Act One: Fragile Peace

 
[NO.]

No one had seen Malcharion move - a surprising fact to consider, given that you don't just miss nearly ten feet of spike-ridden black armor just plod across a lightly-crowded kitchen. But it seemed that this was the case, indeed, as the hunched golem seemed to loom into existence in front of Tobias, blocking his path to his room. Looming, it seemed, came quite naturally to Malcharion, as was glowering and towering over. Despite his well-meaning attempts to minimize such unconscious habits.

[OVERLOOKED. FIRST. TIME.] The golem's ponderous, grinding voice was the same as they had always heard it; like a long-extinct beast's guttural roaring, twisted into near demonic growls, a waspish buzzing edge to every word as they are spoken from behind his elephantine helm. But if one were to listen a bit closer, they would hear the faint note of irritation coloring Malcharion's words - which was, of course, completely preposterous. Everyone knows golems are incapable of emotion, after all.

[WILL. NOT. OVERLOOK. SECOND.] It's at this point that Malcharion, betraying the apparent clumsiness of having such a thickly-armored, ponderously-proportioned form - smoothly reaches out to grab the young man by his arm. The oversized metal fist ending in brutal claws easily spanning Tobias' wrist and then some, closing around the shaman's limb in an iron-fast grip. In the same movement does the golem start to walk forward, back to the kitchen, where the three females stood watching this display - the automaton clearly unconcerned that he'd begun to drag the youth behind him, like a child would its ragged doll.

It's with a growl of servo joints and what sounds like a displeased grunt - if a grunt sounded anything at all like some gigantic leviathan with a bad case of indigestion - that Malcharion presses Tobias' hand on top of the kitchen's counter, right on the chopping block that Lucia had used to dice the meat. [NO. THIRD. TIME. CHOOSE. SHAMAN. HEALING. OR. AMPUTATION.]

Both eyeslits of Malcharion's helm blazed a bright crimson.

Lucia kept looking at the curry as she stirred it every now and then, but she turned toward the strange noise when she heard it... and gasped when he saw Tobias' hand on her stove. That was so sudden, she could only stare at him in disbelief - and then, after he left for his room, at the rest of the group, as if trying to make sure that she wasn't the only one who saw what had happened.

Before she could actually determine whether she was feeling anger or concern at his self-harming act, though, Malcharion had already gone, brought him back, and slammed his hand close to her. She jumped a little, but quickly regained her annoyance at having her cooking disturbed so. This is curry! The easiest dish to make!

"...Commander. Ashcombe," as Malcharion's ultimatum still hung in the air, she slowly turned to them. "Can you help me treat his hand and change his bandage?"

She then leaned toward Tobias - a bit hard to do when a golem had already occupied most of the space, but she tried. "Don't you dare," she hissed, "don't you dare try to follow your stupid, thoughtless gut and say that you're happy to have your hand cut off, Tobias Hearthfire, because he is serious."

"And, if you make him remove your hand, I will honestly follow it up with the most terrible thing you can imagine, multiplied by one thousand, and even more than that, because I will also deny you this curry. And every other breakfast, lunch, dinner, and supper, forever. So don't."

It was hard to tell if she was furious or worried for him. Lucia gave Malcharion a glance and a nod, approving of what he did - and a short threatening glare, just in case of him being in an actual mutilating mood. And then, she quietly moved to remove the bandage on his hand, even if he wasn't going to approve.

Let it never be said Tobias went quietly. As soon as he was taken, Tobias instinctively drew his sword, and began smashing the hilt frantically against Malcharion's hand, sadly to no avail.

He cast the blade away, clattering loudly against a far wall in as much a ruckus as he seemed he could managed, and began to violently pull at Mal's iron grip, again to no avail. Fighting with the desperation of a man fighting for his life, Tobias planted both boots against the giant's metal frame, and pushed feverishly away from him, as if he was attempting to tear his arm off.

None of his actions managed to budge Malcharion's grip. To say he glared at the golem with seething anger was a fierce understatement. If glares could burn, the steel plating of Mal would be melting away.

As his arm is slammed to the table, Tobias dropped his feet to the floor, standing ready to pounce at any moment, any chance of freedom. The lad's mouth opened to roar at the metal beast, but the Priestess cut him off, essentially stealing the words out of his mouth.

