Flashback Like Fire

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A lawless town of anarchists, built on the ruins of an ancient mining city. [Lore]

Moderator: Regime

Like Fire

Postby Victus on November 22nd, 2014, 11:35 pm

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13th Day of Spring, 504AV
Tall Johnny's Casino and Cage Fights


He was in his fifteenth Spring when he first met her. By then, the boy not yet reached manhood could have fooled everyone else: he'd grown tall and broad of shoulder, with muscles and scars to match his fierce gaze. His training had consumed him and there was an air of deadly focus everywhere his feet trod, as if he were always a fraction away from the violence he'd been so schooled in.

Then he met her, and the air cleared. For a while.

But this is not a city of romantics and sweethearts; this is a hole of villainy and lawlessness, and like most of the tales in the boys life, it truly started with-

-a fist like a bag of golf balls slamming into Victus' nose.

The Talderan was a pale slab of muscle covered in tattoos like runes. Red hair poured down from his scalp and chin like fire clinging to his face, so thick that you couldn't tell he even had a mouth apart from when he grinned, showing crooked yellow teeth. Victus shook his head and slid away from the next jab, not willing to have his nose smashed into his brain.

Strong. Smart. But he's getting ahead of himself.

Around them both, beyond the iron and stakes of the cage, the crowd bayed for whoever's blood came first, or they had coin laid upon. Victus was aware of them, but hardly heard them. He'd been two years in the cage now, and while it as a sop to his ego to have a crowd cheer his name when he won, he'd lost enough to know they had the loyalty of alley cats.

So he tuned them out, and concentrated on the smirking hulk in front of him.

The Talderan swung wide with a haymaker and again Victus slid away from him, to his side. The fire-capped brawler's grin melted into a snarl of frustration and he steamed closer, arms jabbing out in a flurry, not letting Victus get away, forcing him to take his bruised knuckles across his battered forearms, up in a guard-

-not expecting the sweeping low kick that slammed into the side of his knee-

-making him yelp in pain and stagger, a frozen second of surprise and pain-

-all Victus needed to lunge towards him as soon as his foot got back under him-

-jerking his left knee up as he sailed up and forward-

-slamming it square in the Talderan's guts.

Whatever tremor to his vision the bearded man's blow had done for his vision, it cleared right up when Victus saw the man sail backwards, arms flailing like a stage clown, until he slammed into the edge of the cage, head narrowing missing a spike. Confidence and early celebration knocked out of him along with air, the man doubled over for a moment as he recovered his breath, glaring out from under his eyebrows thick as mating caterpillars.

Ignoring the snot and blood pouring from his broken nose, Victus put up both his taped hands, smirked... and beckoned him forth.

That should do it.

The Talderan's mouth split open in a maw of screaming outrage as he charged, big arms swinging furiously, scattering beads of sweat. Victus swayed back and away from him, smirk not leaving his face, knowing from experience that such goading could be as effective in the cage as steel around your knuckles.

His opponent swung again, no form, no rhythm, and Victus swayed to his right as a sweeping right hook blew past him-

-right arm already cocked back, swinging up and inward as the Talderan stumbled forward, too much of his body behind that wild swing-

-and crunched his elbow into the side of the man's head like.

Again the crowd bellowed its approval. Glasses and mugs and steins were thrust into the air, a rain of foaming booze and sizzling saliva from drunken, blood-thirsty mouths. Victus circled the Talderan as the man went down to one knee, breathing so hard he was shaking, one hand up at his head, the other fisted on the floorboards...

Victus flexed his shoulders and suppressed a wince. Well. That wasn't as bad as he'd... then he crinkled his nostril, or tried to, and let out a low curse... hmm... at least the prick got one good slug in, anyway. The Talderan looked up at him, calm and poised, untouched save for a battered nose... and he shook his head.

Victus closed his eyes for longer than he should have. His lips moved in a prayer of gratitude to that faceless goddess in his alcove: She of Victory and Battle, Master had called her, when he'd given the slave his gift the night before his first fight. The low, venomous whispers within the boy faded to nothing as he felt that... glow... that warmth of accomplishment, of worth, or purpose...

