[IC] Confessions {Sihphae & illirica}

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Sihphae
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Re: [IC] Confessions {Sihphae & illirica}

Post by Sihphae » Mon Jun 01, 2020 11:47 pm

At the other side of the lavish estate, down a winding path of crinkled leaves and mangled branches, was a dreary, old hamlet and a smelly market street in the midst of it, seemingly out of place for the wood that had built the stalls and the shops was young. He’d allowed for Cantrill to tread the ground first, he’d spied him approaching the town’s artificer. There was good sense in him in preparing for what may come next, he thought, but there was no time to ogle after him. He had a feeling Islesbury’s thief predicament had a bit of a story behind it and he had some inclinations towards digging it up. Although, at the moment, his inclinations craved some ale. Any good gossip eventually strayed into the local tavern, after all.

Past the half-empty fruit stalls plagued by rot and fruit flies, merchants who’d opened their poorly supplied carts, a handful of people skittering about their faces heavy with brood and toil, urchins plotting after an apple or two, beggars urging the passers-by for a wee bit of clinking compassion, was a shabby-looking tavern with a half-hinged sign hanging above the door. ‘The Belching Boar’.

“The names keep gettin’ more cloddish,” he remarked pushing the door open as a pungent smell flared up his nostrils. The smell was worse inside – the ‘boar’ did more than just belch. He spied a young boy mopping the corner floor covered in vomit. The interior of the tavern was a single large room with fires burning on either end, the floors hardwood and the walls covered in white plaster. In the middle of the wall farthest from the door was the bar tended by a lone woman, aged and brooding like the rest of the townsfolk but with a stern look and a furrowed forehead. There weren’t many patrons around, a group of men skulking in the corner drinking away whatever sorrows plagued them.

Arhan placed himself at the bar reluctantly having been given the stink eye by the barmaid as soon as she spotted him. She still, however, asked after what he wanted to drink.

“Whatever’s the crappiest,” he shot at it, grinning. As she was pouring him their stinkiest, warmest ale, she was kind enough to point out that the inn next door wasn’t providing overnight lodging for travelers, signaling all too well that he wasn’t wanted. He told her he wasn’t planning on sticking around, but she was hardly convinced. When he told her he was there to help, she burst out laughing.

“What could a washed up brat like ye do fer us?” She said, arching her hip aggressively as she placed her fist on it. He told her he was a snake-charmer, a travelling jester, an ale-tester. She laughed harder at each attempt, less and less derisively. “There ain’t no savin’ this town.” She remarked once the laughter had subsided. She spoke of poverty, apathy, how their latest problem, the thief, was just that… the latest, but when he tried to pry open that topic, she simply poured him some more ale and focused on rearranging the shelves.

Meanwhile, the group of men in the corner had grown livelier once they’d liquored up. They were playing some card game Arhan was unfamiliar with but having expressed genuine interest, hoping the ale hadn’t made them violent just yet, only chatty, they offered to show him the ropes. They were ordinary folk. One said he was a miller, others were farmers, and one said he was a fisherman. One of them, however, said he was nothing. The look in his eyes said the same thing. Arhan noticed some scarred skin below his neck, running down his right arm. He was burned, he concluded, recalling that one of the three women he’d seen in the mansion had looked similar, but it was her face that had been scarred.

When Arhan asked him what was keeping his spirits down, the man merely grumbled but the lot around them laughed and told him to cheer up. They mentioned a fire that had burnt down the old town square and marketplace, how the man had barely been pulled out of it having been crazy enough to jump in to save his goods. The man’s scowl deepened and he chugged down on the last of his drink and left their company. Arhan thought he was disapproving of the story but when he wanted to sneak away and ask him himself, he was pulled into another round of the confusing card game, losing three times but earning some complementary ale just for participating. They had told him of the fire, how no one knew how it had started, and that at some point the Knights had strolled into town to investigate, called upon by the Lord, but soon enough, all talk had stopped and people were discouraged from wondering what it could have been. Most of them then agreed that it had to have been accidental. But when Arhan asked if anything else as strange had happened, they went back to beating his ass at cards.

