Solo Muddled and Marled

Petty tasks keep the lights on. [Job Thread]

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A city floating in the center of a lake, Ravok is a place of dark beauty, romance and culture. Behind it all though is the presence of Rhysol, God of Evil and Betrayal. The city is controlled by The Black Sun, a religious organization devoted to Rhysol. [Lore]

Muddled and Marled

Postby Caspian on December 26th, 2018, 3:27 am

5 Winter 518


In the middling light, Caspian grasps clumsily after the bundled shadow he correctly assumes are his last night’s clothing discarded. As could have been easily predicted, he succeeds only in knocking them aside, and with a drawling sigh, arches over the edge of the bed to lazily snatch them back up.

The figure beside Caspian in bed grumbles softly, arms tightening possessively around his waist and drawing him back in.

“Where d’you think you’re going?”

It’s not hard, on this kind of incandescent morning, the sort that blooms and steeps, for Caspian to be persuaded into rolling back into the depths of it. It takes him a solid moment, admittedly - admittedly inwardly only, grogginess only makes him so much of a fool - to recall his enthusiastic assailant’s name.

Thandell? No- Thancerell-

Thusly redubbed Thancerell growls into the crook of Caspian’s neck, making him chuckle in appreciation of being appreciated. Taking liberties Caspian still, at this point, doesn’t so much oppose, this Thancerell - right? Not Thaddiel? - nips at the skin there and digs his fingers playfully into his sides.

They tussle over one another, sheets wrapping ivy-like over limbs and throats, Caspian barking out in laughter until most-likely Thancerell smothers him down.

“I think I like you,” Thancerell says once he’s got Caspian squarely pinned.

“Lucky for you, lack of conviction ranks quite top of my list,” Caspian replies, allowing his chin to be tilted up for a touch or two more of appreciation.

“Any chance I can use that conviction to keep you through next dusk?”

The devices employed involve a series of strokes from Thancerell that send shudders thorough enough to stay him as he’s bidden.

Consequently to all, it’s the following morning when Caspian ambles westward and up the dimly lit stairways to his own home. For the majority of his time in Ravok, majority overwhelming, all time exceeding the duration of the most recently past fall, Caspian has lived alone. And for this reason, for the successively reinforced habit of it, he is entirely stunned to find himself, once past his threshold, suddenly face to face with his sister Taalviel.

Half-sister, he paves over to himself privately, though at this point neither he nor Taalviel benefit from the artificed separation.

“Where have you been?” she asks immediately.

She’s planted herself squarely in the doorway, so squarely as to clearly explain - what, that she’s been strictly listening for his coming? - so obstructively that he’d forced, with exasperated sigh, to sidestep and duck his way past and into his own home.

“Well?” she asks again, swiveling on pinpricks after him.

Not a bird of prey, he reminds himself of her, so if not some bird of prey then she’s no excuse for being the way that she is, save for being certainly insufferably herself.

“One day we’ll get to the bottom of what’s your business and what’s mine and the critically unseldom moments those criteria overlap. Today, I think, is not likely to be that day,” he replies. At his own bedside now, not so unwelcome a sight, he peels off his tailed burgundy coat and ivory blousoned shirt, caring little for her peering after in disapproval.

Why she seems to care so intensely after his comings and goings, he’s yet to wholesomely decipher.

“Were you off with that flame-haired braggart again?” No longer within spitting range now, though still well within darts’ eyes, she’s chosen to recline now at his modestly kept dining table. There’s a tangle of crimson baubles at which she pries - for entertainment’s purposes, likely, because he’s known her to pry more effectively and decisively, and if she wanted to pry for the sake of having completed the doing of such, it would have in moments past been done.

If only his interpersonal interactions with her went with any shared semblance. The agony stems largely from their being inevitably drawn out.

“Well?”

Relentless, she is.

And so ravens prove to be when treated with a carcass.

“I believe he prefers the term ‘blaggard,’” he snips back.

There are softer linens in the chest of drawers beside his bed. As much as he adores his burgundy silks and bridles it’s a comfort to slip out of them now, to tuck himself into sleeping sleeves that crease softly and predictably, and fold himself into a bed that creaks and bows in practiced welcome.

