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Walking the Beat

 
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2007 11:49 pm    Post subject: Walking the Beat Reply with quote

They didn't give Guardsmen a bell and a lantern anymore. Actually, they didn't give them much of anything - the recruitment poster he'd seen at the precinct house and in various other parts of town said "Must be in good physical condition", but it failed to mention "Must provide own weapons, armor, and handcuffs." It was a strange way to run a law enforcement division, but then, it was a strange town.

And it was true that the precinct house he'd been assigned to - once he'd straightened out the details of his recruitment with the sergeant down at the main chapter house - was one of the lowliest, most run down, and gorram near deserted. They'd taken heavy casualties in the bombings, raids, riots, and general upheaval that had been rocking Rhydin City like a hobby horse for the last month, and the territory they covered was the nastiest, roughest, most rumble-tumble parts of Rhydin City - the Dockside, where no sane person ventured after dark, and the WestEnd, where few sane people ventured, ever.

As far as he could tell, Paladin was the only Watchman who patrolled on his own. That was okay; he liked it that way, and he could handle himself.

So, no bell to chime the hours, no cry of "All's well!" He could live with that; his temporal sense had never been particularly good, hours and even days sliding by without notice, and to be frank nothing was really well in the city these days. Last night had been hellacious; tonight promised to be more of the same, even if he hadn't seen too many active raiding parties roaming through the streets yet. His shift had only just started, after all.

There were still packs of thieves and brigands, monsters - both human and otherwise - and those escaped, mutated, undead zoo animals to be dealt with. He'd taken to buttoning up his coat, wearing his swordbelt over it, and keeping his pistols close. More than once, someone had tried to shoot him down from the shadows, and only his keen hearing and superhuman reflexes had saved his life. He'd been in three swordfights, half a dozen firefights, and blown up a slum house/den of iniquity with a concentrated bolt of his pyrokinetic power - and it wasn't even midnight yet. It was a bloody, dirty, and thankless job.

Maybe that's why he kept doing it.
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Last Knight
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2008 11:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The watchman walked the streets, whistling merrily, and around him the shadows cringed and melted away. It had taken some time and more bloodshed than he was really comfortable thinking about, but the Dockside was starting to get used to the man in the long black coat, who walked alone and fearless through streets where angels feared to tread.

Not to say that his nights were becoming easy, or boring; no, not by a long shot. You could burn the whole Dockside to the ground, and the first man to try to rebuild would be robbed, beaten, shot, stabbed and raped before the mortar dried. But, by and large, the wretched mass of scum and villainy that teemed in the Dockside alleys and drank in its low dives were learning that it was far better to reach for the sky instead for their knives when they saw Paladin coming towards them.

So his arrest rate had gone up while his on-the-job shootings had gone down. For the most part, that worked for him. The first time he'd arrested someone and found them back on the street a few hours later, he'd beaten the man within an inch of his life and deposited him back in the jail. The charge was resisting arrest - after all, he must be resisting pretty hard if he didn't stay arrested very long. The desk sergeant who'd released him was found semiconscious in one of the station restrooms with his coin purse so far up his backside that only the strings were visible.

Paladin cared more for justice than he did for the law. Word got around quickly.

There'd been talk of a promotion for him after he'd helped D'Mourir break the Cult of Silence responsible for the Marketplace bombings. It hadn't taken long for that to disappear - there was never a solid reason given, but then, he didn't push the issue, either. More rank meant more eyes on him, and that he could do without. The fuss after the Market Riots had been bad enough, with criticism coming from every direction over the Watch's use of lethal force to put down the rioters - no words said about the rioters use of lethal force against the Guard, the common citizens, and each other.

Par for the course, he figured. There'd been more riots lately, most of them over the election, but he'd been lucky enough to avoid them. He kept his nose out of politics; it didn't suit him, either personally or professionally. No room for heroes in the political arena.

It was closing in on midnight when he came across the block party. A group of citizens gathered in a vacant lot around a bonfire, a wagon of ale casks broached, a few musicians plying their art to the cheers and laughter of the dancers. Paladin blinked, surprised - it was barely 20* out, snow was drifitng gently down from the heavens, and here was an outdoors party.

