The Ashlanders - Chapter 6: The Blind Man's Last Gambit (Closed, Started)

 Pages PREV 1 . . . 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 . . . 76 NEXT
 

"You'll be sent into the heart of bandito territory... are you prepared for that?"

"I guess I'll do whatever I'm told to do, so long as whoever I'm with listens to me. But to be honest, she's crazy if she's separating me from the ship when she intends to take it and do fuck knows what."

Ruffles nodded to a couple of the others, and took his place. Time to see why he was being sent into such a hot zone.

"So who wants to hear a funny story that'll make you wonder why the fuck I'm allowed to carry a gun?"

"Maybe later, buddy," Ruffles replied. "I think we're about to have a big group moment."

=======================================

"Miss Fifer? It's Greaves, is it okay to come in now?"

"It's open," replied Whiskey, taking another drag on her cigarette.

"Maybe later, buddy, I think we're about to have a big group moment."

Smiling Aesop winked and made a clicking sound along with making a gun shape with his hands. "Gotcha." Slowly Aesop went over to a seat and begin sitting down, wincing as he did and whispering, "fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfcufkcukfcukfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck-okay its not so bad."

"It's open." Spoke Whiskey on the other side of the door which prompted Viola to enter. She was greeted with a rather exquisite looking room, so much more than what she had seen from the rest of the building. The main room had a window large enough that it went from top to bottom, with the curtains pulled halfway down.

Everything in the room was of high quality; the large wooden desk, marble worktops in a room that Viola assumed was the kitchen, a small but well cared for looking piano, several suede couches and a glass topped coffee table with some board games underneath. This place looked more like a palace than anything else.

And sitting behind the desk was the woman herself, Whiskey Fifer, small trails of cigarette smoke escaped from her lips. On the desk there appeared to be a disassembled pistol; though Viola would need a closer look to identify.

"Ah, thank you for agreeing to see me on such short notice Miss Fifer; I realise that you must have a busy schedule ahead of you, which is actually the reason why I wanted to speak with you. Don't ask me how I know, but I know that your next job involves a trade between the Iron Maidens and a Noble family in return for one of the hostages that the Maidens took during their train heist a few days ago, Bartholomew I think his name is." Viola said as she approached a seat opposite Whiskey and sat down in it.

"The reason that I have come calling, is that I've been hired by Lord Dio Basilio to rescue his betrothed, Lady Elizabeth from the Iron Maidens. Thing is, hard intel on the Maidens is a little hard to come by, so I'll need to question one of the two Maidens that is handling the trade on their end for the information I need. If your willing to help me with my problem, I'm willing to help you with yours."

"Why are you fuckin' sorry? You didn't do this, it wasn't your fault, so don't ever apologise for shit you didn't do. Ever."

Sprout shrugged as if trying to hide his head in a theoretical shell.

"My favourite scarf. I've had that since I was 5 years old. FIVE!"

It was one thing to support someone going through physical anguish, but this was more than that. His mother had wounded Lilith's heart more than her face. Looking at her now, it was clear she was trying her best to keep it together. No doubt she was more upset at Pixie's actions for Pixie sake than she was for her own.

She tried to make sense of Pixie's actions and failed. The fact that she'd done what she'd done for such a stupid reason is what likely hurt the most. In a sense, Sprout knew exactly how Lilith felt for he was feeling it too. Seeing his mother in pain was one thing, but when she brought that same pain down upon others... well, she wasn't any better than the people who hurt her.

Again, Sprout grabbed Lilith wrist and squeezed. He had no clue what to say, however. He just sat there trembling, trying to imagine his mother wasn't the monster she appeared to be.

**********************************************************************************************************************************************

Cranston sat at the table next to where Pixie would sit, waiting for her arrival. Once most the crew had arrived the food started making it's way around. Steak! Actual steak! There was a lot of it in the haul they'd just brought in, so why not indulge? Tonight was just as much a celebration as it was an official briefing.

The room was roaring as everyone fought over booze and salt, that was until Pixie appeared. The room went dead silent the moment she stepped into the dining hall. Cranston watched her approach. With everything that had happened today... what would she bring to the dinner table tonight? A few seconds later, when he noticed the grin on her face, he let out a sigh of relief. He'd forgotten one important thing about the woman: she could be whatever her maidens needed her to be.

"CAN YOU FUCKERS BELIEVE THIS SHIT? FUCKN' STEAK?! FER REAL!?" Pixie shouted, laughing all the while. The Maidens jeered in response, cooked blood sloshing in every direction as her men ripped into their meals. Pixie sat down at the head of the largest table in the room, taking a swig of her beer before speaking. "I reckon y'all'r tired a' here'n me praise you fer yesterday's haul, so I won' bore ya' ta' tears doin' it again!"

Another wave of chanting washed over the room before she continued, "Yesterday we made a' few mistakes, most a' which can be traced back ta' one important thing. Intelligence." Pixie glanced at Cranston who nodded in return. "Now, I know what y'all'r think'n, but it ain't ol' Chromy's fault. There's a leak in'r support network hat needs pluggn' an' if we don' do it before ar' next major score we're gonna have a lot more than a few banditos crawln' up ar' asses! So here's what's gonna happen: I'm assemble'n two teams to head over ta' Boomhower to find the piggy who's squeel'n and stick a cork n' his dick!"

After a few savage bites of her steak, she washed it down with her beer and continued, "Fenrir Squad's gonna be comprised of: Smiles, Aesop, Silo, Cameron, Barrot and Ruffles." She grinned and continued. "Sleipnir Squad includes Remmington Thunderknife, Omaha Nightblade, Havercamp Shatterdome, Gabe Haliburton, and Rodriguo Bloodharvist." Cranston rolled his eyes at what she believed to be some creative renaming. The rest of the crew must have thought it was funny too, because the whole room erupted with laughter. Cranston just hoped those she named knew she was talking about them.

"As fer our special guests... Sprout n' Casino'r gonna bring Bart to Feroxi to sell him off ta' his 'loving' family. The other two er' stay'n with us fer now. I'm sure y'all have heard by now, but one of 'em is ta' be Dio Basilio's bride! Well ya' know what?! I say fuck that!"

