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(Merges threads Central Arrives and Tell Me Why)

Tezzeret Verdile: They proceeded in silence for a while around the camp, Tree silently fuming. Tezz was wearing a face of great concern, he didn’t know if he could bring the Archon in to berate the Warden if it came to that. But he wouldn’t hesitate to try if it kept Tree safe.

They made their way by the fortress when he saw Blunt walking by with a white half fox. Then another figure… someone he recognized.

From my school? No, not one of the students… one of the teachers. His name was… Darien

“Treepelt, go look near the barracks, I’ll catch up with you in a moment.” This was not a part of his past he wanted resurfacing.

He strode with a purpose to the man. his anger growing inside with each step. "Darien."

Darien Whiteland: "I have quite the sense of direction, milady. I’m sure I can find my own way.” It was a futile attempt, he could already tell. The woman’s mind was almost pure iron, and he didn’t dare toy with it. Not yet.

“Darien.”

His stomach dropped to his toes. Who—?!

A short man just out of his teenage years was stalking towards him, green eyes sparking with anger and recognition. How does he know my name!? I don’t recognize him at all…

“You must be mistaken,” he said as quickly and smoothly as he could in front of this suspicious woman.

Tezzeret Verdile: Tezz was dragging snow along behind him, his magic becoming erratic with his anger. ”You’re going to pay for what you did to me.”He swung his left arm forward and a surge of snow became ice encasing his neck and lifting him off the ground. “YOU’RE THE REASON MY PARENTS ARE DEAD!”

Mera Violet Haddock: In shock Mera yanks her son backwards and crouched down beside the humble Viking dwellings of the common camp members. She crouched down, holding onto Egil firmly and suggling Signy close to her chest. The infant, still ill, coughs into Mera’s bosom, and she can only hope that her body muffles the sound.

What is going on? she worried, peeking out at the beginning commotion. Will I have to get some guards to halt this fool madness?

Darien Whiteland: Gasping, Darien grabbed at the ice around his throat, feet dangling a foot above the snow. “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” he coughed, struggling to keep from striking mentally against this lunatic. Who is this character!?

Tezzeret Verdile: Tezzeret dropped him to the ground, turning the ice into water. “Mera, I suggest you take your children away from here. They don’t need to see this.” As Darien is gasping for breath on the ground Tezz lashes out with his boot, kicking him in the chin. He kneels down and grabs his face. “Do you not recognize the boy whose life you tore apart Darien? Or has seven years been long enough for you to forgive yourself?”

Mera Violet Haddock: Mera takes Tezz’s invitation and bolts with both her children. As she runs, she charges into a nearby guard and shouts, “There’s a fight to the death back there.” She points in the direction where the commotion is taking place. It was not a comment but a command for the young captain to do something about it. She looked incredibly worried at the queen’s comment, especially when Mera elaborated, “Careful. Magic.”

Darien Whiteland: The blow was heavy and stunned him momentarily. Darien massaged his jaw before the man seized him roughly. Seven years? Seven years ago was…what was it…

“You have to believe me,” he choked, still short on breath. “I’ve never met you before in my—”

…oh. That’s where he was from.

He tried to cover up his hasty pause but he could see he was a second too late.

Tezzeret Verdile: “You remember, don’t you?” There was a glint in Tezzeret’s eye, a memory of his feral side. “You remember how you ruined my life, and the other six children. You and the other teachers. How do you plead, Darien?” Tezzeret grabbed the collar of his shirt and hefted him up.

“Ruined!?” Darien struggled backwards as much as he could, ready to start attacking the man’s mind. He contacted Arceyx and the owl began soaring towards them to circle high overhead, delivering condescending comments the entire way. “I–I hardly think–"

Tezzeret Verdile: Tezz inhaled sharply, “You hardly think, what? That fragmenting children's minds into monstrosities is a proper use of your mind magics?” He dropped Darien and turned away, taking some calming breaths. “You don’t know how much I want to kill you right now, Darien. Do you even remember my name?”

Darien Whiteland: Darien scrambled upright, holding out a hand to distance himself from the furious man. “I…I can’t say that I do.” No, that was a bad move. He could hear Arceyx chuckling. “But! Uh—let me think, I’m sure I can remember it—!”

