It was the con of a lifetime. The Grand Gala would have the richest Noxians, how could Twisted Fate and Graves pass this up? But along the way, they seem to be entangled in something much darker...
Hello! This is my first time posting in this subforum so I hope you guys will treat me gently with my mistakes! I have several chapters all ready (though they're quite lengthy!), but I only have the first few here, just to test the waters. I love feedback, good and bad, just be respectful! Thanks!
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Chapter Prologue-6......page 1
Chapter 7-11....page 2
Chapter 12-13....page 3
The old man knew his time was ticking. It was only a matter of time before his enemies finally caught up to him. It had been years—decades—he had eluded them, but as he coughed up blood in his frozen shack, he felt a vague feeling of dread sink and settle into his stomach. He tossed his filthy rag into the once roaring fire place; it was now filled with frosted logs, long since doused to prevent smoke from revealing the location of his Freljord cottage. Not many were out here; even the Winter’s Claw natives were few and far between.
The man slumped in his chair, trying to force himself to sleep. His limbs couldn’t help but tremble from cold and exhaustion. “Anyone could sneak up on me now,” he wheezed.
“Even little ole me?” a voice purred. A woman had materialized from the shadows, her yellow eyes providing the brightest source of light. The old man stared in a terrified state, as frozen as the room around him. The woman terrified him: her eyes seemed to drink up his fear, her unnatural blue skin completely void of goose bumps despite her lack of appropriate clothing, her fingers curled like claws; she reminded the old man of the hungry wild cats he used to hunt in the wilds of Demacia.
“I expect you know why I’m here?” the woman said, “My employers certainly hope so. They paid quite a price for such a feeble old geezer.”
The man could only gape silently, until finally words formed in his mouth, “Finish it.”
The woman lunged forward, and within seconds the old man toppled from his chair into a pool of his own blood. He only had a moment to wheeze his final expression of fear. The woman let a satisfied laugh escape her purple lips. She breathed in the iron smell of his blood and at last goose bumps appeared on her skin.
Suddenly she breathed in a different smell. She twisted around, now alert for the foreign smell. Her glowing eyes only found the rickety walls and the dark fire place. She turned to look at the body again; perfectly still, eyes still wide in fear. This made her smirk.
“Still enjoying the job, eh darling?” a voice came from behind her. She spun around to see a figure donned in a hat and long-tailed coat emerging from the fire place. He dusted off the soot as he stood upright.
“Twisted Fate,” she said with a knowing smirk.
“Evelynn,” he nodded, his golden eyes peering at her from under his hat.
“So, you finally tracked me down? All the way out here?”
He pulled a card from within his jacket, flipping it in his fingers. “I had a good game of Texas Hold ‘Em. Very enlightening.”
Evelynn crossed her arms, tapping her heel, her stare as cold as the room around them. “What are you here for?”
Fate seemed unfazed. “You know why I’m here, Eve.” His eyes seemed to bore right into her.
Evelynn strolled towards the door. “You know my answer, TF. N-O.”
“I figured you’d say that,” Twisted Fate smirked and started to follow, “but unfortunately you can’t get rid of me that easy.”
She glared. “Watch me.” And with that, Evelynn opened the door and faded into the blizzard outside.
Twisted Fate bolted after. “I’m not losing you, Evelynn. Not again.” He plunged into the wintry cloud to chase her down once again.
“There they are! GET ‘EM!” A man shouted, his face morphing into a purple rage mask.
“Time to go, Fate!”
Twisted Fate gathered his deck and abandoned the poker game-in-progress, other players staring agape as cards were snatched from their hands. As TF jogged, he pulled the extra cards from his sleeves; you can never be too safe when it comes to your livelihood.
“C’mon Fate! That barkeep’s got the cops!”
“Keep your pants on, Malcolm!” Fate retorted, catching up to his partner in an alleyway. The duo darted across the stone pavement, scurrying faster than the rats around them. Gunfire was heard in the distance.
“Damn, they’re firin’ on us already?” Graves exclaimed. He sounded more joyful than scared, though this didn’t slow his pace.
Fate smirked. They were prepared for this: they had tickets to a one-way cruise all set up. The cruise liner was leaving that very morning, a grand ship aptly named The Lone Chance, docked in this little backwater Port Santorini off of the Bilgewater mainland.
“Ya just had to pull that last minute con, didn’ja?” Graves growled.
Fate’s smile widened as he chuckled. “You know me Malcolm; I can’t pass up a good set o’ suckers like these!”
Their pace quickened as they heard rifle shots ricochet off the flagged-stone path. The Lone Chance was in sight—her smoke stacks billowed proudly as they spotted the gangplank being pulled away.
“Damn it Fate!” Graves hollered, “Damnit, damnit, damnit!”
Their footfalls thudded onto the wooden dock as Twisted Fate watched the liner float into the harbor. His eyes spun around the busy docks, spotting a crowd of sailors under a crane.
“Malcolm! This way!”
Fate dashed towards the crowd, shoving his way through the burly sailors, who scattered from the chaos of the pursuing mob. Fate grabbed the shoulder of Graves’ poncho before making a mighty leap…
“Fate, what’re ya—AAAAAAHHH!”
Graves was flung out over the open ocean as Twisted Fate swung from the chain on the crane. They thudded onto the shiny white deck, angry shouts echoing after them.
“YOU COME BACK HERE YOU TWO!”
“So long, Santorini!” Fate waved his hat in farewell.
“WOOOO-WEE” Graves called in agreement.
“So where’re we headed next?”
Twisted Fate took a long swig from his beer, putting his feet up on the table. “Whichever port this takes us.”
Graves scowled. His face sounded like sand paper as he scratched it. “We were just in Vilhellos, we should avoid that town until the heat dies down.”
“Oh don’t worry so much, ya old mother hen.”
“Mother hen? I’m lookin’ to survive Fate. I can only assume you are too.” Graves took a drink from his own mug, and when his gaze returned to the card shark, his brown eyes were more relaxed. “Well, I suppose we can relax on the way.”