Her men laughed and cheered in response, "We're gonna hang on ta' her a bit just to spite the sonuvabitch! An' we're gonna keep er' friend too, considern' she was his weddn' guest when we took er' it's gonna make him look mighty stupid when the rest'a the nobles catch on! An' y'all know where my priorities lie!"

Her men shouted several different versions of the phrase, "FUCK THE NOBLEPIGS!" in response. Cranston laughed along with them.

"As fer me an' the rest of the crew," She looked to the Gentleman seated across the room. "We're gonna work with Gents over there on a new score. I won' lie to y'all, it's a BIG score, but I reckon we're gonna go a more subtle route. Anyway, see'n as how we're all on the same page now. Any questions?"

Cranston watched her as she began devouring her meal once more. For a "celebration" like this she wasn't eating her meal with nearly enough barbaric ferocity. Her heart wasn't in it at all. It didn't even look like she was enjoying her meal.

Cranston whipped his mouth with a napkin and left the table, dirty dishes in-hand.

"M-milady, the look in her eye. I... it was... I can't even describe it. She-she looked like a normal woman when she came in here at first but.... What is she?!"

"I do not know. She is no common cutpurse."

Josephine turned her head towards the door when she heard someone barge in--the only other woman she had seen on the train. "Oh no no no no no no!" It didn't take long for her to ascertain the situation and she raced out as soon as she entered. Jo didn't even want to think about what was going on out there; all she could hear was screaming and the sounds of flesh being beaten. Fortunately the priest broke the silence.

"I know you can't believe me but you are safe, no one here will let any harm come to you. Either of you." He too took his leave, locking the door behind him. She felt Elizabeth trying to calm herself.

"Th-this isn't right... This needs to stop..."

"Hush, poppet. Hush..." Josephine's eyes sharpened. "I promise, I won't let that happen again. An she wishes to simply discourse with you, she must first discourse with me."

As Sprout grabbed her wrist, Lilith almost broke down then and there. She held the tears back and lowered her arm, holding her hand out in front of her. It was splotched with blood, and shaking slightly, she had hit it on the ground pretty hard. Her right eyelid began to quiver as she struggled not to cry, her bottom lip quivering. She clenched her hand into a fist, squeezing tightly, causing the pain in her chest and shoulder to flare up, she focused on the pain let it overwhelm her senses for a few moments.

Her face hardened "And I'd do it all again. I'd do it again right now if I had to, because this ship means more to me than anything, and I won't let anyone jeopardise what we have here. Not even the captain."

She relaxed her hand, red marks were on her palm where her nails had almost broken the skin. She turned her head towards Sprout, a look of weariness in her eyes.

"Axel, can I ask you for a favour?" Her expression softened noticeably, a small smile on her face. "Do you think you could maybe give me a hug?" She didn't move, her hand still held in front of her, quivering slightly.

"I promise, I won't let that happen again. An she wishes to simply discourse with you, she must first discourse with me."

Several minutes passed before the commotion outside died down. Eventually Elizabeth's nerves calmed and she allowed herself a moment of respite. She smiled weakly at Josephine, stood up and helped her friend get to her feet. The two of them sat in silence for awhile, trying in vein to figure out what was going on here.

It sounded like some kind of meal was being served by the time Elizabeth chose to break the silence, "She didn't know the assassin had shown us that recording." She looked to Josephine with a look of confusion. "What of Lord Basilio, Milady? Do you really think him capable of what they claim? Be honest, please. I have only met him a number of times and I never got the impression that he had a vile bone in his body."

****************************************************************************************************************************************************

Sprout watched her there helplessly as she struggled with her pain. He'd never seen Lilith like this before. He knew how to console his mother, but he didn't know where to start with Lilith.

"Axel, can I ask you for a favour? Do you think you could maybe give me a hug?"

Sprout nodded silently and came in slowly as not to injure her further. He gave her a firm squeeze, his jaw resting right on her shoulder, "I'll stay here's long as ya' need me to, Lily..."

It was the first hug they'd ever shared where Sprout hadn't considered doing something devious.

Lilith didn't move as he grabbed her, only noting how gently he did so. I wonder how many times he's had to hold Meredith like this...

"I'll stay here's long as ya' need me to, Lily..."

A few moments passed, before she raised her arms and rested them on his back.

"Thank you." She said, with barely a whisper.

"Fenrir Squad's gonna be comprised of: Smiles, Aesop, Silo, Cameron, Barrot and Ruffles."

Ruffles nodded to himself. It was hard to be surprised after what Cranston had told him. He supposed he was about to see where Pixie had come from. Fantastic.

=======================================

"The reason that I have come calling, is that I've been hired by Lord Dio Basilio to rescue his betrothed, Lady Elizabeth from the Iron Maidens. Thing is, hard intel on the Maidens is a little hard to come by, so I'll need to question one of the two Maidens that is handling the trade on their end for the information I need. If your willing to help me with my problem, I'm willing to help you with yours."

Whiskey smirked and blew a smoke ring at her sudden guest. "I wasn't aware I had a problem in the first place. And I definitely never thought I'd need help with it. But honestly sugar tits, I don't give a shit what happens between you and the maidens. I've heard about their work, and it sounds like good shit. Shit I approve of, but I don't know them. So you do what'cha gotta do. But you wait. You wait until my exchange is done and they're outta my sight. Because I got a reputation to uphold, honey. We're going to be meeting in this dome's grove several hours from now. If you're gonna bag 'em and tag 'em, you wait until they're a ways away from there, and I'm not around to see it. Or else I really will have a problem."

"Any questions?"

Standing at the back of the room, The Gentleman simply nodded. There was nothing to be gained telling the whole crew the specifics of the plan now. Things would come into sharper focus along the way. A faint smile was returning to the corners of his lips though. Pixie's act may well have been transparent to him, but as long as she was still convincing enough to keep her crew in line, she was still dependable.

