Flashback The Loft Pt. III

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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. III

Postby Caspian on July 27th, 2020, 9:57 pm

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    22 Fall 508
“Why do you breathe so loudly?” Taalviel shoots over her shoulder in the dark.

Caspian glares back at her, but wraps the emerald paisley scarf they’d nicked off an old dame last week around his mouth all the same.

They’re pressed against a wrought iron fence that might have been lovely to look upon, if it weren’t for the oxidation snatching and crumbling against him – and if they were here during regular hours, like regular people, rather than skulking about under cover of night.

“How long did you say you’ve been watching this house?” Caspian whispers. They’re crouched down, and it’s petching a pain on his knees, holding this position while slinking forward. If anyone were to spot them, he’s not sure how swiftly he could pop to his feet and dash out.

“Long enough,” she replies.

“And you’re sure they’re not home?”

She doesn’t bother regaling him with a response.

There’s a dip in the earth beneath the iron fence. Something dug haphazardly, unhelpfully somewhat shallowly – as if a dog had lived here, and had finally broken free. Taalviel slinks beneath the fence like a spineless wraith. Stares back at him from behind the bars.

What would she do if he just took off?

Goodness knows she’s done it plenty.

More than goodness knows she deserves it –

“Don’t,” she says flatly.

“Don’t what?”

On the growing list of her many unnerving traits is her seeming to know precisely what he’s thinking, and curbing him halfway.

Running wouldn’t have done him much good, anyway – she’d just turn into a raven and dive-bomb him from above.

“Are you going to pick the lock?” he asks as they hurry-crouch across a weedy front yard.

“Don’t feel like it,” she replies.

Against the side of the house is a trellis. In the moonlight, the vines give off an opalescent shine, as if lighting their way.

She scurries up first, and since he’s already trespassing by having crawled beneath the fence, he supposes there’s no point in arguing anything further.

The trellis reaches as high as the roof slanting over the porch. She’s already up and crouched, fussing with a window. He steals another look behind him – nothing and no one, save for vermin. He tests his weight on one rung of the trellis, and when it doesn’t splinter nor sink too deeply into the earth in which it’s staked, he brings up his other foot, to thankfully no consequence. It’s meant to hold nothing much heavier than morning glories, though, and while he’s pitifully scrawny he doesn’t think it would be wise to idle. Heart pounding in his chest, he ascends the trellis like a ladder, almost makes the mistake of shifting too laterally, causing the whole of it to creak and lean. In his haste, a loose buckle on his boots catches, and in his jerking himself free, the trellis stutters frighteningly against the wall. This sets him off into a panic, his movements growing clumsier and more haphazard in turn. Desperately, he reaches the top of the trellis and finally the little roof – and in his dragging himself up to his sister’s side, his dislodges the trellis completely, and the two of them watch with horror as it slides off the wall and plummets to the ground with a resounding crack.

Hissing murderously, she shoves him headfirst into the window she’d managed to pry open with her knife.

He tumbles headfirst into a dusty settee, crumpling awkwardly to the floor.


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The Loft Pt. III

Postby Caspian on July 27th, 2020, 10:14 pm

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    A mustiness hangs over the house, pervading each room the young rogues roam, clinging to every seat and surface with funebral finality.

    Of course no one’s here, and hadn’t been for some time. Of course Taalviel had been right. But the occupants not being home now doesn’t mean they could never be, and every creaking of the floorboards and the wind against the eaves has him flinching and darting to her side. In fact - or so it occurs to him - doesn’t every passing moment that they don’t return then increase the likelihood that they do?

    “That doesn’t make any sense,” Taalviel snips when he blurts this out.

    “But -“

    “Let’s check the attic.”

    They’re in the parlor, and he gestures at the half-dozen vases lying there for the taking, the crystal-dotted figurines on the coffee table.

    “Right, exactly. So let’s check the attic, which we haven’t yet seen.”

    “How do you know they have an attic?” Caspian asks out of combative reflex.

    Because they do, of course they do.

    There’s a hatch in the ceiling down one of the halls, but the cord’s much too short for them to grab, even if they leaped. Before she can snap at him - and it’s the little things like this that make it for him, beating her to the punch - he grabs a chair from the parlor and boosts himself up on its heavily damasked seat. A puff of dust shoots up beneath his weight.

    From the top of the chair, if he hops, his fingers only manage to graze. Taalviel frowns and interlaces her fingers, holding them bridged somewhere by his knees. He sighs and steps onto the boost she offers, snagging the cord with ease.

    There’s a ladder attached to the hatch, that draws out automatically when it’s open. But it must be old, rusted, or otherwise jammed, because it only comes out halfway, and the two of them stare up at with a shared, protracted sigh.

    Still standing atop the parlor chair, he grabs the bottom rung of the ladder with one hand, strains for the next with his other. Precariously, he hops ono the back of the chair, and he’s two rungs up now, then three, too high to support himself with the chair any longer. He hasn’t eaten much today and climbing the trellis was challenging enough. Thankfully, she doesn’t let him flounder for too long – but certainly long enough to get a good laugh in – and she takes his place on the chair so that he can stand for a moment on her shoulders, before finally, through desperate contortions, wrangle one and then both of his feet onto one of the rungs.