Twisted Fate tipped his hat over his eyes as he leaned back, letting his mind wander. As crummy a town as Santorini had been, the haul had been more than enough to get them out of where ever they ended up, and fast. Fate had pulled a brilliant trick, and Malcolm had “acquired” their escape tickets just in the nick of time.
“It’s too bad Old man Clive and the Missus couldn’t make it,” Graves had joked with a devilish grin.
As Fate reclined, he heard whispers from the only other group in the bar; a gathering of twittering ladies with oversized hats and far too much to drink.
“Oooo did you hear?”
“Yes, yes, that noble-man, in Villhellos of all places!”
“Oh his poor widow must be devastated…”
“If she isn’t rolling in gold that is—“
“I’m just saying is all…”
“How did he die?”
At this point, Fate had sat up. If there was trouble in Vilhellos, it might be better to abandon ship before port.
He turned ever so slightly to catch a plump woman in a lime green dress take a deep breath. “Well, he didn’t so much as die as he was….murdered!” A chorus of gasps erupted.
“In Vilhellos of all places…”
“Yes! No one knows by whom…but people are saying…it was an assassin!”
“What? I’m simply saying it would take a hell of an assassin to get past that guard of his. That Lord was more paranoid than the High Chancellor!”
“Well, the assassin didn’t do a very clean job of it…very messy from what I heard. Even had to, er, ex the maid who witnessed it.”
Fate’s eyes met Graves’. Graves had obviously been listening as well. “What do you make of it Malcolm?”
He grunted. “Might be trouble…but it sounds like the jobs’ done…so might be an opportunity. After all, no one’s gonna deal with a coupla swindlers with a killer on the loose.”
Twisted Fate smiled. “I’ll drink to that.” Their glasses clinked as they laughed.
Vilhellos was a grim looking port; being a port of Noxus, the guard was tight, but they seemed rather preoccupied to worry about Fate and Graves. The pair got to swindling right away, finding a noisy saloon with plenty of drunkards ready to empty their fat pockets.
“How does he do it?” one drunkard slurred as he coughed up his last coin to Graves, “this one was born unner a lucky sth…fth…sthar…”
Graves chuckled. “It seems that I was.” He gazed longingly at the beer his drunken opponent kicked back, rolling his cigar between his lips. The duo had decided alcohol only made people sloppy, evident by the victims of their tricks.
Fate puffed his cigarette and rose from his place near Graves. “I think we earned us a round,” he said as he strolled towards the bar. Graves’ grumpy countenance lifted in anticipation.
Fate parked himself on a stool, in front of a rather polished bar. The saloon was surprisingly posh, a definite upgrade from the port previous. He saw the bartender serving some rather expensively dressed gentlemen, their clothes adorned with gold trim. We should hit them up before the night is through Fate thought, noting the clink of gold bags landing on the bar. He motioned to the bartender for two beers.
“Make that three,” another answered to his right. The bartender nodded and went about preparing the drinks.
Fate glanced at the voice and saw a woman dressed equally as fashionably as the group of fat cats. Her black form-fitting dress sparkled, revealing her thin frame, and her matching hat was covering a head full of silvery-blonde hair. Twisted Fate couldn’t help but admire her gorgeous appearance, from her high heels all the way to her heavily lidded eyes.
“Evenin’ ma’am,” Fate touched the brim of his hat.
“Hello there,” she said, her voice like honey. “I see you and your friend there are having quite a night.” She nodded towards Graves, who was scooping in the last of his winnings. “Must be useful, having all that,” she paused, flitting her eyes over Fate’s own appearance, “Luck.”
Fate smirked. “Indeed it is ma’am.”
The bartender slid the three frosty mugs onto the bar in front of them. The woman took one and began sipping delicately.
“You know,” she continued, “there might be more opportunities for that luck at the Grand Gala next week. It would be a shame if you couldn’t come.” Her eyes narrowed.
“A fancy party for two ole country folk like us?” Fate teased, “We’d never get in.”
“No I suppose not,” sighed the woman. She drank heavily from her beer. “But…if I could get an address to send to…?”
Fate’s smile widened. This woman obviously had ambitions, typical of a Noxus noble. “How much do ya want, darling?”
She waved her hand. “Details…I don’t think this is the place, do you?”
Fate glanced at his partner. The Grand Gala was full of bumbling, rich fools who were intent on wasting their gold on drink and gambling: a con-man’s paradise if there ever was one. He and Graves wouldn’t have to pull a job for the rest of the year, and they could enjoy the coming winter in some tropical locale. Should I make the decision on my own? We’ll probably head towards our safe house in the marshes on the outskirts of Noxus…
Twisted Fate pulled a queen of spades from his jacket and scribbled directions down. “Send it here, if you must.” He was taking a gamble, but hey, that was just his line of business: taking the guesswork out of the games didn’t take the guesswork out of reading a player. And this woman was definitely a big player.
She took the card in her pale hands and laid coins on the counter. Her heels clicked as she sauntered to the exit. “See ya around, slick.”
“You did WHAT?”
Even in their private rented room, Fate could see heads turn through the frosted glass at the sound of Graves’ shout. The con-man was now pacing the creaky wood, his hair mussed from his hands running through it. Fate, by contrast, reclined at the table.
“Fate…why? That safe house is…well safe. We keep its location secret for a reason!”
“Malcolm…it’s the Grand Gala. How many con-men get into that? We can spend the rest of the winter on some beach in Demacia—“
“Is that all you ever think about? We can’t enjoy that beach if we do something stupid and end up in prison.”
“We’ve pulled harder jobs.”
“Have we?” Graves snapped, “Because last I checked, we pulled those jobs without revealing our home base. I just don’t even know what was going through that damned gypsy head of your’s…”
“I mean what if that woman works for the High Chancellor—“
“Or worse that killer on the loose—“
“GRAVES!” Fate shouted. “Calm yourself. Ain’t no assassin gonna mess with us. We’re not worth the trouble. Besides, we’re gonna be so well off if we can make it to the Gala that even the Noxus guards can’t resist our bribes.”
