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Luck Runs Out

Writers: Yvonne
Date Posted: 7th May 2019

Characters: Taril, Jagin
Description: Taril does something for Humari.
Location: Sunstone Seahold
Date: month 11, day 1 of Turn 9
Notes: Mentioned: Humari, Yriadha, Bryvin
Notes: Some violence ahead. Follows 'SSH: Accidents Have Consequences'; Occurs early morning

The Hold guards caught up to Jagin two miles from the Hold when the Beastcrafter’s runner had picked a stone up in its shoe. They had limped back together at dusk. Jagin’s hands bound behind his back and he was escorted by two impassive guards. Their runners were streaked with sweat as they headed back toward the stables, anxious for water, a good rub down and a ration of hay to fill their bellies.

The guards dismounted and pulled Jagin off his mare. The Beastcrafter walked with his head bowed and eyes fixed on the cobbles as the guards led him into the old north tower at Sunstone Seahold, where the holding cells were. It was full dark now and the main entrance to the tower was lined with glows. The doors were open and a swirl of Holders and Crafters came in and out as they finished their business for the day and headed to the dining hall or their own cots for dinner and whatever else they did in the dark to pass the time. Jagin and his guards barely merited a second glance.

Eventually the doors closed for the night. The glows were doused by sleepy-eyed drudges and the Hold settled into shadow. One of the shadows near the base of the stairs moved, resolving itself into a man in a dark oilskin coat and a hood. He had a peg leg and pronounced limp as he walked slowly toward the stairs that led down to the Hold’s prison.

It was more of a store room, really. There wasn’t much need for security, and the prison had actually been converted from the old Steward’s offices. The long hall had the guards’ room at one end near the stairs, and the little rooms branching off from the hallway usually held an assortment of drunks and the occasional pirate. Tonight it was nearly empty.

The guards were playing some sort of card game and enjoying the bottle of harsh whiskey that had been sent down with their shift, a gift with an unknown provenience. The man with the limp paused at the bottom of the stairs near the door to the guard’s room. When they laughed, sounding drunk and happy, he crossed the entryway, his oilskin coat blending in with the grey of the rock so that he passed unseen. One of the glows at the end of the hall was momentarily obscured by brown flit wings, then went out.

Taril stopped in front of the door to the last cell. With the glow dimmed, the only light came from a small slit high in the far wall which let in Beilor’s light. He stared at the man within and felt-- nothing. The rage, the grief that had sustained him thus far seeped away and was replaced with a cold sense of purpose.

“Hello?” Jagin stirred in his bed in the hay piled in one corner of the room. “Is someone there?”

“There is.” Taril leaned against the door. “Hello, Jagin.”

The Beastcrafter inhaled sharply. “Taril. Taril, I’m so sorry--”

“I’m not the one you should be apologizing to.” Taril thought of his wife with her twisted, broken body and bloodied face. Her empty womb. Lost in a haze of pain and drugs. Maybe lost forever. He thought of his son’s tear-stained face as he cried for his mother. His heart twisted. “But I’m not here for apologies.”

“Why are you here?” Jagin sounded frightened.

Taril stared at him long enough that the man finally stood. “I’m here to make amends.”

Jagin inched forward into the moonlight. “If I scream, the guards will come--”

Taril smiled. It wasn’t kind. “Are you a gambling man, Jagin?”

The Beastcrafter hesitated, then shook his head. “They’ll come to help me--”

“They might. They might not care. Maybe I bribed them. But maybe I didn’t. I see you are a gambling man after all.” Taril dropped his hand into his pocket and withdrew a small crossbow. Jagin scrambled to the other side of the cell as he bent and withdrew a bolt from his boot. “You stole something very dear to me, and now you have a choice. You can face the Lord Holder and beg mercy from him, but I think your odds are fecking poor. You hurt my wife. The Headwoman’s daughter. Both Yriadha and I are far more valuable to him than you are. You, Jagin, are what I’d call ‘disposable’.”

Jagin whimpered. “Please, Taril. I didn’t mean for this to happen. It’s not my fault! It was an accident. Kids were teasing my runners, it’s their fault--”

“Your fence, your runners,” Taril said sharply. The rage he’d felt earlier flared to life, white hot. He took a breath to tamp it down. “My wife, now. She’s got a pretty good chance of not making it through the night. If she does, she might have brain damage. She might not be able to walk, or speak, or hold a spoon or--” he stopped himself and stared at the crossbow bolt in his hand. “The odds are not in her favour.”

