• Closed • The Puppetmaster's web

Waking up to a lovely face.

Rising from the stony plateau overlooking the rivers and plains of the western continent, and growing wealthy from the gem stones pulled from this same rocky soil, Etzos is a bastion of independence, eagerly spreading its belief that man should rule Idalos, not be servants of the vain Immortals who nearly destroyed it. But can the different factions set aside their agendas long enough to see this through?

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• Closed • The Puppetmaster's web

Postby Finnegan O'Connor » Sun Feb 04, 2018 11:12 pm

The puppetmaster's web

50th Zi'da, 717
________________________
There was always a fuzzy warmth to slowly waking up on a lazy day, the mind only half-awake like a smouldering fire. He rolled over to his side, noticing the heaviness of his limbs as he chose to remain in the comfortable embrace of the blankets just a little while longer. A soft sigh escaped him, and with it, the dream collapsed.

It started in his forehead. A painful throb, growing stronger with every heartbeat. Then he thought how thirsty he was and how his feet and legs had gotten so stiff and heavy. His stomach growled, prompting a steady barrage of cramps to stab at his abdomen. But the worst realization was yet to come as he reflexively clutched his tummy and opened his eyes.

He did not recognize the ceiling.

As he moved to sit upright, the protection of the blankets slipped away and frigid air raised the pale fuzz on his neck. The stink of a dying oil lamp throwing fat, striped shadows on the floor hit his nostrils, filling his mouth with a disgusting, syrupy taste. His eyes traced the shadows to their source, his mind already half-aware what he would find there, and yet his gut convulsed at the sight of it.

Bars. Thick iron bars separated him from a narrow hallway leading into the darkness. He blinked, his eyes adjusting to the half dark of what was undoubtedly a cell, though a remarkably spacious one at that. For a prison, the mattress was unusually soft and the blanket uncommonly heavy and warm. He almost believed that the bed had been prepared specially for him as he could not discover any stains or rot on. Indeed , he considered that it was strange he had a bed at all as one of his hijinks had once seen him spent a night on a wooden bench in the belly of the hall of rule and reprimand.

A small nightstand next to his bed was littered with cups of water, bits of half-eaten food and strange, dark bottles of syrupy medicine while his clothes rested neatly folded on a low stool in the far corner of the cell. They seemed freshly washed and had at some point been exchanged for the oversized nightgown he wore now, reaching to his ankles. As he slid his legs over the edge of the bed, the first shreds dawned on him. There’d been faceless heads hovering over him, hands lifting him, muffled voices asking indecipherable questions, but there was more, there had to be more. Something was terribly off, but he couldn’t place it.

“Ah...” he hissed through his teeth as a pulse split his forehead, sending alternating waves of hot and cold down his quivering frame. He instinctively reached for the comfort of his friends, but grasped at nothing. There was no earth to greet him, no wind to whisper sweet nothings in his ear, he couldn’t even hear the crackling voice of the flames in the oil lamp.

He shot up from his bed, his bare feet pattering across the cold, stone floor as he paced back and forth, back and forth, back and forth... Beads of sweat trickled down his face when he rested his glowing forehead against the cold, iron bars. “No,” he muttered, his dry lips barely parting. The shadows remained silent as his fingers wrapped around the rusty iron. “No you have to come back. Please,” he begged the void.

A distant door slammed, followed by the telling rattle of a keychain, then footsteps. Finn darted back to his bed and threw the blanket over himself in some futile attempt to hide from whatever monster would come creeping out of the dark. But it was no monster that came, just a man halfway through life, walking with a slight limp in his step. The scuffed footfalls stopped near his cell and Finn didn’t quite shut his eyes in time.

“Hello,” the man greeted, his voice flat as he fumbled with the keys before swinging the creaking door to Finn’s cell open. The man shuffled toward him, bearing a friendly smile. "You've slept quite a while, friend," he mused. Finn propped himself up on his elbows, grimacing as his gut sloshed with sicknesss. "Here," the greybeard soothed as he adjusted the pillows so Finn could sit upright. “Mr Tagley?” the man called in the direction he had come. "Just a moment," he apologised as he shuffled back to the cell entrance and called into the dark. "Mr. Tagley! He’s up...”

