Dreadlords Crime and Punishment[Fate]

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Edric

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Vel Stratholm

"I DEMAND TRIAL BY COMBAT!"

As soon as the words were said a dozen whispers crawled through the courtroom. The shock steadily spreading through the crowd as they considered what this might mean or if it was even possible. Whispers quickly grew into conversation, and that warped into outright yelling as learned men and women argued about the ancient law.

A gavel slammed down.

Then again and again and the judge tried to restore order within the massive courtroom.

"SILENCE! BE SILENT! BY THE ORDER OF THE REPUBLIC I CALL FOR SILENCE!"​

Edric stood in the very back of the court room, his face impassive. He had only really been half paying attention to the proceedings, and when the chaos broke loose he tensed as he prepared to tackle anyone who might take things a step too far. The Defendant, a Dreadlord of the old order still stood in the small wooden box. Warded chains wrapped around hand, wrist, and throat to dull his magic.

There was a fierce look of opposition and even disgust on his face.

The crowd once again grew quiet as the thunder of the gavel rang out a few more times.

"Sir! The rite of Trial by Combat is an old one, the last time it was invoked was long before the Repu-"​

Much to his consternation the judge was cut off, the Dreadlord's voice strong and firm as he spoke over the other man. The Defendant regarded the crowd ahead, his eyes set on those around him.

"When did the Republic strip Vel Anir of this law? When did the dogs in charge of this land choose to take away my rights? They have not, and thus I demand Trial by Combat. I will stake myself against any native son or daughter of Vel Stratholm."

Another row rushed through the crowd. Dozens of whispers carrying over one another as the implication of what the man demanded was discussed. The Judge once again thundering away with his gavel as he tried to silence the crowd. It took a dozen minutes, maybe more until finally order was restored, and then finally the man managed to speak.

"By Anirian Law, a Trial by Combat has been called. Will any native son or daughter of Vel Stratholm stand? Or must a call go out to the territories."​

Edric frowned for a moment, lips thinning as silence reigned within the courtroom.

He had been born in this city. Had lived here for nearly seven years before the Proctors had taken him away. He had never thought much about his home, about the people who lived here or the city that surrounded them. Yet now, as he stood in the court and waited for one of these esteemed citizens to speak...he found them wanting.

Fingers scrunched, and slowly he stepped forward. "I'll do it."

His voice echoed out, and almost immediately the crowd turned towards him, their faces twisting in confusion. Dozens of people trying to figure out who the fuck he was.
 
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Ralene

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A chamber of law was a setting Ralene had no experience with and had no expectations of ever being in, near, or partaking of for anything at all. Yet here she was - on account of having been party to the capture of the man presently marked for his crimes. Chained and bound in his prison, it looked like such a frail structure compared to what Ralene had seen the man do. The smallest element of containment: mere chains and bindings of steel - something he could have easily broken free from were it not for the imbuement of anti-magic.

The whole thing settled oddly in her gut. The alien nature of it all. She felt severely misplaced, even if her presence here was only as a witness and nothing more. Why Edric was here, however, remained a complete mystery to her.

Soon to be partially revealed, then, as her fellow Initiate moved from his seat to volunteer.

Ral watched him in silence, equal parts curious and concerned. Though they hadn't spoken at length on his past, whenever the subject had come up it was never a pleasant conversation. The concern was not for his match against this Dreadlord - but for what this affair might dredge up otherwise for Ed himself.
 
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Edric

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Edric continued to slowly walk up between the pews of the courtroom, his face completely impassive as the Judge began to address him.

"And who are you? Not an oft seen member of this convocation, I think. Else I would know your name. Are you sure you meet this challenge, son? The law is clear you must be of this city."​

He didn't hesitate as he reached the low-doors that separated the crowd from the proceedings.

A part of himself was screaming, arguing fiercely against doing this. In truth he had absolutely no idea why he even wanted to, why he was volunteering. It was stupid. It didn't concern him. He was here to guard the Court. Brought here to ensure nothing happened.

Now he was the thing happening. "I am Edric."

The Judge seemed to frown.

"Edric...?"​

A question hung in the air.

"I do not know, Sir. I was taken from Vel Stratholm ten years ago to be trained at the Academy. I do not remember my mothers name, nor my fathers." A few murmurs ran through the crowd. "But I remember this city, and that I am from here."

For a few seconds silence hung in the air. The crowd seemed wracked with nerves, the Judge unsure, and the Dreadlords only grinned wide as he stared down at Edric. It had taken ten to bring him low, and by his estimation this welp would be nothing next to that.

"Very well, Edric."​

The Judge seemed still hesitant, but the law was called upon and it's challenge met.

