Dreadlords The Worth of Our Deeds

Threads open to all members of the Dreadlords group

Zael Castomir

Slayer of Ganfarred
Character Biography
A drawing together of circumstance. This is how it came to be:

The Parents

Octam and Junis Verant had always been loyal Anirian citizens. Always. So when their firstborn son showed signs of magic, awash were they with a multitude of emotions: pride, for their son was destined to become a Dreadlord; fear, for their knew that they would lose him; love, sparked to a greater flame now that absence loomed; these and others.

Zettal, their hometown, was at present under the umbrella of the Republic, stable and loyal, not unlike the Verants themselves as it were. But though Octam and Junis knew that things were different under the Republic, that the laws had been changed, still...still...that ingrained sense of loyalty had as an inevitable part of it the feeling of obligation. Yes, obligation. That they had a duty to see that the relevant authorities at the Academy were informed, and that their young son Sven had a duty to become a Dreadlord and serve his country. This was the strongest driving force behind their decision, but not the only one. Indeed, this decision to give up their son was multi-faceted. Amongst all of the bright and positive reasons Octam and Junis might be able to conjure in casual conversation, there existed beneath all of them a darker reason, one unspoken, one threaded through with terror. They feared that perhaps, perhaps, just maybe...the Republic wasn't telling the whole truth. That maybe some magical children were spared for the sake of appearances, and that others were forcibly kidnapped in secret. Oh! They would much rather Sven be taken under peaceful terms. Yes, they would much rather prefer that instead for their little Sven.

They had met with the Proctor on the street just outside their meager house in Zettal. Everything was ready...but Sven, only three months away from his sixth birthday, was frightened.

"Mama! Papa! I don't want to go!"

Octam was kneeling before his son, hands on his shoulders, eyes glossy with tears. "You must, son. You have an incredible gift. You have to learn how to use it! You have to serve Vel Anir with honor! Make your mama and I proud."

Sven's own face was streaked tears, his eyes terribly red from it all, his breathing scared and labored. "Did I do something wrong? I won't do it again! I want to stay here with you! With you! I love you, Papa! I love you, Mama! Please!"

Junis was crying as well. It was hard for her to speak. "Sven...you didn't do anything wrong. Not at all! But you must go with the nice man. You must. Please, listen to your father."

And so this prolonged parting continued with agonizing slowness.

The Proctor

The nice man mentioned by Junis was none other than Proctor Penworth of the Academy, and even he, with his sloth-like tendencies, was beginning to lose his patience as the boy pleaded and the parents couldn't just bring themselves to push him along. He enjoyed the fact that this was taking a long time, yes, it meant more time away from the Academy and the dull duties he would rather have some other Proctor attend to in his stead—but did the boy truly have to cry so much? This would have been perfect if he could just excuse himself and go elsewhere, maybe to that tavern again to get some more of than Zettal mead, go for a nice relaxing sit and a read by the lake like yesterday, yes, something like that. But no, he was here, stuck waiting. He only accepted this duty because he thought it'd be easy, just like he thought being a Proctor (as opposed to a Dreadlord in active service) would be easy. And it was. It was easy. Just this part was annoying. Ah, and the return trip, with the kid snivelling the whole way, that was going to be a pain, so he imagined.

Maybe it was time for a change? Inquire about joining the Reserves? Now that sounded luxurious. But, as it happened, Proctor Penworth had a bad habit of procrastination even for things which were strictly beneficial for him, and so he'd yet to even look into the matter. He really ought to.

Yes, maybe he would, if his next few retrievals went like this. The last thing he wanted was to see a bunch of tearful goodbyes. They were to him like bird feces on a freshly polished shoe, a dirty mark ruining a whole ensemble.

So Penworth crossed his arms and sighed and waited for the Verants to convince their snot-nosed brat that he had no option in this matter.

The Rebel

Zael Castomir was in Zettal with a few other Rogues, and they had a mission. A simple one, nothing flashy. Zettal was currently headed by Baron Korrmir who was staunchly for the Republic, and the people, generally speaking, were for the Republic as well. And that was the key. Generally speaking. There were those in Zettal who wouldn't mind breaking away, those in Zettal who had power and who were opposed to the Baron and who could bring the masses to heel. Now, Zettal wasn't a big town, and couldn't possibly stand on its own if it were to break from the Republic too soon. So, funny enough, Gilram's plan here was to employ the exact same tactics as the original Revolution: quietly gather some allies, set a plan in place, and wait for the opportune moment.

This wasn't supposed to be a combat mission. This was subterfuge, quietly in, make the negotiations, quietly out, and no one on the Republic's side would be any wiser.

