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PostSubject: Her most hated city   Wed Apr 15, 2009 6:57 pm

The sound of a knife being shoved into the door of her rented room above The Empty Gibbet might not have been noticeable in a more reputable tavern, but the doors and walls were thin, and the scraping noise of metal against wood was enough to rouse her from her light sleep. She rolled over and looked at Reynaud, who was also stirring at the sound and her movement, the almost peaceful, pleasant expression on his face melting away as the conscious mind re-emerged. She lingered for a moment, gazing at him, hating the obvious toll of his stay in Tortuga. There were scars now, paling hairs along the line of his scalp, betraying that he was not as young as he had originally appeared. This city was not the place for him and his sensitive soul, but at the same moment was the only place for someone of his mind and ambitions.

A necessary evil, she reminded herself, fighting the urge to stay on the narrow bed with him longer. She was certain she knew what she'd find outside, though, and while it wasn't urgent, there was no sense in putting it off. She forced herself up and out of bed, heading for the door. "What is it?" Reynaud's thinly sleepy voice followed behind her.

She cracked it open just enough to reach her arm outside and ripped a short scrap of paper down off the knife's blade, then pulled the note inside to read it. Meet down at the pit. Soon as you're done being a whore.

Chantilly sighed. "Apparently, I'm late for my business meeting," she replied to Reynaud, shutting the door and crumpling the note irritably. She bent down and started to gather her hastily strewn clothes, shaking off the dirt that had adhered to them from the messy floor, putting them on as she found them.

Reynaud had been watching her move about the room with a dreamy, lopsided grin, but it began to falter as he realized what she meant. "The queen?" he asked, his face darkening.

"Oui." She buttoned the last of her shirt and dusted herself off, then pulled on her boots. She was disshelved, and terribly distracted, but it would have to do for now. "I have to go."

--------------

The queen met Chantilly along the path approaching the pit, surprising her. She'd never seen the old woman walk about freely before, not without the protection of shadows. Just another reason to hate this godforsaken place, she thought in annoyance.

"Good, you're just in time," the queen hissed, grabbing Chantilly roughly by the arm and marching them both quickly towards the makeshift wooden arena.

"What the hell are you doing?" Chantilly yelped, pulling her arm away.

The queen gave her a poisonous look. "You have an audition," she replied, then sniffed the air with disgust. "God, you still smell like sex. What did you do, leave him mid-coitus?"

"Shut up," Chantilly snapped. "What audition?"

"You'll see." The queen smirked, and suddenly announced in a grandiose voice, "And here's Mean Celestine, returned from retirement, accepting all challengers! Place your bets!"

Chantilly barely had time to protest before being swept away by the pit officials to prep her for the impromptu tournament.

-------------

Chantilly had seen a pit fight once, a long time ago. It was brutal. The two competitors had been soaked in red, unlucky slices breaking through their arms and chests one after another, until finally one collapsed, either from exhaustion or from sheer loss of blood. The crowd had cheered wildly for the winner, but Chantilly had scarcely seen anything but trauma in his eyes where the joy of victory might have been.

"Our challenger tonight... a living legend all the way from New Orleans... Mean Celestine!"

The memories made her shiver, the fear of what she'd been suddenly forced to undertake rattling her. She was glad she'd not told Reynaud where she was going, so that he wouldn't know what had happened to her. Unless she won, of course, but...

She peered up at the wooden scaffolding, searching the spectators for the familiar faces. She finally saw the queen on the far side standing with a strange woman Chantilly had never seen before.

"Now entering the Pit..."

Chantilly refocused on the task in front of her. All the questions would have to wait, assuming she lived long enough to ask them.

"He'll dance on your grave... the Comte Cimetiere!"

A frightening-looking Samedien emerged from the opposite side of the ring. Chantilly groaned. She'd always hated the Samediens. Not only as rival pirates back along the Louisiana coast, but because they painted their faces like skulls. They seemed to embrace death in a way that, even in her darkest moments, she'd never been able to understand.

And now one would be swinging a sword at her. She didn't imagine it would help her impression of them one bit.

"Get your blades wet! FIGHT!"

The Samedien wasted no time charging at her. It was a fearsome sight, and she hesitated a bit too long, stepping aside at the last moment. His blade nicked the outer part of her sleeve, ripping it slightly as he missed his mark, momentum carrying him past her.

