Homecoming (Blades in the Dark)

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Imperial Overlord
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Homecoming (Blades in the Dark)

Post by Imperial Overlord » 2020-01-29 01:57am

He took a long drag on the smoke, filling his lungs with the sweet vapor. It was bright out, with the shards of the sun giving a soft and weak glow along the horizon and the moon looming, bright and full overhead. The sky was clear and you could see every bloody star, in the sky and reflected in the void black water. You didn't even need the city's lights to see it.

He heard steps on the corrugated steel deck behind him. He turned to see who it was. He nodded to the slight young man. Not that he was that much older than him. "Arlo."

"Cade," the other said. "I thought you would be up here."

He shrugged and took another drag on the smoke. "Yeah, wanted to see the city."

Arlo walked over to him and leaned against the rail. "All those lights."

"And the lightning." The towers, crackling with arcs of blue-white lightning, loosely surrounded the city. The towers kept the ghosts of the deadlands from coming in and the ghosts were legion. "Crazy motherfuckers fly by in gliders, rigged with metal strips. The arcs fly to the strips and they explode, brighter than star. It's crazy. Beautiful too."

"All of that because of us," said Arlo.

"Don't get romantic about it. The fuckers who own these monstrosities may fuel the city with electroplasm, but they also suppress research into alternate sources. All about keeping their hands on power. Which may fuck us all if the hunting doesn't improve."
"You don't think they'll find the new leviathan migration paths?"

"I think the same fucking assholes, from the Immortal Emperor on down, have stayed on the top and cozy no matter how shitty the world gets. And they'll drop as many bodies as it takes to keep it that way." He took another drag on the smoke. "I can't wait to get off this shit barge. The difference between this and a shitty factory job is this one pays a lot better but is much more likely to kill you."

"You might not have to wait for this job to kill you," said Arlo. "What you did with Jennison . . ."

"Fuck that guy and his boyfriend Caldoon. If they and their little gang were going to shake down new fish, they should have expected push back. And they should feel real fucking grateful that they're still breathing after trying to rape me. It's like fucking Ironhook on this fucking boat. Well, the pay is good and there's much better access to knives, so better than Ironhook. Also the chief's are fucking useless, but that still makes them better than Ironhook's screws, so three things."

"Trouble," said Arlo, his eyes darting behind his friend. He turned. Caldoon and his two lackies were climbing the stairs toward him. He tossed the smoke into the ocean. "This might be the last bad idea you've ever had Caldoon."

Caldoon chuckled. He was big man, fat over muscle and mean all over. "You're a real tough guy, aren't you Cade? You and your little faggot friend are going to take us all, right?" He spat over the side. "We're almost at Duskwall. It would be best if you got off the boat and didn't come back."

"Glad to," he replied. "Anything else or do have some rape and extortion to get to?"
"Fuck you Cade."

"I decline, forcefully. Or did you not get the message from the way I fucked up your boyfriend?"

Caldoon's eyes darted over Arlo. "I got the message. Go. And don't come back."

He nodded and step forward into kick that smashed into Caldoon's groin. He chopped Caldoon in the throat and then grabbed his overalls and lifted. The big man went over the railing and hit the water with a barely audible smash.

Caldoon's bully boys backed up. "I didn't like the way he was looking at the kid. Pitty about him falling over the railing. You guys have three choices. You didn't see shit. You saw him fall over the side. By accident. Or you choose to make trouble with me, which means I stay around with you on a boat where you've pissed off a lot of people by throwing your weight behind assholes who are now very much out of comission. What's it going to be?"

"Didn't see nothing man," said one. The other nodded.

"Now fuck off." They retreated down the steps.

"You should get off his boat. If the chiefs were worth a damn they wouldn't let a crew like that operate and they'll let another form up. You've got experience, get yourself a slot on another boat. One that functions less like a fucking prison." He turned back to the city. The shards of the sun had faded away, leaving more darkness in their wake.

-----

He walked down the gangplank from the mammoth leviathon ship, his sailor's duffel slung over his shoulder. Gantries extended to the side of the ship, illuminated by cold white light from huge electroplasm lamps. The gantries enabled repairs, rearming, and of course the transfer of the precious, precious leviathan blood cargo that filled the boat with its copper-iron stentch and powered all the things that made this crapsack civilization possible.

"Hey handsome," said a voice from the corner. "Want to have some fun?"

"Sorry beautiful,' he replied. "Places to go first. Places to go."

Wagons pulled by huge goats trundled past bunkhouses, warehouses, taverns, and brothels. Lamp posts and windows spilled light into the dark, creating a seething mass of shadows between islands of light.

He passed tattoo parlors and groups of drunk men, street walkers and customers, blue coated watchmen and gangs of workers going to and from their jobs. He passed a laundry and an eel farm as he reached canal side. He whistled and waved, attracting a gondola poling its way through the water with lantern at its bow.

