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PostPosted: Sat Sep 28, 2013 11:03 pm 
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Two Bullets and a Pocketful of Hate: Fisco Vane goes to Jakkard
by Ruwinreborn
Status: Public :diamond:


Part 1

***


Fisco stared at himself in the mirror, idly thumbing one of his tracking coins. The little gold circle had materialized earlier today, indicating that someone was in need of his services. He had not been much in the mood for business lately, and had spent the last month on Dominaria after a promising deal had fallen through on Ravnica. Again. He hated that plane. He could not help but take another shot at the place every decade or so, though. Too profitable. Ravnica was not exactly on his mind right now, however. When he had retrieved the coin from the golden bowl in his personal chambers – where all such coins appeared after their counterpart was lit – a vision of a windswept city, the blazing sun, and an endless wasteland had filled his mind. A vision of a cemetery, an abandoned building, and a man with one eye.



Jakkard.



There was a knock at his door, but Fisco did not turn. After a moment of silence, the door opened behind him and Diana entered the room, folding her wings behind her so she could fit. The angel carried beneath her arm a small gold and silver lockbox. He had sent her to the vault to retrieve it for him while he dressed and prepared to leave.



“Fisco.” Diana nodded in greeting and deference. Fisco glanced at her reflection. For a moment he thought she would say something else, but she simply stepped over to his lush bed and placed the lockbox upon it and took her leave silently.



Diana was a willing servant; she owed him her life, after he had bought her from an oppressive demon-run slave trade. He had decided that angels made excellent housekeepers, and so had positioned her here to watch over his manor while he was away. He had made it clear to her that her service was mandatory, but he did not have time to keep track of her, nor the wherewithal to hunt her down if she ran away. Three decades later, and she was still here. She made for chilly company, however.



Fisco felt a sudden rush of gratitude for the angel, and grimaced. It was Jakkard. Making him sentimental. He straightened his coat with more force than necessary, and finally turned from the mirror. He approached his bed. The weight of the lockbox pressed down upon his down and satin bed sheets, sinking a full inch into the plush surface. Fisco touched the lock, a little spark of power leaving his finger. The keyhole was for show; the box would not open unless he wanted it to. He flipped the latch, and opened the box.



It was a gun.



The handle was polished ivory. Elephant tusk, something he had brought to Jakkard long ago when he had this weapon crafted. The chamber and barrel was made of burnished iron, and five gold studs ran along the back. It was about a foot long. He picked it up; popped open the chamber, spun it, and peered into the barrel from the back. The runes on the inside still glowed with a pale gray light, as though untouched by time. He locked the chamber back in place. Next to the gun were two bright, golden bullets. Fisco clenched his teeth, and loaded the bullets into the gun.



He was going back to Jakkard, and there was going to be hell to pay. Fisco was just going to make sure hell got what it was due.



***


Fisco remembered vividly his first visit to Jakkard. Word had reached him through the eternities of a plane with a desert that drained people of life; that there was a city there that was run by money and crime, and no one could complain because there was nowhere else to go. Not even ‘walkers could get in or out from anywhere else on the plane but the city. It was dangerous, rife with corruption, and there was always either an ambush or an opportunity waiting around every corner.



It sounded like his kind of place.



Fisco had come to Jakkard for the express purpose of selling cigars; he had a hunch that they would be a hit there. Any other business he conducted would have just been a bonus. He stocked up in Fyurlien, hauled the merchandise to Jakkard, and set up shop. With space at a premium, finding a location was not only expensive, but difficult. He ended up hiring some thugs to muscle a brothel owner out of one of the better parts of the city. He had counted on locale being hard to come by, and planned accordingly. He had planned on difficulty from crime rings, petty thieves, and assassins. He had planned on expense, supply, and demand.



He had not planned on Cosette.



By the time she set foot into his slightly illicit establishment, Fisco had already absorbed most of the culture over the course of the month he had been selling his cigars. He’d just named the place “Smokey’s Cigars”, so most everyone called him Ol’ Smokey. He’d never bothered correcting them; better to keep a low profile anyway. He’d had a gun made, and he was ready for trouble. The bell above the front door rang. Fisco glanced up, took one look at the woman who was walking into his shop and immediately checked to make sure his gun was still below the counter.



He looked her up and down, taking in everything quickly while she gazed around idly. She was a looker, and Fisco frowned slightly at that. Pretty women did not smoke; not on Jakkard anyway. His product had not become that popular – yet. She wore all the fine trappings of a wealthy young woman. The dress was the finest of cotton, and embroidered slightly with flowery designs. Her corset accentuated her impressive bosom, and the dress was cut low enough to remain acceptable, but make it obvious she was almost completely without shame. Her lustrous brown hair was curled perfectly, and hung down to the arch of her back. But her eyes… They were as blue, cold, and dark. Like the depths of the ocean this plane did not have. Fisco’s mouth tightened.



He checked to make sure his protective wards were still in place as well. They were receptive things; set to summon some of his... employees should certain conditions be met.



“Good evening, lovely lady!” Fisco exclaimed, and she finally deigned it necessary to acknowledge his presence. “How can I help such a beauteous creature on this fine day?” He was cultivating a reputation as a kind, rather doting gentleman; half the things he said while keeping up the display made him sick. She sauntered over to the counter he stood behind, and idly picked up one of the cigars that were on display. Fisco commended her on her choice, and began to describe the various assets of that particular cigar – the aroma, the thickness of the smoke, the flavor – but she cut him off.



“You must be Ol’ Smokey, then.” She smiled at him sweetly. “I was told you like to talk.” While speaking, she reached down her dress and revealed a folded piece of paper from in between her breasts. Fisco kept his face placid and unassuming as she placed it surreptitiously on the counter, all the while asking him if you really lighted the cigars on fire.



“Oh, yes, ma’am.” He assured her, picking up a cigar of his own and unfolding the paper in front of him in one smooth motion. Anyone watching from outside the store would not have seen him do it; and the fact that someone was watching was the only reason Fisco could imagine this woman was being so secretive. He grabbed an oil lamp that he kept lit and off to the side, and raised it to the cigar. He made a show of lighting it, and glanced down at the page.



I’m being followed by men who want me dead. I need your help, and you will be handsomely rewarded for it. Can you protect me?



At the bottom of the page, written slightly larger than the rest of the message, was a YES and a NO. Fisco lit the cigar.



“You see, it smokes, and lets off a rather heady aroma. Good for the senses.” He told her, and took a drag. He breathed out as she watched, intrigued.



“My. That does not seem very healthy.” She noted. Fisco shrugged, and placed the hand with the cigar down on the counter. He nonchalantly burned out the YES with the lit end of the cigar, leaving his answer on the page.



“I can assure you that my cigars are perfectly healthy. Ma’am.” For the first time since she walked in, her composure broke a fraction and he registered fear on her face. A ploy? He was not sure what game this woman was playing at, or why she would ask him for help. He was able to reason that she must have somehow discovered his ability to ‘walk, for that was the only thing that differentiated him from the rest of the less-than legal merchants around. Either that or she was a front from one of the bosses around here to make him drop his guard.



The bell above the front door to his shop rang again.



Fisco sighed deeply.



See, while there was the sort of dangerous person like Cosette, who was only dangerous if you knew what to look for, there were also the sort of dangerous people who needed no special training to identify because they just oozed an aura of menace. The two men that stepped into his quaint little shop were of the latter variety. Fisco saw the woman pale for a half-second before she spun around. It seemed he was going mostly unnoticed, so he took that opportunity to read up on the situation. A subtle surge of sensory magic let him know the woman was afraid, but the thugs were not. Her claims appeared to be genuine, then, but that did not mean there was not some other scheme going on here. He resolved to sit back and watch for a little longer.



“Hey there, Miss Desandro.” The thug who spoke had a noticeably unattractive mustache. They both wore long coats that concealed their hips. No doubt they were armed.



“I can’t imagine how you know my name.” The woman replied. “But I’m certain I haven’t the need to know yours.” The mustached thug frowned and nudged his companion, and they took a menacing step forward. Fisco clicked his tongue. He just had the floors cleaned.



“I’m going to have to ask that you take this outside.” Fisco said, stepping out from behind the counter. The shortest goon was a full head taller than he was, and Fisco noted he was rather good at looming.



“Pipe down, Smokey. We ain’t got business with you.” The second thug, who wore a bandanna, ordered. Fisco frowned.



“I’m just saying that- now don’t do that.” Fisco sighed heavily as the woman maneuvered herself behind him faster than he thought it was possible to move in a dress, let alone a corset. She grabbed on to his shoulder and made it appear, for all intents and purposes, like he was a trusted bodyguard of some sort.



“You protecting this broad, Smokey?” Mustache demanded. “You know who we work for, little man?” Mustache reached beneath his coat, and Fisco narrowed his eyes.



“I wouldn’t do that…” He warned slowly. Mustache just gave him a black-toothed grin and revealed a gun from beneath his coat. He leveled it at Fisco, and opened his mouth to speak…



“Does that look like iron to you, darling?” The mustached thug looked around in confusion, not seeing who was talking.



Beside the two thugs, a man and a woman had materialized. They were both dressed in tight leathers and short coats in dark colors. The man had spoken, leering down at the thugs. He was taller but leaner, with a crooked nose and eyes like flint. He gave a smile to the thugs like he wanted to light them on fire. The mustached thug growled, backed away from the man, and bumped into the woman. The thug with the bandanna pulled his gun out as well and stepped away from both of them, brow furrowed.



“Seems like iron to me, dear.” The woman noted sweetly. She smiled a loving smile at the mustached thug as he spun to look at her. Fisco always found the hollow cheeriness that pervaded her words to be creepier than the open malice that her counterpart showed. She regarded both thugs like a hungry wolf. “Though I’m not certain he drew it.”



“That struck me as sort of a ‘pull’ as well, darling.” The man replied. “Maybe-” The mustached thug, obviously fed up with the games, leveled his weapon at the man and pulled the trigger. The man stared past the barrel and at the thug as the gun jammed. All levity was gone, and his eyes shone with an inky blackness.



“Gods…” The mustached thug swore. “His eyes! Oh, gods, no!” The thugs took one look at both the man and the woman before making for the exit. They did not get far. Swirling black tendrils appeared from the shadows in the room and whipped around their necks. They screamed for help and mercy, but neither Fisco nor his employees were inclined to give it. The shadow ropes lifted them into the air, gagging them, and looped around the beams of the ceiling high above them.



Fisco watched their feet kick placidly until they stopped moving.



The man turned to Fisco and yawned.



“That was fun.” He mentioned. “Though a tad easy.” He glanced at the woman standing behind Fisco, and Fisco remembered suddenly that she was there. He stepped away from her and gave her a withering look. At least she appeared to be rightfully terrified.



“You want her too, boss?” The man’s counterpart asked, cracking her knuckles.



“Easy, Lucy.” Fisco told her. “You and Mal be on your way; take the stiffs with you. You’ve already got the souls, may as well put the body to use.”



“Awfully generous of you, Vane.” Mal noted icily. Fisco bared his teeth at him.



“Get.” He ordered. Lucy cackled as the bodies of the thugs dissipated into smoke, and his two employees with them. Fisco stepped up to his windows as soon as they left and shuttered them. He locked the door, then turned to glare at the woman.



“I-” She began. Fisco cut her off.



“Name.” He ordered. She swallowed.



“Cosette Desandro.”



“I’m going to need some of your blood.” He told her as he walked behind the counter once more. He rummaged beneath it, looking for his toolbox.



“What?” Cosette exclaimed. “Why?”



“For payment.” He told her tersely. No way was this woman that stupid...



“Payment… for what?” Fisco found his toolbox and slammed it on the counter before regarding her with a great deal of wrath.



“For what?” He demanded rhetorically. “For saving your life, perhaps? Think of it this way; I bought your life, and now you have to pay up. Of course…” He opened his toolbox and produced a scalpel. It glinted in the half-light of the lamps. “I could always give you a refund.”



“But you didn’t do anything.” Cosette pointed out. “It was those… things.”



“My employees.” Fisco told her. “The end result is the same; you owe me your life, and I’m collecting. Right now. Get over here.”



“Mr. Smoke-”



“Vane. Mr. Vane.” He pounded his hand on the counter. “Here. Now.” Cosette made one sideways glance at the door, and Fisco genuinely hoped she would try for it. In the end, though, she made the better judgement and walked up to Fisco. “Give me your hand.” She did as she was told. He ran the scalpel across her palm in a practiced fashion, and she inhaled sharply. He caught the falling blood in a shallow container, and then capped it quickly. A small spell healed the cut on her hand with little effort, and he busied himself labeling the ounce of blood. She remained silent throughout the process. Fisco put the blood beneath the counter, on top of a special silver dish. Mal would pick it up later.



“What are you going to use my blood for?” Fisco had to hand it to her; she was reacting to this turn of events with more poise than he usually credited her sex with. At least she was not crying all over the place.



