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The Secret Life of Paladin

 
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Last Knight
Adult Wyrm
Adult Wyrm


Joined: 09 Dec 2007
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2007 12:51 pm    Post subject: The Secret Life of Paladin Reply with quote

The middle of the day, and the Inn is deserted - how amusing, if understandable. Most of the denizens of Rhydin were creatures of the night, after all. He strolls in through the back alley door, for once, shaking the snow from his boots before stepping into the commons.

The Inn looks quite different when it's deserted like this, chairs and tables scattered about empty, mugs and bottles left all helter skelter around the commons, the fire in the hearth cold and dead. With a sigh, he heads for the bar, intent on coffee. He's got it down to a routine by now, a few quick gestures perfectly fluid in their economy - dump the stale coffee and spare grinds, replace with fresh filter and grinds, fill machine with fresh water, push the button. The coffee machine wheezes into weary, complaining life - and not for the first time, he resolves to buy a new machine for the place, maybe one of those Mr. Coffee pots/espresso/cappuccino makers. Call it a Christmas present.

With the cup of life on to brew, he turns his attention to the commons. It's pretty cold in here - we can't have that. There's a fresh stack of wood laid in by the fire, which is good because he doesn't feel like going back out into the snow to fetch more. He lays in a fresh fire and, with a flick of thought, ignites it. No need for tinder from this tender. He snorts at the thought, realizing he's obviously more tired than he'd thought, and begins gathering the dirty mugs and empty bottles from the scattered tables around the room, humming to himself as he does so. Glasses into the sink, bottles into the rack by the back door - he's not sure what they do with the empties, maybe they're sent back to the brewers to be reused. Not his concern.

Some of the tables are covered in sticky substances he'd rather not think about, so he gets a clean rag and a bucket of bleach and sets about cleaning them - since he's waiting for the coffee to brew, and he's got nothing but time, anyway.

Scrub, scrub, scrub...

Well, that should do it. The coffee's gotta be ready by now, right? A peek over the bar. Nope, the ancient machine is still taking its sweet time. Feh.

Well... more tasks to busy oneself with. He dumps the old water from the kettle and refills it with fresh, prods at the burner the kettle always sits on. With a little convincing (and some help priming the pump), he gets the water going. The cider crock is empty, the dregs of last night's cider still coating the bottom - with a sigh, he sets about cleaning and refilling it. And you know, since that gorram coffee is still taking its sweet time, he might as well make some cocoa - fresh and from scratch, of course, heating the milk and mixing the chocolate. He sets that up in a crock next to the cider, notes that the coffee has finally brewed and pulls down one of the few remaining clean mugs. Ah, cup of life... which reminds him, the next step is the dishes. He looks at the stack and shakes his head wearily.

"Alright," he says, dropping his pack behind the bar, then slipping out of his coat. He feels naked without that black leather shield between himself and the world, although the truth of the matter is that he's anything but. He rolls back the sleeves on his gray button-up shirt, exposing lean arms corded with muscle and braided with scars, far more than is seemly for anyone of his (apparent) youth. Humming under his breath, he gets to work on the dishes - cheating, it's true, using his kinship with the flame to burn clear the more stubborn dregs and disgusting things to be found at the bottom of the mugs and goblets, and to keep the dishwater steaming hot.

The work goes quickly, his hands a veritable blur as he scrubs, rinses, dries and sets aside the stack. It's hardly the first time he's done dishes, after all... nor is it until he's done and setting aside the last of them that he realizes there's probably a much larger, better suited for the task sink somewhere in the kitchens.

The kitchens are foreign territory to him, though - while no one's raised a complaint or a question about him being behind the bar, the last time he ventured back there a burly man with a knife and an apron had chased him back out, hollering in gutter-French. He wasn't sure if he wanted to risk it again... although, come to think of it, he was getting hungry...

He sips his coffee and stares speculatively at the door to the kitchen. Shall he or shan't he? He looks around the empty room and shrugs. Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

He pushes open the door to the kitchens, and stops dead. If anything, it's even messier back here. He sidles back out of the kitchen, shaking his head. "Okay, I definitely did not sign up for this," he mutters under his breath. That thought gives him pause - technically, he didn't sign up for any of this. As he'd explained to Asha a few nights ago, he was merely a 'civilian volunteer.'

This wasn't his job - hell, if anything, it was more of a hobby.

He crosses his arms and stares at the kitchen door. Impassively, it stares back.

Ah, what the hell. He always was the champion of lost causes... he pushes his way into the kitchen, grits his teeth, and begins to clean.

