The call went out as soon as he opened the door, and the relatively still barracks was suddenly rumbling with action as Watch Captain Humbolt strode through the halls, his heavy iron boots clanging, a ream of parchment documents in a folder gripped tightly in his armored gauntlet. Watchmen in varying states of dress and preparedness halted their activities to salute the Captain as he briskly made his way toward the basement stair and the small collection of holding cells below. A deceptively tidy shadow of a beard clung to the tall fair-skinned human’s cleft chin and chiseled face, his blonde hair mussed intentionally with a bit of sweetened grease. His fashionable attempts at appearing rugged fooled few of the men.
Humbolt descended the stone stairs quickly, leaving behind the fading light of the Atrun sunset for the harsher torchlight below the barracks. His neutral expression quickly took a turn for the dour as he stopped in front of the Lieutenant’s desk, greeted by the soles of the posted officer’s boots and a gentle snoring sound.
“Lieutenant Tellix.” He sighed, and swung his gauntleted hand to strike the officer’s leather-booted feet off of the top of the desk. The dark-haired, diminutive elf was nearly thrown from his chair, but he managed to keep his footing and quickly stood at attention.
“Sir, Captain, it’s actually quite a tale-” Tellix said calmly. He wasn’t able to finish the thought before the clean-cut Captain seized Tellix’s collar with his free hand and braced him against the wall.
“Tellix, when I got word that the Watch’s most useless man had caught a dangerous criminal and hauled her in single-handedly, I had certain questions,” Humbolt spat into the elf’s face, “Questions such as, ‘how did someone who couldn’t catch a fucking fish catch a seasoned gray’, and, ‘how could he manage to run down the suspect without his lacy pink panties chafing his perfectly smooth, wrinkle-free elven berries,’ and, ‘how could he possibly maintain a firm grip on the perpetrator with those soft, immaculate baby hands’, but honestly, all of those looming mysteries pale in comparison to the biggest, most mysterious mystery of them all - how the hell did you accomplish such an impressive feat when I posted you down here?! And then when I come down here to unravel this enigma, you are asleep!” Humbolt’s face flushed with anger and he let go of the elf’s collar. He then leaned forward and stared hard into Tellix’s green eyes with his withering blue ones.
“She fell, sir,” Tellix said calmly as he stood at attention, “I briefly left my post to, ah, relieve myself, and as you know the latrine is located quite a ways from here on the other side of the barracks. So, merely in the interest of saving time, I popped outside to the back alley to have a pi- ah, to relieve myself, and… down falls this tiefer, right into the puddle I was making. Out cold! Bag of stolen goods in her hand and everything. Must’ve been escaping whoever she’d just ripped off and lost her footing on the rooftops. So…” The elf trailed off, his expression looking slightly sheepish.
“So? So what?” Humbolt pressed back, laying the folder he was carrying on the desk and folding his arms. Fuming, he continued, “Spit it out you twit, or so help me I’ll reach inside you and drag it out.”
Tellix sighed. The scruffy, bespectacled Elf took a moment to polish the Captain’s spit off of his glasses. “So...that’s really it, sir. Cuffed her and hauled her into the interrogation room. Looks like a pretty tough customer, so I strung her up for you…” He was cut off by the abrupt ‘clap, clap, clap’ of the Captain applauding him.
“Wow. Just amazing,” The Captain intoned as he continued slowly clapping, “A command performance by an upstanding officer of the Watch.” Humbolt turned to face away from Lieutenant Tellix, rubbing the back of his neck with a sigh. “Mommy and daddy buying your commission and greasing palms so you can be a Lieutenant without so much as having to scrub a floor in your entire military career, and now prime collars with files taller than you are just raining from the sky into your stream.” Humbolt turned back to the Lieutenant’s desk and picked up the folder he brought with him, then jabbed Tellix in the chest with a finger. “Just keep watch on the door. If you can manage that without screwing it up, maybe we can both end up looking good here.”
“Sir, I...both? Respectfully, I’m the one wh-,” and Tellix was interrupted once again by the irate Captain.
