Solo A Haunting

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

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A Haunting

Postby Shakune on May 12th, 2015, 6:22 pm

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86th Spring, 515AV
"Havzi, bolt lock the door behind me will you please?" Shakune threw the request over her left shoulder as she walked out the door of her small home. Her resident slave would abide by the order, she knew without a doubt. The girl probably didn't even need asking, but reminders couldn't hurt. It was better if Shakune was regarded as nagging than it would be to return to Havzi having been terrified by the Sunset Quarter terrors.

As she stalked away from the house, Shakune considered how the relationship with her slave was forming. She'd never entertained the idea of having a slave before - to own another person was immoral in her mind. But then Havzi had been given to her, and out of fear for the girl's wellbeing, Shakune had accepted the gift. To begin with, the courier had felt so awkward around the younger girl that they'd barely said a word to each other. Both were cautious of each other. Havzi expected her new owner to be as brutal as her previous claimants. She'd leant early on that a good slave did not speak until spoken to. And so the silence between them had extended. For Shakune, the prospect of owning a person made her feel unbelievably guilty and uncomfortable.

But slowly, those one-off comments developed into timid conversations. Shakune learnt just how long Havzi had been in slavery. The girl had no memories of a free life, though she did seem to recall living with a faceless mother and distant father in Ravok. She also had an eye for business. That became evident early on when Shakune initially explained Havzi's new role within No Questions Couriers. She hoped the girl would become the face of her business, serving the customers each day whilst Shakune ran about the city delivering parcels and letters. Havzi had happily agreed to this, stating that she had previously worked in a similar row. She'd vowed her dedication to Shakune and the business.

Another promise had been made that day, as well. Havzi would not die a slave, not if Shakune could help. She planned on paying Havzi a wage at the turn of each season, as she would any other employee. If the girl was smart with her money - as Shakune expected her to be - and business was good enough, Havzi would be able to afford her freedom within the year. She could, of course, reside with Shakune as long as she needed. After all, the girl was an asset to the business. There was a potential benefit to be made by all parties if Havzi remained in Sunberth for at least a short while.

She brushed her thoughts aside, deciding instead to focus on the task on hand. Ever since the season change from winter to spring, Shakune had been somewhat obsessed with her fitness levels. Before her close encounter with a slaver, the courier had allowed herself to get complacent. She'd spent her nights drinking, gambling and screwing. The mornings, therefore, were spent hung-over and making awkward conversation with whichever male or female had shared her bed. But no longer. Now Shakune appreciated the simple ability to walk the city as a free woman. She would not allow her attitude or body to soften again.

So she trained. She trained with her khopesh, but also running and jumping to ensure that if she was chased by slavers again, the half-breed would be able to actually escape her assailants.

Today, her focus was on of the former. As usual, Shakune began her exercise with a stretch; she reached her arms out forwards, bent down to touch the urine-stained cobbles. After wiping her hands on her trousers, the courier stretched out her legs and neck.

And then she started jogging.

She was slow at first, pacing herself and keeping her breathing regular until Shakune was cleared out of the Sunset Quarters. She built up her speed, eyebrows knotted together as she concentrated on keeping her breathes as slow as possible. In... out... She clenched her abdominal muscles to blow out a lungful of air, counting her steps before she inhaled again deeply.

Sweat began to break out on her hairline, but the courier pushed onwards. The city began to pass her; the taverns, the empty shacks that no doubt concealed all kinds of secrets. She turned left down an alleyway, prancing on the flat surfaces of the cobblestones to avoid the uneven footing and the risk of falling flat. The backstreet was littered with slacks of wood and piles of rubbish. Usually, Shakune would slow to a walk at this stage, but today she fancied a challenge. She built up her speed, black eyes focused on a small chuck of questionable material that lay in front of her.

