Death Will Have His Day ((Closed, see sign-ups))

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Death Will Have His Day ((Closed, see sign-ups))

Post  AWizardDidIt on Sun Sep 16, 2012 6:22 pm

"Your brother sends his condolences, milord."

Albrecht Blau, ruler of Brennenburg and by the glory of Asrolos, König of Bles, shifted uncomfortably in his seat. The messenger, it appeared, had little else to say. Typical Maximilien, thought Albrecht, as he stood from his throne. Breaking eye contact with the lanky fellow before him, he nervously straightened a wrinkle in his sleeve to ease the tension. Kaiser of the Hands, and all he sends is a single envoy to deliver his "condolences" in the wake of a royal funeral. I've seen better Dessiens Tears from Jorn.

"You may depart," Albrecht stated, frankly. For a few moments the messenger stood doe-eyed before him, as if he had not comprehended the order. Resisting the urge to simply have his guards remove the man, Albrecht cleared his throat. Realizing his folly, the messenger quickly bowed his head and scampered out of the room.

Albrecht sighed, and shook his head. At least it had been Gitte - any other member of the House, and the city would've been in a minor uproar. And while nobody would be seen celebrating her death, even the most stalwart of loyalists would not utter but a few words of empty sorrow. But, on the other hand, Albrecht could not help but feel concerned that a denizen of Gold Keep had come down with the illness at all. He had his top men on the job, and not a shred of evidence had emerged as to the source of her sudden ailment. Now, partially to please his wife and partially out of his own paranoia, Albrecht had ordered the Keep's well to be boarded up and all water brought in from outside the city.

He was beginning to doze off when Verner arrived with a platter of fried potatoes. The bulky huscarl gently set his load down on table before Albrecht, and then proceeded to take a seat in one of the nearby teak chairs. Albrecht managed a slight smile. Verner was a new arrival to the Keep, but had quickly become the subject of much gossip due to the amusing paradox of his mannerisms. He was nearly seven feet tall and muscled like a young maiden's fantasy, yet he conducted himself in an amazingly graceful and delicate fashion. Rumor said that his ship sailed on the other side of the sea. Albrecht did not know if this particular bit of hearsay held any water - but whatever the case, Verner had shown himself to be a valuable servant and shrewd planner, so the König of Bles was more than happy to have him around.

"My lord?" Verner said, his voice laced with a drop of displeasure. Albrecht turned to look at the huscarl. His mind had been wandering to other things, and now it was time for business once more. After all, fried potatoes were not the sole purpose of this visit. But...

"There's been another ship," Verner stated, rather matter-of-factly. Albrecht rolled his eyes. He gently lifted a potato from the platter, placed it in his mouth, and bit down, its savory oil filling his mouth. "Thirty dead. No survivors."

"Ghalian, Caren, or us?" Albrecht was becoming quite sick of these reports. This was the fourth vessel in the past two days.
"Ghalian." Verner nodded solemnly. "I knew her captain. He was a merchant from Tochti."

"No doubt seeking to poison our city with more of his green filth," spat Albrecht, through a mouthful of potatoes. "We're lucky that it was not one of ours." He paused. "Nonetheless, this is a rather... agitating dispatch. Inform Jorn. Tell him that I sent you, and that he should proceed with discretion. He will understand. Also, while you are at it, a serving of spiced pork would quite nice." Albrecht dabbed the corners of his mouth with a linen napkin, removing the two small puddles of grease that had begun to form.

"That is the other matter, my lord." Verner's eyes darted about the room, as if seeking a point of anchorage in preparation for a great scolding. Albrecht interrupted him midsentence by sliding the now empty platter in his direction.
"We're out of the pork? What a bother. Tell Jorn-"
"Jorn is dead, my lord."

Albrecht froze. By now, Verner was staring at him intently, as if seeking an answer to some sort of unspoken question. The air in the room hung heavy with fear and confusion.

"He..." Albrecht trailed off, unable to form a coherent thought. "I just saw him last night. I ordered him down the Waterfront to check the progress of our next shipment of silver. He returned at midnight. I bid good night to him myself!"
"As did I, my lord. They found him dead in his room just a few minutes ago. I was not able to see the corpse myself." Verner stumbled over his next few sentences. "His skin was shearing off in chunks, my lord. His whole body had gone green."

The color drained from Albrecht's face. His initial assumption was that Jorn had been murdered - the man had made many enemies over the years. But Jorn had not been murdered. No. He did not want to believe it. He could not believe it. Four ships, the bar in the Travelers' District, Gitte, and now Jorn - the latter two being residents of Gold Keep itself.

"I hope you are aware of what this means," Albrecht said, raising a finger to point at Verner.
"Yes," replied the huscarl. "I am now your steward."

For a few moments, the room was utterly noiseless. The tension from before now choked the atmosphere like a wet blanket, hanging on the shoulders of both men and seemingly preventing them from moving a so much as muscle.

"I see."

Albrecht lowered his outstretched arm. His breathing had become noticeably heavy. No, he thought. This cannot be allowed to spread further.

"Seize the maid who discovered Jorn, and anyone else who has had direct contact with his corpse. I want them executed immediately. Have the guards wear leather coverings as they do so. Burn the bodies."

Verner stood, visibly shaken. He was a young man, and the responsibility of new duty was clearly foreign to him. "Y-yes, my lord." He turned to leave.

"And Verner," said Albrecht, sinking low and slouching in his seat. "The Ghalian ambassador will likely try to claim the empty ships. It would be tragic if they were to catch fire before being inspected."
"I understand, König."
"Good," Albrecht muttered beneath his breath, as Verner departed the room in silence.

The König let out an exasperated sigh. He sat alone for a few moments before standing, and returning to his room. It seemed unlikely that he would get much sleep tonight.
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Re: Death Will Have His Day ((Closed, see sign-ups))

Post  Izdazi on Fri Sep 21, 2012 11:09 am

Fish.

Like most that have been raised in a fishing village, fish were seen as a symbol of prosperity and sustenance. Now, though, they seemed like the harbinger of a mysterious force hell bent on destroying her life.

The fish she held in her hand wasn’t big or particularly memorable to look at. They would be what most people would call, your regular run-of-the-mill generic fish. It could be considered more a morsel then a meal, even by her diminutive physique.

Oh sure, the biologists in the universities probably have a fancy scientific name for it. It would undoubtedly be something in a long since dead language that was hard to pronounce that identified it by genus and type. Maybe there was even a twist of the discover’s name buried within the gibberish.

