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WiA - The Story
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 16, 2005 2:20 pm    Post subject: WiA - The Story Reply with quote


“The plane of Akarra, year 600. To celebrate the turn of the century and the culmination of six hundred years of human rule, monarch Sharindar II holds a grand tournament for the greatest warriors amongst his subjects. The event builds to its peak; royal brothers Trance and Pluto are set to compete in a duel of martial skill. Hope, the human capitol, twinkles with the lights of celebration – but in the wings, darker forces are at work. A conspiracy marshals against the ancient dynasty of human kings; a world away, war tears a desert land in two. The fate of this plane will be shaped tonight, the night two brothers battle for the ultimate respect of their father.”

The marble floor whispered his name with every click of the black-heeled boots. His eyes were quick, a vibrant brown blazing with electric desire. The man prowled, a panther wrapped in dark leather and cloth, his wet hair shimmering like a jungle heat-haze.
Trance opened his hand and a ball of lightning unfolded itself, small at first, a crimson scintilla of pure magic. He nurtured the spark, allowed it to grow until it crawled like red ivy over his hand and arm. Grinning, he waved the sword of energy at the crowd and gave a playful twirl, dancing on the soles of his reflection.
Across the floor, the bald man scowled. He was dangerous, an atom bomb of compressed wrath. When he walked forwards he shared little of his adversary’s grace and none of his finesse; he was iron, crude and brutally strong. Pluto flicked his smouldering cigarette into the crowd, but refused to look where it fell, where every face was a pinprick of irritation. They were all there; Ruisleipa, Xanacon, even chancellor Yeknodd. He knew every face and loved none.
The announcer raised his staff, “Keep it clean you two. No teleportation, no summoning, no magic.” He reeled the prohibited disciplines off, machine-gun quick. “You know the rules; this duel is about to begin!” A flare screamed from the end of his staff as the announcer retreated, the magical –crack- perfectly synchronised with each combatant’s forward stride. The crowd’s yells escalated with the ascending light, a wave of sound tripping over itself as Trance and Pluto collided in a blurred whirlwind of aggression. The younger man was quicker, more agile; he twisted like a snake as his red-streaked hair whipped at his face. He would duck under a sledgehammer blow to jab at his enemy’s chest or deliver a delicate twirling kick. And sometimes, Pluto would slam a fist into his enemy’s body and send him skimming across the glassy white floor. The fight ebbed and flowed, a stream of gorgeous violence the like of which these citizens who watched had never seen before. The true power of the physical unleashed in these two men, tied by blood, by hate and love. They almost seemed to fly that night.
Both combatants stood unsteady, their faces running with rivers of sweat. Trance twitched back a black curtain of hair from his infernal eyes, watched his opponent's lips twist in a taunt,
“Father is watching me. He has no eyes for bastards.” The words hung, but Trance merely laughed, a ringing, musical stream of mirth. His carefree smile seemed only to enrage Pluto further; he shook himself, bear-like and charged with full force. The attack seemed cumbersome, but his fist skimmed Trance’s still-grinning face with a deadly speed that belied the man’s bulk. Clearly rattled, the young brother danced away, backpedalling from the juggernaut of righteous fury. Too slow; the second blow crunched a shoulder, a third forced the younger man to his knees. Pluto raised both fists as if to smite a red-hot sword on the anvil and gave a wordless roar.
The red flash sizzled into existence almost as quickly as it bloomed into a bath of smoke and oily purple fumes. A mighty groan arose from the crowd, and spread like the treacly smoke into which guards, leather armoured and black-booted ran to separate the combatants. It took five men to restrain Pluto; roaring and bellowing like a wounded Tuskian; he skimmed one of the police across the arena floor like a human puck, slammed a second man’s face into his knee, then was brought crashing down by the sheer weight on his limbs.
“Trance!” A bass voice made bellicose by the white pain of burned flesh. “This is not over,”
“It is for you, brother.” Trance flickered a jagged fork of energy into one of the guards, sending the man screaming and ablaze with chemical fire into the grandstand.
“You’re finally finished; father’ll never treat you like he used to. And I’m out of your shadow.” He allowed spider-tendrils of electricity to tickle his fingertips, the glee of victory scattering red sparks across the ground.
“They won’t let you get out! The law will have its way with you, Trance.”
A tide of constables now poured from the many area entrances, with them coming blue mages and wispy-robed cleric girls, their delicate white hands carving healing glyphs in the air. The men surrounded the two princes - granting Trance a respectfully wide berth, short-shafted spears levelled at him in a jagged circle. The girls rushed to douse Pluto’s sizzling face in cooling steams of energy, even as the police held him down with a strength born of desperation.
A man stepped forwards from the uniformed ranks, rigorously polished boots a mirrored mirage of his projected character; infinitely faithful in his congruous patriotism. He made Trance want to spit.
“Come to clap me in irons, Commissioner?”

Next Chapter in one week.
Story copyright by Mattew Czarkowski, Kenta Barrett and Hugh Boyle.WiA game property of Jens Bergensten. Special thanks to Manifold for proof-reading.

Last edited by Ripley on Wed Feb 08, 2006 12:50 pm; edited 16 times in total
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2005 7:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

