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[TC OPEN] Ebonhawke: A Rock Opera

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No argument, then? None? She was going to take it perfectly in stride that the man she was to investigate as a potential candidate for sensitive work was off on an errand of revenge? Of course not. Don't be silly.

She was offering to help.

Fort, for the second time, widened his eyes almost imperceptibly. She was keeping him off his guard certainly. That was doubtless her strategy. She'd pull something or other before too long. Some trick, some secret test of merit that she could report back to her masters and show that, beyond the shadow of any doubt, Fortinbras Carlyle was not the man they were looking for. He rubbed the back of his hand across his mouth and shook his head with the disdain of a man disagreeing with himself.

The Vanguard stepped in with a muttered curse and the headwaters of a fresh trail of blood. Her wrist was bloodied, clenched in her free hand, but spots escaped her grasp and pattered to the floor.

"The streets of Ebonhawke. Safest in Ascalon. Which is the only sort of compliment the old girl can expect."

He turned with a hooked thumb. "And that's also why Ebonhawke. Because this place is already a hive of insurrection and bloodshed. No one will miss my dear business associate." His eyes narrowed to the sort of fissures that foretell woe for unwary mountaineers. "Now tell me true, Saint. Do not lie to me. I'll know. And this is too sensitive a matter for us to begin on anything but the best foot."

He indicated the heavy pistol that rides on his left hip. His voice came in a mournful baritone. "It's the real thing. Safety's off." The hand raised to the level of her breastbone and fixed her with an accusatory digit. "Are you there? Are you there for me? By my side? An angel dodging bullets wide?"

He nodded to himself, weighing his words. He analyzes the angles like a man who's life has often depended on careful planning just as well as headlong execution, hell with the consequences. "It feels right. On the streets, where you talk. You talk without a sound. And when you walk, your feet hardly touch the ground."

She might not have been his first choice, being that rash and bloody deeds are no way to make a first impression. Outside of a precious few relationships better based on fear than mutual regard, that is. But she'd gotten the drop on him when he'd first arrived. That took no little bit of talent. He was naturally astute. Men in his line of work often were. Astute, or dead. "But you're there by my side. But you're there for me."

The backup would be well and truly handy. Crispin wasn't the sort to run around after leaving Fort to twist without surrounding himself with hired muscle. And armed with what he'd stolen from the rogue, he'd be able to afford thugs by the acre. "When all this is over, heaven knows I'm going nowhere. I was only dreaming, searching for a deeper meaning." It was a bargain, plain and simple. She'd help him resolve this bit of personal skullduggery and he'd go gladly to swear his service to her lieges.

"But it's time we get thing straight. Are you there? Are you there for me? On the clock, at six a.m. in Ebonhawke?"

The import was as clear as the morning following a squall on the Bloodtide Coast. This was not an undertaking to be accepted lightly. It would likely call for long hours and more than a little danger.

"Maybe the Vanguard has something to say on the subject. Seems he's had a run-in with someone of the same ill sort as my erstwhile friend."

Lyrics provided by Zeromancer, "Hollywood"
Posted May 22, 15
The Ebon Vanguard temporarily became an irrelevant topic as O was fixated on being warned not to lie. As though the need for the words to be said at all stained her reputation. Her face, however, remained a mask of perfect pleasantness.

“You do not know me yet, so I will tell you plain. I do not lie, as a rule.” O assured the stranger.

“Who has stepped on your toes, and vice versa, is not my business. What is my business is ensuring we end this meeting with you gainfully employed my pockets a little fuller besides. If this meeting takes longer than expected, or involves removing a few obstacles, that is of no real consequence to me.” She promised.

A gentle, indifferent sort of roll to her shoulders, a close relative of a shrug, followed, “There is no clock on this bit of business. Consider me ever at your disposal, love.” It was not hard to read between the lines: she was being well compensated already, and some difficulties must have been expected. Someone, somewhere in the chain of command, had done their homework. -- Or maybe he was just a very lucky boy and had won the death sprite’s attention with his award winning charm.

By this point the fae-built creature had not only forgotten that she was supposed to be fighting off the strange impetus to burst into song, she seemed as though she had never noticed it was odd to begin with. “So you introduced yourself, and being the terrible creature that I am, I did not truly repay the favor.” She flashed an impish smile that exposed wickedly pointed canine teeth, brilliantly white, and uncanny for a human.

“I run on the wrong side of life, I'm the one that you fear when you hold your wife.”
She allowed her meaning to sink in. “I run where the darker crowds run, on the rain swept streets where the black rain runs.” Off in the background a few bar patrons stopped raising their mugs and began eerily droning the rhythm to her lyrics.

