[Haud Ignota Loquor] [Pc] Week 199: Tempora Mutantur

Sep 12, 2017
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Case 121 was surprisingly easy to convince, but remained slightly uncooperative. Some information was given, but nothing critical, in accordance with procedure 58. The responses were documented, as well as non-verbal reactions, and are currently kept in file 121 to be processed. The record begins with the first question asked.

“Do you believe in the supernatural?”

The questioner sat across from inillis in the restaurant booth. His face and arms were completely covered in wrapped cloth, like he was hiding some sort of hideous disease, and his eyes were hidden behind the hood of a dark burgundy monk’s robe. Inillis wasn’t sure what to make of him. It was a man who hid dark secrets behind a wall of cloth, but almost announced with his appearance that he was hiding something, as if he was proud of it.

The only scrap of identity the demvir had to work with was the man’s voice. It was dynamic, the kind of voice bound for theatre, if it wasn’t marred by a scratchiness that sounded painful. More interestingly, the voice was familiar. Inillis knew this man, just not from where. The curiosity demanded that he agree to the survey, if only to keep hearing that voice.

“Depends on what you mean by supernatural,” the demvir answered, "I only believe in what I’ve personally proven. Magic does exist, souls exist, wonder and awe exist. These are all things we can measure and calculate, with our natural tools and natural minds, but they’re enough of a gray area to question things. Magic might come from the Vis, and it might not. Souls might persist after death, and they might not. There might be a something deeper running through the world, or everything we see might be a wonder in itself. I don’t believe in the supernatural, nor the lack of it.”

The questioner didn’t bother to address the answer, and kept the interview moving.

“Have studies ever been important to you? Which avenue of study do you favor?”

“I don’t think you know as much about me as you let on.”

The mysterious representative had claimed to have selected Inillis for his potential, that the demvir was someone they wanted to watch rise to greatness. How would they know that without knowing what he actually did?

“It’s just part of the formality,” was the answer, "I ask everyone the same questions.”

The demvir thought for a second. That kind of consistency made sense, but only if this was a scientific investigation. He wondered if the questioner knew that he had just given Inillis a big hint.

“Right… Then yes, studies are vastly important to me. I spent years with the mages trying to pick up anything I could. Eventually I settled on enchanting. I liked that especially because it meant I could throw it in the face of Professor Diceus. He was the sort that insisted all of the elaborate motions or incantations were appeals to the Vis, and that they worked better with absolute faith. Naturally, I needed to be able to copy the spells without all that foolishness.”

“Have you tasted love?”

Inillis was surprised, and let the pause grow uncomfortable. Finally, he leaned forward and squinted at the figure.

“What can you possibly be after that you need to know about random strangers’ love?”

“Hehhe. Don’t strain yourself trying to figure it out. I intend to keep my business my own.”

“I don’t have to answer these questions.”

Inillis stood up, looking like he was going to leave.

“But you will.”

For a moment Inillis saw the stranger’s eyes, he was given a knowing glance, a short nod upward. The eyes held not a shred of doubt.

"Because I’m doing something big, and you like it when people mix things up. This is the most interesting thing you’ve experienced this week.”

Inillis sunk slightly back into the booth. He hated that the man seemed to hold all the cards. He hated it even more that the stranger was flaunting them, confident about his assertions.

“I have,” he answered, “I have ‘tasted’ love, though ‘tasting’ seems like an odd word choice. I bet you didn’t see that coming, the self-declared iconoclast falling in love. Exactly who I tasted love for is something you’ll never know.”

“I can still use this. Your answer is…”

“I’m sure you can, but you wanted more, didn’t you. Unless one of your questions on that sheet is specifically ‘what is the name and address of a person you loved,’ you will never pry this information from me.”

“Upset, are we?” the questioner was amused, "Fine. Hypothetically, if you were to profess your love, how would you do it.”

“Too many variables. Who is it? Where am I? How long have I known them?”

“I need an answer, any answer.”

