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Acropolis 1.0 - Hall of Heroes

 
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 28, 2010 4:06 pm    Post subject: Acropolis 1.0 - Hall of Heroes Reply with quote

Can I fill your cup, m'lord? Tell us what is on your mind. None but the bravest mortals here, though a god or two has been known to drop by in mortal form.
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"It is not the literal past that rules us, save, possibly, in a biological sense. It is images of the past. Each new historical era mirrors itself in the picture and active mythology of its past or of a past borrowed from other cultures. It tests its sense of identity, of regress or new achievement against that past.”
-George Steiner


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 11, 2010 6:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The young man quickly bent to the floor and caught a coin rolling off of the sizable pile of gold and silver resting in the center of the table. Nearby was a deck of elaborately designed cards. Across the table sat another man. He was holding a hand of six cards, and looking unhappy about his luck. Leaning forward, he draws another card and his gaze shifts to the young man. Smiling with only the corners of his mouth, the man speaks. "I'll raise you three ducots, Isaiah." He tosses a few small square coins on the pile.

"Three, Noaker? Feeling like your luck is changing?" The grinning youth easily throws a matching three coins on the pile, and draws another card. Four kings, the matching Sun and Moon. He hasn't a prayer to his name. "Well my friend" Isaiah speaks as he throws three more ducots, "it looks like I'll be buying the drinks tonight! I have the Heavenly Mandate." He lays his cards on the table, and begins to scoop the coins towards him. Noaker's hand slaps the pile. "Ah, ah, ah! Not tonight, my friend. I have the Dragon Warrior." With a laugh he places five Drake cards and a Knight on the table in front of them. "It seems our Lords passing has affected your judgment!" chuckling to himself, Noaker sweeps the large pile of coins into his pouch.

Isaiah shakes his head with a pained look and a smile on his face. "Go then! Take your ill-gotten gains and buy another round for us. I'll shuffle the cards." Noaker grins even wider, bows his head to his master, and moves towards the bar. Isaiah sighs when Noaker leaves. It was only a week past that his Lord Aeon had moved on to other worlds. It is the shifting of odds, my Son. he had said Opprotunity calls, and I follow on my own wind. Take what I have taught you, use the skills you posses, and thrive! I will return one day, and I expect only success from you, my Son. With that, he had left Isaiah's mind and dissaperead into his golden fountain. The next day Isaiah had re-sealed the underground fountain, and started laying the foundations for his plans.

As Noaker returned with two mugs filled to the brim, Isaiah motioned him close. "Let me tell you of our next job..."
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 3:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Drum and trumpet music crashed against each other, and the walls of Circus Cassius. Seven tiered seating areas rose above the sandy stadium floor, each more resplendent than the last. The top tier was shaded from the glaring sun and was reserved for nobility and the other upper classes. Hawkers for Circus Cassius moved throughout the arena proclaiming their ware's quality. The bottom tiers, where the poor and peasantries were seated, had many varieties of roasted nuts in the shell, mulled wine and oranges; all plentiful and cheap. In the upper tiers, serving to the merchants and nobilities, braised quail and fine liquours were served with linen napkins. The King and his Court had a box reserved, but was absent this day.

Isaiah lounged near the middle tiers enjoying the sun on his face and Noaker's company. His small friend was peeling an orange, watching acrobats jump from their horses. The performers were quite skilled, each jumping from horseback to horseback in perfect time. The danger was evident, but each made his final jump and they rode back through the arena doors. Three short trumpet blasts announced the start of the Duels. It was for this Isaiah and his friend had come to Circus Cassius.

Doors from underneath the arena opened and from the black tunnel walked a dozen men. Each wore a helm that fully covered the face, an arm bracer and a sword. A few had small round shields, and one was armed with net and trident. They marched across the sand with deadly confidence and stopped facing the crowd. The fighters raised their weapons and gave the ancient salute of their caste, "We who are to die for honor, salute you!" The Keeper of the Games raised his red flag high overhead. He snapped it downward, and men died.

-----

A few hours later, Isaiah entered the private chambers of Cassius, owner of the Circus. His furnishings were well made, but very old. The couch was patched in many places, and the desk had long since worn away any signs of varnish. "Please enter, Hero. I've heard a few tales of your exploits." The speaker was a man, built heavily and short, having much in common with the woodstove heating the room. Grey streaked through his hair, but his presence was comanding. Seventeen duels and never cut, Noaker had said his movements were deadly, his arm always swift. Until he met Falco.

"My thanks, Cassisus." Bowing slightly, Isaiah entered the study and took a seat on the sofa. Cassius sat across in a stuffed chair. There was a small table between them with a few papers on top, a decanter and two short glasses. Leaning forward, he poured wine for himself and Isaiah. Cassius took a sip and spoke. "Three tournaments and three wins, am I right? You defeated Zander on the last hand, beat Odus with the Holy Trinity and forced Pallae with the second deal of the cards. Truly remarkable." Isaiah smiled at the compliment and took another sip of wine. "And now you are calling on the washed out owner of a run down Circus."

Isaiah set down his cup. "I am a man blessed with Luck, Cassius. You are a man blessed with Talent; but you are not a businessman. Your fighters are the best," Isaiah put up his hand as Cassius tried to cut in, "I know you are ranked last, but this is because you do not rub elbows with the Keepers of the Games. You pay your fees, and play your games. But this is not enough. You're fighters are the best, but they will never be Gladiator One. The training methods you bring to your men are revolutionary. I can bring that same revolution to your profits. I will buy Circus Cassius from you at one-half over, leaving the Circus in my capable hands, and you with enough profit to outfit the Circus with the training facility you always wanted."

Cassius sat quietly for a moment, thinking. At last he spoke. "I have run this Circus from the day I bought my own freedom, and I do not like seeing it suffer. Likewise, I do not want to see it in the hands of greedy men. I think you are not a greedy man, Isaiah, but I will think for a day. Return tommorrow, and you will have your answer."
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 5:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

    People once believed that when someone dies, a crow carries their soul to the land of the dead. But sometimes, something so bad happens that a terrible sadness is carried with it and the soul can't rest. Then sometimes, just sometimes, the crow can bring that soul back to put the wrong things rìght.