“I’m no good at sangromancy.” Fisco grunted as she gave him a puzzled look. “Blood magic.” If she was disturbed by the phrase, she did not show it. “But Mal’s got uses for it. He’ll be able to keep track of you, and since the blood was given willingly, technically, he can use it to control you or kill you.”



“I belong to that thing?” She exclaimed, horrified.



“No, you belong to me.” Fisco snarled. “Because Mal does exactly what I tell him to, to the letter. It’s in his contract. He wouldn’t cross me; I’d kill him.”



“Who are you?” Cosette asked quietly.



“A cigar salesman.” He told her, and motioned for her to follow. He led her to the back room, rubbing his temples. Things had gotten complicated very quickly; he needed to take stock of the situation. He sent a mental command to Lucy to dig up any information she could find on this Cosette Desandro. In the meantime, he told her to sit on one of the crates that littered the backroom.



The area was mostly just a glorified storage area. Fisco lived upstairs, and the only way up was through the hidden ladder he kept concealed back here. He kept his stock of cigars back here as well, in a fairly orderly fashion; he did not want to run out if someone called in a big order, after all. He had over three dozen crates, currently, with a myriad of different smokes in each one. He was satisfied with the breadth of his product, but he knew he would have to expand soon to take advantage of the growing market.



That, of course, did not mean much if wildcards like this woman ruined all of his plans. He paced the room, letting her stew for a few minutes, before finally addressing her.



“Alright. Tell me everything about you. Leave something out, and I’ll have Mal pull it out of you.” He sat on the crate across from her and smiled pleasantly. “Literally.” Cosette searched his face, no doubt for some form of compassion. He imagined she found none, and then began to talk. It took a while, but Fisco learned long ago that time was money; you had to spend some to earn some.



***


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 28, 2013 11:03 pm 
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Part 2

***


Fisco came out of the ‘walk with a sense of unease. Coming here the first time had been a chore; as had getting any goods inside. There was something about the plane that wanted to keep ‘walkers like him out. The enormous crystal barrier did not help, but the only actual entrance had been Verkell; and even then, it took a special kind of willpower to get through. There was something off about the plane; Fisco had discovered that when he arrived before. But he was not concerned with the plight of the people. He was there to make some fast cash.



And this time, he was here to roll a few skulls and collect on a debt. That was going to be difficult, though. It appeared as though a lot had changed since he had been gone.



It took him all of five minutes to understand that the Wastes had suddenly become more hospitable. That would explain the sudden decrease in population density. That newspaper being hawked by a small foxkin kit helped clue him in as well. He flipped the kit a coin and took the paper. He skimmed it swiftly. Railroads. Bandits. Rattlers. He cocked an eyebrow. Dragons? Crystallized energy? This was new... But irrelevant. He had more important matters to attend to. He made his way to the designated meeting area.



He felt a slight pang of regret as he approached his old shop. It was all boarded up now; he had… insisted upon preventing people from taking over the space after he left. But the sign had fallen off. The area around the shop had become derelict. This was no longer a high-end part of the city. This was a gutter. Fisco walked up to the door and opened it with a touch. Still locked. Good.



He walked into the dusty building and was greeted by a shadowy presence.



“Hey, boss. Long time no see.” Fisco shut the door behind him as a demon stepped into the sunlight that escaped through the boards. Her inky black eyes gleamed as she smiled with no warmth.



“Lucrecia.” Fisco greeted, watching her carefully.



“Aw, come on. Whatever happened to you calling me ‘Lucy’? That was sweet.” She took a step forward. Fisco held his hand up, and she froze.



“I’m not here to be sweet. I’m here on business.” He glanced around. “Where’s Malzeth?” Lucrecia backed away from him slowly and pouted.



“Busy.” She replied vaguely. “Besides, we aren’t under contract anymore.”



“Then why are you here?” He demanded, growing impatient. Of course they would know when he ‘walked back, despite the lack of a mana bond. He was just hoping they would not care. His nose twitched in irritation. Demons.



“Can’t a girl just-”



“Why are you here?” Fisco put emphasis on his words, looking her dead in those soulless, black eyes. The smile froze on her face and then melted away.



“You’re a powerful man, Fisco. Our last arrangement left Malzeth and I in an excellent position of power; but the status quo has been upset, and the foundations of that power is shaking.” She explained formally.



“The Wastes?” Fisco asked. Lucrecia nodded.



“Yes. The crystals are a powerful commodity, Fisco. Anyone who controls the ley-lines controls the plane… Surely you already know this?” She gave him a searching look. Fisco remained silent. “…Why are you here, Vane?”



“For revenge.” He replied shortly. Lucrecia watched him, and he knew she was trying to glean truth from his words. He had not lied, however.



“I had thought you were more enterprising.” She noted. “I will tell Malzeth you were not interested in our offer, unless…”



“I’m going to kill a few people and then leave… Lucy.” He pulled a cigar out of his jacket. “Tell Malzeth I’m not here to threaten him, either.” Lucy cocked an eyebrow at him and smirked slightly. Fisco shrugged. “I know he’s worried; no reason to send the best he’s got to greet me otherwise.”



“Flatterer.” Lucrecia snorted. “Alright, Fisco. Have it your way. But…” Lucrecia checked around, furtively. Fisco lit his cigar. “You know where to find us.” She disappeared into the shadows and Fisco took a drag. Getting them involved would complicate things. Better he do this on his own.



Fisco walked over to the counter and hopped on top of it. He let the cigar hang from his mouth as he drew his gun. He checked it over again. It was still loaded. The runes still glowed. Fisco exhaled a puff of smoke.



He waited another fifteen minutes, and then the door opened. Light flooded the shop as a shadowed figure appeared against the sunlight. It threw a burning coin onto the floor in front of Fisco. He ignored it; his cigar was already lit. He leveled his gun at the shadowy figure.



“You’ve got thirty seconds, Tirk.” Fisco reminded him.



A tall Viashino stepped into the shop, his tail closing the door behind him. His scales were red, black, and yellow, and he eyed Fisco with a look of exhaustion and fear. He hissed slightly, but wasted no more time. A chunk of glowing rock followed the coin onto the ground. When it touched the flame, it began to hiss and sputter. Steam bellowed forth from the crystal, and Fisco heard a voice. His eyes widened, and he lowered his gun.



The steam cascaded upwards, and formed a ring. The crystal grew smaller and smaller as more of it evaporated into the air. Then, he saw her. Her face; she was afraid. Terrified.



“Fisco!” He heard her shout, a ghostly noise. The steam dissipated, and the image with it. Cosette was gone, again.



“…Ssshe is trapped, Fisssco. Where ssshe died.” Tirk hissed. “Ssshe may ssstill be sssaved. These cryssstalsss pressserve her. I have no magic.” He held up his clawed hands, pleading. “But perhapsss you…” Fisco’s nostrils flared. Tirk’s thirty seconds were up. He stood up from the counter and walked towards the Viashino. Tirk closed his eyes as Fisco spoke.



“I’ll see what I can do, Tirk.” Fisco pointed his gun at the Viashino’s head.



“Thank you, Fisssco.” He said, eyes still closed. “And… I am sssorry.”



“Me too.” Fisco pulled the trigger.



He left an unlit cigar by Tirk’s body, and locked the shop up behind him as he left.



***


Squeezing information from Cosette had been a trying experience. No doubt she had a lifetime worth of practice hiding things. It was only through the constant threat of summoning Mal that Fisco was able to get anything from her at all. Mostly, her answers were intentionally dodgy, vague, and designed to irritate him or try his patience. She wanted him to lose his temper and do something drastic, he could tell. It was a ploy he often used himself. Unfortunately for her, she was dealing with someone four times her age that had been playing the same game for three times as long. Fisco always got them to talk, in the end.



As it turned out, she had been noting Fisco’s quick rise in wealth and had simply deduced that he was a man of means. Because he was also mostly off the radar while still creating a market, she had assumed there was something going on behind the scenes that she was not seeing. She informed him that she had entered his shop blind, not knowing what he was capable of, but since she had nowhere else to turn to, she did not have much of a choice.



Fisco asked her if she was satisfied with the results. She did not reply, but would not meet his eyes.



The conversation turned then to why she needed his help in the first place. Surely, he insisted, she did not need some savvy merchant with limited gun skills to protect her? There must be some other hulk of a man whose arm she could hang from, with a body like that. She took offense to that and slapped him. Fisco grinned like a wolf at her. At least she had fire; but striking him was not something he let just anyone get away with. He feigned anger to put some fear into her. A little shadow magic to make her think Mal was on his way. Some groveling never hurt anyone. She begged him to have mercy.



The conversation after that went more smoothly. She had gotten on the wrong side of Don Marco; a big shot foxfolk whose family had been getting fat legally and illegally for generations. Cosette told him she had worked the aristocracy since she was younger. Fisco knew how it was. Pretty young girl with little means just needs a wealthy suitor. Does not really matter what he is like, she just needs the support from him. One night last week, though, she declines Don Marco’s advances. He was coming on strong, she said. She did not want anything to do with him, she said. He had a reputation for being dangerous, and Fisco berated her for being stupid. She got sullen at that. Told him he did not understand.



He supposed he did not.



Don Marco was not the type to let something like that go, and she had been dodging his goons ever since. Everyone else but Ol’ Smokey was on his payroll for miles. Closest refuge she could take was down in the Yoke District, but the minotaurs there would not likely treat her any better. Vaik Four-Horns was not exactly lauded for his gentility. When the goons caught up to her, she had to make a choice to die in the street or run into Ol’ Smokey’s for a gamble.



Which left them where they were now.



Fisco pulled a cigar out of his stash and lit it. That was one of the better things about cigars, in Fisco’s opinion: Breathing out the smoke meant no one knew when you were sighing in disgust. He paced the room once more, and Cosette remained silent. He had to give her credit; at no point in her story, which was admittedly sad, did she break down and cry. That lent some credence to her argument. Most broads trying to pull a trick turned on the waterworks as soon as they found a plausible mark. She had nothing to gain from trying to appear strong in front of him, except maybe his respect. And respect was not a currency women of her occupation often dealt in.



As for Don Marco… Well, that was more of a problem. Marco ruled his turf fairly liberally; as long as he got money and no lip, things ran fairly smoothly. He crushed any opposition with the overwhelming weight of hired muscle; and one did not simply outbid the Don. Fisco had set up shop here for that very reason. He had met with envoys from Don Marco while setting up shop, had paid the necessary ‘protection’ money. When his business started expanding, and they had come again, he had politely declined to become part of the Don’s empire, playing the fool. They were probing to see if he was a threat. Technically, he was not. He just wanted to sell cigars, make a massive profit, then pick up and leave.



Of course, he had recently killed two of Marco’s men. That would leave a sour taste in the old fox’s mouth, and Fisco was not sure he could wiggle out of this one without more bloodshed. He did not have any special desire to get into it with this kingpin, but he had planned for the contingency. Don Marco had a personal army’s worth of hired muscle, true. But Fisco was one of the only people on the plane wealthier than he was, and Marco did not even know that yet.



He turned his attention to Cosette once more.



“You work for me now. Is that understood?” She had been lost in her own thoughts, and started when he spoke. She nodded, regardless. “Since you are in my employ…” He approached, taking a drag from his cigar. “You are under my protection.” The relief that was evident on her face disconcerted him, and he frowned. “That is to say, I’m the only one that can hurt you. Since Mal has your blood, he can whisk you away from harm at a moment’s notice, or he can stop your heartbeat whenever he pleases.” She paled considerably, although she still appeared more relaxed.



“What if… What if he just kills me?” She asked slowly. “I understand you are his employer, but something like him…”



“Do you know what he is?” Fisco questioned, twirling his cigar in a circle.



“I’ve heard stories, but…”



“He’s a demon, doll.” Fisco grinned. “He’ll do anything for souls to turn into his little ghoulies. He wants to make people like you and me suffer, because that same suffering gives him strength. Him and Lucy, though. They weren’t in such a good position when I showed up. The market for souls is… cutthroat, to say the least. I made a bargain with him.” He chuckled lowly. This sort of superstitious bunk always tickled his funny bone. Of course, with how powerful ley-lines were on this plane; it actually had a rather powerful basis in fact. It was still funny, though. “At the crossroads.”



“You sold your soul?” She whispered, eyes wide. Fisco gave her a full belly laugh at that.



“Not a chance.” He told her. “Just the soul of anyone who crosses me.” She fell silent, and look towards the front of the shop, swallowing. “He’s under contract. I’m good at negotiations. He can’t break it without getting torn apart.”



“I… see.” She cleared her throat. “What happens to me now?” Fisco thought about that, and let her think about it too. Not much sense in sending her back out onto the street. Any belongings she did have were probably seized by Don Marco. If she had a place to stay it was certainly being watched. Fisco shrugged.



“Suppose I could sell you back to Marco.” He mentioned.



“You wouldn’t-” She panicked, eyes going wide.



“Wouldn’t I?” He stepped closer to her, threw his cigar on the ground, and stepped on it. “You charge in here, not knowing the first thing about me, and expect some knight to save you from the big bad Don? Lady.” He shook his head. “You made a mistake. And now I got to pay for it out of my pocket. Easiest way to settle expenses is to just give you to him.”



