Part 2. For the first part and a brief introduction, click HERE. Warning for violent content and all that jazz.
Rohgal’s head turned with the blow. He was Norn. A great one, a powerful one. Strong, feared by many and rightfully so. He could send her flying as easily as a child would kick a doll.
“What were you doing trying to sell drugs to the Gendarran Free Company?” Seyda spat out the accusation, her tempers flaring dangerously.
The room was full of people, all watching and waiting. Even Damien where he hung from his wrists, half naked and bleeding, kept close watch. Rohgal kept his calm as he responded. He hadn’t really offered. He hadn’t said who he worked for. He hadn’t revealed too much. He had just been exploring options.
On another day, perhaps such an initiative had been met with greater understanding. Not tonight.
“Ain’t my place,” Rohgal finally said, anticipating the boss’ judgement.
“You never said who you work for,” Seyda repeated his earlier words, cold calm slowly rising to heated anger. “Is it a secret who you work for? No! Anyone who asks will find that you work for me! You are hired as security, not as a salesman! And if you were a salesman you would know that we do not go around selling drugs on the street!”
It truly was rare for Seyda to raise her voice so. She almost surprised herself.
The room drew a collective sigh of relief as Rohgal stepped back. It’s always a risk, humiliating a Norn. They were all lucky Rohgal had known to take it without causing a stir.
Seyda’s sharp, green eyes snapped to a new target.
There was one who had been awfully quiet throughout the meeting. A black haired gentleman in a suit that almost rivalled Lord Delacour’s, the sort to rarely need set foot outside the city, or even his office. Mr Hemlock had been with them for years yet few knew him, he was hardly a man to seek the comforts of friendly company.
Was that a smile on his face, as he stepped forth? A few paces away, Skadi licked blood from her gloved fingers, tasting the Lord she had just whipped. It made her lips twitch.
Seyda turned her gaze slowly, speaking to the group. Theirs was a company of two sides, she explained, calmly as if those around were mere children. Two sides. One legal, one not so much. “We trade in spices, herbs, alchemical supplies. Our caravans bring goods across countless miles every year.” For once it was not with pride Seyda spoke those words. As she continued her tone grew soft yet vicious, like a schoolteacher deprived of patience.
“Now and then we come across an interesting herb,” she explained. “Previously unknown or simply untested. Before we can do anything else we put it through tests. How else can we know if the herb is a spice that will enrich the noble cuisine of Divinity’s Reach, or if it is a splendidly addictive recreational drug? Rohgal, what did I explain to you about our herbal testing?”
“It was to be legal,” Rohgal responded. “And done as per the Green Folder. Want me to step up?”
“Legal,” Seyda repeated. “And stay there. Mr Hemlock here is above you in rank and will assume responsibility for the incident in question.”
Hemlock was still smiling. Such a fool.
“We, the legal Agathon Imports and Exports, test unknown products so that we can tell what is safe or not. It is an official, legal and necessary action, where the test subjects are willing, healthy, and paid for their efforts.” Slowly and very clearly Seyda repeated this most basic information. “There is to be medical staff present and we care for the test subjects’ health, we even pay for treatment if anything goes wrong. We write reports over our findings, and if necessary these reports are shown to the Ministry when declaring a new product being brought into Kryta. You should know th–”
Her eyes snapped sharply to Rohgal, who uninvited had stepped forward to join Hemlock. “What?!”
The lack of medical staff at the testing had been his fault, the Norn explained. Rendan, a doctor, was supposed to have been there but Rohgal, not Hemlock, had made the call to continue without her.
“Rendan was supposed to be there?” Seyda quirked a brow and her lips curled into a horrid smile. How suitable. “You were going to bring a doctor who works solely on our legal side, to proceedings that resembled a complete nightmare?!”
The report she had read too many times already was brought up, words written by Hemlock himself.
“Let me repeat what has just been said. Legal proceedings. Willing test subjects. Reports we can share with the Ministry. Test subjects whose health we actually do care for.”
Carefully Seyda unfolded the report and started reading out loud.
“The body of a sickly street-rat is best utilized to research how this potentially addictive drug would behave in a weaker body riddled by prior substance abuse – the kind of “clientelle” often bestowed upon such commodities…” She paused to glare at Hemlock, who still seemed blissfully unaware of his error. “…Potentially even more malicious in many ways, Elixir 2 would most likely be more appealing to the wealthy and morally corrupt…”
Words and more words. Hemlock stood still, hands clasped behind his back, and merely listened as matters grew worse. The report described how one of the herbs turned out to be poisonous. “Which you describe as something promising and of interest for the Company!” Seyda exclaimed in amazement. “How would the Ministry view that, you think? No, don’t answer that. Here is another good bit…”
Her eyes went back to the text and once more she read, sharply articulated.
“… Evidence shows it to be even more addictive to humans – for us a most profitable result. It seems to cause nightmarish hallucinations, similar to known drugs, while potentially more potent and malicious. Suggested for of administration is injection, with a small dosage required, once properly purified and mixed. I look forward to turning this, with potential assistance from more experienced pharmacists, into a most fascinating new drug.”
The room grew quiet, but for a tired exhale by Damien who twitched and squirmed from the ropes. Armian looked almost as furious as the boss lady herself.