Before I died, my name wasn't Neera. I can't use that name any more. That person is dead. Killed during the riots. I don't know why. That sucks, but I'll get over it eventually. But so was her daughter. And I won't get over that. Not while the ones who did it are still alive.

So I'm back. It's not a new story. And I wouldn't call myself a hero. I lost, after all. I failed at everything I ever wanted in life. And then I died. What's heroic about that?

But maybe the next time around, I'll make things better. I can't save my old self or her daughter. But maybe I can save others. Maybe if I destroy the ones who do this, those others will never even know what I saved them from. Knowing is the worst part. Knowing the dark and ugly secret hidden within mankind. I couldn't rest, with that knowledge. And it wears my daught... my former self's daughter's face, screaming in fear and agony, over and over again. I can't unknow that. I can't undo it. The best I can do is make sure nobody else has to learn it.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 04, 2010 2:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Memory is a funny thing. What you remember isn't always what you noticed at the time.

It was late. The city was shut down for the night. I'd put little Ilsa to bed already. I remember now that the biggest thing on my mind was some trivial thing about my job. I had to do something... not even sure what, any more... in the morning, and I was trying to make sure I didn't forget anything. I'd read Ilsa her story, and tucked her into bed with her stuffed bear, Mr. Happy Pants. I'd kissed her on the forehead, and kissed Mr. Happy Pants as well, then gone downstairs.

I'd been standing by the water basin, rinsing off the dinner dishes, and then I'd just collapsed. I didn't feel any pain, I just couldn't move. When I hit the floor, I couldn't feel anything at all below my neck. I tried to move, to stand up, but could do nothing. I called out to Ilsa, and heard a man curse from the main room. "You were supposed to knock her out, idiot!"

I felt my head move across the floor. I called out "Who's there?" and then realized that the movement was me being kicked. I couldn't feel the kicks, but it was sliding me around a bit. That I couldn't feel the pain scared me more than anything else.

Ilsa called down "Mama?" and then I heard heavy steps going up the ladder to her loft. There was a struggle. I heard Ilsa screaming a few times, but not many. I tried to rise again, but couldn't move more than my mouth and eyes. And all I could see was the underside of the basin. There was more dirt there than I would have thought. And the ribbon that Ilsa had lost last summer. We'd given up looking for that months ago. I called out to Ilsa, "Run, baby. Get away! Find a guardsman, hurry!"

Soon, Ilsa wasn't screaming any more. I started to feel a little tired, though I'm not sure why. Then a voice from nearby said, "She ain't movin'. But she won't stop talkin'. I even stabbed her, and she didn't even flinch. Is she cursed?"

A voice called down from Ilsa's room. "No, idiot. You broke her neck. She can't feel you kicking and stabbing her. Best to put her out of her misery. We can't sell her for anything anyway. We could have made a pretty penny offa this kid, but she struggled so hard. I think I killed her, too. Let's just burn this house."

"No! Ilsa! Ilsa? Talk to me, Ilsa! Wake up, baby!" I called out to her, not even able to see her. I was certainly getting weak, by this point. My vision was starting to blur, maybe from the tears, maybe just going dim at the edges. I guess I was bleeding out slowly from the stab wounds.

They turned me over and put me on my bed, and I felt my head bounce as something was dropped on top of me. There was a small bit of pink at the edge of my vision, though I couldn't tell what it was. Then they moved around the house, and poured the lamp oil on top of me, and around me on the blankets and mattress. Then, they just threw a lit lamp onto me and stood there. It burned, though only my head. But still, it was the most pain I've ever felt. I screamed, as much as I could. I couldn't breathe right. Couldn't get enough breath to scream right. But I tried. And then it was all gone.

And then later, I was standing back in the burnt out hull of my home. It was long cold. Weeks or months. Who knows. I was naked, though otherwise unharmed from it all. I could feel my body again. And I could feel the cold dead part of my heart where Ilsa should have been.

I relived those moments over and over. At first I screamed. Then I just sat there on the ground sobbing. But eventually, some things came to me. Ilsa was gone. Dead and gone. I got that. I was dead as well, though not gone. I don't know how that happened. There was an idea about that. Not really a memory, just the thought that I'd been brought back. By a crow. I could feel the crow around me, somewhere. But right now, I didn't care. But I knew that I was there to avenge Ilsa. And to rid the world of those who would do what was done to her.

And then I remembered some other things. I'd never even seen the ones who did it. In all the times I relived those moments, there had never been a face. Just sounds. But then the memory came back... in the moment when they picked me up off the floor and threw me onto the bed, I'd been thinking only of Ilsa. I'd been calling out to her, asking her to answer me. But my head had spun through space and eventually ended up over one of their shoulders. But just for an instant, my eyes had been pointing towards the face of the one carrying me. I don't know if this was the one who killed me, or the one who killed Ilsa. But there was a face. It has been too fast to think about, too fast to even realize I'd seen it. But after the 100th repeat of the whole scene, I'd been seeing every tiny detail. Things had gone so slowly, just to torture me further, I'd thought. But in the end, something had come from that pain. I had two voices. I had a face.

It was an older man, with long greying hair that had once been dark brown. Though still strong of body. There were scars there, on his face. Nothing big. No missing eyes, but I'd be able to recognize the pattern of scars, later. He hadn't shaved in a few days. Not really a beard, but more than just stubble. That hair was darker, though with some grey in it, still. The eyes were a pale green. Very striking green, in fact.

He'd been wearing a brown leather tunic. Thicker than a normal workman's. No particular colors to it, no symbols that I could see. Maybe it was a fighting man's shirt? I don't know fighting men, so it's hard to say. Maybe he was a butcher, or a blacksmith? The leather seemed thicker than I'd have expected, anyway.

So, after a few hours of lying there in my own tears and the cold ashes of my former life, I rose. I had a face, and I had something to do. I stole some clothes from one of my old neighbors. I don't think she'd have begrudged me that, if she'd known. I couldn't let her know I was back, though.

