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  1. #1
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    Shinsou Vaan Osiris's Avatar

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    500

    Name
    Shinsou Vaan Osiris
    Age
    31
    Race
    Telgradian
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Salvar

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    Old dogs, new tricks. [closed]

    Closed to Storm Veritas
    Shinsou had been watching the players perched around the table carefully for a good while now. Each facial expression told of the men’s experience in the game. Some grimaced with mock incredulity, trying to throw the others off of the scent. Some of them simply stared down, not wanting to give anything away. Storm Veritas, to the Telgradian’s left, smiled before calmly gazing down at the cards in his hand, sipping his honey malt whiskey in the deliberately confident way he always did. Shinsou contemplated his next move, placing his hand face down on the table and tapping two fingers on the reverse of his cards. He knew, underneath his palm, there were three separate cards, completely unrelated in both suit and order, with the potential to lose him his thus far respectable pot.

    But he wasn’t at all worried.

    Experience told him that he could have had the worst hand in the game, but it wouldn’t matter one bit if he could bounce the other players into thinking he had a cock like a caber. Judging by the intelligence of some of the knuckle draggers at the table, it wouldn’t be a particularly difficult task.

    "Well, well! Would you look at that!", A thick set, heavily bearded wall of a man to Shinsou’s right exclaimed, throwing his hand face down proudly but being very careful to not reveal his cards. Slamming his fist triumphantly on the table, sending tremors through the room, he grinned like an Alsatian. “I’m taking this pot all night long, chumps!”

    It is easy to smile at an insult and pretend it's funny when the person insulting you is about to hose you with money.

    Shinsou glanced casually at the mound of copper and silver in the center of the table, and then to Storm on his left. The electromancer shrugged nonchalantly, folded, and took another sip of his drink from behind his own sizeable portion of the coins.

    It should have been difficult to focus. Within the steady hum of idle chatter came the regular thump of boots pounding onto the creaking timber floorboards; interrupted only by the crescendo of clinking glasses and the cheers of the revelling crowd. Indeed, some of those seated around the table started to lean in, cupping their ears to catch the bets as they rose. One folded accidentally, not realizing the bet was lower than he thought. However, Shinsou sat, his cards flat against the wood, with a cool expression.

    “I raise you fifty.”

    The calm expression never left the former Telgradian emperor’s face as he threw in his lot, pushing his silver towards the pile. Fold after fold followed in a clockwise motion around the table, until it came back to the bear-man.

    “Are you joking?! If you don’t have at least a flush, boy, you are done here! I raise a hundred!”

    Shinsou, not dissuaded by his failure to sway the lumberjack, tapped his cards.

    “You better think before you match me. The timber trade’s a little slower than usual these days, and you look like you need the money. Two-hundred."

    Tossing his own cards face down amidst the taunts and laughter around him, the Telgradian glared at his peer. The lumberjack looked flustered, and hesitated. A lot of money was on the table, a month’s wages for him, and he knew his own hand was a slight bluff. A king high pair would do okay in the early betting, but not here. His opponent had to have at least a flush to throw in two hundred.

    It took a moment before he decided to cut his losses and abandon his bluff.

    “You got fuckin’ lucky that time. What did you have?”

    Shinsou smiled. “It’s not what I had that matters, it’s what I have now that’s important. Which, by my count, is two hundred pieces heavier. Thanks for playing.”

    The lumberjack slammed his fist into the table, and exited to raucous, mocking laughter.

    You can all laugh, but he’s human, same as you, Shinsou thought quietly to himself, By the time tonight’s done I’ll have had you all paying for my board here.

    Taking the deck in his palm, after sweeping his coin mountain into a leather bag next to the table, Shinsou tossed cards back and forth until the next game was set and ready. Three card brag had never really been his forte, but Storm had taught him well from their time travelling together when there was nothing to do between marches. Of course, his wily friend had been careful not to teach him everything, but that was to be expected. That was the way things worked between them; a relationship of trust and independence, guidance without handholding, and progress without intrusion. It was something Shinsou had given a lot of thought to, and he had hoped that his latest idea would sit well with the skilled electromancer and follow the same template. As everyone slid their cards into their hands and began their methods of misdirection, the Telgradian shot a glance left to Storm, who was trying to get the attention of a particularly top-heavy waitress for a top-up.

    “I know this is a bit out of the blue,” Shinsou started, folding his cards inside his palm, “but can you meet me at the Citadel tomorrow morning? There’s something I want to show you.”

    As he was about to deal the next game, a tap on his shoulder distracted him. He turned his head and shot a glare at the man stood over his shoulder.

    ”What’s up, Arius? I’m playing here.”

    A pair of hazel eyes appeared from beneath a pair of gold rimmed spectacles, unfazed. From beneath his brown leather robes, he handed over a beige, folded note.

    “It’s ready. Well, sort of. You need to give it the finishing touches.”

    Shinsou looked around the table, and sighed, placing the deck in front of Storm.

    “Excuse me. See you tomorrow, and try not to be too hungover, yeah?”

