Views: 983 Shaco, the Demon Jester, Pt. 2
Two days later, Shaco found himself in a line-buggy, one of several carriages linked together and pulled by a team of rather large horses. The mysterious package sat on his lap, heavy, but not overly so... Couldn't be gold or jewels (it didn't clink when he shook it) and it couldn't be paper cash (far too heavy) so it wasn't a payment of some sort. It must be an item of great value. A statue? A new piece of techmaturgy? A magical relic? He was tempted to look himself, being curious in nature, but he could sense several tamper-resistant seals on the package, and a few of them felt exceedingly dangerous. So he resigned himself to finding out when he delivered it. In the meantime, there was nothing to do but play the part he had assumed.
Staring out the window, being intensely bored, a ghost of an image looked back at him. His own face, strange to him, since the make-up and costume had been abandoned in favor of anonymity. Still long, rather pointy in places, and distinctly pale, he supposed he still looked like himself, in a way, but the ghost staring back at him was a shadow of his true self, an imposter, and a bad one at that. He reached his hand up to toy with his jet black hair, for the hundredth time. The irritating mass fell almost to his shoulders. He really ought to have it cut more often, if he ever thought about it. But why bother when the hat held it all in place?
He looked down and sighed unhappily at his current attire. He had many costumes he wore in the arena, and all of them were far more interesting than this. A baggy shirt with long baggy sleeves, held tight to his chest with a leather vest, a wide dark leather belt, and loose pants with wide openings for his feet, which were wrapped in decent-looking shoes with soles that looked almost too thick to be normal. The whole thing was nothing but different shades of cream and brown. How drab. The only thing that felt right about the outfit was ironically the part that could not be seen. The whole thing weighed several pounds more than it should, because bits of sharp, cold steel lined almost every part of it. Rows of knives lined the inside of his vest and belt, and unseen belts were looped around his legs, arms, and chest, also full of knives. Just because he couldn't openly kill someone for not wearing a proper grin didn't mean he might not be able to goad someone into attacking him so that he could have some fun "in self defense". Besides, the road he was traveling on was indeed dangerous, and going anywhere without some sort of protection was madness in this day and age. Even though it was people like him that made it so, the point still stood.
But, wearing his normal attire, his normal face, his normal hat, and acting normally (maiming anyone that wasn't smiling unless they had a DAMN good reason) would do nothing if not draw attention to him. Under normal circumstances, attention was good; it got him in the arena more, where he could kill more, but these weren't normal circumstances. A very specific goal was set before him, and being himself wouldn't let him get to that goal. So he had to be someone else. This particular someone was Rorin Aversin.
In truth, Shaco had over a dozen different aliases, all of them a product of his Assassination days. Some of them were one-time use characters, but most of them stuck around for useful purposes. Names that could be tossed around at formals and political balls, giving some glimmer of recognition to make his stories more believable when he introduced himself to people he had to get past, little kernels of truth amidst a swamp of deceit. Some of them he purposely left behind as a kind of calling card for heinous deeds, someone to be used when intimidation and threats were needed instead of sweet nectar and lies. Others were simply patsy names, fake people that existed only on paper; usually papers filed in official folders attached to bank vaults.
This one was one of the less commonly used "throw-around" names, a person of mild interest in the scientific community, said to have ties to some nobles of middling rank. Published a few interesting papers on techmaturgical and magical targeting systems, threat-recognition, and movement tracking. Nothing major, but enough to get his name out there. While the person was fake, the research papers were very much real, and able to be found in many libraries across Valoran. What was never hinted at was the fact that all these scattered concepts had already been created, fused, and perfected in Shaco's deadly jack-in-the-boxes.
A small cough brought him out of his thoughts. He looked across the compartment, and saw a little girl coughing into a fist and holding on to her mother's skirt. In a small voice, she said "Mommy, when are we going to get there? I don't feel good".
"Soon," replied the woman. "It's just another few hours until we get to the next town, and we can get you something for your cough there. "
The little girl looked absolutely miserable. It was driving Shaco crazy. If it were any other time, any other place, he would simply MAKE her smile at the point of a knife. But... No, a scientist wouldn't do that (unless you were Dr. Mundo... but whether or not that hulking maniac could actually be considered a "scientist" was still very much up for debate), so it was out of the question. But he couldn't just let her sit there frowning... it was making him anxious, and twitchy. Looked like he had to do things the old fashioned way.
