Flashback The Loft Pt. I

Rogues in rubble.

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

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The Loft Pt. I

Postby Caspian on July 25th, 2020, 3:34 pm

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    65 Spring 506
“Get up.”

Caspian’s already up; he’s been up since – it’s hard to say, with the way the light filters down greasily through the mouldering, moth-wrecked curtains, casting the room green no matter the hour. Which is unsettling, because dawns are pink, sunsets amber, the nights shot with sapphire and emerald snakes that –

Except –

Wrong place. Wrong time.

Far, far from here.

“I said get. Up.

Something beside him shatters. The noise has him flinching, the crumbling remains of a faded clay flowerpot showering across the slant of skin the frayed patchwork quilt he’d thrown over himself hadn’t covered.

They really like breaking things here. It was one of the first things he’d noticed. The funny thing is that despite how consistently difficult it seems to make ends meet there’s no shortage of possessions at hand. Though it’s not like they buy them, do they? Nearly a year has passed since he’d been brought to Sunberth, and he can’t say he’s ever seen any of them carry out an honest transaction. One time, maybe, Gavir said he needed new greaves and had let him tag along to an armorer – and money changed hands, but only after Gavir had declared in his ice-quiet, deathly-deliberate way that the original asking price was not something either of them would entertain again.

Still, it’s a shame about the flowerpot.

But he supposes no one would have used it anyway.

Somewhere behind him – never a good place to let her – Taalviel’s pacing. Looking for something else to smash, probably, and he casts off the quilt and hurriedly rises to his feet before she gets the chance.

“Where are we going?” he asks.

She casts him a look of unconcealed distaste and leaves the room.

Get dressed and meet me downstairs, is what she hadn’t said, but she hadn’t needed to.

Brushing clay dust from his hair, he observes his reflection in the cracked mirror leaning at uncertain angle against the wall. This he comes to regret – even in the mildewy, scummy light he had caught sight of the bruises and scrapes littering his skin, old and new, and the gauntness in his frame that hadn’t been there before.

When they’d first thrown him in this room, it had been littered with stray articles of clothing, unpaired shoes, socks for which he’d yet to find matched. Having nothing better to do, and upon realizing after some weeks that this is precisely the room they intend to keep him – so is it his, then? Can he own it just as much as he’d owned the flowerpot when it was whole, or the chalky wreck adding another layer of unnamed sediment to every surface? – but he’d done his best to tidy up. There’s a closet here, filled with more clothes, most of which had long been reduced to stained rags, and bits and bobs of function unknown to him. He’d done his best to sort everything, tossed the absolutely hideous into a corner before eventually burning it, and neatly folded the still-serviceable and piled them on one of the highest shelves, as if he might keep it out of reach of the interminable grime that seemed to float about him no matter where he went.

She’ll be counting down the minutes, the girl called Taalviel, the one they say is his sister.

Half-sister he reminds himself as he drags a rickety stool to the closet. He tests one foot on its unsteady legs. It wobbles, but not dangerously so. A second foot, then, and when he shifts his weight, it sways but doesn’t buckle.

The highest shelf is a bit obnoxiously high. Even if he weren’t so obviously undergrown for his age, it would be a petch and a half to get to. With the added height of the stool, his fingertips still only barely brush the beginnings of the clothing he’d stacked.

It doesn’t really matter what he throws on – it just needs to be clean, relatively speaking. With a little hop, he grasps hold of the shelf with one hand and awkwardly fumbles for anything he can reach, legs swinging wildly. A few articles come tumbling down, and he drops with ungainly stumble to the floor.

There’s a tunic with minimal holes, trousers he can make do with a belt. Coarse hemp and canvas beneath his fingertips, and perhaps they’d been some other color, but what matters now is that they’re gray, and something like swamp murk beneath the odd green light.

He closes his eyes for a moment.

Pretends they’re satin.

Somewhere beneath him, he hears a plate shatter.