    He got up from the table, slinging his weighty coin sack over his shoulder, and unfolded the note between his finger and thumb. The handwriting was his father’s; the paper looked as if a spider had fallen in a vial of ink and scurried across the page. He held it up to a nearby lamp, and read it quietly in his mind.
    Last edited by Shinsou Vaan Osiris; 06-04-2019 at 05:16 PM.
    Old does not mean dead – New does not mean best – No hard feelings, I’m tired of being right about everything I’ve said – Yours does not mean mine – Kill does not mean die – We are not your kind

  2. #2
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    Storm Veritas's Avatar

    GP
    21,050

    Name
    Storm Veritas
    Age
    39
    Race
    Human
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Corone
    Tonight was intended to be a “bait night” for Storm. With Shinsou joining him at the table, the cards would be secondary to the conversation, and an opportunity for the wizard to set the table with these doughy, hairy-knuckled fools that clung to their crowns with fervent desperation. Tonight, he wasn’t here to win money. Tonight, he’d happily drop a few coins, setting up small tells after his third whiskey – scratching his nose when he held a little doubt; or fixing his seat just so slightly when his hand was strong. He’d make these moves tonight, and tomorrow, letting these fools bleed him slightly while he slowly raised the stakes. In three or four nights, when their jaws dripped with enough saliva, he’d tighten up and string them. He’d already caught most of their tendencies just watching.

    Fat boy twists his ring when he’s unsure of what he’s doing. Crater-face fans his cards more taut when they’re stronger, to keep people from seeing strength. Cue ball isn’t too bad, but he drinks with his left hand when his hand is strong.

    Fucking rubes. This is a five hundred crown crew if I can convince them they’re smart enough.


    The thinnest blanket of tobacco smoke had finally fully coated the ceiling of the room when Shinsou was pulled away abruptly. The Telgradian made a snide remark about sobriety (as if he were some sort of fucking sponsor) and was out before Storm Veritas could talk him out of a good decision.

    “Well, shit. Looks like the young fella’s all tuckered out. Who’s ready for a round?” The diplomatic electromancer rose and smiled brightly, fixing his pedestrian suit. The cotton-wool blended stuff was beneath him, but it was soft, warm, and allowed him to fit in with these filthy peasants. They thought him fancy in anything that lacked holes or mustard stains, so he’d been drinking his way into their good graces.

    With a few extra rounds of a weak lager and strong whiskey, the men started loosening up and chatting amongst themselves. Storm had convinced the group he was a traveler who traded currencies, which left his pockets a little heavy and his company welcome. The gamblers were largely losers, but had some fun stories and tried to regale the Secret Serenti Champion with tales of their own regalia.

    “I was a warrior as a boy!” Cue-Ball had started the conversation. In fairness, with meaty hands and a thick chest, crazier claims had been made. “I fought in the Alerian Revolution. Those Dark Elves won’t come near me now.”

    They’d cut you in slices like they were divvying up Sunday dinner. You could just as well tell me you walked there, across the water.

    “Amazing!” Storm smiled with seemingly genuine curiosity. “Did you retire? A hero’s pension is supposed to be fantastic in Radasanth…” He teased the point, knowing it false, pushing his luck just a touch.

    “It’s fine.” Cue Ball hedged, spinning his ring and sipping slowly. “It was a long time ago – the army wore out my knees and ended my career before full pension.”

    Maybe he’s only partially full of shit…

    “Oh, fuck off, you shiny-skulled shit! We’ve all heard it a million times!” Crater Face had come in over the top with an aggressive barb. “And besides, some of us aren’t so naturally strong but can still find ways to work for a livin’!”

    “Bullshit.” Fat Boy was simple in his critique. “Your idea of work is getting up at the crack of noon and asking Uncle Stu for a couple of coins.” Storm had no idea who Stu was, but took a mental note of someone in town with no doubt deep pockets. These were, after all, his favorite type of friends.

    “No shit.” Crater Face smiled, finishing a short, heavy glass of whiskey and slamming it with a thud. “I’ve been making a king’s ransom as a trader – you know where to look and my money man here can tell you there’s piles to pull.” He gestured to Veritas, who took his cue fairly.

    “Sure, yes, absolutely. Hell, exchange rates float from place to place, and I just need to find a couple of people that need Alerian, Coronian, Dheathian coins or whatever. It’s free money for me to travel, if you can find the right place.” This was a gamble; his story had more holes than a sea sponge.

    Shit, that was stupid. Needed a better story. Shit.

    “Better when you find the same spot, my friend!” Crater Face smiled, his brown-flecked teeth taunting him as he spoke. “I’ve been trading wheat at Tylermande for triple rates! And you should see the whores down there!”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Somehow, the wizard had managed to keep his comportment, allowing his rage to bubble just beneath the surface. He was banging on the door of Vaan Osiris, oblivious to the fact that it was late, Shinsou was quite possibly not alone, and Storm smelled like a distillery fire.

    With a few creaks and mumbled swears, a light shined beneath the door to the tavern hallway. Storm backed slightly upon the stones, giving space to Shinsou to slowly open the door. When their eyes met, Shinsou was a blend of annoyance and disgust.

    “Gods! You’re drunk as shit! Get back to your room; I’m not holding your hair while you puke. We have an early morning, in case you forgot.” Even sober, the fatigued warrior looked punch-drunk himself with bags under his eyes.
    “No! Well, yes, but no. Sure, I drank plenty, but that’s not this.”

    Wrap it up.

    Storm steeled his eyes, showing his intent and purpose. “The Citadel is going to have to wait.”
    Last edited by Storm Veritas; 06-07-2019 at 07:42 PM.

  3. #3
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    Shinsou Vaan Osiris's Avatar

    GP
    500

    Name
    Shinsou Vaan Osiris
    Age
    31
    Race
    Telgradian
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Salvar

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    "I don't believe it. I don't fucking believe it!"

