Saturday, November 22, 2014

Writing - Incognita: Flip, Interrogation of a Prisoner

Writing - Incognita: Flip, Interrogation of a Prisoner

If anyone noted one more Halfling hedge wizard than usual in the docks of The Maw, it was unlikely they would’ve spoken on it.  After all, the flood of refugees had thrown the usually ordered, rocky harbour into a sense of disarray in the past few months.  Flip was adept at navigating the crowds, utilizing his mage hand and subtle applications of freezing winds around him, he managed to craft a bubble of space which pushed the press of bodies.  Somewhere behind Fyarr had been distracted by giving healing blessings to the rabble, but Flip pushed forward unhindered.

Instructions that had been given to him were clear, and he abruptly turned down an alleyway between buildings.  Another turn and the stone walls pressed ever closer, until he came upon a nondescript wooden door, carefully set.  He approached and rapped once upon the wall alongside it, careful to not trip the magical markings on the step.

“What’s the password?” a muffled voice from within.

Flip sighed audibly.  “First, you never open with the password. If someone wanted to attack you, you’d have told them that they were in the right place, and they’d break down the door.  Second, there is no password, so why you are asking, is irrelevant.  Third, you can’t open this door if you tried, so merely stand back.”

With that, Flip gestured and stepped through the clever illusion of the door without preamble, disabling and replacing the arcane inscribed portcullis as he went.  Inside, two academy wizards gaped at him, and went for wands attached at their belts.

Flip merely rolled his eyes.  “Cease.  Flipaskilion Murridin.  I am here to question the Alabaster prisoner.”  The smarter of the two hesitated, and then nodded slightly beneath his grey-hooded robe.

“Of course sir-“

Flip’s voice sliced through cleanly, “You shall henceforth address me as Magus, or Adept.”

“Of course, Magus.”

The two wizards turned then and led him uneasily through the corridors of the warehouse.  The path was well trod, slightly damp and dirty.  Stacks of disused crates filled cells here and there, but Flip paid little attention.  They came finally to a large set stone door, it led to a fairly vast room, a set of tables along one wall were filled with broken pieces of the Alabaster Guard’s armor, and in the center of the room the man himself was chained to the floor, shackled in heavy steel.  Magical runes were inscribed on the floor as well, imperceptible to the eye, but heavy on the air to all but the untrained.

One wizard turned his hooded face to Flip quizzically, and then stiffened ever so slightly as the Halfling’s voice invaded his mind.  Go.  I desire to be alone for this.  They gave no indication, but turned on their heels and marched quietly from the room, seemingly glad to leave the imposing Halfling.

Flip approached, and then waited twenty feet away from the shackled man.  A tracing of wax and inked sigils marked the edge of the magical cell.  The man was dirtied, armless and legless.  He was in a sort of knelt position, his rasping breath seemingly overloud in the cell room.

“Your name.”

The man stirred, raising his head slightly.  Hazy brown eyes found Flip standing patiently, adorned in his Wizard robes and leather war-gear.

“Your name.”

“Artieur Philane.” The voice was young, younger than the two days worth of beard would have led credence to.

“Your rank.”  The halfling’s voice was sharp, and edged.  He was patient, but had clearly done this a number of times before,”

“Private, Alabaster Guard, 103rd Battalion. Number 1389”

“Tell me about yourself, Private Philane.”

“Why?”  The man looked away, down at the stone beneath his body.

“Because I desire to know.  You are aware you are my prisoner yes?”

Philane made a dry chuckle.  And again Flip waited.  “You are my prisoner, and I desire to know more about you.”

“I am a Private of the Alabaster Guard, and I will tell you nothing!”

“You already have.”  The Halfling picked up a gauntlet then, mage handing the piece of magic infused armor towards himself by bending magic to his will and lifting it through the air.

“Tell me about this.”

Philane’s eyes took on a slightly fevered edge. “Give it to me!”

“I think not.”

There was a surge of magical energy as the man twisted in his chains.  Flip remained unperturbed, studying the magical eddies in the air like he was testing the weather.

“Ah.  I see.”

The man’s face contorted slightly, and the halfling’s brow furrowed at that.

“We know you, Halfling.”

“Speak up...I cannot hear you.”

“I said we know you!  You are the one from Watcher’s Crag.  The one who broke the quarantine and killed those people.”

Flip huffed. “Saved those people, more like.  How do you know this?”

“You think yourself so powerful?  Your little Academy never thought that we might use something more powerful than a simple Message spell to communicate.”

The man stiffened again, listening.

“Then why have your compatriots not broken you out? Why leave you here in the filth chained to stone, like some animal. You must not be very important.”

 “They have not broken me out because they have an offer for you.”

Flip paused at that. It was unexpected that they would deal directly with him.  “Speak then, let me entertain your offer.”

