The Price of Paradise

The gates to the Eternal City are always open to those willing to pay the right price [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]

The Price of Paradise

Postby Elias Caldera on March 12th, 2019, 9:05 am

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1st Day of Spring, 519 AV

"Like I said, you'll need to wait like everyone else while we review your goods," Elias announced, voice crisp and bordering on irritation. In one gloved hand was a bundle of papers, in the other, a quill that dripped a fat glob of ink every few ticks unless held at just the right angle. After about three bells of this, his fingers were as stained as his temper was frayed.

"They. Are. Mangos! Mangos from Syka! What is there to review?!" The portly merchant had promptly lost his patience when the Ebonstryfe commander had failed to immediately wave him through. His response had been one fully expected and envisioned the moment Elias had laid eyes on the man's round, bouncing belly and his plenitude of chins come clambering up to the checkpoint with all the pomp and confidence of a prince.

"That is not how this works," he explained slowly, as if to a child. "You request passage across the Lake. We check your things. You wait quietly like the others, and then once we're satisfied, you can go. No sooner, no later." With the end of his feathered quill, he pointed in the direction of the Bazaar. The markets were particularly rowdy this morning, the din of tradesmen and hawkers loud enough that it was almost all one could hear, even so far away. Usually the Lakeshore was a constant buzz as the outpost toiled and turned its cogs, but the crowds and the even the atmosphere itself had changed when word from docks had unleashed hysteria not too long ago as the fishing trolleys sluggishly dragged themselves back to shore, their crews hooting and hollering in excitement that their nets were full to the bursting. As it turned out, another of Rhsyol’s miracle had brought the waters of Lake Ravok to a near froth with the bounty of so many fish. That, added on top of the fact that today was also day of harvest for the miles and miles of cattail and lily pad farms that stretched along the shore, and you had yourself a recipe of pandemonium, commerce, and religious fervor all mixed into one tightly packed little town that even on its best of days was moments away from exploding it all out bedlam.

To say Elias was not enthused about this new post he’d been given would be an unhealthy understatement. He at the very least understood now why so many of the Stryfe, his own unit included, had been assigned to gate duty. Today of all days though... Either fate was conspiring against him or someone not quite as scrupulous was pulling the strings.

"This is the seventh time I've been to this city! One would think you people would just remember me by now and let me pass," he snapped, and the mage started to grind his teeth. The merchant took one glance toward the bustling Bazaar and turned his nose up. "I'll not let this whole cart spoil because of some backwater asshole who doesn't know how to do his job. Do you know who my patrons are?! I have very important friends in this city. Very Important friends who can make the life of ant like you more miserable than you imagine." There was a long silence after his cherry cheeked outburst, and more than a few people were giving the scene a wide berth and an uncomfortable glance as they began to shuffle away.

"Seven whole times, you say?" The soldiers voice was calm, his grimace like ice water in the veins. The rotund merchant nodded and folded his arms, looking very satisfied and superior for a fruit salesman. "Well then, forgive me sir. I had no idea. Let me just write that down." Very carefully, Elias drug the quill's tip across the page, crossing off the man's name with a thick line of black ink. He handed these to the young woman beside him -Sabel, a member of his unit who had been awkwardly silent throughout the exchange, but was cupping her face in her palm now.

A few more of his comrades wandered up, for they'd been stationed at the Outpost as a group for the next few days. They'd been listening from a distance like carrion circling a battlefield, drawn in by the promise of death and bones to pick clean. The trader soon saw this tide of black closing in and the scowl slipped from his face. His already ruddy skin took on a new, even more blooming hue, and his hands threw themselves up in the universal gesture of surrender as his step stumbled backwards. Elias followed his retreat pace by pace, and by the time his back bumped into cart, the merchant realized with a gasp there was nowhere left to run.

In that moment of panic, Elias wasted no time in burying a heavy fist into the fat man’s belly. The fool doubled over in a mixture of surprise and pain, the air abandoning him before he started to retch. While he was bent down struggling to recover, Elias grabbed a handful of his hair and slammed his head back against the wooden frame of the wagon. The sorcerer leaned in, his lips hovering dangerously close to the trader’s ear as he began to whisper. “We know who you are, master Tomen. In fact, we’ve been waiting here all morning just for you. I have a message from my patrons. It’s a simple one so listen close; We both know what’s really in that cart, and we both know what I’ll find when I search it. You want to sell your ‘mangos’ this city, fine, by all means, our lord’s domain welcomes all, but I think the Nitrozians could offer you a better deal than your current benefactors ever could. They made this offer once and you turned them aside. Now they make it for the last time. I reckon its the sort of deal a man like you simply can’t refuse… Now shake your fat head if you understand me.”

