Death Mark'd Love (Tinder and HolyFudgeBars)

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Tinder, May 21, 2016.

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  1. Fort Arcton stood on the edge of the darkening forest, a heavily fortified structure built off the ruins of a small castle from the early ages of Meji. A single road led south toward the King’s Road, the stone highway paved at the beginning of the reign of King Silvano Viteri. It was one of the last forts before the mountains began, the end of the military’s reach. The fort stood near a series of small hamlets which relied upon the army for their food, trading their game and wood for grain and other supplies from the far-off capital to keep their families fed and warm. That had been the norm until the fort’s commander decided their materials were worth more than a few rabbits and sticks.

    Soldiers patrolled around the walls, lighting the troches for the night watch. Unaware of the eyes watching them from the edge of the dense forest. Four men crouched behind the tangled brambles, the youngest watching the soldiers from their position. All were dressed in ragged clothing covered by well-worn armor, each carrying a weapon and a sack. One examined the crossbow in his hand, glancing at the boy on watch. “What’s the plan, Enzo?”

    His bright green eyes flickered momentarily from the building to his companion, “They’ll be changing the watch soon; one guard per station instead of two. We use the limited light to our advantage and get to the nearest entrance.”

    “Are we sure this is a good idea?” another asked, his pale features showcasing his uncertainty, “There’s more guards than there were yesterday. They’ve been changing shifts in a blink. Why not wait one more night?”

    The man with the crossbow, Colm, scoffed, “And wait for yer neighbors to starve? If you can’t handle this boy, go home.”

    “I can handle it,” the boy retorted sourly, glaring at the ground.

    Enzo turned to watch the other boy from beneath his dirty red locks, his expression unreadable. Alec had only joined their group a week ago, the son of one of the nearby hamlets that was suffering. He’d begged their help in exchange for his service in their cause. Enzo would have gone regardless, but gaining fresh blood for the ranks always helped. Tonight would be Alec’s first mission with them. It was only natural he be nervous.

    But they could not afford mistakes today. Enzo stood, “Colm, Emmett, find the stores and get as much as you can. Get yourselves out at the first sign of trouble. No heroics today.”

    “Right,” Emmett replied, taking the order as his cue to take out the lone guard standing beneath a nearby torch. Colm followed with fierce grin, “Time to let the bastards have it.”

    Enzo started toward the fort, slinging his bag over his sloping shoulder. “Wait,” Alec whispered, “What about me?”

    A moment of silence passed before Enzo twisted back to look at the boy, “Either follow me or go home. I cannot afford to waste my time worrying about you. Can you do this or not?”

    “I-I,” Alec stuttered, glanced around uncertainly.

    “Yes or no.”

    He muttered something incomprehensible under his breath then answered, “Yes, I can. Lead on.”

    Enzo nodded, continuing on into the open with Alec on his heels. Tonight they did more than exact a payment for the people wronged. They would begin to gather material for their counterattack against the military overlords. It had been years since they’d said they would step down. Corruption was beginning to take hold little by little. This fort was one of many stories. Enzo refused to sit by while these men starved the people for the little pocket change they could find. The rebellion had been raised to win the king his throne back, but Enzo only cared that the people could win their rights back.

    The pair passed through the inner walls behind Emmett and Colm. A trail of unconscious guards marked the way for the two boys, the work of Emmett no doubt. Enzo had never met a man more effective in a fist fight. Enzo broke away from the trail after a few minutes, heading off toward the barracks. They’d spent a week sizing this place up for this hit: memorizing the layout, patrol patterns and security measures. Enzo retraced the path to the armory, taking pains to avoid the soldiers in the halls. Alec trailed close behind, his eyes swinging around wildly.

    They came to the door within minutes. Enzo ran up to the guard, slammed a knee into the man’s stomach and covered his mouth. Using his free hand, he chocked the man until he collapsed. Enzo crouched down, pulling the key from the man’s limp body. “Keep watch,” he whispered to Alec, unlocking the door and slipping inside.

    Alec stood with his back to the wall, “W-will do.”

    Enzo worked calmly, taking a moment to examine the contents of the room. The amount of weaponry was baffling. Supplies like these could keep the rebellion stocked for years. But would have to wait for another day. Enzo walked toward the back of the room, selecting a few of the pistols that the military prized so highly. The bloody machines that had won them the war. That kept them on their thrones. He collected five pistols and a good deal of ammunition, stopping when the bag grew heavy. They would still need to escape. Overburdening themselves would only lead to trouble. He tied off the bag, considering a sword he’d spied across the room when he heard a shout.


    Alec started, stumbling into the doorway, “Gods be good!”

    “Shit,” Enzo cursed beneath his breath, heaving the loot onto his shoulder, “Move!” The pair spirited away down the hall, the guard yelling for assistance. Enzo searched his memory for an escape route. Main doors were out, side entrances as well. Had to be a window, less likely to be guarded. The next hall led to a room with a window; one of the many escape routes he’d planned. Just had to get around the corner.

    A bang sounded in the air and white-hot pain erupted in Enzo’s left shoulder. He bit down, cutting off the scream in his throat as his other hand came up to grip the bag. Damn them and their pistols.

    Alec flashed him a panicked look, “Enzo!”

