Solo Sticking Your Neck Out

On a cold mid-autumn night, Roland risks his neck for a couple of strangers.

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Considered one of the most mysterious cities in Mizahar, Alvadas is called The City of Illusions. It is the home of Ionu and the notorious Inverted. This city sits on one of the main crossroads through The Region of Kalea.

Sticking Your Neck Out

Postby Roland Eir on November 15th, 2017, 7:16 am

55th of Fall, 517

The people of Alvadas were generous. That's what Roland was thinking as he kept his chin up, his eyes high above the pitiful man with arms outstretched. The sickness from last season had hit the old beggar hard, and both of his legs were struck with the paralysis. "Even a few copper helps," the man groaned in a shaky voice. His emaciated fingers shook with the effort of cupping his hands. Roland pretended not to hear him, his conscience biting at his heels. Someone with more coin would come along. Roland couldn't spare his mizas, he needed them just to get by!

It's true, he wasn't starving. He had a dry room to himself, a warm bed, and a healthy body. But he was far from rich, and coin was tighter than he liked. Ignoring the beggar would bother him for a few more streets and then he'd forget about it. He'd given up theft, that didn't mean he was going to start giving his money away. Charity was a virtue the rich could enjoy.

He frowned and hugged his jacket a little tighter. A chill was beginning to descend on Alvadas, despite the generally warm climate. Maybe it was just a cold snap, or maybe it was a sure sign that winter was on the way. That beggar would be cold tonight. Roland ground his teeth in frustration. He'd already turned a corner, chances are that street had moved and he'd never see that beggar again. All the cold meant to him was he needed to save up for a winter coat.

The road suddenly shifted under his feet, and Roland bounced back on his feet. Ionu's little tricks were beginning to become the norm for the foreigner. This time the earth shifted up into a stairway. With an aggravated sigh, Roland saw that his position on the street had actually sunk lower into the ground. Maybe Ionu cared more for the beggars than one might think. Roland started the climb. The stairs were steeper than they looked, and when he was halfway up they began to move. He froze for a moment, only to find that the steps were carrying him down the way he'd come. "Oh no you don't," Roland growled, renewing his efforts. As the steps behind him sank into the earth new ones formed up ahead of him. "This is ridiculous." Taking the stairs two at a time Roland fought his way up the street. When he finally reached the top he looked back only to find the street level behind him.

A couple of kids flanked the road, tossing a ball from one side to the other. They giggled as Roland passed. He ignored them. Alvadas had its charms, but sometimes it really felt like the city had it out for him.

The sun hung low in the sky, casting long shadows from the buildings and the people alike. A few native Alvads chattered with delight, pointing at their shadows that acted of their own accord. The shadows danced and played, with a raunchy twist that befit the dusk hour. The fellows laughed uproariously at the hijinks, and even Roland cracked a smile. His own shadow was dull in comparison. It stretched out from his feet, turning the pages of a book. Roland yawned, mirroring his shadow. Curling up with his book didn't sound so bad right now, actually.

The worn, familiar pages hadn't revealed any new secrets in a long time, but he still enjoyed reading it. The runes of the ancient script were beautiful to behold. Even where he couldn't translate, just tracing the gracefully looping script was interesting in itself. He often wondered who had written those letters. What kind of person had they been? The thought flitted through his mind, would someone one day be reading his words with the same reverence? Of course they wouldn't. He was eking out an existence as a street performer, no one would be coming to him for words of wisdom any time soon.

The thought made him smile, though, and warmed his heart against the blustery evening.

The Cubacious Inn was nowhere in sight, and he'd been walking for bells now. It was something you got used to in this city. Every time you stepped out your door there was no telling how many footsteps it would take to reach your destination. Roland came to enjoy most of his walks, despite Ionu's petty torments. Even now stones rolled off the nearby rooftops, dropping through the air only to slide into place as cobblestones in the street. The Illusions were part of life here, whether he liked it or not. As evening deepened into night he was starting to think it was "not".

There was still no sign of home, and he'd passed that shop three times now. Yes, he recognized the slope of that roof, and those same three people were carousing a few roads back. Roland grit his teeth and bore it. He'd get back to his room eventually. Even if it took him all night.

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Roland Eir
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Sticking Your Neck Out

Postby Roland Eir on November 15th, 2017, 7:18 am

It was good he'd been moving, or the cold would have him shivering. It grew colder and colder as the evening wore on, until his breath hung in puffs of fog behind him. He thought again of that beggar and wondered how he'd get on tonight. At that moment there was a shout a few blocks ahead.