He saw several gangs represented in the crowd of shopkeepers, factory workers and dockhands, their colors clashing even if their members didn't - Truebloods and NBKs, Dockboyz, River Rats, even some Makos up from the West End. One of them spotted him, and hissed an alarm. A hush fell over the crowd as they all turned to regard the intruder in their midst, and Paladin inwardly winced.

"Evening, citizens," he said politely, and started to go on his way. Someone shouted for the musicians to start playing again. Someone else thrust a skin of mulled wine into Paladin's hands, and a pretty girl darted out of the crowd to pull him into the dances.

It took him awhile to break free, with many laughs and smiles and apologies before he did. The night was a little less cold and lonely as he resumed his beat, still smiling, the music slowly fading away behind him as he walked.

He'd probably never find out what the people were celebrating, if anything. He hadn't felt any malice or ill will in the crowd, not even the cynical vindictiveness and sense of schadenfreude that was second nature to Docksiders. Maybe they'd just decided to celebrate the Carnivale a little early.

Whatever the reason, it made for a bright finish to the day - a day that had started well enough, too, with breakfast and a pretty girl in the woods far outside the city. He stopped by the chapel of the Sea God as its bells began to chime midnight, and looked out on the harbor, then back at the city he'd chosen to call home.
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2008 6:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dockside. Night Watch.

The wind off the harbour blew cold and biting, bringing the heavy taste saltto his tongue and stinging tears from his eyes. Back on the beat again after one of his rare days off, Paladin tucked his hands into his pockets and surveyed the waters. Far out in the bay, the lighthouse at Spitnjur Ey gleamed; closer in, the lanterns of ships rocked up and down as the disquiet seas stirred their vessels. If it were daytime, the flags of a hundred different nations from nearly as many worlds would be represented, flying from the masts of every kind of vessel - sailing dhows and longships, pirate schooners and computerized supertankers, steel-hulled Dwarf steamboats and living Elven windships.

But it was night, and the darkness granted each vessel a curious kind of equality - hiding the graceful lines of the yachts and the squat, functional tubbyness of the freighters, wiping away the stains of rust as well as the scrupulously maintained pristine white paint jobs. It was like a horizontal field of stars, lanterns and lights fore-and-aft, roughly defining the outline of the ship - waterline security lights on the more modern ships, many of t heir amber glows burnt out and dark, giving the silhouettes a gap-toothed appearance.

It would be a good night for the River Rat and the Dockboyz alike, Paladin figured, as cold as it was, and with the snow just beginning to fall. Anchor watches would be lax, preferring to hide in the lee of the bulwark with a contraband bottle rather than keep a weather eye open for the raiders who would swarm up a vessel's anchor chain, fixing to loot her just as clean as any pirate.

He shrugged and turned away from the water, his coat stirred around him by the tail wind. It had been made very clear to him, after he had commandeered a private speed boat and given chase to a band of Rats, that his jurisdiction was strictly landside and he was to let the Harbor Police do their job - or not - as they saw best. That the Harbor Police were the fattest, laziest, and most corrupt force in the city seemed to matter to no one - the sweet tithes they took in bribes and illegally confiscated shipments was passed onward, somewhere up the chain of command in the police corps. He wasn't situated to fight it, not a lowly beat cop - not yet. Might not be able to fight it from within the system at all.

But that was a concern for another day. The last shift said the Dockside and the West End had both been quiet of late, since they'd brought in that arsonist. Paladin didn't think that had anything to do with it; the snow and the cold kept pretty much everyone inside, barring the occasional block
party, criminal and common citizen alike. Quiet times, he'd also found, were too often only the proverbial calm before the storm. He kept his eyes and ears open as he continued his beat, humming to himself as he walked the lonely streets.

