An Hour Past Midnight

An Hour Past Midnight

Postby Rance » Mon Jan 27, 2020 4:43 pm

Dinner had been served and the final mug emptied by the Broken Dagger's last visiting patron. This was how it was all winter: brutish men and hearty girls drifted in, bringing snow and cold with them, to sip and sup and sing. Some of them slipped upstairs like smoky vapors, seeking warmth in beds that weren't their own. Others trudged back to their own homes, half-drunk, half-happy, to start it all over again the next day.

By midnight, the remaining alemaid corked the last bottle of Derry Red and frantically rubbed a handful of coins, hoping the promise made by the cool metal — another day's worth of food for two tiny mouths — would warm her on her trek home. "I'm locking the front, Tennant," she barked to the door that separated the common room from the kitchen. "As long as you've got the back, then."

She left as she always left: stifling unnecessary candles, stoking the fires, scraping at ledgers, pacing back, forth, back, forth, until finally, the door clicked shut and she crunched her way toward — well, toward wherever wenches found sleep. Then, silence. A rare state for the Broken Dagger. Just dim candlelight, burning embers in the hearth, and muddy smoke-stink left over from the night's overcooked roast. Only the kitchen's fortress-like ovens, each like a grand citadel of burnt iron, clicked away as their charcoal innards slowly singed the next day's knots of pork and beef.

Every night the same. Every night the same rituals, the same smells, the same greasy platters...

Until the knocking, frantically pounding like wardrums, thundered against the kitchen's closed door, thum-thum-thum-thum, so bold and bright a sound it nearly set the rusted hinges shaking.

The handle began to leap and rattle, as if tugged from outside in a wild fit.
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Re: An Hour Past Midnight

Postby Tolleson » Mon Feb 10, 2020 12:08 pm

Worn, warm, and comfortable, The Dagger very much like an old shoe. Often times it smelled a bit like one too, but not the kitchens. They smelled like fire and bacon, seasoned beef, and onions, vegetables soaked in broth until they squished apart whether the eater had teeth or not. And occasionally, when it was too damn cold to be on the porch, and the night was all but done, it was filled with a thick, exotic smoke, and the scents of orange and clove.

“Aye,” the red-headed dishwasher called absently drying and stacking the last of the plates. “Get yourself home safe Molly,” he called, even though he heard the final pace and click of the door as he said it. She’d probably heard him, but it was late and there were folk asleep upstairs.

And then there was quiet. The cozy quiet of a large house full of peaceful slumber; an old house that still found new ways to settle under the wind or snow, a homey place with a slowly crackling fire within. His work done, Tennant leaned against the counter and took a long drag from the spicy smelling joint. It was then that the cacophony hit; the door rattled in abrupt alarm causing a sudden expulsion of smoke in a coughing fit.

In an attempt to recover from the surprise he pounded his chest with a closed fist and tottered ungracefully to the door, which was blessedly close. “Molly!” The chiding voice that came from him was so hoarse it was barely his. The name was the only thing he managed to say around the ragged cough. “You’ll wake the dead, Molly,” he finally managed, as he opened the door.
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Re: An Hour Past Midnight

Postby Rance » Tue Feb 11, 2020 3:17 pm

The door might as well have folded inward. The moment the lock came free, it blew open in a wild hurricane of snow and frozen air and noise and commotion. A mass of heavy skirts and a mane of wet, crinkling hair flew in at him or on him, hitting everything around itself with bony elbows and doorknob-like knees, a whirling storm of woman that seemed like she never intended to stop moving now that one precious breath of warm air made itself known...

"I d-d-d—" Frail hands, bone-and-ice, scrambled to grab his lapel, his apron, shaking him, shouting and blurting nonsensically. Words tumbled in a storm of breath out of her. Her frail legs barely held her upright. The arms, bare and sleeveless, might as well have been icicles all their own, and the cold had so abused her fingertips that their edges bore split, frozen fissures. "I d-d-d-d-don't — d-d-don't—" came the drumming train of half-spoken noises. Tears, crystallized on her chin, never fell. When she opened her mouth, a gummy saliva damned her to burble like a half-brained infant.

She slid down him, to crumble to the floor, and there sat like a poorly-rendered statue, like those sad carvings lovingly chiseled out over the graves of royals dead long before their time. She sucked for air, then looked up at him through a curtain of drenched, yellow hair.

