[M] In the Thick of Things

The Passive Ward shakedown begins.

Anaxas' oldest and most prestigious University of Sorcery, the de facto cultural capital of the kingdom and a city in its own right.
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Fionn
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Wed Apr 10, 2019 8:04 am

Dentis 32, 2718 | Early Morning
Passive Ward
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The professor's interjection elicited a sigh, forlorn and world weary. You didn't have to be friends with someone to value them, to worry about them, to want them to be safe, to... care about them far more than you rightly should. Lars wouldn't consider him a friend but Fionn wanted them to be friends, had wanted for them to be more honestly and he... doubted that would ever happen now. Thanks to recent events, he wasn't even sure that he wanted to have a more intimate relationship with anyone again and given those recent events, it meant the feelings that lingered for Ayden were all the more awful. He cared about them both and his patron... Circle forgive him, he shouldn't still have feelings for him at all. On some level, he worried what would happen to him if he told the truth, if he explained events both long past and present but his feelings for Lars took precedence, too little, too late perhaps although there all the same.

He should have considered him more highly before, not before it was almost too late, not when he'd thought that it was too late. He hadn't known what he had until he'd thought it was gone. The man who had protected him on that first day in Brunnhold, snapping at those who had wanted to berate him for crying. The man who had saved him when Fred was on the verge of killing him. Saving his life had definitely cemented something for him, some feeling towards his roommate but the beating and Lars' presumed death had added to it, as had his remembrances. His feelings for Ayden, as well as the parse's influence over him, were waning in directly proportion to how he felt about Lars.

Of course he'd do anything to ensure his safety.

Anything.

So he remained still as he heard the murmurs of Monite, felt the mona shift as Castor cast. He wasn't sure if it was necessary for him to stay still while the magic washed over him but he didn't think that it could do any harm. Better to let the man work in peace, take his catalogue of the extent of Fionn's misery and suffering. Presumably he was gaining the same exceptional level of detail that Harper had gotten earlier in the month in Laboratory Beta. What he must have learned... he took it well and he didn't seem all that surprised or he didn't show it. There was a brief flicker of something unreadable in his eyes before he backed off, seemingly ill amused by the passive's request to remain damaged but it was the middle Madden's burden to bear as he saw fit.

He hadn't had a golly to help him when he needed one so there was no point in having one when it was really too late. He could deal with this. This wasn't his idea of a good time but he'd live.

The servant seated himself gingerly, the utmost caution taken as he lowered himself, allowing pained parts to move and bend until he fit into the required shape. The blond wasn't wholly comfortable but it was good to get off his feet, good to relax a little after hovering apprehensively for so long.

"I've never been good with rules, Professor Devlin," he commented with a shrug, wincing and hissing a curse almost immediately as his shoulder twinged. He placed his hands in his lap, fingers dancing together as he found himself restless but with few options for releasing it. He couldn't pace and even if his body would let him, he wouldn't do it, he wouldn't let this golly see it. Although he had a feeling that this one could tell that it was what he wanted to be doing.

Castor might have acted as if he wanted to be his friend before when they'd moved Fred's body and the passive had certainly been willing to talk away to him, glad for the chance to speak his mind a little and indulge his curiosity but he didn't think that the galdor actually wanted to be his friend. The man did what suited him. He'd only helped himself and Lars because it had suited him, he'd wanted the dead passive's body but if he hadn't, he didn't think that he would have hesitated to turn them in, not if it would have been beneficial to him. The older man was calculating, quietly observant and Fionn didn't think he missed a trick. Ayden was like that and given how often the parse had seemed to be his friend when he most definitely wasn't, the blond wasn't inclined to take Castor at face value. He didn't trust him, partially because he was a galdor it was true, but he didn't really have much choice here. He wasn't going to get to interact with anyone else and even if he did, it wasn't as if the servant was going to trust them either.

It meant that the man's words weren't something he was all that willing to believe, no matter how prettily he might say them, and it would be quite clear from his expression what he thought of his sentiments. His face had settled into its habitual state of sullenness, mouth occasionally twisting into a sneer. Why should he pretend? What good would it do for him to wear the face of meek and obedient passive? No one would believe that, just as he thought that what Castor came out with chroveshit. No matter what he thought, the professor didn't truly understand any of it and how could he? He was the privileged son, kept comfortably away from his broken and abandoned siblings his whole life, his interactions with them akin to a rich individual deigning to give money to a beggar - they never truly touched and he never really saw.

