Private Tales Vultures

Discussion in 'The Chronicles' started by Gaheris, May 13, 2019.

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  1. Gaheris

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    #1 Gaheris, May 13, 2019
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2019
    SOMEWHERE WEST OF VEL ANIR
    CORTOS


    Gaheris prodded the head of the corpse with his cane several times before he got it at the right point. He leveraged it slowly, tilting the corpse’s head this way and that as he examined it for damage. A soldier. Or a conscript, rather, judging from his clothes. Rough-spun. Looked basically like sack cloth – a far cry from the fanciful (yet ostensibly practical) uniform Gaheris had been issued.

    Other scavengers had already come through and relieved the conscript of whatever weapon he had been issued as well as his boots. More power to them. That was not what Gaheris had been sent to collect. Gaheris prodded the limbs, ensuring they were still attached.

    They were, in fact. An increasing rarity over here where the cavalry charge had initially hit.

    “This one,” he announced, and gave the corpse a decisive thwap on the chest.

    Two Red Guild armsmen trudged away from the waiting cart. Gaheris did not know their names. With their coifs on, they were virtually indistinguishable anyway. One had a mace clipped to his waist, and the other had a pair of long knives stuck under his belt.

    “Poor bastard,” muttered one of them, and took the corpse up under the arms.

    The other one scoffed and took the ankles. “Luckier than both of us, I reckon. He doesn’t have to work.”

    If that man knew what Gaheris did, he might have reconsidered that. It was not Gaheris’ place to educate them, anyway, so he merely moved to the next body. The armsmen trundled away, and hefted the conscript into the cart with the other corpses.

    Gaheris could not recall who was doing the fighting. Some petty Dukes squabbling in the shadow of Vel Anir, as usual. The battle had progressed quickly, one side pursuing the other with such vigor that they had not stopped to collect the dead. If Gaheris looked across the muddied and upturned earth, he could see the distant shapes of other scavengers picking their way through the dead.

    Pocket change, bad boots, and chipped weapons. What a miserable living that had to be. Gaheris did not sympathize. He had a salary. Gaheris prodded this new corpse in the chest, a weathered looking regular. No boots. Padded armor, empty scabbard, arm still hooked into his shield.

    The corpse sputtered suddenly, and groaned. Not a corpse after all. The soldier reached out weakly, muttered something, tried to grasp at the cane that had prodded him.

    Gaheris frowned, swatted the hand, and moved on.
     
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  2. Fieravene

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    #2 Fieravene, May 13, 2019
    Last edited: May 13, 2019
    A low whistling sounded through the stench of death, interrupted by the dull staccato of hoofbeats. A simpering cry. A wheezing cough. From the west, riding along the lines of corpses, a dark figure on a dark horse, small shadows flickering about on ground level, shuffling men tethered like a parade of tired dogs behind it.

    The whistling grew louder, a sultry melody that commanded the little shades weaving through the bodies. Eventually one found its way to the groaning man most recently abandoned by what might've been his last hope. The shade tittered and promptly flew into the man's mouth in a puff of esoteric blackness.

    The man began to cough violently.

    "Ah," said the figure on the horse, drawing on the reins to steer it along a new path, and bringing it to a halt some several feet away. She dismounted, picking her way to close the distance and stooped by the man as he heaved and retched.

    "That's the spirit," she grabbed him by the front to haul him into a sitting position, "fight your hallow futures, give it all you've got."

    He coughed, he hacked, he spat up a wad of nasty, sticky, flegmy something. The woman gave him a solid slap on the back, "Good man. Who do you fight for?"
    "Duke Del-" more coughing.
    "Sorry, didn't get that."
    "Delany."
    "How fortunate for me. On your feet, then. Up, up, up you go."

    Up he went onto very unsteady feet.

    "Thank you ... another passed by, left me here to rot."
    "Ohh," a pitying croon from the woman, a tut as well, she lead him back to her horse, "well that was rude of them. Not to worry, you'll be off this miserable plane in a jiffy."

    And then, suddenly, he was bound by a dark rope to a dark horse by a dark woman.

