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Blame Fisty for this one, he's got me making up a character for a new game. I haven't bothered with his twenty questions yet or finished a character sheet because it's "too much work," but god knows I can sit here on the clock and just throw together short fiction to kill some time. Anyways, give it a read if you've got some time to kill. I'm going for a little different narrative style than my normal (those who've read my stuff before), but I think it'll still be fun.

They all told themselves they were the closest thing Seattle had to knights, with their blades and their swaggers and their steel-and-polymer steeds parked out front. They also told themselves this was the closest thing Seattle had -- not counting Fantasy Adventure Land, the glitzed-up theme restaurant in Downtown -- to an old world warrior's hall, with a cheerfully rowdy atmosphere and plenty of beer and meat. It had been a sports bar a couple decades back, and when everything in the world died and was born again it had changed hands maybe a dozen times. Under an ugly layer of Puyallup's infamous ash, it still served roughly the same role it had back in the days it was supposed to have electricity; they had unhealthy but tasty food (with a menu that varied based on what autotrucks the go-gangs hit like pirates that week), lots of beer, the occasional sports game on the trid, and waitresses with just enough curves to earn a few extra tips. The place didn't have a name, but the guy that ran it did; so Charlie's Place was as good a handle as any.

The heart of the crowd at Charlie's Place this evening was a rowdy mob of Ancients, a not unusual occurence given the bar's location in run-down Tarislar. They'd scooted together a handful of tables without asking and parked themselves down for the night to watch the latest combat biker game on the biggest screen in Charlie's, and naturally no one in the joint was stupid enough to ask them to leave or change the channel. One sat a little off from the others, drinking root beer instead of the real thing, but just as interested in the game and the hot wings and the good cheer as the rest of them in their black and green leathers. He had a sword like several of the rest, and a gun like every single one, but his hair was shorter and his build stockier; reddish brown and feathery, cut short like a Roman General, his shoulders almost as broad across as an ork's. He was a bit slower to smile and a shade quieter to laugh, but that could be the lack of alcohol as much as anything else.

Several hours into their stay, the game almost over but with them still rowdily commanding the trideo's remote control, their waitress pouted cutely and told them she had to go. Cries and wails from all around, but each one ponied up and tossed a careless handful of wadded up corporate scrip -- each seemingly stolen or strong-armed from a different employee of a different megacorp -- for the sober one to collect up and hand over with a smile. Charlie would never ask them to pay an actual bill for their food or drink, but the lot of them would fall all over themselves to throw money at the pretty girl who'd carried it out to them and giggled through their leers and whistles. That didn't mean, of course, they had any plans to leave any time soon. They were too merry a warband for that, having too much fun.

Their fresh waitress -- honey-blond hair and without the first one's makeup -- embarrassed herself on just her second trip from the kitchen, when she met eyes with the sober one to ask him who'd ordered what plate of food this time around. She recognized him, and old habits took over. She almost but didn't quite drop the tray from surprise, as she almost but didn't quite drop to her knees.

She did, though, widen her eyes and bow her head and blurt out his wrong name. His old name. With his old title attached. In Sperethiel. There was a heartbeat where you could've heard a pin drop, then most of those at the table howled with laughter. Most quieted just as quickly at the warning glance he gave them.

"Hush. Rise. Relax. You're mistaken. My name is Tain now. Just Tain." He gave her a hint of a smile; recognized her, now, without having to let her finish her formal introduction. "It's good to see you again, Minerva. Curly there had the mushrooms, Jake had the soypuffs, and just toss the hot wings in the middle and let them knife fight over them."

She flushed red, bobbed her head and wished her hair could hide her face, and busied herself distributing the latest round of food and drink.