“Are you going to kill me?” Jagin whispered.

Taril shook his head. He slipped the crossbow back in his big pocket and pulled the coil of rope off his shoulder. In the faint moonlight it became apparent that one end was tied into a noose. “I brought this for you, Jagin. Since you’re a gambling man.” Taril found the end without the noose and tied it tightly to the bars of the cell, just beneath the cross bar. He held the rest of the rope out to Jagin.

Jagin scrambled as far away from it as he could. “No, I won’t. I won’t!”

“Hanging yourself is a gamble, Jagin. Maybe you’ll die. Maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll just end up brain damaged, like my wife.” Taril pulled the tiny crossbow out of his pocket again. “Odds are, the Lord Holder will be more lenient if you show him-- and I mean _really_ show-- him how sorry you are. But here’s the odds going the other way. You don’t do this and I put a bolt through your forehead. No chance there. You’ll be dead.”

Jagin shook his head again. “The guards--”

“You think the guards care? About you?” Taril grinned. “Let’s say that you’re right. Let’s say that for whatever reason I didn’t bribe the guards. Let’s say that they come if you yell. How confident are you that I can’t put a bolt through your eye before they run all the way down here? It’s a long hallway, Jagin. How confident are you that they won’t let me seek my own justice anyway? They know what you did to my wife.” His smile dropped. “Let’s even those odds.”

“You can’t do this,” Jagin said quickly. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, but Taril, it wasn’t my fault! You have to believe me!”

Taril shook the rope. “You have a minute to decide. I’m not a patient man. What will it be-- a sure death, or a chance to beg your case to Lord Bryvin and cast yourself on his famous mercy?”

“You can’t do this--” Jagin’s voice trembled. Then he gathered himself. “It’s not my fault!” he shouted, but just then the guards laughed again. Drunkenly. Jagin tried again. “Help me! It’s not my fault!”

This was a gamble too. Taril held his breath, but the card game in the guard room continued. He’d gambled on the fact that they were used to the desperate cries of the incarcerated. That they were too drunk to really listen. A long moment passed, then Taril smiled. “Looks like it’s just you and me. Decide, Jagin.”

“I can’t! I can’t do it! You can’t do this to me!” Jagin shrank against the far wall until Taril raised his crossbow and aimed it at the Beastcrafter’s forehead. Finally, finally Jagin crept forward and accepted the rope from Taril.

The merchant nodded to the ceiling. “Throw it over one of the beams.”

It took several tries, but Jagin managed to get the end of the rope over one of the beams. The noose hung in the square of moonlight cast by the window. Jagin was white as he overturned his refuse bucket and used it to stand beneath the noose. Taril used his crossbow to gesture for Jagin to put the noose around his neck.

“Don’t make me do this. It wasn’t my fault,” Jagin plead. His hands were shaking and his eyes wild in the moonlight. Tear tracks glittered on his dirty cheeks.

“Most people don’t die when they hang themselves,” Taril said conversationally. “But when the Lord Holder orders it done… well, it’s efficient.”

Slowly Jagin looped the noose over his neck. He was standing on his tip toes and had both hands looped through the noose as well. “Please no…”

“Kick away the bucket,” Taril said.

“I can’t do it,” Jagin started to remove the noose.

Taril dropped the crossbow and dived for the end of the rope that was tied to the bars. He jerked the rope back and put his one good foot against the bars for leverage. The rope hanging Jagin got shorter and the noose tightened. Jagin started to flail and kicked the bucket aside. Taril let go of his end of the rope. It fell quickly through his fingers and snapped against the knot tying it to the cell door-- and held. Taril stepped toward the bars.

Jagin kicked. His eyes bugged in his head and his fat tongue slipped between his teeth as he struggled to breathe. His hands were still looped through the noose and his forearms bulged as he tried to take the weight off his neck.

It took about half a candlemark for Jagin to stop kicking. Another half candlemark to make sure that he wasn’t breathing. As Jagin’s body relaxed against the noose, Taril’s gamble became a sure thing. He picked up his crossbow, unloaded the bolt, and slipped both halves of the weapon into his pocket. Taril’s peg leg ached and his eyes hurt from straining to see in the dark. He limped slowly back the way he’d come, letting Jagin’s body twist slowly in the moonlight. The Beastcrafter wouldn’t be found until the morning.

It was too easy. It wasn’t enough. It wouldn’t fix Humari. But it was all he could do.

Last updated on the May 10th 2019

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