Tezzeret Verdile: “Memories are fickle things…. aren’t they professor? Isn’t it ironic… that a mage wielding such a power as that to manipulate a mind, forgets?” He turned back around and laughed.

“But that’s in the past… who are you now, really? I know who I am, my name is Tezzeret Verdile, born to Ceril and Theoras Verdile. Put into a school for gifted children at the age of 6, only to have my mind reformed into a psychotic murderer. Who then slaughters his beloved family, and many others in the following years trying to fix the damage done. Who nearly kills his own fiancee because of an outburst after an entire year clean. Who has, with the help of a demon, become a whole person again, living with the memories of the innocent people he killed. But who are you, Darien? Why should I let you live?”

Darien Whiteland: Darien cursed inwardly. He remembered seeing that name on the papers now. Come to think of it, he hazily remembered the parents, too. He’d only been seventeen at the time, quickly climbing the rungs of power due to his unusual proficiency in mind magic. The school had been an experiment to both test a younger group of subjects and to practice fragmenting personalities. They had been successful in both regards, as the result now stood before him.

Wait a minute.

Arceyx immediately told him not to. And, as usual, Darien ignored his familiar’s nagging advice and stood up straighter, facing Tezzeret coolly. This threat obviously was not going away, so Darien had to deal with what he was most familiar with.

“I am Darien Whiteland,” he said with as much authority as he could muster. “Councilmember of High Central. And yes, I created you." With those final words, he pried into Tezzeret’s mind, searching for the dark, twisted, bloodthirsty side so characteristic of his "students.” Once he found it, he would be able to control and direct it, since he was the one who had orchestrated the experiment in the first place.

But there was nothing there. He searched harder. The boy’s mind was completely clean of any splintering. “What?” he growled under his breath, clenching a fist, brow furrowing in worry.

The Archon: Looking for something, mortal? Kiaama exploded into Tezzeret’s mind as Darien probed it, pulling Darien’s conscience into the Archon’s personal realm.

Do not worry, your body is safe, for the time being. Your concept of time is slowed to a crawl so we can have a chance to… discuss things.

Darien Whiteland: What!?

Darien struggled to yank back from whatever had snagged his mind but somehow his body was out of reach…every command he sent to his fingers, his feet, seemed to get trapped in tar, slow-moving to the point of stationary. He cautiously turned his attention to the being and cringed when he recognized the aura. It’s a demon. Gods above and below, it’s a demon.

He had a violent flashback of the time he’d summoned a demon to guard the dungeon and shuddered, trying to lash out. Let me go!!

The Archon: In due time… but the freedom of your mind has a price. A deep, dark chuckle echoed around Darien. The Archon manifested a vision of himself in the realm. So, you’re the mortal that thinks the mind of another is but a plaything?

Darien Whiteland: Darien recoiled, looking wide-eyed at the spectral dragon that emerged before him. Of…of course not, he stammered. I am a mere practitioner of…experimental magic. I tread once in so-called forbidden places and never return. One trespass in an art you do not take pleasure in is surely not grounds for condemnation, mighty demon.

The Archon: Your snake tongue will not aid you in my judgement of your worth, mortal. I know who you are, what you do. But even for all your “experimenting,” all of your tinkering, and the wealth of knowledge of the mind you’ve accumulated. I could rip your mind out of your head and put you back believing you were going to give birth to a race of goblins.

You could instead tell me the truth, so I’m not forced to ravage your mind looking for it myself. How many other mortals minds have you broken for your… greater good?

Darien Whiteland: He was thoroughly, finally cowed.

Hundreds, he murmured, dropping his gaze. All for well-intended causes, I assure you.

The Archon: Do you continue to lie for my sake, or your own? I care not the purpose, nor your justification. You mortals take every action as either black or white, and obfuscate the lens you perceive it through to meet your own selfish ends.

Do you really call your “High Central’s” cause good, do you really believe that?

Darien Whiteland: Lie? Darien shook his head, frowning, still refusing to meet the dragon’s gaze as he turned everything he’d learned over in his mind. No, it’s…we’re…High Central has always looked out for the welfare of others…we protect our citizens from dangers, like those rebellious half-breeds…we cause no harm for personal gain, only for the protection of those who live there.

