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 Flying Somewhere With the Wind, Alexander's Aptitude Development Thread
Korosensei
 Posted: Feb 7 2016, 07:37 PM
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Stupidface McNoctowl
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Alexander Fitzgerald | Emilie Chartoire | Talia

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And They Can't Take That Away
Aptitudes: Honor, Interrogation


hon·or
noun
Good name; reputation: "I must defend my honor"


It was a calm, cloudy day in Dedrius, perfect for training the team. Of course, now that Corvus had shown an interest in Gyro's training and Victor was equally determined to foil any of Gyro's efforts, working with his team was beginning to turn into a debate. "Corvus, I get that you want to help, but you can't listen to Victor," he groaned as Corvus enthusiastically tried to trip Gyro as he fought off Alexander's bastard sword. The mime snickered from his comfortable perch on a low-hanging tree branch.

"And you need to behave yourself," Alexander gently chided Victor, although it was a huge step that Victor was even participating at all. The mime usually preferred to stay by himself, but it seemed that lately, he was more interested in observing the team. His idea of participation usually involved undermining Gyro, but as far as Alexander understood the situation, the rivalry was friendly and mostly due to their opposing types. Gyro greeted Victor as friendly as he greeted anyone else, and sometimes even threw a small punch at his shoulder. The mime, likewise, got amused by putting up Barriers for the hitmontop to crash into when he was spinning; however, Alexander knew he was capable of doing far more harm and the fact that he was showing some sort of restraint must mean something.

He had prepared sandwiches for the team, and they were just beginning to sit down - after Victor put Gyro's sandwich in an impenetrable box and laughed, of course - when a Guardian approached, a salute on her brow before Alexander could make one of his own. "Guardian Fitzgerald," she said respectfully.

Alexander put his sandwich down and repeated the salute. "I'm here," he began, trying to place her face. He had the feeling he had seen her before, which wasn't all that unlikely considering the size of the Guardian force in Dedrius, but he wondered why she had come to find him. Lord Folgart had told him to take a good, long break from working at the base, after all...

The woman was silent for a moment before introducing herself. "I'm Violet, I'm kind of new here. Sorry if I'm bothering you, but I'm coming here from Lord Folgart." She smiled, pursing her lips together. It seemed that no matter how hard she tried to do this mission right, she still found herself getting nervous.

Alexander tried to reassure her quickly. "I am pleased to meet you, Violet, but I must admit I'm curious about what Lord Folgart wants. I've been reassigned to missions rather than inside work lately," he said. "And I bet whoever sent you here told you I'm an interrogator who can have a very fierce temper. Please know I will never hurt you," he said in what he hoped came across as a sincere tone.

Violet laughed, just a little; this showed Alexander that he had at least partially guessed her thoughts correctly. "Lord Folgart told me to find you. I'm new - but you probably guessed that," she blushed. "He told me you were the best at what you do, and from what I've seen around the base, it seems like we need the best."

Alexander nodded before calling to his pokemon that they would save lunch for later. He recalled all but Victor into their poke balls; the curious mime had levitated his poke ball back towards Alexander's belt, a signal he wished to remain outside of the ball. In their own weird way, Alexander and Victor were beginning to communicate. He smiled at the mr. mime and then turned to Violet. "Mind if I ask what you saw back at the base?" He didn't say this, but he knew it must be pretty bad for him to get summoned back to the base. Lord Folgart was a man of his word and he had promised Alexander only to call him back in times of need... But there was no need to make Violet panic. He could just glean the information along the way.

Violet started walking back towards the base, Alexander following in her very quick footsteps. Her pace was worried, but she was very determinedly trying to keep her voice at least somewhat upbeat or encouraging. "I don't know everything that's been going on, but I do know that there's some problem with a spy. We captured the spy, but there was some sort of a squabble or a scuffle or something and, well, the rumors are that even after your old machamp nearly punched the spy's guts out, they refused to say anything."

Now Alexander was intrigued. His machamp was violent, often excessively so, and thus he usually had the problem of making suspects confess too quickly or in too violent a manner. He had never, in fact, heard of a situation in which his machamp got involved and the suspect still didn't confess. He wondered how the suspect was even alive at this point... But that wasn't his problem. His only duty was to go to the base, listen to whatever the upper echelons said, and complete his new mission. "So you need me to corral the machamp," he tried to joke, although he knew the situation was serious. Violet really needed to be less nervous.

"Well, not just that. I don't know if the spy can take any more of machamp's punches, actually... he hits pretty hard." Alexander cringed at the memory of having borne many of the fighting-type's punches, himself. "But what we really need you for, is that you're the best. They say that you are."

"Who does?" Alexander replied. He could see the base creeping up in the distance as he kept up with Violet's pace.

"The rumors. I don't know who started them - some even say Lord Folgart is at their head - but it likely comes from the fact that you've been working for the Guard for five years. Five years! I've just got five weeks under my belt..."

Alexander smiled, remembering his own days as a recruit. He had been just as nervous too, especially considering he was trying to become a good role model for his brother and make his parents proud. "You'll get there," he said encouragingly as he stepped up the steps to the base's entrance. His voice got louder when he got in, but whether he was trying to make his presence known or simply praise Violet for all to hear, no one could tell. "You did good to get me, Violet. I appreciate it," he said kindly, and was about to greet some of his old fellows before he heard the clacking of boots along the floor.

He recognized the sound, and he also recognized the face looking at him and the voice that spoke. "If you would accompany me," Lord Folgart said, and Alexander swiftly followed him into his office.

--------------------

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The Stonehearted Lady

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Korosensei
 Posted: Feb 7 2016, 07:41 PM
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Stupidface McNoctowl
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hon·or
verb
To show a gesture of deference; to bow


Alexander quickly followed Lord Folgart and he shut the door behind him once they were in the small office off the main hall. This wasn't the main audience room, but rather a place where Lord Folgart could have some sort of privacy in dealing with potentially tricky matters with individual Guardians. The space was small and dimly lit, and the room seemed to echo. Alexander remembered vividly the last time he had been in this room. It had been when Lord Folgart told him of his brother's death - no, then, the last time must have been when he overstepped his bounds and had to get a temporary reassignment from duty. He wondered what could have been serious enough to call him here now.

Two old chairs rested in the middle of the small space. Alexander waited for Lord Folgart to take a chair and then to invite him to sit before he approached, wondering what could have been on his liege lord's mind. It took a few moments for Lord Folgart to speak, and when he did, he was very polite. "Alexander Fitzgerald... have you enjoyed your break from interrogation?" he asked.

Alexander was taken aback; he definitely wasn't expecting small talk. "Yes, my lord, I have found several new pokemon partners and have been helping with our efforts in the field." He was burning with curiosity as to why he had been recalled here; as far as he knew, his performance in the field had been good.

"Good, very good," Lord Folgart said. "What kinds of pokemon have joined your team?"

Alexander answered quickly, "I have been raising the pinsir you graciously gave me, and his... unusual origin has allowed me to flush out some Order rogues. I have also raised a tyrogue until he evolved into a hitmontop, and befriended a powerful yet suspicious mr. mime." Alexander didn't want to talk too much, nor did he want to presume anything about why his liege lord was asking, but he was just getting more curious the more time passed.

Lord Folgart nodded twice. He was trying to be polite, but he needed to get to business now. "You are likely wondering why I have called you here," he began. "I must ask you a question, and I did not wish to embarrass you by having a new recruit asking you this, perhaps in front of other people. It pertains to your old work... Are you sufficiently recovered from your brother's death to assist in a difficult case?"

"Difficult" was a keyword only used in the most extreme of cases. Alexander was now fully shocked that the supposed spy was still alive. "Difficult" cases had usually been subjected to torture, which is why the code word was so important. It was worse than a "belligerent," even worse than a "violent." He gulped, but he would not shirk away from his duty. "I do feel recovered enough to help with this difficult case," he said, making sure to use the word "difficult" to ensure that Lord Folgart didn't think he was mistaking or misunderstanding the request.

Lord Folgart nodded curtly, then got to business. "As you know, I do not usually get personally involved in these... situations, but I have had no choice. The other investigators, some of whom I know you worked with personally, are having no success, and not even your machamp has managed to convince this spy to reveal the location of her base or any of her comrades, or what her mission was upon coming here."

So it was a female spy... They were generally not hardened enough for a full interrogation, and Alexander was surprised that she had not given in yet. He took a deep breath. It was never pleasant to torture anyone, but generally the men tended to fight back more and their physical strength made it seem to Alexander like he wasn't harming them too much. It was a way he could cope with what he did, and yet this situation had never appeared before. This had never happened before - but he wouldn't question his duty. He had sworn a vow, and that was what mattered to him. Anything else was extraneous.

Lord Folgart looked at him carefully, watching for a reaction. He nodded curtly, but did not speak. "She was apprehended trying to sneak into the base. She had several weapons on hand, and two pokemon who have been surrendered to Guardian control. We are making attempts to teach these pokemon the error of their ways," he said, and without having to finish the sentence, Alexander knew what would happen to these pokemon if they didn't listen to the Guardians who had been assigned to train them.

It was unfortunate that, at times, Guardians had to dip into practices that some might consider misguided or even evil in order to protect the people. These were generally kept secret, but after years of working with the interrogators, Alexander had discovered what happened to the pokemon who could not be controlled. He shivered, thinking of Victor in his poke ball clipped to his own belt. He didn't even want to think about it. Luckily, he didn't have to - his duty did not involve such things, and his conscience was clean when he thought of the people these pokemon had hurt and could perhaps learn to protect.

"All we've gotten out of her is her code name, Blackbird. We haven't gotten anything else out of her, and it's not for lack of trying. This is where you come in," he concluded, and Alexander racked his brain trying to think if he had heard the code name before.

"I don't think I've heard that name before; what pokemon did she arrive with?" he asked, still trying to place her, although this was a long shot.

The corner of Lord Folgart's mouth twitched, but he didn't quite smile. The matters were still too grim, especially unsolved. "She arrived with a rhydon and a seismitoad." He didn't need to tell Alexander that these pokemon were not suited for stealth and whatever the rogue meant to do, it wasn't pure spying. This was the kind of information Alexander needed to make his judgments, and think of the questions that might get someone like Blackbird, even someone who had been classified as "difficult," to talk.

Alexander nodded. "May I speak to some of the other interrogators about their efforts?" he asked.

"You may, but I would ask that you not tell anyone who does not need to be a part of this effort." Alexander thought of the people outside who were probably waiting for news. It was hard to keep news from people, but secrecy ruled his old world and it appeared it would rule his new mission as well.

Lord Folgart had one final thing to say before he opened the door. "You are our last resort, Fitzgerald. If you do not manage to get the information out of her, we will be forced to execute her as a precaution. Lives hang in the balance, and I would appreciate if the general public of Dedrius does not get the idea that I kill prisoners without very good reason."