He knelt; the black hair cropped now, the deep brown eyes cold like liquid nitrogen. Around his wrists, metal bands trailed shimmering lengths of iron chain, running to the floor and heaping in piles of tiny links – earthing the power in him. The old man peered at his son down the tip of a prominent nose, rheumy eyes seeming to infect the air around him with a drowsy dissatisfaction. He gave a sandpaper sigh, shaking his head like he had done a thousand times before,
“This is the end, you know Trance. You’ve pushed me too far this time.”
“Father, I…” spark scurried from the prince’s hand, running down the chains to die with his words.
“You what?” The silver circlet of kingship shimmered in swift shafts of light as the old man shook his head again. “There’s nothing you can say to me now, Trance, so why don’t you listen for once. I’ve tolerated everything; your rudeness, your parties, your loud music and outrageous fashion sense. I’ve tried my best with you…it’s not easy, you know, juggling a delinquent son and a barely stable kingdom. All your life I’ve expected maturity, obedience, selflessness from both you and Pluto to help me keep this kingdom together. And despite everything, you’re a failure. I always thought Pluto was the better of you two, and now you’ve proved me ri-”
“What!” Trance rose; the chains writhed in electric death-throes. “That’s why I did it father! I did what I did because you wouldn’t notice me! Because you’ve always thought so much of one of your sons, and nothing of the other; because it was the only way to make you care. I did it because I love you father, I love you as just as much as he does, and you just don’t give a damn! Why can’t you just take me as I am, father? What did I do wrong? What did I…” The severed question diffused into nothingness; Sharindar II remained captured in mute meditation. The old man seemed lost in the enormity of his throne, polished wood and black leather dwarfing the robed figure. He grasped the armrest, the skin on his hands made transparent by an age he seemed to have no right to. The King of Rimsin seemed to consider his young son carefully, watching the lean chest rise and fall; the soft, almost feminine lips open slightly in frustrated rage. But the boy must learn.
“Pluto has chosen exile after what happened, he’s returned to the city where he was born. He wouldn’t listen to reason, despite all I said, I lost my firstborn son. He is dead to me now, my one…real son, the one I could always count on. He was everything a father ever wanted.” The old man held his second son’s stare. “You know, Trance, your brother will never see normally again. He may never see at all. Do you even realis-”
That soft accented voice cut in again, hoarse with electric rage.
“Father, you’re the only blind one here! You’ve been blind to me, father, all these years. All that time, you couldn’t see what I was worth, only… him! And now it’s like this because of you, father, not because of me. I can’t believe that even now, you still talk about him like he’s the only thing you ever truly loved.” The brown eyes shimmered with a cleft emotion; regret mingled freely with a stonewalled fury. The look seemed on the verge of breaking the old man in the chair. He gave an exasperated sigh, and with the sigh a wordless call to the man on his left. Help me, the monarch seemed to say, I need your advice. Commissioner Ruisleipa leant forwards into the shaft of light; a quick sideways flick of the dark eyes, a subtle stirring of the lips, he whispered into Sharindar’s ear:
“My lord… the boy may be your son, but his… crimes are heinous indeed. You are a responsible father, are you not, lord? You have done your utmost to teach the boy what is right and wrong, despite his disobedience and his...abnormality. It is only fitting for you to mete out the full penalty for his actions. Lord, if he has not learned by now, he will never learn.”
“And what is it you suggest, my friend? You know I have always relied on your judgement when mine fails.” The old man gave a rattling cough, seeming to physically draw back into the throne. His eyes flicked from son to advisor, faithful to faithless, weighing up every movement, every exhaled emotion. The Commissioner’s thin lips moved fractionally:
“The law, laid down by our forefathers is very firm, lord. You know the death penalty is enforced for this crime; deliberate breaking of tournament rules. And that is without the charge of grievous bodily ha-”
“You’re mad!” The yell tore through the throneroom; the man’s young eyes blazed with a fury seething with indignant righteousness. The chains burned white-hot with voltaic energy, his gift crackled out of control. Furious fountains of sparks spattered the floor with every word, “Don’t listen to him father, it’s fucking insane! These chains aren’t going to stop me from ripping that poison worm out of your ear once and for all!” He made to step forwards through the rippling sea of voltage, but a rigid ‘X’ of spear shafts clacked into place, barring the anger. More guards swarmed forwards, more spears. The Commissioner pressed his attack:
“You see, lord. The boy is dangerously violent, even towards his own father. To let him go unpunished would be a grave folly.”
The old man mumbled to himself, seeming more engulfed in the fur-collared robe than ever. But some vestige of the youth he had prematurely lost still lingered in the King’s eyes.
“Mm…I cannot do it. I will not have my own son killed, bastard or not. Stand away from me, Ruisliepa,” he rose, the dull red silk lining his robe trying its best to shimmer in the light. The elderly ruler stared deep into his son’s eyes, finding only resentment in their reflection. “You are out Trance. Go back to your home in Kovale, leave us here in peace. I wash my hands of you, my son. You should thank the One that I did not heed the advice given me. In my heart I know what my forefathers would have done. But I am not them, I am Sharindar the second, and this is a more civilised age. So gather your possessions, you have a day before you are officially exiled.” He gave a wheezing sigh, shook his head, aware of the hard eyes of the advisor boring into his back. “Maybe one day… I will be prepared to forgive. And when that day comes, I will call you son again. Now go, it is finished.”
The young man turned without a word, his shadow tightly pursued by a small contingent of guards. As he walked stiff-legged down the white marble length of the hall, the metal shackles disintegrated, the chains trailing to the ground crumpled, balled themselves up into tiny metal spheres and flew into Sharindar’s hand. The magic receded; but Trance did not spare a look for the man who he once called father. His collar choked him as the oak panelled doors swung wide, out into the milky sunlight, the hard stone steps, the rugged silhouette of Rimsin’s capitol. A girl frisked up to him, delicate on the soles of black-laced boots; anxiety widening her large blue eyes. Her lacy skirt rumpled around slim, pale thighs as Trance took her in his arms and whispered,
“Come on Jenny. We’re leaving for a while.”

Last edited by Ripley on Wed Aug 10, 2005 11:22 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2005 8:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The year is 604...
Heat. Intense heat. It was the heat that had woken him so
suddenly, the man thought. He opened an eye, blinking away pinpricks of heat to stare first at the haemorrhaging sky above, then at his immediate surroundings. He lay in the lea of a massive sand dune, and all around similar dunes had been blasted outwards, as if the hand of God had seen fit to rake concentric circles in vast Zen garden of Sjar Desert. The sand sea rolled on every side, baking in an oven of midday heat; a few metres away, the black sword glinted. It had rolled down into the trough between two dunes some ten metres away, leaving little depressions in the white sand. He stared at it for a mystified moment, oblivious to the agony of the world around him, and then struggled to stand. When he placed his hand down to steady himself, the bladed kiss of fire hacked at his fingers. The white skin at their tips bloomed an angry red.
The sword clasped in his hand, the Easterner clambered up; sometimes stumbling and slipping down the dune a little - eventually cresting the gentle sweep of the pinnacle. Rock and coarse sand spread under his boots, stretching boulder-studded wide white to greet the gory horizon. Above him, the roof of the world churned an anguished red, and in his mind there was only the shriek of a hurricane wind.
There was a kind of rawness to his left cheek… it felt wet where he had been resting. Touching it, he was unsurprised to find blood. The wind howled more fiercely in his head and he gave up trying to determine the extent of his injuries.
A flick of his fingers reddened the sand, and he looked back the way he had fallen. The man glimpsed lights, coming towards him out of the Sjar sands. They drew closer.
He exhaled, splitting his bottom lip. The new blood formed a tributary stream, running seamlessly into the red river of his neck.
Crunch. Crunch. The man began to walk towards the lights. He still found it hard to accept what they’d done. The number who must have died was just a number; shards and dots spinning in a brain half-concussed by the blast. They weren’t real to him. Nothing was.
That was three weeks ago.

