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Anywhere and Else *Me (Thestarjar) and That Guy*

thestarjar

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Theida nodded along, going through approximately the same thought process. "Yeah, that's... yeah."

At her confirmation, Spindle's frown deepened. He was so twitchy, Theida thought, tapping his foot and all but swinging his arms about, but then Larch's voice commanded attention again. "And, in your malice, with no one up to stop you... it pains me to ask, but I cannot imagine another reason for it to be stolen," he said, looking at the crowd and at Myrica, before facing Hother and Theida again. "I believe that you've destroyed the book. Would this again be right?"

Theida knew, again, that this wasn't right at all, but it certainly made sense within the fiction that he'd created. If she and Hother were 'malicious,' and they stole the book, then sure, she would probably also destroy it. As Larch said, why else take it? "Yeah," she said again, with a thoughtful mildness that held none of the gravity that the question deserved.
 
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That Guy

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Hother shrugged slowly and placidly, again passively pleading that this was the not-wrong course of action.

"...This ain't right! Veripalex, I must object!" Bristlecone's tone may as well have been as sharp as it sounded, for all Hother could feel. Certainly, the outburst came as something of a jolt to him; though it quickly settled back down to that previous state of tepid mid-ease. Nevertheless, he continued, "Censor Larch is clearly leading the testimony of the accused..!"
"Gnoev Bristlecone." It didn't even sound like a request for his attention. Myrica, mustering an impatient, piercing not-quite-glare, simply reiterated her opening statement: "Following the testimony, any further deliberations will take place should they be deemed necessary. If you must take issue with proceedings, restrain yourself until the appropriate time. To all present: I shall not issue this warning again. Until that time, be at peace."

That, Hother was certain, was a command; and a rather helpful one, at that. He allowed himself a gentle exhale, a gentle twitch of his ears, and a moment to release the tension he hadn't realised he had been building up in his frame. Peace. Yes... Yes, be at peace. Of course.
 

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"I understand this is upsetting news for everyone, but I would remind you, Gnoev, that they are under the effects of a truth serum. They would not agree if my suggestions were not already true," Larch said. His tone stayed level as ever; he seemed content to let Myrica's warning serve without trying to add his own weight to it. "Veripalex Myrica, my questioning of the accused is complete. I believe the conclusion to be clear."
 

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"The caucus accepts this testimony gratefully, Censor." Myrica offered some gesture that was no doubt much less foreign to Larch, then turned a more expectant look towards Bristlecone and Spindle. "At this juncture, the complainant may rest, unless the accused or their counsel has sufficient defence to submit..?"
 

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Spindle had been in the same frozen silence since the mere suggestion of the book being destroyed, but he finally blinked back into focus when addressed. "V-Veripalex," he said, and then drew a long, shaky breath, trying to gather his thoughts. His fingers interlocked, palms upturned and flat. "I-I'm--I'm a very light sleeper," he said, with all the grace of someone who's been reciting their lines eternally in their head and all but blanked at the moment of truth. "I mean--What I mean to say is," he tried, and took another moment.

"I have been--I've been woken by, by pinecones falling, o-outside of our home, a-and just about anything else that whispers in the night. A-And I didn't eat nor drink anything that--that would have changed that--Bristlecone and I prepared all food that was eaten that night ourselves. They--They were--" he swallows. "They were in the room r-right next to us. Normally, I-I wouldn't call into question w-what's been said under a... a court-verified serum, but I-I can't reconcile this confession with my--my experience. I would have woken." He sounded almost, at this point, like he was trying to re-convince himself of what he was saying. "I-I know I would have woken."
 

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"I can confirm all of that." Bristlecone placed a hand on his partner's shoulder, hoping to develop a bitter smile of some kind. "No-one entered or left our home between these travellers arriving and Verignoev Sweetgum's visit today. Ask us under oath if you have to; the truth ain't changing."

Hother's head inclined. This was all moving much too quickly for him to fully process. Had they... done something wrong, when they were being questioned..? It had all made its own kind of cloudy sense, in the moment. Perhaps this was just some local esotericism that was beyond understanding. That, he found easier to parse, for now. If nothing else, it gave his mind something to recline upon as an escape from the unpleasant atmosphere of the assembly before them.
 

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Spindle leaned into the touch, calmed just slightly, before Larch crossed his arms, looking unimpressed. (Though Theida couldn't recall any point where he had looked impressed, to be fair. She wasn't entirely sure what was going on, now, but nobody seemed happy about it. Somewhere in the back of her mind, a voice screamed about how dangerous it was for the biggest creatures in the room to be upset with her, but it was muddied up under the permanent haze of confusion.)