The matter was about more than this one spy, Alexander could see. The public would see this as an extension of the Dedrius Guardians, and Lord Folgart would be assigned blame even if there was no way to do anything humanely. It was quite the sticky situation, and yet when he thought of it, it was quite simple. Alexander needed to follow his duty to his liege lord. He had sworn a vow, and those words meant something to him.

"With this oath I do swear to uphold the Region's order and maintain balance in the name of my patron, Lord Lucius Folgart. I am aware that they will be reflected upon by my every action and may be my consult in all things. I shall lay my future in my patron's hands and I shall serve my region well in the name of the Harper."

He had spoken the words five years before, but they held the same meaning. His actions were a reflection of his lord, and a failure in this mission would be a failure to uphold this oath. Nothing could be more serious, nothing could be more important, as he faced the future of a likely unpleasant mission.

He rose before Lord Folgart and bowed. He respected his liege lord enough to do what most men would not be willing to do, but it was his duty. It was his own honor, and his lord's, on the line. He valued both far too much to not at least try.

--------------------

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The Stonehearted Lady

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Korosensei
 Posted: Feb 7 2016, 07:41 PM
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Stupidface McNoctowl
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hon·or
noun
A person or thing that brings credit: "you are an honor to our profession"


This was all the information he got, from speaking to several interrogators: The woman was young, from the area of Istin City based on the clothing she arrived in. She was left-handed, or at least, she held her dagger in her left hand when she tried to fight her captors. She hardly ever screamed, even in the middle of a torturous session.

And yet, this was all the knowledge anyone had. She would speak a few words about her pokemon, Alexander heard, and then she would go silent. This Blackbird wouldn't even sing with "enough to break the strongest man," as one of Alexander's colleagues described, shaking his head.

At last, Alexander found himself standing in front of the cell where she was being kept. It was closed to the world, brick on all sides. He could hear nothing from inside, although this in of itself was not all that unusual. He took two deep breaths to steady himself before he put his hand on the handle, wondering if the creaking noise of the doorknob would elicit a sound. Nothing. Alexander opened the door.

The woman inside was - well, Alexander scarcely knew if she was old enough to be called a woman. The first thing he saw was a swollen eye with a haunting stare, and then he saw a smile that bore conjured either insanity or pity based on the blood smeared across her teeth. From the way she breathed, he could tell that at least one of her ribs was cracked, or maybe even broken; this was probably his machamp's doing, he thought as he looked away only to find her left wrist, crudely bandaged with the same fabric as her tattered shirt. It stuck out at an unnatural angle and the rusty color of blood had mixed with the blue of her shirt. And yet there was an odd beauty to her, whether it came from the determination in her eyes or the way she still had the courage to endure all these punishments, all that had happened to her, without a word spoken against her employers.

He wouldn't address her by name. That was the first rule. "Do you know why you are here?" He started with a stupid question on purpose. Sometimes it got the stubborn ones to talk, if only in frustration. If he could get them to complain about the other interrogators, he sometimes had success.

But not with her. Her tongue licked a bit of blood off of her front teeth and her breath whistled and wheezed. But she said nothing.

Alexander walked around her, stalking his prey like a wild animal. The only difference was that she was already trapped, and he had yet to figure out how to deal the killing blow. He considered his next words carefully. "Your rhydon seems trained to gore, as far as our investigators have determined," he said nonchalantly, trying to bait her.

More silence. She hadn't even responded when he spoke about her pokemon. She was getting good at being interrogated, he realized.

He had to be better. Lord Folgart and the other Guardians were counting on him. "If you do not speak, we have ways of making you," he said in a harsher tone.

"You can break my body, but you can't break my mind," she finally spoke, raspy and yet confident, grimacing as she tugged on the loose piece of cloth around her wrist.

She was right. Hurting her wouldn't do anything; this much had been proven already. He had to take a step back from his temper, from his classic move of allowing his anger to dominate him. This was how she had gotten through the previous interrogation attempts, he realized, although it seemed there would only be so much more that her body could take. Perhaps this was her strategy - using the wounds to die rather than being executed, and taking her secrets with her to the grave...

It was an unusual strategy that called for an equally unusual treatment. Alexander nodded and stuck his head out the door. There was no danger of her escaping due to the chains binding her feet to the table where she sat, but rather than leaving outright, he wanted her to hear what he had to say. "Bring me bandages," he called out. "And fresh honey from the kitchens."

The stare in her eyes was questioning him, even when she had trained her mouth to remain silent. The new assistant seemed to question him as well, his eyes shooting looks at Alexander as he returned with the requested items. Alexander relieved the assistant of the items and shut the door. He then approached Blackbird, or whatever her name was, and summoned Victor the mr. mime.

"Psychics? That's nothing new," she said, and for a brief moment, Alexander felt a bit of sympathy. It was odd enough to have Victor messing in his head just to give him visions; he couldn't even imagine the pain of a psychic-type trying to hurt the mind on purpose.

"Victor, come here," Alexander said. He then tried to change his demeanor. If she didn't respond to torture, the only other thing he could think of was its complete opposite. He took a deep breath through his mouth, trying not to smell the inevitable reek of these rooms. Then he approached the mr. mime and held out a bandage. "Hold this for me while I smear some honey," he said. He chanced a look at Blackbird. She watched with rapt attention, perhaps trying to figure out what would be done to her next.

The mr. mime levitated a glob of honey with great effort and managed to plop it in the middle of the bandage. Alexander praised his pokemon for his good effort and then approached Blackbird. He picked up her left wrist and started pulling apart the knots of her makeshift bandage. The wrist was broken, there was no doubt, but the bone was still inside the skin and the cuts on the skin didn't seem to be much more than bruises. There was no harm in trying to prevent infection, though - especially if it would get her to talk.

"What the hell are you doing?" she said softly as Alexander put the bloodstained piece of shirt on the table. He then wrapped the new, professional bandage around her wrist, making sure the honey interacted with the cuts she had likely gained from initial handcuffing. Then he called over the mr. mime.

"Victor, can you feel there are a few bones in here?" The psychic-type approached and put his hand clumsily on the girl's wrist. To credit her endurance, she winced but made no sound. "I know you've done something like this before. The bones are supposed to make a straight line, and they're not, right now." The mr. mime traced the bulge in her skin with his eyes and then with a long white finger. "Want to give it a try?"

Victor didn't exactly have a reason, at the moment, but he saw no reason not to. He had been bored these past few days and was looking for something more interesting to do. It had been a huge challenge of his psychic powers to try to mend his old handler's shoulder when it had popped out of its socket. That was an easier fix, involving just trying to put the ball back in the socket where it came from, but he had to admit he was curious about how the process worked. The human healers seemed to know what to do with their patients and as Victor traveled with Alexander, he got curious. He did like to learn, even if he wasn't as willing or motivated as the hitmontop. But this was a simple thing that could go wrong in so many ways... he liked the challenge and he liked the fact that he could potentially hurt the human in the effort. Even though he no longer considered Alexander good prey, he was not immune to the desire to harm humans. He saw no problem at all with using a human as a test subject for his own curiosities about his power. He would make the attempt.

The girl's mouth opened as Victor moved his hands over her wrist, concentrating intently. Something made a noise, whether a clicking or a snapping, and Alexander couldn't tell what this meant except that... the girl started crying. He had heard from the others that no torture so far had made her cry. He had unlocked a key... had he gotten it right?

"Does it hurt?" he asked, noticing that the bulge was lessened on the top of her wrist joint. This could have simply meant things were worse on the underside, or that Victor had actually done some good. But if he was to get to the bottom of this, he would need to keep being kind. He could kill her with kindness where the others had attempted to hurt her with more traditional torture devices.

"Stop," she said softly. Alexander struggled to hear her over the wheezing noise of her breathing. Even though Victor had apparently done something about her wrist, Alexander didn't trust the pokemon's fledgling abilities near any vital organs. He would leave her ribs untreated for now, although it was of course an option to find a pokemon with Heal Pulse to heal her with less danger.

Alexander was surprised, but his carefully honed demeanor would not break. "Does it hurt anywhere else? Your ankles, maybe? Victor, we can make some more bandages," he said.

Finally, her voice began to raise. "I said stop, didn't you hear me?"

"But why do you want me to stop? Surely it hurts less than it did before," he said in a false tone of concern. This was something he hadn't tried before, that he had only heard about, but he did know how to pursue the prey once he had locked onto something that would weaken it.

She stared at Alexander blankly, and in that moment, Alexander knew she was trapped. If she truly wanted him to stop, she would have to give a reason, and if she didn't give a reason, he would continue to try to heal her wounds. It was a lose-lose situation for her. And there was no way to escape, for never in all of her planning during the quiet night hours did she foresee that anyone would try to be kind.

"I don't want you to do that," she said, trying to buy herself some time, but when she saw Alexander slathering some honey on another bandage, she snapped. "Can't you see I don't want to get healed? You'd just as easily hurt me again, or worse," she said, her voice raspy and cracking.

"What could be worse?" he asked.

"Living," she answered, then tried to sigh but found that her lungs didn't want to expand that much against her hurt ribs. "I won't recover, not like this."

In her eyes, Alexander could see that she had truly suffered. She could act strong, but the torture was eating her from the inside out. Death, to her, was the only solution - and yet he needed something from her before he would let her die. Death, to him, was not something to be sought. It was to be avoided. But he had to admit that if he saw that same look in a loved one's eyes, he would bear the blade himself. Unbidden, the image of Casper leaped into his head, nearly taking his breath away. He barely succeeded in getting his next words out. "Then tell me. Why is it you're here?"

Reconciled to her fate, Blackbird huffed, "There is a plot on his life."

--------------------

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The Stonehearted Lady

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Korosensei
 Posted: Feb 7 2016, 07:42 PM
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Stupidface McNoctowl
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hon·or
noun
Adherence to what is right or to a conventional standard of conduct


Alexander had to consider carefully what to do next. An amateur, he knew, would use this opportunity to basically jump down the prisoner's throat, asking so many questions at once that she would get overwhelmed and maybe be able to get a bit of information out. But Alexander knew better. Overwhelming someone who had just barely stepped out of such a hard shell was likely to just put her back in the shell, even deeper. It would remind her of the reasons why she was keeping quiet in the first place. No, he would need to be even gentler, teasing at the answers rather than simply asking questions. He would have to use the art of subtlety to get what he needed without alarming the girl and damaging any chances to get the information he needed.

He didn't want to let the words sit in case she retracted them or tried to think of a way to make what she said sound less like a confession. He would have to think quickly. He inclined his head to the left, trying to signal Victor to move away, but the mime was quite curious and started hanging around the area. He didn't seem to be probing in her mind right now, but Alexander knew as well as any that the mime had basically no boundaries. Alexander had to work quickly to dissect the few words Blackbird had given him and come up with a way to prod without prodding.

"Who is he?" That was the main detail he needed to pull out. If there was a plot, it would unravel slowly like the threads of a skein of yarn, but he had to know who the threat was against first.