He reached into his sleeve and pulled out a deck of cards he had swiped from Twisted Fate during one of their more brutal encounters. He had been working for quite some time to figure out the enchantments surrounding the seemingly harmless pieces of paper. Really, they were quite intricate. They essentially read the mind of the person holding them, and changed themselves based on what he wished. Ol' Twisty was just one of those guys so addicted to gambling, he even turned his mind-reading weapons into a chance game. Shaco didn't know if he respected the guy's guts for it, or felt bad for him for his self-destructive addiction.
He started playing with them, fanning them out, flipping them between his hands, doing everything big and showy he could to get the girl's attention. Soon enough, she looked over and started watching him. He pretended he didn't notice, and continued his flashy show. Then he looked up and caught her eye. He slid his deck back together, shuffled them another time or two, fanned it out between two hands, and held it out to the girl. Knowing the basics of the game, she slid one out and looked at it. Shaco shuffled a few more times, then picked up half the deck, and held the bottom half out to her. She obediently placed the card on top, and Shaco shuffled it in. After a few more flashy folds, he pulled out a card, and showed it to her. A small smile worked its way onto her face as she nodded yes, that was her card.
Well, that worked, for now. But he didn't want to be doing card tricks for her all the way to the next town just to keep her smiling. He needed a more permanent fix. So he took out her card, and held it up between two fingers so she could see it. The four of spades. Spinning it down to pass behind his palm, he brought it up again to reveal that it had changed. It was now the six of diamonds. This time even the mother was impressed, she hummed a little laugh of amusement as her daughter's smile widened. Then Shaco passed his hand over the card, keeping it perfectly still between his two fingers. When he raised his hand again, it had transformed itself into the queen of hearts. Mother and daughter both gave him a small round of applause. Not quite done yet, he absently tossed the card to the girl. It landed face down in her lap, and when she picked it up, she gave a small squeal of joy. The normal, haughty, holier-than-thou face of the queen had been replaced by a smiling image of the little girl.
Her grin was so wide, Shaco leaned back in his seat, glad for the reprieve, when suddenly the caravan started to rattle and shake, and came to an all too sudden stop. The sounds of shouting could be heard coming from the front, and a small explosion shook the ground. Irritated, Shaco looked out the window. What the hell was going on? He had a schedule to keep, and interruptions like this could keep him from getting his new room and vacations. That would simply not do.
As he looked out, he was greeted by the face of a rather rough looking man dressed in leather armor, and wielding a short, curved sword. "Get the **** out of the carriage!" he yelled. "And keep your hands in the air! Keep to yourself and don't start no trouble, and you might just get out of this alive!"
What a silly notion, thought Shaco. Why on earth would he not get out of 'this' alive? Still, he smiled to himself. This was going to be fun. Putting on an appropriately horrified face, he put one hand in the air as he clutched his package with the other, and allowed himself to be hauled out of the carriage roughly as the man opened the door.
"Line up, and get your valuables ready! We're on a tight schedule here, and we don't want to be hanging around any longer than we have to!" shouted the man. Well, that suited Shaco just fine. He pulled his coinpurse off of his belt, and held it in his left hand and waited as the group of men walked down the line. He didn't care to give up a few pieces of gold if it got him moving faster. He had places to go, too.
When it came his turn to relinquish his valuables, the man with the curved sword yanked the purse out of his hand, and stared at it for a second. He weighed it, and gave it a little shake, before looking Shaco in they eye. "Tell me, just who are you?" he growled.
"Rorin, sir. Rorin Aversin. Why?"
The robber's eyes lit up. "Oh, so you're the guy that developed the magic for my special heart seeking bullets?" he said, patting the disgustingly large revolver at his hip. He slid the bag into a satchel at his side, and said "Well, that just makes my next question even more intriguing. Why the **** is your coin bag so light? This carriage line," he said while gesturing to the row of cabins with his sword, "Is a fairly expensive one to get on. It's long distance travel between the provinces, and the travel requires a fair bit of change, especially if you want to get into hotels and get a bite to eat. You don't get on this thing unless you have some cash. And of that, my dear scientist, you seem to be lacking. Which makes absolutely no sense to me. I think you're hiding something from me."
