Who: Zaire, Brandy, various NPCs
When: June 871 RoK
Where: A small tournament in the East, near the coast.
Zaire's eyes narrowed as they finally settled on the prey he'd been hunting for the last two weeks: a man of average height, reddish hair tied back from a face that some would likely describe as handsome despite the crooked set of his nose. Jasper Lambert, his name was and his manner of dress betrayed him as a sailor. On a normal day, it wouldn't take much to leap to the conclusion of pirate but today wasn't a day where people noticed such things; there was too much excitement in the air, too much booze in the bellies, and very little mind paid to the crowd when jousting was competing for attention.
This meant that the Captain was free to move through said crowd, his attention never straying far from Mr. Lambert as he tailed him around the grounds, seeking the perfect opportunity to make his move--
And then seized it, when the pirate in question, with a freshly filled flagon of beer, stumbled toward the edge of the tournament grounds to empty a bladder that was full to bursting. He'd been listing when he'd turned to head back, making it that much easier for Zaire and his companions to drag him between two colorful tents - each topped with equally colorful pennants - and break his teeth with a sharply delivered blow from the pommel of a cutlass.
Blue eyes had widened when they'd recognized his attackers and Jasper Lambert had begun to beg, the words thick with blood and rapidly swelling gums. Apologies and excuses spilled from his broken lips - I swear, Cap'n, I didn't know she was yer daughter! - prompting Zaire to remove his tongue.
The rest of the punishment was dealt slowly, by Zaire himself, while a crew member kept watch at each end of the small alleyway. A cheer went up around them as the man's fingers were removed one by one, a suitable punishment for laying hands where they never should have been, and then his manhood hacked off with a savage twist of the knife. Finally, his eyes were cut from his skull, so he could never again look at another fifteen year old girl with lecherous intentions.
"Cap'n," Chione hissed, stepping back from the mouth of the small canvas lined alleyway. "We should move."
"She's right, Cap'n," Mr. Alby agreed from the other side. "We been 'ere too long, mate."
With one final glare at the pirate lying bleeding and disfigured on the ground, Zaire simply nodded and the trio left the alleyway to quickly melt back into the crowd.
"Here," Chione said, pressing a handkerchief into Zaire's bloodied hand. "Clean y'self up."
No one was likely to notice Zaire's pale hands stained in red, not with the epic show ongoing. The knight dominating the games was massive - taller, even, than the Green Duke, gossiping peasants speculated - with dark, tanned skin and handsome features, probably from the border of the South and West, that sent chatter through the common girls when he flipped his helmet up. The excitement, though, stemmed from the fact that he was low-born and capably and soundly beating his high-born counterparts.
Handing them their own noble asses, Brandy thought, and glanced about herself with a measure of discomfort at the profanity even if it was only in her mind.
So, she had learned, the quality of clothes you came to Eventyr with made a difference in which clothes you ended up with when you were here. Her usual jeans and tshirts had always afforded her a commoner's dress, but the businessey suit she had worn to the audition that afternoon before she had spotted a fairy circle in the grass transformed into a gown so fine that everyone had been too busy bowing and calling her my lady to notice that she wasn't lady of jack shit. The seats for the nobles were better, and she had even caught the eye of the now-leading knight at the beginning of the tournament, but there was not nearly enough laughter or joking among the nobles for her taste. All the conversations were muted and coded and frankly boring as fuck. It made Brandy miss the gossiping drunks she chatted with while bartending.
As her champion claimed yet another victory, Brandy stood from her seat, kissed her hand, and lowered it down to the knight. He galloped up on his horse, with enough precision he was able to kiss her hand in return, and then he was off on some show that Brandy frankly didn't understand and so she excused herself with polite smiles all around. She needed a drink, and not that sweet moscato-ass shit the ladies were drinking…
'Business' done and over with, Zaire and his two companions - previous crew members of the Red Death and now crucial to his own vanguard - made their way through the crowd. That simmering rage had faded and while Zaire's actions wouldn't change what had happened to Oseanië, it would ensure that it wouldn't happen again by reminding everyone on the Island of Pirates just what it meant to cross Captain Visser. It was the best he could do to fix the situation.
Wiping away the blood was nigh impossible, splattered as it was up each sleeve and here and there on the rest of his clothing so Chione and Alby moved in a bit closer as they walked, using their own bodies to shield their Captain as much as they were able. The three didn't exactly blend into the crowd though - Alby with his tattoos and scarred face, and Chione, beautiful and dangerous - and it was perhaps their close proximity that lead to Zaire having to crane his neck to see around his Master Gunner's shoulder when he swore he'd spotted a familiar face.
