A Dancer, a Bird, and a Fool

A Dancer, a Bird, and a Fool

Postby Rance » Tue Sep 02, 2014 2:17 pm

"The Floating Dragon?" the young courier asked as he glanced at the missive given to him by the girl. His doorknob-round elbows were out at hard angles as he lifted the parchment and examined its slanted script. "Forgive the language, lass, but that place is a shithole."

"A friend of mine is staying there," the girl said from beneath the lip of her bonnet.

"You ever play One-and-Thirty," he asked. "It's mostly luck. Even women can play it."

Ignoring his curiosity, Gloria jabbed a fingertip on the spine of the page. "She's a dancer. Ask the bartender where the dancer's room is and slide it beneath the door for her."

"I might be able to find a pick-up game when I go."

"It's urgent. It's very urgent," Gloria said.

But because there was coin involved, the courier eagerly complied to deliver -- hoping he might win a gamble or two in the process.
Jig,

I am mo st concernt for you haveing left so quickley after our fine day. I aught to tale you that the ve ry strange women who we s aw at the kamereta, I saw her speaking to a man which looked quite like her and that from my ecsperiance people who choose to dress alike often share simi lar fowl intents if any are bared at all, so with haste you shoult come see me at the Broken Dagger tonight, for if there is poor-natured intrige afoot sorely there are people who I know that may protect you,

Your friend,
Scarlet Glass (G.W.)

"And when you've done that, I would ask you to deliver this as well." Another letter, meant for an entirely different recipient altogether. She pushed it at him with a tarnished penny wedged between thumb and page.

"For the Lady Warden? That new one?"

"The same. Will you?"

"Sure," he said. "Sure."
Lady WARDEN,

First I shoult congratale you on your newest position, Lord Treadwell will be a fine assosiate and I thi nk you will per form a many great good things. But for now I wish your attention to a mat ter of personnel importants: I have very recently come into the company of a friend who I believe may be hounded by a particuler set of bother some shadows, if time allows would you be willing to meet with me at the Broken Dagger tonight that you may speak to her and be sure there is no danger, I should think the LADY WARDEN's presents would diswayed any untoward practises she may suffer at their hands,

Your friend,
Glour'eya Wynsee

* * * *

At the Broken Dagger, she sipped a mug of twice-boiled water and, in lieu of the silence, spoke to the only other patron in the inn: the bulging swell in her abdomen, a nameless, faceless thing that showed like a pilfered melon underneath the folds of her dull, earth-colored skirt. Day had started to creep toward its simmering end. The Glass Sun glared a fading orange beam across the floorboards.

"I have to -- to think for two, now," she whispered. "That's what Menna Mercy said. The wellsmith. She's going to be there when you decide it's time."

She drank her water. She waited.
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Re: A Dancer, a Bird, and a Fool

Postby CherryStatic » Tue Sep 02, 2014 5:51 pm

Bern Clydell was, to say the least, pissed off.

The half-elf was a professional. She took her job very seriously, and expected her clients to do the same. So when one of them (in this case, a particular dancer who was well on her way to making Bern's shit list) decided not to show up on the day that she was supposed to cough up the second half of the payment, one could say that it made the bodyguard mad.

Very mad.

The innkeeper at the Floating Dragon had been anything but helpful. When she had stormed through the front door of the dingy establishment and demanded to know which room the dancer was staying in, he cocked his head vaguely and asked her which dancer she was referring to. Her response was to turn every head in the room towards them by slamming a knife blade-down into the counter and roaring:

"The one who dresses like a god damned fairy tale!"

Having dealt with her outbursts on a number of occasions, the man was duly unimpressed. "Right. That one. She stepped out last night and never came back." He shrugged, looking bored. "I assumed she was off 'dancing' in someone's bed. If you see her, let her know that she still hasn't paid up for tonight. If I don't see the money by this evening, I'm throwing her things in the street."

