[m] digging ditches so we never see the stars

POSTED: Wed Oct 02, 2019 3:46 pm

WARNING: This thread contains material exceeding the general board rating of PG-13. It may contain very strong language, drug usage, graphic violence, or graphic sexual content. Reader discretion is advised.

501
Midday in Amherst.

Possessing a penchant for manipulation and an eye for the hidden talents for others, it hadn’t taken her long to seek out Salsola’s newest member. There was nothing sweeter to lure him with than the promise of prestige; she wasn’t dishonest, but her honey-lacquered words oozed the same sort of sublime stickiness that lured flies all unwitting to their demise.

How eager are you to prove yourself? She’d asked simply, hands folded across her waist. A service to her was a service to Salsola, after all.

There had been a bar here, once; maybe there still was. It wasn’t as if she were the sort of person to visit such establishments – though, she thought idly, it wouldn’t be a bad place to meet Outsiders – but such places seemed uncouth to her. There was a certain griminess that accompanied the word bar, and it conjured images of unwashed glasses and stale beer.

Pushing such things away, she side-eyed her companion, covertly attempting to gauge his propensity for ambition. He was far from the first Lykoi to find himself in Salsola, even before the implosion of Inferni, the motherland of the coyote brand of Lykoi… but not his, as she understood it.

This didn’t bother her. With time, she suspected all thought of the war would pass from her. It was something for her parents and their parents to worry about. In any case, many of Salsola’s founders had been Anathemans, such as Sirius Revlis and Eris the Black Witch. This was what she considered the most, for both had succumbed to their own destructive brands and breeds of madness.

One had even taken her own son to mate, as she understood it.

The walk through Amherst was an uncertain one, with the stinking, rain-drenched blacktop giving more away every year to the ceaseless expansion of old trees. Around almost every corner existed rusted metal vessels of some sort, their wheel wells black with dirt and soot alike, and the occasional face peering from corners where the sun wouldn’t find them. She considered these forgotten relics of humanity to be a scourge where only the dredges of society existed, unable or unwilling to join a proper society.

When they reached a desolate and crumbling cathedral, its white brick face turned brown and black with decay, she indicated to her companion that they stop. Her heavy basket was leaned carefully on a spoked metal fence, which leaned precariously under the added weight. Here they waited, with Clementine considering everything and nothing in the silence, her mind humming like so many wasps.

You’re early, A voice called eventually, a man’s handsome timber calling to them both. He appraised the pair, lifting one eyebrow, one hand stroking his chin.

Always, Clementine confirmed with a nod. you’re a busy man, and I’d hate to waste your time, signore.

He smiled at this, extending a large hand to her escort in greeting.


Salsola
The Arbiter
User avatar
Lorraine
Mercante light of the North

POSTED: Wed Oct 02, 2019 4:33 pm

Word Count → 366 :: Boop boop.

Of course he would say yes. The Warden knew exactly what she was doing when she asked him to accompany her. Greed held no standing in Salsola, yet, and as such he would do whatever required of him to further his progress. Although, even if he already established himself, who was he to turn down such a gorgeous woman. Greed had always been a ladies man. Even if Lithia was who he'd come to secure, there was no harm in enjoying the spectacle that was the opposite gender. At least he would be serving a purpose while doing so.

They traveled, outside the pack and to Amhert, where once upon a time one could find the famous Biff's Bar. Sadly, it seemed the business was not as successful as it seemed and the bar no longer bustled like it once did. What Greed wouldn't do for a tall mug of mead at this point in time.

There was work to be done though, and Greed continued onward with the Warden at his side. There was a tension in the air that the city previously lacked. The Associate's hand rested on Enenra. The Wakizashi clashed against its consort, the larger sword, Onryo. It would be clear to anyone who heard the two walking that he was armed and prepared to use the weapons at his side. An austere expression overwhelmed his features, about as serious as anyone would see the Lykoi prince.

The umber Lykoi came to a stop when motioned to and allowed his amber hues to wander around the dying cathedral. A voice met his ears and his head swung in the direction of the opposing canine. The other's eyes wandered over them both causing Greed to lift his head confidently. He returned the gesture as the Warden greeted him. A hand was then offered in greeting to him, which Greed stepped forward to accept without removing his free hand from the hilt of his sword.