The gondolier came up against the side of canal. She was a tall, blond woman with broad shoulders and thick arms. More than pretty enough for him to want to dance with, vertically and horizontally. It had been awhile.

He handed her a silver coin. "Six Towers."

"Sure," she said. She poled the boat around and headed deeper into the city. They passed bridges and brightly lit districts as she took them down the canals, closer to shore. Dark towers loomed ahead. Power and light were scarce here, a once fashionable district now mostly abandoned by the prosperous and left to the poor and the destitute.

He gave her another two coins and brought the gondola over to side of the canal next to the crumbling ruin of a manor house. He hopped up onto land. Six Towers. Home or close to it.

The once grand manors converted into dormitories and flop houses. The abandoned houses taken over by squaters. Trash on the ground, shit in the yards. Lamp posts here and there, occasional light coming from windows. Hollow eyed men and emaciated women clustered around a drug den. Nothing much had changed.

And maybe not. Hard eyed men, four of them, gathered around a barrel fire. Yellow sashes with blades stuck in them. Young most of them, younger than he was, with one exception. Hook Nose Tony. They knew each other from Ironhook. Tony's eyes narrowed in recognition and the expression on his face wasn't friendly. Fuck.

He moved on. The yellow sashes didn't follow. He walked under the only working streetlamp in the area, just ahead of the scarred house. It was marked by grafitti and bullets, but its bones were still strong and the walls were still sound. He walked up to the solid wood door and raised his hand.

A voice rasped from behind him. "Still not good enough punk."

He turned around. The man had a fighting knife two inches from his throat and a gun held loosely in his other hand. He had a long face, maybe good looking depending on how you liked scars a dark goatee. He was wearing a dark tricorn hat and coat and a smile that showed a mouthful of gleaming white teeth.

"Gunrat. You look good."

"Hardcase, you motherfucker." The weapons disappeared. Gunrat extended his arms and hugged him. "Welcome home, buddy."
The Excellent Prismatic Spray. For when you absolutely, positively must kill a motherfucker. Accept no substitutions. Contact a magician of the later Aeons for details. Some conditions may apply.

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Re: Homecoming (Blades in the Dark)

Post by LadyTevar » 2020-01-29 11:54pm

I see you're back in good form.
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Nitram: You -are- beautiful. Anyone tries to tell you otherwise kill them.
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Re: Homecoming (Blades in the Dark)

Post by Imperial Overlord » 2020-02-10 06:27pm

Case hugged him back. "Good to be back. Should I make myself scarce?"

"No, brother," said Gunrat, "you're good. We took care of things. Come on, we'll talk inside." He knocked on the heavy door, a quick two-three-two rap. The metal slit slid opened and eyes peered out. A moment later the door opened.

The man on the other side was short and heavily muscled, with thick, bushy mustaches and long hair. He wore a sleeveless shirt over baggy pants. "Case," he rumbled. A blunderbuss leaned on the wall next to him.

"Badger, good to see you man." They exchanged a complicated series of hand slaps and fist bumps. Gunrat vanished back into the darkness outside.

Badger jerked his thumb back, toward the interior of the house. "Everyone will want to see you." Louder, he yelled back. "Case is back!"

Case headed into the parlor. The house hadn't changed much, but half a year wasn't really that long even if it had felt that way. Once upon a time this had been a rich man's house, abandoned when most of the money had left Six Towers. They had taken it over and cleaned it up when they had made it their home. Case remembered how the place had smelled for a week after they had clumsily painted the interior. Still, while you could see the lines and brush strokes the stains were covered and the walls were clean.

The parlor was one of the two places the crew met, a broad room where a gaggle of salvaged furniture surrounded a pair of battered coffee tables whose wounds were hidden beneath table cloths. "Hey, if it isn't the third baddest cutter in the crew," said Glory. Badger's twin sister looked like him, minus the mustaches.

"Nice to see you too Glory," he replied and bumped fist. "Fucked up anybody interesting, tough girl?"

"Yeah," she said. "You?"

"I shot an explosive harpoon into a leviathan. Does that count?"

"World would be even more fucked up than it is if it didn't."

"Look who's back," purred a slender young man with light brown skin and jaw length black hair. He wore a midnight blue damasked waistcoat with a gold pocket watch over dark suit with a white shirt. His dark eyes glittered with wit and wickedness.

"Vain, you beautiful bastard," said Case. "Prettier than any girl I've seen in the last half year."

"That would mean more if you hadn't hiding on a leviathan hunter for all that time," said Vain as he gave him a hug. "Glad to have you back tough guy."

"The boss woman?"

"In house," Vain replied. "I imagine she'll be around to welcome home her favorite boy-toy at any moment."

