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
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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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

Protect me from what I want

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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

Protect me from what I want

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Bailey Raptis
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An Unexpected Request

Post by Bailey Raptis » Thu Jan 02, 2020 12:29 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

User avatar
Bailey Raptis
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Posts: 375
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2015 9:25 pm
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The Cullyard

Post by Bailey Raptis » Mon Jan 06, 2020 11:00 pm

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
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Alone at the end of the rave
We catch the last bus home

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Escape the Cullyard

Post by Bailey Raptis » Sun Jan 19, 2020 9:26 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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"Bailey" and Mallory

Post by Bailey Raptis » Fri Jan 31, 2020 12:04 am

January 27, 2020
Golden Perch Inn


“Bailey” stood in front of the Golden Perch Inn, smoking a cigarette crimped tightly into a silver holder. He stared impassively at one of the nearby hedges, tugging occasionally at the fur-lined neck of his black overcoat, waiting for Mallory to emerge from the bar after the conclusion of her shift.

The witch didn’t take long, combat boots stamping down the stone steps as the door creaked shut after her. She kept moving for the street and angling south, giving “Bailey” a glance to confirm that he was following.

They weren’t far past the cottage-like bar when she reached for her lighter and asked him: “Who are you, and where is he?”

He fell in step with Mallory, taking dainty puffs off of his cigarette and blowing grey rings of smoke into the winter air. “Do you mind if I transform back? To be honest with you, imitating Bailey has gotten quite tiresome, and it will be nice to be myself.”

“As long as you don’t mind more questions,” the witch huffed through her factory-rolled cannabis cigarette. “What do I call you, and what are your pronouns.”

Bailey tapped the corner of each eye with his empty hand, and anyone looking directly at him in that moment would have been temporarily blinded by a flash of bright light. That same hand then dropped down close to his feet, lifting up to his head and then over it. After all the elaborate gestures and flashing lights, Bailey’s imposter stood there in the flesh: a woman with a blonde bob and dull brown eyes, standing a few inches taller than the former Archmage. Her nose lifted up as she returned the cigarette to her mouth and took a drag. She spoke in clipped and haughty tones. “Nikda. She/her/hers. But, to answer your question from earlier, I work for Sandman. The King of the Stolen Ones.” She offered up an explanation, even if one wasn’t strictly necessary. “Bailey is currently on a mission on his behalf.”

“The same Sandman who tried to murder all his friends.” It wasn’t quite a question, but may as well have been; Mallory enjoyed the pungent smoke as they made their way down the curving lakeside road, past a massive kaiju footprint that had come down only a few feet from an old boathouse.

“You must have been too busy to hear the news.” Something in Nikda’s tone suggested an insult, or a backhanded compliment at best. “Sandman and Jewell came to an agreement on Bailey’s behalf. So long as Bailey doesn’t trespass on our territory or work against us, Sandman won’t try to arrest him.” She glided over the part about Sandman’s attacks on his friends, but the witch wasn’t about to let that go.

“And trying to hurt his friends? You’re right, I have been busy,” and the witch gave a gleaming smile to Nikda, “banishing gods, and I’d really hate to have to waste my time murdering a small man and his shapeshifting spies.”

“Sandman? Small?” She pretended to be insulted for a moment, before chuckling. “I’m not disagreeing with you there. You want the whole story?”

“Knowledge is power.” Yes. Always yes.

“The Court has been depleted since all the bullshit with Glesni and Sandman and Bailey. I’m guessing you don’t give much of a shit about our court’s matters, except... there was a rumor you aligned yourself with Glesni?” A few flashes of light emitted from Nikda’s eyes as she waited for Mallory’s answer.

“I care about any matters that affect my friends. I didn’t give two shits about the Old Ones until a few months ago,” the witch stated as they mounted the westernmost bridge across the river into Old Temple, traversable now, but the chunks still missing from the railings showed signs of the recent naval bombardment.

Nikda either wasn’t listening, or had her own spiel to rattle off, regardless of what Mallory had said. “Because Glesni and Sandman teamed up to pressure Bailey by attacking all his friends. You and Eri included. We all saw how well that went.” Nikda finished off her cigarette, and loaded another one into the silver holder. “I’m sure you’re getting impatient, though. Maybe you think I’m stalling.”