"She has bigger problems right now." the half-elf said with a scowl, pulling the knife out of the counter and turning to leave. The few patrons who weren't accustomed to her regular episodes involving sharp objects and profanity stared openly. Among them were two figures near the back wearing red leather outfits, one a man with short blonde hair, the other a woman with an auburn braid. They watched her leave, he with his ankles crossed on the lip of the table they were seated at, she leaning back in her chair with her arms folded, the both of them looking more intrigued than anything else. She sneered at them on her way out, but they didn't react, just watched her.

Having no idea where to start looking, she stepped out into the street, very nearly colliding with a thin man wearing a courier's jacket. She gave him a distasteful look and made to move around him.

"Uh, excuse me." he said. She glanced at him, her annoyance with the day's events so far coming across in the flash of her eyes.

"What?"

"I'm looking for someone." he held up a piece of folded paper, waggling it for emphasis. "Do you know if there are any dancers staying he--"

She was already unfolding the parchment before he even realized that it had been plucked from his fingers. He made to take it back from her, but she held it out of his reach.

"Have you already been paid?" she asked, regarding him coolly. He blinked, nodding. She jerked a thumb over her shoulder. "Then beat it."

He seemed like he was about to argue the point, but then snapped his mouth shut when he saw her calmly wrap her fingers around the hilt of a knife. He quickly decided that one letter, especially one he'd already been paid for, wasn't worth getting stabbed. He quickly moved on.

She snorted as she scanned the barely legible message scrawled haphazardly across the parchment. It took her a minute, but she reached the name at the bottom and frowned. Scarlet. That girl from the marketplace. Stump.

Great.
......................................................................................................................................................................
It didn't take long to find her.

Not surprisingly, there weren't many people in Myrkentown who fit the description of "one-handed pregnant cow who only washes her clothes when it rains". She'd crossed the bridge South of town on a warpath, letter in hand. She reached the Broken Dagger's entrance and strode inside, finding the girl seated, drinking from a mug, looking for all the world like she was expecting company, though most likely not her. She marched up to her and slapped the paper down in front of her.

"What the hell is this, Stump?"
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Re: A Dancer, a Bird, and a Fool

Postby Rance » Wed Sep 03, 2014 4:23 pm

It is Bern who entered, an unmistakable presence all-too-recently embedded on the seamstress' dull mind. Paper crinkled and rattled. Boots scraped against the rough wood of the floor. She had first expected Jig, perhaps even the Lady Egris, but the half-elf's blustery entrance set the girl's brittle teeth on edge. Gloria straightened, the ambient light of the Broken Dagger's candles illuminating the roundness of her face and the rough contours of her hide-hard skin.

The parchment struck the table. The pregnant girl's neck arched, the sweat-stained frills lining her bonnet a soft heather compared to the hard stone in her eyes.

"That -- if you take the effort to acclimate yourself with the habits of society -- is what most rational people would recognize as a letter. Though I confess myself confused, because -- because it was written for her alone."

She climbed to her feet, but the motion was neither graceful nor smooth. Despite being scarcely beyond the middle-years of her adolescence, Gloria was a solid specimen of youth: her shoulders, underneath the flared shoulders of her dull dress, were rigid stones chiseled by old work. Her remaining fist crushed against the layered sprawl of her skirts, held perfectly visible beside the horizon of her rotund belly.

"The seal's meant to be broken by her, not you. And my name," said the girl, "is Gloria."
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Re: A Dancer, a Bird, and a Fool

Postby CherryStatic » Wed Sep 03, 2014 5:25 pm

Bern rolled her eyes as the girl rose from her chair in what she assumed was supposed to be an intimidating manner. It was difficult to appear frightening when you were that far along with child.

You'd know all about that, wouldn't you? said a tiny, unwelcome voice in the back of her mind.

"Sure. Fine. Gloria." She flapped a hand dismissively, her patience already worn thin from a day of bad news followed by more bad news. She tapped the parchment with a nail. "Reading this is part of my job. One that I haven't received full payment for."

Judging by her body language, Gloria could obviously care less if she got her money, so she continued. "The little fox never came back to the Floating Dragon last night. The innkeeper says that she hadn't paid in advance for tonight, but all of her things are still in her room. Something tells me she wasn't planning to stay out this long."

