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Wandering in Darkness


Started by MargieArgie
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[This story, aside from being a bit of an introduction to Fatimah (even though she doesn't show up until part II), is meant as something of a pastiche of the chanbara films, particularly those about the blind swordsman Zatoichi, that served as the original inspiration for her. I hope I capture the action and feel of those as well as the written form allows, or at least as well as I can.

This is probably going to be a fairly long one, and it'll take place over several posts. This first one will have the first two parts.]


I

"Ha! Thinks he's Hunding, I'll bet!"

The boy - barely old enough to use a weapon with any ability at all - held up his sword with all the strength he could collect, facing down three fully-grown and well-armed adults in the middle of a dusty Hammerfell town. "I'm not afraid of you bullies anymore. I'm not!" He thrust the sword slightly in their direction to punctuate his statement.

The three barely reacted to the display of aggression; in fact, a couple of them began to smile. One, a woman with her head shaved bald, stepped forward and said, "Let me show you how you really use one of those." Drawing her own sword, she swung it, at half force, straight at the boy's right arm. He blocked it flawlessly, blocked another, quicker swing from her, pushed in close and knocked her off balance, forcing her to stumble away several feet. "Agh! I ought to kill you for that!" Now properly enraged, she charged in and made a couple wild swings, pushing the boy back a bit before he disengaged.

Another from the group, an elderly man with a full though well-trimmed beard, stepped in between the two. "I'll take this, Tausret." The woman stared for a moment, but then walked away, the third of the group smirking at her long enough to be rewarded by her pushing him away as she passed. Once she was gone, the old man drew his sword; the boy raised his again, and the two stared each other down for a few moments, daring the other to make the first move.

Finally, the boy lost patience and, after a feint to the man's right, succeeded in grazing his left arm. Unlike Tausret, though, the man didn't lose his temper; he could afford to hold back, as the boy paused, amazed he had even gotten one blow in. Just before he could collect himself and get back into a proper stance, though, the man brought his sword in, caught it on the boy's, and pulled it out of his hand. As soon as the young Redguard realized what had happened, he backed away franticly, but the side of a building blocked his retreat. As he looked up at the older man, though, he didn't see someone about to kill; instead, the face almost seemed admiring.

"Not bad. You've got some spirit, and a bit of skill to make it worthwhile." Now between the boy and the dropped sword, he replaced his in its sheath. "If you want a good-paying job, just stop by Sharif's sometime - my name's Djedkare, ask for me and I'll make sure you get it. We can always use more help, especially a quick mind like you showed. Just remember those smarts and don't try something like this again." With that, he turned and walked away. Without pausing that, he added. "And don't try to pick up that sword and go after me again, I'll know you're coming!" Tausret and the other joined him as he passed.

As soon as the three were out of sight, the boy picked up his sword, glanced at it with a frown, and rushed home.

- - - - - - - -

When he arrived, his father rushed over to him, his face etched with equal parts worry and anger. "Ulla! Did you take my sword? Give that back! You didn't go after any of Sharif's people, did you? What if they'd killed you?"

Ulla hung his head as he endured the flurry. Holding the now-sheathed sword up to his father (who quickly snatched it out of the boy's hand), he said, "I... I had to do something! After what they did to-"

"No!" The father cut off even the threat of mentioning the boy's dead mother. "You didn't. Not now, especially." He looked Ulla over. "At least you're not hurt, thank the gods. But next time..." His voice softened. "Next time that might not be what happens. I don't want to lose you, too. And just killing them wouldn't have done any good. Even if you did... we'd be lucky if Sharif just had us run out of town with only the clothes on our backs." He shook his head. "If we aren't lucky, he'll still do that even now..."

"But they won't. I don't think they hate me. The oldest one, he even offered me a job with them."

His father sighed, followed by a minute of silence. Quietly, the man began to speak. "I think... maybe you might have to take it. Times are starting to get worse for us, and we'll probably have to give in..."

"I wasn't going to take it. I'll never take it. I don't ever want to work for those murderers!" The lack of enthusiasm he gave those lines showed that his defiance was only a front for confusion and uncertainty. His father nodded along.

