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Runaway Clams

Postby Noven on September 19th, 2014, 4:44 am

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Fall, Day 4, 514AV

When a certain, dour faced cook stormed out of Sunset, leaving behind a hoard of ravenously feasting orphans in his wake, there was only one thing lingering on the young man's mind:

No more petching poteesy soup.

The runts might have no say in the matter, but Noven sure as shyke did. He was done. Done with the same potato and cheese broth he'd been serving since last Spring. It being his own invention be damned. There was only so much of the same, starchy flavors his tongue could handle.

Not to mention it was high time he got around to celebrating the end of the season with a decent meal. Alone. With no yammering tykes to test his tolerance for high-pitched noises.

So it was with grim but eager conviction that Nov abandoned his post to seek his long overdue feast. His boots made muted thuds against the wooden planks of the Docks as he searched for something worthy of purchase and eventual preparation. Perhaps a rack of lamb this time, he contemplated, should he be lucky enough to find a suitable cut. The cook and part time merc certainly had the funds this season to purchase some. Or maybe fillets fried to golden crisps, surrounded by an army of braised mushrooms? The thoughts alone made his mouth water.

He'd chosen a poor time, however, to be shopping for produce. Already the slow descent of Syna's rays were beginning to kiss the horizon, signaling most of the vendors and merchants to pack their wares. No sane seller kept fresh goods out in the night. They might as well beg in the open streets to be robbed if they did.

Nov was about to give up on this sudden whim he'd entertained when something caught his eye. A dark haired and even darker eyed lass of no more than eighteen or so winters was still selling her sea-bred wares. Various fish and clams, the merc noted as he strolled up and stopped to consider. It wasn't as though he had much of a choice. And it wasn't a bad choice to begin with, either. He hadn't had clams in a while. They'd make for as a good a feast as any with the right ingredients.

"Oy, girl," he said in way of greeting. "What are the best clams you got? I've got the gold to pay."

Having dropped the world "gold" was incentive enough for any fish merchant to start bring out their best stock. Besides, the lass wouldn't still be out here, alone and lugging about her watery wares, if the day had been profitable for her.

Nov stuck his hands into his pants pockets and waited, hoping against hope the girl had something good to sell. Seafood was notorious in its ability to spoil. If he wanted any chance at all at a decent meal tonight, he'd have to take the clams straight home and throw them in Nona's crock pot. Best take no chances with gifts of the sea, his former caretaker had once sagely advised.


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Runaway Clams

Postby Nellie Hawkins on September 22nd, 2014, 3:05 am

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Nellie leaned gingerly against the rickety stall, considering the sky. Syna's gradual retreat led to a much more hurried exodus of people from the market. Without much hope, or much enthusiasm, the woman called out to passersby, hoping to entice them into a last-tick purchase or two.

"Fresh fish an' clams, 'ere! Straight from the water to your cook pot! Laviku's finest, right at yer fingertips! Make an offer!" The last bit sounded like the sign of desperation that it was, and Nellie was sure it would garner some attention.

Nothing. Not even a nibble. The passersby just kept passing by, and Nellie decided to save her breath. This wasn't her favorite way to hawk her wares, in any case; she much preferred taking them directly to her buyers. Lately, it had been a toss-up between the cook at The Drunken Fish and new cook Merv had working for him at the Pig's Foot. Bag of shyke the man might be, but he paid well and had never tried to buy more than what she offered for sale.

Nellie appreciated a man who didn't assume she'd fall into bed at the flash of a silver.

Unfortunately, it was far too late to get the best price for her wares at either location, which was why she found herself still at the market well beyond what the other vendors considered a 'reasonable' chime.

She looked over her 'display' critically, despondently. Though the fish were still relatively fresh, having been netted earlier in the day and left in the water until the last possible moment, they wouldn't keep forever. At least the clams were fresher, even if being soaked in a bucket of briny water wasn't doing them any favors, visually. Still, it kept them cooler and allowed small bits of the grit inside to rinse out, ensuring a tastier end result. If she could find someone to buy the petchin' creatures.