The mention of his parents drew a snort and a sardonic laugh, the laugh issuing forth again with greater bitterness when he claimed that how he'd been born didn't make him deserving of punishment. In truth, he'd been fucked long before he'd been found as passive, the suspicion of his birth enough to make him outcast in his childhood home, constantly punished for something that was his mother's fault, not his. He was quite familiar with being punished for things that weren't actually his fault. Something being dreadfully unfair didn't tend to put a stop to it though.

"Oh well, you need somebody to take your frustrations out on. When you make someone else suffer for your problems it makes you feel better. Almost," the passive commented, fingers knitting together as Castor continued to speak, squeezing tightly enough that his knuckles gave a soft crack. What he was saying... gods, was it just him or did it seem really patronising? No, he was being spoken to as if he didn't really understand about culpability. Obviously, he wasn't responsible for the suffering of every single passive around him but he was definitely responsible for the suffering that he had caused directly. Just because someone had looked the other way and he'd been allowed to get away with things didn't mean that he wasn't a deplorable person. It wasn't really his fault because the whole system was shit.

Isn't that the most golly thing you've ever heard in your life? he thought with disgust, face reddening in anger. He didn't even know what to say to that and that was frustrating. But he was glaring, brown eyes trying to drill a path through the monic theorist. That he hated every syllable that had just come out of his mouth was quite obvious.

"It's funny how you can call be bright but sound like you think I'm stupid. Oh wait, no, I'm sorry! I'm bright for someone without a golly education but I'm not on your level, my mistake!" he snapped out, unlocking his hands so that he could rest one of them on the arm of the chair, leaning on it with a wince until the sharpness of the pain passed.

"I don't believe you about the blame and I don't think I want to because if you want to let me away with things that I've actually done just for telling you how things are then you aren't really changing much, are you? I did what I did and I'm sorry for a lot of it - not all of it, mind you - but I can't undo it either. Those are actual things I should be punished for, not like getting my erse kicked for chroveshit ones like not letting someone fuck me when they want to."

The words were out before he could stop them, spat out with vehemence before the shame could catch up and still his tongue. The blond bit his lip, eyes closing briefly while his face heated and the young man visibly deflated. He was anger and bravado when he needed that but without it, he was small and young and scared.

Sweet Lady, he didn't want to talk about any of this. He didn't want to spill everything and then be thrown back into the ward as if he'd done nothing for them. Fionn didn't want Ayden to get ahold of him again. He didn't care if they wanted to punish him by traditional means but he did care about being tortured again. That idea was pretty terrifying, almost enough to cow him. Self-preservation was a hard habit to kick but there was more in this than him, there was Lars too. Besides if his patron was going to come down on him, he had a quick way out, far kinder than anything he'd face at Ayden's hands. So he'd speak, he had to but he didn't believe that the galdori could protect him from what he nearly needed protection from. He didn't think they wanted to do that.

He sighed, his mouth pulled down in an expression of absolute misery as he reopened his eyes. "I never learned to play the system well. I got by, I'm lucky I didn't get myself killed but I'd probably have been better off if I'd never tried to play it. I wouldn't have known that there was a way to play it if I hadn't seen it done," Fionn explained, running a hand through his hair before leaving it resting on the back of his neck.

"I didn't notice straight away, I couldn't have and I don't remember a lot from the beginning but I know... that everyone looked out for themselves. You might have a friend or two and look out for each other but... plenty of people were on their own and didn't trust anyone else. Most passives try to make friends in the beginning before they realise that it doesn't really work. I think some of the older passives do it on purpose, make sure that you don't make friends. I think Ayden- So then you're on your own and you're scared and you're seeing bad things happen so when someone comes along and offers you protection, friendship, you take it. Ayden was that for me and... for a lot of people, I think. He's always seemed to know a lot of people, people who did things for him or who he did things for. Back then, he knew patrons, it was done across the ward, I think. He knew some matrons as well and I think... Well, he had things done for them that wouldn't be traced back to them and some of them... might have been doing them for galdori but I don't know."

The hand moved from his neck to his leg, fingers tapping against it a little nervously, rolling his shoulders somewhat uneasily before he continued.

"Before he came back, he had a nice job with some old galdor, own room with him and everything out of the scrapyard and he made it happen. Whatever he did though, whatever system is running in the ward it must have been here when he started, he can't have set it up himself. But he might have made it work better and he was allowed to get away with more because of it. Some of the patrons like the power, some of them are just a bit moony and buy into the idea that we should be grateful and good and all that so they're scary in their own way but I don't think they can see what's wrong because they don't want to?"

The young man gazed at the older man uncertainly. He didn't know what he was saying. He didn't know what he was meant to say.