And now, here I am, in the Hall of Heros. Asking if any of you know this man. Or just where I can go to find someone who knows.

- goatwritten by Goatkiller666
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 22, 2010 1:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rain pattered against the two men struggling in the alleyway. One was smallish, almost a boy, dressed in dark robes. The other was huge, wielding an extremely filthy wide-bladed butchers knife. Isaiah could see dirt on the jagged blade as it whistled by. His opponents thrust was deflected an inch from his head by Isaiah's slim blade; he whipped the small sword around his waist and snaked it out nicking his enemy in the forearm. "First blood Jorus." The large man grunted, and swung his knife back and forth, forcing Isaiah back towards the wall. Each attack sang in the air, deadly and swift.

Isaiah suddenly reached out with his foot, catching it behind Jorus'. Even as the huge man fell, he swung, and Isaiah was forced away from his opportunity. On his knees, Jorus was as tall as Isaiah, and the man blocked any escape route from the alley. "Your blood is worth much gold, Tiny-man. Jorus will drink from your skull!" Isaiah grunted as he was tackled to the ground. Quickly, he thrust out, was blocked, and swung his knee into Jorus' groin. In that instant, he wriggled to the side and stabbed out at Jorus' unprotected belly. He felt warm blood spread between them, and watched Jorus' soul flee from his body. Isaiah whispered his final curse in his opponents ear...


"Aye! And tell them of how we found you later, stuck and sleeping under the great lug!"
Roaring laughter from the assembled drinking men interrupted Isaiah's tale.
"It took Noaker and I nearly an hour to free you, and you slept the whole time!"
More laughter drowned out any response, as Isaiah good naturedly saluted the bar-goers with his mug, and sat back down at Noaker's side. His friend had hidden himself in a mug of ale, but Isaiah saw the smile in his eyes.
"You had to pick that loud mouth Swarth to help you free me?"
"Are you kidding! That Jorus was so heavy, you're lucky I didn't grab his brother too!" With a small smile, Noaker leaned forward and refilled his masters cup.
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PostPosted: Sat May 29, 2010 9:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Neera stands by corner of a building. She's not sure what the building is for, if it's even used anymore. She hasn't looked, and after sundown there's no activity inside. Nor any light by which to see the front of the building. Half a block north, and across the street, hangs the faded and bleached board of the Safe Haven tavern. A few people enter the place, and none leave it, for the moment. All the traffic to the tavern has a listless feel to it, like they're just going through the motions of life until they can get back to the business of dying. They go to the tavern because there's nowhere else for them to go. They drink because the alcohol takes them away from the world for a while, taking them through the time left until they can die. It's like they can skip whole pages in the book of the story of their lives, instead of having to read through every word; hurry on to the end of the book, which isn't very interesting by they're too proud to just put down in the middle.

She knows that the man she seeks spends a lot of time here. She was told he spends time with the bar wench, Darla, though none would call it a relationship. They use each other to idle away the time, nothing more. Neither is really capable of feeling the depth of emotion necessary for anything more. His name is… Funhouse? HappyBoy? Something meaningless in this hollow city.

She hears a noise behind her, and quickly ducks into the alleyway to hide. She can't be seen watching the tavern. Someone is walking towards the tavern from behind her, but she can't see him from her hiding place. One he's passed her, she creeps back out to resume her watch, when she recognizes the tilt of his head, the wave of his unkempt hair. It's only a glimpse, but she's sure: that's him. Unsure of how to proceed, she watches her target shuffle to the door of the tavern. Dim light flashes briefly into the street as he opens the door, like a demon's mouth opening and closing once, to swallow him whole. She could just catch the word "Funboy" spill out of the place before the door closes, confirming that this is her man.

She shifts from foot to foot, at the same time wanting to race in after him immediately, and also wanting to keep their reunion private. Intimate. So she could relish every moment, without worrying about his companions interfering. In the end, she decides tit's better to do it right than to do it right away. Knowing that the tavern won't close down until much later, she settles in to wait. Several more times, she's forced to hide in the alleyway as people walk by, but she sees nothing to make her think Funboy has left. And yet, at a point so late it almost qualifies as early, Several people all leave the bar at once, scattering into the pre-dawn darkness. Funboy is not among them.

Damn. When did he leave?

With no other options, she decides to wait until tomorrow, in the hopes that he'll return to the tavern again. Next time, she won't be so cautious. Next time, she'll just follow him in there and take what she needed from him.

She walks the three blocks to the place she'd found before, a narrow covered area on the roof of an abandoned building. The upstairs hallway inside the place had collapsed years ago, so the only way to get there was via a trecherous climb up the side of the neighboring building and then a short drop. But she'd found that, since her return to this world, such feats were no longer daunting. She quickly scaled the wall, and dropped to her own lair, then curled up and tried to sleep. But frustration kept her up for several more hours, thinking of her prey escaping without her even noticing. Wondering how he'd managed it. Was there a back door? Had he gone past while she was hiding from pedestrians?

It wasn't until around noon, sleep still evading her, though her eyes hurt having been awake so long, the thought struck: he'd never left. The woman Darla supposedly lived above the tavern. Funboy had probably stayed in her room when Zed had closed up. But at this point, her best plan was still to wait for him there again.

.
.
.

The next evening found Neera in the same spot in the alleyway, hiding from pedestrians once again. But not once did she see Funboy walk down the street to go into the tavern. All through the night she watched, growing more and more frustrated. Too many hours alone in the dark, with nothing to do but remember that moment when her daughter's screams had stopped. Over and over, she thought of that heavy silence, when she realized that as horrible as the child's pain was, she still preferred it to the alternative. As long as the girl was screaming, Neera had known… in some small way, that there was only a finite amount of suffering, and that whatever was done could be repaired. At first, she'd thought it was just her baby pausing to inhale, before another scream. But the silence stretched too long. The whole episode was over in just a short time, from Ilsa waking to that dreadful silence again. Too long because of her baby's pain, but far too short to be all that her baby had.

