[m] let the willing go willingly

POSTED: Sat May 25, 2019 1:21 am

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.


Word Count → ??? :: Outskirts of Saint John, nighttime. Made some assumptions re: context, let me know if you want changes <3 As always feel free to PP whatever, I trust you!

It still grew cold each night, as though the memory of true winter was hard to shake in these remote corners of the world. Smart scavengers congregated in groups for safety and security; The Troupe was not the only roving band to seek solace in the company of like-minded miscreants, but it was the only one of any notable value to Malik Amaranthe.

Being a part of this small unlikely family gave him a burning sense of purpose that smoldered ill-at-ease in the spaces between his ribs. In times of sparsity - of which there were many - he felt a growing sense of uselessness. Most among them had some practical sort of skill that could be applied to the lonely lifestyle that had found them since coming to these badlands - Even foppish Mateo found ways to make himself useful when the stew-pot grew thin with gruel and last night's bonebroth. They got by. They survived.

But the Amaranthe brothers wanted more than honest survival.

Calrian cooked up his own schemes and always had something underfoot. It wouldn't be long, Mal felt with certainty, until the wheels of the vardo rolled them on to some new adventure. Until then he only needed to prove himself as an adequate companion to the task, and temper his brother's more reckless impulses.

That wasn't to say that he didn't have reckless impulses of his own.

-------

Saint John was smaller than Portland had been, and emptier too. Though there were docks here they seemed for the most part abandoned and left to be swallowed by hungry king tides. In all the weeks since winter that the bard had been scoping out the crumbling town, no white or merchant-patch sails has marked the horizon with any regularity. But by no means was Saint John a ghost-town.

There was enough foot traffic heading up and down the pitted coastline to converge here. Though the faces changed daily, Malik discovered that there were on occasion enough patrons gathered for him to ply his most valuable trade.

Such was this evening. Music ebbed out through the lonely streets. The glow of a big hearth warmed the bard's face as he sang, and as the night drawled on the little bag he brought filled up with paltry offerings to make a reasonable pay. The travelers brought all sorts of strange things with them; He was even lucky enough to score a little folded wax pouch of salt from an eastern dog who sat with his daughter while Malik sung them a song of princes and magic.

So pleased was he to finally be working, finally be appreciated, he missed the other signs when they came.

Where enough wealth pooled to pay for such luxuries, other troubles came, like sharks to chummed water.

-------

The bag clinked and thumped on his back as he left the warmth behind and headed out into the dark. It was a clear night, with no clouds to conceal the waxing moon. Long shadows splashed from his feet, blue grey across the cracked concrete. Malik hummed softly under his breath, the song still glowing bright as a spell inside of him.

When three wolves stepped out from behind the rotten carapace of a metal carriage embedded into the stone, the notes caught up in the back of his throat. Old memories from Portland stirred in warning. He held his palms up and the moon caught between the teeth of his nervous smile.

The men congealed from the shadows and he saw the hunger in their faces, implacable and desperate. He'd known that hunger before - it could not be charmed. The bard took a step back.

They came at him then. Malik swung the heft of the bag at one and knocked him sprawling, but he had been foolish and inattentive. This was the price for indulging in a pure dream of returning to Camp with all these spoils, the vision of his friends gathered close with praises on their tongues. For a fantasy he had missed the opportunity to run. Smart boys always ran.

Dumb boys got hit and went down hard.

Last edited by Malik Amaranthe on Wed Aug 14, 2019 1:20 am, edited 3 times in total.
The Troupe
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Alaine
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POSTED: Mon Jun 03, 2019 4:15 pm

He liked visiting the docks, abandoned though they might be. Hollow buildings, squat against the sea-breeze, made perches for ravenous gulls that could sometimes be found spitted over community campfires on the roads. The ever-present tide whispered its rhythm over gravel and sands, rocking the carcasses of boats overturned and rotted-through.

It was a change from the woods and lakes O'Brien felt drawn to as of late.

There was a certain kind of selfishness in this. He liked the humble fisherfolk of the Shoal; their quiet lifestyle reminded him of childhood in his birth clan, before regrettable choices and omens that set him upon his new path. He liked Willow, because she unashamedly felt things and bared these emotions proudly.

It was a reminder of things he could not do, of a person he could not be.