Since it seemed as though these two knew each other, Greed offered an introduction for himself. August Hayes. Pleasure. He interjected shortly as the sides of his maw pulled upwards in a charming grin.

Salsola
The Associate
User avatar
Sami
Luperci Bound by blood, never alone.
We still believe

POSTED: Wed Oct 02, 2019 6:16 pm

347

Greed introduced himself with a false name – August Hayes – and she noted how quickly he was becoming accustomed to Salsola’s culture. This only proved that she had indeed been wise in asking him; he was an Associate, and therefore she took for granted that there would exist in him a hunger that could only be slaked by a precipitous rise in rank.

His sponsor would be responsible for much of his education on Salsola’s customs and beliefs, but there were some small things she could impart to him. If encouraged to do so, she might also be inclined to drop word into her aunt’s ear that the newcomer was acclimating well to his new home, and this was not something she was unaware of. It was in his own best interest to assist her, and she made sure he was aware of this in small ways.

A strong grip, Complimented the trader, his oily smile stretching to cover his face with a turn at both corners that made him look like a cat. Nonetheless, when he retracted his hand it was a swift affair, and it joined the other in the fold of his voluminous robes, which were a combination of both fabric and fur. a pleasure indeed.

Are your wares nearby? Queried Clementine, noting that he had nothing on him.

Straight to the point, eh? Laughed the trader, shaking his head at her in the same way one might a child.

Do not fear, Antiope, you’ll make your father proud. He referenced her pseudonym and cover identity with ease, recollecting details from their first encounter that she rather wished he hadn’t. A fool was easy to part from his wealth.

He began to walk, and she bumped shoulders with Greed once, then twice, a mask of pleasantness easily disguising her unease. Though Salsola claimed some half of Amherst, the parts that remained unclaimed could still be considered hostile territory.

I mislike this, She confessed in a single breath, her voice registering almost below a whisper. this wasn’t what we agreed.


Salsola
The Arbiter
User avatar
Lorraine
Mercante light of the North

POSTED: Wed Oct 02, 2019 7:35 pm

Word Count → 334 :: Boop boop.

Greed was quick to note the trader's smile, as a smile could indicate much about someone. His own smile was carefully crafted to mask his inner thoughts and desires in a masterful manner. This man's, however, did not. His next comment passed without acknowledgement and he was left with a lingering thought; It was not only his grip that was strong. Greed shifted, causing his two weapons to rattle against each other; this served as a reminder that he was carefully watching the trader's movements.

Honey toned hues watched the merchant's hand slither back into his heavy robes. Surely, something was disguised beneath the layers of clothing. Greed was quick to grasp on to that possibility.

A shallow nod was offered in response to the other male's returned words. His eyes did not leave the man as Clementine inquired about his assets. The robed male danced around the subject, mentioning the Warden's father with a strange familiarity. Greed assumed what he said held some relation to the fake persona Clementine created for herself, as he would have to do the same with August Hayes.

The trader's movement brought a signal from Clementine, subtle, but enough to grasp Greed's attention. The scarred Lykoi stepped forward and slightly in front of her as the trader walked. Not only did her gestures alert him, but the lack of zest in her voice did as well. He wondered what happened previously with this man, but that was neither important or his business. Hey, hey now. It seems there has been a miscommunication. If possible, please retrieve your wares. We will wait patiently to complete this deal. He reasoned, although he already had the hunch this man was not going to be receptive to Greed's suggestion.

Or maybe you have something hidden in those robes of yours that can even this trade? He suggested further, wishing that would end up being the case, but realizing it most likely wasn't.

Salsola
The Associate
User avatar
Sami
Luperci Bound by blood, never alone.
We still believe

POSTED: Wed Oct 02, 2019 7:53 pm

380

The story she’d created for traveling and trading beyond Salsola’s borders was a simple one, with only one or two constants; the name she went by – Antiope Scali – and that her father was a merchant, one she hoped to make proud by entering the trade as well. This made it easy to remember, which was one of many key ingredients to crafting a well-made lie. These were skills she could and would pass on to Greed; he could also find them elsewhere, if he wished.