When she was pretty sure the patrons would exit the bar soon, Neera had had enough. Having not seen him enter, but unsure if he'd even left the day before, she once again waffled between rushing in and waiting. But she could not stand another moment alone in her head. Not one more repeat of that scene. Neera strides out of the alleyway, up the block, and yanks open the door. Honestly, she'd only wanted to check if he was in there. But once her eyes adjusted to the relative brightness of the tavern's interior, she saw her man. His hair was a bit longer, his stubble a bit thicker, but it was certainly her man. And then she couldn't delay her revenge any longer.

She'd thought of this moment hundreds of times before, rehearsed what she would say, all the words that would convey to him the depth of her pain. But in that moment, it was all lost. Words were useless to her, and all that was left was red. She screamed. One long breath of rage and suffering, as she raced across the room. There were people there with him. She knew this before she opened the door. And yet all she was was him. All she could see was his face, as she crossed the room and jumped over the table.

Zed stood behind the bar, trying to judge when the patrons had hit that point where they wouldn't be buying anything else for the night. Funboy was seated at a long table with five others, one of them Darla. With them were three more men, and another woman. She and Darla were just sitting there, listening to the drunken ramblings of the men. These men were discussing their plans to take advantage of… something… to loot the wealthy houses, while they city was occupied. Something about 'barbarians', maybe? It didn't matter to Neera.

She raced to the table, jumping over it between two of the men, kicking out with both feet at Funboy's chest. She caught him by surprise, thanks partially to the many drinks he'd consumed, and the lateness of the hour. Funboy was sent sprawling into the table behind him, while Neera was lying on her back, in the center of a table of Funboy's friends. She tried to flip up onto her feet again, but two of the friends reached for her. One just missed her, and one managed to grab onto her arm, pulling her off balance. She tumbled gracelessly to the ground, but at least was free from the grip, even as her shoulder started to throb from where it had hit the bench.

Though drunk, Funboy was used to violence. Even under a layer of ale, a good fight was one of the few things for which he had any enthusiasm anymore. He'd even started to notice that, without the added spice of violence, women no longer strongly appealed to him. He'd been nurturing the idea of what he would get to do to Darla tonight, wondering when he would have to move on to something more drastic than slaps across the face. But instead, here he was presented with a more serious fight, and with a woman. Someone from whom he did not need to hold back the violence. Someone who'd started the conflict, in fact, freeing Funboy of the stigma of beating a woman. And so, quickly recovering from the shock of being kicked from his seat, he stood back up with a smile on his face.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 06, 2010 12:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As the violence started, Zed jumped into action, dropping the plain wooden shutters that would hopefully protect his side of the bar from whatever mayhem was about to happen. He hoped Darla would be okay, but he'd cautioned her too many times about spending time with that maniac Funboy. He'd said it would one day get her killed, and if she was too blinded by lust to run away from the fight, she probably deserved whatever fate she'd get. He'd though about cutting some eye holes in the shutters, so he could at least know what was going on, but had decided that getting a surprise shard of wood or glass in the eye was worth more than satisfying his curiosity. So, he just stayed back, hunched down, hoping nothing could get through his barrier.

Out in the room, Darla and the other woman looked around in confusion. By this point of the night, they were more or less sober. Darla looked to Funboy, and saw his big smile as he stood back up. She decided the wiser course was to leave the strange woman alone to whatever Funboy decided to inflict on her; he didn't seem to think he needed help. The other woman backed away from the scuffle, just hoping not to be hurt in the chaos.

Funboy's two cohorts, both nearly as drunk as he was, stood up to go after Neera, knocking over their bench in the process. They each moved around one side of the table, expecting to grab Neera's arms and hold her there, while Funboy exacted revenge upon her. Seeing this, Funboy himself just locked eyes with his attacker, waiting to see the moment when her fear sparked to life. But instead of fear, he saw only rage. Then Neera sprint up onto the top of the table, landing nimbly in a crouch. Her hand reaches down and grabs a wooden tray from the tabletop, and she swings it at one of the men's eyelevel. The man, Lennie, flinched back, avoiding the blow, as she'd expected. So, she continued her swing around in a full circle, and catches the other man in the temple. He stumbles to his knees, dazed but not unconscious.

She turns back to Lennie just in time to avoid his clumsy hands as they reach for her. He tries again, and she slaps his hands away before they can grip her. In surprise, he yells "You bitch!" and tries to just swing a fist at her instead. This would have missed her even if she hadn't dodged, but Neera rolls backwards off the table, so that it's bulk was between her and the two (or three) men.

She looks back and forth between the two of them, trying to decide what to do. Lennie takes the time to lumber back around the table towards her, while Funboy decides to jump up onto the table himself. Seeing her do it gave him ideas above his abilities. He jumps up, and tries to lift his feet up into a crouch before he lands on the table, but his toes end up below the table instead of above it, and he cracks booth shins against the hard wood, then falls backwards onto the floor screaming in pain.

Neera sees this and smiles, then turns back to Lennie with the wooden tray still in her hand. As he steps closer he swings another fist at her slow and easy to predict. She ducks under the arm, and then swings the tray upwards like a very wide and dull sword into his groin. Suddenly, Lennie is no longer drunk, and his eyes widen in anticipation of the pain about to hit him. Almost before he can feel it, he crumples around his pain and silently drops to the floor as well.

Meanwhile, Funboy rolls onto his side and sees Neera and Lennie from under the table. Instead of trying to go over the table, he just crawls under it; the benches had been pushed away anyway. As Lennie falls, Neera watches him, thinking Funboy is still sprawled on the other side of the table. She hears a noise and looks up just as Funboy tackles her in a quick upward surge. He picks her up, and then crashes them both down onto the table behind her, his own body adding to the force. The first sound he hears from her is a gasp of pain made with lungs that can't seem to hold onto air. The sound excites him, even more than the feel of her body under his hands.

Before she can do anything useful, Funbody stands up and punches her in the face, followed by a blow to the side of the head and another to the gut. "I don't know who you are, but I like you even more than I like Darla. I could never get away with hitting her this much."

Neera tries to roll sideways off the table, to get some distance between her and Funboy, but he manages to dive onto her back. It's a graceless move, not so much a strike as shoving her face-first into the tabletop, once again knocking the breath out of her.