Right now, Kaai couldn't care less. She was starving, haggard and cold; the last condition was becoming a far more critical issue. Of course, she was also scared. Then again, the five individuals chasing her through the chaotic, dark and twisting paths of the slums probably had a lot to do with the fear.

Whatever energy the cold was sapping from her, panic was more than making up for it, which for the short term, was a very good thing. Sooner or later, however, the energy imbalance would be called out and when that happens, it wouldn't matter how desperate her situation was, she'd be stuck in torpor.

Her pursuers had knives and clubs and whatever else they needed to compensate for their remarkably large, yet deceptively fragile bodies. Every now and then she stole a glance back only to see that they still hadn’t lost sight of her. They were determined.

No one can hold a grudge like a mammal.

Her toe claws dug into the moist gray dirt and she twisted around to turn right onto another narrow, over-crowded street. Actually, it was more like an alleyway. Then again, almost every street through the slums was a narrow alleyway.

The smell was atrocious. She’d been warned by her instructors that mammals were rather smelly creatures. Bloody hell, were they right.

And all of this was happening simply because of one tiny fish.

This was not the direction Kaai imagined her life would be two months ago. She had left Dessia with the blessings of her university’s elders and her family matriarch to study abroad. She had a thesis to work on and it was so closed to being finished. She was intelligent and savvy. Not the best student, but well within the first tier. She would have easily found a career serving in one of the monarch’s numerous administrative cabinets.

Of course, that all went to pot when her money was stolen during a visit to the fortress city of Brennenburg. Her initial admittance into the city had been easy. Foreigners usually arrive to trade and money opened many doors.

The city population was quite diverse. She had quietly observed as all these different sentient species exchanged metallic coins for items of this and that. Kaai was familiar with money, after all, Dessia had a working monetary unit. However, to her people, it was far more preferred to exchange services. Workers building a fishing boat would be fed and cared for while they worked a contract. A fisherman may offer his catch in exchange for the roof of his family’s home to be repaired.

Kaai had to admit that she favored her people’s system better than this. Then again, her people’s system wouldn’t work here. Extravagance was the theme of this city, and many others beyond the shores of Dessia. People wore fancy clothing everywhere they travelled. Horses were well cared for. She even saw a pair of Hele’Dai walking some sort of canine. The pet looked too small to be of any use as a guard dog or to work the fields. It appeared to have been bred into utter uselessness.

Some homes looked much too large, filled with furniture that wasn’t used every day and rooms that were probably occupied as little as once a month. She had overheard a group of Caren females comparing different articles of clothing. It was a strange concept, owning more than three articles of clothing. Such frivolities appeared so wasteful.

Then again, these were mammals. Their bodies were strange. They secreted odorous moisture through their skin. After a few days, the stench built up in their clothing would probably become unbearable even to them, whose sense of scent must indeed be quite dulled.

She had quietly taken all this in and had almost collected nearly a month’s worth of notes when her coin purse had inexplicably gone missing. An exhaustive search of her room at the inn had proven fruitless. The dessien knew she had placed it on the dresser that morning. Yet, when she had returned from sunning on the roof, the purse was missing.

Someone had also gone through her notebook, but apparently it hadn’t held the same interest as her money. The few articles of clothing she had brought for her travels were strewn all over the room, probably as the thief searched for any jewelry. But the only metallic and valuable piece of jewelry Kaai had she never took off. She had gone to the innkeeper, but he was of no help. The city guards even less so.

Like this city of walls, she felt her options being blocked off one by one. Without money, she couldn’t book passage out with one of the caravans or the ships harbored at Lake Sturm. And within the walls, sleeping outside was illegal. To avoid the guards, she’d taken to sleeping on roofs at night.

By the fourth day, hunger had taken over. She had tried selling anything she could. Her cloth bracelets got her an apple. A highly unappetizing and difficult to consume meal, to say the least, but it at least provided some sustenance. A few days later, the small colored bows at the ends of her braids and the ankle bracelet got her even less in trade.

Pretty soon all she was left with was the green dress and leggings she wore, a leather-bound notebook with all her notes and a small necklace that was a family heirloom. Even though she didn’t consider her materialistic, there were just some things she dreaded losing.

The Caren she had traded most of her things to eventually suggest that she might get better return at a brothel, which Kaai had outright dismissed with a throaty hiss. She was a top tier student at the largest university in Dessia. She would find her way out of this situation without selling everything.

At least she tried.

Another four days later, hunger started becoming starvation. What had begun as merely an annoying pain became something she desperately had to end. So, she did what she never believed she’d do. She tried to steal food. She was at the Waterfront one evening, looking for a roof with a dark corner where she could sleep when she smelled the fish.

They weren’t anything too remarkable to talk about. Most were small. They weren’t really exotic. In fact, as it was implied earlier, they were regular, run-of-the-mill fish. If anything, it was the idea that this fisherman thought he could sell these tiny fish for any amount of profit.

Actually, most startling thing at this particular stall was the fisherman. For a mammal his complexion had taken on a very slight tint of green and he was coughing a great deal. She tried not to stare at the unsightly sheen of sweat in his exposed blotchy skin. Undoubtedly this fisherman had seen better days.

Nevertheless, his ailment provided her with an opportunity. His fits of coughing were distracting him from tending to his customers and watching his wares. She convinced herself that she’d pay him back one day; it was the only way to silence her conscious. Then, following closely behind some of the other customers, she reached between them and snatched one.

Of course, she was immediately spotted by several guards, who shouted out in alarm. Everyone in the surrounding area froze and suddenly gawked at her. Never in her life had Kaai felt so small. They were all looking down at her. Some stared at her in contempt, since thieves are never regarded highly in civilized society. Others in sympathy, because only a blind fool would fail to see that she was indeed starving.

None of that mattered, though. She’d broken the law and the gods only knows what they do to criminals here. So, fear took over, and she ran. None of the merchants and onlookers tried to stop her. She turned and raced down several alleyways, and then leapt up to a nearby roof. There, she slinked into shadowy corner, just below on the second floor windows and began to devour the fish.

Sure, it was raw, cold and mostly tasteless, but her body could handle it. It didn’t taste ‘bad.’ Yet, she would have far preferred it cooked with spices and stewed vegetables. And the bones were an annoyance, although she was hungry enough to eat most of them as well. In fact, within a few minutes, all that was left of the fish was its skull and spine, and the blood on her fingers, which she had proceeded to lick.

It was hardly a dignified manner for anyone coming from a civilized culture, but when one’s hungry, things like manners tend to disappear.

The next morning, as soon as she had emerged from an alleyway, she was captured by the city guards. A Dessien in a green dress with the scent of fish in her fingers stuck out like a sore thumb in this sea of mammals.