“And what about the test subjects?” Seyda asked. “Explain to me what happened to them, Hemlock.”
The dark haired gentleman remained expressionless as he responded. “The subject to Elixir 1, regretfully, died as a result of further testing. The second is currently alive and well. Even though, admittedly, there were difficulties.”
“One died,” Seyda repeated. “The other almost died but was saved at the last minute STEP BACK ROHGAL I AM NOT DONE.”
The big Norn stepped back almost as quickly as he had stepped forward again, rolling his shoulders and glancing at Viveke, one of the other Norns who smirked in his direction.
“How do you suppose this other volunteer, the one that survived, will remember this?” Seyda glared at Hemlock. “Something along the lines of… Agathon Imports and Exports, yeah they strapped me to a DENTIST’S CHAIR, tortured us and killed my friend!”
“Spirit’s wit,” Viveke mumbled as yet again Rohgal stepped forward, tempting fate.
Hemlock cleared his throat, finally without that obnoxious smile. “Please, may I?”
“These were people we were to care for!” Seyda continued without pause. “Test subjects are not playthings we throw away! The medical staff is not meant to be there for show! And no, you may not.” She gestured up at the rafters. “Get him up too.”
Floggings had been outlawed in Kryta just a while back. Seyda never understood why, few things to her seemed as effective. Not merely a matter of pain, it was that point of submission when the subject had no other choice but to accept. Power in a raw yet controlled form.
A moment later Damien was no longer the only man to hang bare chested from the rafters. Both fine gentlemen, those reeking of perfume and bathing in arrogance, stripped to the waist and uncomfortably restrained. Hemlock’s bare skin was a far cry from an aristocrat’s perfection, marked by scars both old and new. Cuts, needle marks, all one did not expect to see under such a good shirt.
“Do try to keep it clean will you, old boy?” he said as Rohgal took care of his coat. It would seem Hemlock’s arrogance was limitless, as he gave Seyda a smile. “Be quick about it will you. We will be having another chat when you are… more agreeable.”
The rope was tightened far worse this time, none in the room seemed to have much sympathy left for the unfortunate gentleman.
“Hemlock, do tell us what you’ve done wrong.” Seyda said flatly.
“Well, I make no excuses.” Hemlock closed his eyes and lowered his head, yet could not look humble. “Lapses in judgement… I assumed the… report… as it were, was for my own eyes only. Of course I could make a more… Ministry friendly version. However… as to the testing, I see nothing wrong… The death was, of course, tragic. My condolences.”
“You see… nothing wrong.”
An official testing. An official testing she had explicity stated was legal and to be treated and such. “And you on purpose mixed bloodstone dust into an unknown herb in order to make it more lethal?!” Seyda spat out, dropping that last bit of calm to yell, actually yell at the poor man.
“They did sign… after all.” Hemlock said, and was rewarded by a sharp tug lifting his toes off the floor.
There was the shift. Eyes turned, the group came to look at Seyda rather than the unfortunate man waiting to be flogged. There was amazement at such arrogance, such a nerve. There was anger, Armian particularly could barely hold his tongue. And Seyda herself, she closed her eyes.
“Someone else please enlighten Hemlock as to what he has done wrong,” Seyda asked. “I need to know that the rest of you at least understand.”
“… but do let me explain, will you?” Hemlock tried, without use.
“You muddled the waters, mister.” Viveke stepped forward and spoke. “Left and right into one pot of screw up.”
“Yes.” Seyda nodded, opening her eyes again. “What else, Armian?”
“You killed a person.” Armian stepped forward. “That should go without saying. And doing so as part of a legal operation.”
The restrained gentleman wriggled in an effort to keep steady, yet his movements were all useless. The rope was tight enough for fingers to turn blue and painful, and all his squirming did was make it worse. “…well, there was a misunderstanding…”
“We are not thugs,” Seyda spoke coldly. “We do not snatch people off the street to watch them die. We strike back at those who would do us harm, those who would threaten us, our people and our company. We do not kill without good reason.
“… misunderstandings.” Hemlock protested, unable to keep his air of refined elegance when flopping about like a fish on a hook. His voice turned increasingly desperate too as the seriousness of the situation hit him. “The death was ultimately tragic and… not intentional… the lack of a doctor, poor conditions… Come now, Seyda!”
Finally, he was no longer smiling. Not when he saw his boss draw one of her expensive, ornate revolvers, and cock the hammer back. The muzzle was aimed at his forehead, and before another word could be spoken she had pulled the trigger.
The loud bang had the onlookers twitch and jump, and next to Merlei on the floor the dog started barking. Hemlock’s body went limp in an instant, a bloody and lifeless mess slumping from the restraints. Right by his side Damien’s bare chest was splattered with warm droplets, and his toes came to rest in a growing puddle of blood.
“Grenth judge him justly,” Armian said with a stern expression, as Seyda calmly holstered her revolver again.
“Bury him underneath.” Seyda turned to scratch the dog behind the ears. Merlei stared with blank eyes at the corpse, her mouth hanging open and silent. The girl probably shouldn’t have had to witness that, but it was too late now.
“Fuck’s sake,” Rohgal grumbled. “He could still have made those drugs into something useful.”
“We have others who can do that.” Seyda shrugged tiredly. “Some things are not acceptable. We do not wantonly have innocent people killed. Remember that.”