Graves grumbled for a moment. He suddenly took a seat and chugged his abandoned beer mug. He wiped his rugged beard with the back of his hand, glancing at the mug. “‘S warm…” he stated, studying the glass for a moment. He looked back up at his partner. “Fine. Let’s get to planning b’fore I sober up and realize this is a bad idea.”
“Great!” Fate slapped Graves’ back. “I was thinkin’ you should be wingman this time around…”
Graves snorted. “Typical…” he mumbled.
Minutes later, a scream jolted the partners from their scheming. They rushed out into the crowded bar area, where an old barmaid was rushing down the stairs—her clothes were haphazardly put back on, so Fate suspected she was doing more than just serving drinks…
“He’s DEAD!” she shrieked “Lord V-Vilhellos…He was on top of m-me and then…then…”
The bartender grabbed the hysteric wench to steady her. It was then that the crowd realized she was coated in blood—her neck was crimson, her once-white blouse completely stained, her half-pulled panty hose on her shaking legs now a bright pink. The barmaid was tossed to the side as most of the crowd rushed upstairs to the bedrooms. Graves caught the barmaid before she thudded to the floor. He lightly maneuvered her in his arms.
“She’s not hurt,” he realized, “this ain’t her blood.”
Fate’s gaze lifted to the balcony above. The tiny drunkard Graves had been cheating stumbled to the railing. “The Mayor’sh brother—dead cold!”
The whole room was in a tizzy; the mood switched from drunken frivolity to one of extreme panic. Drunks tripped over themselves, some tumbling off the balcony. The barmaid screeched again, recoiling abruptly from Graves’ touch. Everyone made a rush for the door just as the gold-clad guards shoved their way in, trying to make order from the chaos.
Graves put a hand on Fate’s shoulder. “Time to go.”
The pair rushed back into their private room just as the guards flooded the space at the foot of the stairs. Fate shimmied the windows open and they both sprinted away from the buzzing saloon.
“Well, where-ever we end up, I think it’s high time we move on,” Fate huffed once they found a quiet alley.
Graves took a long puff from his cigar, inspecting their luggage tied in the carriage. Nodding after he deemed it wouldn’t fall, he climbed into the vacant wooden bench opposite the bags. His fingers rolled the cigar, and he exhaled before putting the stump to his lips again. Adjusting his newly purchased hat, he looked over the heads of the crowd from his perch. Fate’s taking his sweet time… he thought pensively. The murders in this town had him on edge. He puffed feverishly while his eyes darted around.
He listened to the talk. And boy was there talk. The thing on everyone’s mind was “Who was next?” Well one thing Graves knew: it wasn’t him or Fate. They would be long gone before nightfall again. Graves was hoping to make good time, and the weather seemed to want that too. He scanned the crowd once again.
“Did you hear? Two more! The assassin killed two more!”
“Doesn’t this vagrant have anything better to do?”
“Well he’s clearly got it out for this family…The Vilhellos brothers and now his wife?”
“I heard her death wasn’t as messy…makes you wonder if it was the same fellow…”
“Probably died of worry!”
“Or was poisoned.”
Graves blew out more smoke as he sighed. Yes, he was certainly glad to be leaving this town. Unlike his partner, he didn’t like all this excitement. No, he’d much rather pull his job, get his money and move on to enjoy his well-earned cash. The trouble only prevented him from the last step. Twisted Fate however, seemed to thrive in it.
At last, Twisted Fate emerged from the crowd leading the horse that would pull them out of this hapless port.
“Didn’t get distracted by a flirt, didja?”
“No…well, only a little.”
“Uh-huh,” nodded Graves, rolling his eyes. He strapped the carriage to the horse and climbed in the driver’s seat. “Gee up!”
Fate reclined into the back as the cart began rolling. They rolled slowly through the thick throng of people, but eventually broke free of the bustle and out onto the calm dirt roads. The wind rustled the leaves lightly, nature clearly unaware how grave the area was.
“So Fate,” Graves called back, “I’ve got something to add to our little scheme.”
“What’s that? You want dancin’ lessons before?”
Graves ignored the cheeky comment. “I wanna get to our marsh house from the Demacian side.”
Twisted Fate sat up abruptly. It was his turn to puff feverishly as he fumbled with his cigarette and matches. When he finally inhaled the smoke, he let out a long breath. “Malcolm,” he started, “I don’t think you understand…we’ve only got one week—one—to get to the safe house and then back to Noxus capital, and you want us to take the long route?”
“It’s safer,” Graves said curtly, “I’d rather not get ambushed before we even get to the job. Besides, there ain’t gunna be no job if it turns out to be a trap.”
“But…Malcolm…” Fate faltered.
“We don’t have to go in deep. Just along the border and loop around the Institute. We can even go to them hot springs ya like so much.”
Graves tossed his stogie off the cart. “Yep.”
Fate’s gaze floated downward, his hat shielding his eyes from Graves. Graves knew this would be a tough sell. His partner was so focused on what was, essentially, the con of a lifetime. The con itself meant more to him than the money, Graves knew.
Twisted Fate returned to his reclined position. “Fine,” he grunted.
Graves smirked. “I knew you’d come around.”
“But you’re still wingman.”
Late that night they rolled into a quiet village. Though Fate was dozing in and out of consciousness as the pulled in, Graves forced his bloodshot eyes awake. The single guard at the entrance looked equally as tired as he straightened at Malcolm’s approach.
“State your business,” The guard ordered. He was merely a kid, though try he as he might to seem intimidating.
“Merchants,” Graves yawned, handing him the faux papers he carried at all times, “Passing through.”
The guard glanced at the papers and waved him in. “Take care citizen: there’s been trouble not far from here. Killings…”
“So I’ve heard.”
