|A Matter of Choice|
|Summary:||Ser Nevan Erenford and Ser Maldred Rivers finally pay a visit to the captive bandit held within the Erenford dungeon in search of answers regarding the murder of Young Lord Ser Marvish.|
|A windowless room in the dank dungeon, lit by sconces, with a single table and a few hard wooden chairs.|
|Friday, October 5, 289|
After about a week within the confines of the Erenford dungeon, the prisoner has had minimal contact with anyone other than the routine guard tasked with delivering a meal once a day upon Lady Erenford's orders. The pungent perfume of sweat and bodily waste practically rolls from the opening of the cell to pollute the hall just outside. A few attempts have been made, upon meal deliveries, to extract information but the bandit has been completely silent. Shaggy and unkempt, it would be nearly impossible to ascertain the gender of the token prisoner if not for the seemingly absent presence of an adam's apple.
Upon this evening, like so many before, the food remains untouched and upended upon the floor of the cell while the prisoner faces a corner and idly scratches with her nails upon the wall at her side, simply biding time… for what? Well, that remains to be unknown.
Nevan steps down into the dungeons, nose wrinkling in disdain at the smell as he gathers up a couple of the men on duty and has them lead him to the prisoner's cell. Nevan gives a nod toward the door as he stands straight, his expression stony as he speaks, "Gather up the prisoner - it's about time we had a chat."
That said, pair of men would then seek to unlock the door, go inside and - whether they resist or not - restrain them and clap them in irons to then drag them to a private corner of the dungeon used for questioning - a small windowless room with a simple wooden table and a few chairs - and forcefully seat them.
Nevan would enter shortly thereafter, nodding to the guardsmen who would then stay nearby and keep watch should they get rowdy. He keeps his distance for now, staying near the entrance of the room as he coldly looks at their prisoner. "So. I've been told that you haven't spoken a word since you got here. Being stubborn, waiting for something? I'm not sure. Many are resigned to just send you to the gallows, but if you wanted any chance at all of getting out of this alive - that chance is now. So. What is it you want to say?"
Behind Ser Nevan comes a less imposing or spectacular figure, his garb of dark, even, almost black leathers relieved only by the occasional thin, serrated slash of paler grey cloth across his long arms' sleeves. He wears a cowl, also of tanner's matter, raised and ominous, though a couple of strands of sweaty, lightish coloured hair stray onto his brow. He holds his piece for now, his right hand toying with the head of a dun-coloured, undecorated dirk, as he strays from foot to foot, almost apologetic in his mien, or, at the very least, wary.
The prisoner puts up no resistance as she is escorted from her cell and restrained. Oily hair hangs to shield her eyes, little more than some muddied mop, as her feet shuffle across the floor all the while being led to that questioning room. The lack of windows is immediately evident as the closed space only seems to make the unwelcome aromas wafting from the heavily soiled bandit that much worse. One of the guards gags a bit but manages to hold his lunch all the same
Forced down into the hard wooden seat, her head remains hanged as she continues the measure of unresponsiveness. The words spoken by the Erenford lord do little to stir a response, nary so much as a flinch, almost as if not heard at all.
"More silence, then," Nevan remarks, lips thin as he considers the prisoner. The smell is bad, but not much beyond what he had to endure during the Iron Islands campaign. "I can only conclude two things from that - you're deaf and can't hear a word I say, or you're choosing not to speak. If you're choosing not to speak, I can only wager you're doing so to protect something - your compatriots, perhaps, maybe even an idea. If it's for them, I have no idea why," Nevan starts, tilting his head curiously as he folds his arms over his chest. "You're here rotting in this dungeon, while they're out there - no doubt celebrating about how they're getting off because they cowed some fool of a girl into keeping quiet for them and, if your stellar devotion continues, probably dying for them. A tool to be used and chucked away - is that what you've become?"
The stranger in that muted leather half-draws his long knife, but what he intends to do with it is, apparently, uncertain, for the moment. First his cold eyes flick to the Erenford knight, then, as if more significantly, back to that encrusted relict that was once female.
"You could live wholesomely for quite some time yet here, you know," he murmurs. "Don't think that you'll be permitted to keep scanting your commons, aye, there are ways around that, right enough. For if you've told naught, you'll yet eat something. So kind are the hosts of Heronhurst. Hollyholt or Highfield?"
The hooded man may look of indeterminate rank, but though he speaks quietly, it is with the assurance of one who considers himself at least Ser Nevan's equal - an attitude supported when he mutters something, not particularly deferentially, into the young Erenford's right ear.
The dirty mop of a bandit just continues to sit in her chair, silence returned to both men as she never once even strays a glance up to acknowledge their existence. Were it not for the fact her chest continues to rise and fall with breath it might be almost easy enough to think her dead. No name, no markings, no sigils - nothing upon the prisoner seems to give any indication to where her loyalties truly lay.
One of the guards looks back to the Erenford lord and his companion, "Been like this since we brought her down here, milord."
