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Juliana Shale

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About Juliana Shale

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    Aficionado
  • Birthday 04/17/1988

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    juliana_shale

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  • Location
    Madison, WI
  • Occupation
    Student

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  1. "A man named Vaughn," Juliana added. She carefully watched Tom's face for a spark of recognition. He didn't show anything—but, then again, he wouldn't. "Vaughn hired Michaelis here to scotch a job I was on a few days ago. I tried to find out why, and things went bad." Tom nodded. "I can promise you both a night's peace under my roof." He stepped aside and beckoned them to enter. "Your arrival is fortuitous, Madame Shale. There is someone here to see you." "Who?" Juliana asked as she stepped past Tom into the cool dimness of the building's interior. They stood in a well appointed lobby that wouldn't have looked out of place in a country inn. But to the right, a door stood ajar, and Juliana could see a dark hallway curve downward and out of sight. A chill draft came from the hallway, and she knew it must lead down to the embalming room where Tom worked. She shivered, and found she was clutching the Strauss dagger so tight her knuckles whitened. "I will allow him to explain himself," Tom said. He pulled the door to his workshop closed, and, with smooth and precise moments, he removed the bits of cloth from his nose. "Come," he said, striding across the lobby. Juliana followed him to another corridor until he stopped outside a door that looked like it led to an office. "He awaits you in there." Juliana turned to Michaelis, and got down on one knee so their heights were nearly equal. "Michaelis," she said, "I can't thank you enough for all you've done these past few days. None of this should ever have been asked of you, but you survived it, and you saved me a couple times too. You should be safe now. We'll spend the night here, and I'll send word to Adeline. In the morning, she'll take you someplace safe."
  2. Juliana heard Michaelis' voice and stopped short, breathing hard from her run, and cast about for the boy, finally spotting him atop the building she'd just passed. She looked around and spied a way down: a drain pipe that looked climbable on the next building over—the gap between the two structures small enough for the boy to jump. She pointed to him, then to the pipe, then to herself. Then she stepped back into the shadow of a jeweler's open-air stall, hoping the boy had taken her meaning. She'd lost her pursuers for now, she was certain. She turned her attention to the dagger in her hand. The blade was curved outward and the handle curved inward. She saw a small, steel button protruding from the handle's leather wrapping, and a deep groove down one side of the handle. When she pressed the button, she realized the dagger was hinged: now released, the blade easily folded into the groove in the handle, locking in place. Another press of the button, and it sprang out again. She folded the dagger once more and realized how easily such a thing could be concealed in a boot. With no small amount of admiration, she wondered where Vaughn had obtained it. Then she remembered the engraving. Heart pounding, she turned the dagger and saw what was on its hilt: the letters A.T.S. Something hard and cold settled in her stomach. A.T.S. Arthur Tristain Strauss. Strauss had been as fine a weaponsmith as this land had ever known, but he had died some ten years before Juliana was born. The only reason she knew his name and his signature engraving was that most of Strauss' weapons were now in the possession of a single collector: Jacques Kolvynn, the man who had practically raised her. When Michaelis reached her, she pointed the way and strode forward without a word. She stopped to give a beggar all the gold she had in her purse for his tattered cloak, which she wrapped around herself to hide her torn, bloodstained clothes. As she walked, it gnawed at her: why would Vaughn have one of Jacques' blades? He could have stolen it, but that didn't ring true. From what she heard of Jacques these days, he'd grown so paranoid you'd get yourself killed paying him a visit, let alone trying to steal from him. He could have bought it, but Jacques would never have sold. He was obsessed with obtaining everything Strauss had ever made, down to the man's fumbling attempts as a blacksmith's apprentice. That left one possibility: Vaughn was in Jacques' employ. Could Jacques have sent him after her? What would the man want with her? They had grown apart in the eight years since their partnership ended—she hadn't spoken to him in perhaps five years—but there was no bad blood between them. Then again, she thought about the stories she'd heard about Jacques, how reclusive and suspicious he'd become. Perhaps some kind of madness had taken hold of him. At the sight of their destination, she set her thoughts aside. Turning to Michaelis, she said, "It may not look like much, but this is the safest place in the city for us. Tom the Undertaker has been in business since your parents were children, I'd wager. He