    He didn’t answer. They turned the corner, nearing the room. “Next door, open it,” Enzo commanded through gritted teeth, a sweat breaking out over his forehead. He could feel the metallic ball buried deep within his flesh, causing sharp pains which each movement.

    Alec did as he was told, throwing up the very next door and slamming it shut once they’d entered. Both boys threw themselves against the wood to stop their pursuer. Alec shoved a crate in front of the door, then another, forming a makeshift barricade. It wouldn’t hold long. Enzo examined the room, noting the scattered crates and barrels that suggested they’d found another storeroom. There was a small window on the far edge of the room they could use to escape but it would require arm strength. Enzo touched his wounded shoulder gingerly. This hadn’t been his first choice as an escape route.

    Alec stared at the door, terror fixed onto his face, “What do we do now? We’re trapped.”

    Enzo dropped the bag of weaponry, “Not quite.” He looked at the young boy, motioning to the bag. “Can you carry that?”

    “I think so,” Alec replied, clearing his throat after meeting the green gaze, “Yes, I can.” He stepped over and lifted the bag into his arms.

    “Good, you’ll take it back to the rendezvous point,” Enzo declared, walking toward the small window. It would take a boost for even a boy as tall as Alec to climb out.

    Alec rushed over, glancing up, “All the way up there?” His face tightened, determination sparking in his eyes. “I can do this, but what about you, Enzo?”

    Enzo knelt, creating a step for Alec, “I can handle it.” Somewhat true. “I’ve been in tighter situations.” More or less true. “I’ll be fine. Just go.” An outright lie.

    Alec hesitated a moment, then stepped onto Enzo back and tossed the bag out of the window. Enzo’s shoulder screamed in pain, forcing him to bite down to keep from vocalizing the pain. Alec gripped the window ledge and heaved himself up and out, dropping outside with a heavy thud. The last Enzo heard of the young man was his retreating footsteps. Enzo sat on the ground, breathing in and out slowly as the pain dulled to a throb. Blood had soaked through his clothes.

    Her clothes. Alone in the dark, the identity of Enzo dropped away as Talia pushed herself to her feet. She gripped the wall to keep from falling, the room tilting back and forth. She had no time to rest. She could hear the men at the door, shouting and banging as they attempted to storm the room. They’d be through in less than a minute. She wiped her forehead with the back of her sleeve, placing the leather of her bracers into her mouth as she reached with her left arm to the hilt of her sword. She paused for a breath, biting down to prepare herself. With one swift motion, she drew her sword, muffling her groan against her arm. She dropped her hand down to catch the sword before it could hit the ground, ignoring the burning of her wound. The thick, metallic scent of blood filled the air, informing her that the exertion was not helping.

    She took the hilt into her hands, getting into a battle stance and facing the door. Let them come, she would kill as many as she could. Escape was beyond reach; death seemed certain. Enzo was a wanted man, almost as wanted as Talia. Either would receive the death sentence upon discovery. She gritted her teeth and prepared to face whatever foe came into the room.
  2. The only thing Alistair found impressive upon his arrival at Fort Arcton earlier that evening was the architecture of the old castle. His father had sent a message to his son to investigate the claims of corruption that had reached his ears regarding the officers stationed in the old fort. The Lord General was far too busy to cease his activities to go there himself and Alistair figured his father saw this as a good opportunity to test his son's character. At least Alistair hoped that's what his being sent here was. He knew his father to be a good man, devoted to the people, it would make sense if the Lord General had sent him there to test his honor to ensure that the branch would produce a stable tree like the roots. Alistair would not disappoint.

    What was disappointing was the way the soldiers had tripped over themselves when he announced his surprise arrival to the gatekeeper, and the small panic that ensued as they scrambled to make themselves presentable to the Lord General's successor. Alistair's attendant, a skilled retired captain by the name of Barthow, rode nearby and the older man chuckled when the fort's commander came rushing out to greet them. "Well my lord," Barthow said leaning over on his horse to speak to Alistair, "if I have ever seen a man with something to hide, it would be the man speeding towards us."

    "Indeed" came Alistair's soft reply as he fought the beginnings of a sneer trying to form on his face. He was already fed up with these men, corruption or no. The fort's commander was eager to please him and his companion, having men rush to stable their horses for them, and wrung his nervous hands together as he gazed upon Alistair.

    "What brings you here my lord?" He inquired trying to subtly look past Alistair too see if more people had also arrived with the fort's new guest.

    "I am merely passing through," Alistair lied easily turning his head to look towards the setting sun, "I was travelling back from an assignment given to me by my father and my companion, Barthow, expressed that there was a nearby fort we could stay for the night." he turned his grey piecing gaze away from the sky to look upon the commander. "I should hope we have not caused you trouble."

    "Of course not!" the man practically shouted, waving a soldier over. "We are happy to have you. He'll show you to your rooms and you and your companion can join me for dinner after I finish documenting a few things." Alistair watched the commander quickly excuse himself and followed the foot solider to the rooms, Barthow in tow. Alistair allowed a grunt of disgust to leave his lips the moment the door shut behind them in the temporary room, leaving them alone, and Barthow laughed heartily.

    "Tired of them already my lord?" Mirth danced in his eyes, crinkled at their corners and Alistair couldn't help a small smile towards his friend.