She swallowed hard and turned, using his lost balance against him and swung. Her sword met his shoulder, cutting through his coat to some depth, and he howled in pain. He whipped around and swiped towards her legs, trying to make her lose her footing. She jumped back just in time and kicked hard at his blade.

Her boot connected with his hand with a satisfying crack, and he involuntarily dropped his sword as the bones splintered. She nearly celebrated before the Samadien's other hand came towards her in the form of a fist, and connected against her head, violently snapping her neck to the side, and she stumbled backwards.

Chantilly's eye was blinded for a moment in pain, then as it slowly cleared, the Samedien's skull-like visage filled her field of vision as he prepared another punch. She barely had the presence of mind to move out of the way, and he missed. She shoved him back and down hard, onto the ground, and shoved her sword into his neck.

Blood spurted from his arteries, and the Samedien's face paint came true.

The crowd clapped and cheered wildly as she sank to her knees beside the dead man, overwhelmed with adrenaline and fear, tinged with regret. She couldn't hear the crowd at all. All she knew now that her earlier assessment of victory here was correct.

The pit officials surrounded her, congratulating and helping her out of the ring. As she exited, she looked upwards to where the queen had been watching, but both she and her accomplice were gone.
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PostSubject: Re: Her most hated city   Fri Apr 17, 2009 8:41 am

“Next challengers in just a few minutes!” shouted one of the pit announcers.


The air was thick with the smell of sweat, blood, tobacco smoke and the metallic taste of coin. The pit of Tortuga was the center for gambling and legitimate fighting, or at least as legitimate as a town full of cutthroats and renegades could be. Mr. M moved through the crowds as if a articulate dance of sidesteps, dodges and workarounds. He made it to one of the side vendors he had made contact with previously, care of the banker in Grand Turk.

“How is the shark bait these days?” said Mr. M over the roar of the market.

“I’ve got chum and I’ve got meat which ye prefer” replied the merchant.

“Just looking for a ship that will do the job” Mr. M responded.

“Ah yer the one he sent, thought you might not show up, come in tha’ back ere.” The merchant motioned.

Mr. M. stepped behind the front counter into the small backroom of the shop.

“Now lets be done wit’ our business tha’ pit is a bustle ta’night” pulled out a coin purse.

Mr. M pulled a pistol from his coat and placed it on the small table in the room.

“Have two cases as promised. I believe our men have met at the prison drop off.” Mr. M. cut to the chase.

“Ah good, good yes, yes. Fine weapon make.” The shopkeeper began looking over the weapon.

“And here's Mean Celestine, returned from retirement, accepting all challengers! Place your bets!" shouted a voice from outside the shop.
Mr. M. watched as the shop keepers attention went to the outside street.

“Everything in order?” Mr. M questioned quickly taking advantage of the distraction.

“Uh…yes, yes I’ll have me men deliver tha’ coin and compete ye exchange. Now if that’ll be all I’ve got a fight to see.”

“A favorite fighter?” Said Mr. M. holstering the pistol.

“OH not just any fighter, Mean Celestine, she’s somewhat a legend in some parts. Care ta’ watch?”

Mr. M and the shopkeeper took up a seat in the pit stands.

“Look-e thar, I think that’s her in tha’ far corner. Wait that can’t be her she’s supposed ta be taller and more…” the shopkeeper made a motion in front of his chest.

“Well I’ll be…” Mr. M looked to the corner.

“Ya’ know her?” said the shopkeeper taking out a pocket spyglass.

“An acquaintance, much fire to her” grinned Mr. M.

“Well fire or not she looks as if she’s scared by the devil himself. Oh come on she’s shivering! Blast it all, Mean Celestine my arse! Someone’s playin’ games.” cursed the shopkeeper looking through the spyglass.

Mr. M looked at Chantilly in the corner for a beat before turning to the shopkeeper, “Care to wager?”

“WHAT? On her?! HAHA it’ll be the easiest coin I’ll ever make.” The shopkeeper pulled out a rather heavy coin purse.

Mr. M pulled out a similar size purse to match.

“GET YOUR BLAAAAAAADES WET, FIGHT!” shouted the announcer.
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PostSubject: Re: Her most hated city   Fri Apr 17, 2009 9:02 am

Chantilly sighed heavily, looking out at the water from her high vantage point in the lookout tower above the harbor. Some of the ships were all shooting cannonballs at each other. Sailors, likely drunk as all get-out.