    "Not ... to ... worry-" and she was back up on the horse and whistling again. Off again, to cross paths with the other passerby in his pursuit of ...

    "Afternoon," a friendly nod was given to the blond man, a short glance given next to his cart full of bodies, "quite a haul you got there."
     
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  3. Gaheris

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    Gaheris let the limb fall back into the mud. The hand had been chopped at the wrist and dangled uselessly. No good. He was about to pivot to the body not lying too far from it when he heard someone speaking to him. Gaheris turned to find a woman - a bleak looking Elf - staring down at him from a horse. A small caravan of sick looking men were tied up to the horse and trailed behind it.

    He spared a glare to the two armsmen. Had they seriously just let this woman sneak up on him? No, sneak was probably the wrong word. She was on a horse. Whistling. And there were at least half a dozen groaning men tramping in the mud after her. He had not been paying attention. One of the armsmen shrugged uselessly. Apparently as long as she wasn't riding full tilt and swinging a scimitar, it was nothing to worry about.

    As close as she was, she'd smell cinnamon. Everyone did.

    Maybe everyone else in his line of work wanted to smell as bad as they looked, but Gaheris had higher standards.

    "I could say the same for you," he said, frowning at her tethered men, the shades fluttering about under the horse, and finally at her. "Is there something you need?"
     
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  4. Fieravene

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    "Tit for tat," replied the elf, pointed brows curved over an expeditious look, "your quarry doesn't groan at all, mine groans too much - miserable lot," she gestured dismissively at them behind her, they groaned in unison back. Weird.

    "What say you to doubling up. Two sets of keen eyes and a few little shades aught to clean us both up to get home in time for supper. If it's no skin off your teeth then it's no point off my ears."
     
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  5. Gaheris

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    Gaheris' brows knit together, and he couldn't help but glance at the groaning choir. "Miserable indeed." Unbecoming habit, to have his attention stolen so easily. But it wasn't every day you found a parade of shambling half-dead men following after an Elf. Rarer still that they groaned in unison.

    Unseemly business, even by his standards. He'd had plenty need to round up shades of his own in the past, sure, but never this many. Not all at once. Not in the wide open. Not where a few extra hands from the Red Guild of Cortos would do.

    So unseemly.

    "I'm not sure I follow. What is it you would like us to do?"

    Shuffling about, feeding someone else's shades to the wounded was not the sort of thing Gaheris involved himself in.

    Not for free, anyway.
     
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  6. Fieravene

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    Hm, not very quick on the uptake. The elf watched him for a moment, considering her inherent and racial egotism that placed humans on a lower echelon of intelligence than her kind, and promptly discarded it as one might a cleaned ribeye bone. He didn't look doltish, but she'd been fooled before.

    "Let us-" a pause to choose phrasing as mono-syllabic as possible, "work as a team."

    There, that should do it.

    "I need viable groaners, you need-" she gestured vaguely towards him and his cart, "whatever it is you need. As you search, if you find able and beating hearts, you alert me. While I search I'll keep my eyes out for your -" she narrowed her eyes in mild perplexion, "what is it, exactly, that you're searching for?"
     
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  7. Gaheris

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    Slowly, he looked over to the cart. The bodies had not exactly been piled in with any sense of order in mind. It was a tangle of dirty, bloody limbs. He wondered, briefly, if it looked like they could be after anything else. "Intact bodies. No broken bones, no severed... Appendages."

    Both armies were fond of war-scythes and other hacking, slashing weapons, so naturally the state of the cadavers would usually not be to the liking of their client. Unsupervised armsmen would just toss any old body in there, and bodies with damaged bones, or missing hands and heads and limbs, were very limited in their use.

    He gestured to the rest of the battlefield. "You might guess we need little help in finding any. What are your groaners for?"
     
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  8. Fieravene

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    That was strangely specific. The elf propped a brow of intrigue.

    "What are you, some sort of Mortician?" a wry smirk plied at her lips, red eyes filled with a curious mirth. She always met the most interesting people in these sorts of places. At his question the elf eased back in the saddle, "This dandy bunch? The highest bidder, of course. Sometimes they get lucky and it's their own people."
     