    "I would have to be dead to not tire of those men." Barthow snorted and tossed his pack in the adjoining room glancing back at his charge when he resumed speaking. "Barthow, I need you to go down to the village immediately, before the people are threatened into silence, and inquire as to what exactly has been going on. Try to make sure not too many soldiers think anything suspicious of your leaving."

    "You've got it my lord." Alistair watched Barthow leave and sighed running a hand through his thick dark hair as the door opened and shut for a second time, leaving him alone. He had a feeling that this visit was going to be a thorn in his side.

    He had settled into reading a book on strategies and the hours had passed as he read. Rousing at the knock on his door Alistair made his way towards it and pulled it open watching the solider on the other side salute him. "My lord dinner will be ready in-" the man was cut off by the sounds of shouting in the distance and Alistair raised an eyebrow at the solider who merely shrugged back at a loss. They both jumped at the gunshot and the young lord swung around grabbing his sword and pistol from a nearby chair.

    "Lead the way" he barked towards the man and the solider nodded distressed, quickly leading Alistair through the fort and towards the commotion. They came upon the scene in time to catch the other soldiers trying to break down a door, the commander turned to look at Alistair and flinched when he saw the Lord General's son, face dark and scowling. "What is going on here?!"

    "My lord thieves broke into our storerooms, we've managed to trap one of them." The sound of wood splintering erupted in the corridor and they both turned to look at the door almost broken through. Alistair lips pressed thin and he drew his sword.

    "Capture them alive! I wish to speak with this thief!" Alistair shouted at the backs of the soldiers as they broke into the room.
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  3. The door cracked beneath the harsh blows before the men pushed through, sending the crates flying across the room. Talia tensed, shifting her weight to her right foot as adrenaline flooded her veins. The first man came through the door sword drawn. Talia advanced, using his temporary blindness to her advantage. First stroke unsettled his grip. Followed by a back step. Ended with a stab through his stomach as he overcorrected his hold. The second appeared behind the fallen corpse, a third at his side. She felt into a defensive stance. One attacked with an overhead swing. She dodged around and parried the other’s thrust. She disarmed the man and pushed him between herself and the other. She shoved him after his ally’s sword slide through his midsection to topple the both of them. She met the next as he came through the door, blocking each attack to give herself a moment to rest.

    The commander glared at his men, outraged and embarrassed by the display, “Can’t you kill one boy?! Get out of my way!”

    Her opponent moved aside and Talia moved back, looking up in time to see the commander pull a pistol from his belt. No- He dropped his aim and shot, hitting her right knee. Pain exploded in her knee as her leg gave out, forcing a strained scream from her. She collapsed to the ground, her sword falling at her side. The sudden addition of her weight felt like someone was a knife twisting in her wounded shoulder. Black spots danced on her vision as her breath hissed out through her teeth, trying to control her breathing. The world around her dulled as her senses threatened to be overwhelmed.

    Rough hands found her arms and dragged her up and to the hall, drawing her back to reality. She twisted weakly in their grasp, stopping when one kicked her injured leg. She gasped but refused to scream. They didn’t deserve the satisfaction.

    They stood outside the door, holding her still as the commander strode forward slowly. He gripped her face and forced her to look up, examining her face.

    No, his face slowly. A cruel smile curled the commander’s lips. “It seems we’ve caught ourselves quite the prize, my lord.” He moved aside so that the young man standing beside him had a full view of the prisoner. “May I present to you Enzo, the rebel leader. We’ve been hunting this brat for years.”

    Enzo spit at the man before him and growled, “Bastards.” Had he the breath and concentration, he would have thought of something more creative and colorful. Most of the men before him looked like the common riffraff usually posted this far out in the mountains, all except the one the commander had addressed. Even Enzo could tell that young man came from better stock. He was noble, had to be judging form the title used for him. The thought sharped Enzo’s glare.

    The commander seemed unimpressed, “Quite. What would you like done with him, my lord?”
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  4. Alistair glared hard as the commander commented at his men's inability to kill someone that Alistair had expressly said to be taken alive but did not mention the slight as he watched the man draw his gun. A shot ripped through the air and Alistair sheathed his sword as the thief before them dropped. It was an unnecessary way to detain a wounded man, by shooting him a second time and in the leg at that, but as long as he was alive and restrained Alistair would not nitpick the details of how, not at this very moment anyway.

    Alistair stepped forward when the thief’s face was revealed and the young lord was thankful he had sheathed his sword, otherwise he would have dropped it at the shock he felt upon seeing the rebel leader's rough yet pretty face. Enzo was his name, he had heard of him mentioned occasionally in military meetings. The rebel leader and royal sympathizer, claimed champion of the people by some, described by his father as an ignorant and misguided youth and a consistent pain in the militia's side. Alistair should have by all rights, been disgusted with the man he thought of as a naive child in front of him or at the very least disliked him. He should not been feeling an uncomfortable stirring in his chest for the enemy of all people, not to mention a man. He was pulled from his internal panic as the commander addressed him and forced his attention back to the situation at hand.