“He’ll kill me.” She whispered, looking down.



“And I won’t?” He spat, nostrils flared. She did not look up at him, but hunched her shoulders. “Give me one reason; one good reason why I shouldn’t just turn around and make a profit right now.”



He stood there in silence, and she sat. He pitied her, though. He had no reason to help her; life was tough for people like her. He still remembered what it was like. Clinging to strangers for sustenance. For money. Having to rely completely on the semi-compassionate whims of the aristocracy. He had dragged himself up from that by himself, though. Of course, the spark had helped. She did not have one of those, he was fairly certain. She, unlike him, had no way out.



“…I can’t.” She said finally.



“Can’t what?” Fisco asked, smirking.



“I can’t give you a reason. Not a good one. You should give me to the Don. I’m just…” There. Now Fisco saw it. The shoulders slumped, her head hang low. Her hands relaxed, no longer clasping tight, or wringing with worry. And the tear. The single tear that fell on his dusty hardwood floor. True defeat. “I’m just asking you not to.” She had been completely dependent on him for the past hour; now even she realized it. He turned around.



“Pull that rope over there; ladder’ll come down. Leads up to my living quarters.” He gestured to the hatch in the back of the storeroom. “As long as you stay in there, the Don can’t find you. Mal and Lucy keep the place safe.” She finally looked up, but it was just with confusion. “Don’t touch anything if you don’t know what it does, otherwise make yourself at home. You’ve got anything on the outside that needs fetching?” She shook her head. “Then get. I have to go run interference with Marco’s men to see if I can’t throw them off the trail.”



“Why?” She demanded, suddenly. “Why the whole speech, if you’re just going to help me anyway?” Fisco’s face went grim.



“Don’t get uppity, doll.” He warned. “When you first came here, I’d bought your mind; though I didn’t know it. You sold it to me because there was no other logical choice.” Fisco stuck out his thumb. “You gave me your blood, so I own your body too.” He extended his pointer finger. “Owning someone’s body and mind is pretty good, but not good enough.” He raised his middle finger slowly. “Just now, when you realized I can kill you, sell you, or save you on a whim? Well, you sold me your spirit, too. I’ve got you on lock, Cosette Desandro. You belong to me, mind, body and spirit.” He lowered his hand, and stared straight into her eyes. “And don’t you forget it.” She held his gaze for as long as she could, but this battle was already won. She closed her eyes and breathed in deeply.



“I understand.” She spoke softly as she exhaled. Fisco nodded tersely.



“Good. Now, up you go. I’ve got business to attend to.” She did as she was told, and opened the hatch. She eased the ladder down. “And see if you can’t make up something to eat by the time I get back. I’ll be hungry.” She raised her eyebrows at him.



“Right away, Mr. Vane.” She said. Fisco grinned.



“There’s a girl. If I’m not back in two hours I’m dead.” And with that, he turned his back on her and exited the storeroom. He saw potential in Cosette. She was not above bootlicking, though she had difficulty learning her place. But she was shrewd, and was able to read situations well. She could prove useful. But useful enough to start a blood war with Don Marco? Fisco smiled slowly at the thought. He could not say; and the gamble felt good. Real good.



***


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 28, 2013 11:03 pm 
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Part 3

***


Fisco was surprised to see the old Horse’s Hitch still up and running, since the area around had become so destitute. Everyone needed a drink, he supposed. Poor or not. The pub had seen better times, though. The paint was peeling and the boards on the patio were warped. Though it was only midday, traffic in and out of the pub was heavy. Fisco watched people come and go, looking for anyone he recognized. These people looked tattered and jaded, but not familiar. He walked inside.



It was mostly as he remembered it, even if the outside was worn. Though the stage was now empty, the tables were all full. Fisco did not make eye contact with anyone as he stepped over to the bar, though he noticed more than a few raw looks. He had been to places like this before. Places so poor and insignificant neither the law nor the criminals wanted anything to do with it. Thrown into lawlessness, everyone sought to hold on to what little order they could. They did not like newcomers.



June still worked the bar. Fisco sat down on one of the available seats and placed a coin on the counter.



“How’s your mood, stranger?” June asked, looking Fisco up and down. If he was surprised, he did not show it. Fisco liked that about the old centaur. He was completely unflappable.



“I don’t have time for codes, June.” Fisco told him. “Give me a hard whiskey and clear this place out.” June stroked his mustache and put down a mug he had been polishing.



“…Calling in that favor?” June asked, his eyes hard. Fisco nodded. “Alright then, Smokey.”



Conversation around the room stopped. The two men sitting on either side of Fisco immediately stood up and left. There was a chorus of whispers and sliding chairs, and the door repeatedly opening and closing. June handed Fisco a shot of whiskey and Fisco drank it down without thinking. The bar was empty in a few moments, and June trotted over to lock the door.



“How’s the grave?” Fisco asked as June returned behind the counter. The centaur placed both his hands on the bar and sighed.



“Kept it safe for you, Smokey. Just like you asked.” June turned around and poured himself some alcohol. “You got a reputation around here.”



“I noticed.” Fisco replied. June set his glass on the counter and stirred it in a circle.



“They got a saying, you know.” June sipped his drink, and snorted. “When someone disappears in this district.” Fisco raised an eyebrow as June finished the rest of his drink. “They say, ‘Ol’ Smokey’s got ‘em.” Fisco grinned soullessly.



“Glad they’re afraid.” He told the centaur, and his smile vanished. “They should be.”



“What’re you here for, Smokey?” June asked after a long silence and a lot of staring into cups. Fisco inhaled deeply.



“Talked to Tirk today.” Fisco said.



“May he rest in peace.” June added, shaking his head. Fisco clenched his teeth, but said nothing else.



“Showed me one of those crystals that have been popping up.” Fisco continued. He pulled the crystal in question out of his pocket, and June looked it over.



“…This is worth quite a lot, Smokey.” Fisco shrugged.



“I don’t care. He… activated it, or something. When it came into contact with fire. I saw Cosette, June. Tirk said she was trapped.” June nodded slowly.



“I’ve heard of that. Some say the crystals are the souls of those who died in the waste. That’s where they get their power… and their price.” Fisco frowned at the words. It seemed as though the slimy lizard had not been lying, after all. Tirk had been good for that, at least. “Tirk got this from The Pit?”



“Yea.”



“You think she’s still in there?” Fisco was not sure how to answer that question. He was not sure he wanted to. Cosette, still alive after all this time…? It was not possible, and Fisco did not put much stock in spirits or souls, but after trying to deal with the Orzhov for so long, he knew they existed, at least. The image in the crystal made it seemed like she wanted to be saved, but was his all just some trick? Would Tirk really use the last moments of his life to spite him?



He would not put it past the Viashino, but he could not quash the hope that he felt blossoming inside him. Fisco grimaced.



“…If she is, I can bring her back.” Fisco said finally.



“Is that what you want?” Fisco stared down at his empty shot glass. “…Do you think that’s what she wants?” Fisco stood up, and reached into his pocket. He pulled out a cigar, and handed it to June.



“For old time’s sake.” Fisco told the barkeep. June smiled slightly, but laughed hollowly.



“My, my. Hard to get a hold of these nowadays.” June inspected the cigar thoroughly. “I may have to hold on to this one, Smokey. This is like a novelty since you closed shop.”



“Do as you please, Juney.” Fisco shrugged, and made for the exit. June watched him go silently, and Fisco’s hand stopped before he opened the door. “…You won’t see me again, June.”



“That’s what you said last time.” June reminded him. Fisco chuckled, and left the Horse’s Hitch.



***


After Fisco left Cosette back at his shop, he immediately went around to a variety of his informants, looking for information. Not on Cosette – Lucy was already working on that – but on Don Marco. Every time he brought up the name of the old fox, they clammed up, however. Marco was the king of the district; and no one wanted to be slated for execution. Fisco understood perfectly. Since he was strapped for time, he could not be bothered to apply any of his more… persuasive methods. So he left most of his failed informants with a death threat and moved on. He was beginning to get frustrated until he stumbled upon Tirk quite by accident.



Tirk was the kind of Viashino that no one noticed. He was not big, he was not strong, and he certainly was not venomous. But he was smart, and quiet, and so when he approached Fisco in the Horse’s Hitch after even June had declined to talk about Don Marco, Fisco was immediately wary. He had situated himself in the back so as not to be bothered, but left plenty of room on either side of him open for escape. He was not sure how quick Marco’s men would be on the uptake, since no one would talk. The Viashino crept up to Fisco almost silently before speaking.



“You are the man they called Sssmokey, yesss?” The Viashino hissed quietly at him. He wore a wide brim hat and a heavy coat with the collar up. Fisco raised an eyebrow. A lizard in the business of anonymity? Most of the Viashino he encountered were much more savage.



“Name for a name. You know mine, now tell me yours.” The Viashino glanced around nervously, and then sat down across from Fisco.



“I am called Tirk.” He answered. “I am a friend of Cosssette.” Fisco immediately sat up straighter and looked around the room himself. No one was paying attention to Ol’ Smokey and the lizard, though.



“You followed her?” Fisco demanded. Tirk looked concerned, and nodded quickly.



“I helped her to essscape the night ssshe ssslighted Marco.” Tirk’s tongue whipped out licked his snout uneasily. “I have been helping her run ever sssince. The Don doesss not yet know of my involvement. Today, though, his thugsss found her, and I could only watch from afar.”



“She did not mention you.” Fisco pointed out, suspicious.



“Ssshe would not. I asssked her not to.”



“Convenient.”



“I am not lying, Sssmokey. I care about Cosssete asss though ssshe were my own family.” The declaration seemed genuine, but feelings of affection were easy to fake. “Isss ssshe sssafe, Sssmokey?”



“And if she’s not?” Fisco asked, watching for any sign of treachery. Tirk did not get angry, however, only sad.



“I will be sssad, but I will leave you be.” Tirk shook his head. “Ssshe crosssed Marco. Ssshe is asss good asss dead as long asss Marco livesss.” Fisco mulled what Tirk was saying to him over in his mind for a long time. Tirk remained silent as he thought. If this was a trap from Marco, then the Don worked faster than Fisco gave him credit for. If it was not and Tirk’s story was even partially true, he may have a greater grasp on the situation than Fisco could get. He needed to be able to turn Marco’s army on itself. He needed to know who could be bribed and who could not, what kind of strengths The Don employed, and how many resources he was willing to expend to fix his pride. Fisco did not have that information. Tirk might be able to get it.



“Alright, Tirk.” Fisco said finally. “Cosette is under my protection. It won’t take The Don long to figure that out. Once he does, a few of his thugs are going to die before he realizes he needs to bring out some more force against me. I give us about a week.”



“Sssmokey-”



“I’m going to take over Marco’s territory.” Fisco told Tirk. “And run him out of town. But I need to know more about his employees. You learn what you can and report it back to me.” Tirk regarded Fisco gravely, his yellow eyes shifting back and forth nervously.



“You play a dangerousss game, Sssmokey.” Tirk hissed. “Marco has done much for this district.”



“I’ll do more.” Fisco informed him with a smirk.



“…Very well. I will do asss you asssk. For Cosssette.” Tirk stood up and nodded at Fisco, who nodded back. “I will tell you of what I learn in two daysss time.” And Tirk left the Horse’s Hitch. Fisco watched him go, brow furrowed. There was something going on here that he was not seeing…



He waited fifteen minutes before following Tirk out and returning to his shop. He had a lot to do tonight, and Lucy would be waiting for him when he got back.



***


Fisco was attacked sooner than he thought he would be.



He had left the Horse’s Hitch behind and was making his way to the Pit to investigate it himself. He had probably been on the winding dirt paths that led to the edge of Verkell for all of ten minutes when he noticed someone was following him. He could not help but sneer. Courage, or foolhardiness? Were they after his wealth, or out for revenge? Fisco did not care.



A Minotaur stepped in front of him. The weight of her hoof caused the ground to tremble.



“Ol’ Smokey.” She said with a shake of her massive head. “Word travelled fast you were back in town. Tirk was dead within the hour too.”



“I don’t have time for you, cow.” Fisco spat. She huffed in rage, eyes widening.



“Do you know who I am?” She demanded. If he had to guess, he would say that she was of some relation to Vaik Four-Horns. But at the moment…



“I don’t care.” Fisco told her. “Get out of my way.”



“You killed my father!” She bellowed.



“I killed a lot of people, heifer. Heard the stories?” Fisco was aware that he was being surrounded; he would have to go through this lot. It did not make him happy, but he was feeling a tad… nostalgic.



“My father was the mightiest bull in the Yoke District!” She continued to shout, and bore down on Fisco with her larger size. He had to admit, despite the hardships that no doubt fell upon Vaik’s gang after he slaughtered him, she seemed to be doing fairly well for herself. Though she lacked her father’s signature headwear. She was dressed smartly; that is to say, she dressed ready for a fight. But leather that shiny was expensive. Fisco respected her taste.



