed his eyes, mug clenched in one hand, and looking very unamused. He shut the door behind him and walked over.

"Give me that," he snapped tiredly, jabbing his hand out. He was beginning to think helping her was a mistake...

"You're making me seriously reconsider this whole Baradhi ordeal..."


"Yer not reconsiderin'," Carolyn said with far too much confidence in her claim. She leered at him for a long moment--then picked up the box, and gently placed it in his hand.

"Terrible for ya. But i'm sure you already know."

She shifted in the chair, looking back to the desk and sighing.

"Got ink?"


"Yes," he replied, moving to set his mug down and put the box away. Once he'd done that, he reached over to the inkwell on the desk and pulled it over, along with a pen.

"Lets get this over with," Mez said, picking the mug back up. He moved to a corner of the room, picked up a wooden box that had recently held a few books before he ungracefully dumped them out, and over turned it near where Carolyn was sitting. He settled down on it, folding one leg over the other.

"Going to draw a map, then?"


Carolyn had watched as Mez pulled the ink and pen over, face reddening a bit as he did. She couldn't believe she had completely missed that; she'd been concentrating too hard on what was in his desk, rather than on it.

In the back of her head, she wondered what that said about her.

"Tha'ss the plan," she said, picking her bag up and plopping it into her lap. She reached into it. "Of the inside, anyways--well."

She reached farther into it.

"What I can remember of it. Gotta understand, I was fuckin'... Terrified--"

Her entire arm was in the damn thing, now.

"So things were movin' very, very fast. But i'll do what I can."

When she pulled her arm from the bag, she was holding a fat stack of loose sheets, which she dropped on the desk: maps, every single one of them, with little rhyme or reason to the areas they depicted. They all seemed to be hand-drawn, too. She started filing through them, brow furrowing.

"Now, as for how we're gettin' in, tha'ss the easy part. The temple's much--much bigger'n just the fortress itself, got all sorts'a winding tunnels underneath connected to it, an' they aren't guarded like the fortress--'cause they don't need to be."

She started passing the maps that weren't what she was looking for to Mez, simply to get them out of the way.

"You'd never know these places were part'a the temple if you hadn' been inside before, an' the only people who've been inside are, well. Them. ...Them an' my associates."

She glanced over to him, smiling brightly. "Them, an' my associates, an' me."


Mez held the papers in his free hand, frowning a little at them, then frowning up at Carolyn.

"So you know how to get in but, from what it sounds like, are pretty shaky on where we're going once we're in." He raised a brow, took a drink.

"Really winning me over here, Bellgood. A sure-fire confidence booster."


Carolyn leered at him lightly.

"I'm gettin' to that, Mez," she said emphatically, looking back to her maps--then reconsidering, and looking to him again. "Maybe you should sleep. You're awfully crabby, like this."

And then, right back to the maps, as if she'd never said the words that just came out of her mouth.

It took another minute of rifling before she let out a pleased sound, pulling out the map she'd been looking for: one covering the corner of the Geheer mountain range. Baradhi was marked in the far right corner, and there was a messy black square imprinted only a little ways up the mountains just to the west of it. Carrie poked it with the backside of the pen.

"S'the temple. An' if I had t'make an educated guess, i'd say the entrance point is... Mmm. A mile out, maybe? An'..."

Her brow furrowed and she looked up at the ceiling, trying to recall. She remembered looking up in the chamber--alone, quiet, shaken--and being unable to stop thinking about the light leaking in from above. Sunlight, blotted by the branches of dead trees, and from the way it filtered into the room...

She picked up the pen, gave it a quick dip in the ink, and circled a spot on the map a little farther into the mountains.

"S'gonna be somewhere in this vicinity. So, hold onto this."

Saying she "traded" the single map for the others she'd passed him would be putting it generously. No, she dropped the map in his lap, and simply took the others, dropping them easily back into her bag. Finally, she turned to the empty sheet of paper on the desk, and took a deep breath.

"Now. For the inside."

She was dead silent for the next fifteen minutes or so as she worked. The map was an ugly thing--drawn in haste, scrawling and scribbly--and every now and again she had to stop, close her eyes, think. It was so hard to remember the interior; everything had looked the same. Tight, narrow paths, lined with bottles containing blue light. A few wide corridors with windowed arches that looked out over a gorge a ways away. There were no doors--only arches--

No. There was a set of doors, but only one. Heavy and black. Something about them had unsettled her, and thinking about it now made her feel a little sick.

