Flashback Wrong Place, Right Time

...or vice versa.

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

Wrong Place, Right Time

Postby Caspian on September 21st, 2020, 12:42 am

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    55 Summer 511
Caspian knocks once-twice on the door, considers a third time, but doesn’t in the course of his noting, with dismay, that the present drizzle is becoming outright rain, and has also begun to creep in through the cracks of the well-worn soles of his shoes.

Tucked beneath his arm is a bundle of hide, wrapped tightly with cord. Despite its somewhat cumbersome size it’s deceptively light, and he suspects not for the first time since leaving the house that there is, in fact, nothing inside it, and his stepfather Taaldros had sent him out with an armful of air for the sake of a laugh.

No one has yet to come to the door. He knocks again, and a long tick later, a panel in the door slides open, revealing a pair of suspicious and glaring eyes.

“Who’s there?” the voice on the other end gruffs out. The eyes spot the package under his arm and narrow. “What’s that?”

“Delivery,” Caspian says bluntly. “I’m looking for -“ He draws a slip of paper from his pocket and holds the name printed upon it up for inspection.

The eyes crinkle further.

Caspian wonders what the rest of his face looks like.

“Come on,” he says, shifting from foot to foot, grimacing at the audible squelches. “It’s pouring and I’m pretty sure both you and I have other things we’d rather be doing.”

The panel shuts.

Swearing, Caspian bangs on the door with his fist. Just as he’s about to let out a string of colorful curses he overheard last night outside a sailors’ bar, the panel slides open again.

“Go ‘round the back,” the mysterious man snaps.

Caspian gives the door a farewell kick for good measure.

To the left of the house is an alley. He peers down into the dark, squinting past the falling rain, and casts a look over his shoulder. It would be a sorry way to die, getting cornered between rows of bricks. But no one’s lurking, as far as he can tell, and taking one last breath of fresh(er) air, he heads in.

At the end of the alley is a broken lamppost; fortunately it’s not yet so dark that he’s roaming blind, and now at the end of the alley he can make out two nondescript doors.

He stares between them. Both lead to the building with the man of dubious origin and intent. For no particular reason, he knocks on the door on the right.

No response.

He sighs impatiently, and just as he’s about to knock again, the door on the left that he hadn’t tried suddenly swings open.

A somewhat hunched women with her bedraggled hair carelessly gathered beneath a frayed bonnet appears, fixing him with a look he can’t quite parse.

“Sorry -“ he begins stiltedly, “I’m looking for -“

As he fishes for the slip of parchment, her hand darts out, snagging him by the wrist and dragging him inside.

Shouting amounts to very little, and with surprising force she shoves him further into the room and slams the door behind her.

Caspian stumbles to the floor, knees and elbows cracking painfully against cold concrete. To his credit - not that Taaldros would bother giving him any - he doesn’t drop the bundle, even as he fumbles and springs to his feet. He scrabbles at his waist for his dagger, raising it to the level of his eye, and nearly drops it at the bewildering sight before him.

There are at least two dozen people in the room, maybe three, lining the walls and shouting incoherently. A torch is staked in each corner, illuminating their wild, enraptured faces.

Someone shoves him forward into the ring.

Aaaand... entering from the southwestern corner! Contender! Number! Five!”

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Wrong Place, Right Time

Postby Caspian on September 21st, 2020, 12:44 am

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    It takes a good deal of wide-eyed gaping around for Caspian to realize that he must be said Contender Number Five.

    One wonders what happened to the first four - but one doesn’t have much time to, because in the center of the ring of people is not just him but a burly-looking ragamuffin not much older but certainly, effectively, twice as wide.

    Caspian tightened his grip on the bundle and raised his dagger again with trembling hand.

    Someone rings a bell - and suddenly the other man lunges, swinging what looks like a piece of driftwood straight for his skull.

    Letting out a yelp, Caspian hastily backpedals, slamming right into several someone’s who waste no time shoving him forward. They catapult him off-kilter, and it’s less prowess and out of much more windmilling stochasticity that he dodges the next swing.

    “Petch - petching stop. What’s the matter with you?” he exclaims, tripping over his heels in his attempt to dodge another swing, and tumbling in an ungainly crumple to the floor.

    Some unnameable murk has stuck to every inch of its surface; even in the dim and flickering torchlight he can tell it’s got that gruesome melange of hue particular to Sunberthian sludge. More horrifying than that - whatever’s wrapped up in the package is crushing in his arms. Taaldros had made it excruciatingly clear that were he to fail in carrying out the delivery or otherwise damage its contents - again, existence of contents in question still up for debate - the next bundle would be delivered wrapped in a hide of Caspian’s own.