Salsola was chock full of talented liars, after all. Clementine wasn’t sure exactly how much consideration their members had given to the intricacies of such a thing, but she’d made a study of it, both on her own and under her informal apprenticeship of sorts to the Boss.

The trader, a man who went by the name Eben, was about to round the corner of the cathedral and down an alley when Greed spoke, and he pivoted half-way on his heel to face them, theatrically bringing one hand out to cover his heart.

You wound me, young man, He bemoaned, a facsimile of hurt crossing his face. you should be more trusting, I think. I have my things here, just here, A vague gesture to the alley was made which Clementine followed naturally with her eyes. you’ll see, do not worry!

Nonetheless, Clementine remained dubious as to the man’s claims. A fortnight ago, he’d seemed a promising contact, though thinking on it now, perhaps too promising. She considered this while she waited, eying the weapons that Greed wore at his waist, as natural to him as an artist’s paintbrush.

She didn’t doubt that he could paint the streets red.

Which was fortunate, in the end, because when he reappeared it was not in front of them from the alley he’d disappeared into, but rather behind them, having looped all the way around the cathedral. Hearing the slither of metal-on-leather, Clementine was already moving out of the way to give both men a wide berth when sunlight glinted off the man’s dagger.

You brought a bodyguard, Complained the man, his face erupting in anger. you're trying to steal my things!


Salsola
The Arbiter
User avatar
Lorraine
Mercante light of the North

POSTED: Wed Oct 02, 2019 9:04 pm

Word Count → 333 :: Boop boop.

While Greed had taken a step in front of his companion he remained relaxed. It seemed his suggestions were only enough to goad a reaction out of the trader, who spun back towards them to deliver his dramatic response. A cool huff rushed through Greed's nostrils as his once charming smile twisted slightly into a sly, amused one. Greed did not follow the man's gesture, having surveyed the area briefly when they arrived; He found nothing that would resemble merchandise.

His focus was solely on the merchant. Even as the man rounded the corner and disappeared from view he listened carefully. Whether or not he would actually return with items for trade was unsure, but they waited nonetheless.

Wolfish ears swiveled atop his head as Greed tried to mark where the man had gone, but all was silent. The decided place of trade might suggest this was a scam. There were many places for the trader to disappear into and hide his purported wares.

At the sound of a weapon being drawn, Greed did the same. Enenra was loosed from its sheath in a much flashier display of swordsmanship. Clementine was quick to remove herself from the line of battle, leaving plenty of space for Greed to spin in time to counter the trader's blow. He was larger and clearly stronger than Greed, but his weapon lacked the size to compliment that. He shouted nonsense about how they were the ones trying to set him up. His expression grew serene as stepped forward to follow through with parrying the blow of the dagger on the chipped steel of his own weapon.

Greed stepped forward again, bringing Enenra upwards in a swift movement to assure the trader backed away. With the weapon readied in front of him, Greed flashed a glance back at Clementine, ready to follow through with diffusing the threat. A body guard, that's all. He stated simply, wondering if his ally would attempt to salvage the trade.

Salsola
The Associate
User avatar
Sami
Luperci Bound by blood, never alone.
We still believe

POSTED: Fri Oct 04, 2019 11:55 am

409

I figured in your next post the trader could either agree to honor the agreement or feel too threatened to continue; I'm not fussy either way.

Times like these – where explosive violence seemed inevitable – she regretted that she hadn’t tried harder to become like her parents, visionaries whose weapons were mere extensions of themselves. Her mother’s rapier was slimmer than most swords and cut through the air like a meteor falling to earth; Indra’s skills with a bow were more frightening than not, and often Clementine wondered what it was she did when she ventured away from Portland.

Certainly, the Salcedo household had begun to burst in her absence with miscellaneous goods. This was fortunate for Clem only because it meant she occasionally had rare items to exchange. The promise of such things had lured this particular trader, but she hadn’t seen the paranoia lurking beneath the surface.

Even now, as Greed held him at bay with his longer, sturdier weapon, she could see the frantically turning wheels behind the stranger’s eyes and wondered if it were the sort of thing that could only be illuminated during daylight hours. Even with a weapon in his hand, he too was trying to placate the bearded man, explaining the extent of his service here.