He wanted to continue the fun, but he knew if he had any more, he wouldn’t be able to pass the next day headache-free. So, feeling woozy and definitely a few steps away from wasted, he left the tavern noticing only then that midday had already long passed. Night would come soon.

As the street vendors and shop owners were preparing to close down for the day, Arhan nonchalantly picked after what wasn’t in their line of sight. He’d got some fresh and dried fruits, dried macarel, some stale bread, and a bottle of something questionable he intended to share with his companion and headed for the shed where Cantrill would surely think Arhan had been idling at the tavern all day judging by the smell of alcohol that was wafting after him.

When he entered the shed, he almost tripped over his own feet, but he smiled it away.

"Monster-slayer, ye in?" he exclaimed, "I come bearin' gifts!"

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Re: [IC] Confessions {Sihphae & illirica}

Post by illirica » Tue Jun 02, 2020 6:11 pm

The smell arrived first. There was nothing quite like the pungent reek of too much bad ale. It drifted around barriers, seeping through cracks with a resolution more mighty than any of the gods’ own warriors. Arhan’s voice arrived next, equally tainted, boisterous and overbearing and far too excited for all the wrong reasons. He’d nearly tripped over his own decisions at the doorway.

Cantrill sighed, getting up from the blanket where he’d been sitting, oiling his blades with care - even the cheap pot-metal ones he’d picked up for emergencies. If anything, a bad blade needed more care than a good one. The blades didn’t need any more care than he’d already given them - indeed, they’d not needed more care for about the past hour, but there was a certain meditative quality to doing the same repetitive tasks over and over that Cantrill found settled his mind, especially at times like these, when battle was likely on the horizon.

He only wished he knew which horizon it would appear upon.

He didn’t bother asking Arhan where he’d been - there was no need to. The scent of it was a more honest answer than the man was likely to give, in any case. It would have only been wasted words. Let him talk, if he felt like talking. Cantrill moved to stow the weaponry, taking care that as much of it as possible would be within arm’s reach. He didn’t trust the night to see them through. While he thought Islebury would make his move later, upon their return, it was still possible that the Lord would have decided these two were more trouble than they were worth, and arrange an accident so he could hire someone more to his liking.

Of course, if Islebury wanted people to his liking, he wouldn’t have gone out of his way to choose them in the first place.

Cantrill gave his erstwhile partner a look up in down, judgmental in the way only the gods’ own followers could manage. For all the evident drinking, it seemed that Arhan had at least managed to acquire some small contribution to their supplies. Cantrill stowed the last of the blades and unwound enough to offer what might have been half a smile, with the right incentive. “What ales you?”

No doubt his wit would go unappreciated. Men like him weren’t hired for the edge upon their tongues.

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Re: [IC] Confessions {Sihphae & illirica}

Post by Sihphae » Tue Jul 14, 2020 9:48 pm

He wasn’t a known sot or a winebibber although he often found comfort in the wooziness of bad ale. It was, after all, the drink of the petty and he felt petty as such as of late. The stench that wafted around him didn’t invite any inquiries past the usual drunkard remarks and for a thief that was the best kind of invisibility. He welcomed it.

The shed was poorly built and poorly lit. It smelled of hay, dung, and burnt candle. He shuffled across the uneven ground to a straw mattress in the corner dropping the provisions he’d swiped on it. He noticed that Cantrill had been more than preparing for tomorrow’s quest and realized that perhaps he was coming across as too leisurely. He plopped down on the uncomfortable bedding and groaned in relief. Cantrill’s half-hearted wordplay made him breathe out a light chuckle. He thought he ought to be more worried about tomorrow’s crusade – twas how the Lord had made it seem – for he had been feeling much too at ease even before the few cups of ale he’d chugged down. But he knew once he was faced with the task, his mind would set on it and the feelings of worry as well as thrill would kick in.

“I thin’ sum locals jus’ swindled me outta few coppers.” he hiccoughed, swallowing the consonants hurriedly, ending in laughter. “Thought I’d played ‘em cards before,” he murmured to himself, standing up to sit cross-legged, tilting his head Cantrill’s way as he reached for the bottle of questionable content he’d brought with him, casually tossing it over to him.

