Testing Junk

Discussion in 'THE TEST CHAMBERS' started by Cordyceps Chowder, Sep 13, 2016.

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    "speak speak speak"
     
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    It was an odd sort of punishment, one that jabbed at his curiosity more than his bruised self-esteem. For a month now Bastion had wandered the streets of the foreign city on his Lord's orders; gathering new faces, new information, and most importantly new resources for her business. Religious zealotry aside, the city was a typical melting pot of cultures. He'd heard as many Delwari merchants bellowing their wares and seen the infamous grumpiness of Lowland tourists as frequently as he had back home.

    What made it odd wasn't the location but himself. Ominously tall with shoulders sturdier than mountains and cheekbones that could cut, Bastion practically projected his otherness even in a city so diverse. The angry red slash bisecting his face from forehead to jaw literally marked him as a gentleman of ill repute, yet his Lord had requested an audience with the King's council months ago and still sent uncouth Bastion as her representative of choice.

    For the past week his social discomfort had swelled, keeping beat with the tide of local festivities. By mid-week his bewilderment and cynicism had joined it, entwining and mutating as he'd watched the locals fall deeper into their revelries, which all but deify-ed their military, their country, their ego. Even with residential contacts, Bastion couldn't fathom celebrations that focused on kicking a downed beast. Even a world-eater.

    Personally, he preferred festivals that glorified beer and food and nothing else. As the final day worn on, he focused on sampling the myriad of greasy, sugary goods that followed any festival regardless of bloody intent. By the time evening set in, Bastion's ill ease only soured his tongue a little, setting his stomach up for a moderate, acidic protest. But he was full and content to join the tide of living bodies as they pressed and flowed into the central square, dominated as it was by a royal dais and a lesser platform.

    "There you are. Just in time to see her." Taelin chimed, her voice full of the anticipation that buzzed around them like static. The young escort spared him a charming grin marred by something subtle, something that rocked Bastion back a step. Viciousness. In fact, the crowd itself radiated a primal blood lust dimmed only by their fists, which clutched rotting fruit and spoiled eggs over a soldier's gun or a tormentor's whip.

    Bastion didn't respond, couldn't, even if the King himself hadn't stepped onto the dais just then to provoke a tidal wave of cheer from the crowd. The monarch spoke, clipped and to the point, wasting no time in giving his people what they wanted. The barbed woman. Smaller, so much smaller than Bastion had ever imagined. She stumbled to the lower platform, provoking imagery of a child, chained as she was by the two hulking behemoths and then left, abandoned to the senseless wrath of the drunken citizens. Perhaps that was the point, the beastly ruse, he considered for a dispassionate second; for a monster to take on such a tiny, pitiful form was to deceive the victim. He'd played that game himself, letting his enemies consider his stature and reduce him to the stereotype of the witless muscle, only to easily outwit them. But. No, that didn't fit. It nagged at him, nettled him even as the first egg collided with the little monster's dark crown.

    "I'm heading back," He mumbled more to himself than Taelin, lost as she was in the thrall of the public flagellation. It would take him years, he knew, to wipe away the memory of violent ecstasy smeared onto her face.

    By the next morning the night's atrocity was a ghost that trailed in his wake. He left the red light district early and ambled along the winding streets until the garbage and dime store hookers gave way to manicured hedges and neatly pressed watchmen. The elegant building he entered was creatively named the Swan, typical lodgings for mid-ranked ambassadors, including Bastion. He'd stayed there for the totality of a night before the lavish lifestyle had flustered him and he sought more, well, homely surroundings. It hadn't taken him long to find it in the form of the Bedside Manor, a busy brothel with a spare apartment in the attic. In exchange for a fraction of the Swan's price, Bastion had gained privacy; valuable, renewable information; and a limitless well of gossip.

    Still, conducting business in a brothel was considered poor manners, so he slipped into the building's adequate library to pass the time with research until his business meeting commenced. He started in historical records, hoping beyond hope that a taste of the kingdom's Unifier past would be there. Or maybe just that little monster's.
     
    #2 Cordyceps Chowder, Sep 13, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2016
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    Very cute; the startled spin, the glancing, as if she hadn't been the only one snooping by his table.
    "Aye, I was speaking to you." He retorted dryly, quirking one thick brow. His fresh scar strained and itched with the movement.

    "The next time you want to spy on someone, I recommend leaning less." Bastion added, folding his arms across his chest. He looked down on her; not because her criminal skills were so lacking but because she was honestly that short. It impressed upon him then- mostly from the strain in his neck- that she must have been at least two solid feet shorter.

    She spoke again; her melodic voice proper and trained like a well educated clergywoman, yet she lacked the local inflection he had witnessed in the few other religious disciples he had come across. An offer. Both dark brows rolled high on his forehead at that, tightening the scar into a taut line.

    "And why would you do that? Do you often go to the park with strangers?" He inquired, baffled. In his home city a person would sooner spit at you than offer to have a pleasant conversation in the park, and from what he'd witnessed so far, her own city wasn't so different. If it was her city, he amended, bearing in mind her highborn cadence. He clipped his next remark short for she mustered the resolve to speak again, sweetening the deal with promises of an incredible book.

    "Are you a Unifier priestess, then?" He asked, for he couldn't imagine anyone else being allowed to posses such a mythical tome. Or having absurd practices like being forbidden from revealing your birth name. Bastion was about to say as much when the petite woman seemed to crumble under the weight of her turban, pain evident despite the veil as she wavered and clung to the table. Instinct sent him forward, one hand gripping her upper arm firmly in an attempt to keep her from collapsing completely.

    "Steady there, strange Kyaereste. Are you alright?" Sincerity tinged his gruff tone. "I'll go with you to the park if it means you don't collapse on me..." Clarity, cruel mistress that it was, informed him of the softness pressing against his knuckles just then. Apparently, when one's body was sixty percent breast it was nearly impossible to keep from grazing them. Bastion, cheeks flushing, marveled at the facts he learned every day as he oh so gingerly released his grip and let his arm swing back down to his side.

    "...Though I doubt you lend out your collection of rare and impossible tomes for free." He finished the thought, eyes darting away from the woman as if he could will his embarrassment to pass. "I can't imagine I have much to offer a priestess." Bastion gestured for her to take the lead on their quest for sunlight and manicured vegetation. For a split second before they moved away, he could've sworn he spotted movement by the closest bookcase. Almost as if a hand were readjusting a book to block the view.

    "Hmm. But I suppose I can start with a name. Call me Bastion, if you care to call me anything at all." He said, letting the library and its nosy inhabitants fall from his thoughts as they were bathed once more by daylight.
     
    #3 Cordyceps Chowder, Sep 18, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2016