While Neera is dazed, Funboy reaches for her hair and tries to crack her head into the tabletop. But Neera's arms are under her, and she manages to brace herself against the table enough to stop her head from connecting; the only effect is that he torques her neck painfully, making her grunt in pain.

Now that Funboy stepped away from her to grab her hair, she kicks backwards blindly, catching him in the shin. It startles him, and hurts a lot, but isn't enough to do real damage to his knee. Still, he yells and backs away from her, trying to keep his weight on his other leg. Neera reaches for a tankard from the table in front of her, and quickly swings as she spins to face him. She screams in frustration when she fails to make contact with him, though. Still holding the tankard, she glares at him. Funboy just smiles, as he shifts his weight back onto the leg and confirms that it's not seriously hurt.

Funboy looks to his two friends, and sees that they're still crumpled on the ground, useless to him. Neera grabs another tankard in her other hand, holding each by the handle, and sizes Funboy up. Seeing this, he crouches down defensively. The two stare at each other for a moment, this being really the first moment they've had where they weren't desperately responding to each others' actions.

Suddenly, Neera wonders how she'll do this. Her attacks until now had been lucky, successful by surprise more than skill. She knows she's faster and more exact than before her death, but she doesn't really know how to fight. Funboy did know how to fight, though.

And in that moment, she stared him in the face. The face she remembered from back then. The face she'd seen over and over again in her memory, just staring at her. In that moment, she could no longer stand to see the face there, looking at her and not suffering. Neera jukes up and to the side, getting a foot up to the corner of the table next to her and then pushing off of that for extra height as she sprung straight at him.

Funboy expected the feint, expected her to come at him after the juke. But he didn't expect her to also be a couple feet off the ground when she did it, so his anticipatory block was low. He hit her in the leg with the back of his fist, while she brought both tankards together on either side of his head. Funboy staggers from the blows, but doesn't quite fall. Neera swings again, first one hand, then the other, striking him in the temple again and again. After a few cycles, Funboy finally falls to the ground. Not feeling satisfied, Neera starts to kick him in the ribs, then falls on his body and pummels his face with the tankards, until her rage subsides.

She stands, looking at the pulped meat of Funboy's face. Oh no! Is he dead? I need to find out who the other one was. She kneels down by him to check his breathing, but finds no sign. Putting her ear to his chest, she hears no heartbeat as well. Neera cries out in rage, then lowers her head for a moment.

Seeing this, Darla realizes that Funboy is dead, and a sob escapes her, staying unobtrusive no longer important. Neera hears the sound, snaps her head around to see what it is, and locks eyes with Darla. "You! You were with him. Tell me who was with him!" She springs up and rushes at Darla, somehow ending up with one forearm across the waitress' throat. Darla is too shocked to really fight back, only gripping Neera's arms trying to pull them off.

"Who was with him!" screams Neera, inches away from Darla's face, now.

"That's Lennie. And… and… Boris." stammers Darla, confused and scared for her own life.

"No!" Neera slams Darla against the wall again, choking her more. "Not these two. Who was with him that day, when he killed Ilsa."

Her attacker is so distraught, Darla can hardly understand her words. "Who's Ilsa? I don't understand." sobs Darla.

Neera pauses, and tries to calm her fear that she's failed before she's even really begun. "Months ago. During the riots. That one and another. Killed… killed Ilsa. My daughter. I didn't see the other one's face. But you know this one. Who was he with?"

Darla is silent for a moment, and Neera again bounces her off the wall. "Tell me, or I swear I'll kill you right now and find out from that other woman." she screams.

"T-Bird." gasps Darla. "It must have been T-Bird. They were planning some kind of job around then. I didn't know. I didn't know about your daughter." She starts to cry, in long desperate sobs. "I didn't know…"

"Where can I find T-Bird?" she asks, suddenly calm again. Her next step isn't lost to her after all.
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 20, 2010 11:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Months ago

Neera walked to the edge of town, on the road that left the slums towards Blood Cove. According to that weak and crying thing… Darla… that is where T-Bird lived. She wasn't sure why one as vile as he would be allowed to live in the enclave of the city's rich and powerful, but she believed Darla to be too scared to lie to her on this topic. Over the rise to the south, she could see the lights of one of the other villages south of town, but Blood Cove was far enough off that it wasn't even indirectly visible. But, knowing her destination, she started walking at once.

Behind her, she felt the crow. It had always been a presence in her mind, since she'd come back, but otherwise had left her alone. But this time, she could see a vision. She saw the path she had just walked, but viewed from higher up, and moving much faster. And ahead, she saw her own back, continuing to walk down the road. Even in the darkness of pre-dawn morning, she could see her shabby appearance. Her long hair had been hacked off roughly with a knife a while ago. She could see where it had matted up on the back of her head, and she wondered how she'd not felt that. She reached up a hand to confirm with her own senses, but wasn't surprised to feel the thing. As big as her hand, and certain never to come out short of being removed. Her clothing hadn't bee washed since she'd stolen it from her former neighbor. She'd gone around town for months now without changing or washing them. More than one hole had been torn, either from climbing around the rooftops or from fighting with the scum of the city. Last night's fight had included several spills across food plates and tankards of ale, plus bleeding from her and her victims.

Surely, the personal guards of the powerful men in the village wouldn't let her anywhere near the village. And while she didn't doubt her determination was enough to beat any man in the city, a squad or more of guards would be more than she could take on. And she knew that once the alarm had been raised, she'd never be able to sneak into the place to find this T-Bird. Darla's description hadn't been very useful. She knew he was a thin man, wiry even. He had a goatee, and dark hair. But "you know, average height" and "just normal features" didn't help her much. So she'd need to spend some time watching everyone and listening to them, to determine which was T-Bird.

As the crow flew past her, she sent a thought its way, Thank you for showing me that. With that, she turned around and went back into town. Thoughts of how she could steal a new outfit, one that wouldn't raise an alarm when she went into Blood Cove went through her mind. And what will I do with my hair? Once I cut off the matted up part, there's no way I can avoid looking strange.

