This is a Season 3 thread which takes place before "End of a Long Day."
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Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: The king stood over the throne, staring at it curiously. A throne had not seemed so strange an item since he had first been coronated seven and a half years ago. But in many ways, he had not been a king since the Warden had possessed him. She was gone now… but he felt a lingering of her in his mentality, in the way he hesitated before he sat down, as though wondering if he were actually worthy of the position.
No, none of that, he thought to himself. It is over now, and I still am who I am.
Stonegit Brotchurn Elmiss: The side door opened and Stonegit walked in, looking like himself again. No, better. He looked lighter now, brighter, much more content than when he had first offered his services to the King. He trotted up the stairs and stood by his throne. “Good morning,” he said.
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: It took a moment for Haddock to answer, being as he was lost in thought, but he blinked up, noticed Stonegit’s alacrity, and responded with eyebrows raised, “Good morning to you as well. You appear quite well refreshed. It is good to see.”
Stonegit Brotchurn Elmiss: "Let’s just say that uh…I have a better appreciation for life right now, and uh, Blunt talked to me as well. He apologized on behalf of his family…and then tried to…" he twisted his mouth off to one side. "Well he’s a bit of a flirt," he shook his head. "Anyway." he trailed off for a second. "My King," he said. "If I may I ask…what happened after that fireball hit you?"
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "I survived, though perhaps that is a little apparent," Haddock remarked tersely. "Thanks, perhaps, to you, though also no thanks for acting completely without my consent. The opposite of my consent, in a way, when I shouted at you what you were doing when you began… that sigil…" Haddock stared down at his hand, where the mark used to be. He seemed to zone out for a little before shaking his head, clearing some unpleasant thought, and concluding, "Beyond that, I will have you know I do not exactly wish to share, nor would be accountable to share as your… um… king." He seemed slightly uncomfortable as he spoke his last sentence, and gave a slight hesitation to the last word. It might have lowered in volume and pitch. Haddock grimaced.
Stonegit Brotchurn Elmiss: Stonegit ducked his head once in a graceful nod. “Of course.” he said."Um…?" Stonegit thought to himself, and then shook the thought away. “And I apologize for deceiving you, and acting against you…I just hope you understand that uh…” he cleared his throat, straightening. “That it was the only resort I had been left with, as far as doing my job goes.”
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: "You might have some rationality in what you did," the king said, "but I do not know if I precisely can forgive you so easily for its results."
Stonegit Brotchurn Elmiss: Haddock saw a brief flash of pain in Stonegit’s eyes, and he nodded again. “I understand.” He licked his lips in thought. “Oh, I promised Akkey I would notifying of this. Due to some other scheme Hel is cooking up, Akkey is currently trapped in purgatory. I do believe she is safe though, and I do believe she will come back soon. But the fact remains that nobody outside of Pitch will have access to her. That being said, I sent out a messenger scout to inform Pitch of his daughter’s whereabouts, I hope that isn’t problem.”
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: Haddock frowned at the information. His emotions were kept beneath the surface, and he spoke evenly aloud to Stonegit. “It is grave news to hear of Akkey’s whereabouts… I do desperately indeed hope her safe. I cannot at all say am comfortable with Pitch meeting with her. But what is done is done, and I will not outright object to it.”
Stonegit Brotchurn Elmiss: Stonegit nodded once. “Very well.” he rubbed his hands together, not sure where to steer the conversation now. He thought he would have a million things to say to Haddock. But now…he was just happy to be by King’s side again.
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: Haddock paused, noticing Stonegit’s hands for the first time closely. One of them was scarred, the other bearing a sigil. A familiar sigil. “By Thor’s bushy eyebrows…” He knit his eyebrows together, realizing the implication. “The Warden… she was supposed to leave! How dare she… is she… she’s in… YOU?”
Stonegit Brotchurn Elmiss: "Supposed to…leave?" Stonegit murmured, and then blinked. "Oh, yes, she’s resting right now. But she is in me. You see in retrun for a great favor she did for me, I promiesed her I would not have her sent to Hel or doomed to a disemodied fate until she was able to get some form of vessel, one that did not contain life of course. Until then…" he shruged. "Our contract is still in effect."
Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: Haddock paled. “Get away from me,” he growled suddenly. It was hard to say if his voice shook from anger or nerves. Perhaps both. “Warden, if you can hear me, I know we made a bargain, but it’s done now. Get away from me. Stonegit, this is unacceptable, no matter what the ‘favor’ she did. Completely unacceptable. Do you know what that monster can do? DO YOU KNOW WHAT SHE DID TO ME?” The words escaped in a shout before he had control of them.
Stonegit Brotchurn Elmiss: Stonegit’s eyes became livid. “I certainly will,” he said, his voice sounding dangerous. He lowered his eyes. “I will confront her tonight after you are resting.”
Stonegit chewed his words carefully. “My King, as far as trust is concerned. May I request I know just how much your level of trust for me is? That way I can fulfill my duties without overstepping or committing actions that may unintentionally discomfort you?”
Mera Violet Haddock: Right before Haddock could open his mouth to answer the question, the door to the room opened. In trudged a short, squat figure sporting a red bun of curls. Mera looked up at Stonegit and Haddock and inquired very, very sweetly, “Am I disturbing the two of you from anything… private?”
Stonegit Brotchurn Elmiss: Stonegit turned around. “Of course not,” he said easily. “How may I help you Queen…Mera…”
Mera sees something break in Stonegit’s eyes. He could tell by the look of her face and the realization of her words of what was about to happen. And she knew he knew. Raw terror filled every nook and cranny of his features. He swallowed, his throat drying up. “I’m at your service.”
Mera Violet Haddock: "Good," said Mera firmly. She marched straight up to him, stared him straight in the eye, and grabbed his sleeve. "You’re coming with me r-i-g-h-t n-o-w to talk. As for you, Sire, you better be here when I get back.” She pulled Stonegit out into the hall with her before Haddock could say a word.
Stonegit Brotchurn Elmiss: "Snag, guard!" Stonegit called as he was dragged off.
He stumbled slightly as Mera ‘helped’ him into a room, and turned to face her, his body immediately retreating backwards until his back hit the wall. He starred at her in utter terror. “Yes?” he was barely able to squeak.
Mera Violet Haddock: Mera’s voice was soft, almost deceptively sweet, but clearly dangerous in the undertones. “You’re telling me,” she crooned angrily, “exactly what’s going on between you and my husband.”
Stonegit Brotchurn Elmiss: For a single moment Stonegit considered lying and saying it was nothing. But he figured such an unwise course of action would cost him his life. “I…” he said, trying to breathe. “I fell…fell in love with him.” he cleared his throat. “And…uh,” he clasped his hands over the back of his neck, ducking his head. “I kissed him…” he said, the last sentence barely audible.
Mera Violet Haddock: "Say that last part again?" Mera asked, voice rising lightly. Her eyebrows rose, too, though not lightly at all.
Stonegit Brotchurn Elmiss: Stonegit gritted his teeth, closing his eyes tightly as he bounced slightly, his fists clenching. “I kissed him,” he said. “I was going to fight to a monster, I thought I was going to die…and I kissed him. But he didn’t kiss back!” he said hurriedly.
Mera Violet Haddock: "And I suppose that makes it excusable?" Mera asked, just as sweetly, just as calmly, though with the same internal ire.
Stonegit Brotchurn Elmiss: Stonegit shifted. “Well…I figured the Valkyrie would rip me to shreds so you wouldn’t have to…honestly looking back…I’m starting to wish it had. So…yes? Maybe? I mean no, no it was wrong.”
And then something terrible happened. Something very, very terrible. Mera saw in Stonegit’s eyes…there was something else that he knew she had to know.
Mera Violet Haddock: Mera drew out her speech, rising her intonation accusatively. Somehow her voice still sounded coddling even as she prodded. “You’re hiding something. Give it to me. Everything. I don’t need this ‘one time incident’ thing. There’s more going on here.”