Her moment in the prison had been terrifying, but thankfully short. The magistrate seemed understanding of her plight and then offered her a way out. Kaai didn’t like to think about the option she’d been given, though.

Nevertheless, they released her from prison, told her not to return unless she paid restitution to the fisherman, plus court costs which were ten times the cost of the fish, and then promptly deposited her in the place where the rest of the penniless destitute were thrown.

The Slums.

Needless to say, within another day, she was right back in the same situation; starving and running away with people chasing her. The only difference was that the fish she’d stolen this time was even smaller than the first and the people chasing her were most assuredly not associated with the city guards.

It was the same kind of fish as the first, and now that she thought about, Kaai knew exactly what species of fish this was. Oh, there was absolutely no doubt about it. This fish belonged to the Letsfuckupkaaislife family.

Her toe claws dug into the dirt again as she slid to stop. It was a dead end. Of course, it’d be dead end. Being cornered was the new thing in her life. So why in the five hells shouldn’t this alleyway lead to yet another inconvenient barrier?

On two sides were several rickety buildings that were about four floors high. The building to her right had an awning over the first floor storefront that appears to have been in disuse for many years. To her left was a wall at least eight feet high.

And behind her were the five people who’d been chasing her since she’d been spotted stealing. There were no city guards here. Justice was arbitrary and determined on the whims of her pursuers. The knives and clubs seemed a bit excessive for stealing a fish, though.

She could smell the offensive odor of their sweat as they came to a stop a few yards from her. Mammals really reeked after exerting themselves. How could they even stand to share the same bed after intercourse with that pungent aroma between them?

Kaai rolled her orange-colored eyes at that totally random and absurd thought. Now was probably not the time to ponder the pointless intricacies of mammalian mating habits. Not with the immediate condition of her health soon to be in serious question.

Most of them didn’t wear shirts, revealing their well-fed muscular bodies. Even covered in sweat and panting as they were, they were alert and watchful. There would be no running past them. So, she held out the fish and surrendered it to them.

“You win. You can take,” she said, speaking quickly and, consequently, missing a few words in the common language of this city.

“Too late little girl,” the ‘leader’ replied. He approached her slowly. For his kind, he appeared young. They all did, except for the erratic unshaven appearance of his facial hair. The way he carried himself seemed to indicate that he was used to getting his way.

Kaai found her ire rising. She was twenty two. Not a little girl by any stretch of the imagination. She was educated and intelligent and bound for a life of esteemed service to her people.

Not some gods-be-damned thieving street rat.

She glanced down at the fish in her hand and rolled her eyes again. Apparently, she is a thieving street rat. Maybe the gods decided she should experience life as a thieving street rat. She was certainly not a skilled thief, though. And much to her chagrin, she wasn’t a fighter. She was a scholar thrust into this truly alien world, in this strange situation, surrounded by these smelly mammals, which are currently angry about this pathetically tiny boney fish that she’d probably have to eat raw again.

That is, if she survived.

“Are you hungry, little girl?” he asked with a toothy grin. His voice sounded concerned, but his eyes betrayed joy at the situation he had her in. And regardless of the smile, the sight of his teeth did little to allay her increasing alarm. The big and powerful prey on the weak and small.

“Not little girl. Twenty-two cycles… years,” she corrected hastily and with a tone of defiance. Inwardly, she groaned. That was probably the most immature thing she could have said. These thugs don’t care about her age. Only that they were bigger, stronger and in greater numbers then her.

She scanned the area, but much to her chagrin, the buildings and walls were still annoyingly there.

“Oh… my apologies,” the human replied in a mocking tone of voice. “You’re one of those lizard people, aren’t you? I’ve seen a few of your kind here.”

“My kind? Here?” Kaai asked, with a sudden surge of hope. Her eyes brightened at the news. Surely some of her own would help her.

“Yeah, but too bad you wandered into our turf. Tell you what, though. I’ll allow you to go and even let you keep the fish if you give me your necklace.”

Lowering her head, Kaai let loose a series of deep throaty clicks in annoyance. Her left hand covered the necklace.

“Not for sale,” she responded immediately.

“I’m not asking to buy it. You’re going to give it to me. Consider it like a gift. It’ll be a token of your appreciation for me generously allowing you to leave unharmed,” he said with a warm smile and deceitful eyes. The others snickered. “That’s what people do here. They give tokens of appreciations for the good others provide freely.”

Kaai cocked her head slightly as she considered it. It annoyed her to no end that she was actually forced to think about giving up her great-grandmother’s necklace to these thugs. There had to be other options, though. Something else had to come up. Someone would help. She could smell lots of mammals here. She could feel their eyes staring down at the situation that was unfolding in the alleyway under their windows.

But no one was going to help her. She had to stop deluding herself that anyone would help a stranger here. Hell, they’re probably grateful that it’s her instead of them, being unlucky enough to have become the focus of these thugs.

“This is gift, from family. Not to be given away,” she replied with a single shake of her head. Then she gestured again at the fish in her hand. “Take fish.”

“Well, aren’t you just a little ungrateful girl,” he sneered, batting away her hand offering back the fish. He stormed toward her and made a play at grabbing her other hand that was covering the necklace.

Adrenaline surged through her body and all rational thought was quickly replaced by terror-induced instinct. Fight-or-flight was, after all, the most primal and basic set of survival protocols built into all animals.

She dropped the fish in her right hand and faster than anyone could track, raked her claws deep into his face from left side of his forehead to the right side of his chin. She felt his skin peeling off and pooling under her claws. His blood felt unexpectedly hot in her fingers.

The leader abruptly released and pushed her away and fell back. One of his accomplices came up from behind and grabbed her. The dessien turned around and issued a low guttural hiss before leaping onto him. Though she was far lighter, the force of the impact knocked him down. Oblivious to everything around her and with only the slightest of conscious thought, she began flaying his chest and arms with her claws. This continued until another of the other thugs finally pushed her off.

The leader and the thug writhed on the ground in agony and tried in vain to cover their bloody injuries. Their screams were high pitch wails that would probably be consider undignified for a male to make under almost any other circumstance. However, the blood pouring from their face and chest would excuse them from anyone thinking little of their cries of anguish. Her last fleeting glance of the leader revealed thick streams of crimson blood pouring from between his fingers.

Jolted from her momentary frenzy, Kaai realized that she had an opportunity to escape and immediately seized it. She snatched up the fallen fish and shoved it in her mouth, holding it between her sharp teeth. Then, she bolted toward the wall and leapt upon it. Despite her four-foot eight-inch height, she managed to grab onto the top of the eight foot wall and easily pull herself over the top.

