A Sellsword a Day

A Sellsword a Day

Postby Serrus » Mon Feb 01, 2016 12:24 am

Wolves do not do well alone.

The voice irritated his ears, buzzing around like gnats in a summer breeze while he walked the great many snow-ridden steps towards the place of healing, yet also of sickness, of suffering, of death, which looked surprisingly glorious as the sun crept through the line of great many trees to the east. Was it fortune that had smiled on him, that he hadn't ended up in the this place like so many others? What had Myrken given him? A great scar on his forehead. A blessing, the man in the dreams called it. With each passing moment, the voice was becoming more familiar... more...closer to home. As were other thoughts and voices, while his riding boots went crunch, crunch, crunch through the layers and layers of white.

Wolves do not do well alone.
I, I've seen you b-before, ser Wolf. But you, you were s-someone else, I think.

I will hang your fucking head from the gates in town.
I knew another Wolf. His skull is upon the Gate.


Crunch, crunch, crunch.


The snow was upon the stairs that led through the great door, where the smells of laudanum, vinegar and blood stung the nose, where the voices of hushed women and men whispered among the halls and rooms. There were no screams or wails this night, no sounds of misery or suffering. For that at least, ale swimming about his head and belly, he was grateful for. He entered quietly, unheard with the staff tending to patients, and his boots creaked upon the wooden floorboards, where candles flickered their amber lights. Down past doors he went, another, amber light flickering from the unsheathed sword that never left his side. A woman went past, right to left, carrying a bundle of blood-stained sheets and bandages. He followed from whence she came, fingerless gloves pushing the door aslight to creak open, a trickle of candlelight seeping into the darkness. From there he saw the horsewoman among another occupied cot, and his dark eye was a slit in the door frame, watching one of the two.

Finish it, he'd told her. You've had your fuckin' farce, now bloody finish it. Still and silent, a thought occurred to him, seing all the piles of red bandages, though it was dismissed the moment he saw the movement of her chest beaneath the sheets... breathing. He pushed the door open further, it creaking a slight, glancing down the hall. A male healer turned out of a room towards the hallway, and he shifted his boots to slip inside the room, back against the wall aside the entrace, waiting, but the footsteps rose to crescendo then receded. He exhaled slowly, closing the door with a silent click.

Tips of sunlight were just streaking through glass windows as he moved towards the three cots. The horsewoman was not moving, and one might wonder if she would wake. She'll bleed out, he'd told Gloria. Candles flickered from where the wind whistled down the flue, where coals and embers glowed from where wood had once burned, and he turned slowly, seeing the Jernoan woman. Her breathing was heavier, her small movements sign of awareness. Asleep. The floorboards creaked with each click of his boots, and he was by the woolspun bed cover before he knew it, to see where wind and frost, to see if it had been fortunate enough for him to see some fingers bitten by frostbite, or a swollen ear from all the farce that had happened two nights fore. It was still mostly dark in the room, the soft amber forming a silhouette over the top walls and ornaments, and standing, one hand on the pommel of his kriegsmesser, Serrus Belcaw clicked his tongue to the roof of his mouth.

"You're a stupid cunt, Gloria Wynsee," is the man's good morrow.
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Re: A Sellsword a Day

Postby Rance » Mon Feb 01, 2016 1:32 pm

(eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee)

If she were to put letters to the sound-that-was-not-a-sound in some grand feat of onomatopoeia, that would have been it: an endless string of shrieking vowels woven just behind the drum of her ear, a ringing that even in her sleep refused to vanish, like a stubborn gnat in her ear, or the shrill sounding of a bell struck right near her cheek. She sat in the very center of her own rope-framed cot, her body stiffly seated and her knees sticking up like rough hillocks underneath the woolen coverlet tossed across her. For hours, she'd been alone; they'd come earlier in the night to take away the brigand and the horned girl, both of whom had been liberally milked from the poppy, and delivered to other rooms for necessary procedures.

Their wounds were greater than yours, Sera Wynsee. It would be a disservice to the recovery of your heart, explained a girl with sour breath and a crop of blemishes on her cheeks, for us to seal their wounds in this room with you, and—

(eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee)

—they'll not be long; Sera Smith's reactions to the poppy are unusually poor, and—

(eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee)

—the horn-headed child — do you know her? — is in graver shape; what was done to her throat, the information offered with clinical detachment, as if the attendant wouldn't yet dare to question how the child had come to bleed, will take a delicate touch. Should you need anything...

But she hadn't.

