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    Act VI -- He who possesses gold succeeds in helping souls into paradise

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    Tariq
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    Act VI -- He who possesses gold succeeds in helping souls into paradise

    Post  Tariq on Thu Sep 11, 2014 12:44 am

    It was just on the cusp of evening. Autumn was nipping eagerly at summer’s heels. On the island, the return of autumn’s reign meant the tropical heat that hardly dissipated even at night was being torn at by fingers of cool, evening air. The promise of storms rode in the pregnant weight of bruised clouds and grumbled through the growl of distant thunder. The air was electric with the strain of waiting for them to break in a clap of booming rain, an impending delight for a particular boy with peculiar proclivities.

    Although the omen would likely have very little chance to indulge them tonight.

    The room, in contrast to the air outside, was blanketed in a thick layer of dust. It was a silent graveyard shroud over all its belongings, save a solitary set of bare footprints that revealed the worn wooden floor beneath. It was clearly intended to be a side storage room; it was too painfully bare, too thinly furnished to be a lavish guest room at the esteemed Tether. The walls were hard, unyielding stone without the vulnerability of a window, and the door was a thick affair decorated only with locks and bolts.

    If its stark and imposing build didn’t betray its nature, its contents certainly did. The room was full to bursting. Unlike the bat’s dark quarters, two sconces on opposite walls burned dimly, casting a faintly flickering glow that warmed the space. It illuminated tightly-bound crates stacked ceiling-high around the walls, sea-salt still forming a white crust along the edges. Old wooden boxes, carved of solid wood that was now peeling and splintered, spilled their glittering viscera onto shelves and scattered tarnished coins across the floor. Here and there, the gleam broke through as though an idle hand had brushed the dust and cobwebs away. And in its center, a spiked dragon amongst his hoard, was the bat.

    He was clean as always, the cobwebs of his long, white hair gathered back in a ribbon that suggested he had cajoled the help of someone with sight to assist in his bathing ritual. It was a rare concession to practicality that likely had to do with his rifling through the contents of an overturned box, all pretense of sight discarded as blind eyes vaguely pointed toward the wall with no regard to clever hands, their black nails cleansed of the thick crust of blood one almost expected to find beneath them. The line of his spine was straight, the heavy shadow of his wings held loosely at his back. He radiated a predatory poise that suggested the omen’s blood still thrummed hot through the dusty chambers of his old heart.

    He had allowed the omen to his own devices for a time, stipulating only that he returned to the bat’s darkness for sleep and that he washed the blood from his wounds and the filth from his skin before they next met. Tariq himself had been away, occupied with other matters for a few days. The house slave that had been sent to fetch the boy stuttered her way through the summons and was perhaps a little too cordial in delivering her message. It was rarely necessary to offer a curtsy to a fellow slave after all, much less three in such quick succession.

    Whatever the state of his message at the end, it had certainly been delivered. From the casual slant of one broad ear toward the door left slightly askew, he was expecting company soon.

    The boy wouldn’t receive a preamble. The instant he was within range, the bat spoke up.

    “I am told,” he said dryly. “That it is quite a sight.” He turned toward the door, the tip of one wing clipping a precariously stacked pile that tumbled to the floor, sending sparkling trinkets rolling. He flicked an ear in mild annoyance. “And if you pocket a solitary speck of dust, you will lose every finger that touched it. The door.” It was a command, his wings already creeping up to his shoulders in imitation of a gore-crow’s irritable bristling. Only when the heavy door had clicked close would they loosen in rattling folds. “Come here.”  


    Last edited by Tariq on Sat Sep 17, 2016 4:15 pm; edited 1 time in total
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    Fabien

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    Re: Act VI -- He who possesses gold succeeds in helping souls into paradise

    Post  Fabien on Sat Sep 13, 2014 2:47 pm

    Fabien abandoned his leafy perch, the branch from where he had been studying the calm stretch of seascape which was soon to be split and spiked by those storms and the cool promise of rain. He came begrudgingly at first, though his surliness was quickly replaced with the unpleasant prickle of fear. This creeping anxiety was further magnified by the door which loomed into sight, this new door, and what might lay behind it, what it could possibly mean. Doors were terrible features, and he had slowly grown to despise them. The boy began to fret, and searched the darkly lit hollows of his memory for any recent failings, anything that might suggest he was due a punishment. He was certain he knew, by now, what might displease the bat. And yet, he so often seemed to bleed mistakes. By the time the youth had made it beyond the threshold, he was quite visibly trembling, and his spine shamefully and pathetically curved in supplication, like a tormented dog expecting the lash.