Even so, he was surprised to hear the roar of an engine. As common as guns and other pieces of technology might be in Rhydin City, the car just never seemed to have caught on - especially not this close to the West End, where tech and magic both always seemed to work just a bit wonky. Paladin stepped to one side and turned to behold the surprising sight as the car came around the corner onto his street, tires squealing as they skidded on icy cobbles. The driver smoothly regained control and accelerated as the vehicle straightened out.

Paladin cocked an eyebrow as it passed him, narrowly missed by its rooster tail of snow and salt. Well, if you were going to drive around Rhydin City in the winter, you could pick a lot worse vehicle for it than an M-151 MUTT Jeep; although he'd never seen one with a hard top before. The vehicle's independent suspension and four wheel drive made traveling at high speed over the rough roads and in the icy conditions a breeze.

He only got the briefest glimpse of the driver as the car sped by, a woman's pale face, long hair not quite concealing her frightened expression, and then she was past. He turned lightly on the ball of one foot to regard the Jeep as it raced towards the end of the street, absently wondering if it was an earlier model or an M-151A2, maybe a retired Marine FAV. After all, the pre-1970 editions had a history of -

-the Jeep spun into a high speed left turn, tires squealing frantically as it began to fishtail right - then the right side dropped and the truck flipped itself sideways, directly into a street lamp, the crash and squeal of crumpling metal filling the air -

-rollovers. Paladin winced, stepped up into a jog towards the scene, moving easily despite the slick cobbles. The crash was pretty bad; the Jeep was on its side, the top crumpled and half wrapped around the street lamp. He called out as he approached. No response. The rear window was shattered, the windshield starburst - he rejected both as possible entries as he saw the hood spit smoke and sparks, smelled the sharp stink of gasoline in the bitter air.

He was confident he could prevent a fire from bursting out - for all the early heartbreaks it had brought him, his pyrokinesis had inarguably proven its worth countless times throughout his life, in and out of combat - but still, anything could happen, and it was best to get her clear of the wreckage before it did.

Another world, another time, he would have called it in and maybe waited for the ambulance. Here and now - they didn't issue radios to Watchmen, not that they were likely to work in the West End, and he wasn't even sure if Rhydin City had EMTs - not that they were likely to enter the West End, especially at night.

Fortunately, he was a trained combat medic, capable of everything from slapping a self-sealing Band-Aid on a cut all the way to performing field surgery with a dull bayonet. The trick was going to be pulling her out without aggravating the injuries she'd already sustained. He rapped on the glass, trying to get her attention, but she lay unresponsive, her face half covered in blood and a knot swelling on her temple. She hadn't been wearing her seat belt - assuming the older model military vehicle even had such things - and she'd probably been tossed around the cabin a bit in the collision.

The door refused to open when he jerked on it - locked, maybe, or warped shut. The windows were a lot smaller than on most vehicles, but the MUTT looked armored - the original model had been open, or topped with a canvas cover - this looked like some sort of odd conversion or variation.

The stink of gas got heavier, and he looked down to see fuel all but gushing from the tank, torn open when the car flipped. He gritted his teeth, knowing this was going to sting a bit, but not seeing another way to go about it. He punched the door - once, twice, three times, mighty blows that dented the metal before eventually tearing through. He grabbed the hand hold he'd created and heaved. It took a moment, but the door peeled off in his hands like tin foil, shrieking in protest. He heaved it away and carefully dropped into the cabin.

The smell was worse in here, and he could see that the windows on the far side were shattered, fuel pooling under the car. The hood spat sparks again, and he flinched as he lowered himself down. She was still breathing - good. He'd hate to have gone to all this effort for a dead woman. He checked her pulse, eyes straining against the gloom. Strong - breathing, the same. Bleeding didn't look too bad, but she wasn't waking up.

The stink of gasoline was getting stronger by the second as more and more fuel poured from the ruptured tank. There was no time to waste, so he slid his arms under her as gently as he could and lifted her to his chest. It was awkward, climbing out of the wreckage with one hand, but he somehow managed it.