Nevan doesn't react much to what Maldred whispers to him, but he does raise a hand is if to tell the other man to wait as he looks once again to the silent prisoner. "In the end, you're not the one we care about capturing. Someone was behind this, masterminded it, talked the rest of you into it - with coin or promises of power, or simply for their own twisted amusement, I don't know. All we want is justice," he intones, approaching the table and bracing himself on it with his hands as he leans over to peer at the girl. "Do you even care about what they did? /Who/ they killed? The…'Young Lord, Ser Marvish Erenford'. Some rich buffoon you likely could never care for, and wish would all rot and die away. A stuffy title, detached and meant to raise him above others. I never knew him like that, though, because I actually knew him for the entirety of my life. I just called him Marvish - he was my brother," Nevan explains, a sad smile coming to his lips as he continues.
"One of four - there were four of us at one time, you know. Me, Brennart, Diarmuid and Marvish. Marvish was never meant to be heir, to have our father bearing down on him - no, that was Diarmuid's honor. And he loved it. Marvish once told me that no greater a pompous windbag did ever exist than our brother Diarmuid," Nevan chuckles a bit at that memory, though he grows sad again, "But that arrogance could never protect him from death. He died about 7 years ago, leaving his little girl Hafwen. Then it all fell onto Marvish, who was never meant to take on the burdens he did. Dour and serious, yet he'd throw out his barbs when the opportunity struck and he'd manage to wedge the stick out of his ass. He could be a hard man, but we knew it was a front. He always cared for his family. I don't think he much enjoyed what was put upon him, as he'd always rather be fighting. Running off into the wilds to slay the evils in the forest that were threatening our people - that was the life he preferred. That was something we had in common - I'd only ever end up talking to him about footwork and he was merciless in his critcism…until he was killed, trying to seek out that life when he just should've stayed at home. No widows or children this time, but he's certainly gone. I'll never talk to my brother again, and for what?"
Nevan shakes his head, stepping back to rub at his eyes a moment as he turns away to look down the dungeon's hall and fold his hands back his back. "I'll never get my brother back - your friends saw to that and made sure of it. All I can do now is make sure he rests easy, make sure that whoever murdered my brother and left you to rot in this whole gets what's coming to them. It's all I have left. Are you going to keep quiet, take even that away from me?"
The second man looks as if he is witnessing the Erenford outburst with a fair measure of restraint, embarrassment, and perhaps even, just about, pain. But at the same time he keeps a measured surveillance on the captured drab. A look less repulsed than…speculative, as his right hand still toys with that half-released hilt.
"It's true what he says," this cold fellow adds with some apparent reluctance, "and besides, if you lost any kin to the Ironmen, wench, you spit on them with your silence, for Ser Marvish was a good foe to them. Besides, since you're being so stubborn, you should know that we have the child."
"Death takes us all, one day," the response rasps out from between a set of parched lips, flat and relatively devoid of emotion. The rather long winded reminiscing of the Erenford lord does garner a faint lift of the woman's head as shielded eyes shift from one man to the next. Several minutes more pass in utter silence before the bandit croaks out again, "I choose to rot."
"Well," the second, hooded interrogator cuts back with some of the disgust he has stored back over the past hour, "I do not. I wish you a profitable conversation, Ser Nevan, but for myself, I'm back to the quarters your *last* brother kindly laid on, for now. Good eve." There is immense haughtiness in the swivelling of his sinewy frame, and his swift, staccato march off down the corridor, up to the light.
"So then, life is meaningless? Then why did you bother living until now, if it's all a wasted effort?" Nevan answers, turning around to eye the girl. "Death may take us all, but that only make how we live all the more important. You're letting my brother's murderers whore and drink while you choose to give up for their sake - and for what? Marvish never did anything to them. Is his life worth whatever meager spoils your friends have reaved from snuffing him out? Is your life worth that? We may all die one day, but if that is the case, why does it have to be you and him instead of them?"
"A knight that lives by the sword, dies by the sword," she rasps with almost hollow words, "…it is the way any knight wishes to go. He raised arms to us and fell for that." The bandit issues a pregnant pause, her head jerking to the side to study him for several moments more. Narrowing her gaze, she continues, "You are so quick to judge Marvish as the victim. You ask all these questions, but you don't really want the truth. The truth is a lie to your ears and you don't believe in lies." Slowly shifting her attentions to look back down upon the table, she speaks a bit clearer, "No spoil is meager. No crust of bread unwanted. That he was your heir is a misfortune to you, not us. We spared him a life of slow death and for that, he should thank us."
"That he was my /brother/ is misfortunate to me. His death brings me closer to the Seal, I wouldn't care at all if inheritence was the issue," Nevan replies swiftly, narrowing his eyes back at her. "Marvish was charged with protecting his home and its people. He wouldn't come upon a group of people in the woods and butcher them for no reason - your friends took my brother's life, not a mere crust of bread. How is he not the victim? You claim I don't want the truth, yet you refuse to tell me what that is," continues the Erenford, lips thinning again as he stares at the girl. "You refused to talk, you refused to eat, you spurn my brother for the crime of defending himself. A mercenary does not do this - a mercenary looks out for themselves. Yet you stand defiant, resigned to your death, to protect the men who left you behind. Why? You say I won't hear the truth, perhaps you should try telling me first."