    The boy was heavily masked, both in appearance and scent. It seemed some soft heart had attempted, or rather insisted, on bandaging those wounds to splint the paw of the limping fox.  The boy’s butchered throat was near mummified in gauze, and the material was stretched tight over a balm of healing herbs that would do little good for his ancient grey flesh. The scent was reminiscent of embalming, and sacred altars. It was alien.  His scrawny body was indistinguishable beneath heavy layers, most of which were several sizes too big, and unnecessary for one who no longer felt the first breath of winter. But the youth had at least obeyed his master’s command, and the reek of pain and lust replaced more recently by pungent smoke and wet soil. He was cleaner.

    Fabien flinched against nothingness for just a little too long, still cringing in preparation, until the dark splinters of his eyes lifted and began to dart to and fro about the room. His lips parted, enticing a cloven cigarette to tumble from between his yellowed teeth, where it was left to smoulder upon the floor. There was a lengthy pause, and the stillness and quiet of it betrayed his intrigue well enough. Then, startled by his delayed reaction, the omen hastily closed the door behind him. The boy’s gently beaming gaze widened further, and his exhausted features were suddenly illuminated with child-like curiosity.

    Êtes-vous un roi?” he wheezed, in a fragile, shivering whisper.  The tone was strange, initially pinched by resentment, but small, and youthful. The overall effect was stark naivety, as though they were meeting for the first time. His world was eroding, its structure falling apart, and this might have been a dream for all he knew. The question appeared to affect the boy deeply,  causing to waver unsteadily upon his feet, shimmering eyes trailing from vampire to the walls, to objects that entranced or confused.

    “Sont-ils de spécial? Pourquoi?”  The fox-featured youth rasped once more, and took a step forward, dirty fingers outstretched instinctively towards the tempting curiosities.  Like a troublesome boy in a toy shop, he was sure to graze an earth and ash drenched palm over something gleaming, unless hastily prevented from doing so.  
    He took a few more uncertain steps towards the bat, the skeletal fingers of his other hand curled tightly into the hem of his overcoat, pulling the coarse wool tighter and more protectively across his chest, as though it were gleaming armour.
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    Re: Act VI -- He who possesses gold succeeds in helping souls into paradise

    Post  Tariq on Fri Sep 26, 2014 11:23 pm

    Tariq’s long frame uncoiled like a tightly-wound serpent as the door thumped to a close. His weighty wings unfurled in great, ragged banners of black, held just close enough at his back to avoid upsetting any more precarious piles. He lazily stretched his neck toward the omen. His ridged snout creased at the scent of the acrid smoke spiraling weakly from the cigarette on the floor, but the bat stayed silent.

    His many-toothed smile suggested he had understood at least enough of the boy’s initial question to find it amusing. "Hardly."  The word was elusively contemptuous. "My kingdom is built on a foundation more substantial than brittle trinkets.”

    The deadly claws at the end of his long fingers twitched as though eager to explore the new wrappings that bound the boy’s flesh, but he remained where he was. Satisfied with whatever information he had gathered about the boy, he turned back to the disorganized heap in front of him, one broad ear still twisted toward the door. The omen’s outstretched fingers were allowed to do as they pleased. His treasure was rusted, dirtied and tarnished; an earth-streaked set of fingerprints would not go amiss.

    The boy’s second question went wholly ignored or, conceivably, not understood. "I need to borrow your eyes, beloved. I am looking for something, and you are going to assist me." He tapped two fingers just beneath one blackened eye as though to illustrate the root of his problem. “Something particular. A pendant, a gemstone of jet, with a single symbol carved on its face.  It was once smooth, but I imagine it is showing its age now.” He wordlessly regarded the omen as though to insure his instruction was understood. “It is worthless to most, save the dreadfully superstitious. Everyone has their price.”

    There was a soft coil of venom in this last statement that was quickly swallowed. The bat fell silent for a few minutes as he idly browsed his hoard, clever fingers doing the bulk of the work that useless eyes failed to. His palm brushed against a small, warped box that tipped to its side. Rings, their metals tarnished but their gems still sparkling brilliantly, spilled from its mouth.

    "Do you know," The question that broke the silence was deceptively soft and dangerously casual as the bat plucked a thick iron band from the clutter to examine. "This was all it took for your beloved bovine charm to give himself to me."