“If I thought a relationship was to both of our advantage, I like to think that I would give them the facts as clearly and as quickly as possible. Large, romantic gestures might cloud rational decisions, and there would be time for that later.”

As the mysterious figure recorded this answer, he hesitated for a second, being either thoughtful, dissapointed, or something else. It was hard to tell.

“Do you want children of your own…” he continued, "or do you already have children?”

“Children?”

Inillis resolved not to keep being surprised by personal questions.

"Meaning if I were to adopt one of the larval forms of the organic races? I never thought of that before. I guess I wouldn’t be against it someday, but for now I have bigger things I want to do. It also sounds like a lot of work.”

“If you were to open a business, what would it be? Again, part of the formality.”

The stranger was getting the hang of Inillis’s objections.

“I have a business. I have business cards and everything. I enchant things.”

“The truth, remember?”

Once more, a hint of amusement crept into the man’s voice. The demvir was revealing more than he agreed to.

“I have a totally legitimate business!” The demvir declared, "It just so happens to be run out of a spare room in the library. If they wanted to charge me rent I wouldn’t complain… excessively… to their faces.”

“Are you good with money? Or are there any debts weighing you down?”

“Ah, okay. Maybe it isn’t the most successful enchanting business in Terminus. I’m admittedly not good at the ‘earning’ part of money, but that’s mostly because there’s always bigger, more important things to deal with.”

“Strike two.”

The man chuckled. This was fun.

“Mostly?” Inillis corrected, “Sometimes then? And sure, sometimes I just don’t feel like it, or forget an order, or disapprove of the client. No debts though. I am good at using what money I get. You can’t argue that’s a lie.”

“Good. If you knew there would be no repercussions, would you be able to rob from a bank?”

“Sure, I don’t care about… Well, what do you mean no repercussions? Even if I did care about stealing money, wouldn’t the guilt be a repercussion? No repercussions means, by definition, no reason not to. I would rob a bank in a heartbeat. I would enjoy it.”

The questioner turned the page in his notepad, awkwardly, as he kept everything angled so that Inillis couldn’t see. Then he continued the survey.

“Were you ever tormented as a child… or were you the one to torment others?”

“If I had a childhood, it was before the cataclysm, and I don’t remember it. I’d like to think I was smart enough to control the situation to avoid being tormented. Whether others were tormented would then be up to themselves. I don’t ever… I try not to ‘torment’ for no reason.”

“Have people looked down on you because of your bloodline? Your gender? Your beliefs? How do you react?”

By now, one of the waiters of the restaurant came by with a plate of some sort of roasted game. It was smothered in a dark brown sauce that smelled like broth and onions. The questioner picked up his knife and fork, before nodding at the waiter. He broke into a wide grin when he saw that Inillis was flustered, again.

“What! I thought we’re in the middle of something important. When did you order food?!”

“We are,” he answered. “Food is important too. I ordered it before you got here.”

Inillis stared at the man. Unperturbed, the questioner shoveled an oversized bit of meat into his mouth, chewing as he spoke.

“The question… You were about to answer."

“It was prejudice right? Not… as much. Nothing big. I’ve seen it happen to others, and I expect it to happen to me eventually, but so far I’ve stayed in either Secare or the Arcanum, both of which are pretty demvir-freindly. There’s a been a few gray areas, a few stubborn professors, a few clients who might have preferred an organic, but nobody in the sense that I would have bothered to react. No-one important.”

The questioner nodded as he swallowed and scribbled in the notebook.

“Have you ever been in a fight for your life?”

“Sort of? There can be some aggressive wildlife in the mountains, along the fringes of areas tainted by the cataclysm. There’s been things that have tried to kill me, but I’ve never ventured far enough to be in any real danger. Everything so far I could handle just fine.

There was a different kind of fight though. A mental one, with some sort of rhythmic machine from beyond the sky. Now this isn’t fair, you either already know this, or you don’t believe me. I can’t explain what happened. Maybe I was hallucinating, but I think I wasn’t.”

“I guess that counts,” the man shrugged as he took another bite. “Very curios, whatever it is, I will certainly have to investigate my-“

“No! No it… Don’t physically go to the location. Please.”