Whiskey smirked and blew a smoke ring at Viola, who coughed slightly. "I wasn't aware I had a problem in the first place. And I definitely never thought I'd need help with it. But honestly sugar tits, I don't give a shit what happens between you and the maidens... If you're gonna bag 'em and tag 'em, you wait until they're a ways away from there, and I'm not around to see it. Or else I really will have a problem." Viola wasn't normally known to be angry, but something about the Whiskey's tone and mannerisms really ticked her off. It was enough to make her get up from her seat, place her hands on the table and lean forward towards Whiskey.

"Don't you DARE call me sugar tits." Viola said with absolute bitterness and coldness in her voice, deep down she was angry.

"And don't even think for one second that you have the Maidens all figured out, you don't know what underhand tricks they might employ, or if the two that are handling the trade are the only ones that are actually going to be there. Unless you have eyes in the back on your head, your not going to be able to cover every angle in case of an ambush; with that in regard, another set of eyes, ears and guns will benefit you greatly." Viola said, still sounding angry as she sat back down.

"I forgot to mention, but there are other bounty hunters that have been hired for this job I'm on, and I doubt none of them are going to care about who they have to kill to collect the cash bounties on these Bandits; that means you as well Princess. I on the other hand would care. If you wish to live to see the next sunrise, to enjoy the benefits of a lucrative career; then it'll be in both our best interests to work together on this one."

"And let me be perfectly clear, I don't give a fuck about the money you'll be getting from this exchange, this ain't my job after-all, all I want is first dibs on the Maidens, nothing more and nothing less." Viola then leaned back in the chair, and crossed her arms, having cooled down a little bit, waiting patiently for her response.

Whiskey's smile widened as the bounty hunter vented at her. "Well, I ain't exactly alone. Nobles like to send along a few of their grunts to keep an eye on things. And no, I don't know everything about the Maidens. But I know what counts. That they know their business. To say they're the ones receiving the money in this deal, why exactly would they pull a fast one? To steal the guy again and ransom him again? That wouldn't work, and it'd destroy their credibility. They're not idiots."

Stubbing the cigarette out in an ashtray, Whiskey sipped at her coffee. "And anyway, you're not paying attention to what I said. Calm down, candy ass, and listen. Do what you do when I'm not around. You're welcome to watch the exchange, so long as you do it far away, and tail 'em for a while before ya jump on 'em. As long as you ain't seen with me, I don't give a shit. That way, everybody wins. Except the Maidens, I guess, but that goes without saying. The exchange is happening four days from now, about midday. Now, unless you just want the delightful pleasure of my company, you can see yourself out."

"...That way, everybody wins. Except the Maidens, I guess, but that goes without saying. The exchange is happening four days from now, about midday. Now, unless you just want the delightful pleasure of my company, you can see yourself out." Said Whiskey after she took a sip from her coffee and stubbed out her cigarette into a nearby ashtray. Realizing that she wasn't going to get any further, Viola stood up from her chair and began to walk towards the door.

"I think I've had enough of your company for one day Miss Fifer. Thank you for the information anyway, let's hope if we ever meet again, it is under better circumstances. And I hope these guards that the Nobles are sending your way are up to the task; just be on your guard in case something happens." Viola then straightened her hat and walked out the door.

"Maybe later, buddy, I think we're about to have a big group moment." Ruffles said to Aesop.

"Gotcha." He said, slinking away.

"I'm sure it will be good." Florian added, briefly turning away from the scene of the gathering crew.

Soon enough the captain made her appearance and set about the task of giving a rousing pubic speech, as people in her position usually have to do. She made a good show of it but the sight of her being cradled by Axel was still fresh in Florian's mind and the whole thing rang hollow. Still, it served its purpose and the canteen was filled with raucous cheers and laughter as Florian watched in obedient silence.

"We're gonna work with Gents over there on a new score. I won' lie to y'all, it's a BIG score, but I reckon we're gonna go a more subtle route. Anyway, see'n as how we're all on the same page now. Any questions?"

Florian coldly over to their self invited guest. How is his suit still in such good condition? Still it did help explain his continued presence. Hopefully this score would be big enough to be worth all the hassle he'd caused them. What Florian had to say would wait until after the meal though, it wouldn't do anyone any good for him to make a scene here. Crew morale was already feeling the tension. He took a seat and helped himself to a few bites of steak but his mind was everywhere at the moment and it was beyond Florian's ability to enjoy it. Typical.

Time passed, so much so that Sprout almost dozed off in Lilith's arms before Cranston entered the room, "Oh, am I interrupting something?"

Sprout sprung backwards, standing up straight against the far wall, sweat trickling down his forehead, "Oh, uh... no! No... We were just..."

He smiled, "Relax, kid. I brought dinner." Cranston handed him a plate with a nice hunk of steak and some mashed potatoes on the side. He took a seat and went to town almost immediately. He hadn't eaten anything all day and steak! His favorite meal!

Cranston turned to Lilith and produced a tall glass with whipped cream and cherry on top, "Figured you'd rather sip something through a straw tonight, so I used some of the stuff we hauled in yesterday to make you a chocolate shake." Cranston chuckled. "Haven't had one of these for quite some time myself, but they're a delicacy around here." He stuck a straw in it and handed it to Lilith.

***************************************************************************************************************************************************

Pixie had to force herself to finish her meal. After a crew member came by to take it back to the kitchen she got up from her seat to leave. The room boomed, shouting her name as she left. She replied with little more than a half-assed wave before leaving for her room. She knew more than a few of her crew, including the Gentleman, saw through her facade tonight but she really didn't care at this point.

Staggering into her room, she dropped to her knees and hurled half the meal she just ate into the toilet. She sat there, hugging the aluminum idle awhile as her stomach calmed down. It wasn't often heartache manifested into physical illness and it was never pleasant when it happened. What a waste. It was a decent steak.

After flushing the toilet she went over to the sink to wash herself off. Staring at herself in the mirror she shook her head.

What's done is done.

She sighed and turned around to examine her room. She would need booze. Plenty of booze. She'd thought long and hard about what she should do with Lilith and Sprout since this afternoon and it was clear now she'd need the aid of a few drinks to make said decision.