    Forcing his gaze away from that defiant glare, Alistair turned towards the commander, his eyes steeled. "The criminal will be attended to and his wounds seen, I will not see him bleed out before all the valuable information he has is retrieved from him. After that is complete I want him placed in irons and in the cells you have here. Inform me when this is complete. I fear after this little incident," Alistair motioned to the scene in the hallway with a sweep of his hand, "I will not be getting much sleep and as I said I wish to speak to the prisoner. The rest of you ensure that your fellow guards accosted by these rebels are still alive and double the patrols along the walls until the sun rises." He waited a moment and stared at the men who stood awkwardly seeking their commander's approval to his words and Alistair's frustration peeked.

    "Was I not heard?!" Alistair shouted in a voice that rivalled his own father's tone reserved for anger and the men stumbled out apologies quickly starting the tasks that were instructed to them. Arms clasped behind his back he turned and nodded at the commander. "In the mean time you and I will be investigating what these rebels took from the storerooms and why they where able to slip past the defense of trained soldiers in the first place."
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  5. Enzo lowered his head as the noble youth barked his orders, his face growing flush. It had to be the blood loss. His attempts to fight back were catching up with him. The soldiers around him jumped to carry out the nobleman’s orders as Enzo began to sag between the men holding him. A fog settled into his mind. From beyond it, he heard the commander affirming the other man’s orders, shouting about fetching the doctor and taking the prisoner to one of the empty quarters until the wounds were tended. The men shook Enzo, dragging him to his feet. He managed to stand for just a moment before the darkness overwhelmed him.
    Enzo awoke to a cold towel on his forehead, his eyes heavy with sleep. He tried to move his left arm to remove it, hissing when he felt the sharp pain in his shoulder. Awareness slowly returned, reminding him that he’d passed out in the hall. He blinked repeatedly to clear his vision, taking in his surroundings. He appeared to be in a spare room currently laying on a table. None of it looked familiar.

    “You’re awake. Good,” came a voice from above him, “You have the gods luck. The commander is terrible marksman. He missed the bone and muscle in your leg. Same with your shoulder. Both should be functional given time to heal.”

    Enzo glanced toward the voice, noticing a man sitting next to him. He wore a simple robe over a worn tunic and patched trousers. His watery brown eyes and dirty spectacles stared down at Enzo, watching him with a cold distance as though he were livestock. Enzo closed his eyes, taking a few ragged breaths. His body felt like he was lying in a fire, leaving him weak as a kitten. “Where are we?” he managed to ask, opening his eyes to look at the man again, “And who are you?”

    The man brushed his greying hair back, returning to the dish next to him where he continued to clean his instruments. “You’ve not left the fort, I’m sorry to say. They just tucked you away back here until I could come. Name's Perry, local healer though there was little for me to do here. I removed the metal from your wounds and cleaned them, but you need rest if you’re to make a full recovery. I doubt they’ll give you that.” He glanced back to Enzo’s face briefly, “Though healing may be the least of your present concerns.”

    Enzo frowned as he turned his head to get a better view of the doctor, “What do you saying?”

    “I’m saying it’ll be a shock to all involved to find out one of the most famous men in the rebellion isn’t all he claims to be.”

    Enzo froze. His right hand moved off the bed slowly, searching for his familiar dirty mop of red hair. The hair he felt was soft and long, still collected into a haphazard bundle. His own hair was laid out on a table next to him along with a length of cloth, alerting him to the missing pressure on his chest. His armor had also been removed, leaving only the brown tunic and dark trousers he wore beneath.

    Perry pulled out a towel to dry his tools, “I removed the extra trappings while treating you. Couldn’t have you overheating.”

    Talia’s arm fell back to her side as she glared up at the doctor, “How did you know?”

    “I didn’t,” he admitted, turning his attention back to his patient, “Not until I had removed most of your clothing to get at your wounds. Fear not, I asked the guards to leave as soon as I noticed. I needed the space to work. Their stares would have been distracting.”

    Talia narrowed her eyes, weighing her options. Escape was impossible with her wounds. Walking seemed impossible in her current state. Rescue seemed equally unlikely, not with that noble here to direct the men. She had only her armor and the few supplies stored within, provided the militia had not already claimed them. “How much would it take to buy your silence?”

    “How much is a man’s life worth?”

    She bit her lip, waves of frustration and sympathy washing over her. The doctor waited for her reply, continuing his work when her silence persisted, “I wish I could help you, but withholding information from officials is an easy way to lose your home. My family has nowhere else to go.” He reached up and removed the towel from her head, dapping her cheeks and neck. “Come now, we best sit you up. I have other patients to attend to and you’ve a meeting with the Lord General’s son.”

    An uncomfortable fluttering began in her the pit of stomach as she recalled the man’s dark face. The Lord General’s son; of all the officials to appear in a backwater post like this. “Is he the noble who has all the men here jumping?” she asked as the doctor stood. He placed an arm beneath her back, supporting her as she worked herself into an upright position. She moved her legs over the edge of the table, sucking in a breath as she bent her injured knee.

    The doctor collected his things into a bag, “I’ve only heard whispers, but it would appear so. Seems the men fear what he’s here to do. Probably for the best. Attention from the top is rarely good attention.” He looked over at the table where the last of his tools remained next to her wig. “What’s your name, girl?”

    Talia shot him another glare, “Looking for secrets to bring to your masters?”