"Your boss," she grumbled, almost as if she was unwilling to say the name.

Alexander's breath caught in his throat. The Order was getting a lot more daring lately, but this was the first he'd heard of a direct plan against the life of a Lord of the region. He wanted her to speak his name. He needed her to, in fact, to get her condemned. And, in addition to this, her stalling for time might have been part of a larger plan. There might still be a threat to Lord Folgart's life now!

He had to fight very hard to not panic. He took little breaths, watching Blackbird's body carefully for any physical reactions or movements. "Why?" was all he could think of to ask.

"I do what I'm told," she said ironically. Her gaze shifted from Alexander to Victor, and the Guardian wondered if Victor was listening in or otherwise interfering with the questioning process.

Both people knew this wasn't the right answer, not even close. And he hadn't cracked her all the way - he knew of what might be a plot, but he couldn't tell if she had even made that up because she might have thought that was what he wanted to hear. He decided to start rolling a bandage around his hand in what he hoped would appear to be an absentminded way. It would give her a visual cue of the punishment she so feared, and wouldn't require him to remind her over and over again. Not that he thought she was liable to forget; she kept poking at the bandage and grimacing, but whether this was from pain or something else, Alexander couldn't tell.

He decided to talk a bit and wait for her to reciprocate. She was clearly not a talker, but he needed to get her to give a reason. One common technique was praising the enemy - if he praised Lord Folgart for whatever she must have hated him for, she might get angry enough to speak or irate enough to comment on the folly of Guardians. Either way, he would be closer to his answer. "Lord Folgart is a respected member of the Dedrius community. He has lived in its center for many years, and - "

"No he doesn't," she commented. Alexander was surprised at how easily he had been able to get her to talk. He usually started with simple facts, simple enough to be stupid, but apparently she was bothered enough by him that she had a lot to say.

Alexander kept his voice calm and even as he replied, "His villa is in the center of town. He's lived there for many years."

Blackbird snorted. It seemed her emotions were beginning to get unearthed after all. Alexander knew this was far from the end, but it was a good next step. Now, if only she would speak... and it didn't take long for him to get his wish. "He doesn't live in the real Dedrius." Were these the words of a madwoman, or did she truly believe what she meant? Alexander held his tongue, waiting. "He's not on the streets with us. How long has it been since he's seen a person as more than a tool, more than a toy to decorate his little city?"

Alexander knew this was a taunt, and wisely chose to not reply. She kept looking to him, then to Victor, and finally her eyes settled on his face again. "It's true, innit? His villa, and you Guardians, are for the rich. Not for the real people."

Alexander was a bit surprised that she targeted Lord Folgart and seemed to know about living here. Her attire had come from Istin City, although perhaps that had been a decoy. Although the sentiment towards one lord or lady was not difficult to transfer from one to another... He needed to figure out this problem before he could know if it was a local branch of the Order or a larger regional problem from far away. This could mean that more than one lord or lady was in danger. "What is near Lord Folgart's villa?"

It was an unusual question, and she took too long to get out a sarcastic answer of "Shouldn't you know better than I?"

"You are not from Dedrius," he answered, and she didn't challenge him. Her silence was the answer he needed. "Why would a girl from Istin City wind up here in Dedrius?"

She swallowed deeply. Her response, when it came, was not what Alexander had been expecting. "Because there is more than one life at stake, and one of them matters to me."

A chink in the armor, a crack in the veneer. Her shoulders slumped just a bit and yet she still met Alexander's eyes. He wondered who the other person could have been, since she clearly had a distaste for nobility. But who else would the Order care about, in this particular instance? But he couldn't take too long to think. Now that he had seen this vulnerability, now that she was opening up just a bit more, he needed to get her to talk. It was an unusual technique but by now it was instinct for him, after years he knew when was the right time to ask the truly pointed questions. "Who else does the Order want?"

Blackbird did not question at all that she was involved with the Order. Nor did she hem and haw around this answer. "They just want Folgart. Don't ask me why. But if I don't bring back proof of success in the next eleven days, they'll kill my little brother too."

Shit. Shit.

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 Posted: Feb 7 2016, 07:42 PM
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hon·or
noun
A keen sense of ethical conduct; integrity: "a man of honor"


The first cry in her life was not hers, but her mother’s, as she gave birth to the child in the snowstorm. It was not a cry of relief, but rather a cry of desperation. The last thing her mother needed was another mouth to feed. Within a few years, a boy followed, and when the five-year-old girl lifted her scrawny brother from the abandoned home and moved to the streets, she was told this fact. She never doubted it.

"The Order is threatening your brother?" Alexander asked, feeling deja vu. The Order targeted what meant most to people, and in people around his age or younger, it tended to be family. Parents were harder to kill; they had higher-leveled pokemon and more common sense. But siblings, especially younger, especially those who were looking for a way to stand out... He knew he shouldn't talk to her like this. He should just get the information. But the rest of the process had been so circuitous that he could justify this divergence from the usual path.

Blackbird looked at him, eyes shining. "Hard for you to believe, is it? I would have thought you'd think the Order possible of any evil."

Alexander had to calm himself down before he responded. "Quite the contrary," he began, and when he spoke he felt almost like there was something there making him speak. He felt like he couldn't stop himself even if he wanted to. "The Order slaughtered my brother in cold blood, like a stuck pignite." His blood still seethed, to this day. He needed to get revenge in some way. Just the thought that she was in the Order was enough to make his blood feel like it was boiling, but when he looked at her he could tell she was not the type who would condone a brother's murder, especially since she fought so hard for her own. Or he could hope...

She seemed stunned at this revelation. "I thought that was for members... you know, to keep the faithful in line. What reason would anyone have had to kill a Guardian's brother? Did you do something to anger them?"

Well, now she was talking in full sentences. It was more than Alexander had expected from his little confession. It looked like his gamble had paid off, but now that meant he would have to relay some of his brother's story and hope with all his heart that this Blackbird had never met him. "They didn't kill him because of me - or, at least, that's what the survivors of the attack said. He was targeted specifically for himself."

"He must have been important," she mused, then explained a bit more to Alexander. "Killing in the ranks is rare, at least from what I understand..."

It had been one of the reasons why she had joined, in the first place. Feeding two hungry mouths was never easy, even if those mouths belonged to little children. By the time she was ten she could fight passingly well with her hands, and she could pick pockets well enough to eat most days of the week. But whenever her brother said he was hungry, she couldn't resist his big blue eyes. She had to give him everything she had. The others had said she was stupid for being so sentimental, but she believed in protection. And when the Order offered to protect her in exchange for her time and her talents, she couldn't refuse.

"I don't know about that," Alexander began. Most of his information told him that Casper hadn't even been in the Order for that long at the time of his death. "But he had a very rare pokemon in his possession, the likes of which there is likely only one in all of Harper altogether."

Blackbird nearly salivated at the thought of catching rare pokemon. She dreamed, during the long and hard days, what selling such a rare pokemon could have done for her or for her brother. It might have gotten them a house, warm blankets, warm clothes for the frosty Istin winters. Perhaps her brother wouldn't have needed to lose two toes when he was little and she knew too little of safety in the cold. It was what she had wished, at first, when she joined the Order. A quick solution, but perhaps it didn't work as well as she thought it might...

"Likely," she said, and although she was tempted to ask what kind of pokemon he was talking about, she shut her mouth again.

"So they sent you here to do a plot and they're holding him ransom," Alexander said, piecing together her plan as best as he could. "And you came up with something that was going to work. Something you're good at, probably something hidden where you don't have to interact with people at all. An ambush, a bomb planted at his villa, a dangerous pokemon like your rhydon waiting for him outside a dark alley. Something anonymous where you wouldn't get caught and you could just go back to Istin scot-free."

Even that was a long shot. She had been found out recently, and the Order was unable to protect her from Lady Grey's forces. They had sent her on this suicide mission and she had no choice but to accept. She had no choice but to hunt a voltorb and kill it, hunt a weezing and extract its poison, travel by night and sleep by day and try to find this Lord Folgart whose death was the only hope to keep her brother alive. And she had failed. The failure gnawed at her, more than the knives, more than the punches, more than the black eye. She had signed up for the Order to help her brother live, and now she had signed his death warrant.

"And yet you've found yourself here. Captured. And in your mind, it's two lives lost. It's not just you, it's your brother." The more he spoke, the more it was blurry whether he spoke of himself or his prisoner. He was so involved in his work at this point that he could scarcely separate the entities. He just needed to find the danger, and eradicate it. Stick to his vows. But his heart felt for hers, and especially for the boy who he couldn't protect... just like Casper... "How old is he?"

Blackbird looked surprised. "Fourteen. Charlie's fourteen..."

The boy had scarcely lived, and yet this happened all too much in the war between the Guardians and the Order. Casualties happened too frequently, and the young got drawn into the conflict for glory and ended up losing their heads. It was a sickening reality that Alexander hated dealing with. As a Guardian, he believed that human life was something worth respecting and worth saving, but as a Guardian he was also tasked with keeping Dedrius safe. There was no middle ground. He had to choose, and quick. He stared into her eyes and found them brimming with tears again. When he looked at her he saw a young girl staring out for the first time. Not an enemy, not a piece of the Order that killed his brother, but a girl almost his age who was finally out of options.

When she spoke, her voice was quiet and yet strong. "If I'm not back in eleven days with some proof that he's dead, Charlie will die. And it'll all be my fault... I can't do this anymore. Any of it. I can't go on living like this. Please... I can't be alive when he dies."

Promise me you'll come back, Lexie. That was what he had said to her. His last words to her. She had replayed them in her head during the torture, trying to figure out ways to escape. First it had been ways to get out without saying anything. Then it was leaving without saying anything, and crawling out with a broken body. Opening a lock with her non-dominant hand. Walking on feet that felt like all the blood had been drained away. And keeping her mouth shut all the while, until she could see him again. She would say to him then, "I did it." She would say to him, "We can be safe now." Either that, or the wind would howl her regrets at the setting of the sun in eleven days' time when his blood cried out for justice from the frozen ground.

There was a long silence.

"Give me something. Anything," he heard himself say.

Her voice sounded wooden, as if she was no longer alive. "The bomb is in the right corner, behind the building."

Alexander nodded, then he stepped outside and shut the door after Victor had followed him. "I got her," he said. And yet, even as he went through the preparations, found the bomb made of the explosive core of a voltorb and spiked with weezing poison... even as he relayed all the information and was hailed as both a savior and a hero, he knew that there was something missing. And as much as he didn't want to think about it, he couldn't shake the feeling that he really wasn't all that much of a hero if he only saved one of the two lives in danger.