Lilith liked scotch right? Of course she did. Pixie grabbed her oldest bottle of scotch (a bottle about as old as she was) and two scotch glasses before heading out the door.

Aesop sat and cheered along with Pixie and her shouts as he dug into his steak, he had no idea what was going on but morale needed to be kept up. If Pixie was the one, 'Oh who am I kidding, she was the one,' that fucked Lillith up so much then... he still probably wouldn't say anything in front of people. He might say something later, but he had done worse. When Pixie had found him he was stealing water from a disabled boy, he was no saint. He was a coward. But this shit couldn't stand. Still, even if the Valkaries had seen her go apeshit the rest of the crew hadn't and they needed her as the leader to be unquestioning, at least in public. He might say something later... no, no he would. But it would only be a question. Aesop still had no idea why Pixie had brought him on in the first place. A selfish drunk ex cop who abandoned the town he was sworn to protect? Who the fuck would want that. And a beating to a crew member was nothing compared to that.

If it were any other Captain. This was not any other Captain. This was a woman that would kick your ass for being bad at your job but treat you and care for you as family, fucking family. That was what made the maidens. Pixie was not one to beat one of her family within an inch of their lives. Pixie was not the one to leave a loved one bloodied and let others take up the slack. Meredith was a bandit but god dammit she was a hero on these ashes, even if she still sees herself a bandit. A bandit would have ignored that poor disabled boy and taken the water. Aesop was a bandit. He was brought on the right path by a woman who was no selfish sick psychopath. Being here was the closest Aesop came to being a cop again. Beating Lillith, that is just not the Pixie he knew. The Pixie that saved him.

"Fenrir Squad's gonna be comprised of: Smiles, Aesop, Silo, Cameron, Barrot and Ruffles."

"The fuck is this? Team ethnic cleansing?" Aesop yelled. 'Thats right. More repression. Sweet sweet repression.'

He followed the rest of her speech while digging into his down right delicious steak. Jeez it was good. However he was troubled by the mention of keeping the nobles. Why keep them? Why not trade them off? This was weird, maybe he could get a good word from someone who hadn't spent the whole day being a hermit.

"We're gonna work with Gents over there on a new score. I won' lie to y'all, it's a BIG score, but I reckon we're gonna go a more subtle route. Anyway, see'n as how we're all on the same page now. Any questions?"

'Gents? Oh fuck you can't be serious?' He turned to see the bastard, a small smile creeping up on him. It was good that Aesop had almost finished his meal as now his appetite had nearly been taken from him. Why work with him? Was he that worth it? Balls to this, fucking psycho. Silently Aesop continued the rest of his meal.

Axel was a good hugger, and he knew how to give shoulder rubs. It was all starting to fall into place. She isn't as stable as I thought...

Time passed, and she enjoyed the moment far more than she thought she would. She was about to ask the kid if he had fallen asleep, when Cranston entered the room, scaring the crap out of Sprout.

"Oh, uh... no! No... We were just..."

Lilith giggled slightly as she watched Sprout squirm. Same old Sprout.

"Relax, kid. I brought dinner." Lilith's eye sparkled slightly as she watched Sprout quickly tuck into the meal. "Oh god, steak..." She whispered to herself, it seemed the beating didn't put a dent in her appetite. She turned back towards Cranston expectedly.

"Figured you'd rather sip something through a straw tonight, so I used some of the stuff we hauled in yesterday to make you a chocolate shake."

She looked at the milkshake for a few seconds, taking in all its magnificent chocolatey glory. "Cranston, I..."

"Haven't had one of these for quite some time myself, but they're a delicacy around here."

A curly straw too!? A GODDAMN CURLY STRAW! Lilith took the shake from Cranston, cradling it gently, a look of awe on her face. She hadn't had a milkshake in years, let alone with a goddamn awesome curly straw. She placed the straw gently between her lips and took a small drink.

"Oh god, this is like, this is-" She interrupted herself and lowered her mouth to the glass, breathing some of the cream into her mouth, and getting most of it on her nose.

Cream covered Lilith looked at Sprout, grinning widely.

"Gorram curly straw!" She held up a hand towards the man who bore this great gift. "Cranston! Cranston, high five!"

Finishing off his steak with little appetite left Aesop stood up and yelled over to Warren "Hey why don't you tell everybody how I spent the day, I gotta go ask the captain why she's grouping all the brown people together." Aesop headed towards Meredith's cabin, bumping into her on her way out. She was carrying scotch and two glasses and he couldn't help but get a whiff of it. 'Fucking c'mon not now dickhead.'

"Captain I um, can I ask something? I'll be quick I know your busy."

"Captain I um, can I ask something? I'll be quick I know your busy."

Pixie was light-years away when Aesop spoke. She stopped after a few steps, took a second to snap back to reality and turned to him, "What's on yer mind, Aesop?" She asked with a forced smile.

"What's on yer mind, Aesop?" Pixie asked with a forced smile. He knew it was forced, he could read liars well. However Meredith was brilliant liar, if she wasn't able to hide it this time?... fuck.

"Um yeah. What happened to Lillith?" Maybe a bad way to phrase it, but Aesop really didn't know the situation that well.

"Um yeah. What happened to Lillith?"

Pixie stared at him with a blank expression for far longer than was comfortable.

What happened to Lilith?

Pixie didn't even realize she was trembling until she heard the two scotch glasses tapping each other in her hand. She looked him in the eyes and simply said, "I did."

Not wishing to spend another moment dwelling on it, Pixie turned and left down the hallway before Aesop could respond.