“Are ye a bettin’ man?” He grinned as he posed the question, adding, “I dunno whut it is,” he nodded at the bottle, “but if ye chug it down, I’ll throw sum coppers yer way too.” Needless to say, Arhan was a betting man – he liked to take risks. The bottle was plain, square-shaped, dark glass, with a half torn, half burnt label the words on which weren’t of their tongue. There could be ale inside of it, there could be poison, there could be something sweet or something bitter… there was only one way to tell.

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Re: [IC] Confessions {Sihphae & illirica}

Post by illirica » Wed Jul 15, 2020 8:47 pm

Arhan managed to find his way to a bedroll without the help of a map, which was more than Cantrill had been prepared to give him credit for. The fact that the man managed to sit up once more was another surprise - he was made of sterner stuff than he seemed to be. His regaling of his escapades, on the other hand, was no surprise at all... but the bottle he tossed over was a curiosity, and Cantrill caught it with the natural grace of someone used to being fully aware of his surroundings, and what was happening in them.

“A betting man?” Cantrill inquired, holding up the square bottle and looking it over. If there were any indications of its contents, they weren’t immediately discernable to him, not even when he held the bottle to the light. “No, I’m not a betting man, Arhan.” His hand moved before the bottle, a gesture that was obviously a benediction, or an invocation.

“I am-” he began to add, popping the stopper from the top, and holding the bottle up in salute - not to Arhan, but to the heavens. “-A man of faith.” He placed the bottle to his lips and threw his head back, drinking off a generous swallow and letting it find its way down before speaking once more. “And the gods are known to work in mysterious ways.”

He held the bottle out to his companion. “Want some? Tastes like shit.”

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Re: [IC] Confessions {Sihphae & illirica}

Post by Sihphae » Mon Jul 20, 2020 12:13 am

The tightly-fit, straw-riddled shed was in a twirl, he was certain, the few blurred candle lights burst into many. Everything was twofold now even the men before him who both managed to catch the bottle with trained facility. It had been a giddy sit up. He had to blink several times to make one Cantrill go away and to grab firmly onto the hard bedding to force the room to stop making him feel so sickish. But the man’s talk of faith was making it difficult keeping down the ale. He was an uncomfortable believer, but a believer nonetheless.

“Pres—presuming,” he struggled with the word, slurring the syllables. “they like ye.” His grin widened. When he reached for the bottle, for there wasn’t a chance he’d refuse a swig, the blood rushed to his head and he lost his footing, falling to the side onto a bale of hay. His laugh was coarse and his curses a plenty but it was all light-hearted. He’d long accepted the gods’ ambivalence and he shamelessly crawled over to grab the bottle.

“Livin’ a life of faith means takin’ risks, don’ it?” It was a crisply drunk remark. He downed the drink in a rapid swing and felt his face contort into a disgusted grimace. He tasted shit, and this was worse, a strong mix of sharp and sour over fermentation, perhaps even a hint of animal carcass but definitely a strange feeling of familiarity.

“Damn,” he grunted, blinking over the inscription on the label as he was giving the bottle another look-over. He struggled over the word he thought he had seen. The letters had jumbled back too quickly, but he could bet on it he had seen ‘potion’ fading out. “The gods must be fumblin’ in the dark with this one. ’Nother one?” He raised the bottle to Cantrill, adding with a tinge of emphasis, “believer.”

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Re: [IC] Confessions {Sihphae & illirica}

Post by illirica » Mon Jul 20, 2020 6:41 pm

Perhaps Cantrill should have felt worse about offering the bottle, when his companion was obviously too drunk to think for himself. On the other hand, he’d been the one to decide to go drinking in the first place, so Cantrill’s sympathy was somewhat lacking. Arhan crawled over to accept the bottle, attempting to make a statement, failing both the words and the intent, as Cantrill merely raised his eyebrow at the presumption of whether or not the gods ‘liked him.’

