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Innocence and Avarice [closed]


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He was moving forward, until he wasn't. With the fear of getting caught fresh on his mind, Brindle lifted his arms and dropped his weight, slipping out of the shirt the big roe was holding. Escape. His weight was on the balls of his feet, and without thinking he dove left, between the legs of another patron. The angle was poor, and he misjudged the gap. Alcohol splashed down on him, and he spend several precious seconds kicking himself free, ignoring the outrage the owner of the drink was pouring down on him.

 

He got his feet under him, dodging the cuff the man aimed at him, and chanced a look back. It was a mistake. He caught a faceful of chair and went down hard.

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Styrm initially registered the impact with relief, followed closely by concern, then a dawning awareness of the suddenly charged atmosphere in the room.  "'At'll be all th'hurtin' I'm lookin' t'do tonight," he said to the agitated crowd as he walked over to the boy clutching his face on the floor.  The roegadyn clutching the boy's torn shirt stepped between the two.  "Ye'll not be wantin' t'fight me jus' now, laddie," Styrm intoned.  "Any other night we'll scuffle friendly, but this night I've no more time fer breakin' bones."

 

The other roegadyn stepped aside.

 

Styrm stooped to grab the boy and lifted him to his feet.  Huge hands grasping him half for support, half for containment, he helped the disoriented Brindle stumble outside and around the corner.  He sat him down against barrels and boxes and proffered him a rag.

 

"I've no stomach fer hurtin' young'uns, but yer enviable quick an' I've hasty need o' yer knowin'," he spoke, half an apology dangling from his words.  "Now," he repeated, "what say we talk 'bout Kink?"

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Bruises atop bruises. It hurt in that pinched-up way that made focusing on anything difficult, the least of which was walking and the worst of which was the roegadyn who currently had a good grip on him. Brindle didn't care much about the pain, but the worry gnawing at his insides he could've done without.

 

"Who?" Not his best act, aye, but he wasn't about to cave without trying.

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The boy hadn't taken the rag, so Styrm dabbed it on his face, wiping away some of the blood and grime.  "C'mon now, laddie," he groaned.  "We both o' us know th'chair didn't 'it ye quite so hard.  Kink, Joz, the lass wi' th'busted tail, moves jus' like ye.  I'm short time an' gil an' she's like t'be shorter still, so help 'er out an' tell ol' Styrm where she lies low."  He almost shook the boy.

 

"Please an' quick."

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Shoulders hunched against the possibility of a fist or worse, Brindle turned his face away from the rag and clenched his teeth together. Through them, he hissed, "ye ain't tryin' t'help, an' gods'll strike ye flat afore I tell ye nothin'."

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Styrm's brow furrowed, deep ripples like canyons forming across the expanse of his forehead.  "Styrm's no liar, lad.  None too delicate, either.  Made whole heaps o' noise this night," he said with a wave of the rag.  "Much an' more around yer person.  That in mind, we both know I ain't th'one an' only lookin' after yer Kink, so if ye don't wanna help th'lass, help yerself.  Styrm can protect ye--th'both o' ye--jus' so long as I got ye with me." 

 

A wan smile painted itself across his face, goofy stretched across his huge features, but his tired eyes plead with the boy and with whatever gods were watching.

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Brindle scoffed. "What, th'beatin' didn't work so now ye's gone all chumsy? Ye might well have a ship and a whole net o' lads t'back ye, but that ain't scarin' me. I dusted th'last ones an' I'll dust ye too!"

 

He folded his arms and glared for all he was worth.

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Through gritted teeth a low growl issued.  "Ye'll be makin' me drag each an' e'ery godsdamned word outta yer mouth then, will ye?  Suits me jus' fine.  The Highness was  first on th'list; we'll sniff 'round 'er other spots an' if th'last ones are lookin' fer ye, well, they'll find me too an' that's jus' fine."  He hoisted the boy effortlessly under his arm and began to walk in the direction of the next location Solitaire had given him.  "Aye, jus' fine."

 

A small crowd leaked out of the tavern behind them.  Some were curious, some were concerned, most had to piss.  Styrm and the boy did not leave unnoticed.

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Brindle struggled, he really did. Somehow, as much as he struggled, the big roe seemed even less to notice, not even when Brindle showed off his impressive vocabulary of dockside words. In the end, he wore himself out, and resolved to make himself as much of a burden as possible: he went limp under Styrm's arm and went unresponsive in general.

 

He was still listening. In fact, as they moved and as he watched Styrm in his interactions, he began to get a funny feeling in his gut. There was something different about the roe, about the way he moved and talked, about the way he asked questions. Even the way he got frustrated. Brindle would have said he was clueless, but even that wasn't so, not exactly. It was more like he was all rusted up and picking it off in bits, bright steel showing in spades.

 

It took two places, with Brindle existing in a mostly sullen silence, before he chose to speak words that were not prompted by spite or the urge to jeer at Styrm.

 

"Who are ye?"

