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A Taste For Sweets

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((Closed RP, but OOC welcome.))


Rough hands tossed the old Miqo'te storyteller into a chair, hard enough that his body weight rocked the chair back onto its hind legs, and someone snatched the hood that had kept him in artificial darkness away.  Being able to see didn't help Chuta much; there was only one point of light in the room he found himself in, a single candle burning on a rough-hewn wooden table in front of him.  Another chair stood opposite his at the table; he could see he was in a stone room, small and cramped, with brackets for torches lining the walls.  It felt cold and damp, and smelled of old sweat, and possibly blood.


He only had a moment's notice to catch the retreating backs of the men who'd brought him here, mostly unharmed save for the rough treatment and the bonds on his wrists and ankles - an impression of candlelight on a helmet slung back between shoulderblades, curved scimitars at the hip.  Then it was time to wait.


Time is tricky when you're isolated and alone, but Chuta guessed it had to have been several bells at least before the door swung open again.  The light outside seemed almost blinding, if only momentary, before the door swung heavily shut behind the man who entered; his white tabard shone from across the room, but he wasted no time in coming over and plopping himself in the other chair.  "Heavens, you tied up, Master Allfriend?" the man exclaimed.  "That won't do - you're a guest, after all.  Hey!  Someone come in here and untie Master Allfriend!"  He shouted that back at the door, and a large Roegadyn came in and knelt behind Chuta's chair, working at the bonds.


The man in the chair leaned back, propping his legs up on the table with the candle, causing it to wobble alarmingly, almost knocking over.  He was Hyur, Midlander, young - too young maybe for the Sultansworn tabard, which was flecked with food stains and crumbs.  He balanced a half-eaten blood currant tart in his gauntleted palm, eating at it messily, spittle and bits of chewed tart flying out of his mouth as he talked around his latest bite.  "Call me Rosewater.  You've got some exotic friends, Master Allfriend - oh, but you're 'friend to all,' after all, so I'm sure you're aware of that.  Ha!  Pretty fitting name!  Can't say I didn't notice the irony!  I love irony.  Underappreciated.  You hungry?  I've got a taste for sweets myself, but can't say as most do."


He dumped the second half of the tart on the table in front of Chuta just as the Miqo'te's hands came free.  The sensation of blood returning full-force to his hands after bells of restraint was almost more painful than the ropes had been.  Rosewater grinned easily at Chuta; he had a boyish charm about him, a mischief-maker's face, and silver eyes that seemed to glint through the darkened room.


"So, Chuta - I can call you Chuta, right?  Great! - turns out that we've invited you here to be our guest for a little bit to ask you a couple questions about some murders.  Oh - silly me, I haven't mentioned - I'm involved with Her Resplendence's internal security unit."  He grinned, dimples popping out on his cheeks, and casually brushed crumbs off his tabard with his shining, scoured-clean gauntlets, dropping his legs off the table.  "We've noticed a few weird things."


He took out a sheaf of loosely-tied parchment, undoing the string with a casual jerk of his hand, rifling through the pages with careless disregard for their content.  Chuta could see a page that looked like a bio of his, complete with an artist's depiction of him - a map of Thanalan with his frequent performance sites marked - and a fair landscape of a certain lonely cliff above the Golden Bazaar, with a single cherry tree in bloom.  "Ah, here we are.  So, it starts, oh, about nineteen, eighteen summers ago.  People started turning up dead right before you'd turn up in a town, or just after.  See?  Good men, usually.  Brass Blades.  A Sultansworn or two.  Y'know how it is."  Rosewater quirked a brow at him.  "Pretty sophisticated measures too.  Pretty good at making it look like an accident, whomever was doing it.  Not an amateur, that's for damned sure.  You know anything about this?"


He set down the sheaf, patiently listening, his head tilted to the side.  "'Cause I'm pretty sure it's got a connection with you - oh, here I go rambling on again.  Well, you know how you vagabond types are.  It's a romantic image, I gotta admit - floating from town to town, making money on the side, never getting involved with anything or anyone.  Yeah?  But I hear you're involved with someone now."  Rosewater rubbed his jaw for a moment, looking off thoughtfully to the side.  "I hear you've started to put down roots.  Funny thing about roots, attachments, things like that - sometimes they turn into gaol chains."  He laughed at that, shaking his head, gathering up the parchment again.


