are we trying to sell the ocean to the sea

POSTED: Sun Nov 25, 2018 9:47 am

OOC: yo homie made 5000 assumptions as per our chat but lemme know if fixes are needed

↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟


The night was much like any other. For the brothers Amaranthe, work had begun shortly after dawn; All day they worked the docks under some fat bristle-hair man with a beard that drooped into his whiskers. It was cold close to the water, in spite of the manual methods of their labor. When they were done, Mal's shoulders ached something fierce, and there was less time than usual to get ready for Mullen's.

He didn't complain though, not to Calrian - Calrian, who had worn it all and more with a smile, and would do so every day of the long week to come.

Word had it some of the regulars were chatting him up, something about closing ranks to take on bigger fish. It wasn't the first time such an idea had circulated through the little people - every now and again some waterborn diplomat would dock with gold practically bubbling out of their palms, and everyone from the night-girls to the beggars on the waterfront would ready themselves for a reaping.

That was the thing about little people. They were all of them hungry, hungry for big dreams that remained just out of reach.

Still picking the straw from his long white-blond hair, Malik gussied in on the hour and took his usual stand on the rickety wooden platform at the back of the tavern. His clothing was fine; Or, rather, it had been fine once. Cal had taken his hand to mending it many times over the past year, after their stipend had run out and they'd begun to learn just what it meant to work for their suppers.

The finest things about Malik that day were the two prized possessions he kept with him most always. The first was obvious; The lute, a primitive but nonetheless beautiful luperci-version of the Old One's instrument, was radiant and sang finer than any orchestra beneath the loving caress of his fingertips. Each pluck brought forth a harmonious ripple of sound; And as the young bard drew breath the tavern settled in. It wasn't the first time he'd played the stand, nor would it be the last, and the patrons already well in their cups knew just what to expect.

A marvel.

The second possession, you ask? Oh, well. We'll get to that.

-------


Shift's end. The night had been long and full of the usual casualties. The rancid smell of sour ale and cheap smokes stained the inside of his nostrils as Malik packed up his gear and headed to the bar. He tapped his hand on the worn, scarred wood - thump-thump - and without looking up the barkeep slid his usual across the counter.

Mal drank like a parched man, only stopping to wipe the liquid away as it began to spill down his throat. It was water, fresh and clear, not a drop of alcohol to sully it.

"Thanks," He murmured lowly, and received a curt nod in reply.

It wasn't until he'd left the tavern's door swinging behind him that the young bard became aware of the odd sensation of wrongness, creeping across his senses. As anyone would do in such a situation, he started with the obvious; Lute? Check. Pay? Check. Locket?

Locket?

"Oh," Malik said to the near-empty street. The dark sky was just beginning to blush; Dawn would arrive soon.

Quicker, now, he repeated the motion. Lute, check, pay, check, locket? Lutecheckpaychecklocket? It was definitely not in the pocket it normally lived in, nor the little one with the brass button on the opposite side. The motions grew a little frantic; Mal pushed back in to the bar and annoyed one of the ladies of the night by searching all around, even in the dark little corner where she'd taken her wasted catch.

His mother's locket was nowhere to be found.

Malik swore loudly.

A sense of despair creeping in, the young bard went back out into the street. "M'be it's back in the barn?" He asked nobody in particular, and lifted one hand to drag the tiredness and sorrow from his face. The locket couldn't be lost, it simply couldn't. Denial was better than the silty taste of resignation that waited at the back of his throat.

With a heavy heart, he turned south along the dockside, knowing that his feet would eventually lead back home - Where two miserly hours of sleep and an explanation for Calrian were waiting.
The Troupe
Bard
User avatar
Alaine
Luperci

POSTED: Sun Nov 25, 2018 3:13 pm

Everyone saw O'Brien, but few actually saw him.

