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Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: It would have been hard to tell he was a king, given how he currently looked.
Haddock could feel the grime in his shoulder-length hair, see a few knotted tangles in the brown strands, could see a hole in the elbow of his jacket… but he had to keep going. Had to keep moving. Had to keep running. Had to travel down the beaten roads by himself, hoping to avoid detection until he could reach the safety of his capital.
For they were onto him.
Klara Arderne: The ugly mug of a Sniffer-Dragon shuffled across the ground, dirt dragging across its quivering wet nostrils. It lifted its head and hissed, swinging its neck to face the south. Its two companions did much the same, all growling and yanking on their chains.
"Down, Maol." A woman in dark, rough traveling clothes and a long black cape with an insignia on the back tilted her head to look at the sun, gauging its position, and then glanced back at the squad of elite soldiers behind her. She wrapped her hand tightly around the chain of the biggest dragon and tossed her long black bangs out of her face.
"He’s near. Been traveling for days with little rest. When you find him, keep him alive…barely."
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: Haddock cursed under his breath. He stood atop an incline, glancing down at the muddied plains stretched out beyond him. He tried to crouch behind a rock as he surveyed the land… and noticed that his pursuers were close at hand. He had hoped he could outrun them; one man on foot was usually easier to transfer distances than a squad of soldiers. Yet he had underestimated them. They had gained on him and were not far behind now. They were so close it was a wonder no one had caught visual of him yet.
He ducked back behind the boulder and rested his back up against it, fingers slowly brushing first against the hilt of his sword first, and then pausing. No. His hand felt further back to where his quiver rested. His bow was in poor condition, the string suffering sorely from the dampness of the environment, but with luck, he could still aim and take out the majority of the squadron from this distance before they could reach him.
He notched the first arrow.
Klara Arderne: She stayed back as the first few men moved forward, led by one of the Sniffers, which was foaming at the mouth and yanking violently at its collar. Her violet eyes flicked over the desolate terrain, looking for any sign of movement, clutching tightly at the scrap of fabric within her cloak and toying with it at the same time she played with her worries.
Perhaps it wasn’t enough…perhaps it was the wrong person…the wrong piece…if I return empty-handed…
She turned sharply to the soldiers behind her, cloak fanning out and swirling around her boots. “Second wave, on my signal.”
"As you wish, my Lady."
She unconsciously bit at the corner of her lip. Searched the land again. Worried. Where are you…
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: Haddock did not even stop to consider that they would pass him by. He recognized the species of dragon burying its nose in the ground. Those dragons were trackers, and they would find him regardless of how he moved or tried to evade them. The wetness of the ground alone would have thrown off other animals, but not these. These would find him.
He loosed the first arrow.
He missed. The arrow swished right past the woman leading the squadron.
Klara Arderne: Fwip.
Klara whirled around as the arrow shot past her. She just barely caught sight of a pale face darting back around to hide behind the rock, a tiny movement. But just enough.
The rest of the soldiers threw caution to the wind and flooded forward, brandishing their weapons and hiking up their shields to protect themselves from any more arrows. Her two archers stayed by her side, drawing arrows from their quivers to hold in their draw-hands.
The mage touched a finger to her own throat and broadcast her voice to the surrounding area. ”Gareth Ragnar Haddock, you have been found guilty of treason against High Central. By order of the Council, you are now under arrest. Come quietly and we will spare your life.”
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "IS THIS QUIETLY ENOUGH, YOU GODS-CURSED DEFILER?!!" a shriek rang out from behind the boulder. Another flashing arrow flew in conjunction with his defiant verbal response. This time, the arrow almost hit its mark, bouncing off one of the men’s shields. “I ADHERE NONE TO YOUR GODS-SHITTED COUNCIL. I ADHERE NOT TO YOU IN ANY FORM! AS A KING OF MY OWN INDEPENDENT KINGDOM, YOU HAVE NO CONTROL OF ME. BUT I ON THE CONTRARY MAY HOLD A MARK AGAINST YOU FOR YOUR HEINOUS TREATMENT OF SENTIENT SOULS. YOU SHALL SUFFER WITH YOUR DEATHS FOR THIS UNFORGIVABLE ABOMINATION!”
Two more arrows whizzed forth.
Klara Arderne: "Well," she said placidly, removing her hand, "the reports weren’t lying."
One of the archers nodded. “Stubborn, rebellious monarch. Described ‘im perfectly, ma’am.”
"Figures." She pursed her lips and cocked her head, thinking. Then she released her hold on the chain and Maol began racing forward like a greyhound. Then she spoke again.
"We recognize not your claim to royalty, nor your hold over the lands you have stolen from us. This is your final warning. Stand down now or suffer the penalties of insubordination." She began to stride forward, sliding her fingerless gloves off of her hands.
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "Suffer the penalties of my arrow!"
Klara Arderne: Maol had nearly reached the king’s hiding place. Klara pressed her lips together and took a steadying breath, raising a hand with her palm upwards. Merely a warning shot. He’ll survive.
"You have been repeatedly warned, traitor. No more mercy will be shown towards you."
She flexed her fingers in quickly, making a fist and curling her arm in as though snatching an insect from the air. And the ground a few feet away from Gareth quite simply, exploded.
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: Haddock threw himself from the blast. His reaction was late, so had he been in the same place as the exploding ground, he would have been squarely hit.