    The threat, in reality, could manifest in several forms that didn’t necessarily rule out the literal - and it’s with that in mind that he almost volitionally wraps both arms around the bundle and takes the brunt force of the next swing, rather than let it suffer the damage.

    The timber, to his great fortune, is like so many things here and half rotted. It snaps in slimy splinters across him, and howling in pain, he curls tighter around his cargo.

    “What is your problem?!” he snarls, staggering to his feet.

    The assailant seems to realize, suddenly, that his main method of battery has just been destroyed, and between the two of them Caspian’s the only one armed.

    The crowd knows this too, and very well, and they’re screaming bloody murder.

    Caspian startles back at the hands prodding him forward, brandishing his dagger. The ring of people strains back from his arc, only to tighten up once more in faceless majority, locking him into a duel he hadn’t seen coming.

    “You!” he says, whirling back to his opponent with the dagger aimed at his heart. “Tell me what’s going on.”

    The man then had the nerve to look exasperated. “What do you think is going on?” he waves wildly at the still screaming crowd.

    And that’s when Caspian spots mizas changing hands, and the pinstriped bookie with greasy smirk and heavily scribbled notepad in the corner.

    “Oh petch.”

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    Wrong Place, Right Time

    Postby Caspian on September 21st, 2020, 1:41 am

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      The crowd makes it abundantly clear that given all prior proceedings, the next logical move is for Caspian to stab him now.

      Naturally -

      He balks.

      “I’ve got the knife -“ He won’t admit that his grasp, given the rain and the grime, is a bit more tenuous than it ought to be - “- and you don’t. ...surrender?”

      The insouciance in his opponent continues. Affording just one fleeting glance at the dagger, as if it’s worth as much notice as a barbecue skewer, the other man suddenly lunges.

      Caspian shrieks, stumbling away - and around the ring they go, Caspian clutching their bundle for dear life with both arms, the dagger clasped uselessly to the lot with as much intimidation as an embroidery needle.

      “Stand - and - fight -!” the other man huffs, snatching at the back of Caspian’s collar, sending him slamming back down on the concrete.

      For a second, the room goes blisteringly white, all noise reduced to a low whine - and then zaps back into hyper focus with a searing pain in his side.

      The other man had kicked him in the ribs.

      “Really?” Caspian exclaims - and lets out a yelp as he receives another sudden kick. “Really, while I’m down?

      The other man, somehow and beneath his own layers of grime, manages to look remorseful - and in that second’s hesitation Caspian rolls away and springs to his feet.

      The crowd emphasizes once more that they would very much appreciate it if Caspian used his knife for its intended purpose. But it’s a little tough, with the hide growing dangerously slick in his grip, from the glorious trifecta of rain, mud, and the likelihood that he’s either bleeding or sweating already. Even if it were a big load of nothing, the safest thing would be to keep the whole lot intact. As bewildering as this all is, he rather still fears his stepfather’s wrath more than a few overzealous roustabouts with poor financial planning and dirty smocks.

      The mob has more sense than he’d initially assumed. Someone yanks the bundle from behind, and by the time he whirls around, it’s already changed hands and disappeared into the throng. Panicking, Caspian hurls himself at the crowd, craning his neck for any sign that it at the very least hasn’t been opened - but the people want blood, and shove him back into the ring.

      He curses himself for having brought the knife. It’s like it’s branded him, determined his destiny for the day - but the knife had no bearing on his ending up here in the first place, and it’s a chilling thought to consider that without it, he might be expected to fight to the death by slower and blunter means.

      “I don’t want to do this,” he shouts to his opponent over the crowd’s egging him on, as if it isn’t obvious enough.

      But his opponent isn’t interested in his musings, or mutual exploration of potential alternatives to a blood bath - and lunges bullishly forward once more.

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      Wrong Place, Right Time

      Postby Caspian on September 21st, 2020, 2:12 am

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        The sorry truth of the matter is that Caspian wasn’t ready - in predictable actuality, that he hadn’t actually committed to the idea of stabbing the other man, despite it being so clearly in the interests of both him and the observing majority. It is also undoubtedly what his opponent would do, were their roles reversed. Caspian idly wonders where he’d gotten hold of the timber in the first place.

        The half-baked conviction amounts, essentially, to Caspian taking a jab right to the gut.

        But when the second one comes -

        He doesn’t know how long his opponent’s been doing this, this thing where he’s fighting in a dark and crowded room for rewards questionable and unknown - but he’d noticed the last few swings were slower than the first. At the sight of the second Caspian lets instinct fly - so readily can one learn under duress - and snaps out, the blade catching as if in parry, slicing the other man across the knuckles.

