Wrote for my RP group but figured Id share it on here. Part 1 --------------------- Blood pooled around the bandit, life ebing ever so slowly from his body. Grant watch over him, silently praying for his soul. "Haha....I guess...in th......end he took evey.thing...frommm..m..." Silence took him as his hand sprawled to the ground, his fingers relaxing open to reveal a small brass locket. Still as the earth beneath him, the man died with only Grant to watch. Curiosity over the object begged Grant to grasp it gently in his hands while lowing the lids of the bandit who was now in an unwaking sleep. The picture of a happy family sat within the lockets tarnished frame, his fingers wound around it as a daze of images, voices, feeling took to him. Grant was uneasy when he first experienced the visions of the Echo, he had never been strong in its gift...until recently. The visions were of the unpunished, crimes that still lingered because those who commited them were out of the reach of normal laws. Looking to the bandit, he squeezed the locked knowing full well what he must do. Spittle flung from the fat lips of the Ul'Dah merchant, his pudgy fingers danced along the plate snatching another greasy morsel. The heat of the day slipped into the cool of night, as beads of sweat rang from his forehead. He simply refused to meet with a member of the Black Label within sight of the city, a tent would be his meeting place and only his most loyal guards stood around him as Grant approached. Oppulent, bloated wretch that he was, but his coin was good. He clapped his hands together as Grant approached, shadows stretching out to take over the lands as the sun dipped below the horizon. "I see the Labels reputation proceeds it. And" he paused to shovel more meat into his sagging joweled face "I take it the scum who are responsible from interrupting my buisness are..." the remainder of the sentance hung in the air, as if the next words were far too low for him to speak. "Dead" Grant aid the words with a heavy tone, there was no way to dress what he had done in pretty words. They were murderers, they were theifs who robbed not just goods and gil but husbands, brothers and fathers from their families. They were judged for their crimes, Grant thought, but there is still work to be done. Slobbering grease from his fingers, a gurgled chuckle passed from his gullet. It repulsed Grant to think of the phlegm, fat and grease laying in his throat. The man disgused him in every way. "Now there is the matter of payment..." the merchant raised a hand before Grant, and daintly clapped his hands together. His guards removed their spears and raised them at Grant. Internally he rolled his eyes at the droll cliche' of it all. "I'm afraid we'll have to pay you with a trip to the great beyond." His voice grew mockingly sweet as he continued on "I can't very well letting anyone know I employeed the Black Label. Or digging into certain....things about these bandits." he smiled bemusedly at himself, thinking Grant was shocked into silence at this turn of events "An organiztion that was lead by some back alley whore who wound up dead, lead now by some crazed witch....t'would sulley my good name you see." Grants hand gripped tightly in itself, he reached deep into the shadows of his heart, happy to find his Dark Side waiting and eager for freedom. The merchant snapped his sausage fingers and his guards decended upoon Grant. In on swift motion Grant pulled his great sword from its place, swung hard against the first to approach burying the blade from collar bone to stomach. A swift kick removed the assailant as the others lunged their spears at him. The dark energy shot form his hand, dark spikes lanced each of his assailants as he felt the bite of a spear against his arm. The merchant sputtered, and shakily screamed "Kill him! Kill him now you fools!" Blood sprayed, cries of death filled the night out in the desert. Grant stood, eye's devoid of any mercy looked up on the Merchant as the head of his final guard rolled to the ground. "Y-you can't do this! I'm part of the Syndicate you fool, by one word of mine you and your s**t organization will be destroyed" the fat hand reached for the link pearl at his ear. The blade moved with precision, as the ear and hand were both left to dance among the stars before they were claimed by the earth once again. "You have made three mistakes." Grant said as he moved forward, the merchant crawling upon the desert hoping for escape from this mad man. "The first was thinking I wouldn't notice your desire to keep this meeting unknown, which as you see worked out in my benefit. Grant slashed at the back of the merchants leg, clipping his tendon setting him to scream even further. "Two, you thought yourself above judgement for the crimes you commited." he kneeled down, the icy stare of a desert night filled his eyes "Did you think you could rape and murder those mens wives and daughters without paying for it." The merchant blubbered on, it was pointless prattle about his status, his power. Strong fingers gripped his throat and Grant could feel his windpipe crush under his hands. "Three, you dare to speak ill of those I hold dear." he squeezed till he could see the blood usher forth from his mouth. "I won't give you the quick death I gave your guards, let the desert hunters find