One more scan of the market, one more resigned sigh as she realized she may well end up carting home most of today's catch, where it would surely go to waste. Maybe she could trade at least a portion of it with some of the other vendors still hanging 'round. Dark eyes narrowed, considering, as they locked on the stall across from her own. Tailor, or clothier of some sort, a sad rainbow of brown, grey and black fabrics hung from the stall. Nothing amazing but, then, her fish were no longer amazing, either.

"Oy, girl."

So focused was she on her own thoughts, that it took a few ticks for her to realize that the man was addressing her. When she did, when the rest of his words sunk in, an automatic smile spread across her face; one part welcoming salesgirl, three parts relieved merchant.

Wasting no more than another tick on inspection, Nellie took in the man's appearance: lean, slightly dangerous, but standing - deliberately? - as harmlessly as possible, with his hands stuffed into his pockets. Hopeful. And he'd claimed to have the gold to pay. 'Genuine customer, then,' she decided immediately, and launched into a condensed version of her usual sales pitch.

"Oy, sir," she mocked lightly, not unkindly. "Yer lookin' at the best I've got - clams straight up from the sandy beach of the Bay. None better in th' whole market." Nellie waved her arm expansively, to include the entirety of the mostly-vacated market. There was no way that could be considered a lie, at least; when your clams were the only option, they were also the very best option.

Reaching her hand into the bucket, Nellie grabbed a few of the clams in question. Palm up, she offered them, shells still dripping seawater, for the dark-haired man's inspection.
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Runaway Clams

Postby Noven on September 25th, 2014, 9:59 pm

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So it appeared the lass had a bit of spunk in her. With equal parts sardonic and earnest, she greeted the cook in kind just before boldly stating her wares to be the best in the whole market. Nov wasn't the least bit surprised, this being the Berth and all. He merely grinned and withdrew a gloved hand to rub along the edge of his jaw.

"The best in the market, eh?" Nov repeated slowly, as if not ready to believe the girl. It was all for show, of course. But a necessary show all the same. No transaction was complete in the City of Slums without bartering first. It was a song and dance every native knew by heart. The seller named a price. The buyer countered. The seller re-countered, his offer final and able to go no lower. Then the buyer would make to leave in feigned, scornful disinterest. And, just when the customer's back turned, the merchant would relent, claiming it was hard bargain to be driven and he still had a hoard of children to feed, but money had to be made.

Aye, Noven knew it well enough. And he was as keen as any other local to scrimp every miza he could. The cook opened his mouth to ask the initiate their game of bartering. "How mu--"

It came as a blur. He hardly had time to register what had happened, felt only a rush of wind and heard the frantic pattering of feet. By the time Nov realized his ultimate meal of the season had been stolen by a pair of grubby, urchin hands, the culprit was already halfway out of the market.

Noven bolted after the thief, limbs fueled by a steady stream of unbridled fury.

"You're dead, you fucking runt!" he bellowed as he barreled headlong down the streets. Those who still lingered about shook their heads as they stepped out of the way, all too accustomed to such chases. Some even jeered or laughed at the young man's misfortune. Others swore as they tried to tuck their wares out of harm's way, cursing and grumbling under their breaths about today's rotten youths.

None of that mattered to the cook. Nov's vision tunneled as he hunted down his prey, legs pumping and chest heaving with wreckless speed. At some point, the thief turned around to check if he was still being chased. When he saw the merc's hell bent form thundering toward him, wrath wrought bright as flames across his dark features, the boy near pissed himself and scrambled to run faster. He was at a disadvantage, carrying all those clams and being no where near his pursuer's level of strength and stride. Sooner or later, he was going to get caught.

But not if he hid first.

Nov had no idea what the clam girl was doing at that moment. Whether she was following, throwing a raging fit, or still standing in the same spot, stupefied. He decided he would deal with that later; right now, there was a rat to be killed.

The kid was resourceful, Nov gave him that. He did everything in his power to thwart his chaser--tipped over baskets of fruit, leaped over barrels, made sharp turns at ever corner possible whilst wisely avoiding dead ends. But what he hadn't counted on was for his pursuant to be a veteran of such chases. On both sides of hunter and hunted. Noven had been a trouble maker himself, once. And would have continued living as one, had his only family not died to pay the price for his mistakes.