Some indistinct noises sounded in the distance and Finn eyed the stranger wearily. “Mr. Tagley will be with you shortly,” the man said as he set about cleaning the little nightstand of drink and food. “Try to look lively. You may have more visitors still. Would you like some more water?” The servant barely waited for an answer as he gathered the bottles of medicine before turning to leave. " What happened?" Finn groaned, rubbing his forehead sleepily. "Where am I?"
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The Puppetmaster's web

Postby Maltruism » Mon Feb 19, 2018 9:03 pm

Image



The unsettling creak of the metal-barred door gave way to a smoothly calming voice. Finn would know immediately that it was not the voice of the servant now leaving with an armload of empty or unused items. It had the tone of a man that had seen enough to know that nearly all actions could be justified under certain circumstances, as well the tone of one who had used that rationale on his own actions at times.

Marlin Tagley, the Guidance Coordinator, took a moment to look the boy over as the youngster asked his initial questions. The elder gentleman's face did not register any particular level of recognition, but he smiled kindly to demonstrate that it did not matter. The nature of his smile saddened somewhat as he considered his answers.

"Son, I wish my answers could give you swift cause to realize that your situation has improved. You are in the lower detention area beneath the Tower of Ministers." He looked around with a grim chuckle, "I suspect it does not look terribly different from the lower levels of the Hall of Rule and Reprimand, where we found you."

He reached down to stroke the boy's brow with a cold cloth, "But rest assured, your situation has improved. It may not be an improvement over what it was a season ago, I honestly do not know how your situation stood then. But you have gotten yourself mixed up in something of an almost treasonous aspect, and the death that nearly claimed you then was really only postponed to allow recovery prior to being merely reworded as 'execution'. So any change in THAT verdict must be viewed as improvement indeed, would you not agree?"

The youngster's look displayed clear recognition of this obvious truth, yet still seemed uncertain of what had brought any of it about. Tagley's brow furrowed with a puzzled sympathy, "Do you truly have no recollection of what happened?" The puzzled look on the boy's face was unaccompanied by any gesture.

Tagley took a deep breath and continued. "All accounts of what happened suggest a considerable talent for magic within that small frame of yours, my boy. But you nearly killed yourself with the extremes of effort you subjected...well...yourself to, as well as the Black Guard below the Hall. It is the reason there is a ward in place here. 'For your own good', the phrase reads, son. Waking up here? In the overstepped condition you are currently suffering? You may well have killed yourself before things could be explained to you."

He came around the bed and sat beside the boy. There was a pause as Tagley waited for any sign of returning memory. Eventually he shrugged, "Well, perhaps a blank of recall may be one of the effects of your overstep. But I am inclined to think it is as much an emotional response to the horror of what you endured as any backlash of ether expenditure." The look on Tagley's face became intense, "...as well as what you saw others endure? Those you may have cared greatly about?.....Nothing?"

The young man's expression grew in dread, but still did not indicate any recall. Tagley looked at him with deep regret and sighed heavily, "You were part of a jailbreak attempt, on behalf of a pirate queen looking to deprive Etzos of her part of a previous bargain. There was a Black Guard agent among those who took part. He was there to infiltrate and ensure that any reneging on her part could be undone at her end. That was why he did the thing he did."

Tagley was clearly taking only the first step in reciting events. He had decided upon the order in which he would present the events, and now continued with obvious hesitation, "This is why he could not allow himself to be recognized by anyone that might have betrayed his cover to this pirate...Even a child...Even a little girl...Even one that you know...Even one named Molly."

When Finn was once again under control, Tagley continued, his voice now raised to be heard, but still carrying great regret and sympathy. "That is why you killed the man! And those that came to his defense. It caused you to overstep. That is how you were captured. That is why there is a ward in place here." his voice softened to give the boy the concessions he was there to offer.

"Now, you must know that killing a Black Guard is a death sentence most of the time. I suppose right now, you probably don't even care about that." He patted the child's head, "Please believe that I was horrified to hear what happened. A little girl...only guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time." He shook his head sadly, "It is why I am here. I have advocated for the verdict to be overturned. I have argued that this was like the murder of a family member, and who would NOT do what you did under such circumstances?"