For a brief tick, Shakune looked like a puppet or rag doll thrown in the air. Her arms exploded outwards, her legs splayed unnaturally underneath her. She was wholly uncoordinated, and had anyone been watching, they'd no doubt explode into laughter. But nevertheless, she managed to clear the rubble pile and land the other side -- even without falling down, though she did have to cling onto the wall for balance.
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Last edited by Shakune on May 25th, 2015, 3:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Shakune
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A Haunting

Postby Shakune on May 12th, 2015, 7:59 pm

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With a majestic smile and prideful look, Shakune glanced over her shoulder to check out the great obstacle that she had just overcome.

Hindsight was an ugly thing. It tainted even those moments Shakune was most proud of, and this instance was no exception. The great pile of discarded things she had just jumped over did not even reach up to her knee. It hadn't been so much as an obstacle as it was a mild inconvenience. She could have just as easily stepped over it, with her long desert legs.

A little miffed, the courier turned her back on this challenge and searched for a worthier adversary. Sunberth was a place with plenty of choices: people often abandoned unwanted things in random alleyways. Gods, there was probably a half-rotten body somewhere near by. Her eyes fell to a discarded wooden box, partly collapsed but otherwise intact. This would serve as a far better challenge.

Shakune pushed herself into a sprint. Her legs pounded the cobblestones desperately, her arms swung at her side. All focus on her extended breathing was gone; the courier was focused solely on her upcoming obstacle. She pushed off, her leading leg reaching forward and arms splaying outwards. Time slowed down.

But her shinbone collided painfully with the box; Shakune's jump had not been high enough for her to clear the obstacle. She fell in a heap on the empty container, which subsequently collapsed under her weight. The courier, utterly humiliated at her failure, leaped upwards and glanced up and down the alleyway. Thankfully, she was alone. Nobody had been her make an arse of herself: that was good, at least.

How can one person be so uncoordinated?

And there was Shakune thinking that she was fairly graceful when sober.

She gave a sigh, shaking her head in disappointment. But Shakune was not the type of woman to linger over failure. After ensuring that she had not damaged herself, the courier continued on her run, taking every precaution to ensure she did not stumble or fall over again.

It was when she was on the outskirts of the city - or rather, the bleary collection of abandoned buildings that served as Sunberth's borders - that she someone was watching. A pickpocket, she assumed. So Shakune pushed onwards, not allowing herself to come to a stop or to pay attention to the distant copper-haired woman who watched her expressionlessly. After making a fool of herself earlier, she wasn't about to allow herself to be mugged.

Ten chimes later. Sunberth stood away from Shakune now. it lingered over her like a nosy parent. The Dust bed lay to her right, but the courier paid the graveyard no attention. The gloominess, the ever-present sense of death of the place, freaked her out. Despite her bolshiness, Shakune had little tolerance for blood, gore or death. Mortality was not something she liked to be reminded of. But on this occasion, something made the courier steal a glance towards the graves.

What she saw made the courier come to a jolting stop.

A pale face watched her with an unwavering gaze. Shakune recognised that face: it was the pickpocket who'd been watching her earlier. But the realisation that this woman wasn't some petty criminal was slowly dawning on Shakune. No, this woman was something else altogether. Her shape was quivering and ethereal. When the redhead moved slowly towards Shakune, she did so without taking a step. Her movements were smooth, almost like silk blowing in the breeze.

But then she must have taken a step, because suddenly the woman was two feet closer to the half-breed than she had been previously. The courier backed away, but found herself unable to flee despite every nerve in her body commanding her to do so. In another blink, the woman was ever closer. At this rate, she'd be on top of Shakune within the chime. A sickness crept up her the courier's belly.

A cold air touched her coppery skin, and finally the courier had a name for this strange and unnerving experience.

A ghost.
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A Haunting

Postby Shakune on May 12th, 2015, 8:53 pm

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I should be more scared Shakune considered mildly, her mind somewhat separated from her body. Ghosts were something to be feared, naturally. They were sprits that hadn't yet moved onto the afterlife - whatever the petch that meant - so they were unnatural. Some, it was said, clung onto the solid world to seek revenge, haunting those who'd previously wronged them. Shakune shuddered. There was probably a good two dozen people who'd want to haunt her.

