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Capistrano
Wolf Like Me
Proven Adventurer
Proven Adventurer


Joined: 12 Feb 2008
Posts: 184

Location: A small apartment near the University of Northeast RhyDin or Clovely
6,135 Silver Nobles


PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2015 12:23 am    Post subject: Foundation Reply with quote

“What do you do when your foundation falls apart? I don't know. They don't teach you that in school.”

(Stevo, “SLC Punk”)


March 3, 2015

The song wasn’t working anymore.

The Crew had wasted little time getting Jay back on his old workout routine, making few concessions for the nearly two year gap in dueling, or the two extra years of age on his body. They saw the flab around his belly, the lack of definition in previously cut muscles, and had proposed a complete crash course to shock him back into shape. Needless to say, it wasn’t going well.

Jay’s back was pressed against a bench, as he struggled to push a barbell laden with rings of weights above his head. Sweat dripped off his forehead, and only a white cotton headband prevented it from getting in his eyes. The rest of his clothes -- a blue tank top, basketball shorts, white ankle socks -- was similarly soaked. It was a miracle that the black wrist band on his left arm wasn’t ruined -- as well as the MP3 player attached to it.

RhyDin had sunk her claws deep into Jay’s mind and body, but even as he adjusted to the city’s cold weather, anarchistic politics, and denizens of super-powered residents, the music scene had never stuck with him. He’d been to plenty of shows here -- everything from elvish environmentalist punk to dwarvish metal played with actual hammers and anvils to some awful faerie harpist who Jay swore wasn’t playing half the time, it was so quiet. His tastes in Rhydinian music were constantly changing, but one constant on his music player was punk. Good old-fashioned Earth punk. His Earth’s punk. It had gotten him through his darkest days, both in California and in RhyDin, and it would get him through this damn workout.

***

He remembered the day his favorite band died. His friend Chico called him early one summer morning, which was weird. They weren’t surfers, so there was no reason for them to wake up before noon on their summer vacation, yet here it was, barely past 9 a.m. and the phone was ringing. When Jay finally picked up, he could barely understand Chico past the sobs.

“They’re...they’re dead.”

“What, dude? Dude, you gotta chill for a sec.”

Chico took a few moments, taking deep breaths that Jay could hear on the other end of the line.

“The Exploding Hearts. Their van crashed on the way back from San Francisco.”

Jay choked on a sob, but managed to keep himself from crying. “Oh, Christ. Jesus Christ, man...’ He trailed off into profanities, unable to find any other words to express his feelings.

“Jay…”

“Yeah?”

‘We gotta go down to the courthouse. We gotta shred there.”

“Yeah. Just-” Jay paused, running his fingers through his hair. “Yeah. I gotta get dressed. Did you call Zeb yet?”

“Yeah. He’s gonna meet us there.”

“Cool. I’ll, uh...I’ll see you in a bit.”

“L-later.”

***

The Exploding Hearts had been Jay’s talisman in RhyDin -- his primary link to a world that had once been his home, but no longer was. Whenever he felt homesick for warm summer breezes, all-ages shows in decrepit punk houses, or grinding down ten stair rails while the rest of Santa Cruz slept, he put on his headphones and blared their album. A half hour later, the feeling would subside, and he could get on with his day.

But it wasn’t working anymore. Not even his favorite song from that album held the power to lift his mood. When he was still naive about love, he could ignore the lyrics about being 21 years old and being alone and inexperienced. Now, though, he was pushing 30 and had more than enough dating experience to understand how complicated love really was.

Or maybe it was the fact they were forever frozen in time, perpetually in their early to mid-20s. They would never grow up, grow old, sell out, find that girl that would sleep with them, break them in, break their hearts. Jay, however, had grown up, sold out, fallen in and out of love, had his heart broken, and knew the truth of the matter. The world wasn’t black and white. He was never a hero like in the comics, nor would he ever be a villain like that. He was just himself -- whatever that was supposed to mean.

Jay’s arms wobbled, and the bar listed dangerously to the left. He tried to compensate, bring it back level with the ground, but there was no life left in his muscles. Before the bar and the weights could fall to the floor, a pair of hands reached out and steadied the bar, lifting it up and then pushing it back into the grooves that held the weight. His spotter sighed, as Jay’s arms flopped to his sides.

“Take five, Jay. Get some water.” He brushed some of his gray hair out of his eyes. Jay’s chest rose and fell noticeably as he sucked in air.

“...Got...it...boss. One...sec…” It took nearly half a minute for him to sit up, take the water bottle offered him, and squirt water into his mouth. He then spritzed his face and his hair, shaking it wildly and flinging drops across the gym. After that, he stood up and began wiping down the bench with a towel his trainer tossed his way.

“Jay?”

“Yeah, boss?” After wiping some water off of his face, he tossed the towel over his shoulder.

“You really need to quit smoking.”

“Yeah....yeah, I know. I’m working on it.”

“Good. See you in four.” The trainer stepped away from the bench, walking back towards his office. Jay glanced down at the MP3 player, still alive and ticking even after its impromptu bath in sweat and water. He pulled at the velcro attaching it to his arm until it came unstuck, then stuffed the whole mess, headphones and all, into his nearby gym bag. He was going to have to get through this alone.
_________________
The future lies on some horizon
So many times I had to say farewell
I know it turns out fine, following the exit sign
At least that's what I tell myself
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Capistrano
Wolf Like Me
Proven Adventurer
Proven Adventurer


Joined: 12 Feb 2008
Posts: 184

Location: A small apartment near the University of Northeast RhyDin or Clovely
6,135 Silver Nobles


PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2015 9:51 pm    Post subject: The Disappeared Reply with quote

“I've been asking 'round if you were there
Asking, but I'm always scared
Asking 'cause I want to care again”

(Dinosaur, Jr., “Almost Ready”)


March 13, 2015
RhyDin Public Library

“So you click in the search box there, and type in what you’re looking for.” The librarian pointed over Jay’s shoulder at the computer screen, where a cursor blinked off and on in a rectangular box. He sat in the middle of a long table, with computers on either side of him, and another bank of PCs behind him. The lab was half-full, and the rest of the patrons -- RhyDin’s usual mix of humans, elves, dwarves, and other humanoid species -- were working without the librarian’s assistance. Jay sniffed at the air. The faint odors of plastic, ozone, sweat, soap, shampoo, bread, and freshly laid carpet were nearly overwhelmed by the librarian’s honeysuckle perfume. He took a deep breath, expelled it in a soft sigh, and began typing.

Jay had never been much of a detective. During his days in the superhero business, back in California, he relied on his powers, interrogations, and his mentor’s advice more than he did deductive reasoning and good old-fashioned legwork. Threaten a few demons with a blessed baseball bat, and you didn’t need to pick through someone’s garbage to find out where they were.

The same had gone for RhyDin. People in the city had a way of finding you when needed, and if they didn’t, well, now Jay had the enhanced senses of the Wolf. There hadn’t been much need for it here, but when there was a trail to be tracked, it wasn’t hard for him to follow. No need to stick his head in books all day, or flip through death records at the clerk’s offices. Smell person, find person. Boom. Easy as that.

But when there wasn’t a trail? People could just disappear into thin air, never to be seen again. It happened all the time here. And when you’d spent much of the last year and a half in classrooms, trying desperately -- and failing miserably -- to get the college education you’d never had a chance at, trails went cold. Fast.

It’s what brought him to the library, brought him to that computer, and brought him to ask the librarian on duty how to search through the newspaper database he’d seen advertised on their web site. The short elvish woman at the desk had patiently walked him through how to use it -- formulating a search, selecting newspapers to search in, making sure only full text articles were included, limiting his search to a certain time period.

After a moment’s hesitation, he started typing.

Samiyah Zayn”. Zero results. “Sami Zayn.” Zero results. His fingers pressed harder into the keys, clicking louder over the dull hum of electronics. “Candy Hart.” Zero results. “Candy R. Hart.” Zero results.”Candy Rabbit Hart.” His fingers went slack, and he dropped his head.

“This’s all the newspapers in town?” Jay asked the librarian, looking over his shoulder at her.

“No,” the librarian sighed. “These are just the ones that lasted for significant periods of time. There are many, many others that didn’t last long enough, or that no one cared enough about to index. Plus,” she pointed a red-painted nail at the screen, “these are only Common newspapers. Elvish, dwarvish, draconic, and other languages are in other databases.”

“I, uh, don’t think they’ll be in there.”

“Well, you can try the microfilm machines over in Periodicals, or you can check out the local archive. A lot of the universities and colleges around here have other newspapers on file, too.”

“Thanks, but…” Jay trailed off as he stared blankly at the screen. “I think I’m just gonna have to ask around.” He pressed his hands against the edge of the table and pushed off, sliding his chair backwards enough so that he had space to stand. “Thank you, though.”

“You’re welcome. Feel free to come back if you need any further help, or if you find anything that might help your search.”

“Sure, sure.” Jay swung the backpack that had been sitting between his feet up and across his shoulder. “But you probably get this question…?”

“At least once or twice a day,” she said, filling in the blank for him.

“How many times do they find what they’re looking for?”

“Almost never.” Her shoulders slumped.