O abandoned her chair in a single fluid movement, “I play where the darker kin plays, I'm the one who goes out when you end your day. I dance where the darker crowds dance, in the pitch black alleys, in a clove stained trance.”

Uncanny in her grace she managed in a single long-limbed step, in a single heartbeat, to catch the larger man’s form between herself and the bar, her hands on the bar to either side of him, effectively creating a cage with her arms so that she could sing in a conspiratorial, whispery tone, just behind his ear. “I see things that darker kin sees, though you wouldn't believe all that's happened to me. I've been to the back side of hell, and I've played with your fear and enjoyed it well.”

As quickly as she had come on, she removed herself from that intimate space, without regard for his, or anyone else’s comfort. She offered her hand, but it was not to shake. Rather she extended an invitation to dance.

“So come, Fortinbras Carlyle. Let’s be friends. Suspicion is so very…” she sighed dramatically before she could even finish, “Tedious.

The invitation lingered there. “This our time, the nights our day, we'll dance this fading life away.” And perhaps ghost a few poor souls in the process.

"The Wrong Side" by Abney Park

Posted May 22, 15
Ebonhawke was a long way from her territory. Still, the Sheriff of Prospect Valley still wore the silver star on her long coat that denoted her position and authority, even as far east as this place. But this was still a place Shani Wennemein knew well. She had heard the rumours of a certain individual in Divinity's Reach and now here in Ebonhawke. She had a damn good idea who it was as well.

As she entered the Wayrest, she nodded to the patrons, touching the tip of her stetson with two fingers of her right hand. Her left never far from her gunbelts that carried well crafted and cared for long barrel .45 calibre pistols. She approached the bar and ordered her usual; Blood Whiskey and a coffee. She wasn't technically on duty, so she could get away with imbibing on this night.

Picking up her bottle of Blood Whiskey and her cup of coffee, she moved to one of the unoccupied tables. She looked to O and then Fort, just nodding as she passed by, the spurs on her boots jingling loudly with her footfalls. She kicked out a chair and took her seat as she set down her beverages. As she leaned back in her chair she took a deep breath and muttered as she reached inside her jacket and took out a case containing her cigarellos. "Heavy is the head that wears the crown," she said as she shook her head, then repeated it again. "Heavy is the head that wears the crown."

She struck a match as she placed a cigarello between her lips, lighting it with care as the scent of jasmine, sage and mint wafted through the tavern. "Black dog, drinks from the water, trying to cool his tongue. Like the king, finds no peace, his work is never done," she said as she poured some of the Blood Whiskey into her coffee, filling it up just a few millimeters below the lip. "Night falls, smoke on the water, darkness closes in. Cold white hand, in the deep, will drown you for your sin."

She lifted her stetson from her head, setting it on the table as she let her long, raven hair fall over her shoulders. "It's a life long expedition, second guessing your decisions. Trying to find out what's been missing, pages keep on fillin'."

She rose to her feet, lifting her mug and held it like a salute in front of her. "Crying out! Go and wake the king. Call to arms! For those who kiss the ring. Stand your ground! The walls are coming down. It's do or die, do or die!"

With a heavy sigh, she took her seat again. She took a long drag from her cigarello and sipped from her cup, once again muttering in a low tone. "Heavy is the head that wears the crown. Heavy is the head that wears the crown."

She took another long slug from the cup of Blood Whiskey and coffee, gazing at the patrons around the tavern. For many, they were used to this sheriff from another district and her usual rants about the Ministry, but there was a new tinge to her ramblings. "Mad man, blood on the alter. The Queen will have his head. His ghost will shake those rattling chains, long after he's dead." She downed her concoction in one gulp and poured straight up Blood Whiskey into her cup. "No soul, knows he is trouble, high upon his throne. Loved by few and judged by many, he bares that weight alone."

With her right hand, she held up her mug as though to make a toast. "It's a life long expedition, second guessing your decisions. Trying to find out what's been missing, and the pages keep on fillin'." With one go, she downed her Blood Whiskey in one gulp, wincing just a bit as she slammed her hand on the table. "Crying out! Go and wake the king. Call to arms! For those who kiss the ring. Stand your ground! The walls are coming down. It's do or die, do or die."