you hear weakend and bled for their meal...die like the pig you are" Grant stood and walked away, he could feel the wounds he took settling in, one of the lances was definately poisoned as it slowed his movement. He felt righteous, he felt powerful....he felt disgust as he remembered the feelign of the mans throat crushing under his grip. The waters washed away the blood, allowing Grant to find and treat his own wounds, to at least stave infection. He shook as his rage abated, his dark side once again laid to rest till called upon again. Blood could never be fully washed from his hands, but he had stopped an evil man from perversing any other innocents...but at what cost. He looked at himself in the waters of the oasis and wondered what Aisha would have thought of him in this moment...what would Altan think of him should she know he acted as Judge jury and executioner. Eventually he knew he would answer for his actions, one day the weight of his sins would be measured and he hoped he would still be a good man when that time came. --- Double Post Merged, Aug 3, 2015 --- Part 2 ----------- It was the talk of the merchants for a time, one of the syndicate owned merchants simply vanished. The only evidence that anyone could find was the blood stained rags of a tent with his family mark upon them. Grant paid no mind to it, the man was filth and everyone knew it, no one dared raise a hand against him simply because he was a member of the syndicate. The market was filled to the brim with people, merchandise was bought, sold, haggled, broken, stolen, returned, resold. Criers shouted for fish, jewels, cloth, regents, arms, armor, tools and all manner of goods. It was through all this that Grant barely made out a conversation that peaked his ears. "......d I heard it was the wife who done it. Hired an assassin for the fat bastard." "No way, she lived in luxury because of him. Sure he had peculiar tastes, but what's one or two refugee's you turn a blind eye to to keep living that way." The women squawked on, repulsive was the only thought Grant could muster in his head. "Well I heard he set his sights on their daughter, could you imagine that greasy monster as your husband with a leacherous look for your daughter." the woman turned up her nose, obviously the words she spat left an unsavory aroma. The other woman gasped and giggled "Quite the scandal in that house hold, how will she ever manage to live." "Well thats the thing, she's gone. Up and left a few days ago. Syndicate is thinking its mighty fishy and has offered some good gil for any word on them." Grants stomach churned, certainly the wife was guilty of passively turnning her eye from the horrors her husband had unleashed, but the daughter was certainly innocent...He couldn't let others take the fall for his actions. Questions, coin and coercion worked well in gathering information. Grant employed every means necessary to figure out where the mother had run off to, if they've been caught or at the very least how far ahead the syndicate was of him. Bocho's legs pressed against the hard earth, forcing himself ever faster at Grants calling. They were last seen at Last Hope, or at least thats what he was told, looking for an escort to Gridania. The Syndicate was already aware of where they were, and had probably already sent men to take care of them. "Mama!!!!" the high pitched scream of a childs voice laced with terror charged through the air. Grant pressed Bocho on further, faster. He could see the figures in the distance. The mother was surrounded, men with drawn swords surrounded her. He was too far to hear, too close to not be noticed his rampant charge toward them. A few of them drew away from the group, one moved closer to the edge of the cliffside, the child held by the back of her collar, his arm reeled back and Grant knew full well his intent. "Bocho!" he called out "Get 'em" the bird merely nodded slightly picked up pace and lept into the sky, its talons bared forth to catch the first of the would be assailants. Grant dismounted and charged forward, the child pitched over the edge screaming, the mother howling. Gods damnit it all, he thought as he ran and lept from the cliff face. His arm wrapped around the child, pulling her close to hiim, his free hand grasped the hilt of his great sword. Below a toad looked up and launched its tongue at them, a lunch it would soon regret. Grant twisted and sliced the tongue as it apprached, blood sprayed upon them both. The kewh's and screams above worried Grant, he only prayed Bocho could hold out a little longer without him. Even without it's tongue the toad was guaranteed a meal, its mouth slayed wide open as both Grant and the child slammed down its gullet. The slime covered walls surrounded Grant and the child, pressing his blade deep into the flesh around him focusing his dark side to unleash. The dark claws spread through the beast, splitting it open. Grant charged out, the acids burned against his flesh, the child cried out in pain as it seared her skin. He placed her in a rock cover, the battle atop still raging on. "I need you to be brave ok" he said placing the child down "Just stay here, and I'll make sure you and your mom are kept safe." he turned as the child sniffled and cried, the shadows lifted high as a wall to keep her from sight as he charged up the