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  9. Gaheris

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    Gaheris ran his tongue over his teeth. A mortician. At one point, yes. And at several points afterwards, as it happened. "Nominally."

    His work history was a strange and splendorous thing all at once. He tried not to dwell on it, tried less to talk about it. This was polite company, after all. Him with his thugs and corpse cart, her with her monstrous spirits and possessed retinue. What company could be more polite?

    "How charming. We may be able to help. For a paltry fee, of course."

    If she stood to make a killing off the slave trade, it was only fair Gaheris should stand to shave a few coins for himself. And those two thugs, if they earned it.
     
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  10. Fieravene

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    Nominally. Paltry.

    Well, well, well.

    Fieravene gave a small bark of laughter, lips pressing into a sanguine smirk, "But of course, pidgin. Nothing on this cheerful slab of rock comes free." Dropping the reins of her dark steed, she swung fluidly from the saddle to plant her boots back on the ground. Small, black shades bobbled about her feet like curious kittens, wincing and beady red eyes blinking weirdly from their amorphous forms.

    "Let's get started then. I have a schedule to keep and an orc to see about a dragon before the night is through."
     
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  11. Gaheris

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    His eyebrows raised as Fieravene swept past, ominous familiars bobbing after her. "Of course."

    An orc about a dragon? Was she bragging now? Gaheris frowned after her. It seemed everyone he met was eager to impress upon him how much more interesting their job was than his.

    How many corpses did you drag from the crypt today, Gaheris? Did you finish your embalming before nightfall? I myself spent the afternoon taking tea with the great families of Vel Anir. You know, as I am oft invited to do.

    Somehow it never got easier to listen to.

    He walked a few feet, found another corpse, and prodded it with his cane.

    ---​
     
  12. Fieravene

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    After some time, perhaps an hour or two, Fieravene elected to call it a night. In this particular line of work one had to be quick elsewise one's bounty expired bleeding out on the field. She being only one elf and her new companion being of ... whatever he was, could only cover so much spread. For their efforts she would walk out with quite a small contingent of moaners and his cart was overfull.

    "I make for Bleakwood," said the elf as she approached her mount, "and I suspect I'll be there a fortnight. If you want your cut, come find me there."
     
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  13. Gaheris

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    The cart was overfull now, much to Gaheris' characteristically subdued delight. Some had to be discarded before things were finalized - shattered ribs, fractured skulls, broken sockets. Unusable or ill-suited. Not worth the time needed to make repairs. The stench was unbearable, but all Gaheris smelled was cinnamon.

    The armsmen shoved forward the last of the living captives, who fumbled around in the dirt needlessly before a shade found him. It did not appear the captives had been screened based on their alignment. The armsmen were not very patient and the fact that they had been set to dragging around the living in addition to the dead had made them terse and jerky.

    Charming to the last.

    Gaheris watched her approach her mount with all the emotive display of a signpost. Bleakwood. That sounded suspiciously like the town with the nearest guildhall. One of the armsmen opened his mouth to say just that, but Gaheris talked over him and cut him off.

    "We'll see you there, then."

    Gaheris attempted a smile. It looked like he swallowed a fly.
     
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  14. Fieravene

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    And to the man's pest-ridden expression he received a a bright smile in return.

    "Good," said the woman as she fluidly mounted her horse and clucked it on into a brisk walk, "it's a date."

    A little less than two-dozen shade-addled moaners groaned in unison behind her as their tethers tugged them to follow. They weren't moving quickly, but they were off into the distance before long.

    [​IMG]

    BLEAKWOOD
    A few hours later.
    Evening

    Bleakwood was a town that lived up to its name. Built upon the ruins and remnants of a once prosperous city called Glenhall, in the before-times it had commanded respect as a local bank powerhouse for the fortune of gold it sat upon. Naturally, at some point their enemies and envious ne'er'do'wells decided to unseat it from power. The city was destroyed - by who or what no one really knows anymore. Some say an orc hoard, others say a neighboring kingdom. In fact, even this entire history is questionable.