The Stryfer felt his hand, still full of bourbon colored hair grow slick with sweat and grease as the merchant blubbered and nodded feverishly. “Excellent!” Elias suddenly cried out, pulling back with a jovial grin upon his scarred face. The merchant looked somewhat relived for all but a tick before a resounding slap across his puffy cheeks sent the foreigner clattering to the muddy floor with a womanly yelp. It looked as though he'd learned his lesson, mewling and shivering on the ground as he was. “Get from my sight now, I’m done with you.” The swordsman grumbled wearily as he wiped his hands clean. Tomen wasted no time scurrying off to wherever it was petchs like him scurried off to and Elias paid him no further mind.

"Shyke, Elias. You really are an asshole," one of the other soldiers jested, eliciting scattered laughter from the gaggle of ebon-clad warriors. It was a mirth that was shared by none in the long procession of those still waiting for entry into the city, least of all the ones who were next in line.


WC - 1147
Last edited by Elias Caldera on March 15th, 2019, 2:14 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Elias Caldera
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The Price of Paradise

Postby Elias Caldera on March 12th, 2019, 9:08 am

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Some of the others cleaned up the mess as he resumed his station. Sable handed him back the quill and papers, a look on her face as though nothing had happened. And nothing had, really. At least nothing to bat an eye at. The trader had no citizenship, and while men and women peddling goods were welcomed with more-or-less open arms, there was a zero tolerance rule for paperless aliens bad mouthing and openly disrespecting a member of Rhysol's holy order. And that was exactly what he’d report should anyone raise a quizzical brow at his actions. So what if the folks he was hassling just so happened to be the ardent supporters of the Nitrozian’s foes, a house the Calderas also just so happened to be in bed with. It was a mere coincidence as far as anyone was concerned, and if some fool should find himself unable to come to terms with that fact... well, he had something of a reputation among the Stryfe that curbed such outlandish claims. Any man willing to accuse him of wrongdoing one moment knew full well by now that they would be fighting for their life the next.

Once such challengers had been many. Now there were none.

"Who's next?" A few of them looked a little pale from the proceedings, while others hadn't flinched. A ragged looking man and a woman stepped forward, leading a pony weighed down by a pack saddle filled with odds and ends. "Names?"

"Val, and this here is Savos. Scavengers, here to sell our finds." Elias's lip curled slightly with distaste, but he carefully scrawled their names and a general synopsis of their apparently valuable garbage.

"They're going to go through your haul to make sure you're not hiding anything you shouldn't be; contraband, false idols, etcetera." They nodded their understanding and seemed open to the process, so he continued. "Have you been to Ravok before?" They shook their heads this time. Quiet like mice these two, he thought to himself. Something to hide… Well, whatever it was, it wasn’t his concern, just so long as his men gave the all clear on the junk and his auristics hadn’t picked up anything else. "You can rest at Sheng's and stall the pony at Elderbay." He pointed lazily down the hill to the two story inn surrounded by the little makeshift tent village of traders waiting for passage.

"Your bags will be checked there." Elias pointed further south next. "That's the stables, south of here. Just a word of warning though, don't stick your fingers in the stalls like the last lot."

"What? They don't like people petting the horses?" It was the man who voiced his curiosity. He'd been quiet up until now, fiddling with their pony's lead rope and avoiding everyone's eye like the plague.

"No, it's just that the stable hands get tired of cleaning up after the Bloodbanes. They have a ravenous appetite for meat, you see. Especially for all these new ‘foreign’ flavors." Elias snapped his teeth loudly and the two jumped, sharing a nervous look between themselves. The commander dismissed them with the wave of a hand and motioned for the next group to come forward.

As the line shuffled forward however, Ser Alistair Valmont, his right hand man and a literal giant clad in platemail, came saddling up to him, a look of beleaguered concern marring his bearded face. “With all due respect, commander” The old Syliran began habitually, “What are we still doing here?”