“You’ve just got home, and you’re heading straight to bed?” Taalviel questions in disbelief.

“Recall, sister, a time not so long past, in which I strongly implied that there is a definitive extent to what may be categorized as your business, the excesses of that to be safely regarded as beyond your jurisdiction, and then, perhaps, as mine.”

Fearful of very little, she’s chosen to perch at the foot of his bed now, upon the frame, and though he’s decided to shut his eyes he’s no doubt the expression on her face is one of disapproval.

“Are you hungover?”

“Take your wildest guess,” he replies.

“Are you high?”

“Never so high as you’ve the luxury of sometimes being.”

“It’s a waste of time, all this. That’s my only concern.”

Parrying is fun, sometimes, one of Caspian’s reliable amusements, and especially with Taalviel. But she’s been essentially right on both counts, that he’s dragged himself home in yet again a not so optimal state, though to his credit - not that she’s ever cared to grant him that - it’s not so bad a state as he’s historically taken on. So it’s a little annoying, this, growing more annoying by the second, this being harangued in his own home, a home he’s let her come and go from without demanding she provide report on her decisions and whereabouts. Hardly fair at all. To illustrate his annoyance he draws the covers up over his head and faces the wall.

“You gain nothing dallying around with this one,” she continues.

“I gain attention and a little space away from here,” he retorts, though the severity’s undercut through the muffle of his sheets. “I’d say it’s well worth any dallying.”

“He hasn’t very much money.”

“How would you know how much money he has?”

No reply from her to this, though the question had been a fairly pointless one. Surveillance even for surveillance’s sake is a pastime as much as parrying can be - and the surveillance of one’s sibling’s casual romantic partners often taken practically as an art form.

His own silence isn’t an invitation, though she seems to take it as such, lying atop the sheets in the space between him and the wall.

She’s facing him, fearlessly, peerlessly, and his sheets are thin enough and the midday light sufficiently gleaming that her nearness confronts him in full immediacy.

Due, perhaps, to a lapse in judgment despite all previous reinforcement, a lull in his high, the unerring truth that he’s never quite fully loathed his sister and when she’s this insistent it’s likely for good reason, though that reason may exclusively be of her own evaluation - but Caspian casts off his sheets and frowns at his sister in the light.

“I just think your time could be better spent otherwise,” she says.

“Otherwise,” he repeats.

“Towards making a living,” she utters with decisive punctuation.

This makes him scoff, which makes her sigh, which makes him rub his eyes tiredly and stare up at the ceiling instead.

“Are you telling me to get a job?”

“I’m telling you that maybe you ought to look into laying the groundwork for one, at the very least.”

“I’m laying groundwork.”

“You’re certainly doing the laying.”

It’s an easy gibe, easy enough bait for him to ignore.

“Caspian.”

He’s already turned the other way, pillow dragged over his eyes. A bit sick to the stomach, after all he and Thancerell had smoked and imbibed. Nothing that a little sleep won’t fix.

”Caspian.”

“Tomorrow,” he replies. “Tomorrow.”

Satisfied or not, for the rest of the afternoon she leaves him be.

--

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Last edited by Caspian on January 7th, 2019, 1:18 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Muddled and Marled

Postby Caspian on January 7th, 2019, 1:16 am

It’s on an unusually blustery day in Ravok that Caspian stumbles into an opportunity to placate at least the more pressing layers of the irritation of Taalviel.

The irritation itself is what had caused him to flee outdoors in the first place. As might have been predicted, Taalviel had taken his promisings of “tomorrow” entirely seriously, and when that “tomorrow” had arrived, she’d brought the subject up again, determinedly unwavering from her assertions that she simply “cares.” It’s a funny concept on the whole, one several parts fantastical and abstract, given that it isn’t one they’d been treated to when they were growing up in Sunberth - that “growing up” applying here solely to Caspian, as with Kelvic uncanniness, Taalviel had effectively presented herself as the picture of full adulthood long before they’d even met.

Despite the years she’s ever quite the same, if one considers the relentlessly resolute pace with which she can claw at one’s eyes, should the fancy strike her.
On this blustery morning they’d fought, she reappearing after some near-weeklong disappearance when Caspian’s “tomorrow” manifested nothing to her liking. This argument had led to the reveal of only one dagger ready to strike, though nothing held to faces or throats – so, on the whole, one of their tamer fights indeed.