And as Serrus Belcaw, gruff of frame and standing with all the bravado one might attribute to a sellsword, stepped into the room, the young woman didn't draw her eyes away from the fire. A patch of white fabric had been carefully bound across an unseen ear, and a few pinkish smears still resided in the dip between her collarbone and shoulder. Most of her unruly hair obscured the battered planes of her cheek, but her eyes gleamed along with the dance of the remaining flames. She didn't turn her head when Serrus entered, but her lone hand squeezed the lip of the wool bedspread draped across her lap. He spoke; her lip twitched, her head tilted.

You're a stupid cunt, Gloria Wynsee.

(eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee)

Her chin flinched. She turned her head to face him.

"And you're a terrible shot with a crossbow, Serrus Belcaw."
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Re: A Sellsword a Day

Postby Serrus » Mon Feb 01, 2016 3:11 pm

Her comment seemed to no lessen the man's composure than if she'd said nothing at all, and he merely made a lazy shrug, an expression of indifference showing across his face.

"Oh, I'm bloody fine 'n' dandy with a crossbow. Any fool can span and shoot a crossbow. It's only when wailing an' screamin' Jernoan women and dragon-kin come along an' 'spook your horse, that's when one tends t'miss. If it's any consolation, I wer't aimin' for you."

He turned, the creaking of a chair along the floorboards with it's EEEEOORRRR likely making a nice accompaniment to the ringing sound in her ears. He drops into the battered cair with a sigh, boots kicking up to cross over at the end of her bed. The deed hadn't been done, and if she thought the man was amusing himself at her misery, she might be right. The chair creaks, and he leans back with a grunted sigh, the many ales a buzz through the top of his head, as if one half of it were ready to float away.

"You're lucky," he adds calmly. "If it'd been me 'orse y'stood in front of, what with that smell o' blood in t' air, e'ed've run you down and there'd've been nowt I could've done about it. Made a damned fool o'meself, goin' along with 'er." A glance is given to the adjacent room, and he frowns a slight. "I'd've done it for thi. For yer both. I'd've done it fer next t' nowt, twisted girl like that. But y'friend 'ad to 'ave it done 'er way, an I thought if she'd done it 'er way, well, might be she'd do the deed. Paid me too, mind."

A slow turn back to Gloria, with the chiding voice of a senior. "An' now you're stuck with some twisted, evil summat or other who's got every good reason to want to gut y'both t' very moment she's able t'walk again." He cants his head a slight. "If there's anythin' one could say about your fuck ups, Wynsee, is at least they never fail to disappoint."
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Re: A Sellsword a Day

Postby Rance » Tue Feb 02, 2016 3:31 pm

"As though you've never fallen victim to the beast of your conscience," she retorted, parrying his gaze with her own and offering verbal riposte: "You, who've suffered your own mistakes and misjudgments enough, Belcaw, hardly have any room to point out my own. Or are you so blind to presume they somehow make you more wise?"

She grimaced as she swiveled in the bed and extended her feet from beneath the blankets. Her toes tenderly touched the uneven floorboards, and she huddled protectively over the bruised mass of her torso. She jams her lone hand down against the hay-stuffed bedding to keep her upright. Here, in this position, her shoulders are freed: the language of their thrust-forward composure is universal — a challenge, if there must be one; a willful disobedience, for it was in Jernoah as it was across the rest of the world: a readied shoulder was the sign of an able body, and an able body was one ready for a fight.

You do not intimidate me, even here.

"Her way," the girl said, "was our way. Only right that Ailova and I—" her voice lowered to a whisper, "—be the ones to rid the world of the girl. Only we found the task too distasteful too late to carry through."

She dropped her chin. Her stare locked itself on the gown-draped mountains of her knees.

"You'll be paid for your work in the farce, Serrus Belcaw, if you're worried about the lightness of your purse. But..."

Gloria wiped at her face, drawing thumb down one side and fingertips down the other.

"But you'd not come to me, who you saw fit to batter, for payment. What brings you, then?"
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Re: A Sellsword a Day

Postby Serrus » Wed Feb 03, 2016 3:20 am

The man was intimidating to some, with his surly demeanour, the long hair and fierce beard, dark eyes and face that rarely smiled, except to be smug or show teeth in the face of mocking laughter. But that came with the territory, his mannerisms, intentional or not, he wasn't here to make the girl squirm. If asked if he were here to lecture another, that in itself, he would agree with. Intimidate? Men like Belcaw knew that intimidation was often not effective with mere words. His intrusion upon her person in a place of healing such as this would be seen by many as anything but a friendly visit, particularly when the visitor is a sellsword who saw little in the merits of companionship, less there was something to be gained, and said sellsword came armed. But intimidate? No. She would truly know if the man had come to make her squirm. And so he sits there, boots on the edge of her bed, and Gloria glares, curls her curled fist and stares him down on equal terms, and he is equally nonplussed about the whole affair, speaking matter-of-factly in turn.