The mage didn’t bother looking up from his work as a hooded figure approached. “Serving our nation dutifully and humbly, as we always do, Alistair. Why, you have somewhere to be, ser knight?” As the stranger drew near, Elias recognized the peculiar sensation he’d suddenly been feeling in an instant. Though cloaked in the shadow of his black and eerie garb, the man’s truth was not one so easily hidden by the dark, especially not from his kin. “Brother.” The commander greeted him cordially.

“Brother.” An oddly soothing voice answered back. The stranger outstretched his arm towards Elias, face still enshrouded in mystery as the Ravokian took it heartily in a handshake. The flesh was pale and deathly cold, almost like that of a corpse, but such things mattered not once Elias recognized the small, innocuous mark on his wrist.

It was the mark of the Black Sun.

“Welcome home.” Was all the soldier uttered as he stepped aside and allowed the agent to pass without another word.

“… Actually, I can think of a few places, yes.” Valmont chimed in, his calculating dark eyes having watched the curious figure slowly disappear into the crowds. The words brought his commanding officer back into the conversation abruptly. Elias gazed out among the thick throngs of anxiously awaiting pilgrims and con artists and refugees from every part of the world gathered into one, seemingly endless parade of misfits and misbegotten wretches stretched out before him.

He sighed, rubbing his bleary eyes with the back of his fist for the umpteenth time that day. He was so tired he couldn’t even bring himself to reply with something witty and condescending as usual. Luckily, Valmont spoke up before the silence became noticeable. “Oh, and before I forget to mention. That fella you said to keep an eye out for, I'd bet my wages that's him over yonder.”

The Caldera turned swiftly, eyes suddenly flashing to life as he surveyed the distant rise of the hill his man had been gesturing at. He saw him then, approaching the small town flanked by his entourage of mean mugged goons. God above, thank you for answering my prayers.

“You know what, my Prime. I have considered your advice and found it both wise and proper. I do believe I shall languish no further this morning… Taliya, take over. Were going on patrol.”

Taliya, who had been fully engrossed in the pressing duty of cleaning her finger nails at the time, looked up with a scowl that was equal parts surprise and dismay. It only grew more contemptible as Elias shoved his clipboard into her clutches. “And wake those two louts up before a Marshal spots them.” He spat, jabbing a thumb over his shoulder towards the haystack upon which Decimus and Domina slumbered shamelessly. The Kelvic siblings had had the right idea of course, but with their commander motioning for Sabel, Valmont and one of the apprentices to follow, their participation was now needed in order to control the horde of disparate and desperate trying to get in to their fair city. Or so at least he would argue. The truth was, if he had been forced to suffer, so too did they.

Ah, the privileges of command.

“Lets go.”


WC - 1076
Last edited by Elias Caldera on March 15th, 2019, 1:53 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Elias Caldera
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Posts: 902
Words: 1255874
Joined roleplay: September 14th, 2013, 1:28 am
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The Price of Paradise

Postby Elias Caldera on March 12th, 2019, 9:10 am

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Their short jaunt had taken them to the base of the tower that overlooked all of the southern reaches within the outpost’s domain, and as he gazed out upon the glistening waters and the rolling forests, he found himself contemplating the world beyond. Beyond Ravok’s meager reach where Syna’s grace brushed upon distant fields, where a wind he couldn't feel through his armor rippling across line upon line of carefully cultivated crops. Somewhere, cloaked in haze of the horizon, the glinting spires of Ravok’s temples rose out of the sea in all their awe and splendor. He wondered if there, upon those floating islands, another Stryfer stood staring in his direction as well.

"Come on you two, pick up the pace!" The apprentice was already a half a dozen paces ahead of them, bouncing on his heels as called out to the others, respectfully of course. These were fully ranked soldiers he was addressing after all, and Rhysol forbid he make them look anything less than completely confident. Even if the old knight kept tugging at the straps securing his plate every five chimes.

"You need not harbor any concerns as to my ability to keep up, young master Tannen." Valmont contested sourly just as Elias peeled himself from the view and fell into formation alongside the pair as the old knight and Sabel rounded the hill in pursuit. That much was true, at least. While the giant may have cloaked himself in a carapace of hardened steel and chainmail, Valmont was anything but impeded. The half plate Elias wore himself was a good deal lighter than the plate encasing his comrades - though still easily heavy enough to remind him he was wearing it if he ran. Valmont however, big as was, never showed even a hint of sluggishness in his own gear, and could burst into a sprint at any moment. Such natural speed made the giant all the more dangerous, which was all the more reason to keep him close.

