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Chapter 23

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Chapter XXIII

The Sanctuary Of Aevilok

 

It took longer than Jack would have thought to find Doraghek to make his request, he knew that the debate still raged in the throne room, but when he had gone there, he had been told that it would be best to stay away from the room. Eventually though Jack did locate the dwarf along the top of the battlements, Doraghek stands looking out at the scenery, the harsh wind had returned and was whipping his hair and beard behind him. As Jack walks up, the dwarf turns around at the sound of the footsteps and smiles at the eldest Wolfrick.

“Ah my fellow one-eyed warrior. For what do I owe this pleasure.” Doraghek said looking up at Jack, although the pleasantries were there, it was still odd to see the deep shadows under the dwarf’s eyes. The lad grimaced down at the dwarf looking slightly guilty, but he knew what he had to do, although that didn’t make it any easier.

“Your help.” Jack said with no real certainty that he would receive it. “Traveling to those ruins you were talking about the last time we went hunting.” Jack finished and looked at the dwarf’s expression which had changed from its usual upbeat expression into a deep frown.

“You remember what else I told you about those ruins on that hunt?” Doraghek said with none of the kindness that had been in his voice a few moments before.

“Yes.” Jack replied, it had been as he had expected, although that did nothing to soften the blow.

“Then you know my answer.” Doraghek said and was halfway towards the door that led from the battlements back into the mountain itself when Jack called him back.

“I’m not merely going on a sightseeing tour; I want to help my brother.” Jack said and Doraghek stopped and turns around to face the young man, not needing to ask which brother.

“And you seek an ancestor’s help in this task, do you?” Doraghek asked, wondering what in the gods name was so serious that this had become necessary.

“Aye.” Jack responded, nodding.

“Why do you need me then?” Doraghek asked in all honesty, the lad surely knew that he would be of little help on this mission of his.

“Because you’re the only one I know whose been there.” Jack said looking pleadingly at the dwarf, who looks the rising sun coming up from above the hills.

“Is there no other way to help the young lad? Doraghek asked, hoping beyond hope that there was, he was no coward, but those ruins truly terrified the stout dwarf, and for good reason, few who entered ever returned with their sanity intact. Jack shakes his head and Doraghek sighs deeply. “Very well. I’ll help ya, but I won’t go inside those ruins. It’ll be you and your brother alone you understand.” Doraghek said giving his terms to Jack, they were final and unnegotiable, for he would not have the lad drag anyone else into those ruins for any reason.

“I understand.” Jack replied, he knew that there was no way he would have been able to get the dwarf inside the ruins, and this acceptance of taking them was a victory in of itself, as well as the best deal that he was likely to get at any rate.

“Good.” Doraghek said with a calm he did not feel, as the wind dropped to the point that the quiet was now eyrie as if the weather was hesitant when the discussion turned to those ruins. “Good. When do you plan on heading out?” Doraghek asked, leaning heavily on his axe.

“This afternoon.” Jack said. It was the best time as it would mean that they could arrive at the ruins just before sundown, which from what little Vernon had told him from his uncle Gerrard’s reports on this kind of magic, was the best time to perform the ritual.

“Aye. Then I suggest you and your brother get some rest young north-men.” Doraghek said looking upwards before turning around and continuing. “For tonight you will see the dead.” Doraghek finished as he headed back into the mountain, leaving Jack alone. The words that Doraghek had struck Jack to his core, whether they were meant to un-nerve him or not they still did so. By calling him a north-men made him think of Erika and a shudder went down his spine at the thought of her, wondering to himself whether they would meet each other one more time tonight was enough to get his heart racing. This shudder was quickly followed however, by another one caused by a strong breeze returning that had started moments after Doraghek had left. Causing Jack to also retreat inside the shelter of the mountain, with his mind still on his late wife.

 

A few hours later Jack and Martin walked down towards the main gates where Doraghek was waiting for them, behind the two brothers walks Jimmy looking slightly green and wondering to himself why he had volunteered for this particular mission.

“I see they managed to convince you to join us on this fool’s errand, young scientist.” Doraghek said, already mounted on his goat, looking at Jimmy, who only nods as he gets up onto his own mount. As Jack and Martin saddle up. Vernon walks up towards the group, looking mildly concerned.

“Are you sure about this master Jack.” Vernon asked, he knew the reputation of the old temple only too well and didn’t think that this mission was a good idea at all. But it was Martin who answered.

“It’s the only way Vernon.” Martin said, a grim determination on his face. He had tried to convince Olly, Russel and Jeanie to come along, but all three had refused to, having seen the temple on their last hunt along with Martin, he couldn’t blame them. Olly had heard of the sanctuary beforehand and outright refused to come along, and after that Russel and Jeanie had refused also, although Jeanie seemed initially reluctant to refuse until the others had.