She held up the paper. "So along comes this 'letter' saying, as far as I can tell, that you two managed to run into potentially dangerous doppelgangers the minute I left her alone." She set the paper down, looking thoroughly nonplussed. "So? What did they look like? You said they were dressed alike. Was it matching armor? Uniforms? Did they have anything about them that seemed unusual?"
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Re: A Dancer, a Bird, and a Fool

Postby Rance » Thu Sep 04, 2014 2:47 am

The little fox never came back to the Floating Dragon last night.

Gloria's stern reception of the half-elf instantly shifted. "What?"

Her eyes lingered for several seconds upon the letter. The iron in her voice began to peel away and the accent seeped through, all long vowels and sharp consonants, as she matched Bern's confusion with her own.

"The moment she saw them, she fled. The female was -- was seated behind me; I turned long enough to get a glimpse of her and assumed she was an artist of some sort, perhaps a rival dancer that Jig had bettered in the past. But they unsettled her, so I followed them as well as I could."

Gloria turned away from Bern, knowing well enough that animals could only stand posturing so long before lashing out. She retrieved her mug of water, sipped, and stared down at the corner of the age-scarred table.

What did they look like?

"The leathers they wore look like they ware tanned with blood. They'd drawn up their hoods. Unless you've got something to hide, there's no need for -- for cowls under the Sunn."

Did they have anything about them that seemed unusual?

"The woman hadn't eaten. She just sat, stared, and -- and didn't move until Jig had left. Where would Jig have gone, if not back to the Floating Dragon?"

Simple questions begot simple answers; the simplest answer was one she preferred, in this case, not to acknowledge.
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Re: A Dancer, a Bird, and a Fool

Postby CherryStatic » Thu Sep 04, 2014 3:56 am

Where indeed. Bern frowned as she listened to Gloria, trying to piece together the facts.

"That doesn't make any sense." she said finally, more to herself than the girl. "You say that she left the moment she saw the woman? I don't recognize the outfit you just described, and my entire line of work is based around dangerous people, so I would know. She shouldn't. She can't."

She paused, getting the feeling that Gloria was missing something, the one thing that supported her theory. She spoke calmly:

"You know she doesn't remember anything beyond the past few months, right? She says she woke up in New Dauntless, half-drowned. Everything before that is a blank slate. Do you get what I'm saying?"

She glanced at the letter. "She came straight to Myrkenwood from New Dauntless. She hasn't been anywhere else. And yet one look at a woman wearing a uniform that isn't tied to any gang or organization in these parts sends her running?" She tapped the paper. "She isn't the flighty type; hell, she walks straight into danger with a smile on her face. She would need a reason to put distance between herself and this woman."

She was quiet for a moment, letting what she had said sink in. "Either the little fox is lying through her pretty teeth, or there's something bigger going on here."
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Re: A Dancer, a Bird, and a Fool

Postby Rance » Thu Sep 04, 2014 10:59 am

"Think of me what you choose, but I am no fool. I saw the truth with my eyes. She glimpsed the woman, she bid me good day, and was gone the next instant. She neither counted the coin she left for -- for our lunch, nor cared to waste her time.

"It was a immediate," she said. "It was fear. She -- she was afraid." Or so it was evidenced.

If Jig had somehow forgotten a sprawl of her history, if what the half-elf said was true, the seamstress immediately doubted the reliability of the tale. One did not simply awaken on a shore born with a natural talent for dance; Jig -- Vixen, as she called herself, a name that bore no identity except a meager definition -- had demonstrated herself as nothing but wholly integral. One of Gloria's eyes narrowed, as though peering at Bern through a half-slit would grant her some opportunity to dismember any veil of deceit shadowing the story.

More water, hot and sharp against her throat. "No soldiers or agents of Myrkener stock wear that color, nor are they known for their intrigue or -- or their secrecy. They do not stare at women taking victuals. They do not make it a habit to confer with confidants in the street.