"Guess I'll just have to be keeping you here a bit longer as our guest, Chuta.  Feel free to put down some roots.  It's kind of a shame actually - you spent so long going wherever the cherry blossoms bloomed."  He waved cheerily as he headed back out, the Roegadyn following him, an iron click in the heavy door indicating it locked behind them.


The half-eaten tart that Rosewater left behind was the only food Chuta would get.

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Chuta Allfriend was no stranger to locked rooms and thick doors. His moniker wasn't an ironic showman's act, after all; old Chuta had been around and around since before the boy calling himself Rosewater slipped out of his mama's belly, and he'd been squeezed by harder men than someone calling himself a Sultansworn. The act was obvious and slow but he figured this was the upstart's way of showing Chuta was going to be in charge for the duration of their friendship. Chuta wasn't in the business of keeping enemies, and he wasn't about to start down that sort of path now, with his best years ahead of him still. The old dark cat eyed the half-eaten tart and rolled his eyes even as his stomach grumbled a bit. He trusted the contents of that tart as much as he trusted Rosewater's credentials and claims.


The storyteller did as he always did when it came to these sorts of situations. The chair he was on and freed from was moved to one side of the cell and he doused the candle and moved it and the table to the other side, but he kept that tart. Chuta took a heavy seat down in the center of the wall and stared out at that door, that portal to nowhere that wasn't going to open again for some time. If he was familiar with the practices, he'd have several more bells before anyone came back to chat with him, and it'd likely be one of Rosewater's grunts at first. He didn't have enough of a picture of the man to determine whether or not he'd get roughed up a bit first, but he knew it was on the table. The act was a tired one.


And so Chuta sat, splaying his legs wearily out in front of himself. He didn't want the light as he worked his fingers along his aching muscles, feeling the indentations of where the coarse ropes and shackles had compressed his skin, his wrists and ankles. With methodical diligence Chuta worked away the pain with his fingers, as much as it would go for the time being. He knew those sorts of things took time, and he had plenty of it. He was counting on it, in fact. He crumbled that tart and tossed the crumbs out, setting the tastiest morsel down in front of himself and out a ways. He didn't know where he was, but he could figure it out. Ul'dah was a bustling city with a functional sewer system, and if this dingy basement keepaway was within the city limits, there'd be uninvited guests all over the place. Ul'dah couldn't afford to feed its hungry, and that was true down to the smallest living creatures.


Chuta knew the scent of blood in rooms like this. He'd heard and told stories of the sorts of things that happened in them, the sorts of people who sometimes got forgotten about. The sorts of things that knew all the secrets in the walls, and that they knew where the food was, and what the food sounded like. Sometimes it yelled defiant, sometimes it cried and sobbed, but eventually... The scrabbling would start. The rats would know where the food was.


Chuta Allfriend didn't believe in having enemies. So instead of thinking about Rosewater and what and who he might truly be after, Chuta left out his offering and closed his eyes and he listened for a friend.

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  • 3 weeks later...

((I know, I know, been leaving poor Chuta hanging.))


Rosewater rolled off of the girl, breathing hard, his sweaty body flopping down onto the bed - well, something of a bed anyway, little more than a hard board with a few filthy blankets clinging to it, scratchy wool such as a broke Brass Blade might use.  The Limsan whore - or so she said she was - squealed with belated pleasure, draping a green thigh over his bare legs; he stroked it absently, still breathing heavily.  "That was wonderful, pet," he managed, smiling at her as he took a small lacquered box from the bedside table.  "Truly wonderful.  You're worth every gil, you know."


She giggled coquettishly.  "Oh Master Cap'n, ye' ain't s'bad ye'self," she lisped.  The accent and the lisp were both fake, Rosewater noted absently, his eyes on the lacquered box in his hands.  "Almos' makes a girl wanna give over th' trade!"