--------------------

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 Posted: Feb 7 2016, 07:42 PM
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Stupidface McNoctowl
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hon·or
noun
One's word given as a guarantee of performance: "on my honor, I will be there"


One day went by. Even in the frenzy of trying to ensure that no more plots existed, there seemed to be a calm in the base. They had figured out the worst of the crises, and people could relax even with the swiftly imposed ban on any humans or pokemon entering or leaving until the execution.

There was no need for a trial, not when the evidence spoke so clearly. The bomb was exactly where she said it would be, and nearby there were tracks of a pokemon that had apparently gone to check on it. Following the pokemon had led to the capture of a far less experienced Order rogue, this time, one who spoke much more easily. The plot was unraveled as a thin skein of yarn dragging back to Istin City. A dispatch was sent to Lady Charolette Grey on the swiftest flying-type pokemon the Guard could find. And the young female rogue called Blackbird was sentenced to hanging.

Alexander spent a great deal of time trying not to think. At the setting of the sun on the first day he had realized there were only ten days until Blackbird's brother would be killed. And yet he was so far away... what could Alexander do? The citizens of Istin City, he tried to convince himself, were well protected by Lady Grey and her force of powerful Guardians. He tried to tell himself that they likely already knew of the plot there, but there was no guarantee, and he knew the often heavy cost of the "what-if" ...

The execution was scheduled for sunset on the following day. Nine was his first thought. Nine days. He wondered what he would be doing on the final day. He would likely be out on a new mission, training his pokemon, and Victor alone would know why he would be so distracted, always looking up at the sky, finding it tinged blood-red with yet another young man he couldn't save.

It was a weakness of his, he knew it, and the worst part was the helplessness. The fact that he was never in the right place or the right time to save young men, boys really, who reminded him of his brother. It had been on his mind since Casper's death and he doubted it would go away. For Casper had been in this building, in one of these very rooms, under the same roof, and there was nothing he could have done. He was too busy torturing someone else, and as a result, he himself was tortured by the knowledge every day.

To his surprise, the prison warden found him at supper that day as he picked at his meal. "Fitzgerald? The prisoner's asking for you."

Alexander was confused, at first. "What?" he asked.

"The girl who's going to get killed. Bomb girl. She wants you, for whatever reason."

Now this, he hadn't expected. He had been prepared to try to leave the situation behind him, for the sake of his own mind, and yet the fact that she had specifically requested him by name made him want to go and see her. He looked around the room, seeing if his pokemon were occupied. Gyro was enthusiastically trying to greet his old machamp, who grunted as he ate on a bench; Amarie and Corvus were making some sort of music by clacking their pincers near a local bard who sometimes played for meals; Victor sat by himself in a corner. Trying not to alert any of them to his departure, he got up from the bench quietly and followed the prison warden without another word. Unbeknownst to him, Victor the mr. mime followed behind, although whether from a desire to know was going on or simply to leave the crowded area behind, no one knew.

The prison warden led him to an area of cells he usually didn't visit. These were where criminals went after their interrogations, while their punishments were being decided. There were only three cells here, and at the moment, two were occupied. The security was even tighter, without even a window from the back, and only a small pane of glass was at the front, covered by bars. It was a dismal scene, especially because even through the bars he could hear the other prisoner, the less experienced Order rogue, groaning loudly. The prison warden used two different keys to open the door.

Blackbird stood by the place at the wall where there would be a window. There were no more chains on her legs, and it seemed she stood with a great deal of effort. Yet she made no sound, even as the door opened and then shut with Alexander inside. Victor, trailing behind, eventually came to a stop in front of the prison and looked in on the man making so much noise. It was quite annoying to him. He wanted the man to stop.

Alexander approached Blackbird. For a long moment the two stood together, silent, looking out of an imaginary window for lack of anything to say. And then she turned to him. "Another day has gone by."

Alexander nodded. He knew exactly what she was talking about.

"I can't leave him behind like this. I thought I could, I thought I was prepared to, but I can't die without knowing that he'll be safe without me."

Alexander simply watched her face. Pain was etched into her features, but rather than the pain of physical torture, he saw the pain he himself was getting accustomed to. And yet hers was fresh, her brother's blood had not yet spilled, and Alexander felt such intense frustration that he wished he could punch through the brick wall and run to Istin and shelter the boy himself.

"I thought of something. One thing that I can do, but it won't be easy, especially now..." She turned to Alexander and put her hand down her shirt. She shuffled around near her top and Alexander averted his eyes naturally. "It's not what you're thinking," she said, and he looked back as she pulled out a heavily dented yet still intactp poke ball.

"You have another pokemon," he said, wondering what else she was hiding from him. Was she simply taking him as a fool?

"It's not what you think, it's not an attacker. It's my murkrow - it's why I'm Blackbird. She's my most faithful friend. I was terrified when the machamp punched me, that her ball would get destroyed... I tried to lean back a bit and present my ribs instead." She pushed the indent in the center of the poke ball and a flying-type pokemon landed on the floor, its distress obvious.

Alexander had never heard her speak so much. It was clear from her tone of voice that this was her last hope, something he had been holding onto for a long time as she waited and endured torture of both mind and body. "She's the fastest murkrow. I've been training her to be fast since the day I got her, two years ago. That's why she's not evolved." It had to do with the money of purchasing an evolutionary stone as well, but she kept this fact to herself. "Please. Let her go. If my brother sees her, he'll know to run. He might not get far, but that'll be up to him. And I will have done something."

Alexander pondered the plan carefully. He knew what she was going to ask him, since she couldn't leave the room and if she tried to release a pokemon it would likely be shot down in front of her. Her last plan, in other words, depended on him. But could he even do anything about it? Could he get around the ban on releasing new pokemon out of the base, especially a flying-type that would be noticed immediately?

Although his brain presented these arguments, his heart could not say no. He believed that being a Guardian meant helping the innocent, and a young boy brought up on the streets was likely no threat unless... "Is your brother in the Order?"

She was quick to answer. "No. They wouldn't take him. He can't run fast because of his toes, but he's great at hiding. He doesn't have pokemon of his own. And he'll never be a threat to you," she hurriedly said.

Alexander knew how he was going to answer before she had even finished speaking. As soon as he knew the boy would be no threat... "I'll try..." he said, and then he watched her kneel to the murkrow on unsteady knees.

"Look at me. This man is going to help us. You have to find Charlie, and you have to tell him to get out of there. I know you're not a psychic, but you have to try..." She reached out her arms a bit and the murkrow hopped into them, giving the human an odd hug. She then tapped the poke ball against the murkrow's side. "Thank you," she said, and Alexander could sense sincere gratitude in her voice.

He stood up and put the poke ball in his belt, trying to blend it in with the others. Before he left, he gave her a gift, the words that he knew would carry her to the gallows with dignity. "I promise you, on my honor as a Guardian, that I will release this murkrow at the soonest opportunity." He intoned his head, just a bit.

One last question. "What is your name?"

She had nothing left to hide. "Lexie."

He had only ever heard the nickname Lexie used for the name Alexandra. It shocked him, then he felt pity. Then he left her, torn between what he longed to do and the lord he had sworn to protect.

Her knees still rested against the floor. She only had one hand to push herself up with. She decided to stay on the floor. Perhaps she would pray. Dying people did that, or at least she heard that from some of the priests of the Church of Arceus who occasionally fed the street children. She didn't know if she believed in Arceus, but she believed the words of the Guardian standing just outside the door, communing with his mr. mime. She believed that he would be able to do something. And with that belief, she prayed until the moment came.

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 Posted: Feb 7 2016, 07:42 PM
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Stupidface McNoctowl
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hon·or
verb
To regard with great respect


Alexander watched the sky for the rest of the day. He wondered what plans were in motion - executions were not all too common, after all - and he wondered what the other involved people were thinking. Who was the hangman, about to take a life, and did he consider that his duty as well? And what was Blackbird - no, Lexie, she had a name - what was she thinking of as she forfeited her life for something that, in her mind, there was no way to avoid?

It would take place in the courtyard. Right where all the official things happened. Public executions were rare enough that the whole city got to talking. Townspeople could come and observe; many would likely bring tomatoes or other rotten vegetables to throw. Then someone would have to clean the rotten vegetables in the courtyard. And that person would go home and live. It was such an odd thing, the cycle of life. So strange and yet holding such a powerful sway on everyday actions.

As the hour loomed, it seemed others too were disturbed by the impending proceedings. Of course, it was the right thing; of that there was no debate. The girl didn't deny putting a powerful bomb in the precise position that would eliminate not only Lord Folgart but other important Guardians. She had not only intended to kill one, but many. Alexander had cringed when he heard where the bomb had been placed. It was near where he used to sleep when he was a new recruit. But for a few years of experience, Alexander or others like him would have suffered...

And yet, in the girl, life and death were intermingled. She did not cry out when they took her from her cell, nor when they helped her with all-too-rough hands to the noose. Nor did she flinch when the vegetables hit her flesh and stained her clothes. And if her eyes strayed from the noose, it was only to look at Alexander.

He had decided to come to the execution. It would be grim, and he knew it would be hard for him both personally and professionally, but he knew that without his presence she would die among a sea of enemies. Not that he and Blackbird - no, Lexie, he reminded himself - weren't enemies, but rather that his honor demanded he keep an oath with her as her last wish. The oath he had made would not enable any more troublemaking and would only save a life. In his mind, there was no difference between that and helping any citizen of Dedrius as a Guardian would. He would interfere with the Order in Istin and perhaps even save the life of a young boy. He had come up with a plan to ensure the boy's loyalty to the Guard, and he would do that, but the child did not deserve to die simply due to his sister's inability to kill. In the girl's eyes he could see the evil of the Order right in front of him, the way they took children off the streets and tried to turn them into killers.

Captivated by his mind, he barely noticed that she was at the top of the gallows. A noose had been constructed and she stood on a stool, partially due to her short height, and yet the hardness of her eyes spoke of nothing but adulthood. She had made the conscious decision to try to murder multiple people. She had to die - but she would die on her own terms.

She spoke no words. Usually, the condemned had a chance to speak. Lord Folgart allowed this, at least. He was there as well, and spoke a few words. The hangman invited Blackbird to speak, and true to how she had been for so long, she kept her lips pursed. With her forefinger she flicked a few fruit seeds off of her body. When asked a second time if she had any last words, she said nothing. But Alexander could still hear her begging him to allow the murkrow to fly away. It was a bit of a dangerous move, but when her eyes found his, he knew he would keep his word.

The stool was taken away, and Alexander watched. He watched her eyes glaze and knew that they must have been seeing something that she had yearned for. Her brother, perhaps, welcoming her home. A thick, warm loaf of bread. A rapidash's warm mane to curl up with on a cold night. Her murkrow flitting around her instead of in a dented poke ball on a Guardian's hip.