        The crowd roars; his opponent wheels away, howling and cradling his hand, now dripping blood in heavy rivulets. At the rush of instant and positive reinforcement, the witnessing of cause and effect and all by his doing, Caspian feels something in him correspondingly thrum.

        Even so, he calls out tremulously, “We don’t have to do this -“

        And that’s when he spots the slick-haired bookie, holding up the bundle of cord and hide, the expression on his huffy, round-cheeked face indicating the terms it would take.

        They’re to be commended, he supposes, for being straightforward.

        “What have they got on you?” Caspian asks, but the other man doesn’t do him the favor of a response.

        Caspian dodges the next punch; the other man dives out of reach of Caspian’s next swipe. The other man doesn’t seem as afraid as an unarmed person ought to be, all grit where Caspian is idling and hesitation. The presence of lack of a knife proves negligible when the other man sweeps his leg, and Caspian for the grotesquely umpteenth time that night finds himself intimate with the sewage-stricken floor.

        The batterings are starting to take their toll, and the flash of a thrill that had gripped him when he’d slashed the man’s knuckles is ebbing away. All of a sudden he feels irresolute and frail, like a marionette with its joints turned backwards and spine twisted. It becomes clear to him that his moments are numbered - that he might, with frightening concision, count how many strikes he can still endure on one hand.

        If only he knew more about the other man, he might be able to reason with him - and if not reason, at least pointedly jeer, or cajole, or even in his roundabout way attempt to intimidate.

        If only he knew what had happened to Contenders One through Four.

        “Let’s walk out,” he tries again desperately. “Let’s quit this, the both of us -“

        And then someone in the crowd tosses the other man a crowbar.

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        Wrong Place, Right Time

        Postby Caspian on September 21st, 2020, 2:43 am

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          The crowbar is considerably longer than his dagger.

          So is the other man’s reach, which makes it a dangerous combination. On top of all that is the apparent absence of any fear of loss of limb, or other object of personhood, making his opponent the perfect storm.

          The next slash of the crowbar strikes the ground. Caspian had only narrowly avoided it, with it whistling right by his ear, the resounding ring reverberating through his toes. The direness of the situation had been to such a degree that he’d somehow momentarily forgotten all about the water logged in his shoes.

          There seems to be more people now, tracking in the downpour with them, his steps now audibly paired with splashes and the ground growing treacherously slick.

          Still, the other man hardly seems to mind.

          That sort of determination would be admirable if it weren’t accompanied by deadly swings.

          “This - hardly - seems - fair -!” Caspian shouts, dodging and weaving and ultimately taking a blow to the shoulder that has him biting on his tongue hard enough to taste blood.

          One supposes it hadn’t exactly been equitable when he’d been the only one holding a weapon; one further supposes that he ought to have given up pointlessly feeling bad, and made the most of it.

          The next swing comes sooner than he anticipated - it’s like his opponent is suddenly finding his second wind. It catches him and though he parries, he doesn’t possess nearly as much brute strength, and the impact had sent a numbing jolt from wrist to elbow. With an exclamation of pain, he drops his dagger, and with only a split second to spare, retrieves it and hurtles out of immediate range.

          So much rainwater’s leaked onto the fighting floor that his clothes are soaked through, the weight dragging down on him, lagging his every throw and action. It occurs to him that this might be the end of it - that after everything, this will be his last hurrah, and a soggy and nameless one at that.

          What happens next, he might have dreamed but never predicted.

          Both Caspian and his opponent slip on the rain-slick ground at once. Caspian had sensed their inexorable forward bash of a march, raised his dagger, and jerked backwards - and as he’d lost his grip and slid, so had the other man.

          Right into the dagger, sticking now from the other man’s solar plexus.

          The man’s body convulses, blood streaming from the wound, from his mouth, the river now freely pouring from the first slash against his knuckles. In shock and revulsion, Caspian heaves the body off him and stumbles to his feet.

          Numbly, he draws the dagger from the man’s chest, wiping it against his knee.

          The crowd erupts.

          Caspian finds the bookie in the crowd and jabs the dagger in his direction.

          The bookie grins wolfishly, tossing him the bundle of hide before he’s swamped by everyone who’d decided Caspian’s life was worth betting on.

          He doesn’t look back at the man on the ground; he doesn’t lock eyes with the next young wraith dubbed Contender Number Six. The gnarled woman who’d absconded him for the match shoos him back out to the alley, the torchlight and noise vanishing when the door slams shut.

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          Wrong Place, Right Time

          Postby Shiress on March 20th, 2021, 8:32 pm

          Your Grades!


          Caspian


          Grades Incoming!





          Moonlight drowns out all but the brightest stars

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