Last edited by Ripley on Fri Aug 12, 2005 4:46 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 12, 2005 4:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Central Rimsin; the True Ravagers protectorate of Hope.
Midday rays of sunshine formed an eclipse-like corona around the angular silhouette of the Lord Protector Ruisleipa. He stood before the wall-sized windows, resplendent in a charcoal robe over matte-black ceremonial armour. The man was so highly decorated one was in danger of being dazzled by the silver medals and flashes of rank bedecking his broad chest.
Narrow, quick eyes scanned the summit chamber; to his left the serene middle-age of the Maestor Superior of Tarsonis; to his right the representative from the principality of Omedah. The remaining seats occupied by guards and delegates from both nations, a young blonde Miu and several fully-armoured Omedhan samurai. True Ravagers lined the curvature of the facing wall; silent as onyx statues.
The Lord Protector spoke, his sharp tones ringing from the black-veined marble walls of the semi-circular room.
“Thank you, my honourable friend.” He nodded at the Maestor Superior. “It is pleasing that we agree so comprehensively on the course of action to take regarding the Cyrien crisis. I too acknowledge that the state of affairs in Cyclone sands is unfortunate, but unavoidable. We all knew was only a matter of time before Fugeo was overthrown and the revolutionaries made their fatal error; there was nothing any Rimsin peacekeepers could have done.
As for our response to said events…we must take a firm stance, a strong stance that may appear harsh but is for the best. I have already given the order to double guards around all Rimsin checkpoints,” he placed both hands down to lean forwards on the polished white wood of the table; fixed the two leaders with an intense gaze - half commanding, half placating, “we must not allow ourselves to be weak. An Eastern fugitive expecting asylum within Hope’s walls will find no welcome here. Those refugees will have to find somewhere else to go.”
The Maestor Superior made as if to protest, but the blonde girl - his lieutenant no doubt - whispered something into his ear. He nodded slowly, though still seemed somewhat uneasy.
“Nor will Cyrien receive any aid from Rimsin,” Ruisleipa continued, “They have bitten the hand that feeds them once too often, and now they have got what they deserve. Thus is Sharindar’s will.”
The Omedhan, a wiry man with a tightly pulled loop of a ponytail spoke, his voice almost without an accent
“Lord Protector… you are sure that the king of Rimsin truly wishes this? It seems… most odd for one revered for his generosity and openness to all other men, no matter their race or culture. Whatever Fugeo’s past indiscretions, it would be inhuman to simply turn a blind eye-” The Lord Protector cut him off, seeming mildly offended,
“It is Sharindar’s will! Rimsin is already wracked from within by dissent and corruption; my True Ravagers are stretched to their limit with simply trying to restore order in anarchic backwaters like Syracuse and Thanatos. And let us not forget the attempt on our beloved Sharindar I’s life by an Eastern Assassin in five hundred and thirty! Would you ask us to risk complete economic collapse for the sake of self-destructive barbarians who should have been culled long ago?”
“With all due respect, Lord Protector, you are head of this…army.” He indicated the ranks of Ravagers. “You are not a king. Surely we should wait until Sharindar-”
“And you are not the Emperor!” Ruisleipa spat, a sudden venom to his tone.
“The Emperor is where he belongs; he is with his people repelling an incursion from Ankaris. And if he were here, ‘Lord Protector’, I doubt he would have his time wasted in listening to such jingoist ramblings!”
The ambassador stood, pushing the ornate wooden chair backwards and turned away under the piercing stare of the Lord Protector’s eyes. “We are walking out of your summit, Ruisleipa. The city of Omedah will do what is right. We are not pawns of a Rimsin gone mad.” The delegation stood with him, filing out until the last armoured samurai pulled shut the mighty chamber doors. As he watched them go, Ruisleipa seemed remarkably calm, even on the verge of smiling.
“Now we have them out of the way, my lord Maestors, to the matter of the blue and green Tomes…”
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 21, 2005 7:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

nice writing!

i really think you are balancing the elements well, surroundings, events, dialogues and complex words. Not that that usually makes a good or bad story, its just that i sometimes read stories that are terribly unbalanced and this is just the opposite. (ie, just lots and lots of complex words,, and so on)

to the accual story:

Interesting how you incorporate the characters of akarra, now i havnt read much of the other stories with these people so i dont know if they are portrayed the same there, but non the less, its pretty nice stuff.

Dont know if i ever saw any samurais in akarra though =P, but hey, it's not like its forbidden to loan stuff from all over our own world (earth). But it just feels a little like a bunch of japanese people will storm into the doors any second.

I really like the way you portray the magic in this story, its almost as if its as natural to the character as any other natural thing is, like contracting a muscle. (for example the passage where you write:

Furious fountains of sparks spattered the floor with every word,

Its almost as if when he formed the words with his tongue he accidently pulls the muscle that shoots his magic.