"Tomorrow, at noonday under Anirius' sun. The Traitor Vanden Urr, will face trial by Combat."​

As the words were said, chaos once again broke out in the court room. Men and women broke into furious conversation, runners went scrambling towards the doors to inform their newsmen. Everyone and anyone began a rush of rumor.

Edric only stood still, not entirely sure why he had done what he did.
 
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Ralene

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That Edric was from Vel Stratholm she thought she knew, the passing memory of an evening's conversation had in Wissburg as flighty as a barn swallow. Still, the fact of his origins wasn't much of a foundation for his current move. Why volunteer? Edric wasn't a glory or fame seeker. He wasn't out to prove anything - that just wasn't him. Was he bored? With his present job, with his studies at the Academy? Angry at something? Did he know this Dreadlord? Had Vanden Urr offended him in a previous life?

Ralene couldn't puzzle it out despite how well she thought she knew him. It didn't make any sense.

Seated silently in the row behind Ralene, Captain Arren Holstag watched the proceedings with grave but great interest. An Anirian Knight he might've been, honored for his many years of service and untold number of victories, he seemed unsettled.

"Captain," the young woman's voice drew his hard stare away from the back of Edric and to her face which, strangely enough, reflected much the same emotion in her own.

"Your duty here is finished," he replied somberly, his thoughts drifting briefly to the team he'd assembled and lead to bring Vanden Urr down, "you did well. Go home and get some rest."

"Requesting permission to see the trial through, Sir," Ralene replied to him.

Holstag rolled the thought over his teeth, visions of the ogre insurgency from a few months prior playing in his mind, "Is that boy something to you, Black?"

Ralene may have been a dominant force to be reckoned with at the Academy, but years of lessons learned and earned had taught her to stay humble in the face of her superiors. Holstag was just that, and she relented her hard gaze under his stare, dropping her eyes in a moment of indecisiveness for words. Brows knit, she struggled to find an answer that suited both her request and her reputation. Her lips drew into a thin line as her thumb rolled over the ridge of an iron horseshoe nail ring beneath the leather glove of her left hand.

But the words wouldn't come. Not the ones she needed, anyway.

The sigh of what she surmised amounted to the patient father exited the Captain's nose. He leaned forward and clamped a hand over her shoulder with a strong squeeze, "Granted. But get those wounds treated. You'll be shipping out by week's end for the next mission." Holstag stood, as out of place in his civilian clothing as any of the assembled Knights, and took his leave of the courtroom.
 
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Edric

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Edric didn't move as the people around him began to move out of the courtroom. He stood in place, watching as two Anirian Guardsmen grabbed the Dreadlord and pulled him out of the defendants box. The man grinned at his future opponent, shouting above the din of the crowd.

"I look forward to breaking your neck and earning my freedom, BOY!"

The words echoed through the room, and a few people in the crowd seemed to cringe. Edric only stood, staring.

There was not a hint of fear inside of him, or even concern. Most of what he was feeling now was confusion. He didn't know why he had done what he'd done. Like the choice hadn't been made consciously at all. Lips thinned, and for a moment he felt lost in his world until he felt a hand on his shoulder.

"Good luck lad, You'll need it."​

Edric's eyes refocused as he turned his head, noticing the judge was speaking to him.

For a few moments he stared, and then slowly he nodded his head.

The rest of the courtroom began to clear out. People flowed into the streets, heralds began to call the news, and eventually only two of them were left within the great hall. Edric turned, intending to leave, but then spotted Ralene within the pews.

Shock flickered over his features for a brief moment. "What the dumbest decision you've ever made?"

Edric asked, his words echoing in the empty courtroom.
 
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Ralene

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Ralene remained on the bench, silently awaiting she had no idea what. Her thoughts churned through many things, least of which the twinge of pain from the wounds only quickly treated on her way in for the trial. Pain she could manage. This confusing knotwork of things in her head? Maybe she did actually need to pay a visit to the therapist at the Academy. The hell was his name again? Frank? No, that wasn't right. It was Fer something.

Fer...gus? No.

Fuck it.


"What's the dumbest decision you've ever made?"

The Initiate jolted back into the present and turned her attention to Edric, blinking at the sudden emptiness of the room. Maybe she just needed some sleep...

"Mm," Ral grunted in response, "I only get to pick one?"

One decision sprang readily to mind: her assistance in helping Alistair kill his father. For some reason the longer time ticked by following that particular jaunt, the more she felt it was going to come back to bite her. Much as she would have liked to share that burden of knowledge with him, it didn't feel like a good idea. The less people that knew about it, the better. She rubbed a gloved hand over her face and stood from the pew with a heavy sigh, adjusting her left arm in the temporary sling of gauze the field medic had applied.

"I let a dragon chew on me to distract it from my partner on a mission. Don't think my back will ever fully recover from that one." The half-smirk was fleeting but her gaze remained on him.