Yet Zael and Jordis, one of the other Rogues, turned down the wrong street at the wrong time. They passed by the scene with Octam, Junis, Sven, and Proctor Penworth. They could have kept going. Proctor Penworth might have recognized both of them if he'd care to look closely under the hoods of their cloaks, but he wasn't paying attention. They could have easily just walked away.

But Zael stopped. Listened as Sven pleaded. Wet his lips and struggled within himself, but it was fruitless. He already knew he was committed.

And Jordis knew it too. Still, he said, "Don't do it."

Zael took in a breath.

And turned around.

The Confrontation

Proctor Penworth sighed with even more annoyance and decided that it was high time to put an end to this display. He stepped forward, approaching Octam and Junis.

"Time's up," he said. "I'll be leaving with Sven now."

"Just one more minute," Junis said as she pulled Sven into a tight embrace, kissing his forehead and his cheeks in a manner conciliatory, loving, sorrowful. Sven, so choked now, could not even articulate his protests and his pleas, and all that escaped him was pained whimpers and tormented sniffling.

"I-I'm sorry," Octam said to Penworth. "I know that you must be terribly busy, terribly busy, and that I've delayed you for—"

The tip of a knife burst through Penworth's chest, and the man's eyes exploded with shock and surprise. Zael had his hand on Penworth's shoulder, his knife buried as deeply as he could shove it into Penworth's back. Penworth managed to look back, and his trembling lips uttered his last word: "Castomir...?"

Zael said nothing to him. He moved that hand which rested on Penworth's shoulder to his face and with a fiery flash all that remained when the thunder and the smoke faded was the blackened stump of a neck. He let go of the body and let it fall. Then turned his attention to the Verants.

Junis had screamed in terror, clinging to Sven even tighter than before. Octam stared in a open-mouthed belief, frozen right where he stood. Zael walked up to him. Jabbed a finger into his chest. Said, "If I find out your son Sven is in the Academy, I'm comin back here, and I'm killin you." He glanced to Junis and added, "Both of you." Squarely back to Octam then. "Got it?"

Octam drew in a shuddering breath.

"Got it??"

"Y-Y-Yes, sir!"

"Good. You keep your boy close."

And with a parting glance to Sven, who stared up at Zael with both fear and amazement, he turned and rejoined with Jordis and the two of them started to run.

Which leads us to...

"You fucked us!" Jordis exclaimed as they ran.

Zael didn't argue. Not yet, anyway. Now wasn't the time nor the place. Once they evaded Zettal's town guard and got back to their hideaway, the closed diner with the other Rogues, then they could talk about what happened and what to do next. But right now? Zael had just killed a Proctor of the Academy in the street of the town, and that was something which naturally drew a lot of attention, even if the actual number of witnesses was quite low.

"HALT!" came the cry of a guard from behind them, this shout more so intended to alert any other guards who might be ahead to the present situation. But they, Zael and Jordis, were forcibly weaving their way through Zettal's large produce market, and the din, the crowds, were to their advantage.

"You impulsive son of a bitch," Jordis snarled again. "I told you, I fucking told you."

"Save it," Zael said. "We're—"

A guard, unaware, was ahead through the crowd, but Zael took no chances. A foot behind the guard's ankle, a sweeping arm to the guard's chest, and the guard taken by surprise fell flat onto his back and had the wind knocked out of him. Zael resumed his run. Both he and Jordis were in plain clothes and traveling cloaks, armed only with concealable knives, so they were at least light on their feet, a boon for the present predicament.

"We lose em, we're still in this," Zael said to his comrade, "We still can do what we need to do."

"You better hope so."

The two of them came out on the other end of the crowded market, and their sprint through the town of Zettal continued.
"What happened?"

Kristen Pirian arrived at the scene of the Verants' home some hours later. Her intent was simply to pass through the town of Zettal just as she had on her way to Vel Anir city (the town, nestled between the Academy and Vel Anir, was one of the roads traveled through often enough for this purpose even if it was a more circuitous route). The local guard force—not Anirian Guard, but militia essentially—summoned her attention this time and urgently requested that she come with them. An incident, they said. An incident involving magic and murder. The murder of a Proctor no less.

And so she stood outside the Verants' home with a gaggle of guards, looking down at the headless corpse. Blood had long since stopped pumping, and all of it on the ground was dark and dry. The blackened frays of flesh on the corpse's neck gave their own hint as to how precisely he met his grisly fate. Before any of the guards answered her, Kristen had a moment to marvel again at just how inured she had become to such ghastly sights. Nearly three years ago she would have vomited. Now, even a grimace could hardly be bothered to make itself apparent in her expression.