The boy seemed lost in grief, as Tagley looked on, tears glistening in his own eyes. "I can come back later if you'd like."
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The Puppetmaster's web

Postby Finnegan O'Connor » Wed Feb 21, 2018 6:10 am

The puppetmaster's web

50th Zi'da, 717
________________________
The old fellow seemed friendly enough, the many wrinkles and the slight tremble in his voice betraying the frailty of old age. The smile on the man's face was unnecessary as Finn had already concluded the fellow was no threat, not even now that the elements had abandoned him and a sickness lingered in his blood. The wet cloth pressing against his brow purchased some temporary relief from the furnace in his head though the effects soon waned, leaving a steady throbbing in his temples.

Eyes still heavy with sleep, Finn fixed his gaze on the opposing wall and cocked his head ever so slightly to the side. As Marlin recounted what had happened he seemed to slowly wake from the daze of dreams and occasionally his features would light up in recognition of the story. Yet it wasn't until Tagley spoke of Molly that his features shifted into bitter agony. The blanket rustled as he pinched the edge of the cloth between his fingers and fidgeted while his eyes stubbornly turned away from Tagley. He hadn't yet spoken a word and it seemed he would remain silent until the old man moved to leave.

“She was me friend,” he said just as Tagley stood up to leave, his voice flat and hollow. To his own surprise the words made it past his throat without a stutter, perhaps because it felt as though someone else had said it, a spirit temporarily inhabiting his body, regulating his movements while he grieved in silence. For a few trills he remained thus: at rest against the wall yet every muscle tense and his narrow shoulders pressing up and inward. No medicine could cure this ailment.

“I’ll burn them,” he promised afore finally meeting Tagley's gaze. A feverish sweat had darkened and clumped his hair together and the same perspiration glistened on his face, rendering the streaks under his eyes and down his cheeks almost invisible.

“I’ll burn ‘em all.”

Tagley was right: great power was contained within that small frame, but it was no more magic than the rock from which the prison was hewn. This power came from the human spark and burned infernally behind the eyes. Only once before had such determination welled up in him: when he'd chased after his sister the day she left the orphanage. For two trials he'd marched, alone, surviving only thanks to a combination of miraculous luck and the kindness of a few strangers. This time however, he would take no help for he wanted none. The pirates, the guard, all those responsible for Molly’s death would meet the most terrible fate. Not even their ashes would remain.

“I'd like to leave.” He expected Tagley to argue and countered preemptively. “I dun’t give a shit. They may hang me after for all I care... Just lemme go, lemme kill them.” The blanket was thrown aside and Finn seemed determined to slay a great deal of dangerous men and women in his nightgown, with no weapons but his dirty bare hands as he started toward the metal door.
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The Puppetmaster's web

Postby Maltruism » Fri Mar 02, 2018 7:22 pm

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Tagley paused in the door at the brutal words scorching the air of the cell. It was a good thing there was a ward in here, or the poor lad would have probably already killed himself from overstepping, as a result of some vengeful effort. He turned back, his face darkening now as he retook his place beside the boy.

"Of you course you say that. And it may surprise you that I know you mean it. I'm not going to sit here and say "oh, you don't really mean that". His voice slipped into mockery at the words, and returned to seriousness just as smoothly. "I'm not a fool, Finn. Nor am I someone that doesn't truly understand what you're feeling. But don't worry, I'm not angry at you for thinking that I don't. It's an easy thing to assume.

He took a breath, "You think of Molly as a sister, am I correct? Do you think a man would feel any less pain at the loss of a loving daughter? Do you think that if he had any sort of power or authority, that he wouldn't use it to embark on a campaign of revenge against those that killed her? It sounds like justice, doesn't it?"

The old man was no longer looking at Finn. It seemed more that he was looking inwardly. "So he goes out and starts striking these men down, leaving wailing ruined lives behind; wives and children in his wake. What attitude do you suppose these wives and children respond with? Maybe they have a little money saved up. Enough to buy a mercenary or two."

