36 - In Flagrante Delicto

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Recorded from an excerpt of Gerald Akribastes's Mission Log
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Cade eases his way down the dark hall, angling Gerude's body so that his knees don't bump too much against the stone walls.  Can't have him getting too serious of an injury, after all.  He might need the boy to walk, later.  Or to do menial labor.  Who's to know what's ahead?  The Castle is falling and it's time to move on, as Cade always does, after collecting his souvenirs.  It's only a little ways farther, and then he can be out of here, on to the next Court, or gang of bandits, or future disaster site.  Who's to tell, with his life?  The Jherent Nul always makes it an interesting ride for him, and could he ask for more?

Of course not, not when he can always just take it for himself.

The Jherent o'Audiva Rocale was right about one thing - this Armed certainly looks just like his brother.  It's a shame he isn't his brother, but Cade will make do, just as he always does.  Looks close enough to pretend, at any rate.  Are we getting close, now?  He's growing impatient.  It's time to leave this empire.  The Judge is here already, and Cade's skirted the Law too many times to believe he'll always make out that lucky.  It would also be inconvenient to get caught and expose his master's involvement in the Peacock King's crimes.

So Cade thinks, and so he sneaks back into his so-called office, dropping my brother's body onto the bed I not too long ago occupied.  He locks the shackles around his wrists and ankles, then looks down, chuckling at how similar he looks to me.  Then he looks up at an unexpected noise and meets Wagner's barrel as it strikes him across the jaw.  Bruce goes for his nose.  I'd say the shot at the moment the barrel strikes his nose from the side was unintentional, but it wasn't.  Cade screams, grasping for the bloody stump where his nose used to be, which is enough of an opening for me to club him over the head and...kick him a lot while he's down.  I'm only paying him back for what he and his men gave me.

After awhile that gets boring and I decide to unchain my stupid brother.  Lazy sot.  Comes in at the end of things to save the day, and where is he?  Lying around in bed.  Well, he can have his nap.  Time to ransack Cade's desk.  There's Elric's poor quill, alright...and here's Cade's writings.  Oh, good.  He was fool enough to keep a journal.

Looks like I've found more useful things in here than just my brother.  I give Cade another kick in the head before trying to rouse Gerude.  It's probably going to take awhile - the dip's always had a habit of sleeping in.  I want the help when it comes to dragging Cade out of here.

* * *

I can't do much here but watch as Faun speaks to the dryads and nymphs.  The small ones he just brushes with his fingertips.  They blink, look around them with confusion, and then start to leave.

The larger ones, the ones that look like humans with strange features added...those take more time.  Faun looks like he's having trouble.  He'll reach up and touch their cheeks, or their foreheads, and concentrate.  For some, their eyes clear and focus after that, and they start to ask questions, look around them, or simply just disappear to who knows where.  A few, Faun has to take aside and sit down.  I realize why after a few moments.  One's missing an arm, another is blind...four more have no tongues.

"See, Lyric," he says low, as if he were speaking in church, "some didn't go willingly under his command.  There were some that he had to break for that to happen.  You see what happened to them, when he did?" I nod.  "What am I to do, to free them?  I'm as helpless to change them as I am to heal my own mother."  He glares down, looking at no one.  "Only the Peacock King could hope to free them.  Do you see what a mess this is?"  He sees me nod.  "Then what do you think?"

I look down, unable to meet his eyes.  "I think I'm not sure why you're asking me of such things.  I haven't been the most help to anyone lately.  I don't even know much about these spirits.  Why do you have me with you?"

He thinks, his expression blanking.  Finally, he produces an answer.  "You were allowed to be closer to him than many people ever have, Lyric.  The reason for that opportunity is irrelevant.  You can use that to help.        Who else do you think will help me?  How much help have you seen given to me while the Armed were posted right here?"  His hair stands on end, the cords in his neck standing out in sharp contrast against his skin.

I lay a hand on his shoulder.  His hair lies down a little, and his shoulders un-tense.

"I'll help, Faun, but I still don't know how I can."

He nods.  "Just...listen to me, as you have, and that will be enough.  I'll have to discuss the rest with the Judge.  There needs to be a guard posted - there are too many vulnerable creatures here who cannot leave of their own accord until something has been done for them."