That fleeting instant where he was triumphant, and no man's slave.

Above him, Johnny sipped at his wine and smiled to himself. Once again, his little pet had done well, and he was showing signs of improvement. A few chimes was all the fight had lasted, and that would need to be remedied in the future - the longer goes, the more they drink and gamble - but he was... becoming something of a showman, even if he wasn't aware of it.

The immaculately-dressed lord of the casino chuckled and rested his head on a fist. Little Victus. Grown up fast. He nodded to one of his flunkies and the stubby little man walked away to put the word out: start collecting from the losers, paying out the winners, and loaning to the desperate. Johnny especially liked the last one.

He'd never have got Victus without it.

Then the crowd groaned- no, it hissed, like a thousand snakes under an upturned rock, and Johnny's gaze went back to the cage-

-frown vanishing as his eyebrows shot up his forehead-

-and he saw the Talderan pull a dagger from the back of his breeches and lunge at Victus, roaring out his hatred.

The slave's eyes snapped open and his vision was filled with a red mane attached to a muscular body and a gleam of steel grasped tight in his hand. Victory turned to ash in his mind and it wouldn't work, instinct was slow, and his heart-

-skipped-

-and he didn't back up fast enough before the Talderan slashed a vicious cut in his side, sharp blade scraping bone and gouging through flesh and fat.

Victus screamed and it was only partly pain. The rules had been clear that night: no fatalities. That didn't happen unless Johnny allowed it, and there were guards with crossbows ready to ensure men who thought themselves above his will died quickly after ignoring it.

The slave grunted as he backed up, slapping a hand to his torso and finding it sticky, warm, filthy with his own life. It leaked between his fingers and poured down his side. Then the Talderan lurched again, still woozy from that elbow but powered fast and desperate by rage, uncaring now as to the consequences, jabbing out at his throat with the dagger-

Victus stepped and swayed to his side, knees bent as the Talderan closed on him-

-then exploded outward and tackled the man up into the air, grabbing him around the torso-

-then slamming him down hard onto the floorboards-

-just as that knife came for him again, the Talderan squirming and kicking desperately, slashing without aim or reason behind his wide, mad eyes-

Victus jerked his hands up and wrapped them both around the offending wrist, slamming it down onto the floor-

-and the Talderan got a leg around him, back of his knee suddenly wrapping around his throat, pushing him back, back, back... until he couldn't breath. Couldn't let go of the wrist holding the dagger, and the red-haired man knew it, grinning savagely as he knew-

THUNK! THUNK!

Two quarrels appeared in his chest in the space of a blink. Snarling victory turned to sheer shock at the sight, and suddenly Victus couldn't tear himself away, either. Both men stared at the bolts pinning the bear of a man to the ground, still trying to breath through pierced lungs and coughing up nothing but bubbling blood instead.

Until the last one ripped through his throat and the light left his eyes like a candle softly blown out.

Johnny glared down at the scene even as the crowd laughed and cheered, as if his faceless enforcers were the stars of the show. But they had come for blood, and whether it be healed or mortal, they didn't much care. He crooked a finger and another stooge trotted over. He didn't take his eyes off Victus, bleeding and wincing and staggering upright.

"Get him downstairs and patch him up. Throw the other out into the alley. Have the girl tend him. She needs to learn, anyway..."

Later on, he'd shake his head and smack himself at his carelessness. But after so long thinking of someone as nothing but a man with a sword (or his fists), you forget he's also a boy with a cock.
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Like Fire

Postby Victus on November 23rd, 2014, 7:41 am

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Like all things, the high didn't last forever. The first half-bell or so, Victus barely felt his wounds. His whole body pulsed and tingled from the thrill of his victory, as if his own flesh were rewarding him with numbing, throbbing exhilaration. His nose was a dribbling mess and his side still leaked and soaked his breeches... but he didn't notice.

That didn't hold for long, though.

By the time he'd taken a few swigs of strong, foul liquor to numb him further, his body had decided he'd been babied enough. Then every twitch and shift on his bed was rewarded with aches and stings, not numbness. The slave grunted as he brushed his hands experimentally across the bruises he'd accrued... the gash just below his ribcage... the pulpy mess on his f-

"Petch it!"