The tomboyish Ancient they all called Squire scooted her chair towards Tain, a smear of buffalo sauce on her cheek where nine times out of ten she'd have a swath of engine oil instead. She asked him a question, but her eyes -- staring daggers at the blond woman's back -- stayed on their waitress as she hurried away from the table. Tain nodded and smiled, then shook his head to cut off her next question. Yes, he really knew her and she really knew him. No, he wasn't embarrassed by it enough he needed her to go knife the bitch. He nudged her with an elbow, nodded towards the tridscreen, and let her get distracted by the show.

The evening turned into night, and Charlie's Place filled up. The Timber Wolves had won the game hours earlier, and the Ancients were in good cheer thanks in equal measure to that fact and a SoyBud truck someone had raided two weeks earlier. Between the home team cleaning house and the cold bottles that kept coming, it wasn't long before they were gregarious enough to start inviting a few non-gangers over to their table to chat about the game or talk bikes. Tain passed the time coordinating orders for the waiterss, chatting with her over by the bar when time allowed, and keeping a watchful eye on his friends as the beer flowed and stomachs filled.

The night got darker and colder, the Seattle drizzle outside not quite snow but twice as unpleasant, and all but a few diehard regulars and the Ancients themselves had gone home. One civilian remained at the tables the Ancients had lined up, talking pistons and fuel injections and nitrous with Squire before the girl eventually laid her head down on the table nearly in mid-sentence and fell asleep. The other elf didn't leave, munching on a wing and glancing around the table to see that nearly half the other gangers were snoozing as well. The rest were staring, glassy-eyed, at clips of that night's other biker games.

Tain put his hand on the newcomer's shoulder from behind, smiling brightly and leaning in conversationally. He didn't need to be an expert at body language -- he was, but he didn't need to be -- to see how the man jumped at the sudden contact, how his shoulders had been hunched as he'd peered at the sleeping Ancients.

"Hi there, having a good time?"

The man sputtered something, greasy chicken and a head bob coming out something like a yes sir.

"Good. So are my friends. They've had a few to drink, and I can't help but notice you haven't. Me neither. I'm their dee dee. It used to be designated driver, you know?"

The man chewed swallowed, nodded again.

"Yeah. Well, mostly it means I'm the one sober enough to tell the waitress what they need next. It also means designated defender, though." He gave the other elf's narrow shoulder a squeeze. "You know what that means?"

The elf winced, looked everywhere but at Tain's eyes, shrugged.

"It means if you steal from them while they're drunk, I'll eat your fucking liver. Okay?" He smiled cheerfully, patted the elf's shoulder just a little too hard, and stood up. Hand on his sword hilt to keep the sheathed blade from clattering against any chairs as he walked across the room, he headed for his spot back over at the bar.

Tain allowed himself a little smile as -- before he'd even slipped back onto his barstool -- he saw the nervous little fellow scurrying away and out into the cold. Squire would've had to get herself a new commlink, and a certified credstick or two, otherwise. If she hadn't woken up with a breast under the thief's pawing hand, at any rate, and gutted him like a trout. Ah, kids. There were days Tain felt every day of the decades he outpaced most of his comrades by.

More to come later. Typing this up while work allows, and the opening's a little slower than the rest. The story's maybe a third or so done, and comments are welcome (though I might not address any 'till I've gotten the whole thing posted). Enjoy.

I'm mostly just making this up as I go (IE, it's not had a "rough draft" or any of that other nonsense, or any of that fancy "editing" stuff done). So if you spot a typo or anything, just holler and I'll try to fix 'em. Thanks!
Night turned -- just barely -- to morning. The sober one sat at the bar, talking with the waitress with a small part of him wishing she'd stop bobbing her head subserviently and start looking him in the eye. The rest of him -- the larger part -- watched over his friends, his peers now, until the rest of Charlie's Place had emptied out and the last Ancient had slumped over the table, stretched out in his chair, or curled up on the floor to hover somewhere between passed out and merely asleep.

