Coup de Main

Faerie tales from beyond the veil to the streets of RhyDin

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JewellRavenlock
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Re: Coup de Main: Jewell & Sandman

Post by JewellRavenlock » Thu Apr 04, 2019 11:43 am

April 04, 2019

With the apparent disappearance of his favored right-hand man, Kheems, Sandman had to switch strategies. He preferred quick bursts of behind-the-scenes violence to keep the court in line and their enemies at bay, but after his series of failed attacks on Bailey’s friends, little remained of his assassination resources. Clearly, it was time to change tactics.

His recent meeting with Glesni had born some fruit, and the roots of a new scheme. Subterfuge. Diplomacy. Words, not weapons. At least not at first. These soft skills were less familiar tools for Sandman, but perhaps they shouldn’t have been. After all, their lone success in handling Bailey came when they snuck a spy into his nascent revolution. It wasn’t a victory they could perfectly replicate now -- the delinquents, the fashion industry, even the dueling venue staff were better equipped to flush out undercover operatives than Bailey working on his own. But the past effort pointed to a mindset that presented higher odds of success than brute force. Put simply: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Or hopefully, at worst, someone willing to stay out of the court’s way.

Sandman sent a letter by courier to Jewell, along with a thousand silvers worth of coins. Written on stationary stamped at the top with a black crown and spear, with the words Y Goron a Gwaywffon underneath, the 8 ½ by 11 sheet of paper seemed conspicuously unnecessary for the briefness of the message.

***

Dear Empress Jewell Ravenlock,

I send both greetings and an apology to you and the House of Summer. I have included a sum of money, paltry as it must seem to you, as a sign of good faith and a down payment on the debt that we owe you for your trouble.

I would like to send a representative to meet with you to resolve our past difficulties and to discuss a matter of mutual interest and danger. I am optimistic that we have enough in common that we can overcome our historical difficulties and forge a new way forward.

I look forward to hearing from you, and your terms.

Respectfully,

Sandman
King of the Court of the Stolen Ones


***

“Why do you look like you just ate something sour?” Sapphire asked when she came in from the kitchen, wiping her damp hands off on her jeans. “Oh hey… that’s a lot of coin.” She leaned over to grab one from the bag on the coffee table, making it dance between her fingers.

Jewell ignored the coins. For now. “I just got the strangest letter. Here.” She traded it for the coin Sapphire had lifted, placing it back in the bag. She had no intention of touching it just yet.

Sapphire’s eyebrows went up as she read. She lowered the paper and looked at Jewell. “Who’s the Sandman?”

“The King of the Court of the Stolen Ones.”

She rolled her eyes and smacked Jewell on the head with the paper, letting it go so that it fluttered down onto the couch next to her. “I meant other than that. And what did he do to you?”

“I have no fucking clue.”

“Seriously?”

“Seriously.”

“Well, he seems to think he owes you quite a debt if this is just a down payment. Maybe he has the wrong Empress, huh?”

“Doubtful.” Jewell picked the letter up again, turning it right-side-up. “He mentions House of Summer.”

Sapphire shook her head, laughing. There was a note of unease in it though, considering Jewell’s recent memory issues that she wasn’t even aware she had. “How do you not remember someone you’ve had trouble with in the past? It seems like it was pretty serious.”

“I let Ishmerai keep track of stuff like that,” The Empress admitted, somewhat abashed. She added hastily, “Lamont should know though.” Hopefully. As if to convince Sapphire of her surety in the barrister’s knowledge, she got up and moved towards the foyer to hunt for some shoes and make the trip downstairs to consult with the elf.

She followed after her, already sporting a pair of sneakers. “And if he doesn’t?”

Jewell slid her feet into a pair of flats, “Then we’ll go from there. I still have contacts throughout the city.”

“Oookay,” Sapphire strung the word out as if this was all a terrible idea. “Hey mama?” she asked as she joined her in the elevator. “Did Ishmerai also keep track of the people you--”

The doors closed on Jewell’s shout of, “Sapphire!”

***

With Ishmerai stuck in Faerie for the foreseeable future (until Mallory’s mortal life was at an end), Jewell had been forced to temporarily replace her knight, right-hand, bodyguard… her everything with a number of people, but she had found, much to her sorrow, that not even two or three people were the equivalent of one Ishmerai.

“So you’re telling me that you don’t know who this is or what our past difficulties were?” Jewell stared across the desk at Lamont, unimpressed. The elven barrister had been indispensable to her and her empire over the last several years, but mostly in matters of money and business. He was hardly fit to serve as steward and catch-all for any matter that Jewell didn’t want to be bothered with, but he was trying.

“I didn’t.” He admitted mildly with only a small amount of shame for having disappointed her. “But then I looked in Ishmerai’s files. You know he was,” Jewell flinched at the use of past tense, “very particular in the files he kept, and I have been doing my best to keep them up-to-date in his absence.”

He pushed a manilla folder across the desk to her. Her heart gave a funny little twist at the sight of Ishmerai’s neat handwriting on the tab: The Sandman. Jewell hesitated in opening it, unsure of what hell she was about to unleash without her knight at her side. She didn’t want to deal with The Sandman. She didn’t care about the Stolen Ones. She wanted everyone to leave her alone so she could quietly bide her time until Ishmerai was with her once more. Then she’d be free to burn her enemies to the ground as she wished without risking reprisals against the captive knight.

As usual, she did not have the luxury of ignoring all her problems. With a sigh, she flipped open the folder. The file on him was more robust than she would have imagined. The knight had taken no shortcuts when it came to his lady’s safety. There were pages of handwritten notes by Ishmerai--list of court connections, misdeeds, and even an outline of his schedule and conjectures on abilities--as well as a snapshot or two of the man himself. She read quietly for a moment, lips moving ever so slightly as her eyes raced across the notes the knight had taken on the King of the Court of the Stolen Ones.

The last entries on him were over a year old, but it was the earliest dated entry that caught her interest. “Huh. I forgot all about that.”

“What?”

She glanced up at Lamont. “The time Bailey tried to kill me.” Lamont lifted a brow, causing Jewell to smile. “He just did such a piss poor job at it. I didn’t really forget that he tried so much that there was more to the whole thing.” Jewell closed the folder and stood, file in hand. “Thanks for this. I’m going to take it upstairs to look it over some more. Do me a favor and send some feelers out, see if he’s been up to anything more recently.”

“Certainly. I…” he hesitated, not wishing to overstep his bounds but there was no Ishmerai to offer this lady counsel. The knight had trusted him to guide her when she allowed it, “Are you going to reply to him?”

The faerie grinned. “Of course. Seems too cruel to not let the poor man make up for his past mistakes, doesn’t it? Get me that info before I meet with him though. I like to know what I’m walking into.”

Sandman,

Far be it from me to rebuff an olive branch.

I am willing to arrange a meeting with you. Unfortunately, no mere representative will do. Just as a King may take the liberty to contact a Queen directly, so to an Empress reserves the right to demand to treat with the King himself.

Alone.

It behooves all of us who live out of sight of the shining stars of Arcadia to work together as best we can less we be overtaken.

I look forward to meet with you at a time and place convenient to us both.

Yours,

The Empress
Jewell Ravenlock
House of Summer


((Written with Bailey's player!))
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Re: Coup de Main: Seth

Post by Bailey Raptis » Thu Apr 04, 2019 7:40 pm

April 3/4, 2019
Dockside Fish Markets


Seth didn’t even get the chance to shout before he was deposited, unceremoniously, in one of the trash bins behind the fish markets near the piers in Dockside. One moment he’d been in the Outback, telling Nat to perform an anatomically impossible act with himself, and then, after a whiff of ozone, the floor fell out from underneath him. And as much as Seth had complained about the sour smell of beer, sand, sawdust, and sweat at the Outback, the rotten fish heads and guts he found himself practically soaked in now was a thousand times worse.