A high giggle like a bell's peal answered his growled curse, and he glared at the source of it. At least initially. A girl stood there, arms laden with bottles, a roll of thread, a ball of gauze and a needle sticking from her lips like a cigarillo. Black hair hung lank and long around face, which bore the gaunt look of slaves across the city. She didn't look much older than him, but... that was hardly a great indicator, either.

One grows fast in a nest of vipers, lest you want to be the next course at the feed.

What struck him more, however, was the lack of fear in her eyes. Instead a sardonic smile that added miles to her face flitted over her lips. She walked over to him and placed her goods carefully on the little table by his beds, her accent stilted and definitely foreign.

"You were expecting it not to hurt, hmm?"

Victus felt a sharp retort on his lips but bit his tongue instead. He watched her douse a rag in something that smelled even worse than his liquor, wringing the excess off and brace her free hand on the side of the bed.

"This will hurt."

He rolled his eyes. Like this was his first time...?

"Fine. Suffer in silence, then... handsome."

His eyes widened and darted to her-

-just as her hand thrust out and pressed the sodden, smelly rag against the open gash.

Instantly Victus stiffened and gritted hard on his teeth, feeling his molars grind together and his fists ball into his thin sheets until his knuckles were white blotches against his dark skin. The girl didn't even flinch, nodding once to herself in satisfaction instead.

"There's for the infection, anyway..." She swiped the stinging rag across the gash and Victus imagined himself anywhere but there, with a hundred needles stabbing into his open wound. Sweat sprang onto his forehead and his eyes became a blank, glassy mask, staring straight ahead. "The bleeding doesn't look too bad..."

Once the wound was cleaned and all that was left around it was dried blood, she swapped out her rag for a needle and thread. Again, the slave watched in silence. Watched as she stuck out the tip of her tongue, focused and steady-handed as she delicately speared the eyes of the needle with the thread, then tied it off adroitly. Watched as she methodically ran the little length of metal through the candle's flame, further "cleaning" it. Watched as her hand reached out to his chest-

His breathing hitched and caught in his mouth. His brow furrowed and his hands curled again into fists. Her hands were warm and smooth, not the leathery, callused pads he had come to expect from slaves. The girl noticed his stiffening body and her eyes flicked to his-

Green. Like emeralds or Spring's grass or the tropical waters he'd never seen. There was surprise in them, amusement perhaps... but no fear.

Victus' lips parted a fraction, and the girl smiled a little wider. She knew that look; that male uncertainty in a woman's touch... or was it just inexperience? Either way, her master had given her a job to do and she applied a little more pressure, trying to-

"Lie back." She said quietly. "This will be easier if you lie back."

Victus did as he was told. She waited until he was comfortable on his cot, eyes never leaving hers, before she cocked her head to one side, hair swaying and catching the light like spilled ink as she regarded him.

"You don't speak much, do you?" Silence answered her, fittingly enough, but she pressed on. "Did they take your tongue?" The boy - for that was what he still was, as he had just shown her - shook his head. "Then why remain silent, hmm?"

The cage fighter's expression hardened a fraction and the girl thought she'd gone too far. So she shrugged instead and felt around the gash with her free hand, pinching the wound closer together at the sides, speaking without looking up.

"This will hurt more."

She wasn't joking. Victus had been sewn up before but it never got easier, compounded further by the fact it was such a wide slash in him. For the first chime, the first dozen piercings and pullings into his skin, he grunted his breaths out one by one, until he couldn't retreat further into himself anymore and decided to escape outward with-

"Master prefers I don't."

The industrious needle ceased for a moment, and those green eyes find him again. Even in the low light of the slave quarters, Victus can see every contour of her face. There's still curiosity in her eyes; questions, vibrancy, life. Part of him feels a swell of sorrow for that: it won't be long before the hope they all spring from his crushed.

He knows Master. He likes his slaves broken.

"Why?"