It’s not so serious, this latest tussle with her, but it’s enough to set him on edge if he so much catches her in the corner of his field of vision, so he’d taken off promptly, and headed eastward with no particular destination in mind. It’s at The Malt House where Caspian takes his sighs, nursing a first mug of ale with a scowl, and a second with pleasantly less aloofness. Doesn’t work sometimes, the drinking to cover ailment, but it’s working well enough now, and he’ll take it as it is.

After Sunberth, Ravok is a dazzling place to Caspian, one that still hasn’t lost its luster, at least for the most part. Walking through the city is a principal enjoyment for him, people watching a close second, if not its constant companion. People-watching, people-noting, people-listening-in. And it’s here, at his pleasant table in his pleasant corner, that with significant contentment he listens in on the pair of women chatting animatedly beside him.

“-getting nowhere, at least – I don’t have an ear for it, but it seems to me he’s not gotten any better?” One of the women, a brunette in a neatly-pressed navy dress, takes a sip of her ale after her exclamation, and picks with frustration at the loaf of bread in front of her.

“How long has he been going to that tutor?” the other asks.

“Half a year, at least.”

“It’s hard to say in the earlier stages, isn’t it? Has to sound worse before it gets better? For that instrument, or so I’m told.”

The woman in navy frowns. “I suppose I should just go call upon the tutor myself. But who has the time? The party’s before the week’s end, and the grandmother’s coming. She’s expecting at least a few minutes of recital from him.”

“Clarice,” her friend replies, “I think you’ve just got to ask him if he’s skipping the lessons, point-blank. This is your household now. It’s a matter of respect.”

“He’s not to blame,” thus-named Clarice replies, peering somberly into her mug. “I certainly wouldn’t be so much a fan of a stranger in my home. Especially if that stranger demanded she be called ‘mother’.”

The friend reaches over with chummy cordiality, squeezing Clarice’s hand comfortingly. “Crummy instrument, the violin. Don’t think you’d be particularly enjoying hearing the squelches and squeaks even if he were interested in it.”

At this point – call it again pleasantness of second ale, and his wanting to prolong his own return home – Caspian warmly leans in. “Did I hear right, that your son plays the violin?”

The two women glance at Caspian up and down, at his tidy burgundy suit and recently polished leather boots, at the glittering kohl rimming his eyes, and determine his frankness isn’t one to be excessively concerned about.

The usual light lilt in his voice and his gestures does help – and ultimately, it’s the drink or two they’ve had themselves that leads the three of them into an easy camaraderie.

“Not my son,” Clarice replies readily, and it’s a small matter of time until Caspian is invited to abandon his own table and pull up his chair beside them.

“Stepson,” the friend supplies, friend he learns is named Linnella.

“I’m just worried-“ Clarice goes on.

“-worried he’s skipping his lessons and just pocketing the money,” Linnella finishes with a snort.

“If I ask him he’ll just deny it,” Clarice says. “So what am I supposed to do? Just – I don’t know, follow him until I see it for myself, once and for all? I’ve got far too much on my hands for that sort of thing.”

“Naturally,” Caspian says, picking up easily after her. “Sounds like you may be need of an… external solution.”

“And you’re just the one to provide that, are you?” Linnella says, giving him another unnecessarily involved look up and down – though none of the three of them in bad spirits for it.

Caspian throws one of his better smiles towards Clarice. “Your stepson not knowing me – he’ll never see it coming.”

The two women glance at each other, at Caspian, then back.

Clarice sighs. “…alright. His name’s Bennan. And he’s a gut-wrenching terror.”

Linnella chortles into the remains of her drink, and orders them each another.

--

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Muddled and Marled

Postby Caspian on January 8th, 2019, 2:11 am

“You going to eat that?” Thancerell asks.

Caspian scowls back at him across their table outside The Soup House.

Not the most illustrious of establishments, and he’d made it clear when they set off that day that he would have rather gone, well anywhere with a tablecloth, but Thancerell had insisted, and so they had ladled their bowls with very little ceremony and Caspian had pointedly cast Thancerell with an unwavering stare until he pulled out his wallet.