Message received.

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Last edited by Caspian on July 27th, 2020, 9:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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The Loft

Postby Caspian on July 25th, 2020, 4:09 pm

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    That’s the other thing he’s noticed about them – there’s always something in his way.

    This is, though, rather related to the initial observation, of there just being so much, all the time, yet counterintuitively seeming to amount to so little.

    There are two floors here, in Taaldros’ house, plus an attic that’s more of an overhead nook, where he’s sure everyone here has tried to stash something at some point or other, and subsequently discovered the spoils of the previous person who’d had the very same idea. And a basement, accessible only from a hole in the earth outside, covered by rubble and a metal grille.

    That last one –

    He doesn’t try to look at too closely.

    There’s a stack of broken furniture halfway down the stairs. From what he can tell, it’s a chest with the lid bashed through. The chest is large enough that two of him might curl up inside it; three, if they found new ways to bend back his limbs. So that’s what he’d heard last night, maybe, with all the shouting and thumping about – they’d wanted whatever was inside it, and not being its rightful owners nor in possession of the keys, they’d decided to go the more straightforward route and –

    What had they done? Tried to stab it with a chair leg?

    Along with the battered chest are the splinters of what were once things to fill a dining room, spare lumber, crowbars with the hooks snapped. It looks like what had really done the trick, though, was their shoving the chest down the flight of stairs, and upon its crashing against the wall of the landing were they able to rifle through. All of it in a heap is a considerable barricade that evidently no one has bothered to clear out.

    Gingerly, he approaches the heap, taking hold of what he hopes is solid –

    Nope.

    His foot splinters through an already concave dining table, and in a panic he heaves himself up to what once might have been the back of a stalwart armchair. Though he clambers carefully, he scrapes his knee against the chest’s splintering lid, a shout escaping him.

    “What are you doing?” Taalviel’s appeared at the foot of the stairs.

    “How did you –“

    “Just jump,” she replies exasperatedly.

    “Jump over –?”

    “Yes, over.”

    Ah.

    She might mean the railing.

    The unsteady foundation beneath him threatens to give. His knee’s throbbing where the threadbare trousers had done very little for his defense, and the idea of battering himself further before he’s even started isn’t an appealing one.

    The railing, to his dismay, isn’t much better. It wobbles in its posts, all the many yards of it, but with Taalviel glowering up at him from below, there’s no good faltering. With two hands he heaves himself off the barricade, planting one knee on the railing, tries to bring up the other. Unwilling to let go of the railing from either hand, he ends up swiveling clumsily, contorting his limbs past their comfortable flexion points.

    “Climb down,” Taalviel says.

    “I – “ The railing squeaks.

    So does he.

    “I can’t –“

    “Then drop,” she intones flatly.

    It’s not so much of his own volition, but the railing really gives – and he slips backwards with a shout, losing one of his grips and dangling there, the slant of the railing straining his wrist at agonizing angle.

    He doesn’t know how many feet of air there are beneath him – nearly as many as him, which is too many –

    ”Drop.”

    The glower she treats him to when they’re finally at eye level is almost enough to have him chancing the climb back.

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    The Loft

    Postby Caspian on July 25th, 2020, 6:52 pm

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      “Where are we going?” he asks again.

      From what he’s been able to glean from the offhand way the sun rises and sets, just out of sight of his bedroom window, the crumbling slump they call home is in the northeastern part of town. Daggerhand territory, a group Taaldros has always been on decent terms with, and based on the snatches of conversation that float up to him sometimes in the dead of night, one he’s looking to join. Which is just fine with Caspian – it’s not like it’s going to make his stepfather worse.

      Out in the open, the sun isn’t as sickening a color, and based on its position in the sky, he’d say they’re heading south.

      But for how long?

      Of course, she hasn’t bothered replying to his question, this or any of the other times he’s asked.

      They turn a corner.

      Taalviel pauses and hums.

