Hot and Muggy
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The trip from Cypwater to Fough Place was incredibly cleansing. She spent three weeks in Cypwater awaiting Bellatrix's trial, keeping tabs on the rogue woman for her almost father-in-law. After arresting the woman, discovering the truth about who Bellatrix LeFrou really was and what had happened to the once sleepy town of Twin Cedars, Kalliope knew it was her duty to remain until the verdict passed. A few days before the official trial, Larry the Inn owner and Bellatrix's almost father arrived in a rented cart. The whole town had pooled their coin to afford it for him. He and the girl embraced, and Kalliope's heart panged for her father back in Harper's Pass. The trial itself was squelched between a murder trial and a pair of petty thieves who had taken up residence in the market quarter and sold knock-off pokeballs that failed or exploded on capture.
It was strange to see how few people cared about any of the prisoners. Aside from her and Larry, no one was there to mourn the men and women in chains. The murderer was put to trial and sentenced to five years as a logger in Dedrius. A strange choice, in Kalliope's opinion. But he seemed to think menial labor was the bane of his existence so perhaps it was fitting in the end. The petty thieves were fined heavily and jailed for the next two years. But Bellatrix LeFrou, who had an aging innkeeper and a junior guardian speaking on her behalf? Bellatrix left the court confused. The minor lord appointed to work these particular cases seemed at a loss. Normally murders of this number beneath their belt were sentenced to death or life in prison. Technically Bellatrix had killed fourteen people, not including the mayor nor the young girl in town.
A hefty sum of the dead. It was Kalliope's testimony that turned the tides. The fourteen dead from the bridge collapse were mages from the Schism who killed many people, tortured many more and had planned to destroy the entire town of Twin Cedars and build a base atop the smoldering remains. The young girl had been an accident and the mayor was killed out of grief-driven revenge. The lordling didn't know what to do with Bellatrix. She couldn't be pardoned. At one point, the minor Lord presiding, one Chartrune Dents, spoke of imprisonment for five years with less on good behavior. Kalliope had risen in the stands behind Bellatrix and offered an alternative. "Put her to work. She killed a lot of people. Granted, two were by accident. But she took down an entire group of mages without a single innocent life lost--at the time. Indite her under the rule of a Patron of the Guardians and use her skills. Train her to save lives to repent for those she has taken."
Even Bellatrix LeFrou looked at Kalliope like she was a mad woman. "See here, girl. If I send her off to be trained, what's to stop her from running soon as she has a chance?"
The Lordling rightly accused. Kalliope looked at the girl in question, a slight, red-headed woman. Malnourished, red-eyed and troubled. Who would bet on a young woman such as her when there were plenty of perfectly able bodies who applied willingly? "I will put my inn as collateral."
Larry offered. He remained seated, still weak. If Lord Dents had given Kalliope a shocked expression, the one he offered the innkeeper was one of severe pity. "It will fall into your ownership should she leave. You may also take me in as prisoner in her place."
Dents laughed outright. "You expect me to believe this thief and murderer would stay in line over an inn she herself tried to burn down with you inside it? Foolishness. No, she'll be incarcerated for five years.""I put my own hand in her stead."
Kalliope called the room to her at once. "You may incarcerate me in her place until she is captured, should she slide back into the ways of the rogue."
She waved a hand as Bellatrix started to move. "I don't expect you to give her a sword and let her slaughter anyone. Give her the grueling tasks. The boring paperwork. The grunt work, if you must. But train her properly. She's versed in evasion, subterfuge, long range weapons and she's incredibly clever. She would be an asset in the Guardian ranks.""Kali, stop this at once. I would rather go to prison."
Bellatrix hissed. "No more people are going to pay for my crimes. Not you, not him."
She didn't look at her almost father, though Kali saw the twinge of pain flash across her face. "Please, Lord. Take me away. I accept my sentence."
She bowed to the Lord at his pedestal and held out her wrists, still clamped with irons. Her ankles bore the same. Her clothes hadn't fared well in the past few weeks. It was torn in places and stained with blood and grime. She bore a cut on one arm and bruised knuckles. Lord Dents watched her closely. He tapped his chin."You. Guard. Why is she injured? In her report her wounds should have healed by now."
The youth beside her bowed, the bigger man at his back keeping a hand on Bellatrix's shoulder. "She got in scrapes, sir."
Dents met Kalliope's eye pointedly. The boy saw the exchange and hastened to bow again. "Nosir, not scrapes she started. Somewhat attacked her in commons."
