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[Trickster Fanfic] The Velvet Curtain (1/10?)

Posted 10-25-2008 at 08:48 AM by Catharsis
Updated 01-14-2010 at 07:25 PM by Catharsis
Title: The Velvet Curtain
Fandom: Trickster Online
Genre: AU/action/romance/angst
Length: 8-10 chapters... maybe.
Summary: Old debts get settled, one way or another…
Author’s Note: Set in the alternate universe Trickster world that will never be, where the bright and happy Caballa has turned into a dystopian wreck. Forgive me for fusing Oops Wharf with the 1920s Wild West. The fact that this fic was written to Sting's Shape of My Heart shouldn't make me look too much like a loser because the lyrics are so ****ing apt, it's killing me.

Read the rest HERE.

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I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier
I know that the clubs are weapons of war
I know that diamonds mean money for this art
But that's not the shape of my heart


Act One: Swords of a Soldier
Chapter 1


He strutted into the saloon like he owned the world but didn’t give a damn.

His swagger was indolent yet purposeful, languid steps that swallowed paces faster than most men ran. His clothing was travel-weary and dusty, yet the russet suit was obviously custom-tailored to his tall yet lanky build and the carelessly knotted cravat made of fine silk. A rakish smirk perpetually touched his mouth, self-satisfied and amused at nothing in particular. Beneath the garishly yellow lamplights, his spiky disarray of auburn hair shone with streaks fire and gold, a beacon in that the drab excuse for a saloon-slash-brothel that is The Velvet Curtain.

Low murmurs replaced the usual slapdash chatter of drunks and gamblers as dozens of eyes discretely shifted and followed like shadows.

The flame-haired man was gone as fast as he came. He nudged his silver spectacles into place before pushing into a pair of adjoining doors that swung with unending creaks to-and-fro, to-and-fro before settling back in their hinges. And just like that, the room was left silent and agape, curious ogling eyes suddenly bereft of a focal point.

It took a while before the whispers began, at first reverently hushed but eventually exponentially escalating as patrons resumed the shuffling of cards and the toss of yellowing dices, barely-clad waitresses in frilly aprons handing out clinking glasses of cheap whiskey to leering men and finally – finally – The Velvet Curtain recommenced its business of draining common men’s pockets.

It could be none other that the notorious gambler known only as “Jack”. His real identity and origins unknown, he had become something of a legend after arriving at Oops a year ago and cleaning out every saloon in the county within a span of eight days. In a town infested with outlaws, that would have been the fastest route to the gravedigger’s door, but it soon became apparent that playing cards was not Jack’s sole talent: He also alarmingly proficient in erasing people’s inconvenient existences, and would even perform the same service for others given the proper incentive. The local gambling rings were more accommodating soon after that fact was made public.

How a renowned assassin with a penchant for gambling found his way into the deepest recesses of Oops Town, a lawless territory and virtual ghost town unmarked in most Caballa maps, was still beyond many people’s comprehension. Naturally, what people could not know or understand, they supplemented with speculation, usually bordering on the ludicrous. Tall tales ranged from Jack being a lost prince of Mirage Island to a broken-hearted man attempting to mend his broken heart with the help of cards, whiskey, and prostitutes.

Notoriety, Shawn decided as she sank further into a creaking wooden chair, was a two-edged sword. It kept annoying people away from your business, yet persistently kept their noses pressed close… Close enough to keep the rumor mills running, and rumors were almost as good as paper trail, weren’t they?

She supposed she should be grateful. If it weren’t for his reputation, she wouldn’t have crossed miles of land and leagues of sea, cities and counties and deserted fields alike just to track him down and…

“Interested in ‘Jack’, aren’t we?”

Face shadowed by the rim of her battered cowboy hat*, Shawn languorously lifted her eyes, violet gaze slowly narrowing into a glare as the owner of the intrusive voice slowly pulled out a seat across her and draped himself quite comfortably on a not-so-comfortable chair. It was a young man, perhaps no older than herself. He had a fine-boned face that might be too pretty for his own good, pale skin bordering on alabaster, and raven hair worn loose and long – features that clearly identified him as one of them – but even more disquieting were those hawk-like eyes that seemed too perceptive for her liking.

Could he see? Behind the floppy hat, the crimson bandanna shrouding the lower half of her face, the oversized charcoal coat, the guise of an arbitrary traveler, the charade…?

“I’ve stumbled upon a taciturn young man, I see.”

And there it was; an inflection as subtle as the knowing glint in his eye…

Beneath her cloak, the steady hold on the devil gun* tightened to a vise-like grip.

