All The Warm Lives, part 4: Heart Of An Elephant

Rated R because Sarscha.
Special thanks to Derrick for writing some of Sarscha’s dialog in this part.

Ah, Inquisitor Thrune. I heard you apprehended a fugitive last night, one we’ve been trying to find for quite some time for one of the members of the Council of Ushers. Excellent work.”

Samael paused as he was making his way through the corridors of the Bastion of the Nail shortly after dawn just outside the doorway to the office of Darean Halst. The door was open, and the paralictor to the Order of the Nail was seated at his desk inside, a stack of paperwork piled neatly in front of him. Samael turned to address him. “Thank you, sir.”

I’m sure the Mistress of Blades will be most pleased with this news when she arrives tomorrow,” Halst continued, studying a sheaf of parchment that he lifted from the top of the stack in front of him.

Lady Vox?” Samael asked, raising an eyebrow. “I didn’t realize she was paying the Bastion a visit.”

Yes, she is quite interested in the going ons here in Magnimar, as you may well know,” Halst droned on, glancing up at Samael finally, “and the Gallahad family often pries her for information on this vagabond’s whereabouts at any given opportunity. I’m sure she will be glad to put this business behind her.”

Samael paused briefly before continuing. “Do you know the details of the complaint?”

Hmm,” Halst mused. He shuffled through the papers on his desk quickly before pulling out another sheaf of parchment from the center of the stack. “Let me see. Breaking and entering, assault, and kidnapping on the grounds of the Gallahad estate. The date in question was some seven months ago.” He set the parchment down in front of him, peering at Samael over a pair of reading spectacles. “Surely you must have known this before you arrested the man in question.”

“Of course,” Samael affirmed immediately, “I was simply inquiring as to the details of the events surrounding that night.”

It doesn’t say here,” Halst replied, glancing down at the parchment again. “Someone is going to have to interrogate him eventually, however.”

I was just about to,” Samael said.

“I suppose there’s no better person for the job than an inquisitor when we happen to have one at our disposal,” Halst agreed with a thin smile. “I look forward to your report, and I’m sure the Mistress of Blades will as well.”

A few minutes later, Samael stepped briskly down a short flight of steps that lead into a single, long hallway beneath the Bastion. This was the Hellknights’ holding block, where they held their own personal prisoners for questioning, until such time that they were moved to the city jail. Samael’s mailed boots echoed loudly off the stone steps as he descended into the small prison. A single Hellknight guard stood at the bottom of the stairwell; he nodded to the inquisitor as Samael stepped briskly down the hallway, pulling a torch off the wall without breaking his stride.

The half dozen cells here were made entirely of stone, aside from the doors, which were wrought iron bars. Each was little more than a narrow chamber, devoid of windows or light and little bigger than a closet, empty aside from a wooden slab bolted to one wall and a toilet in the far corner. All of them were empty save for the last cell at the far end of the block.

Sitting upon the makeshift wooden bed, leaning back against the wall with his hands behind his back, was a figure Samael was familiar with, although he had changed subtly since the last time Samael had encountered him when they had battled Karzoug together nearly a year prior. Glenn glanced up as he saw the light the Hellknight was bearing approach, and the two of them stared at each other in the flickering shadows for a moment. “I don’t suppose you’re here to take these things off of me?” Glenn asked suddenly, sitting forward, and Samael saw that his hands were still manacled behind his back.

Did they leave you bound all night?” the hellknight asked, cocking an eyebrow.

Well, yeah,” Glenn confirmed with a frown. “Isn’t that what you Hellknights do?”

No,” Samael said. “Once you are here, there is no reason to leave the manacles on you. Come here.”

Glenn stood and walked over to the barred doorway, turning around so Samael had access to his hands. The Hellknight placed the torch in a sconce next to the door, pulling a set of keys off of his belt before deftly picking one off of the keyring and unlocking the manacles that bound Glenn’s hands. “I do trust you are not going to try to escape,” Samael added with a frown as Glenn turned around to face him.

I guess it’s too much to ask if you’re here to release me, then,” the fugitive replied, rubbing his wrists. Samael scowled at him and Glenn moved to sit back on the wooden plank in the cell. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to pick the lock and sneak out. I figured you guys might track me down eventually. Although I admit, I wasn’t expecting you to personally come and haul me in yourself.”

