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ethela penna

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  1. Hawke knew better than most not to toss accusations of malevolence around so easily. Who speaks for the hearts of anyone else but themselves, and that's a losing game for when boys and girls cannot understand each other then there truly is no hope for communion between humans and things. But they tried. There were many such presences now. Wherever his captors had been heading to, they were there now. With an army of like-minded individuals, perhaps, all coalesced in a mass centered around the prisoner. They came and they withdrew, but none of them touched him. He could feel them coming and going, like waves lapping up the shore that never quite reached the toes. Malevolence. Sharks staring out of the water. Silly, silly - sharks don't think. Maybe these didn't, either. They hissed at him. Some chanted hymns. Each of them tried to ask a question in a decaying tongue. They were are a bit garbled. "Phnagoph dzajr memnemos." "Er. Non habla. Nein sprechen? Try again, buster." Malevolence, but they never lost their patience. They just drew away and another came to take their place. So it went until finally they had found something that spoke, still. "Open the path." Hawke frowned through his blindfold. "If I say 'soon' then will you let me see your face?" Hawke said, already hooking a finger under the cloth and pulling it away. A shudder ran through the crowd - he felt that one too - but nothing stepped forth to cut him in half. He stopped, reached around the back to undo the whole thing properly, and let it drop onto the dirt. "Sure, soon."
  2. Hawke’s distant eyes held in their encapsulation the small, finite world of the melee; and this, coming to an end with the bodies finally bursting like balloons of gangrene, he turned those eyes closed. Someone – Jericho, Ashton – well, someone must have wanted to know about this, whether small men like mercenary Jack, big-britched fools like Inquisitor Capria, and cloud-headed women like Madame could be turned to the purpose of true, unadulterated good. Now they did not have a good answer but that was being built up – the trio were building up the answer, together, learning to make space for one another. If he had hands still he would have clapped. Alas. His hands were wriggling in the bottom of a sack pounded into the dirt a mile back. They had severed them after he reached down from his spear and crushed one of their necks. After a little thought they also took his arms up to the shoulder, and tied him crosswise to two spears. When he tried to speak they gagged him, and being that his eyes had been bound since the beginning he began to suspect that they wanted him to be in mystery as much as possible. So now he’d gotten curious. But he was a reader, too. He liked being taken along for the ride. Mysteries happened and Shiddidark was the best of them, a prime mist settling on all of knowledge. Who knows what could happen in a place like this, to a cast like this? Who knows what had happened? It wasn’t always about saving the day. Sometimes, one wondered what had made it fall so hard to begin with. Madame’s wrist started warming up, just as Jack’s sword-pommel flickered lightly and that one bow-lock of Capria’s fluttered in an unfelt breeze. The voice that welled up radiated around inside their heads, bouncing off the bones, heard less like a sound and more like a thought. But the looks they traded each other afterwards confirmed it was the same for all of them. Hawke had a prophet’s bent, or a priest’s. “Outpost Grey lies two miles to the north. This is only the beginning of the infection. You know what must be done to live, but you also know more: namely, what wrongs must be made right. I think you will encounter the first bodies within the next mile.” Briefly, the sound of something being torn from some other thing, and a roar. “I will be watching. Take care, and beware.”