"I'm staying for the rest of the trial," a beat, a glance around the empty courtroom, "so you'll have at least one person in the crowd to cheer you on. Can give you some pointers with Vanden, too, if you think you'll need 'em."
 
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Edric

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"Dragon's pretty good." Edric said quietly. "Never fought a Dragon."

There was a hint of disappointment in his voice, despite the smile that plucked at the corner of his lips.

A slow breath flowed into his lungs, eyes settling on Ralene as she slowly stood from her pew. He followed her gaze as she looked around the court, his lips thinning as she mentioned Vanden.

Truth was he knew next to nothing about the man. He had been here as a guard for the trial, backup for Ralene and those who had captured the Dreadlord. A part of him was sure the Commanders would punish him for what he had done. It was an overstep, beyond the orders he had been given. "I'm not worried."

Edric said softly.

Arrogance? No, Resignation.

"I was hoping for more than one in the crowd though." He jested, not yet realizing just how true the words were.
 
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Ralene

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Ralene always had a healthy respect for the idea of dragons. There were too many tales and stories of their might and devastation to ignore, and now she had the scars to show for her own. Smiling thinly, she shook her head, "I don't personally recommend it." It was a thrill she'd never forget and never soon seek out again.

And of course he wasn't worried. She wasn't sure he worried about anything, really, but why would he? The guy literally couldn't die ... or something.

A slow inhale of breath, Ral frowned and briefly felt slighted for what seemed like a dismissal of her presence, then briefly got angry with herself for feeling slighted. "Yeah?" She squinted pointedly at him over a slight smirk, "Guess you just need to make more friends then, Ed."

It didn't matter. She sighed her frustrations.

"But I need to see the healer," because if she had to sleep one more night on this shoulder she was liable to do something stupid and destructive, "then I intend to eat, drink, and soak in a tub. Join me?"
 

Edric

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Edric scoffed slightly. He had never made much of an attempt to make friends. It had always seemed a rather useless proposition to him. Friends didn't help you graduate, friends didn't help you survive the Proctors. Friends...well, before the Revolution it had seemed friends were pointless.

Most of them would have died before the end anyway.

A frown flickered on his lips for a moment. He thought about Wissburg with Ralene, about his flight from Cortos with Noel, even about his time with Vance in Velen. Lips thinned, and then he shrugged. "Guess I do."

There was a long pause, and then he added.

"Glad I have at least one here, though." Was Ralene a friend? He supposed so. Closest thing he had.

Edric stepped up to Ralene, his hand reaching out and clasping her shoulder. She would feel a rush of energy, life pouring into her. The wound in her shoulder shifting, fixing itself as the vitality he offered poured into her flesh. "Let's skip the healer."

He told her with a smile. "Never much liked how they look at me."
 
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Ralene

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Having been tended by numerous types of Healers over the years, Ralene had become accustomed to the sensation of their magic working to mend the various wounds of her body. Edric's power, however, was something else entirely. Not quite the sensation of hot or cold, but something equally as prickling. It felt like what one would get if the raising of proverbial hackles and the striking surge of adrenaline mated and had a child. Discomforting. Threatening, even.

A strong reminder of the vitality he could be taking instead of gifting.

Ralene shut her eyes against the scintillation and strange frigid, fiery ache of the flesh, muscle, sinew, and tendon stitching itself back together again. When it was over she let the breath she'd been holding slowly slip through her lips and gave a visible shudder as the feeling slowly ebbed away. Flexing her fingers on the previously injured arm, Ral unbound it from the sling and dropped the wraps onto the pew.

"You could have just waited outside," she offered glibly back to him, raising a brow, "but that works, too."

A faint smile back. The closest anyone would get to an earnest thank you from Ralene.

"What are you hungry for? My treat. Got some gold burning a hole in my pocket from bringing that jackass in with Holstag."
 
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Edric

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Edric flickered a brief smile at Ralene. "They're paying you now?"

He jested wryly.

Over the course of his life he had gone on dozens of missions. Some to foreign lands, most within Anirian territory. Never once had he been paid for it, though at times they had been given gold simply to help things along.

Not that he had ever really cared. What was money to someone like him?

He shook his head, and then answered seriously.

"I want to have roasted Aggresh." It was a dish which Vel Stratholm was famous for. A type of vegetable mixed with slices of pork. A hearty meal, eaten by laborers and warriors alike. "I remember it from when I was a kid, my mother used to make it."

As he spoke the two Initiates began to head towards the door, leaving the courtroom beyond and finding themselves in the bustling streets of the once cathedral-like city.
 
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Ralene

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"My father's been paying an allowance to me at the Academy since the beginning ... but I never touched his money. I don't need anything from him." By now that allowance must have grown into a small fortune. Ralene had no idea just how much had been saved up. She didn't care and didn't want to know.