    He ascends the remainder of the ladder with relative ease, though his palms are sweating, and once he’s solidly in the attic he flips around and leans down and out to her, one hand on the ladder, the other outstretched.

    Ignoring him, she nimbly leaps up and grabs the bottom rung, drawing herself up by upper body strength alone.

    Once up, she sneezes.

    He doesn’t bother with a blessing.

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    Last edited by Caspian on July 28th, 2020, 10:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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    The Loft Pt. III

    Postby Caspian on July 27th, 2020, 10:45 pm

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      The attic isn’t as fruitful as it had promised to be. If they had thought the rest of the house dusty, it’s far worse up here, and Taalviel sneezes so many times in a row that she begins to look cross, with herself, which is new to Caspian and, frankly, rather warranted.

      Though unpleasant to muck about it, the dust doesn’t affect Caspian nearly so badly. He’s wrapped the emerald scarf around the lower half of his face again, covering his nose.

      “And you called it a pointless frippery,” he scoffs at her when she begins her third fit of sneezing.

      “I just don’t know why you want to wear something so green,” she replies. The chest she’d been rummaging through hadn’t amounted to much more than scribblings on old parchment, which they can’t read at this hour without a light. “You keep running around in something so flashy and – one day it’ll be your noose.”

      “As if you care.”

      She starts as if to say something – then shakes her head and retreats back down the ladder.

      He doesn’t like it up here, doesn’t feel too keen on exploring the nooks and crannies where the darkness seems to pool and fester. Averting his eyes from the shadows dancing at the edges of his occluded vision, he hurriedly follows her, descending two rungs at a time. Whether out of obliviousness or malice, the chair isn’t there any longer – and he has no choice but to hang by the lowest rung and drop the remaining few feet.

      They slip into one of the bedrooms next. He would declare it the master bedroom but it’s difficult to say, this being one of the nicest houses he’s ever seen in the city, but what’s important isn’t so much the designation but what it contains.

      “Up there,” she says, nodding towards a shelf that stretches up to the ceiling. It seems whoever lived here had a keen interest in ornate blades, some of them mounted on the walls, others framed, still more propped up on individual stands.

      This is certainly of more interest to the both of them than vases – and possibly easier to carry more of.

      He drags over a grand stuffed leather armchair from a mahogany writing desk, propping it against the shelf and lodging it in a way to prevent it from swiveling. This is far better than the attic, certainly much better than the trellis, and in silent gratefulness he climbs up the back of the chair and onto the shelves. Some of the books on the shelves are of unwieldy dimension, reducing the availability of viable handholds, but with his sights set on a dagger that seems to be carved out of bone, with two wicked hooks, he steadily ascends. Just as he’s slipping it into the belt at his waist beside the sorry little needle of an excuse for a real blade, Taalviel suddenly appears beneath him.

      “Someone’s here.”

      Caspian fumbles, nearly dropping the dagger, losing his grip and awkwardly tumbling down.

      They dash to a darker corner of the room. Hold their breaths, Caspian clamping one hand over his mouth, still swathed by the scarf.

      Yes – unmistakable, the sounds filtering up from the first floor. Whoever lives here has finally and actually come home.

      They slink back out to the hallway, padding softly. There’s a woman’s voice, and a man’s, then a child’s. A family of three, at minimum. But when they return to the window through which they entered –

      With a sinking heart, Caspian remembers the fallen trellis.

      Could he survive jumping from this height? Could Taalviel? Except – not Taalviel, she doesn’t need to, because she’s a –

      In Taalviel’s place is a raven, picking its way out of the tunic and trousers she’d been wearing. Before he can protest, the raven soars out the window and away, a dark shadow fading to join the rest of the night.

      Someone’s ascending the stairs. In a panic, Caspian slinks down the hallway and back into the weaponry room.

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      Last edited by Caspian on July 28th, 2020, 10:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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      The Loft Pt. III

      Postby Caspian on July 27th, 2020, 11:03 pm

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        They’ll find him. He’s sure of it. If they can’t hear how loudly his heart’s hammering in his chest, or the chattering of his teeth, someone surely heard his rushed flight down the hall. Someone at some point will most certainly notice the smashed trellis, the window through which they came. He can’t stay here but there aren’t very many options – a quick look through the windows in this room prove an even steeper and potentially more damaging drop than the other one he’d considered. But if he has to – if his back’s against the wall, would he rather suffer a few broken limbs, a consequence he might correctly assume, or throw himself on the mercies of strangers whose decorative dagger he’s got belted at his waist?

        Someone’s approaching down the hall. Compared to him and Taalviel, they lumber, and he throws himself into a dark recess in the wall with moments to spare.

        It takes him a second to realize he’s tucked himself into a fireplace. There aren’t any logs, any ash long turned to dust. There are two choices left to him now – three if he counts giving in – he can either remain here, squeezed into the very backmost corners of the fireplace, and hold exceptionally still until whoever is here hopefully leaves. But if they suddenly decided to light a fire –?