I came to ask you what happened,” Samael said bluntly.

“What, you didn’t hear?” Glenn quipped, folding his arms behind his head as he leaned back against the wall of the cell. “I nearly beat a man to death after breaking into his estate and kidnapping his fiance — you read the charges to me yourself last night.”

Samael scowled again, pushing down the frustration he felt building inside him. “I have an entire city of miscreants and malefactors to hunt down. I did not want to be wasting my time with you. Tell me why you made me do this.”

“I didn’t make you do anything, Samael,” Glenn snapped, glaring at the Hellknight. The two of them stared at each other through the barred gate of the cell for a long moment before Glenn stood, walking to the back of the tiny chamber and leaning against the far wall. “Fine. You really want to know what happened?”

“That’s what I said.”

Glenn crossed his arms across his chest. “Gallahad had Helena. He was going to force her to marry him.”

Samael paused, thinking. “Helena Balthazar?” he asked slowly. “Your lover from when you lived in the city before?” Glenn nodded. “As I recall, her father betrothed her to Gallahad, as is his right.”

Glenn glared at Samael, leaning forward slightly as if he was going to say something, then thought better of it. “I think you’ll find that her father had that contract annulled when he realized some of the practices and company Gallahad was keeping. Besides, Helena never wanted to marry him in the first place — that’s why she ran away from Magnimar to begin with.”

“I see,” Samael mused. “And this justifies nearly beating him to death?”

“No,” Glenn admitted. “That justified breaking into his manor and kidnapping Helena to get her away from him before the wedding.” Glenn paused, a bitter look that Samael had never seen before crossing his face. He glanced away from the inquisitor before continuing. “Finding out that he left my daughter to the Hellknights in Cheliax, that’s why I nearly killed him.” Glenn looked back up at Samael, his eyes dark in the dim light. “And I probably would have, if Helena hadn’t stopped me.”

Samael stared at the man before him for a long moment, studying him. He could tell Glenn had changed since the last time they had seen each other, but had no idea why or how, until now. “I see,” the Hellknight repeated.

“Do you?” Glenn spat across the room, glowering at Samael.

“So presumably that’s where you’ve been this whole time,” Samael continued, ignoring Glenn’s question. “In Cheliax, looking for the girl. Did you ever find her?”

“We found out what happened to her,” Glenn muttered, looking away again.

“And?” Samael prompted.

“She died,” Glenn said flatly.

“How?” Samael urged.

“What does it matter to you?” Glenn snapped, glancing back at the Hellknight.

“How did she die, Glenn?” Samael said patiently.

Glenn stared at him for a moment. “There was a fire,” he murmured, blinking. He turned around so his back was toward the Hellknight. “There was a fire at the house where they were keeping her in Kintargo. It burned to the ground. Helena and I saw it.”

“You saw it burn?” Samael asked.

“We saw what was left of it. Or rather, what wasn’t…” Glenn paused, then glanced over his shoulder. “Why do you care so much, Samael?”

“You said that Gallahad was the one who left your daughter there, correct?”

“Yeah,” Glenn confirmed, half-turning to look at Samael. “He went to Kintargo to bring Helena back here, but didn’t want to have a bastard’s daughter in tow with him. So he left her.”

“I am going to make sure he pays for his crimes,” Samael announced.

Glenn stared at him. “Why?” he asked finally.

“Forced marriage, kidnapping, selling an infant into slavery,” Samael recounted, ticking each offense off on his fingers as he named them, “no one should be allowed to go unpunished for such atrocities, let alone someone in his position of power. I’m going to do everything I can to see some justice out of this situation.”

“Right,” Glenn muttered after a pause, staring at the wall. “Well, you do what you have to do, I guess.”

Samael stared at him for a moment longer before turning and starting up the hallway again toward the stairs. “Samael.” His name being called from within the cell caused the Hellknight to pause, and he turned to see Glenn gripping the bars of the gate, staring down the hallway at him.

“Yes?” Samael replied.

“I didn’t know,” Glenn said with a frown.

“Didn’t know what?” Samael asked, turning and walking back up to the cell to face Glenn.