"Holstag's been paying me for years for successful missions," she answered back, glad to be leaving the strange and stuffy courtroom behind for the new and unfamiliar streets of the city, "not much, mind you. Comes out of his own purse as a Knight Captain. But it pays for my forging supplies and materials. Books... That pretty red scarf I wore to the teahouse to fit in with the noble ladies."

A smirk, she leaned toward him as if to share a secret, "Worked like a charm."

Roasted Aggresh was not a meal she was familiar with, but if that's what Ed wanted, that's what Ed would get.

"I saw a tavern on the way in, somewhere down this road," though she'd not been paying particularly close attention given she'd had two eyes on Vanden Urr until he'd been safely handed over to the local militia and bound. "Your mother..." she began carefully, feeling safe enough to expand on the topic since he'd brought her up again, "you haven't talked about her since Wissburg."
 
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Edric

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A small smile touched Edric's face as Ralene talked about bucking against her father. He didn't know why, but the idea of her pushing against the wealth of her father made him happy. Maybe it was because she, unlike others in their class, chose to eschew the wealth and privilege she could have easily taken.

It was a mark of the person Ralene was, of who she had chosen to be.

Edric didn't just respect that, he actively admired it. "Oh I'm sure you caught every single eye in the place."

The words were half a joke, but the smile on his face growing ever so slightly. His tone clearly marking no jest.

There was something easy about talking to Ralene. No barriers of strength. No bluster or defensive edge that he needed to take. It made things...simple.

As they continued to walk, the streets around them filled up. Workers heading home after a day of work, merchants clearing their stalls, soldiers patrolling the streets. The evening filled Vel Stratholm's streets. As Edric walked among them, he slowly reached out. Touching the wells of their life for brief seconds, flickers of a beat of the heart to fill his reserve.

It was an almost unconscious act. A measure of survival that he knew he would need in the coming day.

A preparation that seemed to stop almost instantly the moment Ralene spoke again. "No."

He admitted quietly.

"I haven't." His voice was soft, nearly silent. "I..."

Edric frowned as they walked, the tavern Ralene had meant just ahead of them. It's windows casting torchlight into the dimming street, music strumming from it's half open door.

He stopped, glancing at Ralene. His voice as meek as a mouse. "She lives here."
 
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Ralene

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Smugness became her. As much as she had lamented the command of her father to join him at that teahouse, it turned out that the entire affair was not so terrible after all. Of the many faces she'd met and made a mark with that day, Ralene was certain a few of them would turn up again in her life eventually.

She had plans. Goals that would take her to the upper echelons of the Anirian Military. It would take years, of course, but Ral had every intention of seeing those years through. Sooner or later her name would mean something. Her name, not her father's.

A bit caught up in her thoughts, Edric's quiet tone brought her back. Ral's blue gaze slowly drifted sideways at him, not at all accustomed to such a voice coming from the Initiate.

He stopped. She stopped a step later, blinking at him in uncertainty.

"Oh..." Ral stared for a moment, letting those very few but heavy words sink in, "oh."

He didn't mean what she thought he meant, right?


"You-" how to clarify... "she-"

Her mouth opened, jumbled thoughts failed to produce words, her mouth closed, her brow furrowed.

"I assumed ... she was dead? You mean she lives here presently?"
 
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Edric

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For a brief moment Edric didn't answer. His expression half startled, as though he has only just realized something that should have been obvious. "I don't know."

He answered slowly, as if not entirely sure of the answer he was giving.

"I never...I mean most of us don't know." He and Noel had had a conversation about it, Vance too. They all had vague memories of their parents, where they came from, but none of them had heard a word from them. The Proctors had never allowed it, and after the Revolution?

Edric had simply never thought to try. Not until now.

"But I want to know." He said slowly, as if talking through the realization that had just struck him. "And maybe after tomorrow, I will."

All of Vel Stratholm would hear about the trial, a good number would even see it.

A childish, naive part of him hoped his mother would be there, his father, his sister. He did not know why. Their approval meant nothing to him, their love even less, or so he had convinced himself after a decade of torture. Pain that they had allowed him to endure when they'd given him to the Proctors.

And yet, he wanted them to see him. Wanted them to be there. Even if he didn't quite understand why.
 
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Ralene

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Silent and deeply uncertain of how to proceed, Ralene's expression shifted to her typical stoicness, then to something more akin to dubious concern. Edric wanted to meet his mother. The very same Edric who couldn't talk about her before without getting angry. This wasn't her business, nor was she usually the type to pry or get involved in such things - but apparently things had changed after the Revolution more than she thought.

If she could help Alistair kill his father ... then she could help Edric find his mother.

Drawing in a slow inhale, Ral nodded and took a step closer, "There will be time tomorrow. After the trial," as like Ed, she had very little doubt about the outcome of it, "I'll stay and help you look for her, if you want."