The corridors had branched off endlessly into other confounding corridors, turning the temple into a veritable maze. Even so, with slow work--beginning at the chamber they would be entering--she went over the path she had traveled, filling in whatever she could.

When she finished, she looked it over, frowning. It was true to what she remembered, but far from what she'd hoped. The path was a sparse idea of the temple, and she had scribbled out a fair number of rooms, signifying places she'd been but simply couldn't recall. It was something, but not as helpful as she would have liked. He was right: she was shaky on the detalis of the inside.

"...S'about all I got," she admitted, not yet looking to him. "M'sorry, Mez. I'm doin' all I can."


Mez watched her work, patiently, and simply waited until she was done before he tried to say anything, not wanting to interrupt her train of thought. Once she finally finished, he leaned forward a little to get a look at the map she wrote and frowned.

"That... is a bit scarce," he said, wrinkling his nose gently. "That's all you remember? I mean... Do you even know where these friends of yours are in this place? Even some idea of where they would be?"

He frowned.

"It's going to be hard to go in there with no idea of where we're trying to go..."


"I know," Carolyn sighed, leaning an arm on the desk, and nestling her cheek against the palm of her hand. She was frowning over at him--frustrated with the map. Frustrated with herself. "M'sorry. I'm really tryin' here--but shite was movin' so fast."

Her face scrunched up a little, eyes closing, and she waved vaguely over the map.

"There was a--a stockade, I think? I didn' put it down 'cause I don't... I don't remember where exactly it was, in relation t'what i've got. But it wasn' far off--I got turned around an' ended up in it. Dead end. Lossa cells. It's a possibility, but..."

She looked over to him, brow knitted in worry. "Last I saw 'em, Mez, one of 'em was gettin' dragged down a corridor somewhere near where we'd come in, an' the other... She got pulled into a bloody mirror. Big, gnarled hand, made of screamin' faces, jus'... Plucked 'er up like nothin', an' she was gone. For all I know, they might'a thrown her into the Ether itself. I've got no clue what they've done with 'em."

Her gaze dropped for a moment. She knew she wasn't doing herself any favors, telling him things like this. How long before he rescinded his offer, truly?

"...Look. Here's my promise," she said after some thinking. "You decide s'time t'pull out've there, we pull out, even if we haven't found 'em. I know we're not goin' on much, an' that makes this... Gods, so much worse, so all I can do is say I wouldn' blame you a lick if we came up empty-handed."

She looked back to him. There was that damned desperation again.

"I jus'... I gotta try. There's a chance they could be dead--but a guarantee they will be if I don't do anythin'. Even jus' a chance would mean th'world t'me."


The pirate heaved a sigh, finished off his tea, and got up from his seat on the crate.

"Alright, alright," he began, starting for the door. "I agree to the terms, but I think we've got too much to figure out between just the two of us."

Mez jerked his thumb to the exit, empty mug hanging from his fingers.

"I'll get Gurd in on this. Hopefully he'll have something to add to this that'll actually get us somewhere."

With that the pirate left, off to find his first mate, in the hopes that having his input would lessen their chances of actually dying.


As soon as Mez left the room, Carrie deflated in the chair. Every moment Mez wasn't giving up on this what-might-as-well-be lost cause was another flood of relief to her. She rubbed her face, heaving a heavy sigh--this was going to be a long day, perhaps even a long night--and turned to face the desk proper once again. Her hands splayed out across its surface, and she drummed her fingers gently against it, looking over her poor excuse for a map.

...Maybe, if she could make herself remember...


To say the planning process had been the most grueling task Carrie had undergone in a long time certainly wouldn't be true--but by the time it was finally beginning to wind down, she sure as hell thought it might be.

Gurd had come in early, and had been a significant boon to the process. Not only did he provide significant insight with both the plan as well as the temple--old religion seemed to be something he was knowledgable upon--but he was also there to keep tempers cooled, as Carrie and Mez came dangerously close to yelling matches a handful of times over the day. Carrie had spent much of her time wracking her brain over details of the inner workings, trying to summon up anything that would bring a memory to the forefront of her memory; at one point, they'd even brought in the ship's medic, Petra, to try and hypnotize her. Surprisingly, that had provided a significant amount of insight.

Petra only asked once what this was about. When the answers were vague, she resigned herself to not knowing--but, pointedly, told Mez to be careful.