        He’ll take, then, the only exit he sees.

        Terror guides him upwards. It’s a small fireplace, the chimney wide enough to fit perhaps two of him standing side by side. Planting both hands on the inside of the chimney, he hauls himself up, tucks one knee up to his chest and then the other, his body now entirely off the ground. But he’s only just out of sight – so he plants his palms again, drags himself further, feet gaining new purchase and boosting him higher. Then again, and again – and here he stops, willing his heart to slow, because it’s pounding in his ears and he can’t hear if they’ve left or if they’ve –

        No, whoever’s here is still here, and staying. Papers are being shuffled, the drawer sliding open, clicking shut. Rummaging he can’t understand.

        Petching Taalviel. Petch her and her leaving him here, in this vertiginous pitch-black tunnel reeking with soot. Were it not for the scarf wrapped around him he might have coughed, for there’s debris and sediment that looses and scatters with his every moment. Some of it’s in his eyes, which burn – and he shuts them, not like he can use them anyway, with inky darkness both above and below.

        He heaves himself a little higher. Doesn’t get as far as his previous strainings, maybe half a foot, maybe less. The cramped dimensions of the chimney, though allowing him to park himself afloat, are pinning his shoulders, crunching his spine, and his greatest glimmer of hope now is that at least the fireplace is on the second floor, the chimney then being, ideally, a lot shorter than if he’d come from all the way on the ground.

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        Last edited by Caspian on July 28th, 2020, 10:21 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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        The Loft Pt. III

        Postby Caspian on July 27th, 2020, 11:39 pm

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          At some point he gets far enough that he can’t hear the person whose dagger he’d just robbed. Above him, what he hopes is the night sky is just as black and immutable as the chimney walls tightly surrounding him.

          It occurs to him, in his sudden solitude, how easy it would be for him to die here. The house’s occupants could light a fire, he might find the chimney’s dimensions suddenly growing too acute for him to proceed any further, and with the smoke and the sparks and the murk swelling within him, he could suffocate in this very spot. At least his last rites would be easy – cremation would be free.

          But even if they didn’t light a fire –

          His palms are scraped from the rough brick upon which he’s been dragging, his shoulders aching from the strain. Something feels off about his ankle – had he done something to it when he’d leaped down from the attic ladder? – and propelling himself up comes at a far greater labor than when he’d began.

          Sweat collects on his palms. It mixes into a sickening slurry with the soot embedded into the walls, and his grip slips once, then twice, the third time sending his heart plummeting and his mind into a panicked overdrive.

          This is it – he’s going to die here. He doesn’t even know for certain if it’s even open on the other end; if the occupants realized their intruder’s scrabbling around like a sorry rat and then staked, perhaps, the rest of their knives at the fireplace’s base, to skewer him should he fall.

          This is all Taalviel’s fault – no, this is his fault, because he had stood by the window through which she’d flown and he’d known he could have jumped if only he’d had the heart to, but he hadn’t, and now he’s here. This is happening because he’d idled, because he’d hesitated, because he’s just a half-Vantha bastard who can’t even change color, never mind changing into a whole bird.

          Maybe it would be better to give himself up. Then he could beg, and run, and at the very least die somewhere that isn’t a black hole with ash in his eyes and stones digging into his spine.

          Something rustles above him. Soot sifts, falling in great chunks and scattering through his hair, blearing his eyes. He shakes his head, feels the sediment lodge beneath his scarf, grit between his teeth.

          Caspian?

          He jerks his head upwards, his vision suddenly flooded with moonlight.

          Above him is Taalviel, again in her human form, feeding down a rope. Limbs shaking, he loops it several times through his grip, and with her help finally draws himself up and out of the chimney, into the open night air.

          He collapses onto the roof, coughing violently, tears off the scarf and hacks a slimy miasma onto the tiles. Almost every inch of his skin is streaked with black, and the more he tries to dust himself off, there are more layers beneath it, until finally he gives up and stumbles to his feet.

          With the moon above, they can see more of the dagger, the white bone of the blade stained with ash.

          He slips it from his belt and hands it to her. From the lime-green gown she’s shucked on, and the ruddy orange cloak several sizes too large thrown over her shoulders, she’s stolen someone’s laundry off a line. Took the line too, it seems, which she’d used to haul him up. Between the two of them, they look utterly ridiculous.

          “Hope it was worth it,” he says. Coughs and spits again.

          She considers the bone knife, eyes flickering to him, then back. “You’re alright, aren’t you?” she asks in a curious voice. “You are.” A question still lingering at the edges.

          He returns her gaze. “I – “

          She watches him, waiting.

          He nods.

          She inclines her head, and together they head for home.

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          The Loft Pt. III

          Postby Marino Oceangem on July 29th, 2020, 1:49 am

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          Character Name

          Skills
          • Acrobatics: 2
          • Climbing: 5
          • Larceny: 1
          • Planning: 1
          • Stealth: 2

          Lores
          • Lore - Climbing a trellis
          • Lore - The perils of standing out in Sunberth
          • Lore - Climbing up a chimney
          • Stealth: Hiding in a chimney

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