Her sallow cheeks, her sunken eyes, they all seemed to tremble with the clinging cold.

"You," said she, then gasped again. The only word she could manage. "You."
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Re: An Hour Past Midnight

Postby Tolleson » Wed Feb 12, 2020 3:02 pm

It seemed impossible in his state that the wind could be knocked more thoroughly out of his body. And yet, a sharp exhale blew what remained of the smoke and air from his lungs as he was pummeled by the cold, by the storm, and by a woman who nearly toppled him. With sudden, unconscious grace, his feet danced several steps back and he stabilized both himself and the stranger against an entangled fall.

Instinctively his arms rose to meet her, to catch her, to try and hold her as she melted. It was like trying to catch a fish mid swim, while fighting the current. His arms did little good against the flailing limbs of the woman, grasping, clawing, pulling at him. She became a weight slung over him, pulling him towards the floor where she had tumbled just as easily as the words in their disjointed cacophony. He resisted the weight and looked her over.

“Peace,” he finally managed, the word barely scraping out with a smokey wheeze as he freed his arms and pushed hard on the door, sealing them both against the cold.

Her form slid further, a frozen lump barely recognizable as human on the floor. Tennant rolled his shoulders back, stretching against the strain of only a moment before. His right eye was covered with a patch, but he was clearly looking at her with his good eye, green and studious. He stared for a long moment and then turned to pull a patched but large and thickly warm coat from the rack near the door.

“Me,” he said as if he was repeating the word, with it’s odd intonation and accusation.

With a quick motion he shook it and then draped the coat over the slumped shoulders and most of the crumpled form of the woman at his feet. We was elvenly tall without being so narrow of feature or pointy of ear, human and mortal, just exceptionally tall and therefore possessing of a very large coat. He knelt and examined her without physically prodding, the way a physician might.

“I don’t suppose it was sleep walking that found you so under dressed for the weather?” Had the weather been so bad when Molly left?
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Re: An Hour Past Midnight

Postby Rance » Thu Feb 13, 2020 5:09 am

When the coat fell upon her, it brought with it a painful and stirring warmth, like hot water being forcibly splashed across frozen fingers. She gasped, twitched, and found his face anew, as if she'd never truly seen him. Though one eye speared him like a cold dagger, the other looked elsewhere, focused off just to the left in some wild oblivion. The whole left side of her face drooped, running like fleshy watercolor, sagging as if the skin had been tugged down toward her shoulder. The loose palsy turned her words to warm mush, and when the response came out of her, it was almost wholly unintelligible.

She scramble back and away from his scanning gaze toward one of the rusted ovens and its iron promise of warmth. There beside it, she curled into miniature, gripping for dear life at the collar of the coat. Her teeth clacked and cracked against one another. Her lips kept pursing, peeling apart, pursing again, trying their way through a combat for words.

The left side of her mouth never straightened, never smiled, barely ever seemed to move.

"F-f-f—" she said, though the stuttering rhythm overtook her and blossomed into frustration. "F-f-f-f-f-f," until one of her spindly, bony hands emerged and beat against her breast — work, damn you, work.

"F-f-Farnie. Farnie."

At which point she raised her other hand from below the warming coat and clapped her palm against her unruly eye, covering the pathetic thing like the patch he wore.
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Re: An Hour Past Midnight

Postby Tolleson » Thu Feb 13, 2020 5:46 am

Who was to say this creature wasn’t feigning vulnerability to lure a pathetic sap like him into being so near. Taking advantage of a person’s instincts or inclinations was something he wasn’t entirely unfamiliar with; but wasn’t it always better to assume the best of people? No.

When she scrambled away he remained still, knelt to the ground; keeping a careful watch on the woman. He didn’t stray nearer but neither did he shy away from staring at the malformation of her face or the offset look of her eyes. Either he wasn’t very polite or simply lacked the engrained social queues that forced people to glance away from one another, especially if they felt there was some blatant feature that no one should dare mention aloud. While it wasn’t an entirely clinical gaze he seemed to look past the features, at the frightened person, as if he was not entirely unfamiliar with deformations of this variety.

His posture suggested he thought of her as some wounded animal, barely moving or giving cause to alarm. Though his fingers slowly spread and arms held cautiously open and away in the universal gesture of ‘see, I’m harmless’. Quiet and patient, he watched her lips as they worried and pursed, as they fought to make sounds that the cold held captive.