As Graves pulled through the sleepy town, he felt himself nodding off, his lids feeling heavy. He decided to pull over and simply settle into the cart. The night was warm and he could worry about accommodations in the morning. Besides, Twisted Fate would rage hotter than a gun barrel if Graves had to wake him.
He leaned back, tilted his hat low and closed his eyes. Sleep almost took him before quiet whispers reached his ears.
“Be sure to make a clean job of it!” a voice hissed quietly.
“Don’t worry,” A woman’s voice cooed, “I’m a professional.”
Graves didn’t dare move for fear of being caught hearing something he shouldn’t have. So he simply tried to shut it out, to no avail.
“Just be cautious. You’ve heard all the ruckus in Vilhellos! Who knows who that could’ve been…one of my political opponents most likely…”
Graves heard the woman sigh impatiently. “I know. This village is much smaller though. Any news from here moves more slowly. You’ll be long gone, returned home for weeks before anyone hears of it. Don’t worry dear…”
“Y-you better be right. I have the Gala coming up soon and I can’t have any trouble while I’m schmoozing to the higher-ups.”
The woman allowed herself a quiet laugh. “I’ll take care of everything.”
Graves heard the pair walk down the street in silence. He held his breath until their footsteps faded, then let out a relieved sigh. He’d much rather he hadn’t heard all that. Just forget it and get some sleep, he chided himself. He settled down into a fitful rest with only the sounds of the snoring Twisted Fate.
He had trouble forgetting. The woman’s voice made his skin crawl still.
Twisted Fate awoke early the next morning to the sun heating the village below. He slowly sat up, his hat falling off his face and allowing the full blast of light into his face. Fate yawned and stretched the kinks that come with sleeping on a rickety cart. We ought to be sleeping in cushy beds with all the haul we’ve been gettin’ he thought grumpily. He climbed out of the cart and placed his hat back on with a smirk. That will all change once we hit the Gala.
Fate nudges Graves awake, who rubs his head groaning as he sits up. “Rise ‘n’ shine. Didja get your beauty sleep?” Fate taunted. Graves merely grunted.
Fate surveyed the sleepy town, seeing an inn near their parking spot. “I’m gonna get myself some breakfast then,” he said, heading towards the inn.
“We should get movin’ soon!” Graves called after. Fate just waved him off as he lit a morning cigarette.
Twisted Fate’s footsteps creaked on the old rustic wood floors. The inn was obviously very old, but well-kept and clean. Behind the bar the glasses stood neatly on shelves and shined in the morning sun. A man stood sweeping a corner of the room, his magnificent mustache furrowed as he ensured every bit of dust was collected in a pile. Fate hopped up on the barstool, waving to the inn-keeper. The sweeping man nodded and set his broom aside.
“What can I get ya, stranger?” the mustached man quipped.
Fate puffed on his cigarette. “Just lookin’ for some breakfast.”
The mustached inn-keeper nodded and went to his wrought-iron stove. “Ya ought to be real careful around here, stranger. I’ve heard worrying news from some of the larger towns. Murders of all things!”
Twisted Fate nodded, unsurprised. “Seems the mayor of Vilhellos met his untimely demise, or so I’ve heard.”
The inn-keeper chopped his leeks, shaking his head. “You haven’t heard the half of it. A lot of Demacian officials are being hit, too.”
“I thought paid assassins were more of a Noxian thing.”
“Seems at least some of the Demacians aren’t above it. Being so close to the border…it makes ya worry, ya know?”
“Yeah…” Fate replied slowly. He suddenly felt a strange urge to skip town, an urge he didn’t normally get. “Hey, can I get a whiskey, too?”
“O’ course,” the man said, though he shot Fate a quizzical look. He walked into the back room just as the front door creaked open to allow Graves in.
“If we leave soon, we can make it to Clearborne well b’fore night fall,” Graves announced, ever the planner.
“Alright,” Fate said simply.
Graves scratched his head. “What’s the matter with you? No belly-aching? You almost never leave a town without some sort of argument.”
Fate shrugged. He decided telling his partner about the Demacian murders would only worry him more, and he already felt Graves was treating this Gala job like one might a snake; the first sign of aggression, and he was out of there. He felt Demacia was the safer side of the border, and Fate was not going to try and convince him otherwise.
The moustache man returned with a dusty bottle. He nodded at Graves before grabbing a short glass from the shelf and pouring it hesitantly for Fate. Fate took it and drank deeply. He knew he ought not to drink this early, but he couldn’t shake that awful feeling of itchy feet—it reminded him too much of the days of his youth, when living with gypsies meant your feet were always itchy and unnerved.
“Gimme one too,” Graves motioned for the whiskey and the inn-keeper coughed up another sparkling glass. Graves also took a deep swig. He glanced at Fate after and noticed the empty glass. “Maybe you oughta leave the bottle,” Graves told the inn-keeper, who sat the bottle down amid another strange look.
As the inn-keeper returned to his work, Graves turned to face Fate. “Look Fate…I know them murders were worryin’ but I’ll tell ya what, going to the Demacian side is gonna help. I’m tellin’ ya. We’re, uh, gonna look back and laugh. Yeah, laugh. It’s just gonna be ‘nother… excitin’ tale to tell. It’s all behind us from here on out.” Graves refreshed their glasses and took a hearty gulp. He gazed at his glass. “Yep…all behind us.” He seemed to be telling himself more than Fate.
Fate sighed as he drank yet again. The inn-keeper returned with his meal, which he pushed around on the plate for a while. After coaxing from Graves (“C’mon, we need you mostly sober, ‘til Clearborne.”) he managed to shovel some of the eggs and leeks down his throat, which seemed to help his mood. Sure, there were assassins afoot, but Demacia was the safer choice by far. Guards were forgiving and generally fairer. We’ll be fine…as I said, no assassins interested in us.
He swallowed more food, feeling more confident. This job is worth it, he told himself, this will be the best job yet. Graves pounded him on the back with a half smirk on his face before taking a drink of whiskey.
Graves would never swallow that drink because a curdling scream caused him to spew it out. Such a piercing sound in the quiet village made everyone in the inn cringe.