As he was speaking with Charlie -- who lived upstairs -- about how the owner would be letting them stay the night, Tain saw Minerva bundling up against the cold in an ugly grey jacket, a knit hat, and a thick scarf. He looked the owner in the eye and shook his hand, all the seal he asked, and headed towards the exit to cut her off while, paradoxically, holding the door open for her. The tired waitress bore a canvas bag, and the Ancient smelled the spicy sauce of hot wings coming from it.

"Where you headed?"

"My apartment. It's only a few blocks," she bobbed her head again as she stepped outside, this time to show direction.

"I'll give you a ride," as he spoke, he shut the door behind her, matter-of-factly. His collar got flipped up against the half-sleet drizzle. "It's too cold for you to be walking."

"Oh...I...I..." She looked down the street, back to the door, everywhere she could but at him. "Okay. I mean, uhh, that would be great. Thank you."

He pressed his helmet into her hands as he expertly swung a leg over the bike. She yelped and pinched her ear pulling it on, clumsily straddled the machine behind him. The faceplate was mirrored, so he couldn't see her blush, but he knew she was getting a splash of color across her cheeks all the same.

The drive was quick and short. Two blocks over, four blocks up. Towards the fringe of Tarislar, away from the heart of Ancient's turf and into Princes of the Blood territory. They didn't have half the manpower or a tenth of the rep Tain's warband did, and that meant their streets weren't nearly as safe. They couldn't patrol as much, weren't as automatically feared and respected even on their own streets. A girl walking them alone could get into trouble, and Tain didn't want that to happen to a girl from the Tir. He was glad she'd taken him up on the ride.

Her apartment had started life as a housing project and was retiring, now, as a run-down housing project. Years of gray sludge, rinsed away only by rain only for a fresh layer to cake on, left it impossible to read an address or tell what color it had once been painted. She tapped his shoulder and pointed to the back, her muffled voice explained the front door stuck in the cold. The black-and-chrome bike with the stylized Liath Macha airbrushed down the side rolled through gray mud and litter down a narrow alley, and in moments the pair were inside. They ignored the very serious Fire Exit Only warning and used the rear door, her stepping over the cinder block that kept it open via long practice, him almost scuffing a combat boot on it.

They went up three rickety flights of stairs, and when they reached a door -- indecipherable from any others except that it was closed all the way and there wasn't a squalling child or a bickering couple behind it -- she knocked. There was a pause, then a shuffling of feet behind it. Tain heard a chain rattle, heard a bolt slide, and the door opened.

In they went, following the retreating back of an elven woman who wore a skirt too short and heels too tall to be anything but a whore. She, bleary-eyed, only noticed Tain when Minerva cleared her throat and introduced him. She shuffled off into the other room, grumbling about knots in her hair and complaining that Minerva had woken her up late.

The three talked briefly over leftover hot wings after the joygirl came back out of the apartment's other room, black-dyed hair presumably fixed, face made up, bags under her eyes well concealed.

The Ancient learned about her around mouthfuls of grease and spice and strings of meat. Her name was Charity. She'd met Minerva three years ago. She was going to be late for work. She was her own boss, though, so it's not like she'd get fucking fired for it. Love you, Minnie. Good night.

The blonde girl waved and smiled, blew her a kiss, and followed her to the door to lock it. The maglock proper had long since been disabled, the chain and bolt that remained were mounted with more enthusiasm than expertise. Tain ate sparingly, just enough to be polite; they'd need the leftovers more than he would.

The two sat and talked on a three-legged couch with stained cushions that were still warm from a sleeping hooker.

"I've got the bedroom this month," Minerva explained as though it made perfect sense.

She'd been out of the Tir and in this shithole long enough, Tain figured, it did make perfect sense to her.

They talked. She with waving hands and articulate fingers, not looking him into the eye until an hour or two into the conversation. She confirmed his memory, that the two had met after his rise to Comital rank.