“I didn’t know…” Glenn repeated. His face was pale, and he looked upset. “I didn’t know Helena was pregnant. I didn’t know we had a child until the night I saw her again in Gallahad’s manor.”

“Ah,” Samael commented, a little confused. He paused before continuing. “Would it have mattered if you did?”

“Yes!” Glenn cried. “I would have gone to her sooner — I could have stopped all of this from happening!”

“Are you sure about that?” Samael asked, arching an eyebrow.

Glenn opened his mouth to reply, then promptly shut it. He glared at Samael for a moment before turning and walking further back into the cell. “Just go,” he muttered.

Samael stared at Glenn’s back for a moment before leaning in close to the iron bars of the gate. “For what it’s worth, I am sorry.”

Glenn uttered a short, barking laugh, but otherwise didn’t respond, his back still toward the Hellknight. Samael frowned, pausing briefly before turning on heel and marching out of the cell block.

* * *

Good afternoon, Lictor Gaetana. I’m here to see Paralictor Halst. Is he available?” Osanna said, striding up to the desk inside the front room of the Bastion of the Nail that acted as the small station’s lobby.

The Hellknight lictor behind the desk, a woman by the name of Debora Gaetana whom Osanna had spoken with on several occasions, glanced up from where she had been writing inside a heavy, leatherbound ledger. “Ah. Lady Redbreeze,” she addressed the tiefling. “I’m afraid the paralictor is out at the moment. Do you have an appointment?”

This devil’s cocksucker thinks that we need to make an appointment? Rip her jaw off and hand it to her while her blood spouts about the desk. Her soul’s contract was signed in the same ink.

I do not,” Osanna admitted. “Will he be returning shortly?”

I cannot say,” Gaetana replied, setting her quill aside in a nearby inkwell on her desk. “I believe Lady Vox is presently inside the Bastion, however. I may be able to see if she would grant you an audience.”

The Mistress of Blades?” Osanna asked, suppressing her surprise that one of the leaders of Citadel Vraid was currently in Magnimar.

Indeed. Unless your business is with Paralictor Halst personally.”

No. It would be my pleasure to speak with Lady Vox if she is available.”

The top of the food chain. Good. We shouldn’t be wasting our time with these pissant lowlifes, anyway.If that Iomedean mule doesn’t tell us what we want to hear, then tear her legs off. All four of them. Glue factories would pay a nice ransom for centaur hooves, and you can sell the rest of her shit-ridden carcass to your bloated tick of a wizard for components.

Very well. Please wait here.”

Osanna nodded as Gaetana stood and strode through a door on the far side of the small entry chamber, disappearing further into the Hellknight outpost. The tiefling was suddenly glad that she had decided to dress smartly for the occasion; she was wearing a long, slimming, cream-colored dress, cinched with a dark red corset and matching belt that hung loosely around her waist, one end of which was hanging down the center of the skirt of her gown. Her fiery-red hair was braided and wound into a tight bun at the nape of her neck. Her scimitar and halo accompanied her, as always, as did a small pack that she had slung over one shoulder.

Lady Vox will see you now,” Lictor Gaetana announced, stepping back through the door into the entry area where Osanna was waiting. “Please follow me.”

Thank you,” Osanna replied, following the Hellknight further into the Bastion of the Nail.

What a fucking dump.

Ah, Osanna,” Maidrayne Vox said a moment later as Gaetana ushered the paladin into a conference room in the back of the stronghold. “Come in. Thank you, Lictor,” she added, addressing the other Hellknight. Gaetana nodded to her commander before stepping out of the room, closing the door behind her.

The best part about these devil slaves is that they live in hell in life and in death. So…satisfying.

Lady Vox,” Osanna addressed the Hellknight commander once the lictor had disappeared out of the room. The centaur stood a head and a half again as tall as the tiefling, clad in dark steel armor that had been custom made to fit her form, the breastplate of which was emblazoned with a twisted, almost fiendish face that marked the rank of a commander of the Order of the Nail. A thin, silver pendant of a long sword, the holy symbol of the goddess Iomedae, hung around her neck, distinct against the slate of her armor. A massive halberd, nearly as long as Osanna was tall, rested in the corner of the room. Vox’s helm sat next to her on the table in the center of the conference chamber, leaving her olive-colored face exposed. Her hair, a rich ebony that matched the color of her equine lower half, was held away from her face in a thin ponytail. “Thank you for seeing me on such notice. I didn’t realize you were in Magnimar.”

