Solo [Halloween Challenge] A Rattled Dance

A bone-clad dance

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[Halloween Challenge] A Rattled Dance

Postby Baelin Holt on October 31st, 2019, 6:24 pm

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60, Fall 519 AV

Baelin wasn’t really sure what he was looking at. The woman rattled as she danced, bones clinking off each other in a macabre display of festivity. The dried skull of some large animal―an ox maybe, Baelin wasn’t sure―balanced precariously on her head, wobbling to and fro as she moved. She’d sway to the left and the skull would tip over to her right. Her sight was likely occluded, but the woman didn’t let that stop her as she lurched every which way, undeterred in her odd medley of a dance.

“Get down from there!” Someone shouted at her. A crowd had assembled around the Gallows to gawk at the bizarre display, and while most seemed to take amusement with the break from their norm, there were a few that seemed genuinely upset at the bone-clad woman dancing upon the Gallows.

It was a good time to leave. With the crowd gaining size and volume, the space was quickly becoming a hotbed for something to go wrong.

But something about the woman felt so… so… Baelin didn’t know what he was feeling. But it was something deep. Something moving. Something that made him both want to flee as well as dance with her. I have no bones to rattle, he caught himself thinking. Which was so absurdly outrageous that he immediately was annoyed at himself for even coming up with the thought.

And still she danced. Prancing over the scorched Gallows in a way that seemed to have no pattern nor rhythm. She would thrust her leg up in the air, a dangling rib bone bouncing off what looked like a shoulder blade. Her arm would jerk in the opposite direction, flinging tethered finger bones out like fringes. And all the while, the skull would bobble on her head.

Someone moved from the crowd and began to climb up on the Gallows. His intent was likely little more than to get her down, but it was like a string snapped in Baelin. Before he even knew what he was doing, Baelin lunged through the crowd, shoving people out of his way in an almost fervor to get up there. The woman didn’t pause her dance, either unaware or uncaring of the two people closing in on her.

The other got there first. His hand reached out to grab her wrist. And Baelin saw red.

He lunged.

His shoulder caught the man’s belly.

They both went down, the man’s surprised grunt muffled in the rush of blood pounding in Baelin’s ears.

Once he was past the initial rush, the ability to think slowly returned to Baelin. And let him take stock of his situation: he was up on the Gallows, with a seriously ticked off Sunberthian under him, a loud crowd gathered around them, and no idea what to do. The woman was still dancing, her jangling bones a near cacophony this close, and both shouts and laughter were rising from the crowd.

He had to get out of here. He had to get the woman out of here. The thought of leaving her here to Sunberth’s whims somehow made him feel sick to his stomach. He had no idea why, but he didn’t need a reason to act on instinct. A heady blend of adrenaline and panic fueled his next moves: he grabbed her, ignored her indignant squawk, and threw her over his shoulder and ran.

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[Halloween Challenge] A Rattled Dance

Postby Baelin Holt on November 1st, 2019, 9:12 am

Gods but she was heavy. Baelin got barely twenty paces―with an odd blend of jeers and cat-calls trailing after him―before the burn of exertion licked his shoulder and side. But he didn’t dare stop there, when so many in the Commons could still see them. Baelin darted behind a building, and his leg joined the flare of over-exertion.

It didn’t help that the woman wasn’t having any of it. She wanted back up on the Gallows, and she let him know with profanities howled in his ear, wild kicks that mostly missed him, and a pattering of her fists against his back. One kick finally landed in his gut, and Baelin figured that was about enough of that. He tossed her on the ground, and then lunged after her when she immediately got back up and tried to bolt back to the Gallows.

“I wasn’t finished!” she screeched at him as he got a good grip on her arm, “Let me go, I wasn’t finished!”

If she meant that wild dance on top of the Gallows, then she was out of her petching mind. “No,” he told her, “Go home.”

"No no no." She jerked against his grip, eyes darting back in the direction they came. "I must go back, I wasn't finished yet. I wasn't finished!"