"And that's fine... probably right. That's a good way of honoring your mother's memory... better than what you did today." The relief that Ulla's actions hadn't brought too much danger to them had taken much out of the father, and he returned to the chair he had been sitting in before. Ulla understood the conversation was over, and he went into his small room to - more of a corner - to think. He continued to think though that night, a nearly sleepless one, and made his decision. Before his father even woke, he slipped out into the morning twilight.




II

Fatimah did not need to see a town to tell what it was like.

First, of course, she made a habit of learning beforehand as much as she could about the places she was going to. Blind since birth, she couldn't read maps (aside from a couple specially-made ones she carried of Hammerfell with raised sections she could "read" by feel) or books, but it was enough to speak to those who might know something about her intended destination. Of course, people could be wrong, or lying, or simply ignorant, but the same could be said of maps and books, and so she needed no more discernment than anyone else to try and figure out the beginnings of the truth from that.

Second, she had her ears - so long as the wind wasn't blowing too hard, sounds could travel a long distance in the Alik'r Desert. While her physical hearing wasn't too far above average, necessity had taught her how to pick out even faint sounds from each other, and each sound told a story. How many people were there? What were they doing? How many smiths, or carts, or horses? Even walls and other large structures revealed themselves to some extent by how they affected those sounds. It was a complex calculation, but the part of her mind that would otherwise have been processing sight was partially put to work with that instead, and she had grown very good at it.

There were other little things... smells, to an extent, how a place was laid out (she needed to learn that very well anyway, after all), the sorts of goods the market had, and so on. Most important of all, though, were little snippets of conversation, either intentionally engaged or overheard. The things she missed - colors, lights, other purely visual things - were usually only there to show what people wanted you to think a place was like. Fatimah had learned quite well that most of the time, people, when seeking to fool others, focus first on fooling the eyes. For all the very real disadvantages her blindness gave, this meant she had that very big advantage: those tricks never worked.

And as Fatimah approached the town of Mi-Korom, she got a very different impression than most would have.

Those taking it in by sight would have seen bright colors and well-maintained houses, people going about on business and working, meeting together in the central market, and all the other signs of a healthy, prosperous town. Those who had done their research beforehand would have heard of Sharif, who ran the town, but expected nothing worse than a landlord who provided shelter and protection in exchange for rent.

Fatimah, however, heard and noted something different as she passed the outermost buildings. There were as many people as she expected, but they were quieter, not talking as much - enough to make a light buzz but nothing more. Those who did talk, spoke quieter than usual, with an edge of fear to their voices. She was used to a couple conversations stopping as she passed - her blindness could be deduced from her slow walk and unblinking, rolled-back eyes, and many people seemed taken aback by it - but too many did so here, and did so with an edge of fear, rather than curiosity or confusion. There were two smiths, in a town that probably should have had three.

As she got further into town, she could hear the market, and while people were there talking, they didn't seem to be buying or selling as much as she'd expect. This was clearly a town on tough times, and not for natural reasons (it was a farming region, and the harvests in it had been good - the river flowing on the other side of town was as full as ever).

As she turned a near-deserted corner, getting a feel for the streets, she noticed footsteps, then their stopping - then their approach.

She could tell a few things just from the footsteps, and a few other sounds. Two people. Heavy, but muscular, not fat, and fairly tall. They were dressed in light robes, wore sandals on their feet (all in all, not dressed much differently from her), and perhaps most importantly, had sheathed scimitars at their sides. They definitely had something in mind - light steps, trying to sneak up on her - and, if they were doing so where others could possibly see, likely had some authority, legitimate or (more likely) otherwise.

"Can I help you?" The steps ceased as she turned in their direction, showing she had detected them - no sense in letting them get close enough to try anything.

"Heh, alright. Yeah, I think you can." It was a woman's voice, an aggressive one. "Glad to see someone new here, and we were wondering if you've gotten around to paying your fees yet."

"Do we have to play this game? If you're going to extort me just say it, I'm not going to start anything. You're with the Sharif I've heard of, right?"

The woman chuckled slightly. "I am. Name's Tausret. So you're going to pay up? Smart girl."

Fatimah shook her head. "I never said that. I said I wasn't going to start anything. You probably shouldn't either."