Case in point: uttering the word guaranteed to get a slave beaten into the ground, presuming to require the logic behind her orders. But it wasn't an order, was it? This was one slave talking to another, and though Sunberth was filled with them from all corners of Mizahar, there was a bond in bondage between them all.

We are shackled and cowed and chattel to rich and careless men, but we are not alone in that.

"He says it looks... better." He manages to bite the words out, shaking the sweat from his face and sending his thin dreadlocks flapping around his head for a moment. "The crowd likes it more. He says it makes me... er, brooding. That was the word. More intimidating I supp-"

The word was cut off by a grunt as she pulled tight on the needle, wound sucking shut as she finished her needlepoint for the night. She leaned down to his side and Victus felt her breath lap across his flesh.

He held his own, as if in the doing he could freeze that moment. His eyelids closed for a moment, shutting out the dank, dark room and channeling his mind to that feeling. Had he ever had a woman's breath on him? He didn't think so.

But instead she bit off the excess thread and carefully bound it back up to the rest of the roll. "Waste not", and all that. Then she unfurled a length of hemp bandage and started wrapping it around his torso, covering much of his belly and back and the fresh stitches.

"I can see that," she said conversationally, "An... air of mystery, hmm?"

"You do that a lot?"

"Do what?"

"Hmm", he imitated her curious little warble as best he could, and she showed him a flash of her teeth, "That."

"You don't like it?"

"I just noticed. Why would you care if I didn't?"

"I don't."

Well, that left them at an impasse, conversation-wise. The girl shrugged into the silence and got on with the real task at hand: his nose. Her hands reached out for him and Victus resisted the urge to flinch away from them. She'd obviously been sent down there for a reason, and he couldn't very well leave his face looking... well, like someone had just smashed a hammer into it, really.

Yet he wanted to shy from her like a dog from a stranger. His eyes were still narrowed by his frown but they still seemed wide, uncertain and lost in unfamiliar territory.

The girl sighed as she splayed out her hands on either side of his skull, gently massaging and touching around his nose with her thumbs. Victus suppressed a shudder. It was... intimate, in a way. That sense of a person's flesh to encompassing your vision, the scent of their labors so close to you...

"Quite a punch, hmm?"

"Indeed." He replied dryly, then with a quirk at one corner of his mouth, added just as dryly: "Hmm."

"Mocking me, boy?" She said, but her eyes did not match her tone. "Not wise, jesting with the woman charged with making you handsome again."

"I did not know I was handsome."

"You still are," she said quietly, then locked eyes with him as her thumbs found some kind of stopping place. "Definitely worth a kiss or three."

Victus' eyes went wide and his mouth opened to-

Crunch!

"Petching shitting buggering FUCK!"

Now he jerked from her grasp, and with good bloody reason. Her thumbs had pushed upward with surprisingly force for such a young woman, crunching his crooked septum back where it was meant to go. Victus ignored the fact he could smell again without inhaling his own blood; concentrated instead on glaring at her from above his hand as he covered his nose.

"Oh, don't be a child," she said with a weary sigh, already rummaging through her wares for more salve and gauze, "I needed to reset it, and it's better and quicker if you're distracted first."

"And that... hnnnf... is how you distract a man?!"

"A man? Yes. A woman? Well, that depends. And it worked, didn't it?" She giggled again as his mouth opened and closed, trying and failing to find a response. She shook her head and her hair practically danced. "You should see your face. Like a cornered kitten."

"I am not!"

"Poor kitten."

Victus bared his teeth, lips curled back like an angry cur and it had about as much effect on her as that of said kitten. An eyebrow quirked and she doused a fresh rag in salve, shaking her head.

"I've been around hard men my whole life, boy. Showing some teeth and glaring at me with your brow all crushed doesn't do it for me." She leaned closer and he backed away, expression sliding from aggressive to sullen in a blink. "Oh, gods, boy, stop it. I still need to clean up your face."

"I can do that."

"Master Johnny ordered me to-"

"Stitch up my side and set my nose?"

She frowned, unsure how he'd known that. It was a wild guess but Victus had gotten lucky. "How did you know-"

"I didn't." He said with a triumphant smirk that still stung. "You just told me. You have done both. So off with you."