His face grew grimmer and more haggard as he spoke. "So instead of spending this savings on home and hearth, they decide to sate their grief with hate and violence. These children will starve in the coming Zi'da and Cylus. One of them, a sister, like Molly, actually starves and freezes to the point of dying of some sickness. Oh, but we just add the blame for that to all the rest"

His voice now turned savage with sarcasm, "Oh, but at least they got their vengeance!..."
He calmed a bit before going on, "...Or did they? Did the mercenary make a mistake? Kill the wrong man or men? He probably never even knows. It was just a job, but he thought he did it right; and he'd already been paid. So now we've got two or three more families crying out for justice...for vengeance."


He wiped his face a few times, taking a shuddering breath, "Sometimes the two end up being the same. But all too often they just escalate the misery. You can't really be sure of finding the right men. You already killed the ones that were directly involved. And we understand it enough that we're not going to cast a verdict on you. But everyone else involved is not guilty of this. Zipper was there, so she was "involved". Are you going to kill her too?"

He stood as he said this, turning to look frankly into the boy's face. Then he took another deep breath and smiled as he walked to the door, "You need to recuperate. I want you to rest on this for a couple of trials." He stopped in the doorway and looked back, his face sad once again, "There's two other things I'd like you to think about, but I suspect you've got a thing or two you'd like to say first. So go ahead, I will be by every trial to see how you're recovering."
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The Puppetmaster's web

Postby Finnegan O'Connor » Mon Apr 16, 2018 9:17 am

The puppetmaster's web

50th Zi'da, 717
________________________
His knuckles cracked and turned white-hot as his hands gripped around the iron bars, willing them to melt away, but they remained solid as his own heavy breathing echoed down the abandoned corridor. He had half a mind to whirl around and lash out at the shadow that slunk up to his side, that kind, elderly figure that none but the lowliest of the low could wish to harm. But as soon as the urge arose, it subsided, like a kettle of hot water being hastily moved off the stove before overboiling.

With a sigh, Finn rested his forehead against the iron bars, numbing the drum-beating headache within. It was as much a sign that he was listening that Tagley could hope for, even though he showed little reaction except for the occasional tensing of his frame. For all the polite sense Tagley made, for all the soothing power his voice possessed, honeyed words alone could not stem a wound this deep and terrible. For that ailment, there was only one known cure: time, that scarcest good of all.

When asked if he’d include his sister in his vengeance too Finn finally let go of the bars, his hands sliding down until his arms fell uselessly at his side. “I just might,” he grumbled under his breath before sauntering back over to the bed. It would not be for the death of Molly, but for a thousand smaller crimes she’d committed against him. A needle-prick was not a mortal wound, but a thousand needle-pricks over the course of many agonizing arcs left a scar no smaller and equally ghastly as the scar Molly’s death would undoubtedly turn in to.

He rested his chin in the cup of his hands and had averted his gaze from Tagley’s prying eyes, leaving the old man with the philosopher’s question if a brother could hate his sister so much as to warrant murder. He curled up as much as he could, seated on the edge of the bed, unwilling to face Tagley yet not insensitive to the mounting pressure to say something as the elder man lingered near the door. His throat was dry and he suddenly regretted not having feasted upon the food and drink when it had been at his bedside. A rat or some other small creature squeaked and scurried through the semi-dark. Finn desired to flee and hide in some dark crevice just the same, but he could not. A flash of light, sorrowful eyes framed by messy dark hair and thin lips sagged into an uncharacteristically dour frown stared back at The Guidance Coordinator.

“Thank you,” he choked out, and then stubbornly turned his back on Mr. Tagley.

---


If he was truly grateful, he had an odd way of showing it. One trial passed into the next and while the fever and headaches cleared, he remained sullen and quiet for the better part of each passing day. When he spoke, he spoke only of superficial matters, prefering to dodge or plainly ignore any questions pertaining to the incident. Even the faintest reference to or mention of Molly instantly quieted him for the remainder of the trial, thus further testing the patience of his captors. What poor and little light made it into the lower regions of the tower only aided in his sickly appearance, his face turned cold and gaunt and his eyes fixed on some distant, infinitesimal point. It was on the fourth trial, when the servant delivering the occasional plate of nourishment swung the door to his cell open, that the depths and depravity of prolonged solitude became apparent. The bed-linnen had been ripped apart, torn into strips and then woven back and tied into a rope. What little furniture the room contained had been rearranged: the nightstand had been placed atop the bed while Finn sat at the base of the makeshift tower, the rope resting in his lap.