When the basket tipped, Nov jumped over it. When a barrel blocked his way, he simply shoved it aside with one, muscle corded arm. And whenever the rat turned a corner, Nov was right on his tail, gaining ground inch by inch.

Finally, the thief could think of no more tricks. It had been a hasty decision to steal those clams and he was quickly coming to regret it. But what choice did he have? The deed was done and he needed to escape. He was instinctively sure his life depended on it.

With a panicked moment of quick thinking, the street urchin dove into the first open door he saw and looked for a place to hide.

Behind him, Nov slowed to a stop as he came to the front steps of his prey's chosen place of hiding. A vicious leer stretched across his face. Well, well, well. Perhaps the gods had a sense of ironic justice after all. The cook took a couple ticks to recover from the merry chase, straightened his shirt, and strolled through the doors of Sunset Orphanage.

"Alright, runts," he announced, instantly stealing the attention of every orphan present. They knew his voice better than their own mothers'. "Tell me where the stinking little thief went."


Last edited by Noven on September 30th, 2014, 2:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Runaway Clams

Postby Nellie Hawkins on September 30th, 2014, 12:19 am

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Nellie kept her face as open and friendly as she could while her customer considered the clams. Some of the female merchants had the advantage of beauty, or at least a generous figure to distract men with; Nellie had to rely on a friendly face and an honest expression. Neither of which had ever stopped her from trying to take every advantage that she could, any time she was able.

So she smiled pleasantly, nodded as the man began to speak, and steeled herself for the bartering she knew was to come. Earlier in the day, she would have welcomed a healthy debate over supply and demand, relative value, and whether the sky was blue. But the later it got, the more desperate she became - a fact which most customers would surely be aware of. Having little to no leverage going into the discussion left a sour taste in her mouth, but she was determined to play the game out.

Until she watched her clams being carted away by a dirty little urchin with impossibly fast feet.

"Hey! Get back here, you dirty little shyke! Petch! He's got my clams," she finished, unnecessarily. She didn't even need to spare a glance around to know that none of the other folks in the market gave a shyke about her clams, and most were just glad it was her misfortune and not theirs.

All save her potential customer, who seemed every bit as incensed as she was at the theft. But, while the man gave immediate chase, Nellie wasted precious ticks debating whether the fish were fresh enough to bother with or if she'd be better off trailing the clams in the hopes that the thief would be caught and the man would be willing to pay her - at least something.

Impulsively, she abandoned the fish, cutting her losses to sprint after the urchin and the man.

It was no easy chase, she soon realized. The urchin was a true child of the streets, dodging and diving and throwing obstacles down at every opportunity. While the man chasing was somehow able to not only keep up, but close the distance, Nellie was hard-pressed to stay within sight lines of the two. Though she ran for all she was worth, knees and elbows flying, while the man was able to overcome the roadblocks through agility and sheer brute force, Nellie found herself tripped up by baskets and kicking fruit out of the way.

In spite of her difficulties, Nellie managed to stay reasonably close through several quick turns and sudden changes in direction. Eventually, though, she found herself winded and lagging behind and she gave hearty thanks to whatever god was listening that the chase had, apparently, ended.

As she stood in the dusty street, chest heaving with exertion, Nellie stared. It was all she could do, in any case, but what she saw puzzled her. The man stopped and smiled, sort of. Straightening his clothes, he walked up the steps, clearly sure that he belonged there. Though she was too far away to catch his words, she could hear the tone of his voice and her eyes widened slightly.

There was authority there. Curious now, as well as intent on regaining either her merchandise or its worth in mizas, Nellie stalked up the steps in his wake.
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Runaway Clams

Postby Noven on October 5th, 2014, 8:18 pm

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"Who's that?" Mira pointed behind him, her big, dark eyes narrowing in suspicion.

Nov halted mid-shout and turned around in surprise. "Oh, Clam Girl," he blurted, more or less answering Mira's question. "Glad you could make it to the public lynching of our clam thief."

He turned back to face his charges. "Look sharp, runts!" The cook resumed his earlier speech, albeit with a few extra flourishes now that Clam Girl was present. "This here lady was about to sell those clams to me, and I was about to have myself a proper dinner. But now the clams are gone and she doesn't get paid. And if she doesn't get paid by the end of the night, she's going to get ten of you to help her pick clams a whole miserable, sodding day."

