Wrath and Ruin

Sometimes we make the wrong choices for the right reasons.

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While Sylira is by far the most civilized region of Mizahar, countless surprises and encounters await the traveler in its rural wilderness. Called the Wildlands, Syliran's wilderness is comprised of gradual rolling hills in the south that become deep wilderness in the north. Ruins abound throughout the wildlands, and only the well-marked roads are safe.

Wrath and Ruin

Postby Elias Caldera on August 22nd, 2016, 10:19 am

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12th Day of Summer, 516 AV

“Here!”

It was a faint echo of a sound from the front of the caravan, but Elias knew after twelve days on the road, what that short, simple command meant. That, and more importantly who it came from.

Syna had plunged down into the horizon and vanished by the time they’d decided to call it quits on this day's leg of the journey. The wooded horizon swallowing her up for the night until she was to be born again the next day. Fragments of her still painted the sky, but the darkness was spreading, and that meant that soon the caravan had to make camp.

"Looks like good ground for it."

Elias squinted at the flat blackness to the right of the road and came to the same conclusion. That alone made one corner of his mouth tug upward; that he could indeed look at the ground and see why it was good ground. Thick, solid earth and heath, worn down from past expeditions doing the same thing. Enough that they'd survived to tell about it, perhaps. The skeletons of old camp fires were scattered here and there, which was likely a good sign.

He looked to the sky critically.

Half a bell, at most, then we'll be in the dark.

Elias leapt from the wagon he’d been hitching a ride on, the wooden chariots that had been his bed rest for the past week or two creaking and groaning along with the beasts of burden that hauled them. The ‘lieutenants’ of the group had already begun herding everyone along, moving flesh and wheeled carts into the newly established camp ground as per their master's unspoken instructions.

He picked a spot not far from the rim of the rough circle the carts and wagons were being arranged in, close enough to a particular cart of brandy that if any trouble broke out, he could roll under it in a few ticks or just as quickly grab himself a drink. You never knew... At this point though, it was all repetition, based on what he'd seen before. See something enough times, a process or series of events, and you can start to replicate them, no matter how alien or unfamiliar. You just have to focus, and that's what Elias did. By the failing light he rooted around and made a circle with stones and rocks, scouring around under the cart for them when he had to. Then he went further afield and gathered up twigs, sticks, grass, bark, moss, anything that was dry and flammable, and dumping half in the circle and half on the outside.

Tinder, kindling and fuel, he reminded himself, rubbing through the pile of debris to make sure it was dry enough. Need tinder for a spark, kindling to make the spark a flame, and fuel keep the flame going. Elias mused, thinking back to what some of the other slavers had said a few nights before, as he'd carefully slid branches and cut limbs into their infant fire. This time however, he was determined to create his own, not simply commandeer another’s as he’d allowed himself to do for the past two weeks now.

Honestly, at times it felt somewhat humiliating, and he wasn’t particularly certain why. Everyone here knew how to properly start a campfire, and not just a flame, which constituted a big difference when you spent so much of your time on the road. Everyone knew that… except Elias. He was a city boy through and through, but more than that, he was a mage. A reimancer specifically, which came with it a great many boons that those who considered something like ‘wilderness survival’ important might either find incredibly helpful, or incredibly insulting. Why did he need to gather twigs and stones when all it took to spark a flame was the snap of his finger? Was it fair that he could shape the earth into a cradle of shelter, or conjure up the very water that would sustain him? It felt particularly unfair that he need not even really hunt for his food when he could simply entice his meals to the fire with just a bit of hypnotism. Truthfully, surviving the mundane requirements of the wilderness was not something Elias the sorcerer needed to worry all that much about these days. Elias the sellsword on the other hand was a different story however. One he intended to make sure had a happy ending.