She leaned back in her chair once again, muttering to herself once again. "Heavy is the head that wears the crown. Heavy is the head that wears the crown." Shani Wennemein took a long drag from her cigarello and motioned toward the bar. "Jist bring me a pot o' coffee, would ya." She looked to those who had been watching and listening to her, some not knowing if she would do something drastic, and once again, she muttered, "Heavy is the head that wears the crown."

lyrics from Heavy Is The Head as performed by The Zac Brown Band (ft. Chris Cornell)

Posted May 22, 15 · OP
Fort nodded, searching her pixie face for any hint of a lie. A wrinkle at the corner of an eye. A discomfitted roll of the shoulder. But she was hewn of stone for all that her body language told him. Or she was some strange species of jungle cat that had learned to walk and talk. He wasn't sure which, just yet.

"Nor do I. Not when there's no proper benefit." It was a dark little half smile that he wore. He was pursuing business relations, and the best foot forward was to be extended on both sides. The disposessed Ascalonians had a reputation for level dealings, because it suited those in their position to wring what currency they could from their good names.

When she'd finished her little song and dance, he once again looked about the tavern, waiting for even the vaguest smattering of applause. It was a good show, after all. And the bit when she'd pinned him against the bar had his heart rather pointedly in his throat, instantly pumping the moisture from his mouth as the scent of leather and...lillies(?) enveloped him in a heady haze.

But she was right, despite the theatricality. They could circle, snarl, and sleep with one eye open for the length of their involvement. But that would be...tedious. Exactly. And she'd used his full name. Those sorts of things had power. Her extended hand didn't so much as waver and damn him for a fool before the Six, but he took it in his own; a leather-clad paw, all fingers, when compared to her own. And he pulled her toward the door and the beckoning night.

The streets boasted a few scurrying souls here and there as the night let down her silken narcotic hair; tradesmen and ne'erdowells in equal measure doubtless.

Fort couldn't help himself. They were off to give a real arsehole his just desserts, and if that wasn't a moment that was worthy of song, then nothing was. He'd long since given up resisting the urge, despite the strangeness. It felt so damnably...right.

"No time to hide. I'm alive on the inside. Breaking up my mind on the frontlines. Will I survive, will I survive another day? This great divide. Side by side on the inside. Breaking up our minds on the frontlines. Never again, never again will I be denied." He paused only a moment, drawing a burning breath in the unseasonable cold that had sprung as if from the same unfathomable realm that spawned the music. Throw the rat a bone, let him hear what was coming. "Cause here I come, here I come. YEAH!"

Grenth's hood, but that felt good. He turned for a blind alley, trusting the murder sprite at his back to follow. He vaulted to the top of a stack of cast off barrels behind the cooper's storefront, locked and bolted for the night. He threw his arms out to either side, giving vent to that impassioned voice that called from the inside. The one that would simply not stand for this one moment longer. "I've waited all my life to get out of the trenches. I'm ready to fight for what I believe. You can't steal from me! I won't take this!" He leapt from the barrel to the cobbles once more, prowling through the alley, murder on his mind. "Gonna fill these trenches! And stand up. So wake up, I won't give up. Cause here I come, here I come. YEAH!"

The rooming houses on the other side of town proved to be their target. A relatively tumbledown structure near the Hawk Gates, constructed from stone already mangled in countless assaults and generally best used for ballast or hurling furiously back at the aggressors who'd broken it in the first place.

Fort leveled a finger at the rooming house. "He'll be there, I expect. Cheap, second-rate, and near the quickest route of escape. Just his style, that."

He turned to regard his traveling companion, and eyeing her armament. "There's like to be a tussle."

From what she had shown him already, he wasn't exactly expecting that to be much of a problem at all.

Lyrics provided by Pop Evil, "Trenches"
Posted May 22, 15 · Last edited May 22, 15
The doll-eyed blonde offered an easy smile to the sheriff who nodded in her direction only a few short moments before she was pulled to the door and beyond. Now, O had a nose for trouble (like attracting like, and all), and law outside of the Ebon Vanguard happening to show up in her vicinity was trouble. Not one to believe in coincidences, O scanned the iron vault that housed a million vivid images of every face she’d ever encountered, for any memory at all of the woman she had just seen in the Wayrest.

And… nothing. Not a damned thing. And O never forgot a face once she saw one, accounting for the aforementioned vault. Still, it was something to make a mental note of as she was escorted through the now-well and truly-dark city to the sound of Fort’s boisterous performance.

More than once she shot him a look when his voice rose above the acceptable volume of a normal conversation. Incognito was clearly not his bag. “Good plan, Fort. They’ll never see us coming. Rather, they’ll just hear us.”

The target approached and O let her eyes fall over the building for the second time since her arrival. She had scouted the area out previous to their meet, but there was no sense in sharing that. Truth be told she had only a vague idea, prior to speaking with Fort, as to what his intentions were for his old business partner, and killing him without asking would have been presumptuous. Not to mention terribly rude.