“Hmm… Intriguing response. No we’re getting somewhere.”

The stranger wrote deliberately in the notebook, chewing with his mouth closed for the first time.

“Next question, what’s your idea of a rebellion? What would you risk your life to attain?”

The light from the demvir’s eyes and joints glowed noticeably brighter. He folded his hands on the table.

“Now that’s more along the lines of what I was expecting. My idea of a rebellion, ultimately, is a shift.”

Inillis couldn’t help but pause for effect, mentally climbing his little soapbox. This question was meant for him.

“A rebellion is a lasting change, or even replacement, of an existing system. It should, but doesn’t always, make things better. Freedom, strength, insight, all reasons to rebel. It isn’t always a violent event; there can be rebellions of the mind, upturning ways of thinking, or longstanding scientific facts. Intriguingly, a rebellion is also a challenge: to improve, to accept the change, or to perish. This is what the world needs to understand. I would risk my life, for the right rebellion. Things will always change, and I will be there to make sure it’s in the right direction.”

The questioner nodded in between forkfuls of meat, making sure it seemed like he was paying attention.

“Wonderful, Mr. Mutamur. Just as expected. If things go according to plan, I just might contact you again.”

There was always an opportunity to keep the subject hooked. It wasn’t a total lie. Inillis beamed.

“Now,” the man continued, "you are walking down a dark alley, and a person steps out in front of you. What happens next?”

“What is that? That’s not a… Are you asking what I would like to happen? What usually happens? What I fantasize would happen?”

“I can’t change the question. Just give an answer.”

Inillis figured that would be the response, but the vagueness still bothered him.

“Uh… fine then. What usually happens is that I keep walking. Most of the time, they have no real business with me, and they know it. I’m capable of defending myself if they forget. If they do have business with me, I’d expect it’s on good terms. The trick is to find the people above them and make arrangements. You’re too small for the boss to want to betray, and now the people you’re meeting with don’t dare to. Honestly though, I’ve only done that once, so there’s not a lot of empirical evidence.”

“What’s the cruelest thing you have ever done?”

There was a moment of silence. The stranger even paused eating.

“Well,” Inillis answered, “that would imply I’ve done something cruel. That depends on how you define it. I have done things others would frown upon, but cruelty is about intent. It’s purposefully hurting someone because you want them to hurt, not because it’s the best option.”

“Keep going.”

The demvir shifted in his seat, and touched his hand to his forehead.

“Oh right. That. I didn’t know… Well I knew, but I didn’t… I had only been awake for less than a week, back in Secare.”

The stranger leaned forward, waiting for Inillis to get to it.

“Okay, it wasn’t my fault, the group I was staying with had told me that-“

“No no, cruelty is about intent. I don’t want to hear about a misunderstanding. I want to hear about cruelty.”

“A merchant passed through town. Spurii. Half laicar, half enlil. I thought... I had learned all about the war, and demvir independence. I spent a lot of time thinking how short-sighted organics were, and that if we could just assert ourselves over the other nations, we could fix everything. I didn’t know what I supposed to be doing ever since I woke up, so I chose to be angry.”

Inillis looked up at the ceiling.

“I beat him. I justified it. He was the enemy; his kind was holding us back.”

The stranger diligently recorded it all. He didn’t bother to toy with the demvir. The amusement was gone.

“He lived,” Inillis continued, “The group I was staying with, I thought they’d be impressed. I thought I was proving myself to them. They found me, pulled me off, and then told me I had to leave. I’m probably the first demvir to be homeless a week after waking up in the damn machine capitol.”

“If it’s any comfort,” the questioner replied, “every single person I’ve interviewed has done something they consider cruel. We all have regrets. Next question, What’s the kindest thing you’ve ever done?”

“There was this child.”

After a brief gap, the questioner motioned for Inillis to keep going.

“Right, it’s just that like many of your other questions, this is highly subjective. I’m not sure if this should be considered kinder than some of the more important things I’ve done. Really, everything I do is selfless. Even when I gain something it's ultimately for the greater good.”