The piercing sound peaked as it burst into the inn; a plump woman had gray flyaway hairs entangled on her terrified face. Her face was deathly pale, and she couldn’t stop the scream from escaping her lips over and over.
“Sharon! Calm down darling! What’s wrong?” the inn-keeper rushed to the screeching woman, his moustache aflutter.
Sharon managed to stop the screaming but could only gape silently and point in the direction she came from. Only the occasional yelp or whimper indicated she could speak.
“Oh no…please don’t tell me…” Graves looked almost as pale as the woman. He quickly rose to follow the two townsfolk as they rushed in the direction of the trouble. Fate rushed after.
The two townsfolk joined a nervous throng of citizens near the entrance. They were all staring up at the feeble columns that marked the town’s entrance. They spun around to the inn-keeper silently; only gasps of surprise could be heard.
“What’s happened here?” the moustache man demanded, “What’s gotten Sharon all—MY GOD”
He too gaped up at the column. Fate was confused, but Graves pointed soundlessly upward. “The young man…from the entrance…”
It was a guard, but his lifeless eyes looked anything but young at that moment. They still held, frozen in fear, staring blankly out over the heads of the crowd. The rest of his limp body was strung up to the stone column, his gold armor lashed open to reveal his dripping innards. Below his strapped corpse, a message in his blood read, “BEWARE THE GALA.”
Twisted Fate didn’t realize he had been clutching the whiskey bottle, but he was glad he did; he took a large mouthful.
“’Beware the Gala’…what does that mean?” someone called.
“And he was so promising too…so highly recommended…” an old, white-haired guard looked on with sadness.
Another citizen threw up his breakfast.
“Who could have done this?”
“IT WAS THEM!” Suddenly, the inn-keeper was pointing accusingly towards the pair of con-men. “They showed up just this morning! Who else could it be?”
“I don’t recognize ‘em.”
“How could they do such a thing to an exemplar of Noxian spirit?”
“Now wait just a damn minute!” Graves started, but the shouting was drowning most of his words. Fate stared at the message blankly, taking another draught. BEWARE THE GALA….
“We just rolled into town and were gonna head out right away, no trouble what-so-ever.”
BEWARE THE GALA….
“We know everyone here! Liers!”
“Now, c’mon now, we ain’t got nothing to do with….with Noxus exemplars! We’re just travelin’ through, I swear!”
BEWARE THE GALA…
“Look at ‘em!” the inn-keeper pointed with more force, causing his moustache to become more disheveled. “They’ve been drinkin’ all mornin’!”
The inn-keeper snatched the bottle from Fate’s hand mid drink. “Only men of guilt drink like this! Filthy…digustin’ murderers!—“
“LISTEN!” Graves boomed. “We don’t want no trouble! Look, we can pay ya for our food ‘n’ be on our way! Outta yer lives forever!”
“And get away scot free?”
“We don’t want no trouble…c’mon Fate back me up!”
Fate had noticed the trembling old guard who had been silent. He snatched back the whiskey bottle and handed it to the old man. The man slowly took it, slowly touching his lips to it and taking a sip.
“Captain!” Sharon exclaimed, appalled at the wizened guard’s behavior.
“They couldn’t have done it,” The guard said finally. Another gasp overtook the group. “Either they’re dumber than hell killers, or they’d be long by now. Look—“ his shriveled hand fingered the message “Blood is dry. This was done last night, most likely. And by a paid assassin too.”
The inn-keeper stammered. “B-but why—“
“His father’s a nobleman, ain’t he? He’s got influence and enemies, his son is a good target. They wanted to send him a message.”
Sharon was in tears. “But w-what message…t-this one…”
“I’m not a clever enough man to know. But I know that these two” he pointed at the pair, still just as shocked as the townsfolk “don’t look like no assassin I’ve ever seen. No sirree this looks like a precise job, and these men look like sloppy gentlemen.”
Relief washed over the two as they profusely tried to thank the old man. He cut them off, “But I don’t wanna see you two here any longer! Pay yer dues, then out with ya”
“O’ course, we don’t want no trouble,” Graves reached in his pocket and threw a good amount of gold coins at the inn-keepers feet. “Keep the change. We’ll be headed on out…c’mon Fate,” he hissed.
Twisted Fate followed Graves’ brisk pace to their cart. Graves silently coaxed the horse to start moving. They rolled slowly through the town. Glares came at them from all directions. Sharon, the plump woman, was weeping into her apron; others who tried to comfort her were just as shaken and pale. The inn-keeper glowered at Fate with his still-twisted moustache. The old guard simply stared onward, taking another sip from the bottle. They exited the village in near-silence, with only the sound of Sharon’s sobbing echoing after the rickety cart. They passed the gruesome scene one last time. Graves turned away, but Twisted Fate couldn’t help but stare.
BEWARE THE GALA
Well I posted it once and the forum "Broke," complete with the Winnie the Pooh floating Gragas image, so I apologize if this seems to be a repeat, but I needed to take a moment to commend you on your writing! Nice grammar, punctuation, flow of time, and interesting story all around! Great work!
“I tried to ignore ‘em!” Graves rambled from his nervous seat in the rear of the cart. “They were talkin’ ‘bout things I shouldn’ta heard and I tried to ignore ‘em! But I just couldn’t…I heard ‘em…”
Twisted Fate groaned. He had taken the reigns after Graves had started pulling them off the path every few minutes. It had been hours since they had left the village, but Graves was still on edge. With no more alcohol to turn to, Fate had resorted to smoking to help him deal with a nervous Malcolm; he had forgotten to restock however, and was quickly smoking through his last few cigarettes.
“Malcolm, it woulda happened whether you heard ‘em or not! Those townsfolk needed someone to blame! Besides, we’re in Demacia…like you said, it’s behind us.”
“Yeah, but I had hoped it’d be a lot further behind us.”
