Chapter 2.0 - The legend of the twenty million platinum man

Chapter 2.0 - The legend of the twenty million platinum man

A Chapter by TOF_Matt
"

A trip to a local bar for their first meal in ages lands Noal and Ella right in the middle of a bounty hunter's clutches.

"

Threads of Fate


Chapter 2.0

The legend of the twenty million platinum man.


As much as she wanted to stand up and announce to the Fate-illiterate masses how she was the hero of the day, Ella instead exercised some restraint.  She quickly gathered all her scattered tarot cards and her still-bewildered partner, then ducked into the nearest pub �" a joint called Gracey’s.  The inside was larger than its exterior suggested but modest in its décor, consisting of little more than a collection of warm brown tables and worn padded chairs in various states of disrepair.  The only striking features were a player piano in the far corner, belting outdated tunes slightly off-key, and a large moose head hung directly over the bar �" imported, no doubt, as Ella had failed to notice any moose around the desert. 


The bottom of their shoes smacked on the sticky wood floors as Noal and Ella entered, drawing the attention of a line of men sitting at the bar.  They ranged from skinny and sickly to grossly overweight, and brandished unappreciative raised eyebrows.  Regulars sizing up the new guys, Ella thought.  The bartender, on the other hand, wore a welcoming smile but he wasn’t exactly winning any awards either; Ella could’ve sworn she saw something move from within his beard.  It was hardly what one would call a five-star establishment, but on the other hand they’d wandered the Fringe for so long that she hardly remembered what a five-star establishment even looked like anymore.


                “Phew.  Well, that was a nightmare.  How are you feeling?” Ella asked as she and Noal sat down in the nearest open booth.


Noal didn’t answer.  His gaze was currently fixated on a group of teens sitting in the corner.  They were elaborately dressed, particularly for the relative poverty of the Fringe " most Fringe folk barely scrounged enough platinum pieces to pay for shirts and pants let alone the jewellery and other gaudy accessories these ones had.  The boys sat back in their chairs, stretched out cocky and sure as if they owned the place.  The women all sat cross legged, pretending to chat nicely before arching forward with each laugh, flaunting their ample bosoms in competition.  All of them were probably playing hookie from whatever school they were supposed to be in - it was the middle of the morning after all.


                “Noal!” Ella shouted, snapping her fingers in front of her distracted partner’s face.  “I asked you how you were feeling!”


                “How do you think I’m feeling!?” he seethed, turning to her.  “It’s getting stronger… I mean, usually I have some sense of when it’s coming, but this time there was just no warning.  I think we should just find out why the golden thread led us here and get out, before anything else bad happens.”


Ella leaned over the table, pulling up Noal’s cloak before he even had a chance to flinch. 


                “Hey relax!  Look, see it’s closed again,” she said, pointing at the Providence Eye tattoo on his exposed left arm, which was indeed asleep once again.  “No need to worry, Mr. Hu…”


Noal reached over the table and put his hand over her mouth.  “Are you crazy!?  Don’t’ say it!  Unless you want even more trouble, that is,” he hissed as he pulled his cloak back down.


                Ella pulled his hand off.  “All I’m saying is, don’t worry so much!  You have the greatest fortune teller in the western hemisphere backing you up, remember?  Before we go rushing back into the desert again, what say we at least get some food in us first?”


For once Noal had no retort, instead picking up his menu and bowing to her good sense.  They both sat for a precious few quiet moments, perusing the specials: minced sand kiwi - twenty-four platinum pieces, fried griffon-bird egg " thirty platinum pieces, armored lizard stew with desert radishes " forty-five platinum pieces.  Yet even as she sat there, something even more salivating was already knocking at the back of her mind. 


At first she thought she was just hearing things: a choir of cheers and laughter quickly silenced, then ringing bells and shuffling cards again silenced.  She looked up from her menu to find Noal’s eyes wide with terror, and when she turned she instantly understood why.  Behind her, a waiter was moving back and forth through a swinging door, which led to a casino on the other side!  Slot machines, game tables, high rollers, and big spenders, she caught all of it in the blink of an eye.  The door glowed like a portal, a dingy, dark-stained portal to prosperity.  She was already salivating, but it was no longer at the thought of food.


“Absolutely not,” Noal said, out of the blue. 


“Excuse me?”


“Ella, tell me, do you even HAVE any money left to gamble away?”


She frantically fingered through her pockets and pouches, predictably coming up with only two copper pieces. 