Their collective gulp was deliciously audible.

"Now, go find me the rat who stole my dinner."

The mess hall cleared within eight ticks flat. All he could hear was the pitter-pattering of feet and the occasional scrape of a door opening or piece of furniture being moved, but he had faith in his devious runts. It was only a matter of time now.

While Nov waited though, he was also painfully aware of the Clam Girl's presence still lingering at his back. What was he supposed to do now? Talk to her? Or...something? Egh, talking wasn't an activity he liked very much, unless it was to make threats. That he was good at. Even enjoyed, when the time was right. But normal conversation was about as familiar to him as clean air and honest folk.

Still, he did owe the girl some sort of explanation. Those clams had been her livelihood hood after all, and from the looks of it her only ones for the day at that, given how she'd clearly abandoned her second bucket of fish for the chase.

"Er, the name's Noven, by the way," he spoke reluctantly, half turned to address the lass. "I work for Jillene here. "

She was a lean thing, about a head shorter than him and nearly just as dark in feature. The look of a child of the Berth, this one had. Just like Nov. Just like all the rest of the orphans of Sunset.

Maybe it was the common ground of hardship they clearly shared. Or maybe it was just him going soft thinking about sauteed clams. Whatever it was, it made Noven feel bad for the girl. And he didn't like feeling bad about anything, so he tried his best to make the nagging feeling going away.

"What about you? Or should I keep calling you Clam Girl?" It was the closest thing to a joke he could muster at the moment.

In less time than he'd anticipated, his minions were back. And not without the dirty little thief snaking and wriggling fruitlessly between Mira and Thomas's arms. "I got him!" Thomas announced, haughty as ever.

"You mean we," Mira corrected.

"Whatever. Ouch! Oh, you little b--"

"Enough," Nov interjected, stepping forward to break up the fight before it started in earnest. Eventually, someone handed him the bucket of clams, which he set carefully on one of the wooden tables beside him, and the captive was released into his jurisdiction.

"No, p-please!" the urchin squealed, no longer fighting to get away. It was clear to anyone with a functioning set of eyes that he was no match for the cook. "Don't kill m-me, I was just h-hungry!"

"Well a bucket of raw clams ain't gonna do you much good, idiot," Mira spat.

The thief twisted back to glare at her. "I was gonna cook 'em, obviously."

"Shut up, both of you," Nov snapped. "I don't care if you planned to wear them as a necklace. They're mine now."

He stood up straight, one hand still gripped in a painful vise around the kid's scrawny arm. It was definitely going to leave a bruise come morning.

"Mira, the loaf."

"Oh n-no, p-please!" the kid wailed, thinking loaf was code for a lethal weapon to torture him with. "I'm s-sorry, I really am!"

Noven released him as a gibbering heap onto the floor and tossed something hard at his head. The urchin flinched, convinced his world ought to be exploding in white hot pain right about now. But when it didn't, he looked up from the shelter of his skinny arms in confusion. The thing that had bounced off his head was...was a loaf of...bread.

"Take it and go," Nov hissed as he grabbed the kid by the scruff of his collar. "And if I so much as catch a whiff your shyke-stained scent, I will turn you into fucking stew for my runts to drink. Now get out of here, before this lass here you stole from decides she wants to sell you to a slaver after all."

The kid balked for half a tick. Then he scooped up the stale loaf and bolted out of the doors, likely never to be seen again.

"The rest of you, get to work. I want this place spotless before I come back." A flurry of motion erupted and suddenly every orphan present was holding some form of cleaning equipment or other.

With a tired sigh, Nov sat down on one of the wooden benches and looked up at the girl. "So, how much do I owe you?" he offered, too tired to barter.

"And just a word of advice," the cook added as an afterthought, "you could learn to fend for yourself a bit, lass. Even just a tighter grip on those buckets of yours would help. Dunno how you've survived this long without a weapon of some kind."