I like to keep an eye on things,” Vox replied, a thin smile spreading across her lips. “Sometimes the unannounced visits are the best for finding out how well of a handle my people really have on things here.”

Though…if we took this place by force, it could be made in to a nice pleasure house…

I’m familiar with that tactic,” Osanna murmured, half to herself.

You clearly didn’t come here to chat with me if you weren’t even aware that I was in town, however. Lictor Gaetana informed me you were looking for Paralictor Halst,” Vox continued, her horse-like tail switching back and forth behind her as she came around the table to face Osanna.

Perhaps a gelatinous cube to throw the bodies to after we’ve finished with them. Alive, of course.

Yes,” Osanna confirmed, looking up to meet the centaur’s gaze. “Well, I actually came to see someone else who is staying with you here, but I daresay I’ll need someone’s permission to do so. I came to request so of Paralictor Halst, but Gaetana directed me to you instead.”

Oh?” Vox prompted. “And who is it you are seeking?”

A friend of mine,” Osanna continued, keeping her chin high. “Samael Thrune informed me he brought him in here recently. Glenn Midori?”

Ah yes, the fugitive who the Gallahad family has been after for some months now,” Vox remarked with a frown. She stamped her hooved foot once before continuing. “He’s a friend of yours?”

Yes,” Osanna confirmed immediately. “I would like to see him, if possible.”

We don’t usually allow visitors to see our prisoners,” Vox mused, “but I suppose an exception could be made for you. I must admit, though, I am a little surprised. I did not see you as the type to be fraternizing with criminals and fugitives.”

How dare you, you stupid horse-bitch – if anyone is going to keep him locked up, it’s going to be me –

Osanna suppressed a frown, keeping her features even and her voice level as she replied. “The measure of a man’s soul cannot be judged by a single deed,” Osanna declared. “And…the particular circumstances surrounding his actions were…exceptional.”

Yes, I understand Gallahad himself may have been involved in some rather unpleasant business,” Vox said with a nod. “Kidnapping and slavery, according to Inquisitor Thrune. Still, you must understand that we can’t simply ignore this Midori’s actions. Vigilante justice is not the answer.”

No, of course not,” Osanna agreed, stepping aside as Vox made her way across the room to the door.

Well, it’s good you came when you did,” Vox continued, holding the door open and gesturing Osanna back out into the hallway. “We were getting ready to transport him to the Hells later this afternoon. Paralictor Halst is there now making the arrangements, in fact – he only held the prisoner here as long as he did so I could be appraised of the situation.”

Osanna hesitated before following Vox’s direction into the hallway. “The Hells?” she repeated uneasily. “The city jail?”

Yes,” Vox confirmed, stomping her foot again. “We do not normally keep prisoners here long-term. He will be held at the Hells until the time of his trial in front of the Justice Courts, at which time a ruling will be decided upon.”

No, no, NO, he’s not allowed to go anywhere, they’re not allowed to lock him up, I will massacre them all, I will rend the flesh from his bones with my own hands for doing this again–

What…” Osanna blinked once, trying to keep her head clear. “How long will he be in the Hells? When is his trial?”

A date hasn’t been set yet. The initial holding period will probably be a week or two. And I say trial, but it’s really just a sentencing hearing – he’s already admitted his guilt to all of the charges. After that, he will probably remain in the Hells for at least several months, possibly longer, as well as have a fine to pay before he will be released.”

You will NOT let this smelly, ignorant, meat puppet sequester our plaything in a cesspool for him to wither away!

Osanna felt her head reel slightly. The idea of losing Glenn again so soon after he’d just returned was almost too much for her to bear. What was more, knowing he was going to the Hells made her sick to her stomach. The Bastion of the Nail may be a bleak and lonely ward, but she could at least count on the Hellknights to keep him fed and alive while in their custody. The same could not be said for the Hells; the official city prison of Magnimar were aptly named, and people sent there frequently did not return. It was a point Osanna had been working on rectifying these last several months, but as with everything, progress had been slow, and she couldn’t imagine Glenn enduring weeks, let alone months, in such conditions, especially after everything he’d already gone through.

