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Aug 13, 2020 8:13 PM
Two pacifists in Verity
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He notices the hesitation. Files it away for later, for when he's figured out exactly what it means.

"I do understand that. But nobody else makes even the slightest amount of sense, and you said yourself it's not impossible. I mean, what are you suggesting happened instead?"

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"I -- I don't know -- but this doesn't make sense either -- where I'm from we don't execute people if it's not impossible they killed someone, or even if they probably killed someone -- the whole point of using shamers in the justice system is that we don't have to be uncertain -- maybe there's just some possibility we aren't thinking of --"

(--maybe an assassin killed them and Nico was trying to stop the bleeding -- and then inexplicably didn't tell anyone -- and forgot about it--

--maybe he was framed -- but by whom --

--maybe someone was going for Nico but he fought them off somehow -- and his family members had been in the way -- but that's not really in character either --

--maybe there's something he's missing, something that would make all of this make sense --

--maybe Nico did it --)

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…he's not getting through to him, is he. 

"You're right, of course, that it'd be terrible and unjust to risk executing an innocent. The problem is, so would letting a murderer walk loose simply because he can't remember the act. You said yourself it's not impossible."

If he can't convince him, he'll drag this out. Keep the shamer away from everyone else.

"Is it in any way possible you might find some new information if you looked again."

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(--better than killing them, but he can't just say that--)

"Lots of things aren't impossible. If you execute everyone who might have forgotten committing a murder you'll be executing literally everyone, there's no way to be sure someone didn't -- I'll grant that --" (he cuts himself off before he calls Nico 'Nico') "--he looks guiltier than most random people--"

(This is not a defense. He needs to focus, find a way to persuade this grieving man not to kill Nico -- this man thinks Nico murdered his friend's family, most people would want Nico dead for that --)

"--If you kill him and then you find out next week it was someone else you can't take that backyou won't be able to un-kill him--"

He pauses for a moment, rubbing his forehead as he lets the rest of the words catch up to him. "It's -- it's really unlikely I'll find anything useful but -- I guess there might be something buried in between -- the sort of stupid minor thing that everyone's done -- I can do it if you want me to--"

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"'Looks guiltier than most random people', that's the understatement of the year."

It's strange. He thought most shamers wanted justice above all, but this one seems more intent on keeping that coward alive. He doesn't know why, not yet, but he wants to. The more he knows about the shamer, the better he can choose his next move.

"I think I do want you to look again. Even if he doesn't remember the act itself, there has to be something."

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"Okay -- I can do that -- should we go do that now--"

Maybe the extra time will let him figure out what to say. There has to be something that will convince him Nico is innocent, at least innocent enough not to execute.

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There really won't be.

"Yes, let's."

With that resolved, his face goes most of the way back to polite blankness as he opens the door.

(Better change to a safer topic while they walk. Someone might overhear.)

"You know, I don't think I've seen you in Dunark before."

(If he's very lucky, the answer might tell Drakan something about the shamer, if he'd be easy to bribe or threaten or discredit.)

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"This is the first time I've come here. It's -- I -- I want to say I picked a bad time to be passing through, but I guess -- I guess it's good I was here when it happened." Because most shamers would be perfectly happy to let a murderer die. "You know, so -- so we can get things done more quickly, without having to fetch someone."

(On the other hand, if he'd picked a different time, if he hadn't met Nico when he did, maybe he wouldn't have decided to go back -- maybe his family would still be alive--

--he's going to try not to think about that.)

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Yes, isn't it delightful to have had no choice regarding the most precarious part of this plan, to have absolutely no information about this person who could ruin everything.

"Of course. I believe everyone will be grateful for a quick and just decision."

"Although if it does take a while, I can have someone fetch your belongings? Letting you use a guest room here is surely the least we can do, if the investigation does end up taking longer than first expected."

(If he can at least find out where in Dunark the shamer's been staying, the innkeeper or some other guest might have some tiny bit of useful information.)

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He flinches slightly when Drakan says 'just decision.'

"Yes, thank you, I'd appreciate that -- although of course I hope this'll be resolved fast enough that it won't be necessary." He gives an address.

"It's -- would you be able to spare an extra guard for the room? I don't want to impose on you, but if it wasn't --" (he almost says 'Nico,' realizes at the last second that calling him anything other than 'Nicodemus' would be far too revealing, and realizes a second after that that he has no idea what title to use under the circumstances) "--him, or if he wasn't acting alone..."

(He's probably being awfully rude, this man is clearly far more important than he is, but he would very much prefer not to be murdered.)

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Is he avoiding saying Nicodemus' name? Very strange. 

"Of course your room can be guarded." It won't have the effect the shamer wants, of course, but it will keep meddlers away.

"If you tell me which inn, someone can gather your things while you work." 

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He recites the name and address. "Thank you, I appreciate it. How -- about how long do you expect this to take? How long should I keep looking if I'm not seeing anything useful that I haven't already?"

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"As long as it takes to know for certain."

He exchanges a few words with the guard outside the dungeons, and the door is opened. He doesn't enter. The shamer can't do anything catastrophic from here, there's little gained from seeing him work, and Drakan has other things to do in the meantime.