Ever since he’d taken up this rouse as a common mercenary and began plying his skills for the Nykan slaver Valion, the Caldera had gone to great lengths to hide his arcane talents from his new ‘associates,’ and for good reason. Many of these men he’d learned were of Sunberth origin. Apparently, they despised mages down south to a startling degree, thought them more a plague than a person it seemed. It wasn’t just the prejudice however, it was the attention. When you reveal a power like Elias’s, it attracts certain kinds of people. Sycophants and weaklings seeking succor at your feet, or fools who saw what you could do as more a challenge than a good reason to keep their distance. Elias sought neither. His time in Nyka, among these killers for hire was simply a mission. Not something he could afford to compromise by revealing one too many truths here and there.

So for now, the mage was content to simply let the others consider him a mere man with a blade who was a bit luckier than most was all. That suited him fine. Unfortunately that meant no starting a fire with his res, which meant if he wanted that heat, he was going to have to work for it.

With eyes peeled and hands readied, he set about his mundane task.



30 Chimes Later…



Fire after fire was being lit now, orange smears and glows that all seemed to congeal together and illuminate the circle of wagons, their dark shapes hemming in everything.

He watched the other sellswords sit around and throw back their skins and bottles. Saw their teeth gleam and glitter in the firelight, making a note of a few with flashes of gold and silver. One never knew when a comrade might fall in battle, and he was sure he had a pair of pliers somewhere in his pack.

The carters were a different breed. More... humble, he guessed the word was. Less swagger, less noise. More still by their fires, like they were conserving energy for another long, dull day ahead. They still passed around food and drink, though, and the aromas were wafting everywhere, mingling with the unmistakable smell of the many animals still tied to their carts.

Elias could hear the slaves, too. A constant low muttering from the covered, wheeled cages that served as their transport. Dozens of mouths, all communing and praying and plotting and gossiping, it seemed. On some rare nights he even heard the ghost of a laugh from one of them. Some child, probably. Young enough to not quite understand what was happening… to recognize the horror of it all.

He frowned. Something... some pattern had reared its head again this night as it had done too many nights before. He swung his eyes back to the carters and ran over their figures with a scrutinizing gaze. The outlines of their beards and their hair; their shapes and the little tics and motions that gave them some spark of the unique apart from their fellows. He squinted. He stared.

One was missing.

Again.

“Where you headin’?” Came the question for a man named Cole who’d happened to join Elias at his fire. The tattooed fiend was turning over a nice, juicy slab of salted meat when Elias jerked to his feet and started walking. “Foods nearly done. I’ll share you some of mine if you tell me how you got all them scars on your face.” He chuckled.

"Checkin' somethin' out." Elias muttered in reply, making sure to keep his rough and tumble drawl in check even then. Elias the sellsword didn’t talk much, and he certainly didn’t talk fancy-like either. It was a charade he often found easy to uphold one day, a true test of his composure the next.

Cole had questions, more than one by look on his face, but Elias gave no more clues to his purpose. Swaddled in his black cloak, in a moment the Ravokian was swallowed up by the looming shadows of the carts, vanished save for fading footsteps.


WC - 1414
Last edited by Elias Caldera on November 24th, 2018, 12:19 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Leoben

Postby Elias Caldera on August 3rd, 2017, 12:01 am

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He knew enough about what they’d do to him if he got caught to know that this was a bad petching idea.

The fact that he could only narrow it down to ‘something brutal, prolonged and all together unpleasant’ was what scared him most. Valion’s terrifying legend was not one told lightly, even by his men. The man had become endlessly creative in his three decades of marshaling slavers, sellswords, killers and outcasts together while also keeping them in line.

Leoben knew all this. He knew the risks. But, like all foolish and greedy men, he'd deemed the reward worth it.

"This is all we have," the woman whispered to him, her arm, muscled and corded, extending from the cage towards him. "One now, the rest when the cage opens."

"Gimme them now. All of 'em. Then I know y-"

"No!" a younger, rasher voice hissed, then lowered a tick later. Words carried. Even whispers. Especially from slaves among slavers. "I don't trust you, as you would not trust us in our place. You have the first. A good price it will fetch. When the door opens, you will have the rest. All that we have. All you need do is free us."

Leoben studied the glimmering eyes beyond the bars of the wheeled cage. Desperation and animal distrust shone in them. He understood it. They were slaves, the world was a harsh and hostile place for them, nothing more. But unlike most slaves, they still had something real to bargain with.