"We don't know exactly, the only witnesses were basically the Verants," said one of the Zettal guards.

"It was all over so quickly," said another.

"His name was...Penworth, I believe?" said a third.

"Proctor Penworth..." She had a passing familiarity with him. More than anything, he was just distant as a Proctor, like everything was a nuisance to him, like he didn't actually want to be at the Academy for some reason. With fitting distance perhaps, the only notable encounter Kristen had had with him was watching him get irritated with Liza Newcastle during a Punishment she had to do for Everleigh Ebersol's Punishment Game. "Where is the family?"


One of the guards opened the home's door for her, and Kristen stepped in. Sven was in the bedroom with his mother, and Octam sat heavily in a chair in the common room, looking tormented by indecision. Kristen pulled up another chair from the kitchen area's table and sat across from him. The first thing she asked: "Is your son unharmed?"

"Oh...oh yes." He seemed to come back from his troubled reverie. "Yes. Yes, he's okay. He wasn't touched at all. Neither him nor my Junis nor I."

"Can you tell me what happened?"

Octam didn't have very much to tell, even though he and his wife had seen it happen right before their eyes. They had been so engaged with their son's trouble with leaving, all of their attention focused on him at that moment, that the assailant seemed to come out of nowhere, and Proctor Penworth was dead before either of them realized anything.

"But...that man...I don't know. All he cared about was that Sven didn't go to the Academy. He didn't rob us, he didn't kill anyone else, not even the guards as they chased him."

"I concur, that is quite peculiar." She stood, preparing to leave. All she could really do was briefly stay in Zettal as a token gesture, for what help could she provide? There wasn't much information to pursue the murderer, was there? The most distinguishing detail was the eyepatch, but what if it was part of some disguise?

"There is...one more thing," said Octam.

Kristen stopped. Looked back. "Yes? What is it?"

"Proctor Penworth said something before he was killed. I...well, I don't know. It sounded like Penworth knew him?"

"What did he say?"

Octam struggled for a moment, wondering briefly if there was much significance at all to it, but then said, "...Castomir."

And at this Kristen's blood ran cold.

Zael and Jordis didn't run straight back to the closed diner, no. They gave the pursuing guard force a great, merry runaround the town, hardly a cobblestone of Zettal left untouched. When they lost them, the two Rogues laid low and quiet in a secluded corner here and there. And, finally, after some odd hours, the two returned.

The diner was an ideal spot, so long as they weren't spotted entering the building. The owners, a sweet old widow and her spinster sister, were off to Vel Stratholm (for a religious reason they told absolutely no one about), and so the diner was left vacant in the interim. A quaint spot. They cooked for the locals, the widow and the sister, and the diner didn't have that rowdy tavern atmosphere—Zael could just tell from the well-kempt look of the place. The whole community seemed to be tight-knit, so far as he could gather. Man. Almost made him wonder how good life might have been if he'd been born in the right place at the right time to the right parents.

Instead, he'd have to make do with this life. Make do with fighting for fun, fighting for his cause, and fighting for the kind of Vel Anir he never got.

Course, all the present mean-mugging from Jordis and Cami "The Countdown" Camille suggested they were none too appreciative of all that.

Zael crossed his arms. Said, "What?"

"What do you mean, what?" Jordis said. He then appealed to Cami, saying emphatically, "Do you know what this asshole did?"

"Speak," said Cami (in that creepy, flat tone of voice of hers).

"He killed a Proctor. In broad daylight. In the middle of the street."

"There was a Proctor here?"

"Yeah. Penworth," Zael said. "Kind of a lout. Probably should have left him alive, to be honest, he would've done more harm than good for the Academy. He did chaperone me and Delaney Lennox in Elbion, so that was alright."

Jordis huffed indignantly. "Is this all some kind of a game to you, Castomir? Just having fun? Just ruining this mission at our expense? Huh? That it? Take this seriously."

"I did, and I am."

"I fucking doubt that! You kicked the hornet's nest! Now the whole town is stirred up! You think it was all worth it for, what, one kid?"

Zael took a few steps forward. Stood right before Jordis, and though the other Rogue had half a foot on him, Zael looked up with a gaze undaunted. "Yeah. I do. That kid, and every other kid like him, is the whole reason why I'm even here."

"I drowned a kid that looked just like him when I was an Initiate," Jordis said coldly. "Part of a mission. Had to get his father to talk. It was easy. I'd do it again. I heard the Academy went soft after the Revolution, but you lot..."