A growl - two, actually (showing the other figure to be male) - was enough to get Fatimah subtly moving her hand in the direction of the sword she had hidden by her side. As she did, Tausret replied, "Since you obviously can't see them, and you seem to be big on honesty, I'll tell you we've got swords. That change your mind any?"

"Not at all."

Fatimah was already prepared when she heard the man drawing his sword, and quickly pulled hers out. Tausret added hers, and the two paused for a moment, shifting into a fighting stance. Fatimah waited before committing to one, letting the sounds of the feet and the subtle whistle of the swords moving through the air tell her where everything on them was. Both were set to strike, to put everything into their blows once they had decided to make them. Fatimah went back to he studies, and picked a defensive position, one that would let her be light on her feet. She suddenly wished she had her cuirass with her, but she knew enough to make do without, and neither of her opponents were armored either.

The two moved again - splitting apart, hoping to strike from two sides and use their number advantage to the fullest. Fatimah simply waited, and, after only a fraction of a second, the two charged in.
This post was last modified: November 20th 2012, 07:22 PM by MargieArgie


Count only the happy hours.

Character bios:
Selah Medanas - Fatimah
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Post #11279
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As I messaged to MargieArgie; I like how each character is presented with their own unique traits and backstory; the spirited child seeking justice, the thugs controlled by an ominous figurehead, and the deeply intuitive outsider warrior. I'll look forward to see how they all come together as the story continues!


Character Profiles:
Endaros Ilmori - Buoyant Armiger
Sunrio - Aldmeri Justiciar

Taren Jucanis - Imperial Deserter (Used for The Black Shroud RP)
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[As I mentioned in a reply to the aforementioned message, feel free to post here if you're afraid of breaking up the flow or anything. :) ]



III

Parrying is a difficult art.

A strong person might be able to overcome an enemy using brute force and pure offense, but that always has its limits. Fatimah knew well that, though she certainly had some good measure of physical strength, all she could do with that would be to possibly kill one of them - leaving her open to having the same done to her by the other. She had to be defensive, at least to start, and she had to know how to parry their weapons as precisely as possible, and that is where the art came in.

It was not a matter of strength, nor even so much a matter of speed, as of timing. The first two could help, to keep the sword in her hand and to aid the third respectively, but without timing, that last element, those two were useless. Too soon, and she simply opened herself to the opponent changing their attack to get around; too late, and of course her sword would only come up after the enemy's had passed. It is a skill that has to be learned, and Fatimah knew that those who didn't study it well wouldn't continue doing things the wrong way for long.

In this fight, the timing would be tricky indeed - she had two opponents, coming from two angles; not quite opposite each other, but close to it. She would have to time two parries in quick succession, no simple feat, then try to move so she could use the usual chaos of a fight to only fight one at a time (and, hopefully, put one out of the battle quickly). She had only a couple seconds to think, plan, and act, and it likely had to be done perfectly; the most dangerous thing a person can do in a fight is try to rely on an opponent making a mistake without prodding them towards one beforehand.

As soon as Fatimah had worked it out, it was time to put the plan into action.

As quickly as she could manage, she shifted her balance in the direction of Tausret charging from her right, who had closed the distance a little faster. The flat of Fatimah's sword jumped into the other's path, throwing it to the side and giving her the precious second she needed to prepare for the other strike to her left. This she did, combining the move to parry and to spin around him into a single move.

The man had committed so fully to the attack that he stumbled as his sword was pushed aside; had he succeeded, this obviously wouldn't have been a problem for him, but instead he gave Fatimah a perfect opportunity. With him in between her and the other woman, she could open herself up and make a strike of her own - and she did, slashing into the man's side. A satisfying sound a moment later showed that he had fallen to the ground, unlikely to join back in.

Tausret turned back around to face Fatimah, who returned to a defensive stance, and they waited a few moments, daring the other to make the first move. Finally, she acted - but rather than attack, she spoke, unenthusiastically. "Alright. Truce?"

Fatimah allowed herself to relax slightly. "I think I've made my point. I've got nothing against you, or Sharif, or the rest, as long as you leave me alone."