He dared to peek into his palm. It was still there. Shining even in the faint Leth-light and secondhand fires on the other side of the wagon. The shimmering shard of such wondrous blues it as if he was staring into the sea itself. He ran his thumb over the jewel and felt the smooth hardness of it. He'd seen the like before, but never in all his travels and endeavors amassed the mizas to but one.

The sea in his hand… he liked the thought of that

Now there was one, right there, in his grasp. Sell it and it would be a season’s worth of food for his cantankerous sister and her obnoxious sons... or, more probably, wine and drugs and whores for himself for a lot longer.

Three more were promised. All those good times and security, quadrupled in his future. A year, maybe more, and all for the taking, if he could just find the courage to... bend the rules a little.

"We'll have t'wait," he whispered, disappearing the treasure into his pocket. "'til the late hours, when only the sentries're up. I'll... I'll take care of the one nearest to ya. No one'll know."

Leoben sighed as loud as he dared and scowled at the heap of naked, shadowy lumps beyond the two pairs of eyes that regarded him. They were listening. Of course they were. Another day, maybe less, and they'd turn on the four of them. Raise the alarm, tell Vallion, tell anyone, say anything to get their freedom. Well, there was a way out of that, too. And it would happen anyway.

"Y'know as soon as that cage opens, the rest of 'em... of you, yes, I see you listening... will come out, too. Two slaves slippin' away with a guard dead? Possible. But a whole cage emptied, a dozen of ya running? That'll attract-"

"We'll take our chances," the older woman said with finality. None in the cage argued. It was the best chance any of them could hope for. "Just get the door open and remove the guard."

'Remove. Take care of.' Clean and vague words for what Leoben knew was nothing but murder. Then again, was it really murder, when the "victim" was a sellsword who'd slit a babe's throat for a handful of gold? He didn't know any of these hard-faced, cold-eyed men, and didn't want to. They were all the same in the end, animals and beasts who'd eat each other and anyone around them for enough coin.

Leoben grew up in Sunberth. He'd been carrying something sharp and deadly since he could hold one. He knew how to use it. He knew because he'd had to, and tonight he’d have to again, no if’s and's or but's about it.

He swallowed and clenched his toes in his boots, like he did when he was coming to a difficult decision.

Four gems. A double fist of gold-rimmed mizas, and all you need to do is kill a man. He nodded to himself. No hesitation in his thoughts now. Just a simple acceptance. That's what he needed to do, along with open the door, so do it he would.

"Be ready. I'll be back later."

"Thank you."

This from the younger woman… No, not a woman at all he realized. A mere child. A daughter more than likely, he assumed. That would be make the silent small lump of shadows clinging to his mother’s leg the son. A mother and her two children... Leoben didn't bother to nod, even to acknowledge them. He just checked his left and right and started walking again. He needed to try and stay awake for... gods, at least seven more bells. Not an easy thing, when you'd been traveling all day. But the reward was worth it.

He was thinking about just exactly what he’d be spending his gold on when something rustled behind him as he left the slave wagons and walked past the others carts. He paused and turned around just in time to notice a flash of flesh and steel rushing towards him.

The next thing he knew, Leoben was being pinned against the side of a wagon, a hand clamped over his mouth, a blade at his throat.

“Hush now and listen.”

Harsh blue eyes that reminded him of the sapphire in his pocket stared out at him from under a brim of a hood. The voice was an animal rasp, the slithering like a snake, cold and lifeless. Leoben's own eyes went round as globes when he recognized them.

Oh shyke, not this one!

"You were speaking to the slaves -Don’t bother shaking your head or wasting breath on some lie. I heard the whispers. Now why would a man be talking in secret to slaves, in a slave caravan, hmm? Only one thing springs to mind… Talk of freedom."


WC - 1047
Last edited by Elias Caldera on November 24th, 2018, 12:35 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Elias

Postby Elias Caldera on August 3rd, 2017, 12:08 am

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Elias kept up the pressure over the moron's mouth as he tried, somewhat stupidly, to shake his head with a dagger at his throat. He pushed harder until the blade tasted a few drops of blood, stopping his nonsense dead in its track.