Odin’s unfavoring eyepatch, of course they brought someone with magic, Haddock thought, distasteful. He tried to feel no worry as his eyes glanced over the broken ground.
His eyes took in the presence of the dragon not a far distance away from him. If I am right beside her dragon and it’s still alive, would she fire at me?
He charged with a great yell, sword out and swinging straight for the dragon’s leg.
Klara Arderne: Fear clutched her heart and Klara slashed a hand through the air. “Maol! Heel!” she barked.
The dragon threw himself backwards but not before the sword came down and cleaved most of his tail off. Maol yipped in pain and barreled back to his mistress, stubbed tail trailing blood across the mud and snow in bright crimson streams. Simmering with anger, she began racing forward, drawing a dagger with her right hand and pointing at Haddock with her left. The various roots snaking around in the ground that gave life to the dismal shrubbery reared like living things and entangled his feet. The effort cost her a good amount of energy but she was too furious to care.
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: Haddock threw his sword against the suddenly living roots with an outraged shout, cutting through them quickly and efficiently, but not before he fell heavily backwards to the ground. He rolled to the side, trying to pull himself back onto his feet before his attacker arrived. Patches of snow on the ground made him slip.
Klara Arderne: A few more strides and she was on top of him, shoving him to the ground, putting a knee on his chest and putting her dagger to his neck, breathing heavily. “You are coming with us,” she panted, “whether you want to or not.”
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: His eyes burned, staring straight up at her as though the dagger did not exist. Derisively and defiantly he spat on her hand. Slowly, though, his hands let go of the sword in his left hand… all the while his fingers started twitching toward his belt, where a knife of his own was pocketed.
Klara Arderne: Quick as a flash, Klara whipped out a thinner knife from her double scabbard and thrust it through his hand, driving it deep into the damp soil. “Submit,” she growled, pushing the knife higher up on his neck, driving his chin farther upward. The blade was on the verge of breaking through his skin. She could hear the soldiers coming up behind her, surrounding them, swords drawn and bows taut with nocked arrows.
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: He tried not to cry out from the sudden driving pain boring through his hand and into the dirt beneath him. Some shout broke out from his lips anyhow before he could grit his teeth into an eye-watering growl, and he could feel his hand involuntarily shuddering around the sharp steel his palms encased. Though he could not rotate his head - could not move his head at all, really, from the strained position her knife pushed him into - his eyes roved around to the archers. He could see them from his vision’s periphery. Trying to move his throat minimally while he spoke and thus not aggravate the blade scraping against his own neck, he remarked dryly, “Well this is slightly over-cautious, wouldn’t you say? Or are you really so inept as to need twenty individuals to stand over me?”
Klara Arderne: She bit back a remark on how she would have brought twice this many men, feeling that it would only exacerbate the situation. “Hold your tongue, Haddock. You have no place to question our troops.” Her lip curled. “Especially when you employ animal savages in your army. You’ve no right to give those beasts a place anywhere within your ranks, and yet you have till defied the law and must be punished accordingly.” The mage re-adjusted her grip on the knife. “Have you anything to say for yourself?”
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "Defied whose law, you overbearing, senseless prescriptivist playing at god?” The mad glint in his green eyes combined with his mud-stained, pain-born face made for a frightening countenance. The fury in his voice only increased the intensity of his presence. He would have been frightening to the common man or woman even though he was pinned against the ground with a knife to his throat. “I legislate and uphold my own laws, thank you very kindly. And even were I within your dominion, with every sentence you demonstrate your narrow-minded, despicable heartlessness further. Is this to what Central has come? Denying the sentience and values of individuals simply because they have different types of ears? Would you quit worshiping Loki because he has turned himself into a mare? Does his shape make him any less a god? Does the shape of any man or woman dictate their value? There are no savages in my army, but yours on the contrary appears to be so despicable even ‘savage’ is too kind a word for you.”
Klara Arderne: "As I said before, we do not recognize your authority as we believe it was illicitly obtained. And these so-called half-breeds are tainted and marred by their animal halves. You are fighting nature, Haddock. It is only natural that pure humans should govern above all others with the power that was rightfully bestowed to us. Animals are below humans. It is just the way things are.
"Now, one last chance. Either submit on your own or we will bring you in with force."
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "Illicitly obtained?" Haddock snorted and rolled his eyes. "Tainted and marred by animal halves? Thor’s hammer? What about humans tainted and marred by a bigoted heart? To submit to one as you would be to submit to far worse than an ‘animal’."
Klara Arderne: Klara stood in disgust, keeping her foot firmly down on Haddock’s other wrist, and turned to the senior member of the squad. “Silence him,” she said stiffly, jerking her chin at the defiant king. “But keep him alive. He’ll be useful when his memories have been altered, and we have a cell waiting to correct his…explosive tendencies.” Her eyes drifted downwards, lingering over his angry face, before turning and stalking off, pulling a roll of parchment out from her pack to begin writing a report to the head mage. He would be most delighted to hear of the rogue king’s capture.
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "You may try to silence me, but the rest of the world will only speak in louder outrage to your peoples’ atrocities." Haddock scoffed. "Your end comes."
Klara Arderne: She paused, still facing away from them, and tilted her head to the cloudy heavens, sighing.
"Shut. Him. Up."