He was an utterly forgettable mongrel in a sea of other mutts: classic tan and black, warm brown eyes, floppy ears, a smiling face that intimidated no one. He looked like all the dogs that roamed the Portland countrysides even since before they walked on two legs. Sometimes folk chatted with him, lonely widows or bored sailors, but even then he was only a passing moment in a day full of them. He listened, mostly, and didn't talk. He smiled and wagged his tail and made himself, the skinny mutt, look like no threat.

But when he passed through the crowds, the tens of Luperci navigating the traders' stands or lining up at the bar, many folk found their purses and pockets lighter.

By the time they noticed and turned, there was no one -- or no one who stood out.

This was how O'Brien made his living, though his haul was always paltry. Few things of great worth were made small enough to palm. He didn't need much anyway; he used pickpocketing to supplement the humble lifestyle who just hunted for his meals, who lived day to day and had few ambitions. A trinket here, a pouch of spices here -- things he could hand off for favors and information. Things that wouldn't be missed, things from people who wouldn't stay in the city long enough to sniff him out.

It was always a risk, but O'Brien was careful about his marks. He was careful to be seen, but not "seen." And he was very careful not to overstay his welcome.

* * *

That evening had begun like any other, sipping beer at Mullen's Bar, his canny brown eyes studying the figures that walked in and out. He would get up and wander from time to time, approaching a table with pricked ears and wagging tail, a friendly mutt -- acting just drunk enough to be disarming, and leaving only after a few moments, as if his attention were a terribly fleeting thing. He slipped some pemmican from a weary, fat trader's bag and let the man think he'd already eaten through the lot. He traded this for another refill of beer.

He listened to the bard -- it was impossible not to -- and let his eyes linger on the young man while licking foam from his whiskers. He'd seen the boy in here before, enjoyed some of the sadder songs slipped in between sea shanties. He liked the look of his clothes -- worn-down, but still fine, and tempting. Ever so tempting. If he held onto these garments with a stubbornness, what else might he have kept close?

O'Brien crossed paths with the lute-player once, on his way out the narrow doorway. He smiled at him. He went out into the cold, his fingers playing with the string of the locket, humming one of the lutist's original songs under his breath.

Only when he was far from the bar did O'Brien pull it back out, letting it dangle from his fingertips. He admired the smooth metal, then flicked open the locket with a claw, curious to see if there was anything inside.

A tiny roll of paper fell out, and a lock of hair white as sea foam.

Stooping, the thief collected both from the broken concrete of the road. He rolled open the note, scanned the words briefly; his brow furrowed, and he shut his eyes with a sigh, pressing the locket and its contents against his narrow chest with regret.

"Oh, shite."
* * *

He returned to the bar to ask after the boy, though by then it was quiet -- only the large Driscoll was tending the bar, judging by the sticky mead on the counter. He chatted with the giant oaf for a while, then was pointed to another regular customer, a sailor, and eventually gathered enough information to find the man.

He found him south near the docks, recognizing him by the tired slump of his shoulders, the forlorn air, and hesitated. His ears pricked, he stood there watching, and only after mentally kicking himself in the arse a few times trotted toward him with a shout.

"Haw, stop!"

O'Brien loped closer, his large ears turned awkwardly back, his brow still somewhat pinched. He stuffed both hands in his pockets as he slowed, fidgeting. After a minute he fished out the locket, showing it to the boy, his other hand scratching at the nape of his neck.

"Er, did ye lose this? Ah foond it back at Mullen's." He aimed to toss it back, underhand. "Bonny thing, Ah wid keep a better eye oan it." His grin broadened -- a little awkward, his eyes bright with something like pain before they winked.

While good at playing a part, O'Brien was terrible at baldfaced lies.

He ran his fingers through his black hair. "So... that's all," he said, and turned on his heel to walk off.
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 Nov 25, 2018 9:57 pm

OOC: oh good, I'm IN love with O'Bi already,

↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟


The thing about invisible people is that they have a tendency to lose themselves to the act of being unseen; A lonely life for any man, much less a young one in his prime. By nature they were none of them truly solitary creatures. Without the daily comfort and irritant of his brother, Malik would never have stayed in this piss-pot of a town.