“Now... I’m going to take my hand away... and you’re going tell me what they promised you, because we both know you wouldn’t be doing this out of some sense of charity. You scream, you yell, you do anything but talk, quick and quiet like, I'll cut out your tongue and tell Valion what you did. Then let him decide what to do with you."

He leaned closer. Allowed the man see into his eyes and realize the truth staring back at him.

"This is not the first night I've seen you away from the fires. Not the first time I've seen you slink back from where the wagons are. I smell conspiracy... tut-tut-tut... Valion will not like that. Now speak."

He let his hand away and the carter could barely keep his voice under control. It seemed to be straining not to shout, or yell, or scream, anything but do what it was doing instead. Which was spill his guts.

"L-Look, they, this woman and her kids, they- they've got gems. They... They promised more-"

"More? You’ve got some already?"

"Y-Yeah, hidden! L-Look, you keep it quiet and -and I'll-"

"When we get back Nyka, you’ll sell them, and what you get for those gems, I get half." His hand may have moved, but his blade hadn't. "That sound fair to you?”

Like he was giving the man a choice. Valion didn't like wasting sellswords, even when they got drunk and rowdy and messed around when they should be working, but simple labor hands like this? He could pick them up anywhere. It would take him about three ticks to flay the bastard alive and have him dragging behind some wagon by dawn, and they both knew it.

"Y... Yeah. D-Deal!"

"Good. When is this this happening?"

"T-Tonight. T-Third bell, thereabouts. I... ah... I have to..."

"What? Have to what?"

"Kill the sentry closest t'the wagon," the carter spewed out, looking away like he was ashamed. Elias tried to understand that for a moment and found it beyond him. "I-I do that, then open up the door, then I-I get the stones, an-"

"Yeah, yeah, I get the idea."

Elias finally took the dagger away and the carter seemed to sag against the wagon like someone had let all the air out of his lungs, legs and head. He felt at his neck and winced, gritting his teeth in lieu of flashing a glare he dared not.

Or did, as it turned out. Elias knew why of course. They were partners, now. Equals in this gambit. Both committed to this foolishness and to the punishment that would fall upon their heads if discovered. That kind of ‘comradery’ gave a man a little boldness. Well, he could go on thinking that, and Elias would go on being... amenable, with him.

“On you go now,” he said, sheathing his blade and stepping away. "I'll have my eyes open tonight. In case you need help with that man you're gonna gut.”

The carter winced at the image and Elias grinned, wide and mocking. Honestly. Some people.

Then, without another word, the man shrunk away, tottered the first few feet, but righted himself by the time he got back to their little constellation of fires. From the shadows Elias watched him plaster a grin onto his face as he was welcomed back to one of the drivers' fires, pulling his coat up high against the cold, and to hide the blood on his neck.

Elias kept watching, then started to walk back to their fire. He kept thinking, too. It was a good plan. Simple and self-contained, and he knew from experience how important the second part was. Two participants, not counting the slaves -and, really, whoever did?. The beauty of it was, all Elias had to do was stay awake, make sure the Leoben did what he plotted to do, and then collect his half of the bounty once they got back to Nyka.

Then the idiot would have an accident, a common thing for a stranger in a strange town to have, and Elias would at best keep the lot, and at worst remove the only man who could reveal his deceptions.

"Elias? You've been quiet. Well. More quiet than regular..."

But there was an angle he wasn't seeing. No, not that he wasn't seeing, more like... it was always there, and now he allowed himself to see it. Elias stared harder at the flames even as he poked them, sending little bursts of crackling, burning ashes whooshing into the sky along with the fire.

There's another way. Something different.

"Kinda like a different kinda quiet, y'know?"

Stay silent. Let him do the deed. Three less slaves. When we come to town, he sells the jewels, you get the money, kill him... yeah. A good plan. Solid plan.

He licked his lips and scratched the scruff under his chin that had gone unattended to for too long now. Then why wouldn't this feeling let go? What was it telling him? He tried to eat but just ended up picking at his meat instead. Not a bad steak, actually.