Fate sadly flicked his cigarette away and ran a hand over his face; he felt his scratchy sandpaper face. I’ll need a shave before the Gala he mused, fingering his now unkempt beard. The cart had found a shoddy cobblestone path and they were now cruising along sparse forest that kept giving way to farmland. The farmland would make getaways difficult, as most anything could be spotted for miles, as far as the horizon line. Fate hoped his partner was right, and that the assassin was no longer interested in Demacian blood.
“Next time, we’re running,” Graves decided, “I hear something like that, and we’re not staying any longer than we have to.”
“That’ll look even more suspicious,” Fate objected.
“Better’n that mess we just got out of. Besides, you didn’t hear them.”
Fate shifted the reigns to one hand as he fumbled with his matches. “I thought you said they were just talking business.”
“Yeah…but that woman’s voice,” Graves shuddered, “It’s not a voice you forget.”
“You’re sayin’ it was a woman?”
“We don’t know who it is! It could be a legion of the yokes, for all we know!”
“You’re starting to sound like those old hens on the cruise, Malcolm,” Fate chuckled.
Graves grumbled. “I honestly don’t care to know who did it, so long as whoever it was doesn’t get us into worse trouble than we deserve!” Graves pulled out a cigar “I mean, sure we’re swindlers, if we get caught it’s our own damn fault—means we weren’t careful. But we didn’t do any murdering! Light me.”
“I’m out of matches.”
Graves growled, leaving the unlit cigar clenched in his lips.
The sun was starting to sink in the sky when they finally arrived at Clearborne Springs. A bright wooden sign marked their arrival into the quiet, idyllic town. Everywhere you looked, people were smiling, in front of their groomed gardens and painted houses. The scene was quite different from the previous towns in Noxus, which all seemed dreary and in shambles. They rolled through town and saw most of the citizens packing up their various wares and farm equipment. They headed for the largest building in town, poised on the north edge.
The large wooden building was a well-structured, several story villa. Over the red double-door entry hung the sign “Clearborne Hotel” with a rickety porch underneath. Rocking chairs dotted the large porch, and a man snoozed in one of them, his snores traveling well in the cool evening air.
Fate stopped the cart and lead the horse to an enclosure on the front lawn. He gazed up at the vermillion shutters that bordered the magnificent windows. I can’t wait for a nice bed.
The pair of men entered the red doors into the high-ceilinged foyer. Potted plants dwelled in almost every corner and on every baby blue window sill. Delicate chairs and tables filled the right half of the room. They approached a podium situated near the entryway.
“Hello! Welcome to Clearborne Hotel!” The sandy-blonde receptionist greeted, “We have the finest springs in Kaladoun Marsh! Can I get you gentleman a room tonight?”
They arranged their rooms for the night and followed the short receptionist as she scurried up the stairs.
“At least travelers aren’t uncommon here….” Graves thought aloud.
It was with great relief that Twisted Fate peeled his dirty clothes off. The receptionist had said they would clean them if he left them in the changing room, but he still wore his trusty hat with his ace of spades. He sauntered outside into the enclosure where the springs were fenced off. The bubbling water steamed the whole area, but he could make out a decorative waterfall trickling into the hot springs and a beautiful, twisting tree, probably imported from Ionia from the looks of it.
Fate felt the water with his toe; it was warm and felt like a reprieve to his cool skin. He slowly lowered himself into the water, feeling his aches and pains dissolve in the heat. He let out a satisfied sigh.
As he soaked, he let his mind wander; his thoughts were significantly happier with a full belly and sans a worry-wart Graves. He wondered about his partner sometimes. The man was smart—it was obvious from how he had survived the tough streets of Bilgewater as a kid—but he had a hyper-cautious outlook on nearly everything. Fate on the other hand had been taught to not worry, to take life by the horns. It was typical of a gypsy to end up becoming a risk-taker and a scoundrel, like he was—he was taught to have fun and not worry so much. Graves learned that caution kept you alive.
Carefully setting aside his hat, Fate sank under the water, letting his shoulder-length hair flow around him, feeling the dirt of the road melt away. As he reemerged, he was already forgetting that message in the village…what was it again? “Beware the Gala?” he breathed aloud. How could he? This was going to be the biggest job he’s pulled, possibly the biggest job anyone had ever pulled. How many con-men got the chance to work the Grand Gala, after all…
Fate flicked his eyes open, hearing a critter rustle around in the decorative shrubs. Seeing that the sun had nearly gone, he decided he ought to turn in for the night. The night previous had not been restful, and he was ready to relax in the springs the next morning, bright and early. Fate was glad he chided Malcolm into another day at the Springs.
He reentered the changing room to find his partner sitting in a silk robe, which Fate thought was rather unbefitting of a grisly man like Malcolm.
“Ugh, Fate, put something on, no one wants to see that,” he tossed him a robe as well, though Fate noted Graves’ robe was not securely fastened and rather just laying open from where he sat.
“Turning in for the night,” Twisted Fate told him, tying his belt.
“I’ll probably do the same shortly,” said Graves, scratching his bare, hairy chest, “Just wanna get all the grime off.”
Suddenly the door swung open and a slight figure stepped inside. “Oh! I’m so sorry!” she squealed. She was a young girl, obviously a maid based on the beige uniform dress she wore around her shapely frame. Her jet black hair was tied in a bun and she had rosy red lips. Her pale white skin had turned nearly the color of her lips as she looked on with embarrassment.
“It’s fine, it’s fine,” Graves spat in annoyance, covering himself up haphazardly. “Just take the clothes and get ‘em clean, ok?” He tossed her his dirty poncho.
She collected his and Fate’s clothes, which dropped most of his hidden cards as she draped his jacket over her thin arms. “I’ll h-have these clean r-right away,” she stammered, giving an awkward bow before clicking out of the room.
Fate collected his deck off the floor as Graves started complaining. “That damn girl. She was up in my room earlier.”
“Whoa, Graves, doin’ what?”
