Interlude 16 – Tribald Kine

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There was a commissioned mini-interlude posted a couple days ago that focused on Seller and Abigail. If you haven’t seen that yet, feel free to use the Previous Chapter button above. 🙂

February 4th, 1919

“But Professor, is he still… you know… is he still him?” Seventeen-year-old Tribald Kine stared down at Gaia Sinclaire. Somehow, that seemed wrong. His whole life, the rust-haired boy been tall for his age. Now, there wasn’t a person in the school that he didn’t practically tower over. But something about Professor Sinclaire made it seem like he should naturally be looking up to see her. Her aura, her… stature was enormous in a way his tall, yet rail-thin frame shouldn’t have been able to look down to see.

“And why would he not be, Tribald?” the woman asked gently, her tone more curious than reproachful. “Did you become an entirely different person when you killed the Visikin and gained its poison quills?”

Wincing, Tribald shook his head quickly. “Well, no. But Deveron, he’s… different now. That thing he killed, it didn’t just give him a power, it changed how he looks. He doesn’t look like himself anymore.”

The woman reached up to lay a hand on his shoulder. “Permanent physical alterations are rare, but not unheard of. I assure you, your roommate is still the same person as he always was. Killing the Incubus may have physically changed him, but there has been no actual change to his mind, or his personality.”

Tribald was quiet for a few seconds. He thought of the gawky, hook-nosed boy that he’d spent the past half-year sharing a room with. Then he looked through the window into the room where the tall, classically handsome new version of Deveron Adams stood talking to Headmaster Ruthers. The differences were night and day. Hell, the new version of his roommate looked slightly Asian. Another connection to the Japanese Incubus he’d managed to kill after a long and incredibly drawn-out fight.

If he squinted enough, he could see his roommate in this boy, but with all the flaws gone. He was taller, stood straighter, his body was more openly muscled. He looked like a perfect version of himself.

And then Tribald slumped enough that he was almost eye-level with the teacher. “Sorry, Professor,” he mumbled quietly as his face turned red with embarrassment. “I guess I’m really acting stupid, huh?”

The woman’s voice was as gentle as always. “No, Tribald. Acting stupid would be refusing to accept the answers you’re given, not simply asking the questions. Your friend has changed a lot on the outside. It’s easy to assume that he would have changed on the inside as well. And perhaps he will, in time. The kind of physical alteration the Incubus’s power has given him may make him more confident, among any other changes. But they will not be supernatural in nature. And in the end, he will still be himself.”

Still flushing a little, Tribald thought about that for a moment before starting hesitantly. “So… I guess the best way to make sure he doesn’t get carried away with his new look is to… just… be normal?”

“Yes,” Gaia confirmed. “Be there for him. Be his friend, just as you have been this whole year. He still enjoys everything he always has. His hobbies, his likes and dislikes, those are the same as they ever were. You were friends before the Incubus, and this should change nothing, unless you allow it to.”

Letting out a long breath, Tribald gave a quick nod. “I—thanks, Professor. You’re really, um–” He glanced down again, shifting nervously as he brought up something that he’d wondered for awhile. “You’re really good at this kind of thing. Were you really a Baroness before you became a teacher?”

He saw her face go still for a moment and thought that he’d made a terrible mistake. But as an apology formed on his lips, the woman spoke quietly. “Yes, and no. I was Baroness of the lost state of Desoto. Yet even in that role and before it, I would say that I was still a teacher. Taking this position in this school only made official what I saw as my most important duty for much of my life. Especially now.”

Tribald hadn’t been alive when Desoto had been lost in the Fomorian invasion, but it hadn’t been that long before his birth. He’d grown up hearing the stories about how Gaia Sinclaire had violated the secrecy rules and had her Heretics reveal themselves to Bystanders in order to evacuate them before the entire state was annihilated. Most of the people he’d heard talk about it hated the woman for that. They called her a coward, claiming that the Heretics should have stood to fight the invasion, and that revealing themselves to normal humans (even if those people would forget afterward anyway) was tantamount to treason. Between that and the destruction of the entire state, most had thought that Gaia would never hold any position of power in Crossroads society again, and would likely die in infamy.

