4. Less Friendly Interrogation

By  Chickencurry · 14 minutesBack to stories

Kagaran sent a crimson wave tearing through the air with the swinging blade of his scythe. It cut straight through a bandit and the one behind, decapitating them both. Far behind them, three others threw spears. Kagaran twirled around them as they passed. Before they could draw more spears from their backs, Kagaran cut the air diagonally three times in succession. Three crimson waves were launched, and each found their mark.

He took a quick look around for any more bandits. The sand was littered with fallen bandits: satyrs covered by sand-colored robes and bandanas. The sandstone walls to the left and right were stained with blood. There were also scattered bones of Kagaran’s undead comrades; their bones were mostly intact, but their skulls were smashed in. Kagaran knelt at their side. “I’m so sorry. I should’ve done more. I will avenge your souls tenfold, I swear it,” Kagaran thought. He then stood up and inserted his middle and pointer phalange into his skull through his eye sockets.

Black vision.

“Adrius is wiped out. Requesting report on Castle,” he said.

“No casualties for Castle, but they’re starting to overwhelm us. How long until reinforcements arrive?” asked another voice.

“Two minutes until they arrive, plus one more to make contact with the enemy,” Kagaran replied, after briefly severing the connection so he could see his watch.

“Copy. Wait, hold on. Kagaran, one of yours is loose. Seems to be with a frostling. They’re out in the open and taking the bandits head-on.”

Kagaran was silent for a moment. “I’ll go get them,” he said.

“Kagaran, about that—“

He had already ended communications and begun bolting. “Harkida from Castle saw them, so it must be near the east side of the sandstone cave walls facing the desert. Yep, I hear lots of fighting from that general direction, too. Oh, boy, this night keeps getting better,” Kagaran thought. On he ran, feet sloshing in the sand, until he approached a wall of sandstone that angled off to the right. There were openings just like in his cave for sentries to look out of. He tapped the wall twice with the butt of his scythe.

“Kagaran?” Harkida answered.

“Where did you see them?” Kagaran asked. He’d forgotten to ask earlier in his rush.

“Listen, the Dawnsparker’s got it under control already. Reinforcements are standing by as practically an oversized clean-up crew at this point. Arkiok is handling himself well, too. You can sit back, they really don’t need help with being kept safe.”

“Where is Arkiok and the frostling?” Kagaran asked him again, leaning forward and speaking much more slowly.

“Go to your right and look out over the desert,” said Harkida, pointing out the general direction with his phalange. “But I’m telling you, they’re fine—”

Before he had even finished, Kagaran was marching over to the spot.

Arkiok had never seen so much ice in his life. All around him were walls of ice. Within them were bandits, frozen in mid-fight or mid-flight. Several less fortunate bandits lay dead on the ground with icicle spears shoved through their vitals.

“Uh… nice job,” Arkiok said.

“You did great, too,” Ziarus replied.

Arkiok shrugged and looked over the couple dozen bandits he’d killed. “One hit before a lethal one, on average?” he thought. “Man, I’m rusty.”

Ziarus focused on the batons in his hands. The batons lost form, transforming into azure slivers of gas which were sucked into his glowing white chest.

“Could you do that even if they weren’t in your hands?” Arkiok asked as he wiped his spear in the sand.

“Up to a short distance, but yeah,” Ziarus replied.

“Cool. How does it work?” Arkiok said.

“By gradually attuning personal items to their manacore, frostlings can learn to absorb them into their bodies without affecting their weight.”

“Lucky. Is there an item cap?”

“No. But each item takes years of dedication to attune properly, and the process is really boring. Also, there’s Avaru’s Rule: any item larger than a ten-foot cube takes too much effort to attune, as it will probably drive one insane if he tries.”

Suddenly, the two heard a hoarse yell as five brave bandits charged at them through the corridors between the ice walls with spears forward. Arkiok and Ziarus readied their weapons and steadied themselves. But just before the bandits reached them, a glowing green satyr threw herself into the group from the side. Before they could respond, she threw a flurry of punches, and three of them fell with barely a croak. The other two attempted to stab her at once, but she grabbed their spears and snapped them off at the points like toothpicks. The bandits froze and widened their eyes. Then they dropped their broken weapons and shot their hands up in surrender. Other bandits also stepped into view and did likewise.

“Nice work, Batoraj,” Arkiok said.

“Thanks,” the green satyr replied, forming a shark-like smile. She looked around and concluded that that was all.

Batoraj closed her eyes and stopped glowing. Her fur color returned to a toasty shade of tan. Slowly, her rigid veins retreated from the surface of her fur. She felt a severe headache as she returned to normal, and gritted her teeth.