“…Perhaps new to this town, I wonder?” Hawk-Eyes elegantly flicked lock of dark hair back his shoulders, slithering against the textured cloth of his heavy velvet-green cloak as it joined the rest of the his tresses. The gesture was casually aristocratic, and if the richness of his garments – the onyx-encrusted chain peeking beneath the neckline, the exotic appliqué lining his cheongsam, the batik sash hand-embroidered with silver threads – were any more telling, she would peg him for a…

Shawn rolled her shoulder in a shrug, deceptively casual even as she surreptitiously shifted her gun to point towards Hawk-Eyes’ heart beneath the table. Voice carefully modulated to a low, masculine hoarse, she retorted, “And I wonder as well what a Dragon is doing so distant from the East, and a nobleman at that?”

The Dragon smiled blandly and very carefully gathered the cards scattered on the table, his slender white fingers shuffling with an almost entrancing grace. “Tempering* with Fate, of course. Much like you.”

Two cards slipped towards her side of the table, turned down.

“Heads Up Poker. A whole different game, so they say. The player with the impenetrable mask and the highest bet usually prevails. The higher the call, the more you could lose. Tell me, little fox; how well can you bluff?”

A game of cards required two hands. Shawn cast him a smoldering glare, but he was already glancing at the two he had dealt himself.

“I have nothing left to lose,” she gritted out, fingers flexing restlessly against the devil gun.

Those eyes, deep and dark as endless pits, snapped back to her, pinning her with his gaze. Probing, analyzing. Could he really read her so effortlessly? A slow smile touched his mouth, making him appear both sinister and lovely, and he murmured, “So you say, but did you truly think it would be that easy?”

Had she been a tad more temperamental and reckless, she would have shot him right then and there; blown a hole straight through his chest, even knowing that he could just as easily set mana arrows upon her as soon as her index finger so much as twitched*, but there was unmistakable knowledge in his eyes. Not just of her, but of the man she came here to see.

“I wonder what you mean,” she whispered, her finger relaxing on the trigger.

“You are not the only person who comes looking for him here with murder in his eyes.”

“Is it any of your concern what a common traveler’s intentions are?”

“It is, if it will bring me amusement. It is not often that I meet cross-dressing females pointing a gun at my crotch.” This time, there was humor in his eyes. “Tell me, ‘common traveler’; do you even know the rules of this game?”

At this, Shawn snarled. “I wasn’t aware we were playing a game.”

“Oh?” The Dragon carelessly waved his cards. Double aces, the bastard. “Everything here is a game, little fox. If you want to win, you need to play by the rules… Or seem like it, at least. Now, if you are willing to raise, perhaps I can assist you in your little endeavor.”

She scoffed in disbelief. “What’s in it for you?”

“Nothing. Nothing at all, save a distraction…”

“I do know a bluff when I hear one, Dragon.”

“Luong.”

“What?”

“My name is Xi Luong, but you may call me Luong. I will spare you the honorific since it may be too much for a commoner’s breeding.”

The snarl came fast and quick. “Of all the arrogant, insufferable…”

“What else can you lose?” Luong interjected, casting a measuring look, as if assessing if she was worth his while. “You cannot play without chips. Now tell me, little fox, if you have nothing, what can you bring to the table?”

This was it; her opening. A stranger was allowing her into the circle for nondescript reasons, and it was all the rope she was allowed. If needed, she would hang herself with it.

“The only thing I have left in my possession,” she answered gravely, and slammed her devil gun in the middle of the table, barrel facing her heart. “My life.”

And the dark dragon could only smile triumphantly.



* * *
TBC


*Author’s Notes
- Cowboy hats for nostalgia! Custom cowboy hats used to be the rage pre- and post-CB (surely the veterans can remember this) but now the closest people use is that fedora. Heh, no MyShop for my Shawn.
- Please do not raze me regarding skill cool times. I know, Power Shot vs Arrow Rush? O prz??

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Comments

  1. Miyuki's Avatar
    Nice one, as expected from you o;
    permalink
    Posted 10-25-2008 at 09:10 AM by Miyuki Miyuki is offline
  2. Catharsis's Avatar
    Thanks. ^^; Not bad for a rush job? xD

    Also, I always end up writing more about dragons. He's not even supposed to be a main character. Q_Q
    permalink
    Posted 10-25-2008 at 09:26 AM by Catharsis Catharsis is offline
  3. Miyuki's Avatar
    XD, yeah, still nice tho for a rush x3.

    Lol, the dragons, kinda gave something like "meanie smile" feeling @_@
    permalink
    Posted 10-25-2008 at 10:22 AM by Miyuki Miyuki is offline
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