Pixie stared at Aesop blankly, no expression. Damn near deadpan and hands trembling. 'Shit, I fucked up this time. Okay I can get out of this just apologise and walk bac-'

"I did"

Aesop was stunned. His body froze as Pixie made her way down the hallway. His mouth hung open in disbelief. This was so fucked up, so god damn fucked up. How the hell could this happen? This is wrong so wrong so god damn wrong! How could she? Was something up that he didn't know about. 'God dammit. If I hadn't gotten my ass stuck in that damn crate I could have seen this, helped or something. Jesus fucking mother fucking fucking fucking christ!' Aesop ran his hands through his hair and panted through his teeth before forcing himself to calm down, mouthing the words to himself he continued his trail of thought. "She was shaking. Obviously felt guilty. Full eye contact, even with just one. So she wanted to make a point. Went off in a hurry, clearly its a bad idea for me to follow her. Its almost like she wanted to shock me so I didn't follow her. Fuck, she's not in control. I don't think I've ever seen her like this." He sighed and stopped for a moment. "God. I'll leave her alone tonight, but I gotta talk to Lillith and see how she is." And Sprout too. If he can handle his momma then... damn little fucker has balls.

Florian left the hall with little fuss, slipping out while everyone was busy digging in and talking among themselves. He hung back from full on trailing the captain totally, she was extremely close to the edge at the moment and pushing her now would be a rookie mistake, it would probably lead to another outburst. That said Florian was no saint and he didn't have enough patience to leave this for another day. He may have understood why she flipped but that didn't mean he could let it stand.

He found Pixie walking through the hallways, geared up for a night on the town.

"We talk, about the girl, now." It was clear to anyone who heard him that it wasn't up for debate.

We talk, about the girl, now.

Pixie was about to weave around him, ignoring him completely until he uttered the word "now". She stopped dead in her tracks and shot him an icy glance. Some of the crew nearby started peeking their heads around the corner to see what was up prompting Pixie to scoff and grab Florian by the arm, leading him into a more private area of the hallway.

After taking a second to collect herself, she placed the scotch and its glasses on a pipe nearby. When she turned back to speak to Florian it was with a sarcastic tone, "Which one're you on about? The girl I sent to the ER'r the one rolln' in 'er grave 'cause I roughed up her sister?"

"Both and the one in the hold." Florian said bluntly, ignoring any scorn pointed his way. His voice drenched in grim disappointment. "That was beneath you."

Pixie bit her lip and her face flushed bright red. A dribble of blood pooled up on her bottom lip before she fired back, "Don' you think I know that!? Don' you know I'd give my worthless fuckn' life fer either of them?!" Seething with anger, she attempted to calm herself by placing a trembling hand on her forehead and aggressively ran her fingers through her bangs. "Look, I didn' ask fer your god damn input on this, okay, so back the fuck off!"

"You're afraid of your emotions because this girl is close to you... but she isn't. You let her hurt you because she does not know you, cannot begin to know you and this is a good thing. What do you think would happen if she learned who you are? What would become of her? She would be destroyed, outcast, maybe even hunted. We have already hurt her and we will hurt her more before the end, would you add this to her burden as well? The two of you cannot be friends, cannot be family. But you can do what family would do for her."

He wasn't speaking as a priest here. This was Florian the bandit talking, cold and distant as a Frostfall night. He didn't notice it but his accent was even beginning to come out more, it tended to when he got agitated. "She hurts you because she is close to your heart but in this you cannot afford to feel. Kill your heart or you kill the girl." For a moment he almost sounded like his old self.

Midway through Florian's monolgue Pixie actually took a step backward. The one good eye she had, the one the men of this world feared, was wide and filled with terror. She knew everything he said to be fact, and that's what hurt the most. What scared her the most. No, Elizabeth wasn't her real family, he was right. She was nothing but a reminder of Pixie's former life.

Still, family or no, she had to be protected and scaring her half to death wasn't going to help. Florian was right, so why couldn't she just back down? Why did she feel the need to bash his head in against the bulkhead just to 'hurt' him back?

Pixie took a deep breath and slouched against the wall. She needed to calm herself. She needed to regain control. She looked up to the ceiling and closed her eyes. After a moment of medatative breathing she looked to Florian, "I knew there was a reason I recruited ya'."

She picked up the booze and placed a hand on Florian's shoulder, "I'm gonna have a chat with ar' resident cripple here in a minute. S'what the booze's fer. I reckon you could make yerself useful and bring our guests dinner?"

Florian simply nodded. The captain seemed to have learned from her mistakes or at least reflected upon them enough to see them properly. He had his task and a possible way to start bringing their guests back into line. Perhaps Pixie would even be able to start healing the tear she had made between herself and Lilith.

"This happens again you come to me, talk, fight or drink. It does not spill over into the rest of the crew. This does not happen again." He stepped in just that little bit closer to Pixie, making sure that no passer by could hear him. "I will not allow it." And in that moment Florian truly was his old self. It was nothing obvious but to people like Pixie, people from the life, it was clear as day. Florian's control had slipped and his own demons caught a glimpse at Pixie's as they silently sized each other up.

He didn't give her a chance to respond and left to go about his task.

Pixie watched as he left down the hall. Despite feeling like a scared little girl, she shrugged to herself and laughed.

Not that she needed it, but now she had yet another reason to get plastered tonight.

"What of Lord Basilio, Milady? Do you really think him capable of what they claim? Be honest, please. I have only met him a number of times and I never got the impression that he had a vile bone in his body."

"Nor have I. When we met, he was respectful. Verily a gentleman," Josephine replied. "Ne'r have we seen nor heard anything questionable about him or the rest of the Basilio family." Her eyes went to the golden pin hanging above her breast.

"Our family suffered a loss years ago. My brother..." She took a deep breath before continuing. "He was thrown off his horse. Lord Basilio personally attended his funeral. We were verily grateful for all of the support he wrought. Lord Basilio a foe? Hardly!"

Josephine ran her fingers through her hair, her brow furrowing. "But wherefore would he withhold information from the captain if they have formed an alliance?"

"Cranston! Cranston, high five!"

Cranston allowed himself a brief chuckle and gave Lilith a firm high-five, "You better treasure it now. Once you're in Feroxi it's going to be straight to business."

Sprout, already having devoured the majority of his steak, looked up at the two of them. Mashed potatoes oozed out of his mouth as he spoke, "Feroxi? What're you on about?"

"The two of you are to take Bartholomew to Feroxi for the ransom. Some of the others are being sent to Boomhower. And come on, Sprout! Don't talk with your mouth full!"