He remembered those days, how crisp and sharp they'd been. How he'd been teased by the others for taking his new responsibilities seriously, interviewing everyone that had lived in the apartment building he'd been tossed as a bone, telling some to leave and inviting other families in. It was a token piece of money-earning land to the rest of them, a pittance he'd been granted for formality's sake, but to him it had been important. Those people had become his responsibility, and he did his best -- despite everything else that had been going on at the time -- to treat them right. He had even taken an apartment there for his own, moved out of the home he'd had earlier, to show each of his residents that he felt the place worth living in. They'd had their very own Count there, striding in and out at all hours of the night and day, sword at his side and Paladin's oaths heavy on his shoulders.

She spoke quietly of her father's outspoken politics, he apologized for being unable to stop the Information Secretariat's men. She told him about how her father had just vanished one night, he frowned and said he hadn't been told ahead of time either. She told him how her and her mother had been banished, and it was his turn to look away and explain that he'd had to sign the paperwork, that it had been that or they'd vanish with black bags over their heads as well.

She forced a smile, and talked about their first years in Seattle and how exciting and different it had all been. Frowned, and talked about her mother's illness. She stopped and looked at him, looked around the hovel she lived in with a whore and he was afraid -- terrified -- for a moment she was going to cry or apologize for what she'd done with her life. He didn't know which would be worse. He kissed her, to stop either thing from happening. She had the bedroom that month.

Morning turned to mid-morning. He awoke to the racket of chains and bolts as she opened the door to leave, read the hastily scrawled note on a cracked dry erase board, "GONE 2 TRADE 4 BREAKFAST. WAIT 4 ME," after she was gone.

Tain stretched out, tried not to remember signing his only set of banishment papers, and fetched his sword. He moved the ugly couch to one side to make room, sat in the dust bunnies underneath it with his blade across his lap. He forced aside conscious thought, embraced zarlen meditation, then leapt into action. His blade sang, mono-edged and slicing the air as he flicked it this way and that, all wrist and forearm for speed, shoulder and hip for strength. The Air Defense. The Earth Offense. The Water Defense. The Fire Offense. He was nearly done -- felt the energy coming back to him that he lost every night when he slept -- when he smelled soybacon cooking, blinked and realized she'd been back for some time.

She had a little propane stove set up in the wreckage that used to be a kitchen, one plate ready for him and slowly getting cold. He shared the couch with her in his underwear, sword snapped back into it's hard plastic sheath and tossed back onto his pile of discarded clothes. They ate cheap soybacon and drank fake orange juice, enjoyed real eggs that came from Tarislar's Crazy Old Chicken Lady. Some people kept pigeons on their roofs, somewhere years ago the ancient human woman had gotten real chickens and the smog hadn't killed them or their great-grandchildren yet. Everyone traded with her for the eggs when they could, and she was one woman the Ancients didn't have to watch out for; half the neighborhood would be up in arms with molotovs and baseball bats if anyone hurt her.

Breakfast was good. Noon approached, and neither was surprised to hear the knock on the door. Charity was home from work.

"In you go, bitch. Okay, ladies, time to pay your rent!"

He blinked, looked up from sopping up runny yolk with a piece of biscuit. Minerva gasped. Charity got shoved through the doorway, indignant in her muddy high heels. Three elves in red and black leather, Princes of the Blood, strode in behind her.

Minerva froze, a deer in headlights. Tain looked at them, flicked his attention to the far corner of the room. The Prince in front stopped in his tracks, followed the underwear-clad elf's gaze to the pile of clothes -- leather and cotton, a monosword and a pistol, a heavy jacket emblazoned with the colors of a rival gang -- and groped for the pistol in his waistband.

Tain couldn't make it. His gun was too close to them, too far from him, too close to Charity who didn't deserve to catch a bullet for him.

He turned and leapt, plastic plate clattering to the floor as a machine pistol spat death at him. The doorway to the bedroom got chewed to splinters by near misses as he passed it, planted one foot on the mattress that served as a bed, and leapt out the window in a shower of glass.