(He’s got the money, this most recent flame of Caspian’s, enough money for soup. At least one hopes he does, so the delay in paying had been due, likely, to boorishness rather than deficit, and Caspian’s familiar enough with boorishness, though he does wonder if it isn’t beginning to grow at least somewhat tedious?)

“It’s yours,” Caspian replies, though he’s had very little of it.

Far more in the mood, Thancerell eagerly takes up Caspian’s bowl for himself, devouring it almost immediately. Caspian has long since looked away.

“Who’re we waiting for, exactly?”

To this, Caspian doesn’t bother replying.

Two weeks have passed since Caspian met Clarice and her fiendishly forward friend Linnella at The Malt House. Given the family’s means, lack of familiarity with the subject at hand, and general surpluses of free time, Bennan was assigned not just the standard single music lesson a week, but two.

The problem, however, was that Bennan had attended every single one of them.
This observation, Caspian is sure, wouldn’t satisfy Clarice – and so he’s on a different method of approach, one far more thorough than the paltry circumstances perhaps deserve.

“-pian!” Thancerell’s waving his hand under Caspian’s nose.

Caspian’s scowl develops further into an unabashed glare. “What?”

“I said, I’m done, so can we go?”

“We didn’t come here to eat soup!” Caspian snaps back. At Thancerell’s confusion and growing reciprocal annoyance, he blusters, “I mean, we did. You did. This being The Soup House, I suppose? But that wasn’t why we – ugh, never mind.”

The location for the stakeout isn’t so important, probably. It is and it isn’t. This one’s not bad, if he overlooks the constant, churning humidity fogging the windowpanes, and the saturation of the air of every corner of the establishment and its stranglehold on the vicinity. But, ignoring the resilient layer of soup essence that’s applied itself across his skin and between the folds of his cuffs, at the wrists and ankles alike, this isn’t so bad a place to wait. Just... as he wishes he had the strength of mind to forego noting, extremely tacky and pungent.

Crossing his arms, Caspian returns his gaze to his original point of interest across the canal. Not at Bennan’s violin tutor’s private home, no, that’s nowhere near them and The Docks.

No, this is somewhere else entirely, but involving, hopefully, Bennan all the same.

“Caspian,” Thancerell says with an uncharacteristically somber tone, “if you want me to go, I can just go.”

Loutishness being one of Thancerell’s primary modes of behavior, there’s a compelling novelty to him in its absence.

With a sigh, Caspian reaches across the table and squeezes Thancerell’s wrist briefly, and allows himself to be caught and pressed there.

“Sorry. You can stay. I am…” Sensing both their countenances shifting towards the right again, he quips, “…quite out of soup anyway. So I’ll need some kind of cover.”

At this, Thancerell’s placated enough to grin back, spirits re-lifted enough to try to steal a little more of Caspian and thwart any fluttering. Caspian’s not having any of it, though, giving away enough to mollify but not nearly so much as to distract from the task at hand, said task only growing more frustrating each time the ungainly teenage mark does exactly what his stepmother asks him to.

“If you want to keep me here, at least tell me what you’re watching.”

“It’s…” Not the first or even second time he’s had to explain it. “The twerp also takes geography lessons, and he hasn’t missed a single one of those either. But after his geography lessons…”

A ravosala passes across the canal before them, and seated before its driver is the gangly youth Caspian has been monitoring for the past fortnight.

“I’m going to get more soup,” Thancerell says, unable to relate meaningfully to the severe degree of attention now attested to Caspian’s expression.

“You do that,” Caspian murmurs absentmindedly in response.

--
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Muddled and Marled

Postby Caspian on January 12th, 2019, 9:41 pm

The ravosala bearing Bennan doesn’t appear to be slowing anytime soon. Caspian rises from his seat just as Thancerell takes his.

“You’re leaving?” Thancerell asks, visibly disappointed.

“Duty calls,” Caspian replies, but before he can dart over and away after his target, Thancerell catches him by the waist and pulls him close. It’s a little annoying, being hindered just as he’s found the momentum to take flight - until Thancerell’s hands find their way around his hips, curling further until he’s fully encircled, and Thancerell’s looking up at him with very blue eyes.