"Where a man such as m'self might fail in judgement, he don't lack in experience. Last night made a mockery of owt I stand for, dressed up like some fool t' appease your friend's own ends, to serve t' most contrived fuckin' plan I ever 'eard of in m'bloody life. But that weren't t' insult enough. T' insult, Gloria, is by your failure t'meet your own bloody obligations. Ailova? I know 'er well enough, an' I knew that woman's kind 'eart would stop 'er for doin' t' deed she so boldly proclaimed she'd do, like it were some bloody oath. Aye, I fuckin' told 'er as much. But thissen?"

There is a look he gives her, a stare, and it is a long one, deep and scrutinising.

"You? You've killed before. Aye, I know you 'ave. I know them eyes, Gloria Wynsee, an' I know 'em well. You might hide behind that stupid bonnet and your smiles, an' feign that ignorance o' yours. But I know your ilk. You an' your kind, with your hot sands an' all them bloody slaves, and that god of death you all bloody worship. Y'might be a Myrkener now, but that don't change where you come from."

The chair creaked slowly as he leaned back into it, breathing out his words slowly, as if keeping his own temper in check. "If owt, I'm not 'ere to judge thi fer showin' that girl mercy. I was paid for a job, an' I did it, fool I was. I jus' didn' think you'd give in so quickly. Ailova would've 'ated you for a spell if you'd run that girl through, aye, but t' cost of keepin' that girl alive will be t' greater liability, an' it'll be a great burden t'bear. Still…" He canted his head to the side, then swung his boots from the bed, shuffling on the floor as he stood to his feet.

"You're right. I didn' come 'ere t' demand coin, nor demand some bloody apology." The boots clicked, the board creaked, creaked and cracked, and he turned to stop and stare at the embers, before leaning to toss a long onto the coals. The wood hissed and snapped, then the flames licked and devoured hungrily, sparks showering up into the aether. A hand pressed against the wall, and he watched the flames burn. "I've done you a favour or two. Not t'mention savin' your bloody life. An' I need answers." The fire cracked and popped, and the man's fingers pressed harder into the wall.


You stare into that fire as if you lost something there. What was it?


"Elliot."

He turned, his arms folding slowly as he leaned back to face her, the room warming to the fire as his sword scraped a slight against the old battered slate and wood. "Elliot fuckin' Brown. Or Ser Gahald, or whatever t' fuck 'e named 'imself." The names hangs in the air, a bad taste and he shifts from his stoop, turning to face her. "I need t' know all. How he turned, what happend to him… what happened to you, what happened to others, and what t'fuck 'appened to that Olwak bitch I 'ear so much about; the one who's name gets bandied around like some dead cur, yet who still has t' power t'keep people's mouths shut even after she's dead." He felt his teeth grind, and thought of fires, of singing golden hair, and a girl's screams beyond the roaring pines. Home. She wanted to go home.

"Aye. You'll tell all, an' tell it true. If not now, then soon. You owe me that much, at least."
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Re: A Sellsword a Day

Postby Rance » Wed Feb 03, 2016 3:16 pm

"Elliot," she said, an incredulous wrinkle tightening her brow. "You want to know about Elliot?"

That was why he'd come? Not to pry deeper into this matter of Phor, but to piece together his knowledge of the past, of their collective past, like some deck-swabber begging to know the tales of each and every bloodstain his bristles scrape out of the woodgrain. She rocked forward, putting her weight on the lumps of her heels, bending her neck forward so that her chin hung over the tips of his kicked-up boots.

"He was an idiot boy who let down his guard, who tripped over his own bravado and let a mind-witch tear out what made him him and replace it with something he wasn't. And the memories she put in place of him, everything that made this Elliot Gahald? A paragon, a knight, a fine-hearted fool with an empty smile. A farce of a human."

A pause.

"Perhaps you can relate, Serrus?"

He'd gone on and on about her eyes, about her past, as if he'd the right to construct through the power of observation alone a profile of her. She jerked her head back and diverted her displeased gaze toward the bedside table, where bloodied dressings lay bundled like an excised tumor. "Ailova and I, our plan was sound; we committed the deed, but forgot too late that we've no heart for such work. I've killed before, Serrus; I've killed, as has she, but the circumstances differ: defense, survival, necessity, certainly, but never in cold blood. Never. Not like rabid beasts or murderous wretches."

She returned her attention to him. The steel of her stare never flickered, never wavered. When speaking quietly, in whispered tones, her occasional stutter had altogether vanished; her tongue was complicit with her brain.