But despite this, she wasn't scared. Shakune had only met one ghost before, and he'd been rather friendly, if not a little tragic. Nevertheless, the courier was nervous. Though she stood her ground, those black eyes darted around for a sign of safety or a weapon. What kind of thing could damage a ghost, after all?

The figure loomed ever closer. Shakune could see her in more detail now. The woman was deathly pale (well, I suppose you are dead, Shakune thought), with straight copper hair that was half-pinned back neatly. The woman's petite face was centred with two large blue eyes. She looked like a deer, or some such cuddly helpless creature. But her demure appearance wasn't what caught Shakune's attention. It was the ugly, bloody red scar that stained her white dress and stretched right across the woman's belly.

The woman's very pregnant belly.

Shakune's eyes widened with a newfound horror. This ghost was pregnant. Or had been pregnant. There was no disguising or doubting this fact. Her skinny frame completely ballooned around the middle in an unmistakeable way.

"Hello." The ghost's voice was as gentle and timid as her physical appearance seemed, "my name's Bridie Salt. I've heard you've been looking for me."

"Bridie?" The world around Shakune shuddered and quaked. She felt lightheaded and yet heavily chained to what was happening in front of her. Bridie Salt was the name of her father's wife, who'd died long before Pa Salt had even met Shakune on the docks of Zeltiva. She'd died in childbirth. Yet again, the courier eyed the woman's pregnant slashed belly. Somehow, she managed to string together a follow-up sentence "you were married to Alfie Salt." She stated, using Pa Salt's first and proper name.

Bridie's ghost frowned and tilted her head inquisitively. Her wide eyes stared up at Shakune, holding a mixture of confusion and amazement in them. She did not seem to comprehend why Shakune had used the past tense in her previous statement. "He's still my husband. Do you know where he is?"

Dead at sea.

Shakune licked her lips. Despite the ghost's apparent calm and quiet nature, she felt that speaking too bluntly about the reality of her father's demise would sour this otherworldly conversation all too quickly. Plus, night was slowly wheeling into Sunberth. Shakune did not want to be left out of the relative safety of the city with only a dead woman for company. "I know your husband, yes."

"Do you know where he is? Our children like to hear about his day at work before bedtime."

Of course. Bridie and Alfie Salt had had two other children before the former died giving birth to their third. Roseanne and Larke Salt. The Gods only knew where they were now. Shakune presumed they had also died; why else would their biological father opt for a life at sea? She considered the ghostly woman before her. The cloudy air that surrounded Bridie swirled and danced slowly. Was it possible that this woman was not Bridie Salt, but some dead conwoman? Would ghosts even bother to fool the living?

Why not? What else was there to do when you're dead?

Shakune decided to confirm what she already knew. Pa Salt would expect no less from her, after all. "What are your children called?" She winced instinctively, preparing herself for the ghost's answer.

Bridie gave a small titter and proud smile. "Roseanne and Larke. Rosie is two years old, Larke is just under one. My husband is incredibly virile, see." A skinny hand went to her stomach, which she stroked fondly. The ghost seemed to be completely unaware of the ugly scar on her stomach.

The courier tried not to heave at the mention of her adoptive father's manhood. Instead Shakune forced a sickly, false smile on her lips. "Lovely." She managed to spurt out. Her black eyes shifted away from Bridie and back towards Sunberth. How she longed to be standing amongst the streets of the city, where she'd feel more safe and confident. "Shall we head towards the city? Maybe Alfie will be there." Perhaps it was wrong to play on this poor dead woman's hopes, but the courier was desperate.
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A Haunting

Postby Shakune on May 12th, 2015, 9:31 pm

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The change was immediate.

The temperature dropped, the air around Bridie swirled and spun around her chaotically. The ghost rushed forward, almost colliding straight into the courier.