Putting on a sufficiently appalled demeanor, Shaco replied "No, no, absolutely not! I travel light, and sleep outside, in a tent, to avoid the ridiculous hotel rates along these roads! Why would I want to hide something from someone holding a sword to me?"
The man looked down at the small package Shaco was holding. "What's in the box, eh? Something valuable?"
Shaco visibly pulled the box closer to his chest, feigning fear. "Nothing of importance, and certainly not something you could use."
The man laughed roughly. "Boy, I got all I could possibly use with me right here," he said, gesturing to his roughly half dozen friendly neighborhood outlaw friends. "We are all armed and have plenty of supplies, and no end in sight to the business I got running here. What I want is **** I can sell. If its black market stuff, all the better. Now, hand it over." He stuck his hand out, and waited about three seconds before he reached out and grabbed it himself. "I ain't gonna ask again. Let go!"
Shaco let the box be pulled out to nearly arm's length before he grabbed the man's wrist with an iron grip. He dropped the meek attitude, and allowed his face to return back to normal... Split with a prize-winning grin. "Let me tell YOU something, boy, if you think for one more second that you are going to get this package away from me, you will end up drowning with a lung full of your own blood."
The man looked a bit shocked, but only for a split second, before the shock turned into hot, red fury on his face. "If you won't give it to me, then I'm going to take it, with a little interest to boot!" He raised his sword and swung, hard and fast, towards Shaco's wrist, intending to chop the hand holding his own wrist clean off, and maybe the one holding the box, too. At the last possible instant, Shaco squeezed a pressure point on the underside of the man's wrist, forcing him to let go of the package, and yanked his arm in the path of the sword. It landed with a meaty THUMP, and a sick cracking like someone was trying to snap a green branch off a tree.
Screaming, the man stumbled backwards, staring at the hand hanging on to his arm by a sliver of meat. Shaco dropped the box, and scooped up a fist full of mud in his left hand, as his right pulled out a thin shiv from the inside of his belt. Jumping onto the man's chest and wrapping his legs around his waist to get a good grip, he jabbed the thick needle through the man's carotid artery, into his windpipe and pulled it back out again in one swift movement, and smeared a thick coating of dense, wet earth over the wound so the blood had nowhere to go but into the man's chest.
He let go with his legs and dropped easily to his feet as the man dropped his sword and scrambled backwards, blood already starting to gush from his mouth. Within seconds he fell to his knees, and toppled over to choke on the ground. This didn't seem to go over well with the other people in his little raiding party. They all started shouting, some of them obscenities, some simply screaming "BOSS" in a touchingly concerned manner. This all mattered very little to Shaco. He got his wish. He was going to get to do some killing on this trip, after all, and be hailed as a hero, at that.
The rest of the party did what was probably the stupidest thing they could have possibly done. They all rushed him at once. He ran straight at them, pulling a pair of knives from his sleeves, each 6 inches long with a slight curve to them. Perfect for slicing. As he got close to the first two, he drop kicked to the ground and slid between them, rolled onto his stomach as he slid past, and sliced each of them above the heel, severing one Achilles tendon each. He flipped back onto his back, dodging an axe that came down right where his spine had been. As the man pulled his weapon back to ready himself for another strike, Shaco pulled his legs up and pushed hard with his hands, leaving his knives behind and leaping up to slide his legs around the man's head. Straightening his legs out, he locked his ankles together, both creating a vice grip between his thighs, and disorienting his victim. He grabbed onto the sleeve at the man's shoulder, and pulled himself up to sit on it and give the terrified man a smile before he let himself fall over his back, snapping his neck like a chicken. Shaco landed on his hands, legs still wrapped around Mr. Chicken's now very loose head, and gave the man a contemptuous toss to the ground before doing a cartwheel to dodge a thrown knife.