The slick refuse made it hard for him to find the top of the bin’s walls, scraping up his smooth hands and further coating them in rank seafood innards. He cursed, loudly enough that somebody should have heard him yelling. Right? But perhaps it was too late, even for the early-risers who went out on the water before the sun even rose, and perhaps those brave souls who walked the docks in the early morning hours knew to steer clear of someone ranting inside a dumpster. Finally, after five minutes of scrambling and climbing, Seth managed to throw himself over the lip of the bin and onto the wooden boardwalk. He landed shoulder first with a loud thud that still failed to draw any attention to his plight. He laid there for a minute, waiting for someone -- anyone-- to see him, pay attention to him, pity him and offer him aid. No one came. Eventually, he pulled himself to his feet and took stock of his clothing. Totally ruined. He tugged the red Henley over his head and chucked it into the dumpster he’d just departed, ignoring the throbbing in his left shoulder. Spring hadn’t fully sunk her teeth into winter yet, so a chill still hung in the early April air, but it wouldn’t kill Seth. Propriety demanded the fishy jeans remain on his legs, and so they did. His boots, however, were another matter. Along with his socks, they joined the shirt in the garbage.

The business of getting out of the dumpster and cleaning up as best he could turned down the volume on his rage momentarily. Now, walking east towards the sparks of a rising sun, he felt that anger surging back through his veins. How dare they treat me this way? Leave me half-naked, on the other side of the city? Threaten my court, my friends and brothers and sisters? They will pay. The longer he traveled, though, and the more the cold sunk into his exposed chest and feet, the more that fury faded away. The hatred clouding his mind parted, and with that came a sudden, painful realization.

I fucked up.

Glesni told her diplomats a little over a week ago to let their old ways of thinking go, if only momentarily. They were going to use honey instead of vinegar. They would pretend to befriend the non-humans of this wretched city, maybe even turn them against each other. An open war with the city’s Fae element could only end badly -- hell, there were several Stolen Ones in her employ who participated in that ill-fated battle alongside the Temple of the Divine Mother. Instead of bashing their heads directly against the wall, they’d dig under it, shuffle around it, climb over it. Or simply ask the gatekeepers to open up for them. One hand offered for a shake, the other hiding a knife behind their back. Asymmetric warfare, deception, spycraft -- they had all paid off for the courts before. And, if Glesni’s recent reports were any indication, it was only a matter of time, with Mallory, when they would pay off again.

But Seth had gone and done the exact opposite. Behaved with that old animosity in his heart. Talked of the True Court of the Taken as the avengers of humankind, not as defenders of all sentient species. If -- when -- Glesni caught wind of this, Seth knew his days would be numbered. Luckily, he had an escape plan.

He kept north of Kabuki Street and Little Korea, now thankful the streets were mostly empty. No one needed to see him ducking down residential alleyways, actually thankful that they smelled of residential trash. As he moved, he checked his pockets, making sure Nat hadn’t also picked his pockets before teleporting him. Fortunately, Seth still possessed his wallet, keys, and cell phone, although when he took the latter out, he noticed the giant crack in the screen. Still, he thought to himself, as he pressed the button on the upper right side, it should work.

Except it didn’t. He pressed the button again. Nothing. He held it in for several seconds. Still nothing. He cursed, flinging the bricked device against a stone wall, enjoying the splintering sound it made. Then he swore louder, realizing he needed the contacts on that phone. It had fallen into a particular fetid puddle of standing water, and Seth gagged as he leaned over to pluck it free. He swore once more as he jammed it back into his pocket.

I can go home. I’ll change my clothes, pull the SD card out for the contacts, get a burner phone in the morning, call my cell leader, get extracted. Glesni will never know.

Lost in conversation with himself, Seth ran right into the shoulder of an brown-scaled dragonborn male, who tumbled to the ground. “Hey, watch where you’re going!” Seth shouted at the man, who cowered as he inched his way back against a nearby building.

“I’m sorry!” His black-and-red tongue flicked rapidly in and out of his mouth. Seth sneered at the non-human on the ground, brushing imaginary dust off his brawny shoulders.

“Filthy-” As he turned to walk away, a blackjack flashed across his field of vision, drilling him square in the nose. Seth lurched backwards, hands on his face, blood dripping onto his fingers. Distracted and dazed, he never saw the second swing that knocked him unconscious.

((Inspired by last night’s play in the Outback! Thanks to everyone who played along!))
It's the disease of the age
It's the disease that we crave
Alone at the end of the rave
We catch the last bus home

Protect me from what I want

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Re: Coup de Main: Parley, Part 1

Post by Bailey Raptis » Tue Apr 16, 2019 2:18 pm

April 8, 2019
The Solarium café


The longer Sandman ruminated on his upcoming meeting with Jewell, the more nervous it made him. Precious little had gone right for him since their war on Bailey started. Their attacks on the Archmage’s friends and allies backfired spectacularly, leaving Sandman without an assassination corps. With those failed attacks came the court’s painful decision to abandon their compromised home base, in favor of a vagabond’s existence scurrying between dodgy bars in Dockside and Star’s End, as well as various Hollows in the Hedge that put them right on Arcadia’s doorstep. Worst of all, there were rumors that the “diplomacy” Glesni’s ambassadors conducted more closely resembled the genocidal threats the Temple of the Divine Mother espoused years ago -- the very same ideology that split the courts in the first place. While Sandman hoped the current detente might hold long enough to bring Bailey to justice, he held no delusions the peace would last much longer than that. He dreamed of reunification, but the fact that his losses in the conflict so far outstripped Glesni’s led him to believe the civil war would flare back up the moment Bailey had been dealt with. Sandman needed another ally to strengthen his cause. Even one as risky as a Fae.

And make no mistake, the risk was grave. Jewell, as diminished as her powers appeared to be (at least in terms of controlling Little Elfhame), was still Gentry. If she wanted him dead, if she wanted him returned to the Lands, if she wanted him to do pretty much anything she could think of, she could. Only the fact that she had not yet acted against the court, years after their shoddy attempt to assassinate her, gave him hope that something could be gained from this meeting. That he might actually come back from it, alive and well. If luck finally turned his way, maybe he would even gain an ally.

Sandman spent precious silvers traveling by carriage to the border between New Haven and Battlefield Park. He did not want the Empress to see his court as poor, even though he stressed frugality to the rest of his charges. As usual, he dressed all in white: a cowl, robes, gloves, and boots. No skin could be seen, and some sort of glamour kept his face shadowed and hidden from view underneath that hood. He kept his weapons at home. Nothing he had could possibly kill a Kindly One, and coming to a meeting uselessly armed would only succeed in agitating Jewell. He also kept his plans to himself: it went against the court’s stated intention to avoid contact with Faerie, and knowledge of a conversation with Jewell would only further fuel Glesni’s ambitions.

He hesitated at first as he stepped through the large open tile that led into the geodesic dome’s interior. The mixture of technology and nature raised his hackles, and he didn’t linger long among the inga trees before heading to the cafe.

Stepping past the glass walls enclosing the cafe, Sandman looked around for any sign of Jewell, but found only a handful of patrons inside. Near the front, a human couple shared an oversized plastic cup filled with green bubble tea, giggling each time they lifted their lips from their straws. A trio of businessmen in sharp black and gray suits with red ties studied the curved pastry case, trying to decide between raspberry scones and chocolate croissants to go with their coffees. Near the back, an elvish student in a rasta cap and white cordless headphones tapped away at a laptop. The plate beside them held little more than crumbs, and the mug next to that undoubtedly was empty too. Sighing, Sandman fell in line, scratching the nape of his neck.

Jewell breezed into the cafe just as the line crept forward and the cashier (a perky brunette vaguely reminiscent of Eden) looked to Sandman for his order. She was dressed more for a casual, afternoon date with one of her lovers in a short, summery mini-dress and flat sandals, her blue hair pulled back in a messy bun than some political tête-à-tête, and if she was armed (she wasn’t and certainly didn’t feel the need to be), the weapons were hid by one hell of a concealment spell. Her grey eyes were sharp, belying the easy-going smile she wore as she waved to one of the servers and approached the Sandman’s side without ceremony.

“Oh good, I hate waiting in line!” she gushed, interrupting the cashier and ordering first. “I’ll take an iced lemon tea, please.”

Sandman watched as Jewell jumped ahead of him in line, and the cashier happily went along with it. He could feel the tug of glamour, even if it didn’t affect him the way it affected the human behind the counter, but what could he do? She was the Empress, and even if she hadn’t been, she was a well-dressed woman of obvious means and he looked more like a monk than a man of money. As if to prove a point about his poverty, he ordered just a small coffee in a quiet yet smooth basso profondo.