"I don't know what you want to know, Professor Devlin. What am I meant to tell you?"
word count: 2266

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Lars
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Sun Apr 14, 2019 12:31 am

Passive Ward
Dentis 32, 2718 Early Morning
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How strange and curious the professor's previous ideas of the capabilities of passives had been before. Lars had known for many years various things that galdori thought of his kind; that they were nothing more than children to take care of, servants to make useful, magically-disabled and unfortunate sons and daughters of families that long ago disowned them. They were a burden upon not only galdorkind, but upon Vita itself; omens of punishment and totems of uncontrollable, unpredictable destruction. The fact that the professor before him could have ever believed that passives were incapable of willing violence and abuse was simply outlandish to the blonde.

Did all of them believe that their servants were grateful? That malevolence was something entirely impossible within a creature born of magical failure and monic chaos?

He wanted to laugh. Still he held his tongue, canines keeping words secure within his mouth. Lars took a slow inhale, the sound a silent one as blue eyes flicked upward from his interlocked fingers to rest upon the older galdor as he spoke. As he listened, the distant gaze swept over his features, took notice of the nearly-uncomfortable and slightly awkward demeanor, passed over waves of dark, messy morning hair. Perhaps if he hadn't been preoccupied with both the distracting sight of the professor and the absurd notion that passives were incapable of cruelty, he would have been more surprised by the man's admission - if it could be called that truly - that they were of the same kind.

Were they now? Were they really? Maybe years ago he had believed it; clung to the idea that he was still a galdor, just a non-magical one. Still important, just a servant. No, he didn't believe it anymore, not anymore than he'd thought passives his equal when he'd believed himself a true galdor. He might've been the son of two galdori, but he wasn't one of them. He never would be, and more and more the Hessean learned to find discomfort in the idea - but the passive didn't deflate in his chair, instead offering a nod to the dark-haired galdor across the desk.

"Thank you, professor," Lars said in a soft, quiet tone, "it really does mean a lot that you and Professor Devlin have made so much of an effort for him - and for Fionn. He knows that Fionn didn't really have a choice in what he did, and you're right that this affects all of us in the ward."

Lars swallowed the lump that had ascended his throat, taking care not to remove his eyes from the kindly man in front of him for any longer than necessary. It might've been difficult to look at him before, but now that he'd glanced back up, it was hard to remove his gaze.

"Yes - and yes, he's almost twenty-seven, sir. He does think it's gotten worse. Both within the ward and outside - it's not just turning against each other, but the students and staff, sir, they..." trailing off for a moment, the blonde had to hesitate before he continued, "...they seem harder on us than they were before. As for other examples... he hasn't paid enough attention, professor, sorry. He's noticed a lot of hidden violence and trickery among his kind, as if we're not all just servants. Ayden was the worst that he's seen, but he doesn't think he was the only one, not by far. A lot of them seem as if they need to one-up each other and cause pain just because they can, because they can't express any of it towards... well, our superiors, sir. All of us are afraid and some of his kind use it to their advantage."
word count: 673
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Muse
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Tue Apr 16, 2019 4:13 pm

32nd of Dentis, 2718
Passive Ward | Early Morning
"Idon't expect to have garnered your trust so easily, Fionn." Castor answered without any sign of offense at the clearly damaged young man's retort. Gods, as if he hadn't seen enough of this on the streets of anywhere Anaxas, and yet here in the passive ward, like some concentrated chemical solution evaporated down to its most constituent parts, it was so much worse. The Magister lost his composure as the boy continued, his professionally stoic expression becoming a soft, emotional frown at the defensiveness that was raised in the form of intelligent sarcasm.

"I have no qualms about giving you your own consequences for nearly beating another passive to death, let alone all the other little tidbits of wrong-doing you cling to so tightly as being entirely your doing, but consequences aren't the same thing as blame." The older galdor spoke up, raising his voice as if speaking over a classroom of unruly students, the calm in his tone feeling so totally out of place. Now was not the time to admit that politicians were worse, but the Perceptive Professor felt it in his very bones.

Finally, he sat. For a moment, he forgot he'd given Fionn his handkerchief and so he searched for it, revealing himself as the busy man that he truly was once he curled his fingers in realization and sighed, settling into an overstuffed chair and giving the young passive more of his otherwise undivided attention. He took in the way the boy didn't really sit still, the way he was always in some kind of motion, the way everything followed him around and nipped at his heels, the way his whole life weighed down his words in ways that admittedly Castor could not entirely comprehend regardless of his exceptionally austere levels of magical accomplishment.