Jumping down to the other side wasn’t an option, however. That alleyway had become an apparent repository for jagged scrap metal. She turned around, leapt over alleyway and the pursuers below and landed on the awning on the other side.

She ran along the rattling canopy as knives and clubs were thrown at her. A glass bottle exploded near her head, showering her face with glass, but thankfully, she turned away before any of the shards could pierce her eyes. Her scales were strong enough to deflect the glass. If anything, the sound left her ears ringing and only spurred her to move quicker.

Reaching the outer corner of the building, she dug her claws into the rickety wood walls and began scaling the structure.

“I’ll find you! I’ll kill you! You have no idea who I am, bitch! You’re dead already! Do you hear me! You’re dead!” the leader shouted from far below. Kaai barely heard him through the rapid thrumming of her heart. She got to the roof, ran to the other side and without hesitation, leapt over the narrow gap between the buildings. She repeated this over and over until she felt she was far enough from her pursuers to rest.

By this point, the adrenaline had worn out. Her muscles were burning and the lack of nutrients in the last week had taken its toll on her body. Her legs shook as she sat on her haunches and looked down at the fish. Wiping the grains of dirt from its slick scales, she closed her eyes and sank her teeth into it. It tasted just as dull as the first one, but a few minutes later all that was left was bones.

With a sigh, she tossed the bones aside and closed her eyes. With the sun beating down on her dark scales she allowed her body to calm down and reveled in its soothing warmth.

She was hungry, homeless, penniless and now she had enemies. Nor was she happy about how she’d reacted in the alleyway. She was a university student and the daughter to two educators. Not some berserking adolescent. Reason, civility and logic should be judging her actions. Not primal instinct. And yet, she’d been pushed into it.

She didn’t regret attacking the thug. He deserved it, if only because he and his friends would probably have done worse to her. But still, looking at her claws, that were stained with a combination of fish blood and the thug’s blood, she couldn’t help but to feel scared about the path her life was now going down. She feared how much further she’d lose herself if she remained here.

She just wanted to go home.

Kaai touched her necklace and sighed. Family heirloom or not, this was about survival. She needed to get out of here soon. Besides, if she ended up dying in the streets someone was going to take necklace from her dead body anyway. Wouldn’t it be better to use it to aid in her survival? It was stupid to die over an object. Her great grandmother’s legacy was in her children… not some little trinket.

But where could she fence it? The people here are desperate and many are untrustworthy. She was more likely to find a knife in her back rather than a fair trade.

A low rumble of thunder shook her from her thoughts. The sky darkened and rain began to fall, slowly at first, but with a gradual increase. She climbed down the side of the building and hid under a third floor awning as the rain and wind picked up. Unfortunately, by that time she was already mostly soaked. Her dress felt several pounds heavier and her white hair was sticking to her back. She’d hardly had time to digest that tiny morsel. Fatigue was making a

Kaai had once read that mammals shivered when they got cold. It was a survival mechanism designed to keep them warm. Her kind doesn’t do that, though. They go into a form of sleep to preserve energy. Being pursued by people and stuck in the Slums without a viable means of finding food isn’t the time to sleep, though. Especially when waking up wasn’t easy.

As she pondered these things, Kaai studied the street below. It was one of the wider thoroughfares in the slums, with market stalls set on both sides. Unlike most of the buildings in the slums, these were made out of brick and were far sturdier.

About a half a block to the east was one building that caught her eye. It was only two floors high, sandwiched between much larger buildings. Like almost every structure in the Slums, it was in disrepair and could use a serious cleaning. A sign over the door in the first floor seemed to indicate it was a tavern. Such a name indicated it was place to eat and drink, if she recalled the word correctly.

But what really caught her eyes was the ‘Help Wanted’ sign posted on the outside window. It was written in several languages, although hers wasn’t one of them. Nevertheless, it was the first glimmer of hope she’d seen in the last two weeks.

She hopped off the third floor and landed on the muddy ground below. Her legs were more than capable of handling several times her weight from such a high fall, but because of her fatigue, she still came down to her knees.

Kaai quickly washed her hands in one of the puddles and brushed back her braided hair, hoping to get most of the grim off it. It was a half-hearted attempt to appear presentable, but given her circumstances, it was all she could afford. Besides, judging by the way most of the passersby appeared, she’d fit right in.

The dessien crept to the corner of one of the buildings nearby and scanned the street. With none of her pursuers in sight, she continued on toward the tavern. The sign above the door, written in two languages, read ‘Sapwood.’ She approached the entrance and then suddenly froze.

Outside, like a lumbering statue, stood a large and imposing Ghalian. Upon closer inspection, she noted that his bluish feathered chest rose and fell with deep breathes and that his eyes were closed. Yet, the long claws, and the even longer arms, he sported caused her to pause. She’d never interacted with a Ghalian before. She wasn’t sure what to expect from them.

For several minutes, Kaai stood unmoving, unblinking, not six steps from the door and the slumbering monstrous sentry. She ignored the cold rain and the people walking past as she studied the Ghalian for any sign that he was alert or that he’d stop her from entering. Common sense and instinct screamed to avoid the powerful looking predator. But desperation and hunger couldn’t disregard the ‘Help Wanted’ sign.

The rumbling of her pitifully un-sated stomach provided one final and profound argument in favor of risking it.

The giant must be sleeping. No mammal can stay that motionless for that long while awake. Taking a deep breath, she stepped up toward the napping Ghalian and then past him to the door. Her long fingers gripped the brass door knob and carefully turned it. As quietly as she could muster, she slowly pushed the heavy oversized wooden door inward. The deafening screech the metal hinges made seemed to echo through the streets (although, in reality, they hardly made a sound.)

Casting a sideways glance, she noted that Ghalian still hadn’t moved. She pressed forward and shut the door quietly behind her.

The inside was pleasantly warm and the interior was deceptively cleaner then it appeared from the outside. From the scuffing and scratches in the unpolished hardwood floor, she could tell that the place had seen many years of usage. Oil lanterns flickered from their mounts on the walls and cast uneven lighting throughout the place. The chairs tables were different sizes, to better cater the size and shape differences of the various races.

There was a strange odor in the place that Kaai couldn’t put her finger on, but she discounted as yet another strange odor of these exotic mammals and probably the equally exotic food being prepared within.

It must be a slow time since only a few customers were seated at the bar. The patrons spared her only a momentary glance before returning to their drinks and quiet conversations. There was another Ghalian tending to the bar. It was difficult to make out his features in the dim light, but she could see the glint of his eyes as he studied her. Then, he returned to the uninteresting task of wiping a glass with a rag.