The rooming houses on the other side of town were in disrepair, and just like the rest of the city, it overwhelmed her with the inexplicable urge to kick something cute and fluffy down a flight of stairs. “By the Six, I hate this city.” She voiced, or rather, complained. The old adage ‘thou protesteth too much’ came to mind and was the only thing to stop her from elaborating further on the topic of her disdain. Something about this place made her abnormally vocal.

Work. Right. She corralled her wondering thoughts once more to focus on the task at hand. Crispin Rudain was holed up on the top floor. Her eyes locked onto an open window five stories from the ground level. It was always the top floor. “I’ll see to the inside locks, you can meet me at the door.” He was on his own as far as picking the main floor lock to access the shared hallways, but she assumed he was a man who could handle himself in that regard. – A fact that was more complimentary than it would have sounded to any law abiding citizen.

Watching her scale the stone wall, mostly a blur of black moving on black, made it look about as complicated as child’s play. O may have begun shaping balloons into animals at any moment. Or perhaps it only made her look as though she shared a common ancestry with a gecko. Whatever.

Twelve feet from the ground and she began to murmur under her breath while she climbed, “The carnival's glossy ghosts, zebra-painted horses parade, the cotton candy prostitutes” her breath hitched just as she pulled her lithe form up onto a third story window ledge, and then she went on. “Caramel apple corpses singing...”

"Just this way to the neon orange gallows! Tonight we tie noose around the killer's collar! Watch him play his wind pipe organ!". A portly woman in her late fifties had thrown open her window and shouted the words with the skill of a professional street hawker. The warm scent of bread rising in the kitchen wafted past her. The baker’s wife, then, no doubt kept awake by her husband's now clearly audible singing while he whiled away the night making loaf after loaf for the morning’s sales. Everyone was afflicted.

“Just five dollars to see a face explode! To see a man strung up by his throat!” the baker’s wife, who could stand to eat a little less of her husband's bread continued to shout after her as she resumed her climb ever upward.

“Come one, come all! If you look close enough you'll see death's machinery exposed!”

O clucked her tongue in time with the rhythm for a few beats, sounding condescending in her song once more, “So won't you hold me closer? Just one more minute, until the execution's over? Won't you behead another? C'mon we're waiting! Won't you shock and entertain us?”

At last she gave one final look around the streets below to confirm that she had not been spotted by anyone who mattered, and then she vaulted into the pitch black room on the top floor and began her stalk toward the bed. Her vision adjusted to the dark with preternatural speed, allowing her to see the vague shape of something under the coverlets. “The hangman selling tickets to the sparkling death scene. Tonight we watch the rope choke a conscience clean.” She purred her words, sounding more like a well-versed seductress than a hawker. “See it up close, see it in person!”

She stopped by the bedside and leaned down to whisper in time with the song, “His lips spun like revolving fun house doors as the hush kisses at our neck nape. ‘Any final words for your loving audience?’ says the man with the dazzling sapphire cape.” She tossed back the covers and… nothing. For the second time that evening.

Heavy, pouting lips turned sharply downward as she looked over the mass of pillows haphazardly shaped into a vague human form, previously hidden beneath the blankets.


There went her grand finale. ‘So won't you hold me closer, just one more minute until the executions over? Won't you behead another, c'mon we're waiting! Won't you shock and entertain us? Until the end of the world? Snap, snap, snap goes the neck. ‘Rah, rah, rah!’ the audience. Black, black, black goes his face. The sky spreads like thighs inside lace.’

She crossed the creaking floors, threw open the bolts that secured the door from the inside and stood with her arms crossed over her leather-clad chest. There were no sounds of violence coming from the halls. Her expression was awash with disappointment: nothing was ever easy.

"My First Kiss at the Public Execution" by The Blood Brothers

Posted May 23, 15 · Last edited May 23, 15
Curiosity killed the cat.

But satisfaction brought him back.

This can also be attributed to foxes.

Much like the Silver Fox. She watched from the rooftop as she spied the pair leaving the Wayrest. She'd seen her friend, Sheriff Wennemein, enter earlier and thought she'd keep an eye out for any trouble. Because the sheriff did have a tendency to get into the odd fist fight, gun battle, bar room brawl when trouble was afoot.

Things seemed quiet, she mused to herself as she watched O and Fort carefully from her rooftop perch. As they moved, she moved across the rooftops, keeping a watchful eye on the pair. She smirked as she ducked behind chimneys and rooftop peaks, taking a peak here and there as she watched. There was something slightly familiar about their actions and their attitudes. Perhaps a world away, even the Silver Fox had performed such acts.