Graves hit Fate with a towel. “Nothin’ like that. My bed needed fresh sheets and she musta been fumbling with them for twenty minutes before she got them on. Real fussy, that one is.”
“I dunno Malcolm, seemed like she kinda liked you. From the way she was,” he glanced down pointedly, “starin’.”
Graves covered himself even more. “Nonsense, she’s too young anyhoo.”
“Quite a cute filly though, ain’t she?”
“Well, you’d chase after any ole skirt. I prefer experienced women.”
“Sure Malcolm,” Fate chuckled, “’Experienced’.”
The next morning, Twisted Fate rose early, just as planned. He dragged a red-eyed Malcolm with him to get breakfast. They were seated at one of the tables in the grand entry room, waiting to be served.
A couple of rich-looking people made a big show of entering the dining room. The blonde receptionist scurried up to them straight away, tripping over her brown heels in her attempt to attend to them, bombarding them with questions. “How was your rest, sir and madam? Everything to your specifications? Is there anything I can start you off with? Coffee, perhaps? Let me get that for you ma’am…Do you need more wine in the room?”
As the couple sat slowly, the man with a curly gray moustache finally responded. “We’ll be having toast with eggs sunny-side up—sunny-side not over-easy that would be preposterous—and a sherry for the missus. I’ll have a coffee with exactly three and a half lumps of sugar. Three and a half. I can’t have anymore and I can’t be bothered to handle the matter.” He adjusted his golden ascot all through his command. The blonde bowed profusely and scuttled into the kitchen.
“Hey, we don’t get wine in our rooms. And we still haven’t been served,” Graves complained.
“He’s some sort of Demacian official, look at the getup,” Fate nodded towards the balding man. He wore several metals proudly on the chest of his white uniform. The shoulders had blue adornments with the Demacian symbol clearly emblazoned on it. The woman aside him was wearing a coffee-colored fur coat with matching hat and pearl necklace. “That woman is sucking up for tips.”
“Smart lady,” Graves said. He waved down the blonde as she served the couple their drinks. “’Scuse me, can we have some service?”
“Of course someone will be with you shortly,” she called. She looked to the corner of the room. “Crissy! Can you serve these gentlemen?”
A clatter sounded as the little maid from the night before tripped over the chair she was sweeping under. She spun around, cheeks blooming red yet again. “Y-…yes!” she answered. She smoothed out her dress before deliberately stepping her heels carefully around the tables.
“U-um, what can I get you…?”
Graves looked her over. “Seems like heels wouldn’t befit someone as…er…ungainly as you.”
“O-oh!” she glanced anxiously at the shoes, “Just…you know…part of the uniform. Ms. Callalily—the owner, you know—thinks a p-proper lady ought to, uh, have…you know. Heels. She wants to impress…well, you know,” she motioned towards the stuffy couple. “Dignitaries.”
She stood there in discomfort until the two got their order through. She mumbled a response before stumbling to the kitchen.
“Yep, she’s into ya Graves.”
“And you’re so rude!” Fate berated, “You oughta treat a lady with more respect.”
“They aren’t as helpless as they seem,” Graves retorted, “They’re clever…conniving. They oughta be treated just the same.”
Fate rolled his eyes. As the maid returned with their drinks, Fate confronted her. “Hey darling, whattaya think of this here fella?”
“Was just wonderin’ was all. You seemed interested.”
The maid tried to stutter a response but couldn’t form the words. She simply blushed beet red and ran back into the kitchen.
“And I’m the one bein’ disrespectful.”
Ah I didnt realize it was so soon! To respond to your question, it's the subtle nature of all of your adjectives, nothing is over used and they all paint a nice flow of thought around them! Your flow of time doesn't consist of "then, and then, and then, suddenly, afterwards," etc. etc. And add to it that just from the way you leave jokes between the two somewhat vague and don't spell out each and every detail...example TF remarking about Malcolms preference to "Experienced" ladies...lmfao! Dropped this in my favs so I can watch it develop, it's great to see a new one so well written because it's very hard to catch up with some of them T.T
Keep up the great work! You've got at least one fan here!
Twisted Fate exited the Springs only a few times all day; Once to relieve himself, once for lunch, and the rest to refill on drinks. He dedicated that day to completely rejuvenating his body for the trip to the safe house. The Ionians have the right idea, he mused. Inner peace is the only way to get **** done. Maybe we’ll hit that place up once we’re finished in Noxus…
Graves left even less than he did, having his drinks delivered to him, and only rousing himself for lunch. Fate teased him about his unusual laziness, but was just glad he had finally relaxed. Graves could be a fun guy…when he wasn’t glancing over his shoulder every blink of the eye.
“Yeah, I bet your neck hurts from all the shifty glances, eh Malcolm?”
“Shut up, Fate,” Graves grunted without opening his eyes.
Fate was slowly realizing why the maid girl was such a nuisance to Graves; a solitary man, Graves felt at ease when he was sure no one was watching. The maid was surely watching him, and very clumsily tried to hide that fact when she was discovered. Every time Fate exited for a drink, the maid was in eyesight, spinning quickly away from the door she had most certainly been watching. During lunch, each time she brought them a refill or more finger sandwiches, she lingered over their table a tad too long.
“That girl gives me the willies, Fate,” Graves complained each time, “There’s something just not right about her.”
Fate smirked. The girl may have been weird, but Fate was sure she was just a klutz with a crush on Graves. He had heard her inadvertently call him “Malcolm,” surely what she called him in her fantasies. She had spilled a total of 4 drinks—3 of which were during lunch alone—on him, and two on Fate himself. Each time she stammered a thousand apologies while trying to dab the mess off their clothes (sometimes hovering a little too close to certain areas…). Despite her slight pestering, the two still managed to extend their naps to most of the day.
“Fate, you don’t often have good ideas, but when you do,” Graves yawned loudly, “They’re golden.”
The gypsy merely shrugged, sipping on his beer. He tilted his hat over his face and prepared to doze back asleep.