“I don’t care if you are,” Mallory confessed as they reached the southern side of the city, and the district she once called home. “You’re not leaving my company until I’m satisfied with your answers, so you can take as long as you want.”

“That’s fine. Sandman asked Bailey to go to Faerie to bring back someone from our Court who had been Taken once again. The assumption is this’s the Snake’s work, but you don’t really care about that, do you?” Before Mallory could respond, Nikda continued. “Sandman didn’t tell Bailey this, but the Stolen One he was sent to bring back was Nels. Glesni’s younger brother.” She took a puff off of her cigarette, glancing over at Mallory to gauge her reaction.

“Tell me about the Snake... and how well Nels knows Bailey, or knows his reputation.” The witch’s reaction was difficult to read, but her expression was definitely calculating. Measuring the forces at work to see if she needed to apply pressure, and where.

“Everyone in the Court knows about the Snake. He’s...what’s the Common word? Our boogeyman? When Bailey’s motley got killed, and his girlfriend disappeared, we were all pretty sure it was his doing, but nobody wants to fuck with somebody who works with the Fae. Ironic, yes, that Bailey took the same path?” She exhaled some smoke as Mallory gave her simple, shrugging reply.

“Fear is useful.” She could only hope it served her friend well.

“It’s a tool the Fae use against us, time and again.” After a rapid shake of her head, Nikda continued. “As far as I know, Nels has never met Bailey, but anyone who’s been anywhere near the Court since he came back to RhyDin City knows his reputation. He turned his back on us Stolen Ones, he’s secretly a collaborator, he tried to start a rebellion against Sandman, et cetera et cetera." She looked genuinely pissed off about that one, and it took a while for her to return to her usual disdainful attitude. "But really...Mallory, the question you should be asking is, why would Sandman send Bailey to rescue Glesni’s brother, but not tell him who he was rescuing?”

“There’s a few possibilities... but then, he’s your boss. And he’s sent you to cover up his absence. So you tell me, Nikda.” The witch’s eyes were calm as they passed by the warm red lights of the Carmine Cathedral, and she rubbed her cigarette out on an iron fence and dropped it in the street.

“It’s Faerie. Sometimes you can go there, spend several hours or days in the realm, and when you go back to RhyDin, only a minute or two will have passed. Sometimes, the opposite happens. We hoped Bailey would be back in a reasonable amount of time, but when it became evident he wouldn’t, Sandman sent me and Outis to cover for him. He’s famous enough that not showing up to work or the duels would be problematic. But ultimately, Sandman was hoping Bailey would rescue Nels and turn him over without ever finding out who the man was. Thus, Sandman would have leverage on the almost certainly not dead Glesni.” Nikda smoothed out the hem of her dress, watching out of the corner of her eye when Mallory put out her cigarette.

“That’s two names that mean nobody.” One of them was a guess, but the witch bluffed confidently. They were about to reach the main road that would lead them past Kabuki Street when she stopped. “Where in Faerie did you send him?”

Nikda almost stumbled in her boots at the sudden (for her) stop. She somehow managed to keep a grip on the silver cigarette holder, though smoke spluttered out of her mouth in ragged coughs. “Some domain...called the Cullyard...I didn’t get much more than that. The other reason we asked Bailey to do this is, he has an artifact that lets him track fae beings in Arcadia. If he’d said no...we might not have sent a rescue team.”

The witch gave her a slow blink of her eyes, bright as green flame. “This might all be true. It might be the whole truth,” though her tone cast doubt on that idea. “It might not be. I can think of a few reasons you’d lie to me... but I promised I wouldn’t harm you, and that’s not a lie.” She loosely clenched her fists as she spoke, stalking slowly forward like a predatory cat to force her back as writhing shadows rose up behind the witch—

—and behind the one who called herself Nikda was a terrible void, a sea of steaming blood surging with shadowy waves of monsters with snapping jaws. They shared only a small patch of cobblestone street suspended in the air, with no sign of the city or the night sky, only impenetrable blackness.

Nikda screamed, a bloodcurdling sound that seemed to die off almost as soon as it escaped her lips. She glanced around frantically, looking for an exit, but all she could see was darkness, a never-ending pit which she and the road were suspended above. Instinctively, she reached for Mallory for support, and just barely pulled her hands away from the witch before touching her. “Wh-why are you doing this? I’ve done nothing to you!”

