• Solo • The Regulars

Maxine makes some unsavory acquaintances at the Buckle and Chain

Previously the stronghold of the Pirate Lords, Almund is a thriving township with a dark side. With houses made from the wooden bodies of decommissioned ships, there are many opportunities here, coupled with many dangers. Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap!

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• Solo • The Regulars

Postby Max » Sun Nov 19, 2017 1:03 am

110 of Vhalar, Arc 171


So this is it. This is what rock bottom feels like.

The abhorrent stench of the Buckle and Chain Tavern and its patrons was enough to make the girl worried it might cling to her clothes. That type of misfortune would've been the proverbial cherry on top. Just by looking at her, she was clearly an outsider. Even her accent was distinct enough that the blind could point out the one that didn't belong. She was already carrying the heavy weight of her owns sins. The last thing she was looking to carry was the stink of someone else's that night.

"Hey you," a voice slurred suddenly into her ear. Max spun in her seat, brow raised and eyes wide with initial alarm. A patchy-bearded man chuckled at her reaction and dragged his stool far too close to hers at the bar. Filth-ridden nails scratched at his bumpy cheek while his million-mile stare attempted to focus on her figure. Max's expression darkened.

How did I not see him coming?

The bar keep, a stout red-head, hurriedly placed two mugs down upon the counter before moving on to the next request. The Mixed Blood glanced from the beverages to her unwelcomed acquaintance, cocking an unamused brow in his direction. He offered a toothless smirk. "You're new," he pointed out before grasping one of the mugs, pushing the other toward her. "And you're a genius," Max countered with half-hearted sarcasm. She looked down into her frothy drink before apprehensively taking a sip.

Ale.

It never really tasted good to her, but it was never so bad she wasn't persuaded from another sip. The stranger's stupid grin broadened. "My mama always said I had a good head on my shoulders," he said, sitting up a bit straighter. Max's eyes shifted toward him mid-sip.

You're kidding...he took me for serious.

"Yeah," she attempted to shake off her disbelief. "I'm sure she's real proud."
"Yup. If you like this one," the patchy sailor prodded his temple with a dirt-caked index finger. "I'd wager you'd love the one between my knees." Max paused and carefully placed her mug down. Her fingertips bounced a couple times upon the counter before she turned her head to face her suitor with a small, faux smile. "I really do doubt it's that impressive."

The unkempt woman sitting on Max's other side immediately guffawed, slender frame shaking and her fist slamming upon the counter once with excitement. "Oh, honey," the older woman said as she gathered her breath. "You have no idea how true that is." The patchy suitor pressed his lips together with a grunt. He jerked a finger toward the older woman and stomped his foot. "Dammit, Gwen, you shut your whore mouth!" Of course the outburst had only sent Gwen back into a frenzy of laughter once again. At any rate, the distraction afforded Max the brief luxury of nursing her ale in peace. Yet, like the state of any nation, that could only last so long.
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Max
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The Regulars

Postby Max » Sun Nov 19, 2017 2:14 am

"Don't listen to that old wench," the patchy sailor slurred into her ear again, leaning in and desperately licking his lips. "What do you say we go out back? Get to kno---"
"No."
"No?" his face contorted with confusion at her response. His dull eyes blinked while his mind connected the dots. "What do you mean 'no'?" Max stared forward with blank expression. "I mean what I said," she sighed, words growing irritable. The sailor's brow pressed together. He shook his head and gestured toward her mug. "B-but I bought you an ale," he reasoned. "Booze ain't cheap, I got you that and now you got to do something for me! It's not fair!"

By now Maxine could feel the eyes gathering upon her. Even the red-headed bar keep was making attempts to keep up between serving since voices became raised. The Mixed Blood locked eyes with him and tipped her mug skyward, chugging what remained in a single sitting. When she finished she dropped the mug down onto the counter and wiped alcohol from her lips with the back of her hand. The sailor's face turned tomato red. "You'd be lucky to get a break with me!" he exclaimed with loud indignation.

This time it was Max's turn to laugh. "Oh, please," she retorted with a roll of her eyes. "I've seen dogs with mange grow better facial hair than whatever you call that on your face." A few on-lookers dared to cheer at her response, sending the sailor into a tail-spin. He stood up suddenly and slammed his stool down upon the floor. The red-head's dagger-like stare flickered up from what she was doing at the very sound of her furniture's abuse.

Maxine's heart raced in her chest. Adrenaline began to pump through her veins as she eyed the sailor, whose chest was heaving with barely-restrained anger. Self-preservation convinced her to quickly find her own feet though physical conflict might've been spelling out something akin to a death wish. It was suddenly growing apparent that the stakes here were quite a bit higher than they were in her youth. The consequences for her chirps were certainly looking far more painful. The sailor began to move toward her with a special kind of menace.