Roland narrowed his eyes, straining against the descending darkness. He could make out shapes, but that was it. "Leave us alone!" The shouting became clearer as the shapes came his way. Instincts kicking in, he stepped off the road into the alcove of a door. The shadows hid his lanky form as a number of figures approached. There were four men and a child, he couldn't make out if it was a boy or a girl. "I said leave us alone! We haven't done anything to you!" One of the men sheltered the child from the others, and his black hair shimmered in the starlight. He was one of the Vantha. Roland had a sinking feeling he knew what this was about.

"Your kind brought the sickness on us!" One of the other men jeered, his meaty hands bunched into fists at his sides. The Vantha and his child cowered back from them. The thug on his right came his shoulder a push, while the last of the three circled around to his left. The two victims were being herded back towards an alleyway.

"Please, we didn't do anything! The Speakers—"

"The Speakers don't know anything if they're defending you. The Priests of the Seasons—"

"They attacked the Womiyu! They're practically terrorists, please I beg of you don't hurt my boy because of their lies!"

"You should have left the city when you had the chance, bright eyes." The group of them were disappearing into the shadow of the alley. Roland had seen this kind of thing before, but not in Alvadas.

I thought the city was finished with this shyke. Roland thought, ungluing himself from the wall. They would be far too distracted to notice a lone man creeping away in the night. But Roland's legs wouldn't carry him away. Why is this my luck? There was a pained grunt from within the alley as the first blow landed.

"No! Don't hurt him! Please!" It was a child's voice. "Daddy!"

Petch it. Don't get involved. That was his motto. So why was he running toward a dark alley in the middle of the night? His feet scraped against the cobblestones as he pushed into the darkness. "What the—who are you?" His eyes hadn't quite adjusted, but he could just make out one of the men turning to look at him. "What are you doing back here?"

That was an excellent question. Breathing evenly, Roland extended a fist in a swift jab in the air. It was a practiced gesture designed to jumpstart the flow of djed inside of him. His legs trembled as he stood his ground, summoning up the power of the Flux within him. "Nobody needs to get hurt tonight. Let's all just go our separate ways." The words weren't nearly as intimidating as he'd hoped.

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Roland Eir
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Sticking Your Neck Out

Postby Roland Eir on November 15th, 2017, 7:20 am

The biggest man laughed, shoving the Vantha he'd been holding to the ground. "You a Vantha-lover, foreigner?" He pushed his way to the front of the group. "They spread their poison around, and my auntie nearly died. The priests—" Roland's fist whipped out faster than the man could blink. A flood of energy coursed through his body, powering the blow that drove the brute down to the ground.

"Come on!" Roland shouted to the Vantha. He didn't want to be here, and he definitely didn't want to fight the other men. He'd taken the first one with the element of surprise, and if they were lucky he would be out cold for a while. But Roland wasn't an experienced fighter, and even enhanced with magic he didn't know if he could take two men at once. "I said come on!" he roared, shocking the two would-be victims into action. The boy helped his father to his feet and they ran to the mouth of the alley. The two other men growled in rage as their prey escaped, springing to catch them. Roland hesitated just a second too long.

With a shout one of the men grabbed the collar of the boy, nearly pulling him off his feet. The boy cried out, his electric green eyes wide with fear. Roland dashed forward, stumbling over the fallen form of his opponent. A fist collided with his temple, nearly throwing him to the cobblestones. But he had the Flux on his side, and he retaliated with a wild back-handed blow. He connected with something, though it was hard to see in the dark, and then he was throwing himself on the assailant with the boy.

They hit the ground in a heap. Roland's knee scraped on stone. An elbow jabbed into his gut. He got one arm around the boy and was pulling, but the man had a death-grip on his shirt. So Roland dug deeper into his djed. His body burned with a joyous fire that spread throughout his limbs. With a rip the boy came free and Roland all but threw him toward the exit. There was another blow to his abdomen, but Roland was pumped with enough djed that he barely felt it.

Shuddering with energy, Roland fought off the urge to keep digging. He didn't need more. This was plenty. He shoved the body beneath him into the ground. The man swore as his head collided with the cobblestones. Roland scrambled off of him, but there was another man still blocking his escape. Not only that, the first man was starting to stand up, groaning and rubbing his jaw. Oh shyke. Roland scanned the alley quickly, hoping to find another escape route. It backed up against another building and the walls were smooth. Other than some refuse littering the ground it was all but empty. He wouldn't be climbing out of this one.

So he had to go through. Before his opponents could gather themselves he charged forward. Leaning down, he drove a shoulder into the man trying to block his way. He nearly dragged Roland down with him as he fell. The other first, biggest man was on his heels as he legged it out of the alley. The two Vantha were waiting for him. "What, are you crazy? Run! Go!" He didn't need to tell them twice.

The night air burned cold in his lungs as Roland looked back over his shoulder. The first man was right there, eyes burning with hatred, and another man wasn't far behind. These men were tenacious. But Roland had given as much as he'd got, and they were slowly losing ground. Roland kept pace with the two Vantha, though he knew he could easily outrun the lot of them infused with djed as he was. He'd gone this far with them, he wouldn't leave them now.