    “They do like hearing about crazed confessions, but I was only curious,” Perry replied coolly, “I’ve never thought much of your rebellion. My wife likes to imagine it does some good. Suppose I was just curious why their champion of the people was a girl dressed up like a boy.”

    Talia paused, mulling his question over in her mind. “To keep my family safe,” she whispered, glancing up at the doctor, “I wanted to join the rebellion, but they were loyal citizens. To avoid humiliating them, I disguised myself as a man.” The lie came easily enough and her fever added to her earnest delivery. No one here would be able to determine the truth from her appearance. They were all too young or far down the ranks. Not even the Lord General’s son would be able to make that leap in logic necessary to know her true origin.

    Perry accepted her tale with a solemn nod, “A worthy goal.” He turned toward the door, pausing there. “I’ll have to tell them whatever truth they ask for, but would you like the wig back?”

    Talia glanced at the table, “I would appreciate it.” Even with their knowledge, the wig could still save her. It would strengthen the story she’d given them.

    “As you wish,” he replied. He walked back, taking a moment to help her get her disguise back into place. Despite their recent acquaintance, Talia felt she could place a measure of trust in the man. He was gentle and professional, just trying to get through life without trouble. When they had finished, he opened the door, “The prisoner is ready. She may need help reaching the cell.”

    One of the soldiers laughed, “She? Did you forget what a woman looks like, Perry?”

    The doctor continued walking into the hall, “I am very aware of what a woman looks like. My advice to you, gentlemen, would be to keep your wits about you. She’s a dangerous one. Now if you’ll excuse me I have a report to deliver.”

    “Daft old codger,” the soldier muttered as the doctor walked away. They entered the room, closely examining Talia. The younger one, who had been speaking, scratched his head, “He’s daft, right?”

    The older shrugged it off, “Let the commander figure that one out. We’re just here to put ‘im into the cell.”

    She glared at them both as they approached, watching as the older one took out a pair of shackles. He returned her dark look, “We doing this the easy way or the hard way?”

    She held her ground another minute before offering out her wrists.

    He locked the shackles and gave her shoulder a shove, signaling her to stand up. She hopped down onto her good leg, biting back a yelp when her injured leg touch the ground to balance her. The younger soldier appeared at her side to take her arm and keep her from falling. She pulled away stubbornly, “I can walk myself.” She would not appear weak. Too many people looked up to her outside of this place. She tried a step forward, nearly toppling on the first step. The younger soldier appeared again, holding her up. “Damn it,” she hissed under her breath.

    The older just walked out the door, “Hurry it up.”

    They made their way through the keep, passing a multitude of angry faces on the way to the dungeon. Talia wondered if some of the men she’d fought had died. At least it would be one accomplishment. Outside of the loot they’d managed to get out, she had to remind herself. Her thoughts dissipated as their walk went on. Her concentration narrowed to walking without audibly expressing her pain. Sweat had coated her face again, causing Enzo’s red hair to stick to her forehead. She breathed heavily, leaning more and more on the soldier as they went. She refused to stop, even when he offered. The sooner they found these cells, the better.

    Talia couldn’t say how long the walk lasted, but after several grueling minutes they arrived. The older soldier had opened the nearest cell waiting for them. Talia limped inside, leaving the younger soldier at the door. She made her way to the bench, the door shutting behind her. As the soldiers walked away, she dropping onto the bench, groaning in the darkness. She focused on catching her breath, leaning on her right elbow to take the weight off her left side. Exhaustion turned her limbs to lead and muddled her mind, but she kept her eyes open. She would not be caught unaware when they came to question her. She would be ready.
    #5 Tinder, May 25, 2016
    Last edited: May 26, 2016
  6. Barthow stared at his young charge before him and chuckled at the sight, as he sat in a chair within the office Alistair had seized. The noble was almost the spitting image of the Lord General as he sat there, head propped in his hand, fingers tangled in his thick black hair. Alistair's eyes scanned the papers strewn over the desk before him and he squinted once more as they flicked in between the pages of the fort's ledger that was sent monthly to the capital and the fort's documented storeroom count that was kept on hand. Alistair's hand extended towards Barthow and the older man handed him a stack of papers, reaching out to take documents Alistair had pushed towards him across the desk.

    "Look over these will you?" Mumbling, Alistair forced his attention to the villager testimonies Barthow had written after visiting the nearby hamlet, pressing his lips thin when said man yawned stretching in his chair where he read across from him. Alistair forced his own yawn down and retuned his gaze to the written statements. Neither man had seen sleep in-between their initial task and the commotion that had ensued after they arrived at the fort.

    Alistair had done as he intended and forced the commander to accompany him while they interviewed all of the men on duty at the time of the rebel infiltration. He had been given a fairly consistent report of what had happened at the time of the attack, the rebels used the cover of night to sneak into the fort right as guard duty had changed and most did not realize what was happening until the rebels where upon them. There had been four thieves total, one of them being the rebel leader himself. It had not gone unnoticed to Alistair that during his interviews that when he had asked the soldiers if they could think of any motive behind the rebels attack most he asked had hesitated, glancing at commander, before telling him that they must had attacked to seek weapons to arm their unworthy cause.

    Alistair was not a man who enjoyed being lied to and, after reviewing the information available to him in the office he had commandeered, he was acutely aware that Fort Arcton's residents had done just that. He laid the testimonies down and turned his gaze up to Barthow who had just finished reading the papers handed to him earlier.