Anyway, nicely done.
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 21, 2005 8:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Old Chalice bar had begun to fill up around mid-afternoon. Crammed somewhat uncomfortably between armourers and grocers on the very outskirts of Hope’s affluent city centre, the Chalice had been going as long as anyone could remember. On the outside a traditional street-level Inn, the décor below gave way to matte-black walls and mirrors in the infinitely more popular subterranean beerhall. Justifiably, the establishment had gained a something of a reputation for attracting unpleasant characters; a Mecca for, in particular, Hope’s ‘wayward’ youth. The drinks were cheap, the barmaids cute and the music loud.
By the time Ruisliepa’s summit concluded for the day, some divine artist had seen fit in his omnipotence to stain the skies a delicate pastel pink. As the shadows began to lengthen, long-coated youths were already congregating in the Chalice, the magnetic prospect of drunken revelry already resolving in their minds.
Inside, Artemis Braxis leaned back, stretching brawny arms temporarily drained of feeling above his dirty-blonde hair. The cigarette butt in his right hand was in danger of disintegrating totally; he swiftly flicked it at the leather-clad back of some kid at one of the bars. He yawned, cracked knuckles bedecked with silver luck-rings and scratched at a pink scar breaking the hard curve of one eyebrow. The conversation around him ebbed and flowed like the ripples in his whisky glass; half-hearted attempts to sound sober made by men who were practically under the table.
“And then I said, that’s not even motherfucking enchanted!” Dante grinned. “He’d totally been had!”
Artemis allowed himself to laugh - though his recollections of the preceding talk were malformed to say the least. He peered fixedly through the sepia distorto of his shot glass at the speaker, Dante, thinking the warping effect the glass lent to his face was a definite improvement on the warrior’s looks. Like a more compact copy of his brother Azrael on the right, Dante was sharp-featured, dark-eyed under a shock of electric white hair. It was the face of a lower-class businessman hastily amalgamated with that of a duke; the mix was unsettling to say the least. Dante made you feel you’d done something wrong when all you’d done was right.
The mage, a man known only as Thanquol shivered between Artemis and Dante; spider-like, he inched a grubby hand towards an ‘abandoned’ beer glass loitering around the table’s centre. Dante snatched it from the sorcerer’s grasp, draining it with deliberate spite and slamming the empty vessel down with a self-satisfied clatter.
“You lose, Thanq,” he carefully enunciated. “You want beer, you’ve gotta earn every drop these days. I mean cold, hard cash,”
“You fucker. All I want’s a sip,” the sandy-haired mage pleaded. He turned to Artemis, catching him off guard with a puppy-dog stare from red-rimmed eyes. “Say Art, are you planning on drinking that?”
“Not the eyes, Thanq. Not the eyes. You know I can’t resist the eyes.” Artemis glanced at the whisky, then the mage in mock scepticism. The old routine, regular as clockwork; he sent the glass skimming into Thanquol’s grateful hand across a tabletop lubricated by spilt beverages.
Now, what was he doing again? Virginia, yes. That was it. Independent of that laddish part of his brain dedicated to the consummation of alcohol, Artemis directed his sparkling blue eyes in the direction of the gyrating sea of dancers. There, there she was. Virginia swayed as in a gentle trance; her blonde hair shimmering under the pulse of a dampstone spotlight. No partner, thank the One. At least not yet... it was still relatively early.
An exposed slash of sweat-slicked stomach dragged his gaze from the girl’s perfectly-defined features. Ask her to dance, said a voice. You’re drunk, you’ll fuck it up, another quickly countered. He stayed where he was. Someday, Artemis, someday you’ll pluck up the courage, then you’ll dance with that sexy little-
“Earth to Art. This is your alarm call.” Someone prodded his face.
“Cut that the fuck out. What you want Dante?”
“Ahh. Nevermind! Just go back to your ogling,” Dante said with a crooked smile. Artemis shook his head and immediately began to protest.
“Hey, hey – I wasn’t ogling, it was just-”
“A little late for that, guys,” Thanquol piped up. “We mortals ain’t got a prayer.” The group turned as one to watch a very tall man descending the stairs. He ducked under the doorframe and moved like an icebreaker towards the nearest bar. Artemis noticed his companions weren’t the only ones who turned to stare when the man had entered. A large portion of the drinkers had followed the newcomer’s progress, including Virginia and girls he could only presume were her friends, who blushed and fell about giggling as the man walked by. Everyone seemed to know him, though he ignored any swooning teens seeking to surreptitiously attach themselves to his arm. Artemis heard a particularly hairy patron accost the stranger as he leaned on the polished mahogany of the bar:
“Thank ye, Lord Braxis. Thank ye for everything. My family only sleeps well at night thanks to your work.”
The tall man did not reply, merely nodded his shadowed face and, drink in hand continued the inexorable march. The red leather coat swathed about his body seemed to be a part of him, so heavily was it weathered and worn. A high collar obscured his mouth, and above perched a jaunty red feather cap, managing somehow not to look out of place.
“Better watch out, Art. He’s headed your way,” muttered Dante. The conversation disintegrated quickly as the man strode nearer; he seemed to part the tightly packed mass of humanity without thinking, without saying a word. It was the swaying citizens who asked the tall man to excuse them, rather than the reverse.
“Artemis. A word.”
“Hey Tehn,” he said, immediately on the defensive. “You’re back for good? You’re two weeks early.”
“Something came up. That’s what I want to talk to you about.” An order disguised as an invitation; the tall man swept towards a side-door marked ‘No Exit’, his brother levering himself up to follow. Outside, it had begun to rain outside as a soporific dusk made to blot the genial rose skies, mirroring the young man’s sudden change of mood. Tehn’s bass voice was barely audible over the white noise of pattering raindrops.
“Artemis, this might not be the perfect time, but I’m telling you this because I trust you. And if something happens to me, something unexpected, I want you to know what to do.”
The younger brother nodded, blinking in the flecks of water.
“Trance has come back. The recent… events in Cyrien which I’m sure you’re aware of has brought him here again, outraged at the government, thinks this whole summit business is a sham. So he’s planning a people’s revolution, using the underground subcultures of Hope and Kovale as his army. Maybe he’ll kill Ruisliepa, I don’t know. We… I’ve would have tried to dissuade him, but it seems in this instance our hand has been forced.” Artemis nodded, blinking stupidly in fleeting pinpricks of dark water.
“I thought it was too early, you see. In the aftermath of the Eastern uprising, the True Ravagers may suspect a plot, or they might just be innocently clamping down on Eastern refugees. Whatever their motives, security in Hope has never been tighter. It is of the highest importance that Trance’s movement survives; that’s the reason I returned two weeks early, to make the best of a bad j-”
“You were in Kovale then?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means you should hold your tongue, Artemis. It hardly matters where I’ve been. I just want you to support Trance when the time is right. I’m telling you to prepare, also. People respect you in this world,” he indicated the muffled noise emanating from behind the door. “You’re the kind of man Trance wants, and in time, you’ll be one of his beacons. But for now, wait for further instructions; I need to consult with… others. Take this, keep it safe. Show it to no one.” Tehn pulled a folded piece of parchment from somewhere deep inside his trenchcoat and shoved it into his brother’s hand. A chalice, rendered bold red on a black backdrop sat on the page above three red stars. Artemis stared a while at the symbol, balancing on the edge of a frustrated rage.
“Why should I take sides? Because you tell me, Tehn? I have my own life, you know, I, I’m not your pawn to be pushed around.” The older brother’s back remained turned; he shrugged off his coat and laid it upon the squat stone wall shielding the yard from Hope’s backstreets. Tehn grimaced in pain and stripped off breastplate and bloody undershirt, throwing the armour and harness down with an irked clatter.
“It’s not your right to question fate, Artemis. Now go, and tell no one. I trust you with this-”
“Wait, wait. You’re hurt? How did that happen?” the blonde man exclaimed, taking a step forwards. A jagged slash ripped up along Tehn’s ribs, ending dangerously near the muscular neck. His face twisted again, eyes still hidden under purple shadows – this time Artemis couldn’t be sure whether it was the pain or annoyance at a meddlesome sibling that gritted Tehn’s teeth, but the iron-hard “Go,” swiftly cauterised that line of thought. Artemis made a stumbling goodbye and plunged back gratefully into the warmth of the underground.