"I know how to hurt. I know how to heal. I know what to show, and what to conceal," she sang to herself as she pressed her back against a tall chimney. "I know when to talk, and I know when to touch. No-one ever die from wanting to much."

She slipped out from behind the chimney, keeping a watchful eye on the pair as she pressed herself against the wall of an adjacent wall from a neighbouring building. "The world is not enough, but it is such a perfect place to start, my love," she sang as she dashed across the rooftops once more, keeping her quarry in sight. "And if you're strong enough, together we can take the world apart, my love."

Her green eyes seemed to gleam through the eye holes of her mask as she stood up tall on the rooftop, walking as fast as the pair she followed in the street. She saw their destination quite clearly, but made no move to intercept them. "People like us, know how to survive. There's no point in living, if you can't feel the life. We know when to kiss, and we know when to kill. If we can't have it all, then nobody will."

She made no attempt to hide as she walked from rooftop to rooftop. Ebonhawke was her stage, her territory, she'd made her claim. "I feel safe. I feel scared. I feel ready. And yet unprepared."

The Silver Fox made no intentions of hiding herself, her figure silhouetted against the brightness of the full moon that seemed to crest over the city, lining up perfectly with the buildings she stood a top of. "The world is not enough, but it is such a perfect place to start, my love. And if you're strong enough, together we can take the world apart, my love."

With arms outstretched, she looked down as the pair entered a building, her smirk had grown into a gleeful grin. "The world is not enough. The world is not enough. No nowhere near enough. The world is not enough." Her last words fell as she began to cackle with glee, slipping herself back into the shadows.

lyrics from The World Is Not Enough as performed by Garbage

Posted May 23, 15 · OP
He took the chiding in good stride. She of all people had no room to talk. She was just as bad as he when it came to resisting the strange compulsion to belt out a quick chorus. Even so, as she disappeared to clamber up the sheer stone walls, he couldn't help but flash a rolling-eyed idiots grin to her back.

"Thank you kindly. I'll just see to the front, then shall I?" Too low to be heard, certainly, but reeking of good-natured mockery. He spat. "A golden dragonshower on it."

But then, this wasn't his first time around the block.

The poignard, slim and purpose built for sliding between ribs on the decks of heaving ships, took the space between doorjamb and latch just as easily. With a dextrous flick of the wrist, the latch clicked open and Fort was in with no more trouble than a man who'd actually belonged in the rooming house.

He turned, glancing over his shoulder to assure himself that he wasn't walking into an obvious trap. The coast appeared clear enough for his liking. Only the faint tinkling of distant music on the breaths of late night wind. That made him smile a little wider. He and Saint weren't the only ones afflicted, at least.

"Come out, come out, wherever you are." He started, beneath his breath as he paced the first floor hallway, angling for the steep stairs to the second floor. "Payback is overdue." He gained the landing and made for the corner furthest from the stairs. The rat would doubtless want to be as far away as humanly possible from any avenue of attack. He had at least that much head for strategy. But with Saint taking the window, and he, the landing, the poor fool was caught between closing jaws.

The door swung inward from the jamb with a spray of splinters courtesy of a well-placed heel-kick and Fort came in with pistol raised and rapier clearing free with a deadly snickt-hiss. He swept the room with a wary glare.

And found Saint threatening some pillows, a threadbare blanket in her other hand.

"So much for my IOU. My head's caught underneath Grenth's thumb. I guess that makes me a lucky one." He finished with an animal growl like a long-tailed cat in a rocking-chair store.

He sheathed the rapier in a fluid movement, keeping the pistol free as he swept beneath the bed, frustration mounting. "Stupidity is a constant trend. Murphy and I have become best friends. Hooray for dreams dead before they've come." He heaved at the bed and toppled it in a fit of primal rage, his blood thundering in his ears. "Hooray for me, I'm a lucky one."

The armoire, then. A double-doored wardrobe that could easily hide a coward in his moment of extremity. Fort closed the distance in a handful of strides, his boots playing tempo for his rage. "I am, I am, I am, the lucky one. I am a comedian..." He heaved the door open and threatened an empty cabinet with his pistol. "The joke's on me, I'm the lucky one."

He slammed the doors closed with a casual backhand blow of the pistol. That only left the steamer trunk at the foot of the bed. He gave it a kick and waited for the scream from the inside. None came. "I've tried to push straight through the suck. Head first, but now my head is stuck. I'm feeling like a stupid schmuck..." He opened the trunk with his free hand, ready to burn down whoever might be skulking.