We need him strong…hale…able to withstand our pleasures! What good will he be to us if he lasts but moments before he breaks?! If this bitch resists, spear her head to the walls of this bastion her hers.

Do you want to see him or not?” Vox’s voice broke through Osanna’s thoughts, and the tiefling realized the centaur was still holding the door to the hallway open for her, an annoyed look having crossed her features.

Yes, of course. My apologies. Please, lead on,” Osanna replied, stepping through the door.

Five minutes later, Lictor Gaetana lead Osanna down a confined set of stone steps. The stairwell opened to a long, narrow hallway; a pair of torches flanked the bottom of the staircase as it opened into the corridor, but Osanna could tell that the hall was otherwise dark, even though she could see nearly to the end of it thanks to her inherent darkvision. The tiefling waited until the lictor had departed before glancing at the lone Hellknight guard who stood at the entrance to the prison ward.

You’re here to see the prisoner?” he asked dully. Osanna nodded, and the Hellknight pointed down the hall. “He’s in the last cell.”

Could you give us a few minutes?” the tiefling asked quietly. The Hellknight was wearing the standard issue horned helmet of the Order of the Nail, which obscured his face, but Osanna could tell he was frowning at her. “Please. I promise he’s not going anywhere. Could you maybe just wait at the top of the stairs?” she added.

Osanna could tell that the Hellknight continued to stare at her for a moment before silently turning and marching up the steps, his footsteps echoing off the hollow stone corridor. Osanna watched him until he disappeared from view at the top of the stairwell before turning and staring down the hallway again.

The tiefling peered into the cells as she passed each one of them in turn. They were all identical; cramped, narrow stone chambers, barely large enough to move around in. A wooden plank bolted to the wall was apparently supposed to act as a bed. What a depressing place, she thought to herself as she approached the cell at the end of the hall.

Each of the previous chambers had been empty, but the final cell was occupied, as the Hellknight guard told her it would be. Lying on the pitiful wooden bed, his arms folded behind his head, Glenn stared toward the barred gate of his prison. He could clearly tell someone had approached, but could not see her in the darkness, even though she could see him. Osanna reached up to tap her halo, and a faint light radiated from the thin band cresting her horns, illuminating the hall around her and the chamber before her.

Hello,” Osanna started pleasantly, gazing down at Glenn as he winced in the sudden light.

Like a filthy rat in a hole.It suits him, really. A skinny little rat, in a dark, shitty hole. If he breaks here, he isn’t worthy of us. Let some plague take hold and test his fortitude…

Oh.” He blinked several times as his eyes adjusted to the glow from her halo, then frowned as he met her gaze. “It’s you. What are you doing here?”

Osanna stared at him for a long moment. “I came…” She paused. He had a scruff of a beard starting again, and his clothing was worn and unkempt. It looked like the Hellknights hadn’t let him bathe or have a change of clothes since they’d thrown him in here. She frowned. “I came to see how you’re doing.” She glanced around; an old, rickety-looking stool sat in the far corner of the hallway. She turned to retrieve it, setting it in front of the gate to Glenn’s cell. “May I join you?”

Glenn snorted, still looking at her incredulously from where he lay on the wooden plank in his cell. “I can’t really stop you, can I?”

Maybe not, but it’s still polite to ask,” Osanna reasoned.

She thought she saw him roll his eyes as he laid back on his arms again, focusing his gaze at the ceiling. “Fine. Sit, then, if you want.”

Thank you,” Osanna replied, taking a seat on the old stool. It creaked precariously beneath her. She watched him for a moment longer, but he made no further attempt to engage her, staring stubbornly up at the ceiling. Osanna slipped the backpack off her shoulder and pulled the drawstring open on it. Although it appeared small on the outside, the enchanted haversack actually held a variety of goods, magically expanded on the inside to be able to accommodate much more than it appeared to be able to carry, and the tiefling pulled out first a large, heavy blanket, followed by a soft, down-filled pillow. “I brought some things for you.”