    What remains are the frames larger stone structures slowly picked at over the decades as Bleakwood came to be on the bones of Glenhall. There is no power here, no gold, not any particular riches, but there was indeed a guildhall and it was also a good place to make a fast coin on selling slaves. Skin Traders from Cerak frequented here; Bleakwood sat at a particularly economical crossroads of various factions, groups, and kingdoms at war. There was always warm bodies to buy.

    Fiera off-loaded her lot with little trouble and stepped into the Boarshead Tavern with some extra coin in her pocket.

    She found an orc settled somewhere off in the mix of tables and set herself down without any preamble.

    "Gamlek," she tossed her gloves down, eased back in her chair, and kicked her boots up onto the table, "you're looking a bit peeky. What's the word on that dragon?"
     
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  15. Gaheris

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    "Here," Gaheris announced.

    The pair of mules pulling the cart looked relieved to stop. If they had any notion of their surroundings, they might have found the energy to keep moving. The building they stopped in front of was located on what might have once constituted Bleakwood's main street. The street was abandoned now, overgrown with moss, coated with mud, flanked by crumbling buildings or burned out shells.

    There weren't even transients here. Except in that one alley, where Gaheris had seen a sleeping man. Or maybe he was dead. If there were any room in the cart, he would have checked.

    The two armsmen kept watch while Gaheris knocked. His fist thumped against the door once, twice. The sigil of the Red Guild had been carved into its face - the twin crescents. His fist was poised for a third strike when the lock came undone and a greasy halfling pulled the door open.

    "Gaharis."

    No one ever said his name right. Savages.

    "Norper."

    Norper was tall for a Halfling and short for everything else. Short, greasy black hair curled unpleasantly around his head. He peaked past Gaheris and at the cart. "These the corpses?"

    "Yes."

    "All of them?"

    "And more."

    Norper smiled like he won something other than a cart filled with dead people. He stuck his fingers in his mouth and gave a harsh whistle, then stood aside while another pair of guildsmen rushed out. "Take it around back," he bellowed.

    Gaheris and his own watched the cart be taken away. When he looked back to Norper, he was presenting a single silver coin, stamped again with the twin crescents. Gaheris accepted it without question.

    "Gamlek is here," said Norper, abruptly.

    "Is he now?" Gaheris replied, brow knitting. He stowed the coin.

    "Yes. Boarshead." Norper looked down the street both ways, as if expecting to catch someone eavesdropping. He locked eyes with Gaheris. "Take care of it."

    Truly the work was never done. "I'll see what I can do."

    "'Course you will." Norper snorted and slammed the door shut.

    Gaheris lingered long enough to hear the locks sliding back into place, then turned to face his armsmen.

    "Shall we?"
     
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  16. Fieravene

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    #16 Fieravene, May 30, 2019
    Last edited: May 30, 2019
    "No no. No. Look darling we've talked about this," Fiera had a plate of food, a tankard of some local slurry, and a fork with a piece of lamb speared upon it with which she orchestrated her frustrations at the orc sitting across from her, "the grumbling has to stop. I realize you're all fired up, but I just can't understand you. It's like you've got a mouth full of marbles."

    Gamlek grunted.

    "Enunciate," the elf insisted gently, "use your words."

    The orc tried again after a huff, speaking more slowly.

    Fiera's ears twitched as she listened, "There it is. Poetry. Now what in the Seven Levels of Pandemonium do you mean the nest was empty?"

    Gamlek glowered at her, gesturing, explaining in orcish.

    "That's not possible," she plunked her fork back on her plate, "because when I left that dreary ruin there were five eggs and one very proud mother dragon standing guard."

    A grumble from Gamlek.

    "Well that's absurd, dragons don't just flutter away with a clutch of eggs. You see, dragon eggs require very particular conditions to hatch."

    Gamlek sighed, shrugged, and mumbled something.

    "Oh don't feel so bad, it's not your fault of course. But it will need some looking into. Here," she tossed a small satchel onto the table near his plate, "don't say I never did you any favors."
     
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  17. Gaheris

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    Gamlek's gaze traveled upward and away from Fieravene, to the trio of men that had muscled their way between tables and people to stand behind her. Gaheris' cloak was open, and his hand rested on the hilt of a stiletto that was tucked into his belt. The two guild armsmen behind him were also brandishing steel - a mace and twin daggers in this case.

