Bounder Ch. 08byStultus©
It took me a few days to regain enough mental strength again to properly be able to indulge my gift to any significant degree, but Edwina and I found a few other more traditional means of enjoying ourselves before I even started on her skull job. Sometimes the old-school ways work just as well as refined and intricate acts of magic, but within two days, I had already nearly lost all interest in my new captive.
Right from the very start, I always kept her head covered with a thick hood at all times so that I couldn't make accidental eye contact with her. Her mind seemed to be nearly as strong as her witch grandmothers and she too possess the family talent of exerting it upon others, but I could tell that her gift was relatively weak. She was indeed a young witch in training and ambition, the crone's equal in pure evilness and even the slightest delving into her mind sickened me as if I were touching poison! If bred, as the old witch had intended, our children might have been utterly amoral killers with magical talents capable of bringing down half of the empire! If I did nothing else useful for the remainder of my life, removing Edwina from this world alone ought to purge me of a great many of my prior sins.
Even before my mind first began to even tentatively delve into hers, intending to carve and shape her thoughts to suit my slightest whims, she had confessed her many crimes without the slightest remorse. She laughed while I had brutally whipped and tortured her, burned every part of her body with hot irons and probed her flesh with knives and cleverly fashioned hooks. She had always found pleasure in other people's pain and now she savored her own torment, and relished it!
She was already quite insane right from the start, enough of a true sociopath that I found increasingly little erotic pleasure in crafting this new toy. After a surprisingly short time, even the meanest forms of abject brutality failed to even mildly amuse me, and her very existence began to increasingly fill me with disgust.
I resisted for now the once pleasant thoughts of destroying her will and making a toy of her flesh, as I had originally intended. There was much more that her mind, enthralled to my will could tell me, but for now I didn't have to stomach to endure that course of action. Her soul would be an evil cesspit, of that I was certain. Already I was tempted to just simply cut her throat and be rid of her... I would be doing all of humanity a favor, but I needed to make one or two last inquiries first.
Originally, I had at first intended to turn her into the meanest and lowest sort of pain-slut, to make her the most abject and pathetic sort of obedient pet I'd ever yet attempted with my gift. But this goal no longer gave me the slightest bit of pleasure. I could certainly alter her mind, twisting it in unpardonable and diabolical ways, perverting and corrupting her deepest remaining thoughts so that she yearned to be whipped, tortured and abused in any possible means I could find to debase and use her... and even make her beg for it. The young witch deserved such a fate... but I could not now bring myself to descend to her own moral level. Unlike her and her grandmother, I knew that I had a conscience, with distinct moral limits (albeit not extensive) that I would not pass, even now for expediency.
I had looked into her eyes, briefly, before replacing the heavy leather hood over her head to stay. Within them I could see Edwina's own evil plainly enough and that was bad enough, but worse still was the fear that while staring into her soul, I would instead see the inhumanly black eyes of the old witch again boring through mine, tempting my soul once more!
"We are as of a kind together!" The old evil crone had laughed as she had weighed my sins against hers. But we were not! I refused to accept that connection. While my own soul was far from unstained it was not an abyss of darkness either. She had tempted me with the fruits of what the utterly unrestrained use of my gift could gain me, endless power without the slightest moral or ethical restraint... and I had been repulsed (mostly) by this near irresistible future. Her rape of my mind had revealed some deeply hidden small moral core that she could not easily overcome, and I had defied her the best that I could... and refused this potential, perhaps even once probable, fate.
No, I could not corrupt Edwina into a pet for my future enjoyment as even holding her fate, life or death in my hands failed to give me the slightest bit of pleasure. The young murderess needed to be punished though, or at least permanently disposed of in some manner. Danelle and Rochelle's justice, and my revenge, was still incomplete... but I couldn't decide now how to act, so I then decided to just keep her drugged and quiet, strung up dangling from a chain hung from a beam in the roof, like a pig awaiting processing at a slaughter house. I'd never spent any time on a farm, but I was certain that most pigs probably possessed more genuine humanity than Edwina did!