    "These don't match up." Barthow's gruff voice rumbled as he rubbed his rough facial hair in thought and Alistair nodded once in response to the observation.

    "The food said to have been traded for supplies from the villagers in the ledger don't match up with the current documented storage count. In fact," Alistair paused reaching to takes the documents back from Barthow, "based on the amount of lumber and pelts the fort has and the surplus of grain in the storerooms."

    "The villagers have been paying more then designated by the capital and receiving significantly less for it." Barthow finished for him, moving to stand by Alistair's side as he peered down as the papers taking up the desk to review the information a second time. The door was knocked upon and Alistair glanced up as a solider timidly peered into the room quickly bowing upon spotting Alistair, who stared impassively motion for the man to speak.

    "The rebel leader is ready for questioning my lord." A curt nod was all it took to send the solider fleeing and Alistair stood with a sigh glancing over at Barthow.

    "Stay here while I question the leader, the last thing I need is someone coming in here and trying to "misplace" any information we have managed to retrieve regarding this." Barthow leaned back in the chair that Alistair had occupied a moment ago and offered him a thumbs up in conformation, drawing a small quick smile from Alistair as he left the room.

    Alistair made his way quickly towards the dungeon, pausing briefly to question a solider and ensure he was headed towards the right direction. He stopped when he reached his destination and paused while the warden allowed him further into the prison towards the cells nested in the back. He thanked the man as a torch on the wall was lit and placed himself in the chair that the Warden had provided him with, staring through the bars at the rebel leader sitting upon the bench inside the cell. The man looked liked he may have been feverish and exhaustion seemed like it would seize this Enzo at any moment but his eyes remained strong and alert earning a bit of respect from Alistair as he observed his weakened state.

    "Enzo correct? I am Alistair Grey, the Lord General's successor. I will make this a quick as possible for the both of us, that is, as long as you don't make this difficult. Now my first question, what was the intent of you and your rebels as to breaking into this Fort? I have heard it was to steal form the armoury and while I believe that to be partly true, I don't believe it to be your sole motive."
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  7. Time crept by as Talia waited for the nobleman to appear. Once she’d found her composure, she sat up straighter, wiping the sweat from her face with the back of her sleeve. An attempt, if a sorry one, to make herself appear stronger. Anything to keep herself awake. She became aware of others in the cells farther down the block, men and women grumbling to the warden about the noise. Some even asking about the new resident. She shifted her arms to allow her right to cradle the left, a bitter smile flashing across her features. She doubted she would be among them long, not with her reputation. Even the sob story she’d given the doctor would do little to sway the minds of the military. Unless her people came for her tonight, she would likely be dead in the morning.

    The warden’s reappearance signaled the arrival of the nobleman. Talia leaned back against the wall as he sat down, meeting his gaze with a cold glare. He went straight to business, addressing her as Enzo with no hesitation. Either he’d yet to hear the doctor’s report or he had already dismissed the information. Regardless it seemed her identity remained unknown. She was satisfied with that. She would use Enzo for as long as she was able.

    “My intent, Grey,” Enzo began, voice dripping with scorn, “Was to keep people from starving. This fort has been overcharging the local people for months now. They’ve done all they can to keep their families fed. Most have been unable to begin storing for the winters months. I don’t know about you lot down in the south, but no food storage means death up here.” His heartbeat increased steadily as he stared Alistair down until he felt the pounding would smash his ribs to pieces. Enzo’s gaze slid away, taking a few deep breaths. Alistair’s eyes were so intense Enzo felt lightheaded from staring into them. Damn this fever… He took a moment to collect his thoughts from the haze of his mind, “When I heard about it, I brought my people down to take care of things. They’ll see that the food goes to those who need it.”
    He chose not mention Alec or the people’s involvement. There was no need to incriminate the villagers. They’d gone to the rebellion in desperation as many had. Their only crime was fighting back.
    #7 Tinder, Jun 2, 2016
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2016
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  8. The little respect he held he for the rebel leader before him increased as Enzo glared daggers at him while he spoke. Alistair diligent as ever removed a small notebook from his jacket, simple and bound with string, and began to write down Enzo's testimony as he spoke, charcoal stick scratching against the paper. Alistair said nothing until he finished speaking, ignoring the less than subtle jab he found hurdled his way by Enzo.

    Glancing up from his writing Alistair watched as Enzo looked away from him, mistaking the action for hesitance to speak. He leaned forward to watch Enzo, lacing his hand together in-between his knees.

    "I do not expect you, seeing that you are a man of some character, to reveal the location of your base or your rebels considering you have been captured we will easily be able to scour the nearby forest and find and seize the criminals waiting there, seeing as they are most likely waiting on your return. I'm sure you have some that will give away your location and plans when properly," he paused and tilted his head trying to seek a suitable word for the situation, "encouraged."