“And I will do nothing to you,” the witch replied with a serene smile; “just as I promised. But if you’ve been lying to me and you’ve done something to Bailey, or this whole mission is some trick to hurt him, I will murder the Sandman and the rest of your comrades, and I will do nothing to stop people from wondering why you alone were spared. So if it’s in your power to help Bailey get home in one piece, or to stop a trap your people plan to spring... I’d do that. Do you understand?”

Nikda opened her mouth to speak, but only a whimper slipped free. She nodded her head vigorously in reply instead.

“Good.” Mallory gave her a toothy smile as she opened her left hand, palm up, spilling blood on the cobblestones. The shadows rose up once more and grasped towards the growing puddle, falling in on their platform, swallowing them in darkness—

And suddenly, Nikda was alone in the city, with no void beneath her feet and no sign the witch had ever been with her.

((Written with Mallory's player, with many many thanks!))
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Back to Sao Amador

Post by Bailey Raptis » Fri Feb 07, 2020 11:41 pm

January 26, 2020
São Amador


Even with Nels’ weight draped across his back, it didn’t take Bailey long to walk up the soft slope of the beach. The brown sand soon gave way to black asphalt, with only a half-dozen or so white concrete barricades dividing the beach from the lot. Near that dividing point, a black town car had parked across two spots and a blue-lined rectangle with only the words “NO PARK” visible before the front end blocked the remaining letters.

When Bailey stepped off of the sand, the front doors of the town car clicked open, and two men in sunglasses and beige linen suits exited. The man on the passenger’s side, a tall figure with a shaved head, wore a plain white dress shirt underneath, brown Oxfords, and two handgun holsters on his hips. He stood straight at attention besides the back passenger-side door. The driver took a more casual approach, strolling over to the other side of the car and leaning against the hood by the rearview mirror. His black hair was twisted into braids and he wore a Hawaiian shirt and driver’s shoes with no socks. He toyed casually with the strap of his shoulder holster as he watched Bailey struggle to carry Nels.

That effort consumed so much of Bailey’s attention that he nearly didn’t notice the vehicle, or the two men resting beside it and watch him through dark lenses. When he finally caught sight of the men, the tough expressions on their faces, and the way the driver fidgeted near his weapon, Bailey exhaled a loud sigh, dumped Nels off of his back with a thump and a groan, and slowly drew the short sword off of his back while his other hand tapped his chest. Marble replaced flesh, and a pair of spikes shot through his leather jacket for good measure.

The passenger pulled both pistols and leveled them at Bailey, but the driver lifted a hand and then lowered it. After a moment or two of hesitation, he pointed the guns at the ground, still glaring.

Olá! Bem vindo a São Amador!” The driver, seemingly the leader of the duo, smiled as he removed his sunglasses and stuck them in the neck of his shirt. “Você me entende?

“Yes, yes,” Bailey said. He kept a tight grip on his sword, but waved them off with his other hand. “Entendo.”

“I don’t,” the man with drawn weapons complained.

“I didn’t ask you,” hissed the boss. Then he turned to face Bailey, a smile broadly plastered on his face. “Would you mind putting your sword away?”

Bailey pointed with both his blade and his hand. “Him first.”

“João-”

“It’s all right Quentin.” He removed the sunglasses from the neck of his shirt and donned them again. When Quentin stowed his pistols away, Bailey followed suit with his sword, though he kept his marble armor up. “There, maybe now we can talk in peace? And you can explain how you know Jewell Ravenlock?”

“Maybe you can explain how you knew I was going to be coming out of the water just now.” Nels’ groaning grew louder, like the man was preparing to wake up, and Bailey muled kicked him square in the forehead and knocked him out once again. “Sorry about that. We were saying?”

“We set up a notification glyph on the city, after that business with the Veil in RhyDin City. A good thing, too. Something happened up there about a week ago. Phone lines are hit or miss, all the flights, teleportations, and boat trips up there have been cancelled. So you can understand our unease at something coming through...and then speaking Jewell’s name. Speaking of…” João looked Bailey over, head to toe, glasses slipping up and down off of his eyes here and there. “You said you worked for Jewell?”

“I am one of her knights.”