"That right?" Zael said, his voice level and with a subtle, deadly edge. "How bout you and me take a walk down by the lake."

The two men stared hotly at one another until Cami, calmly and coolly, slipped her arms between them and gently parted them, stepping into the space between. "Kill each other later," she said. "Now? Now we have to discuss how to make the best of a bad situation."
Apprentice Pembroke had accompanied Kristen on this leg of her journey. He had thought the new title would be an uncomfortable change in a post-graduation world, but so far there had been little in the way of remarkable differences. Just...less class and more field time. He was still being mentored on his route towards acquiring a level.

In honesty he was shocked that the higher-ups had given him such a mundane mission. Ever since graduation, Sable had been a hair's breath from snapping at any moment, a volatile vessel of barely restrained rage. His commanders had seen to it that the appendice was assigned very violent outlets to that anger so far. That he'd be allowed to simply travel alongside an old friend was odd. It had actually been kind of nice. Peaceful.

Until Kristen was called to the home of the Verants, that was. Sable saw the signs. He heard the words. Took in the scenario. Before Octam had even given Kristen the name, Sable already knew. Fury bubbled in his veins.

The moment he felt it appropriate, he announced his intent.

"I'm going after him, Kristen. Don't try to stop me."
Gods, was Kristen worried about Sable the second they arrived on the scene outside of the Verants' home. She wasn't incredibly versed in his goings-on since he graduated from the Academy, but...she knew enough. Their travel together (until passing through Zettal again) belied all that word of mouth—uncharitable word of mouth, so far as Kristen was concerned, for none of it sounded like the Sable she knew.

Yet there was so much which could be told through stark silence. So much more through the eyes. Even one's very aura. The whole time Kristen was speaking with Octam, she could feel it radiating off from Sable, uncomfortable heat and fury, like a volcano on the brink of eruption. It gave credence to the reports of Sable's post-graduation missions, of his conduct therein.

Gods, she was worried. Worried that Sable, this caring and noble man with a truly magnanimous heart, might be in danger of becoming like Edric. Which was to say, little more than an animal, consumed by rage and naught else.

Outside the Verants' home, just as they stepped out and Sable announced his intention, Kristen knew what she had to do.

"I will not, for we must go. It is our duty." And with ambiguous meaning, one final addition seemed to speak itself from her lips. "We take care of our own."

She had to stay by Sable's side, no matter what. This wasn't just about Zael anymore.

Sable Pembroke
Zael could've rearranged Jordis's ugly face (might've even punched him hard enough to make it pretty) right then and there. From the look Jordis was giving him, he wanted to give him a good licking too. Or try to, at least. Goddamn did Zael wish he could've linked up with Gaage, gone on this mission with him instead. He still had yet to do that since going Rogue, but the whole of Gilram's operation was a big web of secrets by necessity.

In the meantime, he'd have to make do with the likes of Jordis's paint-shriveling face and Cami's dead-fuck detached demeanor.

They were all in the diner's backroom. Jordis huffed and faced about and found himself an empty crate to sit on. Zael sauntered away and found a section of wall to lean against. Cami stayed positioned between the two of them, almost like some sort of mediator.

"Listen," Zael began, "it doesn't even matter that the town is all riled up. We weren't plannin on havin any meets with our contacts during daylight hours."

"The Meiers are gonna be spooked," Jordis said. "They don't have any spine; they're too afraid to do any dirty work, that's why we're here."

"Let em be spooked. We're the ones holdin all the cards here. We want their help, but they need ours."

Jordis and Cami lapsed into silent consideration, the former reluctantly so. What happened here in Zettal was a split between the two foremost families, the Meiers who were against the Republic, and the Cavets who were for it. The Meiers had enjoyed a cozy spot as Zettal's ruling authority under the blessing of House Banick during the oligarchy. But the Revolution came, the Cavets had their lot thrown in with the rebels, the old patriarch of the Meier family was killed in the scuffle that happened in Zettal, and the Cavets took power with the blessing of the Republic. And the Meiers wanted that power back, but they were cautious, very cautious, about how to go about it, hence all the secrecy and subterfuge.

"What do you suggest?" Cami asked. Straight to the point, that was at least one thing Zael liked about her. And, well, she was that way for a good reason, one that her nickname suggested.

"We lay low. Let this blow over. And it will." Zael was quick to counter Jordis's interruption right as he saw the other Dreadlord's lips move. "We use the dead drops to tell the Meiers to hold tight. And when things are calmed down enough, we set up the meet."

"We might have to skip town for a while," Jordis said.