He fidgeted with the loop he’d tied into the linnen, contemplating for the umpteenth time if he had the courage and resolve to finish what he’d started. When he became aware of the servant’s presence, he jumped up like a startled deer and tried to prevent the alarmed servant from entering, but with the swift help of another custodian, he was soon overpowered and the rope was yanked from his greedy hands.

Whether it was coincidence or deliberate, Finn didn’t know, but a cold dream later, the cell opposite his own was occupied with the shadow of an haggard and skinny looking man.

“Hey.”

That was how all misfortunate started, Finn thought somberly. He looked up regardless. The wrinkled face pressed between the bars looked almost as worn and old as Mr. Tagley’s, except the other prisoner possessed the frame of someone halfway through his forties. A big birthmark marred the man’s neck and his skin glowed with the heat of Saun. “Aren’t you gonna eat that?” Not an Etzori, Finn could tell. The accent sounded more Southern.

“Hmm?” The man insisted after a bout of silence.

Finn stood up from where he’d curled up in the far corner of the wall and clumsily shuffled over to pick up the latest plate of untouched food that had been put aside for him. His belly grumbled at the sight of what appeared to be fresh bread stuffed with tuna and boiled egg, but his mind was far too stubborn. With some effort he managed to tilt and squeeze the plate between the bars without spilling the precious food all over the hallway. He could not reach the other cell, but the man’s stubby fingers could reach just close enough to seize the other end of the plate. Finn expected the prisoner to greedily yank the plate from his hands, but was instead met with wide eyes and hesitation.

“Are you sure?” the man muttered, not quite capable of hiding his astonishment. “You’re thin.” There was a certain irony to those words, spoken by a ghost of a man. Yet it was more effective than all the soothing tales and allegory that the custodians had conjured up in increasingly desperate attempts to make disregard his stubborn nature and simply eat.

“I’m fine,” Finn answered hoarsely.

“So am I,” the prisoner who looked to have been plucked from a beggar’s nest under a bridge grinned. They both held on to their side of the precariously balanced plate.

“I’m fine,” Finn insisted.

“We’ll split,” the answer came. And with that the prisoner seized the plate, tore of half the bread and reached out to return the remainder to Finn who reluctantly accepted. “You should eat,” the man encouraged him. “Might be your last meal for all you know.” For a moment the man was quiet, savoring instead the heavenly taste of a meal wholly unsuited for mere prisoners. The groan of relief that echoed throughout the dungeons was the final straw. Finn gave in and tore a mouthful off the fluffy bread. It was indeed fresh, likely baked that morning and still possessed a little warmth, despite having been ignored for half a trial. After the first bite the second followed, filling his growling tummy with oily tuna. By the end of it (which came far too soon), he licked his fingers, almost regretting having given up half his meal to the stranger who was also finishing up.

“I’ll be arsed,” the man said, “but you don’t happen to be some kind of Prince, do ya? They don’t feed us common plebs with anything like this…”

He shook his head.

The man leaned heavily against the bars of his cells and squinted his eyes at the mousy figure before him. “Then what are you? It’s not every day I get to see a ten-arc-old locked behind bars, yet fed like Parhn’s royal pet.”

Finn looked deeply insulted. “[i]Thirteen[‘/i].”

The man shrugged unapologetically. “You look like ten.”

“You look like a beggar,” Finn bit back.

“Ha!” The stranger let out a bark of hearty laughter. “Aye, I do. Maybe I am, maybe I was, maybe I will be.”

“I wasn’t being nice.”

“No, you were being honest. I like that. I wish more people were, wouldn’t you?”

Finn remained silent.

“See, I’d wager that neither of us would be here right now if everyone was honest.” He drummed his fingers against the iron bar. “And that includes ourselves.”

“You’re strange.”

The stranger smiled, then stepped away from the bars and receded into the dark. “Thank you for the meal, Prince.”