“Prove it.” Tested, Bailey approached João, watching as the man held a hand up preemptively to keep Quentin at bay. Bailey unzipped his jacket and tugged at his shirts, revealing the necklace of thorns hanging from his neck and a series of punctures from them. He beckoned João to lean forward, and when the man did, Bailey tip-toed up to whisper Language into his ear. João backed up, nodded, and slid his sunglasses back up.

“Sir Bailey Raptis, Knight of the Wayward Court,” Bailey said, stepping back into a curtsy.

“I’m Senhor João and this is Senhor Quentin, knights of the Court of Endless Summer. How can we be of assistance to you?” He looked over Bailey’s shoulder, at Nels’ unconscious form. “A prisoner of yours?”

Bailey bought himself some time to consider the question by going back to Nels, grunting as he strained to lift the man off of the pavement. He heard fingers snapping, and he watched as Quentin rolled his eyes but dutifully followed his boss’ instructions and helped Bailey with the coldcocked figure.

“...I suppose he is my prisoner, and by proxy, a prisoner of the Wayward Court. Might I call upon you to render assistance in detaining this man?”

“Of course. First night’s on us, but we’ll discuss the terms and conditions for keeping him later.” João opened one of the back doors and the other two men unceremoniously flung him against the opposite side of the car. “Does he have a name? A reason why you’re carrying him all around the realm?”

“Nels.” To the second question, Bailey stayed pointedly quiet.

“Ah, I see, I see. Well, get in, Bailey. Quentin, you’ve got back seat.

“But João-”

“Bailey’s our guest. And the Court of Endless Summer respects their guests.” Quentin grumbled, but he took his seat in the back besides the snoring Nels, while Bailey and João sat in the front. “Is there anywhere else you would like to go before we hit the safehouse?”

“Rua dos Reis, 55?” Bailey spotted the uplifted eyebrow from João as he started the car and squealed out of the parking lot onto a wide avenue. “I, , actually used to live here for a few years.”

“Which explains how you know Portuguese! It doesn’t explain why he-” João jerked a thumb towards the back seat, at Quentin. “- never learned it.”

“Hey! It’s really hard, boss!”

“Whatever. We’ve got some time. I’ll take you over there, and you can tell me what it’s like to live in the big city.” And with that, the car sped off into the city proper, Bailey and João jabbering away in Portuguese, Quentin sulking with folded arms, and Nels still lying against the door unconscious.
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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Sandman, Nikda, & Outis

Post by Bailey Raptis » Thu Mar 26, 2020 9:17 pm

January 28, 2020
Red Caboose Bar and Grill
Dockside


Sandman held court -- both literally and metaphorically -- at his usual table at the Red Caboose Bar and Grill. Alexander and Sasha stood their usual guard near the table, blocking access to the nearby bathrooms and keeping a watchful eye on the swinging doors leading back into the kitchen. Sandman sipped coffee from a chipped “WORLD’S GREATEST DAD” mug, watching as his breakfast companion, a scrawny and greasy brown-haired teen named Outis, ravaged a plate of blueberry pancakes, fried eggs, bacon, and cheese-smothered hash browns. Every two or three bites, Outis slurped down some of the orange juice in front of him while Sandman watched, his expression hidden as always behind his white robes and cowl. The King of the Stolen Ones’ court waited until Outis slowed down, taking longer between each mouthful.

“Are you enjoying your breakfast, Outis?”

“Mmph.” His mouth stuffed with pancakes, the Mirrorskin could only murmur incoherently until he swallowed. “Sorry, sir. I am. It’s very good.” Outis leaned out of the booth, trying to peer around the ogres guarding Sandman and into the kitchen. “You think they could bring me another stack of pancakes?”

“Absolutely.” Sandman motioned for Sasha to crouch, whispering in the grey-skinned ogre’s ear. Sasha then turned to whisper to his taller, green-skinned brethren, who huffed out a sigh before walking to the diner’s counter-top and placing an order with the waitress there. Outis’ eyes gleamed glassily as he watched the whole production.

“You’re the best! The fucking best!” Sandman just took another sip of his coffee.

“And how is the impersonation going?”

“Well-” Whatever answer Outis was about to share got cut off by the diner’s door banging open, the bell attached to it clanking loudly in protest. Alexander and Sasha stiffened, reached for their sidearms, but when they spotted the source of the violent entrance -- a tall woman in a red dress and black high heels stomping over toward their table. They knew better than to get in her way, shuffling aside so that she could sit down right next to Sandman.