A flush rose swift to her cheeks as she breathed in sharply, back straightening like an iron rod. Her eyes squinted at him briefly and her lips pursed. Victus felt a tremor of unease that he immediately beat back down. She was but a girl, he would not be-

"Fine. Be like that." Now the words came out quick and sharp as aimed arrows, punctuated by her angrily packing her supplies into a small sack. "The least you could do is thank me, hmm?"

Victus rallied at that, leaning forward with scorn thick on his tongue.

"Well, hmm, since you were just ordered to do it, maybe I should thank Master."

"He didn't do it! I did!"

"Oh, and you would have done it without orders?" He snorted and shook his head.

"I might have, actually!"

"Oh? And why's that?"

"Because-"

Victus was no seasoned hand with women, but even a blind man could see she had walked off some verbal cliff. Her feelings warred and the battle spilled from her eyes, a torrent of brawling emotions he could not place but knew, beyond reason and rationale, were related somehow to him. He sat there in surprised silence, waiting for her to finish... but she didn't.

Instead she rose, smoothed down her simple slave's blouse and glared down at him.

"What do you care, anyway? Just another thug who lives to hurt people. You would never understand."

She whirled and her hair swung angrily after her. Victus watched her march away, bearing as proud as she could make it and far more refined than a slave's should have been. Doubt and guilt forced their way past his childish bravado and before she managed to reach the door-

"My thanks to you, ki-" She paused, turned to him with a hawkish gaze. Victus felt himself wilt and then straighten under it. He stood unsteadily and nodded his head at her. "Kind... girl."

She stood as still as an ice stature and just as cold. Victus felt the opposite, and some squirming chunk of him wanted her to leave, answer or come back to him... but instead she nodded back to him.

With a smile. That smile. The first one he saw.

"You are welcome."

Then she was gone, and after he'd spent much longer than she would have gingerly washing his face and cleansing the blood and dried snot from it, he lay in his cot and stared at the ceiling. He fell to slumber with ease, after most fights. They exhausted him as much as any man, and lack of sleep was hardly good for his training.

But the slave who was still a boy, much as he hated to admit it, couldn't shake the face that intruded between every blink of his eyes. That wry, knowing smile. The sharp tone and fearless green eyes. She was no great beauty, not one to turn heads, but she had such... vitality, still in her. He'd felt it through her fingers as surely as he would fire from a torch.

Victus closed his eyes and his nose throbbed like something had taken residence in his nostrils, but still he smiled. His mind slid to the Dreamscape after a goodly while, and laughing green eyes were waiting for him.
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Like Fire

Postby Victus on November 24th, 2014, 1:00 am

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Seven night later, Victus knew the hollowness of defeat. It happened. The slave didn't know much in the way of mathematics, but he knew the odds after three years brawling in the cage. Eventually, he had to lose.

Not that Master made the pain any easier to deal with afterwards.

"What in the name of the shit-stained hells were you thinking out there?"

Victus knew better than to answer. He just stared at the floor between his legs, watching the blood drip from his face and pool onto it. Master didn't want to hear him speak: he wanted him to sit there and take his lashing like a good slave.

"You had him, I know it. The first few chimes you were dancing around him and then... what?"

The slap was so unexpected it shook his entire body, but all Victus could do was cringe.

The cage wasn't there anymore. Outside of it he was... nothing. Just a slave. No, less than that: a slave that could not do what his Master ordered. The thought ran around his head and his glassy gaze grew duller.

He barely felt his cracked ribs and his broken face. He just wanted sleep to come and obliterate this feeling, take him away to oblivion. But Johnny wasn't finished. He grabbed his hair and jerked him up, moustached face no longer charming and well-wishing to all. Now it was twisted and sweaty with fury, inches from his own, so close he could smell the stink of wine and disappointment.

"Answer me!"

"He was..." Victus' voice was so small. Still a boy. No friends to speak of, no-one to turn to. Just a raging master and the succession of indifferent thugs he sparred with. "... he was stronger, master. I tried, and-"

Another slap, so hard it made his ears ring and sent another spatter of crimson to the floor.