"Secrets are secrets. If Jig's memory suffered, perhaps she did not see it fit to tell you what little she remembers."

Emptied, the burnt-bottomed mug hung like a battered bauble from her trembling fingertips.

"Is she in danger?"
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Re: A Dancer, a Bird, and a Fool

Postby CherryStatic » Thu Sep 04, 2014 1:33 pm

"I'll wager she told me a bit more than some stranger she met in a tavern, yes." the half-elf retorted. "Unlike you, my dealings with her are strictly business. One of the conditions of my taking a job is that the client informs me of anyone that would wish to do them harm so that I know what to keep an eye out for. She couldn't think of anyone off the top of her head, and at the time, I believed her." She laughed bitterly. "I mean, just look at her."

"Is she in danger?" Gloria asked, single-minded in her concerns. Bern fixed her with a lidded gaze.

"I doubt she and this bitch in red are braiding each others' hair, sweetheart. What you described sounds organized, even if it's small scale. That woman wasn't in the Kamereta to bird watch. She had as much of a reason to be there as Vixen had to get out of there as fast as she could." She scowled, glancing to one side. "Unfortunately, we don't know what either of those reasons could be."

Sighing in exasperation, she turned and headed for the door. "These 'shadows' might have these secrets, but Vixen's pretty hard to miss. Even if no one's seen these people, someone must have seen her. I'm going to see if I can find out more."
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Re: A Dancer, a Bird, and a Fool

Postby Rance » Thu Sep 04, 2014 2:15 pm

The lay the mug on the table.

"Business offers just as much reason to be skeptical. You could earn just as much money for -- for killing someone as protecting them. Who's to say you didn't have your pockets filled by someone else before she hired you?"

Serrus Belcaw had taught her a great deal about loyalty. He had never been one to limit his truth, his honesty; if it merited the same amount of coin to aim the blade between someone's ribs as it did to deflect it, then the half-elf was just as liable to don red leather under her skin if not on it.

"Just look at her," Gloria repeated. "And what exactly does that mean?"

When Bern spun around and strode for the door, the seamstress was right behind her. Her wooden-soled boots snarled and clicked along the floorboards with breathless cadence, the layers of her bobbing skirt-hems kicking up the dust and grass-husks carried in past the threshold. What Gloria did not consider, in her quick approach, was the burgeoning weight of her abdomen -- its very presence slowed her, limited what sparse grace and speed she already possessed, and stole the breath from her lungs as quickly as she drew it in.

Her lone hand and its four remaining fingers, thrust out like dark tubers from the hungry mouth of her sweat-dampened sleeve, reached for Bern.

"You're not going without me, and the Lady Egris hasn't yet arrived. Jig is a friend--" however new, however little I know about her "--whether or not you believe in such a sentiment."
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Re: A Dancer, a Bird, and a Fool

Postby CherryStatic » Thu Sep 04, 2014 3:31 pm

Bern continued towards the door, ignoring the girl's accusations up until the point that strong fingers grabbed her by the wrist.

She spun, ripping a dagger from its sheath in a flash of silver and holding it between them, a scant inch under the stout girl's chin. Her eyes no longer possessed their annoyed, dismissive glaze; they glinted like a predator's, piercing, unblinking. Gloria had tried to get her attention, and now she had it. All of it. Every muscle in her body was tensed and coiled, ready to spring should the girl do anything else to provoke her. When she spoke, it was barely above a whisper:

"Let me make something perfectly clear to you, you athuum." A slip, a harsh word in her mother's tongue which brought back memories that she shoved away. "I do kill others for money. I'm very good at it. I've killed nineteen people in my life, most of them armed to the teeth. I used this blade on twelve of them." She was silent for a moment, letting the tense atmosphere permeate. The dagger never moved an inch.

"Do you know what the last man I killed was wanted for?" She waited to see if Gloria would say anything, holding her gaze. "He raped a little girl, only four years old. He cut her throat when he was finished." There was no inflection in her voice, not a hint of emotion. "I used this knife to slice his balls off. I made him eat them. And then I cut his throat from ear to ear. The reward posted for him dead was only a quarter of what it was had he been alive."