“Let's go over there,” she offered to him, nodding to a table away from others and nestled among some well pruned planters filled with ferns. She didn't wait for him to agree but she also didn't hesitate to turn her back on him after collecting her drink and leading the way there.

Jewell took the seat more in the sun, setting her tea within reach even when she slouched horribly, bare legs crossed beneath the table.

Sandman reached into one of the pockets in his robes and held up a smooth globe of obsidian with a rounded bottom, so that it could sit on a flat surface without rolling away. He offered it to Jewell without hesitation. “You may examine it if you wish, but you’ll find it is merely an artifact designed to keep our conversations from prying ears. One can never be too careful, yes?”

She eyed it curiously but did not touch it even at his offer. Instead, she just grinned a bit crookedly at him. “And whose ears are you most concerned about, I wonder. The Fair Ones or your own court as you sit across from a sidhe, enjoying a drink?”

With a shrug, he placed the orb on the center of the table, finally sitting, a bit stiffer and upright than the slouching Jewell. “Enjoying?” He clucked his tongue -- a sound more akin to grains of sand falling in an hourglass. “I’d much rather have a glass of port and a cigar, but the former appeared to be missing from the menu and there was a sign forbidding me from doing the latter indoors. So here we are-” He paused to slurp at the coffee, his expression hidden by cloak and shadow and perhaps a touch of his own glamour, and then continued. “- drinking bad coffee -- well, I’m drinking bad coffee -- in God knows whatever this is supposed to be.” Nervousness slipped into his voice as he waved a gloved hand at the glassy windows that looked out at the slight hill swelling upwards in the center of the Solarium.

“Pretty sure the word you’re looking for is garden,” she remarked dryly. “Guess you might not get out much, huh?” Her sandals found purchase on the floor to push her into a slightly more dignified posture, “So I’ll try not to delay your suffering.” Jewell sounded incredibly bored yet there was an edge to her voice as she lifted her drink, trying to get the straw in her mouth even as she looked at him, “What the hell do you want from me… really?”
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Re: Coup de Main: Parley, Part 2

Post by JewellRavenlock » Tue Apr 16, 2019 2:22 pm

“What I want-” Despite his efforts to stay cool and collected, notes of fear trickled into his tone. “- is the status quo. You have been gracious enough to leave us alone, even after our...inhospitable behavior towards you.” He paused as he tried to figure out what to say next, extra careful in selecting his words. “I know someday I may have to pay the piper for what I’ve allowed to happen, but I’m assuming that in meeting with me now, today is not that day. I would like...further laissez faire from you and the House of Summer when it comes to the Court of the Stolen Ones. Give us enough time to take care of Bailey and Glesni. Bailey, because his open usage of magic will bring the Knights of Arcadia down on us all. Glesni, because the court under her leadership will not be hospitable to those with fae blood.”

Gracious. She did not bother to correct him. The reality was that she was not so very gracious, at least not in the matter of an attempt on her life. It was an oversight. Something pushed to the side in the light of bigger problems with bigger courts and then forgotten in the aftermath. Let him think her gracious, though. He would not find her so on all accounts. “And what about the inhospitable behavior towards my friends, hmm?” She took a sip of her tea before pushing it aside. Too tart. “Shall I overlook that as well?”

Again, Sandman delayed his response. His back straightened further -- as if being pushed against a wall. “As much as I would like for my sins to be overlooked, I know that is not how your kind operate. As it stands, though, this debt between us will be difficult to square. Your friends have killed or disabled most of the men and women who carried out those attacks. Kheems, the mastermind behind this plan, appears to have disappeared, shortly after he was...deposited outside our old headquarters. Missing a hand.” Anger rippled through the words, before he smoothed out some creases on his robes. “You understand that I cannot just hand over those who remain to a Fae. And if I turn myself over to you?” Sandman snapped his fingers, though the gesture produced no sound. “Glesni will take over, and you will find her less...pliable. I would offer money, but I suspect the paltry sums we have remaining in our treasury won’t begin to cover what we owe you. With Bwyty Cymreig and Y Goron a Gwaywffon closed, we have little in the way of income streams. We would seem to be at an impasse, unless, of course, you have any ideas?”

She shrugged, “I could just kill the whole lot of you. Seems like a simple enough solution, doesn’t it?” Jewell didn’t seem ready to do that just yet though as she relaxed back in her seat, idly stirring her iced tea.

Unfortunately, he’d picked that moment to take a sip of coffee. Jewell’s words prompted him to spit a small mouthful onto the wooden table. The artificial and natural light in the cafe highlighted several glittering grains of sand mixed in with the black beverage puddled on the surface. His hand shook as he glanced around for napkins. Finding none nearby, he begrudgingly mopped up his mess with the sleeve of his robe. “You could, and you would probably win that war, but at what cost? And I don’t just mean in terms of your people -- though, if faced with a foe from the Lands, they will fight to the death and then some just to avoid being Taken once more. Wars are expensive -- a fact we both should be in painful agreement on.” Sandman steepled his fingers together, leaning across the table, trying to keep his fear tamped down inside of him. “We still have a liquor license for Bwyty Cymreig. I know, I know, you don’t need a liquor license to operate a bar in the city, but it certainly removes a lot of the hassle from the Guard if you have one. We can give it to you, to do with as you will. Or, we can reopen somewhere else, and you can...reap some benefit from it. I could order my subjects to abandon the city, but as I mentioned before, you will have a war if she becomes the Queen.”

“A bar could be nice,” she mused, feigning interest as she eyed those grains of sand. It was a shame The Empress was actually incredibly polite for one of the gentry. She rarely ever sought to see through another’s glamour and expected the same courtesy in return, yet it was tempting today to satiate her curiosity. “Even nicer than a war. Wars are messy, and it is dangerous to fight among ourselves here when there are greater enemies abroad.” It seemed, perhaps, that they were on the verge of an agreement until: “But we are discussing a payment for two people and injury done to my friends in the hopes that I will continue to look away and you offer me a bar? It is not bars I need nor money. Loyalty. Partnerships. Alliances. These are the things that are of value when you play the games of Arcadia. Have you not learned that yet?” Jewell asked that a bit sharply, annoyed. “What good to me is a fucking bar when the Courts come a’calling? Is it with bars that the Court of the Stolen buys friendships and alliances or at the very least, peace?”

“We can’t-” Sandman grew louder, pushing away from the table to stand with a mix of anger and panic. Silverware, cups and saucers clattered as all eyes in the establishment turned towards him: the businessmen nibbling on the remnants of their scones, the rasta elf packing up their laptop, even the couple noisily slurping away at their bubble tea. The attention froze him in place, and he eventually sagged back into the chair. “I can’t openly ally the Court of the Stolen with the House of Summer. You know what they will do to me if such an arrangement were leaked.”

“Duuuude,” she sat up straighter again and hissed at him quietly, “calm your tits.” For the sake of everyone else she let out an easy laugh and said loud enough to overhear, “I’m joking, I’m joking! Come on, learn to take a joke and stop drinking so much caffeine. It makes you cray.” Jewell took another sip of her tea and wrinkled her nose (it was still too tart) as she waited for everyone to return their attention to their own business. Only then did she clear her throat. “You know, alliances don’t have to be in the open. Your people don’t need to know everything. They shouldn’t. It’s better that way. Keep the plebs in the dark while you do things in the shadows that keep them safe. While you do whatever is necessary to keep them alive. Didn’t you learn anything in the Lands?” she asked him skeptically. “It doesn’t even have to be an official alliance, just an understanding between us. I’m not asking for your soul here.”

Somehow, as if he hadn’t just been shaken to his core just seconds ago, Sandman managed to shift back to a dryer tone. “I spent my durance in Faerie as a sand castle.” He decided not to elaborate further, instead cutting back to the heart of the issue at stake. “What terms would you propose for our..understanding?”