She thought she saw movement at the table nestled far toward the back of the room and masked within the shadows. It was too far and too dark for her to get a good look, though.

Like a moth to the fire, she was far more attracted to the roaring hearth set on the wall in the right side. The heat was utterly compelling after the cold rain she’d suffered through. As she stepped closer to it, Kaai was oblivious to the trail of water dripping from her lithe form. Closing her eyes, she savored the warmth. Once warm, dry and energetic, she’d find the owner and plead for employment.

After all, she was a scholar and university educated. How hard could working in a place like this be?




(( Monster post. Shocked /gasp! ))
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The Sapwood Gang

Post  Alezin on Tue Sep 25, 2012 9:34 am

For the residents in the slums, Sapwood almost seemed to have sprung up from one day to the next. What had once been an abandoned, ramshackle building had been transformed into a working restaurant and bar. Costumers had been rare during that first week, but soon the familiar fragrances of Oto’ghal cuisine had drawn in the exiles of the Cartel from their hiding spots in the slums. A year later, Sapwood was a household name among the slums; a place where working a Oto’ghal could get a bite to eat and an adventurous non-Oto’ghal could try some exotic food. It was common knowledge to everyone that the owners were exiles and for that reason Sapwood could always count on the continued patronage of local Oto’migi. What wasn’t common knowledge however was that Sapwood’s primary source of income wasn’t in fact tasty its tasty edibles and that their owners hadn’t actually fled from the Cartel…
---
What had started as a typical day for the workers at Sapwood, had quickly changed for the worse. The thief hadn’t done a good job in hiding her tracks and as soon as the personnel arrived at work they could tell something was amiss. The quartet had attempted to keep up the semblance of a typical day; smiles, nods and a friendly atmosphere prevailed. But after a particularly disastrous lunch service the kitchen had been closed so that the crisis could be thoroughly dealt with.

The Oto’migi of this city were the hardworking type. Jac’Moro had seen the loathsome idiots listening to their so-called leaders as they preached about living “clean” lifestyles. No guachi, no alcohol! Those were the vices of slaves! The morons. He could never phantom why they had preferred to abandon their trees for this; a life time of fruitless labor, pretending to be something they weren’t. No matter how they spoke or dressed, the locals would always see them as flea-bitten beasts from the forest. The delusional traitors would even help the city’s authorities root out Cartel members. That was the main reason behind Moro’s decision to disguise the gang and blend with the local Oto’ghal; it was better to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, especially when the sheep were organized.

The atmosphere inside Sapwood’s was tense; it permeated the air and hung over the denizens like a heavy blanket. Moro slowly sipped his sweet wine as he eyed his underlings. Guen’ Peg had been sent outside to stop any undesirables from barging in on the meeting. Kra’Guti was busy with his new dishwasher duties; today had been his first day acting as a waiter and it had been an utter catastrophe. His absolute inexperience had resulted in messed up orders, cold food and a roomful of unhappy patrons. Sitting next to Moro was his “little” cousin, Jac’Lika. The younger Oto’ghal held a thick wooden pencil in his stumpy claws, he was feverishly writing down calculations on his notebook. Moro intently watched Lika as he worked the numbers, scribbling, crossing out and adding digit after digit. At first he was patiently waited, but as the hour neared Moro found himself plucking feathers from his chest and unceremoniously dumping them on the floor. Finally, the constract scribbling sounds became unbearable.

“Give it to me straight. How much did we end up losing?” Moro flicked his tail impatiently.

“ Erm! Well, after finishing my inspecting and calculating everything...I… I ain’t gonna lie to ya. She cleaned us out good. Everything in the safe box is gone, so is most of the dried guachi that we had in the stock room and…well…” Lika braced himself. “She took what we had hidden under the floorboards.”

“ ……..W-w-WHAT!?” Moro’s booming voice made Guti almost drop the plate he was currently drying. “That, that thieving whore knew about the jars!? How!? Why didn’t you tell me SOONER!?”

“We didn’t check on the jars this morning, nobody thought… It was only when the full inspection was done that I noticed! I-I really don’t know how she found out!” He did. Lika had a bad habit of talking too much after bedding a female. He quickly shifted the conversation to more important points. “But if we want to recover, we’re gonna have to expand our zone a bit. That means that we’re gonna have to start dealing in Gunta and Kimbe’s territories.”

“A damned turf war? This just keeps getting better and better…” Moro chugged his drink and sighed.

“Good news though! We still have enough to pay our tribute to the Cartel this month, Boss! When I pick up the new guachi shipment tomorrow morning, I’ll send it back with the courier. Yeah? We really should be alright as long as we-”

“That clean-clawed bitch. If I ever see her again, I’ll gut her like the damned pig she is!” Their table now had a brand new had claw mark carved into the wood. Moro unceremoniously pushed his chair back and got up.“This!? THIS!? I told ya! This is why you don’t hire filthy brothel girls!” He continued walking toward his meat chopping station. The act of cutting meat with a cleaver always settled his nerves. “Lika… Do what needs to be done, you hear?”

“ Y-yes, Moro! I’ll assemble he street vendors tomorrow morning, and we’ll put a bounty on her…She can’t be that far. Gunta and Kimbe won’t find out a thing! You can count on me!” He quickly went back to his note writing, but soon perked up as he heard a figure walk in through the door.

“Ooooy! Welcome, welcome, sweetest lady!” Guti greeted the tiny visitor quite loudly in an effort to alert Moro and Lika about her presence. “Kitchen’s closed at the moment sweetheart, but if you want a drink to warm you up, I’m all you need!” He brushed his green mane as he practiced his charming smile on the reptilian female.
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Re: Death Will Have His Day ((Closed, see sign-ups))

Post  Izdazi on Fri Oct 05, 2012 4:42 pm

“Ooooy! Welcome, welcome, sweetest lady! Kitchen’s closed at the moment sweetheart, but if you want a drink to warm you up, I’m all you need!” the Oto'ghal standing behind the bar called out in a booming voice, startling Kaai.

This one bore olive colored feathers. Her eyes widened at the appearance of the rows of large teeth being revealed along his snout as he smiled. Was he looking at her as if she were a meal?

Once again, the urge to flee the predators coursed through her blood. And as before, her stomach rumbled and Kaai remembered why she was here.

The sound of something striking wood in the back room ceased with the loud greeting, plunging the tavern into an uncomfortable silence. She straightened herself to full height and pointed a finger at the sign on the wind.