“I kinda thought so. Take care.” Adjusting the bag on his back, he turned away from her and headed for the door.
_________________
The future lies on some horizon
So many times I had to say farewell
I know it turns out fine, following the exit sign
At least that's what I tell myself
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Capistrano
Wolf Like Me
Proven Adventurer
Proven Adventurer


Joined: 12 Feb 2008
Posts: 184

Location: A small apartment near the University of Northeast RhyDin or Clovely
6,135 Silver Nobles


PostPosted: Wed Mar 25, 2015 7:31 pm    Post subject: Almost Ready Reply with quote

“I've been wondering if the message sent
Wondering if I made a dent
Wondering what it is you meant again”

(Dinosaur Jr., “Almost Ready”)


March 21, 2015
Nörrin’s Smoke Shop


Even before Jay opened the door and stepped inside his neighborhood tobacconist, he could hear the store’s music pumping through glass and wood. He could barely see through the front window of the shop; the proprietors had posted countless signs and advertisements for the brands of cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco and lottery tickets they sold. The pane glass door was similarly covered in signs: more ads, store hours, an alarm system warning, and a hand-written notice that only cigars and pipes could be smoked inside the store. A squat cigar store Indian with a long beard holding a thin, curved pipe sat opposite the window, nearly impeding the narrow walkway and step up to the door.

Inside, he could barely hear the electronic jingle of the door chime perched near the hinge. Music blared out of a pair of vintage wooden floor speakers perched precariously on the glass counter. Even without a subwoofer, the bass and drums thumped like a second heartbeat in his chest.

“Jay, my man!” The dwarf in the sleeveless brown vest and white button-up behind the till shouted at him, and as soon as Jay was within arm’s length, the two men bumped fists. “I haven’t seen you in ages!”

Jay opened his mouth to respond, but the Wolf was howling in his head. Tell him to turn that goddamn music down! His hands lifted toward his ears, before one of them cupped around his mouth to amplify his voice. “Nörrin, dude! You gotta turn that @%#$ down! You’re gonna make me go deaf!”

“Sorry, sorry!” A sleeve-tattooed arm reached for the stereo box hidden behind the counter, dropping the volume of the music from deafening to just loud. “But, man, I thought you liked your music cranked!”

“I do, dude, but I also wear ear plugs when I go to shows. Also...it’s only been a couple of weeks.”

“Yeah, man, but we’re buds! You come in almost every night!” Nörrin touched the curlicue end of his moustache, twirling it around his index finger.

“You haven’t read the papers yet?”

“No?”

“I’m going back to dueling.”

“Dude!” Nörrin nearly fell off of his stool, eyes popping open. He caught himself in the nick of time, steadying himself with deep breaths. “Really?”

“Yeah.” Jay rubbed his forehead. He’s starting to annoy me! Jay looked to the ceiling, at the yellowed panels and peeling paint. “I’m gonna go check out the humidor. Be right back.”

Jay heard a note of concern and confusion in Nörrin’s voice as he replied, but he didn’t catch the precise words over the loud music and the Wolf screaming in his skull. He walked to the back and opened the door, stepping inside a closet-sized room with rows of wooden boxes nearly to the ceiling. Inside here, the tobacco smelled fresh, almost sweet. Jay gulped in a big breath of air, happy to dash away the stale smoke lingering over everything on the shop floor.

Jay crouched and pretended to look over a box of darkly wrapped Macanudo Maduros. He pinched his nose and squinted his eyes.

We’re not having this argument here.

But this guy’s a total @#$%!

He’s my friend. In case you hadn’t noticed, I don’t have too many of those now.

Awww, look who’s all angsty and broody because his ex came back from the dead. Or from disappearing. Or maybe she was-

Don’t.

Do you think she’ll try to kill us too? Make it three for three?

Jay cursed out loud as he slammed the lid of the cigar box shut. He forced himself to take three deep, long breaths before opening the door back into the store’s main section. He watched as a student in a gray R.A.S.C. sweatshirt and jeans bought a pack of rolling papers and shuffled out the door. Once he had left, Jay walked up to the counter.

“You cool, man?” Nörrin asked him, worry clouding his features. Jay waved off his concern, then reached into his pocket for some silvers.

“Yeah. I need a pack of Red Apples.”

“Can you even smoke and duel?” Nörrin raised an bushy eyebrow.

“I need a pack of Red Apples.” Jay’s voice deepened, as he slapped the silvers on the glass for emphasis.

“Okay, okay,” Nörrin said, holding up his hands in surrender. “You’re having a nic fit, I get it. You been trying to quit?”

“Yeah. Not tonight though. And before you ask, dude, I’m not gonna talk about it.” Nörrin’s moustache almost seemed to droop at the news.

“Cool, man. You know where to find me.” The dwarf took Jay’s money and handed over his cigarettes. His eyes darted over the yellow pack, lingering briefly on the apple and the smoking worm. He slid them into his coat pocket with a sigh.

“Thanks. Take care, dude.” Jay half-waved at Nörrin, before spinning on his heel and heading out the door.

As soon as he was on the sidewalk, he reached back into his pocket, pulling out a blue lighter and the smokes. The old familiar ritual began again: plastic peeled off the package and stuffed into another pocket, top flipped, foil pulled up and folded out of the way. His fingertips dug into the cramped space of the full pack and pulled a cigarette loose, quickly lifting it to his lips. A couple of quick flicks on the lighter, and he was in business, storing the remaining cigarettes and Bic back where they belonged. He began walking towards his apartment, his pace deliberate.

About halfway through his smoke, he pulled his cell phone out and pressed the power button. The notification from Sami’s call still sat on the home screen, taunting him. You could call her right back, you know. Or you could go into your contacts and erase her number and just not text her tomorrow. He did neither. Instead, he thumbed the phone open, went into the messaging app, and pulled up her number.

There was nothing there. He’d lost all their old texts when he’d switched from a flip phone to a smart phone, and at the time, it felt like a relief. No more reminders of the past. Now, he was torn between that relief and a desire to read them again. He closed his eyes, trying to picture the exchanges, but there was nothing earth-shattering about them. Dinner plans. Movie plans. Cheesy jokes from the students at the dojo she worked for. It was nothing special, but it was them. And it was gone.

He stared at the blinking cursor and the keyboard, and began tapping out a message. “i DID miss you” He quickly hammered on the delete key. “I don’t think we should talk anymore” He ruminated on that one until the cigarette was finished, before erasing it. He started typing “I lo-” before he cut himself off with four quick presses of that arrowed X. “What do you want from me?” That one lingered on the screen long enough for him to get out another cigarette, but it too was deleted.

100 pines park, 4 p.m.” The send button was there, waiting to be pressed, but he couldn’t pull the trigger. “What the @#$% am I supposed to do?” He whispered to his phone. He stopped walking, leaning against a wall near an alleyway. Ash dripped onto his fingers as he waited for some sort of inspiration, a sign, divine intervention. Nothing came.

He saved the message as a draft and put his phone away.
_________________
The future lies on some horizon
So many times I had to say farewell
I know it turns out fine, following the exit sign
At least that's what I tell myself
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Capistrano
Wolf Like Me
Proven Adventurer
Proven Adventurer


Joined: 12 Feb 2008
Posts: 184

Location: A small apartment near the University of Northeast RhyDin or Clovely
6,135 Silver Nobles


PostPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2015 9:10 pm    Post subject: Promotional Consideration Reply with quote

March 26, 2015
Dockside


The old abattoir had been almost entirely sanitized of its old purpose. The meat hooks hanging from the ceiling were gone, the slaughtering pens had been ripped out, and every inch of floor, wall, and ceiling space had been bleached clean and re-painted a dull white shade. If it wasn’t for the old, unused freezer sitting in the back, the building’s previous life would have been a complete mystery.

Where conveyor belts and butchering tables had once sat, there was now a complicated array of lighting rigs, flashes, background screens, and plain wooden boxes stacked randomly. A few feet away, a makeshift makeup station had been set up. Jay sat in a sleek black foldable chair, his body covered by a blue salon cape, blinking in time with each brush of powder.

“This would be much easier if you’d just sit still.” The make-up artist, a tall, dark-skinned woman with blonde streaked through her brown hair, frowned at him.

“I’m not really used to this. It’s been a while.”

“Well, it’s gonna be all day if you keep fidgeting.” Jay sighed and nodded slightly, before shutting his eyes and slowing his breathing.

“There we go.” She finished with the powder and retrieved a tube of lip balm.

“Remind me why we gotta do this again?” He opened his eyes, slowly.

“Don’t ask me, ask him,” she said, jerking a thumb in the direction of a suited man off to the side. His eyes kept darting around the interior of the warehouse.

“Because our promotional photos of you are all over two years old,” the well-dressed man said, his eyes tunneling in on Jay. “Although God knows I wish we could reuse the old ones. You’ve let yourself go, Jay.”

“We can work with it,” added a reedy voice looking into one of the camera’s viewfinders, twisting and turning one of the rings around the lens. “I’ve done more with far less.” Satisfied with the adjustments, the photographer stepped away to look Jay over. He took off a pair of thick black glasses, stuck them in the neck of his red-and-blue checked flannel, and leaned towards Jay. “Much, much less.” He winked at the duelist, and then returned to his cameras for further tinkering.