Empty. Because of course it was. "Lucky for me I don't believe in luck."

He turned over his shoulder, his scowl turning into a maniac's grin. "Rusted linings on my black cloud." He took the room in, it's entirety, with a sweep of his free hand; gesturing nebulously to indicate the present situation and his luck in general. "It's raining piss, someone wanna tell me what that's all about? Wish on a black star until it comes. It's here for me I'm a lucky one."

Again, a frustrated growl as he crossed to the open window. He braced his hands on the sill and drew deep of the night air with a muttered curse. He swept the streets, just a momentary glimpse of a dark figure on the rooftops. Greatcoat, tricorn...A little thin for Rudain. A little shorter than he remembered. But...maybe?

"Thank gods, I don't believe in luck."

He pointed, wordless for a moment, fixing the vanishing figure for just a breathless moment before it vanished.

"He's on the roofs." He turned with a smile that was threatening to become a death's head rictus. "So should we be."

Lyrics provided by Celldweller, "The Lucky One"
Posted May 23, 15
Shani Wennemein placed the stopper back into the bottle of Blood Whiskey. She knew when trouble was coming down, she'd seen it in people's eyes for going on thirty years. A point of interest, many don't believe Shani when she says her age of 45 years. Maybe it's due to her size, maybe it's due to her heritage, or maybe it's just in her genes, but many swear she's at least 10 to 15 years younger. A comment that Shani just scoffs at. Still, it works to her advantage many times.

At least she'd survived longer than many gunfighters and swashbucklers. "Barkeep," she called out as she took the half filled bottle of Blood Whiskey to the counter. "Keep this secure, I'll be back fer it." The bar tender nodded as he took the bottle and stowed it away with one or two of the other bottles that patrons paid for but left at the bar. With that done, Shani donned her stetson and stepped out into the street.

Her thoughts trailed back to the pair she'd seen exit the Wayrest only moments before. That, and her nagging feeling about her friend Pania. Which for some reason brought her to a memory from her youth, when her father was still alive. She had to have been only five years old, but she remembered every day he was alive with clarity.

There was an old song her father would sing to her, one that brought her spirits up in only the way a gunslinger could with his young daughter. And it seemed to, in some rather odd way, bring Shani's spirits up now. "Everyone in Beetletun knew Tom Ames would come to some bad end. Well the sheriff had caught him stealin' chickens and such, by the time that he was ten. And one day his daddy took a ten dollar bill, and he tucked it in his hand. He said I can tell you're headed for trouble son, and your momma wouldn't understand."

It was the kind of song that actually attracted attention, with it's light tempo but still rather dark lyrics. A couple of street wise orphans began trailing behind Shani as she sang. "So he took that money and his brothers old bay, and he left without a word of thanks. Fell in with a crowd in some border town, and took to robbin' banks."

Shani could hear the two children sneak up on her, and she turned on her heel quickly, facing them as she continued to sing. "Outside the law your luck'll run out fast. And a few years came and went, 'till he's trapped in an alley in Lion's Arch, with all but four shells spent." The children stopped and giggled with surprise, but stayed where they were as Shani told the tale of Tom Ames. "And he realized prayin' was the only thing, that he hadn't ever tried. Well he weren't sure he knew quite how, but he looked up to the sky." She knelt down as she sang, nearly beckoning the two orphans closer, much in the same manner her father would do when she was their age. "Said you don't owe me nothin' and as far as I know, Kormir don't owe nothin' to you. And I ain't askin' for a miracle Kormir, just a little bit of luck will do."

"And you know I ain't never prayed before, but it always seemed to me, If prayin' is the same as beggin' Kormir, I don't take no charity," at this the children laughed and even clapped along with the Sheriff. "Yeah but right now Kormir with my back to the wall, can't help but recall, how they nearly hung me for stealin' a horse, in Wayfarer Foothills."

"Judge Parker said guilty and the gavel came down, just like a cannon shot. And I went away quietly, and I began to file and plot." By now, thanks to timber and pattern of the song, the two children danced around as Shani sang, which also drew the attention of a Nightwatchman. But nothing serious, just a guard listening to a tune. "Well they sent the preacher down to my cell, he said the Spirits is your only hope. They's the only friends that you gonna have, when you hit the end of Parker's rope."