The stranger had to be careful not to choke on his food.

“Let’s stick with the child. That sounds promising.”

“Very well, the child. His name was… Yes, his name was Davis. I had just moved to Terminus myself. It was plenty challenging at first; I didn’t really have a sense of how things worked yet. What I did have was a few spare exa in my pocket, scrounged from doing manual labor. I gave it all to a way-too-thin laicar larva that went out of his way to give me pointers. The kid said that his dad went to find food last week and hadn’t been back. It wasn’t until later that I was able to put him in touch with some Arcanum contacts and endorse his entry into the school. Davis remembered me.”

“You pass a homeless person in the street. Do you walk past them?”

The stranger kept the interview moving along. Inillis noted that he was done with his meal at this point.

“I do, but I remember them. I don’t carry a lot of money on my person, but sometimes I’m able to go back to a particular impoverished individual and come to a mutually beneficial arrangement. I’m usually able to get information at the most, or a few hours of labor at the least. I can’t exactly afford to give away money to everyone.”

“Except Davis,” the stranger countered.

“That’s different. It’s different.”

The stranger gently smiled and waited. Inillis eventually came up with an explanation.

“You can’t expect a larval form to grow up right on the street, and it’s not fair to ask them to work for money. Children are different.”

Satisfied, the stranger made a careful note.

“Just a few more questions now Mr. Mutamur. Now how about your sense of direction? Do you ever feel lost?”

“No. My sense of direction is impeccable.”

“Of course. What if you were stranded in the middle of nowhere? What would you do?”

“That depends on the environment. I am fully capable of surviving in something easy like a forest. An island beach somewhere with the corrosive salt and abrasive sand might be more difficult. There it would be a race against time to find a way off."

The stranger nodded, and went on with his list.

“What is your idea of paradise?”

Inillis rested his hand on his chin.

“Paradise? I don’t think such a place exists for me.”

This caught the questioner’s attention. That wasn’t the kind of response you got everyday. He flipped through his notes for a second. After a moment, he came up with a guess.

“So why not?” he asked.

“I am me because the world needs tempered,” the demvir answered. "If it were already the way I wanted it, I would be unneeded. An extraneous existence would hardly be paradise."

“What about hell? Does a hell exist for you?”

There was a moment of pause as Inillis pondered. It was easy to come up with nightmarish scenarios, but he wasn’t sure if any of them were truly the worst possible.

“The circumstances don’t matter as much as a result. If I was to find out I would be irrelevant, that my actions would all be washed away by time no matter how hard I struggled, that would be hell. If you want to make it seems as terrible as possible, you could say all my limbs are chopped off and I’m buried in wet sand, but the effect is really the same.”

The questioner took a deep breath.

“Last question, Mr. Mutamur.”

The procedure was almost through. Soon, all he’d have to do is file it and the whole thing would be someone else’s responsibility. It was bittersweet; he enjoyed getting to know his cases. 121 was certainly one of the more interesting cases he’d done. The man exhaled.

“What philosophy guides your life?”

Inillis responded flatly, “well that’s a bit anticlimatic.”

“Excuse me?”

“We’ve already sort of got that question covered,” the demvir explained, "through all the other questions. Especially the rebellion one. I could just give you the same answer again.”

“Well uh…”

It was the stranger’s turn to be caught off guard, something Inillis was pleased with.

“Is there anything you want to add then?” the man offered.

“You want something more? Something important that we haven’t covered?”

Inillis was only given a patient look in response.

“You want the meaning of my name then. If you’re putting together a bunch of information about me, that should probably go in there. Consider this a privilege, by the way.”

“That will work,” the stranger gave in to being goaded. “Tell me about ‘Inillis Mutamur’”

“It’s a part of a larger phrase from the old language. 'Tempora muntantur, not et mutamur in illis.’ It means that times change, and that we change with them. That’s what I’m here for, to keep us at pace with time.”

This was as far as the record went.

Wordcount: 3,307
 

Writing Week is 222

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