"And you think I'm not?!" Whipping his glare at the Priestess, he roughly tore his hand out of her reach, and kept the hand resting on the chopping block clenched tight, preventing the bandage from being removed.

"Do it!" He burst suddenly, directly at Lucia, the first words he'd said all day. "Keep all your damned meals!" He hissed heavily, as much a growl as words. "It's not like I'll need them!" Tearing his gaze back across the room up to Mal's flaming eyesockets, he growled up at the beast too.

"TAKE IT! CUT MY HAND OFF!" He roared.

"TAKE BOTH! IT WON'T MATTER!" Slamming his free fist against the metal of Mal's arm, Tobias roared again, laying into the immovable creature's frame with fearsome fury, seriously threatening to shatter his knuckles. Few would notice the tears welling in his eyes, given his flurried movement, until the lad stopped, glaring up at the monster that held him captive; his amber eyes filled with untold sorrow and rage, and he bellowed at the top of his lungs.

"And take my skull while you're at it! YOU'LL SAVE ME THE PAIN OF WAITING!"



....



There was a long pause, in which Tobias glared directly into Malcharion's empty, flaming sockets. It was hard to see the tears welling up at the edge of his eyes as he waited for Mal to take his hands...

Until finally he broke, and screamed. He just... Screamed. All the rage, the anger, the fury, the sorrow, the confusion, it all poured out in one strained, piercing roar, directed at nothing at all.

His head dropped first, hanging low, thumping against Mal as it did, yet seemingly uncaring of this fact. Suddenly slumping, the lad's knees crashed against the floor, with his form following; the arm held in Mal's vice-like grip the only thing keeping him from being face first in the floor. The metal pauldrons guarding his shoulders rattled with a quiet, dogged breath.

plip. plip.

Something hit the floor, marring it.

Two drops. Tears.

His shoulders shook again with another breath, and sighed, clearly trying very hard to both mask any crack in his voice and any sight of his face.

"I'm sorry..." The lad muttered something very, very softly, his free hand shooting up to grab the golem's frame, hoisting his surprisingly weakened body up. He mashed his open palm against his face to mask it as it scrunched, fighting off the last of the tears.

There was most likely at least one broken knuckle in the hand the smithy used to mask his face, and the other hand had been clenched so brutally, a cut had opened up, the palm seeping red into the bandage very slowly.

His captured palm unfurled; in resignation or in acceptance was difficult to tell.

"Just..." He started, taking a lungful of steadying air, pulling his free hand down his face and staring at the roof.

"Just don't use magic..."

Elizabeth begins moving the moment Malcharion does, making an attempt - despite being rather irritated herself - to pull him back. This, obviously, has about as much of an effect as one might expect. After trying to remove Tobias from the scene briefly and failing at this as well, she resigns herself to watching as the madness (that, after all, is how it would seem to an outsider) unfolds.

As Tobias finally relents - though she had not expected the golem to follow through in the first place, unlike Lucretia - she crouches down by him with a slight sigh. A moment later, she picks up the hand that he had smashed against Malcharion time and again, examining it, then shaking her head slowly. "Nothing broken. Fortune favours the deranged, I'm sure." The shaman gives Lucia a somewhat apologetic look, before all but dragging the smith to another corner of the room, talking as she walks.

"Sorry about that. I wouldn't have said a word if I knew I'd be making this much of a fuss. And Malcharion, do let me know later if he managed to dent anything. Now..." She produces the same bandage roll as before from her pack, followed by a small jar of some sort of tincture. "Listen to me, Tobias. You promised, when we met a few hours ago, that you would be more than happy to help me with anything I might need. Well, this is my work, now that I'm here; keeping each of you safe and unharmed. Whatever you might think, you are my problem, and the same goes for everyone else. If you want to help me, let me do my job. I won't ask for more."

His hands are soon quite thoroughly bandaged, after the wounds have been coated with the tincture, not foul-smelling as such, but certainly strong. Whatever its other functions may be, it serves to dull the pain to some degree. "Since you miraculously avoided smashing your mighty fist into a thousand pieces, I won't have to use any magic to deal with this. I'll have a poultice ready in an hour or two; keep using that, change both bandage and poultice twice per day, and you'll recover in about four days. Longer if you decide to pet the stove again. Which leaves one thing."