But something odd was happening. Something about being near the demon…it was slightly scrambling the knowledge in his head, re-arranging it. It was still there but he was looking at it differently. He shook his head mentally. It must have just been an odd side effect from being near a foul presence. Or maybe…maybe he was just thinking…changing…by himself…

Stop confusing me, Darien snapped, looking up sharply. I know what you’re trying to do. It won’t work. Let me return this instant.

The Archon: You may leave, mortal. For the seeds of doubt have already begun to take root.

The Archon released him and retreated back into his own mind, his little pet no longer needed him.

Tezzeret Verdile: “Created me?!? No, professor, you destroyed me. Destroyed any chance I had at a normal life.” Tezz panted, his anger was becoming overwhelming. “Are you proud of what you did, Darien?”

Darien Whiteland: Seeds of–!? Now, hold on just a minute!

With an odd rushing noise, everything came back into focus and Darien swayed slightly where he stood, the demon’s words reeling in his head. The boy was still speaking, and Darien dazedly realized that the dragon had spoken the truth. It was as though no time had passed at all. 

“I–ah–” He shook himself. Focus, Darien! “Proud? No, no, I’ve already told you. It was necessary. The experiment went poorly, and we meant to rescue your minds but all of you had scattered and the terrible deeds had already been wrought. I am deeply sorry for any harm we caused to your person. But I can tell you are healed now, so the damage has at least partially been taken care of. Correct?”

Tezzeret Verdile: “Healed? What do… Wait, you were looking for him! You were going to use him!” Tezzeret raised his right hand again, floating water around Darien’s neck menacingly. “I want to kill you, so very much. But that wouldn’t make me any better tha-"

There was a throwing knife sticking out of Tezz’s forearm. 

Darien Whiteland: Gulping, Darien looked to his right very slowly as to not disturb the water surrounding him like a noose and exhaled in relief. “Ma—Nadia! I was…I had everything under control…” 

Maralen: Darien’s assailant was writhing in pain. She had left dinner early, Blunt was a flirt but not a fool. She couldn’t get any information out of him that she hadn’t guessed upon arriving. But even still, they didn’t need to worry about this little band of people coming to Central any time soon. 

"Glad you’re making friends, I suggest we take this party elsewhere though.” Maralen grabbed Darien’s hand and sprinted towards the gate, keeping her hand on a throwing knife.

Darien Whiteland: Darien looked back over his shoulder as the camp sped by in a rush and summoned Arceyx urgently. The owl hung back, insistently showing him the image of the man again, and Darien glanced at it briefy before discarding it. An older man, in his thirties, perhaps, with some rough stubble and hollow, gaunt hazel eyes.

What is so important about this man? he finally snapped. Arceyx tut-tutted as best as he could and sent another image: a snarling, writhing spirit hovering in a dark space, cat eyes gleaming, with a tall, dark, eyeless woman standing behind her, with a knowing smirk.

Darien’s heart nearly stopped.

“We can’t go!” he cried out, tugging on Maralen’s hand to slow her down. “The demon—she’s here!”

Maralen: “What? Thor above, where?” Maralen changed their direction and swung him around the side of a cottage. “Actually, no, who was that man and why was he attacking you? That matter seems to be more pressing at this moment.”

Darien Whiteland: “One of my old students who recognized me.” He waved her down impatiently. “It’s not that important—well, another demon did come in and try to stop me when I rooted around in his brain, looking for that monster half we implanted in him, and apparently that’s gone now, I’m not sure what happened, but he’s got some special connection with a dragon demon now and—Maralen!” He gripped her forearms. “She’s here, that demon I locked up in the dungeon, Arceyx told me, she’s possessing a man somewhere in camp, I don’t know where…”

Maralen: "But he knows you? That means our cover is… Ugh, fine. If we’re sticking around we’re going to have to try honesty now… Minus the part where you locked these people up.” She kicked at the snow. “I’m going to go apologize to your student, and get my knife back. Then look for that demon.”

Darien Whiteland: “Good luck with that,” he said grimly. “Tell him anything you need to, anything to calm him down…everything I said just made it worse…” He stuck out his arm and Arceyx came in for a landing, nipping him on the ear as he did so. “Ow! I know! That was stupid! I’m sorry. And watch out for a demon guarding him,” he added warningly.

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