Last edited by Ripley on Fri Sep 23, 2005 8:43 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 23, 2005 8:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The dark-garbed man was crouched amidst endless sheets of silk. He had woken as dusk settled, woken just as he had for a week to the strange smells and sounds of the caravan. He sighed, scratched meditatively at the healing face-wound and leaned back on a sack of some nameless food. The man drew his coat closer about him, not because it was cold – he was used to that by now – but because it was his only link to his home. The black garment was a curious sight, so complexly bedecked with buckles and ornamental straps; it gave an immediately aggressive look to its wearer. Even before the great insurgency, the people of Rimsin would have considered it strange, even offensive to wear clothes like the man’s. But he had been branded a barbarian, a heretic, a subhuman refugee everywhere went, and the attitude of foreigners no longer troubled him. It was almost a birthright.
He unscrewed the cap of the silver syrn dangling from around his neck and read the parchment inside for the millionth time; the verses still gave comfort, the ancient wisdom still strengthened his resolve, the long-tailed letters still burned with the death of his culture.
Peeking through a flap in the canvas, he noticed lights ahead; a city squatting on the outskirts of some kind of forest. Everything looked very…green, the man thought. He yearned for sand to run through his fingers; it had irked him every day he had travelled. That black abyss of loss in his flaming heart. The loss of everything.
“Katrina,” he snapped. “h’tat shtart…thaw odo’uy llacreth?” The Miu turned to look over her shoulder at him. She blinked large green eyes and gave a nervous smile. Those furry ears were flat across her head, the Easterner noticed, though she was having a concerted effort at not looking afraid.
“Oh, hey. You alright back there?” The Easterner rolled his amber eyes and half-stood, walking forwards to sit beside the Miu. She didn’t understand. He decided to have a go at common. “Ah, m-maybe you should get back down. If they see you we’re both really f-”
“Girl,” he said, and pointed at the town. “The city.”
“Oh.” The stupid Miu understood. She threw an overly apologetic smile at him, a smile which the Easterner froze with a glance and crumpled into a million tiny pieces. “That, that’s Hope. Human town. Now please get back under cover. They’ll see you!” She gestured wildly, and with a curt nod the Easterner retreated into the darkness at the caravan’s extremity. Hope. How ironic.
He continued to peek from the slit canvas, watching as the gates drew closer. There were figures seated and standing around them, dark and shadowed faces under close-cropped hair. Black uniforms with red trim. Some were armoured partially with multi-pocketed flak jackets; symbols and letters of rank embossed in hard silver coming into focus as the caravan rattled closer. Coming into focus, but still holding no meaning for the Eastnerner.
It had started to rain. One of the men stepped forwards to take the horses’ reins, his breath misting in the night air. A shiny peaked hat sat atop his sandy hair, oppressive black and gold. He spoke to the Miur girl in common, a clipped voice dripping with supercilious arrogance.
“Evening miss. Your name?” One of the goons behind him took it down. “You’re from Lyn? If this is the first time you’ve visited Hope, we’re going to have to quarantine you for infectious disea-” The Miu hissed something that didn’t sound too pleasant.
“Right,” muttered the one with the hat “Your cargo? Mm. Now fill out these forms. We need your signature, here, here… and here. Now if you’ll excuse me, we’re obliged by law to check the back. I hope you have no objection miss, because we’d just laugh in your damn pretty face anyway.”
Two of the uniforms took a cursory glance in the back. The Easterner stayed very still, holding his breath. One hand grasped his sword hilt in a white-knuckled fist. The silk smelt… flowery, he thought. Like the girl, that feline exoticism. The footsteps receded; he relaxed his grip on the sword, allowed himself to exhale.
“That all seems legit. You’re all clear miss, have a pleasant stay in Hope.” The gates opened and they were inside the city.
“Reiko save me… that was close.” The Miu’s shoulders were shaking, and she gave an exhausted glance at the Easterner. “I’ve got business to do, mister. I’ve taken you this far, and I’m real sorry about what happened to your people, but you’ve gotta get out of here.” He nodded.
“Katrina… sknaht.” The dark man unsheathed his black blade, slashed once with the sword and then again. He leapt from the open flap of canvas and braced the cobbled pavement. Though the darkness almost consumed him anyway, he instinctively ghosted into the shadow of the nearest building. He started to walk down the main road down which the caravan was disappearing, not knowing nor caring where he was going or what he was looking for. His mind was slowly waking up as the rain soaked his black hair. It told him he was hungry, that his legs were leaden and he had a headache.
Without warning a shriek of laughter echoed through the streets. The Easterner backed right up against the wall of the building and grasped his sword at the ready, though he was unsure why. His eyes were the only evidence of his presence there, two amber studs in a lightless statue. Then he heard the laughter drawing closer; rounding a corner to his left. Quieter now and gigglier; the voices of young women. He relaxed, it was nothing. Just girls out on the town. The man listened as they moved closer, passing right by him, oblivious. Their clothes were so strange to him, dull pastel shades. In the orange eyes of the Easterner they seemed washed-out, drained of all the exotic beauty he had grown up with. Their voices garbled quick-fire common, so crude compared with the liquid flow of his own language; the noise amplified the throbbing behind his eyes.
“…And then we snuck round the back and he was standing there by a big bucket of water and he-”
“- let me tell it Hannah –he had taken off his shirt and coat! I wish I could see him again, he’s a great build, made me feel all gooey inside. Oh, and he was, like, stitching up this great big cut down his side – he must’ve been in pain, y’know? But it didn’t bother him; I like a man who can take a hit –"
“ –I know how you like your men Virginia; he’s mine anyway. After a while, he spotted us watching and came over to the wall, and those eyes, so clear, so beautiful, and he, he said something about trying somewhere else if we were looking for that-”
“- so he was playing hard to get with you? He was definitely looking after me, you scared him off! You notice he left after he came over but he was speaking to me the whole time –“
“ –did you see his face?” The girl called Hannah piped in,
“No, he kept his bandana and hat on the whole time, but those eyes…”
“Hey, you guys. Wait up.” A fourth girl half-ran down the street, again from his left, trying to catch up with the other three. It didn’t take a sound knowledge of Common for the Easterner to sense the three girls’ disdain.
“Hey Virginia, I’ve got your essay.” She seemed to be panting as she handed a piece of parchment to the blonde of the group.
“Uh huh. Thanks. Better be good.”
“I made it really good for you. A thousand words on the prevalence of barbarism in Darkling society. Uh, what’re you guys talking about?”
“Private stuff. Like, stuff you wouldn’t understand, Jade.”
“Yeah,” one of the other girls said. “Now buzz off, geek. It’s past midnight, shouldn’t you be studying your Skiskis or something?”
“I…I guess so. Um… see you at college Ginny.”
That bored “Uh huh,” again; a giggle from the three companions as the girl called Jade slouched off back the way she had come, her dejected silhouette beginning to blur in the Easterner’s liquefying consciousness. He allowed his brain to shut down and slumped against the wall. Curse Rimsin, curse those girls, curse them all. Fatigue gnashed its jaws, threatening to consume him forever. His defences lapsed; memories began to squirm their way back up into the vacated driving seat of his mind. Deserts, more vast than this whole world simmered under perpetual sunlight; a glorious sandstorm billowed in his head. He sat on the doorstep of his father’s house, watching the hooded traders haggle back and forth. He hunted desert devils on the dunes outside Cyrien, and took the skin of the giant lizards to make ceremonial armour. It seemed all had been for nothing. The illusion ran and melted like liquid glass, leaving him cold and wet with only a skinny ginger girl for company.
A girl? The man looked up, momentarily baffled. She looked about as confused as he felt. It was the one that the others had called Jade; she could not have been older than nineteen.
“Hey… you alright?” No reply. The girl leaned closer to his slumped body. He could smell the red cloth of that little stripy jacket. “You’re from Cyrien aren’t you?”
He sure listened to that, even opened his eyes properly. She knelt down next to him, her red hair dripping, plastered to her face. It was…endearing.
“You… you’re a long way from home. How did you manage to get out? What’s your name?”
What did she say? he thought. Stupid girl was speaking in common. She sounded dumb. The world began to swim, treacle in his eyes, and he let go, knowing she’d catch his head.
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2005 4:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“Hey.” She was there again. The man sat up, head screeching like a razor blade. The girl, Jade was sitting next to the bed, perched on a stool. There was a book on her lap, and she was suddenly offering him some water from a cracked wooden cup, like she had been waiting for hours to do so. He simply smashed it away with a clumsy backhand, feeling the weight of his own arm like a dead thing grafted to his aching torso. She gave a pathetic little squeal.
Tearing the white linen sheets from his body, the man flung himself onto feet once again screaming for some final quiescence. Looking down he glimpsed the dull shine of his leather trousers and boots, but his coat, his sword! Rimsin scum trying to catch him with his defences down, damn their eyes! He almost hit her full in the face, but settled with an iron-fingered prod to her breastbone. She was very pretty in the light; those limey deer eyes round with fear, her floppy red fringe bobbing with her heartbeat.
