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Darien Whiteland: Well, today had promised to be a droll, boring one full of paperwork and more routine dungeon scans. At least, that’s what Darien had thought, until he received the messenger dragon from one of the top members of his guild. The note had come a few days ago and he’d been eagerly waiting for her arrival ever since. He made his way down to the citadel’s interrogation chambers, Arceyx riding on his shoulder, to where he knew he would find Klara perfectly on time with exactly what he had asked for.
He was not disappointed. Down in the high-security chamber, he pushed open the door and found his prize, a battered man in his early thirties, in a chair with his hands shackled to a post behind him. Two torches were bracketed to the walls on either side, offering dim illumination to the scene. Klara stood back in the shadows behind the king, hood nearly obscuring all of her face as she stood with her head bowed, arms tucked behind her back.
"Well," he chuckled, closing and locking the door behind him, "you’ve been a spot of trouble, lately, haven’t you?"
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "I hope more than a ‘spot’ for the filthy likes of you," he said. The king’s body might have been dirty and battered, but he held himself with all the regal confidence of someone sitting on a throne.
Darien Whiteland: "You flatter yourself. You’ve been a mere ripple in the sea of conflict we’ve so recently been engaged in." The owl familiar on his shoulder bristled its feathers, turned its head sideways and lowered it, staring intensely at Haddock. "One that we must be quelled, however. We can’t have people thinking they can go around and defy us, what kind of example would that set?”
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "A rather noble one, I would think, and encouraging for others to rise up against you as should be done. It is, at the very least, a far better example than you, your ridiculous metaphors, and your apparent lack of conscience set upon the world’s populous."
Darien Whiteland: Darien shook his head. “Can you imagine this place in anarchy, king? In chaos? Why, it’d be worse than the ramshackle setup you have constructed out in those snowy plains. Just because you fail to see the bigger picture does not mean you should try to upheave it.”
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "It’s hard to be anarchy under a monarch." Haddock was clearly referring to himself. "And there you go with foolish metaphors again. I believe I see far more of the situation than you, and find plenty of incredibly intelligent and moral reasons to upheave you."
Darien Whiteland: Folding his arms, Darien glanced back at Klara. “And he was this talkative when you found him?”
"Much more so, sir," she responded. "He would not stop talking and shouting abuse until Galven knocked him out."
"Interesting." The head mage glanced back at Haddock. "Well, we won’t have to worry about that in a bit. I’ll suffer through your insolence until I have the information I need." He stepped closer. "I hear you’ve been racking up your own little army, is that right?"
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "Congratulations on being able to hear the obvious," Haddock snapped.
Darien Whiteland: Arceyx snapped his beak and hissed. “I am attempting to be civil by asking you questions straight rather than fishing for the answers myself,” Darien said in a clipped voice, eyebrows lowering. “You’d do well to humor me for the sake of your own mental health. Now…this army contains a substantial amount of half-breeds. You are aware of the regulations surrounding half-breeds?”
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "Indeed." He stared Darien intensely eye-to-eye. He spoke slowly, lips anunciating each word clearly and precisely. "In my kingdom, they are treated as full citizens and refugees under the protection of the Haddock crown."
Darien Whiteland: "Touching. Our rules, however, have higher priority over whatever you may have concocted. You see, to accept the half-breeds as human overturns the basic laws of nature, king. They were never meant to be human nor have the same basic rights as a human."
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "Oh look. I’m getting a sermon now. What horrid torture."
Darien Whiteland: Darien pressed his lips together for a moment, and then without warning he thrust a mental lance into the back of the king’s mind, digging into it like a barb and letting it sit.
"You have no idea with whom you are dealing,” he growled for the first time, a shadow crossing his face. “I will not be spoken to like this. Understood?”
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: Haddock sucked in sharply at the sudden pain, chest rising with his quick and heavy breathing, but the defiance in his voice did not back down. “You’re using little words. It’s hard not to understand you. My life might be more enjoyable if I didn’t, though.”
Darien Whiteland: Darien leaned over Haddock, grabbing him by the collar. “Now you listen here, king. You have no authority here. Stop acting like you do. I’ve been shutting down your little army bit by bit, half-breed by filthy half-breed. I’ve dungeons full of those atoning for their wrongs and you are no different than any of them. The last one who resisted…Treepelt, her name was, she had the same fire as you did. But we stifled her passion just as we will stifle yours. Just as we will stifle all of yours until there are none of you left to resist.”
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: Haddock’s face warped into greater rage. “How did you come by her name? What lies are these? I very well know her loyalty, you unconvincing conniver, and if you mean to shock or demoralize me in any sense, you could craft a more believable story!”