"Funny," thought Shaco, "I can do that trick too!" As he finished his cartwheel, he reached into the back of his belt and pulled out four knives, two in each hand, and sent them flying towards the offender, landing each of them at the joints of his limbs. He said aloud, "I think mine was better, my friend!" As the man collapsed to the ground, a knife hilt protruding out of each shoulder and hip. He heard the sound of footsteps behind him, and turned his ankle a certain way, so the friction of his shoe on the ground caused a blade to slide out of the front and back of his boot. He jumped up, twisted himself, and landed a spinning crescent kick to the man's jaw, driving four inches of cold steel into his neck. The blade obediently broke off as the kick finished, leaving the man impaled and unable to breathe, death quickly coming to him. Feeling confident, he turned to the last remaining obstacle to his mission. This man looked different than the rest. He was shaved bald, thin, wore no armor, and carried no weapons. Only the same kind of loose clothing Shaco was currently wearing. This caused Shaco to pause in thought. Why was he not armed? Was he the gang accountant or something?
He decided he might as well ask the guy. "So, meatbag, what is it that YOU do?"
Instead of a verbal reply, the stranger sunk into a horse stance, legs bent, fists clenched at his sides with elbows bent. He took a deep breath, and punched both fists in Shaco's general direction. Fire bolts erupted from his clenched hands, and they came screaming at Shaco like flaming death itself. As he fell backwards and landed on his hands, still keeping his feet on the ground, he thought to himself, "well there's the source of the explosion". He pushed off with his legs, doing a backflip, and as he leapt with his hands to land once again on his feet, he reached into his sleeves and hurled two knives at the mage, who contemptuously knocked them away with a blast of air. Alright, so that wasn't going to work. Time to get up close and personal.
Shaco sprinted forward, dodging fire balls as he went. He went in with open hands, and fought with his fists. What surprised him was the fact that the mage was also quite a competent martial artist. The traded blows, blocks, and bruised forearms, until Shaco got rather tired of it all, and decided to tilt the odds in his favor. Still keeping a good back-and-forth going with the mage-martial-artist, every few seconds he would throw his hand down and cause smoke to rise from the dirt, getting a good blow to the face for his efforts. A smile had begun to creep onto the Mage's face. Every time the smoke would rise, he blew it away so it would not distract him, and continued to pummel Shaco. After only half a minute of this, he struck Shaco particularly hard in the chest, causing him to stumble backwards, then blew him farther away with a powerful gust of air.
Heaving great breaths, he said to Shaco, "You know, for a scientist, you're a damn good fighter."
Laughing and getting to his feet, Shaco said, "You know, for a mage, you're pretty damn oblivious." He snapped his fingers, and four jack-in-the-boxes flashed into existence around the mage. He had a mere instant to register the horror of what was happening, and the terror of who he was really fighting, before all four of the clowns popped out of their boxes, opened their mouths to expose the large weapons hidden inside, and proceed to blow him to pieces.
Shaco watched as the man twitched and shuttered with every bullet that passed through him, and to his credit, he remained standing until the assault was over, and the jacks were out of bullets. He Looked at Shaco, reached up to point one finger at him and tried to speak. Blood came out of his mouth instead. His eyes rolled back into his head, and he fell over backwards, dead.
Shaco stood there for a moment, allowing himself to enjoy the exhilarant rush of a great fight and good kills. But suddenly the sound of applause brought him out of his trance. He turned to see the passengers leaning out of the buggies, giving him a good round. Apparently when Shaco had started fighting, they had all rushed back inside; whether to protect themselves or with intention to leave him behind while he distracted the attackers, Shaco could not say. He gave the crowd a grin, and bowed to them. So this is what actual applause feels like? It was very similar to what he thought it would feel like in his head when he imagined it at the end of every match, but somehow much, much more satisfying. Resuming his disguise and attitude, he said aloud, "Well, now that the unpleasantness is done, let's get back on the road. I'm sure we all have very important things to attend to."
He walked over to where the whole thing started, where he left his package, to retrieve it. To his concern, it was no longer there. Feeling dark clouds build inside his head, he slowly turned to the caravan. He asked, in a voice that dripped barely restrained contempt, "Who... has my box?"
Readying himself to slaughter the entire convoy to find it, he started towards the front of the column, when the door to his carriage opened. The little girl he had entertained earlier leaned out, and held his precious package out to him, completely unharmed, except for a little mud on one side. Feeling the thunder clouds of wrath disappear, he gave a jovial sigh of relief, and accepted it with grace. He thanked the girl very much, and got into his cabin. In very short order, the procession wrenched forward, and Shaco was, once again, on his way to achieving his goal, and delivering this mysterious little box.