“Farnie,” he repeated flatly, considering the word for a long moment, internally checking some collection for meaning.

Shifting his weight he seemed to relax slightly, “is that your name?”
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Re: An Hour Past Midnight

Postby Rance » Fri Feb 14, 2020 2:36 am

"My name," she slurred, her whole body deflated beneath the jacket. "My n-n-name is Farnie."

There. A truth offered. Formative knowledge. Simple knowledge. Her wreath of waxy hair formed a greasy comma across her forehead, and she swiped at it incessantly, tugged at it. Farnie breathed like breath itself was a precious commodity, her whole chest heaving up, falling low.

This was an unremarkable young woman before him, with the kind of face one noticed in the Bazaar then forced itself to be almost instantly forgotten. She could have been a thousand other girls, ones to be married off and married off and married off, given no chance for dalliance or self-identity. Brown skirts held no character, trembling hands no story. Could have been any woman's daughter, any man's wife. This place, she finally began to look around at it with new curiosity and wonder, hunkered between ovens in a counterfeit of ease.

Then her gaze, awkward and unsettled, snapped back to him.

"Your eye," this Farnie gasped, before she began to pick like a nervous bird at the edge of her flaking lips. "What happened t-t-to it?"

She reached out for him, like a dreaming child grasping for a light.
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Re: An Hour Past Midnight

Postby Tolleson » Fri Feb 14, 2020 12:25 pm

“Farnie,” he repeated, his mouth forming the letters with exaggeration and then falling to rest in a slight downward line, as if evaluating the sound.

Perhaps her person was plain and no more remarkable than any other young woman he had ever seen. Perhaps that neutrality made her more remarkable, but in truth it was the circumstance of her arrival that made her the most interesting thing to happen all night. By the sheer conditions of her arrival, the state of her being, and presence in a space that was otherwise a veritable sanctuary, he couldn’t look away.

He sort of clumsily, but gently, swatted her hand down as it reached to him.

“What a terribly rude question, Farnie,” the words were chiding but his tone pleasant enough, perhaps even joking though it was hard to tell. He rocked back, satisfied enough to relax and with a deep, sighing inhale, stood.

“You need a warm meal,” and without further comment regarding the covered eye he changed the topic. It wasn’t a question but a statement of fact that he began to act upon without input; pulling the odd hunk of bread and cheese from here or there, setting a kettle to boil for tea. He wasn’t quite a flitting housewife, his long limbs meant he needn’t flit very far and every few moments he looked back to ensure the pile of cold bones under slick blonde hair didn’t lunge for him with a blade.

He didn’t recognize her, but he had friends and enemies that could look like anyone.
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Re: An Hour Past Midnight

Postby Rance » Tue Feb 18, 2020 5:53 am

No lunge, no blade. Just watching, as wary of him as he was of her, reading the awkward set of his motions as if it were a book. She cradled her reprimanded hand — foolish thing that it was — against her chest, cradling it with all the care one might show a precious gem. "A warm m-m-meal," she repeated, trying the words on for size. She possessed no accent. This was her language, her native tongue, though her familiarity with the words was a stumbling child's.

When she could feel her legs again, she pressed her palms to the floor and unfolded herself. Standing there like a ghost, she seemed to chew on nothing at all. Who was he? This tall, lanky, handsome fellow. The back of her hand still stung. She kissed it, as if applying a balm to an unseen bruise. "It's not rude," she defended. "You know you can get a n-n-new one, if you so choose. Look, here—"

She lifted a cold and grimy hand, pressed her palm to her cheek, squeezed the brow. Her drooping lip flinched, tried to curl up, a muscle straining against lifelessness.

The slit of her eye looked like the mouth of a too-tight oyster, and half her face sunk within itself.

She held up, between thumb and forefinger, her own eye: a shining, ever-open jewel, perfectly formed from painted glass.

"I d-d-do it at the taverns," she said, "for free meals. And for laughs. Don't hurt much. Hardly aches."

She smiled. That's what you gave to men and boys, smiles like that. Then it dribbled off her queer lips and the muscles and bones inside her thin neck tensed like dry rawhide.

"I'm lost," she said, like that was all there was to it. Like it'd never be remedied.
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