“If you really think you’re going to come away from this with all the credit for this after your behavior, maybe you’re exactly as stupid as I always suspected you were. Lock the door behind me, and don’t move from that spot.”
Tellix nodded, with a salute. Despite the ripping he’d received, that cool expression never left the elvish officer, a fact that only continued to stoke Captain Humbolt’s anger as the two of them walked past rows of empty holding cells - must’ve been a slow night, the Captain thought. The prisoner awaited in the interrogation room at the end of the hall. The Lieutenant threw the bar and opened the door for the Captain, who slammed it behind him.
He replaced the bar and stood silently at attention for 5 seconds. Then, unable to contain his curiosity, he put his pointy ear to the door.
“Vermillienne Z’remet,” the Captain said as he entered. She’d been hanging by her wrists in the cold, bare room for...maybe hours, now? She must’ve really fallen asleep, she mused internally. Hell of a time to take a nap.
“You really took your time getting down here, Captain,” the crimson-skinned tiefling tittered while jangling the chains that held her arms up, “I’m a very busy woman with lots of demands on my time, and I would appreciate you getting a move on...wait, is that what I think it is?” Vee’s red eyes flicked down to the table just as Humbolt heaved the folder he’d been lugging onto it. He pulled the chair out and sat down, removing his gauntlets carefully and setting them next to the folder, he began to unwind the string as he spoke to her.
“Vermillienne Z’remet,” he started.
“Said that already.”
“Quite the history you have here. It really paints a picture of wretchedness, don’t you think? Well, I don’t have to ask you - you lived it, starting at age 12, stealing several loaves of bread from a marketplace stall.” Humbolt licked a fingertip and turned over the first document. “Caught red-handed-”
“Gods, that was clever. The kind of joke you find underneath the cap of a tin of pomade,” the horned woman cut in.
“-and given 5 lashes in the city square. They go pretty easy on you at that age, don’t they? But you didn’t learn your lesson. Age 15, stealing a side of beef from the butcher. 10 lashes.” Humbolt flipped another page, “Age 15 again, breaking and entering. 20 lashes. I’m amazed you even survived that sentence so young, but you’re a tough one, aren’t you? 15 again, breaking and entering, petty theft. Pilloried for a week, and you received the thieves’ brand. Took some time off after that little banner year, hm? Or maybe you just didn’t get caught again for a little while.”
Vermillienne giggled lightly to herself. “What can I say? Took me a little while, but I did smarten up a bit, until-”
Humbolt cleared his throat to cut her off. “18. Assault, B&E again, assault, larceny, resisting arrest, and assault-”
“You said assault three times~,” the dangling tiefling sing-songed.
“-you committed three separate assaults during this incident, Ms. Z’remet. You were sentenced to 4 years of indenture at the Khai’dun Plantation and were branded again as a violent criminal. Tieflings tend to be too willful for a slavery sentence, but I have a feeling the magistrate just wanted you to be as far away from the city as possible.” The Watch Captain licked his fingers again as he continued flicking his way through the pages of documents. “Pay attention to this part, Ms. Z’remet, it gets really good here. The Khai’dun Plantation was burned to the ground three months later with Archimonde Khai’dun, his wife, and his son and daughter found among the wreckage - you really should pay a little attention. This concerns you.”
“If you want me to pay attention you should really just get to the point, instead of telling me about all the things I already know I did...n’t do.” The tiefling grunted as she grasped the chains around her wrists in her hands and lifting herself off the ground until her hands were level with her chin, then lowered herself back down. A sheen of sweat was starting to form on the tense muscles of her arms.
Humbolt stood up from his chair, reading from the file as he paced back and forth in front of Vermillienne. “Almost all of the other slaves at the plantation were recaptured. A few of them remained at large, including yourself. You didn’t surface again until the incident with that band of heretics eleven years later, the...” he stifles a bit of a laugh, “‘The Esoteric Order of the Slayer’s Empty Hand.’ What a joke.”
Vee fell silent now save the odd grunt through clenched teeth. She was hanging in the air by her shackles and using her leverage to kick her legs out in front of her like some kind of practiced movement.
