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Noonday Demon

Oathkeeper Vex

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Race: Human

Apparent Age: 44

Occupations: Notary, Diplomat, Interrogator

Alignment: Lawful Neutral/Lawful Evil

Height: 6'1" when drawn to full height, 5'6"-5'8" when hunched

Weight: Approximately 120 lbs

Hair: Dark-but-greying

Eyes: Faint brown

Complexion: Pale, slightly sallow

Voice: In the range of low alto to tenor; smooth, soft, leisurely, as of a practiced speaker

Abilities:

Zero-Sum

A restorative ability which "transfers" physical damage from one party to another, or, put differently, which heals one to the same extent it injures another. The ability requires continuous physical contact with both parties--it typically demands either the consent of both or the incapacitation of at least one. The ability's principal risk is a chance its user may independently sustain injury. This risk is proportional to the severity of the injury at issue. The user cannot directly repair their own injuries.

Oathkeeping

This ability also requires continuous contact between all parties, and it depends exclusively on consensus and understanding. This ability allows the user to bind parties to the content of their speech acts. This often relates to swearing oaths, but it likewise includes wagers, verbal contracts, proclamations (e.g. "I hereby bequeath..." in a Will) or declarations of consent (e.g. the "I do" during a marriage ceremony). Those affected by this ability are bound to their word by their very being, and immediate death and damnation are guaranteed to those who betray this trust.

The user is moderately restored and rejuvenated when a speech act is guaranteed, incentivizing the ability's liberal use. The restorative effect is amplified dramatically if any party reneges on their guarantee in proportion to the gravity of the subject matter. This ability may not be used to underwrite a speech act to which the user is a direct party (e.g. someone promising the user they will perform a service on the user's behalf). This ability is not intended to produce a geas or word-trickery situation.

Crippled

This is exactly what it sounds like. Vex is crippled below the waist and has use only of one leg (and not entirely reliably at that)--the other is inert and slightly shriveled, and an aid is required at all times to remain ambulatory.

 

Sample Dialogue:

Quote

"Your Majesty," Vex intoned softly, "I would like to suggest this as an appropriate occasion to surr-"

The remainder of his entreaty was torn away in a riptide of explosive noise. The Queen's vision swam, and she heard nothing but a persistent, high-pitched whining. She could see Vex's lips animated in speech, but all she registered was a strange man opening and closing his mouth.

She wondered blankly how he could remain standing, and then whether he actually thought of whatever he was doing as "standing" the way most people meant it.

She then remembered her keep had just been struck by a siege weapon and blinked several times to get her head right.

"What the hell are you still doing here?" she yelled more loudly than she intended. "You have won, my capital lies in ruins, and the best fate I can hope for is to live the rest of my life chained up in a labor camp."

Vex gave her a vaguely regretful look. It was the look a tavernkeeper might have given a regular customer before revealing their favorite dish had been removed from the menu.

"The camp would be a considerable mercy."

The Queen heaved in a ragged breath and sagged back against the wall.

"I should kill you while I have the chance," she said ruefully. "I could do it now if I wanted. Look at you: I could crawl out of here on my stomach in the time it would take you to descend a single flight of stairs."

"Yes," he said unhelpfully.

"Yes?" she asked, raising a hand to rub at her temple. Her head was pounding.

"Yes. I have no doubt you would, even now, if you thought it would bring you comfort. But you know the end cannot be delayed by killing the messenger who delivers the news of its coming. You also know I harbor no ill will toward you. You fantasize about murdering me only because I am all that remains. It is a tragic flaw of so many monarchs that they fail to realize, until far too late, their reach only really extends as far as they can stretch their arms."

The Queen slid down to sit on the floor. "You told me this could be resolved peacefully," she said resignedly, her voice nearly a whisper.

"It could have," Vex said. "You could simply have surrendered when asked; instead, you raised harsh taxes on the nobility and the peasantry alike. You then poured that money into the purses of blacksmiths and armorers before pressing the majority of the peasantry, from whom you had only just finished squeezing everything, into military service with the promise of returning to them an insulting fraction of their incomes. You forgot the true lesson of power, Your Majesty, and in so doing squandered all the advantages won by your royal predecessors: you forgot that rulers are only rulers so long as the subordinate classes continue to find the balance of exchange tolerable. Even the meanest landlord understands this perfectly, as when they demur on collecting the customary rent from a peasant tenant after a bad harvest, or when they extend loans from their granaries to see that the families on their lands are fed until the next crop is due. The lower classes do not care about obtaining more, as do the nobles, but only about protecting what little they have, and, in the end, you have denied them even that."

Vex smiled without showing his teeth. "You should count yourself lucky your subjects merely deserted you. I have had many occasions to observe the compassion of the underclasses as they shake off their masters. I do not think their style of generosity would suit you."

The distant sound of boots on steps came from below.

There were soldiers coming.

"This is it, then?" asked the Queen. "I must simply wait to be butchered?"

"Oh, nothing quite like that," Vex replied with a dismissive wave of his hand. "You will first be captured; then, you will be locked away in total darkness as long as it takes for you to become pliable. You will be given food and water enough to ensure you do not die, but you will be beaten often and may sustain unfortunate injuries in the process. Guarding prisons also tends, as a rule, to make men quite lonely, so who knows what they might get up to if given the opportunity to entertain company?"

The Queen realized she was shaking. "What do you want? I am completely in your power. I cannot resist." Her voice cracked. "What do you want?"

"Me?" He put a finger to his cheek and pursed his lips thoughtfully. "Nothing."

Her eyes widened. "Then why-"

The door rattled in the frame, the piece of wood barring it shut tested by the urgent banging of large fists. Vex pushed himself slowly toward it, the wheels of his walking aid creaking as he moved. The Queen did not stop him.

"I want nothing," said Vex, breathing heavily, "but I believe these men would like to have words with you." He then leaned forward, straining over the metal bars on his aid, and gently pushed the wood from the bracket.

The board clattered with finality to the floor. The door swung open. The woman who had once been Queen made no attempt to escape.

 

Edited by Noonday Demon

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