Mirrored from Sythyry.
I have known for over a century that I cannot bear to kill a parent in front of their children, no matter how angry I am with them. I was plenty annoyed with my awful roommate Dubaille for stabbing my roommate and stealing a few things from me, when I learned that. Zascalle’s betrayal was far larger, done over a course of years and far more purposefully. And not just me: I pay the wages and expenses of nearly a hundred wrongfolk in Castle Wrong and Strayways. (Which had included Thiane and Zascalle both.)
Still, Ochirion and Feralan would know what I had done to their parents.
Whatever other moral issues there are, I am responsible for Feralan. My charge Vae kidnapped him and merged his soul with a Locador angel. The main part of my purpose in life is fixing the things that Vae does: rescuing Feralan, and, honestly, the Locador demon as well. [Sythyry uses near-synonyms which I translate as 'angel' (servitor of a god) and 'demon' (malevolent elemental power). There's little difference, especially for Locador. -bb]
And there’s no real chance of doing that if I kill his mothers, I think.
Me: “Saza, shall we do what we discussed?”
Saza: “Nothing would please me more, coz!”
Me: “Zascalle, Thiane. Since you have been forthcoming with information, I will permit you to live. Note please that living is a revocable state, so please continue to cooperate.”
Zascalle: “We will, curse you. Now explain how we will cure Feralan without any money!”
Me: “Saza and I will attempt to cure Feralan.”
Zascalle: “I cannot believe that! You claimed you would do so earlier — but you have done nothing! Nothing! He is still spiky-headed and halfway beyond reality!”
Me: “I will not risk killing him … but we have had this conversation a hundred times already, and you do not believe me. I shall deprive you of the right to object.”
Thiane: “Oh, no! What will you do?” Her tail was tucked tight between her legs.
Me: “You and Zascalle will be held in indenture. By Saza, for I don’t wish to have anything more to do with you, but I wish to keep you close at hand. I gather that zie has suitable tasks for you both … tasks that do not approach accounting in the slightest. Nor, indeed, other positions of responsibility; you have shown just how responsible you are.”
Zascalle: “I had expected you to simply murder us and have done!”
Me: “You may wish that! Being a parent is a position of responsibility.”
Thiane: “You will steal our children? Our Feralan and Ochirion?”
Me: “Saza will find good foster parents for them. Nearby, so they can see you several times a week. I do not wish to devastate them … nor do I wish to have them trained in your particular form of honesty and loyalty.”
Zascalle: “My babies … my babies!”
Me: “Don’t be silly. You’ll see them more often than if you were transformed, imprisoned, or dead… and considerably more often than some of the other alternatives I am considering.”
I thought that sounded splendid and intimidating.
Ochirion: “My mommies! Don’t vanish away my mommies!”
Me: “I’m not stealing them. They stole from me … and all your friends back at Castle Wrong and Strayway, too.”
Feralan: “When you talk like that, it sounds very oblate.”
Also ouch; that’s not a sane sort of response. I need to do something about Feralan as soon as possible.
Me: “Zascalle, Thiane. I need a further guarantee of your good behavior.”
Zascalle: “I will be glad to swear any oath you can imagine …”
Thiane: “You will have taken our children as hostages!”
Me: “I will have taken your children for their own protection. I shan’t be using them as hostages.”
Thiane: “What more do you demand?”
Me: “I demand your ears.”
Thiane: “Our … ears?”
Me: “One ear from each of you for Saza, one ear from each of you for me. They will be forged into unbreakable arcane connections. Your little trick with that Khtsoyis and those There Is None Who Knows Thee cost me six minutes’ work and two cley. Should I need to track you down again, it will not even cost that. And I don’t imagine that anyone in this room, or Vae, say, could distort those connections.”
Thiane: “Our ears … our ears…” She sounded horrified to the point of incomprehension.
Me: “Oh, stop whinging. Did you not consider that I would surely find you, no matter how far you fled or how well you hid? Did you not consider how annoyed I might be with you, on my own behalf and on the behalves of all our friends in Castle Wrong and Strayway? Or that, if I am half the wicked necromancer you are trying to paint me, that my wickedness might fall upon you?”
La Hish: “I haven’t really noticed the wickedness yet. Have you, Nangbang?”
Nangbang: “It lies in zir sexual tastes, Kzip. An inferior grounding for a classical course of vile warlockery! Still, zie is evilling along in zir little amateurish way. I suppose we must make allowances.”
I had been debating whether I wanted to do this or not. But one of the more annoying points of this whole horrible matter is that I have to make the punishment look punishy — to deter people who might try it again. (There are plenty of worse points, starting with the betrayal. That point manages to be the most annoying. It is somewhat like being pursued by mosquitoes when one is fighting a krango claw-to-claw.)
Too little? Too much? Too oblique? I have no idea. I rather wished I had taken it to a court — any court — so that someone with a bit of a clue about proper degrees of punishment could have worked out something suitable.
I did have one minor point of extra cruelty in reserve, though.