“I mean, yer not the most chatty guy inna' world, but tonight y'seem like yer tryna' stare a hole right through the fire."

’A woman and her kids’

Elias blinked. The words echoed in his mind like they weren't his own.

"Petching chains…" He growled, grabbing his shoulder.

"Er... what?"[/b]

Elias turned his gaze onto a clueless Cole and smiled. The other man only grew more concerned.

“Find Valion for me, Cole. Do it quiet, no worries, no rush. Tell him this..."


WC - 982
Last edited by Elias Caldera on November 24th, 2018, 12:35 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Butcher's Bill

Postby Elias Caldera on August 3rd, 2017, 12:08 am

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Sindel had lost count of all the things she missed from the life she'd lost. The too sweet food. The ill fitting dresses. The warm beds and the pretty things she pretended to despise. Her friends and the parties they'd throw after every win in the arena. The ability to say "no" whenever she wanted and not face a lash or a brand. Watching her daughter grow into a woman, preparing her son for his future, making them ready...

She sighed.

Now though, the thing she missed most of all was the privacy. With Dawn and Dorian and her pressed in this rolling, rocking cage, with shyke and piss smeared into the wood, and only an old tarp wrapped around it to keep out the cold… She would give anything for a moment’s respite for her and her children. The only light was from slashes in the cover that let in Leth and and the stars... and while it was some comfort, it was always overshadowed by the fact that all around her, she could feel the filthy limbs and half-naked bodies of these slaves that called this wretched wagon their prison just like her. There was no space, no room to breath nor think nor even simply be! anything but a slave.

She closed her eyes and cursed her husband for the hundredth time, chanting the gods' names like a mantra, offering everything to every one. All she asked was that he suffer like he'd made them suffer.

Cards. Dice. Insane, stupid investments that squandered everything we had. And what happened at the end of it? Dying wasn't enough. The debts outlasted him…

She shuddered in the tatters of her ragged house tunic, now barely covering her breasts. Sindel would never forget when those thugs had kicked down their door, barking about how the "Daggers would have their due" and ransacking everything of value. She was a fighter though. Spent as much time in the fancy arenas of the world as she did the not so fancy ones. The first four who’d come through the door had lived only to regret it. The next twelve that followed however proved too much for even Sindel. She’d fallen to their lashes, and as they pinned and bound her up on her own kitchen floor, she watched in helpless fury as they took their jewels, their clothes, their paintings, their furniture, and when that wasn’t enough, had set their eyes on her children.

“He lied, mother," Dawn whispered next to her, nuzzling under her arm like a child, even though she had once proudly declared that she was no longer a kid by the time she’d turned one. Kelvics grew up too fast, Sindel reminded herself once more as she tried her best smile reassuringly down at the girl. It was only good thing of their father in them. It was funny, in a horrible way. She'd always hated being treated like a girl, always wanted to be a little lady. But now, in the wilds, in chains, she never left her mother's side. "He won't do it. He'll take the stone and he'll forget us!"

"Shhhhh, patience, my love," she cooed to her child. Her tone set her apart from the others in the caravan, she'd noticed that much. Most of them were street scum or born as slaves, never knowing different. She'd been a free woman all her life, even had a tutor to teach her proper writing and reading. Sindel fell back on that now, all those years of soothing her child through nightmares and the horrors Sunberth presented. Usually she reserved such measures for Dorien, the boy had always been the worry wart of the apir, but ever since they'd been taken from their homes, he hadn’t spoken a word to anyone, not even his sister or his mother. She wasn’t sure if they’d find their freedom this night, nor was she sure it would be enough to bring her boy back from wherever this trauma had left him.

"We have to have hope. We haven't any choice, have we?" She whispered to both of them.

She looked around in the darkness and could see every slave thinking the same thing... and none of them were sleeping, either. Leoben had been right about one thing, this was liberation for them all. Even if it was just a dash into a dark, deadly countryside that would kill them by the morning sun, it didn't matter. They had to try. If not, they were dead folk walking. Now or fifty years from now, it would be all the same.