    Not everyone could expect to wander around Bleakwood weapons drawn without getting the fight they were clearly asking for. Fewer still could do so in the Boarshead. But they were wearing the colors of the Red Guild, and were so afforded somewhat more leeway in carrying out their affairs.

    Not by much, though. Better to make it quick.

    "Gamlek," said Gaheris, with the same unbridled enthusiasm one might have reserved for calling out a piece of furniture. "We have business."

    When Fieravene turned in her seat, Gaheris recognized her, and frowned for the fourth time today. "This is your Orc?"

    Strange. Gamlek didn't seem her type. Probably because he wasn't shuffling around with a shade burrowed someplace in his chest.
     
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  18. Fieravene

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    "Well, not in the property-sense, no," Fiera replied, leaning an arm over the back of her chair to give the man a short once-over. She did nothing to hide the half smirk presently slicing into her lips, "but we, too, have a business arrangement that I am keen to see through. One that requires said orc-in-question to remain sound of body and mind."

    A pointed brow lifted, as if to emphasize that last point.

    "Is this going to be an issue?"

    Gamlek, to his credit, seemed to be maintaining some semblance of coolness, though his hand had found itself wrapped around the handle of a rather dastardly looking war axe set beside him.
     
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  19. Gaheris

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    "A business arrangement?" Gaheris canted his head to the left, regarding the strange, dark woman, and finding her half-smirk none too pleasing. None too comforting. "I'm afraid if Gamlek does have two coins to rub together, they'll be going to us."

    His hand didn't move from his blade.

    "You'd be better off picking coppers out of the gutter."

    Gaheris now directed his attention to Gamlek himself.

    "Isn't that right, Gamlek?"
     
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  20. Fieravene

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    And that second brow lofted to meet the first.

    "That so?" the elf eyed the orc whose shoulders rolled into a shrug of agreement, "Well, Gamlek here owes me what you call a life debt, and not one he's repaying in coin. Take his coppers if you must, but I need him whole," her gaze slid back to Gaheris, "in every sense of the word."
     
  21. Gaheris

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    And like that, the scrutinizing gaze of Gaheris was back on Fieravene. A life debt. How unbelievably quaint. But Orcs did have such a cultural love for all things old-fashioned and impractical. And Elves had a love for exploiting such things. It was one of their more admirable traits.

    Could Gamlek go anywhere without racking up debt?

    "Funny, I could say his arrangement with us was similar." Not really, but it was a lot of money, so it might as well have been. "If you're responsible for him now, perhaps you'd be inclined to pay on his behalf."
     
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  22. Fieravene

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    "I would not."

    There was not even a single flea-bitten second of hesitation in that response and it was said with the unflappable devotion of someone who had not a single coin to spare. Which she didn't.

    "I will, however, graciously extend an invitation for you to earn what is owed plus one-hundred-fold."

    Angular brows lofted over the rim of her tankard as she took a deliberately slow drink.
     
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  23. Gaheris

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    Slow drink. Somebody figured they were holding all the cards. Maybe she did. But that was a good number, one-hundred. Good enough to make violence unnecessary. Gaheris' His hand fell away from the hilt of his dagger, his cloak falling back into place.

    His accomplices didn't follow suit. Too busy staring at everyone and everything else, making sure no one got the jump on them.

    "I'm listening."
     
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  24. Fieravene

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    #24 Fieravene, Jun 30, 2019
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2019
    Pointed brows bounced in delight, a curved smirk capturing the elf's lips. She twisted to lean over the back of her chair and gave a wary glance around. A beckoning finger motioned for him to come closer. Time to share a secret.
     
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  25. Gaheris

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    Gaheris hesitated a moment, eyes locked with hers. Whatever doubts or concerns for his safety - if there were any - seemed to be unilaterally dismissed. Whatever he thought, Gaheris only furrowed his brow, found a suitable angle, and leaned in.

    One of the armsmen noticed this peculiar movement, and deigned to chime in. "Hey, uh..."

    But Fieravene was already talking.
     

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