“Oh.” She deflated a little at that and couldn’t hide the horror and flash of anger that twisted her flawless features. “Bastards,” she muttered, displaying the preference and sympathy towards mortals and Stolen Ones that had earned her the label of weak in the Lands when she was relatively new to the Faerie courts. It was a reputation that followed her to this very day, but she was long passed caring. She cleared her throat, “Right. So. Terms.” Jewell tried to reassert that easy affectation that had marked her behavior throughout the rest of the conversation, but found it just a tad bit harder to land on at the moment. His revelation made her sad. “Do what you will with Glesni, but Bailey and his friends you’ll leave alone. If the Knights of Arcadia come as you fear, then I will handle them myself. Otherwise, we return to our previous arrangement of ignoring each other’s existence.”

A long pause followed Jewell’s conditions. Just when it seemed like he might reject the offer, he nodded his head, almost imperceptibly. “Acceptable. But. There is the question of the liquor license and the bar. And...what happens to our agreement if one side broaches its existence to the public.”

His acceptance eased some of the tension that had built so suddenly in her chest and she grinned easily again, shrugging. “I could invest some money in the bar under a different name through discreet means. The latter though… I’ll be frank,” she smiled. “It matters little to me if people know of our arrangement. My people may grumble, but I’m not easy to touch. You on the other hand… What reassurance would you find acceptable?”

“I have no incentive whatsoever to break a deal that would likely end in my deposing and destruction.” He picked the coffee cup up, nearly brought it up for another sip, but set it down instead. “If knowledge of this deal is somehow leaked by you, or agents of yours, I would like safe passage for myself and my followers out of the city of RhyDin -- elsewhere on this planet.”

Jewell tilted her head, quickly running through the possible repercussions of such a concession before nodding. “Acceptable. You have my word. Safe passage for yourself and your followers to a location elsewhere on this planet where you will be as safe as possible.” She tacked the last part on as a show of goodwill and sincerity.

“Then, if there is nothing else to discuss, I believe we have ourselves a deal.” Sandman looked down at his sleeves, one of which was stained with coffee, before offering the opposite hand to shake.

She reached across the table, her grip firm. “A deal.” With the devil herself.

Jewell smiled as she stood, “I believe you know where to find me if you need me. And next time we’ll get bourbon and cigars, yeah?” With a wink completely inappropriate considering the serious nature of their conversation, the faerie left her melting tea on the table mostly untouched and headed for the door.

Once her blue hair had disappeared from view, Sandman exhaled a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. His elbows rested on the table, his cheek pressed against one palm. “What the hell have I gotten myself into?”

((Co-written with the lovely Sandman!))
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Re: Coup de Main: Truce

Post by Bailey Raptis » Sun Apr 21, 2019 1:53 pm

April 16, 2019

It took Sandman a few days to wheedle and strong-arm his lieutenants into going along with such an abrupt about-face. For years, Bailey had been one of the court’s biggest enemies, possibly their biggest outside of the Fae. And now, after nearly two months of a stepped-up campaign against the Archmage, they were abandoning it? Just letting him go free after killing three of their own, consorting with Kindly Ones, and publicly using magic? Even the Sandman’s ardent supporters grumbled some at the turn of events, but when he laid out the facts for them, they finally came around.

Their war had cost them at least 15 Stolen Ones. Ten confirmed dead, three vanished, and another two so seriously injured they might never fully contribute to the court again. Among the vanished was Kheems, Sandman’s most trusted deputy, though given the abject failure of his plans, the serious injury he suffered before disappearing, and the notes indicating he may have ratted them out, few thought he would have remained in his favor even if he had returned. Still, Sandman felt the absence keenly, and that hole in his court spurred him to push this new policy forward.

Almost as costly was the loss of Bwyty Cymreig and Y Goron a Gwaywffon. The former (particularly under Kheems’ management) made them a good deal of money, while the latter served as an impregnable base of operations. Their coffers had been further depleted in attempts to barter for better relationships with Eden, Mallory and Jewell. Their remaining revenue streams were a hodge-podge, tithes drawn from the myriad of jobs the Taken work: mercenaries and security guards, drug dealers and pharmacy technicians, gem cutters and pawn shop fences.They’d always scurried in the shadows, but without the stability their bar provided, their finances now rested in a precarious place.

Most of all, the open nature of this conflict stood in direct opposition to the goal of the court. How could they hide in plain sight, when many of the attacks on Bailey’s friends and allies took place in public? Or when one of Glesni’s diplomats antagonized a Outback filled with duelists and then immediately disappeared? Prolonged fighting, whether they brought Bailey to heel or not, only increased the odds that Someone from Arcadia would come for them. Ultimately, coming to terms with Bailey meant returning their focus to what really mattered most: rescuing the Lost from the lands, reintegrating them into RhyDin society, and protecting them from privateers, loyalists, and the Fair Folk who wished to spirit them back to Faerie.

Stolen One communication spread through a vast array of mediums. They consisted of more analog scattershot methods, like glyph-filled posters in coffee shops, bars, laundromats, parks, and other public gathering places. Some members preferred to receive messages through couriers, be they humanoid, pigeon, crow, raven, or black cat. Others went digital, getting their Taken news through e-mailing lists, message boards, and social media. Though the distribution was slow and spotty, Sandman’s official message to the court eventually reached the majority of its subjects within a few days.

***

Citizens of the Court of the Stolen Ones,

Effective immediately, we are suspending our campaign against former court citizen Bailey Raptis. This decision was not undertaken lightly. I have spent many long hours with my advisors discussing the advantages and disadvantages of such a decision, and we have come to the conclusion that, in order to achieve our primary goals of ensuring the safety of the Stolen Ones here in RhyDin and continuing our work retrieving the Lost from the Lands, we must set aside our rancor for him and learn to coexist with him in this city, much as we do so with the Fae here. Any further action taken against Mr. Raptis to deprive him of his life, liberty, or property will be punished severely. Any similar action taken against any friend of Mr. Raptis’ will be treated as an action taken against him personally, and punished accordingly.

This by no means absolves him of the crimes he has committed in the past, nor does it give him carte blanche to commit future crimes. Any attempts to trespass on our territory or otherwise violate the rights of life, liberty, and property of our citizens will be treated as a breach of terms and punished accordingly. If Mr. Raptis wishes to submit himself to our jurisdiction willingly, we will grant him mercy when considering his punishment, but we are not demanding such a thing.

I realize this will be an unpopular decision for some in the court, but I fully believe that time will prove me correct in offering this olive branch to Mr. Raptis. With this business behind us, let us fully come together as a court once more, rebuild what we have lost in this fruitless war, and move toward a future where we all are safe, and none of us remain in Arcadia.

Sincerely,

Sandman
King of the Court of the Stolen Ones


***

A copy of this message went to both Bailey Raptis and Jewell Ravenlock, along with two separate notes, written in a less formal style.

***

Bailey,

“Thank” your friend Jewell the next time you see her.

Sandman


***

Dear Empress Jewell Ravenlock,

I trust that this formally squares the bargain that you and I have made with each other. If it does not, please let me know so that I may rectify my error and stay in your good graces.

I look forward to returning to our past relationship of benign neglect.

Sincerely,

Sandman
King of the Court of the Stolen Ones
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Re: Coup de Main: Achlys & Bolér

Post by Bailey Raptis » Sun May 05, 2019 7:22 pm

April 17, 2019
Roundabout Bar
Dockside


The small circular brick building sat rather awkwardly in the center of a parking lot for a motel whose better days were at least two decades in the past. By early afternoon, the lot had almost entirely emptied out -- its mix of long-term residents and budget-minded travelers had either checked out or went to work, while check-in was still a couple of hours away. Inside the bar, the story stayed the same. The bartender, a young woman with a shock of dyed turquoise hair, nose and lip piercings, and a tank-top with a picture of the bar and its name encircling the building in white letters chatted idly with the cook and barback, an orc standing a foot taller than her, his forearms scarred from the grill -- or something worse. They looked at the only other person in the bar, a longshoreman in a faded red plaid shirt, worn jeans, and mud-caked boots, snoring with his head next to a bottle of Badsider.

“Should I wake him?” the bartender asked, earning a snort from the cook.

“Nah. Sleepy John’s good people. Keeps up on his tab, never starts fights, respects the girls. If he’s breathing, and nobody else’s here, let him sleep.”