But Sindel had her doubts, too. Leoben hadn't been a soft touch or an idealist, he'd simply heard her cultured tones one day and got to talking to her. Easy for things to go from there. But it was days and days before the subject, the possibility, the mere veiled mention of an escape was planned, and then it was only because she'd revealed the only leverage they'd had left.

She squeezed her fist tighter. Three tiny, cold lumps pressed into her palm. She'd not loosen her hand until she was out that cage, and she had a nail in her other hand in case any of the slaves tried to take them.

Sindel swallowed hard and tried to force the memories of digging through her own waste, time after time after time. Meal after meal she'd taken the gems like tablets, then switched to shoving them... somewhere else, when they couldn't even get the privacy to squat over the side of the cart anymore. It was all she'd been able to snatch from her little box of trinkets before they'd dragged her away, the last shred of the life she'd had.

I was a champion, once, she thought, knowing in a faint, instinctive way that the very tone of her mind was the start of some madness. Some despair that would birth the loss of her sanity. I spoke kindly and was mistress of my house. I earned these sapphires in my great bout against Aetrox, the Beheader. They said no one could beat him, but I did. I loved my husband, I loved my children. I would have been able to retire in peace, and we would... we would have-

"No," she whispered to herself, clutching her daughter tighter, promising herself out loud. "We will again. We will again, by the gods-"

"Shhh! Someone out there!”

Sindel shuffled over, chains grinding at her feet, and peered through a tear in the canvas. She could see the sentry, barely outlined by the fires and the stars, a vague shape standing upright with a crossbow over its shoulder.

And closing in on it, moving with painful, amateur sloth, was him.


WC - 1080
Last edited by Elias Caldera on November 24th, 2018, 12:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Leoben

Postby Elias Caldera on August 3rd, 2017, 12:09 am

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Leoben didn't know how to be stealthy, so he settled for being slow instead. Every step he took was measured and minute. He squinted hard until his eyes hurt, looking for twigs and branches or dry grass and refuse, anything that could make a sound. A couple of times the ground had stirred under him and he'd froze, certain that the sellswords would come leaping out of the darkness.

But none did, so he kept moving.

The sentry was getting bigger. Eyes focused outward, he didn't look back. Even worse, Leoben could see the telltale up-and-down motions of an arm taking swigs from something, probably a skin.

Won't help his clarity, Leoben told himself, and even his thoughts were a whisper. Or when he fights back. Not that he's get a chance.

Leoben wasn't banking on his peerless skills as a killer to carry the day, of course. He was a practical man and knew the best and most efficient time to kill anyone was a) from behind and b) when they weren't expecting it. The sellsword would be looking for bandits, monsters, beasts, even rival slavers and the petching Syliran Knights, but a knife in his back? Way down on his list of dangers when he figured his brothers in arms were the only things behind him.

The carter licked his lips, slowly so they didn't smack, and gripped the short knife tighter. It was a dagger like countless others throughout the world, long enough to pierce organs or slash a throat, nothing ornate or excessive. It would do the job well enough.

The form before him continued to grow bigger and bigger and bigger…

Until he was all of Leoben's vision. Until he started to raise the knife and stared at that spot between his shoulder and his neck. He'd seen Valion stab a man through there when they had just started their journey East. The poor petch had dropped like a stone, gurgling blood his only sound. Should work this time.

Gods forgive me, he though, but I need the mo-

"Hey?"

He nearly jumped in the air as he turned, someone strolling towards him out of the shadows. His careful, quiet plan evaporated, shattered in an instant. The excuses, reasons, and lies started to jumble and tumble from his tangled tongue. He could explain this! He could lie and babble and act crazy, throw the family under the bus and-

Then Leoben saw who was coming, long, wicked sword in his hand, same cold blue eyes, and a scarred grin so genial, so content, so pleased with itself it made Leoben’s skin crawl.

"You? You... You bastard!"