He kept his head down and eyes averted. Kalliope wondered who let this whelp of a boy guard a woman as dangerous as Bellatrix. Not that she'd attack a guardian now that she was here, not after everything. But the point remained. "Fought off three attackers, she was. Only gotsa cut or two from it."
He bowed again. Kalliope's spine hurt for him. Lord Dents contemplated this. He took a half bell to consider the revised punishment. While he was gone, Bellatrix LeFrou was furious. The idea that Kalliope or Larry might suffer for her put her hackles up so fast she nearly got whiplash. "The verdict is settled."
Lord Dents interrupted a heated argument between Kalliope and Bellatrix. He returned to his previous post. "Bellatrix LeFrou is judged guilty on two counts of murder. Accident or not, a child is dead. However, her disruption of rogue mage activities and her own capabilities stand for themselves. LeFrou is charged to work in the Guardian ranks for five years, the maximum of her otherwise reduced incarceration. If after five years she chooses to remain, it will be up to her superiors. Should she abandon her duties or endanger the lives of innocents in an attempt to escape custody, Guardian Kalliope Tamsin will be taken into custody in her place and the Dozing Smeargle will be seized as property of Cypwater. One Larry will not be compensated nor allowed to remain. Dismissed."
Kalliope spent another week at Bellatrix's side while they prepared transport and paperwork. Bellatrix LeFrou would be taken under Lord Archer in Harper's Pass, a secondary security method. He was a strict Lord, not to mention the Guardians from Harper were some of the best in the region. But the entire affair was exhausting both mentally and physically. Bellatrix had to be dealt with. Her penchant for hurting herself as punishment for hurting others ran strong. When she was taken away by her new handler for the Guardians, she went silently and without tears. Kalliope walked Larry to his cart and wished him luck. By then she was drained, exhausted, and wanting to get as far away from Cypwater's muggy, sweaty, mosquito-ridden air. And the drought was no joke, either.
She slept on the road and spent a full week and a half traveling route four, then route six until she finally reached Fough's borders. Fresh air, a few scrapes with the local pokemon, and numerous stops to swim along the rivers had eased the weight of Bellatrix's fate off of Kalliope's shoulders. Kalliope had made her decision, there was nothing more to be done. It was up to Bellatrix now--and Kalliope had a feeling she'd be hearing good things from her superiors in a few years. Time for a new adventure, a new experience. Kalliope could have taken another bounty or contacted her Patron for new orders or assignments. She could have traveled back to Harper's Pass to work on getting stronger as a Guardian.
Instead she chose to travel to Fough Place, which she hadn't been to visit in years. Not since before her father became sick. What brought this headstrong Guardian to a random city after the past few weeks? A certain Guardian from Cypwater, actually. James Canthrope, Senior Guardian of Fough Place. Smug, a skilled fighter. Apparently not a morning person. Kali met him briefly in Cypwater when she took LeFrou's bounty. He promised to teach her how to fight if she ever visited Fough. This week was as good as any. Kali was healed from her previous endeavors and not a little ready for some tough training. She'd packed all of her weapons as well as her buckler and dressed in her freshest uniform that morning. Dark fabric, mail backed tunic and well worn boots. Kazimir rode her shoulder as per usual, keeping himself balanced quite easily after months of traveling together.
No one looked twice at the pair as they passed the city walls. The main road through town was cobbled and broke off into smaller, dirt packed streets at varying places. Kali asked for directions to the Guardian's headquarters and headed north through the center of Fough. Early morning sunlight basked between the shadows of various homes and stores. Kali was sticky with humidity and sweat despite the early hour. The citizens around her were equally as sticky and grumpy about it. Young kids running messages for their folks, numerous pokemon hanging around handlers, hovering on rooftops or hiding in the shadows. There was a lot of activity but in a sluggish sense. Trudging feet, despondent pokemon staying out of the heat. Store entrance ways held open by rocks to let in any faint wisp of a breeze the skies might produce.
Kali didn't linger here long. She picked up her pace toward the obnoxiously large building closer to the center of town than not. Stone walls, high, narrow windows. A scattering of towers interspersed throughout the layout. It was in every sense of the word: a fortress. Moss grew in cracks in the stone but quite ineffectually. The main gate was built of wrought iron and steel with two guards. Kalliope wondered what they needed so much security for when the building itself was a monster of a thing. She approached both and saluted them. "Guardian Kalliope Tamsin."