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He nods, in the slightly uncomfortable way of someone trying very hard not to make eye contact. He's not sure if he's ever going to be certain, but in the worst-case scenario he can lie.

He enters the dungeon and walks over to Nico's cell. "The -- man leading the investigation -- asked me to take another look. In case I missed something the first time. Can you -- can you please turn around? I don't want to have to force you this time."

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Timon's back. 

Nico's sitting, this time, hunched up against a wall. He looks over to the guard, to verify that he's too far away to hear, and then says to Timon in a quiet voice, "you don't have to lie for me."

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He freezes for a moment and glances in the direction of the guard, breathing a tiny sigh of relief when he doesn't seem to have reacted.

"I -- I'm not -- I mean, I sort of am -- I -- it's definitely possible you didn't do it," he says, very quietly. "Which -- is more than I can say for most of the people they brought me in for. And -- and -- and even if you did, all the reasons -- you don't matter less than any of the others, all the reasons it would've been wrong --"

He takes a deep breath. His voice is still quiet, when he resumes talking, but now it's slightly more forceful. "I'm not going to try to tell you it was okay to murder your family, because it wasn't, but -- but that doesn't mean it would be okay to kill you either -- and that's if you did do it, which you might not have --"

(He really wants to give Nico a hug, which is kind of a weird impulse to have about someone who might have murdered a three-year-oldand in any case would look very suspicious. He doesn't even know if Nico would want one.)

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Definitely possible. That's — maybe technically true, but — but it's not it's not it's not —

…right, Timon does this, and it's noble and kind and admirable and it feels completely different when you're on the other side of it, feels wrong, he shouldn't get to just go free after this — should maybe tell Timon to leave and then make up some details for a nice tidy confession — but Timon might get in trouble for that — and he doesn't want him to leave —

He just sits there, for a bit, and then he turns and looks straight at Timon. "You won't find anything new," he says in a voice that's almost a whisper.

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He's not really expecting to, but he told the man leading the investigation that he was going to try.

"I'm sorry, Nico," he whispers, because it's not really fair to Nico to have to go through this again when Timon should have been able to fix it easily with a lie.

(He doesn't think he's ever apologized to someone for using his powers to figure out if they killed someone.)

He looks up.

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He knows what feeling to expect, now, but it still hurts.

 

The memories start playing, just like before. Again there's the fight with Marlin and the running away from it all, again there's the three dead bodies and the obvious conclusion.

And again there's also all the billion smaller things he's done wrong: Throwing away a valuable sword, crushing on Adela, trying to get his teacher fired, destroying someone's roof, shouting at his brother, lying to his father —

 — but there's also how he never got to know his nephew, how until a few days ago he thought of him as just "Erasmos' kid" — and how a moment ago, he thought of a nice tidy way around Timon's principles but flinched away from it for a deeply selfish reason —

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(--Nico's clearly really upset about losing him, not that it wasn't already obvious--

--why would he have done it, it doesn't make sense, the eliminating-witnesses theory almost works but in that case why didn't he do anything else to hide what happened--

--maybe he was too drunk to think of it--

--but not too drunk to think to kill the witnesses, that almost makes sense--)

(--that's really vague for a memory--)

He wants to stop and ask about it, but he really doesn't want to have to do this all again. Maybe he can try asking when he's done.

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That's going to take a while, because there's plenty of minor things to fill the time with, plenty of thoughtless comments and little white lies and not being polite enough to the waitstaff —

 — and Nico watches every one of them along with Timon, watches all the reasons he's terrible awful just the kind of person who'd — his mind would be showing him the three bodies, now, or the blood on his hands, except it's busy showing them both all these other times he hurt others, was unfair, selfish — never as good as he should be, never the person Dunark needs —

(None of them contain relevant information.)

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--he said he'd keep looking until he was certain--

(He's not going to be, but at least he'll have tried.)

(He's probably going to need to claim to be, which means he needs some sort of explanation for why he's certain-- but even if Nico didn't do it, it's not like he'd see a memory of Nico failing to murder his family at the precise time the actual murder occurred--)

(--and this isn't helping anything, all it's doing is hurting Nico--

--maybe it'll be easier to come up with a lie if something he's claiming is true--

--and maybe there'll still be something relevant, not that that's likely--)

He keeps looking.

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At this point it's down to awkward social situations, to talking over people and having ravens on his clothes in front of anyone who wishes they did. He knows Drakan's in this group — or was as a child, at least — but probably most people are. It's a lot better than what most people get. But of course, Nico's always been a selfish ungrateful fuckup, just the sort of person who'd —

(There continues not to be any damning evidence in Nico's memories, one way or the other. But Timon's going to end up knowing a lot of minor details about Nico's life.)

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He'll keep watching the minor details of Nico's life, then. He'll have to run out of what are admittedly very definitely not murders at some point.

(It's not like this is any more invasive than looking at the earlier memories -- and he shouldn't be thinking about that when someone's life is on the line, that's obviously more important --)

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Eventually there really is nothing more to see, just blankness and feelings of guilt.

(He's done so so many awful things, he's terrible and selfish and weak, and they're dead and he's covered in their blood — )

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