After collecting about all the information they really could, given the circumstances, the twins were brought in as their getaway, and proper planning of the actual excursion began. Breaks were only allowed for light snacking, the bathroom, and the handful of times Mez fell asleep for ten, fifteen minutes. The twins left around dinner-time. Gurd left when there was no more light in the sky.

Now it was just the stray woman and the captain.

Carrie was sitting backwards on the chair that had once been at the desk, but was now several feet out--sketching on the map had been easier to accomplish while standing, after all. They'd been going over the final details of what... Perhaps was not a flawless plan, but about as close as they were going to get, to make sure they fully understood exactly how things were going to go as soon as they set foot within the temple.

Drop in, Carrie was repeating in her head for the hundredth time. Move quick. Gurd leads. Don't stop moving. East hallway, down past three doors, fourth door on the left--no luck, back, two doors down, door on the right. Don't enter the black doors.

No luck, back to east hallway. Continue straight, find the gorge. Don't enter the black doors.

Keep defensive scrolls ready to use at all times. Don't...

...Don't open...

Her eyes had drifted shut without her even realizing it. She'd always had an easy time falling asleep in uncomfortable positions, and this was no different. Carrie was lost to the world of dreams.


Mez was sitting on the floor, leaning against the side of his bed, looking at one of the various maps they'd managed to get out of Carrie. He was thinking about what, exactly, he was doing; this was nuts. If he'd known letting this woman help them before would get him mixed up in this death mission he would have taken his chances trying to pick-pocket a token off someone.

He sighed, rubbed his face with the ball of his palm. This was a mistake...

But he had already committed, and he knew he didn't have a choice regardless. She'd risked her life for him after all, with no idea of what they were up to.

The pirate managed to get himself to his feet and he walked carefully over to where Carolyn was.

"Look, it's late, we should try to get some sleep," he said, touching his mouth to cover a yawn which overpowered him. He stood for a moment, smacked his lips lightly. "Bellgood? You listening? ...Carrie?"


Carolyn had been dead to the world for his first few attempts to address her. While she had initially been sitting with... Some small level of grace, it was quickly degrading as her elbow slid on the back of the chair, contorting her face into a sleepy caricature against her fist.

Then she heard her name--her first name--and just barely perked up.

"Mmuh," she mumbled, slowly righting her position once again so she was sitting up straight. She blinked slowly, barely turning her head to take in her surroundings. When she finally noticed Mez, she seemed vaguely surprised he was there.

"Hi. ...What--what'd I miss," she said. "Wassup. You need somethin'?"


The captain raised a brow and put a hand on his hip.

"I was saying we should try to get some sleep. Seems like you were already ahead of the game..."

Mez nodded towards the door.

"C'mon. It's late, we could both use some actual sleep. In a bed, proper." He moved to her, offering her a hand to help her to her feet. "We'll be there by morning and even so, we won't be able to go immediately. Need to get the ship settled in and make sure everyone is set to go into town, see Rak and Petra off, then we can go."
« Last Edit: May 27, 2019, 09:19:59 PM by yelloskello »

Offline Xigbar

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Carrie nodded, taking the hand, but only long enough to be halfway through pulling herself to her feet. She was still getting oriented, blinking the heaviness of sleep from her eyes, as she started for the door.

After a moment, her steps slowed, and she looked back to Mez.

"...Is... Everythin' okay, there? With, uh. With Rak?" she asked, too tired to really think about how that wasn't quite her business. All that was going through her head was that punch...


Mez was a little surprised by the question but it didn't bother him that she asked; he simply shrugged.

"Yeah, it's as good as it can be. I made a mistake, she has every right to be upset... And, well, it honestly isn't that different from how she usually is anyway so I'm kind of used to it by now."

He managed a small smile.

"And, well, if... I get it all worked out with the Council, maybe she and Petra will come back. Only time will tell I suppose."

He moved to cut her off at the pass, opening the door for her in a gesture of manners.

"Don't worry about us. We'll all be fine. And once you figure out what's going on with these friends of yours, well, I'm sure you'll be fine too."


Carolyn had stopped at the door, looking to Mez with her brow knitted in worry. He could say anything he liked, but she couldn't help but wonder...

He's used to getting punched in the face?

"...I hope so, Mez," she said, giving him a faint smile. "N', y'know, i've said it a thousand times, but I figure it bears repeatin'... Really, thank you. You..."

She hesitated, her smile growing.

"Well, maybe you do have an idea how much this means t'me."

She finally stepped out of the room, turning slightly as she sidled by to keep looking at him.

"Get some actual sleep, yeah?"


Mez gave her a tired nod.