It felt like a long time since Zaire had spared more than a regretful thought for Brandy. Things had ended on a strange note between them that he hadn't quite been able to follow, so he'd done the thing he'd assumed she'd wanted: he'd mourned the loss of a friend and continued on with his life, leaving her to do the same.
And there she was, a face in the crowd and moving roughly in his direction. He knew that he should avoid her, just keep his head down and let his crewmates block him from her view. They needed to keep moving; he'd just mutilated a man in public and it would only be a matter of time before Jasper Lambert was found. In short, this was no time to chat with old friends, yet he found himself trying to make eye contact all-the-same . . .
Brandy was preoccupied with keeping her fine silk skirts out from under her golden slippers that were ironically just as beautiful and uncomfortable as the designer heels she had come through the fairy circle with. But discomfort or not, she did need to use her brain here - most nobles brought servants with them to fetch drinks, but Brandy, for her all her apparent finery, had no one to order around and so the mission became her own. It was the easiest mission in the world, though, finding booze, and her assumed noble status could only make it easier…
But as her attention lifted and focus went to moving through the crowd, her scanning eyes quickly found the pair or dark eyes seeking her own. A fish out of water, wasn't he? Brandy mused, a smile pulling at her lips, and found she was profoundly glad to see her pirate captain again. He was married and apparently sensitive about the fact when push came to shove, but the circumstances of the day assured her there would be no pushing or shoving of any problematic kind, and so Brandy allowed her gilded feet to wander in the captain's direction…
She was stopped short, though, when her progress was intercepted by a woman. The Asian woman - Southern, Brandy corrected - stepped up confrontationally, and Brandy's focus singled in on her. Was she one of Zaire's pirates? How fucking-hashtag-feminist of him! The respect Brandy felt absolutely overrode the inherent danger because she knew the expression on her face was not hostile, but appreciative.
"Damn," Brandy said, her language coarse enough to disrupt assumptions about her nobility, but somehow, also the way she drew out the curse felt peculiar, more like daaaayuuum. The woman was beautiful, stunning, if one took a moment to appreciate her. It was easy to overlook lovely features when she wasn't dressed up. Brandy would have hit that in a heartbeat, had the woman's defensiveness and hostility not been so apparent.
Instead, Brandy's gaze shifted to Zaire. She hadn't seen his face in so long, although it had never been absent from her dreams. Feet planted, Brandy invited, hopefully, extending a hand, "Find a drink with me?"
Chione drew herself up in response to Brandy's curse, unsure of how to take the . . . compliment? It was the oddest sort she'd ever heard when, outside a brothel, they typically came in the form of catcalls or blatant sexual harassment.
"I think she likes ya, Chione," Mr. Alby chuckled, stepping aside as Zaire laid a prompting hand on his shoulder.
"'ello, love," Zaire said, eyes drifting down over Brandy's body. He wasn't sure where she'd gotten such a gown, but it looked lovely on her, the cerulean satin complementing the red of her hair perfectly. "Didn't expect t'see ya here." In fact, it was just about the last place he'd expected to run into her.
His eyes went to Chione, then to Alby. "Grab a drink, aye?"
Chione's eyebrows lowered and she looked at him as if he'd sprouted a third eye. "Cap'n, I don't . . ."
"That's Brandy," Alby interrupted, throwing a knowing glance at his Captain.
"Oh," Chione's eyes went to Brandy again, this time looking her over with a half smirk on her face. "Aye, Cap'n."
Zaire waited until the two had drifted toward the nearest beer tent before tipping his head in the opposite direction. "How've ya been, Brandy-love?" he asked, wiping again at his hands in a fruitless attempt to clean away the last hints of blood stuck in the whorls of his fingerprints.
When the tattooed pirate identified Brandy so accurately, one eyebrow rose in surprise. She was Brandy, but how did this guy know who Brandy was? Zaire must have spoken about her, and she wondered what he must have said to put such a cute smirk on the Lady Pirate's face…
"No complaints," Brandy said, and realized her gaze had followed the enchanting woman in question. For most of their friendship, their final conversation aside, Brandy had always been evasive when asked about herself, and it seemed she had returned to that comfort zone - or, perhaps, she simply found her own questions much more pressing. "I've always heard that women were bad luck on ships…"
Zaire followed Brandy's gaze, watching Chione as she moved away with one last disapproving glance over her shoulder at her Captain. "Only bad luck Chione brings is t' our prizes." She was one of the fiercest fighters he'd ever met and teamed up with Mr. Alby, there was little the pair wouldn't be willing to do and then succeed at.
"My crew ain't buy into superstitions much," he answered. "They can't. Not with me as their cap'n."