But all the while, the vision of the crow was still in the back of her mind. Quickly, it soared down the road, cresting the hills… not even hills, really, just swells and dips in the land… and in a few minutes it was showing her the village of Blood Cove. She started to wonder if she might not need to go into the village at all. Maybe the crow could show her what she needed to know after all. Neera stopped walking, not really paying attention to where her own body was, as she inspected the village's layout in her mind's eye.
When
But, while she wasn't paying attention to her own body, somebody else was. Backlit by the flames starting to come out of the remains of the Safe Haven, Constable Shoe saw Neera walk up the road and then stop. She looked dazed, like she'd also been in the attack. He'd talked to the two women who'd come stumbling out, and they'd both reported some kind of amazon warrior woman who'd defeated the three thugs inside and then set the place ablaze. Perhaps this one had also been hurt by the attacker? He jogged over to her, and noticed her terrible condition. Torn clothes, blood stains. Though, many of them looked old, so maybe she was just some homeless girl wandering around at night. "Are you hurt?" The girl didn't respond; she simply stood in the middle of the road, eyes not even focusing. He waved his hand in front of her face, with no reaction.

He reached out to her arm, asking again "Hey, are you hurt?" But when he touched her shoulder, her eyes snapped into focus and she knocked his arm away strongly.

"What do you want?" she snapped, backing away nervously. "Leave me alone!"

"Miss, you look hurt. Were you attacked by the same one who hurt those others? Were you in the Safe Haven just now?"

Neera looked back towards the burning building, where the local residents were scrambling to form a bucket line to put out the flames. In this neighborhood, a fire could spread for blocks if left unchecked. The locals don't have much, but they don't want to see what little the do have burned in front of them. So many were showing up now, some only half-dressed, carrying whatever they have that'll hold water. Zed was busy carrying crates of supplies from inside, only to stop and have a few others berate him for saving his possessions instead of fighting the fire.

"It's spirits! They'll burn hotter! I'm just getting them away from the blaze before they go up, idiots."

Neera turned back to Constable Shoe with a shrug. "I was there. But I'm fine. Leave me be."

"You're not fine. You were standing in the middle of the road, dazed."

"No, I was just thinking about something." Even now, the crow was swooping back and forth around the village, and she couldn't pay attention to it for having to talk with this man.

Shoe reached for her again, trying to calm and comfort her, but she knocked his hand away. He shook his arm a couple times; that had hurt as much as some of the largest men he'd had deflect him, swinging full force. Who was this crazy girl? She backed away, and then quickly scaled the corner of a building to the second floor roof, and jogged off over the rooftops. He watched her go, thought about giving chase, but finally decided that extinguishing the flames took priority.

Neera moved away only a few blocks, noting that she wasn't being followed, and stopped. On some random rooftop, she crouched down and closed her eyes. The crow flew several more passes over the villages. She could see the inlet to the west, and the manor houses all over. She was surprised to notice that there were no shops at all. Just a collection of houses, spreading outward from a central square. It had a fountain and a town hall of sorts on one side, and opened to the water on the other.

Not knowing where to start, she realized that she'd have to listen to the people talking to be able to know names. Focusing her attention on the crow's vision, she tried to hear sounds as well. At first, there was nothing, and then she realized that she COULD hear something: the sound of the wind from the crow's flight. But it was just white noise. Could she tell the crow to land? She'd never tried. But she did now. There. By the fountain. Land there. After a few tries, she started to grow frustrated. The crow must be able to know her thoughts… it had known to fly to the village in the first place. In her mind, she screamed at it, now. STOP! TURN AROUND! LAND BY THE SMALL WATER! And to her surprise, the crow jigged, like it was dodging something that startled. But then it banked and flew to the fountain. I guess you don't know what a 'fountain' is? The crow cawed in response, and she found that she could hear through its ears, when it wasn't flying.

She thought to the crow, I guess we'll have to wait, now. Wait for people to wake and start moving around. This will take some time. And I'll have to become presentable. Or invisible. Or catch him on the outside.
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 20, 2010 11:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It was two weeks later, when she finally heard mention of T-Bird at the village. She had gone to the temple of Nyx, in the slums, trying to find a set of clean undamaged clothes, and some help with her hair. It turns out they had food as well. And she found it easier to do menial labor for them in exchange for it all, than to try stealing it around the city. No need to fear capture or sprint across the rooftops. They let her stay in the women's dormitory area, really just a section of an abandoned building that had been turned to the use of housing many people closely together. She found a place by a corner, and sat in it. She even had a few blankets on the dusty floor, but she usually just sat with her back to the wall, concentrating on the crow. When it would have to fly away to feed or sleep, she would get up again to help the with the works. Everyone assumed she was touched in the head, or just simple. She didn't speak much, and she was often staring at nothing. So, most of the work she did was most tedious available. Sweeping, mopping, digging, carrying, laundry.

But one evening, the crow was watching a group of wagons arrived, something she'd never seen before. There was talk of some kind of Barbarian army outside the gates, though… perhaps that's to the north of the city. But they were there to cart up the valuables for the village's residents, and take them inside the city's walls. In case the attackers went around the city. One of them spoke the name T-Bird, but she couldn't see who he was talking to. Still, she had the crow fly closer so she could see faces. Neera had already swept the same 3' strip of floor for half an hour, without moving on. Nobody checked to see if she was efficient in her sweeping, only that she was always moving the broom, so none bothered her.

There were 10 wagons total, not nearly enough for even one of the stately manor houses there, and they all went towards the square by the fountain. When they got there, they pulled to the town hall building, nearly filling half the square. The drivers all set their brakes and tethered their horses, while the rest of the men went inside the main door. Soon, she watched them coming out carrying boxes. A man came out with them, though he did not carry anything. He stood to the side and watched them work. He did match her vague idea of what T-Bird looked like, but so did seven or eight others there. The crow stood on the ledge of the fountain, calmly watching it all.

As the last of the wagons was being filled, one of the men came out saying, "Hey, T-Bird. What do we do with the rest? It won't all fit in the wagons."