Glenn glanced back toward her, sitting up on his elbows after a moment to get a better look at the items that she had set across her lap. He stared at the blanket and pillow before looking up at her, frowning. “What is this?”

I thought you could use these to be a little more comfortable…” Osanna started. She slipped the blanket and pillows between the bars of the gated door, holding them out toward Glenn, but he made no move to retrieve them. “This place is even more bleak than I thought it would be.”

Why?” he asked after a moment, still staring at her doubtfully.

Because I care about you, Glenn, and I don’t want you to suffer any more than necessary while you’re down here,” Osanna implored. He still didn’t move from his position on the wooden plank so Osanna set the items down on the floor just inside his cell. “Would you please just take them?”

I suppose I would be an idiot not to,” Glenn muttered, finally pulling himself to his feet to cross the tiny chamber in order to retrieve the proffered items. He returned to the wooden slab, setting the blanket and pillow down in the middle of the cot before sitting on the edge of it and crossing his arms across his chest to gaze at Osanna. “Is that all?”

No,” the tiefling replied, reaching into the haversack again. There was silence for a moment as she pulled out several more items: a meat pie, tightly wrapped in a clean tea towel; a wedge of soft cheese; a pair of apples from Ular’s garden; a bottle of Ameiko’s spiced wine; and plates, silverware, and glasses for both of them. She laid the food out neatly on the outspread tea towel that the pie had been wrapped in before uncorking the wine, glancing up at Glenn as she began to pour it. He was staring at her incredulously again.

What is this?” he asked again.

Lunch for us,” she replied simply. “I figured you could also use a decent meal.” Glenn didn’t move as Osanna slipped one of the filled wine glasses between the bars of the cell, setting it on the floor before him. “Well, you don’t have to eat if you don’t want to, but I’m going to.”

Osanna began cutting into the meat pie, placing a slice onto a plate and setting it next to the wine glass inside Glenn’s cell before serving herself. She glanced up at movement inside the cell, and Glenn came to sit cross-legged on the floor in front of her. “The food here is terrible,” he muttered, taking a sip of the wine.

It’s like I knew that somehow,” she replied, her tail switching behind her. She watched him for a moment as he sampled the pie. “You look like you’ve lost more weight since you’ve been in here, Glenn. You worry me.”

He didn’t reply immediately, taking another bite of the pie and chewing thoughtfully before setting his plate aside. “What do you really want, Osanna?” he demanded, eyeing her.

Osanna took a sip of her wine. “I told you, I came to see how you’re doing. I can’t simply want to enjoy a meal with a friend?” she asked, setting her wine glass aside on the floor next to her stool.

Are you really friends? Or is he just another pawn for you to use and abuse and discard when you’re done with him…

Glenn opened his mouth to reply, then seemed to think better of it. He hesitated, then took a sip of his wine. Osanna hesitated a moment herself before continuing. “There is something I wanted to discuss with you.”

You’ve been all but breastfeeding this whimpering shit as long as you’ve known him. You’re practically his mother. That’s…deliciously disturbing. Glorious.

I knew it,” Glenn said with a frown, setting the wine aside as he stared up at the tiefling. “There’s always something with you, isn’t there? Always got to have your horns in everyone’s business.”

He really has become a miserable little bitch, hasn’t he? He isn’t even worth the time to try and get out of this hellhole – unless you let me put my foot through his skull –

“After I’d learned that you were here, I thought about what I should do,” Osanna pressed on before either Glenn or Sarscha could interrupt her further, quelling her growing impatience with both of them. “I thought about what I wanted to do, what I thought would be the best course of action — but I realized you would not want that. So then I thought, what would Glenn want me to do? And so, here I am to discuss the matter with you, if you’ll at least listen to me. If not, I’ll walk up those steps and leave you to whatever fate the Hellknights have for you, and I’ll not bother you again.”

Glenn seemed to scowl, but he didn’t try to protest further, so Osanna continued before he had a chance to change his mind. “The Mistress of Blades told me that they’re planning on transferring you to the Hells later today. And that you’ve already admitted your guilt to the crimes they’ve charged you with, so only a sentencing hearing remains when you go before the Justice Courts.”