The makeup artist put the last finishing touches on his face, then removed the cape from around his neck and carefully swirled it away from him. “”All done. Go knock ‘em dead.” Jay got up from the chair and favored her with a small smile. He tugged down the bottom of his Crew jersey, checking to make sure it was evenly tucked into his baseball pants. He kicked his cleats together, knocking non-existent dirt loose from the spikes. Once everything felt settled, he stepped in front of the camera.

“Hey, David!” Jay shouted at the man in the suit. “How’s that quote go? From that movie about that old actress?”

“I don’t know, Jay-”

“I got it!” He snapped his fingers. “ ‘I’m ready for my close-up, dude.’ “

“I...don’t quite think that’s it.” David’s brow furrowed with a frown.

“Whatever,” the photographer said, flapping a hand up and down as he peered into the lens. “Less prattling, more preening.” His fingers flicked back toward the set, shooing Jay into frame.
_________________
The future lies on some horizon
So many times I had to say farewell
I know it turns out fine, following the exit sign
At least that's what I tell myself
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Capistrano
Wolf Like Me
Proven Adventurer
Proven Adventurer


Joined: 12 Feb 2008
Posts: 184

Location: A small apartment near the University of Northeast RhyDin or Clovely
6,135 Silver Nobles


PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2015 10:13 pm    Post subject: Easter Reply with quote

April 5, 2015
Battlefield Park


Like almost everything else in the city, the weather in RhyDin was utterly unpredictable. While there were plenty of days where snowstorms blanketed the entire city, or the sun would shine across the districts, there were also times when micro-thunderstorms would descend upon the Marketplace, or hail would strike the Red Dragon Inn and spare every other neighboring building. Between the Nexus and weather wizards, forecasting in RhyDin was a fool’s errand.

This Easter Sunday was one of the unpredictable days. While most of the city had been cloudy and cool, Battlefield Park had been struck overnight with rain showers. It came down slow and steady, through the evening, past midnight, and into the morning hours. The ground had turned to mud, stagnant puddles began forming in the forest’s hollows, and the swampy areas of the Park smelled even more pungent than usual.

Jay had tried to prepare for the cool weather that had been forecast for the night of the full moon and Easter morning, but he hadn’t planned for rain. Water dripped through the forest canopy as he walked through the trees to his usual drop-off spot for his clothing. Unfortunately, because he hadn’t anticipated wet weather, he hadn’t sheltered his clothes from the elements. They sat in a wet pile up against a tree trunk. Jay stared at them in disbelief.

“God dammit,” he muttered under his breath. This was a no-win situation. Either he walked out of the Park into the Niedre Creek Nature Preserves naked, and risked the Guard arresting him for indecent exposure, or he put on wet, smelly clothes. Jay looked to the heavens and sighed as he picked them up and put them on, gritting his teeth at the slimy texture on his skin. The Wrecking Crew sweatshirt, sweatpants, and sneakers would only protect his modesty. He would have likely been warmer if he had just left the clothing behind.

The smell of the rain, mud, and nearby swamp overwhelmed his nostrils, so he was unable to sniff out the intruder on his post-full moon retreat until it was nearly too late. Only when he had stepped out of the woods, into the short grass that lay between the trees and the parking lot, did he catch a whiff of something amiss. The hair on the back of his neck stood up, his lips curled back to expose his teeth, and he began rolling up his sleeves. He breathed in the dying smoke of the black town car parked crooked across two spaces, sucking in deep breaths through his nose and out his mouth. When the smoke had finally died down, Jay suddenly snorted. He visibly relaxed, but a confused expression crossed his face as he leaned forearms-first against a wooden post in the ground.

“Jameak? Jamie?” A half-orc stood by the driver’s side of the car, dressed in a blue and silver track suit. In one hand, he held a large styrofoam cup of coffee. In the other, he held an umbrella over his head.

“Jay.” He set the coffee on top of the car, then headed over to where Jay was leaning. Without prompting, Jameak threw Jay’s arm across his shoulders, supporting him as he staggered back to the passenger’s side of the vehicle. He pressed the cup into Jay’s hands and let him sit on the gravel.

“They brought you back?”

“Yep. I saw the articles in the papers, and I gave them a call. Reminded them that I’d already signed the confidentiality papers, so I’d be a faster hire than anyone off the street. Plus-” Jameak paused to shoot Jay a grin, showing off his half-tusks. “I’ve already saved your life once. Who else can they get who’s done that?”

“I-I wasn’t expecting anyone today. I mean, it’s Easter and all...I was just gonna do this myself.” Jay tucked his head between his knees. His hands clutched the cup like a rosary. “They didn’t have to do this.”

“But they did. Come-” Jameak offered Jay a hand, pulling him up once he took it. “I brought a couple things for you. Courtesy of the Crew and the Grazianos.” As soon as Jay was on his feet, Jameak opened the passenger side door. Folded neatly on the front seat was a fresh set of sweatpants, a hoody, an undershirt, underwear, and socks. On the floormat, a brand new pair of blue, silver, and black sneakers sat. “Wasn’t sure if your clothes would be wet or not, so I brought a fresh pair. Good thing I did. Go. Change. I’ll keep watch for anyone else.”

“Th-thanks.” Jay grabbed the clothes and shoes out of the car, sprinting back towards the woods. His shoes audibly sloshed with each stride. After a couple of minutes, Jay emerged in fresh Wrecking Crew apparel, the hood up on his sweatshirt to protect his hair from the drizzle. All that remained of his previous outfit was a soaked ball of fabric, which he deposited in a nearby trash can.

“We got one more thing for you.” Jameak gestured for Jay to come near the trunk. Once Jay was there, coffee in hand again, Jameak retrieved his key fob from his pocket and pressed a key. The sedan chirped, and the trunk popped open. “Take a look.”

Inside the otherwise empty trunk was a wicker Easter basket. Tufts of fake plastic grass stuck out the sides, and nearly overflowed out of the top. Sitting on the bed of green was a cornucopia of Earth candies, many that Jay had not seen since he’d traveled to RhyDin. Yellow marshmallow Peeps, Reese’s Easter eggs, Cadbury cream eggs, jelly beans, and malted milk balls all sat in the basket, wrapped in pastel foil and paper. A large chocolate Easter bunny leaned against the handle, encased in plastic inside a bright yellow box. Right next to it was a baseball cap. The bill of the hat was gold -- or was that a mustard hue? The crown was solid green, and on the front in white was a script “A’s.”

Jay balled his hand into a fist, lifted it up to his mouth, and bit lightly into his knuckles. Without the pain to focus on, he was certain he would cry. “They didn’t have to do this.” The words repeated from early held a different tone this time, quiet and tremulous.

“But again, they did,” Jameak said, smoothing out the gravel in his voice. “Do you have any idea how many different stores Ria sent me to to find that damned hat?”

“I-I…” Jay found himself lost for words. Instead, he quickly threw his arms around Jameak, hugging him tightly. The half-orc’s eyes shot open, and he mumbled something under his breath about not getting paid to hug. “Thank you, Jamie.”

“You’re welcome,” he said, pulling himself out of Jay’s embrace. “Now get in the car. We’re gonna get you home, get you in bed, and get you up in time for Easter dinner. Got it?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Jay said as he opened the passenger’s side door and slid into his seat. “I got it.”

“Good.” Jameak popped open his door and squeezed his frame inside. He put the key in the ignition and turned it. The stereo immediately turned back on, blasting a familiar orcish thrash CD. Soon, Jay fell asleep to the sounds of screaming tires and screeching vocalists.
_________________
The future lies on some horizon
So many times I had to say farewell
I know it turns out fine, following the exit sign
At least that's what I tell myself
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Capistrano
Wolf Like Me
Proven Adventurer
Proven Adventurer


Joined: 12 Feb 2008
Posts: 184

Location: A small apartment near the University of Northeast RhyDin or Clovely
6,135 Silver Nobles


PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2015 10:49 pm    Post subject: Best Friends Reply with quote

April 17, 2015
Greystone Court, New Haven


“You didn’t tell me you were married, man!” Nörrin dragged the last word out like a hit from a joint.

“You never asked.” Jay said, smirking, in between sips of a 24 ounce bottle of Silver Mark lager. The pair were sitting on the curb in front of Jay’s apartment building, with only the street lights and the shadows they threw to keep them company. The duelist was content with his bottle in a bag, but Nörrin was using the edge of his lighter to smash down a bowl’s worth of marijuana into a hand-blown glass one-hit pipe. When he was finally content with his packing job, Nörrin held the pipe up to his mouth, put his finger over the small hole on the opposite end, and danced the flame across the top of the bowl. He breathed in deeply, greedily, and held it in, until he exhaled with a racking cough. Jay turned to him, lifting an eyebrow. “You okay over there, dude?”

“Cool as a pickle.” Nörrin pounded on his chest with his fist, which seemed to end his coughing fit.

“Cucumber.”

“Whatever, man. You didn’t answer my question!”

“You, uh, didn’t ask one.”

