February 19 - 26 (2016)

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February 19 - 26 (2016)

Post by Wlonnie on Sun Feb 21, 2016 10:57 pm

Jerryth the Russian Goth has decreed! All of you shall write your backstories in any context you desire!
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Wlonnie

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Re: February 19 - 26 (2016)

Post by Wlonnie on Wed Feb 24, 2016 1:11 am

My Nameless Muse


He found me in amidst a pile of broken lipsticks. No one quite knew how I’d gotten there. The neighbors had turned their faces, a dark crimson liquid spilling over their cheeks in shame. Pretending to be ignorant was one thing, but true ignorance in the midst of a con is another. All the children in the neighborhood were told to look away from me, to continue reciting verse as they played with kittens in the streets.
His suit was the same shade as my lips, somewhere in between the colours of the night and crushed poppies. The gaze he held was as brown and rich as the dirt I bled on, and when he helped me up, his hands were as soft as the lipstick scars in my hair. Someone told me his name, but I didn’t hear them. After all, he was just a police officer. All he could offer was information, for I had no idea what had dragged me to the alley behind Ninth Avenue. I had no idea why I was carrying a bag of cosmetics and lead, and nobody told me about the gun they found in my coat pocket.
That is, not until he did.
I had a name, but I didn’t hear it. My focus was attached to the way his mouth formed syllables. ‘Dis-mal fail-ure. Gov-ern-ment pro-ject. Mis-sing in act-ion.’ It was fascinating, just watching him. I felt like I knew more about the police officer by simple observation than comprehending the real core of what he was saying.
“Pat, are you listening?”
I smiled at him. He didn’t smile back. Even from across the desk, it was obvious that he was becoming impatient. Was that a hint of fear glittering behind deep brown eyes? I wondered if he feared like the children’s parents. There was no sense to it, nor could I understand when he suddenly pushed a set of photographs across the table.
“Do you know who these people are?”
I reached out to touch one of the pictures, staining it with matte pink. The photograph had captured the image of a woman and her baby. I assumed it was my mother. Why else would he show it to me if it wasn’t my mother? I told him, but to my dismay, I was off by just the smallest detail.
He retracted the pictures, frowning as though he was unsure of my sanity.
My stand-offish tone was enough to offend him even more. “What?”
At first, the officer was silent. It was like he was stuck in the loop of a silver screen, destined to be vague and dramatized. “Pat, that’s your daughter.” He motioned to the picture again, as though I should know exactly what my face looked like. The thing was, I didn’t. It was like the officer forgot I’d just woken up from amnesiac sleep only hours before.
He paced around my chair for what felt like hours. In reality, it was seven and a half minutes. I don’t know how I knew that – I just did. Every manipulative line in the book was used on me. ‘Don’t you care about your baby?’ No, not really. I couldn’t remember her. In my eyes, she was nothing more than an undeveloped life form, one that would surely slow me down. ‘You’re the mother, therefore you’re responsible.’ I was half-responsible, really. There was some sperm donor or rapist or beau out in the world, breathing the same air as the brown-eyed man and I. Obviously, I was the less responsible parent. I couldn’t even remember my own name.
We went back and forth like this for a long time, but neither of us knew where the baby resided, so neither of us won the impromptu moral battle. Finally, I stood up from the desk. I was well-aware of the fact that dirt and cosmetics clung to me like a burr in animal fuzz. When he told me it was impudent of me to leave like that, I told him I was going to shower. Somehow, I knew I’d find a place.
Wandering out on the street wasn’t as bad as I’d imagined. After all, I knew nothing of my own weaknesses. The only name I had was “Pat”, and it seemed dirty now that it had the officer’s tongue all over it. I threw it away as I skipped down the street, kicking at stones with the toe of my flats. One of the stones bounced further down the sidewalk, and I followed it. Before long I was in the shopping district, and all at once, my senses became more alert. There were reddish-brown coffee stains on the sleeve of the man at the bus stop. A child was crying – no, laughing – as its mother led it toward a flock of garbage-pecking pigeons. Differentiating the details came naturally to me, and I knew how to weave them back together into the perfect story.
“I love your lipstick.”
The words made me stop in my tracks, turning to find their source. She was a young girl, short and smiling, with a hot pink smile set in between round, pale cheeks. Her hair was a forgettable colour, somewhere in between blonde and brown, and it was gathered at the top of her head in unruly strands.
With a confused tilt of my head, I raised my hand to my own MAC-soaked tresses. Was she trying to be funny? Her smile didn’t fade, and bright green eyes peered up at me as though I was the most beautiful thing in the world. It was like I’d finally looked up from the trunk of a tree to see its dancing, colourful leaves.
“Thank you,” I replied, curiosity apparent in my voice. The girl was carrying a stack of books under her arm. Two paperbacks, one history textbook, and a spiral-bound notebook. I wondered if they were an incomplete set of manuals describing her character.
“What’s your name?” Her voice was soft yet focused, and I found myself hanging onto every word. “I’m Jenn. If I told you my full name, I’d probably have to file a restraining order.” That last bit seemed to tickle her fancy, and the corners of her pink lips drew into a smirk.
I thought about it for a moment, offering her a smile through bright eyes. “Arsinoe,” I finally replied. “My name is Arsinoe. And thank you for the compliment. It’s been a while since anyone’s been so relaxed around me.”
She simply laughed, then hoisted the books up onto her hip. “Hey, I was just headed to the coffee shop up ahead. If you want, feel free to come with.”
Suddenly, green eyes seemed so much more appealing than brown. I didn’t know who I was, and neither did she. It felt like we matched at a subatomic level, like we felt the same fear and laughed at the same pain. She liked me. She liked my lipstick. That was what mattered.
And if I was lucky, maybe we’d write a story together.
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Re: February 19 - 26 (2016)