      Before them are two wagons, one smashed perpendicularly into the other. It’s hard to say precisely when they collided, but it must have been a while off, because neither of the drivers appear to be present, as are the horses that might have been pulling.

      She nods towards them. “Anything good’s likely already taken,” she says – and she’s right, the street’s got a few curious bottleneckers, but anyone interested in pilfering must have already cleared out – “but it’s worth a look.”

      This is the most she’s spoken to him all day.

      She hoists herself up and into one of the wagons with languid ease – as if she had always been that tall, as if ascending an invisible stair.

      He tries to follow suit. Tries being the main operative, because even on the tips of his toes, he can barely reach the top of the sideboards. She had stretched up and made it look easy. Fortunately, she’s already rummaging through the wagon, out of sight beneath the torn canvas cover. There are people staring – but there always are, some days there’s nothing to do but gawk – and it’s no good to linger, not even in daylight, and especially no good to make a show of helplessly flailing about.

      He’d learned that one the hard way.

      As startling as it is being around Taalviel, he’d rather be under her reproachful eye than bared to strangers. He plants a foot on one of the hubcaps, steadies himself by grabbing a spoke. It’s covered in grime, in a wide array of shades, and it’s evident to him now that prior to the collision the vehicle had very likely rambled through every ounce of run-off and gutter murk the city has to offer. Grimacing – again, better in there than out here – he grabs another spoke, steps fully onto the hub, and with a flying stumble grabs the now accessible sideboard. He’s stretched at uncomfortable bent over the enormous wheel, rectifying now by climbing onto the apex of the rim of the wheel.

      It doesn’t help that the wheel, as they tend to be, is round – doubly doesn’t help that city sludge is slick, and the shoes he’d taken to calling his own along with all the other broken things in the house are already well-worn at the soles.

      Someone behind him whistles.

      Face burning, he balances precariously atop the rim, which has now begun to creak.

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      The Loft

      Postby Caspian on July 25th, 2020, 7:19 pm

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        Though the creaking had yet to give way to anything material – he’s just jumpy, always has been, an affliction beginning nearly 12 months prior when he was ripped from a place of silver winds and hills of ice and taken instead to this, where the sun beats down as if the city’s namesake were something to be gouged and iron-wrought, where one might find respite but only in refuse, as he and Taalviel do now.

        If he can manage to join her, that is. He’d thought it would be easier once he was up the wheel and level with the driver’s seat, but being up this high is dizzying – and it’s not even that high but it feels colossal, because he’s aware, now, how frail he is in comparison to the wagon, that had it crashed into him there might not have been anything left of him to sort through.

        Three things happen at once:

        The wagon wheel creaks again, sharper and more insistently; a gale he hadn’t been expecting billows round the bend and whips the torn edges of the canvas, sending it slapping; and Taalviel’s head suddenly reappears, in looming glare.

        Caspian gives a startled shout and tumbles backwards onto the ground, landing in a puddle of something with a squelching amount of give.

        She looks down at him coldly. Several onlookers are laughing uproariously.

        Hurry up, she says without needing to say it.

        Quicker this time, a lot to do with the jeering, perhaps even more so to do with the splatters of grime soaking through what previously had been his cleanest set of clothing, he hops onto the hubcap and hoists himself up the top of the wheel again.

        This time, though, he skips the sideboard, stretching left for the tongue of the wagon, which had been thrown backwards on its axel as a result of the collision. It’s sticking up at an obtuse angle, back over the wagon itself, and with a desperate skip to the side that feels more like a running leap, he grapples clumsily with it, and gains enough leverage to heave himself up the front of the wagon and into the driver’s seat.

        Behind him, Taalviel is shuffling swiftly about, tearing through small chests that had likely already been torn through, rifling through bundles of linens that had just as probably been rifled.

        He climbs over the driver’s seat and ducks under the canvas cover to join her – though what use he’ll be at this point, he’s sure is next to nil.