“I didn’t?” Nörrin turned slowly towards Jay, his brown eyes quickly beginning to rim red. He held the pipe towards Jay, but he refused with an outstretched hand and shake of the head.

“No. You just said ‘You didn’t tell me you were married.’ “

“Yeah! I did! Man, but you were so thirsty! Even if I had to pull the stories out of you like teeth.”

The blue in Jay’s eyes clouded, storms forming behind his irises. “I was basically divorced, dude. You ever break up with a girl?”

“Of course, man.”

“You become a monk? You never date again? You never @#$?”

“No way!” Nörrin paused to take another hit. “I got needs, man!”

“Yeah.”

Another lull fell on the conversation, as Nörrin lit up again. “...so why’d you get back together?”

“Read the press release.” Jay flapped a hand at the dwarf, dismissing his question.

“I’m serious, dude. I know that’s all PR @#$%. You can tell me. We’re best bros!” Nörrin slapped Jay playfully on the shoulder.

“No offense, dude, but we’re not. I mean, you’re the best friend I had over there– ” Jay waved in the general direction of the college he had attended, “– but you’re not my best friend.”

“Who is, then?”

“She is.”

“I see,” Nörrin said. As the answer settled over him, he began giggling. “Actually...no...I...don’t!” His laughter bubbled up, expanding, until it overwhelmed him. He bent over, alternating between guffaws and coughs. Jay patted him on the back.

“Chill out, dude. Besides…” Jay looked up, just as a yellow taxi cab’s halogens shined straight into their eyes. “Your ride’s here. Empty that out, put it away, and just...chill out. I’ll tell you when you’re not drunk and high.”

Nörrin tipped the one-hitter over, emptying out ashes and bits of green leaf, and pocketed it. “I’m...I’m gonna remember man! I’m totally gonna ask you tomorrow! ...little help?” He held his hand up for a boost, even though Jay was still seated. With a sigh, he stood and gripped the dwarf’s hand, pulling him up. He walked over to the passenger side window of the cab and tapped on the window so that the driver would lower it.

“You know where Nörrin’s smoke shop is?” The cabbie nodded, and Jay continued. “This guy lives above it. Take him there, and make sure he gets home, yeah?” Jay reached into his pocket and pulled out some silvers, which he quickly handed to the driver. He then went to the back door and pulled it open, practically pushing Nörrin into the car. “Take care, dude,” he said, before slamming the door shut. When the car finally screeched out of sight, Jay sat back down on the curb. He picked up his bottle, took a swig, and laughed.

“No dude...no, you won’t remember.”
_________________
The future lies on some horizon
So many times I had to say farewell
I know it turns out fine, following the exit sign
At least that's what I tell myself
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Capistrano
Wolf Like Me
Proven Adventurer
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Joined: 12 Feb 2008
Posts: 184

Location: A small apartment near the University of Northeast RhyDin or Clovely
6,135 Silver Nobles


PostPosted: Sat May 09, 2015 1:22 pm    Post subject: Beltane Reply with quote

May 2, 2015
Greystone Court, New Haven


“So…” Nearly a minute passed between when Jay spotted the Wolf standing in the courtyard besides the newly filled water fountain, and when he actually bothered to address Him. He spent that minute walking methodically around the sidewalk in the dark, sniffing at the air with almost every step. As if sensing Beltane was this very night, the flowers in the beds had bloomed, and the ivy along the building’s walls seemed even greener than usual. In the far distance, hints of smoke and fire, wood and ash, carried on the wind. Most everyone was out this evening, either in the Southern Glen or at Beltane parties throughout the city. Jay, however, was alone with the Wolf. Really, Jay was alone. The Wolf was -- a hallucination? A figment of his imagination? He was usually just a voice in his head -- God only knew why He’d been given form, illusory as it was, tonight.

“So what?” The Wolf snarled at Jay as he approached. He was dressed in a red flannel, black jeans, and white sneakers, a near reversal of the blue shirt, jeans, and navy shoes Jay was wearing. A cigarette perched on the edge of His lips, already lit and glowing in the low light. His left cheek was unscarred. Otherwise, He was a mirror image of Jay.

“Whoa, chill, dude.” He held up both his hands. “I’m trying to make peace here, dude.”

“You ignore me, and then you don’t.” The Wolf took a deep drag off the cigarette, blowing out smoke that vanished across the cascading water. “You’re as flighty as those girls you complained about at college.” He suddenly snapped His fingers as a toothy grin crossed His face. “Oh, wait! I know why you’re here. You’re taking another stab at begging and pleading for me not to take over tomorrow. Almost three years, Jay. How many times have you turned since then?”

“Lost count. Three years - once a month, roughly - probably 36. But no. I’m not here to do that. I couldn’t stop you if I tried.”

“Good. It was so annoying when we first started out. And so weak.” He pulled the cigarette away from His mouth and spat onto the concrete. “You’re not weak. In fact, you could be so much stronger if you-”

“Yeah, not gonna happen,” Jay cut the Wolf off, watching as His red eyes bored into him. With a smirk, Jay gave him the finger, watching as the beast descended into guttural curses and howls. The cigarette flew out of His hands and disappeared in mid-air.

“What happened to peace?” The Wolf asked, teeth gritted and voice rasping, after He regained some semblance of emotional control.

“What happened to our agreement? Once a full moon, no more, no less?”

“You think you can stop me? You think you’re strong enough to keep me out tomorrow? You think I won’t wear you down, break you down? You have 40 or 50 years filled with full moons left. It only takes one, and then I will be off this damned leash.”

“I am strong enough.” Jay stood tall, staring down his doppelganger with icy eyes. “I held you off completely for four years, and I’ll hold you off on this until I’m dead.”

The Wolf glared back at him, before blinking and looking away. “Well, then we’re just spinning in circles, like we’ve been doing the last three years.”

Again, Jay smirked. “Not quite.”

“Not quite?” The Wolf huffed, punching the lip of the fountain. “We’re at an impass!”

“No, we’re not. Here’s the thing-” Jay paused, both for effect and to retrieve a stick of gum from his pocket. “-I know you bleed into me. The smelling, the growling, the whimpering. And you think it’s a one way street. But it’s not. As much as you bleed into me, I bleed into you. Maybe more.”

“How could you possibly have influenced me?” He asked with a snort.

“I know your heart. You claim that you just want to destroy everything, but that’s not true. You want to protect my friends. You want to protect-”

“No!”

“-you want to protect her. You hate it and it scares you because it’s something other than hate and fear and lust. You can’t fight it with your teeth and claws. You can’t fight it all.” Jay’s smile turned sharp, as he used the Wolf’s own words against him. “You should just give in now. It’s gonna happen, sooner or later. Make it easy on us.”

The Wolf took in Jay’s words, sulking in silence. “...she’s just going to leave you again, you know. She’ll betray you, like Candy and Astrid. We’ll turn, and she’ll put us down like a rabid dog.”

“...I don’t think so.” Jay held up his right hand, showing off the tungsten wedding band on his ring finger. “I don’t think so.” He repeated the words again for strength. “She believes I can beat you, so I believe I can beat you, so I’ll beat you.” He set his jaw, arms folded across his chest.

“You think that matters? We all know that’s fake!”

“Maybe it is now, but someday...it won’t be.”

“...We’re finished here.” The Wolf walked swiftly past Jay, His eyes cast down on the sidewalk.

“Hey!” Jay shouted at the back of the departing figure. The Wolf turned, His gaze aimed somewhere around Jay’s chest. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

With a snarl, the Wolf flipped Jay the bird, and pivoted back on his feet to jog away, disappearing from sight halfway across the street. Jay laughed and sat down on the fountain’s edge, sniffing at the air again. The smoke had died down, and all he could smell was the sweet of the flowers.
_________________
The future lies on some horizon
So many times I had to say farewell
I know it turns out fine, following the exit sign
At least that's what I tell myself
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Capistrano
Wolf Like Me
Proven Adventurer
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Joined: 12 Feb 2008
Posts: 184

Location: A small apartment near the University of Northeast RhyDin or Clovely
6,135 Silver Nobles


PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2015 11:42 pm    Post subject: Vengeance, Part 1 Reply with quote

May 16/17
Nörrin’s Smoke Shop


The worst thing about nicotine addiction for Jay was that the cravings never really disappeared. Most of the time, they were just background noise as he went about his day. It was easy to block out when eating, exercising, or watching video. But the desire was never far from the surface, and almost anything could set it off. Sticking a pen in his mouth. Reaching into his pocket for chewing gum. Sitting on the sidewalk drinking a beer with a friend. Seeing somebody else light up. It simply wasn’t possible to avoid all the situations that might expose him to smoking, so he had learned (with the help of the Crew’s doctors and counselors) how to redirect that energy, that longing, towards something else. How to clear his mind through meditation and deep breathes of the impulse to smoke. It usually worked. Tonight, it didn’t.

Perhaps it was the nerves from the Warlord Tournament he was scheduled to fight in the next day, or perhaps it was the fact that he was in the city while Sami was in Clovely working. Or perhaps it would have happened no matter who was there, or what was scheduled for tomorrow. Regardless, he had seen one of the callers light a cigarette at the Arena that night, smelled the familiar smoke, and that old, familiar craving called to him.