“You asshole!” She slapped Sandman across the face, though only the rustle of fabric could be heard when her open palm struck his cheek. Alexander and Sasha rolled their eyes at each other, while Outis stared wide-eyed at the two across the booth from him.

“Why am I an asshole?” Sandman asked calmly, not even bothering to rub the point of impact.

“”You didn’t think to tell me Bailey was friends with the blood bitch? That she’d be able to see through my disguise like a cheap Halloween costume?”

“Wait, you too?” Outis’ stare shifted fully towards the woman, and a mix of fear and dread turned him pale.

“Nikda-” A note of concern edged into Sandman’s voice, but she ignored it in favor of answering Outis.

“Me too what?”

“Someone figured out you aren’t Bailey.” Outis pointed at Nikda with the tongs of his fork. “Jewell Ravenlock found me out pretty quickly. I had to splash a drink in her face to get away.”

Sandman...”

“Don’t blame me.” The white-clad man nudged the coffee cup away. “You were all well-briefed in what was necessary to live Bailey’s life. Where he lives, where he works, his hobbies, his friends. He willingly shared this information with us. You knew who among his friends to watch out for, the ones who might see through the ruse and ask questions. It is your fault you got discovered.”

“You also told us not to drastically change his lifestyle,” Nikda said, glaring at Sandman. “To eat at the same restaurants, go to the same dance clubs, to not disappear without a good reason. You asked for the impossible.”

Sandman balled his hands into fists, gesturing with his head for Alexander and Sasha to shift into a position blocking egress to the front door. “What I asked for, Nikda, Outis, was for you to do your fucking jobs, the ones I pay you for. The ones you swore an oath to complete. Do I make myself clear?”

“...I’m not doing it.” Nikda looked up and over at the two ogres blocking her way out, but she remained resolute, arms folded across her chest. Seeing her defiance led Outis to put down his fork and sit up straight.

“Yeah. Me neither. Besides, wasn’t this only supposed to be a few days, a week at most? He’s been gone over a month now!”

“He’s probably dead or captured in Faerie, Sandman. Why bother putting up the pretense he’s alive?”

For a moment, Sandman sat silent. Most likely, he was staring at his Mirrorskins, but his hidden face made it impossible to gauge his mood. Only when he waved back Alexander and Sasha to guard the bathrooms again did Nikda and Outis release the breathes they hadn’t noticed they’d been holding.

“That is a very good idea, Nikda. All right, here’s what you’re going to do. Break his lease. Quit his job. All of his jobs, if he has more than one. He already broke up with his girlfriend, so you are good there. See if you can activate his dead man’s switch, but be careful not to tip off the lawyer about it if there is some sort of fail-safe in place. Basically?” Sandman steepled his fingers together, and leaned forward. “I want you to burn his fucking life to the ground.”
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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Posts: 375
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2015 9:25 pm
Location: Can be found many places, but resides in a row house in the Kabuki Street neighborhood

The Exchange, Part 1

Post by Bailey Raptis » Wed Apr 01, 2020 10:21 pm

February 14, 2020
São Amador

When the disruptions from the Opals shattering subsided, and Bailey was finally able to make his way back home, he found his life in shambles. His key no longer worked for his apartment, and when he called his landlord, she seemed confused about why he thought he should have access to an apartment he’d vacated. He received a similar reaction at Black Magic Burger -- hadn’t he just quit a couple of weeks prior? It wasn’t hard for Bailey to put two and two together: either Sandman and his cronies had given up on Bailey, or they had never planned for him to return in the first place. Both scenarios raised Bailey’s hackles. It was bad enough that Sandman sent him to Faerie without telling him the full story. Worse still that the altruistic act Bailey signed up for turned out to be more political maneuvering on Sandman’s behalf. Well, right now, Bailey held the advantage. The Court didn’t know he was alive, and they didn’t know whether or not he succeeded in his mission.