Kind of hard to deny what happened,” Glenn said flatly. “Gallahad almost died, but he didn’t, so he clearly knows who broke into his estate–”

I’m not denying the veracity in your admission of guilt,” Osanna interrupted, setting her plate of food aside next to her wine glass on the floor. “Do you know what the standard sentence for this kind of crime is?”

Not really,” Glenn admitted, glancing away from her.

A rather lengthy stint in the Hells and a hefty fine,” Osanna announced. She paused, but Glenn did not reply, so she continued on. “Are you familiar with the Hells?”

I managed to avoid that place when I was a street rat as a kid,” Glenn muttered.

All the better. It is truly awful – reserved for Magnimar’s lowest class citizens, its criminals, although they do not distinguish between different levels of offenses there. You would be boarded with Sczarni thugs, mages who abuse their magic to bring harm to others, possibly even murderers.”

Well, that’s me, isn’t it?” Glenn grated, glancing back at her. “A criminal? Nearly a murderer, in fact.”

Except you were too fucking GUTLESS to go through with it! You had the power to kill him – tear his limbs apart and douse yourself in his blood, and instead you pussied out at the last minute!

There is more in your soul than simple base violence, Glenn. So much more. You don’t deserve to be locked away with cold-blooded brutes the likes of them,” Osanna asserted. Glenn didn’t reply, so she pressed on before either he or Sarscha could interrupt again. “I may have an alternative for you, if you’re interested in hearing it.”

What kind of alternative?” Glenn asked, arching an eyebrow at her.

“First, I would propose that Byron Balthazar be the one to pay your fine for you,” Osanna declared.

Glenn uttered a short, bitter bark of a laugh. “And why would he do that?”

Osanna frowned. “Because you risked everything on his request to get his daughter out of the situation she was in, and look where it got you.”

Glenn matched her frown. “I would have done it even if he hadn’t asked me to, if I’d known.”

“Of course you would have,” Osanna said with a hint of exasperation. “That just further proves what kind of man you are. You’re the one sitting here, and Balthazar is walking about Magnimar free as you like. The least he can do is pay for your release.”

“The fine is the least of my concern,” Glenn snapped. “It’s not like I don’t have the coin to spare.”

“You haven’t heard the rest of my proposal,” Osanna continued patiently. “I would propose to the Hellknights and the Justice Court that instead of you spending your sentence locked in the Hells, that you would spend it assisting me.”

Glenn paused, frowning again. “Assisting you with what?”

I have a little project I’ve been meaning to ask for your help with, ever since you came back into town,” Osanna explained. “Truth be told, I was getting a little worried after you’d left so abruptly the day after your return – I hadn’t heard anything from you, until Samael showed up and told me you were here.”

Oh,” Glenn grimaced, “I was wondering how you knew where I was.”

Yes, he and I had a little chat about how he apparently went and hauled you down here himself,” Osanna went on with a frown. She glanced back down the hallway toward the staircase; it was still empty, but she was sure the Hellknight guard was standing at the top of the stairs – if not even perhaps on the stairs – watching and possibly even listening to them. “But we can discuss that later. I’m in the process of repurposing an old Sczarni warehouse that I…acquired…in the Underbridge district, to use as a shelter and a school for wayward children, and I want your help.”

Glenn frowned again. “You want my help repairing an old building?” he asked. “Surely you can find plenty of people who can–”

You misunderstand,” Osanna interrupted him. She smoothed her skirt over her knees, then folded her hands in her lap before continuing. “I want you to run the shelter. Guide these vagabond children who come through there – there are many of them who have been displaced by the Sczarni, either because their families have gotten involved with those thugs, or because the children themselves have been extorted and used by them. They are young. They have so much they can learn, and so much to live for, but they need direction. Someone who can influence them to become the best that they can be.”

Glenn stared at her, and she saw a mixture of emotions flicker across his features. He opened his mouth, paused, then shut it again before pulling himself to his feet. He turned around and took a few steps further back into the cell, facing the far wall, before muttering, “Why me?”

You have been where they are now,” Osanna explained. “You know what they are living through, how to reach them. And…I thought working with the children may help you, too.” She paused. “I’m also looking for a child…one in particular. I can train clerics and priests, but to find one with the spark of a paladin — that will take a special soul indeed. And I want your help finding that child.”