Fionn described his observations from the thick of things and the professor listened so very carefully, the idea that problems in the passive ward extended into galdori roots not at all a shocking one to him. Harper would be horrified, that much Castor knew, but the Magister had suspected as much for a long time. He sighed, shifting in his seat to reveal his own impatience, already tempted to stand up and pace again after barely sitting for more than a few moments.

"It has been perpetuated for far too long that passives are children. You were, once, just as all galdori are, but you cannot be kept in perpetual innocence and the very idea of that is clocking stupid. If anything, it makes all of this even more inexcusable—abuse and favors, destroying lives before they have a chance to bloom." It revealed to the older galdor how much of a failure he was as a politician, as a husband, as a father, and as a teacher. He felt the sting of his own guilt in the grander picture, the acidic burn of bile causing him to pause even as his hands curled fingers into expensive, faded fabric before he pushed himself back to his feet,

"I don't know what I was expecting to hear, lad, and so I am unprepared with specific questions. I think you've just stolen my thoughts with such honesty, and I'm stuck here in my own naiveté like a fool. Names? Situations? What are you meant to tell me? Whatever you feel I should know. Anything that will help me burn away this infestation of ignorance and bring healing to decades of harm left to fester in not only yourself, but countless others who were promised protection and lied to."


"I didn't intend to do anything for passives, for galdorkind, when I began these studies. At the risk of repeating myself, I'm a theorist. A monic theorist. And a series of conclusions led me to realize the foolishness of ignoring our entire race—passives included as rightful offspring—when it came to seeing the picture of magic as a whole. I will admit that all of my personal feelings are new and terrifying and yet also horribly unavoidable. I once didn't understand that galdori were cruel, either, but once one's eyes are opened, it's so very hard to close them again."

Harper sank further into his chair, collapsing into himself with such honesty, fully aware that he was supposed to be asking Lars the questions, to be gathering more information to build some nigh-impossible case in order to support sweeping, dizzying changes to how passives were treated on Brunnhold's campus. It was a worthy cause, and one woefully overdue.

But the odds didn't feel at all like good ones.

He glared through his spectacles into his tea instead of looking at the blond passive across from him, aware of how he'd come to enjoy his company, strange though it could be.

"You are sheltered from the general deterioration of the Kingdom, of course, and so your lives as passives are a strange reflection of the larger picture being painted here in Anaxas. The unrest has certainly led to more violence, even among galdori. That has, in turn, trickled into our relationship with those we should be caring for with kindness." Professor Moore replied with almost monotone logic, eyes fluttering closed for a moment as he thought of the Riot in Yaris, as he thought of the end of another Symvouli cycle, as he thought of a King and Queen who both appeared unable to properly make decisions, let alone balance the loud ruckus of a divided Congress,

"More proof that we are the same, honestly, are the struggles you admit to seeing within the passive ward. If you all really were innocent, helpless creatures, then you should live peaceful lives when left to yourselves. But you don't. And you're not. Oppression is rampant and galdorkind have not been proper stewards of their power. This is talk that will get me fired, of course, and possibly worse, but there are no equations I can calculate that dissuade me from seeing what I see."

Social commentary leaving a sour taste in the professor's mouth, Harper sat up and set his tea on the desk, leaning on his palms, "I want to make things better for you all, but I fear the problem runs far deeper than I can reach. In my efforts to prove our rightful relationships, I am afraid I will uncover too much about everything that has been kept hidden in the dark. If I find myself unable to make a difference for everyone, I still want to help where I can. Somehow. You have reason to be afraid, it's true, and between your testimony and Fionn's and perhaps a few others, we can make a bit of progress before someone notices."

The dark-haired galdor was quiet for a moment, mulling over his own words and mulling over all he'd discovered that he couldn't entirely put into words, all somewhat overshadowed by the suffering he'd unintentionally stumbled into and the changes these new realities had brought to his life, his thoughts, his choices.

"Regardless of how things go with Ayden today, what I can I do to assist in your safety? In Fionn's? In those you know are immediately impacted by this far-reaching corruption? I suppose I need to seek out the galdori connected to this mess—those who let these things happen under their watch. And go from there."
word count: 1327
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Fionn
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Race: Passive
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Wed Apr 17, 2019 5:36 pm

Dentis 32, 2718 | Early Morning
Passive Ward
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The man didn't like him or he didn't like his mouth, the latter definitely more likely. He was used to his mouth getting him into trouble and helping him to make enemies. He didn't expect Castor to be his friend, he didn't expect the man to like or trust him either. He believed what he'd been told time and time again. He wasn't worth it, no one would listen to him, no one would believe him. So how could he think that the professor really cared about his words, what he had to say so why not abuse? Why not be a sarcastic ersehole? At least it got a response that way, playing the ersehole, being what he'd always been told he was: a bastard, a troublemaker, a bad influence. So he was what others expected of him, the worst he could be. Why would any galdor like an uppity passive with far too many sour and sarcastic words to his name?