lays to rest those who lived their lives on the wrong side of the law, and if you ever visit his graveyard, you'll find the graves of every thief who ever died in this city, along with anyone else the good folk of the capital don't see fit to give a proper burial. But, more importantly for our purposes, his place is a safe haven. Warring bosses have their parleys here, and fugitives like us are guaranteed one safe night under his roof—though after that, he will wash his hands of us." Tom himself stepped out the front door to greet them. A tall, thin man, completely hairless, with dark skin the color of a dead tree's trunk. His skin stretched tight across his bones, and he might have looked as dead as those he buried if not for his bright blue eyes, which were full of life. He had clearly been at work: he still wore an apron stained with who knew what, and he had bits of cloth stuck in his nostrils. "Juliana Shale," he said. "I was just going to send for you." His bright eyes found Michaelis. "You are too young to be here. What brings you to my door?" Juliana opened her mouth to reply, but a look from Tom silenced her. She nodded at Michaelis to speak.
  3. No sooner was the man off her than Juliana sprang off the ground. The man who'd given his name as Vaughn was on his back in the dust, Michaelis crouching over him. As the boy turned toward her, she saw Vaughn raise himself up and lunge. Juliana flung herself at him, seizing the arm the swung the blade. The force of her impact spun him around, and she brought him back to the ground, pinning his arm with her body. She mercilessly hammered his wrist with the heel of her hand until his fingers released the blade. She snatched it and slashed his hand. He yelled. She sprang up, standing over him for a moment as he lay prone in the dusty street, then dropped, straddling him, her knees pinning his arms. She pressed the blade against his throat until blood leaked out. The light caught an engraving on the blade's hilt that stirred a memory, but she pushed that aside for later. "I want answers," she hissed at the man. He managed a nasty grin, though his face was chalk white and his eyes wide with fear. "You don't even know what questions to ask." She was about to reply when a voice boomed behind her. "Oy, what's this now?" Vaughn looked at whoever was behind her, and suddenly his face showed nothing but pure, innocent terror. "Help!" he cried. "I've been waylaid by brigands!" A heavy hand grabbed Juliana's shoulder. Cursing, she twisted free. Leaping off Vaughn, she saw a beefy merchant glaring at her. "Fool," she said, "this man attacked me." The merchant's face flashed confusion. Vaughn kicked free of her and leapt to his feet, but she spun around to plunge the dagger into the flesh at the back of his knee. He went down with a roar of pain. She wheeled on the merchant, whose face had gone from confused to terrified. "Listen," she said, "if you want to play the good citizen, hold this man until the city watch come to collect him. They're on the hunt." And without another word she fled, wiping the bloody blade on the hem of her shirt as she ran. She looked about her for Michaelis.
  4. "We must have been spotted," Juliana said through her teeth as they ran. She mentally cursed herself for a fool. With the city watch involved, this situation was about to get a lot more dangerous. She tried not to get too far ahead of Michaelis, but, in truth, she didn't have to try very hard. The boy had speed. "In case we get separated," she told him, "we're heading for an undertaker's on the outskirts of the city, far end of Fairfield Street, behind a tavern called the Cloak and Dagger. Adeline will meet us there, and Mattias if he gets free of the watch." They hit heavy foot traffic, and Juliana shoved her way through disgruntled shoppers and tourists. This was attracting too much attention; they needed to get off the main road. She spotted a narrow alley alongside a smithery and waved at Michaelis to follow as she ducked into it. The ground was uneven, but the going was faster now that she didn't have to dodge around so many people. But it was a brief respite. Not far ahead, the alley opened onto another busy thoroughfare. "Stay close to the building walls when we're out there," she told Michaelis. "Look for a way up to the roofs." They reached the street and Juliana was mid-turn when something slammed into her so hard it knocked her flat. She blinked starbursts from her eyes and tried to get up, but he was on her, pinning her legs. She looked up into the wild eyes and rage-twisted face of the black-clad man they'd captured. He waved a curved dagger in her face. "You take a man prisoner, and you forget to check his boots for a blade. I thought you was a professional, Juliana." "We did," she blurted, bewildered. The man winked. "Not the soles." He brought the dagger down. She seized his arm, stopped the blade centimeters from her face, twisted it aside. His other hand slammed into her head so hard everything went dark for a split second. She reached up and seized his arms, bracing herself against the ground as she pushed them upward. He thrashed and tried to pull loose. She held on, but she could tell he was stronger than she was. She could see in his sneering face that he knew this as well. She screamed out for Michaelis, for anyone on the street, for someone just to even the odds for her.