“Just a few plats!  A couple of notes!  Copper pieces even!” she pleaded, going into full begging mode.  “I’ll double it in fifteen minutes!”


“Oh really?  You’ll double it will you?  And I suppose that’s what happened when you bet on that horse race in Gram City?”


“I was getting forty-to-one odds!”


“Ella, your horse DIED before reaching the finish line!”


She opened her mouth to rebuttal, but then just shrugged.  “Okay, I may have slightly misread Fate on that one.  How was I supposed to know horses only live to be twenty-five?”


“Then there was that little card game with the Sundance Society.  How much did you lose there again?”


“Hey, that wasn’t my fault.  They were cheating!”


“YOU were cheating!”


Ella recalled.  “Oh yeah,” she said, with a crooked grin.  “Almost got away with that one.”


Noal just put his head in his hands.  “Look, don’t go getting your threads in a knot just because I can control my spending.  For once can we please just sit here and have a nice quiet meal.  I’ll even buy you a nice lentil salad, how’s that?”


Ella looked at the two measly copper pieces in front of her and deadpanned.  “My, you’re so generous.”


Noal rolled his eyes.  “Look, let’s not forget the real reason we’re here.”


Ella’s eyes instinctually darted to Noal’s right arm.  “Ah yes, the cure.”  Ella leaned across the table, her expression turning deadly serious.  “About that…  Noal, are you sure you won’t reconsider?  I mean, this whole quest of yours to get rid of your… unique ability.  Are you sure that’s for the best?  Your power is unlike anyone’s ever seen.  You and I, we could be pioneers...”


                “Ella, we’ve been over this.  Yes, you were able to save the day today, but what about next time, or the time after that?  You aren’t always going to be there every hour of every day, and you know full-well that what happened out there was only a small fraction of what this thing’s truly capable of.”


“Okay, but then what about our agreement?  I mean, if you just gave it a little more time, you could probably learn to…” 


 “No Ella.  I’ve given it enough time.  I’m tired of this life.  Do you know how hard it is to make friends when Fate is constantly trying to smash them under boulders or drown them in lakes?  Do you know how hard it is to get a girlfriend when it starts to rain every time you hold hands?  I’d give anything just to remember what it’s like to be normal.”  By now Noal’s eyes had wandered back to the chatting teens sitting at the corner table.  “Look Ella, I’ll still honor our business arrangement.  But that doesn’t mean I’m not gonna do all I can to get rid of this thing, once and for all.”


                “But…”


                “No buts.  Not this time.”


Ella shook her head disapprovingly, then stood up from the booth, grabbed her two copper coins, and headed for the back room.


                “Hey, where do you think you’re going?”


                “Ah ah ah,” Ella chided, pointing to a sign on the wall.  “No one under eighteen allowed on the casino floor " I’m afraid it doesn’t specify normal or not.  Anyway, it’s obvious that if I leave it up to you I’ll never make it big, so I guess I’ll just have to try a different strategy.”


* * *


A part of him felt bad as he watched her walk off, though not too bad since it saved him from buying an extra salad.  Still, guilt tugged at his conscience.  Just what would’ve happened to that little boy if Ella hadn’t been there today?  What would’ve happened to that entire market, for that matter, if she hadn’t stymied The Power right then and there?  If the torn wallpaper and stained floors of Gracey’s was any indication, Noal very much doubted that even the ironically-named Fortune Town had much spare platinum to rebuild an entire city.


These were familiar surroundings for Noal, at least as of late.  He and Ella had spent months travelling between towns in the area known as the Fringe, a plot of land the size of a small country located smack between the much larger nations of Luppita and Terra.  For some reason or another, neither had yet laid claim to this neutral territory.  Perhaps they thought such an act of aggression toward the other might incite another war?  Or perhaps they were simply uninterested in the barren deserts, empty plains, and murky marshes that dominated the majority of the Fringe’s landscape.  Either way, the disinterest of the greater nations kept the Fringe open, free, and, to be quite honest, savage.  It was difficult to make platinum out here, and even harder to hold onto it.  


Noal’s heart sank into his stomach as his thoughts returned to that little boy in the street.  No, if Ella hadn’t been there, there was no way Fortune Town could’ve afforded to rebuild.  Why couldn’t the golden thread ever lead them to a town of jerks or lowlifes who deserved to be destroyed?  Noal immediately shook that thought from his mind; that was no way to be thinking!  Ella’s protests aside, The Power was a curse and it needed to go.  Besides, what did he really owe her?  In the end, she was getting what she really wanted after all…


 “Got your eye on that one, eh?  She’s got a lot of spunk, that’s for sure.”