"Right.  I'm sure the Judge can arrange that, Jhe Faun."  I jump and whirl to see who's found us.  Jenny laughs.  "I wonder if I'll get credit for finding you.  Aaaand...finally nobody I have to work with is around to watch..."  She grins, stands there a few moments, and then leaps at me for a hug that feels more like a pounce.  No, really, I scream.  I also...really didn't pee myself a little, I'm serious, I didn't!  "Lyric!  I missed you!  My big gay brother!  Mom blames my lack of prissy girlyness on you, you know.  It's so awesome!"  She looks up, letting me go, and thus granting me breathing privileges.  "Hey, did Jax come through here?  I smell his loser spray that he calls cologne."

"He, he um...he went through that door.  With the princess.  One of the Peacock King's daughters?  Her uh, name's Rocsui-ehellenae."

Faun flinches.  "You don't know what that name means, do you?" He sees me shake my head, though Jenny's brows draw together.  She looks like she might be able to puzzle it out.  "No Father would give that as his daughter's true name.  It's a bind-name, similar to a pet-name.  Calling her Rocsui isn't proper or the best thing but at least it's better than branding her with that.  Poor thing.  Just as bound as the dryads and nymphs, and jumping for freedom at her first sight of a willing man."

"WHA-"  Jenny boggles.  "Oh, shit Jax, you idiot--" She bolts for the door.  I look away.  I really don't want to see what she finds.

It takes a few moments, but the scream reaches us to confirm.  "JAX!  THAT'S NOT PART OF YOUR JOB!!!"

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Recorded from an excerpt of Gerude Akribastes's Travel Log
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Okay, for the record, I do feel fairly embarrassed that someone got the drop on me like that, especially someone like Cade.  Not my proudest moment.

Still, couldn't Gerald just shut up about it?  I'm about to do to his nose what he did to Cade's.  The only reaction he makes when I tell him that is to offer to let me carry Cade by myself.  I almost sock him, but he might actually be serious.

Funny enough, what I really want to do is sit aside, read through that diary of his, and see just what he's up to.  More the Poet reaction, I suppose.  Maybe I'm just catching it from Gerald.  Or maybe whatever's in that diary is just that interesting.

"Careful.  He's about to wake up."  Gerald glares down at our short, bald bit of luggage.  "Hey, you knock him out this time."

"Sure!  Thanks."  Caerig hits the sweet spot on the back of Cade's skull.  I wipe the butt of the pistol on the side of my jeans.

"No prob."  He shifts the load a little, and we continue walking.  I look at my brother out of the corner of my eye.  You know, that's just not his normal 'I busted out of jail again go team me' face.  He's too serious. And tense, geez.  "What are you wound up about?"

He closes his eyes and sighs.  "Our runaway brother, mostly."  Whoa.  He looks like the world's about to end or something.  "He's had it pretty bad.  I just hope someone's there with him when he meets up with Father again."  His eyes widen.  "Oh no."

"What?  What?"  I hate when people freak out all dramatic and then just leave you hanging.  Poets do it the most, man.  Come on, turn the next page of your brain already.

"He'd better not go and run off again.  Oh man, I bet he does."  He sucks in a breath.  "Let's drop off this trash as quick as possible and then try to find him, alright?"

I snort.  "Gerald, aren't you listening?  Aren't Poets supposed to be even better at that than Armed?" I roll my eyes.  "Jenny already reported him in.  She said she found Jax, too.  Sounded a little freaked out about that, actually."

"...Oh."  His shoulders sag with relief.  "Man, I just..."

"What?"  Next page, thanks.

"I guess I can't hope for Father to go easy on him, can I?  It's just...it's not his fault, man.  He was stuck and he even tried to help me."

"Well, I'll make a deal with you.  Move your ass instead of moping about it, and we can drop off this stinkape and then you can tell Dad all you want about Lyric's vacation adventures in Sul.  Alright?  Now, move."

* * *
Recorded from an excerpt of Peacekeeper Camden Briarseal's Travel Log
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I've often heard it asked how it transpires that a certain Poet wound up recording a certain event.  Sometimes the querent is of the opinion that the Poet in question was not the appropriate match for the subject, or was simply an odd choice.  It is said that History is decided by the winners.  Poetry, though, is written by whoever was there.  The Poetry that lives on, though, that's a different story.  Sometimes it is a matter of intrigue.  Sometimes skill or luck.  Sometimes even just the humor of their voice.