    It was the seventh time in as many minutes he had said it, but Shinsou's fury was still no closer to abating. His face was a stone cold snapshot of silent rage, his lips were almost white from the pursing and his fingernails left purple crescents in his palms as he clawed his fingers tight around the reins of his horse Slepnir. Beside him, in tandem, was an equally furious electromancer, spurring Attila on with a quiet but almost venomous demeanour.

    "We need to check everything," Storm finally uttered through gritted teeth, "and I mean everything. Ledgers, profit and loss accounts, shipping manifests and the cash on site...lock, stock, the fucking lot."

    Last night, Shinsou had been listening intently with a mixture of grave concern and, eventually, boiling anger, to his partner's retelling of "Crater Face's" boasts. At first, the Telgradian wasn't sure how much of it was true. A lot of people tried to big themselves up at the card table to impress both the clientele and the women, but a cursory check of the latest Brotherhood treasury ledger (something neither he nor Storm ever really audited) confirmed a sizeable deficit that seemed to fit the facts. There should have been a very healthy income; Storm in particular had gone to great lengths to ensure that the trading tariffs at ports and markets were always profitable ventures, and that any supply lines were negotiated very thoroughly to ensure a favourable outcome for the Brotherhood. It was what he was good at, and he had bust his not inconsiderable balls to achieve it.

    Yet, despite these efforts, the number in red on the statement of account told an uncomfortable truth; there was an alarming shortage of money. Money was the very lifeblood of the Brotherhood; it was used to feed the families of the soldiers, buy food and weapons, and pay "maintenance" costs (as Storm called them) to any relevant authorities. Without it, quite simply, they were fucked. As the steeds trotted side by side, the miserable weather of the rainy season hit. Through the driving rain, the pair of allies rode down a muddy hill towards a junction. A left turn here would put them on the road to Tylmerande, and as the pair cantered over the potholed clay, Shinsou shot a sideways glance at Veritas.

    "Arius delegates responsibility for the finances between three people in Tylmerande, as far as he told me," The Telgradian held three fingers up for a visual reference, "There's a treasurer, a freight forwarder and the exchange. The treasurer deals with accounting, the freight forwarder deals with goods in and out of port and the exchange deals with buying and selling currencies. As your boy Crater Face confirmed, we need to get a grip of the freight and goods trading- accounting is all well and good, but it is subjective on the information provided. There is nothing fucking subjective about that cash balance...someone is taking the piss out of us."

    The area they were in, about five kilometres now from the port of Tylmerande, was a fairly rugged track next to woodland. Even with the enormous steed beneath him, the tall Telgradian felt every step beneath jolting him as the hooves churned up mud and clay. It just served to irritate him further.

    "Could it be a mole?" Storm asked, producing his pipe from within his finery, "I wouldn't put it past the assembly to get creative, especially when it comes to us. They know we're a tough nut to crack out there, but maybe they think if the boys aren't getting paid, they'll down tools and leave us exposed."

    "If there is a mole, I'd like to play that game where it pops up and we smash it with a fucking hammer." Shinsou emphasised the point with a downward stroke of his fist.

    He watched as Storm took a moment to fill his cherry-wood pipe with a bit of tobacco, lighting it with a snap of his fingers.

    "So, who is doing the vetting for recruitment, then?" The electromancer asked, screening out the rain using the back of his hand as he inhaled.

    "Arius deals with all of that, as far as I know. I've not known him to be wrong, yet."

    As they continued to ride, Tylmerande appeared on the horizon. The coastal town was such an unassuming place, yet enjoyed key status amongst its previous incumbents, the Assembly, and current occupiers, the Brotherhood. It had once served as a shipyard for the Imperial navy and a port that was economy-critical for the government, and now found use as a fully functioning harbour and trading post for Shinsou and Storm's organisation. Taking it had been easy enough, and the rebuilding and operation of it seemed to be going smoothly up to now, but they both knew that in order to maintain a healthy Brotherhood, Tylmerande had to be self-sufficient and not pissing money up the wall.

    A few minutes later, the allies had gotten close enough to travel by foot. Smoothly dismounting their great black mounts, leaving them at a Brotherhood checkpoint with reserves of water and hay, Shinsou and Storm strolled to within a kilometre of the town gate.

    "The shit we went through to get this place was worth it," Shinsou reminisced to Storm as they approached, and passed, the final perimeter picket, "...so long as we leave here safe in the knowledge that the leaks are plugged. My first thought is a town wide blockade - no freight taken off or put on the ships here, no goods changing hands and no coins being bought or sold until every manifest, every currency option and every contract is checked. What do you think?"
    Old does not mean dead – New does not mean best – No hard feelings, I’m tired of being right about everything I’ve said – Yours does not mean mine – Kill does not mean die – We are not your kind

  4. #4
    Ride The Lightning

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    Storm Veritas's Avatar

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    Storm Veritas
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    39
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    Human
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    Male
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    Corone
    “It’s a hell of a start.” Storm glowered as he stared holes through the greywood and white stone, sun-bleached buildings of the port town. After the fiasco of losing Whitevale, Storm and Shin had made sure to do Tylermande right. They kept themselves largely out of operations, allowed the citizens to feel empowered, and enacted firm, fair rules that the townfolk ostensibly seemed content with.

    Of course, your average schlub isn’t exactly going to give one of us lip back, after we cut this town a new asshole four feet wide on our way in.

    His teeth gritted around the pipe as he tasted the heat, the sour-sweet flavor of his tobacco. The wash of placidity that tobacco brought him settled his lungs and heart into a certain smoothness that aided his decisions, and settled some of his budding mania.