“<What have you done with my things, you fascist cunt? >” he yelled, white diamond teeth reflecting the girl’s trembling pupil. “<Answer me or I will kill you slowly with my hands anyway!>” Her lips were shaking, so he prodded her again. He liked it, in a mean little way, watching as she half-fell onto the floor and scrabbled for her book.
What was this? Almost crying, she flicked through it searching for some word he’d used. He felt drained again, suddenly tired and hollow; he glimpsed his own familiar angularity in a grubby mirror, touched his head, growled at the girl’s reflection.
“Ah-h <your stuff’s just downstairs! I didn’t do anything; I don’t wanna make you angry! Don’t hurt me. >”
“<You speak Skiskis? >” He knew the answer to that one, but sought to reassure himself. “<Girl, your pronunciation is diabolical. >”
“<Sorry.>” A little pause. He rubbed his chin. There was a kind of stubble growing there around the burned half-moon of silky skin, stark and pinker than the white surrounding it. Dents pocked his jaw line where he had scratched at the wound and aggravated it. “<What’s your name?>”
“<Setna. >”
“Okay. <That’s a nice name. >”
“<You learned my language from a book, Jade? >” She nodded. “<You’ve never been to Cyclone Sands? >” Her red hair bobbed as she shook her head. “<Then you must be very smart. >” Jade still thumbed through the book, sitting cross-legged now. A look of momentary horror crossed her face as she found the word. She almost spoke, but he raised a hand to silence her.
“<Get me a drink and my things, then I’ll talk to you. I’m tired, hungry…>” Silence. “<Well, go then.>” She backed out, keeping her eyes on him. He almost smirked as he heard her trip on the stairs; returning a few seconds later with a dark shape draped over her shoulder.
Setna took the crumpled coat from her hands. Putting it on had become something akin to a ritual, and with practiced ease he wrapped himself up in the garment until man and coat became one. With slim white fingers, he bucked the straps of his boots and arranged his tousled black hair, fashioning it with the sweat and grease away from his eyes. The sword came last, tied with a flourish about his waist.
He sat on the bed, trying in some intrinsic impulse to cut her out, create a plane she couldn’t reach through. She asked a lot of dumb questions, and he just growled or hissed, and sometimes he answered just to shut her up. Try as he might, he could not deny her… sweetness. There was no word for it in Skiskis, and he had no firm grasp of common, so he simply had to make do with ‘beautiful’ or ‘lovely’, which fitted her awkwardly, as if she was afraid to wear them, or took no pride in her beauty.
She righted the stool and sat opposite, but after a while came to flop down next to him. He was unsure as to exactly why, but the burgeoning curiosity in her eyes reflected clear enough in the blade of his sword and the liquid black of his pupils. She smelt him too, trying to be there in his world of whipping sand, cruel gravel and leather and blood. She had read of it all, she told him, but never actually felt it. That romantic, harsh culture so unattainably far across the world. Constantly thumbing through that little book of hers and talking in his own language to him - close like a friendly cat.
“<Your eyes Setna, they’re really orange. They…>”
“<What. Do they scare you? >” She winced,
“<No, no, you don’t understand. I like them, they’re beautiful.” She paused, looking down, her mouth slightly open. “But…scary. I can’t look at you in the eye. Can’t look anyone in the eye these days. >” She threaded a buckle on his arm twice, looked up in anticipation of some scorching wrath, but he was closed to her. She did it again, reflection liquefied in the shiny chrome; he seemed to be meditating.
“<I’m a librarian’s daughter. My mom died when I was very young, I can’t remember her at all. I was born here in Hope. I never felt really comfortable in school, all my life. I didn’t have any friends; people just, uh, ignored me. I was pretty sad to be honest, but I loved to learn new stuff - books and knowledge; your language. I loved your culture; it was so… different to my own shitty little life. You’re free, you really are. No rules, no walls, no one to laugh at you. Just life.
I had a dream, that one day I’d leave this town with its stupid government and stupid> cool <girls and stupid, rich laughing boys with their shiny superior armour…>” Jade held his arm very tight, her eyes slightly wet “…<and I would run to your country, just me and live there… with someone like you. And I’d be welcome there, beca->”
Suddenly he was standing, the eyes madly dilated, and she found herself flung on the floor again with an ache in her arm and a throbbing pain in her side.
“<There is nothing for you now!>” The voice had taken on the tone of an insane preacher. “<A plain of silver ash and glass, from horizon to horizon, is that your dream? A billion charred corpses, flattened buildings, shunned by the lowest of insects! >” he hissed drawing back handsome lips from cruel teeth. The pent-up anger of uncounted millions of dead erupting, some volcano of rage and regret from one man. The last of his kind. The girl sniffled, staring past intrusive red strands of hair at the floorboard. She breathed hard, spat out each word.
“Fugeo. The Red To-”
“<Enough! Your lips are unworthy to speak of that, foreign whore!>” She whimpered, laid low under the pinnacle of his fury, but hesitantly stood as the blue touchpaper temper extinguished itself into a stonewalled void.
“I… I didn’t mean to, I’m so sorry I…” The girl sniffled again, wiped her nose with sleeve. She blinked; crying now, wet tracks on her waxy skin. “<I never meant to offend you. Honest to God, I’m so sorry.>” He waved down the querulous stammering with a snort.
“<Shut up girl. If you’re going to speak at all, tell me about this place, this… choking city you’re so anxious to leave. >” She clasped her knees with hands enveloped in the red-black stripes of the jumper, took a deep breath, spoke without a stutter.
“<Hope’s the capitol of the Rimsin province. It’s ruled by a parliament of powerful men set up after our king, Sharindar II gave up the throne. People say his health was failing, um, some say he was…coerced by some other power. So now we’re under Lord Protector Ruisleipa and the True Ravagers. They call themselves a police, I hate them... they also say it’s, um, a democracy, but it’s awful, this place’s the worst it’s been for a hundred years. If you’re rich you’re all right, but the inner-city citizens don’t give a damn about people like me. I mean, I’ve got to, um, move out of this house in a month because I can’t pay the police; they’re even shutting down the library I work at after school. >” She wiped her nose with a sleeve, seeming dispirited by her own words.
“<No need to whinge. So where do I fit in, girl? It seems my time here will have to be brief if you’re under such a regime. >”
“<Oh, it’s really bad for you. The Lord Protector’s got a very harsh policy on immigration, he can’t stand any foreigners, especially, uh, barbarians like what he’d call you.>” The orange eyes flashed with a malevolent spark, twisting the girl into an involuntary flinch. “<Sorry, but that’s how it is here. I don’t make the laws, not that I’d do a very good job if I di->”
“<Enough. I get the picture. Perhaps in the morning I will see things in a different light, when my head isn’t so full of hot ashes. I’ll sleep downstairs, there’s no need to bother yourself. I will be invisible.>”
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2005 11:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Morning; the frozen pink light abused his eyes; the chilly air hauled him upright, throat dry and tight as a funeral drum. For a second the man grappled with a half-forgotten self, calling out through alien air for dead friends, parents, siblings, but the hard actuality of truth was the only thing that ran to embrace him. Three hundred and sixty degrees of truth; a cramped, low-ceilinged living room: couch, books, reams and endless reams of scrolls and parchment.
And a dishevelled young woman, wide eyed through a hay-like scruff of red hair. Setna whirled about; the sword sang as it whistled out of the scabbard in a lightless arc and sunk into the wooden banister a few scant inches from Jade’s hand. She screamed piercingly, hopping back up a step, hugging her baggy pink nightshirt to her skinny body. The green eyes glittered with moisture; a startled red deer caught in the headlights of this unanticipated aggression. Jade’s gaze flicked from the gently vibrating blade to the shuddering silhouette framed like the angel of death against the translucence of thin red curtains.
“You… um… you…” Without warning, he ripped off a magazine of high-explosive syllables; names mostly, names and places. She recognised some; Karrnshtad, Vorneyr, but others were strange to her, the names of loved ones embalmed in furious regret. He looked at her then, not merely through her; the glassy sheen of madness receded from his eyes. Setna seemed to see her for the first time,
“Jade; I am… sorry.” He spoke it well, she thought, the heavy Eastern accent like a warm film of liquid metal over her common language, making it beautiful.
“<Did you have, um, a nightmare?>”
“<I never dream anymore. Don’t talk about it.>” The silent hole his words drilled gently swallowed the two, there in that shabby chapel of crystal rose light. As if part of some religious rite, Jade tugged the sword from its bed of splintered wood, her pale arm trembling just a little as she handed it back. The Easterner made as if to speak; instead he amplified the noiselessness with a fleeting ghostly smile. Jade’s toes curled into the warm carpet; she girded herself to deliver a silly grin in return, if only to assuage the fear that he bored into her heart. She backed up a pace, forced herself to swallow the terror - and with it an intangible desire she felt she had no right to. She was the loner, the quiet one, the sometime ‘weirdo’; the situation slapped her with its incredulity. He doesn’t dream, she thought, well maybe I dream too vividly.
“Oh no, no! I’ve got to go to school! God, I’m sorry; I totally forgot it was a school day, I’ve gotta run or I’ll be late. I’m so stupid, stupid,” she backpedalled hastily, still babbling. “I’m gonna go and get dressed, um…hope you don’t mind…”
He was still there as she took a backward glance from half way up the stairs. Eyes closed, he breathed deeply. Welcoming the new day? Thanking his dead Gods for deliverance? Or maybe he was just silently laughing at her like everyone else.
No, her mind whispered. This one was different.