"Well I guess he coulda' kept on preachin' 'till Wintersday, but he turned his back on me. I put a home made blade to that golden throat, an' asked the deputy for the key." So enthralled with the song were the few onlookers (many of whom began clapping along in time to it) took absolutely no notice that Shani was using the melody to scan the rooftops. And it was there she saw the silvery coat of a familiar figure, and then two other figures entering a building. "Well it ain't the first close call I ever had. I'm sure you already know. I had some help from you Kormir and Grenth himself, it's been strictly touch and go."

"Yeah but who in the mists am I talkin' to, there ain't no one here but me. Then he cocked both his pistols and he spit in the dirt, and he walked out in the street." As she closed the song, she slipped a pair of gold each into the hands of each child, then gave them a quick swat on their bottoms. "Go git yerself some food, a bath, an' a place ta sleep t'night." The two children squeaked and giggled as they ran off. Shani turned her attention back to the rooftops.

The guard finally took note of this and said quietly to Shani. "Something amiss?"

"I ain't to sure," she replied as she held open her long coat, revealing the silver star. "This here ain't my jurisdiction, but y'all mind ifn I do some snoopin' 'round o' any suspicious activities."

The guard shook his head quickly after he read the etching on the star, revealing Shani to be the Sheriff of Prospect Valley. Many had heard of this woman, a human of Kryta who took it upon herself to become the law in the most desolate place next to Frostforge Sound in all of Tyria. "No, of course not."

"Ifn y'all hear gunshots," Shani said as she tested her pistols. "Gather yer posse an' come runnin'."

lyrics from Tom Ames Prayer, written and performed by Steve Earle

Posted May 24, 15 · OP
He’s on the rooftops, O heard Fort say, and the sheer alien-strangeness of the statement made her stop cold and stalk over to the window with abnormally heavy footfalls. Someone managed to hide on the rooftops as she walked past and she did not notice? ‘Impossible.’ Came the indignant thought.

Now, at the window, she still could not spot anyone tucked into any of the shadows of the adjacent rooftops. However, she could very plainly see the sheriff having a little chat with a local night guard while looking up in their direction. Unfortunately for them, they caught her off her game. On a normal night she may have handled the problem with some form of professionalism.

“I knew she was going to be a problem.”

O’s teeth clicked together audibly as she snapped her jaw shut, the muscles that wired it closed flexing visibly from the strain. She had a temper. The hellcat slithered around the rogue and jumped up and onto the windowsill in a single fluid motion.

She sang out in a voice that dripped venom and pierced the stillness of the night, ensuring that she would catch the attention the interlopers below.

“Controversy, uh-huh. Controversy, uh-huh.”

She paced the width of the windowsill, back and forth, nimbly avoiding Fort’s hands with each step. She had the look of something wild; a caged tiger pacing just behind iron bars, five stories off the ground and daring the onlookers to step closer, to just place a hand between the bars. What harm could it do?

“Controversy, uh-huh. Controversy uh-huh.” She repeated and prowled.

She stopped, taking a wide, theatrical stance in the windowsill that left the fuming Fort a new window between lean, leather-clad legs. A beam of cool-silver moonlight seemed to erupt from behind what was dense cloud cover only a moment ago, illuminating the better part of the building that the vixen stalked. Below, every window that lined the first floor of the ramshackle housing structure flung open. Five in total, and each one housed the enticing silhouette of a scantily dressed working girl behind a thin red curtain, each one preparing for a long, and with a little luck, lucrative, night of business.

All five chanted rhythmically in the practiced, sultry voices befitting women of their trade.

“Drink the Kool-Aid; don't drink the Kool-Aid. Drink the Kool-Aid; don't drink the Kool-Aid. Drink the Kool-Aid; don't drink the Kool-Aid.”

The silhouettes of the girls all seemed to suggest that they were staring in the direction of the law enforcement across the way. Their tones were almost threatening, as though to say this was their turf, and anything that might distract their clients would not be taken kindly to, and it was so very easy to despise anyone of a more fortunate station than those who dwelled in this part of town. “Bloody noses, riot squad. Prostitution, valium. Hate crimes, debutants. Victims, vixens, vicodin. Bloody noses, riot squad. Prostitution, valium. Hate crimes, debutants. Victims, vixens, vicodin.” They chanted.

O’s eyes narrowed into dangerous slits.

“What’ the hell you lookin' at? This ain't academy, Pussycat.”

It did not matter how fluid her movements were. There was no mistaking that the death pixie in the windowsill-perch was drawing down on the two below. The guard and the sheriff both. She did not ask for backup, and she did not seem to need it.

“Lookin' down my shirt like it's a carnival, like you’re waitin' for a fast pass.”
The girls in their windows drew open their curtains, leaning out provocatively as they recited the final and most unsavory parts of the song even as gunfire rang out, seeming unaffected by the ear-piercing scream of the bullets tearing through the night at supersonic speed. Death at a thousand feet per second.