Zaire's movement caught Brandy's attention and her eyes dropped to his hands, and her first thought was that the cloth was a bandage. "Are you bleeding?" she asked, curious and a bit concerned, before her mind caught up with her. There were also spatters of blood on his sleeves. "Ohh," no - someone else was bleeding, and that probably meant she wasn't supposed to ask about it. So instead, she followed the tip of Zaire's head and fell in step with him and echoed back the question she herself had barely answered. "How've you been?"
Zaire glanced down at his hands and the bloody handkerchief he was holding but his only answer was to shake his head. Brandy had witnessed him killing a vampire but that was hardly the same as what he'd just done between those two tents and he preferred to be far away from here before she heard any sort of rumors.
Slipping the handkerchief into the wide belt circling his waist, Zaire moved them both through the crowd with one hand on her lower back. They wouldn't go far from his men, just enough for the illusion of privacy. "Been just fine," he answered vaguely, casting a glance around the grounds for any sign that Lambert had been found yet but all was normal, thus far. "Busy. Sailed down around the Southern Point t'take a prize just a few weeks ago." Medicine, mostly. "Ain't got much time t'chat though," he admitted, exchanging a few coins for two flagons of ale at the next tent they reached.
Brandy smiled, pleased that Zaire knew what she preferred without asking - ale - even though everyone wearing dresses like her own were drinking fine wines. Brandy sure didn't mind wine, and could pair it nicely with any of her dishes, but it was the earthy umami of ale that she'd craved when she got up from that cushioned seat up over the arena.
"That's fine - I don't have a lot to say," Brandy responded after they cheered and she took a much heartier sip than most noble ladies would have attempted. Perhaps, her words were dismissive, implying that since their relationship had come to an end, pleasantries were all they had left. But when she lowered her drink and met his dark eyes, the words might not have been dismissive at all, but instead an echo of those he'd shared with her in a moment of vulnerability that found its way through lust, a moment that - maybe - Brandy still cherished and lingered on regularly. "Just that I missed ya, Z."
Brandy's words took Zaire by surprise and he found himself lowering his flagon to narrow his eyes at her over the rim. Months ago, when he'd said something similar - and far more innocently - she'd brushed him off and then ended things with a confusing explanation that she somehow expected him to tell Eloise about their relationship. And now this?
It was unfair, really, and he wasn't about to just admit that he'd also missed the time they'd spent together. Brandy was smart and she kept him on his toes with her quick wit - in short, she was fun and he'd missed more than that oh-so inviting warmth between her thighs. He'd missed her friendship.
"Oh no, Brandy-love," he said with a shake of his head. "Ain't 'ow this works." He leveled a pale finger in her direction, blood smeared along the back of it. "You were the one who walked out, not me."
"Because you got all prickly," Brandy responded in her defense, but stopped before saying more because between the narrowed eyes and pointed finger, only accented with the blood still coloring his pale skin, it seemed he wasn't far off from prickling it up all over again. She gestured vaguely at his body language and said, "See? Prickle!"
He wasn't wrong, though - she didn't know how this worked, not in Eventyr. She was an outsider and even if they'd been able to form a bond, culture clash was bound to catch up eventually between differing expectations and misunderstandings. It would have been fine if everything had stayed casual, but it had become apparent there were feelings as well. That made it a different ball game, and Brandy had a bad habit of preferring not to play if it meant not losing. With a resigned shrug, she said, "All I'm saying is that I'm glad to see you. Take it or leave it."
Well, she wasn't wrong; of course he was bound to get prickly when what he'd thought was a comfortable friendship had proved to be something else. Brandy had torn down the wall between Zaire's home life, where he was a loving father and husband, and his 'professional' life, where he murdered and stole - and, yes, had sex with other women - and it was going to take time to build that trust again. Because it was clear that she didn't understand the dynamic there, and even if he had time explain it to her right now, he wasn't sure he wanted to. It would mean showing her what lay beyond that wall and no one but his crew ever saw that.
So Zaire sighed into his ale, took another long pull, straightened his shoulders, and then let a bit of honesty soften his eyes. "Glad to see ya too, Brandy-love," he admitted, allowing fingertips to brush over her knuckles. The moment was cut short though - very short - when Alby was suddenly there grabbing his shoulder and hissing time t' go into his ear, and it was then that Zaire noticed the swell in the noise of the crowd. It wasn't the cheer for a well-ridden tilt but rather alarm and horror . . .
Turning back to Brandy, Zaire threw her a quick wink, "I'll see ya soon, love. And, ah, if anyone 'appens t' ask . . . I was never 'ere."
And with that, he and his two companions disappeared into the crowd.