        Beneath the driver’s seat, there’s a crate that once might have been filled with tools, and he only deduces this because of the box of nails that’s been torn open and scattered inside. The tools, of course, are long gone – Sunberthians can fashion a weapon out of sand and spittle if they have to, but veritable tools are as good as spadones.

        “Let’s check the next one,” she says, satisfied with her own thoroughness. She bursts through the back of the tent and steps onto the top of the sideboard, inching along until she reaches the point of collision with the second wagon, and nimbly hops onboard.

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        The Loft

        Postby Caspian on July 25th, 2020, 7:37 pm

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          Caspian had thought hoisting himself up the side of the first wagon would be the worst of it – what he had not reckoned, however, was that he might have to treat the next gambit like a tightrope.

          Infuriatingly, she had again made the act look so incredibly easy. Like a pirate, swinging from one ship to the next. She wouldn’t ask him to do something he couldn’t do, would he? – but that’s a ridiculous assumption, one only applicable to reasonable people of reasonable lands, ideally with reasonable demands. He’s not entirely sure where he had conjured it, because she’s never give him a reason to believe it – but perhaps that was just how badly he wanted it to be true.

          He could just hop down, couldn’t he, from the wagon he’s already on? And repeat the process that had brought him up the first wagon, by identifying the most stable of the hubcaps on the second, and pitching himself up the wheel. But there’s more grime under the second wagon than there was beneath the first, a whole swamp’s worth, or so his rising levels of disgust tell him. He’s already got plenty of it seeping into the cracks of his shoes, collecting between his toes, and he’d rather not find out this side of the pond actually goes ankle-deep.

          Following the path Taalviel had set for him, he eases himself around the canvas cover and up onto the sideboard. Edging forward carefully, he grabs fistfuls of the canvas cover – nearly topples over completely when it suddenly tears, but he saves himself at the last moment, snatching hold of one of the wooden ribs to which the canvas is stitched. Slowly he slides down the length of the wagon. When he reaches the second –

          What had she done?

          Practically soared to the next.

          He doesn’t trust himself to make the distance.

          The second wagon’s tongue has also been thrown up at odd, crooked ankle as a result of the collision, along with the yoke. Taking hold of it, his initial thought is he doesn’t like the way it creaks, why does everything creak here? – but to his great fortune it’s not so dislodged from its broken axel that he can’t anchor himself to it.

          He doesn’t dare look behind him, but he can feel eyes upon him. That’s always true here, perhaps – even if he weren’t making a mess and a spectacle of what was meant to be a quick look around, there’s always someone watching and waiting, and even if the notes amount to nothing now, because he is nothing –

          He’d just rather this is over, is all, feeling as if with his clumsy falterings he’s giving away far too much.

          But the second wagon –

          Not looking forward to suffering another one of Taalviel’s glares, with two hands on the yoke, he heaves himself up and over, crashing knees first into the doubletree.

          His elation is short-lived.

          Taalviel nips out of the wagon, barely pausing beside him long enough to mutter, “Nothing worth hauling. Let’s keep moving.”

          At the very least, though, she has the decency to wait while he in stiff-limbed awkwardness clambers down.

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          The Loft Pt. I

          Postby Marino Oceangem on July 28th, 2020, 6:51 pm

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          Grades Awarded!

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          Caspian

          Skills
          • Acrobatics - 3 xp
          • Climbing - 5 xp
          • Observation - 4 xp

          Lores
          • Climbing: Poor construction = Unstable
          • Lore - Climbing onto a pile of broken furniture
          • Climbing: Slick surfaces make for treacherous footing
          • Climbing: Using hand holds to stabilize
          • Climbing: Using leverage to swing across a gap
          • Lore - Climbing a wagon
          • Acrobatics - Swinging your weight from wagon to wagon

          Awards & Retribution


          Notes


          This was a joy to read! Thanks for participating in the challenge.
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