"Trust me, I plan to," he replied, looking tired but at least not looking so miserable. He managed a weak smile.

"Sleep well, Miss Bellgood. I'll see you in the morning."

With that he closed the door, waiting a moment before letting out a massive, exhausted sigh. It would feel good to sleep in an actual bed for a change...

Morning came far too soon, and it came loudly, as he heard the clanging of the bell and a shout from outside.

"Port ahoy! !"

They were already in Baradhi? Mez groaned, rubbing his forehead, and slowly rolled out of bed. He reluctantly pulled on a shirt, grabbed a pair of loose pants, and went to the door out onto the deck.

The bright light of the morning nearly blinded him and he grumbled, walking out onto the deck and looking off over the railing. Not far from them was Baradhi, and they needed to make a landing.

He gave a few commands to a nearby crew, a tall man with tanned skin, scruffy 5 o'clock shadow, and one eye white as snow. Once the crew was ready, they could take her down and dock. But Mez had to physically steer them in, and he disappeared off to the bridge to do just that.


Clang. Clang. Clang. Clang CLANG CLANG

"Port ahoy!"

Carrie barely caught the cry as the port of Baradhi came into view, but she didn't need to. The very sound of the bell--something different from the routine of the last few days--was enough to get her heart racing, to get her to her feet, racing up to the deck. She stopped dead at the top of the stairs, clutching the doorframe, eyes wide.

There it was. Not just the city, built atop a lake in the middle of an extensive valley, rivers flowing to it from all directions, but just a few miles beyond... The mountains. The mountain.

Maybe she was just imagining things, but she swore she could see the black spot of the temple from here.

She was slow, moving to the railings, placing her hands on them with delicacy. All she'd thought about for the last week and a half, now, was returning here, but now that she was here... Gods, her stomach was in her feet.

She was terrified.

The ship came in easily enough--as it always did. Down below, there were a few other ships at port, and crowds of people bustling about, aside from the group waiting to receive the incoming ship. Carrie watched as the crew moved to ready the ship in its descent: the flow of their movements, like a complex dance, or clockwork. She felt like she was in a haze--as if she was moving in slow motion while the world sped up around her.

Before she knew it, they had made port, and what snapped her out of this strange, dream-like state, was a voice. Yelling.


Carrie whipped around, bumping the rails as she did, her hand slapping her hip in search of a dagger she'd lost the last time she was here. An instinctive response, but one that embarrassed her nonetheless. Rak had just come up from belowdeck, dressed for ground travel, her pack on her back, and Petra just behind her, and was already looking for the captain--no doubt to say her final goodbyes.

Someone can't wait to get gone, Carrie couldn't help but think.


Mez was nowhere to be seen on the deck at the moment, but the crew was working quickly to make sure they were anchored and tied down. The gangplank was set out, a few crew members shouting to one another from each end as they tested its stability, and went about securing the rest of the ship down.

It wasn't actually that long after that Mez did finally show up, surrounded by crew and following him back from the bridge. He was nodding, looking over some paperwork in one hand, giving a few of them more orders, and by the time he reached the middle of the deck they'd all dispersed to proceed with the orders given.

When he looked up, he saw Carolyn, and then he saw Rak. Mez tried to hide the displeasure that slowly crept on his face but it just came off as a cringe; he'd hoped to get the ship settled first before having to deal with Rak..


The cringe didn't go unnoticed by Rak--and it would quickly become apparent as the leer she was already wearing only got more intense. Her expression softened, though, when the small woman who had been behind her slipped around and approached Mez, a bright smile on her face, and extended her hand. Petra Morgessa. Medic. Fae. Rak's other half, and always there to take the wind out of her sails when needed.

"Captain," she said, not looking back as Rak reluctantly came up behind her. "Suppose this is goodbye. ...Maybe... For real, this time."

Her voice wasn't without a tinge of... Something. Sadness. Worry.


Mez, too, softened as Petra approached, and the reality hit him that they were really leaving. He frowned, brows creasing, and reached to take her hand. He clasped his other hand on top of hers.

"You never know," he said, managing a weak smile. "Maybe this'll all blow over and everything will be fine. ...or maybe the ship will get a new captain. Regardless, you're always welcome back aboard."

He gave her hand a little squeeze.

"If you ever need anything, you know how to reach us. It's been a real pleasure having you, Pet."