Just when Maxine was beginning to decide whether she should come up with an escape plan or a battle strategy, the red-head snapped her fingers. In a flash a hulking man from one of the dark corners surged an open hand forth to grasp the sailor by the throat. The patchy-bearded man immediately gagged and his eyes went huge, dirty hands pawed pathetically at the grip that robbed him of air. It only took a moment for the tavern owner's beast to pitch the rubbish into the street before he returned, clapping his hands together and offering the red-headed woman a respectful nod before disappearing again. All the while Max was frozen in place. She glanced from where she'd been sitting, toward the door, and then about the room.

"I said, 'hey, mouth'!," a voice called out. Max pivoted to find a table of card players staring up at her. The speaker, a bald, clean shaven character threw up his hands when she locked eyes with him. "I know you're not deaf. Come sit down." She bit her lip and and narrowed her eyes a bit. The bald man slapped the table and one of his fellows instantly stood up to pull over another chair. Max hesitated but another bit before she relented. The other card players, three men and a woman, watched her curiously, if not a bit suspiciously, as she slid into her seat across from the bald man. "That Harry's a pain in most everyone's ass. You like ale?" Max nodded. The man slapped his hand on the table again and quickly a new mug was filled with the table's pitcher. The bald man began shuffling a deck of cards. "These here are Curly, Rich, Cap, and Gretchen. I'm Hank. You got a name?"
"Max."
"You ever played Ride the Wagon, Max?"
"Never heard of it."
"It's an easy drinking game. You're jumping into the second round here, but even Harry could figure it out. You ready?" Hank asked at about the same time he laid a card upon the center of the table: an eight of spades. Before she even had the chance to answer, Hank was talking again. "Higher or lower?"
"What?"
"The next card. You think it'll be higher or lower than eight?"

This is stupid.

Max crossed her arms and swept a stray strand of hair from her face. Curly, Rich, Cap, and Gretchen stared expectantly at her from their own seats at the table. Hank arched a brow. "Fine," Max gave in if only out of curiosity's sake. "I think...higher." Hank promptly flipped over the next card from the deck with a whistle: a two of hearts. Everyone else at the table began to chuckle.
"What?" Max asked in ignorance. Hank gave a point down toward her mug.
"Drink."
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The Regulars

Postby Max » Sun Nov 19, 2017 9:16 pm

For perhaps the third time, Max was into her ale yet again. Apparently, when it came to literal guessing games, the Mixed Blood was far from adept. The fact she was just coming back from a long hiatus from drinking was no help either. She looked down at the small collection of cards she'd gathered through the previous four rounds. Gretchen went about refilling everyone's mugs with the pitcher while Hank set up a four-base pyramid in the table's center. "Okay, Max," Hank began to instruct in rapid-fire fashion. "When I flip these cards over, everyone takes a look at their own hand. If you can match any, you place the card from your hand down on top. Suits and colors don't matter." Max rubbed her forehead but nodded. It was the only confirmation Hank needed before he quickly turned over each card in his pyramid.

Immediately, Curly, Rich, Cap, and Gretchen focused intently on their own hands. Before Max's eyes even made it down to evaluate her own, cards went flying everywhere as the other players began to match up. She shook her head and set about trying to catch up. Ultimately, she rid only two. "Alright. Everyone give your count. How many you got left?" Hank asked.
"None!"
"One."
"One."
"Two," Max admitted apprehensively. Everyone began grinning at her again, and as she'd come to deduce, that usually meant she was drinking again. The Mixed Blood reached for her mug but Hank quickly wagged a finger at her. Without explanation, four new cards were placed face-down upon the table. The dealer's fingers grasped the edges of the first card in the line.

"Red or black?" Hank inquired with risen brow. Max leaned in and pursed her lips thoughtfully. This guess was purely a 50/50 chance. No real logical could save her now. "Red," she answered hopefully. The dealer flipped the card to reveal a damning ace of hearts. His other hand gestured to her mug. Without further need of prompting, the Mixed Blood took a long drink. Hank placed a new card face-down over the red ace. "Red or black?" he challenged again.
"Black."
"Bad luck, Max," Hank chuckled alongside his friends when he revealed the three of clubs. Max murmured a curse and obediently drank. Another card was placed face-down.
"Black."

"Finally," the dealer applauded her when he flipped to show the ace of spades. "Third time looks to be a charm, but you're not free yet." Hank moved his finger above the next face-down card in line. "Higher or lower than the spade?" Max let out a breath of relief. Mediocre intellect perhaps could save her a moment without forcing alcohol down her throat. "Easy. Higher," she responded with confidence. Hank nodded his approval when the over-turned card was inevitably a ten of diamonds. He slipped his index to the third face-down card in his line. "In between these two or outside?"
"Outside?" she tried hopefully, biting her bottom lip. It felt like it was taking him forever to turn the card to reveal her fate. Yet when he did, her heart sunk and her head went directly down upon the table.
"Would you look at that," Hank mocked with a smirk. "A two of hearts. That looks in between to me. What do you all think?" Curly, Cap, Gretchen, and Rich all murmured their agreement, each exchanging amused glances and tossing out jokes at her expense. Hank began placing new cards face-down upon the three Max had just managed to conquer.