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Sticking Your Neck Out

Postby Roland Eir on November 15th, 2017, 7:22 am

Fear is a powerful motivator, and soon there was only the one man keeping pace with them. His chest heaved but he somehow still found breath to hurl a slurry of curses after them as they rounded the corner. And here, Ionu finally showed them some luck.

Light streamed from the windows of the Cubacious Inn, and patrons who had only come for the drink and the company were pouring out after last call. The Vantha ran into the building, causing a commotion from the other patrons, but Roland stopped. Maybe it was the Flux that made him so confident, but he slid to a halt in the light of the inn. Turning he came face to face with the man who'd been chasing him.

Sweat gleamed on both of them in the warm glow of the windows. Roland finally got a good look at him: a man in middle-class worker's clothes, his thick auburn hair tied back out of his eyes. His mouth creased in a thin-lipped frown, and his hazel eyes raked savagely across Roland's nimble frame. Neither of them moved. The patrons who had been heading home now stopped to observe this altercation, eager to see some action.

But Roland's suspicions proved correct, and the man who had been raring for a fight in the shadows was backing down in the light. Spitting at Roland's feet, the man turned and stomped back down the street. With a sigh, Roland cut off the flow of djed to his limbs and visibly sagged. His abdomen ached, and his knuckles weren't much better. Groaning, he lurched past the crowd into the inn.

The two Vantha were sitting in the corner, and the man was thanking Georgia profusely. She shook her head, saying "No, don't you worry yourselves about it. Sounds like you had quite a hard night." She looked at Roland with a knowing gleam in her eyes. Roland shrugged, uncomfortable under her smiling gaze. With a twirl of her skirts Georgia was off to close down the inn for the night.

"You two alright?" Roland asked, not bothering to sit down. They both nodded, but the man was wincing and holding a cold mug of ale up to a bruise on his head.

"Thanks to you, stranger. I don't know where you came from tonight, but you saved us both." Roland tried to brush it off, but the man wouldn't have it. "It's not nothing. Who knows what those men would have done? I'm in your debt." He extended his hand, which Roland shook with reluctance. "The name is Kalo, and my boy is Ardent."

"Roland. Honestly, I was just at the right place at the right time. I didn't do more than anyone else would have," he insisted. Truthfully, he had almost left them there, though they didn't need to know that.

"Obviously not." Kalo sighed, and took a sip from his mug. "This city used to be so safe. Now with the sickness and then the Priests of the Seasons… well, I wonder if maybe it's time to move on."

"Might not be a bad idea." Roland agreed. He knew he wouldn't stick around if people were hunting him down in the streets. The man looked defeated, and there was no sense in sticking out a dangerous situation out of some misplaced sense of pride. Eventually, Roland took a seat. They talked for another bell and Kalo told Roland about his woodcarving business, his family, and how long they'd lived here in Alvadas. Roland talked about traveling, and all the different cities he'd seen. When they were finished, Ardent was asleep, leaning against his father, and the candle on their table was the last light in the room.

Bidding them good night and good luck, Roland retreated to his room. Kalo had tried to offer him some coin as payment, and for some reason he turned him down. It just felt wrong to take money for something like that. Sliding into his bed that night, Roland found himself nursing a new set of bruises. Was the pain worth the struggle? He'd "saved" two people tonight. What did that even mean? They'd go their own way and Roland would never see them again. If he'd left well enough alone, the only difference in his life would be less pain.

But he felt good about it all the same. And that was perhaps the strangest part.

Word Count: 737
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Roland Eir
The Reluctant Thief
Posts: 132
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Joined roleplay: April 30th, 2013, 5:43 am
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Sticking Your Neck Out

Postby Dovey on December 11th, 2017, 9:06 pm

Skill XP Earned
Observation 4
Unarmed Combat 2
Endurance 1
Flux 1
Intimidation 1
Running 1
Socialization 1
Lore Earned
Self: Too poor to be charitable
Alvadas: Illusions are part of life
Rescuing innocent Vantha
Unarmed Combat: Fighting outnumbered
Flux: Masks the pain
Kalo and Ardent: Vantha of Alvadas
Feels wrong to take money for 'saving' people
Doing good feels good

Injuries/Overgiving :
- Roland's body, especially his abdomen, is dotted with painful bruises. They will fade gradually over the course of the next 12 days.
- Roland's knuckles are skinned and bruised. They will heal over the course of the next week.
- Roland's muscles will be sore for the next 2 days.

Additional Comments
Excellent solo - you had me on the edge of my seat! I enjoyed the framing of the thread, how you start with Roland deciding not to help someone and finish up with his feelings about having helped people after all. I wish I could have awarded you more points, but there's nothing for that except thread length.

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