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Iron Quill - (Ashes To Ashes) - Unquestionable


TheUnderFaux
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CHARACTER: One-armed Man

LINE: "You sure you want to do this?"

Unquestionable

Cale Pensford idly rocked the glass back and forth on the table, watching the golden liquid slosh lazily about. Leaning forward in his chair, he stared intently at the beads of condensation trickling slowly and how the dim lantern light refracted through. He imagined that there must be some plan or formula that dictated the seemingly random path they drew but such feats of mathematics were beyond him; due in no small part to the fierce potency of the liquor.

Raising the glass for another sip, he couldn’t prevent his hand shaking slightly.

“Blast it,’ he mumbled, before taking a larger than anticipated gulp. The drink, whilst usually warming and pleasant, dragged sharply down his throat and sat coldly in his stomach.

He rose from his chair and paced about his kitchen, clutching his glass. The lantern on the table threw shadows across the walls as he circled. Whilst the room was comparatively sparse by most standards, it was always immaculately laid out. Plates were stacked according to size and purpose and the shelf of glasses sparked like gems in a mine wall. Regardless he had made efforts to tidy and organize in anticipation of his oncoming visitors. More precisely, he had (and the thought now drew a hollow laugh from his tired frame) considered the best arrangement of his cutlery and placemats to best portray an innocent man.

Six fifty-eight, his pocket watch told him. Tarnished and dented, the watch had come from the hands of his father and he had hoped that one day he would have kin to pass it forwards to.

Cale placed the glass back on the table and considered the chaotic patterns that the numerous watermarks had left. His mind was active on most days and under the pressure of the impending arrival and via the lubrication afforded by the liquor, it positively buzzed.

Six fifty-nine.

Never early and never late. Always correct, appropriate, unquestionable. Cale had less than sixty seconds.

:rams:rams:rams

In front of the small mirror placed next to the door, he smoothed his thick, dark hair flat, picking off strands that stuck to his sweat-beaded forehead. His shirt was damp and felt uncomfortable; the neck feeling three inches too tight even without the lank and faded bowtie he had earlier decided against. Even though the lantern flame was casting a warm and yellow glow, Cale was surprised how pale and gaunt he had become over the course of a day. He looked ill, malnourished. Worst of all, he looked guilty.

“You sure you want to do this?” he said to himself.

Seven o’clock. There were footsteps across the wooden porch and a heavy tap at the door.

Now, Cale Pensford had few talents, but there were two things that he would claim to be proficient in and both had equally served him well in his position as Guild clerk. The first was a keen mind for systems of organization and categorization and his office files were a credit amongst his peers due to this. The second was being able to hear when something wasn’t quite right. And if he held more composure at that moment, and if the liquor had not muffled his thinking, he would most definitely noticed that the footsteps across the porch sounded not quite right. Almost like there was an extra tap amongst the footfalls…

Opening the door, the evening air blew coolly into the stuffy kitchen, bringing the smells of earth and oil from nearby industries. Most certainly out of place against the backdrop of dirt and machinery, stood impatiently at his front door were a group of men resplendent in uniform. About half a dozen Guild Guards, bedecked in the dark blue overcoats and wide brim hats of role, stood around a single shorter figure at the head of the group. This man was considerably younger and slighter the broad frames and grizzled visages of the Guard, and wore the dark grey jacket and white half-mask of legal office. He had a dark leather folio tucked under his left arm, and where his right arm should have been the arm of his jacket hung empty and limp. He smiled broadly at Cale and affected the slightest bow.

“Cale Gervase Pensford, I present myself and my colleagues in respect of your gracious and humbly accepted invitation and do kindly request that we enter your charming residence.”

His voice had a singsong intonation that gave his speech a mocking tone. There was no invitation; he had been sharply informed of the intended visit by a Guild associate that morning at his desk.

“You are welcome,” Cale mumbled and stepped aside to allow the men in.

“Most kind indeed! And in the face of my most abhorrent rudeness, for I do not introduce! I am Dorran Abberath, Juror Of Compliance and Lawyer Of Guild Law and these finest individuals are my esteemed guests. Would you see us welcome, good man?”