“Your father was a stupid brute.” Fisco needed to goad her. With Minotaurs, and especially Minotaurs related to Vaik, that was not going to be hard.



“He was respected!”



“He was feared.” Fisco snarled, stepping toward her bulky frame. “He was big, he was stupid, and he scared everyone weaker than he was. That’s not respect. Your father couldn’t handle respect! And have you forgotten, little calf, what your father, in the days before he died, feared the most?”



He stepped away from the Minotaur, and glanced around at the thugs that had surrounded him. Stupid, stupid. Waiting for their boss to have her say before they beat him down. She was too caught up in the scenario she had crafted for herself to actually take her revenge. He looked back up at the Minotaur, who had also declined to strike him while he was not looking. Steam escaped from her snout with every angry, heavy breath. Fisco pulled out a cigar, lit it casually, and blew the smoke in her face.



“He feared me, doll.” He told her quietly. She bellowed in rage.



“Kill him!”



Fisco threw his cigar on the ground as her cronies charged him. It was not much of a fight; Fisco had brought most of his better toys with him to Jakkard. This cigar was one of them. Black flames lashed out at every thug from the cigar, directed by Fisco’s will. He kept his eyes locked onto the Minotaur woman as flames engulfed her lackeys. There was a lot of screaming, but the smell of burning flesh and hair remained absent. To his trained nose, however, he could smell seared soul. His lips curled up as he stepped through the black flames that damned the foolish thugs to a lifetime’s worth of agony condensed into moments. The Minotaur tried to run, flee from the screams and the fire, all her anger turned to terror in a moment. Fisco’s flames cut her off, and she fell over from the sudden stop she had to pull.



Fisco placed his boot squarely next to her head.



“...Tell me your name, kid.” The screaming had stopped. Now there were only her sobs.



“Vic- Victoria.” She managed. Fisco crouched down next to her.



“You’re stupid, Victoria.” He grabbed her by the horn and turned her head to whisper in her ear. “You know that now, right” She nodded piteously.



“P-please-”



“Shut up!” Fisco hissed into her ear. “Do you know why I killed Vaik? Why I killed Don Marco? Why I killed all of their lieutenants, all of their advisors? Do you know why I hunted down and murdered every person who had gained the tiniest scrap of power under their rule?” She was weeping so fervently that she could not respond. He shook her head violently. “Why did I do it, Victoria?” He screamed. She tried to shy away from the noise, but he held her firm.



“I- I don’t know!” She finally hollered through the hiccoughing sobs. Fisco let her cry for a minute before speaking again.



“Because I was angry.” He whispered, letting her go and standing up. “I had nothing against your father; I was just angry.” Fisco inhaled deeply, and looked up at the sky. He was surrounded by the corpses of nameless men and women. Viashino, Rattlers, Humans… One Nog. He did not regret killing them. He regretted losing his temper. “If I see you again I’ll kill you.” Fisco warned. Then he stepped over her prone, sobbing form and continued to walk down the dusty road.



***


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 28, 2013 11:04 pm 
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Part 4

***


As it turned out, Cosette was a handy cook. Fisco had not eaten anything so delicious since setting up shop in Verkell; he had not much time to eat out, so mostly he just ate from what he had brought along with him. When he returned to his shop, she had a three course meal of tender cooked beef, mashed potatoes, and some sort of vegetable Fisco did not recognize. He ate it unhurriedly as Cosette watched.



“Not hungry?” He asked between mouthfuls of potato.



“I already ate, Mr. Vane.” She informed him. Fisco shrugged, and finished his meal. He cleaned the plate himself, but as he was preparing to put it away, something caught his eye. His flat was not anything special for him, but he was aware it was fit for a king here in Verkell. That’s why he kept it hidden away, with no windows. The only light came from bright lamps, magically lit. The outhouse was in the back, but the kitchen, washroom, and pantry were all connected. His bedroom was in a separate area, and it was there he kept most of his things. His ledger was in there, as well as the bowl of coins he brought with him to alert him to new clients. He kept several large, cushioned chairs at various areas around the flat so that he would always have a place to sit if he was distracted. He, of course, shipped all of his profits off-plane for safekeeping. The flat was a small place, but it had all the creature comforts he required.



The problem was, he had definitely not left it this clean. He looked pointedly at Cosette.



“Did you clean this place up?” He asked. She nodded primly.



“Yes, Mr. Vane.” He cocked an eyebrow.



“Stop calling me that.” He ordered. “I didn’t ask you to clean up.”



“My apologies, sir.” Fisco rolled his eyes. He loathed that word. Sir.



“Call me Fisco, doll.” He grumbled. “No need to be sorry, anyway. Was just surprised you did.”



“I had assumed it was part of my duties as your, ah, ‘employee’... Fisco.” Fisco narrowed his eyes at her. Her face… There was something about her that… His nostrils flared.



“Are you laughing at me?” He demanded. Cosette was unable to stifle her grin any longer, but quickly covered her mouth.



“Your name is Fisco?” She asked, giggling. Fisco frowned at her. Awfully cheery for a wanted woman.



“Yea. That a problem?” He turned around to clean the rest of the dishes, shaking his head. What was wrong with ‘Fisco’? ‘Fisco’ was a perfectly acceptable name. Why did this woman have him second guessing himself anyway? Upstart dandy…



“I suppose not. It just sounds funny.” She remarked.



“Well, I’m not from around here.”



“Where are you from?” She asked. Fisco dropped the rest of the dishes into the sink and turned around. Cheeky woman and her nosey questions; he was getting tired of it.



“Who’s Tirk?” He spat. Cosette froze like a caught mouse.



“Did you kill him?” She asked immediately. Fisco smirked.



“Not yet. Who is he to you?” Cosette bit her lip.



“He’s like my father, I suppose.” She sighed heavily. “He raised me.” Fisco was expecting something a little less... Sentimental. She could be lying about that, but after their previous conversation, he doubted it. Still, Lucy would arrive soon and tell him everything he needed to know.



“Viashino, huh?” Fisco mused, scratching his chin.



“He’s a better man than most humans I know.” Cosette pointed out.



“Fat lot of good being a better man does him.” Fisco snorted, folding his arms. “I have him collecting information for me. He seems like the quiet type.” She smiled wryly, but did not respond. The silence stretched on, then. Fisco had to admit that it was uncomfortable. He was not used to anyone sharing his living space. Cosette yawned, then, though she tried to stifle it. Fisco wanted her to be awake when Lucy came back, to watch her squirm, but he was not certain he could take another moment of this dreadful silence.



“You should go to bed.” Fisco suggested. He nodded at the closed door of his bedroom. Fisco lacked many admirable qualities; chivalry was not among them. He would not let a grown woman sleep on the floor while he had a perfectly good bed in the next room. “I need to speak with Lucy, but I’ll be heading to sleep myself shortly after that.” Cosette nodded, and a look of - what, pain? Regret? - crossed her face. But she masked it quickly and went into the bedroom without another word, closing the door behind her. Fisco stared at it for a long time, brow furrowed, then shook his head.



Women.



Lucy was taking her sweet time; Fisco finished the rest of the dishes and there was still no sign of the cheery demon. He remembered that he had not done his bookkeeping for the day yet. Even though he had sold almost no cigars, he had gotten a new shipment in. Had to pen that down, and it was not as though he was doing anything else.



He went into his room quietly, in case Cosette had already gone to sleep. He did not particularly care about her beauty sleep, but he did not want to deal with her right now. The light was still on, however, and he realized he had never told her how to turn it off. He grabbed his ledger from his chest of drawers, and glanced over to his bed.



Fisco blinked.



“Do you normally sleep in the nude?” He asked casually. Cosette was, in fact, lounging on his bed wearing absolutely nothing. Fisco could not say he minded the sight. He was just not sure why it was happening. Was she trying to seduce him? Really?



“Ah. No, not usually.” She replied. Was she... blushing?



“...You’re expecting me to sleep with you.” Fisco stated.



“I thought that was obvious...” She told him slowly, her face now bright red. Fisco gave her a level gaze, then glanced down at his ledger. He opened it to the appropriate page for today. Not much in the way of profit. Unless you counted Cosette and a vendetta against a dangerous criminal kingpin, but he was not sure how to quantify that.



“I’m not interested.” He looked up thoughtfully. “Flattered, doll. Really. But no thanks..” He glanced down at the numbers again. How many cases was it...?



“I don’t get it!” Cosette shouted, leaping up from the bed. At least she had the decency to cover up with his sheets first. Fisco closed his ledger with a sigh. So much for some relaxing bookkeeping. “What was that whole speech about owning my body for? I thought-” Fisco interrupted her, laughing.



“You-” The more he thought about it, the more absurd it seemed to him, and he just kept laughing harder. “-thought that-” Cosette glared at him with indignation, and the entire exchange had him clutching his rib and leaning against the chest of drawers.



Fisco wiped his eyes.



“Finished?” Cosette asked petulantly. Fisco nodded, still grinning like an idiot. He realized what he was doing and let it fall off. “I have never been so humiliated. How could you lead me to believe-”



“Hey don’t pin this on me, doll.” Fisco shrugged. “You jumped to conclusions.”



“Most men would...” Cosette sighed, finally having the sense to look abashed. “You really aren’t most men, are you?”



“Now you’re catching on. But to be clear...” He gestured to the door. “I’ll be sleeping out there” He turned to leave, but she stopped him.



“Fisco...”



“What?” He was getting impatient; where was Lucy anyway?



“What do you want from me?” She stared at him, looked him right in the eye. Fisco was excellent at reading people. Came with the territory. And he saw something there... Where was that earlier? There was will in her eyes. He knew she had fire, but he had not seen this quiet strength. Perhaps he had not been looking close enough.



“...I’m not sure.” Fisco finally admitted, to himself and to her. He had said a lot of things about owning her and something or other. But he would have normally traded her to The Don in a heartbeat if it meant he could conduct his business and leave without trouble. He was getting involved in a whole lot of things that did not matter to him, and why? For this girl? He stared at her for a long time, and she eventually looked away and sat on the bed. There was no profit, here. No reason to help her.



He was tired of being alone.



“Heya, Boss-” Lucy walked into his room and Fisco spun around. Cosette yelped and attempted to cover herself further. Lucy’s eyes and eerie grin widened. “Whoa ho! I can come back later, boss, don’t want to interrupt.” Fisco rolled his eyes.



“Shut up, Lucy.” He stepped over to one of his strategically placed armchairs, and sat in it with a huff. “What did you find out?” Lucy’s grin vanished, looking from Fisco, to Cosette, and then back to Fisco.



“Boss.” She stuck her thumb out at Cosette. “She’s naked.”



“I noticed.” Fisco remarked dryly. Lucy was still dumbfounded.



“I have had guys sell me their souls for girls like her, boss. Literally.



“Was that a compliment?” Cosette asked from across the room, smiling slightly. Lucy turned to address her, but Fisco’s patience ran out.



“Shut it, both of you!” Fisco snapped. “Lucy, report.” Lucy saluted sarcastically, but began to explain to Fisco exactly what she had learned today by doing some snooping. She corroborated Cosette’s story nearly word for word, even the parts about Tirk. At least Cosette was not lying.



“One more thing, boss.” Lucy said after Fisco dismissed her. He was getting ready to leave Cosette in peace, and was now standing in the doorway. Lucy edged close to him, and dropped her voice. “There is a problem. The altercation downstairs attracted the attention of several angels.”



“So?” Fisco muttered, not seeing her point.



“Angels are our enemies, Fisco.” Lucy narrowed her eyes. “I know you have no quarrel with them, but they do not want to see any Demons with too much power. If they consider you a threat, they will eliminate you.” Fisco grimaced.



“Does Malzeth know?” He asked. Lucy nodded. “I want this place under watch, then. Angels are a problem, but let’s not do anything to make them angry.”



“As you say.” Lucy murmured, and disappeared into the darkness. Fisco leaned against the doorway and pondered this new problem. He knew Jakkard had angels. He did not think they would take an interest in him, however.



“Is she gone?” He heard Cosette ask from behind him. He nodded without turning around. There was another long silence. “...I’m going to try and sleep now.” Fisco stretched, and nodded again.



“Yea. G’night.” He reached over to shut the door, then paused and turned around thoughtfully. “Thanks for the laugh, doll. It’s been a while.” Cosette shifted uncomfortably beneath the sheets, but nodded. Fisco left the room and shut the door. He set himself up in one of his armchairs, but just ended up staring at the ceiling all night long.



***


It was a long walk to the grave, and Fisco had a lot of time alone with his thoughts. He had left the smell of fear and damned soul behind him. Victoria’s sobs had faded away about an hour ago. It was creeping close to the witching hour, and everywhere Fisco walked, the doors were locked and the windows shuttered. Things had really changed since he had turned this district over to Malzeth and Lucrecia. Time was that this street would be filled with people, waist deep in the height of their excess.



Fisco could not take complete credit for the change, but he took grim satisfaction in it.