It wasn't going to be a thorough scouring, and besides, the place looked well kept enough. For the most part, it was clutter - whoever had been experimenting in here last night had never learned the concept of 'clean as you go'. Dishes, pots, pans, items of cookware so obscure Paladin had no idea their purpose, much less their name - all lay scattered about willy-nilly. There was dough on the ceiling where something had apparently exploded on the stove - he didn't think he really wanted the story behind that'un. To make the work go by faster, he turned it into a game, part martial exercise and part dance - lithely he spun, catching pots and pans and sending them, clang clang clatter, into the sink - each throw carefully measured, perfectly accurate, sending up barely a splash from the dishwater. Licks of flame spun from his hands, scouring free caked food, igniting grease in a flash, each so carefully controlled they don't leave so much as a scorch mark. It's been a while since he's had a chance to practice, and he actually somewhat relishes the opportunity, losing himself to the rhythm and flow. Maybe he can make a new form out of it - martial art kitchen cleaning. It would make an excellent companion art to all those martial art cooking styles he'd encountered over the years...

There we go. The place actually looked somewhat civilized again... the pots and pans would take a while soaking, even with all his inner fire there wasn't a whole lot he could do about that, cleaning his hands with a rag, he steps out into the commons - and freezes as he senses another presence. Sloooooowly he turns to look at the women at the bar, his eyes betraying quite the 'deer in the headlight' expression. Heaven forfend the great warrior, the eternal wanderer, city guardsman and freelance hero, should be caught cleaning.

Somehow he manages to keep himself from blushing. He steps up behind the bar, discreetly rolling his sleeves back down and buttoning them into place. "Good evening," he says, then corrects himself. "Noon, rather." He's pretty sure they have no idea what he's been up to. "May I help you?"

And the day rolls on from there.


Last edited by Last Knight on Tue Feb 19, 2008 9:02 am; edited 1 time in total
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Last Knight
Adult Wyrm
Adult Wyrm


Joined: 09 Dec 2007
Posts: 191
See this user's pet
Jobs: City Guard, Sword for Hire
Can Be Found: Lost in the Twilight Lands
5297.82 Silver Crowns

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2008 8:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Below freezing again, nearly 0*, and the sky is overcast. A pall hung over the city, a shroud of leaden gray not unlike the fog that had choked the streets the night before. Perhaps, Paladin reflected, he had not been far wrong the other night when he'd told Eva that she'd get a chance to dance in snow again. It seemed winter was not yet willing to relinquish its chilly grip on Rhydin.

He was sitting on the steps of Our Lady of Perpetual Misery, watching the world go by. The day had been quiet - well, that was a relative term, in Rhydin, but so it went - although once again he had the feeling that the world was simply... waiting. There was a curious tension in the air, a wave of anticipation like the heavy feeling before a thunderstorm. Waiting for the axe to fall.

Paladin wondered, not for the first time, if that was just the way of life in Rhydin City. Things were happening, or things were about to happen, with little time in between to catch one's breath or do more than brace for the next blow, like a beaten dog. He'd seen it before; in Belfast and Beiruit, Baghdad, Fallujah, Mogadishu, Sarajevo. Life went on, the human spirit endured, even in the face of a constant stream of tragedies and hardships. People kept laughing, even if it was with grim, gallows humor. People kept smiling, even if those smiles had a touch of despair. You endured, or you broke. Most people endured; for the others, well, the suicide rate in Rhydin was the highest he'd ever seen. The homicide rate wasn't far behind.

But it wasn't all misery and despair, even in the WestEnd, even on a gloomy day like this one. People went about their business, shopping and working, visiting, talking, laughing. Children played in the streets and plazas, dodging automobiles and carriages adeptly, laughing with merry voices that hadn't yet realized how cruel the world could be.

You grew up, fast, in the WestEnd; it wouldn't be long before these kids lost their smiles and innocent eyes, fell under the influence of drugs and gangs and pimps. Began to contribute to the darkness that tained their lives. Became part of the problem, part of the cycle.

They learned early on not to trust adults, so few came near him, where he sat on the steps with a bright red duffle bag at his feet. He respected that, and in turn made no attempt to approach them. They trusted Guardsmen even less than most adults, and he respected that, as well. After all, the only experience they had with cops was when the Watch came to arrest their parents or siblings, or when a bored officer harassed them for playing in the streets, for being dirty and unkempt, for being poor. They had no reason to like him, and though it broke his heart when they stared at him with blatant fear and hatred, he returned their resentful stares with a cheerful smile, their angry taunts with pleasant words.

They learned fairly quickly not to throw things at him, though. He easily caught or dodged the bottles and stones they hurled, so throwing them was pointless. And he always threw something back, usually a bright red rubber ball that stung like the blazes when it connected. It damn near always connected. Even when they threw things, he never lost his cool, smiling cheerfully like they were just playing catch.

"What's in the bag?" One of them finally asked him. It had taken the boy all afternoon and a lot of encouragement and taunts from his friends to approach. He was careful not to come within arm's reach and Paladin, in turn, was equally careful not to make any sudden moves that might startle the boy. You had to treat street urchins like wild animals, most times.

"Warm coats," Paladin said, lifting his cup of espresso and taking a sip. "Blankets. Coupla stuffed animals." No food, no candy. Nothing that could be drugged, tainted, or poisoned. He'd been places where the shopkeepers tried to cut down on the homeless kids running around by poisoning them, and given Rhydin's casual cruelty, he wouldn't be surprised if a similar scheme had been tried here. He helped out at the soup kitchens at Perp Miz and a couple of other churches and temples around the district, but he still had to fight the desire to show up with a platter of cheese burgers every time he saw the hungry faces of these kids.