He felt particularly unkindly toward it now, kicking loose pebbles where they threatened to trip him, sneering at mounds of horse dung that were left unceremoniously in the street until they frosted over. How had he ever enjoyed this place? It positively reeked of fish guts and brine - a relentless, stifling sort of smell, only broken when low-lying storms rolled in from the ocean.

It was nothing like Krokar, nothing like he'd thought it would be. Mal had always felt a reserved sort of connection to the sea, never wanting to travel too far inland or away from it. It reminded him of his childhood, of the mother he loved and the father he admired. It reminded him of family.

He had stopped to lean against an old metal spire that jutted out from the docks - something the Old Ones had made, that Luperci had no certain use for - when the invisible man called out.

Even breaking the silence wasn't immediately enough to break the spell of his skill. Blinking, Mal looked over his shoulder; His seaglass eyes passed right over the man once, certain that someone else must have raised their voice. It was only due to the mutt's determined forward stride that he finally took heed.

On proper inspection, the dog was a charmer. A little plain - any great handsomeness would have detracted from his trade, after all. People tend to remember things of admirable beauty. But there was a winsome warmth to his woodland eyes, and the lilt of his voice sounded so much like music to Malik that his fingers twitched in an instinctual need to pluck the strings.

Still, nine out of ten times a stranger approaches you dockside, it's not at all for your betterment.

Mal had a little knife under his jerkin for such a time as this. He'd only ever had to use it twice, and both instances the bluff had paid off well. Soldiers and sailors both tended to get a little ornery if they felt they'd been played; And the brothers Amaranthe had become key players in the East End scene.

Even as he was reaching surreptitiously for the quickblade, his hand was diverted, snatching out to catch a glimmer of silver from where the mutt had tossed it high. Immediately he recognized the familiar shape, warm in his palm from where the stranger had been holding it. Without breaking gaze, he flicked it open with one claw and felt the little note and the lock of hair. A great, sad, weary sigh heaved through him.

Relief was more poetic when matched with woe.

"Oh, thank you - I can't thank you enou-" Two seconds of diversion was all it had taken for the dog to turn away. A couple more seconds and his brisk step would be lost among the sounds of the slow-waking town. Without hesitation, Mal reached out and clapped his hand firmly on the young man's shoulder.

He smiled, a genuine smile, even though the sad droop remained to his eyes. "Now then, don't hurry off. I at least owe you a drink for your efforts? Let a man repay his gratitude," The more he thought on it, the more familiar the mutt appeared; In fact, he was quite certain he'd noticed the man in Mullen's a couple nights now.

Calrian always said it paid well to befriend the little people. His brother was better at it than anyone Mal knew; Folk just sort of warmed to him, like he was a walking hearth and they were tired of the cold.

"Reckon I saw you last night," Soft-spoken as always, the bard let his hand slide free of the dog, but kept pace with his step. "What did you think of my set? It's Malik, by the way. M'friends call me Mal."
The Troupe
Bard
User avatar
Alaine
Luperci

POSTED: Sun Nov 25, 2018 11:03 pm

He tossed the minstrel the previously purloined locket, then he faced away -- prepared to disappear into a group of doggish dock workers walking huddled against the cold wind. Already his posture began to shift, his body anticipating the gait he would need to match their steps and join their fold. He took a step --

Then the hand clapped down onto his shoulder.

O'Brien stiffened immediately at the unexpected contact, the white of his eye flashing as he turned to look at the sad-eyed youth. His mouth tensed, and he shrugged his shoulder, receding much like a dog afraid of being struck; sudden touches in his life were seldom kind. He was afraid of being caught, too, found out -- what other reason would the lutist have to restrain him so? He knew, he knew.