Behind her, a group of satyrs, both undead and living, came forward to apprehend the bandits. As they were cuffing them, some of the satyrs looked to Arkiok and Ziarus. Some gave a nod and a smile; others shook their heads and glared at them. Batoraj gave a smile, a nod, and two thumbs up, before proceeding to help others clean up the mess of battle.

Arkiok wasn’t exactly sure on how to respond, so he turned away and pretended not to notice them. Ziarus gave his supporters a couple of hand-waves, and then turned to Arkiok.
“C’mon,” Ziarus said, putting a hand on Arkiok’s shoulder. “Let’s go back to the cave. I think we’ve succeeded well enough in building some trust.”

“Arkiok!” Kagaran yelled.

“Oh, boy,” Arkiok said.

The sloshing of sand followed. Then Arkiok felt a bony hand slap him across the face.

“You have disobeyed me and the Swarm code yet again! What do you have to say for yourself?”

“I helped us by letting Ziarus fight off most of the bandits. You should be thanking me and rethinking your poor decision-making instead, you fossil,” Arkiok said.

“I don’t care what you or that frostling did. You are to follow the Swarm code and my orders with exactness so that all of us have the best chances of staying alive, no matter the situation. Anyone who breaks the code or the orders of superiors will be punished without exception. We are a part of the most formidable military on the planet, and we must act individually to maintain that reputation. You have failed at doing so, and therefore---”

“Enough, Kagaran. I will speak now,” Kataka rasped from behind him. Kagaran stiffened for a moment, then bowed his head and silently made way for Kataka to move forward. Kataka then approached Arkiok and Ziarus.

He turned to address Arkiok first. “Your grandfather Hakrios has informed me of your… troubled past,” Kataka said.

Arkiok flinched and looked down with a tightened expression.

“I understand that this likely has played a part in your recent behavior.”

Ziarus looked at Arkiok. Arkiok turned his head to avert his gaze.

Kataka gently placed a hand on Arkiok’s head. “You have broken orders and the Swarm code. That is true. But we cannot ignore the fact that your decision reduced potential casualties.”

Kagaran balled his free hand until it shook. His scythe quivered within his ever-tightening grip.

“I do not know what should be done with you at this time. But rest assured, you will not be dealt with harshly,” Kataka said.

Arkiok looked up at Kataka. Kataka straightened up and stomped his foot twice for Arkiok. Batoraj and the other satyrs that were busy cleaning up the mess of battle stopped and did likewise, their eyes focused on Arkiok.

Kataka turned and looked at Kagaran, who had not saluted Arkiok. Kagaran looked back. Then he lifted a foot, dropped it, and did it again without looking anywhere in particular.

Kataka sighed and turned back to Arkiok. “You’re dismissed,” he said, waving his hand. “I’d like to speak with Ziarus privately.”

Arkiok nodded, and began to walk back to the cave. Suddenly, he stopped and turned back to look at Ziarus.

“We helped people today, right?” asked Arkiok. His voice was shaky.

“Uh, yeah. We… did,” Ziarus replied, unsure of whether that was meant to be rhetorical or not.

“Thanks. It helps,” Arkiok said. He tried to smile, but his lips felt too heavy. Ziarus watched, even more perplexed, as Arkiok turned back and sprinted.

Batoraj threw her foot into the cuffed, kneeling bandit leader’s stomach. He cried out through gritted teeth, before abruptly leaning forward and vomiting on the floor.

“You’ll never get anything outta me,” the bandit leader said, between labored breaths. “Ya wasting your time.”

Batoraj grabbed one of his horns and slammed his head into the vomit. The bandit leader cackled. “Is that the best you can do?”

Batoraj smiled with her teeth. “Oh, buddy. We haven’t even started yet. Auma ractun!”

Her veins dilated and she began to glow green. The other fifty or so bandits kneeling in the cave with him shifted around fearfully. “Don’t worry, boys. We’ve seen way worse than this pathetic show, haven’t we?” he said.

The bandits shook their heads.

“No! You’re not supposed to---” the bandits began to nod their heads instead “---ugh. Just my luck, having the privilege of leading the stupidest of our lot.”

Batoraj grabbed him by the neck and lifted him up. The bandit leader began to choke.

“You have three more seconds to tell me why y’all attacked us and where y’all got Shadowfen tomahawks from before I clobber you into the floor,” Batoraj said.

“Bring it, then. Do your worst,” he said, between attempts to breathe.

Batoraj was about to shatter his ribcage with a kick when:
“Batoraj. Kataka orders that you immediately go to his quarters. I’ll be taking over the interrogation.”

She turned and saw Kagaran. “Alright, then. Break a leg. Or better yet, his legs,” she said.

“I can do even better,” Kagaran replied. Batoraj gave him a concerned look and left quickly.

Kagaran approached the bandit leader, his scythe in both hands.

“Ohoho! You gonna tear my heart out and eat it? Castrate me? Gouge out my eyes? You can’t scare me. Go back to the museum,” said the bandit leader.