"Maybe," Zael conceded. "All any of us has to do is make one, maybe two drops. That's it. Otherwise, we're ghosts, and we got all the time in the world."

The plan seemed so simple. None of them knew of the presence of Kristen Pirian and Sable Pembroke.
"I will not, for we must go. It is our duty."

Sable paused. One of his brows twitched, threatening to lift in a moment of curiosity. He had expected Kristen to protest. She was a Pirian, an emblem of all things civil and proper, something he'd known her to usually exemplify. Did she have an angle? Surely she knew what Sable was likely to do with Zael and the other c̷̬͊o̸͎̾w̶̪͠à̴͎r̴͖̉d̴̩̄ traitors if he got his hands on any of them.

The imposing apprentice gave a short nod and turned to begin his search when Kristen finished.

"We take care of our own."

He stopped short and balled his hands into fists. The titan looked back over his shoulder at Kristen, a dour glare on his mug. Immediately, Sable's head began to pound as he saw not the face of Kristen Pirian, but of a girl he didn't recognize, b̴̳͠l̵͚̒ő̷̮o̸̠̾d̸͎͝y̶̮̋,̶͕̇ ̶̥̎ẗ̷̝́e̵͎͒ä̶͍́r̷̲͂-̵̻̌s̸̲͝t̸̟́ä̴͕́ì̴̖n̴̙̐e̶͉̓d̷͚͘,̵̯̍
Sable grunted and squeezed his eyes shut, burying his face in one of his hands and gripping at his temples. The moment passed and he refocused.
"Right. Our own," he deadpanned to the Pirian girl. "Let's get looking. He can't have gotten far."
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Kristen weathered the dour glare from Sable with all the calm, collected demeanor she could summon. Though she was worried, though she was frightened, she didn't want to show any of it, for neither was what Sable needed to see right now. Blessed Aionus, she was aware that among her erstwhile class Sable had taken the grim development of Gilram and his Rogues perhaps the hardest of all, but the true extent of this she did not know. And would not, she feared, until they found Zael.

There was a dividing line between rightful duty and...and...wrathful brutality. Kristen was anxious even over herself, how she might come to deal with it, this inevitable effluence of emotion that such a confrontation promised. Walter Banick was one thing, Bull another, and Zael...yes, she believed Zael would be something entirely different as well.

Her solution? The Academy, even today's Academy, would shun her for it, but she believed that talking about it (or at least trying to talk about it) would help. Caging one's emotions threatened disaster, much like the filling of a vessel beyond its capacity to the point of bursting. Broaching the subject (the "subject," how encompassing! there must be much more than that singular word could contain on Sable's mind) would have to be done delicately.

The guards outside the Verants' home gave as much information of the path of Zael's flight as they knew, and Kristen and Sable set about retracing the Rogue's steps. Along the way, as Zettal slowly drifted by, Kristen spoke easily, musing, "Would that I could call upon some manner of miracle to banish Vel Anir's present woes, to turn back time, say, keeping any and all from going traitor." She sighed. "Yet it is fanciful thinking."

She looked up to Sable as they walked. Studying him.

Sable Pembroke
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Reactions: Lumen and Daydream
The titan trudged onward. Always forward, always late. Too late to save Chasmine. Too late to help Zael. Too late to stop Meredith. Always, always late.

J̶̩̜̠̠̈́̐̃u̴̘̐͂̊̅͊ş̶̠̥͉̯̾̔t̶̠͗̎̋͝ͅ ̸̡͉͓̩̓͌͂̐͗ì̸͖̑n̵̏̂͜ ̷͙͈̈́t̶̨͈̿͜i̶̩͓̗̳͖͗m̵̢̺̺͗̀̔̐e̴̬̘͋̇̀͠ ̴̻̽̔f̵̙̪̬͇͖̑ö̶̤͚̪̯̯́͑̍̈́̽r̷͚̹̽̇͂̏ ̸̧̣̦͗͝Į̸̙̹͉͔̉̈̈́s̷̳̜̈́̀̚ͅa̴̧͉̜͇͗̈́͌̏͝b̷̛̞̠̈́̈ę̸̝̳̐̉̆̓̈́l̶̬̠̫̽̿̂͌́l̷̹̱̯͉̬͑͑e̶̛̹.̸̡̝̩̅͗

Gods, this pounding in Sable's head! But ignore it and push forward. There's more to be done and no one else to do it.

Kristen was talking now. She was one of the few who still seemed to tolerate Sable. Better to not scare her away. Entertain the conversation.