More to come...ooh, the tension! Just pretend this is a commercial break.
You better finish this, and I don't want any excuses about having to actually do work while at work, either! smile.gif
Tain felt the glass burst in front of him, another wall he'd crashed through in his life. His lips moved, not in desperate curses or prayers, but meticulously forming words. Sperethiel flowed from his mouth as gravity grabbed ahold of him, formal phrases about the grace of cats and the majesty of eagles.

Falling, he chanted.

Chanting, he twisted. Tain's mouth opened in an eagle's triumphant cry and he flung his arms out wide to either side; augmented muscles rippled with the force of his motion, and Gryphon screamed, high and proud. When his bare feet touched the sludge and slop of the Puyallup street, three floors from where he'd burst into the cold, Gryphon didn't even make him bend a knee to absorb the impact. The elf ran, still hearing shouts and laughter and gunshots from above and -- eventually -- behind him.

Rage boiled in Tain's stomach with every squelch underfoot and every pock-spack of a wild bullet missing him. He rounded the corner to the side of the building, eyes smoldering and face grim. Behind him, the gunshots stopped. He heard an exuberant whoop, thought for a second he heard a high five.

The indignity of it. Them, thinking he was running. He strode back the way he came, close enough to the wall they'd not have line of sight even if they bothered to keep looking after thinking he'd fled. He glared at their compact car parked out front all done up in black and red with pseudo-Celtic stripes painted down the sides of it in garish colors he were certain glowed in the dark. His hands balled into fists and for a mad moment he wanted to tear their ridiculous little car with it's silly neon ring around the bottom and it's absurd spoiler into pieces with his own hands and feet; but no. Later.

He glared defiantly up at the window. They'd already all gone to the fun of their stolen women. Idiots.

He swatted the front door open -- it couldn't be too stuck from the cold or those three jackals couldn't have parked out front and gotten in -- but strode with a purpose towards the back of the building. The rage in his belly grew, the wrongness of it all; hyenas making a lion run. Acne-riddled Seattle punks taking 'rent' from a Tir-born elf forced to live in squalor and degradration while under their 'protection.'

He grabbed the push-handle of the fire door that led out back, braced one foot against the heavy steel, and snarled. Shoulders worked, arms bulged. The metal bar resisted, then gave in. Tain didn't stop to congratulate himself, simply turned and walked towards the stairs. He thought about Minerva as his feet consumed the first flight. He thought about Charity -- never knowing a better life than this in the first place! -- as he jogged up the second. He sneered and thought about the smugness the three scavengers must have felt as he started up the third...

...and then stopped, chest heaving, belly hot with rage.

No. He couldn't just barge in and beat them to death, as much as he'd love to. They were three, he was one. They had two -- for a moment he was back in the Constabulary Division -- hostages, and he certainly wasn't armed or armored for a high-threat intervention. He had to think. Had to plan. Brutes rushed in. Leaders won.

He had to think, for a moment. What Would A Ghost Team Do? Cheat, of course. Spy. Stack the deck.

He tightened his grip on the rough metal pole in his hand, forced his rage into that hand, focused it, and locked it away from the rest of his spirit as he backed down to the second floor. His lips moved again, Sperethiel forming his intent into words, his words into Power. For a moment, his features blurred, nose hooking into a beak, eyes darkened from that distinctive shade of green to hawk-brown.

The Power flowed, his voice rising, and then stopped; the creature took shape in front of him, his eyes flashed and the weak little spirit became almost-real on the physical plane. It croaked almost like a raven, fluttered impossibly black wings as it hovered at eye level.

"Be my eyes," he said in Sperethiel, another spell taking shape with the simple phrase. A headache threatened, but he pushed the pain aside the same as he did with the kisses he'd gotten from a window pane a minute earlier. His right hand still clutched a war-club, his left reached out and passed through the Watcher spirit.