After a quick stop at his apartment to change out of his dueling uniform into jeans and a plain black t-shirt, he headed down to his old stomping grounds near the RhyDin Arts and Sciences College. Nörrin kept late hours, so he was pretty confident the store would be open by the time he got down there. The door to the shop hung open, and drum-heavy metal music poured out onto the sidewalk. When Jay stepped inside, he attempted to shout over the din.

“Nörrin, you gotta turn this *** down, man! They’re gonna call the guard on you!” There was no response from the dwarf, nor did he poke his head up from behind the counter. “Jesus, dude, did you finally deafen yourself?” Still, there was no response. Annoyed, Jay reached across the counter to flip the boom box off. While he was back there, he looked around. Nörrin was nowhere to be found. “Did you fall in the toilet, dude?” Jay asked, still shouting despite the fact the music was off. “Or did you finally smoke yourself unconscious?”

“...nrn.” A faint, muffled moan came from the back of the shop, just as Jay began sniffing at the air. Mixed in with the familiar odors of tobacco and marijuana was one that didn’t belong in the store: blood. His eyes dropped to the wooden floor. Drops of red dotted a path back to the humidor. Nörrin’s short figure slumped against the glass door. Jay sprinted across the ground and tried to open it. Locked. Jay took a couple of test tugs at the handle, testing the strength of the hinges. Then, he grabbed it with both hands and tugged as hard as he could. The metal shrieked, but eventually he pulled the door free, sending Nörrin tumbling to the ground. Jay quickly set it aside, mumbling an apology to the dwarf. He immediately noticed the gash on the side of Nörrin’s temple and took off his shirt, pressing it against the wound.

“Nörrin, can you talk? What happened?”

“...Robbed. Guy...pistol-whipped me.” The rest of the sentence dissolved into further moaning, and Jay retrieved his cell phone from his pocket. He was just about to dial the emergency number when a pair of guardsmen entered the shop.

The first one was a tall orc, who had to duck his head to fit through the entrance. Close on his heels was a woman half his height, her dark brown hair neatly done up in a bun. Jay frantically waved them over. The two officers looked over at each other, eyebrows raised.

“This was supposed to be a loud music call,” the orc rumbled.

“Well-” The woman started to speak, but Jay interrupted her.

“You gotta get him to a hospital! Someone robbed him and hit him with a gun!” At those words, the policewoman walked swiftly across the store and knelt down beside Nörrin, gently pulling Jay’s hand away from the makeshift compress. She took over for him, asking Nörrin how he was feeling. The orc stayed by the front door, his dark green eyes scanning the room. He reached for the walkie-talkie on his waist and lifted it to his mouth.

“Officer Skullsplitter reporting, our noise complaint is now a robbery response with injured vic, over.” The voice on the other end crackled and hissed before responding in the affirmative.

“You’re…?” The guardswoman asked Jay, leaving the end of the question blank so that he could fill in.

“A friend. I was just stopping in to buy cigarettes. I found him here.” He looked back into the humidor, and noticed something he had missed earlier. A blue bandana, speckled with drops of Nörrin’s blood. His eyes immediately cut over to the unhinged door. Hers followed, narrowing when she saw it.

“What happened to the door?”

“He was locked in there. I didn’t have the key.” Jay stood up, taking a few steps into the humidor and crouching on the other side of Nörrin. Instead of leaning over him to provide further aid and comfort, Jay picked up the bandana and sniffed it. He smelled sweat, spit, Nörrin’s blood, a musk-based cologne -- or was that the robber’s pheromones? He inhaled deeply, before dropping it on Nörrin’s chest. He had enough to track this bastard down.

“This yours, dude?” Jay asked.

“No, it’s-”

“Cool. I gotta go.” He stepped around the female officer before she could get in his way, but Officer Skullsplitter moved quickly to put himself between the door.
“You’re not going anywhere, buddy. We’ve got questions for you.” The male officer folded his forearms across his chest. Rather than deter Jay, it just quickened his gait.

“Get out of my way!” Jay roared, as the orc withdrew his baton from its sheath. The duelist moved quicker though, and the weapon hadn’t made it halfway out before Jay bull rushed him, driving his shoulder into Officer Skullsplitter’s gut. He felt the female officer approaching him from behind, and grabbed the taller man’s arm and swung him around and into her. They collided with a pair of grunts, and Jay wasted no time sprinting for the exit. He heard the shouts behind him, and the faint squawk of the guardsman’s radio, but they soon receded as he ran away from the store and out of the neighborhood, nostrils flaring as his feet pounded the pavement.

Gotta keep the scent, gotta keep the scent, gotta keep the scent. His tongue lolled out of the side of his mouth as he kept running, sucking deep breathes in through his mouth, his nose stuck up in the air and sniffing constantly. That son of a bitch was going to pay for what he did to Nörrin.
_________________
The future lies on some horizon
So many times I had to say farewell
I know it turns out fine, following the exit sign
At least that's what I tell myself
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View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Capistrano
Wolf Like Me
Proven Adventurer
Proven Adventurer


Joined: 12 Feb 2008
Posts: 184

Location: A small apartment near the University of Northeast RhyDin or Clovely
6,135 Silver Nobles


PostPosted: Thu May 21, 2015 10:12 pm    Post subject: Vengeance, Part 2 Reply with quote

May 16/17
Dockside


Jay hated the way Dockside smelled. It wasn’t the garbage sitting in trash cans and dumpsters that hadn’t been picked up in a timely manner. It wasn’t the stale sweat and cheap booze of its working-class (or non-working) citizens that clung to the air. It wasn’t even the overwhelming seafood stench, the fishiness that blanketed every surface and inch of air in the district. It was the way those scents mingled. Dockside reeked like a dark mirror of his California beaches, with more stink, more rot, more decay. He remembered trips as a kid to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, where the ocean aroma was more salt than fish, where the people were perfumed with coconut oil and not dirt and sweat, and where the worst thing he might stumble across was vomit from a kid who ate one too many corn dogs before hopping on the Giant Dipper.

He shook his head violently, dislodging the memory and focusing on the reason for his trip to Dockside. The scent is here. Even through the melange of odors that made up the district, Jay could still smell him. Luckily, he didn’t appear to have ventured too far into the neighborhood, close to the sea. His nose led him down a long cul-de-sac near the west gate between Dockside and Old Temple. The sidewalk curbs had crumbled in several spots (where there were sidewalks), the pavement was filled with potholes, and the lawns were a mix of tall weeds and grass. Closer to the gate and the cul-de-sac entrance were small, one-story, prefabricated houses, but as Jay walked down the road, those gave way to two and three-story apartment buildings. They sat in pairs, flanking concrete exterior stairwells that took residents up to each floor. Though the late evening was slipping into early morning, Jay still saw several residents sitting on porches, balconies, or underneath the steps. Some talked quietly amongst themselves, some smoked and drank Badsiders openly, and some sang along to some beat-heavy tune blaring from a boombox placed in the open trunk of an old four-door sedan with a faded white paint job. They didn’t seem to notice -- or care -- when he hopped on the porch of an abandoned (or foreclosed) home and stole a two-by-four from near a boarded up window.

The trail led to the end of the road, in one of those apartment buildings. Jay finally felt the eyes of the residents on his back as he stepped off the street onto the sidewalk, shirtless, a wooden board in his left hand. He turned his fierce blue irises on them, and watched as they suddenly regained interest in their card games, their cigarettes, or their bottles. He paused at the stairs, nose lifted for yet another sniff. Second floor, to the right of the staircase. He walked up and loped towards the apartment, sticking his ear against the wall. There was muffled conversation coming through the walls, and so Jay waited to count how many voices he could hear, how many different people he could smell. One, two, three, four. At least one with a gun. He paused, popping out of his lean to stand in front of the door. He put his right hand over the peephole. We can take them.

In lieu of knocking, Jay kicked the door, shouting. “You better @#$% open up, or I’m opening it for you.” The conversation died down, and he heard one of the occupants stand and walk over. The door opened slightly before a metal chain clicked against its lock.

“ @#$% off, buddy,” the man at the entrance hissed. A chorus of laughter chimed in behind him.

“I warned you.” Jay took a couple of steps back, before lifting one foot up and crashing it into the door as hard as he could. The cheap wood was no match for his strength. The hinges gave way and the chain snapped as the door flew into the apartment, slamming into the man who had answered. Four other faces turned toward the entryway in stunned silence.

In that split-second, Jay took inventory of the room and its occupants. Door Man, stumbling backwards with the impact of Jay’s kick. To the left, two men sat on a couch with a coffee table in front of them. Silver coins were stacked on the wooden surface, and a familiar purple cloth bag sat next to a man cleaning his fingernails with a balisong. Balisong Boy sat beside Mohawk Man. To the right, a short squat dwarf carried a wooden baseball bat (earning him the nickname Bat Boy), and his ultimate target, the man with the gun, leaned against an island countertop. Jay swore under his breath. He’d miscalculated the number of people in the room.