Edwina was a depraved murderous bitch, but she was mostly harmless now and I could decide upon her fate later. For now, I had other potential enemies that might require the use of my gift first.
With those couple of restful days spent recovering at my warehouse and avoiding any and all uses of my gift upon the vile young witch, I felt at last that I now had enough strength of will to begin my last bit of personal inquiry into the final dregs of this miserable affair. For starters, I needed to find out just how actively involved the thieves' guild had been in their assistance to the Blackguards and just how deeply the two groups were involved together, with hands in each other's pockets. I was pretty sure that I wouldn't like the answers much, but I needed to know where I stood.
It took some doing to pretty much force my way into his private domain, the upper stories of a building hosting a rather popular eatery located in a workingman's neighborhood just to the north of my own neighborhood Sunrise Hills. I'd figured out where the guildmaster lived and conducted the majority of his business some time ago by the always useful and direct method of once subjecting several of his street lieutenants to carefully applied queries with my gift, then gently reminding them to forget everything that they'd told me.
Sometimes it's handy and even necessary to defang the lion in his own den. I'd never actually planned for this particular moment in time, but I'd casually for amusement value considered on several occasions what I'd need to do to accomplish this small miracle... and more importantly emerge again without the lion's jaws clamped fast around my head!
Feeling rather perturbed about everything, I admit that I wasn't in a particularly good mood when I went to pay the guildmaster of our thieves' guild, our current crime lord, a private but personal visit. I was sure that I'd picked up a tail less than half way towards my east end destination, but I never saw anyone obvious. Even taking a few detours down some side alleys and even across a few rooftops didn't reveal my watcher, but I was sure that I was still being followed. Eventually, I decided not to care, and resumed taking main streets for the rest of my journey.
The guard watching the staircase at the bottom floor in the back of the restaurant took his duties series enough that I had to waste time and mental effort with my gift convincing the oversized lug that I was on the approved visitors list. Fortunately the next pair of guards on the second floor landing of the staircase helpfully assumed that since the man-mountain downstairs on point had let me through, then my presence must have been pre-approved. I was waving around a sealed bit of parchment that looked official and important and I was radiating to everyone a loud 'please, try and fuck with me!' attitude of haughty belligerence. Sometimes, if you act like the biggest and loudest dog on the block, the rest of the pack just might be stupid enough to believe you!
My last obstacle upon the third floor hallway watching the door to the kingpin's inner sanctum was made of sterner stuff, and he probably fucked huge mastiffs with ground broken glass glued to the tip of his willie. He looked just like that sort type of fellow, and more or less, he was in fact exactly that sort of crazy badass. I sort of knew him from the Brenner Market and we'd maybe spoken two or three times casually. He knew me and my game... and I knew his. That didn't make us even - I already knew every button in his head worth pushing.
Fritz "Thumbs" Coggleshaw got the nickname early at the age of ten by biting off entirely the thumb of a lowlife john that had porked his mother without rendering the customary payment. Being the youngest child and only son, Thumbs took to pimping his mothers and three older sisters from an early age and by thirteen was running his own whorehouse after stabbing the previous owner two or three dozen times. He was mean enough to kick any of his whores (family included) out onto the streets without a copper the moment any of them lost their looks, stopped attracting customers or dared to defy him in even the slightest way. In the twenty years or more since, Thumbs had become a powerful street-captain controlling nearly half of the criminal operations on the wilder west side of the city. With age and experience had not come any wisdom. He had only gotten meaner, richer and his ego (which had always been healthy) was stratospheric.
Nominally, Thumbs was just one of a dozen of fairly senior 'street officers' within the thieves' guild and wasn't particularly noted as worthy for future promotion within the highest leadership circle of the organization, but Thumbs held fantasies otherwise... and quite possibly was ruthless and utterly vicious enough to prove everyone else wrong.