He opened the box.  Bells of work had led up to this point, but his expression was careless, the muscles of his face relaxed.  Rosewater was never more relaxed than when he was lying.  He never felt happier either, but happiness was something to release in the moment.  It interfered with the lying.


He selected a linkpearl out of many in the box seemingly at random, bright red.  The others rolled around and clattered together as he shut the box.  "A moment, pet," he told the Roegadyn with another stroke of her thigh.  "The higher-ups get irked when I don't report in."


He murmured a conversation into it, only partially managing to conceal his mouth and his words with his free hand, because he kept getting distracted by the delicate skin of her inner thigh, making her squeal and blush.  Oh, he said a lot of this and that as if he were really focused on giving a report - the prisoner had been here two days so far, hadn't given any information of consequence, interrogations would commence on the bell, yes sir he would make sure he got a confession, Garlean troop movements to the east, yes they were moving two contingents of Blades to intercept, yes, he would personally oversee the operation.  Only a few words here and there were audible even to his delicious distraction, and he flashed smiles at her and tickled her and had her squirming on the bed.


He sighed after the report was over and dropped the pearl back in his box.  "I'll be back in a tick, pet, nature calls."  He gave her a noisy kiss, pulling on enough clothes to be decent, and moved to what certainly looked like a necessary.


Sitting on the toilet lid, he gave it a slow count of ten before shielding the candlelight and working out the plug from a peephole.  Handy things, peepholes.  There was a certain kind of Ul'dahn tree that made a perfect gummy substance, blended right into stone walls and blocked light perfectly, yet slipped right out of a drilled hole.  He cupped his eye around the peephole, watching as the girl rooted quickly around in his lacquered box, stuffing linkpearls into her underwear.  He suppressed a sigh, and a grin.  He reached back lazily behind him and pulled out another peephole.  Simply the light shining through would be a signal.


Armed men poured into the bedroom, and the woman had a scimitar at her throat before she could even turn.  Rosewater strolled back into the room.  "Fast, pet," he complimented her.  "You would've cleaned 'em out before I was back for sure."  He set about the enjoyable task of rooting through her underwear to retrieve his pearls.  "Oh, the Sultansworn officers one too, pet?  And the Blades report shell... and Jenlyn's private line... pity these are all dummy shells."  He chuckled, turning them over in his fingers.  Her eyes bulged.  "What, you thought just because it was red, it was for the Blades?"


"What the hells- " She started angrily, then took a deep breath, putting her persona back on.  "B-but Cap'n -"


"You can knock it out with the Limsan bit.  You're from a bit farther away than that, aren't you, pet?"  Rosewater deposited the shells back into the lacquered box.  Some of them were real, of course - but he did so enjoy lying.  "If you were Limsan, well, even friends spy on each other, it'd just mean a ticket back home and a stern talking-to to the Maelstrom.  But since you're Garlean, I'm afraid it's the gallows."


Her eyes were bulging.  Rosewater waved a languid hand at her captors.  "Take her away, boys.  Wring everything from her before you take her to the gibbet.  We can always use new intelligence."


They dragged her from the bed, and she couldn't even struggle.  Had she fought, she could have maybe took one or two of them out - maybe.  Rosewater didn't know.  They never seemed to fight once they heard the word "gallows".  Rosewater wondered absently if she really were Garlean.  It didn't particularly matter to him.


He shielded another peephole, this one in the side of the fake bedroom, and looked in on his Miqo'te prisoner.  That one was as tough as old roots.  He wondered if the old man really was the killer they were looking for.  Of course, they didn't have a type, killers.  Rosewater had seen a beggar once with an angel's face shiv another beggar for a crust of bread that wouldn't feed a marmot.  That was back before he'd fallen into his natural talents, back before he'd found new outlets.


A Blade filled the doorway.  Rosewater replaced the plug in the peephole and turned away.  This entire building was riddled with such holes, some just big enough to let in air, some for viewing, some for eavesdropping.  Some for even more.  Rosewater loved this place as much as he loved anyone or anything.  "Let's feed him," he said brightly.  "A guest shouldn't be left hungry, wouldn't you say?"


The old one wouldn't break at the thought of gallows.  Maybe there was more sport to be had with this one than even the last.

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