Except that hadn’t happened. Within a few years of the incident, Headmaster Ruthers had brought the woman on as a teacher at his school. The man took a hit on his popularity, but he was apparently too stubborn to care. His focus, as always, was on protecting humanity at all costs. Which meant he was one of the few who actually agreed with Gaia’s choice to temporarily reveal Heretics to the Bystanders in order to save them. And he was just pig-headed enough to tell her detractors to jump off a bridge.

Whatever her reason for being here, Tribald was just glad she was. And that Headmaster Ruthers had given her a chance when no one else would. The man may have been hard to talk to sometimes, and extremely stubborn about his way being the right way. But at least he’d recognized that Gaia Sinclaire would be good for the school.

And who knew? Maybe in time, her influence would temper even the crotchety Headmaster.

******

October 15th, 1929

Walking along the edge of the school grounds, Tribald watched the placid ocean in the distance. The water looked so peaceful from up where he was, it was easy to get lost in thought while staring at it.

He couldn’t loiter here for long. He may not have been a student anymore, but he still had responsibilities. Hell, as part of the security team, he probably had less free time than he had as an actual student. In fifteen minutes, he needed to be back in the office so that Thompson could go on break.

As he was about to turn away from the sight of the ocean, a soft hand covered his mouth while another caught his arm. He jerked, and was about to retaliate when a familiar voice whispered, “Bang, bang.”

“Hggmm?” Eyes widening, Tribald pulled his head free and turned, his own voice a whisper, “Joselyn?” he hissed. “What are you—how are you here? What—I didn’t hear the alarm, did you just-”

The beautiful blonde grinned, stepping back as she released him. She’d had to make herself float about a foot off the ground in order to reach his mouth to cover it. Now, she sank back down and stretched while waving a hand at him. “There’s no alarm, Trib. Don’t worry, no one else knows I’m within a thousand miles of this place. And no one’s going to know. Right?” She added with a raised eyebrow.

“Not from me,” he confirmed, still whispering hoarsely even as he looked around with a deep sense of paranoia. “But how? How can you be on the grounds right now without anyone knowing? Jos, you’re like–” Lowering his voice even further until it was barely audible, he hissed, “You’re a criminal now. You being on the grounds should be sending off every alert we have. They should be dogpiling you.”

“Ooh, dogpiling,” the blonde woman gave that incorrigible grin once more before nudging him. “Should I be flattered? How’s the security crop this year, any good sheiks? Besides you, I mean.”

She laughed at his expression. “Okay, okay. The truth is, I can’t tell you how I got here. A girl’s gotta have her secrets, Trib. And what you don’t know, they can’t get out of you if anything goes wrong.” At the last bit, she sobered noticeably, laying a hand on his shoulder. “And I don’t want anything to go wrong. That’s why you should know as little as possible. Plausible deniability. You’re safer that way.”

Tribald finally focused on her rather than letting his eyes dart around so much. Instead, he squinted at his former classmate. “Safer? I don’t want to be safe, I want to help you with… you know what. I should be out there with you, not playing security for this place.” He waved a hand around vaguely.

“No, Tribald.” Joselyn shook her head. “I already told you, being with me is a bad idea.” Her voice softened then. “Deveron trusts you more than anything, so I trust you more than anything. You’re our friend, but the others don’t know that. They can’t know that. No one can. They have to think that you’re loyal to Crossroads, that you hate us. That’s how you can help, by being our ace in the hole. If anything goes wrong, we’ll need people like you on the inside more than we need you fighting right beside us.”

It took him a moment, but finally the man swallowed hard and nodded. “Whatever I can do to help. You know that. You, me, and Deveron, we go way back. Back to the beginning. So yeah, I’m with you. You need me to play security in this place for another fifty years, I’ll do it. Anything you need, Jos.”

“Great,” Joselyn replied with an impish wink and smile. “Because I need you to quit your job.”

His mouth opened and shut at that, and he gaped for a moment before managing a weak, “Err, what?”