She looked ready to say something else when the creak of the door broke through the low droning of classic rock and daytime soaps on the television. Even as a new employee, the bartender knew the pair walking through the door weren’t regulars, or even from Badside. For one thing, their clothing was all wrong. The woman walking in wore a drab brown cloak that covered her entire body except for her blotchy face, while the black-braided man wore a blue bomber jacket that screamed “dive bar slummer.” They sat in unison in front of a television playing “As the Multiverse Turns.”

“What’ll’y have?” the tender asked.

Between racking coughs that brought a lift to the orc’s eyebrows, the woman managed to squeak out an order. “Silver Mark lager, please.”

“We don’t have that,” the orc interjected.

“What do you have?” The man in the bomber turned black eyes to the orc.

“Red Orc Brewery beers. Badsider, Bad Wolf, Mojo’s. Maybe some Mad Fairy, if the keg hasn’t blown.” The sickly woman’s eyes went wide at the last offering, only to relax when her companion rested a hand on her shoulder.

“A Badsider for me, and a hot toddy for her?” The bartender nodded and turned, pouring a rather foamy pint of beer for the man before slowly working on the hot mixed drink.

“Also, can you turn the TV to channel oh oh oh?”

“...what?” She placed the toddy in front of the coughing woman, but stared right at her friend.

“Oh oh oh,” the braided man repeated.

“There’s no such channel.”

“This’s why we need Bwyty Cymreig, Achlys,” he muttered to the cloaked woman, before looking back to the bartender. “Just give me the remote?”

She looked to the orc, who nodded, and then handed the remote off. The black-eyed man tapped the zero three times, and a soundless blue screen appeared.

“Really?” The orc looked up at the blank television, shaking his head.

“Really.” The man put several silvers on the bar -- more than enough for their drinks and a generous tip -- and watched the TV with Achlys, silent save for a stirring elvish rendition of “Hotel California” in the background.

After about five minutes of watching the television raptly, the man in the bomber stood up and went outside without a word. Achlys looked over her shoulder at her departing partner, then leaned over to whisper hoarsely to the bartender. “Thank you.” With that, she took her leave as well. The workers gaped at the door, then shared a look.

“RhyDin,” the orc said, with another snort.

***

“Bolér! Wait up!” Achlys willed herself to sprint after her friend through the parking lot, despite the coughs that tortured her weak frame.

“We can’t wait.” Despite his words, Bolér did stop, but only so that he could pull his cell phone from his pocket.

“What are we going to do?” She wrung her hands, then covered her mouth as another coughing fit struck her.

“I’m calling Glesni. We’re going to join her.”
It's the disease of the age
It's the disease that we crave
Alone at the end of the rave
We catch the last bus home

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Dead Man's Switch

Post by Bailey Raptis » Mon Sep 09, 2019 7:11 pm

September 2, 2019
Red Caboose Bar and Grill
Dockside


The Red Caboose Bar and Grill sat in one of the worst neighborhoods in Dockside. Too far west of the wall between Dockside and Old Temple to draw patrons from the latter, too far east of the piers to pull in fishermen and longshoremen after long shifts at sea, and too far south of the fast developing neighborhoods of Kabuki Street and Little Korea, it rested in a no man’s land that provided prime evidence of why this district was sometimes called “Badside.” Located in its namesake train car on abandoned railroad tracks that once served the now-defunct “RhyDin City & Cadentia Railway”, it drew much of its patronage from nearby flophouses and hotels that rented rooms out on a weekly and monthly basis. When whispers started spreading among the regulars that the Caboose had been sold, many of them feared that the new owners would try to upscale the place, in an attempt to draw in trust fund kids who liked “slumming it” in Dockside. Fortunately for the regulars, nothing like that occurred. Sure, there were some new weird customers coming in, and a lot more traffic coming into and out of the “Staff Only” door, but they kept the same Badsider specials on the menu and the strangers mostly kept to themselves.

Strangers like the auburn-haired, brown-eyed, and bronze-skinned matchstick of a woman seated at one of the bar’s high-backed stools. She stared intently at one of the TVs hanging over the liquor shelf, then timidly raised her voice to the bartender, a middle-aged woman with spiky, unnaturally red hair. “Could you...could you change it to Channel 000?” A few groans escaped from the three drunk men nursing cheap whiskey and Badsider at the bar, but a sharp look from the bartender hushed them fast. She liked the mousy woman -- she always paid in silvers and without a tab, tipped well, never got too drunk, and never argued with anyone else there. Tuning the television to a blank channel every once in a while was a small price to pay. Dutifully, she pressed the three zeros on the remote, turned the volume up even though it seemed muted to her ears, and moved on to her next order.

For the thin woman actually watching the screen, it was a different story. She could see a low wooden desk, cleared of everything except for a brass lamp with a green shade. Behind it stood a bookshelf, carved out of similar wood, with an array of paperback novels, leather-bound tomes in the early stages of red rot, and cast iron bookends with a figure that looked like Atlas holding everything up. A woman, tall and young, with green eyes and blonde hair, a blue blouse, and a peacock’s feather tucked in alongside her temple sat at the desk. She ran her fingers her through her hair one last time, smiled, and began speaking.

“If ya are seeing this now, it means that my Dead Man’s Switch has triggered, and I’m either dead or been taken back to the Lands. Don’t bother trying to rez me, or searching through Arcadia to bring me back. My importance to the cause doesn’t require me to be here physically. My memory should be enough.” She shifted in her seat, then continued.

“Ya must not let my sacrifice be in vain. I cannot see the future, but I can guess what it holds if it has come to this. Ya must not let the Sandman run this Court into ruin. Ya must not let him damn us with his willingness to deal with those who consort with the very forces that put us where we are and made us what we are. Ya must rise up and overthrow this false king, this pretender to the true promise and purpose of the Court. Only in doing so will my sacrifice not be in vain.”

She concluded by folding her hands together and leaning forward slightly. “Thank ya for listening, and for yer support over the years. I hope ya’ll will do me proud going forward, and make the RhyDin City Court a true court for us Stolen Ones, and Stolen Ones alone. Thank ya again, and have a good day.” She leaned over the desk and reached for the camera out of frame. A clicking sound could be heard, and then the feed died.

The Stolen One at the Red Caboose stared down the television for a good 30 seconds, until the bartender piped up. “You mind if I change this over now?”

“Oh! Y-yes, that’s fine. And, uh, I’ll settle up when you have a chance?” The woman behind the bar nodded as she collected the coins, watching with a mixture of bemusement and confusion as the thin woman practically sprinted from the bar in record time.

“I wonder what show she was watching?”

***

September 7, 2019

Publicly -- or as publicly as the reclusive Stolen One community got -- Sandman mourned the loss of his one-time rival. Though the two disagreed, sometimes fiercely, over the best path forward for the Court to take, no one could doubt Glesni’s commitment to the betterment of their citizenry. He glossed over the more inflammatory parts of her Dead Man’s Switch, simply stating that the recent months that had followed their mutual peace treaty, and the treaty with Bailey Raptis that soon followed, proved that treating the outside world with an open hand and not a closed fist was the best political and economic policy for the Court.

Within the Sandman’s inner circle, he called bullshit on the whole thing. The timing felt incredibly off. He didn’t know the precise parameters for her switch, but he did know Stolen Ones typically set these to go off -- in the absence of an immediately provable death -- three months without word to the triggerman. No one had heard from Glesni for four and a half months. Logic suggested the switch should have went off mid-July, not at the beginning of September. It all smelled funny to Sandman.

His hunch was confirmed when he sent feelers and spies out to find and watch those known to fraternize with Glesni. None of her top supporters could be found anywhere within the city, and basic attempts to scry their locations turned up nothing. It set off more alarms in Sandman’s head. One person disappearing or dying in their community, sadly, was nothing new. They lived dangerous lives, at the mercy of a city filled with powerful beings and with their Keepers just a quick portal jump away from stealing them back. But half a dozen Stolen Ones going missing at the same time? That didn’t add up. The Snake had been quiet lately, but even in his most active moments, he never took six of their brethren at a time. That just asked for trouble, from the city, the Court, and from Faerie. No, Glesni and her coterie were clearly planning something. What it might be they could only guess -- and plan for the worst.