"If I may," Larch said, "it is worth taking into account the physical nature of the accused. They both have fur, and for the one whose steps would be heavier, I expect there are pads on his feet as well. Traits that, when on a person who knows how to use them, I would expect to be, well... Let's say, quieter than the fall of a pinecone."
 

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"That's..!" The alligator prepared to point in an accusatory manner with his free arm, but faltered, clenching his teeth. Hastily, he scrambled to formulate some, any, kind of rebuttal. "...Then what about tracks? If they had gone to the Censor's chamber and back, and there, and back again, would they not have left some kind of spoor accordingly?"
 

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Larch thought on that for a moment. "The answer lies in the question, I would say. They had already gone from the chamber to your home in the daylight; I expect that the same tracks could be retraced, and with no extra grime left on their feet.

"The fact remains that the book is gone," Larch continued, "and I would not expect anyone among our number to have so little respect for its knowledge that they would... well. But you two seem very insistent on defending them, despite apparently never having met before. Yet you volunteered to let them stay with you," he looked at Spindle, "and the notoriously light sleeper was at peace enough to sleep the whole night with strangers in his home. Why..." he turned to Myrica. "I don't mean to derail the case at hand, of course, and it pains me to even consider it, but... I am beginning to suspect further foul play."

"I--I w--" Spindle choked on his words and failed to get anything coherent out in their defense. His hand automatically came up to rest atop Bristlecone's, though the gesture ended up closer to clenching the alligator's fingers. His eyes were wide with anxiety-turned-near-terror as he looked at Bristlecone for some answer.
 

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Bristlecone allowed Spindle to take complete ownership of that hand. Seeing his partner so afraid angered him more-- by tens, if not hundreds, of orders of magnitude-- than the accusation itself.
"Veripalex Myrica, surely you can see just how nonsensical that accusation is..! Does Censor Larch mean to imply that basic hospitality-- that common decency-- is a criminal act?!"

Myrica held up a hand, and the alligator fell into a reluctant silence.
"I concede, it is a difficult proposition to believe. However, we have already heard rather damning confessions from both of the accused, under oath; and the crime becomes much more plausible if the two of them already had inside knowledge of our society-- or, worse, inside collusion." She interlocked her fingers and cast a sweeping gaze across the gathering, from the onlookers, across Larch, Bristlecone, Spindle, and finally, to where Hother and Theida still stood, her eyes reaching half-lid as she returned to regarding the speakers head-on. "Given the turbulent nature of these proceedings in particular, on behalf of the caucus, I would be willing to call a recess, in which a fresh supply of serum is to be concocted; whereupon, you-- Gnoev Bristlecone and Gnoev Spindle-- may testify regarding your involvement, enabling, and abetting-- or lack thereof-- in the aforementioned deeds. I trust the complainant takes no issue with this proposal..?"
 

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Larch paused for a long moment, considering. It had only just grown into a questionable amount of time when there came the rapid thumping of footsteps up from behind the crowd. "Ex--Hello! Excuse me!" an unfamiliar alligator called to them, out of breath. "Veripalex, so sorry to interrupt, listen--it's--it's Palex Liatris, he's gotten worse. We need to make a new potion, need ingredients we're out of at the clinic--does anyone have sage, by the way--excellent, thank you, could you go pick that up please," he said to the frog in the audience who raised her hand. She broke from the group and ran off. "Lots of things we need, actually, listen, I have a list, but it's just to dull the symptoms--if anyone's got ideas, I'm open to them."

As the crowd began to stir, moving towards the alligator to listen to his list, Larch looked up at Myrica. "Oh, dear. It seems other potion-making will be on hold, for the moment, but... well, I don't imagine it safe to let these plausible traitors go free in this chaos. They could very well use the chance to escape."
 

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Myrica pursed her lips, contemplating what had just transpired.
"With deferential apology to the accused's counsel, I must agree. Censor Larch, Gnoev Spindle, Gnoev Bristlecone... I must request that you accompany me, and bring your guests, too. The four of you-- that is, all present, excepting the complainant-- will have to be detained until this trial can be safely resumed. I trust you understand why this has become a necessary measure."
 

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Theida didn't really understand, but Myrica put it all so reasonably that she couldn't help but think it must have made sense, somehow. "M'kay," she said, to preserve her appearance of knowing exactly what was going on.

"Heh--haha--okay," Spindle said, his voice high and nigh hysterical. He shut his eyes tightly for a moment, trying to recover. "I-I mean, right. A-Apologies, Veripalex, Censor. I'm--it's--whenever the serum is a-available, we'll--we can--i-it'll be fine. Right?" He directed the last word more at Bristlecone than anyone.

