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 Family is Everything
Balaric de Jure
 Posted: Nov 5 2014, 07:52 PM
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As far as interrogation rooms went, Balaric had seen many worse than this breezy tent outside the hastily reforming walls of Dal'ib. The duke had been on both side of the interrogation table many times over, and though the ever present heat of the desert might prevent the linen construction from being entirely comfortably, it certainly had a more welcoming air than a Fexlunder dungeon.

Quite understandably, Balaric had been in a black mood since his return from the hunting trip turned skirmish. The servants skittered about the ducal manor worrying more about keeping out of his sight than about fulfilling their chores. His soldiers too, were likewise occupied, throwing themselves into their duties, training and patrolling with a vigour typically unknown to men used to idleness and professional soldiers both. Or at least, most of them had, a select few had been sent into the city and surrounding lands to begin making discreet inquiries as to the whereabouts of certain citizens.

The erection of the tent he now stood in, barely a day after those men had been sent out, was the result of those inquiries. He took a tin cup from the small table in the centre of the room, the only piece of furniture there (save the woven rugs spread across the sand to form a makeshift floor), and poured himself a little more than mouthful of water from the clay jug that also rested there. It was warm, and tasted a little gritty at the back of his throat. He sighed once rubbing at a temple; the sand got everywhere in this goddess forsaken place.

He did not have long to wait. Armed guards (his own, he supposed, he hadn't paid it much thought) soon entered, dragging with them a disheveled woman and a struggling child, a boy of perhaps ten or eleven years. Old enough to know better than to fight against a hopeless situation, both he and his mother were well trussed up at wrists and ankles; if escape was ever going to be an option he ought to be reserving his energy for then, Balaric thought coldly.

Still, perhaps there was something to be respected in defiance, at least a little. He would not ask the boy to betray his father, not yet. Resting one hand on the handle of large hunting knife acting as a counterweight to the sword on his belt, he used the other to gesture the men holding the lad to the other side of the tent. They deposited him and exited, with the duke ignoring all three, guards and prisoner both. His attentions were with the mother now; no more than her mid thirties, she was pretty enough in a common way, though not a face he would likely be able to pick out of a crowd.

"Leave us." The remaining guards nodded, there might have been a murmured 'yessir', but even had there not been, they dropped the bound woman at his feet and promptly left, and that was enough.

"You know why I had you and your son brought here, I assume?"
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DG
 Posted: Nov 5 2014, 08:51 PM
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Ihab closed her eyes shut tight as she was dropped to the ground at a man's feet, a breath escaping her with a grunt as she took the full brunt of the drop on her left shoulder and hip, unable as she was to cushion her fall in any way. With her hands tied tight behind her and her ankles bound to one another, she wasn't much more capable than a rolled rug, dragged here and there for whomever wanted to examine it.

As Ihab turned her head to her right, in an effort to look up against the bright tent's roof and towards the face of her captor, a strand of her dark hair crossed over her cheek, falling from where her long hair had been tied back with a leather thong.

The soldiers had broken into her house this morning. She'd been bent over a pot of meal, stirring up a portion for herself and one for her son, Hatim, when they'd come crashing in. They'd referred to her husband by name and said that they were taking her into custody at the Duke's command for crimes he'd committed.

She'd watched, screaming, as across the floor they'd thrown her little son to the floor and bound him up just like her. She'd been keeping an eye on him the whole way, knowing there was nothing she could say to make them let her or him go. But it was important that he was quiet... did he know that? She'd tried to impress upon him that he needed to be silent.

The guards were dismissed and Ihab was still struggling to look up at the man who stood over her. She had never seen the duke, although her husband was working in his employ sometimes. But guessing that this was that man seemed like a good place to start. He seemed to be in charge. And his anger poured off of him in waves.

"Please, duke, sir." her voice trembling with genuine uncertainty and fear. "I don't understand." her eyes flicked across the floor towards her son before she looked at the duke again. "The guards - they said something about my... my husband... where's my husband? What has... has he done?"

She whimpered, looking up at the man who had ordered her here with hope for explanation.
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Balaric de Jure
 Posted: Nov 15 2014, 07:47 AM
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"I would be obliged, dear woman, if you would not lie to me."

So this was how this whole sordid mess was going to play out then. A claim of ignorance would save neither of them. He would have what little information either of them could offer him, come what may. The duke had experienced a lifetime of nightmares, in the end how heavily could two more lives weigh on his already over-burdened conscience. He poured another cupful of water from the jug, having finished the other, and sloshed what remained around in the bottom.

"You should know also, madam, that I shall take no pleasure in this, and neither I should think, will you."

At that he strode to the other side of the tent, having not forgotten about the child in the least. Hefting the newly struggling lad before him, the duke dragged the child before his mother, unsheathing the heavy hunting knife as he went. The clay jug went crashing to the floor as the boy's still bound hands were thudded down upon the small table.

It was strange really, the flesh and bone parted far easier than he seemed to remember, and the screaming was if anything more a back ground noise. High pitched and incessant, but little more than background noise all the same. The small pink thing he left on the table, the boy he left writhing on the floor.