“As you say sir.” Vernon said bowing before retreating backwards as Jack turned to Doraghek.

“Are you ready?” Jack asked, hoping that the dwarf wouldn’t back out at the last moment, that had been his fear up until now. The dwarf however, stiffened before answering as if he found the question mildly offending.

“As ready as I’ll ever be laddie.” Doraghek said with a confidence he did not feel. “I suggest we get moving. We’ve got a long ways to go.” Doraghek finished and Jack nodded. The dwarf leads the group out, followed by Jimmy, who swayed about on the horse, he had never been a good rider, and his fear causing him to become ever more nauseous. Martin hung back for a few seconds, as Jack turned to face him.

“You alright little bro?” Jack asked. Martin only nods and the two brothers follow out of the mountain and the four riders head north, towards a large collection of hills that rise from the far horizon.

 

That evening the broken towers of Aevilok come into view on the northern horizon, they were jet black, and looked like nothing else that either Jack or Martin had ever seen before in their lives. The group continue to ride towards the dilapidated ruins, despite their self-preservation trying to kick in and making them retreat back to the mountain fortress.

As they reach the foot of the hill that the sanctuary is situated on the four begin to make the steep ascent. It was tough going especially for the horses that were more at home on the grown, which became apparent when Doraghek had to stop and wait for the three others to catch up to the goat, that out of all of them seemed the most at ease. But eventually the group crests the last rise of the mountain and they get their first look at the sanctuary. Situated on the edge of a cliff, its blackened and burned towers all but crumbling to ruin, it seemed a miracle that it was still standing at all. Directly ahead of them stood the remains of two large doors barely hanging onto a set of rusty iron hinges in between a broken archway. Where even from outside, the group can see a black stone stairway that led to the sanctuary proper, as well as the nights sky, due to the fact that the ruins no longer had a roof at all, or at least it had collapsed many centuries ago. Jack and Martin dismount from their horses. Jack who is resting his gloved palm on the head of his axe looks around at the deserted and desolate landscape. Before realising that something was missing.

“It’s too quiet.” Jack said, noticing that there wasn’t even the sound of birds near this place, only realising it now due to the noise of their travel, as none had wanted to talk on the journey here.

“Aye lad. I still can’t believe I agreed to come this far.” Doraghek said looking nervous as well.

“We have to do this.” Jack said looking defiant. As Doraghek nods and begins to explain to the clearly mad pair of brothers what was going to happen.

“I know. Once you go inside, you’ll want to proceed to the second level, there’ll be a large round room with a knife placed on a small alter. Take a drop of blood from yourself and Martin and put the knife straight down. It will call any ancestors that you know.” Doraghek said looking grave as he spoke. Jack nods and puts his hand on Martin’s shoulder, which was visibly shaking, despite the firm look on his face. “We’ll wait at the base of the mountain for you to return, make sure not to linger, the dead will not take kindly to it if you don’t.” Doraghek said and with a final nod, he and Jimmy rode back down the mountain road leaving Jack and Martin alone by the entrance.

“You ready?” Jack said looking down at his youngest brother.

“Yeah.” Martin said trying to sound braver than he was. Jack nods and the two walks through the entrance and up the stone steps.

 

Once inside Jack and Martin find the temple lit not only by the light of the moon and stars, but also by bright blue flames lit inside braziers, wondering what exactly the lights were would have to wait however and the pair continue on, following Doraghek instruction and head straight for the round room that had clearly once been a large round tower. Once inside they see a black alter, that seemed to be carved into the stone floor, and onto was a rusty knife, that laid harmlessly on its surface. Jack a few paces ahead of Martin looks at his little brother.

“Well, here we are.” Jack said as he walked over to the alter and picks up the small blade, secretly hoping that the weapon would crumble into dust when he picked it up. But when it doesn’t Jack spends a few moments examining the blade, which had deep laid markings on it before turning back to Martin, whose face was set. “You sure about this?” Jack asked, but his hopes were dashed when Martin simply nods albeit slowly, Jack takes of the gloves of his hands and uses the blade to cut his palm, before doing the same to Martin who quickly winces before Jack returns the now blood-soaked knife to the alter.

For a few seconds, nothing happens. Jack silently hopes that this was all just a farce, and they were attempting something impossible. Then an opaque figure walks out of the darkness. A tall muscular man with a lion’s mane of brown hair and grizzled brown beard, striding towards the two brothers. A man that Jack and Martin had not seen for almost a decade. The figure Gerrard Wolfrick smiles at the two boys in front of him.