    “I’d like to force the truth from these ungrateful bastards with some combination of lightning, rope, and chrome coated pliers. Bribe our ways to the first name, and disembowel him in town square to send an unmistakable message.”

    As furious as Shin had grown, he knew this path was lunacy, and had learned enough of Storm to understand the wizard had something else in mind. He continued walking as he waited, sipping from the leather cask that Veritas believed held water. Storm continued.

    “But we can’t, not if we’re going to rally the town back into good graces. More flies with honey, and all that. Besides, I don’t know if we’re dealing with one rogue fool I can string up by the balls, or if we’re dealing with a more sophisticated grift. Maybe we start by looking at the books in a routine spot check, see what we’re dealing with.”

    “Sure, I bet there’s a line item loophole someone honestly missed. And Phi is probably waiting in the tavern with open arms and tits out to throw us a surprise party.” Shin smirked at himself as he mocked the initial plan.

    The wide eyes of the handsome warrior showed a certain vitriol that caught the attention of his friend. It was rare that Storm would serve as the voice of reason between the two, but perhaps this calm only came because he was spelling out his own plan, and had already navigated the processing of his own wrath.

    Be honest, roles reversed, Shinsou could present the best plan in the history of modern politics and you’d second guess it if it didn’t involve you filleting the mole like pork before the Harvest celebration

    The electromancer caught himself, careful not to show some unwarranted temper. Shin was right, in that there was virtually no chance that the pock-marked gambler was piping off at the mouth over some legitimate issue.

    The wind picked up a bit, sending the sea air over them in a salty staleness, stinging the squinting eyes of the magician. He had stopped, picking at his fingernails as he retorted.

    “Relax. It’s about process. Let’s peel this onion one layer at a time, find the rot systematically, and allow the people to see that we’re respecting the democracy established here. Then, when we discover the source of the corruption, you can remind the people here that governance is taken seriously. Hell, you can even break out your Emperor Cutesy-roogi bullshit if you want to.”

    A knowing smirk. Nothing got under Vaan Osiris’ skin like the playful mocking of his incredible power. Storm had the luxury of being the only man upon Althanas who could comfortably offer the barb without any fear of retribution.
    Last edited by Storm Veritas; 06-11-2019 at 09:42 AM.

  5. #5
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    Shinsou Vaan Osiris's Avatar

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    Shinsou Vaan Osiris
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    31
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    Telgradian
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    Salvar

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    Though the weather was bleak, the day had begun brightly for Tenedos Torr. In the month since he and his comrade Damascus escaped the chaos of the Brotherhood’s assault on Radasanth, they had returned to Tylmerande, to the site of where the madness had all began and where the Brotherhood had sent a message to the nation of Corone they would not soon forget or forgive. He swallowed a mouthful of coffee and placed the half empty cup down on the oak table. Back in the day they’d called Tenedos “the needle”, and soon the people who had trusted him with this dangerous task would etch the name into the annals of Althanian history.

    Perhaps.

    The man picked his teeth with a bone toothpick, chiseling out the remains of breakfast from the gaps, and examined his reflection in the wall mounted mirror.

    His cheeks had color from the cold, and his face had gained a little weight. His narrow blue eyes still had a handsome sheen to them. Looking down, he pulled his left sleeve up to reveal puckered, rough skin covering the length of his forearm. Tenedos ran his other hand over it slowly; the texture felt like that of a cheese grater, the result of his skin melting and bubbling from being struck by a scolding hot missle from a Brotherhood trebuchet. Although he had recovered well from the injuries of the siege, the constant discomfort reminded him everyday that there was a score to settle. He had lost so much more than the feeling in his arm that day, and the time was drawing near for the Brotherhood to settle the debt.

    As the front door slid open, Tenedos quickly rolled his sleeve down and turned to see Damascus pace in, followed by the scent of sea salt. His heavy boots thumped across the clean tile floor. The scarred enforcer looked nonchalant as usual, with his white-seamed face drawn in complete indifference. Tenedos gestured for him to to sit at the small table, so the larger, muscular man pulled back a chair and dumped his heavy frame down in it. He spared a quick glance at the flintlock rifle in the corner and then cleared his throat, reaching inside his leather jacket. A marked hand produced a folded piece of paper and placed it on the table. Damascus slid the paper slowly across, navigating the coffee cup.

    "The Brotherhood just arrived, with those two in tow," Damascus said, his deep voice echoing through the hall. He raked a hand through disheveled dark hair, hazel eyes blazing like coals. "They’ve shut down the port, as we expected, so we’re stuck here until the job’s done." he muttered darkly.

    Tenedos picked up the paper and unfolded it, and after a brief glance at the tidy scrawl on the page tucked it into his pocket.

    “By the time they have figured out what’s going on, we’ll be whoring it up in the best brothels in Radasanth,” Tenedos cleared his throat and wiped his lips before shooting a suspicious glare at Damascus, “You did make sure to set the trail for them?”

    The enforcer nodded curtly.

    “The paperwork will lead exactly where we need it to, Tenedos. Don’t worry.”

    ***

    As the effective trading hub for Tylmerande, the Headquarters for Revenue and Commerce on the outskirts of town often played host to a variety of people, ranging from passing traders looking to apply for merchant permits to high-level officials. Thanks to the blanket lockdown now in effect, people quite literally packed the building from wall to wall, prevented from leaving until all appropriate checks were done by security. The main hall opened up to a roofed balcony walkway that was intended for observation of the port, but so unprecedented was the occupancy of the building that men and women were crammed into it with only thin cushions for comfort and small portions of basic food and water for sustenance.