Slanted light painted Jade’s skin a shimmering pastel cream; the girl leant forwards to peer more closely at the book open before her on the desk. The tiny scrawls of text slipped in and out of focus: ‘Consequently, Iwid delegations were dispatched to negotiate stratagems for the inevitable conflict.’ The drone of the professor’s voice became a mere distant throb, drifting from Jade’s consciousness like blossoms on a summer breeze. Away from her until all was quiet. She questioned herself in the silence of her mind, trying to evaluate just why she felt so peculiar today. The book’s pages smelled musty against her bowed head; through the haze a flitting slideshow of images flashed. The face of a man seemed recurrent; a smile balanced by an incendiary stare of pure danger. In her teenager’s head, Jade slipped into the warm embers of his affection, allowing fantasies repressed in some meek, cautious cell of her mind to drift unbidden to the backs of her eyelids. She imagined the taste of his mouth without guilt; suddenly books and cleverness seemed so trivial she could-
“I do wonder, Miss Jade, what the citizens of Japaar would have said about such a policy?” What? She blinked stupidly for a second, then managed to snap out of it, finding her own bewilderment reflected in the professor’s aged stare.
“Um…they probably wouldn’t have said anything, sir. Japaar was sacked by Teriss N’rih seven hundred years before the return of people to Akarra.”
The professor smiled as he often did at Jade.
“Precisely! For the Iwid, violence equates democracy; it is impossible for we humans to fathom their motives, goals or ends. The Iwid military brain is completely in a world of its own. Oh, and incidentally, I hope Miss Jade will lend her complete attention in future. One cannot afford to daydream so close to one’s examinations.”
“Yes, sir.” She slumped a little lower in the uncomfortable wooden seat, face a slightly pinker than usual; the professor resumed his lecture.
God, she was so tired…
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2005 6:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dante peered out through a gentle filter of drizzle at the college gates. He observed with loathing the dozen or so moody-looking youths grouped about the stone edifice’s periphery; some sporting lengthy jackets of black leather, some with hooded cloaks and still others with shaved heads and goggles. Poorly-concealed weaponry completed the style, causing Dante’s lip to curl in distaste; what was this place coming to? What a shithole.
The white-haired warrior’s thin brows furrowed as one youth, a girl whose shiny steel toecaps peeked from beneath a figure-hugging trenchcoat, began to scrawl something on the school wall. In white paint, a single word: RESIST, and underneath a simple white chalice. The symbol seemed to glow in the fuzzy half-light; more meaningful by degrees than the hundred other graffiti messages overlapping the full length of the wall. The girl shoved whatever she had used to vandalise the wall back into the depths of her coat and began to smoke. Dante noticed that she lit the cigarette in one cupped hand with the thumb of the other; a blue-white chemical fire that only a mage could have conjured. Perhaps, the warrior mused, these were no ordinary yobs. He shifted from one boot to another, slightly disconcerted by the demonstration of power.
Behind him, Azrael’s statuesque silhouette remained unfazed. He rarely batted an eyelid at anything anyway, thought Dante. He scanned the road, beginning to glisten mirror-bright as water ran between the cobbles into sloping gutters either side of the street. The new haze of freezing rain dulled Dante’s former optimism; that and the fact that Thanquol was bloody late again. The little rat didn’t seem to be capable of doing anything right.