    Alistair stood to stretch his legs, already becoming restless after hours of sitting at that desk. "I did not even come here for the sole purpose of finding you, you are merely a convenient coincidence. I am here to investigate charges of corruption." He turned his head to watch Enzo briefly and took his seat back up, readying his notepad. "How long has the fort been overcharging the village people? Why did they not report this to the capital, were they threatened? If so by who, the commander?"
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  9. Enzo glared toward the corner of the cell, keeping Alistair in view without focusing on him. The noble made him sick with the easy way he spoke of torture. Even a hated enemy deserved to be treated with respect as a prisoner. Perhaps the king had been telling the truth about the men who had taken over his throne. Enzo had always doubted, or perhaps never wanted to believe, anyone could be as immoral as the men from the king’s stories, but anything was possible.

    Not that any of that mattered. Alistair’s men would never find the rebels, not through Enzo’s men. Emmett and Colm were two of the best; Enzo had never worked with better. They would know to run when Alec told them what happened. Even if they were captured, they would be unable to give the military any details beyond their own activities. The rebels worked in cells with only one or two members per who maintained contact with the heads of the rebellion. Another layer of defense the king had put in place to keep himself safely hidden away. Enzo had been the only one to contact the rebel leaders in this cell and, as Alistair had said, nothing they did could convince him to speak.

    Enzo’s gaze flickered over to Alistair as he stated his purpose, a disbelieving frown crossing his features. It was easy to claim they were investigating the problem now that others had revealed it to them. Bloody dogs, the lot of them. He chuckled darkly as Alistair went on with his questioning, “Why didn’t they report to the capital? This outpost was their only link to your precious capital. The moment it turned on them, they were cut off. Not even the entire village saving their earnings for a year could afford to send someone so far south.” His voice trailed off at the end, thinking about all Alec had told them. He’d walked for three days, surviving off the little he could forage from the forest just to find the rebels. When they’d offered him food, he'd wolfed down nearly an entire side of roast venison.

    Enzo blinked, shaking his head to bring his mind back to Alistair’s questions. He was losing his focus, struggling to keep himself conscious. “I have no dates for you,” he replied, gently shifting his wounded arm, “Rumors began to spread about a month ago. Before that I imagine the issue had been carrying on for several months, perhaps since the beginning of spring judging from the conditions I saw in the village.”
  10. Charcoal scratched the surface of the paper bound in the book as Alistair wrote down everything Enzo said to him. He flicked his eyes up to watch the man when he ceased his words and leaned back in his chair to watch the young rebel. Alistair was silent as he pondered the information that had been told to him. Enzo's tale matched up with the statements Barthow had taken from the villagers and he had no reason to not believe the villagers. Enzo might have spun some wild tale to fool him but it was unlikely that the townspeople also lied seeing as they had nothing to gain from not telling the truth.

    His fingers brushed the side of his pants as he wiped the charcoal dust from his fingers onto his black slacks and he stood sliding his notebook back into his coat. He was done here, he had gotten what he needed to know from Enzo, interrogating him about the rebels would be his father's men's task when they returned to the capital with their new prisoner. He pressed the back of his hand against his mouth to suppress as yawn and headed for the door. He and Barthow were overdue for much needed sleep especially is they were to escort a notorious and most likely dangerous criminal back to the capital with them when they awoke.

    The door swung open in front of him and he bit back a groan of annoyance as he was greeted with Barthow walking into the prison, a bundle of papers shoved underneath one of his thick arms. Barthow grinned in merriment when he saw the thinly veiled annoyance upon the face of his charge.

    "There you are, an important bit of information was brought to my attention and I figured that you should know."

    "This had better be important, because I'm certain that I asked you to watch the documents I left. . ." Alistair trailed off as his gaze fell upon the papers tucked under his guard's arm and Barthow offered a cheeky smile in response. "Right, whatever. What is so important my friend?" Barthow reached underneath his arm and selected a few papers at the top of the stack before handing them to Alistair who scanned his eyes over the papers, brows lifting at what he read.

    "What is this?" he asked handing the papers back to Barthow.

    "The doctor's medical report on our rebel over there." Barthow jerked his head in the direction of the man sitting in the cell and Alistair went quite as he turned to watch Enzo.

    "I see. . . Has anyone else seen this?"

    "Not that I know. Some grunt dropped into the office expecting to find the commander, what with you seizing the guy's office and all, and found me instead. I took the report off his hands for him figured you should see it." Barthow shrugged and glanced over at Alistair, turning his gaze from Enzo. "What do you want to do?"

    A long sigh left Alistair's mouth and he flicked his gaze back to the young man, woman, sitting behind the bars. He wanted to leave her sitting there but he had no clue if anyone else had heard about this information and to leave a person injured and unarmed with soldiers that may catch wind of Enzo's unique circumstances and come to see for themselves was unnecessarily cruel.

    "Tell the guard to open the cell Barthow but to leave our captive cuffed. They'll be placed under watch in our quarters." Barthow chuckled, amused at his lord's discomfort, and turned to go tell the Warden of Alistair's orders.

    "Oh goody." the older man responded as he disappeared from view. "I love sleepovers.
  11. Silence settled in the air after Enzo finished his testimony. He waited for the next question, his body burning beneath Alistair’s heavy gaze. Or perhaps it was the fever; it was difficult to distinguish between the two ailments. Nothing more could be said about the villagers’ plight, yet an unspoken question weighed heavy on Enzo’s mind. What now?