T-Bird! That was him. Right there. Her body involuntarily clenched the broomstick, until she felt it hurting her hands.

The bird kept watching the man, and then he went back inside the building. The wagons went off towards the town, so the crow spent a while circling the building, to make sure T-Bird never left. Sometimes it would land by the windows to look inside, but never saw the man. And, with a target in sight (if only briefly), Neera started to make her move. Carrying the broom, she went towards the laundry. The priests also had to clean their clothes, so there were usually some of their black robes around the place. That would help hide her pale skin as she went into the village. And, robe in hand, she jogged south to the edge of town. She told the crow to fly high, and watch for anyone else on the road who might spot her. But not to leave the building, and to keep watching for T-Bird leaving. Confused on how to do both of these, the crow just circled the house and tried to look towards the road sometimes.

The crow didn't do such a great job watching the road, because an hour later, when Neera was jogging over the last ridge before the village, a voice called out to her. "Who's that there? What's your business here?" Not thinking, she hadn't stayed low, and was silhouetted against the clear night sky. Quickly, she made up her mind, and walked towerds the voice.

"I'm looking for T-Bird?" She tried to sound frightened, and timid.

"He's busy. He's got no time for tail."

"I've walked all this way. He told me to come out here. Can't I just go see him?"

Another voice said, "Uh-oh. T-Bird's got another one hooked. I don't know how that man does it."

The first continued, "Shut up, Lenny. Look, little girl. You want to turn around and walk back to town now. And you don't want me to have to tell you again." He emphasized by resting his hand on the hilt of his sword."

Neera took a hesitant step back, then turned and ran back over the hill. She hoped she looked like a scared girl. After going far enough not to be seen by the top of the hill, she moved off the road into some farmer's field. She went half a mile west, then cut again to the south, always keeping an eye on the ridge where the sentries were waiting. She took more care to be quiet this time, keeping low stay out of sight. The crops in this area were a mix of cabbage and asparagus, so there was little cover around her. The only thing in her favor was that this field was in a depression between the two hills. Nothing so big as a valley, but at least she wasn't visible against the sky for this leg of the voyage.

When she came to the top of the ridge, she approached slowly, crouching low. She crawled the last few feet on her belly, just her head looking over the edge. Away in the distance, she saw the two sentries, still watching the road, but they didn't seem to be reacting to her. In other directions, she didn't spot anybody else. Slowly, she crawled over the ridge and down the hill. When she thought she would no longer present a silhouette, she moved to a crouching jog for more speed. Nowhere soon enough, she was further into the trough, and making her way at a quick jog towards the village again. The crow's vision showed her the road was clear of guards at this point, and she relaxed for several minutes. She kept switching perspectives between the crow's sight of the road ahead and her own sight of the ground under her feet. And it was only when she realized that the crow was only seeing the road that panic set it.

Damn. Damned bird. You're not watching the house!

The bird returned to circling the house, as Neera sprints the rest of the way, almost heedless of stealth by now. There's no further sight of T-Bird leaving the house, but he might have done so during the period when the crow was watching her. Damn! She could see the village up ahead, lit in the moonlight, aided by a few torches here and there. There were a few men walking around, guarding the place from invaders or somesuch, but none of them looked out her way. And so, she began to make her way through the buildings to the hall. The crow could let her know of approaching witnesses, and she kept hidden. When unobserved, she would scale a wall and cross the roof of a building, only to drop to the ground on the other side in order to get to the next. These wealthier people had enough space that she couldn't just go from roof to roof. When she got to the roof of the hall, with its bell tower rising above the square, she hid herself within the tower's shadow. Even during the day, she would be hard to spot from anywhere on the ground. The place offered her a little bit of shade from the sun, and she could wait for T-Bird to arrive.
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 20, 2010 11:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Two days later, she still had not seen T-Bird emerge from the hall. She was starting to think he'd gotten away during her little episode. But even if he had, this was the only place she knew he'd be, and she had to assume he'd return to the village eventually. So, she stayed. At night, she would sneak down and steal food from the trash of the houses, or sometimes the crow would bring her something not too rancid to force down. It didn't really matter anymore. Without Ilsa, life, and food, had no quality. It was only to keep her strength up, not for any pleasure in the eating. Likewise, the sun's warmth, or the night's cold were all the same to her… sensations, neither welcomed nor unwelcomed, that reminded her she was alive. And without Ilsa. She tried to pay attention to the crow's vision of the comings and goings of the village, instead of the ever-repeating memory of her girl's cries not being present. But sometimes she could only lie there and cry. Being this close to T-Bird, and also so unable to act, brought the pain back into her, much more than her time at Nyx' temple. Perhaps hours would go by when she might not have noticed T-Bird parading around below her.

----------------------------------

After another week, the crying had stopped again. The knowledge that T-Bird had likely left from right under her feet, and that he was no longer within her grasp anyway let her push the pain back down. She focused more on what the village was doing, and came to the conclusion that most of them were gone. Those who remained seemed to be talking about the owners being in town while the invading army was there. So she had been robbed of her revenge after all. Unless the King were able to defeat the barbarians, and then T-Bird and the other villagers came back. That lucky event took another month to happen. And T-Bird himself didn't show his face there for another two weeks beyond the word of the city's victory over the invaders.

Some small part of her almost felt. Perhaps the vague memory of a sense of attachment to the city, and some kind of mildly less strong period of pain at the thought that the city was no longer in danger. But that only made her wonder if the pain of Ilsa's death were lessening, and this was far too soon for that to happen. It had only been days since it had happened, hadn't it? Maybe a week at the most. Vengeance should be at the top of her mind still, she was certain. Anything less would be disrespectful and hurtful to her daughter's spirit.

And so one day, a large group of wagons returned to the village, again filled with boxes and laborers. Nearly twice as many wagons as had left, and more people with them, entered the village square and began to unload their contents. But among them was T-Bird. At last, she got to see him with her own eyes. Almost, she jumped up and flung herself off the roof directly onto his head. Almost she thought she could fly from this rooftop and feel herself flying as the crow does, to descend upon him and tear him apart with her talons, as she had felt the crow doing many times to various small rodents. But her mind was still whole enough to know that THIS body could do no such thing. She would simply fall from the roof and injure herself, failing Ilsa in the process. So, she waited. And watched. And listened.