hill. Bocho stood his ground, menacing anyone who come near the mother. Grant could see the wet matting on his feathers as a deeper red seeped out further. Grant plunged himself into the fray, leaping into the air, his sword gleaming in the sun. Two of the men lept free, while the third too slow was split from crown to toe. A lance thrust at him, piercing a weak point in his armor. Grants face sneered at the pain. Nothing vital, just grit your teeth and take it. Grabbing hold of the shaft, Grant slammed his sword down upon it snapping it. His assailent left without a weapon backed away from the dark knight. An arrow clanged against his helmet, mere ilm from his eye. These men were trained professionals, his wound stung with more than just acids seeping in. Darkness coated his blade as he raised it, flying from its tip as he slashed the air. The writhing black energy coalesced into balls that flew at his assailants, blowing a hole into the first, shredding the arm of another, and the third lacking any real power simply flung him from the cliff side. Grant could feel the poison working its way deep into him, he had to hurry or get away. They out numbered him, and they showed no sign of fleeing at his display of strength. A sharp whistle and a quick swish of his hands, and Bocho grabbed the woman by his beak and charged through the attackers, knocking them off balance as they forgot their existance. At the same moment Grant dropped down to grab the child, and rush off through the Cluch. Arrows shot past his head, as they screamed and shouted. The smell of blood sent the beasts near by into a frenzy that none of the sell swords were willing to cross. Grant ran, even as black fingers coated his eyes, he ran. "....er!" sound made its way back from the oblivion Grant found himself in "M..ter!". Ache and pain returned to him "Mister!" Grant snapped his eyes open, pain filled them as he lay upon the ground. The child kneeling over him, shaking his body. Gods he ached. "Mister! Don't die!" He meant to laugh but only sputtered out a mouthful of blood as he rose up. The affects of the poison could be felt in his body, it was meant to inhibit, not kill....the gods favored him today. "I'm not gonna die." he said, looking over himself he noticed make shift bandages, with floral prints soaked with his blood. The girl wiped the tears from her eyes, her dress ripped and torn where she had made the bandages. He stood up slowly, woozy from blood loss, aching from wounds. "I'm going to be ok, but we need to keep moving." he looked to his surroundings, Camp Drybone wasn't far, he could hire a porter and take this girl out of here. But it would be easy to track. Bocho would find him eventually, the chocobo was his most loyal companion and friend, having been with Grant long before he was an adventurer. He always found Grant, blood spattered, near death, that bird had saved his life on more than one occasion. Limping, sword still in hand Grant made way for the Camp. He needed treatment, a few potions, and several dozen stitches. He laughed to himself, Lia's going to love this report. It was several days, hunkering down at the Drybone's Inn before Bocho made its way back to Grant. The mother and daughter had their heart felt reunion, and he felt better. The wounds would take time to heal, but this moment made it all worth it. Thanalan was no longer safe for them, it couldn't be their home anymore. There was one place Grant knew could be used as a safe house till their new lives were set... The mist was as lovely as Grant remembered it, and with it a wisp of memory haunted him while he stood before the door. Well tended even after her death and his departure, the house of his lost future stood before them. He turned to them "Now this is only temporary, we'll get you a proper place to stay and new identities." The door creaked open, and he was greeted with a flood of emotions. He showed them around, where they could stay, advising them not to leave. He would make sure they were taken care of until they were made safe, and as he left he paused before the fire place. Hung above its mantle, a shield engraved with countless names, stared down at him. One name stuck out to him, his hand incapable of etching it out, his arm no longer capable of carrying the burden sat there. The book of spades rested in a glass case just below it. He hated it, its pages foretold her death and he was left powerless to stop it...but that life was over. Grant hefted his sword over his shoulder, its weight was reliable and strong. Preemptive, strike first, kill before they kill, render them harmless to those you love. Even if it damned him, Grant would remove any threat to his friends and family before they drew near. He walked away, intending full well not to look back when he heard a voice call to him "Mister Grant!" he turned to see the child rushing towards him, slamming into him and hugging him tightly "I'll never forget you Mister Grant." she looked up to him, her eye's twinkling with tears and awe. Smiling he ruffled her hair and sent her back to her mother, and for a brief moment he saw what life could have been...what he wanted it to be and for the last time Grant allowed himself to dream of a future of children, of a home. And just as quickly as the moment came, it was gone, buried deep into his heart.