"The pinky was the first, but a man can live without that. The next will be a thumb, far more difficult to earn gainful employment without one or both of those... Now, where were we? You know why I had you and your son brought here, I assume?"
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DG
 Posted: Nov 21 2014, 11:07 PM
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The Duke came back her way, dragging her kicking and writhing son with him. Ihab gasped, shifting on the ground to see better, her eyes wide and her expression distressed. Not her son... he was innocent.

"What? What are you doing with him?" she asked quickly, her eyes following their progress and her heart beating hard against her ribs. The duke ignored her, of course, and she winced at the sound of her son's hand slapping down on the desk. If her eyes could grow wider... well, they did. She was cranking her head up, trying to see, and she began to squirm to her knees. Her son called for her.

"Mama! he screamed, trying to twist against the duke's hands.

"Hatim!" she cried out, "Hatim - please, what are you- "

But the duke wasn't wasting any time. There was no game of threats. The knife came out as Ihab screamed "no" and her heart leapt straight into her throat as she heard the thunk of metal on wood buried beneath her son's sharp peal of pain. The boy was dropped to the floor, the sort of agony a child should never have to experience written all over his face, And Ihab struggled to scoot near to him, tears coming to her eyes and her voice catching in her throat.

He had had her attention. But now?

Her poor little boy.

"Oh, Hatim," she crooned quietly, trying to find his eyes to offer him some insufficient comfort. "My, baby."

"He's innocent!" she yelled at the duke, turning her eyes up to him, her face distraught. "He's just a boy!"
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Balaric de Jure
 Posted: Dec 3 2014, 08:15 AM
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"No one is innocent." That was not a threat, it was not meant to frighten the truth out of either of them, but even as those quiet words left his mouth, Balaric felt the truth of them. No one was innocent, everyone had something to regret. Perhaps Hatim had stolen a honey cake from a street vendor a month ago? Perhaps his mother had passed judgement on the colour of her neighbour's head scarf. Perhaps they were both of them willing accomplices to their patriarch's betrayal? No one was innocent, least of all the Duke of Aknatar.

He sighed then, not a frustrated sound, but a tired one. He had so hoped this would be over quickly. A deep dark part of him had latched on to the opportunity to cause pain with an almost sicken delight, the rest of him was just... Just tired. He had so hoped this would be over quickly, but if the act must be drawn out, then so be it. The sigh was followed by a whistle, high and sharp.

That obvious signal was soon followed by a somewhat uncomfortable guardsmen who steadfastly refused to meet anyone's eye. He was not the real point of interest though, but rather his burden; the young man dragged with him a large metal lined earthenware container, half filled with still red hot coals (likely fetched from a camp forge in the time it took him to arrive since his summoning) as well as a handful of iron pokers jutting forth from the lip. This he set down and ducked back out, as though this situation were as perfectly normal as a trip to the public house.

Ignoring her protests of innocence, Balaric dragged Hatib back up to his feet once they were alone again. The lad struggled this time, he knew what was coming. A smart lad, brave even, fighting between the sobs. The duke could respect that, it changed nothing of course, but he could respect that... The thumb came next, the thicker bone not quite as easy to chop through as the pinky, this required more of a hack than chop, and the force of the Butcher's blow left the blade struck deep into the small tabletop. A hot iron was clapped to both Hatib's wounds then, in quick succession, it would not do to have the boy bleed to death, though it wouldn't hurt to bleed a little of the fight out of him.

"Now, you know why I had you and your son brought here, I assume? And I would remind you there are far worse things than losing a thumb. I am not beyond punishments of a more spiritual nature, I do not believe Aalaam looks kindly on those breaking his laws, regardless of whether they were forced to it."
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DG
 Posted: Dec 21 2014, 02:18 AM
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She screamed as her son was hauled to his feet, struggling against her bonds in an effort to go from lying on her side to kneeling upright, her effort given success after much struggling by her fire to be there for her baby.

"No!" she yelled, her voice catching hard. "No, please, your... dukeship. No! My husb-" she stopped, gasping as though she had been stabbed in the heart at the sound of the knife coming down again - the butcher-like sound of blade on wood... and the squeal of her child.

The butcher... he was indeed a butcher. A demon. And an evil, black-hearted man.

"Stop, plea- Oh, Aalaam!" she wailed as the wound was cauterized and he son, once again was tortured, held squirming and wailing in his captor's firm grasp.

The mother, her eyes never leaving her precious child whom she blamed herself entirely for his fate, was hardly understandable beyond her clogged throat and tears and hiccups.

She just wanted to hold him!

"Now, you know why I had you and your son brought here, I assume? And I would remind you there are far worse things than losing a thumb. I am not beyond punishments of a more spiritual nature, I do not believe Aalaam looks kindly on those breaking his laws, regardless of whether they were forced to it."

He threatened her, or more-likely her son's, spiritual purity, but the threat was unnecessary.

"What do you want to know?" she wailed, her eyes nearly closed as she sobbed. "I'll tell you ev- everything I know. Plea- please! Please... my baby. Hatim! Ha-...Ha- hatim... Oh, let me hold my baby!" she strained against her bonds and coughed. "An- anything... please!"