The afternoon skies broke into a tickling drizzle as Jade made her way out of the college. She paced with skittish haste down the flight of slippery steps, the red-bound books hugged to her chest. Pausing at the iron gates to stuff the two tomes into an over-the-shoulder bag already groaning with schoolwork, the girl exchanged them for a balled-up woollen scarf she hastily threw around her neck. The wind picked up, blasting itself through Jade’s thin layers of clothing as malevolent thunderclouds began to roll over a once-sunny horizon. Jade broke into a brisk walk, making a point of crossing the street to avoid a gang of leather-coated young men and women who loitered at the far end of the wall.

“There he is,” Azrael said.
“About goddamn time and all,” was the muttered reply as Thanquol appeared hot on Jade’s heels, looking to the left and right; seeking as if to use the girl to hide behind. Satisfied he had not been rumbled, the scrawny mage half-ran across the road, the hood of his knee-length spellcaster’s coat throwing his long face into a dance of rain-blurred shadows. He greeted the brothers with a perfunctory nod, throwing back the hood to blink wetness from bleary space-cadet eyes.
“Hey…only two of you today?”
“Art has seen fit to bunk again,” Dante replied with the practiced boredom of a penitent monk, “obviously.”
“What, is he busy?”
“Yeah, sure. Busy drinking, no doubt, drinking and dreaming of that bimbo. And this early in the day too.” He shook his head in mock disapproval, sending a drip of rainwater flying from the tip of his long nose. “Now, to business, my dear Thanq.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Thanquol said, “I got it for twenty.” The mage pulled forth a leather helmet studded with silver rivets from the backpack slung over one narrow shoulder. Dante wrinkled his nose and snatched the helm from Thanquol’s hand, examining it as a wine connoisseur scrutinises a bottle he is about to taste.
Twenty silver, Thanq? You should have knocked him down.”
The mage rolled his eyes, seeming to grow visibly more fatigued.
“He wouldn’t be knocked down. C’mon Dante, twenty’s a good deal for one like that. That’s a quality piece of craftsmanship, that is-”
“You haggle about as well as you spellcast. It’s moronic, Thanq, that’s what it is; I’d have got this for fifteen and made him throw in a few gold doodads. And look at this! There’s a bloody great dent in the top.” He stabbed an accusing finger at the crown of the helmet. “You should have got him down to twelve at least for that; it’s practically cloven in two! Honestly Thanq.”
The mage thrust his hands venomously into coat pockets, annoyance registering on an already drawn countenance.
“You give me thirty silver coins and tell me to go ‘make a deal’, so quit bitching about it, man. Maybe one day I’ll just not bother hey, and then you can kiss your little ‘time is money’ operation goodnight.”
Dante merely laughed; ruffled the younger man’s unkept hair.
“What’s got into you today, eh Thanq? You should cheer up. Maybe your girlfriend there’ll help you cheer up, hah.” He jabbed a bejewelled thumb at Jade’s retreating back.
“She is not my girl,” the mage muttered, once more flicking the hood up over his sandy head as if embarrassed to be thrust into association with Jade. “I actually have standards, you know.”
The brothers began to walk, leaving the shelter of the grocer’s canvas awning to follow Thanquol’s wiry stride towards the inner city.
“I do think you’d make a lovely couple,” taunted Dante with the glee of a sadist. “Because you have no standards at all Thanq. If it lives, you’ll go to bed with it. Hell, sometimes it doesn't even need to live. But I'd rather not go there.”
The three figures moved off into the premature dusk brought on by a gently settling cloak of fog; though Dante’s sharp tones still echoed in the encroaching gloom.
“Thanquol: Hope’s favourite nymphomaniac necromancer.”
“Shut up, Dante.”
“Oh, sorry. I meant wannabe necromancer.
“Shut up.”
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