"And it's been a pleasure being here, Mez. It always is," Petra said, finally forgoing the formalities of the handshake and simply pulling Mez into a hug. She was short, significantly shorter than Mez, so she had to pull him downwards for a proper hug--and quite forcefully, at that.

And for the brief moment that her lips were by his ear, she whispered.

"I'll make sure we're still in town, for whenever you get back from... From whatever it is."

She held the position for just a moment, then pulled away, giving him that broad smile that didn't quite reach her eyes. After a pause, she cleared her throat, and Rak wrinkled her nose.

"Somebody else wanted to say goodbye, too."

"'Wanted to' is a pretty loose way of putting it."

Even so, Petra stepped aside, leaving Mez at Rak's mercy. Her arms were crossed, and she looked... Disappointed.


Mez knew this was yet to come but that didn't mean he was particularly happy about it. His expression was mixed, guilty but firm, reluctant but prepared. He took a deep breath.

"Rak." He nodded to her. "I guess, ah, bye then."

He glanced at Petra momentarily then jutted a hand out for a shake, not sure if Rak would even accept it.


Petra was the one with her arms folded now, head tilted, watching their interaction with an odd but ultimately unsurprising amount of interest. Rak, like Mez, glanced over to her, waiting for the look of approval, the little nod...

When it didn't come, Rak finally relented, shaking Mez's hand.

"Bye," she grunted in response, not even bothering with her usual intimidation tactic of the unnecessarily tight handshake and simply letting go, turning to walk off the ship.

Carrie, watching from a distance, could have sworn Rak had wiped her hand on her jacket as she went.

"...You're growing on her," Petra said, watching her lover take her leave of the lip. She looked back to Mez. "I know it doesn't seem like it, but..."


"Oh no, I can tell," Mez replied, watching Rak go off. "She adores me, it's pretty obvious."

He simply looked back to Petra and smiled.

"Just remember what I said. If you need anything. Just a message away."


"Of course. Always," Petra agreed, before peering off after Rak, then back to Mez. She was giving him a meaningful look. "You... You remember what I said, too."

It took her a long moment to pull herself out of their fond farewells. Taking a deep breath, she took one last look around the deck--something she always did, in case it would be the last time she'd see it--and paused when she noticed something: Carolyn, who quickly glanced away when she realized she'd been spotted.

"...Think you got someone waiting on you," she said, grinning back to Mez. She finally started towards the gangplank, and Rak only waited until Petra had reached her for the both of them to make their way into town, the crowds swallowing them before they were actually out of sight.


Mez watched them go before looking back to Carolyn and carefully approaching.

"We'll go soon," he began as he stopped in front of her. I just have a few last things to do. Might be an hour, if that. So..."

The pirate pursed his lips.

"If there's anything you need to do before that, you have a little time. We'll take a dinghy there."


Carolyn, for just a moment, had been trying her best to look casual in the face of Rak and Petra's departure and the descent of the ship. This rather poor attempt only lasted until Mez started directly addressing her; there really wasn't any hiding how anxious she was to get this done with.

"An hour," she said softly, brow furrowing. Awfully long time to just be waiting--to just be stewing in her own fears. She would have to find something to do, if there was anything...

Mez might as well have seen the light go off over her head.

"Actually," she said slowly, "yeah. Got some shite I gotta pick up, so, I guess i'll jus' meet'cha back here in.. You said an hour, so.."

She moved to hurry off the ship, then paused, turning back to him. She was already starting to turn a little red.

"...You wouldn' have, say.. 'Bout forty marks yer not doin' anythin' with, would'ja?"


Closing in on two hours later, Carrie was beginning to feel sicker than she had when she was back on the ship.

They were in the air, now, but in a much smaller vessel: one of the ship's dinghies, whizzing high above the trees that covered the mountain range to the south of Baradhi. Carrie didn't like it. She hadn't liked the initial ride up to the ship, and she didn't like this now. Felt too easy to fall out, like leaning just a little too much and she'd be gone; the rope tied securely around her waist didn't make her feel much better. And now, on top of that, she was forced to lean out the side as she looked for the telltale signs of their entrance point. It was taking everything in her to not throw up her own guts.

The intense fear of falling wasn't the only thing that was making her afraid, though.

They'd circled the mountain once already, and as they made the second pass, Carrie could feel her heart sinking to her feet. She hadn't seen any sign of the entrance, something she'd been so sure she would know the moment she saw it, even from this high above. In her mind, she could remember the chamber practically singing to her, every memory from when she was within crystal clear, but now...

Now they were looking for a patch of dead trees, in a veritable ocean of trees, dotted by other patches of dead trees.