“You’ll come over tonight, though?” Thancerell says. When Caspian balks, he grins and tightens his grip. “Yes. Yes, I think you will.”

With a flush rising across his skin, the color approaching the brilliant reds of Thancerell’s hair, Caspian concedes.

Newly released, he takes off at a brisk pace after the ravosala.

They’re heading south – no, decidedly southeasterly, from what Caspian can tell from the degree of the sun’s hanging in the mid-afternoon sky. At certain turns, Caspian anticipates the ravosala to alter its direction, head further towards the center of the city, end somewhere in the Noble District, if not the Merchants’ Ring, but the pair of them never quite do, and they remain on the outer concentricities of the floating isle, in the sorts of places he’s sure Bennan’s stepmother wouldn’t bother to tread.

It’s not too bad, this mission, a little puzzling at the moment but nothing to wind him. Ravosalas aren’t the speediest of mounts, its driver of apathetic leisure, though based on Bennan’s slight lean forward and tight grip on the side of the boat, he would have preferred any displays of haste.

Afraid, then, of wherever he’s heading? Or simply excited? Possible to be both, of course, wrapped with a neat bow and stamped within the terms of anxiety. Caspian had done his due diligence in asking Clarice the standard questions about Bennan’s schedules and habits, but it hadn’t been very fruitful, as after naming the teenager’s various weekly tutelages, she’d shrugged as to whether there were any expectation that he return home immediately after, leaving the spare hours between the lessons and nightfall fairly nebulous.

They do stop eventually, the ravosala, its driver, Bennan and consequently Caspian, and it’s nowhere near the family’s home.

With a slight frown, Caspian surveys the easterly Docks, scanning for any hints as to why this is where they’ve come. Nothing stands out to him, not the people, or the scattering of shops and taverns between which they mill. The homes are less bright here – or so it’s always seemed to him – less illumined than what you might find closer to the center of the city, the waters muddier and sloshing more brutishly against the sides of the canals.

But Bennan pays the driver – with Clarice’s money, surely – and clambers out of the ravosala and onto the street all the same.

It was the right decision not to invite Thancerell along. Though having cover actively by his side would have been some type of measurable benefit, he would have complained the whole way, not being one for long city walks in silence, as Caspian is. Cover’s been brought all the same, this time in the form of a neat little stack of parchment paper sewn into a tidy sketchbook, and an obsidian-dark oilstick. Fits in his pocket neatly – can’t say so much about a person.

At this point, Bennan hasn’t knocked entrance into a home or establishment, as Caspian expects, instead waiting on the apex of a bridge around the corner from where the ravosala had left him.

Waiting for someone – or something?

There’s an occupied bench within full view of the bridge. Though he hasn’t any real talent nor much interest in it, Caspian passes the time and substantiates his reasons for lingering here alone with curling sketches, defining and muddling with a lavish hand.

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Muddled and Marled

Postby Caspian on January 13th, 2019, 7:06 pm

Minutes pass, and Bennan becomes increasingly anxious. Even from a distance, Caspian can tell he’s shifting his weight from one foot to the other, if the looking towards one side of the bridge and then the other isn’t obvious enough.

Two people approach and cross the bridge, men of middling age dressed in gray cloaks, but they pass without slowing their pace, and without even sparing Bennan a cursory glance. Bennan doesn’t seem to think very much of them either. A trio of girls who appear to be around Bennan’s age follow some moments after, giggling together and strolling with sunny steps. Two of them do look towards Bennan – and if the third’s interested, she at least isn’t openly admitting as much – but leave him be, and despite Caspian’s expectation that he might display some form of vague attention, as a teenage boy might, just –

Nothing.

It’s longer still before any definitive movement occurs, and by this time Caspian has clumsily sketched what is meant to be a ravosala floating in the center of a lake, but bears a much closer resemblance to, perhaps, something like a slivered tuber rotting in the still waters of a Sunberthian gutter. That aside, Caspian’s patience and Bennan’s clear lack of are eventually rewarded by the appearance of a fourth young woman, dressed in unassuming shades of a dampened moss-green.