    In the main administrative offices, Shinsou and Storm sat opposite each other at desks on the far side of the room. Their features were creased with concentration as each man carefully checked manifests, reconciled ledgers and cross checked sums, attempting to narrow down the leak from the huge pile of papers that sat on the wood.

    “Storm, check this out,” Shinsou eventually said after a prolonged silence, thumbing through a three page report, “Your man was saying that wheat was being traded at triple rates? Look at this entry. The standard tariff stands at fifty a kilo. Here, we have two kilos being paid at a hundred. So, that stacks up to our normal tariffs, right? But then, ten lines down, we have some sort of adjustment to the cash account for an extra two hundred.”

    Storm took the opportunity to glance at the account from Shinsou’s side.

    Shit, there’s our triple rate,” The powerful electromancer grimaced, “Better look at the other duties and see what else is mouldy in the cupboard.”

    The hours meandered on. The sun rose higher into the cloudless blue sky and drowned the pair in uncomfortable heat, magnified through a glass pane window. The pair ate only sparingly and drunk none. Once, twice, the tension threatened to explode. Further discoveries of costly anomalies had been made and one or both of the partnership were actively considering a policy shift from to full-on genocide of the entire town, before reasoning that it was better to keep their emotions in check. There was no catalyst quite like losing money for triggering rage.

    By the time the last of the paperwork had been checked and the trays of half eaten food cleared away, the sun had almost reached the horizon. Pools of soft orange light cast uneven shadows amongst the office interior as Shinsou finally tucked the last report away.

    Three-hundred thousand,” His boots rasped on the floorboards as he walked; hackles on the back of his neck rose as they fielded the anger inherent in his tone, “All from commodity trading. Gone, just like that.”

    “Whoever was recording all of this was too fucking stupid to keep the cash adjustments off the ledgers,” Storm spoke now, bowing low, ignoring the snorts that echoed on the edge of his hearing, “So that makes me think the problem lies on the front lines. No true money-man would be so careless. Time to pay a visit to the port, I think.”
    Old does not mean dead – New does not mean best – No hard feelings, I’m tired of being right about everything I’ve said – Yours does not mean mine – Kill does not mean die – We are not your kind

  6. #6
    Ride The Lightning

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    Storm Veritas's Avatar

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    Name
    Storm Veritas
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    39
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    Human
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    Male
    Location
    Corone
    The port of Tylermande has a sort of loud silence to it. With the sun high and sails about the seas full, a sturdy wind continued to whip across open water at the muddy-red faces of the sailors, traders, townsfolk and visitors moving in and out at a steady pace. Despite the clang of bells ringing as they slowly drifted into the floating wooden docks, and the loud chatter of barter being negotiated, the wind seemed to cut any carry out of noise. Here, with the briny scent and choppy sea, there was usually a pleasant demeanor. People’s eyes grew more blue with their focused pupils, and teeth shined whiter against tanned skin. Perhaps it was the ability to pass gas with relative impunity that led to a better overall temperament.

    Regardless of the cause, today’s feeling about the port was nearly solemn. All the traders – typically the drivers of conversation – worked in lighter tones, clearly conscious of the tandem who had been seen perusing the books. Rates of transfer were posted clearly in thick chalk today, and the chalk pieces beneath the display boards were still thick and long – obvious signs of very little transactional activity.

    On their best behavior. So the traders are in on it, too, or they wouldn’t know to watch their own asses.

    Ever one to lighten the mood, Storm Veritas walked with his friend atop the docks. His metal-soled shoes (which granted him a propulsion not so different from flight) clacked loudly on the water-worn pinewood, and he carried a tall glass of a creamy yellow beer that was already half-gone. They laughed a bit at the rocking docks with each passing wave, Storm nearly having to call upon his flight to keep him upright.

    “Mix in a water, you light-weight pussy. We have work to do.” Shinsou was trying to joke and promote a less ominous tone, but his eyes betrayed his mouth. Those focused, hawkish globes were sometimes too quick and intelligent for his own good, and none would buy him for some half-drunken lout.

    “Relax, gramps. Don’t forget we’re here with honey, not vinegar. Not that it matters; can you hear them pucker their assholes from here?” Storm finished his drink in a long gulp, at least partly designed to spite his friend preaching temperance.

    “Loud and clear; these people are terrified.”

    The eyes of the strikingly handsome man running the wheat stand could be found anywhere but on the two approaching leaders. He clenched his hands, combing fingers through his thick, straw-blonde hair as he nervously bounced from foot to foot. Storm joined him in scouring the docks for modes of escape; clearly the entrepreneur was strongly considering the option of making a dash for it. With a booming greeting, the wizard made certain that he was heard clearly across the cutting wind.

    “Goldenlocks! Relax, my friend, today’s a lucky day for you. You’ll tell your grandkids about it if you’re smart.”

    The thin, almost waifish salesman was frozen now, his sea-blue eyes rolling up slowly towards the oncoming legends. Storm Veritas and Shinsou Vaan Osiris had abandoned the song-and-dance routine, moving quickly with raised hands and open palms towards him. Extending a hand, Storm broke the ice immediately.

    “Sit. Relax. Don’t shit yourself; I don’t want to deal with the smell, the fish around here is bad enough. If you’re scared that means you know us, and if you know us, you know what a damned fool’s errand it would be to try and run.” Storm gestured to a sealed barrel of wine, where the young man reluctantly sat.

