Dead Man Walking Pt. 2

- October 12th, Sprawl, Plague Compound Exterior, Late Morning -

The woman eyed her passenger with an icy gaze as if striving to be more chilled than the falling snow outside. Undoubtedly beautiful, but not the most pressing of matters.

"You look like hell," is all she choked out when another moment of studying passed. Stella shook her head while speaking, never breaking eye contact. "How are you alive?"

As word spread through the past days, Edward's fate seemed to be sealed. Carted away to the pit and then nothing. Leaving him to die. It had been little over five days since the party, but for her emotions, that took more time than it should've to really hit home. The ordeal with Westley and Edward, all in a tightly wrapped time bundle, seemed to attack with merciless force. Perhaps it wasn't her place of strength, the council. But with the Regent waving her ring-decorated fingers and taking lives pointlessly, it was nobody's place but hers. And wrongfully so.

Oh how your mind wanders, dear.
She refocused and awaited his answer.

Edward sat rigid, uncertain. He held his hands together, firmly locked in his lap to stop them from shaking. A tear threatened to well in his good eye and he blinked it away. What was wrong with him? Her beauty was captivating as always, the smell of her perfume heady within the confines of the car, but it was more than that. His ordeal had awakened something within him, something vital and, he had to admit, terrifying.
At last he found the courage to speak. Coughing briskly to clear his throat and strengthen his resolve.

"It was poison. In my medication, it took away the pain but there were side effects. Blackouts and other... things." A blurred memory of a blood soaked alleyway. The strength and rage. An image of a guardsman’s face as he pulled the trigger on his pistol and ended the man’s life. Pushing away the memory he continued,

"It consumed me and then... then Josiah betrayed me. The Delve is too good for that bastard." He glanced out of the window at the plague compound as they circled the perimeter. "They dumped me in there." He pointed off towards the buildings. "I would have died but, there was a man. He helped me. Gods he couldn't even remember the man’s name, just that he had been thrown in there like himself.

"On the night of the attack... I escaped. I was taken." He corrected the lie. "Who ever it was, they healed me or at least started to and the Regent found me and finished the job... so here I am, healthy and... free." He fumbled over that last word, it was another lie. He was anything but free.

"You seem to be enjoying your new found freedom," she spoke with sarcasm feeling a twinge of sympathy. The poor man, as if he hadn't met enough hardship as Inquisitor. All of this because of medicine? Surely having leg pains was nothing compared to this poison. If she had her pick, she would keep the limp rather than risk outbursts and whatever he considered worse. Stella didn't want to know about that bit. And what she was feeling wasn't a simple twinge.

"How long ago did the Regent help you? If she knew you were alive she had no reason to keep someone else in your position of High Inquisitor. No one else is capable," she muttered almost in disgust. There wasn't a more perfect man for the job and depriving him of that very thing put the city at risk. No one was as thorough, as ruthless and sly as Edward to get what he needed and do what was demanded by higher authority. No matter how much Ines yelled and pointed, there wasn't a single other soul that could do it best.

"All this time I told myself you were dead, prepared myself for the worst and promised that I'd be the only person fighting for my success. But you're back and I don’t know what to think. I've been given three great tasks from the Regent," she paused suddenly, hating the way Regent sounded when speaking of Ines, "and they feel impossible with her in charge. She’s much more critical than Josiah, I wasn’t afraid of him. I’m not sure I can do any of this right." Stella rested back against the seat and looked at the roof of the car. Her tone became hushed so no one outside would hear.
"A servant of the city, she says. A city that isn't hers, that she wrongfully invaded! Quite frankly I feel we are all doing her jobs for her, the bitch. Running around while she sits and orders people to death for the simplest of things." The counselor rambled with a fist clenched at her sides, blatant fury. There was too much heating up and it was boiling out the sides. She needed to cool it. "Dusk doesn’t belong to her and it never will," her voice softened as if hurt. She rested her head in a hand and looked out the window with longing.

Longing for what? What did she want so dearly that she couldn't even comprehend her own thoughts or words? She feared many things she was afraid to admit, terrified even, and him showing up and disrupting something she'd come to terms with made her even less trusting. Did she rely on herself or others? So many lies circling like vultures, picking her apart until collapse. Whatever she wanted was still a mystery.

Edward glanced forward towards the driver. Could he be trusted he wondered. He would make enquiries later and have the man removed if required. He turned to Stella and took a deep breath to steady himself. He drank in the sight of her and smiled despite himself. He was alive and here with her. Moments like this he felt as if nothing could be out of their reach... nothing.

"This City belongs to us." He said in a low voice filled with certainty. "We do what we must and when the time is right we will claim it... until then we follow her orders. Speaking of which, why are you here?"

She shook her tantrum off and turned her gaze from the snow. "You were inside the compound for a short period of time but you were still within. Since you are my guest, I'm bringing you along for further information on the conditions of that hellish place. The eye can only see so much but we need to look beyond, within. You'd know what things are like for the infected. It's the least you can do since you clearly owe me one. I could've let you be crushed by that tin monstrosity or swallowed up in bullets."

But you couldn't do that, you don't have the stomach for it. Not for him.

He shared a wry smile with her as if reading her thoughts. Even so he paled a little at the memory of the Automatons grip. Especially following the recent demise of poor Mr. Herman. To think he almost met the same fate just now.
Soon the car slowed before the entrance to the compound amid their silence.

She held her mouth open for a moment as if to say something, looking into his eyes. “Edward, there’s so many things I’m-,”
One of the soldiers rapped on the window harshly,

“We’ve arrived.”

Stella and Edward stepped out into the falling snow and were led forward by a squad of Elesian guards.
They moved through the security station and into the compound yard where evidence of the recent battle was clear to see. The iron body of Josiah’s steam tank was sitting abandoned, while up above the broken hull of an airship was half buried in the roof of an old tenement. Scorch marks and rubble were on display everywhere. Thankfully the human casualties of this violence had been long since removed.

They made their way through the yard and towards the main medical building where a group of doctors waited to greet them.

(JP with Hob)

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