Alexander couldn't help but look at her with respect. She was an Order Rogue, his mind wanted to scream, but he respected those who died for what they believed in. She had believed in her own family above the Order, and she had betrayed them by talking to Alexander. Her life was forfeit from the moment she had asked him to stop putting on the bandages. But her brother's life still hung in the balance, and for that she was willing to swing. If she had fought the penalty, it would have taken extra days, and not even the swift articuno could have gotten to Istin City in time. So she had sacrificed herself for a hope, perhaps a foolish hope, maybe even a vain hope, that her brother would be alive and that her last words would be able to save him.

And he wondered, too, if it was his time to die, would he be able to go without a word? Would he fight for those he loved before he died, like his brother Casper had? Would he be able to defend his friends and loved ones, or would his death condemn them as well? His thoughts darted to Caledonia, the noctowl still kept captive by Trictess Blackwell. Not even his brother's death, such a dear price to pay, had saved the golden noctowl from whatever fate she had been condemned to. Alexander would try to be brave. But he didn't know if he had that innate courage that compelled Casper and now this girl to die in the ways they did.

The execution, mercifully, did not take long. She barely had any strength left to fight. Alexander could tell the moment when she died. There was a change in the air, something sinister floating about. Something had changed that could not be reversed. Alexandra, he thought, calling her by a name that was so close to his own, and in a situation that could have easily been his own... Rest in peace.

The crowd began to dissipate under the watchful eyes of the Guardians. They had won the day. Alexander lingered for a few more minutes. When he had finally decided that it was time to leave, he walked backwards for a few steps before he turned away, not noticing any people around him until he had nearly reached the door to go back inside. And then he was inside, but the door was not shut. He could still look back, if he had the courage.

"Fitzgerald?" He recognized the voice. He respected the voice. His eyes gave his last regards to the body getting pulled down from the noose and then turned to face his liege-lord and the new day.

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 Posted: Feb 7 2016, 07:43 PM
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Stupidface McNoctowl
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hon·or
noun
High respect; esteem


Alexander followed Lord Folgart, feeling the eerie similarity to when he first arrived. He knew that this meeting was likely for a happier cause, but he still couldn't help but think about the time he would be using here that he wouldn't be able to get the murkrow out. Unless he specifically asked for permission, of course, but that bore its own risks, and there was no way he could be honest... As he walked in, he shot that plan from his head. He would never lie to Lord Folgart. He had sworn an oath, and even if it was a choice between lying to Lord Folgart about the murkrow or letting the boy die, he would stay true to the Guardians.

He was so caught up in his thoughts that he nearly didn't notice when Lord Folgart spoke. "You did a good job, Fitzgerald," Lord Folgart began as they walked, even before they got to his proper audience room. There wasn't anything to hide anymore, unless of course the murkrow's poke ball was being considered.

Alexander bowed low to Lord Folgart. It had not been his effort alone, he knew that. Many interrogators had worked to give her the wounds that he had tried to heal in getting her to speak, and there was also the Guardian who had originally captured her and the other rogue working with her. "It was not my work alone, but I appreciate it," he said.

Lord Folgart smiled. Alexander did feel proud of himself, but that was definitely not the only feeling whirling around in his head at the moment. "You underestimate yourself, Fitzgerald. Several other interrogators failed to do what you did, and you saved not only my life but also the lives of other Guardians who would have been at the base near the bomb. You are one of the best interrogators of the Dedrius Guardians, and I do not forget that."

Alexander couldn't question this - it was his liege lord speaking, after all - but he didn't feel like he had saved all the lives yet. The plot could still exist... "My lord, may I recommend taking measures to ensure that Lady Grey knows of this plan?" This, he knew, there was no harm in asking about. And Lady Grey was rumored to be extremely vigilant in her city... he had no doubt that if she found out about any sort of plot against any lord or lady's life, she would take immediate and harsh action.

Lord Folgart nodded, although he didn't tell Alexander what he had planned. He would send a message of some sort, but the younger Guardian didn't need to know any of these things. Now that the plot was known, the upper echelons could decide on their own what to do. The interrogator's role in this was done... "I have selected a reward for you," he said, and with a motion of his arm, a new Guardian - Violet - appeared with a small burlap sack in her hands. She handed it to Alexander.

Alexander didn't open the sack or explore the contents yet, but he could hear the clinking of some gold. "I am grateful to you, my lord," he said with another bow.

"And I to you, for preventing this catastrophe," Lord Folgart said, and then dismissed Alexander, who bowed low again and backed out of the room to be polite.

When he exited, Alexander wished he had more time in there. He needed to ask for permission to let the murkrow out... he asked one of the Guardians at the door whether pokemon were allowed to go out and hunt, and the other man looked at him oddly before responding that the kitchens should have enough food for the pokemon until the last efforts were made to ensure that the building was safe. Likely, this meant the other execution, but it hadn't even been scheduled yet... he was running out of time if he wanted to honor Blackbird's last wish.

Violet left the room a minute later, smiling at Alexander as she returned to her duties. Other Guardians looked at him favorably, and he had no choice but to spend some time socializing with some of the Guardians he had known from his five years living at the base. Between the greetings from well-wishers and old friends, he barely had enough time to gather his pokemon together before dinner. Night fell soon after, and although he was provided for in the barracks, he knew he had to stay awake at least a little while longer. He had to come up with a foolproof plan...

--------------------

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 Posted: Feb 7 2016, 07:43 PM
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hon·or
verb
Fulfill (an obligation) or keep (an agreement)


Alexander sat in a common area with his pokemon, keeping to himself as his mind churned out new ideas. His pokemon socialized voraciously, enjoying their time out of their poke balls; it was often too dangerous to let them out on a regular basis unless they were training, working, or battling. Corvus and Amarie were clacking their pincers at each other and at a few young krabby being managed by a Guardian breeder, Victor was communing with a munna drifting around near the ceiling, and Gyro alone stuck close to his handler, sensing Alexander's worry. Even though Victor was more adept at sensing emotions, he didn't necessarily care enough to intervene; Gyro, who had a closer bond with his handler, noticed that the Guardian was feeling down and decided to sit on a low bench near him.

The only pokemon who wasn't released was the murkrow. Alexander didn't even know the pokemon's name, and he had only seen her once. She could very easily have a grief-stricken reaction and attack him if he didn't play his cards carefully, yet even as he sat and pondered, time was draining away. There was only so much time that remained in his other mission, and as he sat with Gyro, he tried to think of as many options as possible - because breaking the promise was not one.

The windows were still sealed, and Alexander only knew of two ways to get them open - ask someone to do it, which would alert them to his plan, or find a way to get somewhere private and ask Victor to help bend the bars far enough for the murkrow to escape. This was a possibility, but the clanking noise it would produce would surely lead to discovery by the other Guardians, and Alexander would look even more suspicious. And he had to release the murkrow inside if he wasn't allowed outdoors... it would blend in once it began to fly, but he needed to give it a parcel to bring to Blackbird's younger brother.

Alexander rummaged through the rucksack that Lord Folgart gave him and found some coins, not too many, but enough for the boy to perhaps be able to buy his way out of the city. From there, he would be on his own, but he would also have a very loyal and swift pokemon to join him. He had also found an excuse to rummage through the laundry earlier in the day, and he had managed to find a relatively whole blue harp insignia in the scrap bin, ready to be resewn onto a new piece of armor. He left five gold pieces in the basket and took the patch with the insignia on it. He had then found time to empty the rucksack into his normal traveling bag, and he put the extra coins and the Guardian insignia in the rucksack along with a note. He was sure the boy wouldn't be able to read, but he hoped he was not too stupid and knew better than to show a note accompanied by a harp insignia to someone in the Order.

But now he had to give the bag to the murkrow, and allow it to escape. He tapped his foot against the floor as he thought, rejecting different plans. He soon decided that he had to do it in a way that absolutely no one would be able to figure out, but that only added complications since the base was so secure. Especially the interrogation cells... he had almost wished he had been able to allow her to open a window in the brick cell before she was taken out, but in the cells of prisoners waiting execution, there were no windows due to the possibility of escape.

But then, he got an idea. It would require Victor, but he would be able to make noise that wouldn't be questioned. He had just increased his reputation as a skilled interrogator, and the intake cells did have windows... they were small and had large bars, but it was worth a try to have Victor bend them. He stood up slowly and approached the mr. mime, drawing him away from the munna. The mime grunted in annoyance but followed. He nodded politely to his fellows as Gyro started demonstrating how he could spin upside down. Mentally, Alexander thanked Gyro, wishing the fighting-type could hear him. Instead, though, he simply had to hurry down the corridor.

He and Victor made it over to the cells, where a lone interrogator was waiting, shuffling his feet. Alexander wasn't expecting a guard at this time of night, but he knew he had to think of something legitimate - and quickly - before the other interrogator got suspicious.

"Can I help you?" he asked.

Alexander thought as quickly as he could, keeping his body signals calm. He knew better than any that an interrogator was trained to notice suspicious or guilty fidgeting. "I'm coming here for repairs. Victor has just informed me," he looked at the mime with what he hoped was a look of impatience, and then internally cringed, hoping Victor wouldn't hate him, "that the bars of the window in the room where Blackbird was kept were damaged by the interrogation attempts. Victor can use his Confusion move to set the bars right. We cannot afford an escape," he said confidently.

The other interrogator peeked into the room, finding that the bars looked straight, but believed Alexander due to his reputation as well as a healthy fear of the mr. mime glowering at him. "Go on in," he said hesitantly, his eyes fixed on Victor. No matter how brave he was around other people and pokemon, he had seen enough psychic torture to be wary of even half-psychics.

"Make sure no one comes in, whatever you may hear. It might get noisy to repair the bars."

The other man nodded as Alexander and Victor entered the room, and shut the door. This time there was no prisoner, and yet Alexander could feel her presence quite strongly from his memories. He didn't think a ghost-type pokemon had spawned at her death - that was a rather rare occurrence, after all - but he still felt the chill he associated with death. He wanted to get this done quickly and get out of here.

"Victor, help me move this bar over here," he said to the mime, pointing at a bar that leaned just a slight bit to the left. Victor began concentrating intently, and the metal began to squeak. Sweat poured down the mr. mime's head and the bar moved by small increments. As the squeaking got louder, Alexander felt there was enough noise to mask the release of the murkrow.

She flitted around the cell nervously, not looking at Alexander. Her wings were flapping noisily. If she hadn't been a dark-type, Alexander would have asked Victor to intervene, but he had to do this work himself... "Your handler, Blackbird - Lexie - she wants you to take this to her brother."

The murkrow looked at him dubiously, and cawed a few times.

"No, you've got to be quiet - not you, Victor, you need to be louder - " He tried to carefully manipulate the volume, afraid that at any moment the guard would walk in and see that he was in fact widening the space between the bars... "We met, remember? She told me to help out. She's dead, okay? She's gone," he said in desperation as the murkrow cawed again.

The murkrow quieted, landing near Victor. The bar was bending even farther. The bird looked out of the window, her emotions unreadable as she shut herself off to emotional reading by Victor. The mime shrugged at Alexander and returned to his hard work.