She lifts Tobias's head slightly from staring at the floor, looking rather concerned, though it was clearly the concern of one who suspected him of being more than a little unstable. Being perfectly ordinary in this line of work was almost unheard of, certainly, but this was something else entirely.

"I'm assuming something must have set you off. At least, I hope so. Whatever it is, the sooner we get it out of the way, the better. I'll even get out of the room for that, if it's not anything you want an outsider to hear." She pauses momentarily, struck by a new thought, then adds "unless you're always like this. In that case, just drop by later, I think I have something I can give you for that."

[NO. NO DENTS.] There is a long silence before the golem deigns to reply, the words growled out from behind the terrible, tusked elephantine helm. The light behind the eyeslits blazing briefly, before dimming into a soft ruby glow. [ONLY. DISAPPOINTMENT.]

With that, Malcharion's brutally-armored hand creaks open, letting go of Tobias' wrists - and amazingly enough, despite the apparent force that the monstrous golem had applied in keeping the young man secure despite his agonies, not a mark on his skin existed. Not even the barest indentation of the metal plates that formed the giant's fist scoring his skin. As if despite his brutish appearance and ways, the golem knew exactly just how much force he needed to exert, using that and no more.

[STANDING GUARD. OUTSIDE.] The hunched, spiked tower of death and destruction gives the limpid, shaking form of Tobias one last look, before turning towards Vivian and nodding. [COMMANDER.]

The rest of the barracks shake briefly as its maker trundles out. The skulls impaled on the rack of barbed spikes on his shoulders clacking gently together with each step, chattering softly.

Lucia was frustrated, but as much as she'd like to respond to Tobias and enter into a shouting match with him, she found herself unable to do so. Why would anyone act in this way?

She took a step back and let Elizabeth had her way with him, turning her gaze away from the Glen's shaman when she tried to make an eye contact. It annoyed her a little to admit it, but maybe she could handle this situation better. Slowly, she reached at the ladle and began to stir the curry once more, as if nothing had happened, although she still managed to shake her head and heave an exaggerated sigh while Malcharion made his leave.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cogwheel View Post
"I'm assuming something must have set you off. At least, I hope so. Whatever it is, the sooner we get it out of the way, the better. I'll even get out of the room for that, if it's not anything you want an outsider to hear." She pauses momentarily, struck by a new thought, then adds "unless you're always like this. In that case, just drop by later, I think I have something I can give you for that."
"No, no. I'd like to hear this right now," Lucia said without raising her eyes from the pan. "I'm sure this is going to be a very interesting story."

Everything had collapsed on top of Tobias - when he had felt so... Reasonable less than an hour ago. In silence, he let Malcharion go free; if he had half a mind, he would tell the golem exactly how little he sought its validation, but it would be exactly like talking to a brick wall - literally.

He also allowed his hands to be wrapped in absolute silence, giving Elizabeth neither words nor eye contact. Only the floorboards were graced with his glazed, teary eyes. After he was tended to, Tobias sat down gently into an open chair, and rested his elbows on his knees, his bandaged hands hanging freely.

Lucia, similarly, received no response from Tobias, despite his brief, minor urge to snap back at her.

After a few moments of silence, maybe a few minutes, the lad's gaze sharpened up, but to nothing in particular.

"I'm dying." He spoke in a disturbingly plain tone for its context. Whether or not he intended so, Tobias fell silent again, unwittingly letting his words hang, and soak into his companions.

"And there's no magic that can save me." The lad paused to take a breath, biting his lip softly, as if remembering something unpleasant - it would have to be quite horrific, given how unpleasant the current situation was.

"I have exactly one month left to live." He added, finally; the news just kept getting worse, it seemed.

"As of right now, that month is on hold. I'm in stasis, in a sense." The lad blinked, considering how odd that sounded, even though it was a fact he repeated to himself every night.

"However, it could start counting down at any time. It may have already; I... I just don't know. I live in constant fear that I might suddenly fall, and never get up..." Never once taking his gaze off the floor, Tobias' tone focused squarely on Elizabeth, growing exceptionally soft.