Still ranting and raving, he snapped, keeping intense eye contract even this close to Darien, “You say you shut down the half-breeds? Forget not how I and my people have - and shall continue - to shut down you. I am proud of the blood of every one of your compatriots I have spilled. Now THAT is justice. THAT is atonement! Shall I rattle off their names? Maybe you know a few of them. And those, THOSE names shall be those of real, dead victims.”
His frown intensified - somehow, despite it already being intense before. ”Speak about your dreams, your fool, hypothetical desires to ‘stifle’ me. My passion is well-placed and unwavering. And I think that the only endangered ones around here are you and your kind.”
Darien Whiteland: Darien smirked. “Ah, you cared about her, did you? Well, rest assured that she does not care about you. She hardly remembers you as more than a distant name at the head of a rebellion she does not know exists.
"And this time…"
Darien cocked his head, considering Haddock for a moment. “We might just have to leave a little more memory in this one than the others,” he remarked. “Just so he knows what he’s lost when he’s imprisoned.” He began working his way into Haddock’s mind, flipping through years and years of memory. Arceyx leaped off of Darien’s shoulder and onto the top of Haddock’s head, spreading his wings menacingly, flexing his talons. The blue runes scattered through his feathers began to pulse. “Any last words, Gareth?”
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "I lose, not gain, for what I have done," Haddock said in return, very slowly. "Long live the king and the freedom of the people."
Darien Whiteland: "Very well." Darien slowly extended his right hand, fingers splayed, and readied his mind to remove High Central and the rebellion entirely from his memory. Their eyes met, green looking into green, and a small half-smile quirked across his lips.
"Good night, Your Majesty."
He thrust his mind in and like a dagger cutting away at rope, like a knife cleaving into flesh, the removal began.
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: This time he did shout. It was a loud, sustained shriek, and he threw himself backwards, trying to fight and move away from what he could neither fight nor escape. He struggled against his chains, shouting as his mind was attacked.
Darien Whiteland: Darien gritted his teeth and tried to work as fast as he could. The more the subject struggled, the more pain it caused for both of them. Arceyx threw out his wings to steady himself, still helping Darien probe into the king’s head, but it was becoming more difficult.
He could take it no longer. He thrust himself into a different part of Haddock’s mind and began shutting it down, increasing the flow of sleep-inducing hormones and continuing to cut away at his recollections. He’d done this so many times before, he berated himself. Why was it so hard now?
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: Haddock hated that probe in his head, could feel it doing… doing something… but it was so hard to comprehend what. But it was awful. Painful. Penetrating. He hated being invaded, and he felt his guts writhe in disgust as though they were living snakes. Trying not to vomit, trying to ignore the pain inside his head with clenched teeth and intermittent groans, he tried to focus on something that would - hopefully - prevent this man from doing his work.
He fed all his active thoughts, all his concentration, on his hate for Central. He actively recalled his absolute loathing for those in Central, just thought about his repulsion of them. Let the anger through. Consciously conjured the most potent insults he could think of for every member alive in Central, irreverent thoughts of those he and his people had killed, and most especially channeled his mind into the energy of generating rude slurs about the man before him.
Look at this magic-user, this pathetic excuse of a human so afraid of someone with different beliefs than his own. This Odin-damned pile of shit even Loki wouldn’t fuck. The god of mischief would rather screw around with a horse and birth a six-legged beast than approach someone with your repulsiveness.
Darien Whiteland: Darien stabbed deeper, letting the abuse scrape past him. He’d never altered a mind of this degree of strength before; he was starting to tire slightly. But he could not let this stubborn king win. If he managed to escape unscathed, he would remember High Central and carry the poison of vengeance with him. He would rather not perform a blackout on this man, though.
You cannot win. You have no power here. He increased the pressure. There. The Exodus was gone.
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: There was a sudden snap, a slicing in his mind like shears cut straight through him. He reacted with an enormous barking shout, mind clouding for an instant, vision blurring and turning to black-white grays before he could again see the details of the room. Haddock’s body convulsed through an automatic shudder, but after a shaky inhale he adamantly set his thoughts back to verbal backlash. The pain was increasing more and more in his head, but he had to hope that was indication his tactic was working.
Darien Whiteland: The other memories were more difficult to remove, since they had threads and strings tied to so many other experiences. And the struggling continued.
Enough! Darien snarled. Stop this. He seized a hold of the king’s more intimate memories, the ones of his wife, his children. Or I will cut away these as well.
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: Haddock felt the blood drain away from his face. That’s what they’re doing? Of course. That’s what they’d said. Cutting away… memories… But what all were they cutting? What had they already cut? He hated for a fact he would be unable of knowing. Once something was gone, it was gone, and he would never know how much he had lost. It could change him as a person. It could even cut him out of the rebellion completely if he did not remember his involvement in it or the cause at all.
