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Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: Haddock stepped through camp as quickly as he could on crutches. He made his way toward where Tree was being kept - slightly separately from others, in the case she would wake still with the Warden coursing through her - but still comfortably attended to with the healers watching over her. Last he had left her, she had been in great pain from Kiri’s stab wound.
He did not know if Tree would be awake or not, how she would be feeling, or whether or not she had heard if she were to become permanently maimed or not. All he knew was he felt a distinct need to speak to her.
It was long, long overdue.
He steeled himself before entering the chambers, trying to calm his emotions, the depression and anger and fear all raised from past events. He almost reached toward his heart, but prevented himself from the gesture, and slipped inside to visit Tree.
Treepelt Halfpaw: She was so, so confused.
The last few weeks had been nothing but blank memories and bloody deeds for her, and half the time she hadn’t even been in control of herself. The Warden was a constant, looming presence in the back of her mind, always ready to extend her power and change the course of her thoughts with a mere flick of her will. The thought that such danger resided within her had caused an irrational terror to bury itself deep into her mind. Now there was an imbalance, a kind of irregular flip-flopping that kept her on edge and kept any hope of sleep away. Treepelt lay awake, fingering the bandages wrapped around her arm and wincing when pain lanced like lighting through her muscles. The pain kept the Warden at bay. It was the only time she was given real control, when she was hurting.
Her head snapped up as someone entered the room. It was the King. Her heart slammed to a stop and she folded her arms to stop herself from trembling suddenly. If he suspected…if he knew…
"Come to lock me up again?" she murmured, refusing to meet his eyes.
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "No," he said quietly, not trying to look Tree in the eye, either. Still, his eyes flickered uncertainly, perhaps as though he were not satisfied with his own answer. "That would be futile, I think. Anyone can be possessed by the Warden (I suppose that means even me), and only a fool would try to lock usall up. We might as well be back in the Grounded Dungeon at that point.”
He switched conversations after grimacing. “So, how are you feeling? Doing alright?”
Treepelt Halfpaw: So many things were dragged into the forefront of her thoughts at the mere sight of Haddock. Treepelt marveled that he couldn’t hear them rattling around in her brain. “As well as can be expected,” she said with a touch of acid, a force of habit from the Warden’s raging temper always surging within her. “I was stabbed, after all.” Her face fell at her choice of words and she turned her head away even further. “I probably deserve it,” she muttered.
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: A stab wound for a stab wound, Haddock thought to himself, cringing. He made no comment to Tree about whether or not she ‘deserved’ it, for he did not think his thoughts on that matter would comfort her.
"I am glad to hear you’re doing as… well as can be expected. Hopefully better soon, though. I don’t like seeing anyone down. It sounded like it was a terrible event between you and Kiri. Do you happen to remember any of those events, perchance?"
Treepelt Halfpaw: "Somewhat." Tree flexed her claws, watching them glint dully. "She doesn’t try to block me out like she used to. Sometimes I wish she did." She hesitated, wondering how far she could get before the Warden decided that was enough insight for the King. She couldn’t feel the invasive presence, though. So far, so good.
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "Mind telling me what you remember then?" Haddock asked. He felt a pang in his heart for what Tree apparently was going through but made no remark nor outward expression on his face to indicate his sympathies.
Treepelt Halfpaw: Her throat tightened; she wanted to tell him everything, she wanted to warn him, she wanted to spill the dark thoughts brewing in the Warden’s mind but she was terrified of what the repercussions would be.
Instead, she said quietly, “Talking to Blue…trying to take him over…and then…some fighting, and the g—Kiri, I mean—shouting, and then the pain. I can remember everything after getting wounded.” She frowned thoughtfully, toying with the fraying blanket over her legs.
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: Haddock felt chilled. “When you are taken over, then, do you feel what the Warden is feeling? Sense any motivations?
"But if you remember what you said talking to Blue and trying to take him over, you at the least know what the Warden said then… and must have insight about that.”
'Treepelt Halfpaw: '"I get flashes." A barely noticeable shiver ran through her, so slight she almost didn’t notice it herself. "But she’s very good at only showing me what she wants to. Or she used to be, anyway…now it’s just…muddled." She shut her eyes tightly. "I-I…sometimes…"
Her eyes slid open, her vertical pupils shuddering between large and thin. "Sometimes I can’t tell who’s who," she said miserably.
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "Then tell me what you’re planning." He hoped his intentional use of the second person would give him answers.
Bring out the Warden… careful… careful… just enough to learn her secrets… but not so much I am attacked…
The Warden: Treepelt’s eyes flickered again. “I…I shouldn’t.” She shook her head as though trying to displace an annoying insect. "I don't know if she'd…if she’d hurt me if I said…”
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "Said what?" Those words leaked out of his mouth before he really recognized what he was saying.