  3. The recovery is fluid. Jack’s quick slash frees Madame from the worst of it, although blood seeps from a jagged scratch above her right eye — no matter, the vision is the same, and the lens are red. The twist of an ankle, the momentum imparted upon her as she sweeps in a long arc towards Capria, is sufficient to cleave a wandering monkey in two and slam a second off the end of a swinging vine, before bodying the third monkey off of the woman’s prone figure and smashing it against the trunk of a tree — an explosion of pus which burns and stings as it coats her jacket and the scratches on her face. Of the three monkeys remaining, another seems to have found a stick, and brings it onto Madame’s head from the safety of a tree-branch; and still two cackle and dash about Jack’s legs. ~*~
  4. “I shall join you then, sister.” Varda drifts out from the room, wisps of cloud gathered about her as a measure of her in the ethereal — ghost-like, or cloud-like, or like a fragile figment of a dream. Merel is frozen. Her eyes follow her procession. At the last second she turns away, burning, and Varda is prepared for this too, slipping a cobalt shawl about her. “Do not allow the night to steal your vigor away.” They sit. The girl finds herself looking at the bars of the railing instead. There’s suddenly nothing to say. Varda comes closer. Varda has done her part. Merel swallows a wisp of cloud, then breathes it out, while the windows swing and curtains billow out from the room behind them. They are freezing, but they freeze together, and Varda has done her part. Merel rests her chin on her knees and stares far off toward the moon-shattered sea. Even the waves are still: the waters are frozen, constant, and broken. Her turn. “I.” The girl tries again. “We aren’t — “ She draws the blankets closer together, burying herself. Her voice comes out feeble. “This is the first we’ve seen much of each other, hasn’t it?” Since Father died, she means and they know, and it goes unsaid so they can pretend anything they want to, anything in the world. Of course it isn’t the first time. But that first time happened once upon a time, in a history long before now, in a time when the Hildebrand House was still united, in a time before illness and where the birth of a youngest daughter was a beautiful radiance on Father’s face. Here and now is not then and there; here, they are almost like strangers. Merel retreats further, clutching the shawl ever more tightly. Like strangers, here and now, but they can know each other again.
  5. Ah — the hiss, like gas escaping the chamber of a silent starter — that was it. Clotho slumped back into the seat and rubbed the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes tight. He didn’t need to open them to feel their prospects sinking into the mud. Liir tensed up beside him. Well, that’s the moment passed and the will of things. Whatever choices they had were no more, and now three men guffawing were their lifeline and the long-drop both. “Highwaymen and brigandage,” he sighed. He gave the pedal a feeble try, and the wheels cried out like hogs in a grinder. “I thought as much.” “What an amazing trick,” Liir remarked. “Amazing.” Chloe punched the wheel. The horn bellowed out hoarsely, petering out when it remembered that nobody was listening, to a half-hearted trumpet. Nobody turned so much as an eye. Everyone — except maybe Liir — saw the cards on the table. There was no alterations to be made and no remedy to be applied to present circumstances, no aces in no sleeves and no cards left unturned at all. The game was decided. He turned the mirror all the way around, flickered the lights on and off, even punched the windshield wipers, which wiped once then halted. It was all fidgeting at this point. “Amazing.” He shoved the shift toward park, and the shift wouldn’t move. Chloe almost laughed. He thumbed the glovebox. It popped open. Chloe sucked in a breath through his teeth, and closed it again. He looked out the window at the men still talking amidst themselves, maybe about the price to be exacted. Money, or maybe they’d take the car itself after they saw the trunk? That wouldn’t be the worst disaster he’d faced. He thought of Sharon. He opened the box, took out the pistol, placed it under his leg, and closed it again, felt a shiver run down his body and up his spine, tingling in his fingertips. Liir rested a hand on the hilt of his sword. Chloe grabbed the boy’s wrist, his voice shaky. “Alright, kid, let’s be straight here. This is the end of an episode. It’s an episode where we get robbed. That’s all. That’s all that’s on the line, money. Or something. This isn’t going to be the end of our life, unless you’re asking for it. Shit. Only a fool’d ask for it. Don’t you try a goddamn thing. Unless it’s looking like being reckless is the best choice.” He composed himself and stuck his neck out the window. “Alright, fuck all, whaddya want? This is my pal’s car and we’re poor as dirt. Don’t mind the boy’s fancy clothes, he’s just a whore.” Chloe shot Liir a look. “A big-talking fuck-boy. You know, used to getting respect — and a couple other things — from ugly old guys like present company.” He spat onto the ground and sneered at them. “So, what’s it going to be? Money? Bodies? I warn you, I stuck a pencil sharpener up my bum in the seventh grade, won’t treat you well.”