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Runaway Clams

Postby Nellie Hawkins on October 12th, 2014, 11:25 pm

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As far as greetings went 'Oh, Clam Girl' ranked right up there with 'Hey, you!'. But Nellie wasn't quick to take offense. The man hadn't waited long enough for her to be offended, in any case, launching right back into his speech. The gaggle of children in front of him looked to be equal parts intimidated, curious, and eager, and no sooner had the man finished speaking than they scattered off to find the thief. A whisper of a smile flickered across her face as she listened; it sounded as though they'd taken the search to heart. Furniture scraped across floors and she could here voices chirping somewhere out of sight as they gave full focus to the task at hand.

Leaving Nellie to stand awkwardly in the room with her would-be customer, nothing left to do but wait for their return. It was a shared discomfort, if the man's silence was anything to go by; his words, when he spoke, seemed pulled from him against his will. Small talk was never improved by force, but his simple introduction at least served to break the ice.

"Nellie. Please," her nose wrinkled involuntarily at his impromptu title. 'Clam Girl' painted a less-than-flattering picture in her mind, and wasn't something she'd generally prefer to answer to. Though, at this moment, with the fate of her gold and her clams up in the air, it would be best to stay on the man's good side. He could certainly decide to keep the clams and pay her nothing, since he'd had to go to the trouble of hunting them down a second time. Hoping to forestall that, she offered him a shadow of her earlier salesgirl smile.

"You work here - watching the children?" Her tone was thoughtful as she eyed him curiously. Though he was clearly respected and feared by the ragtag assortment she'd just seen, Noven didn't strike Nellie as a nurturing type of guy. Something about him suggested he'd be more at home barking orders than playing chase me-catch me with a horde of kids. But maybe the little urchins needed a firm hand? He was obviously well-used to directing them; his tone alone had been enough to send them scurrying.

Her curiosity was left unsated, however; a stomping rush of feet brought the search party back into the room - one person larger. The girl who'd spoken up earlier and another of the children held a struggling boy between them. Though he looked to be about their age, he was clearly not known to the group. Noven's orphans, as she'd already come to think of them, would surely not have handled one of their own with such force. 'Or maybe they would, at that,' she amended after another glance at the dark-haired man.

He was certainly glowering threateningly enough at the little thief. Despite herself, Nelie almost wanted to go stand between the two. Until she saw her bucket of clams and remembered why she'd run off on that frantic chase through the city. That little petcher might look as though he were made of dirt and bone, small and unfortunate - but that hadn't stopped him from trying to steal her hard-won goods. Compressing her lips into a firm line, she chased all thoughts of sympathy away and watched as Noven meted out whatever punishment he saw fit.

When the punishment came in the form of a loaf of bread, Nellie was just as confused as the little shyke mewling on the floor. Realization dawned a bit quicker for her, though, and she struggled to keep her face at least stern if not scary while the little thief scrabbled to grab the bread and bolt out the door to freedom. 'Sell him to a slaver, indeed. I'd probably have to pay someone to take him.' The thought nearly made her grin in earnest, and she shook her head at Noven, amused, as he continued to harangue the remaining kids into clean-up duty.

Amusement which left her face almost immediately when that stern tone was directed at her. Drawing herself up to her, she stared at the man saucily, "Made it this long on my charm an' good looks, of course. Only reason that little shyke was able ta snag my bucket is 'cos I was givin' you the full force of my pearly whites." She smiled widely at him, baring more teeth than was typically considered polite.

Fast calculations whirred in her head while she talked; on a good day, she could get 4 gold coins for those clams - that bucket was full.

Today had most definitely not been a good day, a fact which Noven would know. Why else would she still have been trying to sell the petchin' things so late in the day?

Also, the man had been responsible for the retrieval of the clams.

"1 gold for the clams. Seein' as how you chased 'em down an' all," she offered magnanimously. It was almost laughably low, but in the back of her mind was the niggling reminder that, technically, the clams were no longer in her possession. If he chose to, Noven could just take them and not pay her shyke for the privilege, and he was right.

There wouldn't be a petchin' thing she could do about it, either.
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Runaway Clams

Postby Noven on October 15th, 2014, 12:10 am

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"I cook for them...sometimes," came Nov's less than honest reply to Nellie's question. Working with them just seemed too much like women's work, despite it being true. Even if working with also entailed threatening, punishing, and scaring the shyke out of his charges on a daily basis.

Once everything was said and done--thief found, clams returned, orphans put back to work--it was time to pay up. He was more hellbent than ever now to cook those blasted clams. Chasing after them seemed only to strengthen his resolve.