"'Help Wanted.' You want help. I am here to help," she explained hastily. Another Ghalian stormed out of the kitchen as if to see what the conversation was about.

"Aherm… 'Help?'" The green Oto'ghal's eyes flashed with uncertainty and his face contorted into a look of genuine confusion. Seeking clarification he turned to the large tan colored Oto'ghal that was exciting the kitchen. The Ghalian was holding a cleaver made for Otoíghal hands (The handle is larger and thicker) in his left hand, his right hand was holding some unidentifiable carcass.

"Kitchen's closed, love. If you ain't buying a drink, get out," he said in a brusque and dismissive tone.

"N-no,no, no! Wait! Wait!" A smaller tan-colored Oto'ghal holding a thick bundle of paperwork quickly joined the fray. He spoke to the larger one in a sheepish manner and avoiding direct eye contact. His claws seemed much shorter than the others she'd seen. In fact, they were only stumps, as if they'd been cut off at some point. "I…uh. I placed a sign out in front. I didn't tell ya! It slipped my mind! I mean… We DID need to hire some new help."

"You WHAT!?" The larger Otoíghal glared at his smaller protégé with a glare that Kaai could best describe as 'we'll talk about this later' looks. She silently gave thanks to the gods that it wasn't her on the receiving end of that.

"A new waitress!? Oh sweetheart! You've made my day!" The shaggy-green Oto'ghal exclaimed from behind the bar. There was a tone of relief and eagerness in his voice.

"Be quiet!" The large 'boss' Oto'ghal snapped at the bartender. With a heavy sigh, he stalked back into the kitchen and move to the meat cutting station. He stopped for a moment, glanced over his broad shoulder and motioned a Kaii to follow.

The other two silently watched her. Kaai gulped nervously. The silent stare of the two Ghalians and the other patrons at the bar made her feel as if she were walking toward her execution.

Taking a deep breath, the dessien steeled her nerves and pressed forward. If this was the day she was to die, at least she did so on her two feet, rather then wasting away outside.

What she could gather, the large tan colored Oto'ghal was the 'boss' of this establishment. It also appeared that the 'Help Wanted' sign was not his idea.

She slowly entered the kitchen and glanced around the room. There were no windows here, so the only light came from the oil lanterns mounted on the walls. The flickering orange light cast a dull pallor to the room that Kaai instantly disliked. It was cluttered, but most of the tools appeared clean, as did the unused counter spaces.

Her eyes lingered on the bloodied meat cleaver and the carcass it has just been used to mutilate. At this point, there was no telling what kind of creature it had once been. But for now, she was just grateful it wasn't her on that cutting board.

Once inside, she positioned herself as far as she could from the cook (which wasn't far at all considering the small size of the kitchen and the large size of the cook.) There, she looked up and waited patiently, all the while struggling not to emit even the smallest of trills.

The 'boss' Oto'ghal carefully spread the carcass out on the chopping station. Focusing on where best to cut; he spoke to Kaai without directly looking at her.

“So…Yer a small thing. Not an ounce of fat on ya. Why should I hire such a puny little bar wench? Can ya even lift anything with those shriveled little arms!?”

*TWAACK!* Kaai jumped at the sharp sound. The boss had brought the cleaver down before Kaai could even respond.

*TWAACK!* “The name’s Jac’Moro. I have three rules.”
*TWAACK!* “First rule: You do what I tell you to do."
*TWAACK!* "Second rule: Don’t question me."
*TWAACK!* "Third rule: Don’t steal from me."
*TWAACK!* "Ever." *TWAACK!*

Jac'Moro flung some entrails aside and continued chopping the carcass.

“You know what we do back home when we catch you thievin’? We chop off yer’ claws.” *TWAACK!* ”In your case, that’d be yer fingers. All ten of ‘em.”

Kaai glanced down at her long fingers and thought back to the two thefts she had committed in the last few week. She shuddered at the thought of losing them. Was that what those thugs in the alleyway were going to do?

Jac'Moro finally looks up from his work and turns to Kaai. His large yellow eyes focused intently on hers. “So, tell me. You still want that job?”

It wasn't as if she had much of a choice. Hopefully this was just a bad day for Moro, and that he wasn't always this… gruff. But as her father once told her, beggars can't be choosers. This was an opportunity that she had to make the most of.

"I can do this. I want job. Please," she replied with barely a moment's hesitation. "My name, Kaai. Of the family Fuleki. I will do my best."

“Fuleki? Hrrm.” Moro replied with a tone that indicated that was the most irrelevant thing he'd heard all day. The Oto’ghal remained silent for several moments, his eyes betraying all the little calculations and concerns running through his head. After half a minute he spoke. “Well, Kaai, yer a tiny, determined thing. I’ll tell ya what. Starting tomorrow, ya work for me. If the day’s not a total disaster you’ll be with us for good. Be here before the sun comes up, and I’ll give ya the rundown of the place.”

Kaai smiled and nodded her head rapidly.

“Don’t worry sweetheart, ya can’t do worse than me!” Exclaimed the green Oto’ghal, who was still at the bar. He had apparently been overhearing the conversation.

“Ah that reminds me… Boys, c’mere.” Moro waved his claw and beckoned the other two Ghalians to come join them at the kitchen, then he took in a deep breath. “PEG! YA USELESS LUMP OF FEATHERS! C’MERE!”

Kaai nearly jumped to the ceiling at the explosion of his call. This was followed by a thud from the front, and a surprised shuffle from outside. Within seconds the bright blue Oto’ghal that had been outside was standing next to the others. He slowly blinked, and stared at Kaai as if he'd never seen such a tiny-person thing before.

“Whut’s this?” he asked.

“This? This is what you let in, Peg. Thanks to you, we’ll be seeing a lot more of it.” Moro continued with the formalities. “Boys, this is Kaai, our newest waitress. Kaai, these are the boys. The big blue one that can’t do his job properly is Guen’Peg; you’ve already met out bartender, Kra’Guti, and the one responsible for to getting hired is my cousin, Jac’Lika.”

Kaai bowed slightly before each of them. There were four now staring down at them, and although she suspected they were being friendly with the smiles, ignoring their teeth was going to take some effort on her part.

“Hello, Kaai. I’ll have your paperwork ready come morning.” Lika politely smiled.

“Pleasure to have you with us, sweetheart!” Guti flicked his bright green tail.

“But whut is it…” Peg had evidently never seen a dessien before in his life. Considering that very few of her people travel this far from Dessia, that was probably true.

The dessien did her best to describe where she was from and what her people was like. It seemed like he'd remember at least half of what she said, although, his curiosity seemed sated for the time being.