"Tried?! The petch does tried get me, boy?! Nothing! Nothing but a lighter purse! Your form was all over the place, boy! You were cocky, overconfident." His voice softened by a hair, as if imparting wisdom through his rage. "What have you been taught, hmm? Never underestimate your enemy in the cage."

"I'm sorry, mast-"

The third slap knocked him onto the bed and Victus couldn't find the strength to rise. But he still willed himself not to shake, tremble, cry, do all the things he ached to do. Not in front of Master.

"Fuck you and fuck your sorry, you pathetic pile of trash. Seven years," he snarled, dragging out the last words with disgust, "Fuck knows how much coin wasted on you, and what is my reward, hmm? Failure. Lost income. Disgrace upon my name because I put it above your head... and you failed me."

Victus stared into the pillow and waited for the beating to come. Some shred of him longed for it; physical pain was much easier than this. Better than the reminder that he was... and would always be...

Shadows shuffled and grunted beyond his eyes, circling his bed like vast vultures. He heard the familiar sound of wood tightening in sweaty palms. Then those rough palms were all over him, forcing him flat on his back, two on either side, shoulder and hip, exposing his back to the ceiling.

"This is the price for failing me," Master hissed, and Victus could have snorted at the cheap, cliched threat. But he didn't. He couldn't. He was a slave, and slaves took their beating. "Until he is raw and penitent, boys..."

Victus screwed his eyes shit and buried his head in the pillow. He didn't want them to see his eyes as the blows came down like lightning.

It went on and on and on. Soon they were just smearing blood around with blood and the canes smacked straight onto bone through exposed fat. The pain had long since become this... dull, detached thing. His body experienced it, but Victus had shrunk far into himself. Tears flowed from his eyes and he did not feel them. They tumbled from eyes over a face set in stone. Finally they were panting and cursing and he heard a familiar bass rumble.

"Thats enough for tonight. Little cunt's learned his lesson..."

Victus let a shaky, whispery sob of relief leave his lips. Now he could sleep. He knew what would follow on these nights. He could let himself drift away from this dirty, hateful place. There he could be something more, and only in the Dreamscape, it seemed, could he see beyond the cage.

It was so seductive. The sweat and the pain he swallowed, then roared back out tenfold. The victory he gained and that swell of purpose that carried him up past the chandeliers.

And then there were those nights. Shame and emptiness and all the memories of his past rushing into his mind at once. He was a child again, not a fighter; shrinking away from their laughter with his hands over his ears.

"Patch him, girl. Mmmm... and stick around after..."

Victus' eyes snapped open. Girl? The girl? His neck seemed covered in burning ice but he gritted through it and turned his head-

Saw that hair he thought of lank but now in his fevered mind it was the fall of dark stars. Her head was bowed before the hulking muscle Johnny employed, looking so small next to his leering bulk. Victus felt the rage come back like a firestorm from the merest ember, overriding his stiff, numb limbs as he tried to rise-

Green eyes flashed to him, across shadows and candlelight. They pinned him there with a silent warning, almost a plea.

Don't do anything stupid.

"Yes, sir."

Victus felt the smile creep across his face, uncaring it exposed bloody gums. He'd missed that voice, though it pained him to hear it so small... but steady. Not the timbre of fear he was used to hearing from Johnny's slaves. The enforcer left and the girl approached him, a familiar sack in her hands that he unpacked on the table. Her eyes swept his back and he saw her throat tighten in disgust, discomfort-

Then his hand moved by itself, without his mind deciding a thing-

-and his bruised fingers closed around that soft, warm hand.

She froze. She'd had men paw her before, it was... something she resigned herself to. She wasn't even human in their eyes: just a comely face and soft curves they could spend themselves in. The lust that they reeked of had become a stink she had long endured.

But she sensed none of that on this boy, battered and brutalized, broken and not a shadow of the growling, careless brute she'd tended before.

Two souls regarded each other, bound by that simple contact. Victus wet his lips and managed to croak: "I never... learned your name..."

She smiled, and the pains of his night melted from his being. He smiled back.

"Haybah. My name is Haybah."
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Like Fire

Postby Royal on January 13th, 2016, 6:52 pm

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