For me, however, it is none of those.  I get to tell this part because out of all of the Poets in the audience room, I had the best view.  If it sounds like I am rather proud of my vantage, well, that is somewhat true and somewhat not.  In actuality, I am simply pleased that it all happened as it did because it saved me from having to explain myself to the Judge at that very moment.

The moment is when I am standing before the Judge, up on the Peacock King's dais, opening my mouth to answer his prudent question of 'just what is all this mess about, anyway, and why were you here for it?' with, of course, the 'why didn't you do anything about it earlier' unsaid.  Stealing the words right from my mouth, Gerude steps in alongside our long-lost Poet spy, Gerald.  And between the two, dangling like the strangest hunting trophy I've ever seen?  A bleeding, unconscious, noseless Cade.  I can only grin despite it all.  Some of the Armed in the room even give applause.  I can't admonish them for it, either.  If I weren't in this position, I'd be doing the same.

They bring him forward, then, Gerald's eyes never leaving his Father's.  The Judge, however, doesn't break his gaze from Cade.  It doesn't even need to be vocally commanded - our best warders and binders set to him immediately.

"Shame I didn't save that collar the Peacock King put round my neck.  Might have come in handy," Gerald grumbles, rubbing at a few scratches on his throat.  I hear his Arms gloat about that, and need no imagination to know how that went down.  Gerald's Father gestures for him to come forward.  Gerude follows closely.  I narrow my eyes, looking over the second brother.  It appears Jhe Gerude has taken an injury recently.  His failure to meet anyone's gaze further incriminates him.  Perhaps he has his own story to tell, then, though Gerude's stories are often cripplingly short and interspersed with crudeness.  ...Appropriate for a story involving Cade.

Gerald stands before his Father, below the dais.  The Judge looks him over very closely.  "Someone with a healer's touch have a look at him, especially his clarity of mind," he says softly.  Then his eyes flick to Gerude.  He snorts.  "As well as Gerude's clarity of skull."

There's a strange hush, then, and I see 'Sy's face before I see what he's looking up at.  Shock and long-endured waiting manages to slip through before his expression stiffens.  So guarded, always - but there was just that moment.

Gerald knows without looking behind him just who has walked into the room.  "Father!  Please, don't be harsh with him, he was brave enough to save me several times over when it could have gotten him killed!"  Gerald sounds more afraid than Lyric might possibly be.

Lyric is stepping very slowly into the room, Jhe Jenny at his arm, leading him in with confidence.  If Lyric's feet shake as he steps, at least he carries himself with some amount of grace.  His eyes never leave his Father's face, and his lip is quivering a little, but I do give him this - he does not cry.

Faun follows him, giving side-glances to...what is Jhe Cruxradia doing with them?  Did he run across them while working at his chores?  Who is the girl on his arm?  Why does she look like-

"GET YOUR ACCURSED, FOULBLOODED, SOILED HANDS OFF OF MY DAUGHTER!"  I'm impressed at the roar the Peacock King lets out while the Trident is around his throat, and also by how he manages to make the chamber echo and amplify his words even as he's being restrained by the Judge.  But then, he's quite the imperiled one right now.  Hell, I'd do the same if Jax had so much as winked at any of my get.  ...No, my way involves less speech and more blood.  Still, the principle is there.

Suddenly the dais under us shakes as Ebrellin-i struggles to stand up fully.  There's a rush of energy and then he's simply not there.  I'm not sure how he got out, though something tells me the Judge let him out.  There's something about Jax taking anyone's daughter to bed that's simply unjust, and that would do it.  There's also simple comeuppance for those that have ventured where they shouldn't trespass.

[Note added by Jhe Katherine Cruxradia after reading Peacekeeper Briarseal's report: Jhe Camden has received more than one punch in the mouth for the previous sentence's overbearing pompous male assumptive attitude.  When next you meet him, please feel free to give him another.]