With Kheems gone, and many of his best troops missing or dead after the war with Bailey, Sandman’s closest allies weren’t all that close anymore. Among those working in close proximity to Sandman was the matchstick woman at the Red Caboose. Recently rescued from Arcadia by none other than Bailey himself, Sandman had taken her under his wing, and hired her to serve as a receptionist for his office. And while she felt grateful for Sandman’s efforts to integrate her back in Stolen One society, her true loyalty rested with the man who saved her, a man still not entirely on friendly terms with the rest of his people.

So when lunch arrived, instead of eating with the boss, she went a couple of blocks from their temporary trailer office near the docks, down to a roach coach a little closer to the Dockside Baronial manor, where cranes and bulldozers were working to fix up the neighborhood. The long truck parked in the last spot before orange cones blocked off a major east/west thoroughfare for a block, the back two-thirds made of stamped, shiny chrome or stainless steel. The back and passenger side shutters had been lifted up and held in place by a series of hinges. At the back of the vehicle, hot foods sat in several trays and behind glass doors, spinning on rollers, On the passenger side, tubs of condiments were squeezed into makeshift shelves, followed by several rows of bagged chips, cookies, candies, and an icy tub filled with sodas and bottled waters. She watched the men in orange and yellow vests and hard hats line-up and place their orders, but didn’t join the queue herself. Instead, she picked up her cell phone and dialed out.

She wasn’t surprised when he didn’t answer -- he rarely did. He always replied later to her voice mails, by text if not by calling, and that worked for her. After the beep, she stuttered her way through her message to him, before lining up for lunch.

“Hello B-Bailey, this is Betsy. I d-don’t know if they told you this or not -- b-based on how surprised you usually are when I tell you about C-court stuff, they p-probably haven’t, but- But yeah. Uh...Oh! Right. Glesni’s Dead Man’s Switch triggered on Monday. Sandman’s publicly s-saying how sad it is, we should all join together, blah blah blah but he privately th-thinks it’s a trick. J-just not sure what it is. Anyways...hope y-you’re doing well. L-let me know if you can find time for lunch sometime soon. Thanks. B-bye.”
It's the disease of the age
It's the disease that we crave
Alone at the end of the rave
We catch the last bus home

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Bailey Raptis
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An Unexpected Request

Post by Bailey Raptis » Thu Jan 02, 2020 1:29 am

December 19, 2019
Red Caboose Bar and Grill
Dockside


Bailey had seen enough television hanging out with Eden and on nights in with Zevarrna to know what a “record scratch moment” was. It happened when a slick businessman in a three-piece suit pushed through a set of batwing doors to find a sawdust-filled room of rough men in denim and leather, or when an alcoholic sinner stinking of booze and sweat and regret stumbled into an 11 a.m. mass filled with families dressed in their Sunday finest. Bailey knew well enough that an actual sound didn’t play in those moments, but rather was implied. The scratch stood in for the rustle of a hundred-plus heads turning to the back of the sanctuary, the priest dropping his Bible in surprise, the deafening silence of the saloon piano player picking his fingers up off the keys, or the poker players shuffling their chips along the wooden tables as they gawked.

When Bailey stepped into the Red Caboose Bar and Grill, one of the new haunts for members of the Stolen Ones Court, he received half a “record scratch.” The restaurant’s mundane patrons took little note of the short man in a leather jacket with a sword across his back and a dagger looped onto his belt. This was RhyDin, a tough city at the best of times, never mind now with cultists openly sacrificing people. One or two of them took brief note of the former Archmage and then turned back to their breakfasts. The customers who belonged to the Court, though, had a different reaction. Some of them stared straight down into their plates filled with omelets and pancakes, deliberately avoiding eye contact. Some glanced at him for a split-second, then turned back to their dining partners, whispering in their ears. As he walked through the diner, only three people made eye contact with him: a man completely covered in all-white robes at a booth in the back near the restrooms, and two ogres who stood close to the table. The latter two each held out a hand to halt Bailey when he got close to the trio.

“That’s close enough boss,” the shorter and greyer-skinned of the two ogres said to Bailey. “Hand over yer weapons.”

“Now, now, Sasha, that’s no way to treat an invited guest,” the robed man said, in a smooth but muffled voice. “Of course Bailey can bring his weapons with him. Do you have a problem with that, Alexander?” He looked to the taller and more green-skinned ogre, who shook his head in reply. “Excellent. Now, Bailey, sit, sit!”

Dutifully, Bailey did as was directed, though he spared a glare for the bodyguards. “Do they need to be so close, Sandman? I am assuming you did not invite me freely onto your territory for coffee and chit-chat.”

“You would like privacy?” When Bailey nodded, Sandman shooed away the ogres with a sweep of his hand. They grunted their disapproval, but wandered over to the countertop to sit on stools and stare daggers at Bailey.

“Thank you. You need to make this quick, Sandman, and this better be as urgent as you claimed it was. I have got better things to do than indulge Stolen One Court bullshit. Your concerns only worry me insofar as they impact the Wayward Court and Jewell.”

Bailey watched as the Stolen Court King’s hands tightened around his coffee mug. “Believe me, Bailey, if there were anyone else who could do what needs to be done, I would ask them. Between our quarrel, Glesni taking her people and leaving the city, and the hornet’s nest this R'lyeh cult has stirred up, I don’t have the options I used to have.”

“This all sounds suspiciously like Stolen Court business.” Bailey folded his arms. “Get to the point.”

Sandman heaved a sigh. “Right, right. The Snake.”

Immediately, Bailey’s eyes narrowed. “What about him?”

“I don’t expect you to know this, but since our truce, our numbers have stabilized. Even with Glesni leaving, we have managed to keep finding new Stolen Ones in the city, and rescue new Taken from Arcadia. Until October. That ghastly business with the FearFest, and your Overlord’s appalling behavior have presented the Snake with an opportunity. With all the sacrifices going on, who’s going to miss one or two or three of our own disappearing? They’ll chalk it up to a ritual sacrifice and go on with their day.”

“Sandman,” Bailey’s teeth gritted, making the words difficult to understand at first. “If the next sentence out of your mouth is not an explicit question or request asking me what the fuck it is you want from me, I am leaving. And I might just pick a fight with those two for good measure.” He pointed at Sasha and Alexander, who instinctively took two steps forward until Sandman lifted a hand, bidding them to return to their stools. After a few grumbles, they acquiesced.

“A friend of mine has disappeared, and it has all the trappings of a Snake job. I want you to lead a team into the Lands and bring him back to me.”

“What makes you think I can even find him?”

“A little bird -- the same little bird that sings to you, Bailey, she also sings to me -- tells me you have an artifact that can track down Stolen Ones, with just a bit of their hair.” Seeing Bailey bristle further, Sandman lifted and lowered his hands, repeatedly. “Calm down, Bailey, she is in no danger. I find it...useful, for you and I to have such a conduit to each other. Plausible deniability. Much like our arrangement with Jewell.”

“What makes you think I will help you?” This time, he banged a fist on a table as he spoke.

“Money, for one thing --”

“That is a given,” Bailey snorted, before letting the king continue.

“And a pardon. You will be free to return to our territory whenever you desire, without the threat of arrest or punishment. Your sins will be washed clean, and you will never have anything to fear from us again.”

Another snort escaped Bailey’s nose. “I already have that now. You would not dare attack me, or try to arrest me, or punish me. It is in the terms of our truce. I am finished with you, and your court, and your bullshit, and your court’s bullshit. You get one more chance to convince me, and then I’m leaving.”

Sandman lifted the cup of coffee up to his mouth, lifted up the fabric covering it, and sipped at it noisily. He then set it back down on the saucer. “You are going to do it because, deep down, despite everything that has happened to you, despite everything that has happened between us, you are still one of us.” He jabbed a finger into his chest for emphasis. “And the last thing we do is let someone stay in the clutches of the Keepers if there is any chance of rescue. If you do that, you are no better than the Fae. In fact, such behavior makes you Fae. And you’re not Fae yet, are you, Bailey?”

As Sandman spoke, Bailey leaned back, his gaze flickering to the other Stolen Ones in the restaurant. The woman with curling ram’s horns and blonde hair, blowing on a piece of waffle before placing it in her mouth. The man with waxy skin that had melted down his face in places, giving his newspaper a few shakes to ensure it folded out properly. He saw them, and he saw the normal people in the diner, a human mother and an elvish father feeding their half-elf child in a high chair, a hungover couple shoveling hash browns into their mouths like it was the elixir of life, the longshoreman in green plaid chatting with the middle-aged brown-haired waitress as she refilled his mug. Eventually, he turned back to Sandman.