Post by Melody on Fri Feb 26, 2016 7:05 pm

Basically, this story is just one big info dump, and it's way too fast paced. But I was too lazy to write a book for it, that ya'll probably wouldn't want to read anyway, so you're stuck with this Smile

Waves crash against the prow, sending waves of spray over the deck. I inhale the salt air deeply, a smile creasing my lips. I am almost free.

My father was a farmer, and the land was tough. From it, we took on the surname “Brocke”, literally meaning steep hill. It is pronounced as brook-uh, but those I've encountered from across the sea cannot seem to get their tongues around it. They've corrupted it to Brock, and out of sheer spite, sometimes broccoli, a strange edible plant from Italy.

When I was sixteen, two summers ago, my father designed for me to marry the young viking warrior in our village, Bjorn son of Gunther. A fine fellow—I enjoyed watching as he made play battle with the other neighbouring boys—but I would have nothing of marriage at such a young age. My mother thought it quite foolish—she herself had been married at fourteen, and her mother before her at twelve. I knew there was a trade ship heading for the shores of Hispania Tarraconensis, and I snuck on board the night it sailed.

I pinned up my hair and wore men's clothing. I stayed out of the way as much I could, always being careful not to find myself on rowing duty. I mopped decks and hid below deck when I could. But, it must have been a week or so into the journey, I was found out.

The captain, well advanced in years with a beard turning grey, placed me in shackles for the remainder of the trip. He did not share my identity with the others, for fear they would violate me—undamaged goods are worth more in port.

I shudder as I think back to those memories. I don't know why my mind keeps going back to them; it's behind me now.

“Bra vind i ryggen er best,” Augusts remarks from behind me. He is a roman I have found myself allied with, and a dear friend.

“You have been learning well,” I reply in his native tongue. He asked me to teach him the language of my people when we set sail, and I could hardly refuse him. I owe him too much.

He smiles, and winks. “You know what they say: when in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

I laugh. “We are no longer in Rome, Augustus.” It's true. We're on our way to North Africa from Sicily, all of us marked in the Roman empire. There are very few places in this world where I can still show my face without having it shot at.