The truck had somehow, against all expectations, failed to explode. It didn't feel right leaving it as it lay, a potential hazard to whoever walked by, so he set the woman gently down in the light of a street lamp and covered her with a blanket from his backpack before going back. A little creative prying at the hood gave him access to the battery, and he soon had the terminals disconnected and the shower of sparks stopped. There wasn't much he could do about the hazardous fluids sprayed everywhere but hope that nobody came by with a cigarette before the clean up squad got there.

He was getting ready to lift the woman into a fireman's carry when he saw the three dark figures at the end of the street, walking towards him with a steady, somehow menacing, gait. He sighed and settled the unconscious woman back down again, straightened up and tugged his coat a little closer around him. He stepped away several paces, placing himself squarely between the woman and the newcomers.

Sure, the two events could be unrelated; but this was Rhydin, after all, and what were the odds of that? He made sure his Guard badge was in plain sight and raised his voice to greet them.

"Evening, citizens," he said politely, somehow managing to keep any deliberate irony from creeping into his tone. "This is an accident site, and may be hazardous to your safety. I'd advise you to go around."

The men stopped perhaps twenty feet away, just outside the circle of light cast by the streetlights. Their long black garments were more like gowns than coats, enveloping them from neck to ankle like a priest's cassock; all three were extraordinarily similar in appearance. Pale, bald, with gaunt features as lean and feral as starving wolves. They spread out before they drifted to a stop, one to Paladin's left, one to his right. The one in the middle seemed to be the leader, or maybe just the spokesman.

"Good evening, Guardsman." he said, looking Paladin up and down. His voice was low, his manner obsequious, but neither could hide the harsh accent, or the way he fairly slavered over each word, gnawed at them, as though he were droolingly tasting them. If Paladin hadn't already been on edge, that voice alone would have had his back up. "That woman is a dangerous criminal. You have done well in apprehending her. I will see that you are richly rewarded for this. We shall take her from here." He smiled, patently false, as strained and rigid as the rictus on a corpse. Paladin smiled back, more pleasant, equally false.

"Is she, now?" he asked. "Well, citizens, I'm afraid she's in urgent need of medical attention, so I'm going to be taking her to the hospital. If you'll present your warrant to my lieutenant, I'm sure he'll tell me to remand her to your custody once she's whole again."

The stranger's face tightened, his stiff smile losing any semblance it might have had of pleasantry. "Guardsman, I was not asking."

"Oh, good," Paladin said cheerfully. "Because I had no intention of turning her over to you either which way, you fething liar."

"Kill the Guardsman," the leader snapped flatly to the other two. They straightened like mastiffs hearing their leads being loosened, hungry smiles crossing their thin faces. "Take the girl. Dispose of the vehicle."

The one to Paladin's left raised his hand, and a wave of force like a hurricane wind struck the wanderer, blowing his hair and coat around him and physically sliding him back several feet. He gritted his teeth and reached into his coat as the pressure diminished, hand emerging with one of his .45 1911s clenched tight. The three men stared at him, dumbstruck that he was still on his feet.

"Nice," he ground out. "You're under arrest for assaulting a Watch officer." The mook on the left raised both hands, and a second blow struck Paladin, rocking his head back. Despite the raw force slamming into him, he pressed forward, distantly amused at the wide-eyed looks of shock that greeted him. "You have the right to remain silent. If you refuse this right, anything you say can, and will, be used against you..."

Both mooks flanking him raised their hands, and blows rained down on him fast and hard. Somehow, Paladin kept his feet, although he could taste blood from a split lip and his head felt raw and dizzy.

"You are bound by law to stand down," He said fuzzily. "Last warning." When the opponent to his right raised his hand again, Paladin shot it. As the man screamed and clutched for his missing fingers, the mook on the left made a flicking gesture that snatched the .45 away, sending it skittering across the cobbles. In the same motion, Paladin spun lightly and delivered a roundhouse kick to the head, knocking his enemy to the ground.

The leader shouted something and raised his hands, streaking orbs of putrid green spitting from his fingertips to lash at the wanderer. Paladin flipped the edge of his coat up, using its impenetrable fabric as a shield to bat the spells away. He drew his other pistol as he straightened.