An older man walked up to T-Bird and said, "We must burn sacrifices to Surya and Nyx, in thanks for ridding us of those dreadful barbarians. Now we may resume commerce with our partners at sea. There are many valuable clients who must be longing for a young boy or girl these last few months, and now we're no longer stuck within the city walls. But especially we will sacrifice a whole herd to Kai, whose chaos and strife will make it impossible for the King's men to even notice the children or mothers gone missing in the exodus of everyone out of the city. We'll be able to offer up enough 'dolls' to make up for these months with nothing, to be sure. It will be almost as good as the riots, I do not doubt."

T-Bird said only, "Yes sir."

The older man continued, "When all the boxes are unloaded and put away, I want you to take a few of the men back to town. This evening, separate out as many children as you can. Kill their mothers and fathers, and it will just look like the whole family went back outside the city with everybody else. If the mothers are fetching and not too old to serve, bring them back as well. Perhaps we can gift them to some sailors as an apology for our lack of custom recently."

"Yes sir. I'll have to find someone new to take, now that Funboy is dead. I just hope Josef is as heartless as he makes out. The last thing I need is my wingman getting squeamish about killing a boy's mommy in front of his eyes, and letting one or the other get away."

The older man nodded, "Let me know how he works out. He's my wife's nephew, and I'll never hear the end of it, if he can't cut it in our racket."

"Yes sir."

----------------------------------

Neera sat back against the bell tower, stunned.

It wasn't a riot murder. The riot was just a ruse, so they could kidnap Ilsa. And probably others. Killing her was an accident? She grew dizzy at the thought that Ilsa's death might well have been a mercy. She might instead have been given over to a life, long or brief, of abuse and horrible treatment at the hands of… someone.

----------------------------------

Neera woke to the crow standing on her chest, pecking her on the forehead. She was still on the roof, hidden by the bell tower. That last image had been too much for her to bear, it seems. And yet, as the memory of Ilsa's death had gone through her mind over and over, so now the image of her terrible treatment did the same. Every time, something worse was imagined, and Neera realized that killing T-Bird wasn't enough. Wasn't nearly enough. Crimes of this magnitude, repeatedly committed by people who were immune to their horrors… even practiced at doing them… could not be avenged by the death of just the kidnappers. So many more must need pay for this, for all of the pain and suffering, from countless mothers and sons, fathers and daughters. All of those responsible must be destroyed. All of them. She realized then that this could take much much longer than she had been trying so far; maybe weeks instead of the few days she'd been at this. That she might not be allowed to die herself for quite some time, further keeping her from her beloved daughter. It was almost too much to bear, but she could not bring herself to refuse the task. She was the only one who could do it, though she was not totally sure that she was up to it. She could sometimes tell that her mind wandered… that she wasn't always fully… present. She would need all of her wits about her, and she would need not to lose her control; no more crying for hours, no more attacking in rage. She had so much to discover… who all of the participants were, where they were. Oh dear… what if there are children who still survive? What will I do with them? How can I even help them?

No. This kind of emotion doesn't help. I must push it all deep down, where it will not hinder me. I am dead; I need not mourn for their suffering. I must follow them, and find who they are, whom they work with, whom they trade with, all of it. But first, I must follow T-Bird and Josef, and stop them from taking another. That much I can do now. There's no need to let this one live. I know who is his boss; I know who runs it all. Once I've stopped T-Bird… killed him, as I'd originally planned… I can return here and finish with the rest after I've stopped anyone else from falling victim.

----------------------------------

With that, Neera went to the back of the building. She knew that T-Bird would be leaving town shortly, and would be going to the city to take another child tonight. She had to get ahead of him, so she could intercept him outside the village. With the crow's help, she descended the wall unseen, then went from building to building until she was at the edge of town. From there, she simply walked out the main road back towards the city. There were enough people coming and going during the days recently, she hoped she wouldn't be noticed as anything unusual. She simply didn't have enough time to skulk through the fields in the bright sunlight.

In the end, she was perhaps halfway to the city when she was overtaken by a pair of riders. While she moved to the side of the road, giving them way, the crow showed her that it was indeed T-Bird and another going past. Once they were out of sight, she began to sprint. And even her improved speed and endurance weren't enough to let her keep them in sight. By the time she made it back to the city, they were long past and out of sight, and she was limping from exhaustion. The sun was nearly set, and she had nowhere to start looking. In desperation, she looked around the city's gate for anything, and screamed in rage. This, of course brought many eyes to her, including those of Constable Shoe. Without a fire to help contain, he could take action about this strange girl. He hadn't seen her since that night, and had often wondered what had become of her. At least she seemed to be aware of her surroundings, even if they enraged her.

"What seems to be the trouble there, miss? There's no burning buildings around this evening."

She turned to him in surprise, then began to back away cautiously. "Nothing." she stammered

"I know it was you what done for Funboy. You're likely a hero of the city for that, though nobody will say so publicly, I've no doubt. I talked to Darla and the other bird. They described you right clearly, they did. And while I'm no fan of burning down parts of my city, I can't say as you've much to fear from me interfering with you."

Neera was torn. It had been so long since she'd spoken to someone, other than demanding information from thugs and bartenders about Funboy and T-Bird. But a child's life, and perhaps several others, depended on finding T-Bird before he could kidnap any others. "Do you know T-Bird? Know where I can find him now?"

"That monster? Are you going after him, now?"

"What if I am? Will you stop me?"

Shoe's laughter was hard and sharp, without mirth. "Of course not. I'd like to follow along and watch, though. If you wouldn't mind."

"Just tell me where! He's going to take another, perhaps several. I cannot let him." She surged forward to grip his shoulders. "Tell me!"

"He just went past here, not fifteen minutes gone. He went to the east, towards the nicer part of town. And he had that distinctive roan of his. Shouldn't be hard to spot." With that, he started off to the east, leaving Neera staring for a moment before she approached.
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