Ỵ̴̮̐̒͑͝͝ớ̴̧͇̲̗̥̌u̸͓̺͍͗̒'̴̺̲̞̫͒́̽̔͋l̵̢̨͈̝̾͌̊̀l̶̨̰̭̱̊̇̑̚̚ ̵̠͉̥̹̉͠f̵͍̜̫̯͕̔͛ȁ̴̭̲̈̈̚i̵̜̲̙̲̟͋͒̽l̷̪̈́̀͌̇ ̴̨̈́̿̃h̷̰͎̍ę̷͚̥̗͛r̷̦͎̦̯̍,̴̨͉̤̺͎̔ ̸͓̑̏t̶̳̆̅̔͊̚o̸̲̖̤͈̊͛̍̎o̷̖̭͖͗͐̒̃͠

"That's the nature of the Republic, isn't it? Hell, of Vel Anir. Betrayal. The loyalists betrayed the people before the rebellion, and the rebels betrayed their country. We're a people without honor. I don't know why anyone would expect any different," Sable spat matter-of-factly. "Time is the one consistent contender in all this, and only in that she's cruel and unyielding."

Sable did not return Kristen's gaze. His eyes remained firmly fixed ahead, seeking to follow the trail while it was still fresh.
What happened to him?

Tragically, she realized, this was a question which could be applied to both Sable and Zael. There was hope for at least one of them though, and in this way were the two men she once knew differentiated; she could perhaps see one of them returned.

Gentleness would be the key here, she felt. Gentle surety. Despite his harsh words, Sable was a friend and a fellow Anirian, and most important of all he was still here with her, alongside her, still in the place which they shared equally as a homeland.

They turned a corner, heading toward Zettal's produce market as directed by the town guard. Kristen said softly as she walked, looking forward as well, "Honor is here. Held in our very hearts. And even if ours are the only hearts so imbued, then that is enough, for we will have lived with our spirits ennobled. But I believe, I must believe, that we are not alone in this...for I love my home, and its people."

Sable Pembroke
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Reactions: Daydream and Lumen
"Have you seen them anywhere?" Lumen, of course, had met Kristen Pirian. Sable Pembroke she'd seen from a distance at the Academy. Just like she'd seen Edric. And Ralene. And Zael Castomir.

The Zettal townsguard's head swiveled. Gauntleted hand pointed down one of the alleyways. "Two of the dreadlords, h'yup. Kristen and Sable went that'a'way. Good luck, kid."

Lumen frowned and then sighed. No amount of risky and death-facing missions would change a stranger's mind of viewing her as a child. Even with her toned and trained body. Eyes no longer holding that gleam of youthful innocence - something that died long ago.

"Thanks," her voice was clipped as she hurried and made her way through the throngs of people that seemed to be heading in the same direction. Zettal's produce market. Fresh cut citrus filled the air as well as some other pungent spices. Then she saw a bob of a familiar head.

"Kristen!" Voice called to the older girl, though also an initiate. And that must be Sable with her. Had he graduated?
Sable ground his teeth and winced almost as if he was in pain at Kristen's words. She was reciting the words that his past self would have told him just the same. Before the anger started seeping in. Before he became so jaded. Before he started to ŗ̷̗̻̀͒é̸̛͙͇͈͝m̵̡̯̖̅̃̆é̸͓̞̃̚ṃ̸͈̬͈̔̽b̵̧̺̭̆̍͒̃e̸̹͑̐͝r̵̢̺͍͊̿̌́.

Why couldn't he fully remember?! Why was what pulled at the edges of his mind so relentlessly, just consistently put of reach? It was maddening, like a song that the brain could only vaguely put a tune to, the lyrics lost to eternity. The pounding didn't stop. But he knew how to lessen it.

"You're right. Our home and our people still have their honor," he acquiesced before casting a glance down at Kristen, his tone lowering. "and it's our job as Dreadlords to maintain that honor by crushing those who would defile or forsake that honor."

Then another, unfamiliar voice called out to Kristen, a blonde haired young woman that came running after. Wonderful. Sable wouldn't be slowing down for the new addition.
A thin veil for whatever truly vexed him, that conciliatory answer from Sable. It made Kristen feel worse, more anxious that the dark pall hanging over him had yet to be dispersed, but she felt it unwise to press too hard too quickly. Gentleness was the key, but also patience. Gods, would she be scorned by a great many of her fellow Initiates for this (and a shame that this was even so!), but it truly was that she wished to express toward Sable a sense of caring rather than accusation or anything else born of ill-will.

She remembered him, that man who had come to her aid in Vel Acan, who had called her "madame", who had helped her with her sparring instead of simply beating her mercilessly down. She longed to see him returned.