Through it all, though, Kaai mostly felt relieved. She'd found employment. She could start saving to pay her way back into he city and then book passage back home.

However, this quickly led to another issue. Gulping nervously, she glanced at Jac'Lika and Jac'Moro (or as she'd soon learn, she could just call them Lika and Moro.)

She hated asking them for help so soon. They had just given her a job, albeit probationary for now, but with nowhere to live and the skies threatening to rain throughout the night, the prospect of sleeping outside again was looking less appealing.

"Where do I rest tonight, sir Moro? I have no place to go."

“Eh?” Much to her chagrin, Moro didn't hide his annoyance. “Did ya just come off from a ship or something!? Nevermind. I don’t care.” He pointed one of his sharp claws towards the stairs. “Up the stairs. I sleep there, but there’s a hammock in the corner. Yer welcome to it, but I’m taking the rent from yer wages.

“Go get settled. I expect ya to work hard tomorrow," He scratched his messy mane and shook his head before turning his glare to the others. "And you three! Back to work! We’re not closed YET!” he bellowed before returning to the kitchen to resume butchering.

Kaai, graciously free of Moro's attention, quietly crept toward the back of the tavern. The claws of her bare feet clicked on the wood floor and with each step away from the windows that adorned the front, the place got darker and more foreboding.

She made it to a small hallway that was only lit by one weathered dimmed lantern. To the right was the stairway. She took a few steps and suddenly froze when the light from the hallway darkened. Spinning around, she found herself face-to-face with one of the Oto'ghal. It was the one bright blue one named Peg.

"Errr… hi?" she whispered. Peg didn't say anything. From her height in the stairs, she was almost head-to-head with him, who was still standing on the ground floor. He leaned in and brought his snout close to her. He started sniffing her around her. Her clothes, her hair, her head; it was one of the most awkward moments in her life.

Mortified, Kaai wanted to push him away, but she wasn't sure how he would respond. She knew so little of the Ghalian culture. Instincts told her to freeze and this time she didn't try to go against it. Unmoving, she watched as he raised a claw and then…

… he poked her in the chest! It didn't cause her any injury. It didn't even hurt. Yet it was so unexpected, it jolted her from her defensive stillness. She pushed his hand away and narrowed her eyes angrily. Her arms were down and her fingers splayed with the claws rigidly stretched out.

Yet there was no malice in his eyes and that's what confused her. If anything, it was intense curiosity. It's something she'd seen in the eyes of the younglings that attended her parent's schoolhouse.

Kaai relaxed a little and then he poked her yet again. This time she lashed out and slapped his arm away before crouching down and preparing to jump to the top of the stairs. The dessien didn't want to injure him, but she didn't like getting poked. And getting prodded by those huge claws was very much unnerving.

The Oto'ghal jerked his claw back and stared at her with bemused expression. Then, he cocked his head slightly.

"You're fast, little gray one," Peg said, speaking in a slow, deliberate fashion.

"And you're… big… big blue one," Kaai replied rather awkwardly. It felt like a weak response, but she couldn't think of anything better to say.

Issuing a brief chortle, Peg turned and walked back into the dining room, leaving Kaai to release a breath she had unknowingly been holding.

Oh yes, working here, with these people, is going to be very interesting, she deided as she reached the top of the stairs and opened the door to the room she’d be staying in.

It was difficult to find the right words to describe the room she'd been directed to go. Maybe it was due to her limited vocabulary when it came to the language used in this area. More then likely, however, speechlessness was because of the sheer condition of the room.

Whatever order and organizational Moro had in his kitchen, clearly didn’t extend to his room. There were cobwebs in the corners of the ceilings and clothing strewn all over the floor.

Taking a few steps in, she suddenly froze and crouched low when something moved above her. There were large linen sacks swaying slowly from the rafters. When she traced her fingers on the darkened floor, she felt something clumping along her claws.

Feathers. There were molted feathers all over the floor! Slowly standing up, she stepped deeper into the room and finally found the hammock. It was loaded, nearly to the limit, with dirty laundry.

Repulsed the dessien crept back out of the room and waited in front of the door. She could hear activity downstairs and could imagine that Moro and the others were busy with their tasks.

He must be so busy that he doesn’t have the time to clean where he rests. I’m sure he’d appreciate if I cleaned his room for him.

* * *

A few hours later, an exhausted Kaai was letting her eyes drift close. The hammock had proven to be far more relaxing then she ever expected. It had taken a great deal of time, but the room was organized, the floor swept, the feathers disposed of, the dirty laundry stacked neatly in the back of the door ready to be sent down for cleaning. All the cabinets and drawers can finally close and with the windows open, the heavy scent in the room was finally dissipating.

With a sigh, Kaai realized that this was the first time in two weeks she’d slept indoors. Even with the monstrous Oto'ghal she’d be working for, this was the safest she’d felt in that time.
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Dreams and Nightmares

Post  AWizardDidIt on Wed Oct 24, 2012 12:08 am

The rumor was that a rather dull castle guard had been assigned to the job - while drunk, to boot. He had dumped one of the bodies in the well, and the situation had simply spiraled out of control from there.

At least, so Jasten Barra initially believed, listening to the gossip that pervaded all aspects of life in Gold Keep. He wasn’t worried, by any means, but he certainly enjoyed listening to the juicy tall tales that the noblewomen and their handmaidens spun with true storyteller’s expertise. To him, the outbreak of this plague was just another fantastic fiction, one that he eagerly devoured in order to sate his endless boredom. Some part of him hoped that the stories were true. Another part of him was fearful, but he poked and prodded at that part of his conscience till it retreated back to its own dark corner. Even if the rumors were, Jasten was not worried in the slightest. After all, plagues were commonplace, especially in the Hands. They never lasted more than a month, the townsfolk told him. Nobody but unimportant peasants died in plaguetime, Heinrich told him. Certainly, nobody within the König’s keep was in danger, Maria told him.

And yet he longed for danger. He longed for some event to come along and rip through the rags that remained of his former life, to change him evermore and make him the man Verulean wanted him to be. Heinrich would never understand. The reason Jasten performed so poorly on his tests was that this life of calm was drudgery to him. He felt like a snail surrounded by towering walls of salt that blocked his escape in any direction. Yet, unlike the snail, his shell was gone. It had been gone since Verulean had died and left him alone.

Jasten had become a slug.

So he waited, seemingly in vain, for some cataclysmic affair to fall from the heavens and knock down the salt-walls.