He would have had the man - if man he was - cold, but the injured mook wailed and leapt at him. They grappled, the attacker's strength surprisingly strong in so frail a form - but so was Paladin's. The gun barked, the mook sagged away with an expression of shock and pain, and Paladin brought the gun up to aim at -

Nobody. Pistol held steady in both hands, he scanned the night, but there was no sign of the leader - just one softly groaning foe, stirring on the ground, and one corpse. He glanced over his shoulder at the collision victim - still unconscious, but at least still present. With a mumbled curse, he jammed the steel toe of his boot under the living mook's body and flipped him over, none too gently.

"You gonna give me any more trouble? he asked irritably, .45 leveled between the man's eyes. The bald man shook his head, his cheek red and swollen from its meeting with Paladin's foot.

"I want a lawyer," he whined through a mouthful of bloody, pointed teeth.

"You would," Paladin muttered, and set about securing his prisoner.

*

The rest of the night was anticlimactic - the woman was checked into the hospital, the prisoner into the holding cells at the West End precinct. She regained consciousness the next morning and left without a doctor's discharge. She hadn't been carrying any sort of identification, and the name she gave nurses - Jane - seemed patently false. Paladin didn't get the chance to speak with her before she disappeared.

The man with the pale, feral features and the shaven skull also disappeared, during a routine transfer to more secure facilities to confer with a lawyer - simply vanished from the back of the police van.

There didn't seem to be any explanations forthcoming for any of it. Paladin just shook his head and chalked it up to another night in Rhydin.
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2008 12:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sleep was the enemy.

He roamed the streets at night, walking his beat, keeping the Dockside and the WestEnd clear of evildoers - or, at least, as clear as he could. It was a rough part of town, and he had to be as rough as he could stomach fighting the gangs and madmen that roamed it, trying to keep the common citizen safe. There had been a lot of vigilante killings lately, too - he didn't really approve, but he knew that there were times one had to work outside the law to see justice done. Even Superman would find his hands as red as sin, trying to keep the peace in this town.

Daylight found him all over, sometimes in Teas'n Tomes, reading a book and sipping a mug of chai, sometimes in the Red Dragon, drinking coffee and slinging drinks behind the bar on a purely voluntary basis. Most often, back on the streets, walking through the city and quietly marveling at how different it could be, in the sunlight.

He wasn't sure just when he'd started falling in love with Rhydin City. Looking back to his first days here, so many years ago, he could only recall negative emotions. Annoyance, anger, grief, despair - frustration with the land and all who dwelled within, with their petty, soap opera dramas, their casual cruelties, their sexual depravities that would make a succubus blush.

He'd walked from Rhydin, through the misty border to the black kingdom of Destyn and the lands beyond, years ago. He'd never once looked back. Returning had been a shock - walking into a roadside inn, finding himself in the Red Dragon. Walking back out, finding himself in the heart of Rhydin City. Displaced, utterly and totally, from the world he'd been - dragged back to Rhydin.

Maybe there was a reason for him to be here. It certainly hadn't taken long for him to get caught up in the city's affairs, fighting back-to-back with officers of the Watch in a violent riot. Finding himself a member of said Watch, tasked with walking the streets in the roughest part of town, more desperate fighting as slave raiders and twisted monsters stalked the district.

And, somewhere in the midst of it all, finding that he actually cared about the people who lived here - the common worker on the street, and the fantastic folk who thronged the Red Dragon, alike.

He knew he shouldn't. The City didn't care what you felt about it, after all; the common worker on the street only noticed the Watchman when he failed in his job, and in neighborhoods as stained with crime and poverty as the Dockside and the WestEnd, that was all too often. And the patrons of the Red Dragon, well, too many of them were just one bad hair day from carrying a rifle up the bell tower at Perp Miz, or a wander of fireballs into the Market. Hope, he knew, was only the first step on the road to disappointment.