This was not to say that his responsibilities felt like shackles. On the contrary, they gave him purpose – and the Troupe would forever be his priority. He did not tell Willow this, not when they played in the lake or rested shoulder-to-shoulder looking at the stars, but he thought she understood. She smiled oddly when he said goodbye, but didn't look for a instant like she wanted to ask him to stay; she only pleaded for him to "Just come back, y'hear!"

He would, eventually, but the waters he walked along now stank of brine and lurched up the shore, rather than inviting him with reeds and a laughing woman.

* * *

Morrigan's eye stared down at the city as O'Brien wandered the darkened roads, the restless walk of one seeking a purpose. Most merchants retreated upon nightfall, as their wares shone with more sparkle and color beneath the sun, but pit fires glowed on the cracked asphalt, and delicious smells wafted as cooks enticed strangers. A small family peered out at the thief as he walked by, and a beggar briefly tugged his hands before they wandered off, murmuring erratically under their breath. Cats fled upon his approach, and the moon-face of a barn owl glanced his way, a mouse in its beak.

Three shadows passed through an alley ahead, and O'Brien made sure to stare back when one glanced his way. Then they left, and he moseyed on again, baring his teeth and tongue in a loud yawn. He wanted to shift down and hunt, but he didn't trust his belongings anywhere but the vardo wagon — meager as they were.

He tasted the familiar scent as much as sniffed it, an unexpected note amid the salt-and-smoke haze of the city. His jaw clicked shut, and grinned, as he flicked his hood up and made his way after the trail.

O'Brien believed that if he had any luck at all, it was bad luck – but the Lady certainly smiled on someone else that day.

He turned the corner and took in the scene in a matter of seconds: Malik swinging a sack laden with goods at one of three wolves, two more snarling as they advanced from the shadows. He said not a word, just unsheathed his dagger and flung it from his fingertips in desperation as he advanced.

He'd thrown his dagger loads of times. He'd caught a rabbit in the haunch with it once. A few times he'd hit a bold target on a tree. Never had he managed to do more than nick a Luperci who wasn't his intended target. It was, unfortunately, not a dagger made for throwing — and O'Brien, unfortunately, was better at flipping it in his fingers than defending himself with the thing.

Somewhere, a die came up twenty.

A sound gurgled from the wolf, and he fell back, immediately dead – the hilt sticking out of his eye socket. O'Brien was already rushing forward, his hood blown back with his speed, but even he stopped still at the sight of the dead man.

A horrible feeling bubbled up in his gut, but he leaned forward and moved his hand back to his belt, hidden by the cloak, snarling. Bluffing.

"Ah've got one fer each o' ye mingin' gobshites!"

I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory
I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory
The Troupe
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Raze
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here come the ravens

POSTED: Sat Jun 15, 2019 12:40 am

Word Count → ??? :: ---

The second punch sent him sharply to his knees. He held the bag tightly to his chest as hands and claws scrabbled at it, frantic, feral. There was a horrible sound as one of the assailants tore the lute from his shoulder - A single shrieking twang.

A kick followed and he went down proper to the pitted asphalt. Another to the ribs left his vision white and forced all the breath from his lungs. His grip on the bag loosened. The grunting sounds of the fight - not glorious nor triumphant, only harsh and animistic and punctuated with growls and whimpers - ran along with a high pitched ringing in his soft ears, like a bell being struck in a chapel one district over, and over and over and over.

SPLAT!

Something fell heavily a few steps away, crumpling to the pavement. The moon did no service in providing modesty to the dead. Looking between one of the wolves' legs, Mal stared into the dead man's remaining eye. It stared back unblinking, though the hilt of the dagger winked metal and bright like it was telling a cheeky punchline to a joke he hadn't heard.

He recognized the simple weapon. He had watched it flipping between the thief's clever hands with envy countless times, countless nights, countless campfires, countless bars. How pathetic it had been, to be jealous of a piece of metal.

At the same time came O'Brien's brave taunt.

One of the wolves swore in an unfamiliar language, and the bard craned his bruising cheek to look up at the bandit. Bones beneath unkempt hide. Mange or scars baring patches of skin. "My son," He said flatly, looking at the dead man, "My son. My fucking son. My son!"

The other wolf was watching O'Brien warily with hungry yellow eyes. It pulled roughly on the speaker's arm, trying to tug him away, but the thin scrappy man wouldn't leave. He was staring at the corpse as if Malik and his tempting spoils had never existed at all. Hindsight was like that; Sudden and unforgiving. A coin only had two faces. Fortune only had two sides.