The other woman made the sounds of someone returning to a normal standing position. "Yeah, I get it. You leave us alone, we leave you alone. Sharif might not like it, though."

"It doesn't sound like you like it."

"Don't push it, girl."

Fatimah thought about pointing out that she was seventeen, but annoying Tausret more was probably a bad idea. "Either way, I think he'll come around. He sounds like a reasonable man. Now, I think I'll let you get your friend somewhere else before he bleeds out."

"Yeah, thanks for the help." Tausret sheathed her sword, then stepped forward and lifted the man off the ground. Fatimah finally put her own sword away and listened as she walked off, stepping slowly and heavily from the weight of her new burden.

As those footsteps receded, another pair began moving towards Fatimah from the same direction. They belonged to someone light, but not too short - either a girl a couple years younger than Fatimah, or a boy a bit younger than that. Whoever it was was barefoot, wearing a pair of trousers and a light shirt.

"You... did you do that?" It was a boy's voice, almost certainly.

"I did. They tried to shake me down - not the first time I've had to deal with that. Guess I'll have to be on my guard around here."

As much as Fatimah hoped not to hear what came next, she knew what it would be. "So you're good with a sword... you can help us!"

"I'm not going to pick another fight."

"But... they've taken so much from us. Money. People. My mother!"

"I'm sorry to hear that, but... I don't think I can really help you."

"But I saw you, you could have killed the woman too. And they're two of Sharif's best! I bet you could take all of them."

"Maybe I could - maybe - but that wouldn't help." Fatimah sighed and, hoping it would calm the boy a bit, closed her eyelids (useless as it was to her, others seemed to appreciate that). "There are a lot of Sharifs in the world, probably a few just in this town. If all you do is kill him, there'll be another soon enough. You'll have to find another way." She shook her head. "I'm afraid I can't help you find it."

There was a moment of silence. "I... I think I understand." He stepped back slightly. "They wanted me to work for them. Should I-"

"No. Probably not. You'll just become like them. Just... try and think more about what really needs to be done. What's your name?"

"Ulla."

"Mine's Fatimah. Once you've thought it over a bit, come to me and maybe then I can help you. Talk to people you trust. Is your father still with you?"

"Yes, he is."

She smiled. "There you go. Maybe you and I both can talk with him." She stood back up. "But later. Right now I've got other things to do. Keep safe."

"I will. I'll try." He jogged off.

Fatimah shook her head. "Me, I think I need a drink."


Count only the happy hours.

Character bios:
Selah Medanas - Fatimah
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You're such an elaborate writer Margie, I really enjoy your stories <3




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[Sorry about the long delay here >_< Real life got really busy/messy/sick over the last month, but fortunately I can get back to this, so I should have another part up tomorrow or this weekend. :) ]


Count only the happy hours.

Character bios:
Selah Medanas - Fatimah
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This is great stuff! Writing a blind character is a bold move but one you handle with aplomb. Any future plans?

Also, I believe a recommendation for the RP spotlight @Triskele (I assume you're the person to contact?)




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(June 5th 2013, 11:42 AM)Thorfinn Wrote: This is great stuff! Writing a blind character is a bold move but one you handle with aplomb. Any future plans?

Also, I believe a recommendation for the RP spotlight @Triskele (I assume you're the person to contact?)

Yep! And noted ;)




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(June 5th 2013, 11:42 AM)Thorfinn Wrote: This is great stuff! Writing a blind character is a bold move but one you handle with aplomb. Any future plans?

Turns out restarting a story after a month off is a lot harder than I'd like. >_< I still have what I started of the next chapter, so if I can find the-

Quote:Also, I believe a recommendation for the RP spotlight @Triskele (I assume you're the person to contact?)

... *blushes* Oh, wow. Yeah, I think that could inspire me to finish it. 0.0 I'll see what I can do!


Count only the happy hours.

Character bios:
Selah Medanas - Fatimah
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Nice story, I liked it
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[Oh, hey, look what I actually got around to updating!]



IV

"What am I going to do with you, Tausret?"

The frowning, angular face staring at his subordinate was that of Sharif, dressed as finely as his unofficial position required. He sat leaning forward with his hands clasped in front of him, and his voice adopted an almost scolding tone. Djedkare stood next to him, as if to add another pair of accusing eyes. "First you have trouble with a boy, and now you let a blind woman seriously injure one of your associates. This is very... uncharacteristic."