But care he did, and he walked the streets night and day, avoiding the cold bed in his tiny apartment as though it were plagued. He'd long since stopped checking the schedule; the WestEnd precinct house was deserted more often than it was occupied, its assigned watchmen on patrol - or not - more or less as they chose. He was on more often than he wasn't, which suited him just fine.

The longer he stayed here, the more this place felt like home.
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2008 1:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

He had just taken a perp down and was kneeling on the gangbanger's back getting the zip-tie Flexicuffs around his wrists when he smelled roasting coffee. He inhaled deeply, absently digging his knee in a little harder as the teen shifted, trying to wriggle loose.

"Purse snatching," he chided mildly. "Seriously, kid, you oughtta be ashamed. Hell, I'm ashamed for you." He stood and tugged the kid to his feet. "You have any idea how much of my time it's going to waste, dragging you down to the station?"

"You could let me go," The kid suggested sullenly. "'snot that big a deal, anyway."

"Really? Maybe you can tell her why it's not that big a deal. I'm sure she'd love to hear it." Paladin cocked his thumb as the irate woman came into view; older, heavyset, the kind of tough-as-nails working woman who had raised children and grandchildren in destitute conditions all over the world, from inner city slums to subsidence level farming communities. She laid into the boy immediately, lambasting his so ferociously that the Guardsman, for a moment, felt sorry for him. Then she snatched her purse away from Paladin's outstretched hand, narrowed her eyes, and started on him.

"And you! What do you think you're doing, running around tackling people like that? Are you dense? Are you retarded, or something? You could have hurt this boy, jumping on him like that! You didn't even blow your whistle or give him a warning! You think you're playing rugby? You think this is a game? What if he'd had a gun? You woulda gotten that fool head of yours blown off, then your pig guardsmen buddies woulda shot this poor kid, and whose fault would it have been? Yours, that's whose! 'cause you didn't think!"

She wrapped up her tirade with a haughty sniff and a dire threat to write to the new governor about the conditions in the city these days, and stormed off. Paladin and the purse-snatcher stared after her with a shell shocked gaze. Slowly, the amused crowd that had gathered dispersed as well, leaving the two trading rueful looks.

"You got a gun, kid?" Paladin asked at last.

"Nope."

"You gonna do that again?"

The kid snorted. "Not hardly."

"Yeah, didn't think so." Paladin slid one of his fighting dirks out of his sleeve and cut the flex-cuffs loose. "Don't let me catch you causing any more ruckus, kid, or I'll turn you over to her. Scram."

The teen split off down the street, and Paladin took a deep breath, inhaling that fresh-roasted coffee smell. He turned his head and started off down the street, tracking it like a bloodhound, sure from its strength that it must be pretty close.

He actually found the place by spotting the small crowd of WestEnd citizens walking away from the storefront with that typical 'nothing to see here' shuffle that indicated they'd just witnessed a crime occurring and wanted to split before the police arrived and arrested everyone present. Paladin sighed and peeked through the windows - the store's name was 'Java Hell', and the logo was an obvious riff on Starbucks. Red instead of green, with a devil rather than a mermaid. Cute. The inside was shabby and mismatched but comfortable looking, not unlike Paladin's apartment - crowded with tables, chairs, and couches that had all rather obviously been purchased secondhand or rescued from the dump.

And, of course, there was a man with a knife threatening the attractive woman behind the counter.

The little bell on the door hadn't quite begun its merry jingle before Paladin was on the man, a snap kick sweeping his feet from under him, a deft twist of the wrist snatching the knife out of his hand - breaking a few fingers in the process. The man - unshaven, stinking, clearly strung out on something - was opening his mouth to scream, or curse, or maybe just to wonder what was going on when Paladin tapped him in the temple with the side of his hand, adroitly rendering him unconscious.

"Morning," he smiled up at the barista, flipping the robber over and rummaging in his coat pocket for a pair of Flexicuffs. "May I have a large peppermint mocha, double espresso? To go?"
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 29, 2008 4:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Freezing fog. Now, there was something that made for a miserable night. Walking through the giant ice cloud that was the Dockside, coated in a thin layer of ice that cracked and squeaked with every move he made; his hair, frozen, chiming slightly with every move of his head, snow gathering in it. His pale face brightened by rosy cheeks. Normally, he didn't don his black scarf for anything higher than in the teens, his token nod to the weather - normally, his enchanted coat and the fire inside was all he needed to keep himself warm.