It vanished from sight again, flapping up stairs and down a hallway. Tain concentrated, and saw through otherworldly eyes just as it passed effortlessly through a wall. He saw them. It flowed through a living room wall and into the bedroom, and saw two more.

Tain's vision snapped back to his stairwell, a flick of his wrist ending both the spell of scrying and the Watcher's dim existence. For a lack of security cameras or fiber optic trinkets, it had served well enough. He put his left hand against a wall -- not for support against dizziness lest things go poorly, he told himself, but to establish a symbolic link with the building itself -- and began chanting again.

He ignored Bedlam's advice completely, his anger to hot to worry about safety measures and the limits of his own power. He knew his own power. Sperethiel flowed from his lips, voice going guttural this time as pain wracked him. He ignored it, continued chanting, strong right hand clenched tight on the steel bar, anchoring himself with the anger he felt.

He opened his eyes. A stooped old woman hovered in front of him, as half-real as the Watcher spirit had been.

"Grandmother," Tain's voice was firm but respectful. Formal. "Two of your daughters are being hurt by men who have no right to be within your walls. You will help me stop it."

The spirit nodded, eyes sad, and Tain strode through the stairs right through it. He didn't care about the trickle of blood he felt coming from one nostril. He'd waited long enough. The women had been alone, abused, long enough.

His chest filled with a deep breath, his voice boomed out as the butt of his impromptu club smashed against the door to Minerva's apartment.

"OPEN THIS DOOR," he roared, the three words sucking his lungs empty. One idiot on the inside grunted in confusion, then Tain heard the rattle of a chain and the sliding of a bolt. The door swung inwards several inches, and he saw a Prince of the Blood with a silly little patch of scraggly hair on his chin looking at him, right hand on the doorknob.

Several things happened at once. All of it happened behind a haze of red to the vengeful Ancient, though; the bear-shirt was upon him, the warp spasm ripe and long overdue.

Tain's foot lashed out, the other elf's trigger finger tightened on the sawed-off he held in his left hand. A shotgun roared. The door took the brunt of the blast, the storm of slowed pellets and splinters ravaged Tain's side; but not enough. He'd been twisting his hips into the kick, the door had already been moving, the shotgun barrel held against it had been batted aside just a hair before the jackal had fired. Meat and skin were clawed from the Ancient's side, but the hexagonal grid of polymers laid over his bones held firm. He lost flesh, but his ribs held. Not so the door.

The scavenger staggered backwards and Tain strode in after him, club leading. Across the room Charity grunted and cried out in pain on all fours, a Blood-Prince behind and inside her. The metal pole spun to build speed and power, Tain lashed out with it. A forearm snapped, a man wailed like a woman, a shotgun fell to the floor. The rapist across the room scrambled for his machine pistol, but the building itself was against him; his ankles caught in his pants and he sprawled out prone.

The club spun, quick as a short staff, and swung again. Charity rugburned hands and knees scurrying away from a ganger that did the same quick-crawling for his gun. Tain's immediate foe crumpled under another swing. He bent and grabbed for the shotgun, the other elf scrambled to his feet, one hand hauling his pants to his waist and the other raising a Steyr. His finger depressed the trigger, the suppressor coughed as a full auto burst chewed through the stained couch in that separated them, through the carpeted floor, steadily towards Tain.

There was a sharp metallic clack as the gunfire almost reached Tain's feet, and the machine pistol's bolt locked back, magazine clattered to the floor. A shotgun boomed, and the look of surprise on the thug's face turned to shock, and pain, and fear. He looked down as he fell, and saw that one kneecap was simply gone as if it had never existed.

Tain dropped the empty double-barrel, body low like a hurley player about to tackle someone for no good reason. He rammed into the three-legged couch with one shoulder, hands groping for the bottom edge of it. He snarled wordlessly, roared, and heaving upwards while his feet still carried him forward. The maimed rapist on the floor pathetically crossed his forearms over his head as the piece of furniture crashed over and on top of him.