Not to his surprise, Nellie reacted every bit the proud, saucy Sunberthian that she was to his remarks about her vulnerability. Indignant, flippant, too independent to require help--the usual assortment of responses he got. Women of the Berth were as determined to survive as their male counter parts, but the fact remained that the latter clearly had the upperhand when it came to brute strength. As it stood, men like Noven tended to sit at the top of the food chain. All other categories of citizens--children, beggars, slaves, gamblers, thieves, the elderly, wives, mothers, sisters, and whores--may as well be rabbits in a den of wolves.

That was why gangs had so much power in the City of Slums. While most just wanted enough to scrape by, there were those who hungered for more. And while Nov had never considered himself a willing candidate for any gang, other than perhaps the Scars, in all of that situation's blatant irony, he knew he'd eat a rabbit or two if it meant finding the Daggerhand prick who had murdered the only family he'd ever known.

Nona had been strong. Stronger than anyone else he knew, in both mind and body. But when push came to shove, there was nothing she could do against three mobsters who had about as much conscience as coal. That, and she had grown older, weaker, less agile. Fifteen years ago she may have been able to batter her way out, but not then.

At first, in his maddening grief, Nov had cursed her for being weak. Cursed her love for him, cursed his own existence, cursed the whole world for relentlessly punishing the good while the wicked walked free. Then Noven experienced something of an epiphany after Calyn's subsequent death. That these women, these mother figures in his life, had not died because of weakness...they had died because of a strength he didn't think he'd ever find in his life time. The strength to put aside all else for the ones they loved.

"1 gold for the clams. Seein' as how you chased 'em down an' all."

Nov looked up in genuine surprise this time, torn from his reverie. "Just one?"

The way Nellie had grinned at him, like a puppy playing wolf, and clearly included his rescue of her clams in consideration before laying down the price...it reminded him painfully of all the people he had or would most likely lose in the seasons to come. Calyn, Mae, Tinnie, Dina, Mira...Nona...all women. All twice as likely not to make it past the age of thirty. Just a matter of time, and of probability.

The cook looked down at his hands as his brow furrowed. He'd never been one for large amounts of introspection and thinking. And this was exactly the reason why.

"Alright, one gold it is." He dug into his pockets and fished out a gold miza to slap atop the table. "But with one condition."

Nov looked up at Nellie in complete seriousness. "Charms and good looks are useful and all, but they'll only work until someone wants something bad enough. If you don't believe me, I'll prove it."

Only the gods at this point knew why he gave two figs about whether this girl was going to make it past Winter or not. He had enough on his plate was it was. But for some reason, he was standing up now, ready to invest what felt like ludicrous amount of time to change Clam Girl's mind. "I want you to try and get past me. If you do, I'll pay you double and call it a night. If you don't, you stay here until you can."

Noven stared evenly at her now, arms folded non-threateningly across his chest. He was the only thing between her and the door. "What's it going to be, Nellie?"


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Runaway Clams

Postby Nellie Hawkins on October 20th, 2014, 2:49 am

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The warning in his tone was not unfamiliar to Nellie; in fact, she'd been given the speech several times over the course of her life. She gave Noven about as much credence as she gave anyone else, allowing the words to rush into one ear and straight out the other, more concerned with getting her hands on the coin the man had pulled out than any wisdom he had to impart.

In fact, her hand was snaking out to snatch it up as he issued his 'condition'. Hearing it, she stopped mid-grab and looked at him suspiciously. What she saw confused her.

"What's it going to be, Nellie?"

"You gotta be kiddin' me. 2 gold, just fer gettin' past you?" Her voice held surprise, and a hint of uncertainty. It was far from the oddest thing she'd ever been offered, but so unexpected was it that Nellie thought she'd misheard. But, looking at the scruffy man standing there, she gradually realized he was every bit as serious as he'd sounded.

Noven's face, like his voice, held nothing but cool determination. Gone was the skeptic from the market. Gone, too, the incensed victim of a piss-poor thief. In their place was a blank mask of patience, of calm.