A voice from the bar interrupted his train of thought.  Noal looked over and found the bartender leaning across it, staring intently at him, the last of his patrons putting down some loose change and stumbling off to the doors.


“My eye" on her?  Ha.  She’s more trouble that she’s worth.”


“Trouble’s what makes-em worth it,” the bartender responded with a sly grin and a lick of his lips.


Noal shuddered involuntarily.  He could smell the man’s breathe all the way from the booth " a rotten combination of bad olives and whisky.  He wore a pressed black vest and bowtie, yet somehow was still absolutely filthy.  His thick black beard looked as if it were painted onto his face, which itself was a cracked wasteland of wrinkle valleys and oily lakes with one mountainous black wart anchoring it all on his left cheek.  He must have been at least thirty years her senior, but that didn’t stop him from ogling Ella and licking his lips. 


“Trust me,” Noal said.  “We’re traveling together and I’m telling you now, whatever you’re thinking, she’s not worth it.” 


 “Heh, a travel companion like that, eh?  What she cost you?”


“Oh I got a real bargain.  All she cost me was my dignity.”

Noal returned his attention to the menu, hoping the bartender would get bored and go away.  His choking musk was overpowering even the smell of food the next booth over.   


“So what’s yer story kid?” he asked, still looking at Ella.  “Runaway?  Con artist?  Refugee?”  He leaned in and leered.  “Convict?”


“W-What makes you say that?” Noal squeaked. 


“Dunno kid, you look tense.  Only two kinds of people come to Fortune Town.  Those lookin’ to get rich, and those lookin’ to get away.  And, well, if you’d made it rich, you wouldn’t be sittin’ in a dump like this, would’ya?”

Noal had dealt with enough bounty hunters in his time to know that grin.  Discreetly, he grabbed the butter knife from the table.  The bartender bellowed a deep laugh that shook him.


“Haha, don’t worry kid.  Whatever you’re worth, it can’t even be close to what I’m worth!” he laughed, spitting into a glass and giving it a shine with his washcloth.  “I’ll let you in on a little secret.  I’m wanted in every nation on this planet.  I’m a horrible man who done horrible things.  I caused so much chaos they got a real special name for me.  The Human Hurricane.”


Noal lowered the menu and gave the bartender a sideways glance.  “The Human Hurricane?  Right.”  He rolled his eyes, dipped the knife in a package of butter, and started spreading it over a piece of bread.


                “What?  Ain’t you ever heard of the Human Hurricane?  I’m the scourge of the seven nations!  The Great Destroyer himself!  I’m the most wanted man in the world!”


                “The Human Hurricane is just a myth,” Noal said, not even looking up.  “You aren’t him.”


                The bartender grunted.  “A myth!?  Would the nations be offerin’ a joint twenty-million platinum reward for a myth!?  They want me ‘cause of all the stuff I done: bustin’ up whole cities, puttin’ whole droves of their people in the hospital!”


“Right, and I’m sure that was all you.”


“You better believe it was!  You really ought t’be afraid o’me.  I even wiped out my entire home town!”


Noal suddenly stopped dead, his mocking expression turning gravely serious.


                “I remember it like it was yesterday… sittin’ around in that boring fart of a town.  How can I start my legacy, I thought to myself one day.”    


Like a wild animal, Noal suddenly leapt the distance between the booth and the bar, grabbing the bartender’s collar and pulling him face-to-face.


                “That’s not how it happened!”


The stench at this range did everything it could to push Noal away, but he bore it.  The bartender, stunned by the sudden outburst, stammered stupidly for a few seconds before finally comporting himself with a raised eyebrow.


                “Really?  What would you know o’that?”


Oh how he’d like to show him, Noal thought, but infuriating as this man was, even he didn’t deserve that.  At least, this was what Noal thought until his eyes stumbled upon the black streaks on the bartender’s forearm.  Noal tilted his head and his whole body froze.


                “Where… where did you get that tattoo!?” Noal stammered.


                “My tattoo?  What’s it to you?”


The sight of those black marks made all Noal’s reservations forfeit.  For the first time in a long time, he purposely rolled up his cloak and held up his left arm, revealing a cage of belts and buckles encased around a jet-black tattoo of sinister tendrils.  The bartender’s eyes grew wide with fear.


              “Now, like I said before, where did you get your tattoo!?” Noal demanded.


“You little cheater!” an unfamiliar voice shouted from the casino floor.