"Could you please get my backpack, Elizabeth?..." Exceptionally polite was not his usual tone, or so it may have seemed to his fellow shamans, but it was one he had adopted in spades. "The last time I tried to get it, a golem grabbed me..." He smiled at the floor, weakly.

"...Ah," was all that she could say after a long silence. She had never known about this. How could she, when she had just learned his name a few days ago?

Lucia didn't know what living on borrowed time felt like, but her thoughts kept returning to the previous Willow Glen's shaman and his last courageous if misguided attack. Perhaps she would have to face such a moment too, considering the life expectancy of all shamans.

"I'm sorry. I didn't know," she said, turning once again to face him properly. Her expression seemed to be clouded with unease and guilt, but she quickly dispelled them with a confident nod. What she said next though, despite all her good intentions, could not be any less comforting. "It might be for nothing, but... I'll try and talk to the temple, and to the council. The sooner we can attack Cairn Gorm, the more likely it is for you to be useful."

"You can still serve the Spirits and Morningveil before you die. I'll make sure of it."

It sounded like there had been quite a commotion going on when Vivian arrived properly; were it something of great concern, Madrich would have let her know, of course. Probably. The desire to intervene passed quickly, however - what she could hear amounted to the Hearthfire lad and the young priestess having a spat. The commander barely suppressed a chuckle and opted to loiter outside for a while instead. It was a nice day, after all, and it wouldn't do for her to bother the two of them EVERY time a foot went into a mouth.

Mal's booming, however, did not hearten her much, nor did the burst of yelling that came after.

Oh dear, she thought, maybe I oughtn't have gone out after all. Still, Mal wasn't one for unnecessary violence, and even the Sulk Spirit Tobias couldn't possibly enrage the two young ladies in his company badly enough to get himself maimed in one afternoon.

...Right?

She didn't even realize she was so deeply in thought until the giant metal skullman greeted her, something that made her jump, then offer an awkward smile. ...Her thoughts were getting away from her again, today. That wasn't good.

"My. He's stirring up quite a ruckus today, isn't he? Thank you for sorting it out, Malcharion." The commander shifted a little, then drifted over to the golem's side to stare idly at the passerby. He made her feel at ease, somehow. Vivian found most of her kindred spirits under heavy metal plating, and Mal served as something of an odd, old comfort. It was a shame he was a drifter - a shame he was a golem, for that matter. Why, if she'd known anyone with that sort of quiet force she may have become a wife and mother instead of a shaman.

Or a dead woman, for that matter.

The walking suit of terrifying, brutally-spiked armor turns slightly from its post outside the barracks, the eyeslits of his tusked elephantine helm flaring briefly at the sight of the veteran commander. He remains utterly silent as he watches her move to his side, seemingly to stand guard in front of the barracks as well, another sentry to stand watch while the populace of Morningveil went about with their lives. Though the thought does not come to the golem at all, it is clear by the way they attract cautious, wary stares that they make for such an amusing couple, standing side by side like that.

[NO. THANKS. NEEDED. COMMANDER.] Malcharion rumbles, the joints under his helm creaking, snarling, as it swivels back to face forward. [REGRET. NEEDING. TO. RESORT. TO. SUCH.--] The golem pauses in its ponderous words, as if taking a moment to think. [THEATRICS. BUT. I. HOPE. HE. LEARNS.]

Malcharion respected the Commander. A strange thing, considering that he had never once obeyed a figure of military authority, never acquiesced to their demands to engage in wholesale slaughter of the enemy. In fact, it seemed that the golem, built for war and destruction as it was, only obeyed those too weak to fight for themselves - those caught in the crossfire, the innocent, the downtrodden. The lowly soldiers that followed their sergeants and captains and generals to their deaths, dying for causes too foolish to even consider.

But he respected Vivian. Enough to refer to her rank. Enough not to growl her name in his gutter-deep rumblings. Enough, even, that he would defer to her command in times when her authority - and wisdom - were needed the most, and how it desperately needed to be enacted with the force of a war golem.

[HOW.] The golem suddenly breaks the silence between them, just a touch of hesitation in its voice. Not that anyone can tell, really, by the way he sounds like a monstrous demon after a tainted plate of Morningveil curry. [ARE. YOU., COMMANDER?]

He also respected her enough to occasionally break character.

Because no one expects small talk from the furniture.




 

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