It was almost hard to believe that this was the same man who had so casually and colorfully threatened the little thief, and then rewarded him with bread and freedom. Who had taken charge of the children in the orphanage, ordering them about with the ease of longtime habit - children who, even now, had slowed in their cleaning to watch the scene unfolding. Nellie glared around at them, her own gaze nowhere near as intimidating as Noven's had been. Several of the urchins smirked at her, though one or two had the decency to resume their chores.

Through it all, seemingly oblivious, Noven stood implacably regarding her. Nellie's eyes narrowed as she returned his gaze, stalling for time. She wanted that coin. Needed it. Or she could walk away now without it, if Noven were true to his word. But if she stayed, if she played this game of his and won...

Double.

It was a powerful bargain to a woman used to living hand-to-mouth, with nary an extra coin to her name.

Nellie looked askance at Noven; she had never initiated a physical scuffle before, and most of her experiences revolved around sneak attacks where she was grabbed unexpectedly, forced to use whatever was at hand to break free. Mostly, her attackers were drunk or high or just plain stupid, relying on brute force to win the day. Sometimes there were plenty of weapons at hand - mugs, dirt, clams. Sometimes, as now, there was only her own body to use as a weapon.

With little thought and less planning, Nellie rushed at the man.

In the short time it took her to reach the wall of immovable man in front of the doorway, a half-formed plan involving a knee to the groin had lodged itself in her mind, and Nellie was feeling, if not confident, at least mildly hopeful about her chances. At the last second, she raised her hands, bracing herself for impact, to be grabbed or pulled or caught up; in her experience, it was the opening gambit of most of the men she'd dealt with. Immobilize her arms, and then go in for the slobbery kisses, reeking of sour-ale.

While he was busy restraining her arms, she would use her knee to delivering a withering blow where it would do her the most good. In the best of circumstances, it would render him prone on the ground, writhing and whimpering. If Noven were made of sterner stuff, it should still provide enough of a distraction for her to slip past him, gaining the door and winning the challenge. And two shiny gold coins for her efforts.

Meeting Noven's gaze at close range, Nellie winced in silent apology as she brought her knee up with all the force she could muster.
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Runaway Clams

Postby Noven on October 26th, 2014, 10:00 am

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He watched her deliberate. Tracked the steady but sure progress from pure disbelief and doubt, to only mild doubt, to consideration, then finally to resolve. And by the time that last phase kicked in, Nellie was running full speed.

Ahh, there was the wince. A wince, at the right time, told a lot about the wincer. Completely untroubled by Nellie's transparent intentions, Nov took the time to glean a few assumptions off of the girl's hasty actions. She had a conscience, that much was obvious. Didn't try to exploit him over the clams and actually felt bad about attempting, in the next handful of ticks, to knee him in the balls.

But at least Clam girl was serious about this, he had to give her that much.

Nellie threw up her hands as if to shield herself right before impact. For a tick, the cook was rather surprised she thought up of such a tactic in so short amount of time. Perhaps this one had potential after all.

But the moment of surprise was replaced by sober concentration as Clam Girl got close enough to touch.

Which was when Nov took a quick step back.

Whatever she had planned unraveled in the span of a few, short ticks as her obstacle--and his groin--was no longer within range. She was much smaller than him, too, which meant it didn't take more than a foot or so to render her tactic useless.

Should she lose her balance, Nov would prevent her from landing on the ground by catching her shoulders. He wanted her toughened, not bruised and scraped, though he was wary enough of her resourcefulness to still keep her at a distance. "Nice try. Fighting dirty is a good start, but you're not quite dirty enough. Watch what I do."

Nov waited until Nellie was back on her feet before demonstrating.

"Stay there, don't move."

Raising his fists and pulling his feet apart in an offensive position, the cook wore a look of focus directed solely at Nellie. He took a slow breath, inhaling and exhaling once. Then his expression transformed into something more primal as Nov leaned fast to his right side, extending his left fist just a smidgen to reinforce his intentions. Right before he shifted to the opposite side and threw his right arm straight for Nellie's face, his fist stopping an inch or two from touching her nose.

It all happened fast, within no more than two or three ticks.

"Did you see how I was leaning one way when I attacked, but started on the other side?" he asked, his body and head now returned to center out of sheer habit. "What I just did was called a fake and slip. You tried to do something close in concept, but you forgot one very important thing."