He just made a fool of himself to get her out of there, no way was he going to let her just run straight back. "Go home," Baelin tried again, putting a bit more steel in his tone. But the woman wouldn't hear it. She rubbed her arms, scratched at the cattle skull―which Baelin could now see was loosely tied on―and kept anxiously mumbling to herself. No no no, over and over again.

Let’s try this again. If Baelin could figure out her brand of crazy, maybe he could reason with it. Be tactful. Baelin pulled in a long breath, held it, then hissed through his teeth, "Why no?"

She jerked and looked up at him with such insulted incredulity that Baelin couldn't help but grimace. So much for being tactful.

"The goddess said she would!" Baelin felt a shock of alarm, and for the briefest of moments he feared he was meddling in the gods' affairs. But that feeling slowly settled into something sadder as she kept rambling. "I heard her! I swear, I heard her! Just like the magic woman said, I heard her!" The bone-clad woman stabbed a finger in his chest and snapped, "I drank her magic and it let me hear the goddess. Death herself! She said tonight. She said tonight, the dead would rise. Lots of them! I have to go back. The Gallows..." The woman nodded furiously, almost manic now, "The Gallows are her place. A place of death. Hers. All hers. She'd notice me there, I know she would. I need to go back. I wasn't finished!"

Baelin didn't know much of magic or of the gods' whims, but he was fairly certain that it didn't work like that. A "magic woman" didn't give you a "drink" that let you talk to gods. And, even if that wasn't absurd enough in and of itself, to think that Dira would ever "raise the dead." Baelin grimaced. The woman knew nothing of the cycle.

No. This was a woman who was so deep into either grief or insanity that she was preyed upon. If Baelin ever had the chance to meet that magic woman... The homicidal rage he was feeling probably wasn't appropriate, but by the gods, he wanted to stab that predator’s eyes out and feed them to her. Just the thought of it gave him a warm thrill that he immediately recoiled at.

Before he could go down his normal spiral of self-hate and internalized pleas to just be more human, the woman continued her frenzied ranting. "My babies, you see, my children. If I prayed to her, then she'd notice me and could bring them back too. Don't you see?" She clutched his forearm with an alarming intensity, nails biting so deep into his flesh that he was sure the skin would break. "I have to go back. I wasn't finished."

No. No, this wouldn't do at all. Baelin pulled in a tight breath. "Dira won't...not there." And he tried to push as much sincerity into his words as he could. In a sense, he did mean them. While the Gallows were indeed a place of death, it was not the cycle that put people up there. The cycle would take the Gallows’ victims all the same, but it was not the cycle that clamored for such a specific death.

She threw her hands up and wailed, "Then where?"

This was probably a bad idea. No, scratch that, this was definitely a bad idea. But... the woman stared up at him with eyes so desperate and lost that he couldn't help but feel his stomach twist. He couldn't just leave her here. Not like this.

Gritting his teeth, Baelin resolved himself to hurt her. "Where are your children buried?"

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[Halloween Challenge] A Rattled Dance

Postby Baelin Holt on November 1st, 2019, 7:30 pm

She stared at him for a long moment, the implication apparently taking a bit to click. Then she gasped, "Of course!" And bolted so fast that Baelin had to scramble to keep up.

The woman likely looked ridiculous, her medley of bones bouncing about as she dashed through Sunberth. Baelin barely managed to keep up with her mad run, only just aware enough of the route they took to note the more or less direct path they were on towards the dust bed.

Following her became significantly more difficult as she crossed into the massive graveyard. She stumbled over roots and ridges, leapt over stones, and beat such a foolishly fast pace into the meandering graveyard that he feared she'd get herself killed.

It didn't help that the presence of ghosts was a tangible thing as he pressed deeper into the graveyard. Baelin’s skin buzzed with the weight of them, hair on end as his gnosis practically sang. He had thought he had understood what the presence of ghosts felt like; he'd grown up surrounded by them―albeit without a mark―and this was not his first foray into the dust bed. But the last time he’d gone had been during the day. Here, at night, the graveyard was positively electric. Like static in the air, exciting with every step. Baelin couldn't remember the last time he'd felt so alive. He would have to come back here. Once again at night, when he had nothing else going on.