  5. Juliana sighed. She'd hoped the boy would take the safer course, but she supposed she wouldn't have done any differently in his shoes. On the floor in the corner, the captured man came awake. She saw panic flash across his face as he realized he was bound, the panic giving way to anger as he looked around the room. He pitched himself up into a sitting position, cursing them all. ”Do you fools know who you've just crossed?” he said with a sneer. Mattias hit him in the face hard enough to knock him flat. The man sat back up and spat out blood and what looked like a broken tooth. "You're digging your own graves," he said through gritted teeth. Mattias kicked him in the ribs so hard Juliana had to wince, and the man cried out as he went down. She approached him as he struggled upright again. Leaning over him, she said, "You'll keep quiet until we ask you a question, understood?" The man looked defiant, but he shot a look over at Mattias, who was raising his fist again, and nodded. Juliana said, "What's your name?" "Vaughn." "Who do you work for?" "Nobody." Mattias kicked him to the ground. He came up cursing. "Who do you work for?" Juliana repeated. "You'll have to be more specific. I work for whoever pays me.” He was smiling nastily. Blood from his cut lower lip had turned his teeth dark red. “Much as you do, Juliana Shale.” Juliana supposed he thought he could rattle her by showing he knew her name, and she made sure not to give him the satisfaction. She said, “Who were you working for when you tipped this boy here off about the gala at the Plaza Hotel?” The man squinted through the locks of sweat-damp hair that hung in his eyes. “I’ll be damned,” he said, his smile broadening, “you two are in this together now?” He laughed and spat out some more blood. "You're both already dead, you just don't know it yet." The door to the street flew open with a crash. Juliana whirled around to see two armored figures standing in the doorway, wearing the colors of the city watch, swords drawn. They were both tall and powerfully build, the one of the left a man with a shaved head and a bushy beard. The one on the right was a woman; her close-cropped hair was silver, though her face was young. "What's going on in here?" she said, her voice loud and commanding. "Thank the gods you're here," said Juliana. "There were four of them—two went through the shop, two went through that alley behind you." As both the city watch knights looked back the way they'd come, Juliana grabbed Michaelis by the shoulder and bolted through the door into the cooper's shop, dodging around the counter, across the main floor and out the front door onto the street.
  6. "We did," Juliana said. "Quick, come inside before someone sees you." She closed the door behind Michaelis and leaned against it, the adrenaline starting to drain from her. Her legs felt wobbly, but she stood firm and turned back to Michaelis. "Listen, the man we captured is unconscious in the corner there," she said, nodded to where he lay trussed with Mattias standing over him. "He won't stay out for long, and you need to decide if you want to be here when he wakes up. If he recognizes you, and lives to tell anyone, it'll put a target on your back." She pointed to the door opposite where Michaelis was standing. "Through there is the store. Dolph's a friend; he'll keep you company while you wait. The choice is yours." In the corner, the captive man groaned and began to stir.
  7. Mattias handed Juliana the bottle and cloth, and together they waited, keeping their eyes on the man in black. From somewhere off in the heart of the market came a shout, then full chorus of raised voices. Juliana cracked a smile. Whatever Michaelis had done, he'd done it well. Their quarry halted, and looked back over his shoulder toward the commotion. Juliana and Mattias fell on him at once. Mattias drove his shoulder into the man's chest as Juliana came up behind him with the ether-soaked cloth ready. As the man stumbled into her, she wrapped her arms around him and held the cloth to his nose. He thrashed. He was strong. He managed to get free of her grip and turn toward her, but Mattias pinned his arms to his sides and Juliana kept the cloth pressed to his face even as he struggled. The man's eyes met hers, and there was a definite flash of recognition in them. Recognition and something mocking and sinister. Then his eyes glazed and fell shut, and he went limp in Mattias's arms. Mattias threw his cloak over the man's shoulders and pulled the hood down over his head. Juliana took one arm and Mattias took the other, and they bore him between them through the narrow streets like they were escorting a drunken friend home. They reached the cooper's shop on Azalea Street and Juliana led the way through the back door, which opened into a dimly lit store room. They dropped their burden with a thud to the floor and Mattias bound his hands and feet with leather straps. While Mattias watched the unconscious man, Juliana stepped back outside to await Michaelis. As she did, she pondered the meaning of the man's look. She'd never seen him before in her life, but it was clear he knew her. And he wasn't the least bit afraid of her.
  8. Sup..