He turned into an alleyway shortcut, and his nerves kicked in immediately. It was the middle of the night, but the shadows around him were too deep and dense. Fisco slid his hand onto the comforting handle of his revolver, and growled into the night.



“Come on out, Malzeth.” Fisco did not have to wait long for a response, but it was not Malzeth who stepped out of the shadows. It was about two dozen angular, thin creatures, with evil eyes and wicked claws. They dressed in a mockery of human garb, and they all regarded him with hunger and half-opened mouths of razor sharp teeth. Nightstalkers. For now, they remained silent, crowding around each other about five paces away from Fisco.



“Impressive, isn’t it, Vane?” Fisco did not turn around when he heard Malzeth’s voice, but took his hand off of his gun. “Thanks to you, of course.”



“What do you want, Malzeth?” Fisco asked, not taking his eyes off of the Nightstalkers. Malzeth chuckled and clapped Fisco amicably on the shoulder before walking into his field of vision.



“More souls.” Malzeth licked his lips, regarding Fisco with greed. “But that’s nothing new. No, Vane. I just came to thank you.”



“You’re welcome.” Malzeth’s eyes had gone black, which Fisco took as a good sign. No deceit here. Malzeth knew better anyway. “I already talked to Lucrecia, though.”



“Yes, yes.” Malzeth waved his hand. “She insisted that I not bother you.”



“But…” Fisco supplied for him. Malzeth paused, and cocked his head.



“You are a different man, Vane.” He inhaled deeply. “Stronger. Your power is…” Malzeth closed his eyes and smiled thinly. “Tantalizing.” Fisco watched the demon carefully for any sudden movements, and responded stiffly.



“Tell me what you want, Malzeth.” Fisco’s eyes flickered to the Nightstalkers. “And don’t forget – I can kill you.”



“That is the point, Vane.” Malzeth’s nostrils flared, and his eyes went suddenly wide. “You are so obviously my better that it is almost painful to speak with you. Not a day goes by where I don’t wallow in regret that my power is not a product of my own ambitions, but of your rage.”



“So?” Fisco muttered impatiently. Malzeth was certainly in a mood; he was never this talkative before. Malzeth licked his lips nervously, and glanced back at the Nighstalkers. He dismissed them with a gesture.



“So!” Malzeth shouted suddenly, but Fisco’s gaze remained flat. “So, Vane, I am free of your contract but your puppet still. I cannot kill you, nor can I escape the crippling knowledge that all my power is not actually my own. That it is not actually won by me or my mate.” He threw his arms out wide and shadow gathered around him. “That all of this –” Dark, swirling forms surrounded Malzeth, howling, screaming, pleading. Tendrils looped around the damned souls as they fed their strength into him unwillingly. “– is not mine, but yours! Fisco Vane!” Malzeth’s voice took on a dark timbre, his features became more angular and menacing, his teeth sharpened and the shadows gathered. Then all at once, it vanished, and Malzeth, normal again, stood before him with a grave expression. “If I am to be in your thrall... At least do me the service of acknowledging it.” Then, Malzeth got on his knees and hung his head. “You saved my life, Fisco. You saved Lucrecia. You gave up all you had here, and gave it to us. I am a Demon, Fisco, and I cannot understand these things. My debt to you is final and eternal. I must serve you or be torn apart by my very nature.”



Fisco looked down on Malzeth. In the dark moonlight, with the overwhelming shadows gone, he looked like a simple man with jet black hair and nothing left in a world that had not made sense to him for twenty years.



“…You could have contacted me. You knew Tirk had the coin.” Fisco pointed out.



“And meddle in your affairs, Fisco?” Malzeth snorted. “A death sentence, and you know it.”



“You wish to serve me again.” Fisco stated, to clarify. He understood Malzeth, strangely enough. He understood how the Demon wrestled with the feeling of guilt and obligation. Fisco hated the feelings himself.



“I am already in your power, Vane.”



“I told you I was done with Jakkard when I left.” Fisco contemplated for a moment, and then reached down his hand. The Demon glared at it like it was a snake, but took it and stood.



“And yet, here you are.” Malzeth murmured. Fisco nodded; Malzeth was right. He had been right about many things, even twenty years ago. That all those murders had been a foolish waste of resources. That Fisco was blinded by his anger. That leaving Jakkard behind would be a terrible waste of profits.



“Malzeth.” Fisco began, but stopped to think for a moment. He continued shortly. “…I’ll need a list of our resources tomorrow morning. Move Tirk’s body out of my old shop – his soul is already gone, don’t even think about it – and clean the place up.” Fisco smiled slowly. “I hear there’s good business in the Wastes nowadays.” Malzeth grinned; Fisco reflected that this may be the first time he had ever seen a Demon genuinely happy.



“At once… Master.” And Malzeth was gone. Fisco stared at the spot where Malzeth had been, and sighed heavily.



He was terrified.



He was scared of Jakkard. Of what it meant to him, of what had happened, of what he had done. He had passed into legend on this plane twenty years ago after a weeklong vendetta that soaked half the city in blood. Fisco was frightened of what would happen to him if he stayed, he was frightened of losing who he was on this cutthroat plane.



He would never tell anyone else this, however. And he knew that this decision, above all else, would keep him safe. He continued on; he was almost to the grave and he could finally put the past behind him.



***


Tirk turned out to be a surprisingly useful source of information, although Fisco never could pry out of him how he got it. He always told him that there were some “Sssecretsss he had to keep.” Fisco understood the mindset, but he did not like it. Still, there was nothing to do about it but kill him, or send Lucy to trail him. But in the coming weeks sending Lucy on anything that was not crucial became increasingly difficult as their enemies closed around them.



They began their campaign against Don Marco as soon as Tirk arrived with the locations of several of the more easily bribed members of his hired muscle. Fisco was incapable of turning them yet, but he could get them to look the other way as he hit a few of The Don’s minor profiteering operations. The first step was just resource deprivation; Fisco wanted to make sure The Don was in a tight spot before he started negotiations. All the while, he turned attention away from Cosette and towards Ol’ Smokey. Eventually, he stopped hearing about “that wench that insulted The Don” and more about the strange raids that were ruining Marco’s business.



Fisco was pleased with the results, as was Cosette, as she often told him. She continued to cook and clean for him; insisting that it was the least she could do. Fisco was not uncomfortable with the prospect of it. He had, after all, hired help cleaning and tending manors he had not even visited in years. It was just… Well, she had developed a habit for speaking with him. For Fisco, talk was cheap – you either did it to get something or to stall so you could get something. Small talk and pleasant conversation was not something he was familiar with, and yet, it was all Cosette did. She talked about the weather, about her past. About her friends, now gone, about her dreams, and her favorite things. The fact that Fisco never had anything to add did little to deter her. She talked and talked and talked, and Fisco listened.



And he actually enjoyed it. He liked when she talked to him. After a while, he even looked forward to coming home after a long day and hearing what she had to say. Fisco could not remember the last time anyone had bothered to say anything to him that was not strictly business or begging. He lost sleep over worrying about it. He wanted to just shove her on to someone else and let her be their problem… but he could not do it. He was being the worst kind of fool, and yet… He did not want to think about it.



One day, an Angel walked into his shop.



Fisco knew him for what he was almost immediately. Cosette, was, of course, hiding upstairs. She was rarely allowed to go out, but Fisco did his best to keep her entertained lest she begin whining at him. Fisco was posing as Ol’ Smokey in the front room of his shop, a look of implied innocence. More than one group of thugs had been sent to ‘talk’ to him. None of them ever made it out alive. Fisco had yet to speak with Marco, but he was certain he was sending a very clear message.



It was this message, Fisco assumed, that had attracted the Angel.



His hair was dark brown, and he had a face that looked cut from wood. He wore an eye-patch, and it was this that caught Fisco’s attention. Angels normally regenerated wounds fairly easily. What sort of Angel refused to heal their eye? Unless they could not… Fisco was polishing the counter as he walked in. He shot Fisco a piercing look. Fisco set down the cloth slowly.



“I’ll assume feigning the innocent shopkeep won’t work on you.” Fisco told him, and unstrapped his apron.



“You have assumed correctly.” The Angel told him. “My name is Abellus.”



“Fisco Vane.” He replied. “I’m surprised you got past my wards.”



“It was no easy feat.” Abellus admitted. He did not step more than a few paces away from the door. “You are powerful, Fisco Vane. Most of your kind are.” That was the thing about Angels and Demons; they always knew a ‘walker when they saw one.



“Here for a smoke?” Fisco asked hopefully, gesturing to his wares.



“No. I am here to order you to cease and desist.” Fisco raised his eyebrows, and stepped out from behind the counter.



“I’ve met Angels before, Abellus.” Fisco paced in front of the counter, sizing up the Angel. Angels on Jakkard wore long jackets; an illusion of some sort that hid their wings. It was more difficult here to gauge an Angels power than it was on, say, Bant, because they did not sparkle as much. “They usually smite first and ask questions later. What’s making you feel so… lenient.” Abellus’s expression did not change, but he spoke with more force.



“It is not leniency.” He explained. “It is strategically sound that we negotiate with you; losses would be great should we be forced to do battle with you.”



“Ah…” Fisco realized it suddenly, and was certainly more nervous for it. “You’re their war leader. The tactician. The battle commander.” Abellus’s nose twitched.



“None of those designations are correct, but they are similar to my intended role.” He fixed Fisco with another one of those piercing stares. Fisco was familiar with them; they were loaded with magic to force their victims to speak honestly. But Fisco’s will was stronger than Abellus’s. “Will you halt your aggressive actions towards Don Marco?” Fisco masked his surprise before it had a chance to show.



“You work for The Don?” Fisco managed casually.



“No. But he and his family are under the protection of my flight.”



“Why? Marco’s a slimeball; I’ve seen his books – I’ve seen his work! The only thing ‘good’ about him is his luxurious coat of fur.” Fisco chuckled. “I should ask him who is groomer is.”



“Your attempts at levity are understandable, if rather dry.” Abellus replied stoically. Fisco blinked. Has this Angel just insulted his sense of humor? “Don Marco is not the most… outstanding individual. But his presence is a net ethical positive.”



“…Ethical positive.” Fisco repeated flatly. Abellus nodded.



“So long as Don Marco remains in power, he does more good than bad for the vast majority of the population. It is statistically and rationally sound.” That... was certainly one way to explain it.



“And you think I’d be an, ah... Ethical negative?” Fisco asked slowly, trying not to smirk.



“We have no reason to believe that, no - But you are an unknown entity, and this is unacceptable.” Abellus put his hands behind his back, and waited for Fisco to respond patiently.



“What if I could prove that I’m... better than Don Marco?” Fisco was trying to find some way to spin this, but this was nothing he had encountered before. If he was a few decades younger, it would have unnerved him. But now he was able to take interesting developments in stride.



“Unnecessary. Don Marco is sufficient for our needs.” The stare. Again. Fisco wondered why he kept doing it; it was obviously not working. “Will you desist?”



“There’s got to be something-”



“Will you desist?” Abellus repeated insistently. Fisco fell silent, and narrowed his eyes. He did not like being cut off, and he did not like this Angel. Fisco felt his lip curl back in a sneer as he regarded Abellus. He fixed his eyes onto the Angel’s, and fed him a little bit of his own medicine. Some discipline, some order... and the smallest bit of fear. This Angel would bow before him... perhaps not now, but in time. No one slighted Fisco Vane. Abellus shifted uncomfortably, but did not break eye contact.



“No.” Fisco replied. “Get out of my shop.”



“You have been warned-” Abellus began, but a crashing sound behind them interrupted him, and Fisco spun around.



“Fisco!” Lucy burst into the shop from the storeroom, clutching her side. White light shone between her fingers. Abellus whipped his hand at Lucy, and a white-hot spear of energy lanced towards her. Fisco snapped his fingers at Lucy, and she vanished in a puff of smoke, then reappeared at his side. She groaned in pain, but Fisco ignored her. The spear left no mark on the wood of his shop as it collided with it. Abellus had his wings out, now, and his arms spread wide. Fisco snarled, and made a fist. A billowing black cloud erupted from around him to engulf Abellus, but the Angel shouted and beat the cloud of death away with his wings. Fisco redoubled his efforts, and the Angel bared his teeth from the strain. “...They have... Cosette.” He heard Lucy manage beside him. Fisco felt a sudden lance of panic, then rage.



He tripped every single one of his protection spells at the same time.



Onlookers would later speculate that hell had broken loose around Ol’ Smokey’s shop that day. The battle that followed only lasted fifteen minutes; but the things that appeared in the smoke and the flame... Well, they did not have any place on Jakkard. Great, horned creatures with black wings... Many armed, leather covered creatures with several curved blades... And in the middle of it all, Ol’ Smokey with his hair slicked back, poised and throwing out magic that no one had ever seen before.



Somehow, the shop came out intact. The monsters vanished along, and though some claimed to have seen angels battling the creatures, there were no bodies when Marco’s men came to investigate later that day. Just four, black holes in the ground. No one knew what caused them. Marco’s men refused to go in to Smokey’s shop. It was haunted, they said. Cursed. Eventually, it was just locked up and left alone.