"Never doubted you, Ser." Tannen grinned. He was a youth, like most apprentices, bordering on his sixteenth or seventeenth birthday. All going well, it would not be long before he went before the Crystal Throne for his Crucible and Tannen knew it. It was a fact that Elias found he was incredibly proud of. He’d hand picked Tannen months ago, swooping down and rescuing the poor lad from a swaddling fate of guarding baggage trains and patrolling empty forests for the rest of his life. With Elias, the farm boy had been given new purpose, and with it, found new life in him to replace the humdrum and drab existence he’d been condemned to. Tannen had been one of the first to join Elias, and there were few whom the mage held more confidence in.

"Tannen." The towering figure walking to Elias's far right spoke up. Valmont had become something of a patron to the boy since his own arrival, as he had done to most of the apprentices since the Caldera had concluded he’d trained them as best he could and now set his sights on bigger prizes. He wore a silver-trimmed black cloak over his plate, head hidden beneath the hood. Elias thought the whole thing was a touch melodramatic, especially in this fine weather. The big man raised a gauntleted hand to the pointed to the bustling little town they were descending into. "Do you see what I see, apprentice?"

Tannen looked at him as though he were mad.

"That would be Lakeshore herself, ser."

"Mhm." Valmont jabbed the finger again. "What else?"

Tannen was silent for a few breaths, frowning. "Uh. The market?"

"Yes, I suppose, but you're missing the point. Peel your eyes and concentrate." Valmont ran a hand over the hilt of his axes. "Give it some more thought. I expect to hear your answer by the end of this patrol."

"Of course, Ser." Sabel gave a shrug and a half-chuckle, as if at some private joke, but Tannen had focused his scrutiny as if he’d just been challenged with a math quiz. Elias arced an eyebrow at the whole affair.

"Is there something here that I am unaware of?"

"Not particularly, Commander." Sabel grinned and shook her head. "He did the same thing to all of us, even me before I passed my Crucible. Some old trick he used on his squires back home, I think. Asks some pointless question or another when he gets sick of us talking. You watch, he'll have forgotten all about it by the time we turn in."

Valmont gave a pointed cough, cutting off Elias's rebuke before it left his throat, and waved at the smattering of wooden roofs ahead of them. Though detached from the Eternal City and separated by hours and hours of boat travel, the Lakeshore outpost was considered as much an extension of Ravok as the rivers and tributaries were of the lake. Day and night laborers, merchants, and folk of every sort toiled within the outpost to feed the ravenous appetites of the great city across the water, for paradise could afford no constraints on the frivolous wants of its children, nor permitted any. Thus, the titanic task of supplying Ravok with all she required fell to the people of the shoreline who served tirelessly in her shadow. Unfortunately, it was a shadow whose shade attracted more trouble that many felt it worth.

Not all that surprising when one considered how Rhysol was perceived beyond Ravok’s borders. The God of evil and chaos didn’t exactly attract the best and brightest Mizhar had to offer. Many were unfit to enter the city, regardless of their so called ‘devotion’ and zealousness. The rest were likely spies and saboteurs and were to be turned away all the same -or so the old fogies in high command had so fervently convinced themselves, the isolationistic fools.

It was nearing midday, and most of the scattered buildings had thrown open their doors and market stalls to the crowds, countless foreigners and curious locals all eager to get their hands on goods all too often taxed into unobtainable vices within the city, but not out here… It was a rowdier day than usual, and all the more reason for the patrol to make an appearance, he decided. Elias lead the way as the party descended into the sprawl.


WC - 1049
User avatar
Elias Caldera
Playa
 
Posts: 902
Words: 1255874
Joined roleplay: September 14th, 2013, 1:28 am
Location: Ravok
Race: Human
Character sheet
Storyteller secrets
Scrapbook
Journal
Plotnotes
Medals: 7
Featured Character (1) Featured Thread (2)
Overlored (1) One Million Words! (1)
Ravok Seasonal Challenge (1) 2018 Mizahar NaNo Winner (1)


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