    When Alistair stood to go, Enzo understood that question would have no answer tonight. The young lord had the information he’d come for; the comfort of a rebel meant nothing to him. Enzo lifted his gaze to watch Alistair as he went, bright green eyes remaining attentive despite his exhaustion. His stamina was nearing its end, leaving stubborn pride to fuel his efforts to remain strong before the young noble. Just a little longer, he promised himself, then you can rest. He shifted his good leg, attempting to alleviate some discomfort. Then you can stop pretending.

    Unfortunately, the entrance of another postponed the relief. The man appeared to be with Alistair, an attendant of some sort come to deliver the news she had feared. Talia watched as Alistair read the report, her fear evaporated into the haze of her mind. Too much energy was required for fear. When he turned to look at Enzo, Talia glared back. She felt exposed in those knowing eyes, even more so then when the doctor had removed her disguise, as though that information alone had torn a hole in her armor for Alistair to see through. She held his gaze, remaining resolute. That secret would give them nothing. She remained anonymous, and only her words could betray her here.

    The development, however, lead to a change in their plans. Alistair barked out new orders, sending his man off to fetch the Warden. Talia sighed softly, shifting forward to prepare herself. The wicked are not allowed their rest, it would seem. She would remain vigilant for the night. Alistair was a difficult man to read. Perhaps he had some semblance of honor, but he was still the enemy. Never trust an enemy.

    The Warden appeared minutes later, the same old soldier from before, moseying to the cell and unlocking it. Talia attempted to stand, falling back when she felt a sharp stabbing pain in her knee. She bit back a grunt, catching herself with her good arm to maintain balance. The Warden entered the cell and pulled her up off the bench, ignoring the sharp intake of breath that accompanied the rough motion. He led her forward, holding her good arm as she limped from the cell. Then they followed after Alistair to the rooms prepared for the pair. Already she breathed heavily, doing all in her power to maintain the guard’s pace. If the distance proved to be far, she feared her body would fail her before the end of their walk. Their surroundings vanished from her peripheral vision as she drew her focus inward. She had to conserve strength, to remain alert and strong so long as she remained near to the enemy.

    When they arrived at their destination, Talia managed to lift her head in an attempt to display some remaining strength. The guard pulled her into the room, turning to one of the men, “Where would you like the prisoner, my lord?”
  12. Alistair stilled his fingers when the guard, he stood next to a small table in the room in the process of unbuttoning the overcoat he wore. He flicked his gaze to where the guard stood holding Enzo and nodded in Barthow's direction, who stood nearby setting the documents down next to him. Alistair resumed unbuttoning his coat and Barthow made his way to the guard gently taking Enzo by the arm and guiding her away from him.

    "We've got in from here, thank you for your work soldier." Barthow saw the man off and bolted the door behind him, turning his attention to the rebel in his grip afterwards. Leading her by the arm Barthow sat Enzo down on the edge of the bed and patted her on the back in an attempt to be reassuring. "Don't you worry, neither of us bite, unless asked."

    "Barthow!" Barthow did his best not to laugh at his lord's indignant squawk and failed as he glanced at Alistair, red faced, stiff in the chair next to the table, his coat strewn over the back out it.

    "My apologies my lordship I meant you no harm."

    "You may bite when asked but not imply that I fall into the same category of whatever debauchery you participate in, in your spare time. " Alistair huffed forcing the red from his face as he attempted to keep his expression stern. He bent down and rifled through a nearby bag, removing a small pouch and tossing it towards Barthow. "Here," he watched as the Barthow caught the bag and turned his gaze towards Enzo, "you don't seem like you're doing to well in addition to your wound. If you're running a fever the powder in that bag will help." Barthow placed the pouch in Enzo's cuffed hands and stood, moving to pour a glass of water for their prisoner from a pitcher in the room.

    "And before you accuse us of trying to poison you." The elder man held the glass out and offered Enzo grin "If we wanted to kill you now we would have executed you when we caught you. Here, Enzo was it? The water will help that bitter junk go down."
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  13. Talia followed the older man to the bed, watching them both warily. She sat tall as she could manage, her face cold as iron even as Barthow attempted to tell his joke. Only when her eyes strayed to Alistair’s blushing face did she falter, feeling that odd stirring deep within her being. She forced her eyes away, frowning to keep herself focused. These men wanted something, they had to. Neither seemed to be in a hurry to continue her questioning, but she knew they would not bring her here without some sort of agenda. Her suspicions grew larger when Alistair offered a pouch of herbs, saying something about her fever. She took the pouch, turning it over in her hands. She opened it and examined the powder, noting the pale color, even sniffing the compound. She could not identify the substance as either medicine or poison. She jerked the pouch back down when Barthow returned with the water, unamused by his continued jokes.

    He had a point though. They had no reason to kill her in secret. The powder was likely an offering of good will. She closed her fist around it. She would have preferred poison. She shifted her glare to Alistair, looking just over his shoulder. “I don’t know what sort of good will you expect to win with your charity,” she growled, “But I can tell you now it will win you nothing. I helped your investigation because the people here deserve justice, but I will not betray my fellows to you. Not even for my own life.”

    Even so, she took the water and swallowed the powder. The pain from her wounds and her fever was too great for her to refuse it. After she drained the water from the cup, having not had a drink since early in the afternoon long before their raid on the fort. She could have drank an entire pitcher, but she would not ask for nothing from these men.
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