If they didn't find it from up here, they'd have to land, make the trek on foot: a much slower process which would lose them loads of precious time, could potentially cost them the lives of her friends. They may not be able to find the entrance at all, and the plan would be dashed on the rocks before it could even take off. She couldn't expect Mez to give more than he'd already given. She'd have to go in alone. They'd be dead. She'd be dooming herself--

She blinked a few times, brow furrowing. The thoughts were making her dizzy. She needed to concentrate on the task at hand.

It was another few minutes of cold silence, the only noise the gentle whir of the engine, before the breeze blew through. She watched as the trees below rustled, almost seeming to ripple from... ...From...

There it was.

It wasn't hard to tell how she had missed it before--the little patch made by one particularly large tree was hardly indistinguishable from anything else down there--but now she didn't understand how she hadn't heard the hum, seen nature itself dancing around the spot. She visibly untensed, and--clutching the edge of the ship with one hand--pointed to the spot.

"There. S'there. Wherever you can land, closest t'that spot."


Mez gave a nod and started to bring the dinghy down, careful to avoid tree tops and branches as they got closer. Gurd was quiet, which was no different from usual, but he seemed somewhat distracted, looking off the side of the dinghy into the forest.

The twins, meanwhile, were far more fidgety, eying each other and signing quickly. They seemed more unnerved the closer they got to the temple.

The dinghy came down easily and the engine simmered to a silent hum. Gurd stepped out, offering a hand to Carrie to help her out, while Mez jumped out from the other side. The twins stayed in their seats, and their captain moved to where they were.

"You keep this running and you don't step away for even a second, understand?"

The twins nodded.

"If something happens in there and we have to leave at the drop of a hat, I want to be able to get out and fast. Don't fail me, boys."

Kert and Lert looked at one another, lightly signing to each other, then looked back to their captain and nodded again.

"Won't let you down."
"Won't move even a muscle."
"Nope. ...well. Maybe to piss."
"But even that, we'll piss like the wind."

The captain rolled his eyes and moved away.

"Fine, yeah." He looked to Carrie and Gurd. "Lets get this over with."


Carrie's mind was swimming somewhere else entirely. Sure, she heard Mez, the twins, talking, but what they were saying... She might as well be hearing them through water.

She stepped out of the dinghy. Slowly, smoothed out her clothes with both hands. Touched her bag, to make sure it was still resting on her hip. She hadn't forgotten anything; she must have checked over the contents of the thing three times before they left. She looked back into the dinghy; hadn't spilled anything...

Silence, disrupting the gentle, inconsequential sounds of nearby conversation. She looked up, and there they all were. Mez was looking to her and Gurd. She'd missed the conversation, but it didn't take much guesswork to know what this meant.

"We're ready?" she asked, and when no signal that they weren't came about, she nodded, starting off away from the dinghy, leading them to the entrance.

Finding it was like following a road lined with lights for her. Now that she'd seen it once, it felt as if everything was leading her exactly where she needed to go: branches that had fallen in a particular direction, minute streams that flowed in and out from small crevices in the ground, the way the wind blew--and then seemed to double back around when she went off-track.
She never strayed far, and only ever on accident, never daring to purposefully try and go around an obstacle. There was a bit of a walk, even if it wasn't a particularly long one, and it led the three of them quickly to steep inclines, cliffsides, more treacherous edges. Carrie only ever stopped in order to set up ropes and pitons when they were necessary. She'd seemed so lost before, in the city, on the ship, even when she was trying her best to fake some air of control.

Out here, she was in her element.

The climb up the sheer cliff face had taken them to a small plateau that continued up a gentler slope, sparsely decorated with trees that grew denser the farther up they went. They didn't need to go farther, though, and that was evidenced by the way Carrie slowed as soon as she'd pulled herself up to the plateau. Her sights were set on one thing, and one thing alone.

A great tree, withering from rot, its great roots cascading off of its small ledge and over the boulder beneath it. And just below the boulder, a crevice, dark and cavernous.
Carrie walked over to the edge of the crevice, kneeling down as she peered into its depths. It was so much easier to see up into the open sky from below than to see any of the contents of the cave from above. Still, she knew what was waiting for them there.

She could feel it.

"...Gurd," she called, looking back up. She got to her feet again, getting out the rope and climbing equipment they'd need to get inside. "Yer goin' in first, aye?"
« Last Edit: May 27, 2019, 09:36:37 PM by Xigbar »