Stonegit Brotchurn Elmiss: "Oh sweet Valhalla!" Stonegit said, pressing his hands to his eyes. "I went blind, I was about to quit my position, he told me he needed me to stay but I could not imagine why. He ki-" he choked slightly, stumbling over his words, and then inhaled deeply. "He kissed me…I freaked out, he freaked out, a while later I told him how I felt. He told me…actually he was kinda vague about the whole thing. But anyway, I asked about you and he told me…" his hands suddenly dropped from his eyes and he squinted. "Actually he didn’t tell me much about you either…or what his status was with you…or if you were alive."
His hands dropped and he this time actually looked insulted. “We talked for hours about this how the hel did he still manage to dodge those questions? And why!? Would it have killed him to let me in on this? It would have solved a lot of problems that’s for sure!” he placed his hands on his hips.
Mera Violet Haddock: "That uncommunicative bastard," Mera growled under her breath. Then she turned to Stonegit. "I’ll talk to him about that." She raised her voice. "As for you, it surely seems like a good sign to kiss a man who’s being vague about his relationship status, doesn’t it? The vagueness didn’t seem like a warning sign already?”
Stonegit Brotchurn Elmiss: Stonegit winched. “Yeeeaah…” he ducked his head. “I’m sorry.” he said simply.
Mera Violet Haddock: "I’m sure you are," said Mera. "And if you are, you’re going to do things better in the future, aren’t you?"
Stonegit Brotchurn Elmiss: "Yes…yes, absolutely just…" Stonegit paused. "Just please don’t ask me to leave, I can’t I couldn’t. I will never, ever again, present a threat to you and your husbands marital status…" He let his hands rest at his sides. "But my duty is to stay by his side and guard him."
Mera Violet Haddock: "I will consider that for now," Mera harrumphed. "But I will need to talk to my husband first to see if you still should be guarding him. If I find Gareth in any way wanting, you’re not guarding him anymore. You’re not even fighting in the Rebellion anymore. Understand?" She stepped up and glared him in the eye. "I thought so."
She marched straight back into the throne room to talk now to her husband.
Mera Violet Haddock: Out from the other room she stormed, slamming shut the throne room door behind her, and with the fury of a burning dragon Mera marched straightup to Haddock’s thrumming heartbeat. She advanced upon him with such a menace to her step Haddock involuntarily backed up. But when his back bumped against the wall and he could recede no further, Mera in turn could barge right into his space, yanking down on the collar of his shirt and bringing him to eye level. Nothing but the sounds of Mera’s steaming breath and Haddock’s uncomfortable swallow could be heard.
Every time Haddock attempted to drop his gaze Mera shook him, so at last he acquiesced to meet her stare. Her eyes pinned him against the wall with greater a force than her strength, and it left him speechless for a moment, and even when he dared to breathe out a few words, they were hesitant, a mere, “I can –”.
“You will explain.” It was a statement. Not a question. Not even a demand. A declaration of fact.
“Very well.” He dipped his head respectfully, though his face deadened to an expressionless statue.
Even as he carefully aligned his face to neutrality, Mera’s own countenance wrinkled in greater anger, and from beneath clenched teeth she growled, “Deities, no. No. I know what that expression means, Sire Stone Face. Don’t you go on being flat with me.”
“If you would let me speak…”
“Fine then.” She dropped her fingers from their grip on his shirt collar, but she stood dangerously close to him ever still, crossing her arms across her bosom and waiting, fingers drumming impatiently against her forearm. Eyes scrutinized Gareth up and down as though the answers to the past were on his clothes. Whatever she noticed, she disliked. She loathed. “Tell me,” she said. “And don’t you dare leave anything out or change a thing. He told me a lot, and I’ll notice any lies that come out from either of you.”
“We… he…” Gareth sighed heavily – at least as much as he could with his lungs wedged against the wall. He fought to speak. He did not want to, though he knew he had to. “I initially thought him just another one of my subjects, someone for whom I was affectionate according to his duties in the war.”