Osanna saw a tremble run across his shoulders, and was afraid for a moment that he was weeping, but when he spoke, his voice was steady, although barely audible. “I thought you didn’t trust me.”

You are the only one I trust with this,” she replied firmly, hiding her surprise at his doubt.

Then tell me why,” Glenn snarled suddenly, turning around and striding across the small cell to grip the bars of the gate tightly, “why you thought I was lying to you the night I came back. How you could possibly think I would lie to you about something like that.” He was glaring at her with the same look he had worn the night they had quarreled upon his return to Magnimar, his eyes filled with scorn, malice, and resentment, and Osanna flinched back as if she’d been struck.

I…I don’t have a good answer for that,” she murmured, staring down at her hands cupped in her lap. “I was angry, Glenn. Angry and hurt like I’d never been before. We’d faced the worst that the world had to offer together, shoulder-to-shoulder. Towed the line. I pulled you out of the jaws of death and worse fates many times, and I never expected a thank you for any of it…I still don’t. You leaving in the way you did hurt my very intimately.”

Osanna could feel Glenn staring down at her, although she avoided his gaze. There was an uneasy stillness in the prison ward between them until Glenn finally spoke. “I never meant to hurt you like that. But I also never lied to you,” he whispered, half-turning to face the wall, “I’ve never lied to you, Osanna, and I never will.”

I know,” Osanna replied, looking up at him. “You trusted me, and I made the mistake of letting my emotions get the better of me. I was more than half human that night. And I’m very sorry for it.”

In the dim light from her halo, Osanna saw him frown slightly as he stared down at the floor of his cell. “You shouldn’t apologize for being human,” he muttered.

Osanna opened her mouth to respond, then paused, not quite sure how to answer. “Then I’m sorry for hurting you,” she said finally.

Glenn glanced at her. The bitterness and resentment that had masked his features had slid off his face, to be replaced by a tired, almost anguished look as he stared at her silently.

Please, Glenn,” she whispered, leaning in close to the bars of the cell, “I need your help. You’re the only one I know who can do this. To help raise and guide these children — to find the one, the special one I can train to follow my lead — I need someone genuine. I need someone with a diamond soul and the heart of an elephant.” She paused, leaning back on her stool again with a slightly pained look before continuing. “Plus, it would kill me to see you sit in here, in the dark, for months – or worse, beneath the Justice Courts in that pit they call prison. And I don’t want us to be angry with each other. If you’re not interested in my offer, then I’ll leave you here to your fate – but I don’t want that. Please.”

There was silence again between them for a long moment, long enough that Osanna was afraid he really was going to decline, or tell her to go, and she wasn’t sure she was prepared for that – would she even accept it if he did, or would she simply go with her original plan, to show up at his sentencing hearing whether he wanted her to or not, to do everything she could to ensure his release.

Glenn suddenly turned to face her. He didn’t look at her directly; he still looked tired, like his spirit had been drained out of him. “I accept your offer,” he murmured, finally glancing toward her. “It sounds much better than sitting in the Hells, at least.”

Osanna uttered a quiet sigh of relief. She realized a great weight of anxiety, one she didn’t even realize had settled on her shoulders, had been lifted. “Good,” she replied with a nod. “I will speak with the Council of Ushers and the Justice Court as soon as I am able to make the arrangements. In the meantime, I am going to discuss with the Mistress of Blades about keeping you here instead of transferring you to the Hells until your sentencing hearing. It may be dark and isolated, but it’s still better than that pit.”

Glenn sat down in front of the door, pulling his half-eaten plate of meat pie toward him again. “I suppose you’re probably right,” he muttered, taking a bite of the food. “It gets lonely after a while, though. Hard to keep track of the days with no sun and no one else to talk to.”

I can see about coming to visit you occasionally,” Osanna offered, slicing the cheese and one of the apples and offering some of each through the bars of the gate. “I will not be able to come every day, but they may let me in occasionally. If you’d like some company.”

Glenn accepted the rest of the food as she passed it through the barred door to him, then nodded. “Yeah. I think I’d like that.”

Leave a Reply