At present, though, Lumen rejoined them. It so happened that the haste in which Kristen and Sable had been pulled away by the alarmed Zettal guardsmen that it ended up separating them from her. Only now had the other girl been able to catch up with them.

"Lumen!" Kristen said, walking and talking still, for neither of them could slow down or else lose Sable at his determined pace. "Apologies, but the town guardsmen urgently called for our aid while you were so briefly away. There is a...grim tiding, here in Zettal."

She hesitated for a moment, for the whole of this ordeal was awful to reckon with, but she continued.

"Proctor Penworth was here in town. He was slain only a few hours ago. And...it appears as though the culprit...is Zael Castomir."

Sable Pembroke Lumen
Lumen wove her way through the rest of the crowd to fall in-step beside Kristen. But her stride did falter as her fellow initiate, though probably closer to dreadlord status than herself, muttered that name.

Zael Castomir.

Lumen swallowed. She couldn't help the image that came to mind. Those charred bodies in Ganferred Keep. The grim look she and Caeso shared. A part of her still held onto the hope that it hadn't been true. That he hadn't been the one to murder all those guardsmen and women...

"Do you think it's true?" A whispered question to Kristen as she glanced curiously at who she assumed was..."you're Sable Pembroke, right?" He would be the one in charge here by rank alone.

Absently, her hand rubbed at a manacle bound tightly around one of her wrists.
The imposing apprentice cast a glance backward at the mention of his name, if only out of reflex.
"I am," he answered flatly. In that brief instance, he noticed the towhead's binding. Some semblance of curiosity, or perhaps duty, slipped from his lips despite his intent not to be distracted from the task at hand. "Is there a reason you're in chains?"
"It is said that Proctor Penworth recognized Zael, said his name, Castomir, before he perished," Kristen said, not strictly intending to reply in the same hushed tones as Lumen, but doing so nonetheless.

Kristen harbored a similar trepidation about Zael that Lumen did. Gods, she wished it wasn't true; but it was Lumen herself who had told Kristen about Ganfarred Keep. Even now Kristen just couldn't picture it. All she had in her mind were memories of the man who had in his rambunctious way dragged her to Everleigh's Punishment Game, who made quite the show during the Festum Libertatis, who had entertained her, joked with her, during the Last Day before graduation. She just couldn't see him committing an atrocity like what happened at Ganfarred Keep.

Just like...she couldn't see Sable as the man he was now...yet it was so. The thought arrested her for a moment. Numbed her. Frightened her.

She welcomed the distraction of Sable's question concerning the manacle, and allowed for the girl to give her answer.

Lumen Sable Pembroke
Lumen frowned. Leave it to Kristen to re-state the facts instead of her opinion on the matter. How many bodies would Zael leave in his wake? She used to look up to him so much. What did that say about her?

She swallowed, tawny-eyes snapping back to Sable's at his abrupt question.

Lumen did not struggle with embarrassment but she found herself feeling those touches now as she followed his gaze to the tight metal band encircling her left wrist. "I made the wrong choice during a training exercise at the Academy." Gaze slid briefly to Kristen's. She'd been there. She and Caeso still so fresh in her mind full of pain and poison.

"This is part of my punishment," she breathed. And lower as she stepped closer to him. "It cuts off my magic." She'd been surprised when they'd still assigned her a mission. And she had to wonder if it was a way to easily dispose of her or perhaps they just wanted to build her character and test her other strengths. In the end, it didn't matter. She didn't have a choice. And if it meant still protecting those of Vel Anir, she would've chosen to go herself.

Even at a severe disadvantage.
Sable cocked a brow at Lumen's reply, then halted his advance, nose wrinkling upwards as he weighed the girl's words. He turned on his heel and stepped aggressively towards the blond then loomed over her, seething.

"Just like the proctors to cripple their own fucking students, then send them into danger. Hold still."

The apprentice Dreadlord snatched Lumen's wrist and held it aloft, uncaring for any complaints she might issue. He held his hand up to her wrist and mumbled his arcane mutterings beneath his breath. A ring of amber energy materialized beneath the shackle, which immediately began to rapidly expand outwards. The metal groaned in protest, then screeched as it gave way, bursting apart. Only then did Sable let go of the girl's wrist.

"You're no use to anyone dead. If the proctors ask what happened, you can tell them I did that, or you can lie and say it came off in a fight. I don't care which."