The man looked downcast a moment, and then smirked.  “Two thousand gold, delivered to you if you successfully kill the Viceroy.  We know you have some designs or offer to try and free her.  You can make it look like an accident, you can make it look like anything, as long as it does not point directly back to the Guard.”

If Philane felt triumphant in the least, it was immediately dashed by the short, sharp bark of laughter from Flip.

“Gold?! What use will I have for gold. Come come little man, you will have to do better than that.  What use shall I have for gold when I turn in a head, surrounded by men in iron.  Call to your masters, tell them to do better.”

“You’re a fool Halfling! That’s more money than-”

“Tell them that is not enough money to interest me.  Do better.  I’ll wait.”

The minutes drew long as Philane bowed his head, obviously in congress with others.  Flip’s magic extended outwards, but it was largely futile.  Though he knew they were somehow indeed communicating, divination had never been his particularly strong suit.

Finally, almost a half-candlemark later Philane looked up, his voice seemingly seething.  “You have your desire Halfling.  If you do this thing for us, you will be given three thousand gold, a noble title, and invited to sit and advise our Mistress Yrette.”

“Advise her? What meaning have you?”

“She has no close advisor right now, and your skills and intellect have proven up to the task.  She invites you to her side if you...complete the situation to her...satisfaction”

Flip crossed his arms, as though thinking.  “And what assurances can you and yours give me?  You ask for no small feat.”

“There are no assurances, but if you do it, it shall be done.”

Flip snorted, unconvinced but seemingly unwilling to press the matter.  “Then our agreement is at a solid...perhaps.  I shall see what I feel like doing if the moment presents itself.”  He made to turn then and walk away, but Philane’s angry voice scythed through the air.

“You don’t know what you’re giving up! In time you would be inducted into the Alabaster Guard! There is no higher honor!”

Flip paused.  Looking over one shoulder, he questioned, “Don’t I? What am I giving up, having my arms and legs removed to be shoved into a metal suit?”

Philane seethed, “If I had that metal suit, I would be more powerful than you! I could kill you and do my Mistress’ bidding and take her side! We wouldn’t have to turn to a pittance of a half-mage like you!”

Flip turned fully then, and in four quick strides he entered the magical cell.

His voice was low, and around him though there was no breeze in the airless room, his cloaks swirled with the magical weave, flowing soundless through the room..

“No.  Little mage.  Little Philane.  You would not, and it is because you don’t understand.”

Philane quailed slightly beneath the halfling’s ferocity.  “Understand what?”

“You have not been, and now never will be my equal.  You took the shortcut. And you are not the first to do so.  Any magical talent you might once have had is withered away beneath the crutch of yours, that rune inscribed suit. You sought power because you didn’t want to be one of the rabble, so you allowed some butcher to remove parts of yourself in exchange for a minor power.  You are now more strong than a tavern wench, than a street urchin, than a peddler of furs. But you are not more powerful than me.  You never will be, you will never get better, you will never be faster, or stronger, or smarter.  You have tapped out because you are surrounded in something you do not understand, drunk off what it gives you and unwilling to analyze it further.  You don’t understand how it works, and pretend it makes you mighty.

You are not even a player in the stage of the world, shackled here in the filth. You are a courier of messages between people far more important than you.  Because you dream of servitude, you dream of being someone else’s plaything, of doing the will of others.  They have gotten inside you and you don’t even see it.  You have no freedom, no chance of escaping, your every action and reaction all already ordained by them.  And when you have no more use, they will leave you a filthy beggar, to be trod upon while you beg for stale crusts of bread and rice gruel at the city gates. You will dream of when you could cast fire from your fingertips, and summon lightning with words.  But do you know what is sad, little mage?  You have already forgotten that you could never do those things without someone telling you what to recite, and how to move your fingers.  The discovery has never been and will never be yours.  Always you were weak, and every testament to your strength is also your display of your greatest weakness.

It is a pity.  And I will tell you something further: when I leave this room, I would not be overly surprised if a very large fireball destroys the building...cast by your compatriots to remove all evidence of our discussion.”

Philane stared at the dust, seemingly shocked by this revelation, speechless.

“Goodbye little mage, and know that this, even littler mage, has always been your better.”

With that, Flip exited the room.  The two wizards were waiting, and fell into step with him, one leading and one trailing.  Though the Halfling made no sign, he appreciated their silence.  Standing before the door to the alley, Flip turned finally and addressed them.

“Let the records stand, I recommend you immediately kill the prisoner, remit his belongings back to the Academy for study and wipe trace of our presence from this area.  Report that to your superiors.  I expect they will balk and disagree. Let the record stand though that it is my recommendation.  There is no more to learn from that prisoner.”

“As you command, Adept.”

Flip took a step and the arcane wards fell from the door.

“Also...prepare well your defensive spells.  Good day Magi.”

And then he stepped through and vanished back into the city, just one more Halfling mage.