    “I, I’m sorry. I didn’t know that… I just…” He was trying to talk through a lie that he had run out of time to practice.

    Storm considered leveling the man to smack a layer of sense into him, but optioned against it. Instead, he squatted, lowering to stare the man in the eye, speaking slowly after the terrified man trailed off.

    “Easy… Play this through in your head. If we were going to do something, and thought you the source of the problem, we wouldn’t be talking, would we?” Storm stifled a small belch as his eyes shot around to the other tradesmen. A row of booths were staring intently, but none dared venture out beyond their tables.

    “Your tariff rate is on the books for three times the normal rate. That means you’re tipping out at three-to-one on what we agreed with Alerar. Now, there are three possible scenarios that I see taking place here.” Storm was focused now, scanning about with sharp and concise gestures, pulling taut on his dress clothes and ensuring his teeth were clean by rapidly flicking his tongue across the top row behind his lips.

    “One: you two have a deal in place, and you’re chopping the excess free cash on each shipment in some form. With two-hundred extra crowns for every few boxes, you can wet a lot of beaks…”

    “Two: you…” Storm was interrupted too late as they only heard the faint pop of gunfire from somewhere behind them.
    Last edited by Storm Veritas; 06-17-2019 at 03:52 PM.

  7. #7
    Administrator

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    Shinsou Vaan Osiris's Avatar

    GP
    500

    Name
    Shinsou Vaan Osiris
    Age
    31
    Race
    Telgradian
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Salvar

    View Profile
    The gunshot that cracked into the air seemed to stop time entirely for the briefest of moments. As the smell of cordite faded, the first few seconds of eerie, awed silence that followed felt like days.

    The tinny snap ricocheted through Tylmerande and everything simply froze. Many confused looks were quickly and nervously exchanged amongst the gathered; dozens of pairs of eyes flitting from left to right to try to determine what in the gods had just happened. Storm Veritas flinched violently as the shock of the sound hit his eardrums, and, acting with the haste that his agile body and sharpened senses allowed him, placed a palm on the pinewood decking to push himself up to his feet.

    Twisting violently enough to about-turn, his gaze first sawed through the collective wooden trading booths, then the paralyzed Tylmerande collective before finally resting on the bewildered face of Shinsou Vaan Osiris.

    What greeted him was a horror show.

    The Telgradian was swaying, as if stoned and caught in a light breeze. Blood flowed in crimson torrents from his lips, dripping down his chin and forking down the front of his neck. The salty taste upon his lips from the liquid stunned him momentarily into a numb stasis, but, after a few moments, agony finally struck the right hand side of his chest, which was potmarked with a single bullet hole. The Telgradian’s gaze started to float indiscriminately between the floor and the people ahead of him, never once fixing on anything, as everything blurred into a sickly haze.

    Shinsou tried to speak, to say anything to the ageing electromancer, but all he could manage was a pained gasp as his legs gave way and his body crashed to the floor in a crumpled heap. As his head lolled to the left and he watched the masses flee into alleyways and houses, the horizontal view of Tylmerande started to look to him like an oil painting, ruined by a water spillage, with dozens of ants scattering upon its surface.

    At this point, everything sounded and felt like it was happening underwater, and the Telgradian questioned whether he was truly conscious or whether he was trapped in a nightmare. It felt real enough that his joints ached where he had impacted the cold, hard floor. It felt real enough that the wound in his chest burned with the sensation of a thousand giant hornet stings. It seemed like a woman had knelt down next to Shinsou and was flicking strands of brown, blood-matted hair out of his face, but he couldn’t be sure as he tried without success to survey the carnage before him.

    It was at that point that everything changed. Suddenly, reality was sucked into pure, brilliant white.

    Shinsou panicked. The floor, the port, the whole of Tylmerande exploded into a million tiny fragments of reality shrapnel that spun away from him uncontrollably. It wasn’t long before he realized, alone in the brilliant void, that he could no longer feel the pain of his injuries or taste the bitterness of his blood upon the tip of his tongue. His clothes were clean, his hair swept back into its usual slick style. His arms and legs were no longer aching.

    What the fuck is happening to me?

    The Telgradian wasn’t expecting there to be a response, so, when it came, it startled him.

    You’re home.

    A form slowly materialized in the void; all the components of a body seemingly oozing out from beyond the bright white light and reforming in large, rugged segments. Once the human jigsaw had assembled itself, Shinsou could make out the shape of a woman. Her hair was brown and straight, falling in soft waves to the middle of her back. Strands hung in layers about her glowing face. Her nose was petit and her cheeks were smooth. Her clothes seemed to consist of a flowing gown of light, one that the Telgradian’s eyes could never really focus on, as if one were gazing into ultra-violet light. She gazed at him with green eyes that sparkled, beautiful things that regarded him with a warm interest, and yet all the while seemed to enquire.

    The realization hit him hard, and Shinsou’s eyes widened with shock.

    It couldn’t be.

    Rhovani?!
    Old does not mean dead – New does not mean best – No hard feelings, I’m tired of being right about everything I’ve said – Yours does not mean mine – Kill does not mean die – We are not your kind

  8. #8
    Ride The Lightning

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    Storm Veritas's Avatar

    GP
    21,050

    Name
    Storm Veritas
    Age
    39
    Race
    Human
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Corone
    The world had frozen around Storm Veritas, and his universe ebbed and flowed in a sinusoidal wave of the impossibly fast and eternally slow. The image of Shinsou falling stopped the wizard in his tracks, blood spilling from the mouth of his one dear friend as though he was already dead. A flood of emotions and images came in waves.