Thank you, Grandmother, Tain thought, concentrating through the whitewater-roar of his blood in his veins. There was a yelp of pain and a pounding on the wall from the bedroom, One last favor and then you can rest again.

The leader -- for lack of a better term -- of the trio of Princes burst into the living room, both hands full of things best never touched by the likes of him. His left hand was a fist full of Minerva's honey-yellow hair, her stumbling in front of him, one lip split and cheeks red. His right hand held Tain's own sword, the little cat's eye of orichalcum near the hilt winking, the too-sharp monofilament that edged it catching the light.

Wild-eyed, high on something besides just the power of abuse and the fear of retribution, the man spun in a circle. The blade was clumsy but dangerous, Minerva staggered as he pulled and pushed at her. He saw Charity in one corner, knees up and head down in a ball. He saw one of his men with a divot in his head and a bloody pole carelessly dropped next to him. He saw another man groaning in a pool of blood that grew from under an upended couch missing a leg.

He didn't see Tain, a blur behind him, hidden by the righteous indignation of a home that had been invaded.

He grabbed the Prince's sword-wrist with both hands, squeezed and twisted and let the red haze grant him strength as he growled, "That's not yours."

Things popped in the other man's wrist, and a blade clattered to the floor. Tain didn't let go, pulled the arm straight and bashed his shoulder into the elbow. It folded the wrong way with a sickening crunch, and the shock of it was enough to spasm his other hand open and Minerva to scramble away.

A boot came around towards Tain's bloody ribs but he got an arm down to block it in time. The block turned into a grab, both hands finding the man's ankle this time. A lion roared, Tain straightened and lifted and heaved high overhead, just as he had with the couch. The Prince tumbled over backwards clutching at his groin. A blood-mad Gryphon swooped and struck him even as he hit the floor.

"Don't you ever..." Tain straddled the man, fists rising and falling through clumsy defenses, blood already spattering from just the first few. He punched steadily, rhythmically, arms like pistons. "Ever..."

"Ever..." What?

"Ever..." Point a gun at Tain?

"Ever..." Victimize women?

"Ever..." Lay your filthy hands on a Tir-born citizen?

"Ever..." Rape?

"Ever..." Think you can challenge the Ancients?

"Ever..." Touch Tain's blade, a gift from Ehran himself?

"Ever..." Dare to make your betters run from you, however temporarily?

"Ever..." It didn't matter. Tain's knuckles hit carpet, instead of the solid thump of a fist on a skull he heard sounds like scoops of soggy food being dropped.

The red mist left him. His hands were ravaged, knuckles split and bleeding, half his bones would've been broken if it weren't for the wonders of modern technology. He gasped in air, spat at the corpse he straddled, hauled himself to knees gone wobbly not from pain but exhaustion. He'd been punching the man for a long time. It stretched out like that, sometimes, when he let the anger take over.

He blinked, saw Charity already rolling the corpse of the asshole with the shotgun, emptying pockets and taking back something for what they'd taken from her. She was a survivor. He approved. He saw Minerva huddled in the corner next to his things, holding his commlink.

"I called..." she hiccuped, staring still at the body Tain left behind as he walked towards her. "Called Charlie. He knows where I live. He..."

Tain nodded. She'd kept her head pretty well. He'd wake up the others, get them here faster than any other help from any other source in all the world. She was a bright girl. Strong enough to bend, not break, from this.

He stood before her, she was on her knees in front of him. He reached out with one hand, left a smear of his own lifesblood across her forehead. His voice rang out, exhaustion gone, tone clear as a bell. Deep and formal.

"Minerva Finch. All of you, now, head to heel and all between. Mine to serve me, mine for my service. Go you forth, now, and walk in the shade of my shield. Sealed in blood, Count Rhodry รณ Maoilriain calls it pact."