The conversation grows silent, and I allow my mind to wander again. I was sold in Tarraco, for what price I do not know. My buyer was a rich, fat, pompous, and the governor of Spain. I was brought back to the capital, along with several other young girls, and forced to work in the kitchen.

After three months, I saw my opportunity to escape. Augustus had come to deliver an important message from Caesar, and was received as a guest by the Governor. I was able to sneak aboard his carriage, and hid there until he was ready to leave.

We still had a far ways to go to reach the capital, when one of the wheels came undone, causing the carriage to overturn rather nastily. Something hard had slammed into me on the fall, breaking my right arm below the elbow. As soon as the scream had left my mouth, I knew my position had been given away.

We were alone in the middle of no where, wounded and without proper means to repair the wagon. His master—I later found out August was no more than a slave himself—had ordered that all his slaves learn Christianity. Because of this, he did not leave me alone in the woods, but did what he could to bandage my arm.

To my surprise, he was eager to hear my story. With some reluctance on my part, and quite a lot of prodding on his, I divulged the secrets of my past, and the story of how I had landed myself in such a predicament.

In turn, I learned that Augustus had been born a slave. He said he had always dreamed of being free; his master was a cruel man, in spite of whatever religion he claimed to follow.

He told me to take what was left of the foodstuff in the wagon, and run. I asked him to come with me, but he would have nothing of it—he said it was God's will that slaves obey their masters, even as it was for masters to respect their slaves. “If my master will not honour his part,” August said, “I shall honour mine.”

I step back from the front of the boat, having had enough wind in my face. August does the same, and we walk along the slender ship side-by-side. No words, just company.

I owe him more than I can every repay. We ended up returning to his city together—he would find me somewhere to work as a free person—and somewhere along the trip, he converted me to Christianity.

True to his word, he found me a job in a small dress shop. Good, honest work. I liked that. The year flew by, then almost two years, and the Governor died. It happened while Augustus was alone with him, serving him his nightly tea. The Governor's sons immediately accused the young roman of murder, and tried to kill him.

It was the middle of the night when Augustus woke me up, saying he needed a place to hide, and some money. It was well known in the city, and frowned upon, that we were friends. I couldn't stay either, or I'd be killed as well.

Now, here we are on this ship. I can make out the foreign shore of Africa already, hazy and blue in the distance.

By the time night falls, were loading the supplies into the lifeboats, and heading for dry land. I gingerly step off the boat and onto the sand. It's warm and soft under my feet, and feels strange after so long at sea.

The crew stays behind. We used what little money we had to pay for our voyage here, and the ship will be continuing on down the coast.

Augustus takes out a sturdy looking long sword, and places it in my arms. “The vikings have a fearsome reputation, even in these parts,” he says. “The legends of their shield maidens are well known, and there are few who would willingly get into a tangle with one.”

“Fine,” I grumble as I fasten the sword belt around my waist. It's heavy, and tugs on my clothing. “But I'm not wearing a helmet with horns.”

We make camp in a small sheltered clearing. There's no sign of human activity, only the gentle crashing of waves in the distance, and the low hum of insects.

“I'll stand guard, you get some rest,” Augustus says. With his own weapon in hand, he sits just outside the firelight. I take his advice, and unfurl my bedroll near the flames.

* * *
“We have to move.”

I wake as Augustus shakes my shoulder. “What's wrong?” I whisper groggily.

He points to the beach. The fire is dead now, but I can make out the basic shapes around me from the moonlight. There is a red glow on the shore; torches.

“I'm worried that we were followed. There's probably a bounty on our heads already.”

I quickly stuff my blanket into my bag, and cover the few remaining coals with dirt. It's impossible to be quiet as we walk—branches and dry grass keep cracking and popping with every step. I grip my sword tightly.

“Halt!” The voice rents the air like a hatchet.

I spin around quickly, finding myself no more than a few yards from a heavily armed Arab man. He closes the distance with a powerful leap, the blades of his weapons glistening with moonlight.

Augustus raises his weapon in defence, creating a stand off.

“I know who you are,” the Arab sneers.

“We didn't kill the Governor,” I say tersely.

