The Mordrem fights, the scattered, clinging influence the jungle dragon still held had nearly killed them all, the whole of the Vanguard at least once, and he’s still struggling to come to terms with that. He’d been so far removed from the incident that seeing the beasts up close for the first time stunned him into realizing how out of his depth he was within the guild. He’s a hard man to knock over, but these things, even with Farrinsson’s warnings, did the captain little favors. Victory was short-lived. Scraping together coin for the waypoint, he left the gilded space before they could officially start moving anyone in, to keep his employers off his scent. They found him in Lions’ Arch, and dragged him back. He left his raptor in the cattle shed Ambrosine had kindly lent him.
There are moments, however, when this line of servitude doesn’t seem so bad. While he’s certain the Countess’s spies remain out of sight, they remain mostly out of mind for him. He strays too far from the city center for them to follow, the Hinterlands make for treacherous fox holes, but his journey today lies further south.
Beside him, the raptor trills and keeps a wary eye on the grassy horizons of Gendarran, her foreclaws digging into the grass with what a person might call trepidation, anxiety. Like a cat kneading a blanket, and the captain frowns, putting his hand on her shoulder. She relaxes instantly, and folds her arms underneath herself and curls up around him. A defensible barrier around the man she’s known for a scant few weeks. But with those weeks blending together in a never-ending haze of medicine and the blur of duty, he wonder if she knows (‘She’ being a placeholder though, he’s run into the same problem Ambrosine had. Raptors are difficult things to name) that her new partner, owner was generally considered the worst of the worst.
Perhaps he wasn’t anymore. It’s a hard habit to break, especially with his line of work, especially with the folks he ran with. It seemed a never ending deluge of utter shit. Recent events still weigh heavy on his mind, and he’s hoping that this venture will snap him out of it.
The shrouded face of a mysterious man plagues him endlessly though. Shim. If he pulls through today, he can make that trail disappear for good, and his anxieties might be resolved with the claiming of the guild hall. At least for a little while. He doesn’t plan on staying there all the time, but a secluded place with plenty of space for him to stretch out, explore, it doesn’t seem like a bad idea…
Jesse is almost dozing in the sunshine of the day, with only the thudding, ground-shaking steps of the Oakhearts lumbering across the way keeping him just on the edge of napping. He has precious time to gather his resources, and if his intelligence is good enough, this should be an easy in and out job. And for once, it’s not a sponsored mark by the blades, no. This one he picked because it was deeply personal. You shouldn’t mix business with pleasure, he’s heard it said, but it was simply too good to pass up.
He readies himself, and stands, stretching loudly and urging the raptor to her feet before he hops on, and heads off towards the North side of the lake.
He left her on the ridge overlooking the beach, and he does worry — odd, that after so long he would worry about something as inconsequential as a pet, but even with the thick, corded muscle of her hind legs she could not cross the waterway in a single jump, and he highly doubts the abilities raptors possess in terms of swimming. He’ll save those thoughts for later, he’s cleaning the blade of his dagger on the coat of a fallen pirate– anything to keep from an alarm being raised. His quarry won’t have that kind of luck tonight.
Navigating the channel isn’t difficult, it’s keeping out of sight long enough to get the drop that will prove to be the hardest part. The former captain is by no means a dainty man, and stealth was never a strong suit. He was, however, persistent. It had served him well and as he pulls himself out of the water and lies on the sand until he’s certain he will stop dripping. He calls on the dark that welcomes him so well, and slips into the compound.
The pirate lair is no different than when he’d seen it the first time as kid, still has decayed, still as salt-soaked from the sea as ever. The changes brought forth in Lions’ Arch had nearly drained the lake momentarily, and what remained was freshwater that faded into the open ocean further south. Not as salty, but close enough, he could smell the water miles away. It makes his heart pang with a land-locked loneliness that he swallows down with no small amount of disdain. He continues. He has to.
His boots creak with lakewater with every step, but the pungent stench of alcohol and the raucous crowds make it easy to conceal himself, navigating became so much easier when half the defenses in place were blackout drunk this late at night.
He sees him across the way. Long, straight hair as white as new sails, a streak of color etched into his face, the Norn is laughing with these first mates of his and drinking, but not as much. He knows what moonless nights can, and will bring if he’s not careful. Jesse’s hands flex on his tools. Hand. And he waits.
His patience finally rewarded when he stands and walks off towards the beach. Jesse follows. The wind kicks up and the water stubbornly clinging to his skin and clothes in the darkness chills him to the bone, making him resist the urge to let his teeth chatter in an attempt to warm himself. His mark digs a hole. He waits. His hair keeps him visible in the black darkness of the night, and when he stands again it is with his back to him, and it would be so easy to take the shot and drag him out and under the water.
A step. A breath.
“– there are smarter things to do on nights like these” he calls, his tone sweet and reassuring. “You might want to come out, or I’ll rile them all up and it’ll be more than just me against you. At least I’ll make it a fair fight”
“You and I both know you’re anything but fair” he drawls out, releasing himself from the cover of shadows just in time to watch the pirate’s face twist into grim amusement.