Larch rested his hands behind his back and readied to follow Myrica. "For what it's worth, sincerely," he said to Bristlecone and Spindle, not sounding especially sincere, though he didn't often sound especially anything, "I do hope you're being honest. You can understand my caution."
 

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Hother also stepped towards the group, feeling that same indifferent desire to appear competent. Bristlecone, meanwhile, extended his arm to rest across Spindle's shoulders, as much to remind himself that his partner was still there, as to keep his partner from drifting away, physically and mentally.
"Whatever it takes to make y'all understand. We'll take the serum, tell you the truth all over again, you'll pardon us and our guests, and...yes. It'll be fine."

"In whatever you may be placing it, your conviction is most certainly admirable, Gnoev Bristlecone." Myrica offered a noncommittal nod, and started to lead the group away. "Regardless, if we might be on our way..."
 

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Once the four potential traitors had been secured, Larch had promptly excused himself to check his home for ingredients that the clinic might be lacking, for the good of Palex Liatris.

Larch picked up the crude cane leaning by his door as he walked into his home. He walked past his kitchen and the herb stores inside, to a small room to the side. On the rare occasion that anyone else ended up in his house, he claimed that it was meant to be for storage, but that he never got around to putting things in it. The scars in the almost perfectly flat, bare earth below hinted otherwise.

He drove the pointed end of the stick into the center of the earth, and then he drew, reactivating familiar, faded lines. Symbols and lines spiraled outwards, keeping him from stepping on the product, until he finally made a lap around the product, drawing a circle to enclose the runes. Almost as soon as he completed that, the lines began to glow. He watched them for a moment, making sure everything was in place, and then spoke. "Do you think I haven't gotten your signals? Such impatience."
 

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"Larch, sweetie..." The voice that echoed back from beyond the lines held a tone much colder than its words, though that chill seemed more general, rather than directed at him, specifically. Within the image that had appeared in Larch's inscription, the skua adjusted her eye-patch idly. "You can't just send us a report as worrying as that, and then not expect HQ to want nigh-constant updates. So, what am I supposed to tell them? Are things under control or not?"
 

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Larch heaved a sigh. "Destiny." He flipped the cane in his hands. "You know my work to be scrupulous. Palex--ugh, the elder is as good as taken care of, and his records are finally out of their hands. And as for the foreigners, they've been detained along with their sympathizers, the townspeople are against them, and I doubt that many will care to pursue the matter once they've been dealt with.

"Why, it's two birds with one stone, if you'll pardon the expression," he added, baring his teeth in a sardonic grin.
 

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This was met with a cloying, hollow smile from his interlocutor, perhaps impressed by his audacity.
"Not getting too overconfident, I hope? Efficiency is one thing, but do try not to let that little bubble of yours burst too soon." Destiny smirked, leaning towards a dry chuckle, but lacking the emotional conviction to fully birth it. "...I'll let them know you've got the situation as good as taken care of, then, and trust that you won't be calling again until it's over and done with? --Assuming it doesn't all go belly-up, of course."
 

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"Yes, yes. Doubt me all you like. Expect that call by tomorrow." Larch set the flatter top end of his cane down in the circle, where it passed through the image of her shoulder and left a ripple in its wake. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a job to complete." He dragged it out of the circle, scuffing dirt back into the lines it passed over. With the magic pathways broken, Destiny's image warped and faded, and then the light in the rune lines fizzled out. He erased some more of his handiwork with one foot, for good measure, but left more than half of the circle intact when he turned and headed back towards his kitchen. He needed to act quick to make good on that promise, after all.
 

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...Pacing footsteps. Frustrated sighs. Stale air.
For the first time in a while, Hother properly came to appreciate that he had full command of his faculties. Up until now, the morning had been a blur, though he couldn't quite place a finger on why, or quite how they had ended up here; and "here" being... a small-ish room? A little on the dark side, sparse in the way of furnishings, and generally much less hospitable than the house they had been staying in on the previous day...

"Back with us, are ya?" Bristlecone's voice snapped him out of his reverie. It was evident that he was merely trying to sound upbeat, but didn't have the heart to back it up. "As you might guess... things didn't exactly go great back there."
"So what... actually happened..?" The dog cast around to take stock of his immediate company. The alligator, of course, and Spindle; and, mercifully, Theida was still present, too. That bolstered his spirits somewhat. "...Sorry if that's a stupid question."
"Not at all. Standard procedure for a trial-- anyone fixin' to testify's gotta take that truth serum." He gestured at his own temples. "Messes with your head a little, so you can't lie for a while. Or... that's the idea, at least. Something definitely went wrong this time, though."
 
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