Prologue: A Civilized Discussion
“Answer me lad: where is your father heading?”
A lull of silence rest in the air of the marble courtyard, the gentle breeze of the mid-day wind brushing some of the leaves from the nearby oaks across the pavement. A burly red-beard man paced back and forth behind the youth that remained knelt before a wooden post. The iron manacles continued to uncomfortably bruise his wrists as he used his hands to steady himself on the ground. Three stout soldiers stood in attendance of the spectacle, eyes fixed on the prisoner that lay at the warrior’s feet. A beat of sweat could be seen dripping from the side of one of the men’s face, slowly motioning his leather glove to wipe away the tear. For men who had tasted battle, even they were fazed by the harsh treatment that continued to unfold.
With another grunt from the youth, the burly warrior paced forward to his front, eyeballing the youth before dropping to his level. “Out with it lad: you have to know something. Anything. Just give me something or a location to go off of so I can cease this nonsense.”
His green eyes gazed deeply into the youth, who only shot back a glare of defiance toward man. “I say it again my lord. I know nothing!” he barked at his face. “If I didn’t know anything for the last few days, what makes you think I would know anything now?” The prisoner threw his head back toward the ground, forcing the warrior to stand upright again and return to his position behind the youth, dissatisfaction plastered about his face.
Suddenly, the wooden courtyard doors behind the warrior swung open, grabbing his attention as two men entered the courtyard. They appeared to be nobles from the look of the band of well-armed guards clad in ebony armor that escorted them. The one at the front strode with great resolve, decked in fine blue cloth garments, as his black hair fluttered in the wind to his side, leaving his companion to chat with the guards. His clean shaven face might have had the look of a charmer, but beneath his face he was stone-cold serious on the matter at hand. “Do you have anything to report now? Are his lips loosened enough?”
“No sire, nothing of the sort.” The red haired man scruffed his beard in his large fingers as he glanced toward the prisoner. “He still insists his innocence and lack of knowing anything that his father may have done.” *sigh* “I must say, he must be one hell of a poker player or he’s the most unluckily boy in this city at the moment.”
The captivating lord shook his head at the response. “The stubbornness of youth if you ask me. He certainly is as defiant as his father.”
“We could’ve done things my way sire from the get go. I can relate to what these prisoners have been through, get them to open up better if you would let me.” The warrior stared back to the well-dressed man with conviction in his eyes. “I just needed time to build that trust.”
“Hah, and do you forget that the more time you would get from your efforts the more time you would be giving that rabid dog of a councilor to run for the hills? The duke left the task to me on my insistence and results are needed as soon as possible” glancing back at the prisoner “by any means necessary.”
The warrior gestured toward the left arm of the prisoner, still badly bruised from the altercation a few days ago. “And does ‘any means necessary’ include messing with my prisoner when I’m not around?”
The charming lord smirked at the comment before giving a satisfied shrug. “It was a mere love tap. I’ve known the boy in his youth and figured some one-on-one time might get him to open up early. If he didn’t spit in my face and try to headbutt me when I mentioned how much of an animal I thought of his father, I wouldn’t have had to break that pretty little arm of his.” The look on the warrior’s face showed complete disgust, knowing full well the lord simply used it as an excuse to get in a cheap shot. The lord might have had the grace of a muse with his tongue and looks to the naked eye, but his temper was of an ogre when not held in check. “Regardless, I’m guessing he doesn’t wish to speak still?”
“On the contrary: he’s fine chatting with me…it just seems he has an acquired taste in the company he keeps. Particularly toward in mannered people that treat him like a dog.”
The lord glared at the man before launching a swift slap towards his face, but the other (though hefty and in heavy armor) was nimble and dodged the blow with a simple side step, somewhat amused by the annoyance of the lord he answered to. “Heh…still quick on your feet as always Inquisitor…” After gathering his composure, the lord flexed his coat before glancing down to the Inquisitor’s belt, eyeing the metal studded whip that hung from it. The blood from yesterday’s beatings was still splattered on the ends. “Well then, if he still says nothing new again, I suppose another beating will suffice to loosen his tongue.”
The Inquisitor stepped back in shock at the order, his jaw nearly leaving his face. “My lord, you can’t be serious?!?” Wiping his face with his leather glove, he continued: “Surely I've done everything you have asked of me, even while Duke Fry is settling the rest of the affairs with the remaining council men. If he found out that by ‘interrogating’ the boy you were in fact tort-” Before he could finish the statement, the relaxed lord was already an inch from his face, hot breath blasting into his own. “Need I remind you Inquisitor that you are under authority of the council, which is currently under my say! What you speak of is tant-amount to treachery, and to be saying this in front of a noble no less!” The burly man stepped back, taken in awe by what the lord spoke. “I’ll be generous to let your behavior toward me today pass unscathed, I assure you. But unless you want to join that vermin in the dungeon as well, I suggest you continue with the ‘interrogation’ now.”
Although flustered by the response, the warrior composed himself before unholstering the whip, glancing down at it briefly. In all his years of service to the kingdom, never had he felt more lowly in what he had committed over the last few days than the bloodiest of battles he had seen before. He was treating a boy as if he had murdered the king and his family himself, and for a crime that had little to do with him in the first place. Everything felt so out of place for this to be occurring.
With a glance back at the beaten prisoner, the lash markings still fresh from the previous session in full view, he clenched his fist tightly before tossing the whip to the lord’s feet. “No more. This is beyond justice Bryce and you know it. This boy knows nothing and I see no further means to make him suffer.”
“I think we’re done for the day” said the Inquisitor as he strode toward the door of guards. “Inquisitor!” barked the lord from behind him. “Need I remind you of your contract.” The Inquisitor froze, listening intently at the lord’s words. “You forget that I helped make that incident disappear from your record when you joined the legion years ago. You still owe me for that business, and I expect you to return the favor now if you want to keep your family from being found out in exile. Now then: PROCEED. WITH. THE INTERROGATION!!!”
The Inquisitor slowly turned to the lord, walking back towards him with frustration across his face. Kneeling down, he grasped the whip back in his gloves, regretting the scene to come again. He wouldn’t sleep well this coming night again, but the fear for his loved ones proved to be enough to push him to do the deed, no matter how grim it be. As he motioned for a nearby soldier to come forward, the guard knelt behind the youth to cast a cloth gag around his mouth before stepping away. As the Inquisitor cast the metal-studded cord to his side, he took a deep breath and muttered to the prisoner before delivering the first of many blows: “Forgive me child.”
With the loud crack of the whip, the youth screamed in agony as a hunk of flesh ribbons were stripped from the right side of his back, only for a muffle of groans to escape the gags. Blow after blow, the groans could be heard from all around the courtyard but not far enough to reach the inner walls of the court, where the council still sat. As he turned to his companion and fellow bodyguards, the well-dressed noble walked proudly out of the courtyard with a mischievous grin across his lips as the dampened cries slowly faded in the distance.