The Aresan Clan is published four times a week (Tue, Wed, Fri, Sun). You can see what's been written so far collected here. All posts will be posted under the Aresan Clan label. For summaries of the events so far, visit here. See my previous serial Vampire Wares collected here.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Aresan Clan pt 80

The man, named Janake, sat opposite Mill and maintained a fixed stare, squeezing his brow together in the attitude of intense and concentrated effort. He bore nothing in his hand with which to take any notes and seemed to be concentrating in particular to inscribe everything he saw and heard onto the interior of his mind.

“For the attempted murder of one of our citizens within the holy confines of our palace, the maximum penalty is death,” Janake began, “But if you provide us with useful information, we will be able to reduce your sentence to a more bearable punishment. Do you understand?”

“More bearable punishment?” Mill asked, “What does that mean?”

“It’s not up to me to decide,” Janake shrugged his shoulders, then suggested tentatively, “But perhaps forty lashes and permanent excommunication. If your information proves valuable.”

Janake continued, “For reasons we cannot disclose, we believe that you are a member of the Omnia and that you are acting on orders provided by them. Can you either confirm or deny this information? And bear in mind that I see clearly from here every movement and expression that you make.”

The two items in Mill’s mind that were being weighed against one another—his fidelity to his homeland and his love of his own life—were far from evenly balanced. Whatever patriotism had originally led him to abandon his home and settle in this faraway land as a foreign pretender had long since evaporated, whereas his life, though he would willingly sacrifice it for something or someone who deserved it, he valued greatly. And for him in particular, as for any man who is loved, his life was not entirely his own; he refused to believe that he was free to dispose of it as he liked. He had to preserve himself for Anika. So, when Mill heard Janeke’s words, he confessed openly: “I wasn’t acting on orders. Not explicit orders, at least. I’ve never been told to kill anyone. But I provide information to the Omnia and am charged with protecting their interest. Killing Lipmon seemed in the interest of the Omnia.”

Janake nodded contemplatively as he said: “That clarifies how they were able to get an assassin this far so quickly. Then you knew what information he possessed? You knew something about this village of Still Creek-for?”

“I overheard him talking about it in Orinda-for. That’s where I’ve been living these past five years.”

“But how did you know that the Omnia was involved in the attack he described?” Janake asked, intensely furrowing his brow, “Lipmon certainly wasn’t aware it was coming from there. We haven’t even determined that fact for sure yet.”

“The courier I contact with told me an attack was coming, that they were hitting some tiny Fourth Order village nearby. I didn’t know why or even where they were attacking. When I heard Lipmon’s account, I filled in the gaps,” Mill answered. But as he gave this answer he looked, more so than in his previous responses, nervous and uncomfortable. This wasn’t due to him having something to hide, since he in fact told all he knew, but, rather, due to him having so little to say, something he feared might displease his interrogator and lead to some unpleasant consequences.

Janake, though, interpreted the nervousness unfavorably. He turned around to look at the instruments of torture that sat behind him in the shadows unused and said, “I don’t like to use those machines back there. I genuinely feel the pain of others when they are tortured. I can’t help it. But I need information and, if you don’t give it to me, if I sense that you are lying, that you are holding something back, we will have to resort to it. Do you understand?”

“They don’t tell me any more than I need to,” Mill said now growing even more nervous, “They only told me this much because it was happening in my vicinity. They’d prefer I knew as little as possible. It’s a liability.”

Janake sighed with disappointment and then gestured for the guard, telling him, “Grab that metal poker back there,” pointing towards a blunt, handled rod lying on the table. “Put it in the flame to heat it up,” Janake instructed, indicating the large flame of the lamp that illuminated the room. The guard strode forward and did as he was told.

As the poker heated up within the flame, Janeke looked at Mill with fixed, intent eyes and waited, unmoving, for him to speak. In Mill’s mind he scrambled for an answer, some plausible lie to say that would convince his interlocutor that he was being cooperative.

<-- Go to Part 79         Go to Part 81 -->

You can see what's been written so far collected here.

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