Sprout swallowed the mess before speaking this time, "Sorry! Wait, so me n' Lily'r gonna do this on er' own?"

At that moment the door flew open and Pixie entered with her hands full, "We really need butt-access door nobs 'round here." Cranston took one look at the scotch and raised and eyebrow. Pixie nodded towards the door and looked at Sprout. "I'll brief y'all on the Feroxi business tomorra'. Fer now I'm gonna have ta' ask y'all to clear out."

Cranston nodded and left without a fuss. Sprout took a quick look at Lilith, "Come on, kid." Cranston goaded, causing Sprout to dash out of the room with the remainder of his meal in-hand.

After the door shut the room was left with silence for awhile. Lilith continued sipping on her straw as Pixie walked over to the counter and poured the scotch into both glasses. Her hands planted firmly on the counter, Pixie took a minute to collect herself before she spoke up, "Okay, this is how it's gonna work: I'm gonna siddown an' listen ta' what you gotta say. Don' hold anythin' back er' ferever hold yer peace an' all that. When yer done I'll speak."

With that she turned around and placed Lilith's drink on her nightstand and took a seat by her bedside.

Kayneth

The duelist was fine following Bennie to his 'friends' place, since he knew that at least Bennie was within kill range at all times. When he wasn't, one could perhaps notice that a certain revolver was trained on his lower back, stealthily of course. He stopped when Bennie pulled him aside, with a slight warning.

"Look, he probably has a look out somewhere around here. If I don't come too close to where he's hold up we should be okay, but this place ain't no playground. I'll stay close in case you need back up."

'Every place is a playground if you're crazy enough.' Kayneth thought idly, gripping his sword. Seems there was some work to be done before an interrogation, which was always a bit annoying. It was better to take out aggression on the true target, too bad he seemed to think he was a cleverdick.

"Anything goes wrong in there and you let me know, okay? I know this place pretty well as you can imagine in my line of work, so figuring out where your at won't be an issue. Ready?"

"So, trust you to back me up? Fuck it, I'm two drinks and a few blocks of walking into this already." Kayneth replied, walking towards the place. Officially letting Bennie out of quick kill range. He expected a round to the back of the head that never came as he entered the den of Sin.

He expected it to be shabby, of course. It was a place where the destitute payed for extraordinarily short lived happiness. Seems a few were inside today, and temptation to cut off a head seemed nigh irresistible. Unfortunately he needed the info from one such individual. He did a quick scan, taking in every desperate face and crack in the dingy walls, before noticing someone not strung out. And looking at someone, keeping his eye on him. Bennie said he had a bodyguard...

Kayneth drew his sword, following the motion into the mans neck. It sunk in to his adams apple, the gurgling was a bit unsettling but otherwise it was quiet as a mouse's fart. The Duelist quickly grabbed the man by the collar with his other hand, pulling him back onto the floor as he swung his sword near his heart.

"Answers or your Maiden head, choose wisely."

"You better treasure it now. Once you're in Feroxi it's going to be straight to business."

Feroxi huh? She wondered what Pixie had in store for her.

Lilith grimaced slightly, as Sprout nearly spattered the walls with the contents of his mouth.

"The two of you are to take Bartholomew to Feroxi for the ransom. Some of the others are being sent to Boomhower. And come on, Sprout! Don't talk with your mouth full!"

So that's what she meant. And she's still sending him with me? She furrowed her brow thoughtfully.

"Sorry! Wait, so me n' Lily'r gonna do this on er' own?"

Lilith was about to respond, until a familiar face entered the room. Her appetite quickly disappeared, but she continued to drink her shake. She focused her eyes on her feet.

"I'll brief y'all on the Feroxi business tomorra'. Fer now I'm gonna have ta' ask y'all to clear out."

The room went silent as the door closed, time seemed to slow down. Lilith could feel Pixie's eyes on her, but she refused to look up. Still focusing on her feet, she heard the pouring of drinks, Oh Christ, we're having a 'talk' aren't we. Just waiting for her to sit down felt like an eternity.

"Okay, this is how it's gonna work: I'm gonna siddown an' listen what you gotta say. Don' hold anythin' back er' ferever hold yer peace an' all that. When yer done I'll speak."

As Pixie finished speaking, Lilith's straw ran dry, a loud slurping noise echoed throughout the room as the straw hit nothing but empty glass.

Shit. Now she had to talk. For a few moments she did nothing, her lips still on the straw. Without looking up, she asked the first thing that came to her mind.

"Who's the girl?"

Pixie was a violent person, but she didn't get angry for no reason. One of the noble tarts had said something to her to rile her up. which in itself was no simple feat.

Shakes had been rocking his head back and forth to the beats of his favorite metal when he felt a warm liquid splash across his face. It was blood.

"Answers or your Maiden head, choose wisely."

Shakes removed his headphones and furrowed his brow, "Do I look like a fuckn' Maiden to you?" In a situation like this a decapitated corpse would usually clear out a room rather quickly. Due to their state of mind however, most didn't even notice anything had happened.

******************************************************************************************************************************************************

"... He was thrown off his horse. Lord Basilio personally attended his funeral...."

Elizabeth reflexively put a hand on Josephine's back as if trying to heal an ancient wound.

"But wherefore would he withhold information from the captain if they have formed an alliance?"

Elizabeth shook her head, "I don't know, Milady, and that's what is bothering me the most. I fear the Captain, especially after what happened earlier, but there is something... far more sinister about that man." She sat in thought for a moment, trying to put a finger on what it was about the Gentleman that put her off.

Sadly, it was no use. The recent memory of Pixie's assault still fresh in her mind, it was hard for her to think of anything else.

"IF YOU DON' LISTEN YER GONNA END UP CARVED UP LIKE A FUCKN' PIG, BLEEDN' IN THE SHIT-FILLED GUTTER LIKE YER SISTER!!!"

Elizabeth winced as she relived the encounter. There was a reason that line stuck out in her head more prominently than any other, however. What did she know about her sister, anyway? Elizabeth scratched her head, "Why do you think she mentioned my sister like that?"

****************************************************************************************************************************************************

"Who's the girl?"