But tonight wasn't about him. And when the woman slowed to stop at two lopsided rocks shoved deep into the ground, Baelin was certain this night would be long indeed.

The bereaved mother wasted no time. She launched back into her jerky dance, bones rattling in her misguided and bizarre prayer to Dira.

Figuring it would likely be best to let her "finish," Baelin went ahead and tried to get comfortable for the wait. He sat down on the dirt, shifting his weight until he more or less was sitting evenly without anything poking him. As he settled, Baelin could just catch a bit of movement out of the corner of his eye. A ghost, he thought, come to see what the commotion was about.

It hung back, evidently satisfied to watch from a distance, and Baelin relaxed. No one to interrupt the woman's frenzied dance.

As she danced―bones whistling when she swung and rattling as she jerked back―Baelin could feel the tension in him ease. It was peaceful out here, among the dead. And as he let his mind clear, it was easier to forget the cruel thing he would be doing to this stranger. It was necessary; he truly believed that. She'd already been preyed on by one scammer in her grief, and Baelin could only imagine there'd be more if she didn't receive a rude awakening. But still. It would perhaps be kinder to do nothing. To let her hope and pray and chase the impossible dream of her children's return. A sense of purpose, however foolish, might very well be better than nothing.

No, this was not a kind thing he was doing. Not even close.

And still she danced. Her breathing was labored, sweat causing some of the smaller bones to cling, and yet still she danced.

Baelin was only going to feel worse about this if he let himself think about it, so he switched his focus to the sounds around them. A chirp of an insect. The rustle of leaves. The wind, softly sighing past them. The night was alive, Leth's soft light cascading over the gravestones, and Baelin breathed it in.

He still felt like an asshole, but he was at least able to drop the thought as it came―over and over again―as he instead focused on the night.

Clang.

Baelin jerked, so focused on the sounds around him that the metallic clank of metal on metal felt like a slap.

Clang. Clang. Clang.

What. The petch. Was that?

The mother heard it to, and her dancing took on an even more manic pace. She threw her arms up, whipped them back down, crouched and jumped, ducked and swayed, faster and faster.

Clang, clang, clang!

She swirled and jerked, bones clinking so fast that it almost sounded like rain pattering against a roof.

And the noise only sped up. Clangclangclangclang!

So fast that Baelin could barely track her motions, the woman danced. And danced and danced and danced, keeping pace with the increasing crash of metal on metal. The freakishly out of place noise reached a crescendo―clanks in such quick succession that it was now a mechanical wail piercing the night―and the woman threw her head back and screamed with it. An anguished howl, overflowing with grief and an all-consuming need.

And then it stopped. The aberrant noise. The woman's dance. It all halted on a hairsbreadth. Only the soft sigh of the wind broke the still silence left behind.

The mother dropped to her knees and began digging, tearing out hard-packed dirt with her bare hands. And for a fraction of a tick, Baelin had the absurd thought that it had worked. That her mad prayer had been answered, and her children were once more alive, trapped in their graves.

But that was not the way of the cycle. The certainty of that truth slammed home a bare tick later, and Baelin knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that all she would unearth would be rotting corpses. Freak noise or no, there was no bringing back the dead.

He let her dig. Making no move to either help her or stop her, Baelin leaned back and watched the woman claw at the ground. She has to see it for herself, he reasoned with himself. The urge to reach out and stop her from digging was strong―it was the nice thing to do. But Baelin pulled in a deep breath instead, and waited.

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Baelin Holt
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[Halloween Challenge] A Rattled Dance

Postby Baelin Holt on November 3rd, 2019, 7:36 pm

Leth―waxing near full―illuminated her frantic dig. She threw loose dirt, clumps of hard-packed soil, and rocks over to the side; all the while working deeper and deeper into the hole. Baelin brought his knees up to rest his arms on, doing his best to get comfortable. If her children had been buried properly, then it may very well take her bells to reach them. A long wait for a miserable unveiling.

“Help me!” she shouted over her shoulder.

Oh petch no. This was already an entirely stupid excursion to be on. Him even being there was ridiculous enough, never mind if he actually got in there and helped her dig.