After crashing at Eden’s apartment for a few days while he continued to sort things out, he made a couple of public appearances, pointedly. First, the celebration of past and present Keepers of the various elemental Towers on Twilight Isle, a list that included him in a couple of capacities. He marveled at the magical cloud of names hovering over the rings, spent a little time with Krakeninho, and fit a duel in, putting himself back on the dueling standings -- and back in a public eye. The following week, he hosted a makeover party for several brave souls who traveled to Twilight Isle, and he might have had more in store to keep thumbing his nose at Sandman if the Court of Endless Summer hadn’t called him back sooner than expected.

“You said you wanted to take care of Nels as soon as possible, right?” João asked him over the phone. He had only stepped outside briefly to smoke, but the unexpected phone call made him linger over the cigarette longer.

“I did. I understand I am asking a huge favor of you, one whose return only grows large with each day. And I appreciate that you did not just toss him into an underground dungeon, that you gave him an actual room--”

“Bailey, we value our...arrangement with the Wayward Court too much to jeopardize it defying the will of one of its knights. With that said, we would like to call upon you to repay the favor that you owe us. I realize it is a little ahead of when we said we would collect, but-”

“Tell me in person, João. We have likely risked a great deal already discussing what we have over the phone. I will be in town shortly.” Bailey hung up just as he reached the filter on his cigarette. He sighed as he flicked it aside, too bored or tired to turn it to confetti as he usually did. Instead, he went back to gather up his usual implements of work and warfare, and set off for São Amador via the Hedge.


* * *

The idea for handling the Nels problem came to Bailey while he was trudging through a Hedge rainforest in the middle of a torrential downpour. The rain splashed off of his leather jacket, soaked his hair, dripped down his nose as he contemplated whether or not he could light a cigarette in this weather. Probably not, he thought to himself glumly as he felt the muddy ground sucking at his boots. A bolt of lightning went off overhead, and just as fast, the idea flashed into his mind. He laughed as he considered the circumstances of his almost literal brainstorm: was it chance, serendipity, or fate? He shook his head, flinging droplets of water against the fat green fronds lining the sides of the trodden path. It didn’t really matter how he got the idea, just that he had one to share with the Court of Endless Summer.

Luckily for Bailey, the Court agreed to go along with his plan, and even provided him with support to help pull it off. The timeline for enacting it would be tight, but he knew that it might actually work in his favor. If he moved fast, if he didn’t provide time for a counter-attack or alternate solution to come up, then the odds of success grew for him. He could count the hours of sleep on both hands he’d managed to squeeze in between that Tuesday and that Friday, but if this worked, he could rest easy for the immediate future.
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Bailey Raptis
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Posts: 375
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2015 9:25 pm
Location: Can be found many places, but resides in a row house in the Kabuki Street neighborhood

The Exchange, Part 2

Post by Bailey Raptis » Wed Apr 01, 2020 10:37 pm

“I don’t like this boss.” Raff brushed some lint off of the shoulder of his too-tight gray sharkskin suit, then stuck a finger between his neck and the white dress shirt he wore, futilely trying to free some space up. He walked through the parking lot side-by-side with a tall woman in a peacock blue dress, who kept rubbing at the hem of it as the pair moved forward towards the door of the gymnasium.

“Raff…” Glesni glanced over at him with a sour expression, and he cringed, arms in front of his face in preparation for a punch or a slap. However, she just sighed. “...me either. This feels like a trap.”

“Then why are we going?”

She poked him with her finger, the long red press-on nail almost seemingly like it would cut through his jacket. “Ya know why. It’s my brother. I can’t lose him again. If there’s even the slightest chance he’s here...I’d face down anyone. Even the Princess of Bloody Thorns.”

They both quieted once they reached the door to the gym. They ducked under a brick portico that covered the ground floor entrance and provided access to the building through the second floor as well. Raff tugged at the glass doors, and, finding them unlocked, set foot first in the building, followed by Glesni.

Inside, nearly everything was white, save for the green and yellow jerseys and logos for the team that occupied this gym, the Cais Juniors. Trophies of various heights, made of various metals, as well as basketballs, volleyballs, and soccer balls signed by various players upon reaching milestones in their respective sports, filled up clear glass cabinets. Glesni’s heels clicked upon the tiled floor as she followed a series of crudely taped arrows on the ground. Directions to her brother -- or the trap. Glesni and Raff passed by several administrative offices with their lights turned off, a fitness center with empty ellipticals, treadmills, and free weights, and a large indoor swimming pool with a three meter springboard at the deepest end. Finally, they reached a series of push-bar doors that seemed to lead to the main court. Raff pushed it open, slithered inside, and held it wide for Glesni to walk through.