"This was her last wish, she needs you to bring this parcel to her brother. It's got some gold in it, he won't be hungry anymore. And I need you to help him escape. For her sake," he pleaded, hoping that the murkrow wouldn't protest when he tied a knot halfway through the large rucksack and showed her where she could hold it in her beak. "Almost there..." he groaned, and as soon as the murkrow chirped and grabbed the bag, one of the bars shattered. It wasn't the hoped-for result, but it would have to work, and quickly...

"Go! Get out of here, go free! Save Charlie!" he whispered frantically in the murkrow's ear before the bird took wing. She was indeed fast, and although a flutter of movement was noticed by an outside guard, her dark coloring as well as the dark leather of the rucksack meant she blended in nearly perfectly with the night sky.

Alexander could only take a second to watch her disappear before he opened the door. "The bars are more damaged than we thought - even Victor couldn't repair them. I would find a metalsmith as soon as possible, and until then, we should refrain from keeping prisoners in this cell."

The guard looked at him slightly dubiously, but his attitude changed when he saw the shattered bar. "Oh, it's good you found that, although I don't know how she did it..." He accepted a few of the fragments of the bar from Victor, who was now levitating them around for seemingly no reason. "Thank you. If she had managed to get out..."

Alexander nodded. He couldn't bear to lie to another Guardian any longer. Nodding his head politely, he excused himself from the room.

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 Posted: Feb 7 2016, 07:43 PM
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Alexander's thoughts were fraught with worry as he prepared to go to bed that night. His pokemon were safely in their poke balls, and the dented poke ball with the murkrow had been damaged irreparably. But at the same time, he wondered if he had done the right thing...

What was permissible? he wondered... what was he allowed to do on a mission that would still ensure he was better than the Order rogues who he fought against? His darkest fear was becoming one of them, losing his humanity and only going for the easy win, the quick fight with underhanded tactics... And using death as an ally rather than an enemy like Blackbird herself had done...

He thought, again, about the oath he had taken as his eyes sought the bunk bed above him. He could hear the snoring of at least two other people. It was comforting to be in this group, comforting to have a place to belong, but at the same time... He had lied to a Guardian today. Did that mean he forfeited his membership? Was he just as evil as the rogues who he fought against every day, and who used lies as proficiently as they used swords and arrows?

He thought, carefully, about everything that had happened since the beginning of this mission. He had been chosen specifically for this, chosen to walk the line of the Guardians' oath as he used torturous techniques on suspected Order rogues. The Guardians had a necessity for such things but that was never in the oath. He had always considered doing a good job and obeying orders to be a large part of how he perceived himself as a good person, but he wondered... Lord Folgart had executed a girl today. Even though she did deserve to die for her crimes, she was the product of a system that had produced the poverty and desperation that lured her into trouble... Was it not the duty of a Guardian to try to improve these conditions in addition to fighting the rogues whose anger resulted from it?

So his goodness came from obedience and from his own good performance, acknowledged both before and after the mission. He had a reputation, and yet this reputation invoked fear in the eyes of many who didn't understand how he could touch the line of good and evil without falling across it irreparably. And yet he also believed in the value of a promise, and in keeping his words as honest as possible whenever he wasn't in the interrogation room. When he had spoken to the young prisoner that last time, he had spoken to her not as the criminal Blackbird but as the young girl Lexie who forfeited her life for her brother. He admired her cause and her bravery, but she was still an Order rogue, and he had made his promise to her along those lines. But what if he had inadvertently helped the Order...?

Alexander needed the Guardians. He knew this. He had needed them for the past five years of his life, not only as protection but as a place to belong and a place to grow where he could learn how to become a good person. For five years he believed he had studied the best that the world had to offer. But now he was beginning to see these shades of grey, these unexplored areas where he might have to do evil for the sake of the good... how was he supposed to reconcile this with his innate belief that he was, indeed, a good person?

His eyes closed and he pictured the events of the last few days, running through them in his mind as if viewing a video. He had done right by Lord Folgart, and he had also done right by Lexie. He pictured her murkrow flying as fast as the winds could carry her, gliding towards Charlie. He pictured the fourteen-year-old boy finding the murkrow and grieving but running away, holding onto that grief until the right moment. As Alexander had done, when his own brother had died. And when he came to his final conclusion about what he had done, it was Charlie's face he pictured.

He had never seen the boy. He had no idea if he was short or tall, what color hair he had, what pokemon accompanied him, if any. But he did know that Charlie, if he got the murkrow in time, would be able to leave the Order. Weakening the group from within, without killing an innocent boy who had been dragged in. Saving him before he was given the next mission to assassinate someone else and turned into the monster the city of Dedrius found in his sister. Alexander knew it would be a long and hard route for Charlie, but if the boy was anything like his sister, Alexander had no doubt he could do it.

It got him thinking about honor. What did it mean, really? A man could honor an oath or a pledge, or bring honor to others. He could act honorably or believe in honorable things. But what did these all mean, without helping others? What did it mean without making the world a better place? Honor for its own sake was nothing, yet to Alexander, honor meant he would change the world to save a life. That was his definition, and he aimed to stick to it every day for the rest of his life as he drifted off to sleep in the Guardian barracks in Dedrius.

To most people he met, Alexander was a man of honor, in his work and his deeds. He always kept his promises. And yet he was an unusual Guardian for he believed, oddly enough, in a second chance. And although the boy named Charlie did not know the name of the one who had helped him, as the young man disappeared into the night a few days later, he worried the Guardian emblem between his palms.

-------------

Summary:
- Alexander was solicited for a difficult interrogation on a prisoner named Blackbird
- By using complex techniques based in reverse psychology, he managed to unearth and foil a plot on Lord Folgart’s life
- The prisoner, Blackbird, also asked him to send her murkrow to her brother to try to tell him to escape after her execution
- Blackbird was executed, and after Lord Folgart acknowledged that his mission was successful, Alexander released the murkrow
- Alexander questioned whether he did the right thing and started thinking more seriously about the virtue of honor

Rewards being sought:
- Attempting to get a new honor aptitude, based on 5 years in the Guard and his understanding of and adherence to the nine definitions presented in this freeform
- Experience for the interrogation aptitude, based on the successful interrogation
- Mission rewards from Lord Folgart (maaaaaybe?) although some of the money went to Blackbird’s brother Charlie

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Rosalie
 Posted: Mar 14 2016, 11:19 AM
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Alright! I'll give you a 6 for honor on this as your starting base because of the conflict between orders and what was meant to be seen as being right here and how he responded to it. Further and more difficult conflicts and decisions will provide chances to show through his actions if he merits more as you go along. http://i832.photobucket.com/albums/zz241/HarperRegion/Sprites/Emoticons/1.png


Now, for Interrogation.
Writing Quality and Length [ 3/4 ]
Two for length, one for quality. Length is definitely there, but I'd like to see you work more on the flow of the writing. Being more concise often confers a greater impact on the reader, as well as letting readers work out some things on their own from implications rather than saying it outright -- consider, for example, this excerpt:
QUOTE
He decided to talk a bit and wait for her to reciprocate. She was clearly not a talker, but he needed to get her to give a reason. One common technique was praising the enemy - if he praised Lord Folgart for whatever she must have hated him for, she might get angry enough to speak or irate enough to comment on the folly of Guardians. Either way, he would be closer to his answer. "Lord Folgart is a respected member of the Dedrius community. He has lived in its center for many years, and - "

"No he doesn't," she commented. Alexander was surprised at how easily he had been able to get her to talk. He usually started with simple facts, simple enough to be stupid, but apparently she was bothered enough by him that she had a lot to say.

Alexander kept his voice calm and even as he replied, "His villa is in the center of town. He's lived there for many years."


There is a lot of filler text here that really breaks up the conversation. You may want to consider instead working on it so that it comes out as something like this:

QUOTE
Sometimes, a prisoner answers conversation better than questions. "Lord Folgart is a respected member of the Dedrius community. He has lived in its center for many years, and - "

"No he doesn't."  Perfect.

His voice was calm and even as he continued, "His villa is in the center of town. He's lived there for many years."

He let the challenge in the words resonate for a moment. She had answered back surprisingly quickly, but he couldn't let it show.


By removing much of the explanation, you get a bit of conversation that flows for the reader much more effectively, and the short comments appended to the dialogue do a better job of showing, for example, Alexander's experience with interrogation, his satisfaction that the tactic worked, and the way I assume he was trying to irritate her into conversation.

Efficiency and Plausibility [ 2/6]
Since you already have a 7 in this, I would have wanted to see much more complex maneuvers -- it seems like getting her to talk happened with very little effort, especially for a woman who withstood every other method all of the Guard could throw at her. What made Alex's kindness particular among any number of pains and probably as many attempts at a good cop/bad cop dynamic? All in all, I was fairly disappointed here. In the future, focus more on giving him a real challenge, rather than stating that it's a challenge! This was a very good premise, but it wasn't pulled off as well as it could have been, whether because Blackbird/Lexie was underdeveloped or because Alexander seemed to be able to do what no one else could with very simple techniques matters less than that there was no challenge here that I could see. In terms of efficiency, I'd refer to the above on trying to be more concise, and saying more with less. I'll give you a one for each of these, so two total.

WOW Factor [ 0/3 ]
Just didn't do it for me in terms of wow factor -- sorry!


Five points total!

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Korosensei
 Posted: Apr 6 2016, 12:51 AM
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Tu Fui, Ego Eris
Aptitudes: Speaking, Honor


Every step along the road reminded Alexander of memories. Unsolicited, they pried their way into his mind. He could feel each vibration of each foot as he plodded along the dirt path. For some reason, he felt like he should take this path home. Not the road, where he might meet citizens in need or those looking for a hero to hail. He didn't have time for either of those. No, he needed to trespass upon the paths of the forest, live in the danger of not knowing when a wild pokemon could erupt from the grass or the trees. He needed it to feel alive.

With each thump of his feet on solid ground or squish of a shoe in mud, his poke balls jangled at his belt. Corvus, the bug-type who likely felt at home in this forest. Who might even want to leave, if given the opportunity to dart out into the woods he had once called home before being captured by an Order member named Draven. Amarie, constantly ready for a fight, and growing more in size and impulsivity each time she was released. Victor, the abused mr. mime who was somehow becoming close to Alexander. Gyro, the loyal fighting-type who would go to hell and back for Alexander. And then on the other side of Alexander's belt, all alone, lay a pokemon who had literally gone to hell and back.

Alexander couldn't bear to think about Casper. Now that he had caught him, he had no excuse to not do the right thing and tell his family what had happened. Yet he was still processing his own feelings and sometimes even breathing with the conspicuous Ultra Ball on his hip was too much. His own conflicted heart was preventing him from releasing any of his usual companions. Even the idea of having another pokemon with him, even if the pokemon was going to try to console him, was too much at the moment. He needed to be alone in this place, his and Casper's childhood haunt.