  6. Again Varda is the one to speak. The first one to speak. Words on the cold air, swirling, intermixing with the dwindling warmth of the room, marked by the gentle ooze of the candle-haze: words, spelled out in the smoke like an oracle where tempers meet. She — Varda, Merel — they both know what needs to be said. The elder sister takes a deep breath; icing her lungs, chilling her core — it’s the cold air, she tells herself. “Merel. Come in, before you catch cold out there.” Well, Varda has to be the first. No other will. She has been saddled with all the hard jobs. It is a recurring theme of the recent present, and it threatens to pattern her future. The girl out there in the balcony leans onto the numb railings, rocking forward and back on the balls of her bare feet. Yes, it is a quiet night out. She feels like shouting just to hear herself scream. Just to be the cause of the noise. To be the one who makes everyone act; and everything happen. To scare the flocks of birds from their trees, and throw the court of the crickets into panic. And to drown out whatever her sister is saying, if it is anything at all. To pretend not to hear. “I wish,” Merel says finally, “this balcony were taller. If it were taller then I could imagine we were in a great, enormous tower. We would be kept up there, a pair of princesses, and if I were to throw myself over I’d be terrifically dead. And the fall would be noble, and tragic, and people would tell tales of that for years. About the two princesses up in the tower for whatever reason, and all they could do was jump. Imagine that.” She stands up to the tips of her toes, spikes of cold jabbing into her waist where it’s levered against the metal. Her hands reach down — is she about to fall? — and she stands back up again. “But no. Here we are. One floor up a squat little bungalow of Auntie’s. No tragedies here,” Merel drifts off to a mutter. “Nothing goes my way.” “Varda, what if I don’t come in? What will you do?”
  7. As the capricious Belvardi gasps against the tree, as the prodigious Jack hits the deck and quick-witted Madame materializes a blade to maul the monkey which pins him — all of these happening in succession, in an iota of rapidity and the blink of an eye and the elapsing of a moment of the mind, in the course of a discrete unit by which lives are saved or lost — and more creatures showing themselves among the branches before the second’s out — [ d6 - 6 - CRITICAL STRIKE ] The murder is not graceful, and neither is the death, but what matters is that it has happened; that’s all. Two steps brings Madame close enough; her wrist twists, snapping forward as the blade sweeps upwards, undoing a seam on Jack’s cloak before it undoes the monkey from its ribs up to its neck. It hardly has time to screech before it’s bisected — and the job is done. The halves fall to either side of the sellsword, drenching him in what smells like enough plague to keep doctors in business for a year and whores out of business for ten. But for now his sanctity, his purity, is safe. [ 6 monkeys alive ] Another monkey drops onto Madame’s back, screeching and bleeding from every orifice, its feet locked onto her shoulders as it batters her forehead and scratches at her face. Two more are blurs as they claw their way across the forest floor towards the group. Another finds a vine and swings to batter its whole weight into Jack, admittedly not much — [ d6 - 2 - WEAK HIT ] But enough to set him spinning, disrupt his focus as something wet and dripping shoves his shoulder off-balance. Capria sucks in her gut to void the swing as it slashes across the clothes, feels dagger-sharp claws score a paper-cut on the skin above her navel, and the monkey keeps running, disappearing into the mist; just as another one makes a leaping assault from her other side, coming down fast. [ 1 Free Monkey — Choreograph with him as you like! ] ~*~ And throughout it all, Hawke watches his charges. A curious eye reflected in the reflection of Jack’s gem; in the tangle of fibers in her bracelet; in a little strawberry bow-tied lock perched atop Capria’s head. He wonders what to say to them, if anything at all. Maybe nothing. Words never got the job done. Words never taught people how to survive in the darkness. The idle, gentle thump of steady, swift footsteps sending shocks up the spear upon which he is impaled through the heart do not bother him, nor the swift passing of trees around as they go further and further west. All he can do is dangle, carried ten feet high by an unknown assailant — he is facing skyward, see, though there isn’t much sky. Just the towering shadows of jungle trees, sweeping their lowest branches and cold leaves across his face. It reminds him of playing passenger in long car rides, of peace and irresponsibility: wherever he is going now, it is out of his control, and yet happening for a reason still. He intends to find out what that is.