“It wasn’t just that, was it?” Mera’s voice was quiet now, too quiet.
“No,” her husband admitted. “It caught me by surprise. I didn’t realize it at first. Couldn’t recognize it for what it was. Did not for a long time, even after… well…” he paused, and Mera did not interrupt him – not now that he was speaking, and something clearly sincere. “I admit to having kissed him once in a moment of thick-headedness.”
“You’re always thick-headed.”
“He reacted appropriately, I will commend him for that. He rebuked me – outright – for acting in such a manner given my marriage to you. That was the end of it, or should have been. When he stepped out to fight against a Valkyrie, and we both feared he would die by the end of it, he made his own act, a… a second kiss. Not mine. From there on out, based on how situations have played out, the two of us have not interacted.” Haddock screwed his face into a nervous grimace before straightening out his cheeks again “…and…” He shrugged, trying to gesture to Mera. He could only do so much, cramped as he was. “Now we’re here. The present day.”
Mera’s body language was peculiarly loose now, almost relaxed in her posture, and her voice when she raised it was a little too high-pitched, a little too sweet. “Anything else you did?” she chirped, eyebrows raised. For a brief second she pursed her lips and glanced downwards – but that eye movement, though quick, hit its point and paled Haddock’s face.
“No, nothing like that… no, we didn’t,” he emphasized.
“Mhm.” Eyebrows climbed to curls, but her intonation still sang sugar.
“I swear on all the gods and the…”
“Okay.” She blinked, but other than that did not shift her stance. “I believe you.” Mera left him to gasp against the wall, moving further to the center of the room, and began pacing with her skirts rustling against the floor. For a long time she tread the carpet in circles. Haddock never interrupted, but she herself ended the silence by turning again to him and remarking in a very even, uninflected, almost uninterested voice, “I could divorce you for this.”
“Good gods, no…”
“What did you say?” Mera accused. Her ears apparently had picked up on his quiet, disbelieving murmur. She continued on, voice swinging from sweet to sharp. “Oh. That it’s only a few kisses and I’m taking it too far. That it hurts you for me to even suggest this. That you are repentant and it won’t happen again, so we should quit being cross with each other and leave the foolish past for the foolish past. Well, guess what, Your Majesty. You might be regretful now, but more than once – more than once – you betrayed your loyalties to me.”
“I know. I did. I am responsible.”
“And I am not done talking, you unfaithful lummox!” Drawing in a deep calming breath, Mera restabilized herself and then resumed, more quietly, “I must admit that, mild though it is all things considering, I feel betrayed.” A smile curled up her plump cheeks, but it radiated bitterness. “This shouldn’t have happened, Garthy. You know better. You know better.”
“I’m gone for less than a year in your life, Garthy, less than a year, and that’s all the time it takes for you to kiss someone, who by the way is younger than your eldest child, who by the way also is your bodyguard. How’m I to believe you’re going to be steadfast now? That something like this can’t happen again? Why shouldn’t I just go off and find someone who’s going to take his marriage with me seriously?”
Haddock did not respond for a long time. He opened his mouth once, then shut it to bite his lips, and then sighed. Pained, he mumbled, “I could give you many answers, but I’m sure you could argue against them all.”
“You’re right. I could.”
“I can speak everything I feel sincerely about my regrets. I could candidly tell you how much I continue to love you, how much I… I need you there, Mera. Could say… speak promises of all I’ll do for… but I don’t know… I can understand if the trust is lost. And I’ll always regret it.”
The wall now seemed to be the only support keeping the king upright, and it held him barely.
“Two kisses, you said?” Mera asked. From the corner of his left eye he watched her raise a flat palm, and suddenly the world burst into red-hot stars. A horrid sting upon his cheek pulsated.
“That’s one,” she said, and lifted her arm to slap him again.
The room spun. He could feel his eyes watering.
Haddock stood unmoving, eyelids shut, cheeks damp.
With no wrath at all in her voice, but also not much love, Mera said, “See that you don’t disappoint me again.” And she abruptly marched off and left the throne room.
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End of a Long Day