Tortuga. Where no one took a hole in the side of a ship or accidentally blasting a buddy over the railing too seriously.

A part of her still disbelieved that she'd ever been a part of all this, but as brief as it might have been, it was more than just some bad dream lodged in her memory. The pit fight, as much as it had rattled her, proved it. The legend girl from Louisiana, with all her vices and sins, had returned.

Suddenly she heard clapping behind her. "Well done captain. Well done indeed."

She spun around angrily, ready for a fight, but was surprised to be staring into a familiar mask. "Monsieur M," she greeted him, a touch stunned.

"Remarkable sword play in the pit tonight," he replied.

Is he serious, or just having a go at me? Chantilly couldn't tell; Mr. M seemed to take his expressionless mask persona to a deep level, so much so that his voice lacked any strong tonality, and his gestures were grandiose yet meaningless. He was not much more than a artistic statue given the gift of speech.

"You think so?" she asked nonchalantly, testing his response, resting a hand on the hilt of her sword. "I felt a bit... off... myself, but I suppose that says nothing of it's entertainment value."

"Indeed. Entertaining. And profitable." He held up a coin purse and rattled it for effect.

The sound was muffled, as if too much money had been stuffed into it. He must've wagered quite a bit on her victory. She perked an eyebrow. "Quite profitable, it seems. Suppose I'm glad to have been of some use to you."

"Everything and everyone has a use... merely making sure they are applied properly, is the trick."

Chantilly snorted derisively, annoyed at the thought of being "used". First by the queen, now by the masked stranger? This little visit just gets better and better... "So, what brings you to Tortuga? Other than to bet on me, that is."

"The clientele here is quite agreeable to what I offer in trade."

"Ah, yes. Weapons and pirates. Fits like a hand in a glove."

Mr. M nodded. "That, and masked personas are very plentiful here. Many hiding what they are and who they are."

"Ha. Suppose I'm not surprised to see you, seeing as 'plentiful' is an understatement. There's room for every shady character in the Caribbean here... and barely a handful acting forthright, masks or no." She shrugged and sighed. With the exception of Reynaud, she doubted anyone here would be honest to your face.

"Yes, Tortuga basks in the glow of its volcano and its subterfuge, both equally deadly if aroused."

"You seem to enjoy it."

"How could anyone not enjoy it? The exhilaration that your death could lie around every corner."

"As if you don't live with that expectation normally. Otherwise, you wouldn't wear that mask," Chantilly replied with a smirk.

Mr. M laughed. "The mask serves only to even my odds. I play the odds I can win, or at least survive."

"So what is it you're so afraid of, Monsieur M? What odds are you looking for?"

He hesitated for just a second, enough that Chantilly stopped plotting retorts and looked at him intently. "Only a past that is as foreign to me as the Far East seas are from the Caribbean," he finally answered.

It was as close to a direct answer as she'd ever heard from the man. "Foreign..." she repeated, treating the word with a quiet reverence. "You... aren't the only one with a foreign past, monsieur."

"No, nor will I be the last. But I must play the cards that have been dealt to me."

"You are, however..." she continued, "the only one that hides from that past from the outside as well as within."

Mr. M's expressionless mask seemed to gaze at her for a moment. "Even with one eye, you are quite perceptive," he acknowledged.

Chantilly shrugged. "It's a curse." You don't know the half of it.

"Perhaps. But it is your hand to play."

She leaned back against the tower railing and sighed. "It's taken... some time to learn to play at all," she admitted. "Very poorly dealt in the past, and I didn't even know the rules. But now?" She smiled slightly and shrugged, as if unsure why she was confiding in the man at all.

"At least you are still being dealt a hand," he replied. "Sometimes, that's all the odds you need."

"Sometimes," she agreed quietly, looking at him with a level gaze. "But it's hard to know what odds you need until you actually play."

Mr. M nodded. "And that's to the fun of the game."

Chantilly smiled slightly. "You're an odd one, monsieur, but I have a feeling we won't know just how odd until you finally decide to go all in." "That day will be most interesting indeed."

"Yes. Very interesting." She pushed herself off of the rail to stand again, looking at him intently with her visible eye. "I look forward to it." She walked past him to make her way down the stairs.

"Until then," he called after her.
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