Cale swallowed and nodded, gesturing for the men to come inside. He didn’t want anyone to see these people on his doorstep for any longer than necessary.

Dorran bowed slightly, grinning wickedly and strode into Cale’s kitchen, looking around and making approving comments at the décor and ‘ambiance’. The Guild Guard walked through next, six men in all with heavy boots across the kitchen floor and took posts along the back wall, watching Cale and the doorway.

Before Cale could consider the implications of such a large group, a tall man stepped inside the kitchen, elegant in a crushed red velvet jacket and white pressed trousers. His leather gloves gripped gently and lazily at a long darkwood cane, tapping softly across the floor. Cale’s stomach knotted and his eyes widened. If it was felt necessary for six of the Guild’s finest Guards to be present, what of the Governer’s Secretary, Lucius Mattheson?

:rams:rams:rams

Lucius turned to face Cale and bowed slowly and gracefully; the lamplight dancing on his polished golden mask and making it seem as if his face was an ever-moving flame.

“Mr Pensford,” he stated. His voice was smooth and measured. Cale’s voice was lost. Dorran stepped in.

“My good fellow, myself and my esteemed gentlemen do not wish to take your precious time away from you when time is that most precious and fleeting of resources to the common man, is it not?”

He paused for Cale to agree, but Cale could not look away from Lucius. He was frozen to the spot.

“Then allow me to continue.” The lawyer placed the folio on the kitchen table and unbound the thin leather cord. He raised a single sheet of paper, written with small neat script and stamped with the Guild seal.

“I present humbly to you a written account that relates to, and concerns deeply, yourself and your actions for and on behalf of the Guild. I would at this moment offer you a chance to peruse the document at your leisure and would offer you means to make your counter case for this accusation.”

Lucius’ golden visage burned into Cale’s eyes and he did not notice Lucius silently move his cane from his left hand to his right.

“Mr Pensford, I would note that you did refuse the offer of formal counter case and that you implicit compliance in these proceedings are most just and beneficial to your case!” The singsong element was growing more pronounced. The lawyer bastard knew exactly how things would play out.

“I will summarize! You have been seen, noted and recorded in the act of removing Guild property from premises registered for use by Guild personnel! I will specify! You have been observed in the act of removing files relating to an individual by the moniker of Aervil Grace Pensford and the suspected Arcanist connections associated therewithin!”

Cale’s wife was definitely not an Arcanist; it was a lie started by a jealous neighbor that had made it’s way to Guild ears. The wife of a Guild clerk, an Arcanist; how juicy a rumour!. He had wanted to ensure that she would not be subject to the same interrogation that he heard of every day. Hushed whispers told around desks of torturous screams that would last for days and then suddenly end. Not for Aervil. He was sure that she was far away by now, but looking deeply into the dancing flames on Lucius’ mask, his certainty waivered.

“Please be calmed, my good fellow, that such a crime does not automatically invalidate the remainder of your time amongst living men. Indeed, I do believe that, with time and repentance, the blessed Guild would see pity on your rotten acts and again welcome you into their hearts!” At this, Dorran’s coat arm fluttered as he gestured with his stump of an arm.

“Behold your sentence!!” he cried.

In a flash, Lucius had his gloved hand upon the head of his cane and, in a single motion, had withdrawn the long slender blade and brought it down cleanly onto Cale’s shoulder. Shock gripped the man and a peculiar warmness spread down his side and across his chest. Before the act had fully registered in Cale’s mind, Lucius had sheathed the blade and was turning to leave. As the Guild Guard stepped forwards to grab Cale, Dorran turned to them and grinned his wicked grin.

“Don’t forget to bring the arm.”

Edited by TheUnderFaux
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  • 2 weeks later...

Good story, not often you see a lawyer leading the piece.

Normally, I'd say that it's wiser to avoid using the big canon characters in a story as the have a very set style and force you to work around them, or it can all fall apart. In this case, you've got one of my favourite characters in it, but you used him so delicately it works for me. Kudos!

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