"Take it," The Amaranthe's voice was a reedy wheeze. He let go of the bag and shoved it toward the yellow eyed wolf's feet.

A thick glob of spit struck him squarely in the face.

Then the two wolves were gone, one pulling the other off behind the alley, leaving in their shadow the bard, the bag, the lute and the dead man. And O'Brien. And O'Brien's lucky dagger.

And a single crow that startled from a concrete bower, black feathers against a black sky, the clapping sound from its ascending wing-beats like chilling applause.

The Troupe
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Alaine
Luperci

POSTED: Sat Jun 15, 2019 8:50 am

It was not the first time he'd killed someone.

Birch, rowan, oak, yew – leaves brushing his face, his arms, as he leaped to the next branch and heard the laughter of the Dubhthaigh girl behind him. Lean and sinewy, she was on his heels. Bold and sure-of-foot, he outpaced her, and both of them paid the price for it.

Earth rushed up to meet them: loam and sorrel and nightshade.

* * *

Falling was a similar sensation.

Even as he bared his teeth and bluffed that he had more than one measly dagger, his gorge threatened to rise. Were he human, the back of his neck would be clammy with sweat; presently, only his hackles rose beneath his cloak. It was with control he didn't think he had that he kept his hands from shaking.

He didn't look away from them: mangy, thin creatures, desperate enough to hurt other people to survive.

If he looked away, it was over.

Even when the man stared down at his dead son.

* * *

"Your son caused this, O'Brien!"

He tried to peer around his father's back, but his dark arm pushed him behind. The black dog's face looked strange, hard – his coin-colored eyes shifty in the light. "They were just kids playin'. Accidents happen."

The boy managed to duck beneath his father's arm and stare up at the long-nosed woman whose bared teeth the father sought to protect him from. "Is Fiadh gonnae be okay?" he asked, innocently.

The woman's face broke.

Fear caught in the boy's throat, and his father reeled him back again, growling in his ear, the fingers clenched around his shoulder squeezing hard. "Lad, go home."

* * *

Wingbeats cleared the fog of his reverie, and reality – like that sky of earth and wood sorrel – rushed up to meet him.

"Fuck," O'Brien said.

The syllable – quiet, weighted with regret – stood alone for several heartbeats.

Then: "Fuck, fuck, fuck..."

His hands shook terribly now, and the sick clamminess in his stomach and throat became a flash of cold. He trembled and took a few steps backward, expecting at any moment for bark or stone to break beneath his feet and for the world to swallow him up in some dark pit. The darkness swam around him, featureless brick and concrete, hard and indifferent, and he got lightheaded.

He couldn't stand for want of air. Quietly, he sank down to the asphalt and tried his hardest not to aspirate his own vomit.

I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory
I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory
The Troupe
Pickpocket
User avatar
Raze
Luperci
here come the ravens

POSTED: Sun Jul 21, 2019 9:19 am

Word Count → ??? :: ^ that is still one of my fav posts to date @.@

It didn't take long for the footsteps to fade out into a gentle silence. Night came on in, an endless tide of hush. It was as though the disruption had never been.

Fuck, cursed the thief, and Malik felt the truth of it in every inch of his bruised body.

It took longer for his breath to return. The bard rolled onto his back and looked up at the whirling sky. It was full of little pinpricks of light now, constellations his mother had taught him how to read, when he'd been young and there had been nothing scary waiting in the dark. It hurt to breath. Gingerly, Mal ran his hand over his ribs, one-by-one.

He was lucky. Nothing felt broken.

Lady Fortune smiled on some.

With a groan, he pushed himself up into an unsteady sit. The spike of pain in his side made the world shimmer and spin. Stubbornly holding in a gasp behind his teeth, he blinked clear his vision and looked for the man who had saved him.

O'Brien was kneeling on the pavement. "Hey-" He paused to snort out a gob of blood. His nose was caked with it, running down between his teeth, filling his mouth with the taste of oxidized metal. "Obi," The rogue couldn't seem to hear him. Panting made the pain in his side easier to bear; With short exhales and hisses, Mal crawled the short distance to his friend.

There was a dead man on the asphalt behind him. Don't look. Don't look.