“Hello.” Something overhead ka-chunked, as the lights above the dark court turned on with the greeting spoken by Bailey. Glesni and Raff found themselves almost underneath a basketball hoop, directly opposite the other one, on a parquet wooden floor. The various lines denoting the boundaries for basketball had all been taped onto the surface, and in the center of the court sat Bailey, at a teacher’s desk, dressed in a leather jacket, jeans,combat boots, and a thorny necklace. He leaned back in his chair, hands behind his head. At his side stood two men in sunglasses and beige linen suits. The man on Bailey’s right had his hair twisted into braids and wore a loud blue Hawaiian shirt underneath his jacket, while the man on Bailey’s left wore a plain white Oxford. Pistol holsters were visible on both men’s hips. Perhaps most noticeable to Glesni and Raff, though, was the brown-haired, cloven-foot, cow-tailed man bound by rope to a student’s desk, his mouth sealed shut with duct tape. It muffled his attempt to speak, though the way his eyes widened, it was instantly clear he recognized the two.

“Nels!” Glesni made it about two steps before Bailey snapped his fingers. Another series of lights came on over the bleachers on either side of the court, slowing Glesni enough with their surprise for Bailey to get another word in.

“That is far enough for the moment. Not that I can imagine you and Raff being much of a match for João and Quentin here.” He gestured to his right, then his left, indicating each man in turn. “But you really should look up to the stands as well.” When Glesni and Raff did, they spotted two more men with assault rifles. One of them had his gun trained squarely on Nels, the other on Bailey’s visitors. “Voce entende?

“What?” Glesni and Raff answered in unison. Bailey looked over his shoulder at João, sighed, and then looked back at the duo.

“Do you understand?”

“Yes.” The single word fell sullenly from Glesni’s lips.

“Good. Come.” Bailey crooked his fingers, one by one, beckoning them forth. “Slowly.”

After a shared glance, Glesni and Raff began walking across the court, the only sounds at first the clicking of her heels and the squeaking of his dress shoes on the waxed wood. As they made their way to Bailey, he spoke to them. “You need to know who is in charge here, Glesni, Raff. And it sure as shit is not you. I know what you have done, what you think you are doing. You thought that you could fake your own death, leave RhyDin, find some more pro-human zealots like yourself to bring to your cause, and then come back to overthrow Sandman when the time was right. Problem is, Sandman must have figured that out. Now, I do not know if he is responsible for your brother being brought back to Arcadia, but you should know this. He is a...guest of myself, under the auspices of The Court of Endless Summer, and you would do well to remember that. That is far enough.”

Glesni and Raff stopped, a few feet from where Bailey and Nels sat and João and Quentin stood. Bailey watched as rage flared in Glesni’s green eyes. “Ya fucking...bastard! Ya were a collaborator. Fucking knew it!”

“Glesni...the question you should ask yourself is why? Why did I choose to work with the Fair Folk? What could possibly make me turn my back on my own kind?” She opened her mouth to reply, but Bailey held up a hand. “I will answer my own question, thank you. Perhaps it was the lackadaisical response from the Stolen One Court when my motley was wiped out. Perhaps it was the fact I received no real thanks for tracking down and eliminating the bastards who killed them myself. Perhaps it was the complete and utter lack of faith that I was not collaborating with Jewell Ravenlock, even though I was terrified of her. Perhaps it was being imprisoned by Sandman, betrayed by members of his court, exiled, threatened with death upon returning to RhyDin, having him and your soldiers come after my friends. With friends like you -- you make the Fae looking like fucking saints in comparison. Raff -- step forward.”

“Boss?”

Glesni gritted her teeth, but nodded. “Do as he says.” The bodyguard nodded back, watching as Bailey finally rose from his seat. He tapped at the front of the desk.

“Stand there.” Raff glanced back at Glesni, still confused, but she held her chin up high and nodded once more, and so he followed Bailey’s direction, as the man paced back and forth around him. Eventually, Bailey stopped, smiling over at Glesni. Then he sucker-punched Raff on the right side with a stone fist. His head bounced off of the desk, sending him staggering backwards. He tried to stay upright, but the pain from the unexpected blow was too much. He collapsed at the jump ball circle, rolled onto his side, and began dry heaving.