The Arab cocks his head to the side and smiles. “That doesn't matter to me, sister. There's a pretty penny for your heads.” He reaches out to grab me by the arm, but Augustus raises his hand.

“I wouldn't do that,” he says. “This is Melody Brocke—” I smile because he pronounces my name right, “—a great viking warrior. She once killed a man for pronouncing her name wrong. Gutted him, she did.”

The Arab no longer looks as sure of himself, but he doesn't back down. “I will make a deal with you,” he says flatly. “I have been offered a unique position with the Caesar. I think he would pay me handsomely for you're abilities, and you wouldn't be killed. Rather nice for both of us, don't you think?”

“What kind of job?” Augustus asks incredulously.

The Arab leans closer. “Caesar is forming a small group called The Knights of The Pen, a special guard for Rome. He needs good warriors for it.”

“Alright,” I say, before any blows can fall. We've come too far to die now. “We will join this group.”
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Re: February 19 - 26 (2016)

Post by Titanhawk 881 (JT) on Fri Feb 26, 2016 7:52 pm

I see children playing in the dust. Much of my hometown is gone, replaced by theirs. But where wealth and power circulated my childhood environment, only poverty and despair remain today. I’m not here for anything but one reason: see if the rumors I’ve heard are true. They go something like a guy found a guy who knew a guy who once got trapped in a tomb with a special blade that bestowed powers, but eh didn’t manage to get out with the power, but instead only managed to send a telepathic message to the guy who knew the guy who was found by the guy who told the guy who told me (and pretty much anyone who would listen to him) the rumour. See, I was growing old. In fact, though my mind was still mostly intact, my physical health was disintegrating, a vestige of what it used to be. Even now, I was travelling on donkey back. And since it’ll still be a while, I figured I might as well write this journal. Whoever finds it must heed my ways and avoid them. It’s too late for me, but I hope you will lead a better life than mine, a life of peace and honesty instead of greed and murder.
As a child, I often saw my father fight with others. As the elected Sheikh, he had had to prove himself among the candidates of the tribe, in strength and battle prowess, as well as wisdom, among other leadership skills. As Sheikh, he often fought in battles between enemy tribes as well. I remember the day he slaughtered sixteen men from the rival tribes that had banded against us. See, we were the Akanze, a budding flower in a desert of warriors. Newly formed, we found our hold in a little strip of oasis-desert of nineteen square kilometres, near the Roman city of Tingis. Many battles had been fought, and my tribe had been pushed from that favourable area I was born in, until we ended up in what used to be the Phoenician kingdom of Carthage. The Romans had occupied that area too, and because there was no viably liveable area of desert anywhere near, we were forced to live in town. That was when I was fourteen. My father was still Sheikh, at least for another sixteen years, but people were growing restless with him. I look back and think that it was probably because they didn’t get the life we were supposed to be living – herding animals across the desert and gazing at the milky skies at night, the stars shining over our red-and-white chequered head cloths. That was all gone though, and gone very fast. It began on that fateful day, two years and ninety-four days after our moving to Carthage. The Imam of our tribe has rallied several elders and warriors, uniting them against my father in an effort to end his reign. Though my father is still Sheikh at this point, the Imam was spreading a rumour which said that my father was hired by one of the Kanurwa tribes, one of our most hated enemies. The rumour described my father agreeing to move out of Akaneri, the place I was born, to acquire precious stones and metals for his own benefit. Of course I didn’t believe these lies, but the Imam actually made him go through a Bisha’a, or trial by fire. This consisted of the tongue of the accused being pressed against a hot metal rod that had been sitting in the fire. If the tongue was scorched, the accused was guilty. If not, he was set free. As a superstitious man, my father was worried about the trial. The whole community had agreed to the Bisha’a, but my father was afraid that the Djinns would accuse him and scorch his tongue. So he ran. In the wee hours of the night before the Bisha’a, he packed up and fled, taking a camel and a donkey with him though the desert. We later found out he had fled back to the Roman territory of Tuscany. Of course, this only confirmed the tickling suspicions I had had when the Imam accused my father of betrayal.