Chuckling, the woman squeezed his arm. “Okay, not just quit. We need to get someone into the Bow Street Runners, Trib. It’s too dangerous not to have any eyes on that group, if we’re going to pull any of this off. You’ve already got the scores to make it, and being part of the security team here will help.”

“The Runners?” Tribald echoed in disbelief. “You really think they’d take someone like me?”

She shot him a hard look at that. “Stop it. You’re brilliant, Trib. If you don’t belong with the Runners, no one does. You’re a great security guard, but you’ll be an even better detective. And I’m not just saying that. If I didn’t think you could do some real good there, I wouldn’t ask you. And I am asking. If you don’t want to do it, just say so. We’ll find someone else. But like I said, it’s not just about having someone in that group. I think you can really help people as one of the Runners. If you want to do it.”

In spite of himself, Tribald swallowed nervously. “Apply to the Runners, I mean… they’re a—that’s really–” He took a breath, buoyed by her encouragement. “Yeah. I’ll do it. I’ll apply to the Runners.”

The relief on Joselyn’s face was obvious, despite her attempt to try to make him think it would be okay if he refused. “Thank you.” Floating up off the ground once more, she kissed his cheek before giving him a brief hug. “Now I really need to go before one of your coworkers comes looking for you. Besides,” she added while looking pointedly over her shoulder. “I think my friend’s getting impatient.”

He blinked blankly, looking up past her. “What fri-” He stopped short, eyes widening at the sight of the black man standing half-hidden in the shadows. The figure wasn’t tall in comparison to him, topping out at only a couple inches over six feet. But just like with Gaia, something about the silent man made Tribald feel tiny in comparison. Except this was even more apparent. The power and strength that radiated out from the dark-skinned man somehow made him feel like he was a child again, standing in the shadow of his father. He felt at once protected and also intimidated by this invincible sentinel.

“Is–” His voice cracked in spite of himself before he pushed on. “Is that… is that Gabriel Pro–”

“Shh.” Joselyn touched her finger to her lips, eyes sparkling with mischief and amusement. “Don’t say it. Next time I’ll try to have time to let you guys talk. I’m sure he’ll want to hear all your stories.”

He’ll want to hear my stories?” Tribald echoed in disbelief. But Joselyn was already retreating back to the shadows to join her companion. Before she disappeared entirely, he quickly added, “Do you think we can pull this off? You really believe we can actually win this thing?”

By that point, Joselyn herself was almost entirely enveloped by the shadows. Her face was mostly hidden as she looked back to him, though he could see the white of her smile. “Don’t you understand?It’s not about whether we win or lose at some eventual end-point. It’s about everything we do. Every time we save someone they would have killed, we win. Every time we make one of them think, even for a second, that what they’re doing is wrong, we win. Every person we convince, every life we save, every family we help, that’s when we win. Every father, mother, and child who does not have their right to exist taken away just because of how they were born, we win.

“So don’t look at me and ask if we’re going to win. Look at every single person who will die if we don’t try, and ask yourself if they deserve to lose.”

******

September 7th, 2017

As Joselyn’s daughter left the room where he’d been questioning her about Zedekiah’s death, Tribald sat back for a moment. She looked… so much like her mother. The resemblance and family connection was obvious from the very first second that he’d seen her. The sight of the blonde girl sitting there when he’d come into the room had surprised him so much that he’d almost blurted Joselyn’s name before catching himself.

The girl had noticed. He knew that much. She’d noticed enough to ask about it, about why she had almost been refused entry to the school. Something about the way he’d looked at her had convinced the girl that he had answers. And he did, even if that damned spell prevented him from actually giving them to her. Given the choice, he’d take the girl aside and tell her everything. All of it. He owed her mother that much and far more.

He’d wanted to damn the consequences and break Joselyn out of prison the entire time that she’d been locked up in there. He had been willing to risk everything if it meant getting his friend out of her cell. But Joselyn had stopped him, had convinced him to look to the future. She made him promise to keep his position and use it to both look for and protect her children. Especially if they came to Crossroads.