The Warden: The pupils almost seemed to slide close like doors, leaving only thin slashes of black in her green eyes. She turned her head slowly to face him, expression almost completely devoid of emotion.
"We need your help, Haddock."
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "……..with what?" he asked, throat drying.
The Warden: The Warden tilted Tree’s head, continuing to gaze at the King. "I may have made a mistake in my wrath a few days ago," she said nonchalantly. "You miss the company of your scout, do you not?"
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: Haddock’s hands tightened on each side of his crutches, gripping onto them with a slight shake that revealed his hurt and anger. “You may have made a mistake? You did. There’s not a single soul who doesn’t miss Vox amongst the Rebels.”
The Warden: "And doubtless you’ve heard of his…unpleasant fate?"
Even as the Warden spoke for her, Tree was inwardly writhing with guilt and fear and agony for what had happened the last time she saw Lostvox’s face, his determined scowl as he dove headfirst into the waters to save her. She wanted it all to stop, she wanted to put an end to it, this constant discussion of Vox’s fate, but this was the only way. So she let the Warden speak.
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "Get to the point. Why do you taunt me? If you say you need my help, out with it now, without dragging my soul through memories of events I cannot change."
The Warden: The Warden appraised him innocently, and she couldn’t stop a smirk from curling across her lips.
"Oh, but my dear King…you can change them.” She leaned forward."I know you’d do anything to help him, just like little Tree would. And it just so happens that there is a way…"
Tree twitched and the Warden shifted control once more. "Poor girl, here, she’d be telling you yourself but she’s ever so distraught nowadays…
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "HAVE IT OUT NOW, WARDEN! WHAT DO YOU MEAN THERE IS A WAY TO HELP HIM? YOU CANNOT HELP THE DEAD."
The Warden: The Warden tut-tutted. "Temper, Your Majesty. I’m tempted to simply release her and have you two go back to your futile conversation." She eyed him standing aggressively before her, fists clenched over his crutches, breathing hard and wild as she slowly riled him up. "As I was saying…there is a place we can go and retrieve the scout’s soul." She folded her hands in her lap, wincing as her arm pained her once more. "But I cannot do it alone; I require your assistance."
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "And why should I trust you?" Haddock spat. His mind whirled. This sounded all too similar to that conversation Haddock and the Stranger had had before Haddock… had reacted strongly… "After all you have done, why should I listen to anything you have to say? Or assist you at all? What kind of assistance is this really?"
Treepelt Halfpaw: "Because—" Treepelt’s condscending smile faltered. "Because…” Tree let out a quiet sob, tears starting to gather as she looked away. “You’re my only chance,” she gasped. “You’re his only chance.”
She scrubbed her eyes and continued tremulously, “Before, I wasn’t strong enough to keep Lostvox safe. He needs…another…that knew him, that was close to him. Just that, nothing else needed.” Tree nearly choked on the lie. Not really a lie, but not the truth. Oh, it was so far from the truth. “Another bond will help him come back. I know the place to do it…I just…needed someone…that I trust…”
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: Haddock immediately sensed that Tree was speaking, not the Warden. Still, he felt enormously nervous, remembering the last time he let down his guard around a seemingly Warden-free Tree. That had led to Vox’s death in the first place…
His own fault for unlocking those handcuffs…
His head pounded from a sudden headache at the stress and emotions of this conversation.
Keep a smooth face… keep a smooth face… don’t break down… keep a hold of yourself…
Just get the information you came for… don’t get caught up in the emotions…
…of the memories of my dead friend.
"I was always so closely bonded to Vox," Haddock told her lamentfully, a quaver in his voice matching Tree’s tremulous comments. "He was my chief strategist, helping me plan out many of my moves. Without him, we might not have even left the Grounded Dungeons. That bond you speak of, there has always been a strong one emotionally between him and me. What… what do you mean… ‘need a bond’? To do what?"
Treepelt Halfpaw: "To bring him back," Tree repeated, a feverish hope beginning to spring up in her eyes. "We could have him back again, my King. I need the boy back as much as she and yourself do…to fix what I’ve broken inside of her.” Treepelt’s throat stuck and she looked up at Haddock.
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "Warden, I can hear you talking. You want to fix her. I can’t trust that. No. As much as I want her healed - as much I want you healed, Tree, I cannot bide by the Warden’s plans. It could be a trap.
"I’ll talk with you more later. I need time to think."
Haddock turned and left, head bending downward and away from Tree to hide the tear rolling down his cheek.