Shakune's skin prickled and her breath steamed out in front of her as she winced in the anticipation of an impact that didn't happen. "No!" Bridie cried, her voice desperate and a high-pitched wail.

Her eyes had hardened into blue, glassy marbles. Unknown to either of the women, Bridie's fatal scar dripped a spot of blood. "I will not leave here!"

Why was the ghost so attached to this place? Shakune didn't want to find out. Stiffly, she shook her head and mustered a shaky sentence: "It was just an idea." Now it was her voice that came out as a timid murmer.

But Bridie didn't listen. She stepped away from Shakune, began to circle the courier like a cat hunting it's prey. She gave a scream that ripped straight through the half-breed's body. Her face contorted madly, expressing desperation and fear and horror and heartbreak. Another wail erupted from her pink lips, and suddenly Bridie's hands were grappling at her stomach. The wound was bleeding profusely now; the ghost tried to stop the blood from pouring out but there was nothing to stop the inevitable. "Not my family, not my baby."

Shakune could only stare, her heart aching with guilt and sadness and sympathy for this broken woman. What could she say to ease the pain of a dead mother? Bridie had been ripped away from her family in the prime of her life. There would never be any comfort in that fact. It was all too cruel, too evil. She felt sick and utterly helpless all at once. Bridie swirled around Shakune, blinking in and out of reality but remaining close to the courier. Another wail, another desperate cry to save the life of her unborn child.

Forty or so years had clearly not eased this woman's agony.

The ghost stormed towards the graveyard and away from Shakune. When Shakune cried out "No, wait!" The ghost slowly wheeled around, and the half-Chaktawe feared that she'd angered Bridie even further.

But no.

The woman's face was neutral once again. The scar on her stomach was still there, but no longer leaking blood. Bridie gave a breathless smile and tucked a strand of copper hair behind her ear before quietly saying, "I'm sorry, did you say something?"
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Shakune
I drive a hard bargain.
 
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A Haunting

Postby Shakune on May 13th, 2015, 12:59 pm

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Shakune could only blink as her mind caught up with what had just happened. Was she hallucinating? None of this made any sense. The sudden change in Bridie's mood had left Shakune's head spinning and her heart in her throat. There were too many unanswered questions: how did Bridie learn about Shakune? Had thr ghost been in Sunberth all this time? Why was she so adamant to stay close to the graveyard?

The courier felt that it would be wise to begin with the more simple questions. She wanted to do everything in her power to avoid throwing Bridie back into a wailing state of depression. "How did you know I was looking for you?"

Bridie's ghost waved her hand dismissively, as if Shakune's question had a obvious answer. "I just heard it, silly. On the grapevine." Now she seemed to be under the impression that she and the courier were best friends. This unnerved Shakune even more than the woman's previous wailing and heartbreak. The ghost peered to the courier with narrowed, slightly transparent eyes. "But why were you looking for me?"

Ah. It was a fair question to ask. But Shakune did not like the honest answer: I've only recently learned about your existence and demise, despite the fact your husband was practically my father. Some things were worth keeping secret, and for the time being Shakune decided that her relationship with Bridie's deceased husband was one such tale. The ghost was clearly psychologically delicate. The simplest comment or suggestion would no doubt throw her back into the realms of desperation and sadness. But she needed to throw out some answer, at least. Bridie watched her with patient, steady gaze. This woman had been dead for forty years. She had patience to spare. Shakune, however, didn't. "I know Alf. He's... been training me in the business." At least it wasn't a lie. Everything she knew about business and commerce had come from the seasoned sailor.

Bridie frowned again, tilting her head at an angle like a confused puppy. Whatever Shakune had just said clearly didn’t match up with the Pa Salt that she believed she was still married to. "He's never taken up an assistant before. It's a risky line of business. You must be very good if he's happy to work with you." She gave a fleeting smile and gently fingered her rounded stomach.