I sigh. I don’t like thinking back to these memories, the ones that haunt me. I didn’t know it then, but I had always wanted to belong. My tribe, however, used that thirst and turned it against me, twisted it to twist me into obeying them. I regret that forever. But I’ve become who I’ve become. Once again, I utter this warning to those who read this journal. Don’t become like me. You’ll regret it. You may enjoy success and riches as I did, but you’ll never know what life really is without fear and blood on your hands.
My first job. At the age of seventeen, I had taken up bounty hunting. My first target: my father. It was not that I hated my father, but he had wronged our whole society, a society I agreed with. At the same time, the Imam and the new Sheikh (my half brother) had coerced me into hunting our father. It was true that I was the youngest of his four children, all borne of his three wives, but as the youngest, he had felt I would be more vulnerable to... well, anything. That’s why he had taught me to use many weapons, taught me all his tricks, all his tactics, all his favourite weapons, all his secret ways. I don’t know why I didn’t fight back at all against my tribe, against the Imam and my half-brother. Maybe it was because I was already so disappointed and bitter towards my father, or perhaps my loyalty to my people, my tribe, was stronger than my love for him and all the things he had taught me. But it doesn’t matter. I did what I did, and went off after him. I hated boats, and I still do, but there was no other way to get across the Mediterranean without taking years of travel. Tuscany was a quiet, pleasant countryside in itself, but I knew more lay under its surface. My father, a trained Bedouin champion, had been hired by someone whose headquarters was in the area. And the only one who could stop it was me. In a way, this was my first mission: hired by my own tribe, pitted against my father, and for what? The right cause? I wasn’t even sure of that. For money? I wasn’t getting paid. For revenge? My father had never done anything to harm me, except give my family a bad name. I continued on down the side of the little alleys, contemplating my motives. Suddenly, I came upon my father, almost stepping into the light and discarding my cover. He had almost seen me. Almost, but he didn’t. I sighed with relief. Drawing an arrow from my bow was difficult in the confines of several crates while staying in the deepest shadows, but I managed to tip the arrow in a tribal tranquilizer made from several herbs before my father spotted me and rushed towards me quietly. Unsure of how to respond, I hastily stabbed the sedated arrow into my father’s cheek, knocking him out cold in a matter of seconds. I remember questioning my father, then tying him up and asking him to come back. I didn’t understand why he had refused then, but now I do. It was similar with what had happened to me. I hadn’t known it then, but it was for a sense of belonging towards my tribe. Except that tribe would turn my desire to belong into leverage that they would try to manipulate me with; I would later leave that tribe and set off into the Roman world as a mercenary, a bounty hunter. Money fed me, so that’s what I would pursue. Many had hired me for my stealth and proficiency in tracking, while others pursued me for my archery skills – renown throughout the Roman Empire. I had fought with twenty six different centurions, in some thirty-odd battles. I had met many peoples from many countries, including the wild, savage Germanic tribes from the north, the eastern people with similar skin and hair as myself, and the Rus, whom I met numerous times when serving as part of the secret guard the emperor often employed to protect him during outings or meetings. The Rus were chosen for their size, as a fully armed Rus is an intimidating sight. Most were a good two feet taller than me, weighed several Libra heavier than me, and were hired in favour for their shield wall defences and their bravery and prowess in battle. I, on the other hand, often was hired to lurk in the shadows to wait for the delegates to arrive, establish tactical positions for the Rus guards, sweep the area, locate and clear out any and all potential or active threats – whether bandits or assassins, I was the man to take them out before anyone important arrived. In a way I hated this job, and the position it put me in, but it was the only job I could depend on. Whenever I could I would go out into the marketplace and listen for any talk of a potential job for me – one that could bring me money, and lots of it. I had gotten many jobs through this method, but it was rare to find one that paid enough to last me until the next job. However, one of the biggest jobs I got was when I was hired by a naive set of princes whose father, the Governor of Spain, had been supposedly