You are a relative stranger to me, signore, She explained, adjusting the basket she carried so it fit under one arm, extending the other in a placating gesture. and Amherst is still dangerous on occasion… even if I weren’t meeting someone, I wouldn’t wish to pass through here unescorted.

It wasn’t even a lie.

Those that remained on the outskirts of the small city were the sort to dig their feet in and staunchly refuse to leave. Salsola’s claim of the southern neighborhoods had frightened off many a loner, and their soldiers had done much of the remaining work. Only the craven and the desperate remained.

You are wasting my time, however, She cautioned with hard lilac eyes, her arm falling to her side. and I am sure you wish to quit this place as much as I.

I have your things, Admitted the fellow trader, much of his focus remaining on Greed. I need those needles you promised. He finished the sentence, which was less of a statement and more of a thought given voice; her first thought was nefarious, but upon inspection, one could discern his clothes were in need of mending before winter arrived. Beneath his bulk, she suspected jackal or coyote blood made cold weather a right problem for him.


Salsola
The Arbiter
User avatar
Lorraine
Mercante light of the North

POSTED: Wed Oct 09, 2019 3:45 pm

Word Count → 389 :: I was gonna do more with the trader, but wasn't sure if that was cool. Hope this is sufficient.

There was a flash of determination in the trader's eye just before Greed's preemptive strike. After the blade cut through the air before the face of the trader, glinting hazardously in the sunlight, he stepped back, huffing heatedly. The Lykoi stayed put, holding his blade before him to keep the trader at bay while Clementine made her case.

Her explanation was one any rational individual would understand and could not effectively be argued against. It was especially true for someone of such beauty. Surely, the trader could rationalize this and calm himself.

The trader's eyes continually flashed between Greed and the woman that stood several paces behind him. It was clear he was still carefully contemplating this situation. Whatever thoughts may be passing through his mind were much too difficult to ascertain. The man held the disposition of so many Greed had come face to face with before, yet now that he belonged to the Thsitle Kingdom the next steps were no longer clear. It seemed Clementine's words finally reached the paranoid exterior of the merchant, and he began to calm. Greed, however, did not waver from his defensive position. It was revealed that the merchant had the things he promised.

Amber hues graced the merchant and Greed's charming smile returned. His blade was lowered slightly, enough to allow the trader some space to think. This man was lucky Greed had not yet been influenced by the darkness that sprawled throughout Salsola. While he was fully prepared that his heart would become shadowed, now was not the time. Proceed with your trade. I promise to do you no harm, as long as you follow the same rule. The merchant's weary gaze washed over Greed as he passed over a disarming smile. He did this for several long moments before his dagger was lowered as well and his free hand returned to massage his chin. Alright, alright. He agreed with a hint of laughter. Let me gather my end of the deal.

While Greed wished to utter a sigh of relief, he would save such things for after the deal was completed. The Associate was pleased he agreed to finish the transaction, but far more pleased that he hadn't been forced to strike down a man who clearly needed this more than they.

Salsola
The Associate
User avatar
Sami
Luperci Bound by blood, never alone.
We still believe

POSTED: Wed Oct 09, 2019 4:21 pm

639

Looks good to me! We can probably wrap up? If you want, feel free to PP them heading back to Salsola.

As a general rule of thumb, Clementine did not use her looks to sway a trade one way or another; in any case, beauty was subjective, with some finding attraction in the strong and capable, others defining good looks within their own particular preferences, and some merely looking for a biddable temperament. Whatever the case, she was still young enough to remain wary of such things, particular within Salsola-proper, where she understood the truth that lay beyond a pretty façade.

Flowers and thorns and their painful prick or some such came to mind.

Threatened with as much should the encounter turn violent, her firmly stated case and Greed’s skillful manner seemed to persuade the would-be merchant that if they had intended to rob him, they wouldn’t bother negotiating first. In a vague, faraway sense, she pitied a man who had to be so paranoid about his interactions that something so simple as a transaction must be complicated with suspicion and threats.

While he puttered around in the cathedral, she mentioned as much to her companion with a faint sigh, wishing already that they were on their way home.