    The vampire slipped the band over one clawed finger. It rested just above his first knuckle, glinting like a pale tooth in the low, warm light. "Do you remember your lover, Fabien?" The lingering pause suggested the question was genuine, that the bat had a sense of how many holes he had burned in the boy’s memory. "He mentioned something to me, once, about you, and your own treasure." The pads of his long fingers ran through a collection of coins that chimed an eerie, discordant melody as they clinked together, the ring still winking silver on his finger.

    "Of something you had on you when he first met you that would be of great value to me. You wouldn't know anything about that, would you?" Casually, as though it were complete chance, his idle browsing had abruptly brought him close enough to touch the boy for the first time, his false gaze still demurely focused on the work of his sifting hands.
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    Fabien

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    Re: Act VI -- He who possesses gold succeeds in helping souls into paradise

    Post  Fabien on Sun Sep 28, 2014 4:00 pm

    The boy allowed his gently curled fingers to trail over the dust kissed objects, his movements slow and languid now that quiet relief that whispered through his bones. This was however sharply, and distinctly broken, by a further strangely discourteous suggestion.
    “A thief, then? .... So little difference, no?”

    The omen’s voice, so scathing in its husky clarity, seemed to materialize like the ghost of the boy who had jeered at the vampire once, from behind cold bars. But Fabien did not seem to notice this error, for the words which slipped so nonchalantly from his lips were immediately forgotten. His focus fell instead upon this task, the reason why the bat had brought him here, and he moved to consider the items with prolonged interest. “D’accord. I think... I might be good at finding things.”

    With eyes star bright, and forlorn tail tip just skimming the floor, the cursed youth sank with a crackle of old bone to his knees, keen to inspect the stray pieces which the bat had previously knocked to the floor. He was absent, and content to be given such a simple and inoffensive task; until the vampire’s question came, and the words pierced through him like heated knives.“Qu'est-ce que c'est?” He wheezed softly, and rose up upon one knee to inspect that metal band. His gleaming eyes became but mere slits, as though he viewed the vampire through a distorted lens. Of course, the more the bat spoke, the clearer the image became. And then, it was much too clear.

    “Aa..rik?” He whispered, unable to finish the name, uncertain that it was the correct one. The boy pushed back, away, pinching the flesh above his pointed nose. He slipped back to those hazy half dreams that came like opium induced hallucinations. The scent of warm skin, perfumed with fragrant oils, which drifted in through the dust and age, the gleam of gold, the fearful and smooth palms pushing him away, inviting him closer. “Ahh .. pourquoi est-il blessé?” The boy’s sobbed, his voice plagued by confusion. With eyes bright as lit candles, he began to frantically glance about the room searching for him. Not the jet pendant, not that, for the bovine boy. He sought him out in the spaces between the crates, hoping to find him there like some beloved toy that had been torn from him.
    “Where... where did you... put him?”

    The omen was too distracted, too lost to answer his master directly. He attempted to rise to his feet, but developed a weakness in his limbs which caused him to veer off to the side. Instinctively he moved to stabilize, and caused the knuckles of both hands to skim one of the crates still glistening with sea salt. There was a soft crackle of burning skin, and the boy began to obsessively wipe the blistering flesh against the sleeve of his coat. He did not notice the pain. “Trésors.“ He wheezed, contemplating what such an object might be. The things he had arrived with flickered through his thoughts in the shuddering and imperfect light of a phantasmagoria show. Cards, yes., The bat’s fingertips on the coins awoke something else.. Sive. The omen’s imp-like lips twitched into a distant, sickly smile.

    “Spectacle de magie. Une pièce de monnaie ... pour le canari?”

    But somehow he already knew that was wrong. And then the answer came:

    Oui, Monsieur.”
    “Buried, monsieur.”

    Perhaps he had been clever enough to bury it, both physically and mentally, pushed it deep enough to have allowed the location to slip. Perhaps, after all this time, after ever misery he had endured, Fabien still had not forgotten how to lie. Either way, the abrupt change in subject matter indicated he did not intend to attempt unearthing this particular treasure.

    “I’ll keep searching for it... t-the stone. I can find it.”
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    Tariq
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    Re: Act VI -- He who possesses gold succeeds in helping souls into paradise

    Post  Tariq on Thu Oct 16, 2014 1:15 am

    Outside, the storm the cursed boy had been denied had reached a sluggish crescendo. Rain pattered against the distant windows like the insistent fingertips of a corpse. A crack of thunder split the sky with such fury it could be heard, a distant grumble, from their room. Inside, the mild glow of the torches remained steady, flickering in time to their own private murmurings. The bat’s treasure hoard was well insulated. Not even the drifting scent of rain could penetrate the depths of its warm, glistening heart.