Noal’s expression melted into utter horror.  The bearded bartender just smiled.


“Well would you listen to that?  Guess you were right.  Your friend really is more trouble than she’s worth.”



Threads of Fate



© 2011 TOF_Matt


Author's Note

TOF_Matt
After a long while of looking at this, I realized that there was a fundamental lack of relation between Noal's everyday life, and the life of a typical YA audience. Therefore I added his "yearning to belong" to the group of teens. Do you find it brings you closer to the character?

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Featured Review

NO! Your action is perfect! Instead of grabbing my attention through facts and character development, you jump right into action. If a book doesn't excite me within the first twenty pages, I put it down. Mystery alone can only get me so far.

Forget what I said about adding some more detail to the town - it is described very well in the second chapter, along with more of Noal's character.

I'm really enjoying this story so far, especially Ella's spunk and Noal's guarded-ness, and I look forward to reading more!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 9 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

The hell with closeness I love the guy and I say buy him a drink. I can't wait to read what is going to happen next. I am glued........AWESOME!!!!!

Posted 9 Years Ago


Ah, chapter two,
next time send me an RR!!
I would like to read this further,
but have no time.. and am afraid i will forget..
so thanks for the troubles..
Your action is wel timed,, ,and sometimes a bit to much, but further just good.
Maybe a little to much, but it also keeps me in the story,
im just not a real action hero, with anything, i like slow paced stories
i liked that you put in that little piece,
though i didnt saw it without it,
but without it, i think i wouldnt live with the character as much as i do now.

Your plot is really good and developing,
Real nice write all together

Posted 9 Years Ago


One of the main things that I've noticed that I really adore is your command of emotions. It's really remarkable how from one minute the situation gets really intense, and the next I'm yanked into a comical situation. And there isn't any left over residue left over from the previous emotion that makes me want to stay there... it's a gentle tug throughout the story that just keeps me fascinated the whole time. I feel like a kid in a candy store reading; everything is just grabbing my attention and I keep turning to this thing then the other, then the other, and then some... but the questions of the previous explanations are just enough to grab my attention and have me begging for more. I love it!

Posted 9 Years Ago


Yes there is a good exposition, and your presentation is good. I love your characters and your plot is getting good. I am interested in knowing more about the Power.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 9 Years Ago


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I think the first chapter is brilliant. And I'm not just saying that. You fit a lot of introductory information into a very small space and did it elegantly, which is quite an accomplishment.
I've seen very few people who are able to do that. The dialogue communicates their characters well (their personalities are very believable) and the description mirrors the perceptions of whatever character you're focusing on.. e.g. "Ella could’ve easily dodged a cheap shot like that, but as usual her wide mouth and bloated ego obstructed her view."
The pace is pretty good and the flow of ideas is natural and it doesn't feel like you're making 'literary jump-cuts' (I don't know what to call it.)

The fight scene felt a bit "fantasy" to me though, like there's a lot of focus on "powers" and "titles." It may just be personal taste, but I think that people would get used to things that we think are extraordinary and it would be commonplace for these things to happen. So you would only have the normal (though harrowing) adrenaline-response and the character's regret that something unusual about their skills or personality makes life difficult for them. though like i said it could just be personal taste.

The idea that he was the real human hurricane was pretty obvious and I don't always figure those things out (because it requires some sort of social know-how probably) so it may be well done or it may be too obvious. I just thought I'd mention it.

You also have a typo: "I don't things can get much worse!"


This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I love the characters and the names you chose for them. Your plot is getting thicker and I am in great anticipation to discover what is in store for your characters.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 9 Years Ago


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TJ
Amazing character development and backstory reveal. Pacing us very good as well!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

NO! Your action is perfect! Instead of grabbing my attention through facts and character development, you jump right into action. If a book doesn't excite me within the first twenty pages, I put it down. Mystery alone can only get me so far.

Forget what I said about adding some more detail to the town - it is described very well in the second chapter, along with more of Noal's character.

I'm really enjoying this story so far, especially Ella's spunk and Noal's guarded-ness, and I look forward to reading more!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 9 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.


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Added on June 14, 2011
Last Updated on August 13, 2011
Tags: Threads of Fate, tof, Fate, fantasy, steampunk, anime, manga
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Author

TOF_Matt
TOF_Matt

Canada



About
Matthew Chan grew up in the harsh Tundra of Ontario, Canada, braving freezing temperatures, taming wandering polar bears, and helping the local populace battle the occasional giant ice spider - in ot.. more..

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