The woman swore at him when he refused to budge, and paused her digging long enough to hurl a stone at him. Baelin blinked, surprised more than anything as it sailed past his shoulder. She picked up another, and this time he had to duck behind his legs to avoid the hit.

“No,” he growled.

“Yes!” she said back, far more insistently. But Baelin just sneered and leaned back, trying to convey with a relaxed and loose posture that he was absolutely not moving. The woman, undeterred, started plucking small rocks out of the ground to hurl at him.

He didn’t have to deal with this shyke. He could be in his apartment by now, relaxing after a long day at work and readying himself for the next. If he hadn’t stopped to see what the bizarre commotion at the Gallows had been (and if he hadn’t acted on the insane instinct to get her out of there), then he wouldn’t be out in the middle of the night with a woman throwing rocks at him.

Petching shyke, he was going to help her, wasn’t he? Baelin groaned and looked skyward, silently asking Leth for strength. The mother―sensing her victory―dropped her cluster of rocks and scooted over to give him room.

Gods, he’s an idiot. Baelin grimaced, but still shifted forward to crawl towards the graves. Not only was he helping a crazy stranger dig up her dead children, but they weren’t even using tools. Pulling in a breath, Baelin reached for a clump of dirt.

He did no more than two handfuls before he figured it'd be the peak of his stupidity today to continue without tools. He stood up and―to the woman's confused glance―said, "We need a tool."

She grumbled something nasty under her breath, but he couldn't quite make out her words. Probably best he didn't hear her, anyways. Baelin turned and left the little dip in land the graves were nestled in. He meandered through the neighboring areas, eyes peeled on the ground for anything that could be used as a makeshift shovel, when he heard it: crunch.

A footstep, unmistakable as it repeated itself. Crunch, crunch, crunch. Baelin froze; that probably wasn’t good. The steps got closer and a light swung into view. A beast of a man followed. Large and well-built, with the hilt of what looked like a mean looking sword peeking over his shoulder. He locked eyes on Baelin, and his hand quickly went back to rest on the hilt.

"State your business, stranger. You best not be out here trying to dig up the dead." His fingers wrapped tightly around the hilt of his weapon. "Else you be joining 'em."

Well. That really wasn't good. Especially since trying to dig up the dead was exactly what he was doing.

The man's threat hung in the space between them, growing with every moment Baelin didn't answer. He was only going to get one shot at this, wasn't he? One shot to convince the dust bed's night patrol that he wasn't a grave robber. Baelin grimaced. "A friend isss unwell. Of a mind that her children will come up out of the ground." The man's hand had yet to leave his hilt, so Baelin pressed on, "I thought if ssshe could look at them, it would help."

The night patrolman didn't relax, but he didn't pull his sword from his back either. "Well I can't let you do that," he said, "No one will be doing any digging up of bodies on my watch. Let’s go back to this friend of yours and see what else we can do."

Baelin wasn't going to fight him on this. That sword looked two-handed, and the man looked brawny enough to pull it out quick. Baelin could see himself dying here if he did anything else but what the night patrol said. So he gave a tight nod, and turned back around to lead him to the bone woman.

With his back exposed, Baelin felt hyper-aware of every little sound coming from the man. From the swish of leather to the crunch of his boots, Baelin had his ears trained on it all. If he heard anything that could have been a drawn sword, he'd bolt.

But he heard nothing of the sort. When they finally got to the mother―still frantically digging―Baelin glanced back over his shoulder and was relieved to see he had lowered his hand from the hilt.

The man stepped past Baelin and crouched next to the woman. She didn't stop digging, her fingers clawing the ground, making little headway. He spoke more gently to her than he had Baelin. "Ma'am, you need to stop."

She didn't. Still pulling up dirt, she snarled, "No! They've risen, they have! I know they have. I need to get them out. Help me!"

The man reached out and wrapped her in a bear hug. Bones crunched in her costume and the woman shrieked in fury, but the man held on and murmured something low in her ear. The woman babbled more of her usual spiel of "I need to" and "I know it" and he repeated himself louder. "Listen," he insisted, "Can you hear them trying to climb up to you? No. They are dead, ma'am. They've moved on, and its time you did too."