She continued, staring through the girl. "There was a prostitute who didn't earn enough to feed her children. Instead of raising her rate or finding a more respectable occupation, she drowned them in the river, all three of them, one by one, the oldest first." Another pause. "I pressed a knife between her legs until her voice gave out. I slashed her pretty face. But I left her alive. It's what she deserved, wouldn't you agree? To go through life knowing that you couldn't make the same mistake again, even if you wanted to."

"The one before that was a cannibal. He ate his wife. The one before that? A witch who used the blood of infants as components in her spells." She listed of her victims one by one in a flat voice, simply stating facts. "Another sold his son into slavery. One forced her six-year-old daughter to please men with 'unusual' fetishes for coin."

She stopped. The knife disappeared back into it's sheath. Her eyes did not move from Gloria's. "If I wanted to kill your friend, she would already be dead. That isn't a boast; it's a fact. But the people I kill have to earn their deaths."

She paused, her eyes softening ever so slightly. "She's one of the most selfless people I've ever encountered. That's why I find it so hard to believe that she has enemies." She regained the intense look. "It's also why she needs someone to protect her. And you can't do that."

"Perhaps she confides in you. Maybe she enjoys your company, or wants to see new things with you by her side. But you cannot defend her. Not like that." She gestured pointedly at the stump where the girl's hand had once been. "It's not a matter of devotion or loyalty. It's a matter of capability."

The first glimpse of real emotion since Gloria had grabbed her surfaced. "And if you were to be killed, yours is not the only life that would come to an end." She did not gesture, did not look at what she was referring to. She made a point not to. She focused on the girl's eyes, searching for a sign of understanding. She thought she saw it. "If that child is harmed, Gloria, you will never be able to forgive yourself. Not ever."

She pulled her hand free of the girl's grasp and turned on her heel. She did not turn to speak over her shoulder as she exited the tavern, but her words carried nonetheless:

"Take it from a mother."

The door shut behind her, leaving Gloria alone.
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Re: A Dancer, a Bird, and a Fool

Postby Rance » Thu Sep 04, 2014 4:30 pm

A knife.

Cold, frigid steel swept out in a gleam and pressed itself with excitement and promise right underneath the egg-round bottom of her chin.

his close, every imperfection that comprised Gloria Wynsee was fully visible -- her dim, gray eyes bore the scars of both confusion and fear. Her lips gummed around words that never found sound. She stank of a commoner's spoor: the dirt of the streets; the days and days of sweat that saturated and hardened her frayed clothes; the film of the Glass Sun, its oppressive heat caked like a physical membrane on her soil-dark skin.

She dared not swallow or shift. Every one of the half-elf's words -- the stories, the murders, the rationale -- rang like a vibration along the knife's edge. Her brain granted life to the images. In the all-too-descriptive tome of her mind, the pages and descriptions burst into existence--

--a little girl, only four years old. He cut her throat when he was finished.

...used this knife to slice his balls off. I made him eat them. And then I cut his throat from ear to ear.

Another.

I slashed her pretty face. But I left her alive. It's what she deserved, wouldn't you agree?


And the...

cannibal. He ate his wife

And a...

witch who used the blood of infants.

Amid it all, the final, jarring truth:

Take it from a mother.

The blade-point eased away from her flesh. She sucked in a desperate, sobbing breath, wanted to say so much, scream, swing, deny, deny, and the black oil thrashed like a wild tendril inside her closed mouth, spattered and lashed and slapped at the backside of her gritted, broken teeth--

"I'm sorry," is all she managed to mutter, but by then Bern was already gone.

* * * *

A letter left at the Broken Dagger for one Lady Warden Egris Verreaux.

I ne ed help for a frie nd for I am incapible and I have got to think for two I have got to, for if the child is harmed I would not be able to forgive myself, not e ver but shoult a friend be hurt how will I forgive myself.

At Floteing Dragon, a half-part elf she knows things, I have got to go now I am verry sorry for it

Gloria
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