“I tell ya what, Fate, I think after dinner, I might come down here to sleep for the night.” He moved the water around with a pruned hand. His head spun behind him when the bushes rustled lightly behind him. “What was that? Who’s there?”
Fate waved an arm at his partner. “Just the wind, Malcolm.”
“No wind moves the branches that much,” Graves said uncertainly.
“Then it was prob’bly a critter. I heard one the other night. Quit your worryin’. I thought you had gotten over that.”
Graves stared so long and intensely at the bush, it may have caught fire despite the cool evening. But the shrubbery surrounding them remained motionless. Fate heaved a sigh.
“Welp, better get dressed for dinner at least. I’m sure we’ll be back here though.” Fate climbed out of the bubbling water and toweled off.
A few others were also at dinner, including the stuffy dignitary couple, still ever-demanding. Poor Crissy was at wit’s end trying to attend to all the other guests. The special was stuffed grouse, and the two con-men downed the delicious meat hungrily. Others stared at their poor manners, but manners didn’t mean as much as money—of which they had plenty—so Fate continued his sloppy repast.
“Somethin’ don’t feel right,” Graves said suddenly. He was back to scanning the surrounding room every so often, as if mimicking a Demacian Eagle, though decidedly less regal.
“Just eat your fill and go back to the Springs,” Fate waved off his worry, “You’ll forget all about your funny feeling.”
“Naw, something’s wrong. I feel like things have been too easy in this town.”
“They’ve been easy in other towns before. We’re not pulling jobs, remember?”
Graves scratched his beard. “Yeah, but we ain’t never had this bad a streak of disasters either.”
“Lady Luck is funny that way,” Fate stated simply, “She comes and goes. She’ll be back.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of. Lulling us into a false sense of safety.”
Fate shook his head. “You just need another drink. Hey, Crissy!” Fate called to the frazzled maid, “More wine darling?”
Crissy looked at Fate as if she was trying to pretend she didn’t know him, but ran into the kitchen anyways.
“Aww no, she’ll only spill it on me,” Graves groaned.
“I’ll pour it,” Twisted Fate reassured, “Just relax.”
Graves seemed to ease off his haunches as Twisted Fate pumped him full of alcohol. The room was merrier as the night stretched on.
“Yer righ’ Fate,” Graves slurred, “No reason ta worry. No reason at a—“ he nearly tumbled but caught the edge of the table to steady himself.
“I think it’s time for bed, buddy,” Fate chided.
“No, no, you said hot springs and we’re gonna hot springs,” Graves insisted, his voice raised way too loud, “That’s all there is to it. Gotta enjoy life ya know? Gotta enjoy this money we’re a-bustin’ our humps for!”
“Ok, Malcolm, if you say so.”
Fate supported his partner to the springs, deciding it was better to amuse him than to have an angry drunk Graves. He figured the old dog would pass out soon enough.
Dragging him along, he noticed a group of men surrounding the entrance to the men’s spring. They were becoming rowdy and belligerent. Fate spotted the blonde receptionist blocking their path.
“What’s goin’ on?” he demanded the woman.
“I’m sorry sir, but the springs have been privately reserved by his lordship. So sorry for the incon—“
“Reserved!?” Graves boomed, “What’s this horse ****? I paid good money same as him, he can’t reserve jus’ like that!”
The other men rallied around this. “Yeah, just because he’s a dignitary, doesn’t give him the right!”
“Yeah, that’s unfair!”
“Alright Malcolm, no need to fight…” Fate started dragging Graves towards the stairs and to their rooms, trying to avoid poking this bee’s nest. Graves protested, but Fate was able to coax him into his room before Graves upchucked his grouse.
“Alright now, just let it out,” Fate said patiently, like a parent to a child would. When Graves finally sat up and wiped his moustache, Fate queried “All better?”
Graves simply moaned and slumped over in the bed. Fate threw a blanket over the man and left the room, looking for someone to clean up his partner’s mess. Where did that maid run off to…?
He heard the clicking of high heels down the hallway, but saw nothing. He jogged to the end of the hall, thinking it might be one of the other maids or perhaps the blonde. “Excuse me, I need a cleanup—“
He turned the corner to see—no one. “Hmph,” he sighed. He heard a door close nearby. He was sure it was one of the suites at the end of the hall. Fate walked to the door.
“Excuse me?” he called out. He went to knock but the door just creaked open by itself.
Inside the huge living room, he saw the Demacian dignitary in his underpants. That in itself would have been strange, but what was stranger was the figure hovering over him. At first Fate thought he had walked in on a private matter he should not have seen—the thin, feminine figure was not of the dignitary’s plump wife—but then the figure issued a hiss, before an explosion of crimson bloomed from the dignitary’s chest. The dignitary’s terrified stare was forever frozen on his face.
Fate was rooted to the spot—should he try to stop the assailant? A million thoughts of action whirred in his head, but none came to fruition as he stood there stunned. Out of nowhere, an impossible lightning strike illuminated the half lit room. That split second was long enough: standing over the body, staring straight into his eyes, straight into his soul, was the shy, klutzy maid, as rooted in place as Fate was. Fate finally took a single step forward, putting up his hand to try to calm her down when the gravity of what she had done hit her.
It hit her, but instead of breaking down into tears—as Fate expected—she smiled. Not a small, shy smile, but a confident, sly grin with heavily lidded eyes gazing back. Before Twisted Fate could say a word, the plump wife entered from another room. The maid’s head spun in that direction, then swiftly she bolted towards the window just as the lightning hit again, just as the wife let out an ear-numbing scream. Fate finally forced his legs to move and he chased after her, but the window flung open, and she vanished from sight. Rain suddenly fell in sheets, making visibility almost zero.
Fate stood in a daze through the flurry of events around him. The guards were called in, everyone questioned, Fate himself questioned half a dozen times, each time the wife standing up for him and blaming the girl—no, woman—with her jet black hair, her cute beige uniform splattered with red, her sly smile with heavy lids…a smile eerily familiar to Fate.
Yes, Fate swore he had seen that look before.
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