They each nodded and checked her identification, then waved her through. The inner sanctum of the outer walls were just as menacing. Kalliope was impressed. Training yards on either side with a narrow walkway and a fountain just to the right. A white marble lucario sat atop the statue, frozen mid-leap. Kalliope paused to admire the piece. Odd to put a beautiful piece of art in the midst of all this structure and discipline.
She mused. Somehow the artist made it fit perfectly in its landscape. Or perhaps it was the kind of art that would suit any location. Maybe it's to strike fear in the hearts of the criminals who get dragged here.
Kazimir suggested. Kali covered a grin and headed for the front entrance. I doubt that. Lucario is a symbol for justice and truth.
They entered an overlarge door of thick, heavy wood. Nearly twice Kali's height and about the same in width, it made an entrance with both doors. Kazimir assisted by opening both before they reached the threshold. Within, a high ceiling foyer of bleak stone and minimal decoration greeted them. A spiral stair rose up to the right toward offices for lieutenants and captains. The stair opposite led to the library, records and storage rooms.
One could see the balcony open to the second floor as well as the spherical glass window placed in the center of the ceiling. Nothing looked particularly inviting. But the innocuous door straight ahead might lead her somewhere useful. It opened to the meeting room of sorts, which led off into so many directions Kalliope didn't bother counting. Within was the first active, occupied area Kali found all day. A dozen bodies filled the room. Four sat together discussing something with great relish. An older woman took up a place at the end of a large table to clean and sharpen her weapons. More than half had food at varying levels of consumption somewhere near their person. Clearly breakfast had just been served and these were either the early risers or the sleepyheads. Kalliope picked out an alert, slightly older male against the wall. He had something in his hands, fiddling with it, but Kali could tell by his body language he had his attention on the room at large.
He didn't look up when she approached, though his feet slid apart and fully onto the ground. "Nossir, I says. I didnae think the girl could do it. Makes no sense, I says."
He mumbled. His fingers flew across the little mechanism in his hands. Kali wasn't sure what it was. His graying, short-cropped hair stuck up in places but flattened on one side of his head. His plate of food was all but untouched. "After all th' trouble she caused, she ain't dare take ye up on yer offer."
He grunted. The little metal whatchamajig made a faint scraping sound every time he moved it about. Now and then a click emitted from it. "She's all fire an' fight. No way she come runnin' back ye hear?"
Kalliope folded her arms over her chest, waiting for him to finish. He used up plenty of her patience, too. The man went silent while he rotated this and that, pulled one piece and maneuvered another into place. It took a few minutes of puttering and cursing under his breath before the man finally sat straight up. His thumb locked onto a jutting piece of metal and pushed firmly. One last click and the item cracked open. Now that he'd finished fiddling around with it, Kali got a good look. It was a metal box configured of multiple slabs and notches, with what looked like hinges and holes bored every which way but right. Inserting the final piece reset the lock and revealed a stark, empty hole. Well, empty now that the klefki jumped out and shook its keys angrily at the guardian. "Don't ye take that tone with me, missy."
The man scolded. "Ye kept stealin' his keys, whaja expect?"
Kalliope laughed. The klefki turned on her, yelling angrily in her high-pitched, flute like voice. Her slender arms held over thirty keys. They barely fit together and she had to jostle them to hold everything in place. "Buzz, you might want to think about teaching your pokemon moderation."
Kalliope shook her head at the over-weighted keychain pokemon. She sensed Kazimir's lack of amusement. He didn't care for frivolous fairy types, apparently. "Ye shut yer gob, girlie."
Buzz replied without real heat. "I ain't pleased with ye for costing me two hundred gold."
He held out his hand to the klefki. "Now, we can't work if yer too heavy to fight. Ye can keep all yer favorite keys in this box somewhat special. It took me three days t'get ye out. How long'd ye think it'll take any idiot who wants to steal useless keys?"
The klefki was adamant. No matter how he cajoled her, the pokemon outright refused to return a single key. He sighed. "Fine then. Don't blame me if ye fall over all the time. Ye looking for James?"
It took Kalliope a second to realize he was talking to her and not the klefki. She nodded. "Yes. He mentioned stopping by to train when I had time. I've got time."
She shrugged. It wasn't like she couldn't be doing a dozen other things. If Kalliope wanted to become a better Guardian and handler she needed to learn from the best. James was as close as she was going to get. Buzz eyed her and nodded. "Ye wait here. I'll get 'im."