“God damn you. God dammit.”
It's the disease of the age
It's the disease that we crave
Alone at the end of the rave
We catch the last bus home

Protect me from what I want

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Bailey Raptis
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The Cullyard

Post by Bailey Raptis » Tue Jan 07, 2020 12:00 am

The Cullyard
Faerie


The four Stolen Ones crouched in the bushes at the edge of a forest on a hill, overlooking what appeared to be the largest slaughterhouse they had ever seen. The green grass on the slope gave way to brown mud before a barbed wire fence cut nature off from the man-made -- scratch that, Fae-made structure. At first glance, one could be forgiven for mistaking it for an abattoir built by humans. That fencing, the muddied yards, the workmanlike brick walls with small square windows well above a normal person’s height. From a distance, it almost seemed benign. Almost.

Two of the Stolen Ones remained standing, dressed in nearly matching green camouflage with cold iron swords by their side. One had bluish-tinged skin like a hypothermia victim, dark wet hair whose original color was nearly impossible to discern, and eyes that a (bad) poet might describe as “limpid pools.” The other bore a healthier skin tone, but sported orange tufted ears and a tiger-striped tail. Just in front of them, a copper-skinned man and Bailey crouched, trying to study the structure from afar.

“Tamba,” Bailey said, tapping the shoulder of the man beside him. “Please take a closer look.” Tamba nodded, then began twisting the index finger of his right hand. It detached from his body like a screw, growing in length and width as he removed it, forming a copper spyglass once it was completely free. He lifted it up to his left eye, squinted a couple of times, and began to report.

“Building seems normal...Can’t see inside, but doesn’t seem strange...the enclosures…’zounds. It’s...there’s Taken in those pens. They’re being treated like...chattel. Like they’re nothing but animals.” Tamba held up his telescope for Bailey to take, and the former Archmage obliged, looking through it as well.

Tamba was right. The fenced off yards were filled with Taken of a more bestial bent: some appeared quite similar to humans, only with animal’s tails or patches of fur where skin should have been. Others had been transformed almost entirely, with only bare hints of their humanity remaining. Some were like centaurs, human heads that seemed crudely attached to the bodies of beasts of burdens. Others were fully transformed, the only signs they’d ever been human in glassy brown eyes that could not quite hide their latent sparks of intelligence.

“We have to help them, Bailey,” Tamba said, as he handed back the spyglass.

The wet-haired woman scoffed, and Bailey felt the catman’s tail brush against his back as it swung from side to side. He shut his eyes and composed himself before speaking up.

“We cannot, Tamba. Even if this place has all the trappings of a Dead Land -- stale, motionless air; sunshine without warmth; no real scent -- we have to presume this is still a Fae trap. We go down, we rescue Nels, we return to RhyDin.”

“You’re sure he’s down there,” the blue-skinned woman half-asked.

“The moment this device lets me down, Tereshka,” Bailey said, tapping on the compass glass twice for good measure, “is most likely the moment I have bitten more than I can chew. But I sincerely doubt today is that day.”

“We’re going back to Arcadia, for the first time since our escape, and you’re treating this like it’s just another day?” That tail beat harder against Bailey with its owner’s agitation.

“It is your first time back since you escaped, Morek. Tereshka? Tamba? Is that what I am hearing?” Bailey faced each of the three in turn. They all nodded. “This is my third time back since my escape, and I suspect it will not be my last.” He lowered his voice and muttered in Portuguese. “Jesus Cristo, esses amadores.” After that exclamation, he cleared his throat and spoke up. “All right. Tereshka, I need you to bring in the fog. Morek, you are with me. Tamba, if you notice anything out of the ordinary, you know how to signal us, right?

“Three short cheeps, and a long chirup,” Tamba replied. Bailey smiled faintly at him.

“Good.” The fog swiftly rolled in, summoned by Tereshka, and when Bailey felt it was thick enough to hide them, he waved at Morek to follow him down the hill.

Bailey tip-toed up to lean close to Morek and whisper in his ear, ignoring the shiver that went down his spine. “Nels is not in the pens left or right of this structure -- I believe that he is in a field on the opposite side of the building. We should probably cut through one of them, and not head inside. Left or right, Morek?”

“Does it matter?” Bailey detected the neko’s irritation, but disregarded it. He also resisted the urge to tap the man on his ears or nose.

“You are the one with enhanced hearing and smell, so, , I will defer to you.”

“Left, then.” Bailey nodded, and the two carefully made their way over the “barb wire” (in actuality, thorns), over the second layer of wooden fencing, and into the enclosure. The more animalistic of the Taken were given free reign within, and Bailey shuddered as they rooted desperately through the dirt for scraps of grass to eat. The human ones, though, were restricted in several different ways. Some had been forced to kneel in stocks, their heads, arms, and sometimes legs bound tight in place. Others had been lashed to posts by rope, or wore straitjackets pinning their limbs up against their bodies. Bailey ignored the fetid stink of waste and livestock sweat, and the pitiful moos and brayings of those they passed by. A cow -- or a Stolen One forced into cow shape -- jutted its head out from one of the corrals that was half-covered, half-exposed to the elements. Up close, Bailey saw the humanity in their big brown eyes, even though their body was entirely covered in white fur with black spots. Morek kept walking, but Bailey spared a moment to pet the beast on the head and murmur into one of their ears.

“I’m sorry, amiga. When this is all over, I promise the Wayward Court will come back for you.” He plucked a few hairs loose and pocketed them, then jogged to catch up with Morek, who had a sneer on their face. “Something wrong?”

Morek looked back over his shoulder, at the cow, and then shook his head. “Nah, nothing wrong. Lead the way, Bailey.”

Bailey obliged the man, yet once they exited the leftmost pen for the one behind the building, he found the fog growing thicker and thicker. “Fucking amateurs,” he mumbled, slowly hacking away at the thorns and climbing into the paddock. “Next time Sandman sends me to do his dirty work, he is going to have to come-”

Three sharp chirps from above cut Bailey’s thoughts short. When the corresponding chirrup didn’t immediately follow, Bailey couldn’t help but make his displeasure known. “Gods dammit did he forget the-”

In the thick white murk surrounding him, the only warning Bailey had was a quick flash of cold iron out of the corner of his eye. He dodged, narrowly avoiding serious injury, but the flat of Morek’s blade clipped the side of his head and sent him sprawling into a cowpie. He instinctively kicked out in the direction of the blow and found himself rewarded with a grunt, buying himself enough time to draw his own silver sword.

“I had a feeling this was a trap, Morek. Though why Sandman would send me here when there is actually someone Taken to be rescued…” Bailey began circling back towards the building, hoping to eliminate the number of positions from which Morek could strike within the mire. He felt blood trickle down from where he had been struck, the familiar itch of cold iron, and he tapped a hand to his chest. His own natural armor probably wouldn’t do much against cold iron, but hopefully, it was better than nothing at all.

“You think Sandman’s smart enough to pull this off?” Light glinted again within the haze, and Bailey just barely brought his sword up to turn aside the attack. “Dealing with the Fae, dealing with you -- it’s made him weak.”

“Glesni.” Bailey gritted his teeth, before slamming his free hand into the ground. He cursed as he struck more animal waste, but that wasn’t enough to stop him from summoning a half-circle of erupting geysers. He heard a pained scream as Morek tried to dash through the defensive perimeter Bailey had set up, buying him precious seconds needed to conjure up his next spell. His free hand clapped against the hand holding the sword, and he began to dispel much of the fog that clouded his vision -- only to find himself narrowly dodging another cold iron sword. He managed to somersault away, rolling through yet another pile of feces.

“God dammit!” Bailey couldn’t help himself. He sprang to his feet, taking in his two opponents.

“What’s the matter, pretty boy?” Tereshka taunted. “Got shit all over your nice leather jacket? Don’t worry, we’re going to take it all away from you when we kill you. That jacket, that necklace ‘round your neck, those fancy boots…”

“Oh. My. God.” He deliberately did his best Valley Girl impersonation, happy to see the annoyed expressions on Tereshka and Morek’s faces when he had finished. “How in the world were you planning on escaping when I am the fucking person who brought you here?!”