So he had done what he could without tipping his hand. He tried to protect the boy, Wyatt by that point, from Ruthers’ manipulations and spies throughout his schooling. It wasn’t much, but he made sure that the kid always had a job to fall back on and that he received enough training to protect himself. He made sure that books detailing various security enchantments found their way into the boy’s hands, acting as a secret, hands-off tutor.

It was harder to keep an eye on Abigail without being noticed by his contemporaries, but he did what he could while out in the regular world. As far as he could tell, she had grown up happy enough with her Bystander family. He’d even made certain that she met one of his distant relatives, the grandson of one of his cousins. Abigail and Kenneth had hit it off, and now their child was coming to the same school as Joselyn’s daughter.

Shaking off those thoughts, Tribald pushed himself away from the chair and stood. In the same motion, he called on one of the teleportation powers he’d gained over the years.

Then he was standing in front of the trophy case, the same one he’d directed Flick toward. Turning, the man’s eyes immediately found someone else waiting there.

“I figured you’d come down here,” Klassin Roe, the school therapist, remarked. “She looks like her mother, doesn’t she?”

Tribald nodded once, a lump catching in his throat at the thought. “She does.” He nodded to the picture behind the glass. “She also deserves to know the truth.”

Klassin glanced that way as well, his voice quiet. “You’re taking the spell down?”

Putting his hand up against the glass, Tribald gave another nod, his eyes focusing on the photograph of their graduating class. It was one of the only existing photographs of Joselyn that he’d managed to protect from the spell. He’d left it in the case here so that nothing would happen to it, leaving a protective enchantment that stopped most people from noticing it. Then, between himself and Klassin, they managed to keep the enchantment up.

“She’s a good kid,” Tribald murmured while keeping his hand against the glass in front of the picture. “Joselyn would be proud of her.”

Klassin gave a soft chuckle. “Of course she would, the kid’s already finding ways to buck the system and it’s been like three days.”

Both of their heads turned slightly then at the sound of approaching footsteps. Flick and her roommate. Apparently his partner was done with her interrogation too.

Before the two girls came into view, Tribald silently dismissed the enchantment on the picture, allowing it to be seen so that they could find it. Then he met Klassin’s gaze briefly before both men teleported out of sight at the last second.

Maybe the spell prevented him from outright telling the girl the truth. But he could damn well make sure she found enough clues to put it together. It was the least he could do after everything that had happened. Like so many others, whether they admitted it or not, he was the man he was because of Joselyn Atherby.

And that went double for his companion. Not only would the school therapist not be the kind of man that he was without Joselyn’s influence, he would literally be a different person.

After all, without Joselyn, Klassin Roe never would have rebelled against his father and changed his name from Jonathan Ruthers.

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18 comments

  1. Thanks so, so much to the donators for choosing our Interlude subject today! That’s two chapters in a row with a bunch of answers for you guys. Clearly I’m spoiling you. 😉 Monday we’ll have to get back to poor clueless Flick and all her unanswered questions.

    I hope you guys enjoyed reading that, because I enjoyed writing it. Obviously, we’ll see more of both Tribald and Klassin/Jonathan very soon. As I’ve said before, we’ll be having some more regular classes and interaction now that we’re through Thanksgiving and everything that came right afterward. Which means we’ll have time for more therapy sessions! And won’t that be fun now that you know who he really is?

    If you like this story, I’d absolutely love it if you could toss a vote on Top Web Fiction by clicking right here. Thanks! 😀

    And finally, today’s (fairly obnoxious) chapter tags are: Deveron Adams, Gabriel Prosser, Gaia Sinclaire, Half The Readers Are Going – “So THAT’S What Happened To Jonathan!” And The Other Half Are Going – “Who?”, Joselyn Atherby, Klassin Roe, Tribald Kine, Yup – Deveron Used To Look Like A Big Old Hook-Nosed Dweeb. Funny How He Didn’t Lose THAT Power When They Erased Him.

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  2. So that’s why Abigail and Wyatt look so unlike their parents. They actually do resemble Dev, but Deveron doesn’t resemble Deveron! That’s been bugging me for awhile. And that means he at least one of his powers too.