---


The next meal was shared in similar fashion, as was the carafe of fresh water, though Finn made sure he was first to sip from it, not wishing to inadvertently poison the water with some of the grey hairs in the stranger’s beard.

“So what’s your name?” the stranger inquired after having wiped the last droplets from his beard.

“Finn,” he answered flatly. “Well, Finnegan really, but everyone calls me Finn.”

“Nice to meet you Finnegan Really.”

A faint smile tugged at the boy’s lips before he resumed idly drawing circles on the floor with his index finger. “And what’s your-”

“Segundus.”

“Se-what?”

“Segundus.”

Finn narrowed his eyes. “You’re not from around here are you?”

Segundus eyes lit up with a mischievous spark before he shook his large head. “Sharp lad.” He sloshed down another gulp of water.

“So where are you from then? Rharne?”

“No.”

“Rynmere?”

“Gods no.”

“Scalavoris?”

“Do I look like a pirate?”

That last word elicited a flash of anger on Finn’s face, but he soon covered it with another guess.

“Ne’haer?”

“Close. Ironridge.”

“I don’t know where that is.”

“You’re not the only one.”

“So what are you in for?”

“That’s the wrong question boy. It’s what I am not in for that’s the shorter answer.”

Finn’s eyes widened as his imagination ran wild with possibilities. Segundus seemed nice enough, yet he openly confessed to a long list of crimes.

“That is,” Segundus added, “if one is to believe the official verdict, signed in triplet by the magistrates and what-have-yous. The reality is that Professor Segundus of Ironridge stuck his nose where he shouldn’t and asked too many pesky questions for his research.”

“What are you researching?”

“Presently I’m researching how ten year olds get wound up in prison.”

Finn snorted.

“Care to enlighten me?” Segundus ventured to ask.

Finn drew his knees up to his chest again, wrapping his legs into the comfort of his arms before letting his eyes dart left and right, as if to make sure no one else was around to hear.

“Murder.”

Segundus frowned.

“I-” Finn started. His voice cracked. “It wasn’t on purpose! I lost control!”

The scholar stroked his beard for a moment and took another sip from the water. “Magic is a terrible thing, Finnegan,” he murmured.

“How do you kno-”

“They passed my cell when they brought you in. Couldn’t make much sense of it then, except someone had been killed and a great deal of havoc had been wrought. I thought you were one of the victims, to be frank.”

“You saw me?”

“Hmm,” Segundus nodded solemnly. “Just a glimpse. It wasn’t a pretty sight. Later I considered that it seemed rather strange to take a survivor into prison unless they were somehow involved in the disaster but… I confess I didn’t consider it much more beyond that. I would’ve never thought that you-”

“- killed someone?” Finn finished the sentence before breathing a heavy sigh. “Me neither.”

---

When Mr. Tagley came around for the fifth trial since the incident, he’d find a rather unusual sight. Finn sat cross-legged at the base of the iron bars, listening intently to a story recounted in colorful detail of one of Segundus failed alchemical experiments during his time as a student. There was still an air of gloom hovering over the young mage, but such was the nature of prisons anyway and the faint smile with which Mr. Tagley was greeted indicated a sudden and significant improvement in the boy’s liveliness. If not for the wards, a cynic would be inclined to suspect a powerful Empath had been at work.
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The Puppetmaster's web

Postby Maltruism » Sun Apr 22, 2018 4:08 pm

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Even as he approached Finn's cell, Tagley could hear the improvement in the youngster's attitude. Segundus, it seemed, had been the perfect prisoner to place across the hall. Tagley grinned to himself. Once again, his insight had been vindicated. Nonetheless, he stopped long enough to strip the satisfaction from his expression. Better that he come in straight-faced and appear pleasantly surprised to account for any smile forming there.

But it was well short of the cell's door when Tagley found his excuse to break into a broad smile, one he graced Segundas with as well. He chuckled and shooed Finn away from the cell door so he could open it without "fear" that the kid might try to slip past him. "Can't have you running off with that smile on your face, young man. People might think we're not tough enough on criminals down here."