The Captain couldn’t help a smirk at having shut the tiefling’s mouth. “Out of sharp remarks, are you? How unfortunate. I was so hoping you would be able to tell me what it is exactly that draws people to these lunatic fringe organizations like your ‘Order.’ So what was it, hm? Don’t try to lie to me and offer that they simply took you as a slave, I’m not an idiot. At 15 you were a bumbling street urchin, at 18, no more than a petty thief and full-time gutter trash. You disappear for a decade into this cult, and since then…” Humbolt removed a thick ream of parchment from the folder, plopping piece after piece onto the table as he spoke, emphasizing each charge. “Wanted under suspicion of performing unauthorized grey-work, unauthorized black-work, unauthorized red-work, numerous counts of misrepresenting caste, involvement in multiple high-profile acts of grand larceny, involvement in criminal conspiracies to commit several murders, assault charges, break-ins...and you’ve evaded direct pursuit by the Watch on no less than four separate occasions since then without being caught a single time. Your sadistic friends at the Order certainly did a number on that luckless urchin, didn’t they?”
She fell silent and gritted her teeth. Humbolt gave a sly smile and continued. “Pity that none of them are here for you now. All of them dead, or scattered to the winds, or like yourself on the receiving end of some well deserved justice.” The Captain triumphantly dropped the last bit of the tiefling’s file and stood with his arms akimbo.
The quiet of the room was was suddenly upset by a snort of laughter from Vermillienne. “I’m sorry, Captain, I really can’t hold it in anymore! You’re so self-assured of all the ways that you’ve defeated me that you can’t even see but two feet in front of you, and now you’re striking a heroic pose? Gods almighty…” She tittered with laughter again. Humbolt stormed over to the bound woman and roughly grabbed her by the neck, his other hand resting threateningly on the pommel of his longsword.
“What’s so fucking funny, hm?” Humbolt seethed into Vermillienne’s face, his debonair detective facade crumbling away, “I’m going to enjoy opening you up and sifting through your entrails to find out what you’re holding back from me, you rat-eating gutter slut! Start talking!”
The tiefling set her jaw at at the Captain’s sudden shift in tone. “Fine,” she grunted, “I’ll open with a question. You don’t smell any piss, do you?”
The question hung in the air until the click of the false cuffs Vermillienne was wearing broke the silence, and as the hardened knuckles of her fist splintered Humbolt’s left orbital. He spun and fell to the ground, and as the darkness washed over him it occurred to him that he had not.
Tellix waited for a few moments until he heard the signal - three short knocks, two long - before unbarring the door to let Vermillienne out of the interrogation room. Her right hand was soaked with blood, and her left was clutching the thick folder that Humbolt had brought in with him. The elf peered into the interrogation room at the bloody scene momentarily, admiring her handiwork. “I can’t believe you really did the Captain with your bare hands. That’s remarkable...I’ll have his post for certain. My family will see to it.”
The sound of blood and bits of tissue dripping to the floor from the bony protrusions on Vermillienne’s knuckles seemed to echo that of a foot tapping impatiently. “Already given one handjob tonight, Lieutenant, and as much as I appreciate your eagerness to make it a mutual thing, how about you pay me and take your beating so I can get the fuck out of here?”
“I took the liberty of packing it for you.” The Lieutenant picked up Vermillienne’s bag and held it out to her. She grabbed it and shoved the folder into it. When she secured it to her back she noted its increased weight with satisfaction. Tellix began to remove his glasses, but Vermillienne grabbed his wrist and held it still, then moved it back until his glasses rested again on the bridge of his nose.
“Nope. Not convincing like that. Now would be a good time to take a deep breath,” the tiefling said. Just as he began to inhale, Vermillienne drove her knee into the man’s stomach to drive the breath back out again. A punch to the temple knocked the elf to the floor and broke his glasses, and she placed a kick to his unprotected ribs for good measure, breaking one. Lieutenant Tellix lie in a heap on the floor, sputtering and groaning softly. “You took that pretty well. Mom and dad would be proud.”
The tiefling turned on her heels and headed for the stairs with a smirk lingering on her dark lips.
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