    We learned so much in this chapter! Tribald’s friendship (or more?) with Joselyn was clarified, we found out what happened to Jonathan (I was expecting that Joselyn turned him, but also that he was dead), got to see Prosser, even if only for a moment, we learned that Kine is Wyatt’s hidden Stealth Mentor, it’s all great!

    Now I need to go reread Roe’s scene with Flick! I can’t wait to see more of that!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Now I need to go reread Roe’s scene with Flick! I can’t wait to see more of that!

      One paragraph from Klassin that I will point out with this revelation in mind:

      “Hindsight can be a curse, or a gift,” Klassin replied. “If you use it to lament what you didn’t do, it’s a curse. But if you use it to prepare for the future, then it’s probably one of the most potent gifts you can possibly have. It’s definitely one of our biggest assets. We live so long and have such powerful healing abilities that we can learn from our mistakes in ways that Bystanders rarely have the chance to.”

      Liked by 4 people

  3. ““Shh.” Joselyn touched her finger to her lips, eyes sparkling with mischief and amusement. “Don’t say it. Next time I’ll try to have time to let you guys talk. I’m sure he’ll want to hear all your stories.”

    “He’ll want to hear my stories?” Tribald echoed in disbelief”
    Me: I can understand Tribald’s disbelief. The idea that a legend would want to hear his tales would be quite astounding.

    “And that went double for his companion. Not only would the school therapist not be the kind of man that he was without Joselyn’s influence, he would literally be a different person.

    After all, without Joselyn, Klassin Roe never would have rebelled against his father and changed his name from Jonathan Ruthers.”
    Me Oooooohh, that almost certainly enraged Ruthers a great deal. No wonder he hates Joselyn so much..

    A rather informative and enjoyable Interlude imo.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me: I can understand Tribald’s disbelief. The idea that a legend would want to hear his tales would be quite astounding.

      No kidding. It’s pretty much like meeting George Washington and then hearing that he wants to listen to your life story.

      A rather informative and enjoyable Interlude imo.

      Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. An interesting bit of backstory here- let’s see:

    1. Kine was classmates with Deveron (being his partner) & Joselyn almost a century earlier

    2. There are some Strangers that can give someone an attractiveness upgrade, and young Deveron was a beneficiary of that

    3. A bit of a view of just how controversial Gaia’s actions when DeSoto was attacked were, as well as Ruthers really sticking his neck out to give her a position at Crossroads when she was probably one of the most unpopular people in the Crossroads-aligned community. Have to wonder just what led to their being at odds with one another- was it their reaction to Joselyn’s rebellion, or something else.

    4. Gaia really seems to regard teaching as her natural calling- wonder how she got that way, and what led her into a more political career track in the first place?

    5. Looks like Joselyn went rogue & started her rebellion fairly soon after graduating, as well as figuring out how to sneak onto the Crossroads campus undetected

    6. Turns out that Kine is a rebel sympathizer who would have joined the rebellion except that Joselyn convinced him that he’d be far more useful as a mole in Crossroads security, and later, the Runners.

    7. Prosser & his group were aiding the rebellion even then- wonder how much of that was due to their sympathizing with the goals of the rebellion, and how much was because of their personal connection to the Atherbys? (And for that matter, given the link-up there, wonder if Joselyn & her mother were reunited & neither of them realized it, which must have been awkward for those who realized the story there & the importance of keeping that identity suppressed as Seller suggested last chapter?)

    8. Even after Joselyn got caught, Kine continued to support the rebellion, to the point of offering to break her out of jail, which she declined (and given the blood magic Ruthers was prepared to unleash, was probably for the best,) and looked after her kids (being especially helpful to Wyatt.)

    9. The late Kenneth Fellows was a distant bystander relative of Kine’s, whom he set up with Abigail, which would make him a sort of great-~uncle to Koren. When this is over, and Flick can put a family reunion together, it’ll be interesting to see just who’s connected to the Atherby clan by blood or marriage.