  8. The numbers were on the leaves, painted on the trunks. Hawke could read them clear as day, and that comforted him, the comfort of a boy watching the syringe coming in and who liked the way it glinted. So the time came. He threw up a hand, signalling them all to stop in utter quiet. Capria did her best to shut them up otherwise, but Hawke let her know with a nod that that was no longer necessary. No, he had learned about half of what he needed to already. Listening to their drivel so far, or lack thereof, had revealed that much, and watching revealed a little more. Now he needed them to do a little more talking. Talking, of empty threats and empty heads, positive promises of nothing. He snapped his wrist, and an invisible force scored a line in the soil in front of him. “Please, all, shut up momentarily.” “Maybe. Just maybe, instead of asking questions, you should answer one.” Hawke stepped across the line, then turned to face them all in turn. An ugly aspect came over him, a ghost of a shadow resting on his brow, his shoulders, his poise. His eyes flickered between all of them, seeing them and dismissing them at the same time. “Maybe, you should think really, really hard about this one.” “Think about why exactly you’re here. I don’t like answers of apathy. Capria, Jack, and Madame-not-Ma’am. I want you to know, or if you don’t, then figure out why you hurled yourself off a cliff. For some of you this may be routine, but I’d like you for maybe the first time in your lives to think about this routine. Why here. Why now. Why for whom. Why you keep breathing, and why you should be allowed to do so, and who gave you that right. This isn’t about ‘becoming,’ or doing what you ‘don’t mind’ doing. Clean your room if you don’t mind. Do the dishes if you don’t mind. Look becoming for a boy or a funeral. What the hell are you doing down here? What prompted you to answer this call?” Hawke stepped back, expectant. “Figure that before you cross this line — “ And a blade emerged from between his ribs, arcing up and nearly splitting him in the air, before his body was yanked back into the thickening mist. In a windless, birdless country, the rustle of branches as they do under a perch of crows bodes poorly.
  9. They moved on. Nothing made Hawke nervous, and Capria was right: around them was plenty of nothing. He twisted his head around, ears out, and jumped at every lack of sound. At least when they were trying to kill him he knew what to expect, and there he had the upper ground since he was reasonably confident in the matters of life and not dying. Humans aren’t scared of things happening, they’re scared that things are about to. They are just perturbed by surprises and failure of expectation. It looked like he should be expecting to be surprised. Their feet squished into the mud as they picked their way forward. “Sure, Jack,” he said after a while of maddening quiet. “Funny you talk about things tangible concerning justice. Funny you say my words are words, and this tree right here is a tree. Justice is an ideal, sure, that’s all talk. But we’re about to lay the hurt on some, and lay the help on others — with our own fists — wouldn’t you call that tangible? People make Justice tangible. That’s me, and that might just be you.” “I’ll be honest, I’m not sure if there’s anything that could be saved down here.” Hawke made a face. “Pessimism aside — I’ve got a monopoly on that particular resource — you must understand that an eradication of evil is an increase in net good.” To Madame-not-Ma’am: “And don’t say employer. Justice may be an organization but it is not a corporation. We are revolutionaries, visionaries, a brother-sister-hood. Maybe you’re getting paid but that’s not on contract. It’s about committing to the ideal. If you’re here for money, you might leave for money. And nobody leaves Justice, you see. That’s what’s called a loose end.” “I should say again, all of you were chosen because you were deemed suitable for the ideal. If you wish to betray that appraisal now, go right ahead. If you stick it through, you’re no more a sellsword. Think of yourself as a knight, or a paladin, instead.”