"Blame and consequences don't necessarily match. Sometimes you deal with consequences that don't match what you did. I'm used to harsher than deserved, I guess. There isn't much you could do that hasn't already been done to be honest. You could kill me. People usually kill dangerous or moony things," the young man remarked sullenly, left to sink into thought, one part of his mind dwelling on his own statement even as he carried on and let his tale unravel.

His mind went to his near death experience with Fred, something that had occurred the very night that he met Castor and Harper after Lars had snapped their former patron's neck. He could remember the terror, the pain, the gasping breathlessness but his mind went to what had come before, what had prompted the murderous attitude. How many times had he been in such a situation but chosen to give in rather than fight back? How many times had he suffered degradation at the hands of his male peers, often the ones who were meant to care for him? Fionn wasn't alone there, he wasn't the only victim of such abuse and talking about it wouldn't necessarily help others, not the detail of it anyway. All the same, he wanted to but... he didn't have the words, only crude approximations and vulgarities, words just as shame-inducing as the acts of abuse themselves.

It was the talk of innocence and the destruction of lives before they could bloom that really got under his skin, the blond's fingers twisting together with greater violence and anxiety.

Inexcusable.

"I haven't been innocent since..." he murmured, trailing off as the fingers considered their dance, more maddened than before as he trailed off, gulping hugely. "There are things that... you don't do to children, not unless there's something wrong with you. There are things that 'children' don't do to each other either. There's no innocence here. Mostly it's this place but... there are some who come here who are already-"

He broke off, trying not to squirm. He did not like this topic at all but some things needed to be said. Fionn felt that this was relevant and people didn't really talk about it and almost definitely didn't let the topic rise above the heads of the passive ward's denizens. So he had to say it, even though some of his injuries made certain things quite obvious without him having to say anything.

"Look, everyone's suffered in their own way, there are plenty of ways to suffer in here, plenty of ways to lose your innocence but... some things are easier to cope with than others. Some things don't heal even after the marks are gone. Ayden- I don't know for sure but I suspect that if he did it to one person more than once then he probably repeated it but... Men have sex in here, that's just a thing and it's just... it is what it is but sometimes you have to have it even if you don't want it and you just have to- Even though you can kick and scream and everything else, no one will help if they hear you. And it... it's the most- you can't do anything and- You're helpless and you're hurting and humiliated and everything. It was... what Ayden would have done to Lars if I hadn't- And afterwards, he still would have done it so I had to- I didn't want to leave him but I c-c-couldn't-"

The servant's voice finally broke as the tears spilled out again, flowing freely down his cheeks as he veritably curled in on himself even as he winced at all the physical hurts. The physical pain could be dealt with especially when it felt like if he didn't curl into a ball then his emotional pain was going to tear him apart.

Thankfully, the handkerchief was still in his possession, although it was sopping wet, it was still fairly serviceable. He dragged it across his face, snuffling loudly, trying to get ahold of himself, trying to calm himself enough. This wasn't helping. This was just self-pity and excuses for what he'd done. The world clearly revolved around Fionn and he doubted that Castor would be pleased with the rather self-centred rhetoric that the young man had to offer. At the same time, he could only offer what he knew from him own experience and that was pretty specific in a lot of ways, narrow.

"I-I'm sorry, this isn't what- Look. I've been bounced around d-d-different wings at different times, I'm a problem but it means I've seen more of the bad ones than others have."

Shakily, the youth offered up names, not even sure if the teary details he gave about these men was still valid. Surely they were in the same wings, the same positions of power. They couldn't all have met accidents like Fred had.

He tugged at the cuff of his shirt sleeve, plucking at the cloth as his gaze finally fell into his lap. He felt so tired. The emotional toll that this interview was taking a high one. He could ask to go - not that Castor had to agree of course - but there were other concerns.

"Ayden is he- Will you keep him somewhere? Will you keep me somewhere? Rather than... putting me back. Putting us... near each other before things are... sorted."

If they ever get sorted.

"I just f-f-feel like he'll know and he... he won't like it. He'll want to know what I said and he wouldn't be n-n-nice about it."
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