Tonight, he made an exception.

Java Hell was open, despite the lateness of the hour; he suspected that Alexis, the lovely middle-aged woman who owned and operated the place, had a touch of the fae in her blood. She seemed to sleep less than he did, and that was surely saying something. A double espresso helped keep the chill at bay as he roamed the streets, sure footed even on the icy cobblestones.

He stopped outside one of the abandoned brownstones to summon a will o'the wisp spark, holding it cupped in his hands until the feeling returned. He wasn't a fan of gloves - they made it tricky to hold a gun or a sword, and that was one of those things you never knew when you might need to. Better to stick your hands in your pockets and let them warm up, when you could. Better still when you had his advantages.

The bells at Our Lady of Perpetual Misery sonorously toned the hour. He listend to the knells, and had to smile; somehow, although it was late, he doubted it was thirteen o'clock. You never knew, though, in the WestEnd.

On the last chime, a shadow appeared at the end of the street, barely visible through the swirling snow. Paladin's smile vanished as the temperature seemed to plummet, the snow on the ground freezing to a slick sheet of ice in a second, the steam from his breath freezing in the air and dropping in a sheet. A thought made the air in front of him warm enough to keep breathing, kept his lungs from freezing.

Another swirl, then it was too cold for snow. The gently drifting flakes fell as chunks of ice, then the air cleared, the moisture simply gone. The shadow was closer, stalking up the street. Coming his way. Paladin started to reach into his coat for his pistol, stopped. Rested his hand on his sword hilt instead. Whatever was coming was... powerful. Terrible.

As much as he hated to admit it, it wasn't a problem likely to be solved with a .45.

The figure was still indistinct, even though it was less than a hundred feet away, closing steadily, inexorably. Paladin stepped away from the abandoned house, into the middle of the street. The wind had died down, the only sound the soft crunching of his footsteps as he crossed the ice and stood to meet the oncoming shadow. It was like a hole in the world, vaguely person shaped, average sized, average breadth. It didn't seem to walk; more... shifted. Flickering along its way at a fast walking pace, vanishing and reappearing one stride away. Hard to follow.

It was twenty feet away when he could see it clearly, and his breath caught in his chest. Middle-aged, balding; the man had been average enough in life. Death had made of him a horror, drained his skin as white as the snow, rolled his eyes back in his head so they stared, sightlessly. Dried blood ran in endless rivulets from each blankly staring socket, and the corpse rictus smiled humorlessly. Paladin had faced shades before, vengeful specters, revenants - but he'd never seen something quite like this. The cold radiating from the spirit makes his skin ache, makes the metal of the nearby streetlamp crackle.

The dead man came to a halt just outside the radius of heat Paladin's put up in self defense, standing on the edge of where the snow and ice are melting.

"...waiting for you..." the voice is dim, as though it came from far away - crackling, sputtering, like a radio transmission through too much static. It faded in and out, one moment as loud as a scream, the next a barely heard, scratchy whisper. "...waiting where the sunlight frozen spills on plains as red as blood... waiting where the skies are endless weeping... waiting. waiting for you. waiting where the screams of angels sing us to sleep. waiting where God's love doesn't venture. waiting. waiting for you. we're watching, behind your eyes. we see ourselves in your mirror. we're waiting. waiting for you."

The spirit shimmered, once, as though seen through a heat haze - and then was simply gone. Slowly, the snowfall began again, the air warming to a merely bitter cold. Paladin let his heat-shield fall. The sweat began to freeze on his face. It was a long time before he could bring himself to move, before he could start shivering, before he resumed the beat.

Fething WestEnd.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2008 10:26 pm    Post subject: The Bowels of the City (I) Reply with quote

((Short story 'The Bowels of the City' moved to here.))
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