    1. Show previous comments  1 more
    2. Rin

      Rin

      How's it going?

    3. Juliana Shale

      Juliana Shale

      Pretty good! I've been lurking, hoping to get back in to RPing soon. How are you?

    4. Rin

      Rin

      I'm good. Writing up a storm like usual 

  9. Juliana dug at a piece of dried mud caked on the side of the building, thinking. "He's carrying enough money that he'll be armed. If we take him, we'll have to surprise him." She rapped the wall with her knuckle. "Knock him out before he can draw a blade." Mattias patted the bag he'd brought with him from home. "I have cloth and a bottle of ether. If we can hold him for a few seconds, he'll be ours. We'll need a place to take him after, though." "Hmm." Juliana ran through her mental list of safehouses in this part of town, the shops and homes whose owners she could trust, the places she could bring an unconscious man. Given her changed fortunes, there weren't many people she could be sure she could rely on. She decided there was really only one location that made sense. "I've got a place. An old cooper's shop down Azalea Street. Farther away than I'd like, but we don't have many options." She turned to the boy. "It's best he doesn't see you, but a distraction could help us catch him off guard. I wonder." She paused, thinking aloud. "Is there a way you could create a diversion without drawing his attention right to you?" Mattias nodded vigorously, catching on to the idea. "It's a crowded market. Surely you can cause some chaos." Juliana smiled. "What do you think?"
  10. "Hunting," Juliana said. "Mattias knows where to find your man with a tattoo." After breakfast, Mattias led them to the eastern market. It was a chaotic, bustling place where farmers who lived beyond the city walls plied their trade alongside craftsmen of all kinds. Juliana knew it best as a place to recruit young pickpockets to help on jobs. It was late morning and the market was already in full swing. Leading them through the crowds, Mattias said, "The man I'm thinking of, he appears around midday." He led them to the very edge of the market district, a block away from the city's walls. The vendors here seemed, a little rougher and so did the crowd. "He's a courier," Mattias said. "He makes his rounds, transports profits from certain craftsman back to wherever he comes from." "If we have to take him," Juliana said, "we could use the money as a pretext." "That's what I was thinking too," said Mattias. Then: "There!" he said, pointing then taking shelter around the edge of a building. "Man in black, coming up the alley to the northeast. Look quickly and casually, tell me if that's who you're looking for." Juliana looked to Michaelis.
  11. "Good morning," Adeline said. Juliana and Mattias both greeted the boy with a nod. Adeline stood up, sliding her feet into slippers and wrapping a shawl around her shoulder. "Terrible hostess I am, I don't even have breakfast ready. Have a seat, and I'll make something." She gathered her papers and pen and locked them in a desk in the corner of the room before disappearing into the kitchen. Juliana wondered if the boy had slept well. He seemed rested, which was good. With a friendly smile, Mattias said, "What's your story, boy?"