There was no malice in the seagreen eyes. O'Brien searched the melancholy face, but it was genuine and thankful, and the dog gradually relaxed. He flashed a smile back, shrugged his shoulder more lightly, glanced off at the docks. "It's no' a problem, mate," he insisted, but the lutist continued to chat, moving to walk with him when O'Brien tried to sneak away. Claiming he'd seen him before -- dangerous, that was.

"Ach, your set? Pure magic. Tha' sad sang in th' middle was enuff tae make groon men start greetin' like bairns, if they'd 've had guid taste." His smile broadened charmingly. If he flattered enough, he might be able to slip away again -- though he was uncomfortably aware their little stroll was bringing them back in the direction of the tavern. "Where'd ye learn sic' sad songs, Mal?"
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 Nov 25, 2018 11:32 pm

OOC: ---

↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟


If he noticed the jumpiness - and he did - Malik was polite enough to give no sign of it. Slowly but surely he placed certain thoughts together, and came to certain conclusions. Not just anybody was so quick of step, so hard to hold down with a wandering eye. Thieves came in all sorts of shapes and colors. A lot of them were children, this far into town; The sad sorts of stories that make you feel a little heartsick and sore for home. To grow up into a man and still maintain the ability to walk unseen required a different level of skill, you see. Orphans are easy to ignore - The eye passes over them just as easily as the mind avoids engaging with a terrible truth.

It would have been a different kind of terrible to lead a grown man down this particular path - but a terrible no less.

Besides, it didn't take a lot of investigative brains to pin down the truth. The only man who would know that the locket belonged to him was the same man whose fingers had lifted it in the first place.

Unguarded, Malik's sad eyes nonetheless lit up at the compliment, and he held one hand against his chest as though struck. "Oh, you think so?" The grey sea sailors had as little taste as they did un-rotten teeth - he spent the majority of each night falling through a circus of bawdy shanties, each naughtier and more up-beat than the next, until he felt like throwing up. To sneak in the occasional ballad or sweetsong was his own little treat; That someone else might have heard it, and enjoyed it, was a greater delight than fresh venison stew.

Once or twice the dog seemed likely to divert their path, stepping a little aside or a little afore. Undeterred, and friendly if no less forceful, Mal kept certain they maintained the path. "Well, my mother liked to sing to my brother and I when we were little ones, and I guess some of it stuck. I write a lot of my own music though, you know," So on so forth - another league and he was closing the tavern door firmly behind them.

The mutt had started to look a little more uncomfortable around about this point. Thieves weren't so good at the long con, Mal supposed - they had more of a 'get in get out' type mentality. He wondered how long it would be till the young man caved.

"Your finest for my man here! He's done me a great kindness," The soft voice raised loud enough to hold a ring of the same oratory power it used when he sang; Driscoll, still scrubbing some spew from one corner of the bartop, gave him a withering look and began pouring out two sour frothy ales, complete with gross indistinct pulp from the bottom of the barrel.

Mal took a booth in the corner, but didn't sit until the dog had joined him.

"So tell me," He began, careful to keep his expression as open and warm as Cal had taught him, "How long you been running this gig, friend? And since we're friends now - what can I call you?"
The Troupe
Bard
User avatar
Alaine
Luperci

POSTED: Mon Nov 26, 2018 12:12 am

O'Brien was, indeed, no long-term planner. His entire gig relied on not allowing himself a chance of being caught, of stacking all the cards in his favor -- but once the moment played out, he too was out of there. It was why he didn't pickpocket from anyone he would see the next day, didn't thieve from others in the boarding house even though its cramped conditions suited his talents. He was no good caught.

Damn his good conscience. Damn that mother's note, that lock of white hair.

He couldn't bring himself to hate Malik even when he, too, began to suspect what was happening with each nudge and step along the road. He wanted to. He could sock the boy in the jaw and run into the well-known alleys, lay low like he knew best, even drift out of Portland into another city if he needed to.