  10. They dropped into silence. One moment, the rushing of air, and then that’s torn up and away like a blanket, leaving them rolling through empty. Grasping branches and mist was all. Hawke hit the ground more lightly did the others, but they all touched down more lightly than they should have, enough for a comfortable landing. The thread which they had stepped through and which initially stuck to their skin and their clothes had done that much, among other things. Though by now they would notice its absence. Capria had, however, a new red highlight along her hair. Jack’s sword had a new dot of a ruby on its pommel. And Madame-not-Ma’am had found herself a new bracelet during the fall. “Hey! Good to see everyone’s committed.” Hawke said. “By which I mean, there’s just about no way up out of here except for the Freight Elevator, and that isn’t working without restoring power to Outpost Grey. Or, I suppose, you could fly.” “I can, and I won’t clip your wings if you try for it, but we came here to save the day.” He rubbed his arms and sniffed. “Though there wasn’t very much of that to begin with.” No birds, no bugs. Even the fallen leaves were too wet to break, the twigs too wet to snap underfoot. “That sounds a bit childish, actually. Saving the day. But I suppose you don’t really know anything about why you’re here today, if Legba did his job the way he does. I’ll tell you, then. It’s because you have the capacity for great good. I don’t mean ‘good’ the way people think of it. That ‘justice’ is a word, an idea, an interface. People know they want it, but they know how it looks like, they know to call it when they see it. But they don’t know what it is, what its component parts are, how justice is made for them. “That’s where we are. We’re the actors behind the interface. We’re the ones who make justice happen for everyone else. We harm and repair, we balance scales, we ensure that evil rots and the just flourish. Including ourselves.” Hawke flashed a smile over his shoulder. “And sometimes, like today, we even save the day.”
  11. The way they assemble makes him think of dawn. Everyone ripped out of their beds early, not quite talkative, here because they-agreed-to-it, or had been otherwise ordered. One woman’s morning routine consists of a cigarette. The other has the remnants of smoke around her, too. But you know they are not friends, not yet. There are no friends in metaphorical dawn. Nobody’s said a word, not to each other, not even within: thoughts are dulled and laid flat out by the unrealized magnitude of their destination. Even though it’s broad daylight and the birds are wonderfully alive. A hawk, like a shadow, passes overhead, dips low and trails its wingtips into the mist, and is pulled under, as if by the sheer density, with hardly a sound. “Well, it looks like we’re all here.” He looked around shyly at the three around. “Though that’s pretty daring of me, saying we when I don’t know who you are.” The boy shrugged. “But that’s the nature of things. Besides, I’ll figure you all out by the end of this.” His finger danced through the air, wiggling eenie-meenie-miney, until it settled on the blonde with the ghost of smoke draped around her like a scarf. “…Capria.” “Jack, that one’s easy. Jack, meet Capria.” “And…” He furrowed his brow, hands grasping for it. “Ma’am. Meet Jack and Capria.” Well, it was better than nothing. The boy touched the hole in the fence. A web of threads spread out from his fingertips and supplanted the torn wrenched iron links until the fence was mended wholly. He stepped through it, the threads wrapping and parting around him, until he was alone on the other side of the divide. There was the noble precipice, five feet away. Three feet away. He stood on the edge, breathed in the cold draft that came up: thick, jungular, and the smell of a cut jugular bleeding out all over. With a look backwards that let them know they were meant to do as he did, Hawke knelt down to the edge and reached down — as if trying to dip his fingertips into the dense fog — and fell forwards and away.
  12. I don't mind this being one way or the other, but yeah I'd say this wouldn't be instantaneous 1-to-1 with reality. Just because me and Vielle know now, doesn't mean that our characters know now-now. I'd be willing to do some chronological shuffling, say, so that this information hits us at just a perfect time a few RPs down the line. What do you think, Vielle, Supes?
  13. I'm glad everyone is getting into it. I like the posts so far. I think we'll have a wonderful time. After Lilja posts, I will post again and we will begin the order anew, punctually. I actually hadn't anticipated people posting so fast that it's on the same day. So I should amend the rules - I figure everyone probably knew this, but nothing lost in clarity. You have one day from the previous person's post/skip declaration to post/skip - regardless of whether the previous person posted on their day, or a day early. Just keeping things moving quick.
  14. I've read your mind. Check my edit. I did forget to address it - good catch.
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