Fisco, of course, survived the firefight.



He had intercepted the Angels abducting Cosette before they even left his flat; the details of the battle were not important, but Abellus escaped, and Fisco led Lucy and Cosette away from the battle before they could get hurt. Or in Lucy’s case, more hurt. Cosette had been gagged with some sort of silencing spell, and she could not seem to move her arms or legs either. That suited Fisco fine; he was not the strongest of men, but they made good their escape to one of his safe houses with Cosette over his shoulder. The place was small, but it had food and beds, and for now, that was enough. Malzeth retrieved Lucy, giving Fisco a pointed stare, before they departed to patch her up. Fisco was left to undo the spell that had paralyzed Cosette.



He laid her down on one of the beds and inspected the aura around her carefully. Powerful order magic... No doubt cast by the angels. An enchantment. Fisco wiggled his fingers over her, and broke the spell with a thought. It was amateurish magic, to say the least, but it was strong. Fisco was just stronger.



As soon as Cosette was free, she began sobbing. And coughing. And just generally... losing it. Fisco froze. Eighty years of business, and he had seen plenty of weeping. A lot of begging for forgiveness, for life, for blah blah blah... Eighty years, and this was the first time Fisco had seen anyone he cared about cry.



Eighty years and this was the first time he cared about someone.



He did not know where these thoughts were coming from, but they unsettled him deeply. He clenched his teeth as Cosette wept. Conflicting emotions of shame, anger, guilt, and compassion all whirled inside of him faster than he could understand them. When Cosette grabbed his hand suddenly, still weeping, his fingers close around hers automatically. Almost without thinking as well, he pulled her up and put his arm around her. She wept loudly into his shoulder, and Fisco closed his eyes.



“I hate this city.” Cosette managed to say through the tears. “I hate this whole, dying world. I want to leave! I want to run away forever, but I can’t. I can’t! I hate everything about my life and I can’t get away!” Fisco felt a stab of guilt, then. It was as painful as the knife wound from when he ascended; something Fisco remembered as the most painful experience of his existence, despite eighty years of dulling. He could get away. He could just ‘walk, and leave Jakkard behind. Leave everything behind. But she... Could not. She was stuck with what she got, whereas Fisco could start over whenever he wanted. He had no words for her. She quieted, and simply wept silently while he held her. He did something stupid, then. He did something very stupid.



He promised she would never cry again.



He kept that promise.



***


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 28, 2013 11:04 pm 
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Part 5

***


“Hey there.” Fisco lit his last cigar, and stared at the gravestone. The cemetery was right next to the edge of the city; or at least, it had been. Apparently, when the wastes had become habitable, the walls had come down and expansion had continued outward. Now the graveyard was in the middle of some park area. “Been awhile.” He tapped the gravestone lightly with his boot, letting the cigar hang idly from his mouth. “How are you holding up down there, anyway?” He smiled slightly. “Comfy?” There was, of course, no response. Fisco sighed, and crouched down to rest his head on the cool tombstone. This plane... It brought out the worst in him. And that was saying a lot. He killed people all the time, but he never became emotionally attached to it. The killing, that is.



And his biggest sin was in the ground beneath him.



“I suppose I owe you an apology.” He whispered. “I don’t normally do stuff like this. I know it’s been twenty years, but...” He rubbed his hand over the grave. “...Well, I already killed Tirk. With that gun me and him made.” Fisco pulled a fistful of grass out of the ground, and tossed it idly around him. “Never been one to break a deal.” He pulled out his revolver. “Not going to start now.” He touched the tombstone with his free hand and activated the spell, then stepped away.



Dirt exploded upward. He shielded his eyes as it showered around him. Once it stopped raining earth, he stepped forward to the six and a half foot pit that the explosion had caused, and grimaced.



Abellus was bound to a wooden cross. His one good eye was open wide in pain, the other was missing and shut. His mouth let loose a silent scream that had, until now, been stifled further by the dirt. He was naked save for a black shawl that covered most of his prone form. His hand and feet had been chained to the cross. There was no sign that he even knew Fisco was there. Fisco clenched his teeth, but spoke through them.



“Hey, Abellus.” Fisco spat his cigar into the pit. The binding ritual was Malzeth’s idea, but Fisco had given him the nod. He had been so angry back then... He had buried the angel here for twenty years, and had just forgotten about him. The spell not only kept Abellus in place, it also cut him off from any sort of contact with the energy that normally infused his immortal being. But it also kept his consciousness from pittering out. Kept him alive. Angels were incapable of being driven mad; they could only be killed or corrupted.



Fisco knew, for a fact, that this was the worst kind of torture for Abellus. He did not regret doing it; he only regretted thinking it was ever necessary.



“You know.” Fisco knew the angel could hear him. Abellus was probably just in too much agony to care. He could not move or speak; he could only listen. “This is mostly your fault. All this that happened.” Fisco shook his head. “I wanted out, Abellus. I just wanted out and then you... You self-righteous...” Fisco’s hand began to shake; he had trouble holding on to the gun. “I warned you. You even knew what I was. I told you...” Fisco went silent, and stared at the bound angel. He wanted to curse. He wanted to damn him. But that would be superfluous at this point. He climbed slowly down into the pit, taking his time.



“Tell me, Abellus.” Fisco crouched over the angel, who could not see him, nor even answer him. Only hear him. “Was it worth it?” In a sudden fit of temper, Fisco leveled his gun at the angel’s head. “Was she worth your whole Flight, Abellus? Your brothers and sisters? Was she worth all those souls I gave to Malzeth? Is that the justice you were looking for when you threw her away like a piece of garbage? Was it really worth it just to spite me!” Fisco was breathing heavy; spittle had landed on Abellus’s face, and the barrel of the revolver pressed against the angel’s temple. The angel, of course, did not respond. Fisco stared. There he was, losing his temper again.



It had been a long night.



Fisco pulled the trigger.



***


The next few weeks were chaotic for Fisco.



Malzeth and Lucrecia had gathered a large host of Nighstalkers by now, and because of this, had begun to attract the lesser Demons as well. Fisco was able to hire out Vaik Four-Horn’s gang. That was easy enough. He just told the Minotaur he wanted to muscle into Marco’s territory and the shaggy giant almost did it for free. He did not like hearing about the angels, but Vaik was nothing if not overconfident, so he said his boys could handle it.



Tirk continued to be invaluable. Because he was a Viashino and also terribly non-threatening, he was able to mask himself into a variety of servile positions and listen in on key conversations. Fisco knew he made the right decision to hire him on when he landed a stables job at Marco’s manor itself. Marco had a purebred leotau; he was very proud of it and Tirk’s job was to take care of it. The Don often visited the stables and rambled to the leotau about his problems, and Tirk heard every word.



Abellus’s flight continued to be a thorn in Fisco’s side, however. They always showed up at the most inopportune times and began smiting anything that moved. Fisco stayed one step ahead of them - barely. He was not sure what their fascination with Cosette was, but there goal was always to separate her from him. Once he figured that out, it was a simple matter of keeping his eyes on her. He refused to let anything happen to her. After all, she made him dinner every night, and Fisco had gotten used to going to bed with a stomach full of delicious food.



This is what he told himself, but at night he stared at the ceiling in a state of perpetual worry for many hours. Sleep did not come easily, and he was often forced to refresh himself with magic in order to keep his focus during the day. He could not help it. He worried about her. Day in and day out. He worried about her comfort, safety, and happiness. He worried about her health. He worried about the food she ate. But most of all, he worried about the feelings he had for her. He worried about the traitorous stirrings he felt when she spoke, about the smile she coaxed from him when she smiled. He worried about the curl of her auburn hair, and how it made him want to reach out and stroke it. Fisco was no romantic; but in the darkest hours of the night, he worried that Cosette would never return these feelings.



Finally, they made some decisive progress with The Don. It came in the form of Abellus.



The Angel had often expressed a desire to meet with Fisco and discuss this matter. In response, Fisco had often expressed a desire to kill Abellus in the most painful way possible. Abellus usually asked if that meant ‘no’ afterwards. The worst part is that he did so with a straight face, and was genuinely curious.



When Mal and Lucy popped in to visit Cosette and Fisco one night, they had Abellus with him. Bound and gagged with shadow, of course. Fisco grinned as he finished his dinner, then dismissed Cosette to the backroom. Lucy offered to accompany her, and Cosette accepted warmly. That was another thing that had Fisco worried; they had become rather fast friends... He wondered what angle Lucy was playing at.



Whatever Lucy was up to, it was him and Mal in the dining area with a tied up Angel who watched all these proceedings passively and without comment or acknowledgement of his surroundings.



“Why not just kill him?” Fisco asked Mal as he stood up from the table and put on his coat.



“I was going to.” Mal admitted. “Oh, I was. But he says he comes on behalf of The Don. To negotiate.” Fisco cocked an eyebrow at Abellus, but addressed Mal.



“...Why not just kill him?” He asked again. Mal shrugged.



“I still can. I just thought it was a good idea to run it by you first, Vane.” Fisco nodded, and conceded the point. He doubted he would be upset if Mal had just murdered the messenger, but it was probably for the best that he had not. Fisco hummed thoughtfully, then ordered Mal to break the spell that silenced him. Mal snapped his fingers.



“Start talking.” Fisco told Abellus.



“The Don wishes to cease hostilities. He offers you half of the district, the proceedings in which he will not interfere with, and extends the offer of a business partnership. In return he simply asks that you, in his own words ‘stop destroying everything he holds dear’. The validity of this offer only holds if I am returned safely, and he wishes to meet with you tomorrow, at noon, in order to formally sign a contract stating all of this under the law.” Fisco listened to everything the Angel said carefully, looking for holes. Angels did not usually lie. It was not in their nature, and he had personally never seen one do so.



“It’s a trap.” Mal pointed out. “And not a well hidden one at that.”



“Easier to get a spark from tallow than a well-laid trap from an Angel.” Fisco murmured, amused. If Abellus had anything to say about these accusations, he kept it to himself. “But Angels do not lie.” Fisco pointed out.



“He may not be lying, and it may still be a trap.” Mal said.



“True.” Fisco shrugged. “But a trap laid with what resources? We’ve been bleeding Don Marco for weeks, and with Vaik muscling in to his territory, there’ve been fights all along the north side of the district. Don Marco’s army is spread thin... And we’ve got you and Lucy.”



“That’s not everyone we’ve got now, Vane.” Mal admitted, smirking. He folded his arms and glanced at Abellus, who was still bound. “But we should probably kill him anyway.”



“The Don may not like that.” Fisco said. That was actually explicitly stated, but also beside the point.



“You’ve got him in the position where he is sending an Angel to negotiate with you.” Mal eyed the Angel evilly. “You know what they say about shooting the messenger...”



“Not to do it.” Fisco replied flatly.



“How many times have you listened to that bit of advice, Vane?” Mal laughed, and Fisco had to concede the point.



“So, we kill him, and Marco is down a powerful ally, but we have to kill him or bankrupt him - which won’t be easy, even with all the progress we’ve made.” Fisco scratched his chin. “Or, we let him live, and, assuming this isn’t a trap, we come out with half the district and Marco as a business partner.” Both options were good and left Fisco on top; he could take out Don Marco with enough time. He would prefer not to just assassinate the old fox, since subjugation was not only more satisfying, but more profitable, but given the circumstances... At least Abellus was staying silent on the matter. He sure was calm about the fact that two men were discussing whether or not to kill him.



“Fisco?” He had not heard Cosette approached, so he turned around with a look of mild surprise. Lucy smiled wickedly at him from behind her, and winked. Fisco’s mouth tightened. It was in Lucy’s business to listen in on these conversations, but she should not have let Cosette do so.



“Yea, doll? What is it?” He jerked his head at the bound Angel. “Sort of dealing with something here.” Cosette smiled at Fisco thinly.



“I don’t think you should kill him.” She said, her shoulders straight. She kept her face resolute; Fisco watched it for any sign of change.



“Yea?” Fisco folded his arms. “Why is that?”



“He’s offering you peace, Fisco.” She always held herself like a lady, and Fisco respected that about her. He was not the easiest person to look in the eye, but she always managed. She did so now. “And I... I want this to be over.” Fisco felt a sudden surge of emotion. Right... When The Don was taken care of, one way or another, she... He kept his face neutral, of course. Decades of emotionless had left his facial muscles stiff, after all.



“It’s a dangerous move.” He told her. “High risk, high reward. I’m not one to gamble, and I wouldn’t bet on Marco anyway... Still. It’s an unnecessary risk.”



“Fisco, please...” Her brow creased, and she pouted. Fisco clenched his teeth as his heart beat irregularly. “Can’t we just... Move on from this? Be done with it?” Fisco remained silent, and it stretched on. Lucy’s grin had faded away. Instead, on her face was a look of calculating coldness. Mal’s eyes flickered between Fisco and Cosette like a hungry predator, unsure if he could kill his prey. Cosette did not notice this; her eyes were simply blue, and pleading.