Tausret knew that saying anything wouldn't help; she gave only a quiet noise that resembled a grunt crossed with a whimper.

"Since it is so uncharacteristic, I am willing to allow this - and you - to go. I would recommend you be more careful in the future." Tausret nodded, bowed, and turned to leave quickly. As she did, Sharif turned to the man next to him. "Keep an eye on her. I fear she is likely to do something... rash."

- - - - - - - -

Fatimah wasn't surprised when the tavern quieted down as she entered. News could spread fast in a small town, and stories of someone fighting two enforcers of the local boss would spread even faster than most. She was tempted to drink it in, but it was probably best not to make more of a scene than she needed to; dealing with someone like Sharif would require stepping very carefully, and she would not be surprised to get some unwelcome attention from his group as it was. Playing up how she had slightly humiliated him through those two would only make him more likely to want to get rid of her. As she worked her way to a seat, and as the conversation renewed, she was tempted to muse about how men always seemed to want to assert their dominance, but, as she let an amused sound out, she knew that she'd want to do the same thing in his place.

Instead she chose to drink in the local beer. One and a half cups of it passed in relative calm; if anyone paid attention to her, it was with glances and other small movements Fatimah would not be able to hear, and her acute hearing picked up no mentions of her name. Eventually, though, the sound of someone stomping in through the door caught her attention, and Tausret's unmistakeable voice rose above the tavern's rapidly lowering noise. "Ugh! Where's that blind whelp? I'm here to throw her out of town."

Fatimah said nothing; it was best to let the situation develop a bit before intervening, she thought. She didn't get much of a chance to do that, however. She quickly heard footsteps - undoubtedly Tausret's - moving towards her. Once she gave some thought to it she realized her location probably wasn't as isolated as she thought; figuring out how to hide herself from obvious sight was not usually her best skill, since she couldn't rely on her own to help. Resigned to the confrontation, she stood up. "I don't think I ever gave you my name, did I?"

"Don't care what it is. Hopefully I'll never see you again."

"It's Fatimah, by the way."

"Said I don't care."

Fatimah stopped for a moment. This was precisely the same thing she was thinking about earlier, asserting dominance, and with someone so determined to save face after being humiliated she would have to walk a much finer line. With a deep breath she began to speak again. "I think we started off wrong. You were only doing your job, after all, and it's a shame it conflicted with me. You seem decent enou-"

"Shut up! Yeah, you talk way too much, I think. And I do got a job to do, and it involves you leaving."

"Alright." Fatimah began to push past the woman in front of her. "I'd say I'll see you around, but obviously I won't. You might see me, though."

Tausret didn't even say anything to this - she immediately moved to draw her sword. Fatimah was prepared to follow suit, but before she did, another person entered. "That is enough, Tausret."

There was complete silence for one tense moment; finally, she slid the sword back in its place. Again without a word, she walked quickly past Fatimah (who liked to imagine she was giving her an angry look) and out the door behind the newcomer. The blind woman approached him with more deliberation. "Thank you for your help."

"I was helping her, not you." The man laid a hand on Fatimah's shoulder - a firm one, not a warm and encouraging one. "Sharif is generous enough to allow you to remain despite your... indiscretions. However, I would recommend you remain on your best behavior if you intend to do so, and not to abuse his hospitality." She heard and felt him turn slightly in the direction of the door. "He also does not appreciate those in his hire going beyond the bounds of their authority, but that is something for him and me to work out with Tausret. Please take care not to interfere in that matter any more."

"I think she was interfering with me more." Fatimah almost immediately regretted that remark; she doubted he would appreciate any such statements, even as well-founded as they were.

"Perhaps, but regardless, she is one of his employees, and I would recommend against anything that would cause her harm. The consequences could be unpleasant."

Fatimah merely nodded and began to leave the tavern. As she did, the man had a few words left for her. "I will likely have reason to speak with you again. I would recommend you listen when I do!"


Count only the happy hours.

Character bios:
Selah Medanas - Fatimah
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