That's when everything comes apart, or weaves together, depending on your vantage.  From my vantage, I see the energy that rushed from out of the reach of the Trident coalesce in front of Jax into a very tall, looming, angry figure.  I don't know if Jax has ever had to crane his neck that high to look anyone in the face, but the gesture is soon rewarded with a backhand that audibly swooshes through the air.  Jax goes flying backwards, sprawled on the floor, still sliding even as the Peacock King takes another step forward, mouth open as he draws in a breath.  Perhaps to speak a curse, or simply scream at the boy to high heaven.  Who knows?  We won't, because just then something to the very side of him catches the King's eye and makes him turn.  There, right in front of him now, only a pace or two away.  He levels his arm down to point at the youth, Lyric shrinking back from the gesture.  It looks like more of an attack than a gesture, at that.

"You miserable, backstabbing servant!  How dare you drag accusations to my door and tie me up in your little machinations!  I didn't hire you on for that!  Furs found in your quarters that belong to a distinguished animism!  Guns squirreled away that belonged to a spy!  Lotus isn't even your real name, is it?!  Confess!  Confess to these crimes you've committed in my Palace!"  That accusing finger bends, then, Ebrellin-i's hand clenching into a fist right as a wave of power comes from him.  Faun hisses.  Lyric lurches.

Then the boy stands up, with some effort, shakes himself, and glares right back up at the King.  He steps forward, planting his foot down with a stomp.  "I never signed any contract to speak as you command, and I sure as hell won't do it for you now.  Your crimes are your own."

The Peacock King's eyes narrow.  "Oh?  Is that so?  I think not.  You're a liar, Lyric, if that's even your real name.  Confess!  Confess in front of the Judge!  Did you not take a knife to the animism's throat and force him to his knees?  Did you not strip him of his clothing and keep it as a trophy?  Did you not mislead me about your true Radian origins?  You can't hide it!  It shall all come out in the end!  So confess now and spare us the time and the trouble!  You did all of that, didn't you?"  There's so much power coming from him that Faun falls to the ground.  Rachella manages to pull him away from the King.  His daughter merely stands transfixed, as if someone's holding her there in obedience.  Lyric...he's managing, somehow, to stand up with his chin high.  He's shaking like a leaf in the wind, but he's standing up under what are obviously commands to capitulate.

"Yes."  The Peacock King grins, triumphant.  Lyric goes on.  "Perhaps you expect all that to wash away the fact that you bought the animism, had him collared, chained him, locked him up, and commanded me to train him?  That you locked away the Armed Poet so that you could make him write his Poetry onto a collar for that animism?  That you threatened Jennelcia Akribastes, who you thought was his wife, so that he'd serve you for the rest of his life?"

"His WHAT?!"  Someone has to stop Jenny from attacking then.  I almost fall off the dais myself.

The Peacock King only narrows his eyes, watching Lyric as he levels his own accusations.  "Lies, all lies.  Try as you may to clear your blame, you only dig the hole deeper."  He draws himself up taller, something I wasn't sure was even possible.  "Kneel, J-lui-tiss."  My eyes widen.  He dared give Lyric a pet-name?  And he was stupid enough to speak it aloud in front of the Judge?  The slitted jewel in his crown flashes, something I can't explain away as just a glint of the light.  "On your knees before me, servant, and apologize.  Take the weight of the guilt which you have earned."  The power of command, the amount of force he's putting behind his will, makes my ears pop.  "Plead."  His hand lowers near his side, grasping something invisible.  I narrow my eyes.  I know that stance and that grip very well.  My Arms take the primary form of a whip, after all.

Lyric's legs almost move automatically.  I see his posture shift and his knees bend, as if someone hit him in the backs of his knees.  He staggers towards the King to keep standing, but there's an obvious weight on top of him. He lets out a single whimper, then clenches his hands into fists and bears up under it.  "NO.  I'm not yours!  I never was!  No matter what you tried to take or puppeted me into, I was never yours, and I won't dance for you!"

The King snarls, then raises his hand, the whip crackling through the air, the only visible part of it the occasional sparks of white energy.  Lyric ducks away, but not fast enough.  The King's arm comes down, the whip whistling through the air--

Only to hit the Judge's Trident, whirling around the staff in a tight corkscrew.  Ebrellin-i lurches to the side as the Judge yanks the Trident back, pulling him along by the whip.  Of all things, I don't understand why he didn't expect that.  'Sy was only going to let him go on with his charade for so long.  There are a lot of things we'll never understand about Ebrellin-i, I suppose.

1 comment:

  1. Best line? "enough of an opening for me to club him over the head and...kick him a lot while he's down."

    Also, typo alert: "He staggers torwards the King to keep standing"