He couldn't remember how many times he saw Casper, disgruntled, leaving home and finding solace in the Edgewood. This was always his place of escape from everyone he ever resented, including his older brother. Alexander had let him go into the forest, alone and oblivious of the dangers. He was at fault for any harm that had happened to Casper because of this.

And yet, was he as guilty as he seemed? With a lurch in his throat he saw the familiar dark blue door of his home looming in the distance. What had at first seemed an insurmountable distance was now reduced to a hundred feet. He tried to brace himself for the sorrow and pain that was sure to come, and yet he didn't even know who would suffer the most once he had unleashed his news. His parents had lost a son. Alexander lost a brother and bore the blame for his death. And Casper would surely want to know the location of his shiny noctowl, Caledonia.

"Alexander?" A voice broke through his thoughts, and before he could even react, he felt the strong arms of his mother around him. "Alexander's home!"

Alexander felt sick to his stomach. His mother was so happy to see her son, and he was about to ruin her entire life. His words would be the end of her happiness, just as they had been the end of his.

"Welcome home, son," Gerald joined in. Alexander noted a few scratches on his arms from his work. Life had gone on for him in the absence of his two stepsons. He held out his large hand and Alexander shook it.

"Come in, please, and tell us everything," his mother said. For a brief moment Alexander wondered if she already knew, but the smile on her face told him she didn't. "So, tell us everything - I was so worried when I heard you were pulled from the base and sent out. I've worried every day. It's such a relief to see you safe," she chattered as she brought out a plate with a few thick slices of bread.

At first, Alexander felt unable to talk. He saw his parents staring at him and eventually remembered he had to say something. "I'm not hungry," he mumbled as Gerald grabbed a piece of bread and began slathering it with rich miltank butter. Alexander suddenly felt oppressed in the space, constrained in the small cottage. He could see the two beds meant for him and Casper, and couldn't breathe.

"Son, is everything all right?" Gerald asked.

It took Alexander a minute to answer, and it wasn't at all anything he prepared. "Can... Is it all right if I bring out a pokemon of mine?" He reached not for the ultra ball he knew he needed to show his parents but for the mr. mime who he somehow knew would understand. Victor emerged from the poke ball and sat gingerly in a wooden chair, bewildered.

Alexander's parents stared at each other. Alexander kept his eyes fixed on the mr. mime if only to avoid seeing the two beds. But then he heard a voice in his head, a familiar tone with an unfamiliar gentleness. He touched the Psychic Amulet atop his shirt as he listened. "Just do it. It won't get any easier."

He nodded once at Victor and then tried to summon the courage to speak. "I'm happy to be here, and happy to see you, but I have to tell you two things. I can't lie and say it's good news, but... maybe there is some potential for good with the second part," he was grasping at straws, trying in vain to take that concerned look off his mother's face as his stepfather eased her into a chair.

Silence.

Then, a single voice, the harbinger of sorrow: "Casper is dead."

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Korosensei
 Posted: Apr 23 2016, 01:20 PM
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Hardly a moment passed by before a wail erupted from the distraught mother. It appeared that she was beyond words at this point, and the sound she made seemed to transcend the room and go straight into Alexander's soul, twisting like a knife. He felt his gut twist and he tensed up, waiting for everything to end.

As nonverbal as his mother was, Gerald jumped in with what felt like a thousand questions. "But... what happened? How? When? Why didn't we know sooner?"

Alexander could only answer a few of the questions. His voice sounded deadpan and his mother leaned in, stopping her sobs if only to hear any sort of explanation for her son's death. The words felt like sandpaper in Alexander's mouth. He scarcely noticed Victor sitting beside him or his parents or anything else besides the ultra ball that he now held in his hands, cradled like an infant in his clammy palms.

"He was murdered... It was a little while ago, I've been trying to... I didn't know how to come back here without him."

"Murdered?" Carlotta said, her voice shaking.

"We can avenge him - right, Alexander?" Gerald looked to him for an explanation. He seemed to have aged ten years since Alexander walked through the door of his home. Now he simply looked like a defeated old man without much of a purpose at all.

"I want to, but I don't think... it would risk the lives of a lot of people if we were going to try to do that. And pokemon. Victor agrees that it's a bad idea," he grasped at straws, looking over to the straight-faced mime for approval. "Casper was murdered by Trictess Blackwell."

Gerald looked puzzled. "The trictess..." he said tentatively as if he expected her to fly through the window and kill him for speaking her name. "But what would she want with Casper? He's just a boy..."

This was the difficult part. This was the part, Alexander knew, that would drag him down into the mess. He clutched the ultra ball tighter, careful not to press the white button in its center quite yet. "He was in the Order. He tried to get out to protect a pokemon friend, and the Guardians didn't believe him. He got caught in the middle." Now was not the time to talk about the shiny noctowl. That could come later, when the initial shock had passed and the parents could feel proud of their son.

Carlotta and Gerald looked at each other, then back at their son. "I thought he was going to join the Guardians. That's what he told us before he left. He said he'd go find you and he'd be safe with you."

"I thought you were going to look after him," Carlotta said in a shaky voice.

Alexander was about to shatter. His breath whooshed out of his lungs as abruptly as if he too had been attacked. His shaking hand moved as if of its own accord as his voice broke through the silence following his mother's statement. "I wasn't there. Not until it was too late. I wasn't there for him, but... I am now. I can do it now," he said as he stood up from the chair, supporting himself on wobbly legs, as he held out the ultra ball.

With a flash of red light, the yamask emerged. His golden mask shimmered in front of his astonished parents, who clung to each other in fear before realizing exactly what they were seeing...

"Mom, Gerald... meet Casper."

At that moment, several things happened at once. Carlotta slipped under the table silently, her head hitting the ground as she fainted. The sound of two slaps echoed through the room as Victor tried to wake her up. Gerald took several steps back, determinedly looking everywhere but at the yamask's golden mask bearing his stepson's face.

"Get that thing out of here," he grunted.

Alexander and Gerald stared at each other for a long moment as the yamask hovered between them, his expressionless face finding Carlotta's as she peeled herself off the floor. Her cheeks were flushed from Victor's slaps - even though he had tried to be gentle, he was still a very powerful pokemon. He shrugged at Alexander, who didn't even notice, as Carlotta started to get closer to Casper. Wordlessly, she held out a hand and touched his mask.

He had thought he would never see her again. It hadn't been her face in his mind when he died, but he had thought of her afterwards, almost as an afterthought. He had failed not only himself but also his family. It was one of the things that kept him alive, that ripped his soul out from the beyond and brought it back to this plane of existence. He had never considered a reunion. But he stayed still as she touched him, his eyes watching as her face bloomed with tears and her arms - her arms -

With a sob, Carlotta flung her arms around the yamask, holding him tightly to her body.

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 Posted: Apr 23 2016, 02:23 PM
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When she touched him, he could feel it all again. The loamy soil beneath his feet. The bright flash of light, one of the last things his eyes saw - and Caledonia swooping down, larger than before, trying to do anything she could to save him.

But now, the memory was different. He could hear himself saying the words of the plan, not realizing that there was a psychic-type listening in or that he could have stopped the interference with a well-placed Dark Pulse from his new gothita. He could see the looks of hatred from Guardians and Order rogues alike. He even saw Blackwell's face in the moments before she...

Just the thought caused him to seize up with pain. His body twisted as it remembered its own fragility, the way the sword had penetrated his skin as easily as if he had been nothing more than a pool of water. Driving the breath from his lungs the ground from his feet the strength from his knees the scream from his lips that made Cal turn back don't turn back run run RUN


The yamask's body jerked in midair, then with a horrific screech, Casper began spinning around and around, his hands holding his mask in front of his stomach, his eyes streaming with tears, his mask shaking as a giant burst of black energy began to form.

"Casper! Casper, it's me, it's Alexander - you're safe, Casper," Alexander stammered, not knowing exactly what to do. Carlotta stumbled back from the force of the movement, and she found herself in Gerald's arms. The older man looked at the yamask with disgust.

Alexander climbed on top of the table, trying to intercept the yamask before he could hurt anyone. His red eyes were blank, pupils enlarged, as a ghostly hand reached for the Shadow Ball he had been creating. Alexander tried one last thing - he smiled, hoping this might unlock his brother's humanity.

And then, with a great flash, a Barrier erupted in front of Alexander. The table groaned loudly at the force of Victor's retaliation, and Alexander rolled off it as quickly as he could as the wood began to splinter. The yamask, hit by his own Shadow Ball, began to drift down towards the ground, and landed with a soft flump. Victor approached the prone yamask, waiting for orders, but Alexander crawled closer. He propped himself up on his elbows and looked into his brother's wide-blown eyes, trying to see something he knew he couldn't.

But Victor could. Casper was doing nothing to shield his mind, he wore each thought openly, and even a half-psychic could get in and see what was happening. Before he knew it, Victor was sucked into the ghost's mind.

Victor could tell Casper was there. He had never seen the boy as a human, but he could sense the ferocity of the hatred emanating towards the figure who skewered the boy like a kabob. Blood bubbled at his lips as he sank to his knees. Victor had trouble concentrating. The pain was so intense, he could feel it burning between his eyes as he tried to get even deeper into the memory. The night was dark. The noctowl was bright. Truly, a single light in the darkness. The blood looked black in the darkness after the noctowl had gone. It tasted slick like an octillery's ink.

The words coming from his murderer's mouth. Then a mercy, the sword drawing across his throat. Intense pain, then nothing. No breath left in his lungs, he flopped like a magikarp on the ground, then at last his fatally wounded body lay still. If he could have spoken, he would have thanked her. Thanked her for putting him out of his misery, for not making him have to breathe anymore...

Victor watched the boy's eyes shut from the inside. They watched a golden noctowl burst into the sky, free, bright, but then she was dragged down. He couldn't scream with no voice. He couldn't tell her to run anymore. The mantra screamed in Victor's head. He didn't know how much longer he could take it. At last, he felt a brief stop - a respite from all the pain, sweet relief, the calming presence of death who had come to take him at last - and then the yamask burst out of the body, unseen in the darkness, running, running...


The mime snapped out of the vision, recoiling from the yamask's pain. It was so much deeper than he had expected - so much more than he had been prepared for - that he himself was struggling to breathe. He barely noticed that Alexander had been able to find the ultra ball from under the table and the yamask had gone away. It was simply too sudden.

Alexander heaved a deep breath. The poke ball shook, but soon quieted down. He looked over to Victor, whose eyes were surprisingly pain-filled. He stood up, brushing wood splinters off his armor, and looked over to his scared parents huddled together. "I don't know what that was - he's never done that before. Never had much of a reaction before - I'm so sorry, I can help pay for the table - "

His voice broke off as he heard a voice in his head. Touching his chest, he felt that the Psychic Amulet remained undamaged even after the attack. "I saw it all..." Victor said hesitantly.