One last, mad stab of courage thawed his petrified limbs and he lunged, determined to bury his knife in that traitorous petcher before he died. But the pale faced horror sidestepped easily, bringing his sword up at the same time, darted in close, and proceeded to smash the hilt of his weapon around Leoben's temple. The blow obliterated his balance, his vision, and his senses all at once. The ground rushed up to smack him in the face and he saw the traitor no more. But he still heard him, and prayed to whatever god was listening that that tap on the head would kill him.

"Nothing personal, friend. Just had a change of heart, is all..."


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Wrath and Ruin

Postby Elias Caldera on November 24th, 2018, 1:03 am

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"Well, don't you have egg on your face."

Valion grinned like a shaved, sadistic bear as the treacherous bastard began to come around. It only got wider when Leoben's initial confusion was swamped by sheer, terrified realization. He saw then that Valion and the sellswords were all awake, all gathered around him… and that the irons were in the fire.

He also saw that the women and her her two kelvic brats were huddled in front of an emotionless Elias, cowering and trembling, the mother holding her weeping ilk and muttering useless prayers.

"S-Sir, please, just-"

"Hold him."

Leoben started to cry and shriek like a woman, pleas mixed in with the flood of snot and tears. They echoed around the wagons, all of the slave carts now awakened and made to watch what was to follow. Cole and some other man he’d never learned the name of held Leoben down as Valion took his time and drew the first metal from the fire.

Pincers. Red-hot and thin enough to get in those hard to reach places.

"You betrayed me," he rumbled as he advanced, nodding at Cole, who replaced one hand with a knee on Leoben's arm and held his mouth open. "For a couple of slaves, and these.

His hand delved into his pocket and held out the four shining lights that had once so entranced Leoben. Now he just sobbed and shook his head, couldn't stop doing it, like it would all go away and he'd wake up back home. The older slave woman glared at him, furious even as she was stripped bare and humiliated. Valion favored her with a smile and a tip of his nonexistent cap.

"Thank yeh kindly," he said, tossing two of the gems over to Elias. "And to you aswell, son. I knew I’d made the right choice hirin’ you."

Elias nodded, eyeing his reward strangely. The rest of the show was... well, that was the other part of it. Seeing everything come to fruition. Everything come together, just as he'd wanted it to. Leoben squirming and sobbing and soiling himself as Valion got closer was just the start.

"Shoulda' played it straight, Leoben," the slaver chief said, Cole now using both hands to hold his tongue out as the terrified man screamed without its use. "Shoulda' told us. Coulda' split the stones but nah, you had to be a clever bastard. Well, if you can't be trusted to use it... you don't get to have it!"

Sindel tried to look away, tried to press her children close to her breast, spare them the sight of Leoben losing his tongue like a gelding its pride.

"And that," Valion continued, switching out the pincers for something else. "Ain't all, Leoben. Not that you'll be needing that name anymore either. Just this."

The slave brand burned like Syna’s wrath brought upon the earth. Leoben stared at it and likely saw his life, his dreams, his hopes, all gone, vanished, blown away in another burst of searing agony across his chest as the mark of the Brotherhood of Chains was savaged onto his skin forever. No more tears came. No more screams. He rolled back his head and begged the stars to help him, to end him. They twinkled back at him and had no response. Not even when they dragged him away and a cage door creaked open for the new meat.

"Our deal stands?"

Valion turned to face Caldera. The man was proving to be a wise investment. He'd had doubts when he'd hired him on, but after running down the slaves, guarding his warehouses and now this? Now Valion felt practically fond of the quiet cunt and his petched up face. He'd proved his worth, and his loyalty, and that meant something.

"Aye. We get to where were going, you'll get half of whatever I sell him for. Probably won't be moren' a couple a' hundred, but still-"

Valion blinked in surprise as a pair of sparkling blue gems were tossed at him. He caught them, stared in perplexing befuddlement, then reaffirmed his scrutinizing gaze upon the odd mercenary.

"Well now, I can’t imagine this is a tip for my charming service."

“Keep the mizas and the rest of sapphires and do me a favor. When you sell these three, you make certain they get auctioned off as a package deal. I don’t want them split up and separated.”