The boy's eyes widened. "Whaddaya got all that for? You sellin' them or somethin'?"

"Nope. Passin' 'em out to cold kids." Paladin looked the kid up and down; a ragged t-shirt, a dirty denim jacket, torn pants, no shoes. It was lower than the 'teens today; it was amazing the kid wasn't turning blue. There were warm woolen socks in the bag, a poor substitute for boots, but the best he could do. It wasn't as easy to find a shoemaker willing to donate his wares as it was a clothing makers. "You cold, kid?"

"No." The denial was automatic, but the boy's eyes were fixed on the duffel bag as though it were bursting overfull of money... or food.

"Any of your friends over there cold?" Paladin up-nodded towards the crowd of street rats who, seeing him looking back at them, quickly turned their attention ostentatiously elsewhere.

"...maybe," the kid allowed. Paladin leaned over, hefted the bag lightly in one hand, and tossed it at the kid's feet.

"You should ask. Can't have cold kids running around here. They might get sick, pass it on to other people." He'd been talking to the local hospitals about setting up vaccination programs, health clinics, similar things. He hadn't been getting very far - medicine was big business in Rhydin, even with all the magic users running. He finished his drink and stood up, started away.

Behind him, the kid struggled to lift the duffel bag, startled to find it so heavy. "Hey, mister! Your bag!"

"It's your bag now, kid. Go forth, spread warmth. And put something on, yourself!" Pal waved dismissively over his shoulder as he walked away, off to get another duffel bag and sit somewhere else. His work here wasn't done, just temporarily fulfilled.
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Last Knight
Adult Wyrm
Adult Wyrm


Joined: 09 Dec 2007
Posts: 191
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Jobs: City Guard, Sword for Hire
Can Be Found: Lost in the Twilight Lands
5297.82 Silver Crowns

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2008 9:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A New Friend

The end of another night watch. The WestEnd precinct house is deserted when he pokes his head in to sign off shift. He's not surprised. With all the casualties the Watch has taken lately, they hardly have enough men left to patrol the streets, much less keep the Watch Houses staffed with more than a skeleton crew. Maybe, come spring, things would go a little better for the outnumbered, under-staffed, under-gunned forces of the City Guard. Maybe with those toy soldiers in Company K taking up the duty in other parts of the city, the staffing crunch will ease a little bit.

And maybe Lord Travanix would free all his slaves, take a vow of poverty, and turn to a life of peace and contemplation in the Church.

Paladin's thoughts were bleak as he left the WestEnd and headed home across the bridge, to the Marketplace. He thought about stopping in at the Red Dragon for a cup of coffee, then rejected the idea out of hand. He wasn't in the mood for company, or the shenanigans that occurred with almost depressing regularity in those hallowed halls.

So, when someone hailed him as he was crossing the plaza near the Fountain, almost home, his expression was stony as he turned to meet them. The dark scowl almost instantly faded into a puzzled frown; he recognized the Guard officer trotting to meet him, vaguely. He'd seen her around on the beat, a time or two, and when he'd had to poke into other Watch Houses on one case or another. The fuzzball at her heels, however, was new - and unexpected. A black and white half-grown Siberian Husky, loping along with a happy grin through the snow and ice.

"Nice dog," he commented as she slowed to a halt in front of him. Are we starting a K-9 unit, now? She nodded, then abruptly tossed her end of the leash at him. He caught it by reflex, and the puppy immediately padded to his side and started to sniff at him, curiously. Huh. Well trained, too.

"Here," she said. "Happy late Valentine's Day." She caught his flat, incredulous look and held up her hands defensively. "Not from me! Some lady dropped him off with us last night and told us to pass him along when you got off. So, here you go. Compliments of the Dragon's Gate Watch."

"What am I supposed to do with a dog?" He asked rhetorically, looking down at the puppy. It looked back at him expectantly and wagged its tail.

"I dunno. Peking Moon's right around the corner, I'm sure they'd be interes-" She stopped dead at the sight of his glare, cleared her throat, and blushed. "I, uh, I better get on with my rounds."

"Do that," Paladin said cooly, and then softened a notch. "Thank you for the delivery, Guardsman. Have a good watch." She nodded and started off again, leaving Paladin and the dog staring at each other.

"So..." Paladin rubbed the back of his head. "What am I supposed to call you? Prince? Spirit?" The puppy whined in response and pawed at its muzzle. Paladin chuckled. "Okay... how 'bout Hajimaru? That strike you okay?"


The dog tilted its head to one side and studied Paladin blandly. "It means 'Beginning'," the wanderer explained. "In the language of a place I used to live, many years ago."

The puppy woofed in response and wagged its tail. "Alright," Paladin nodded, turning on his heel. "Hajimaru it is. Let's go find you some puppy chow, Haji." He winced. "And try to figure out how to explain you to my landlady..."

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