"I..." She straightened her spine, bit her lip. She looked up at him, wanting to cry but not letting it happen. "I...I...forget the words."

"That's okay." He sighed, feeling very old and very tired again, all of a sudden. "You know what they mean. Go get your things together."

He flexed his hurt hand, stooped to pick up his sword. Charity was next to the one who'd been raping her, now, ignoring his little mews and whimpers of pain, jaw clenched and eyes cold, rooting through his pockets. She stopped and looked up as Tain walked over.

He nodded at her to continue, didn't have plans to stop her or claim the prize as his. Deep in shock, parts of him broken inside and his blood a growing pool, the ganger looked up at him with wide eyes.

"Princes." Tain snorted the word, shook his head, and leaned into the swing. Behind him, Minerva flinched. Next to him, Charity didn't.

He stooped and picked up the head by a greasy ponytail, turned and strode back towards the bedroom and the open window. A flick of his wrist sent the trophy bouncing out into the street. Maybe it just made him feel better. Maybe it would help Curly and Jack, Squire and all the rest, find the place.

"Charity," he said, leaning against a wall and keeping his eyes on the door. She'd be worse off without Minerva to keep an eye on her. He wouldn't leave her here. "Pack your things, too."

He felt warmth seeping down his side, but didn't bother fumbling with it. He thought he heard the high scream of racing bikes already, and Bedlam would only fuss at him if his own amateurish magic mucked up the healing. He'd live, waiting another few minutes or not.

And he did. They got there, Squire half a minute in front of the next fastest. Later, when they all arrived, Curly joked it was because she looooooved him soooooo much. Jake laughed that it was just because she somehow knew they'd find him in his boxers. She hit them both, flushing, before worrying her way across the room to mother him the same way she cooed at a damaged street bike. Tain just shook his head and smiled. Kids. So many of them were just kids.

A few minutes passed, and everyone was ready to go. A waitress and a joygirl moved from one end of Tarislar to the very center of the Elven community, and when they made the trip they had a half dozen Ancients -- already telling and retelling the story, some saying he'd been buck naked, some that he'd not had a scratch on him, some that they'd rolled up to find twenty heads on pikes in the street -- riding escort for them.

In a rightfully-claimed car Squire and other mechanics would cannibalize and sell, pressed into service like a pack mule for two women that day, they rode through town completely unafraid of anyone they might come across. With a rowdy half-dozen or so circling them, riding in and out of sloppy formations on sleek racing bikes, they made their way to a little bit newer, little bit cleaner, apartment. The women would feel as safe there as they had during the move itself.

Because they were with the closest thing Seattle had to knights.
And...there we go. I guess I can stop posting in bold to differentiate between the "in character" bits, now that it's done.

It's just a story where the rough ideas of it came to me while working on my character (who I'm still working on). An exercise to stay in character while I crunched numbers, and a way for my GM and my fellow players to maybe get an idea of what Tain's all about.

Hopefully everyone else enjoyed it, too.
You mean we are supposed to actually read this? eek.gif

Just kidding. Nicely done. smile.gif
I like, I like.
Very good, a nice read. Excellent job!
Rockin', man. smile.gif
Kyoto Kid
...superb. I was actually able to visulaise many of the scenes. notworthy.gif

Would like to see more sometime.
Black Irish
Very nice. You'll have to post the character when you're done.
QUOTE (Kyoto Kid)
Would like to see more sometime.

I have plenty. I've posted some of it here before (two of them for Tisoz's fiction contests), so a few of them may be familiar to folks.

Or, for more, you can always feel free to go to your local comic/game shop and pick up a copy of Spinespur, a survival/horror miniature wargame from Comfy Chair Games that I'm the lead writer for. wink.gif
Very nicely done. That last section was just the kind of warm cuddlys we need to see more of where the barrends are concerned. cool.gif
Interesting portrayal of the Ancients. That's for sure.

Very good. Very enjoyable.
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