Within the guild, Thumbs also nominally led a faction of the younger and more aggressive thugs and roaring boys who thought that they desired a larger slice of the city's pie, and were quite willing to butcher fat merchants and bleed them dry until they got it. The current guildmaster was more of a traditionalist that worked to keep the status quo, avoiding violence and thusly avoiding interference from both the local vigiles and the governor. Fear, civil unrest and violence were bad for business, and the conservative heads had kept a tight grip on things, so far.
We were just well enough acquainted that Thumbs didn't shoot me on sight, the moment I couldn't instantly provide the necessary password. I needed a long couple of moments to pry it out from Thumbs head first, and then with his guard relaxed I feigned an interest to chat with him for awhile, under increasing apparent cordiality. Slowly I began to sculpt the amoral thug's mind, thoughts and desires to suit my current requirements. Maybe I wouldn't need Thumb's immediate assistance today, but I figured that he could definitely be useful in the long term, especially assuming that his current guildmaster had his ass up the Blackguards behind a bit too far to find his way back out to daylight.
Today's meeting was intended to just be a polite conversation with the kingpin, to collect some information and deliver a gentle warning. If cornered or pressured, I could and would take down most of the entire guild if I needed to, to make sure that I could sleep soundly at night without Koch guarding over my bed. I'd regret it... genuinely, but I'd do it in a heartbeat to save my life, if needful.
After whispering a few mental instructions, I released Thumb's mind and gently smudge the last few minutes or so of his memories. He'd remember us politely speaking but nothing of any particular significance.
Now I had to deal with the big boss, and already I had a pounding headache from exerting my gift. I could use it again, and probably would need to, but the effort was going to likely completely exhaust me all over again. But it was going to be necessary.
The guildmaster, he had no other name than that that I was aware of, was a wry elderly gentleman who always appeared impeccably dressed and exhibited mannerisms that tended to ape the upper classes. He was at least as rich as many of the minor nobility and most of the cities' greater merchant families and this fact alone signified to his mind that he was worthy of similar due courtesies and respect. All guild masters, of every trade and profession tend to be megalomaniacs. I think it's provided along with the executive ledger books whenever a new boss takes over control. It was rumored that he was tight with the governor himself, hardly a difficult feat assuming that fat bribes wre undoubtedly involved, and I wondered just how far in bed he'd gotten with the Blackguards smuggling and other criminal activities... particularly by assuming a blind eye and indifference to the black-cloaks involvement with extremely capable professional assassins.
He wasn't pleased to see me and I had to rather quickly use up most of my remaining willpower to stun and subdue his personal bodyguard that was standing at the read just behind his chair. A huge ogre of a man with far more brawn than brains, but it took me valuable moments and mental strength that I really couldn't spare to coerce the giant into taking a sudden restful nap with my gift.
Sensing my distraction, the guildmaster lumbered across the room from his large sitting chair to draw a pistol from a table drawer, but I had finished dealing with his bodyguard by then and could at last spare the remaining remnants of my will to deal with the big boss himself. It wasn't easy, his mind was active with a strength of will that belied his advanced age. He didn't have my gift though, or he'd have crushing my tired and nearly exhausted mind like a rotten piece of fruit. I'd not rested quite enough before starting this little expedition and I'd already exhausted my willpower rather more quickly than I had originally hoped or intended. Now I needed a flood of effort, but my mental pail was almost empty. This was going to be extremely chancy.
After giving up every bit of mental strength that I could muster, I at last seized basic control over his thoughts, but I had nothing left within me to make any necessary alterations afterwards... and that from the very start had been my preferred intention. Now I was left somewhat high and dry, with my job only half done and almost no hope of exacting my ideal desired outcome. Well, it had been a nice try and I did at least have a fallback plan.
"Guildmaster, did the Blackguards hire the guild to find me?"
"They did, and they paid handsomely too." He calmly stated. I didn't have the strength left to force anything out of him but I had deep enough control that I thought he would answer me truthfully, or at least I'd be able to sense any evasion.
"What did they offer you? I had paid for the protection of the guild, its members should have offered me aid and comfort, or at least defied our enemies. Isn't that part of the oath? You'd taken my gold and silver and we had a bond between us!" I growled in anger, ordering him to reply.