Valion crossed his arms and scowled at the two females and the boy, the architects of all this nonsense. Then he laughed. "My god, I didn’t realize I’d been in the company of a such a petching bleeding heart this whole time! Hell, you want me to cook ‘em breakfast in the morning and braid their hair while I’m at it, son?" There was no answer amidst the uncertain laughter that followed, and Valion remembered just who it was he was talking to. A man who didn’t take to jovial banter or mockery. A man who wasn’t worth the breath of a laugh at his expense or the trouble it might have caused. He sighed, rubbed his temple with bloody fingers, and shot the swordsman a smile wide enough that the firelight caught the gold in his teeth. "You already gave me two gems to keep ‘em safe from my righteous reprisal. You’d deny me my pound of flesh and a proper price on their heads now as well?”

Elias didn’t reply.

“Petch it. Fine. We’ll keep them safe, we’ll keep ‘em better fed, and we’ll even keep ‘em together when the time comes. This is my gift to you, Elias. I do this not out of the kindness of my heart, but for the fleeting hope that one day you might actual grace our little troupe here with a petching smile on some glorious occasion of your choosing. Savvy?”

“Savvy.” Elias muttered back, and something strange began to happen with the corner of his lip. It tilted and twitched, and Valion realized the boy was trying to humor him.

“Don’t force it son,” he chuckled, “you look like a strangled cat.”

Valion was about to make the order for all this mess to be cleaned up and order restored when suddenly the slave bitch sprang to her feet before Elias, a hand -no, a fist made proper and brutal- smashed against the pale man’s cheek. He recoiled from the stiff shot, but held his ground with surprising bravado. “You think I’m gonna let you petch me now, is that it!?” She screamed in his face as slowly, the cruel and heartless darkness Valion had seen in his eyes the day he’d decided to hire the boy briefly returned. “You think I’m gonna get on my knees and thank you for everything you’ve done for me!? Do you! You’ve killed us, you monster! You’ve petching killed us!” She said, another blow reigning down upon the boy, but this time he was ready, managed to catch it and throw it aside. It didn’t stop the grieving slave any. She kept throwing them and throwing them until her fists lost all cohesion and the rattling of her sobs crashed against the man’s chest all at once. She spat in his face. Cursed his name. Railed and raged until she could rail and rage no more. By the end she had practically collapsed into him, rage and fear and hopeless, pathetic sorrow overcoming everything until she was just a wrecked ball of emotions.

Her children watched her in horror, eyes wide and petrified. Maybe they’d never seen her lose all hope and composure before, or maybe they understood like she did how forlorn their fate’s were now. Valion wasn’t certain by the looks on their faces alone, but the one he saw in Elias’s as he clasped his hands around the slave woman, as he tried to comfort her, or just keep her from striking him again, was one he'd seen plenty of times to know its like. That there was guilt, and there was no hiding it.

The pale killer’s mouth began to move, his scars stretching and twitching as he tried to piece together the right words for such a situation. How did a man make peace with something like this? How did a man convince another to make peace with it as well? Words were easy when you weren’t the one with chains about your wrists, Valion found.

“Put ‘em up at your leisure, ser knight.” Valion snorted, waving his boys off and sending them back to their business. Elias looked at him, surprised as if he’d only just remembered the man and all his cutthroat compatriots were watching. It took him only a tick to find his practiced poise again. He nodded, hands tightening around the woman who now wept against his chest. She was going nowhere, and neither were the children who clung to her legs like her socks. The slaver boss felt confident they’d be making it to Nyka in the end. He trusted Elias, despite the strange way the lad had been acting. That, and he knew the boy had gone through too much trouble just to petch it up now with something stupid like trying to run. He'd seen what such thoughts could cost a man with Leoben. They all had.

So Valion left Elias there, content for the boy to deal with the folks he'd probably figured he was 'saving.' Now all the wrath and ruin his foolishness had wrought upon the family was his business to bear. His mess to clean up. His mistake to learn from.


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Elias Caldera
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Wrath and Ruin

Postby Rohka on August 29th, 2019, 10:53 pm

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Elias, PM me for your grade if you return to Miz!
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