    The boy’s scathing indictment of thievery elicited a soft, dry rattle from the back of Tariq’s throat that was very likely meant to be a laugh. “Would that please you, Fabien? To think we were so similar?” Idly, he flicked a key, its teeth cobwebbed and the lock it belonged to doubtless long fallen to rust, over his shoulder. It protested with a reverberating clang when it met the floor. “I don’t know that I have the head for theft -- if you are any indication, it involves a rather lot of slinking about in the dirt. Brothers in habits, indeed.”

    If he had any more to say, he swallowed it when the omen’s sunken memories flared suddenly back to life. His bony fingers paused in their examination. The tip of his bound hair flicked like a restless wolf’s tail over his spine as he wordlessly cocked his head. He flicked a torn ear at the faltered question but did not answer it, instead taking a half-step back as though to regard the boy from a distance as he paced like a wild animal unexpectedly trapped and panicking.

    The vampire digested his half-answer in silence. His countenance was impossible to read, but the tautness that lingered in the strained fingers of his wings and the thin line of his mouth suggested he had more to say on the subject. However, whatever his line of thought, it was broken as he dipped his head in silent acquiescence at his omen’s abrupt change of topic.

    “Continue,” he agreed, a burred rasp sticking thickly at the back of his throat. It was soft, a gentle coaxing. He returned, with perhaps a tad more force than strictly necessary, to the examination of the items in front of him, sending a cascade of bronze coins spinning raucously to the floor.

    Occupied as he was, he likely wouldn’t notice the fester of burning skin until it reached the blood beneath blistered flesh. Even then, he wouldn’t offer assistance unless the omen began to whimper.

    Minutes passed in tenuous silence before the vampire spoke again. “It was not I who took them from you.” His black eyes were focused, uselessly, on the task of lazy fingers as they sifted through the contents of another box, and his tone was relentlessly casual. “You managed to misplace your trinkets without any aid from me, mon cher.”  Somewhat extraordinarily, he had managed to turn the airy word into a dry hiss.
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    Fabien

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    Re: Act VI -- He who possesses gold succeeds in helping souls into paradise

    Post  Fabien on Thu Nov 20, 2014 2:27 pm

    “Je serais plutôt de rester dans la boue... mieux que de se vautrer dans le sang,”

    It was spoken softly, and quickly, as though he were reciting some old proverb he had been told once. Or a new one perhaps, one he invented.

    The omen obeyed, and returned somewhat mechanically to his search. But it was a pain-staking process, and he was distracted, and negligent. Items were passed over, and boxes were left untouched as his thoughts remained elsewhere. This stupid and inelegant method cost him a second encounter with a salt sprinkled crate, and the side of his hand and wrist skimmed the glistening wood.  Pain hissed from between the omen’s impish teeth and saltless tears sprung to his eyes as the youth furiously scrubbed the blistered skin against the fabric of his coat.

    Soon it was become enough to prevent his efforts, soon the wound would need to be treated. But he persisted as long as he could, hopeful that the completion of this task would allow him to leave. The dull beam of his cursed eyes enticed a gem to glitter invitingly, and he reached for the object, inspecting it without any real interest. Still he troubled over his own misplaced trinkets, obsessing over their loss as one does in the absence of something vital.
    The stone remained within his grasp, its polished surface caressed rhythmically beneath one filthy thumb

    “But how? How would I do that?” Fabien spoke out sharply, his words hard and accusatory. Thought it was hard to tell where he was directing the blame.

    Il ne est pas possible,” he whispered, the pitch of his voice crackling like an old radio recording, distorted with time. The omen clung to the object he had discovered, but continued to sift through others. Like a broken automaton he moved, cradling his burned wrist firmly into his chest. When his search bore no fresh fruit, the boy presented what he had.

    “This is jet, I think. It is light. Est-il correct?” He rasped, stepping forward the bat, the pendant outstretched upon his skeletal fingers.

    “I... I  need to go now, out to the rain.” There was an impatient tension that tightened his throat, pain infused, but something else lingered within it.

    “It is burning. The boxes, the salt.” He croaked, the urgency to treat his burning skin strangely lost.  Instead it was quite obvious he was desperate to clear his muddled thoughts, to establish where he had left his companions.
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    Tariq
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    Re: Act VI -- He who possesses gold succeeds in helping souls into paradise

    Post  Tariq on Mon Dec 01, 2014 9:05 pm

    One of Tariq’s sensitive ears twisted toward the boy at his soft recitation, but it flicked dismissively away soon afterward. A wandering hand had discovered a cache that contained a small knife and now his attention was occupied on it. The tip of his finger drew down the length of the blade as though testing the keenness of its edge, the very point of his claw producing a short, high-pitched squeal on the metal.