Pixie wanted to smirk and say, "yer smarter than you look" but she couldn't bring herself to do it. Where she'd been light on the details with Florian, she was prepared to relive her tale for Lilith. She deserved as much at this point no matter how painful it would be to recall. However, she wasn't about to tell her story unless Lilith would agree to one thing first.

"That's a fair question, but if I'm ta' tell you this you have ta' promise me one thing: once I'm done relivin' the worst nightmare I've ever had I'm gonna ask somethin' difficult of you and you will do it. Understand?"

"That's a fair question, but if I'm ta' tell you this you have ta' promise me one thing: once I'm done relivin' the worst nightmare I've ever had I'm gonna ask somethin' difficult of you and you will do it. Understand?"

A few moments passed, before Lilith finally raised her head. There was no warmth in her pale blue eyes as she met Pixie's gaze.

"I let you beat me half to death to stop you from making one hell of a dumb fuckin' move."

She placed the empty milkshake glass on the table and grabbed the glass of scotch. She raised the drink to her mouth and downed the whole thing, grimacing slightly as it burned her throat.

"What do you bloody think?"

"Do I look like a fuckn' Maiden to you?"

"You look like you're trying to waste my time." Kayneth replied frowning, driving the tip of his blade into his lesser's right shoulder.

"Let me try again," He said slowly, pulling back his blade and letting the blood flow. He quickly cut the headphone's cord, "Information, location, where they're going to be, armaments. Or I start removing limbs, starting with your member. Get me, junkie?"

"What do you bloody think?"

Leaning forward in her seat, Pixie broke eye contact and stared at the glass in her hand. She didn't say anything in response. There wasn't anything she could say in response. She simply nodded. Another minute of silence passed before she summoned the courage to meet Lilith's gaze once more. Staring back into those cold eyes was soul-shattering. It felt as if her heart had suddenly plunged into the depths of her stomach.

She broke eye contact once more, and sighed, "Fuck me..." She downed the whole glass in one go and got up to pour herself another.

So the girl... it was time Pixie stopped pitying herself and answered Lilith's question. Sitting down once more, Pixie sipped her drink and leaned forward, resting her elbows on her thighs. She no longer had the courage to look at Lilith, so she stared into her glass. It would be an easier story to tell if her feelings of guilt weren't clouding her thoughts.

"Ya' know, I was n' orphan too. Ol' Nan was one crazy bitch." Pixie laughed. "You did the stupidest lil' thing an she'd knock yer fuckn' teeth in! That was my childhood, ya' know? Runnin' 'round with other kids, raisn' hell 'cause we didn' know any better. If Ol' Nan didn't whip us it was the Sheriff or some rich prick. That's all I knew a' the world back then."

Pixie's face suddenly lit up in a way Lilith hadn't seen before, "Then I met someone very special." She pointed to the twin cherry tattoo she had on her shoulder. The letters "P & C" were written across them. "See this one? I reckon it reminds you of the slots, but to me it carries a' whole different mean'n. Lady Margaret Maribel, er' as I called her, 'Cherry'."

Filled with joy, Pixie looked like a whole different person as she recalled her old friend, "Cherry was the most beautiful lady I'd eva' seen. Smooth, pale skin and long, curly cherry-blonde hair." Pixie laughed. "I reckon you figured it out already, but yeah, that's why I called er' Cherry! She was a noble, but she wasn't like the rest of those fuckers. Cherry was different, she cared about gutter-rats like me. She was a bit older'n me and when I was 'bout eleven she came by the orphanage an' found me lien' on the ground, bloody n' and beatn', fresh from a good ol' ass whoopn' from Nan."

Pixie burst out into laughter, "She was so mad she started reprimandn' the old hag right there in front a' the whole orphanage! She said she'd seek the sheriff on er' if she didn' get her act together. That night, Old Nan was SO PISSED she kicked me out a' the place n' told me that I should go lookn' fer my new friend if I wanted a place ta' stay. An' so I did! The next day Cherry was so worried she came into the city lookn' fer me, an' when I heard her voice calln' fer me I came run'n outta my lil' cardboard house to see 'er! From then on I lived with her in 'er estate at the base a' the tower. Her parents were fuckn' furious, but she didn' give a flyn' fuck! Cherry never took shit from anyone!"

Pixie's elated expression sank as she continued her tale, "I learned a lot from her. Nothin' 'bout this life. Stealn' killn', all that stuff I learned on my own. Stand'n up fer myself, personal stuff, stuff that really matters? She taught me all that. And yeah, she continued liven' life 'er own way and I was right there with her! But... when I was 'bout fourteen she came to me to tell me she was gonna get married. To Lord Dio Basilio of Feroxi." Pixie took a large swig of her drink. "She was hesitant, but excited. I didn' know the guy, so I was indifferent at the time, if not a bit excited. I mean, my friend was gettn' married an' I was gonna be in 'er wedding! Me! A gutter-rat from the streets at a noble's wedding!?

"I should'a known somethin'd go wrong from the start. From the moment I met him I got a bad vibe, but everyone else just ate up his charm. Truth be told, Cherry didn' buy it either. She did it anyway... was 'er duty after all." Any joy she'd displayed earlier was gone now. "Fifteen years and four months ago, she had a baby boy with Dio. She said he took after me more'n either of them. Despite the kid, it didn' take long fer me to figure out things were goin' sour in their marriage."

Pixie looked up at the ceiling as she continued, "I saw a few new bruises show up on 'er every now an' then. Dio was operate'n in Feroxi most of the time fer business, so Cherry spent a lot of the time alone with her son in Boomhower. I told her to leave 'im, but she said she didn' have a choice. It came as no surprise then that she started an' affair with a local merchant in the city. The guy's name was Ricko, he was a nice fella. The two a' them went steady fer about two years... that was until..."

Pixie clutched her scotch glass tightly and her voice began to waiver, "Dio came back from Feroxi one night before he was s'posed to..."

By the time Pixie was done with her tale she'd already finished two more glasses of scotch. The last words to leave her mouth seemed more like those belonging to an old woman on her death bed. Reliving the events of that night had brought back that pathetic, weak little girl that could do nothing as she watched her best friend slaughtered like an animal before her. Tears rolled down her face, but beyond that no one would suspect she was crying. She was silent and still as they poured out.