They exchange words Caspian can’t hear. Had he positioned himself a little closer, and with better angle, he might have tried to read their lips – but in any case they’re taking their leave of the bridge now, together, Bennan gesturing with boyish excitement, and the young woman nodding demurely along.

The appropriate interval is passed while Caspian adds, to his poor representation of a ravosala, an even poorer rendering of the sun in the sky that might have been mistaken for - were this a Sunberthian gutter - arguably someone’s eye.

They don’t move very fast, just teenagers, the both of them – and Caspian happens upon them too quickly, and forces himself to slow his pace. They’re rounding a corner and slow to a halt, Caspian remaining behind and beyond, so they remain fully in his view. They were seeking, it seems, just a moment alone – a moment in which Bennan rummages into his pockets to produce a small cinched bag of, undoubtedly, mizas, which he then hands to her.

“-pe that’s enough?” Bennan’s asking.

Yep. Mizas.

She’s nodding and thanking him profusely, but balks suddenly when he asks when he can see her again.

They decide on next week, the girl pulling away before Bennan can, in his teenage-boyish fumblings, display some form of physical affection. Certainly tries, though, but she’s sufficiently ducked him, and the exchange has Caspian stifling his bemusement.

It’s almost cause for sympathy, the forlorn expression on Bennan’s face as the girl scampers away – scampers, yes, there’s no better word for it, it’s a peculiar way of darting that has Caspian looking after her curiously and wondering whether she may actually be –

Entirely unaware that they’d been observed at all, the girl’s actually scampering towards him in her exit, and as she passes Caspian notices the collar around her neck.

Ah. A slave, then?

And with her unusually quick-footed gait, the frequency of her twitches, the stone-black beadiness of her eyes, which Caspian had noted as she drew near –
Kelvic as well?

Likely that Bennan’s heading home now. Caspian isn’t sure what comes over him, he might as well have left it alone, or gone straight to Clarice – but he intercepts the kid, and shoves him from behind back into the lane where he’d stopped with the girl.

It’s a constant source of astonishment for Caspian still, how unprepared people can be. Were this Sunberth, traipsing around with that level of unawareness is a death sentence, and one learns quite immediately how to perform the bare minimums of self-defense. Ravokian-born, Noble-District-bred Bennan is, unsurprisingly, completely unready for any type of accosting, and looks upon Caspian with shock, though not so much terror as he really ought – as if Caspian might have only bumped into him on accident, and that might be the end of it.

“Bennan,” Caspian says. “Bennan, right?” And he cuts right to the chase.

It turns out, in the end, to be very much as Caspian had figured from the proceedings he’d witnessed. Bennan had gone and done the foolish thing a teenage boy might, developed too great a level of affection for what he took for a pretty face. The unfortunate thing is, though, that the pretty face had turned out to be a slave’s, and a Kelvic mouse at that. The girl is someone’s property, a housemaid of, effectively, a neighbor, and Bennan had taken it upon himself to the knightly thing, which was attempt to provide the girl with enough of his stepmother’s funds to barter for her freedom.

“And then what were you going to do?” Caspian scoffs.

Bennan’s face colors, and he shrugs, looking to the side with an answer predictably insufficient.

“Your mother’s worried,” Caspian says. “That’s all. That’s why I’m here.”

“She’s not my mother,” Bennan retorts.

“All the same – cut her a break every now and again, will you?”

Another shrug.

“…you really have been going to all of your lessons?”

“Yes!”

“Then-“

A shrug, again, this one his most sincere. “I just don’t really like the violin, is all.”

So, in the end, Caspian reports as much to Clarice. Doesn’t say anything about the Kelvic slave her stepson’s been sweet on – out of his jurisdiction, generally, and call it the effect of having had a Kelvic mother, along with a Kelvic sister causing him daily grief, but he just doesn’t see the point in bringing about any kind of repercussions. The money isn’t missed either, or Clarice would have mentioned it from the start – so Caspian takes the flippancy as luxury in its finest form.

That night, resistant still to suffering any more of Taalviel’s inevitable critiques, Caspian retires to Thancerell’s home instead, and lets himself be flattered as Thancerell sees fit.

--
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