There is a faint shrug of the woman's boney shoulders in reply, her gaze lingering upon the table, "You ask 'why'? I say… 'why not'." As she continues to speak, the rasp begins to ebb away from her voice slightly as if growing accustomed to its use once more, "Some questions have no answers. Your brother set upon us and he was killed. It matters little who drew blades first. The dead is still the dead, and nothing brings them back." The bandit leans a bit closer, "You've never starved and know not the value of a crust of bread. It is worth more than a life, heir or not. Your brother died with dignity and took a man down with him. It's hardly our fault his body was too weak to fight the wounds. Don't cheapen the gift he was given just because you wish him here still."
"'Hardly your fault'? So it's not your fault he died from his wounds, even though you inflicted them?" queries Nevan at that odd display of logic, shaking his head slowly. "You weren't at the Iron Isles, you didn't see what they did to the Roost - I know of /that/ quite well. And the only reason that crust of bread has meaning is to prolong your life - to /survive/. Yet you tell me that survival is a slow death. You tell me killing others to survive is right, even for a crust of bread, yet you sacrifice your own life for the cowards who fled to continue their own. Your beliefs and your actions don't make any sense," posits Nevan, knitting his brow together as he considers the woman. "So for this…stupid, non-sensical philosophy of yours, that your comrades apparently do not share - I'd imagine theirs is that everything's well and good so long as someone else gets shit on for it - you're going to die? Death is final - there will be no more chances, no more joys, no more meaning - and you're going to sacrifice all that you are for the loyalty of your fellows who gladly shit on you and whatever it is you think when they turned tail and fled to leave you here?"
"I told you that you didn't wish the truth. You've got it all set within your mind already. The moment I was taken, my life ended. I accept this as do each of us when our time comes," she states simply as her eyes continue to peer beneath the muddied mop of hair. The female bandit appears entirely unmoved by his words, taking each in complete stride as she slowly settles her back against her chair, "It is not cowardly to leave with the spoils of a raid, it is simply business. You still fail to understand the truth of any of this." Her head shakes slowly, perhaps out of the first sign of any form of emotion to reveal only pity towards the Erenford lord, "I am here because I choose to be nowhere else. You hold me because I allow you to hold me. It is simple and yet you still don't understand. I have accepted what is to come, but you haven't. Even now you try to save me… and why?"
"You're still alive and breathing. Unlike Marvish, your life isn't over. If you help us find your fellows and bring them to justice - as they live by the sword, they will die by it - your life isn't over. Their capture is far preferred to yours - which is exactly why you're not dead yet," Nevan explains, eyes focused on hers as she asks her question. "They will be hanged, but you will survive. You'll have the spoils of your life and they will get what they deserve. If I were the businesslike sort, I would do so in a heartbeat myself. They left loose ends, and their negligence would be their downfall. That is the logical thing to do. Letting myself be killed so that a bunch of cowards can live? Not logical in the least."
An audible smirk escapes the foul smelling bandit as she adds, "You still don't understand. They won't hang. You won't catch them. You might get lucky and bring in another, but you'll never get what you want from us. It's not a matter of logic. Logic is something your kind uses to allow themselves to sleep at night. But logic has no place in a chaotic world. Your kind lies, cheats, rapes, and kills - labeling all under a banner of war to call it right. We might do the same, but at least we are honest about calling it for what it is." Shaking her head she turns to look at one of the guards to her right, "You offer mercy in the exchange of my life for theirs, not because you believe in mercy, but because bringing down many bandits is a much more honorable task than hanging one lone female. I don't need your mercy, nor do I accept it. I'm dead and deadmen tell no tales."
"It's a shame the one bandit we found had to view herself as some sort of righteous martyr in her glorious profession of murder and thievery. You'd think someone that care so much about survival would bother to…/survive/ instead of simply throw up their hands and give up. Congratulations, I guess," Nevan shrugs, apparently giving up as he turns to leave. "Know that you're not a corpse now - I alone had the power to see that you walked out of here. It was no myth or fantasy. I may not have done it out of mercy, but it would've been in your best interests. Doing that was merely stepping on others to see that your survive, something you were quite willing to do before but for some reason now do not when it's actually for the best for once. That chance is gone. Enjoy what little time you have left soaking in your own piss while your friends live free. I suppose they may even mourn you for a few seconds before they forget you ever existed."
He nods to the guards. "Throw her back in her pit. Keep an eye on her - make sure she stays alive. We're not done with her yet." The guards would then do as ordered, picking the woman back up as they had before and throwing her back in the cell. Nevan would then make his way back into the keep proper, shaking his head in disbelief.
The guards lift the soiled prisoner to her feet once more, giving a nod of obedience to the Erenford lord. For her own part, the bandit is once more silent as she is hauled back to her room. Any earlier pity appears to have ebbed from her as feet shuffle along the floor to leave a the lingering odor of her soiled attire in her wake.