“...Where are we meeting him, Abellus?” Fisco asked finally.



“The edge of the district, by the Wastes. Neutral ground, three miles north of the cemetery.” Abellus answered immediately, as though no time had passed.



“We’ll be there at noon.” Fisco nodded at Mal. “Get him out of here.” Mal snorted so loudly you could almost hear the sneer the crept onto his face.



“This is foolishness; you’ll get us killed!” Mal snarled.



“That’s my right, isn’t it Malzeth?” Fisco snapped back. “Or have you forgotten the contract that binds you to me?” Malzeth’s face darkened considerably.



“You must consider your options, Fisco.” Lucy chimed in quietly. “Setting an Angel free is no small matter.”



“It’s final!” Fisco shouted at the both of them “Get him out of here - alive - and be at the meeting place at noon tomorrow.” He ordered, then regarded them both darkly. “Get!” Fisco roared. Malzeth growled, but vanished with Abellus. Lucy followed him with a sideways glance at Cosette. Fisco grimaced after the Demons. Disobedient, soul-sucking...



“Thank you.” Cosette said quietly, her face soft and... He did not know what else. Fisco’s ire left him like hot air on a winter’s morning; he just sighed heavily, and nodded at her.



“I’m going to take a look at the books.” He muttered, and walked past her. “Need to make sure I call in all I’ve got tomorrow for this ‘meeting’.”



The backroom, of course, had one of his best armchairs in it. He closed the door behind him. No doubt Cosette would clean up the kitchen and go to sleep shortly. He grabbed his ledger from his desk and opened it. It always soothed him; seeing the hard numbers, the projections, calculating profits and losses...



He heard the door open, and sighed inwardly to himself. He closed the ledger. He turned around to address Cosette, only to find her very close.



“What-” She kissed him. Fisco’s first instinct was to pull away; but he was gripped very quickly by a much more powerful instinct. He dropped his ledger on the floor, and kissed her back. His head spun, and many things he had taken for granted stopped making sense all at once. His world turned in on itself. He was the only person in his life; it had always just been Fisco with himself. And suddenly, rapidly, there was...



“Cosette...” He breathed into her neck. He lost himself, then, reaching for the ties of her dress.



Eighty years Fisco had been by himself. Eighty years he had traversed the multiverse, leaving behind him a trail of smoke, blood, and money. If there was one thing everyone he had ever met, crossed, or done business with had taught him, it was that he was alone.



All at once, he no longer was.



***


Fisco had a sudden intense desire for a cigar as he stared at the tomb. He just had to give that one to June... Fisco’s mind closed on itself like a steel trap. No. No distractions this time. He would not delude himself further; he had learned that lesson twenty years ago.



The tomb was a pretty thing. He had brought in the white stone from off-plane. He was unsurprised to see the surrounding area in complete disrepair. Abandoned, for at least one mile in every direction. Anyone living within two was considered crazy. Anyone within three was desperate. But the tomb remained immaculate, as though untouched by time. It was a simple thing. Just a statue of a beautiful woman, sitting down and looking forlornly to the west. Away from Verkell. The base was about Fisco’s height; a wide cylinder with the statue atop it. There was no visible entrance, and as of this morning, he was the only person in the multiverse who knew how to get inside.



He touched the stone. There were no locks for show, but it would open if he willed it. And he did. The stone fell away silently, revealing a passage lit by an ambient glow from an unknown source. White stone stairs led down into dwindling darkness, and Fisco’s throat caught. He swallowed, and began his descent. The stone slid shut behind him.



It was not far down. Just about fifteen feet. The staircase spun in a circle, and at the bottom, a door. It was not locked, nor was there a handle. He needed only push it open.



And he did.



Fisco was not an easily awed man. He had seen a great deal in his travels around the multiverse. Ravnica was a city that spanned an entire plane. Lorwyn was a plane with no edges. He had seen underwater cities made of crystal and waterfalls that poured liquid gold. He had seen whales that swam in the sky. He had even sold some of those whales.



But this... this was so unlike what he was expecting, he allowed his mouth to part slightly in surprise.



Light red and white crystals ran jagged in veins all around the chamber. They cracked the white stone of the tomb, forcing his handiwork apart like paper. A massive stalactite jutted down from the ceiling, glowing softly, nearly touching a shorter, if wider, stalagmite that rose from the ground to meet it. The tips of each crystal formation were barely an inch apart. The stalactite was the source of the red crystal, whatever it was, but the stalagmite was made entirely of the pale white crystal. Fisco pulled the small gemstone Tirk had showed to him earlier. It had a mix of both colors, and as Fisco looked about, he could see that veins from each central cluster met and melded inside the tomb.



This place was not at all how he remembered it, and the white cluster... He approached it slowly, stepping over the offshoot veins of gemstone.



The crystal was not opaque, but it was cloudy. Despite this, he could see a shape inside the cluster. It was her. Just as he had left her. Cosette, in eternal repose, sealed away. She lay on a pearly stone slab, which had been cracked by the crystal around it, but maintained its integrity. Her hands lay over her stomach, an expression of peace on her face. Fisco had cast a spell that would ensure she lay in gentle repose for as long as he lived, and for all the violent work the crystal had done to the tomb, Cosette had not moved an inch from where he had laid her to rest.



She was, however, still dead.



Fisco realized he had not been breathing, and exhaled suddenly. Forcefully. He had told himself he was never coming back to Jakkard. He had told himself he would not get involved here again. He had told himself that, on the off chance he ever did return to this forsaken corner of the multiverse, that he would most certainly never, ever, visit this tomb.



Fisco understood that he had done a lot of lying to himself.



He touched the cluster that held Cosette’s body, and felt the surge of power within it. No ordinary gemstone, but that was obvious. No wonder people coveted it so. It was pure energy; mana. Fisco was not much of a mage - by the standards of others like him. To a planebound individual, he was very powerful. But he knew a thing or two about how magic worked. About the mana that fueled them. And these crystals were rich veins of mana; very rich. Fisco closed his eyes, and eased himself into the pulse of the mana that laced the tomb.



He reached deep, and eventually, he heard a voice.



“Fisco...”



***


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 28, 2013 11:04 pm 
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Part 6

***


Fisco woke first in the morning. He got out of bed silently and dressed himself. Cosette was still asleep. Fisco watched her breathe and rest, his face expressionless, but his mind a cascade of roiling emotion. He turned away and stepped out of the room.



Then he summoned Mal and Lucy.



“How’s the Angel?” Fisco asked, Mal’s gaze was piercing, but Lucy just rolled her eyes.



“He’s fine, boss.” She told him. “Now ask us about the meeting place.” Fisco smiled. Mal may be upset with him, but his better half never let anything phase her.



“Alright. How about the meeting place?”



“It’s called the Pit.” Malzeth replied, glaring at Lucy. She grinned warmly at him, but her eyes were cold and dark. “Abellus was right when he said it was neutral territory; no one wants to go near it.”



“Why is that?” Fisco asked.



“It’s Verkell’s own personal section of the Wastes.” Lucy chimed in. “Sinkhole, about fifteen feet deep and half as wide. Anyone who falls in gets the Waste treatment. That is, they get the life sucked out of them.”



“So, if things go south they, what, push me in?” Fisco shrugged. Not going to happen. “That’s more of a liability on their part. Gives me an easy way to kill them.”



“As you say.” Mal muttered, his eyes flashing dangerously. Fisco glared at him; what was he thinking? Fisco was almost positive that Mal could not pull anything. The contract was too tightly bound. Still...



“Gather your forces.” He nodded at Mal. “We’re having a showdown.” Fisco turned his attention to Lucy. “Tell Vaik. No one is going to be late to this party.” They both left as quickly as they had come. Fisco stared at the space where they had stood, thinking.



When Cosette entered the living area later that morning, Fisco was sitting in one of his armchairs, but he was still thinking. She walked up and placed her hand on his shoulder, smiling. This coaxed out a small smile of his own, and though he was still lost in thought over the implications of this meeting, he was grateful for her soothing presence.



“I’ll make breakfast.” She told him, and he nodded. As she walked away, Fisco was struck by the wonderfully mundane nature of the exchange. It was strange, to him, that someone would just wake up in the morning and want nothing from him but to exchange pleasantries and eat. He did not notice how the smile on his face lingered.



Breakfast was delicious, and they discussed the upcoming meeting over it. Fisco told Cosette that she should stay here, which she was fine with.



“Fisco, you’ve done so much for me.” She placed her hand over his. “Thank you.” Fisco’s eyes met hers, and he grunted ineloquently.



“Sure thing, doll.” He cleared his throat. “You’ll pay me back, I’m sure.” She smiled fondly.



“I plan to.” She told him. They sat in warm silence for a long moment, then Fisco stood.



“I should get going.” He walked over to the coatrack and shrugged on his long, black coat. He looked back as he made for the door. “I’ll have this all settled by tonight, doll. Count on it.”



“I will. See you soon, Fisco.” He grinned, and walked out the door into the bright sun of Jakkard.



He nearly ran into Tirk.



“Ah, Fisssco.” Tirk stepped back. “I have come to visssit Cosssette.” Fisco gestured behind him.



“Keep her some company. I’m going to deal with The Don.” Tirk’s eyes widened in surprise.



“Today?” He hissed. “He diesss?” Fisco shrugged.



“Maybe. But he was interested in a business deal, so we’ll see what happens.” Tirk narrowed his eyes. He was small for a Viashino, but he was still taller than Fisco.



“You do not plan to sssell out Cosssette, do you Fisssco?” Tirk probably thought he was rather threatening. But Fisco knew he was no threat. Still, the accusation stung him.



“Wouldn’t dream of it.” He assured Tirk shortly. “I’ve got places to be.” Tirk backed down, and nodded.



“Very well, Fisssco. I look forward to thisss all being over.” He stepped past Fisco, and through the door. He heard Cosette greet Tirk warmly, but he was already walking away.



His thought turned away from Cosette gradually as he walked. He had a reputation now. He walked down the middle of the road, and a carriage pulled out of the way for him. He smirked. This was the sort of influence you could not buy. Word had gotten around about Ol’ Smokey. The law could not touch him. Marco could not touch him. Not even the Angels could touch him. He was riding on the coattails of his own legend, and despite the fact that he had done this a dozen or more times before on different planes, it still felt good.



He was the last one to arrive. He smiled slowly. Right on time.



The Pit lived up to its name. It was a large sinkhole, black as a Demon’s eyes. No one stood closer than five feet to it. The closest building was about fifty yards behind Fisco, and it was just a rundown house. He did not think anyone lived inside. Beyond The Pit... There was a clear line, marked with bones stuck in the ground. A single sign rose up:



Wastes
Beyond lies Death


On one side of the Pit, he saw Don Marco, dressed in some of the finest red satin Fisco had ever seen, and a few of his top boys. Fisco knew them by name, but they were chumps. Next to The Don stood Abellus, stern and strict as usual. Vaik was on the other side of The Pit. He snorted and nodded as Fisco approached. Even for a Minotaur, Vaik was enormous. The extra pair of horns that adorned his head was enough to impress even the most dispassionate of mercenaries. The stories of the men he had gored on them helped too. He had half a dozen of his best men with him as well.



Mal and Lucy stood off to one side, closer to Vaik but as far from The Pit as they could get while still lending a presence. Lucy acknowledged Fisco’s arrival with a cheeky grin, but Mal just stared, his eyes cold and unreadable.



Fisco stood between both parties, alone.



He pulled out a cigar, and lit it.



Vaik huffed. The Don shifted in place. Abellus was rigid as a board. Mal’s mouth tightened.



Fisco smiled.



“Don Marco.” Fisco took a puff of his cigar as he addressed the Foxfolk. He was getting along in age; but Foxfolk were always shrewd. And slippery. Fisco could see he was even now calculating a profit. It was something Fisco understood very well. “It’s good to finally meet you.” He stepped towards the Don. A flash of iron and two dozen clicks later, and everyone had their guns out.



Fisco roared with laughter.



“I suppose this all seems rather amusing to you, Smokey.” The Don said curtly. “But I believe we are here to discuss a joint business venture, yes?” Fisco’s laughter cut off abruptly. His face was deadpan, but his eyes were cold.



“No, Marco.” Fisco sneered. “We’re here to discuss your surrender. To me.”



“Surely-” The Don began.



“No.” Fisco snapped. “You have lost, Marco. You lost as soon as you agreed to parley. You have no power.” Fisco took a long drag on his cigar, letting the smoke hang about him like a shroud as he blew it out. “But I have power, Marco. Over you. Over everyone here.” The Foxfolk’s whiskers twitched.



“You are mistaken, Smokey.” The Don declared. Fisco remained unimpressed. “It is I who have power over you. See how it now walks towards us?” The Don pointed to an area behind Fisco. What was he talking about? He heard footsteps. Fisco’s brow furrowed, and against his better judgement, he turned around. His eyes widened. The cigar fell out of his mouth.