"Well, of course I am," said the woman who entered the room. She was tall, almost as tall as Case, and on the other side of thirty. Her skin was pale white and her lips blood red. Her hair was dark and coiled up in a bun. She wore a long, plain black dress. She was remarkably beautiful, if one's taste ran to statues carved from ice. "And Case is no one's toy." She extended her left arm.

Case took it, bowed, and kissed her knuckle. "Madam."

She laughed, a cheery sound. "Six months and I'm a 'madam' now. What's left of the bloom of youth appears to be fleeing. Or perhaps Vain has stolen it to bolster his store."

"Never," said Case. "You remain timeless. Boss lady."

"Sit," she said and did so herself on the room's best couch. Case sat down opposite her in a loveseat that had seen better days but was still comfortable. "Hungry?" she asked.

"A little."

"Someone be a dear and warm up some of the stew for our returning hero," she said. "Vain, go raid the liquor cabinet for the good booze."

Vain made and elaborate bow. "Of course, fairest of fair ladies."

"Gunrat said I was clear."

"Yes," she said. "We arranged for James Mells and Dannel Tombs to say they were drinking with you at the Drowned Galleon during the night of the killings. They said you had a lot so conveniently you don't have to remember any details."

"A little thin," said Case.

"Yes," she said, "but with Mickels tragically getting robbed and garrotted, they are the only living witnesses to anything so the inspectors don't have enough to bring before the magistrates. And there have been so many other terrible crimes in the interim."

A blond, freckly youth who was half a head taller than Case came in with a bowl of steaming stew. "Thanks," he said.

"Eel and mushrooms, but good eel and mushrooms," the woman said.

Vain drifted bye with a heavy, square glass bottle of amber liquid. "This is the good stuff. Don't abuse it."

"I thought giving it to me counted as abusing it."

Vain smirked. "Well it does, but Madam Frost disagrees. Apparently she has some hope that you will develop a more sophisticated palate if you have some exposure to the finer things." He poured a glass and pushed it over. He then filled glasses for everyone else. "Welcome home."

Case took a sip. The whisky burned a fiery trail down his throat and brought with it a sensation of warmth that seemed to seep into his flesh. "Where's Moth?"

"Moth's fine," said Madam Frost. "She's busy. Whisper business."

"Good. Someone's got to keep the dead off our asses." He swallowed a spoonful of stew. It was good. Really good. He attacked it vigorously.

"Indeed," said Madam Frost. "Delegation is the key to successful leadership." She took the bottle from Vain and refilled Case's glass.

"Thanks boss."

"You're welcome. There's some business to discuss, but it can wait."

Case stirred the stew. "The yellow sashes?"

"Yes, the yellow sashes. But they can wait a little. Your timing is very good. I was cooking something up and it gets a lot easier with you back in play."

"Good," he said as he stirred the stew. "Spending half a year on that hunter was like doing a stretch in Ironhook. Complete with protection rackets, punitive accidents, and sexual abuse."

"My poor boy," said Madam Frost. "I hope you didn't have too many problems."

"Well, I jail well," said Case. "But fuck that. If you happen to have the choice between Ironhook and taking a hitch on a hunter, strongly consider prison. We have friends in prison."

Madam Frost stood up and extended her hand. "I think that's enough for now. We have things to discuss in private. Case?"

He took her hand. "Madam."

She lead him upstairs to her bedroom. It had a large four poster bed with gloriously stolen sheets and covers, a large wardrobe and dresser, and a modest bedside table with a glowing lamp. Thick Iruvian carpets covered the floor. She closed the door behind them. "It's good that you're back. Do you want to keep our arrangement?"

"Yes," said Case, taking off his overcoat. "If it's good with you."

"It is," she said, turning and unbuttoning the top of her dress. "Fuck anyone interesting while you were gone?"

"No," he said. "No one other than my left hand. You?"

She chuckled. "No one very interesting, my boy and no one as good looking as you or with as beautiful a set of muscles."

"So it wasn't Vain."

"Well Vain is prettier than you, but," she shrugged.

"Yeah, not exactly worried about him edging me out of any woman's bed." He began unbuttoning his shirt.

"Not if it's pleasure," she said. "But if it's business-" She let the dress drop. Case smiled. "So you do like what you see."

"Yes ma'am, I do."

"Not too old?" she asked coquettishly as she removed the derringer rig on her left forearm.

"Definitely not," he as he unbuckled his belt. "Definitely not." His pants hit the carpet.

He stepped forward grabbed her buttocks, lifting her off her feet. He gently tossed her on the bed. She whooped softly. "Let me prove it too you."
The Excellent Prismatic Spray. For when you absolutely, positively must kill a motherfucker. Accept no substitutions. Contact a magician of the later Aeons for details. Some conditions may apply.

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