You did well, She complimented the Associate, unsure how these things usually went. It felt odd to her, commending someone older and more skilled than herself. It was something she would have to learn to carry if she wished to prove herself an able sponsor to some (un)lucky Salsolan in the future. I’ll be sure to tell your sponsor.

Or her aunt, or whoever.

It didn’t really matter in the end; the rumor mill was always ripe, and there were always watching eyes.

For this reason, it was to the trader’s benefit that he returned posthaste with his goods, a much-mended flour sack that jangled. Proffering a leather satchel of sturdy Luperci-make, its heft suggested weight, as did some of the contents, which were partially visible even when it was closed. In particular, she had brought a bow made by her mother, Indra, her own bone needles of various quality, a handful of arrows, and a cloak of moderate quality. The items origins were dubious at best, their owners having encountered her mother on a night with ill-winds, but their owners wouldn’t coming looking for their belongings.

Water and snow will slide right off it, She indicated the cloak, rubbing the leather between and thumb and forefinger. It had been gently and lightly coated with beeswax, which Salsola had in abundance. and the bow is of good quality, I assure you.

She didn’t mention its maker, hearing it ring false in her own years despite the truth of it.

In return, she was offered two cast-iron pans that were nonetheless in desperate need of a scrubbing, tobacco, rolling papers, and a fine selection of cloudy looking but decent plastic containers. Immediately upon seeing them, it was her thought that they might use the latter to collect honey before autumn’s end.

Tapping one with a claw, she nodded to the merchant, and then to Greed. All was good; better than good, perhaps.

Good luck this winter, signore. She said when their items had been exchanged and the trade was complete. Perhaps come spring, we can do this again.

Maybe, maybe not, He said suspiciously. I've heard there's a storm coming, Red, and I'd rather not see another. He suggested this as if he'd been in the area for the Red Star, and Clementine wondered if that had contributed to his shift in fortune; his way of speaking suggested he had been gently raised and was, perhaps, ill-suited to this lifestyle.

He had nothing else to offer her though, and so she declined to invite him to the kingdom where she dwelled.


Salsola
The Arbiter
User avatar
Lorraine
Mercante light of the North

POSTED: Thu Oct 17, 2019 1:11 pm

Word Count → 389 :: I'll go ahead and archive this. :)

His charming facade came in handy with many a trader. Today was no different, only now, the outcome of Clementine's trade rested solely on his ability to sway the merchant. He was the one who held the larger weapons and greater skill. The robed male was wise in agreeing to trade with them. It was clear he wished to move past this ordeal by the way he played off his paranoia with a smile and laughter. Greed's grin grew wider and he waved a hand, motioning the merchant to gather his wares so they may complete this trade and part ways.

The moment the merchant left, Greed sheathed his weapon and rested a hand on the hilt. He was confident there was no further use for Onryo and that the merchant really did want to follow this through to completion. Amber hues watched the man disappear into the cathedral. A wolfish ear pulled backwards as the sound of the trader shuffling around echoed loud into the surrounding space. Clementine's praise drew his attention towards her.

Greed dipped his head. I'm pleased you think so. He offered back. He knew he'd done well, but hearing it from someone of higher rank than himself did boost his pride and confidence. He was new to Salsola and a successful venture such as this was what would earn him the prestige he sought. Thank you. Although his sponsor was also his lover, The Warden didn't know that. Surely, word of his skill would make its way up the Thistle stalks and to leadership. Lithia mentioned that word traveled fast in the Kingdom and little was left undiscovered.

Greed stood nearby while the merchant and The Warden conducted their business. There was no further funny business, aside from the merchant's comments about talk of a storm. This was the first Greed heard on the subject and after the last storm, he did not wish to experience another.

Greed's brow furrowed as the merchant waved them off and made himself scarce. He was left contemplating the merchant's words, keeping his thoughts to himself. I think we can both agree, its time to go home. What a strange day. Greed couldn't help a large smile and quick bout of laughter before he turned to head back. He was sure Clementine would agree and he hoped there would be no further setbacks on their way home. The trip back would be short if all went as planned.

Salsola
The Associate
User avatar
Sami
Luperci Bound by blood, never alone.
We still believe

Sticks and Stones