“Tirk...” Fisco hissed. “What have you done?” The Viashino regarded him calmly as he approached. Over his shoulder was slung a bound and gagged Cosette, who stared at Fisco pleadingly. The Viashino did not answer. Fisco growled, and motioned for Malzeth to take him down.



The Demon leapt into action...



...But the Angels were faster. Suddenly, there were Angels everywhere, appearing in bright flashes of light. Fisco staggered backwards, blinded, and he heard a strangled cry and a roar of rage. When Fisco recovered, he saw Lucy writhing on the ground with a glowing white spear sticking from her chest and Mal facing down three Angels.



Then the Nightstalkers began showing up.



They slipped out of what little shadows they could find; Demons came with them. The area became noticeably darker, and they began to close in...



“Enough!” It was Abellus. He raised his hand, and a barrier sprung forth. The first few Nightstalkers to run into it were incinerated. The rest had the presence of mind not to try. Fisco whirled about. Mal was still fending of the Angels. But he was capable. Ignore him for a moment... Tirk was running towards Marco!



“Vaik, stop him!” Fisco shouted at the bull, who huffed. Fisco took a better look at him and his men and their stupid smirks. His face darkened. “...Bad move, Vaik.” The big bull shrugged.



“Smokey. You’re dangerous. Dangerous to Marco. Dangerous to me.” He pounded his chest. “Me and Marco split your profits fifty-fifty. I just had to sell you out. So...” He laughed. “I did!” Tirk arrived at Marco’s side, and Abellus stepped in front of the Viashino. Fisco snarled; but then he saw Abellus grab Cosette from Tirk, and froze.



Immediately, he knew his mistake.



He had grown attached. He had shown weakness, and they had exploited it. Abellus took the gag out of Cosette’s mouth.



“I hate you!” She screamed raggedly at Tirk in desperate rage. Tirk just watched her sadly. “I hate you! How- How could you...!”



“It isss for your own good, Cosssette. You cannot trussst Fisssco. Do you not know what he isss?” Tirk stepped forward to comfort her, but she pulled away as best she could.



“Fisco, eh? So that’s your name.” The Don and Vaik both walked closer to Fisco. He drew his weapon and so did their cronies. For the bosses’ parts, they stood in the back. Behind Fisco, he heard Mal grunt, and admit defeat. The contract bound Mal to defend Fisco with his life; he could not flee unless he released them...



“I release Malzeth and Lucrecia from their bondage!” Fisco shouted. Abellus shot forward, but Fisco leveled his gun at the Angel and he froze. There was a flash of shadow, and the sound of Angels coughing. Fisco smiled grimly.



He was surrounded shortly, a dozen guns pointed at him. He put up his hands and was grabbed roughly by a pair of Angels. They forced his hands behind his back as his mind raced. The Don Spoke.



“You’ve given me a lot of trouble... Fisco.” He stepped in front of Fisco, and the Angels forced him to his knees so that he would be eye level with the venerable Foxfolk. “For what?” He gestured to Cosette. “This bit of skirt?”



“Didn’t think you’d turn Tirk.” Fisco replied mildly. The Angels were being unnecessarily forceful, but he kept his voice mild. “...Why’d you do it, you slimy lizard?” He could not see the Viashino, but the Don let him reply.



“I know what you are, Fisssco. Abellusss told me.” He hissed. “You are not interesssted in usss. You would have sssold her to the Don in a moment if ssshe was not ussseful to you in sssome way.” Fisco shook his head slowly, but one of the Angels tugged on his arm and he grunted.



“Stupid lizard...” He muttered. He did not have time to waste lamenting Tirk’s poor life choices. Fisco had been in many tough spots. But none quite as tough as this.



“I’m a busy man, Smokey.” The Don said. “I have places to be, so here’s the short of it: I am going to throw you into The Pit. You’re going to die, and I am going to seize all of your assets, execute a few disloyal mercenaries, and things are going to return to business as usual.” Fisco looked the Don dead in they eye. The old fox was unfazed. Fisco was ashamed of himself; ashamed that these words were about to leave his lips. He was ashamed, scared, and in awe of what he was about to say. But he would not regret asking the question.



“What about Cosette?” He muttered. The Don scratched his snout.



“She goes free. Tirk played his part faithfully, and I am thankful for it.” The Don winked at Tirk. “Faithfulness is rewarded after all.” Fisco nodded, and closed his eyes. His heart and mind ached. His body was sore. He was surrounded by Angels who would react to his actions in the blink of an eye. He was surrounded by men who would respond slightly slower.



Fisco swung his head around to where he knew Abellus was standing. He was not stupid. The Angel was pulling the strings behind this whole operation. He had turned Tirk. He had put Marco up to the task of facing Fisco down. He had overseen it all. And for what? His ‘net ethical positive’? Fisco clenched his teeth, and stared into the Angel’s steely, blue eye. Abellus’s face twitched in disgust, but otherwise, he did not react.



“Bring him over to the pit.” The Don ordered. The people crowding him parted. Abellus, the Angels holding Fisco, and Don Marco, and Tirk, with Cosette in tow, all approached the pit. Everyone else, even Vaik, stayed behind.



“Fisco Vane.” Abellus began. “For the crimes of larceny, murder, arson, bribery of city officials, blackmail, obstruction of justice, petty theft, grand theft, and destruction of property, committed against the City of Verkell, the people of the City of Verkell, and against his esteemed grace The Don Marco, I sentence you to a swift and just death at the mercy of the outer Wastes.” Abellus paused to collect himself. Fisco did not bother looking at the Angel; he could hear the smugness in his voice. “May you find mercy in death, for you will find none in The Pit.” Silence fell. A light breeze tickled Fisco’s face. He stared into the pit. He could see bones down there. So. This was where the Shark finally stopped swimming...



“Throw him in.” Marco ordered.



“No!” Cosette shouted, and Fisco tensed. No, she- Then he felt it. One of the Angels holding him stumbled and fell; the fool girl must have charged headlong into him! Fisco wasted no time; he reached into his coat quick as whip and brought forth a serrated blade. With a twist, he shoved it into the belly of the other Angel that held him, and simultaneously kicked Don Marco off of his feet. Wind rushed passed his ear, and he felt a binding spell begin to take hold of his limbs as Abellus shouted. Fisco nicked his thumb with the dagger and focused on the pain; it helped him shake off the spell. He shoved the dagger into the prone form of the angel who was struggling to get a writhing Cosette off of him, and he screamed in agony and fell still.



Tirk’s tail caught Fisco full in the face, and he fell backwards. The men behind him, they-



A gunshot was heard. No one moved but Fisco.



Fisco sprang up, then froze. Tirk had his hands up and was backing away from Fisco. Don Marco had drawn his weapon and was pointing it into the air.



“That is quite enough!” The old fox shouted. Abellus dragged Cosette into the air by her still-bound hands. The two Angels Fisco had stabbed blackened and turned to ash. Fisco smirked; enchanted knives. Gotta love them. Abellus’s eyes widened in anger. “Fisco-” The Don was cut off by the Angel.



“Silence, you old fool!” Abellus shouted. The Don was taken aback, and did as he was told. “This man is guilty now for the death of two more of my flight!” The anger in his eyes was intense, but Fisco returned the gaze evenly. “And this woman-” Abellus shook Cosette, and she gasped. “Is guilty as well!” Fisco’s nostrils flared in shock.



“Abellus-”



“There will be justice!” The Angel screamed. Fisco’s eyes widened, and he started for the Angel. But he was too far away. He met Cosette’s eyes just as Abellus swung her over the Pit; just as he let go. He saw her pleading, begging...



To her credit, she did not scream.



A dull thud. Fisco felt something in him break. He did not know that it was his heart. His emotions fell away; or at least, he perceived that they did. In truth, he was too angry too actually feel anything. Fisco had gone mad with grief; he just did not know it yet.



“Kill him-!” Shouted Abellus; but if there was one thing Fisco knew how to do in a hurry, it was ‘walk. He ‘walked blindly, leaping into the Eternities. He howled as he did so, and it seemed to those watching that he just vanished with a cry of crazed rage. Fisco did not know on what plane he ended up; he only knew that he was alone, and he screamed of his anger to the night sky of that unknown, insignificant plane. He screamed about the smallness of this whole damned existence, about the meaninglessness of it all.



But most of all, he mourned Cosette.



***


Everyone present during Fisco’s escape was dead within a month.



Fisco just killed Marco in his sleep. The fox was the first one to go. Fisco almost did not do it; it was barely worth his time. He hunted Marco’s lieutenants next. No poetry. No message. Just death. He left them wherever they happened to lay and killed them wherever they happened to be. Now that he had no one on Jakkard to protect, he did not have to stay on plane in between assassinations. He moved around like a ghost.



He let Tirk see him watching every now and again, just to see his scales go white with fear.



Vaik was next. He expected duplicity from his enemies. He expected loyalty from his minions. He killed Vaik last, in the middle of the street, at high noon, so that everyone could see him beg for his miserable life. He left Vaik’s head, hornless, in the middle of the road. They never found the rest of his body.



Fisco still had those horns mounted somewhere.



Malzeth and Lucrecia made it out. Lucrecia was almost killed, but she pulled through somehow. She never said so, but Fisco knew she was thankful to him. They mostly steered clear of him at this time, however. He only tracked them down to offer them all the souls. They, of course, agreed.



The Angels were next. He ripped them out of the skies. He killed them with the darkest, most vile spells he knew. When he finally cornered Abellus, he had already come up with the ritual that would bind him in perpetual agony. Fisco put him in the ground and told June to make sure no one bothered him. June agreed, probably out of fear for his life.



Fisco saved Tirk for last.



He found him holed up in an alleyway, jumping at ghosts.



He begged for his life. Fisco put him to work. He had Tirk craft the gun that Fisco would kill him with. It was a work of art, really. Only two bullets; one for Tirk and one for Abellus. Anyone who was shot by it would be completely obliterated. Soul and all.



Tirk asked when Fisco was going to kill him.



“...You loved her, didn’t you, Tirk?” Fisco asked the exhausted Viashino after the gun was complete. Tirk’s face crumpled.



“Asss if ssshe were my own...” He replied pathetically. Fisco nodded, inspecting the chamber.



“You killed her, Tirk.” He spun the chamber and snapped it shut, then glared at Tirk with dead eyes. “You get to live with it.” He flipped one of his coins at the Viashino. “If you ever get tired of it, though. Just light that coin. I’ll meet you back at my old shop. We’ll chat. I’ll give you thirty seconds to say your peace...” He pointed the unloaded gun at Tirk’s head, and pulled the trigger emphatically.



The Viashino broke down and wept, then. Fisco left him.



But before all of the killing, Fisco had gone for Cosette. He removed her lifeless body from among the bones. He called in favors from some stoneshapers; he had the statue and the tomb made up to his mental specifications within hours. He was able to seal up The Pit with the white stone - a manaless substance immune to the hunger of the Wastes. He dressed her in her favorite dress, and cast a spell to preserve her body. He laid her down on that marble slab, and he had left to do all that killing.



But all that killing had not brought her back. And here he was again, in her tomb, on Jakkard.



And he was face to face with her.



She smiled at him.



“Cosette...” He breathed. He was in a trance, within the power of the crystals. He could feel the press of many consciousnesses around him, but Cosette’s was the strongest, and he banished the rest. There was only her.



“I knew you would come for me.” She said, her voice distant. “It has been such a long time, Fisco.” She reached for him, her eyes pleading. “Free me, please.” Fisco struggled internally, his mouth worked uselessly.



“I can... bring you back, Cosette.” He told her. “I did research, but I needed your soul, and-” She floated towards him and cupped his face in her hands.



“Don’t you see, Fisco?” She whispered to him. “I am finally free of Verkell, if only you will let me go.” Fisco stared into her eyes. Her beautiful blue eyes.



“I love you.” He begged. “Don’t leave me again.”



“Free me, Fisco. Please.” Fisco was desperate... but he could not say no to her. Not after all this time. Not after all he - and she - had been through. He reached forth with his will, and felt about with his mind. The crystals held her soul prisoner. It could escape if only he shattered them.



“...Goodbye, Cosette.”



“I love you, Fisco.”



He choked. Outside of his mind, around his still body, the crystals shattered as a pulse of energy shook the tomb. Fisco rushed back to himself all at once, opened his eyes, and stared at Cosette’s still body. She did not move. She never would again. Broken crystals littered the floor, slowly losing their glow. Fisco stood, and kissed Cosette’s corpse lightly on the forehead.



He brushed off the warm tear that accompanied it.



Fisco sealed the tomb again behind him, and looked up into the night sky. Jakkard. All those years ago, this plane had weakened him. Almost broken him. But he had come out on top. As Fisco’s beating heart slowed, he walked away from the tomb. He thought about what he had told Malzeth earlier that night, and felt, for the first time since receiving that coin from Tirk, calm. At peace. Looking forward to a business proposition. Fisco smiled slowly. Yea... a little money-making was just what he needed right now.



It was time to get back to business.



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