"Whoa, whoa," Max interjected. "What are you doing?"
"You're riding the wagon, Max," Hank finally clarified. His hand rubbed at his shiny bald head. "You keep going until you manage to get all four questions right. Or until you fall out of your chair. Whichever comes first, really."

Well. Shit.

"So," Hank placed his index finger back on the first card in line. "What'll it be? Red? Or black?"
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The Regulars

Postby Max » Sun Nov 19, 2017 9:53 pm

"Gods, Max, you're going to run this Tavern dry if luck doesn't turn to your favor," Curly remarked, leaning back leisurely in his chair. Gretchen wasn't even paying attention at this point. She'd long since procured a pocket knife to pick dirt from under her nails. Rich, on the other hand, was totally invested. He leaned forward with eyes filled with mirth, smile brightening each time Max's failed guess brought her back to guessing whether Hank would reveal a red or black card.

"Red?"
"Four of clubs," Hank scolded with an almost disappointed shake of his hairless head. Max poured the last of the pitcher into her mug and took a hearty sip. She violently shook her head, the action nearly upsetting her balance taking her out of her chair. "I got this," Max slurred. "Red." Hank sighed and flipped the first card. A queen of hearts. "Lower." The second revealed itself to be a ten of spades. "Outside." A king of diamonds.

One more.

Max drunkenly stared down at the final mystery card. She knew better than to get her hopes up. She'd been here twice before. All it took was one wrong guess and she'd be doomed to repeat the process all over again. Frankly, it was beginning to look like she'd end her wagon ride by unintentionally vacating her chair after all. To end it, however, all she needed to do was one simple thing: guess the suit. It was an easy enough task. Sadly, the odds were far from her favor. All she could do was give it a go and hope for the best. "Spades," she finally dared. Hank slipped his nail beneath the edge of the last card.

Please. Please, please be a spade. Spade. Spade. Spade.

An air of confidence washed over her and suddenly the apprehension was completely absent. Her heart stopped racing with anticipation. Probability felt like a construct she need not concern herself with. Not this time. Not anymore. Hank flipped the card to indeed show a jack of spades. It was all Max could do not to jump out of her chair or fall to her knees thanking divinity. Instead she slumped back in her chair and hung her head back, eyes briefly closed with relief.

"About time," Gretchen piped up. The others voiced their agreement, and with a laugh, Hank swept all the cards from the table to re-shuffle the deck. "That was lucky," the dealer pointed out. "I thought for sure we were going to send you to your grave. I could've sworn I caught a glance of a red card when I first dealt the line."
"Yeah, well," Max mused toward the ceiling. "Looks like misfortune was done with me. For now." For a few moments Hank just continued to quietly play with the deck. He cut the cards and then noisily bridged them upon the table. "You know," he started in a drawn-out sort of way, the other three beside him arguing back and forth about something mundane. It took all Max's energy just to focus on Hank's words alone. "I can tell you're a bit..."
"New?"
"Lost. Not in a 'I have no idea where I am' sort of way. More of like...you don't know where you're going. Twisting in the wind a bit."
"What are you? Some kind of pirate shrink?"
"Shit no," Hank chuckled with a shake of his head. He placed the cards neatly in the center of the table. "I just mean there's purpose here, especially in Almund, if you know where to look." He stood up and grabbed the worn jacket off the back of his chair. With a single gesture Curly, Cap, Rich, and Gretchen were up and doing the same. "Take care, Max," he said as he forced his thick arms through the arm-holes of his jacket. He tugged at the article of clothing a bit to right it in place over his swollen shoulders. "And choose your friends wisely."

Then, just like that, the curious group had weaseled through the Buckle and Chain Tavern's robust crowd to vanish into the night. Drunk and left to marinate in the riddle Hank had left behind, Max ruminated for but a half break before she stumbled back to her ramshackle Almund home.
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The Regulars

Postby Zipper » Tue Nov 21, 2017 9:35 am

@The one person who shouldn't have survived the Black Sails series finale
Overview : Welcome to ST, Max.

Just an FYI, a 1500 word solo nets you 6 skill knowledges, which are distinct from non-skill knowledges (of which you can have an unlimited amount, within reason). Only 3 of the knowledges you put into your request were skill ones. If you would like more, please add them into your request, pm me, and I'll slot them into your grade.

Getting triggered by that particular Black Sails face claim aside, I enjoyed the thread. Quite a bit of wit in it. Really looking forward to more.

#teamflint4lyfe
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Intimidation: Witty Counts to Ward off Unwanted Advances
Gambling: Using Logic to Cast Predictions
Rusalkis: Using Mark to Influence Luck

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Drinking Game: Ride the Wagon
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Almund: Opportunity If You Look for It

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