"Ya' wanted to know who the girl was? Well, I s'pose I told you a lil' more'n that, huh?" No form of inflection or any emotion to speak of could be detected in her words.

Pixie told her story. Lilith's expression remained unchanged for the most part, not that Pixie would know. Lilith already knew she was an orphan, although that's where the similarities in their upbringings ended. That kind of life was difficult enough as it was, even with carers who actually gave a damn, let alone with what Pixie must have had to face.

As Lilith made the connection between Margaret, Elizabeth and Dio, a wave of realisation washed over her face.

Axel...

As Pixie continued with her story, a light shone on why Pixie was in the line of work she was, and why she hated the nobility so intensely. Lilith felt sick to her stomach as Pixie neared the end of her tale.

"Ya' wanted to know who the girl was? Well, I s'pose I told you a lil' more'n that, huh?"

The room was quiet as tears streamed silently down Meredith's face. Lilith was speechless, her eyes glistening. A few moments passed before she painfully shimmied off the medical chair, she ignored the aching in her ribs as she walked around the front of the room and stood over Meredith, anger in her eyes.

Lilith reached down and grabbed Meredith's glass, placing it on the medical table along with her own. She took hold of Pixie's hands, lifting them in silent beckoning. As she stood, she refused to look Lilith in the eye. Lilith didn't need to hear how sorry she was, the shame was written all over her. Lilith raised a hand to Meredith's chin and lifted her face. She slowly moved her hand towards Meredith's eye patch and lifted it. Lilith looked at the woman who had taken her in when no one else wanted to, the woman who had filled her with awe for so many years, the woman who was the equal of any man in a fight. The woman who took shit from nobody, the woman who treated her friends like family, the woman who raised a child when she was little more than a child herself. The woman that Lilith loved and respected more than any other person in the world. The woman who needed her now more than anyone had ever needed her.

Lilith's expression hardened as she slapped Pixie hard across the left cheek. As Meredith recoiled in surprise, Lilith stepped in and wrapped her arms around her neck in a tight embrace. She cared not for the pain that racked her body in doing so.

Before Meredith's story, Lilith didn't think there was an excuse Pixie could give her, no way to justify what she had done. Lilith's eyes remained dry as an anger burned in her heart, one desire now echoed throughout her mind more than any other, a lust for revenge she'd never thought she'd ever want, Meredith's purpose was now Lilith's. She shifted her face and kissed Meredith gently on the cheek she had slapped, resting her forehead against Pixie's, there was spark in those pale blue eyes of Lilith's, a spark that would forever burn if given the right trigger.

"We'll kill him." She'd never thought she'd hear the words come from her own mouth in such a way, her voice was threatening, filled with purpose.

"We'll make him suffer."

Pixie had avoided eye-contact up until the point that Lilith lifted her eye-patch. She stared back, looking at her with both eyes for the first time. Then Lilith hit her. The slap stung, but Pixie was more shocked than anything else. She followed it up with a hug and a kiss, ending it all with her forehead resting on Pixie's.

"We'll kill him."

Pixie wasn't sure what kind reaction Lilith expected, nor did she know exactly what she was going to say before she said it. She'd been thinking on this for a long time and the day's events only solidified her position further. She was grateful for Lilith's devotion, truly, but she would have to disappoint the girl. It was for her own good.

Pixie placed her hands on Lilith's and withdrew her head to get a better look at what she wrought on the poor girl. Her despair was more animated now. Her voice wavered as she spoke, "Thank you, Lilith, really. But... I'm sorry Lily, but this ain't yer fight and I can' let you get lost in it. The ransom deal is ta' be yers and Sprout's last job as Maidens. Everythin' I've done up ta' this point's been fer my boy. You may see me as n' older sister, but I've grown ta' treat you like a daughter."

She bowed her head now and clutched Lilith's arms, "I can' let my children get caught up n' this nightmare! The thought'a you 'er Sprout gettn' hurt 'cause a this... it's unbearable, Lily. So, I'm askin' you this as a mother who watched you grow up into the woman you ar' today, not as yer captain: when the job's done you take Sprout n' you leave this life behind. I'll support y'all in any way I can, but I can' have either of y'all be targets."

She clutched Lilith's arms tighter, "I've already lost enough to that man. I'm sorry, Lily."

Ruffles walked slowly down the corridor until he reached Bart's cell. In his hands was a large napkin with the lukewarm remains of his steak. Hardly choice compared to what he himself had eaten, with veins of fat running through the meat. The man deserved something, but that didn't mean it had to be good. There was also a little mashed potato in there, too. Opening the door, he walked in.

Bart looked up and recognized him. The man moved towards him, and immediately started gushing, "ah! You, yes! The brave man that saved my life from that psychotic harlot--" he was cut off as Ruffles' steel toe capped boot caught him in the gut.

"Shut up. Just shut the fuck up." It wasn't Bart's fault Lilith had had to take the heat for him, but that was what it felt like. "Ain't nobody fed you since we took you?" Bart opened his mouth, shut it, and then shook his head.

"Fine." Ruffles dropped his food parcel at the Noble's feet, turned and left without a word. His next destination was Elizabeth and Jo's cell. This time, he knocked on the door. "I'm coming in."

==========================================

When the bounty hunter had left, Whiskey sat smiling idly. Getting under her skin had been much too easy. Still, the woman seemed to have expected more. Whiskey wasn't sure why. The bounty hunter's presence would only be a complication in an otherwise fairly routine job.

Almost routine. The Iron Maidens. Whiskey had never met them, but she knew their reputation well. She had a great deal of respect for the work they did, taking from the almost limitless supplies and finance the Nobles horded for themselves, and dealing it to people who actually had to get off their asses to live. It was a shame they were attracting very dangerous attention, now. Whiskey lit another cigarette and dragged contemplatively.

 Pages PREV 1 . . . 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 . . . 76 NEXT

Reply to Thread

This thread is locked