  12. "We'll be safer here than we will be anywhere else," Juliana said. She felt the long day weighing on her and longed to close her eyes. As she helped Adeline and her husband Mattias make up the guest, shaking out wrinkled sheets and musty-smelling blankets from a closet off the hall, she filled the couple in about the predicament she and Michaelis found themselves in. At the description of the man with the tattoo, Mattias frowned and for a brief moment looked like he might say something--but he didn't. Juliana made a mental note to ask him about it in the morning. Ever since her childhood on her family's merchant wagon, Juliana had been able to sleep just about anywhere, so she ceded the guest bed to the boy. She took a pillow and a pair of blankets and bedded down on the floor as close to the fireplace as was comfortable. Before bidding Michaelis good night, she said, "Rest well if you can. Lots of work to do tomorrow, and we'll need to be sharp." She had barely gotten comfortable on the floor when sleep took her. If she had dreams that night, she didn't remember them in the morning. Juliana woke up early to find Adeline already up, sitting at the dining room table in her nightgown writing rapidly with a quill pen on a stack of loose papers. "A little project I've been working on," she said when she noticed Juliana watching. "Not a memoir, but something a bit like it." "How do you mean?" Juliana asked, joining her at the table. "It's a story about my life, but it's not really about the events...more about the flow or pattern behind them. If that makes any sense." It didn't quite, but it got Juliana thinking about the patterns and meanings behind the recent events in her own life. "I see," she said in a perfunctory way, her mind already running over all that had happened, trying to formulate a narrative to work from. The back door opened and Mattias came in, his breath clouding in the morning chill. "Good morning, you two," he said with an impressive amount of energy for the early hour. "Good morning, Mattias," Juliana said, thinking about his frown last night. "Say, can I ask you something? Last night I described a man whom that boy I brought with me had met, one with a tattoo on his arm. It looked to me like that description meant something to you." "I was going to bring that up myself," Mattias said. "Your description sounded familiar, and on my walk this morning it occurred to me why it did. There's a man I've seen around the market who matches that description. I can't tell you much about him, but I'd bet I could bring you to him if that would be useful." "I think it would. We'd need the boy to identify him before we proceed with anything." Adeline said, "You have a plan?" "Not much beyond questioning that man, but I know we need to do that. I'm starting to get a sense of what's going on, but I'm missing the who and the why of it all."
  13. Juliana Shale was dressed in what had to be the finest clothes she'd ever worn in her life. The dress itself was worth more than she'd made on her last three jobs combined, and the jewels (assuming they were the real thing) would probably fetch enough to live comfortably on for quite a while. It was a testament to her reputation that her employers trusted her not to take off with the valuables, and a testament to the generosity of their payday that she never even considered doing so. In her opulent attire, she blended right in with the society types milling about the inn foyer. She sipped wine from a crystal goblet and watched the parade of nobles. A woman with a pinched face and elaborate hair caught her eye and smiled. Juliana smiled back, thinking about the disgust that woman would feel toward her if she knew what she really was: a poor merchant's kid turned highway bandit turned high-priced expert thief. Juliana scanned the foyer. Not a face in the crowd she didn't recognize...except one. She caught it in a flash, then it disappeared into the crowd: a pale, thin face, a child's face. "You're not supposed to be here," she said under her breath. She set her goblet down on the pedestal of a marble statue and headed for where she'd last seen the stranger.
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