Alexander nearly pounced on the mime. "What do you mean, you saw it? What just happened?"

Victor tried to share as much of the image as possible. The boy who had once been Alexander's brother bleeding out into the ground, his face pale and pasty in the darkness, the noctowl captured, the yamask emerging. The sheer pain of it all, and everything coming from his stomach...

"I've heard of this. Sometimes, ghost pokemon relive what happened to them. He... when he died, he had a sword through his..." He tentatively touched his stomach, not even able to imagine the immense amount of pain Casper must have been in. "Maybe you touching him there did something to him, but he's not like that. He's the same Casper. And he cares for the same pokemon that he owned before he died. A golden noctowl named Caledonia."

Gerald and Carlotta looked at each other incredulously. A golden noctowl was nearly unheard of - and the fact that their son was in company with one when he died somehow seemed to make things worse. "He died trying to protect her from the Order. I doubt they would have let him survive even if he had defected in time. A golden noctowl is simply too valuable." And Casper's life wasn't.

The family stood in silence for a few moments, not meeting each other's eyes. Surprisingly, it was Carlotta who spoke first. "We need to have a funeral."

"Excuse me?" Alexander said, slightly shocked. Hadn't she just seen Casper with her own eyes? Even though he wasn't human, he was still alive...

A look from Gerald silenced Alexander. "We can hold a funeral for him out in the woods. He'd like that, I think. We could bring out all the pokemon - and a priest, too." Carlotta nodded.

No other words were exchanged. Alexander knew the feeling of needing to be alone with grief. Nodding respectfully, he left the house, resolved to not come back until he could find a priest. There were only two problems, though - the Church was likely not too happy with his recent actions, and he himself did not believe...

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[OOC: I'd like to establish Casper's trigger as being touched around his stomach area due to the stomach wound that killed him. He saw the slit throat as a mercy at that point, so he wouldn't be as traumatized by it as much.]

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The Stonehearted Lady

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 Posted: Apr 28 2016, 10:56 PM
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Stupidface McNoctowl
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The morning they chose was beautiful. The kind of day one saw in paintings, where people wore nothing less than their brightest smiles and pokemon frolicked in the early morning dew. It was the worst morning for a funeral - at least, Alexander thought so as he rolled out of bed and walked into the kitchen.

"Are you hungry? Your... pokemon, are they hungry too?" his mother asked. From the look in her eyes, it seemed she had been awake all night. Gerald sat at the table, staring off into the distance. It was unclear if he even saw Alexander as he ruffled his hair and sat down across from his mother.

"Not really." No one spoke after that. The gulf between them was too wide and raw to enable deeper speech. They sat in silence as the morning breeze wafted through the window, bringing Carlotta's jumpluff into the small house. She chirped pleasantly, looked around, and settled down on her handler's head.

The sudden appearance of a pokemon in the space reminded Alexander of one last preparation he had to make. He had seen to almost everything - the flowers that would be planted under Casper's favorite tree had been delivered, the townspeople familiar with Casper knew the date and time, and even a priest from the local Church of Arceus was prepared to come in to comfort the mourners who still believed. It was part of a facade of belief for Alexander. He couldn't believe in an Arceus that would do nothing to help his brother when there had been a shiny noctowl, an equally mythical pokemon, who had intervened. The only person who still needed to be informed was Casper himself.

Alexander reached for the poke ball, and before his stepfather's disgruntled look could make him question this behavior, he released the yamask into his house again. Casper floated around a bit, noting the fractured kitchen table, before Alexander began speaking. "Casper, I've gotten some friends and family together. We want to honor you... I know you never had a real funeral, but I want you to know that we still care about you and want you to begin to feel at rest. Is that okay?"

A hush fell over the kitchen as the ghost contemplated what had just been said. He was getting a funeral? For real? He knew it couldn't be a true funeral, not even he knew the location of his body, but it would at least be a step. He was about to nod his assent before Gerald burst into the conversation angrily. "Did I or did I not tell you to get that thing out of here?"

Shocked, Alexander confronted his stepfather. "What do you mean? This is Casper's soul. Casper, your son, the one we're remembering today? Why shouldn't he have a part?"

"It's unnatural. Hanging in the air like that holding his face. It's not right, Alexander. Surely you can see that," he said, beginning to raise his voice. Casper floated in the middle, caught between his family members.

"The way he looks shouldn't mean he's not your son. He died for something he believed in, can't you respect that?"

"I do respect that! But that's the task of a man, not a boy just leaving his parents' house. A boy! He wasn't even eighteen yet and he threw his life away and now the universe is playing a sick joke on us by putting his face on this thing - "

"A yamask is not a thing! A yamask is a soul whose purpose was unfulfilled. It's noble for him to want to come back after all the pain he endured and still want to fight - "

"Of course his purpose was incomplete! He was a seventeen-year-old boy! But bringing that thing here into this house just shows your mother and I how much we failed, how little we did for him, enough that he had to come back to life after death to accomplish what he wanted," he huffed out. Alexander looked at him, aghast and unsure of what to say, and could have kissed the person who knocked on the door a few moments later, giving him a reason to walk away from the conflict.

He opened the door to find a few Guardians from the base. Some were interrogators like him; others came by because of their friendship with Alexander. A representative from Lord Folgart was there - of course the lord wouldn't have come himself, and it was a sticky situation because many Guardians died because of Casper's actions, so a minor clerk was sent to fulfill this duty. Among the group of Guardians stood a priest in his frock, who was the first to speak. "I am so sorry for your loss," he began.

"Thank you," Alexander said as he walked outside. "We're doing the ceremony outside. I think Casper would have wanted that." With one last look at the yamask, who positioned himself near the window so he could hear, Alexander walked out of his home, followed by his parents.

When he stepped outside, he found several of his pokemon milling around near Gerald's solrock and leafeon. Clover chattered eagerly at the leafeon, for one, and Victor broke off his communication with the solrock when he noticed Alexander's presence. The Guardian walked over to the pots of flowers that he had purchased from a merchant in town. The petals were bright golden; he thought Casper would like that, considering what he died for. Aside from that, there weren't many preparations. There was not a body to bury, so this event was more of a celebration of life than a funeral. Still, it was a small gesture Alexander could make that might help make up for the mistakes he made that led to his brother's demise...

He tried to sound confident as he gathered people together. "Thank you for coming out today. Your support means a lot to my family," he nodded towards his parents. Gerald looked like he had wiped the anger off his face for the time being, but the look in his eyes showed Alexander that the subject was still fresh in his mind. "Anyone who knew Casper knew that he loved his family. As a boy, that meant us - he worked hard to get chores done around here so our father could do more logging work. As he got older, his family got bigger - he added three pokemon and considered it his life's work to take care of them as he traveled around. Everywhere he went, he tried to do the best possible for them and keep them safe from harm..." Here was the hard part. No matter how many times he had rehearsed these first trite phrases, he didn't know how to address Casper's death or the ramifications it had on him. He had yet to talk about it to anyone besides Victor, and even then, that conversation relied more on the mr. mime plumbing his brain for information than him actually volunteering it.

"Casper was taken from us far too soon. He's in a better place, watching us here as we remember him..." His eyes darted to the yamask in the window, still watching, still listening. Casper was not in a higher place. Alexander shook his head and sighed. "I'm not used to this. This... emotional talk. I'm not the type - and Casper certainly wasn't. He was the kind of person who believed in actions far more than words. He was a man of ideals, and although some people might contest this, he was a man of honor." Alexander sent a look towards the Guardians at the service; no one made any comments, so he continued speaking. "Casper died as he lived - trying his best to follow his ideals, and whether or not it worked perfectly, he was always so determined to try..."

The image of his brother's face, his real, human face, swam in front of his eyes. His vision became misty. Casper had died and he had lived, and now it was his lot in life to live up to his dead brother's goals rather than save him... He almost felt like he couldn't stop himself from speaking. The words flowed freely from his mouth as Victor edged closer to his handler. "Casper needn't have died. He was a kid who made a couple of bad decisions, and trusted to the Guardians and the other protectors of our society to keep him safe. As a Guardian, and especially as his brother, I am ashamed at the role I played in his death, and the role I could have played in his life."

Everyone looked at Alexander shockedly, but he tried to look only at Casper as he continued. He kept his eyes fixed on the golden face the yamask carried, the face that had once carried joy and tears. "The day Casper died, he had been a part of the Order of the Masque, serving under Trictess Blackwell." A few surprised titters from the audience. "He was captured by a Guardian on patrol and tried to lie his way out of the situation. Not the best tactic, but he tried to break free from the Trictess and her organization. He pledged his loyalty to the Guardians and was sent out on a mission from which he and several other Guardians never returned. I was in the building the entire time."

Now, finally, his shame was out in the open. The words continued to flow from his mouth even as a few people stepped forward looking like they wanted to ask questions, even as he felt a hand on his shoulder that turned out to be Victor the mr. mime. He needed to finish telling the story. "I didn't know he had been there until after he was dead. I can't stand here and lie to you and say I tried to save him. I did nothing. Nothing. I was so involved in my work, in my mission, that I forgot what life was about. Casper, my little brother, had to teach me. He died to protect his family, when I forgot about mine. And yet I survived when he died... I will bear the guilt for that every day for the rest of my life, but I don't think Casper would want me to stand around talking all day. I think he would want me to plant these flowers. Even such a small action like this may have the potential to change the world." Unable to speak anymore, he bent down and shoveling the ground, almost as if he was preparing to bury a body. Instead he reached down for flowers. When he looked up, several other people had joined him, some with their eyes wet, and many hands patted the flowers into the earth.

Surprisingly, it was Gerald who approached Alexander first when the event ended, when the polite words had been said. Now it was just the family again and the yamask, unsure of his place, as he drifted closer to the people who had been his parents. "I think he wouldn't have wanted you to stay around here forever. He'd want you to move on... you both," he grudgingly looked at the yamask for a moment.

"You don't have to protect us. You have the rest of the world to explore. Both of you together, the way it should have been." Wiping her tears, she approached Alexander to give him a large hug. She refrained from touching the yamask until he reached a hand forward, still shielding his body, but willing to let his mother touch his hand. Gerald looked in both directions to make sure no one else was watching before a few of his fingers joined his wife's and touched the yamask.

"I'll write to you. Tell you about us. Our adventures. Our triumphs and losses. And, one day, we'll come flying back here on the back of a golden noctowl. I promise you, we're not going to leave you again." Overcome, he was unable to speak much more. He left his parents' house with his brother and his mr. mime by his side, ready to begin the avenging process at last.

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[OOC: In addition to grading for aptitudes in speaking (the funeral speech) and honor (owning up to mistakes in front of friends/family), I'd like to get Casper's trigger established, and maybe there's some bonding with Casper in there? Thanks to the grading mod for looking over this thread! http://i832.photobucket.com/albums/zz241/HarperRegion/Sprites/Emoticons/1.png ]

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The Stonehearted Lady

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