"We gotta... Get... Out of he-" The words died with a wordless cry of dismay. His lute was rocking slightly where it had fallen - had it only been a couple of seconds? A minute? - and one broken string snarled in the air like an old man's whisker.

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Alaine
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POSTED: Tue Aug 13, 2019 2:37 am

The world tasted like sour pennies.

Head clutched between trembling hands, O'Brien curled up and breathed, every sharp inhale catching between his teeth, unable to draw in enough air to keep the street from spinning. He was barely conscious of his friend, crawling painfully on hands and knees toward him, until Malik let out a cry – and even then his brown eyes stared unfocused.

A heartbeat passed, two heartbeats – each pulsed in his temples, reminded him so terribly that he was alive – and the man moved mechanically. He wiped foam from his lips with the back of his arm, his fingers shaking, and reached for the neck of the lute, pulling it toward Mal. He handed this off wordlessly, with little catches in his breath, and staggered upward before his hand went instinctively for his dagger hilt, to comfort himself with its presence.

He remembered where it was.

Teeth grit, he walked up to the corpse. He grabbed for the handle, wrenched it free of the eye socket, or tried – a first attempt failed and he turned away. Strings of glistening drool hung from his jowls as his empty stomach wrenched, then striped his fur when he gave his head a dizzying shake.

Again. He cursed, and the expletive gave him the strength to pull his dagger free. He wiped it on his cloak before he could see it.

He turned to Malik, his pupils blown, hair mussed by his claws, dried saliva encrusted on his snout, but his hands were now very, very still and his voice sounded faraway to his own ringing ears.

"Let's go."

I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory
I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory
The Troupe
Pickpocket
User avatar
Raze
Luperci
here come the ravens

POSTED: Wed Aug 14, 2019 1:19 am

Word Count → ??? :: ---

They liked to call it fate, or luck, or chance; Their Lady of Fortune, a fickle mistress who coaxed and punished men with the same lurid whip. To hear the story of it, some might say that Malik Amaranthe was a lucky man. He certainly could have been left for dead in the street - Instead his companion, against all odds, had heard the scuffle and come on in like one of history's finest. There was a special place in stories for the hero. They would capitalize his name and write it with gold ink so it shone on the page.

But what would they write of the dead man?

He was somebody's son. He had been hungry. He had wanted what they all wanted - to live. Nobody intended on being the villain in someone else's story. And if Malik Amaranthe hadn't been outrageously lucky, this night of all nights, perhaps he wouldn't have been outrageously unlucky; To die is misfortune of the highest degree, but to die at the hands of a man who hadn't even intended on killing?

Oh, Lady of Misfortune, what a two-sided coin.

That night and from then onward, the Bard would think of O'Brien as a number of things. A hero, certainly; But there was room on the page for more than that. A killer? Perhaps. A vessel of something else, something transient, something that it pays not to dwell too much on. A stranger wearing the face of a friend. And of course, only a man, just a man, a man with a dagger and a lucky or unlucky throw.

It all depended on which side of the street one was standing.

He took the lute but was careful not to let their fingers touch.

"Ok," It hurt to talk. When the sun rose in the morning he would be sore and stiff as a board. But he was alive, and in spite of the jarring sensation that had settled into his stomach, he had been raised a grateful young man. "Thank you," The lute was cradled like a bairn in his grasp, held between them, rocked gently with the trembling of his arms. "Thank you for-" There were no right words, but his open expression held the truth of it, horror and awe intermingled.

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Alaine
Luperci

POSTED: Sun Aug 25, 2019 4:36 pm

Don't.

His voice was soft, throat raw from its exertions – the syllable carried no weight, but it also brooked no argument. It was all that he said.

Don't thank me.

He made no eye contact, did not want to see the look on Malik's face. He didn't know what expression would hurt him more. Awe, that he had done something magnificient, when it was a fluke throw? Disgust, or fear – that he was a killer?

There was no look on O'Brien's face. He flipped his dark cowl back up, his shaded gaze staring back down the alley, the long shadows of the long-dark lampposts stretching under the eye of the moon. He did not sheathe his dagger, but tightened fingers around it until his knuckles were white beneath the bloodied fur, and cautiously padded down the corridor of brick and concrete, on guard.

He didn't say another word, though he walked as if to put his body between Malik and everything else walking through that late spring night.

I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory
I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory
The Troupe
Pickpocket
User avatar
Raze
Luperci
here come the ravens

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