No sooner had he finished his brusque statement than he began his march once more. He'd wasted enough time already.
Normally, Kristen would be against what Sable was about to do; generally speaking, the blatant disregard of rules. Lumen had done something foolish, and this was part of the punishment prescribed to her, and those were the rules. She needed to get through it for the fullness of its duration to set things right again. But here in Zettal, there was something more important than Lumen's atonement. A greater concern.

However, there was something Kristen could not expect, and the removal of Lumen's cuff was not so simple.

It came with a horrid, shocking consequence.

Sable Pembroke Lumen
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To Lumen's credit, she did not tremble, flinch, or take a step back as all mass, muscle, and height of Sable Pembroke loomed in her space. Even with those dangerous eyes and sneering lips of his. It was only when he snatched up her wrist did she make a fist with that hand and tug backwards.

Hold still.

She absolutely did NOT hold still. "What are you doing? Stop! Youdon'tundersta-,"she began quickly as she realized what he was about to do. What he was doing.

As soon as the magical cuff broke from her wrist that was another snapping sound. One of bone. The proctors or those who issued the cuffs had gotten clever over the years. If a student or something else other than them tampered with it, there was a failsafe in place to fracture or break the wearer's wrist.

Youre no use to anyone dead. If the proctors ask what happened, you can tell them I did that, or you can lie and say it came off in a fight. I dont care which.

Lumen shuddered and her face paled but she did not cry out. She quickly hid her injured wrist behind her back in hopes of concealing the injury even as she grit her teeth in pain at the movement. Even as the sudden connection back to her magic made her head swim and black spots creep across her vision. A sway to her steps as she staggered into Kristen.
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More horrid buzzing. More voices. More pain. If Sable realized that he had broken Lumen's wrist in the aftermath of his attempt at providing aid, he did not show it or did not care. This was simply how things were. Sable could not protect anyone. Those who drew near him got hurt.

With eyes glazed over and not so much as a glance backwards, Sable trudged on. It was all Zael's fault, anyways. Sable wouldn't even be here if Zael had just told him what was going on. Zael would pay for all of it. That would make everything better. That would make Î̸̬͋͘͝s̷̯̅̀̈_̴̹̞̑̐_̵͈̩̔̾͒͠_̴̫̈͋̊̅͜l̵̞̞̬̰̆̒̈́̌_̵͙̖̙̔̎̽͋e̴̛̞̪̿̀͘ happy. Then the pain would stop.
There was an impulse to reproachfully shout after Sable, yes. But stronger than this was the urge to see to the welfare of Lumen. Blessed Aionus, she heard it, she heard her bone breaking, even over the general commotion of the Zettal marketplace.

Kristen stepped in front of Lumen. Stopped her. Had her hands gently on her arms, eyes looking her up and down in a flurry of dreadful excitement, expression stretched by assorted worries. "Lumen! Are you alright? Are you well?"

But she knew she wasn't.

Kristen glanced around. Saw a stack of empty crates by a vendor selling an array of fresh cabbages and other vegetables. "Here. Sit, if you would. Gods, there must be an apothecary somewhere nearby—something for the pain."

Lumen Sable Pembroke
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"I'll be okay," Lumen breathed out, trying to believe the lie herself. Another silent wince of agony crossed her face as she took a seat on the crate. Worried eyes cast at the quickly retreating back of Sable.

Sheepishly, she finally brought her injured wrist out from behind her back, cradling it protectively. It had already doubled in side, bruising evident beneath the skin and growing. Lumen took a shuddered breath. "Now that I can access my magic again, I should be able to keep the swelling down. But if you could find something to set and wrap it with. A-a," she took another breath through clenched teeth as her brow furrowed, channeling much colder air only within the space of her injured limb - as if applying ice for the swelling.

"And a sling," she finished properly this time.

"I can manage." Sometimes it was better to live through pain by talking about something else. Her eyes darted back up the street. "Was he always like this?"
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"No..." Kristen said, unable to keep the mournful tinge from her tone. "Sable has not always held such a...harsh demeanor. He was once kind, honorable, considerate. He cared only for the welfare of those around him. He was, in essence, all that it means to be a good man."

A heavy pause, marked by Kristen staring down at her feet before meeting Lumen's gaze.

"The man who did this to you," she gestured to her wrist, "is not the same man I once knew. I fear for him, Lumen. Especially here."

Maybe Lumen said what she did next because she saw pieces of her in the description Kristen first used for Sable. The past Sable. The grimace on her face only deepening.

"He didn't do this to me. Well, he didn't mean to anyway." But he had walked away. He hadn't paused to look back for them. Those things he certainly had control of. Lumen cradled her wrist, still applying the cooling magic. Already, some of the swelling was starting to go down.

"What can we do?"

A quiet question.
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