Noven relaxed out of his offensive stance and stood straight before Nellie. "I'm taller than you. Which means attacking me straight on, even with a dirty move, isn't smart."

To prove his point, he extended his arm and fist toward his impromptu student. "Stretch your arm as far as it can go while your forehead is touching my hand." When it became clear enough Nellie's fist could come no where close to touching any part of Nov's body, he lowered his arm and took a step back.

"That's the one, major disadvantage of being shorter. When your larger opponent moves, you are forced to pay extra, no matter what the direction."

He tugged on his gloves, checking to make sure they were secure to prevent any unwanted accidents. "That being said, there's another thing you need to learn that has nothing to do with fighting. You have to walk the talk. Make it look like you really mean what you're about to fake. Otherwise, someone like me will see through your plan in a heartbeat. Don't underestimate how much your opponent can know just by looking at you. Intimidation makes up more than half the fight."

"Now," Nov concluded, beckoning her with one hand to come forward. "Let's practice your fake and slips. And remember, looks matter."


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Runaway Clams

Postby Nellie Hawkins on November 2nd, 2014, 11:08 pm

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Say nothing for going in halfsies; Nellie had committed herself fully to her charge and got nothing but air for her efforts. Though hands reached out, surprisingly fast, to break her fall, the lack of impact left her feeling decidedly disoriented and a bit embarrassed. Next, she knew, would come the laughter, the mockery at her failure to do something so simple as to make her way through Noven and to the door.

In fact, she was so sure that the next words out of his mouth would be demeaning insults that she very nearly missed what he actually said. 'Nice try?' Surprise skittered across her face, to be quickly replaced by skepticism as she watched her 'opponent' set himself in front of her with an intensity that was more than a bit unnerving. Despite his order, Nellie found herself desperately wanting to move back, away, anywhere she wouldn't be the target of Noven's narrow focus.

Almost quicker than her eyes could follow, Noven shifted, his left fist seemingly readied to spring toward her. Unthinkingly, Nellie flinched to the right, sure that she was avoiding what would be a painful lesson in doing so. When his right hand shot out instead, then, she stumbled back a step, exclaiming in surprise. Regarding Noven warily, she remained there, fully aware that, had he wanted to, he could have knocked her to the floor with that punch, claiming both her clams and his gold and doing some serious damage in the process.

She had, for the moment, forgotten the surrounding small urchins who might have caused Noven a moment's hesitation. Realizing they were still quite close by, she breathed a bit easier. Surely Jillene wouldn't employ someone who routinely exhibited such behavior in front of her charges.

Still, the message had been sent and received, and she regarded Noven with new respect, listening as he instructed her on the finer points of what he termed a 'fake and slip'.

Her mouth compressed into a thin line; practice a fake and slip? Another chance to look foolish. But Nellie couldn't deny that knowing how to defend herself, even just a bit more, was worth more clams than she'd been trying to sell the man.

A single nod, a curt agreement, "Okay, I got it," and Nellie was once again squared off in front of the compact, muscular young man, trying to decide on a course of action.

What was it he had done? Nellie felt a twinge of annoyance as she realized that she hadn't paid close enough attention to anything other than his face and his fists the first time around. How had he stood? All she could remember was the unnerving focus of his gaze, the air of tense expectation that had seemed to fill the room as she'd waited for him to move.

Her annoyance turned to anger, and she used it to burn away her uncertainties. he'd said she needed to "walk the talk" and that part, at least, she thought she could manage. It helped that she was genuinely irritated, though at herself. It was only a matter of not trying to hide it. Her eyes narrowed slightly, face tightening in on itself as she balled her hands into fists at her sides. Raising them, she moved her feet into what felt like a sturdy stance, her right foot slightly in front of her left foot.

She intended to mirror Noven's earlier attack. It was predictable, she supposed, but the only example she had to draw from and she used it as best she could. Of course false bravado only served her for so long, and when it came time to put feelings to actions, her movements were much slower, clumsier than his had been. Her left fist twitched in the air and she awkwardly made the transition with her feet, striking out with her right fist. Only loosely closed, even if she hit the man it would be a glancing, light blow; she extended her arm fully, anyway, determined to give it her best shot.
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