"Which of you," the girl asked, "did your Rhian know, then? The killer who sits in front of me, monstrous in his dismissal of life, or the man he used to be?"
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Re: A Sellsword a Day

Postby Serrus » Thu Feb 04, 2016 4:53 am

Your plan was shite, he wanted to spit in reply, but he knew going into that fool's errand would serve nothing save for further animosity, and further reluctance to answer questions. He watched the flames flicker, the warmth filling the room in time, but he didn't feel any of it, only the cold snow, as if he were still outside, in the snow, on a horse.

It'd been snowing then. Snowing where I left 'er. No tears.

He felt the stone underneath the tips of his fingers, the tingle from the heat, and steam rose from his boots where ice and snow began to melt. And he heard her words, careful words, words she drew forth like blood from a stone.

…let a mind-witch tear out what made him….
Forget her. She's nothing to you now. Never was.
I, I've seen you b-before, ser Wolf. But you, you were s-someone else, I think.
And how am I to remember you, if you do not even remember yourself?

….and replace it with something he wasn't…..
Beneath all of that grime, behind that lurid tongue of yours, you're a good man.
Ye feckin' sell-sword! Ye weak-willed little gutter-snipe!
You see me, but you don't see me. Why are you so angry, Serjo?


"'Perhaps you can relate," Gloria said, far away, and he stared into the fire more.

"Aye. Per'aps I can."

He thought of hot summers, the smell of ale and wine strong, some fae creature in a necklace, and the foolish boy who spoke to it.

"I met 'im once. Your Elliot. I thought nowt of 'im, an' he thought nowt of me. But I seen them eyes before. Seen 'em in someone else, someone who died a long time ago. An' not any death, mind. A true death. Like 'e never was. Then t' witch said them words, an... then it were as if a part of 'im came back. For a time. But I don't… I don’t remember. It was summat else. A dream, as like."

It's a coward who locks his heart in iron for fear of getting hurt, said a boy from a dream somewhere.

"Which of you did your Rhian know, then?" the girl asked. "The killer who sits in front of me, monstrous in his dismissal of life, or the man he used to be?"

He thought of a cold winter, warmer springs. A cottage, small and yet home, built by calloused and bloodied hands among a great sea of barley. And a girl running through them, her hair a golden hue, lengths of cloth in each hand as she'd run and run. A griffin one day, a dragon the next, a cloud another. And she laughed, always laughed, and smiled so often, even on the coldest days.

"She… she loved 'orses. An' flowers. But I don't ...."

Her eyes grey and blue, like the sky hidden among clouds. A cottage lined with snow, and from it she stood, dark of hair and eyes, and from the threshold she watched him, the horse moving, and each thud of the hoof was a heartbeat, and he saw her looking back at him, with tears that would not fall from eyes that would not blink.

"I don't….."

But there was another. Eyes dark, hair dark, and he could not see her face, though he knew it was young, so young, and he only smelt burning hair and heard her screams through the fire, and her begging, her pleading. And the others, the damned and cursed, they danced and sang, danced and sang, his name a word, the word a prayer, and he could not see him in the flames, could not see whom they sung for, but she stood there on the fires, and she burned, and she cried out his name, but that wasn't his name.. it was never his name… Home, daddy. I want to go home.

He married her under the great tree, where she gave him another name, a name that wasn't his, and they tied hands with vines and said the Old Words. She said his name, said it when his lips met hers, and they sang songs and spoke of The Old Ways, and she smelt of rose and cinnamon, and she called him a name, but that wasn't his name… But then he married another, and they said the words to the Priest in Gilead, and it was for eternity.


"…remember."

There were two. Two daughters, both he knew them as the same, but one he knew, knew truly, the other he did not.

"There was a young man. Nay, a boy. An' t' boy became a man. He was arrogant too. Arrogant, boastful. Stupid. A squire, with many ambitions. But above all? Anger. Older squires'd beat 'im, an' he'd bare teeth an' snarl. 'Look at him,' they'd say. 'The little wolf, livin' up to his name.' I think he had a daughter, too." A turn from the fire, and his eyes meet hers, briefly. "They asked him to do a deed, when there was nowt else to be done, when all else was gone, and everyone was dead. Said she wun't his daughter anymore, to t' devil with 'er. He didn't 'esitate. He did what had t'be done. An' they tol' him he did t' right thing. T'only thing that could be done." His hand had formed a fist on the wall while he watched the fire, and he could feel the sharp stone against his fingers, tightening, tightening.

"I dun't know this man afore that witch said 'er words, an' I barely know 'im still. That man is long dead. Forgotten, destroyed… swained.. call it what you will. I'd've just sooner he stayed dead. But now? Now there's no peace. Might be t'only way I could find peace for missen, is t'bring that man back. Or least… remember who he was. Knowin' 'what happened to that boy... your Elliot.. might 'elp some. Or might not. Who t' fuck knows."
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