Leaving the door shut, but not locked, Tagley took a seat beside Finn on the cot. "So, you seem to be coming around, Finn. I'd hoped to see this. But I have some important things to discuss. First is an issue with both an upside and a down side, I'm afraid. The gentleman across the hall from you is being released this trial, possibly tomorrow at the latest. The documentation is in the works even as we speak."

He put his arm across Finn's shoulders. "I can see this upsets you. I understand, but I know you wouldn't want an innocent man to remain wrongfully imprisoned just to give you someone to talk to. Yes, Lord Vuda himself presented the High Marshall with the proof that the primary deposition against Professor Segundus was false. There's some political upheaval in that part of the world, and someone's agenda there was being served with his arrest here."

He let a look of disgust cross his face, "Politics!...I suppose we'll be getting a request for extradition from them before long. But he won't be in our jail by then. Vuda will see to that. Besides, you have me to talk to if you'd like. I was going to give you the usual talk about how going on a vengeful rampage would just add more youngsters like you to the orphanages here. And you'd know better than anyone how uncaring they can be. And also how that would probably be the last thing she'd want."

There was no need to clarify who "she" was. Finn's expression clearly displayed that he knew perfectly well who Tagley meant. "But that would hardly cheer you up, and I have something else to discuss; something we took away from the scene where we found you. We did not realize it might be yours at first. Ordinarily, a magic well would be the last thing I'd hand over to a mage in a cell. But with the wards active, you can't make use of it here."

Tagley reached into a pocket of his robe, and removed a somewhat grisly-looking nugget. It had a somewhat misshapen look, but still managed to come off as a vaguely organic and heart-like design. Purplish in color, it had short tendrils sprouting from one end in the manner of arterial extensions cut short. It's solidity was belied by the appearance of a wet, "squishy" surface with a few amber "veins" in random patterns. Tagley absently wiped his hand on his robe after handing it over, even though it was not truly wet.

The elderly counsellor knew that many of the mages assigned to military duty in the southern towns had been given wells like these to empower their casting. He kept the look of apprehension as to what this suggested from his face as he went on, "Considering the level of power you displayed, and the fact that you did not die of overstepping as a result, I think this must be yours. Your sister was the only one among the jailbreak group known to possess a well, and it has been confirmed that this is not hers."

He did not mention that there was also the fact of Molly's chest being burst open, with the heart missing and a number of the other internal organs being partially hardened beyond anything rot or rigor mortis would account for. Watching from the corner of his eye, he closely gauged Finn's reaction to the abberyte well.
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The Puppetmaster's web

Postby Finnegan O'Connor » Fri Jun 01, 2018 6:41 pm

The puppetmaster's web

50th Zi'da, 717
________________________
Finn managed a faint smile at Tagley and it was indeed a great sign of progress that he remained seated on the edge of his bed when the elderly man entered, instead of bolting toward the metal door in a vain, and rather too obvious attempt to escape. “Sorry,” he said as he tried to wipe the half-smile from his face. Fortunately, the fates saw fit to aid him in this process when Tagley announced that Segundus was being released. His mind knew he was supposed to rejoice at this news, but his face soured instead.

Before he’d even opened his mouth to protest, Tagley had slung a warm, fatherly arm around him and aside from a slight flinch, Finn allowed the hand to rest there. Tagley, he’d come to realize, wasn’t such a bad person. In fact, as Segundus had pointed out one day, it was likely thanks to Tagley that he was still alive. The chaos he had wrought was more than enough to see him executed or banished. Boys had been hung before, girls too. It had been the good will of the Black Guard, some of whom he’d befriended over the arcs, that had kept him from meeting such an unfortunate and untimely end. He didn’t think he’d still have their protection now, not since he’d learned that he’d killed at least one of the Black Guards.

Without Tagley, who worked for the Chief Advisor, he’d have been dead and he’d never even thanked the man for it. Tagley only confirmed his suspicion that, in the end, his true gratitude should be directed toward Chief Advisor Vuda who had gone through the not insignificant effort to ensure there’d be no trial, and that he was being nourished back to full health.

A pained grimace showed on his face at the mention of Molly. Not even Segundus, who had at least managed to stop him from starving himself, had succeeded in making him acknowledge that she was well and truly dead and so the topic had generally been avoided.