    Guilt for the thousands killed in Radasanth.

    Helplessness surrounding the moment.

    Guilt for his ignorance – a metal bullet had sailed past him, into the soft flesh of his last dependable friend.

    Hate.


    There were things he could compartmentalize; elements that would have to wait for more existential second-guessing. For now, it was his to serve two masters; one which had him tend to Shinsou, another to seek justice for him. In a moment he was by his friends side, instantly extracting the metal round from the Telgradian’s chest with a magnetic pull of his left hand, grasping the crimson soaked round as those same fingertips cauterized the wound. Vaan Osiris wouldn’t notice the maneuver, as he was going into shock. With no exit wound where his right arm was wrapped beneath him, no blood or wetness accumulating.

    “Fuck Shinsou, hang on. Who did this? Did you see him?”

    Based on how Shinsou was standing, the electromancer could triangulate a guess from where the bullet came. The round had come past Storm from the left, his ten oclock as he was facing the wheat stand. A glance in that direction yielded nothing but bedlam, as the white noise around them began to distill down into discrete sounds. He listened briefly to the shrieking of women, the raucous yell of both angry and elated men, the frenzied rush of onlookers fleeing the scene. Before him, the pleading whispers of the handsome salesman coupled with his open, apologetic hands.

    To hell with him. He knows more.

    With a flick of his fingers, Storm had summoned the metal spool of baling wire upon the table, pulling at it violently from ten feet away. A cobra, the wire raced around the feet of the shocked salesmen, knocking his ankles as they bound his feet in less than a second. Twisting itself into a taut knot, the wire was broken with a snap of the magician, and a second coil wasted no time in binding the man’s wrists.

    “Stay put. Try and free yourself and I swear by the FUCKING GODS I will flash-fry you where you lie.”

    Desperation. Shinsou was staring off now, looking for answers.

    “Doctor! Get the doctor!” People were moving in on him now, familiar faces that he couldn’t name in the heat of his wrath. They were desperate to help, but approached as the mouse, removing the splinter from the lion’s paw. One threatening gesture was death, and the tradesmen knew it.

    Shinsou was growing pal, blood steeping from his mouth and eyes dilating. The on-the-spot first aid Veritas had applied was proving unsuccessful, for all his time learning from Karuka in the jungles of Dheathain, he had likely cauterized the skin over ruptured organs. It was a lesson in futility.

    Stay with me. Don’t you die, too.

    In moments Storm had released his grip about his friend, watching as the young man was hoisted atop a stretcher. Now it was the eyes of the older wizard, paled with time and pain, which were as the falcon’s; peering atop every roof for dust or commotion. Someone had seen this. Someone would know the identity of the attacker.

    How did we both miss this? How did we not sniff this out?

    The group of men and women carrying Shinsou were marching into a large, white Stucco building, with well-sealed glass windows and a red cross above the door, painted squarely and cleanly in neatly cut pine. With the slight salesmen flipped over his shoulder like a prize buck, Storm walked with them, the once legendary adventurer now just more heavy feet in the crowd.

    For all of the travels the tandem had shared, they had earned a sense of entitlement; a belief that they were in fact invincible. Dealing death, and cheating death themselves enough time had spoiled the two, an overconfidence which they now repaid in spades. They had walked into the trap, confident fools feeling themselves invincible. For his brazen idiocy, Storm Veritas felt hopeless to walk alone in the world.

  9. #9
    Administrator

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    Shinsou Vaan Osiris's Avatar

    GP
    500

    Name
    Shinsou Vaan Osiris
    Age
    31
    Race
    Telgradian
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Salvar

    View Profile
    How can this be?

    You’re dead. I watched you die.

    Are you alive? Are you real?

    Why?

    Why?

    Why?!

    I loved you.

    “Why are you here?”

    The question finally came in spoken form, but never represented the one million different thought processes Shinsou had run in under five seconds. She shouldn’t be here. She was long dead, so it was clear that he was either under the influence of some sort of hallucinogenic spell, or experiencing a vision. Sadly, a brief glance about offered no path back to reality; only a dreamscape of his past.

    “What are your hands for?”

    The silky voice slipped through the shadows of the valley as Rhovani’s alabaster form turned to face him.

    Shinsou groaned.

    “I don’t have time for riddles, Rhovani. I-“

    “What-are-your-hands-for?” She interrupted, her voice seeming to shake the sands of their new surroundings. For some reason, the question battered the Telgradian. The riddle clearly held some deeper meaning, but repeated attempts to recall any sort of connection to the question and him failed. Suffocating tendrils lifted from his vision and receded from his lungs as he breathed in stale must and ancient history. Then, a pang. A tiny fragment of a thought in his mind sparked to life and muscle memory kicked in.

    To build the world around us.

    “And what is your heart for?”

    For a moment, the scenery faded. Shinsou could swear that, over him, loomed three slight figures clad in white and mottled with blood. The one on the right glowered at Shinsou, bristling with energy as his hands touched the wound in his chest. Pain wracked him again all of a sudden as the main figure worked and the other two regarded him with little more than mild interest. Before long, everything was suddenly sucked back into the Telgradian dreamscape again and his body returned to its numb state. What was that just now? The flickering of reality? The rancid musk of this place returned, accompanying a chill in the air. Hard rock dug into his feet, clawing at his heels.

    To shape the world we built,” he muttered. “What is all this about?”