The first bullet fired came from the pistol in her right hand, perhaps indicating her preference. It fired straight. It was a fine piece, no doubt more costly than her station should have been able to afford, and its mate, filling her left hand, a perfect twin. Her aim was true. Only a preemptive dodge would have saved the faceless guard the sheriff conversed with from a bullet.

There could not have been more than a split moment before her attention shifted. A mere heartbeat before she began systematically unloading both pistols on the sheriff below. O hated being disturbed at work on the best of days. She peppered the landscape surrounding the sheriff with extreme prejudice and an uncanny sort of accuracy for such a low-light environment.

There was nothing left to sing.

"Controversy" by Natalia Kills (EXPLICIT LYRICS)

Posted May 24, 15
The nightwatchman, the orphans, and a few other passersby jumped with fright at the hail of bullets. Shani stood firm, letting each bullet bounce harmlessly away. She furrowed her brow and took out another cigarello, lighting it calmly, then reached for her pistols and checked to see if they were loaded. "Gods damned amateurs," she muttered to herself as she holstered one of the pistols and removed her cigarello from between her lips and shouted out across the square. "Like I ain't never been shot at b'fore."

She shook her head and began walking across the square, moving between hiding spots with ease. "The streets are covered in chalk. The shops are boarded up. The bodies are carried back down from the square." She ducked out from behind cover and let loose with a flurry of her own. She was more than aware that there was the wildcard that was already on the rooftop, and that factor might give her an edge. "He begins to wonder, if it always was this hot, or is it just the clothes that he now wears."

She looked back to the Nightwatchman as she took cover behind a wagon piled with books, nodding to let him know he should go get the rest of his party to help. "Napoleon sheds his skin in the summer when the sun is high. He never knows when to quit, when to stop," she sang out as she took one last drag from her cigarello. "Or when to say die." She stepped out from behind the cover and let loose with another hail of bullets, each one hitting the mark where she wanted them. No killing blows, no hits on flesh. Just enough to scare. She wasn't in a killing mood this night.

And she wasn't the only one, as even Shani could hear the sudden response from the rooftops, followed by another hail of bullets. "Pick the bones, get a tan or wander Underground. She would not have left him anyway, wait by the sea, wait in the sun. As if the time stood still. Did he get involved in whichever side that paid." The Silver Fox stepped out from the shadow of a chimney and fired as she confidently walked along the edge of the rooftop, much like a tight rope walker. "Napoleon sheds his skin in the summer when the sun is high. He never knows when to quit, when to stop," the Silver Fox repeated the chorus sung earlier by the Sheriff, but with an added bonus. As she reloaded her pistols, she didn't step back into the shadows so much as she burst into a cloud of pink and purple butterflies. "Or when to say die."

Shani Wennemein shook her head as she looked to the rooftops from her position of cover. "Figures," she muttered. "She used ta do the same thing back in our bad ol' days." She snuck out from cover and fired again, shouting out to the other pair climbing onto the rooftops. "I think y'all 're mistaken as ta my objectives. I had no intentions o' goin' after y'all." She ducked once again behind a low wall and gritted her teeth. "And time stands still behind, the distant gates. Time moves on outside in the sun, then he wonders which side he's really on." A few more bulltets whizzed by as Shani ducked behind her hiding spot again, reloading her pistols. She furrowed her brow and looked to the rooftops once again. "Then he doesn't care, it's so grey in there. He just wants to get back to her."

From the rooftops, a cloud of pink and purple butterflies exploded once again, this time closer to the two firing upon the Sheriff. "Napoleon sheds his skin in the summer when the sun is high. He never knew when to quit, when to stop," she sang out with her usual boisterous manner before once again bursting into pink and purple butterflies, but not before the words trail off into the night air. "Or when to say die." In an almost ghostly manner, a few more words echo on the wind. "Napoleon, sheds his skin."

"I've got to get out of here," Shani hissed out. "Can she save me," she muttered as she stepped out from cover. "Truce!" she shouted out. "Vanguards on it's way an' this here could get bloodier 'n it need be. It's obvious our paths crossed at the wrong time. Yer play. But I warn you, next time I will not be aimin' fer brick 'n mortar."

lyrics from Napoleon Sheds His Skin written by Tom Cochrane, performed by Red Rider.

"Here's a song about a man who bit off more than he could chew."
Tom Cochrane, The Symphony Sessions, Edmonton, Alberta, 1989

Posted May 24, 15 · OP
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