She squirmed in his grip, scratching at his leather sleeve. But tears were starting to well in her eyes; her nostrils flared and checks twitched as she held back her grief. And Baelin sagged in relief when the damn finally burst. She wailed into the night, great wracking sobs that had bones clinking on each other. The man's grip on her loosened, but didn't release as he now held her for comfort and support instead. And there they stayed for a long time: the grieving mother, overcome with anguish as her efforts proved for naught; the dust bed's night patrolman, holding her as she sobbed; and Baelin, hovering nearby and watching the display.

It was time for him to leave. He'd done all he could, and she was now in more capable hands than his. He turned to leave, but the night patrolman barked a sharp wait.

Baelin turned back and shot him a questioning look. The man nodded down at the woman still sobbing and asked, "You're not gonna take your friend home?"

Baelin shook his head. "I met her no more than a bell ago." He didn't know where she lived. He didn't even know her name.

Now it was the night patrolman's turn to give Baelin a questioning look. He carefully extricated himself from the woman and rose to stand. The woman let him, folding in on herself. "So you just, what? Took a total stranger into my dust bed, at night, to dig up her dead kids?"

Baelin grimaced. He could feel tension building back between them, the night patrolman likely suspecting nefarious intentions. Once again, he had his back against the wall and only his ability to talk to get him out of this. Petch, this was so not his thing. Baelin shrugged awkwardly and tried to put his thoughts into words, "A conner already got her. Claimed a drink could let her talk to Dira." Baelin curled his fingers in, unconsciously pulling on the mark on his hand. "I couldn't ignore that."

The man's eyes narrowed as he tracked the motion. He reached for Baelin's arm and jerked it up, so fast that Baelin barely even realized what was happening until his palm was up and scythe out, standing proud and clear. The night patrolman cracked a smile and twisted Baelin's hand around to grasp it. Baelin watched, confused as the man shook his hand. "Been a long time since I met another Eiyon. Name's Jebediah. I'm the undertaker here. Don’t try to dig up any of the bodies here, and we’ll be just fine.”

Baelin blinked in surprise, and looked down to see the scythe on the undertaker’s hand. Jebediah. Baelin offered his own rare smile in return and said, “Good to meet you. I’m Baelin.” The two men stared at each other for a long moment, the fact that they had both been visited by Dira and both received the gift of her mark sinking in.

Jebediah was the first to break the moment. He nodded and released his grasp, then jerked his chin towards Sunberth proper. “Well, Baelin, best you get out of my dust bed right now. I can take care of this missus.” Baelin nodded in assent, and―after one last look over his shoulder to the bone-glad woman―turned to go.

Jebediah, he thought to himself. An odd lightness carried his steps out of the graveyard. And, for the first time in a long time, he felt genuine hope for the future.

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Baelin Holt
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Posts: 340
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Joined roleplay: July 25th, 2014, 12:36 am
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[Halloween Challenge] A Rattled Dance

Postby Baelin Holt on December 26th, 2019, 5:53 pm

Baelin Holt :
Skills:
1 Body Building
1 Interrogation
1 Meditation
3 Observation
2 Rhetoric
1 Running

Lores:
Location: The Gallows
Baelin: Believes gods don't grant audiences via magic drinks
Dira: Not known for raising the dead
The bone-clad woman: Wants her dead children back
Location: The Dust Bed
Eiyon: The presence of ghosts feels electric
Meditation: Focus on the sounds around you
Jebediah: Undertaker of the Dust Bed
Jebediah: An Eiyon

Comments: If anyone has any questions or concerns with this self-grade, please let me know.
User avatar
Baelin Holt
Blacksmith
 
Posts: 340
Words: 360322
Joined roleplay: July 25th, 2014, 12:36 am
Location: Sunberth
Race: Mixed blood
Character sheet
Storyteller secrets
Scrapbook
Plotnotes
Medals: 3
Featured Character (1) Featured Thread (1)
Mizahar Grader (1)


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