“Get him!” Gun Man shouted, as Jay sprang into the room with a loud growl. The two men on the couch were slow to react, and Door Man was still dazed from Jay’s earlier kick, but the crooks by the counter reacted quickly. Bat Boy took a shot at Jay and missed, as the duelist ducked under the blow to shoulder-block tackle Gun Man before he could fire the pistol. Jay followed the tackle with a hard swing of the two-by-four at Gun Man’s hand, jarring the weapon lose and leaving him shaking his wrist in pain. Bat Boy cracked his weapon against Jay’s shoulder blades, earning him a back elbow to the nose. He staggered away, blood pouring down his face, as the men on the left finally stood up.

Door Man shoved the ruined door out of his way, but he didn’t make it much further than that before Jay dove in his direction, slamming the two-by-four across his face. He collapsed back to the floor, and Jay jumped towards Bat Boy and swung the processed chunk of wood at his skull. He slumped into the countertop and slid to the floor, and Jay quickly tossed aside the lumber in favor of the bat. Two down, three to go.

Gun Man tried to retrieve his weapon, so Jay chucked the bat at him, grazing the side of his head. Mohawk Man and Balisong Boy rushed him as soon as he threw it. Mohawk Man ate a right-handed jab from Jay that knocked him flat out, but the werewolf instantly regretted the blow for two reasons. One, the impact of fist on forehead broke all the fingers in his hand. Two, it gave Balisong Boy a free and direct attack on him. He swiped at Jay, just barely missing cutting his throat. He did manage to carve up his right cheek, and warmth quickly blossomed and dripped down his chin and chest. Jay drove a knee into his torso, and somersaulted towards Gun Man, who was trying yet again to pick up his pistol. Jay grabbed the bat on the roll and sprung up swinging, catching Gun Man in the ear. He yelped, clutching the side of his head, and Jay brought the bat down squarely on his temple. He had the bat lifted for another blow when he felt a sharp pain in his side. Balisong Boy had sliced him across the lower back, just below his rib cage.

Jay roared at the top of his lungs, as the delinquent backed up and waved the knife in desperate defense. When that didn’t seem to deter Jay, he switched back to offense, lashing out with the blade. Instinctively, Jay’s right hand went up to defend with the shield he wasn’t carrying. Blood welled up quickly across his broken fingers, and he roared again. It froze Balisong Boy for a moment, and that moment was all Jay needed. He quickly thrust the barrel of the bat into his opponent’s midsection, doubling him over. He followed with a rising knee to his jaw, which nearly put him out on his feet, and concluded with an overhead smash of the bat, which did knock him out. A quick glance around the room revealed the other fighters were in similar shape: unconscious, or moaning quietly on the floor. Jay dropped the bat, grabbed the prone figure of Gun Man, and dragged him back towards the table. He propped him against the edge, and slapped him across the face.

“Wake up, @#$%.”

“...wha’?” Gun Man’s eyes were glassy, unfocused. He tried to push up to a more seated position, and screamed in pain when his damaged fingers pressed against the carpet.

“Wake up, @#$%. Do you know who you @#$% with?”

“...Makos?” Jay responded by slapping him again.

“You @#$% with my friend. Nobody hurts my friends.” The duelist finished the conversation by coldcocking the robber with a hard left jab. And another. And another. Blood burst from his ruined nose, and still it wasn’t enough.

Kill him! He’d have done the same to you! Make him pay! Jay’s fist remained raised, poised to strike another blow. He started sucking in deep breaths, his vision starting to swim from his injuries. His hand began to shake, until finally, he unclenched it. Instead, he walked over to Mohawk Man and tore off his black t-shirt, pressing it against his side. Before he left the apartment, he snagged Nörrin’s money bag from the coffee table, tucking it in the waistband of his jeans as best he could.

Jay staggered out and down the stairs, leaving a trail of red in his wake. He made it as far as the curb before his adrenaline cut out, leaving him exhausted and hurt. He flopped into a seated position on the concrete, reaching into his pocket for his cell phone. He started by dialing the Crew’s emergency number.

“Ria, I’m sorry...I’m gonna miss the Warlord Tournament. I need...they’re going to send me to whatever hospital’s here in Dockside. I need our doctors and a lawyer there. Sorry.”

Next, he dialed the city’s emergency number.

“I’m here...Dockside. I found the guy who robbed Nörrin’s Smoke Shop earlier tonight. He’s...no, I don’t know what the address is. You can’t track my phone? You can? Good. I’m gonna need an ambulance, too. I’m not doing…”

The phone slipped out of his hand as he fell unconscious.
_________________
The future lies on some horizon
So many times I had to say farewell
I know it turns out fine, following the exit sign
At least that's what I tell myself
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Capistrano
Wolf Like Me
Proven Adventurer
Proven Adventurer


Joined: 12 Feb 2008
Posts: 184

Location: A small apartment near the University of Northeast RhyDin or Clovely
6,135 Silver Nobles


PostPosted: Tue Jun 02, 2015 6:37 pm    Post subject: Vengeance, Part 3 Reply with quote

May 17
Dockside


Dockside General Hospital, to put it bluntly, was an ugly building. It was a squat, concrete rectangle on a reclaimed brownfield, surrounded by other empty parcels of land that had been less fortunate in finding new uses after the last economic downturn. Possibly two or three economic downturns ago, even. It was clearly designed for function over form, and if it had ever been in architectural vogue, well, that style had went out decades ago. The elements had chipped and cracked much of the beige exterior, and the brown stone accents that wrapped around the building had nearly faded to the same color as the primary stone.

Inside was much the same story. The workers kept the hospital clean and sterile at least, but there weren't many homey touches among the harsh fluorescent lights, the waxed yellow-brown tiled flooring, or the white paint on the walls. There was little here to sooth nervous patients, or their families and friends. The staff buzzed through the halls, quick and efficient with their duties although lacking in friendliness. Many of those waiting nervously on their loved ones were clearly poor, if not outright destitute. Dirty work clothes, rags, and ill-fitting dresses and skirts were all too common here.

The Crew had at least managed to get Jay moved into a private room, though a private room at Dockside General was about the same quality as a normal room at any other hospital in the city. Still, he was the only one in the room, even if the bed lift was balky and the television mounted high on the wall didn't work. He lay in his bed, half-awake from the painkillers being pumped in through an IV. The scars on the left side of his face were now joined by black stitches on the right cheek, curving down from near his ear to his jaw. The fingers on his right hand were splinted and wrapped up in bandages, while underneath the blanket were more stitches and bandaging. Outside the door to the room, Jameak stood watch, his face placid and still.

Sami navigated the halls of the hospital like an old pro. Because she was. This was not her first time visiting someone here. Each visit always seemed a little less pleasant than the last.

Only an hour before, she got called in from a several day training drill to Sir Chase's office to accept a call from the Crew in which a very efficient and brisk young woman had run through the details that she had clearly been tasked with relaying -- Jay's location, a rough run-down of what had happened, and his condition. She found herself thanking the woman in a quiet tone only to wonder why she was thanking her. The Crew assistant was being paid and she hadn't done a particularly good job of breaking the news. But a numb 'thank you' seemed to be the only response she could come up with.

A car had taken her into New Haven where she changed into something she knew would be inconspicuous at Dockside General. Having settled on jeans and a zip-up hoodie, she packed a bag for Jay and within an hour of the call, she was slipping through the halls unquestioned. She'd been given a room number but even if she hadn't, it would have been hard to miss Jameak. She shifted the weight of the bag by adjusting the strap of the bag as she approached him. "Hey, Dapper Dan. How're you doing?"

Jamie smiled a toothy grin for Sami, showing off his half-tusks. It was quite a change from when they had first met, when the two had not gotten along particularly well. Time --and perhaps Jay's 'marriage' to Sami -- had softened the half-orc's view of her some. Jamie pushed the door open for her and held it so it wouldn't spring shut. "I am fine, thank you," he rumbled in a deep, gravelly voice. "Wish we were meeting under better circumstances. Go. He'll be happy to see you."

Her time with the Rhovniks had left her steadier, more grown-up. The paranoia and terror that had ruled her life years before had been beaten back. It was easier to see her as good for Jay now as opposed to yet another piece of his life that could land him in trouble. She'd been hoping for a longer conversation, she'd been hoping to center herself against the panic that had shaken her with the phone call.

But Jamie was right to usher her out of the hallway and into the room. She needed to be in there. "Thank you," she replied, but with more gratitude than the numb one the assistant got earlier.
_________________
The future lies on some horizon
So many times I had to say farewell
I know it turns out fine, following the exit sign
At least that's what I tell myself
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Capistrano
Wolf Like Me
Proven Adventurer
Proven Adventurer


Joined: 12 Feb 2008
Posts: 184

Location: A small apartment near the University of Northeast RhyDin or Clovely
6,135 Silver Nobles


PostPosted: Tue Jun 02, 2015 6:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jay's head turned on the pillow and called out towards the doorway, though he wasn't able to raise his voice much. "Jamie, who's there, dude?" Before his bodyguard had time to answer, though, Sami had stepped into the room. Emotions flashed across his face rapid-fire, one after the other: happiness, nervousness, worry, concern. With the medicine, he wasn't able to hide the way he usually did. He was even quieter when he spoke to her, once the door had shut behind her. It was almost more of a breath than a word. "Hey."