"They could offer the guild more, much more. If we delivered you into their hands they promised us full distribution rights for their spirits, and their full protection... their gold and their steel too. They'd have been our sword arm, united with us to maintain the status quo, and kill anyone that threatened it."
For a thief, this sort of betrayal was understandable, if not quite acceptable to me. I'd betrayed business associates and other thieves before for less. The guildmaster thought of himself merely an extremely rich businessman and loyalty alone would never prevent him from taking a profit wherever it could be found. The honor of thieves and oaths were of secondary importance. Heck, who were we fooling? There is no honor amongst thieves!
This need for the swords of the black-cloaks also suggested that he was preparing for a purge of his more aggressive and independent officers and foot soldiers. A preemptive strike perhaps to cull out overly ambitious and violent elements from the herd, especially the dangerous reactionaries like Thumbs outside. Yes, the old crime boss was starting to lose his grip perhaps just a touch, and was planning to weed out some of the more troublesome roaring boys from his ranks, but needed the Blackguards and their killers to accomplish this, quickly and completely, without triggering a guild civil war.
"Is the bounty still upon my head?" I enquired, already becoming faint with dizziness as my last reserves of willpower were fading. I'd have to drop control over the guildmaster very soon, whether I had all of my answers or not, so I'd need to make haste.
"No, but the Major-Captain would wish that it was still so, as he believes that you are clever enough to still be of inconvenience to our business arrangements. I told him otherwise, that you were just another slick chancer, another foolish lordling with a greed for gold, but he became concerned at your involvement. I'd told him to just pay you off, but by then the crazy Weir daughter had already tried to kill you and rumors on the street were that you'd then become Sir Adrian's pawn instead. Then he had no choice but to send his killers after you. They failed, badly, creating problems with the Lord Coroner himself, and even now he will keep his eye upon you."
"Sir John Golding? The Deputy-Commander of the Blackguards? Is he the officer responsible for the distribution of the spirits? Did the Lord Coroner himself act in any direct way in this matter against me?"
I had to rush, I was losing the last of my grip upon his willpower, and the malevolent old crimelord made his final answers with increasing hesitation and resistance to my commands.
"Sir John was the most senior officer we have dealt with, our partner for dealing with the liquor... and other guild related business. No, he acts for his own self-interest and profit first, and these were not the orders or even the will of the Lord Coroner, at least explicitly so. The Lord Coroner is no fool however and knows everything that happens within the walls of the Ormscraig, with or without his consent and likely has been paid his percentage for his silence."
With a sharp twinge of mental anguish that dropped me to the floor holding my head in agony, the old guildmaster broke free as the power of my gift became exhausted. With some effort of concentration he staggered over to the desk to finish retrieving his pistol. Before I could so much as clear my eyes from the stabbing pain and get them to properly focus again, he was standing over me pointed a loaded pistol inches away from my head, and hollering for help, but I could tell that he was about to pull the trigger and kill me.
Thumbs was still the nearest person at hand outside and he burst into the door also armed with his pistol drawn and readied at once for use. This gave me my one and only chance.
"Thumbs, let's go see the circus today!" While this was indeed a command, I needed no measure of my exhausted gift or willpower behind these powerful words. This was one of several emergency code phrases that I had earlier planted into Thumb's head for use at a time of extreme need, such as now. Essentially, my gift had removed any and all mental obstacles to Thumb's rather ardent desire to promote himself to become the new guildmaster, leaving only one small roadblock holding his ambitions in place. This code phrase, 'Let's go see the circus today' removed that one final mental barrier.
Now in his mind, Thumbs would do anything and everything to achieve this long desired goal, certainly including raising his own pistol towards his former bosses head and firing, without the slightest hesitation. I had no doubt left in my pain filled and exhausted mind that I'd unleashed a monster, a very real and genuine danger to the city at least as formidable as the evil former kingpin... but I'd had no choice.