“Raff!” Glesni made it about two steps forward before the sound of rifles readying and Bailey’s back-up drawing their own weapons sent her hands up and stopped her movement.

“That…” Bailey nudged at the fast-growing knot on Raff’s forehead with the toe, eliciting a groan from him. “...was for Mallory.”

“He didn’t do that!”

“Oh, are you volunteering?” Bailey’s smile turned wicked, as he held up his fist for Glesni. She shook her head vigorously, and he scoffed. “That is what I thought. Coward. Come here.”

“What do ya want from me?”

“Come here, and I will tell you.” Bailey slipped back behind the teacher’s desk, leaving Raff rolling in agony on the floor. At first she paused, but eventually Glesni walked up to the desk, not daring to look at her injured bodyguard. Bailey sat down, leaving Glesni to stand. He tapped at a series of papers on the surface.

“What’s this?”

“A contract. A mercy. I will give you your brother back, but you will have to pay a price.”

“What, money, jewels?” She looked at the impassive faces of Bailey’s protection, their eyes hidden by sunglasses, then back to him. “Ya must know we’re short on those kinda things right now.”

“No, no. No money, no jewels, no property. The contract there lays it out -- go on, read it, read it -- but I can give you the too long did not read version of it right now. I will release Nels to you, unharmed physically and mentally -- hey, João, you treated him well, right?”

“Nels was and is our guest. And the Court of Endless Summer respects their guests. Even if they’re not always allowed to leave right away.”

“See?” Bailey watched as Glesni skimmed over the documents. “Like I said, I will release Nels to you, and in return, you agree to some things for me. First, you will leave me alone. You will leave my friends alone. The people that constitute my friends have been helpfully enumerated there. If they see you, if they tell me you or your representatives are harassing them via any means, be they magical or technological, the deal is off. Second, you relinquish your claim on the Stolen One Court of RhyDin City. For now, that is Sandman’s territory. If I hear or see you plotting to conquer that court once again, the deal is off. The same goes for São Amador here. Go build a new court at the poles or in the wastes of Cadentia for all I care, but RhyDin and here are off limits. Three, you owe me one favor, to be repaid within a year and a day. You may refuse any favor I ask of you at the time, but if you do not do me at least one requested favor in the allotted time, the deal is off. And when I say the deal is off, I mean this.” Bailey leaned forward with his fingers interlocked, staring a hole into Glesni. “I am a knight of the Wayward Court and the Court of Endless Summer. I am a close associate of the Kabuki Street Rengou-kai. You know who my friends are -- you attacked them. You also know how powerful they are by your lack of success. Break these terms, and I will bring the full weight of these groups down upon your skull. I will grind your allies into dust, cut off your head, and place it on a pike on Kabuki Street as a reminder of what happens to those who cross Bailey Raptis, Mallory Maeda, Eri Maeda, the Wayward Court, and the Court of Endless Summer. Do I make myself clear?”

He watched as Glesni gulped, the swallow distorting her throat for just a moment. “Yes.”

Bailey half-spun away, flicking his fingers at her. “Then sign the fucking contract, take your brother, and get the fuck out of my sight.” Now he twisted back, watching as she picked up the pen, finished reading the documents, and finally signed her name to them. When she finished, Bailey snapped his fingers, and a perfect, staple-bound replica of the contract sat beside the one she had just signed. While she picked that up, Bailey whistled, and Quentin stepped forward with a knife to cut Nels’ bindings and to rip the tape off of his mouth with a yelp. The previously bound man fell out of his chair.

“Help him up, will you, Quentin?” The man grunted, but did as he was ordered, leading the former captive to Glesni’s side just as Raff did the same, still clutching at his abdomen. Quentin brushed off Nels, patting him twice on the shoulder, and then resumed his previous position near Bailey, who watched as Glesni hugged her brother tightly. “You can have your family reunion outside, later. Now --” Rather than finish the thought, Bailey shooed them once again with his hand. They got the message at last and began limping out of the gym. Once they were out of view, Bailey put his feet up on the desk, retrieved a cut cigar and lighter from his jacket pocket, and fired it up. A sigh escaped his lips with that first exhalation of smoke.
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