Blindly, she reached out to set the bag on some counter space before tracing a path towards the bed. There had been a run-down on his injuries on the phone but she carefully inspected him as she approached, wanting to see everything for herself. "I want to be angry with you but I can't get over how relieved I am that you are breathing," she said breathlessly.

He seemed nearly ready to respond to that, but then panic suddenly crossed his face. "How's Nörrin? I haven't heard anything from anyone since I got here." He spoke faster, and the effort left him wincing.

Her approach came to an undecided stop with the question, arms crossing over her chest as she settled in place. "A concussion. Mild. And some stitches. Treated and released. The Crew made sure he got home and that there's someone there with him overnight."

"Good." He closed his eyes and stayed quiet for several moments. It would have been easy to mistake it for sleep, if he hadn't broken the silence by speaking again. "You should be mad at me." One eye cracked open carefully, trying to gauge her reaction.

"Yeah," she replied as she finished the path towards the hospital bed, shifting her weight to lift a knee onto it. "Scoot over."

Jay gritted his teeth as he shifted over in bed, closer to the high window above it. Moving still irritated the stitches on his lower back, and he had been warned (half-aware on pain medication, of course) not to over-exert that area, lest the stitches split. When she was in position on the bed, he held up his right hand, all splinted and bandaged. "They had to cut off my wedding band." He barked out a laugh that wasn't entirely sincere.

"Did they?" That stung a bit. The hurt littered its way across her expression as she sunk down beside him on her side to face him. Her hands, palms pressed together, rested on the pillow between it and her cheek.

He saw the hurt expression and quickly turned away, his eyes drifting up to catch the light out of the window. "Everything was all swollen up, and they had to get the splints on." Jay sighed, turning back to her with a guilty look on his face. He knew that wasn't the real reason she was angry at him, and the half-hearted attempt at humor had backfired on him. "They've already got an order in on a new one." He could have nudged the conversation in the direction of the real source of her anger, but he didn't. Instead, he let his eyes flutter shut again.

She was quiet for a moment as she studied his face. There was a deep breath followed by an even exhale. A second, a third. But the fourth exhale...? It was a little shaky. Tears gathered in her eyes and her voice shook as she whispered at him. "What would happen to me, Jay? If something bad happens to you, what happens to me? You are a part of my entire adult life. Even when we were apart, you were there, in my head."

A lump formed in his throat, and he tried and tried and tried to swallow it, but it wouldn't go away. He could tell from her voice that she was on the verge of crying, and he knew if he saw that, he probably would follow suit. So he kept his eyes shut, coughed and cleared his throat, and forced the words out. "I don't know. I don't know. I..." He still couldn't bring himself to apologize.

"I'll tell you. I wouldn't survive it. I've survived a lot. Too much. But I would not survive that. I just wouldn't." One hand slid out from under her head to brush away a tear that had escaped the stranglehold she had on them.
_________________
The future lies on some horizon
So many times I had to say farewell
I know it turns out fine, following the exit sign
At least that's what I tell myself
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Wolf Like Me
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 02, 2015 6:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

He opened his eyes, looked over at her, and instantly regretted it. He could live with his injuries, but knowing her pain was all his fault? He could feel tears welling up and his left hand quickly swiped at his eyes to brush them away before he began to completely cry. "I wish...I wish I could tell you I would have done things differently, if I had another chance to. But I wouldn't. Nobody hurts my friends. And I could track them down much faster than the guard."

It was an answer she knew before it even spilled out of his mouth. It was why she couldn't find it in herself to yell and vent. What was the point? He wouldn't have done things differently. A heavy exhale was released and unable to look at him any longer, she twisted just enough to turn her gaze up to the ceiling. "The Crew handled everything. There won't be any charges."

"I guess...I should be thankful." He rubbed under his eyes with his one good hand. "I guess I also shouldn't ask what they had to do to make that happen."

"I didn't ask a lot of questions but I had the feeling a lot of money exchanged hands," she murmured, feeling that numbness creep back in.

"Yeah, that's what I figured." He sighed deeply, trying to tuck his left hand behind his head. He had forgotten about the IV, though, and he hissed in pain before letting it drop back on his side. "I was supposed to fight in the Warlord tournament. Maybe win a match for once, maybe win it all, bring some attention and fresh blood to the merchandising. Instead I'm going to be out for a freaking month. At least." A soft laugh escaped his lips. "That's how you know we're family. They paid all that money even though I haven't done **** for them in the rings since I came back."

With a sudden sniffle, she shifted to let her feet spill over the edge of the bed as she began to sit up. "Yeah, yeah. I guess."

He looked at her back, as she sat up and seemed ready to hop out of the hospital bed. "...Do you want me to say that I will never do something like that again?"

The question caused her to freeze in place as she thought about it. She remained seated on the edge, her back to him and her feet dangling over the floor. "No, it would be a lie," she replied. "But I thought I was a piece of the equation. You know? But you're lying here hurt without your wedding band and you are talking about how important your friends are and how the Crew is family. I'm just the stupid girl who is pretending to be married to you."

Both hands lifted from the bed this time to swipe at tears before they fell back to the bed and Sami pushed herself to her feet. "I should get back to work but I brought you clothes and some stuff."

It came out so quiet, it might not have been heard at first. "I won't." He wanted to get up out of the bed and stop her from leaving, but he was still tired and drugged.

Her arms crossed protectively over her chest as she turned back to face him. "What?"

"I promise you. Whatever you want me to swear on, I won't do that again. I-" The air rushed out of him, like he had been kicked in the gut. "I'm sorry for all this. I don't want you to leave me."

He didn't want her to leave. It took a moment for that to sink in. She stood there for a second allowing it to infiltrate through the years of distrust and lack of self-worth and loneliness down to the raw, vulnerable heart of her. "Jay," she murmured quietly as she headed back to the side of the bed. "I don't want you to change who you are. I want to be part of it. I want what happens to me to be a consideration."

He forced himself to sit up in bed, his back against the rickety headboard. He nodded, indicating he had heard her, but he pressed through to the heart of the matter. What was weighing on his mind like a ton of bricks at that moment. "I'm so scared you'll leave me again. Because I did this before, or something like this. And I said I wouldn't, but then I did. I just keep screwing this up, don't I? Am I always gonna keep screwing this up?"

She sunk back onto the bed, tucking one leg beneath her and letting her other dangle off the side of the bed. Her back rested beside his against the headboard. "I think we probably will keep screwing up. I think that's what happens. I think we just have to keep talking."

He tried to angle his shoulder against hers, desperate for some sort of connection. "I'm here. I'm talking. I'm listening."

Her eyes drifted shut when his shoulder made contact, some tension draining free of her form. "I want our marriage to be real. I want it so badly it hurts. It's this bitter sad lump that I carry around with me everywhere. And when something like this happens, it taunts me."

One eye dragged down towards his left hand, the IV stuck in it, and the plastic tube tracing its way back to the metal stand by his bedside. He cursed it under his breath. "I'm sorry." He couldn't say much more than that, not without feeling like he would rip another hole in her heart. Sorry, I'm not ready yet? Sorry, I'm still afraid you'll leave? He nuzzled her neck, knowing it was a pale substitution for the words that she really wanted him to say.

She nodded slowly as she stared down at her feet. This was ridiculous. She would never be good enough, never be pretty enough, never be blonde enough. "Yeah. Me too."

"I'm trying," he murmured close to her ear. "I'm trying as hard as I can." But even he wondered if he was telling the truth.

((Edited and adapted from live RP))
_________________
The future lies on some horizon
So many times I had to say farewell
I know it turns out fine, following the exit sign
At least that's what I tell myself
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View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Capistrano
Wolf Like Me
Proven Adventurer
Proven Adventurer


Joined: 12 Feb 2008
Posts: 184

Location: A small apartment near the University of Northeast RhyDin or Clovely
6,135 Silver Nobles


PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2015 10:13 pm    Post subject: Vengeance, Part 4 Reply with quote

May 22, 2015
Nörrin’s Smoke Shop

Jay knew things were back to normal at Nörrin’s Smoke Shop, or at least close, when he heard the pounding dwarvish metal from nearly half a block away. He shook his head to himself as he walked down the sidewalk to his friend’s store, throwing open the door with a shout.

“Nörrin, dude! You gotta turn that @%#$ down!” How many times have I yelled that at him? Nörrin didn’t respond, right away, and so Jay figured he was probably either in the humidor or in the storage area in the back. He slipped behind the display case and found the volume dial of Nörrin’s boombox, twisting it so that the volume was more manageable to his sensitive ears. He took a moment while he was back behind the counter to survey the store.

Nörrin, or the people he had hired, had fixed the store up in what felt like record time. The blood on the floor had been cleaned up, and there was no visual or olfactory proof it had ever been there. The humidor door that Jay had wrenched free from its hinges had been replaced, and the inside of the room had been thoroughly cleaned as well. In fact, the only real change Jay noticed would not have been seen by him, had he not snuck back into Nörrin’s workspace. On the floor behind the display case was a gray metal safe with a digital display and keypad on top. A new sign had also been placed on top of the glass, next to the register.