    “But there is another part to that haiku, isn’t there Shinsou?”Rhovani replied. The hint of a wry smile played about her lips.

    “For fuck’s sake,” The Telgradian swore, this time not bothering to keep his temper in check. The roots of the valley reverberated in tune with his rage. Loose dirt and ash sprinkled upon his upturned, furrowed brow. “What is my sword for?. I don’t have the answer to that one, so, now what?”

    “Now, Shinsou Vaan Osiris, you understand.”

    “I understand what?”

    Rhovani outstretched her hands and suddenly manifested a perfect copy of Enpera, Shinsou’s blade. The movement gave her a sweet scent of dark magic and the tantalising hint of the ruins that he had once walked as home. “That you don’t understand anything at all. The world you built with your hands, and shaped with your heart, is such a fragile thing. It needs a suitable lynchpin to hold it together. A sword pointed at the hearts of friends is no lynchpin at all. That is a feeble foundation for your world; your Brotherhood.”

    Shinsou’s face hardened. His voice stabbed at her through the dim motes of floating dust. “You’re referring to Philomel van der Aart?”

    Rhovani sighed, and turned to smile, white teeth gleaming.

    “She is your world now, Shinsou.”

    The Telgradian straightened as painful shards of rock continued to dig into his feet.

    “Don’t patronise me with stupid suggestions like that,” Shinsou’s glare smouldered like embers. His fingers twitched. “She turned on me. Storm Veritas is the only person I can trust. What do you want?”

    “For the moment?” Her smile revealed little. “Nothing.”
    Old does not mean dead – New does not mean best – No hard feelings, I’m tired of being right about everything I’ve said – Yours does not mean mine – Kill does not mean die – We are not your kind

  10. #10
    Ride The Lightning

    EXP: 143,779, Level: 16
    Level completed: 52%, EXP required for next Level: 8,221
    Level completed: 52%,
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    Storm Veritas's Avatar

    GP
    21,050

    Name
    Storm Veritas
    Age
    39
    Race
    Human
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Corone
    The wizard found himself maddened by the bedside, watching as nurses and doctors had scrambled to stabilize his friend. Delicate instruments, thin paper tubes and elastics were hooked up to his mouth and arm, measuring his breathing and heart rate. This seemed like witchcraft to the magician, however as he’d witness the efficacy of actual witchcraft in the jungles of Dheathain, he deferred to those that called themselves experts. Each new face was scrutinized with animus, Storm serving as the mighty Cerberus protecting the gates to Vaan Osiris’s personal hell. Internally, his mind raced, his pulse quickened and sweat filling the back of his shirt.

    Why are you here? What are you going to do? If those bastards were bold enough to attack you in broad daylight, who’s to say they don’t try to blow up this little hospital?

    And what’s the alternative? Go back to the market and sniff around for clues like some type of half-assed bloodhound? How do you think that ends?


    In the corner of the room, his luggage was beginning to smell. The handsome salesman remained bound, even as he gently tried to slowly wriggle free. His eyes were wide and manic, but his face held a nervous smile, as if trying to sell his captor of his own passivity.

    “Relax, I’d have done the same thing. Try to wretch free, don’t let me know if you do get loose, and wait for a moment to bolt. I won’t hold your own humanity against you.”

    The tanned blonde looked awash with relief. “Thank you sir. I just, I couldn’t know… I didn’t…”

    Storm interrupted him like a falcon striking its prey, rocketing to him in a single wave of dizzying speed. The electromancer had seemed to float to the little man, and was holding the salesman’s sweat soaked lower jaw between his fingertips with a speed that simply didn’t add up.

    “Don’t say another fucking word if you value your life. Not yet. I saw your eyes flicker before the shot. You knew it was coming.”

    The handful of doctors and nurses attending to Shinsou had maneuvered away from Veritas as he assaulted his apprehended prize, too scared to act as anything more noteworthy than a bird on the windowsill was disrupting their work. Confrontation was in none of their best interests, and the lot of them wisely avoided any awkwardness wholesale.

    Before the wheat-shop hawker could offer rebuttal, his captor hoisted him once more over his shoulder like a rolled length of carpet. Storm wasn’t incredibly strong, but the man was light, and it was only a few moments before the tired, frightened fellow found himself dropped upon the bed in a nearby room.

    The room felt cold to him, and he was scared. He motioned to cry out in desperate sadness before a large, slender hand wrapped down over his mouth. It was rough, and strong again. The snake-like coil about his wrists seemed to loosen slightly, but also pulled his hands up to the headboard, where he helplessly watched them twist a know about the center beam above him. One foot was released as his metal foot-tether bound his right leg down to the right foot of the bed. He had one free leg, and one of the most dangerous men in the world was seated heavily atop it. Menacing eyes glowed white at him as the hand gently, slowly softened the pressure at his lips.

    “Please sir! There’s no need to harm me! I’ll tell you anything! Everything!” The hand clamped down like a crocodile upon him, snapping his teeth together in agony.

    “Yes, you’re correct. You’re going to tell me everything. Every detail. Every nuance. Every name and time and payoff. And we’re not going to waste time.”

    Storm raised his right hand to the door from the bed, the iron doorknob hearing his command and obediently slamming the door shut. From fifteen feet away, the horrified captive watched as a heavy deadbolt slid closed, pushed by the invisible hand of the devil.

    The pinned man was aghast. His bladder at last let go, only to be met by the furious sneer of his captor. This man was a nightmare he couldn’t imagine.

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