    “I do not know,” he said dryly, black eyes focused uselessly on the work of his hands. “You were the one to lose them. Possibly your sharp fingers and the hunger in your stomach were too much for them to withstand; perhaps they abandoned you.”

    The bat’s cruel musings were forgotten at the omen’s discovery and he turned to him, wings rattling softly. His clever fingers, so frenetic they were almost nervous, skittered eagerly along the flat of the boy’s palm, brushing the flesh as they relieved him of the trinket. He weighed it in his hand, the pad of his thumb brushing over the smooth surface as the boy pleaded for the sanctuary of the outdoors.

    “Non,” he breathed softly. “Not yet, Fabien.”

    He tilted his skull downward at mention of the boy’s injuries, the spiked ridge of his nostrils flaring as though trying to inhale the scent of his misery. Delicately, he placed the pendant on the relatively clean surface of a closed chest and lifted the small knife he had been inspecting.

    “Here.” It was nearly a purr as he took the omen by his blistering wrist and deposited the cool weight of the blade in his palm. “I have something for you.”

    The knife, at closer inspection, was small enough to be concealed in a closed fist. The blade was sharp on both sides with a slight blood groove in the center. The handle was a warm gold that was now marred with a film of speckled brown tarnish. It was not soft enough to be pure gold, although there was enough of it to suggest the knife’s purpose had once been ceremonial, perhaps ornamental. Despite its quiet ostentation, it was still honed to a sharp point. In the center of the handle the raised insignia of a raven spread its dark wings.

    “I do not care what you do with it. Relieve your ennui by whittling off your fingertips, have it be discovered by a guard and be flogged for possessing it, attempt to turn it on me as I sleep—“ His smile was wolfish, the delight in the idea palpable behind his fangs. “—it matters little. Only keep it close. And—“ He bent and the poor omen was suddenly confronted by the terrible deep-water pits of his liquid black eyes.

    “Should you feel the urge to lie to me welling in your treacherous throat,” His fingers closed over the omen’s, cupping the blade in his palm. “Take it and slit it.” His tone remained dangerously casual despite the clear reference to his previous answers that the bat had apparently found wanting.

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    Fabien

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    Re: Act VI -- He who possesses gold succeeds in helping souls into paradise

    Post  Fabien on Fri Dec 05, 2014 4:48 pm

    The soft scrape of Fabien’s sore skin against harsh cloth continued, incessantly. It was silenced only by the shriek of claw against metal, and the boy at once shrank back, concerned and cowering. He did not reply at first, and when a response came, it was little above a whisper.

    “I don’t understand anything anymore,” he concluded, miserably.

    The omen remained stagnant in his position, his shadow haunting the doorway like a sad apparition, shrouded in mourning robes. But his eyes, the brightness of which lit up the youthfulness of his face so acutely, stalked the vampire’s movements in this strange and glistening room. The omen’s feet wavered somewhat, as thought he was momentarily gripped by unsteadiness, weakness. And he flinched at the bat’s movement, and his grey fingers moved to curl into a pathetic, agitated fist. They softened only slightly when the blade was left within his grasp, and he remained with arm outstretched for quite some time.

    The boy’s brow twitched, and he was left in yet another solemn and conflicted silence.
    “Je ne comprends pas,” he rasped, his breath catching somewhat, before it faded out into a gentle rattle. This gesture, simple as it was, stifled the omen’s heart, filling it with a dark curtain of anxiety. He picked the action apart in his mind so rapidly, that his arm was soon infested with trembling. The knife then clattered awkwardly to the floor, before it was hastily retrieved, and held in one unsteady and skeletal hand.

    “If you... do not care what is done with it, why do I have it now, Monsieur?”

    “And what is all this? These things... you... you never said, you never told me...always gaps, and cracks, and holes. ” The boy’s voice split like glass, and seemed strangely pierced by something which almost felt like offense.

    Mon dieu...” he gasped, as the salt deepened its attack on his cursed flesh. Then the omen pulled sharply aside like an agitated colt, curling his other hand around the crackling skin of his wrist. The knife gifted to him remained curled in his mud splattered fingers.

    He petulantly refused to await any answers, but approached towards the door a second time, and spoke his request through teeth fiercely clenched.

    “I can go now? We are done?”

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