Now it was Shakune's turn to be befuddled. Her father had been a businessman and courier, nothing life threatening or particularly dangerous. But the description Bridie had just given didn't match a commercial occupation. It was more than possible that the old sailor had once been a mercenary. He'd been a hardened character, but soft and affectionate around Shakune. Would it change her opinion of him if she learnt he'd once been a hired killer? She wanted to say no; but knew it would be a lie. Murder and fighting was not part of her nature. Her adoptive father had not raised her to be violent.

This strange, chance meeting had become too much for Shakune. The sensation of drowning tugged at her, pulling her downwards into a sea of doubt and questions. Shakune needed to leave, to clear her head and mull over what had just happened. It was all a bit too much. But the courier needed to extend a bridge between herself and the ghost. To turn her back on this woman was unthinkable. "Will you be here again? Perhaps tomorrow?"

Bridie glanced around herself, as if she wasn't sure where exactly the two stood. A look of mild surprise dominated her face before she gave a singular nod. "Yes. Tomorrow."

Her voice sounded distant. It was possible that she'd barely registered the question, Shakune thought. But if the ghost had found Shakune once, surely she'd be able to do it again. "I need to return home." She began, considering how best to secure herself into Bridie's fleeting memory. "I'll see if I can find Alf. And I'll be back tomorrow, yes?"

The ghost gave another solemn nod and slowly raised her hand in a still wave. "Tomorrow. Do tell my husband to hurry back home. The children want to hear his stories." And with that, she drifted away, humming a sad little song and rubbing her pregnant stomach.
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Shakune
I drive a hard bargain.
 
Posts: 352
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A Haunting

Postby Shakune on May 13th, 2015, 1:18 pm

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Shakune remained fixed to where she stood. A whole range of emotions swept over the woman, sadness and confusion the most dominant. But in truth, Shakune had no idea what to think or feel. Pity? Relief? Guilt? Certainly the latter played on her mind; she was partly thankful for Bridie's death, for it was that which presumably bought Pa Salt into her life. And that appreciation made Shakune feel sick. But he'd helped so many others as well. If his wife and children all remained healthy, perhaps he wouldn’t have.

And of course, Bridie's ghost seemed trapped in an era forty years ago. She seemed to be under the impression that Roseanne and Larke were both infants, when in reality they were now either middle aged or dead. So she assumedly hadn't seen them since her untimely death. Or even worse: she had, but couldn't remember them.

Eventually, Shakune walked back towards the city proper. But her steps were slow and laborious. Her mind was heavy with ifs and alternatives to reality. If Bridie hadn't died, she wouldn't have been saved from Zeltiva. She'd probably have developed a drug habit just like her mother, or at least been a prostitute. Lifestyles had a funny habit of being heritable, just like physical characteristics. Her entire happiness had depended on the death of one woman and one unborn child. Perhaps also the death of two other children as well. Shakune had no clue what fate had befallen Roseanne and Larke, but she was beginning to sway towards their ending being a grisly one.

The Sunset Quarters had never looked so comforting. The people around Shakune might have been rapists and pickpockets, but at least they were very much alive and very solid. But those thoughts and questions lingered over Shakune's mind all the way home. Even when she knocked on the door to indicate to Havzi that she was home, ghosts and dead brides haunted the courier’s mind.

Havzi opened the door and greeted Shakune with a smile and quiet "Hello, how was the run?" But as the slave stepped aside to allow the courier in, something distracted her. She paled and gave a small gasp before shuffling back into the safety of Shakune's small house.

The courier didn't need to turn around to know why Havzi was so scared. The cold nip of the air was enough. "Bridie."

And indeed, the ghost of Bridie Salt stood there, a pleasant smile on her lips and one hand extended outwards, the other resting on her scarred pregnant belly. "Hello. You must be Shakune. You've been looking for me, I hear."

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Shakune
I drive a hard bargain.
 
Posts: 352
Words: 281911
Joined roleplay: August 21st, 2014, 10:43 am
Race: Human, Mixed
Character sheet
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Medals: 2
Featured Contributor (1) Sunberth Seasonal Challenge (1)


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