    10. Kine, with the assistance of Klassin Roe, kept that photo Flick found of her mother in the trophy case & a few other things, from being altered by the memory spell, as well as keeping it hidden from prying eyes, and also arranged so Flick & Avalon would find it. Even though he’s prevented from saying anything outright, wonder how many other clues he’s helped steer Flick towards?

    11. Speaking of Roe, guess we found out what became of Ruthers’ son- thanks to his contact with Joselyn & her influence, he ended up changing his name & breaking with his father, eventually becoming a staff therapist. Wonder just how that came about, because that’d be interesting to see? Plus, curious if Ruthers knows what really became of his son, and if he does, whether Ruthers has done anything with that knowledge?

    Monday we’ll have to get back to poor clueless Flick and all her unanswered questions.

    To be fair to Flick, being a freshman with only a few months at Crossroads isn’t exactly conducive to her being able to figure out who not only has the answers she wants but is safe to approach (or for that matter, could tell her without running afoul of the memory spell or is willing to talk due to not having other possible complications), nor being able to find the archival material that might be of use that she can safely find a way to access, particularly with the Fossor situation hanging over her head, the people trying to kill Avalon, and trying to figure out that love triangle thing she’s got going on with Avalon & Shiori

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  5. Now I’m sure this has been brought up before, but do Heretics ever get dud or detrimental powers or changes? Or was that eliminated as part of their “superweapon” design?

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    1. They can gain incredibly small power boosts to the point of being almost impossible to notice. Think of it as when you play an RPG and kill something far below your level. Technically you do gain experience, but it’s not really noticeable. In the last regular chapter, Gaia killing all of those creatures on the ship was pretty much like playing a JRPG and being ready to fight the last boss, then killing monsters in the starting area. She’d have to kill literally thousands of them to see any real improvement or upgrade.

      But no, they cannot gain a power that’s physically ‘bad’ for them.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I seriously doubt Heretics can get detrimental effects from their kills. “Artificial” Heretics like Crossroaders and Eden’s Gardeners are Hangmen-Blood-Derived. Hangmen are corrupted Reapers that draw their strength from absorbing energies released at death. As a Hangmen/Reaper’s fundamental function is strengthening due to feeding off the deaths they either attend (Reapers) or cause (Hangmen)…It stands to reason the Heretics created using Hangmen-related artifacts are only strengthened by the Stranger deaths they cause.

    Here’s something ELSE that points to a Heretics Reaper-connections. Notice how when a Heretic in the INDIRECT cause of a Stranger’s death they still get the power boost? Example: The Raksasha Felicity killed that gave her the ability to alter her hair/facial features. Felicity knocked it off the tower it was standing on during the rescue of the Meregan children. Her staff hit didn’t kill the Raksasha. The fall did, as evinced by the multi-second delay before Felicity got her kill-rush after it fell.

    That’s essentially the same as a Reaper (the uncorrupted Stranger that Hangmen are derived from) which just passively feeds off a death it attends. Heretics can *both* Indirectly AND Directly kill Strangers and still get the power-boost. So they gain power both as Reapers and as Hangmen do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Reapers get the power from being present at a death, if that were the case for Heretics, they would get power boosts if they were just in the same room as a stranger who died – which would probably include whenever a teammate killed soneone

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    2. As pointed out by Ratpigeon, it’s not EXACTLY the same (Reapers don’t have to actually kill anything, just be nearby at the time of death). But yeah, it is very close. Human-Reaper/Hangmen Hybrids aren’t quite as powerful as the reapers themselves, since they have to actually be the primary reason for the death.

      You’re absolutely right, indirectly responsible (such as the bit of Flick knocking the Raksasha off the roof) is still enough to count as being responsible for it. Basically, the power just goes, ‘was your action the most immediate reason for the Alter’s death?’

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading! 😀

      And Klassin/Jonathan didn’t make his father forget him. Ruthers knows exactly where his son is, but they had a huge falling out. When Ruthers erased Joselyn from everyone’s memory, Jonathan told him off for it and essentially disowned himself from the family. Basically, “You remove her from the world? I’m removing myself from you.”

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