“Ironwood. Heard you’d died”
“Didn’t take to it” He drops his hands, adjusts his coat. “You’ve done well for yourself Alti”
“I can’t say the same for you. Look what’s become of you”
Annoyance prickles at the back of his spine, he feels hackles on the back of his neck raise. His stomach flips. Alti continues.
“You went through all that trouble to get me alone, and what for? You can at least offer me an answer since technically now, I outrank you”
“I don’t believe I will”
“Hm. That’s too bad”
The rise out of the ground like roots, he’d seen enough mutilation in the basin but watching a necromancer do his deathly magic is always a shock to him. They rise out of shark jaws and fallen compatriots buried deep in the sand, fish bones and centaur bits, unholy piles of decaying flesh, and the pistol at his side rises. He flees across the channel, and Jesse follows. The camp, however, alerts and responds to the shots fired. The gunman follows suit, but a decaying arm grabs his foot, sending him face first into the sand. It pulls itself out, and this — behemoth grunts and roars with necrotic might. He’s forced to kick his way free, and throwing a look back towards the other beach, the Norn is already up the hill and onto the road faster than he has reason to be.
Jesse curses and throws himself into the water with a faltering breath, kicking himself to the surface before the other pirates could rush him like the minions had.He doesn’t have time to deal with them, and if they can swim? Godo for them, it doesn’t help his situation in the slightest. His lungs start to burn before he reaches the other shore. He drags himself out and does his best to whistle. His raptor is nowhere to be found, and with his prey disappearing into the night ahead of him, he as no choice but to give chase.
He’ll give him commendations for being able to run so quickly at his size, but he knows — well, he hopes — that won’t last for long. He inhales deep, and calls on the shadows once again. The darkness swallows him whole, and deposits him within nigh reach of Alti. The captain raises his pistol and fires. The other Norn shouts and barely falters in his stride, and Ironwood readies another shot when the other stops and draws his axe, swinging it back around, and he raises his arm instinctively — the bladed edge digs into his arm witht eh sick crack of wood, the scraping of metal. Alti almost looks surprised as he wrenches the axe free with a mighty pull, drawing the gunslinger back with him and sending him stumbling.
“Look like you lost more than the ship, Captain–”
Jesse dives for his hips, knocking the other of his feet and onto his face. The claw of his hand struggles to move despite the magic fused within it, and catching Alti’s clothes on the pointed ends does nothing to keep the larger from squirming out of his grasp. The iron stench of blood is drifting in and out as they wrestle for control, but the pirate gets his upper hand — the flash of a blade somewhere in the darkness. The thud of the hilt nearly knocks him backwards from his shoulder, he shouts, the dagger is yanked out with little regard for the victim. The pain is nearly blinding, and for a moment, fear holds his mind, an animalistic, pulsing need to survive. It’s not that bad, he’ll think later, but only after.
He sits up. Alti is already down the road again, running as far as his legs will carry him and there is a moment past the fear and hurt where the captain thinks he’s failed. Years of searching, running, trying to find this man — there is a rage that boils within him, he gets to his feet and draws his pistol.
And it becomes very, very clear.
Where the pistol felt heavy in his hand, there is only a pressure. Something dark pulses, rises in his chest and out in shaking breaths. It’s like watching through a spyglass, a telescope, he can see Alti very, very clearly. He doesn’t know how he doesn’t it. He blinks, and he watches something unfamiliar grip him — he can feel it too. Like a splinter being pulled free of skin. The pirate crumples with the unfamiliar sensation, and the captain stalks forward, boots creting little dust along this winding mountain road. His pistol raises once more, and two shots find their marks along the back of his legs.
Alti is shouting, he can’t help the small smile that tugs at his mouth.
“What did you do to me?!”
“Altimus Forgalsson” recited cooly, quietly as he approaches, it’s hard to keep himself this way under the hum and thrum of new magic — he doesn’t know what to call it yet, he doesn’t know what this it, but it’s stopped hurting, it’s stopped being uncomfortable in his short walk. It feels right.
“You bastard, you can’t–”
There is a foot on his neck. Jesse presses down and watches him writhe.
“Accordin’ to this paper I can. And I don’t see alive anywhere in the description”
“I made you!” the pirate bellows, “I saved your life and you — you ungrateful pile of Bears’ shit–” He’s silenced as the long barrel of Ironwood’s rifle presses to his forehead. Nervous laughter. Jesse doesn’t smile. Alti is much less eloquent up close.
“ I— Wolf smiles on me, you crippled little runt, he’ll welcome me into his pack. Can you say the sa–”
The shot is muffled, all things considered. The thrill of this hunt was over, whatever looming shadow that made its way into his chest fades. Hate fills the void. The gun is holstered. From behind him, a gentle trill of recognition as his raptor finds her way back to the fight, all bolstered scales and stomping feet. He’s quick to reassure her, and he prepares the body for transport, careful not to spook her with the extra weight, the scent of death.
He can feel Spirit eyes on his back as he drags his quarry back to Lions’ Arch.