He couldn't bring himself. He nodded along with Malik's explanations and stories, and hated that he was drawn in by the words out of genuine interest.

The tavern door closed behind him, and O'Brien was back at the scene of the crime -- the last place a good thief should stand. He fidgeted with his pockets as Malik called to big, clumsy Driscoll for a round. He took the offered pottery mug. He sidled to the booth, and as Malik made pointed eye contact, slowly sank onto the wooden seat. He drew the cup of ale closer to his chest, his elbows pressed into his ribs, his eyes cataloguing possible escape routes. Then Malik spoke.

By all rights he should have felt worse at the reveal, the moment he was truly captured -- but in truth it was like a weight lifted off his shoulders. They slumped. He sighed. He took a big drink and licked froth from his whiskers.

"Better pairt o' a year," the mongrel said. His voice was very quiet; his accent was too strong a characteristic for a "forgettable" man, and so he crippled it with softness. His eyes stared at the table, studying a whorl in the wood grain; his thumb ran along the clay mug. They lifted only briefly to glimpse Malik; he was still uncertain what sort of ulterior motive the minstrel might have. "Ye kin ca' me O'Brien." His lips quirked in a self-deprecating smirk -- the look of a man defeated.

Only his eyes, that unassuming brown, betrayed his fear.
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: Mon Nov 26, 2018 12:34 am

OOC: ---

↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟


There is a specific look a man gets when he realizes that he's shit out of luck. It doesn't really matter who the man is; What sort of stuff he's made of, what the color of his insides is. Defeat is the great equalizer of all sorts of folk - Lady Luck can strike down the richest man in an instant, and reduce him to some poor bastard sat propped up with a knife in his back.

Malik felt emphatically connected to that look, and by association, to the dog sat across from him. He'd felt the same expression dawn on his face a number of times over the past year - had even had the privilege to watch Cal wear it once or twice. It's the sort of look that gives all power to the wind; Anything can happen next.

What does happen next is a stroke of luck for O'Brien and Malik both. These sorts of plays have a ripple-on effect, stretching out around them, pushing against each connection in the web. As the pickpocket's resignation made him shrink down into flesh and bones, Mal merely smiled knowingly, and took a brisk swig from his mug.

He then promptly spat the contents of his mouth out onto the floor, screwing his face up in disgust. "Lady have me, tastes like horse-piss!"

And just like that the tension seemed to leave the room.

"Listen, O'Brien," Mal said, wiping his mouth with the back of one hand hastily as though eager to get the taste out, "No need to be down about it. It's a dog eat dog world, yeah? We're all just doing what we have to." He gestured with one wet sleeve to the little rickety stage, somehow made to look more pathetic and stained by the thin meager light of dawn. "You think I like sitting up there, making a fool out of myself night after night for this lot? Nah. It is what it is, till Lady Luck says otherwise."

He pushed his mug over toward the dog dismissively, and set his chin heavily upon one hand.

"Hey, are you looking for work?" The white-blond of his hair, long and in disarray, drifted lazily about the bard's head like a cloud, "You should see my brother, Cal. He might not be able to set you up with something honest, but he's always got a job for a man of your ilk."
The Troupe
Bard
User avatar
Alaine
Luperci

POSTED: Sun Dec 02, 2018 11:04 pm

The watery dregs spat upon the floor, O'Brien chuckled and hid this with a hand. His chestnut eyes studied Malik carefully still as the bard wiped his mouth and chatted about their places in the world, the parts they played on the stage for pennies. It was no new sentiment to the pickpocket, who justified his thievery in as many ways he could -- though he did not need to do this, no. He had an able body, an able mind; he could hunt and live in the wilderness forever if he wished.

His fingers drummed against the cup. They were restless things. It was no wonder he always had trouble in mind.