Her words were quick, muddled as she rambled, her thoughts only on sparing her child, her shoulders heavy with guilt.
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Balaric de Jure
 Posted: Dec 22 2014, 11:49 PM
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A demon, an evil black-hearted man. If only things were as simple as that, if Balaric de Jure had no moral compass, he'd probably get a lot more (and a lot better) sleep. No, he knew what was right and what was wrong, torturing a child to gain leverage over his mother for example, fell entirely into the 'wrong' category. So Balaric knew what was right and wrong, but he also knew what was necessary.

She was blubbering now, though the duke was fairly certain he had not gone past her breaking point, not yet anyway. Still, she was offering information, though she asked to hold her child. He struck her then, a hard back-handed slap across the jaw just as the mother had managed to right herself. It would not do to have her thinking there was anything in her position but weakness.

"You will tell me of your husband's Bedouin friends. You will tell me of their camps, of their migrations, of their daily lives. You will tell me everything you know of them, and everything you know of your husband, where he might guide them to avoid my wrath. You will leave nothing out, no matter how unimportant it may seem, and if I think, for even a moment, that you have not told me the whole and utter truth, I shall slit your Hatim's throat, and have him buried inside the carcass of a slaughtered pig."

All of this, he spoke not as questions, but as commands. His will would be done in Aknatar, or he would unleash a fire so great that this desert would be burned to glass.
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DG
 Posted: Dec 27 2014, 10:41 PM
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["His will would be done in Aknatar, or he would unleash a fire so great that this desert would be burned to glass." Nice]

She had just come to kneeling before him, pleading for her child, when he hauled off and backhanded her with enough force to throw her back to the ground. The side of her face ached immediately, and she was helpless once again to break her fall with anything short of her shoulder as she toppled over once again. A grunt escaped her, passing over her arched lips, as a few more shining locks of her dark hair fell across her face.

A tear dropped from the corner of her eye, crawling over her cheek and pooling in the crease of her button nose before sliding off its end and splashing to the floor. She looked up at him from where she lie, feeling sick.

She gasped at the duke's threats, certain that he meant to follow through on them. But what could she say? She looked at her son, desperate for her brain to come up with something... anything... to say. What did she know? Not everything, of course. But she knew some. Would he believe her?

She thought of he husband... of the things he had told her... when he told her things at all. What if her information lead to his punishment or death? She looked to her child... her baby... her only child... He was innocent...

She sobbed again, turning her forehead to the Earth as her body was wracked by a struggle to breathe.

"I don't know everything!"she screamed at the ground, her mind consumed with the image of her child's lost digits and his whimpering now. "He was hired! The tribes hired him!" she shook her head and looked up again to her son. "Oh, Aalaam... We needed it..." the money. They also disapproved of a foreigner trying to rule the desert. Not that she was going to say that. "He...he had to- to tell them when the... the right time had come, and place!... They camped outside Dali'b...He was supposed to deliver... Deliver you. That's it! That's all I know, please!" She screamed, constantly flipping between calm and hysterical. The longer her son was in the duke's arms, the closer she came to flipping out. She needed him. She needed to hold and comfort him. Couldn't he see?

"What's become of him?" she mumbled, half-musing outloud, after all, Balaric was still here...and she hadn't heard from her husband... "Please... my son..."
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Balaric de Jure
 Posted: Jan 10 2015, 08:55 AM
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So it was for love of money then, the desert guide's betrayal. Men had done far worse for much less, the duke supposed. A man was capable of anything if what he desired meant enough to him, Balaric knew the truth of that all too well, had he not caste aside all pretense of honour to avenge a family he barely knew? Had he not tortured a child to get back what little family he had left?

And it had apparently been a trap for him, not his wife. That was... Interesting. As a hostage, he would be next to useless, no one higher in power would pay anything for him and he was too old and stubborn to cave or flee before threats against his own safety. An assassination attempt made far more sense, bungled perhaps to the point that taking a hostage seemed a worthwhile back up plan? But then the way the ambush had played out made it seem very likely Najla was the original focus, the way she was so deftly corralled out, winnowed from the rest of the hunting party.

Balaric had begun to feel pity for the little family he was tearing to pieces, but at the thought of Najla, her whereabouts and wellbeing unknown, that well of pity dried up, as most did in this accursed desert. The sniveling woman claimed that was everything she knew, but it was not enough, it would not be enough.

"A shame, little Hatim, that your mother does not love you enough to protect you," he murmured to the boy, harsh words gently spoken, as hateful as those word were the duke was almost kind in their delivery. It offered a harsh counterpoint to the sudden spurt of violent motion, yanking the boy back to his feet by his hair, arms scrabbling and toes straining to touch the ground and take some weight to alleviate the pain.

The butcher's knife, already red with the child's blood, pressed against the side of Hatib's throat, hard enough to draw a line of blood trickling along the edge of the blade, running over the scarred hand that held it dripping to the floor. Whether by instinct or passing out from pain and fear, the boy grew very still.

"More, Ihab. Or ought a push a little harder? Cut a little deeper?"
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