While Tagley stirred to retrieve something, Finn seized his chance to have his say. “I’m sorry,” he started, his voice low and gruff. “I’ve never thanked you.”

A shadow in the cell opposite stirred. Segundus was listening too.

“I’ve been too busy to think about what happened, about what happened to- …you know who.” He couldn’t bring himself to utter her name, fearing that mentioning it would unleash an avalanche of bad memories and dark thoughts. “But I owe you, and Mr. Vuda, my thanks. No. More than that. I owe you my life. I don’t know how to repay-”

He fell silent as his eyes found the object that Tagley had pulled from his robe. “What’s that?” he wondered aloud. There seemed to be a shift in the air, as though some kind of presence had entered the room, familiar, yet distant. He hesitated to take the grisly object into his hands, but he wasn’t offered much choice and as soon as he touched the purpleish substance he knew he’d made the right choice.

This was his. He knew so instinctively even if he struggled to remember where it had come from or why he felt like he recognized it. Somehow it reminded him of Molly, and no sooner than he formulated that thought in his head, he said it. “This isn’t mine,” he started as he gawked at the heart-shaped, fleshy substance. “It’s Molly’s- No. I mean- It’s like her, like it’s her!” A deep, dark frown came to his face, struggling to understand the thing he held in his hands and what, if anything, it had to do with Molly. After half a bit he looked up at Tagley with wide, bright eyes. “What’s a well?”

Segundus wisely kept his mouth shut.
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The Puppetmaster's web

Postby Maltruism » Wed Jun 06, 2018 4:43 pm

Image



'Counsellor' Tagley had not gained that title at random. He was an experienced psychologist, well practiced in giving people the distorted truths they needed to reconcile events without having breakdowns of one type or another. Everyone needed the means to put a spin on life's horrors and injustices from time to time, and Finn was clearly in one such need as he frowned at the grim object in his hand.

He had thought it was too soon to impose such an item on the boy, but orders were orders and he was as capable as he was subordinate. "Well, yes, I suppose it does seem that way, given the trauma her end must have inflicted upon you, my boy."

He patted the young shoulders as his mind assembled the facts in a workable order. "I suspect that your magic must have followed the same paths of trauma and shaped this well in that manner. I know for a fact that grievous memories will...infuse themselves into a well when it is used in such a circumstance."

What little He and Torvyn had been able to confirm from the boy's sister, Finn was only newly initiated, and Tagley was sure he had little depth of knowledge regarding the subtleties the counsellor was now manipulating. "It would not surprise me if that very subconscious creation gave you the boost you displayed in the Interrogation Chamber. This is not such a powerful well as you demonstrated there."

Now was the time for the truth, but not the whole truth. "Wells are mined from fractures, Finn; rents in the reality of our world where Immortals have died and created a temporary flaw in the structure between dimensions. They wax and wane, providing opportunities for those skilled in such things to obtain them." While this was not a lie, Tagley knew perfectly well that this particular type of well was not obtained this way. He seriously doubted Finn knew any of this though.

"Depending on the power of the entity," He went on, "...they can be perilous to even come near. I seriously doubt Molly would have had much chance, or willingness, to take such a foolish risk. Those that mine them are always protected by domains that reduce these risks."

Now again was a good place for a truth that sounded relevant, but was truly beside the point, "The fact is, the only manner I am aware of, where a soul might be trapped, or even willingly placed into a well, is through the highest levels of...necromancy"

He said the word as if it was poison, but quickly regained his benevolent tone, "So, if you continue to get some sense of a presence, or something of that sort, remind yourself that it was most likely you that infused this phenomenon into the well. And if that does not silence it, come to me. I will always be willing to help you deal with what you have suffered."

He let that sink in, while he let a look of uncertainty cross his face. Then he acted as if he'd made a decision, and stood up, patting the boy's head and turning toward the door as he muttered just loud enough to be heard. "No...it's too soon...too dangerous..no matter any debt owed." If Finn stopped him, he would "reluctantly" state what it was he was muttering about. Otherwise, there was always tomorrow.
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