Haddock tried to halt those thoughts from taking surface. He did not want to encourage the man or give him ideas. He coddled the memories of his wife holding up his tiny daughter. Remembered the birth of his first son, the nervous wonder of holding a newborn infant in his arms for the first time and staring down into its innocent eyes. Recollected the day of his marriage with Mera. The day they took Akkey into the palace for the first time. No, he hissed. You have no reason to touch those.
Darien Whiteland: Then stop struggling, Darien said silkily, pausing for a moment in his work, and I will leave your loved ones be.
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: He thought for a moment of losing Mera and his three children. He was already in agony, his eyes watering from the effort of handling the great, searing pain throbbing through his mind, but as soon as he imagined a life without Mera, water from his left eye slipped down to a single tear.
He hissed, “If you think this is full submission, and if you think this shall fully ease my stance against you, you think wrong, you devil.”
But he quit resisting
He tried to let his mind drift to completely inconsequential events, or memories he would not mind losing. Incidences of his childhood, mostly. Getting into fights with other boys his age. Being scolded by his father for bad table manners when he was seven. Adamantly refusing to use silverware for a week after Sturgeon said that. Even for the soup, which he slopped mostly down his shirt when he tried to pick up the bowl and slurp it. Those sorts of things.
That could be perhaps an indirect way to shield against the man’s tact. He hardly knew. He was no user of magic.
But it’s for reasons like this I don’t trust it.
And he tried to revert his mind to pigs running through a royal dining hall when he was seventeen.
Darien Whiteland: That’s it, Your Majesty. All opposing forces vanished and his stance relaxed. Bit by bit he began to cut away at the mention of the rebellion or High Central within his memories. Not all—some pieces regarding the half-breeds he left intact. But for the most part he was cutting a clean hole out of his mind.
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: He felt himself jerking suddenly alongside stabs and jabs and slices and proddings. Haddock tried to tighten his body to minimize his movements, stiffening his back and neck especially. It still hurt even now, but he could tell it was less.
The man’s encouraging comment, ‘That’s it, Your Majesty,’ made him suspicious that thinking about mundane childhood instances only eased the man’s task. Not what Haddock wanted. Time to change tactics again.
He began conjuring up lies for the man to take instead of the truths. I killed this Central man in the rebellion, he thought, mentally casting an image of an innocent Wilderwestern baker. These were my future campaign plans. But he changed them even as he brought them to mind. Haddock had to think very intently, wishing he could detect whether or not the lies were being taken up, but he kept at it, lie after lie after lie in his mind, each distorting the truth of what he actually did, and leaving the truth itself hidden in the recesses of his memory.
Darien Whiteland: The memories were coming easier now, much to his surprise and relief, and he continued working on them until he was satisfied the man had no recollection of High Central—or, if he did, he would not connect it to any of the wild and foolish claims he had made earlier. His owl familiar hopped back onto his shoulder, ruffling his feathers and twitching his tail.
"How are we feeling, Haddock?"
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: Haddock spent a moment breathing. His heart pounded from the procedure, and his head felt numb, almost as though his thoughts were mentally swollen and infected from some injury, but… but the sharpness of a knife cutting through his innermost thoughts was the pulsation of a torture that had at least stopped.
What had just been happening? Had he blacked out? It must have been caused by the still-prominent pain concentrated in his skull.
He was not sure exactly what had precisely occurred beyond knowing he had been inflicted with pain. Caused by that a High Central man before him. He was being questioned. Right… he remembered that much.
His mind drifted through thoughts of the rebellion. He remembered the first High Central official he stabbed through the heart. He remembered his campaign plans. Some areas felt foggy… how did he get involved in this cause exactly? What was the first event that sparked his anger? But… but… he remembered the rebellion. He remembered the war. He still had his passion, his reasons to hate Central.
“King Haddock,” he corrected the man tersely once his heart rate had somewhat slowed and his breathing was more manageable. He ignored actually answering the demeaning question.
Darien Whiteland: "No longer." Darien flicked a hand at Klara. "Take him to one of the cells. He’s to be shipped to the proper dungeon at morning’s first light." And do not tell him anything of where he is or who we are. "Is that understood?"
"Yes, sir." She moved forward and started unchaining him, keeping a firm grip on his wrists. Darien looked him over one last time before turning to leave, rubbing the side of his head to dispel the ache that had begun there. Arceyx clicked in vague concern. "I’m fine," he muttered.
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "A mere prison shall never strip my authority," the king retorted, feeling the chains come undone. He staggered up to be taken to the cell, eyes burning at Darien as he did so. Haddock grimaced as he realized his legs were wobbly and stiff, and though the pain was in concentrated his mind, he realized he needed Klara’s support to walk forward. "Throne room or cell, I am king and you make an enormous mistake."