killed. It didn’t matter whether he was or not to me, because personally, I was only in for the money. They told me to track down a Roman slave and his accomplice, a fair-haired and fair-skinned character. I thought he might be Germanic, until they told me he was in fact an enslaved Rus, and that he was actually a she. I wasn’t worried. I had handled many of my coworkers’ rowdy habits and brawling attitudes before, and if I could handle a drunken male Rus, I could certainly handle a female one. Besides, what could a woman know of fighting? Rus culture didn’t allow for women to wield weapons, let alone learn to use them. But I’m getting ahead of myself. A few months earlier I had overheard one of the Caesar’s conversations, in a room that I had cleared out earlier. It wasn’t long after he had been attacked, and the wounds were showing on his arms. He was talking about forming a group of warriors-turned-lawyers, who could fight legally as well as in battle. This interesting information I kept until later. It would be a good emergency bounty. For now, I had a job already. I visited the home of the dead Governor, and found guards surrounding the fortress-villa. I knew they were looking for someone to hunt down the runaway murderers, so I knew it was safe to enter. Before sliding my dagger into the sheath hidden on the inside of my left sleeve, I made sure the edge was coated in a generous portion of the slime of a plant based sedative. I was ready. Making my way to the front gate, I stopped. Guards in Hispanic armour were making their way across the gate from the two towers on either side of it. They were holding forward-curving Iberian swords, as well as oval-shaped wooden shields. I raised my arms as a gesture of peace, and then asked for the leader. None stepped forward. I asked again, and still no one came forth. Losing my patience, I itched to use my miniature gastraphetes, but I hadn’t bothered to poison them. No matter. They would be gone soon enough. Pulling out the dagger on my hip as well as the one in my sleeve, I shouted a challenge before lunging at the closest guard. He did well considering he had been taken by surprise, and blocked or parried my strokes and stabs. But he was no match for Bedouin skill, honed by a master of the dagger. He fell, as did a comrade approaching me from my left. I sensed the boss of a shield approach my shoulder from behind, and twisted my arm around the shield to the man behind it. He fell also. Others tried to crowd in on me, using a shield wall tactic they must have learned from the Romans or the Rus, but I used my legs to propel myself towards a shield in front of me. The man holding the shield buckled, and then screamed as I wrenched the shield away from him. His arm was twisted badly, and I was glad for the distraction that came with the scream. I swept the shield at the remaining men, giving me a wider berth, and was about to neutralize the man on my right before a voice exclaimed “Stop! What in Mars’ name is this!?” I whipped my head around, and saw a regally dressed young man rush down the stone stairs leading from the house. The gate swung open, and he approached. A voice on the tower spoke. “Sir...” it said uncertainly, “I don’t know if it’s safe.” The man walking down the stairs raised hi hand, then called out a greeting. I replied in return, walking up to him. I explained I had heard of his requests to hunt down the people who had murdered his father, and he led me in.
Inside, I met with a few men, who I assumed to be the governor’s sons. They all had sabres on their sides, and I eyed them warily as I approached the table. They had a map laid out, and all looked relieved to see me. They explained the job, and I readily agreed, before being led outside and to my task. I scouted around the area where they had escaped, and found a trail to follow. To others it might have been only a few scuffs in the ground and some raw wooden splinters, but to me it was a blazing, blinding array of telltale signs. I quickly followed the track. Clearly these people were not used to hiding their ways. Following the path for the next twenty miles, I made camp on the shores of Iberia. I was thinking of how I would arrest them. It appeared one of them had brought something heavy, heavier than food. It looked long, and I imagined it might be a board of wood or a weapon. A sword, perhaps. I wondered how a runaway slave would get his hands on a sword, before drifting off to sleep.