“They do.” He didn’t raise his voice, nor even add particularly much emphasis to the statement, but it resounded nonetheless: Faith. Whatever else he may have been, Cantrill was a true believer. If Arhan was deserving of any penance, it was no doubt given to him full-fold in the taste of the vile concoction he’d brought back. Cantrill didn’t quite hide an amused grin at the expression on the man’s face as he subjected himself to it. Well - he could hardly say Cantrill hadn’t warned him about the flavoring.

Offering the bottle back was a bit of backstabbing that Cantrill wasn’t pleased by, certainly - he’d rather hoped to be rid of the foul substance after one swallow, but the words came with a challenge, and Cantrill wasn’t going to turn away from it. He reached out, swiping the bottle and giving it a sideways glance. Naught could make him question his faith... but sometimes things certainly did make him question his sanity.

He tossed off another draught anyway, shaking his head with a mutter that sounded rather suspiciously like “Gods bless the maker of this beverage with exactly what he deserves,” before holding it out again, the neck of the bottle between his thumb and forefinger, the bottle itself swinging below in a taunt.

“Your go, gambler.”

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Re: [IC] Confessions {Sihphae & illirica}

Post by Sihphae » Fri Jul 24, 2020 11:17 pm

Arhan found the polished naivety with which Cantrill spoke so convincingly of the gods’ orientations charming, not because he knew better of their ways, but because he believed no one was truly deserving of their caring. He’d conversed with many makeshift gods in plenty a drunken stupor but he could never quite so get their attention as much as he’d attracted creatures of nightmares and devilish ballads. He believed, all right, he just never thought belief was fair.

“What—” He struggled through a jerky hiccough, rapidly continuing, “do ye deserve?” He pointed a straightforward gaze at Cantrill and shot a straight-from-the-shoulder query. “An’ are the gods in agree—hiccough—ment?” He reached for the bottle as if his life depended on it, perhaps with a mind of meeting a deity at the bottom of the bottle they were sharing. And if such a daft thing were to occur, he reckoned, it wouldn’t be worth it to ask what tomorrow’s quest might bring them. It would be worth it to make them notice.

He snatched the bottle away from Cantrill and ventured another swig quite gullibly, closing his eyes and wrinkling his forehead as his throat stiffened in expectance of the foul taste. This time, however, the vile concoction burnt his mouth. He winced in pain, whimpered a little, but he still swallowed, perhaps even out of spite. His throat tore into a sore, hissy cough and he shook his head violently to sharpen his senses. Was that their way of letting him know they had noticed? Or was it just a nasty mind trick?

He swayed the bottle back Cantrill’s way, saying, “One last sip,” His grin bordered on devilish teasing.

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Re: [IC] Confessions {Sihphae & illirica}

Post by illirica » Sun Jul 26, 2020 3:21 pm

“I’m sure the gods know what I deserve, but they’ve not seen fit to inform me of the matter.” A year ago, Cantrill would have said he knew what he deserved with certainty - but a year ago, he had still been with the Church. It had been easier, then. Easier to see what was all around him, easier to build his life within those walls. If he ever questioned, there were always priests who had answers - and he’d not had so many questions, then. The gods had seemed closer, their wills more sure.

And now he was in a shed, sharing a bottle of destiny with a drunkard. No, it was fairly much a given by now that Cantrill had no idea what the gods were doing. He supposed that was their prerogative - it wasn’t theirs to tell their whims to a mere mortal, least of all a disgraced Paladin - but if he couldn’t begrudge them the knowledge, he still found himself missing the certainty.

Arhan seemed to be having some difficulty with the drink. Cantrill took the bottle back, giving him a skeptical look. “If you’re going to vomit it back up, do it outside. This place smells bad enough as it is.” His words might have been glib, but there was a hint of something under them that might have been concern - well, Arhan had reacted badly to that last swallow, and Cantrill had never been much for seeing men in pain.

Not that he hadn’t put plenty of them there, in his time, but this seemed different, somehow. He raised the bottle to the gods, and drank the rest of it down in noble sacrifice. Somehow, it wouldn’t have been right to pass it back, after that last. “Well.” A grimace, and a shudder. “That was certainly unexpected. If you have any other questionable food or drink, I think I’ll be asking you to save it till the morning.”

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