Cash register contains less than 100 silvers. Store safe cannot be opened by employee on premises.

A minute or two had passed between when Jay turned the music down and when Nörrin finally emerged from storage, grumbling. “Whoever turned my tunes down, man, not cool! Can’t you read the sign? ‘Staff only beyond this point.’” He pointed at a spot on the ceiling near the entrance, where a black sign with white text hung. Employees only.

“That’s how you’re gonna thank me for saving your life, dude?” Jay asked the dwarf with a good-natured laugh, as he stepped out on to the shop floor. When Nörrin heard and saw Jay, he rushed across the store and wrapped the duelist up in a fierce hug. Jay sucked in a breath, as Nörrin’s embrace strained the stitches in his lower back. “You’re hurting me, dude.”

Nörrin quickly pulled back, mumbling an apology. His enthusiasm couldn’t be dampered for long, though, and he held out a fist for Jay to bump. After a brief pause, he obliged.

“My man! My @#$%ing guardian angel! Your friends with ‘ Wrecking Crew Enterprises’ gave me the lowdown, once my brains were a little less scrambled.” Nörrin pointed at the small bandage on his temple. “I can’t believe you went to all that trouble for me.”

“Nobody hurts my friends.” The words came out with less intensity than when Jay had growled them at the thug who had injured Nörrin, or when he repeated them to Sami. Nobody hurts my friends but me. “And you’re my friend. ‘Course I’m gonna do that.”

“Track down the @#$! who did this to me and take the money back?” Nörrin took a step back, and more carefully scrutinized his friend. He couldn’t see the cut on Jay’s back, covered as it was by a t-shirt, but he could see the sling and cast on his right hand and arm, the bandages on those fingers, and the curved black stitches on his right cheek. “How many of them were there?”

“ ‘I have been advised by my attorney not to say anything on this matter.’” Jay parroted back the words the Crew’s attorney had told him to speak if he was asked about the attack. There was a hint of a smile on his face, but it was clearly forced.

“Aw, no fair, man!” Nörrin folded his arms across his chest and shot Jay a dirty look, but he couldn’t stay mad for long. A beaming grin soon returned.

“Yeah, yeah,” Jay said, waving off Nörrin’s temporary grumpiness. “Glad to see you’ve moved on from the ‘cash in a bag’ money storage method.”

“Yeah. I had insurance, so even though you got everything back, they were still willing to help me out with getting a safe. ‘An ounce of prevention, a pound of cure’, or some such bull@#$%, they told me. My dad helped me pick one out. Said ‘It had to be strong enough to withstand a blow from the hammer of the gods.’ Nörrin’s voice deepened as he imitated his father, and he punctuated the sentence with a roll of his eyes.

“Good. I wanted to see you sooner -- wanted to see if you were okay right after that, but, y’know, I was pretty messed up myself.”

“Don’t worry, man!” Nörrin clapped Jay lightly on the shoulder, unsure of where his non-visible wounds were located. “I don’t think I can thank you enough for what you did for me. But…”

“Hmm?”

The dwarf glanced back at the humidor, scratching his head. “They said you ripped the door off to get me out. How in the world did you do that?”

“Adrenaline. Humans under extreme stress are capable of some pretty awesome things.” Jay returned the earlier clap to his shoulder with one of his own. “C’mon, Nörrin, let’s take a break. You can burn one down, and I’ll smoke a cigarette with you.”

“I thought you quit?”

“Yeah, I did, but I think I can cheat for one day. I’ve been under a lot of stress.” He began moving towards the door slowly, so the shorter man could keep up with him.

“Yeah, I can imagine.”

Jay laughed right as he opened the door. The electronic chime covered up most of the sound, making it seem less flat and forced than it was. You have no idea, buddy. No idea.
_________________
The future lies on some horizon
So many times I had to say farewell
I know it turns out fine, following the exit sign
At least that's what I tell myself
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Capistrano
Wolf Like Me
Proven Adventurer
Proven Adventurer


Joined: 12 Feb 2008
Posts: 184

Location: A small apartment near the University of Northeast RhyDin or Clovely
6,135 Silver Nobles


PostPosted: Thu Jun 30, 2016 12:24 am    Post subject: Band-Aids on Bullet Wounds Reply with quote

"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

(George Orwell)

"I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent."

(Mahatma Gandhi)


June 2016

What the **** am I doing here? Jay crouched at the edge of a Dockside apartment building’s rooftop, dressed entirely inappropriately for the muggy heat that had settled over the city like a blanket from a broken dryer. Even at night, his black hooded sweatshirt and track pants kept him far warmer than he would have preferred. Sweat trickled down the back of his neck, tracing several different routes down his back. He grumbled and shifted his stance, then adjusted the dark blue bandana covering up his mouth and nose.

Ruining your marriage? Staring down into the abyss uselessly? Finally deciding to end it all to get rid of me?

Jay snorted under his breath at the Wolf. Hardly. We’ve been together this long, might as well stick it out to the end.

I’m touched. I might be more touched if you’d let me out more than once a month.

Yeah, well, we’re just gonna have to agree to disagree on that one. The Wolf whuffled, and Jay smirked as he put the binoculars up to his eyes again. He wasn’t here to argue with his other side. He actually did have a mission, vague as it seemed to the Wolf. To himself, even.

Jay peered over the edge at another apartment below and across the way, watching as the dim light within grew brighter. A young teen walked into view, presumably from the door to the unit, shedding his backpack somewhere on the floor inside. He tossed the pink-dyed tips of his brown hair, pursed his lips, and looked around. The boy reminded Jay of a fellow street kid he had run into now and then, when he’d been spending more time fighting as the Dreamwalker around Los Angeles. Hector. He dyed his dark brown hair all sorts of kaleidoscope shades, including pink at one point, if Jay remembered correctly. Hector never failed to give anyone who asked the last cigarette in his pack, the last dollar in his pocket for bus fare, the final fries straggling in the bag of the In-N-Out hamburger combo that the gutter punks always had to split at least two ways. It made up for the fact that Hector loved The Smiths way more than any punk ever should.

Jay had been the only one to feel that way among their peers. He had come back in the early morning hours after fighting a night hag to see Hector sitting on the sidewalk, the hem of his white t-shirt lifted up over his mouth and nose, quickly turning red. With their punk house party winding down, Hector had slipped a copy of The Queen is Dead into the stereo. The few drunk residents and partygoers that remained had broken his nose. Jay had slipped the kid what little money he had -- not even ten dollars, if he remembered right -- and went back to dreamwalking. He never saw Hector again.

The boy in the apartment though? Jay had first noticed his similarities to Hector when he met him at the civic center he’d been volunteering at as part of an internship for his social work degree. The administrators and organizers of the space wanted to give a safe space to RhyDin youth who had troubles with their parents because they were “different” : magic-users whose parents were muggles, weres ranging from wolf to panther to lion and nearly everything in between, LGBTQ kids with homophobic dads and moms, sun worshippers with families to whom heliocentric faith was anathema. Funding was tight, and the need much more acute than even Jay could imagine. After his first day, he’d told his mentor it felt like putting Band-Aids on bullet wounds, and she had nodded, then shook her head.

“We do what we can with what he have and tell ourselves ‘It’s better than nothing’, and most of the time we believe it.”

Well, she was just a middle-aged woman in self-knit sweaters and thick-rimmed glasses, with no powers that Jay could immediately notice. Just patience and experience and a voice that could pitch itself just right to be heard over a throng of shouting teens. But Jay? Jay had the Wolf. Jay had years of fighting experience. Jay had been a Warlord in the Duel of Swords, had made the final four in DoS Madness on more than one occasion. He had sharpened his violence into a tool that had made him comfortable financially and made him a number of good friends. And allowed him to meet Sami.

Now, he had a chance to do something even greater with it. He could protect these kids -- the worst-abused ones. The ones who came in with bruised faces, wore long-sleeves in the summer, wouldn’t look Jay in the eye when he spoke to them. He wouldn’t call himself a savior, no. Not that. Maybe...a protector? An avenger? Maybe an archangel, like his confirmation namesake, Michael, the tip of the spear stabbing at the heart of these villains.

Distracted by his thoughts, he’d almost missed it when the boy’s father (Jay was guessing) stepped into the light. He watched as the kid cringed while dad shouted at him, then lifted his hand up in preparation for a backhand. That settled it.

Jay stood up and howled at the top of his lungs, his neck craning toward the moons. He held his hands up and outward, his fingers curling into claws and digging into his palms. He watched as two sets of eyes turned toward his roof, widening at the sight of him. He smiled. Then, he reached to his side, grabbing the grappling hook and rope he had brought with him, and spun it around a few times. He flung it towards their window, sending father and son dashing away from the glass before it shattered on them. After sliding on some rock-climbing gloves to protect from rope-burn, he slid down the rope and into the apartment, furthering breaking the window. Ice blue hunter’s eyes bore down on dad as Jay deliberately crunched glass under foot.

“Leave. Him. Alone!”
_________________
The future lies on some horizon
So many times I had to say farewell
I know it turns out fine, following the exit sign
At least that's what I tell myself
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