The next day, I found that their tracks led to a small port about six miles off. Looking for the port master, I slinked along the buildings until I found his office. No one was inside. I smiled to myself, then hopped agilely through a window in the upper floor, landing squarely on my feet. Looking around, I saw and heard not a single soul, then slid down the stairs as silent as a cat. There he was, sitting at his desk. It was facing away from me, towards the door. I stayed where I was, waiting for him to leave. I didn’t have to wait long; it was about lunch time, and he left towards the door to put the “closed” sign, before heading towards the back of the house, where the kitchen was. I slid across the floor to his table, my linen and leather garments making no sound on the wooden floor. I opened the record book, quickly scanning the ships that have gone in and out of the harbour, as well as their cargo. My eyes light on two entries, both within the plausible time of the runaways’ departure, and contemplate upon which to follow. One leads to Israel, while the other is going to North Africa. I have no more time. The port master slips in through the door with a loaf of meat bread in his hands, and I slide to the stairs once more. I’ve decided to follow the ship to North Africa. Slipping back out the window, I glance back to the port master’s house and see the “open” sign flip back.
A day or two on a rugged but speedy little ship catches me up to the trading vessel the runaways took. Being a trading vessel, it was weighed down with Iberian goods, so it was going slower than my ship. Still, we only caught up to it a few leagues off the coast of North Africa. We docked at the same port, and I paid the captain of the ship I had sailed on, before leaping off the deck just as the crew were pulling down a gangplank for me to descend on. I stalked the beach while waiting for my prey to step off the boat, then noticed that they had only lowered the gangplank. My previous assumption was correct: the male runaway was carrying a sword, and was giving it to the Rus woman. Strange, I thought, but didn’t dwell on it. I followed them up the a clearing where they were going to make camp, and made myself comfortable a few trees away, waiting for darkness.
Darkness descended on the grove like a hawk, and I belly-crawled to their camp. I could hear a low conversational buzz around the fire. Then all is quiet. I wait for another hour, then hear the snores of the runaways. They have no idea I’m here, and the male runaway stares in the wrong direction. They really are inexperienced. I muse over how easy it will be to kill them. I sneak up closer, and then the one on guard wakes the other up. I freeze. Maybe he is more perceptive than I thought. He whispers something in her ear, and they both look at a spot a few meters away from me. A skill I have learned is to channel noise away from me, so even if they hear me, they do not know where I truly am. They kick dirt over the fire, then walk into the darkness. I grimace at the sound of their feet, then follow them closer. The female one’s hand flies to the grip of her sword, and I decide now is the time. “Halt!” I command, and they freeze. I am but a few yards from the pair. With a single leap, I close the distance between us, simultaneously unsheathing my daggers. Both have been sharpened. Both have been poisoned. The male one raises his weapon, which I can’t see clearly. It appears to be a sort of metal dart. Maybe a javelin. I pull out my sword, replacing the dagger in my right with its familiar and comforting weight.
“I know who you are,” I sneer. The female one briskly replies that they didn’t kill the Governor. I cock my head to the side and smile.
“That doesn’t matter to me. There’s a pretty penny on your heads, and that’s all that matters.” I say nonchalantly. I twist out my arms like a pair of snakes, reaching for both of their weapons, but before I reach the female one’s arm, I hear the male one mutter a warning.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” he says. I laugh mentally. He continues. “—a great viking warrior. She once killed a man for pronouncing her name wrong.” I stop, drawing my hand back. I dislike the features their faces show at my uncertainty, and decide to reach for my emergency job.
“I’ll make a deal with you. Lord Caesar has offered me a unique position. I think he’ll pay handsomely for your abilities, and you,” I stare and the male runaway, “won’t be killed. Rather nice for both of us, don’t you think?” I know I’m making a bluff – Caesar hasn’t even talked with me about this – but it’s a good bluff, and they buy it. I assume the female’s skills are adequate – her loss if the male was bluffing, but by the way I see it, she can’t even hold a sword straight.
“What kind of job?” The male asks me incredulously. I lean forward slightly, and flash my white teeth. “Caesar is forming a small group – a taskforce of sorts – called the Knights of the Pen. Think of it as a... special guard for Rome. He needs good warriors for it.” The two glance at each other, and seem to agree.
“Alright,” the female one says, “We will join this group.”
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Titanhawk 881 (JT)

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