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"Ye gods, he speaks!" Styrm gasped in mock surprise.  "Thought yer tongue must've fallen out some way back," he added with a chuckle, distracted and halfhearted.  They were both silent a moment, Styrm's heavy feet stomping irregularly with weariness and the mounting dead weight of the boy.  He sighed heavily at last. 

 

"Styrmsthal Tyrbsyn's th'name, laddie."

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Styrmsthal stopped in his tracks.  He cocked his head--Taru--and laughed.  "No one's e'er thought t'ask me that.  Storm-steel, Son of the Cyclone in Eorzean, it is."  His voice seemed to swell and his posture straightened perceptibly.  "And yers?  Yer mammy call ye Brindle?"

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Brindle shrugged, and squirmed a little: he resented being carried like some wet-nosed brat. "Ye mean yer mam named ye that? What, ye ain't changed t'fit who yer runnin' wi'?"

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The pause before his response was brief, enough so as to almost pass unnoticed.  Almost.  "Nay, ain't e'er looked t'change it.  Don't care t'disrespect th'men what gave it t'me, an' it fits me besides."  He looked ahead as he spoke and continued to walk.

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"Gods, been up too long, ain't bein' clear.  Not a soul let me keep me name, it's them what named me.  Ship's crew, o' th'Eyriberk, an' th'toughest Sea Wolf ye e'er saw: Ahldbyrm Ankasyn.  'S them an' him gave Styrm 'is name. "  Through his clear and mounting exhaustion, a note of life or something like it carried through his voice as he spoke of the Eyriberk and of Ahldbyrm.  "An' a damn good name, it is," he added.

 

He glanced down at the boy then and said through lips hinting at a smile, "Who gave ye yers, Brindle, if it weren't 'er what birthed ye?"

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  • 1 month later...

Styrm decided not to push to hard just then.  He'd gotten the lad talking, and that was better than nothing.  He'd let him skip the less important questions just then, if it kept his lips loose. 

 

"Th'Eyriberk's not so seaworthy these days, an' most o' th'old crew's gone off an' afar.  An' Ahldbyrm, well..." he trailed off.  "Don't work that ship no more, nay."

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"I'm wit' ye, lad.  Right now," he huffed, "short o' Taru showin' up--" an' damn 'is disappearin' arse-- "it's ye an' I, Brindle an' Styrm."  He added with a rye grin, marred by the tired, lopped line of his jaw, "Jus' two colleagues o' sorts, on th'trail o' their good friend Kink." 

 

Aye, Jozzie...

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"Aye?  Well, ye sure as 'ells ain't carryin' yer own arse, now are ye?" he asked.  His voice was sardonic as he gave the boy under his arm a light, but emphatic, shake.  "Aye, we're together ye an' I, an' so we'll be till we find th'girl, er till we find someone what knows more 'an ye do."

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  • 1 month later...

Brindle clamped his teeth down hard, as if to stubbornly refuse to say anything else that might provide the roe -- thus far classified as probably an enemy -- any more fuel.

 

But, snark was too hard to resist. His teeth opened on a snarl: "I'll not help ye find 'er."

 

They were approaching lights: another hole-in-the-wall. Time for more questions, and more of the half-answers Limsan Lominsans were so rutting good at.

 

______________

 

There were times when Solitaire knew in the depths of his gut that he was onto something good. Anyone else might spit on it, but he'd always trusted his instincts. His instincts were good. He had the stashes to prove it. The encounter with the roegadyn had triggered something in him, and even several bells after they'd parted his mind kept returning to it, itching, and itching. Something was going on, and it smelled like gil.

 

He'd two things needed seeing to, and he did them in order. He prided himself on being reliable, but while he was about his business he dropped a few lines, and felt them up for tension. As usual there was more than a fair share of various nefarious things going on, some further abovedecks than others. It took time to sift through the tall tales, rumors, and hard pearls of truth. One thing he knew for true, though, was that a small number of interesting folk were tailing after the crook-tailed scut. What he didn't know was why.

 

He was finishing a delivery when he heard a few strongarms laughing at a tall weed of a duskwight. The man was distinctly out of place in the smoking shop, even for its illicit backrooms. He looked like a navigator off a merchant ship, the sort of man best at home with books, puffed-up snobs, and overpriced wine.

 

"I was speaking to the shop owner," the man was saying, low voice cutting through the guttural chuckles.

 

A bag of gil was produced, taken, and the rowdy sailors were unceremoniously shooed out with the customary banter of regulars.

 

Solitaire turned to a display of elaborately carved pipes and their accouterments, shuffling sideways to another shelf with trays of leaf so he was out of direct line of sight of the duskwight.

 

"I've a package gone missing, along with the runner what was charged with its safekeeping."

 

"What'd ye have me do for ye?" The owner asked, voice all velvet.

 

"All manner o' missing things come traipsing through. I've a mind to make sure if what's lost finds its way through your door, it finds its way home."

 

Solitaire strained to hear the next few exchanges, and caught only a few words -- one of which was 'tail.' A longshot, that word. But his gut told him it was one worth following.

 

When the duskwight left the shop, Solitaire was not long behind. . .with a fresh pouch of leaf in his pocket.

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