He listened to Malik's lament, but said nothing, as he so often said nothing. It was not until an offer -- nebulous as it was -- hit his ears that they pricked, and he leaned forward. His pleasant smile disappeared, and there was something of distrust in his eyes again, but of interest and hope too.

"Aye," O'Brien said, slowly. "Ah'm always lookin' fer work." He smiled finally. "Honest or no'." He shifted a little in his seat, mimicking Malik's posture with his own hands neatly folded beneath his chin. His eyes were keen. "What d'ye aspire tae, that ye need tae play fer these goons?" He nodded his head toward the stage.

All a wolf needed to survive was four feet and a decent set of teeth, but O'Brien knew that most folk wanted more -- and that some dreams were worth the risk of getting caught.
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: Mon Dec 10, 2018 5:14 am

OOC: ---

↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟ ↟


The Amaranthe boys were an affable sort. Their mother had given to them her genuineness, her brashness, her incorrigible goodness. Their father had been charitable enough to donate a little splash of his cunning to the mix, something that loosened the tongue but also made sure it didn't immediately dig it's own grave. Maybe some of this was down to genetics, and some of it to circumstance. It hadn't taken long for sociable Calrian to realize that they couldn't go it alone - the world was too big, and their dreams too grand.

Life couldn't simply be the daily monotony of living. There had to be more to it than that. A farmer would be content to till his fields and reap each harvest; A hunter would be satisfied with a successful stalk and the knowledge of another self-made meal in his belly. But men like the Amaranthe brothers would never be sated with eking out such a lonely existence.

Both parents had given them their fair share of ambition and restlessness, after all.

There had to be more.

Malik figured that O'Brien knew this already, or some variant of it. It was what drove places like Portland, a life-blood through its veins. All the little people scrounging around in the mud on their hands and knees, throwing dignity away at the mere promise of becoming something special. Riches were made and lost here. Lovers were met and discarded. Big dreams happened in big towns.

The dog was a quiet fellow, which was a shame given the nature of his voice - it was hard for Mal not to prompt him to talk just for the sake of it, just to hear that soft, surprisingly warm and lyrical melody again. Not all foreign accents were like this. O'Brien had something special, something secret for him alone. Figures; Keeping something so distinct like that hidden would hush a man right up.

"Oh," For a moment the bard seemed to go a little starry-eyed, but the sound of Driscoll belching loudly from behind the bar brought him back down to earth. "If I get good enough, you know, my brother and me - we could travel anywhere. See the world. I could play in courts and meet all kinds of interesting, influential people. Cal has a way of making friends - well, you'll see when you meet him - and don't you think sometimes there's just so much potential out there, you know? Waiting for you?" Abruptly aware that he was rambling, Malik flushed and looked away.
The Troupe
Bard
User avatar
Alaine
Luperci

POSTED: Mon Dec 17, 2018 12:21 pm

A thousand words from a bard’s tongue could paint a world — and were he not such a cynical fool, O’Brien might have been drawn to it. But he had a good couple of years on young Malik; he had the experience of troubles, of an ocean crossing, seen glimpses of the world. He hadn’t seen the courts Malik wanted to paint in, no; an urchin saw the putrid docks, the concrete street corners, the realities of wolves trying to dress themselves up in civilization when they were better off in the forest. He wasn’t sure such courts existed.

His lips twisted in that cynical fashion, his eyes thinned with amusement as Malik averted his gaze in embarrassment, caught rambling.

“Naw,” O’Brien replied. He smiled and laced his fingers together, elbows resting on the table, and softened his expression to ease the pain from his blunt response. “Ah think we make our ain potential. We dinnae fin’ it waiting.

He dropped a hand to tap at the old wood, his ears pricked.Ah wid be happy tae meet wi’ yer brother sometime. Ah’m aye aroond, if ye ken whaur tae look. A grin slanted across his handsome muzzle, smug, as he rose from the table to 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

Canon