“Do you know why undead satyrs don’t normally do the torturing during an interrogation?” Kagaran asked.


“Their mildest torture capabilities can cause the victim to be unable to speak for weeks after they break.”

The bandit leader spat and laughed. “Oh, really? Try me. Let’s see how long it takes before you give up and throw a childlike tantrum.”

“The rest of you, I would highly advise that you turn away. Especially since I’ve had a very bad morning thus far,” Kagaran said. Only a few took the suggestion. The rest were afraid to look as well, but felt a sense of morbid curiosity in discovering what the undead satyr would do.

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

“Kataka, sir. You called?” Batoraj said, giving the usual salute.

“Yes. Come in,” Kataka replied.

As she entered, she saw that Ziarus was in the firelit cave as well. They exchanged nods.

“Hey, thanks for helping us, Ziarus,” Batoraj said.

Ziarus nodded back.

“Batoraj,” Kataka said. He was sitting on a rug in front of a wood fire. To the right of him was a small altar.

“Yes, sir?”

“I need you to accompany Ziarus to Tangeral. When you get there, ask your father to grant him amnesty.”

“Yes, sir. I understand,” she said.

“Good. And you are also to continue to accompany Ziarus after the fact. You are to make sure his health is in good condition until he finds the makahest inventor. I’ve sent a message to General Harjull through my altar, and he has filled out and signed the paper granting one-week protection for Ziarus. Make sure you take the paper at Fort Mallik before going anywhere else. Since this mission will extend past your date of discharge from the army, the general has decided he might as well relieve you of duty now, for formality’s sake.”

“Of course, sir. It’s been an honor,” she said.

“So… hold on. Batoraj. Your dad is able to grant me amnesty? So he’s a Counselor?” Ziarus asked.

“Yeah, Counselor Ahmi. The popular one,” Batoraj said.

“You should count yourself very lucky, Ziarus. Batoraj is his favorite child, too,” Kataka said.

“Oh, really?” Ziarus asked her.

“Yeah, he’s a bit much sometimes,” she said.

“Hey, Kataka, with all due respect, why Batoraj as my personal doctor?” asked Ziarus.

“Why don’t you tell him, Batoraj?” Kataka said.

“Well, I found the vaccine for two epidemics in Kimarion’s recent history, assisted in the world’s first machine-assisted surgery, graduated top of my class in Tangeral’s famous med school, started a ---”

“Okay, wow…” Ziarus said, putting both hands in front of his chest, palms outward. “And you decided to serve in the army with that kind of talent?”

“People are a lot more likely to get hurt while fighting wars than while living comfortably back at home, so I figured I’d be helping more people,” she said. “Also, I get cool benefits from serving in the military.”

“Batoraj, you’re already a billionaire. I don’t think you need extra benefits.” Kataka said.

“Well, I mean, yeah, but you never know! It could be useful,” she said.

“Yeah, maybe,” Ziarus said. There was a brief silence that felt really long after that.

Ziarus sighed. “Well, so much for trying to build trust here, Arkiok,” he whispered.

“Huh? What’d you say?” Batoraj asked.

“Oh, well---Arkiok and I were hoping that by fighting together against the bandits, the other guys would see that and trust me more. But then Kataka talked with Mister General and they agreed that I should get back to Mr. Makahest Inventor ASAP before more people know about me, which means all that fighting-for-trust-building stuff was pointless. I mean, getting me back to the inventor is good, I agree with them, but---eh, also means that the fighting I did meant a little less. Ah, well.”

“Hey---hey. Ziarus. Look, first of all, your fighting saved people’s lives. That in and of itself is meaning enough for what you did. Second, you don’t need to prove to anyone who you are. As long as you know yourself, that’s good enough for a good life,” Batoraj said.

She walked up to him, gripped his shoulder and gave him a smile.
Ziarus’s mouth peaked upwards slightly. “You’re pretty wise. Thank you for that.”

“Thank my dad,” she said.

Kataka looked up at the analog clock on the wall. “It’s been fifteen minutes since I sent Hakrios to get Arkiok. I wonder what’s taking so long,” he said.

“Is Arkiok gonna join Ziarus and I?” Batoraj asked Kataka.

“Yeah,” Ziarus replied. “Partly because Kagaran can’t stand being anywhere near him anymore, and partly because he’s too much of a loose cannon for the military, I think, but mainly because Kataka thinks I’m good friends with him, so he decided he’d be great moral support for me. And we are good friends. Well, more like acquaintances for about a couple hours or so. Uh, yeah. That. I guess.” He scratched his helmet.

“Well, it’s good to hear you’re making a new friend,” she said.

“Last I saw him, he didn’t look that great. Maybe that’s why he still hasn’t come. I hope he’s doing okay,” Ziarus said.

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