They both hesitated, with Morek glancing over to his partner, and that was all the opportunity Bailey needed. He gestured toward Tereshka, and she suddenly found herself lifted into the air.

“What the-” The sentence went unfinished, as Bailey flung her square into Morek, knocking the pair down. Without any hesitation, Bailey leaped forward and buried his sword into Morek’s chest, swinging a backhanded elbow at Tereshka that sent her staggering away and bloodied her nose. He didn’t give her a chance to recover, sprinting over and running her through with his sword to finish the fight. He lifted a hand up to touch the blood crusted against the side of his face, sighed, and then resumed his search for Nels.

After all that, it didn’t take long for Bailey and his compass to find his target. Like many other Taken present, he had been placed in stocks. He remained mostly human in appearance, brown-haired, save for his cloven feet and a brown tail tipped with white at the end. The man was either unconscious or asleep, and under normal circumstances, Bailey might have just freed him and carried him off. But with two of his team confirmed dead, and the third likely killed as well, he needed Nels to move on his own. Bailey undid the locks on the wooden contraption, then slapped Nels a couple of times in hopes of waking him up.

“Wha-what?”

“Nels, I am here to rescue you. Can you stand up?” After a few moans, some teetering, and a supportive arm from Bailey, he managed to stand up.

“Did she send you?”

“Who?”

“My sister. Did Glesni send you here to rescue me?”
It's the disease of the age
It's the disease that we crave
Alone at the end of the rave
We catch the last bus home

Protect me from what I want

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Bailey Raptis
Seasoned Adventurer
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Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2015 9:25 pm
Location: Mostly around New Haven and Old Temple

Escape the Cullyard

Post by Bailey Raptis » Sun Jan 19, 2020 10:26 pm

The Cullyard
Faerie


“Did Glesni send me?” It was a rhetorical question, one meant to buy Bailey time to think. It only earned him a handful of seconds, though, after which he had to shake his head. “No.”

“Then who sent you?”

Bailey sighed, trying to ignore the smell of animal manure, the lowing of startled Taken, and the corpses of Morek and Tereshka propped up against a fence a little ways away. “Who do you think sent me, Nels?” The crestfallen expression that crossed Nels’ face even before he spoke confirmed Bailey’s suspicion that Nels knew who launched this rescue mission.

“Sandman.”

“Yes...and no.” Bailey drew the three words out as he considered the situation. Sandman clearly thought Glesni faked her own death, though that was a conspiracy theory held by several Stolen Ones outside the Court’s main power structures. “Tell me, Nels, when were you brought back to Faerie?”

Nels eyes narrowed, but he answered Bailey’s question. “Right around Halloween, a little while after FearFest. I went to sleep in my normal bed and woke up here, in stocks. I don’t know who took me, but I suspect --”

“The Snake.” Both men nodded, though Bailey followed his by pinching the bridge of his nose. So if my timelines are correct, Nels knows that Glesni faked her own death as well, Bailey thought. He cleared his throat and continued. “And how long have you been here?”

“I don’t know.” A note of irritation rippled through Nels voice. “I’ve been, uh, tied up. A week, maybe?”

“I came here on December 21st, as the calendar tracks time in RhyDin. By my math, two months have elapsed in the city since you left. Now, maybe your math is off --”

“I know the difference between a week and two months,” Nels interrupted with gritted teeth. Bailey didn’t skip a beat.

“-- or maybe time works differently here. That is not uncommon for various domains of Arcadia. Or perhaps you have been unconscious far longer than you are aware.” Bailey touched his fingers to his chin briefly. “But our discussion of the mechanics of inter-realm travel can wait.” He leveled the tip of his sword at Nels, sending the man stumbling backwards and almost causing him to trip. “Do you recognize me, Nels? Do you know who I am?”

“I think,” Nels whirled his arms a few times to regain his balance, then squinted to get a closer look at his rescuer. When realization dawned, his eyes opened wider than saucers. “Bailey Raptis...the traitor...the collaborator…” Something gave him pause for a moment, before he continued his thought. “But then, that means…”

“Sandman sent me here to rescue you, but I am not his puppet, his patsy, his pawn to slide around the chess board of a game that means precisely fuck-all to me.” Spittle flew from Bailey’s mouth as he bit off each word, like a giant ripping mastodon meat clean off the bone. “I am Sir Bailey Raptis, errant knight, Knight of the Hedge, in service to the Empress Jewell Ravenlock and the Wayward Court. So no, I will not be bringing you back to Sandman. But you will be coming with me.”

Nels inclined his head to the side, as if considering Bailey’s words. Then, he bellowed a war cry that sounded a lot like a cow mooing. Bailey rolled his eyes as Nels charged him. “God dammit.” The Wayward Knight dodged the bum rush with ease, letting the man trip and dive head first into a pile of manure. Before he could recover, Bailey struck him in the back of the head with the pommel of his sword. Nels went out like a light, leaving Bailey grumbling as he pulled him from the cowpie. “Whole universe is out to get me today,” Bailey muttered once he’d sheathed his sword and managed to drape the man’s unconscious form across his back. With those tasks accomplished, Bailey spun a familiar clockwise circle out by his side…

...and nothing happened. He tried again. Nothing. He switched from using his right hand to his left hand. Still nothing. Finally, he tried both hands, in a carefully choreographed spin. Nada. “Oh, you have got to be kidding me…” His eyes turned up to the heavens, then down to the resin-encased thorn necklace he wore. “Oh, merda.” He tapped one of the thorns three times, pricking his index finger, and then they sunk into the flesh around his neck, sending rivulets of blood down his neck. After he licked the blood off of his finger, he spun his hand clockwise again. This time, a portal opened, silvery-blue mixed with purple and black, and Bailey didn’t hesitate to jump through…

***

January 26, 2020
São Amador


In Rhydin’s southern hemisphere, summer was in full swing. For the seaside city of São Amador, this meant that its worlds-renowned beaches were full to bursting with all the pretty people: fit women in bikinis lounging on blankets or playing beach volleyball, and buff men in swim trunks and Speedos surfing and swimming. Nearly all of them sported tans, and one could spend hours searching for an ounce of visible fat on their bodies.

Today, the beach-goers lucked out. Instead of absolutely scorching heat, a mild breeze and some clouds in the sky tempered the sun’s burn. With Carnival less than a month away, there was a nervous energy in the air, an eagerness to get the party started in earnest and fear of starting too soon, of burning through all that energy too fast. The tension held as the sunbathers flirted with the swimmers, all under the watchful eye of the zinc-nosed lifeguards.

About 10 feet above the water, right at the edge of where the bravest Amadoristanos dared to venture, a silvery-blue-black-purple opened, parallel to the sea. A surprised shout echoed across the ocean, followed by the plummeting figures of Bailey and Nels. They hit the water with a surprisingly loud crack, but Bailey somehow managed to maintain his grip on the unconscious man with him. Their unexpected appearance silenced the revelry, and Bailey felt thousands of eyes staring at him as he swam through the waves and stepped onto the white sands.

They had cleared a path at the shoreline, where several lifeguards had sprinted down, clad in red swimsuits and ready with ring buoys and rescue boards. They skidded to a stop a few feet from where Bailey stood, water dripping off of his hair, his leather jacket, and black jeans. He took one step forward, grimaced at the squishing sound his boot made and the feeling of water sloshing around against his soaked socks. Despite looking like a drowned rat, he dropped Nels off of his back and drew his sword, pointing it at the shocked lifeguards.

Estou aqui a negócios para a Imperatriz Jewell Ravenlock. Por favor, saia do meu caminho.”

Stunned by the rapidfire turn of events that had just unfolded on the beach, and with the partiers ready to get back to their sun and fun, the half-circle near Bailey widened, clearing a path for Bailey to exit the beach. He sheathed his sword, nodded to the crowd, and spared a wink for one of the curly haired swimmers. With a grunt, he hoisted Nels up onto his back once more, and waved. “Obrigado, Amadoristanos.” Ignoring the water squelching in his shoes, he marched up the beach, mumbling profanities to himself all the while.
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