Waited, perhaps, was a somewhat incorrect term. Jasten did not sit idle by any means. He sneaked out of his quarters every night to see the minstrels, bards, and jugglers ply their trades at The Purple Prince. Many times, he veered off course while on an errand, heading into a seedier part of the district, continually hoping to catch sight of some black market trade or drunken fistfight or duel of dishonored swordsmen. (On one occasion, Jasten saw a man get mugged by a ragged cutpurse who had snuck in from the Travelers’ District, but the guards quickly apprehended the thief and returned his victim’s belongings.) Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, he regularly passed by the tailor’s shop, puffed out his chest, and readied his ears for the sighs of sweet young maidens. But none came. Nor did the minstrels, bards, and jugglers offer to take him under their wing, and nor did he catch sight of anything in the seedy parts of town. His lot was less passive than simply waiting, he told himself. He was taking chances, and sooner or later, an adventure would come along and deracinate him from the dry, flat earth he was chained to.

Heinrich and his other instructors figured him to be a lazy and dispassionate youth due to his lack of aptitude. Jasten’s head was “nowhere but the clouds,” the old chandler insisted. Mena assured them otherwise in her many letters (Jasten always read and resealed all mail before delivering it), saying that his skill and fire would return with time. For awhile, Jasten’s educators almost seemed to believe it. But as time passed and his academic progress stagnated, they returned to treating him like a lethargic dullard. It did not matter to Jasten: perhaps in time, they might even give up entirely on him, and he would be free to go and do as he pleased. Until that day, however, he was to make his “livelihood” in the way his aunt decreed: by delivering bundles of candles.

On this particular day, when the sun was high in the sky and not a cloud was in sight, Jasten had taken an even more drastic detour from his normal route. Someone, said a passing peddler, preparing to leave the city entirely, had died after drinking from the Keep’s well, and now the König’s men were preparing to board it up until further notice. A moratorium on water did not make much sense to Jasten, so he had to see for himself. He had left his delivery in one of his marked “safe barrels,” containers across the Keep where he knew he would be able to temporarily store wares and return for them later. Initially, Jasten had only planned to get a quick look at the source of the crowd’s commotion, but he had become wedged between two enormously fat scullery girls and literally dragged to the epicenter. It was in the direct vicinity of the well that the talk was the loudest, and the rumors the most wild and exciting.

“I heard that an entire ship of Ghalians came down with the same illness,” said one man, an ancient and skeletal chef from the Keep. If Jasten recalled correctly, his name was Johannes.

“Oh, it can only get worse from here. Not in all my years have they boarded up the well. Why, just last night, they lowered a soldier on a bucket to bring up the body that had been dumped in there.” One of the fat girls responded to Johannes’ remark, making use of elaborate and melodramatic gestures as she spoke. Much to Jasten’s annoyance, she stressed all the wrong syllables in her words. “This isn’t the first time, you know. That a body has fallen in the well. Hans Gruber accidentally put his dead pap’s body in a few years back, after drinking a box of Shrira Rum. That time, we just boiled the water we pulled up. I bet old goodman Gruber’s skeleton is still at the bottom.”

Johannes had lost interest, and was slowly approaching the two guardsmen who were carrying out the unenviable task of nailing a well shut amidst an enormous (and rather foul-smelling) crowd. He lifted the tip of cane and tapped the taller and burlier of the two men on the back.

“You there,” he said, speaking a bit too loudly, even considering his position in the center of the growing throng. “Boy.”
The “boy,” who had to have seen at least twenty five summers, turned slowly to meet the old man’s gaze. He eyed Johannes up and down for a few moments before setting his hammer and cup of nails aside.

“I’m sorry, citizen,” replied the guard, with a voice so booming that every person in the square could probably hear it. “This is Imperial business. Please do not interfere. We act for the safety of all in Brennenburg.”
“I know that, boy.” Johannes lifted his cane and tapped it against the hulking man’s chest before continuing. “I want to know if I should be worried. I’ve a son in North Weissburg, and I’ll be damned if some plague takes me before I see the birth of my first grandchild.”
“You’ll be dead within the year anyway,” shouted someone in the crowd, drawing stifled laughter. Johannes ignored him and continued.
“I’ve lived in this city for forty five years, and not once have I seen the Keep well boarded up because of a plague. I’ve heard that the wells in all the other parts of the city have been closed as well. I damn well want to know what’s going on here, and I hope you up-toppers aren’t hiding something from us in the interests of ‘protecting the peace.’”

“Verner, sir, is my name. Please call me by it.” Verner brushed some silt off the knees of his uniform and stood to face the tiny old man. The stark contrast between the gargantuan young warrior and the minuscule, aged cook was a sight to see. Nevertheless, Johannes refused to be intimidated, and continued staring directly at the guard, unflinching. “You need not be alarmed. What we do here is to prevent the spread of a disease. It is not a plague. It is by no means a pandemic. Before the end of the week, this well will be reopened and you will have forgotten this issue entirely. We are currently performing renovations by way of the tunnels.”

“The tunnels,” repeated Johannes. By now, the crowd had quieted and was listening intently. “I should’ve known. Perfect place for up-toppers to hide something from honest, hardworking folk.”
“Nothing is being hidden from you, sir. Depart immediately, or face penalties.”
“I will not depart so long as my questions remain answered untruthfully. You’re hiding something.” Jasten was surprised at the old man’s audacity. By now, several others had stepped a bit closer to the well, both in support Johannes and to get a better look.
“How many times must I repeat myself? Do you wish it written in royal ink with a wax seal? There is. Nothing. To-“

The scream of a grown man shattered the still air that been slowly forming over the past few minutes. It cut Verner off midsentence. Nearly every man, woman, and child in the square raised their heads to the sky in search of its source, Johannes looked down.

“Yes, I should have known. It’s coming from down there.” He looked up at Verner with a leer strong enough to sour milk.
“Depart immediately.” Verner, not bothering to attempt an explanation, remained firm, returning his stare.

The crowd did not depart. Instead, they burst into conversation. The air was filled with the intense cacophony of a thousand people talking at once, all over each other, all in panic over the source of the cry. No further shrieks resounded from below, but for a few moments, but the masses could not be quieted.

Shing.

Verner had taken particular care to draw his blade at an angle to make as much noise as possible. Now the people were silent again, and staring at him. Even Johannes had taken a step back. He held his blade aloft, allowing it to catch and reflect the rays of the slowly setting sun in all directions.

“Depart.”

This time, the people scattered like leaves in the wind. The noise returned as they whispered words of conspiracy amongst themselves. As Jasten departed, he could have sworn he heard the sound of a second scream. Perhaps, it was simply the first, resonating in his mind.
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