“Welcome.” Gerrard said, looking not a day older than when they had last met him, he was even wearing the same cloths as he had done on his last day.

“Uncle?” Jack asked looking at the figure in front of them, he hardly dared to believe it, growing up he reconned that he had seen this man more than his own father.

“Ah, young nephews, it’s been such a long time. You were both boys the last time we saw you.” Gerrard said looking pleased to see them.

“We?” Martin asked looking around the room, they were the only three there, or so much as he could see at any rate. “But there’s only you here.” Martin finished, still looking but seeing no other figures, he half expected to see his parents, but no one else was showing up. Gerrard sighed looking painfully at Martin.

“You both only see me, because you’re hearts only know me. I’d wager old Vernon could see half a dozen of his ancestors, if he were here now.” Gerrard said smiling slightly, the look that he had used whenever the brothers had been caught in an act of mischief, before becoming serious again. “But they are all here, and all of them see you both.” Gerrard said. Jack looked around the room at this, Martin watched his brother and thought that he was looking for someone, but a few moments later he stopped looking around the room, a look of disappointment in his eye. Gerrard sighed, looking at his nephew.

“I know you wanted to see them, but they are not here young nephew.” Gerrard said looking mournfully at Jack, who looked down at the ground, slightly ashamed, and embarrassed, thinking that it had been stupid to hope that they were here.

“W-We need your advice.” Jack said, trying to gain back control of his emotions after his disappointment and Gerrard nods and Jack turns to Martin, who begins to explain what they need.

“I’ve been having visions, caused by Eugene Fitzfurgel. I want your advice on how to stop it.” Martin said looking at his uncle, who doesn’t say anything immediately, a look on his face that told them he was thinking on how best to phrase his answer.

“I have advice for you, but you will not like it.” Gerrard said, looking guilty that he couldn’t have been of more help to his nephews.

“What is it?” Martin said, still hopeful that he may give him the answer he needs, but all hope is dashed when the response comes.

“Keep the connection. I know it must be both hard and painful when Eugene invades your mind at night. But there is a positive.” Gerrard said.

“What?” Jack asked, he couldn’t think of a single positive, and it wasn’t even his mind that was being used. He remembered how his mind had been invaded by Xyla a few years ago, and that had been painful enough, and she had been an ally at the least, and had tried to make the experience as painless as possible. Eugene was something entirely different.

“The connection is a two-way street, whilst yes, Eugene can use it to get inside your head Martin. You can also do the same to get inside his. Use this to your advantage in the battles to come.” Gerrard said. At this comment the wind starts to pick up from the north but none of the blue torch light showed any sign of dimming.

“Will the connection end, if we win?” Martin asked looking concerned for the first time, that was his last hope, as he didn’t think that he could live like this forever.

“Yes. It will be broken when either Eugene…” Gerrard paused at this, deciding on whether to be completely honest, before deciding to go with the truth. “Or yourself are dead. Until then the connection will remain active.” Gerrard finished looking both grave and sorrowful. Martin looks down at the floor, silently crying, he had put all his hopes on the fact that they would be able to perform a quick fix on what Eugene had done to him, but that was now impossible. He was about to say something when Gerrard once again spoke up. “You should go.” Gerrard said starting to fade away. “There is no more that I can give you.” The figure of Gerrard said as he finally fades away. Leaving the two brothers alone, much more than they had been when they had walked into this place.

“We should get going. Don’t want to stay here any longer than we have to.” Jack said, putting an arm around Martin and the two leave the sanctuary, neither having come out with the information that they craved.

 

Back at the foot of the mountain with the night in full swing, Jimmy and Doraghek sit by a lit campfire by the steep mountain track that led to the summit. Behind them stood four tents that they had erected. They had taken the decision to camp the night and set of at dawn, much to Doraghek’s hesitation. But it had been for the best, the land was, after all treacherous even in daytime, and at night it was nothing short of lethal.

“How long?” Jimmy said, his face a bit less green than it had been, he had no desire to remain here, but would feel a lot better when the size of the group was increased when the two brothers eventually showed up.

“I don’t know.” Doraghek said his hand on his large axe, although there was no sign of life out there other than them. The old dwarf was twitchy, constantly turning around at the mere sight of shadows. He wondered to himself if the rumours of the ghouls that haunted the area surrounding the ruins were true. Although none had ever been scene, that didn’t been anything when talking about these things.

“Why did you come here if you think it’s a fool’s errand?” Jimmy asked, remembering what Doraghek had called this mission when they had first set off. Doraghek paused in his nervous behaviour to think on that question for a minute before responding.

“I came to this place several decades ago. But I did not have the courage to enter. Hell, I didn’t even make it up that slope.” Doraghek said looking up the hill with a look of fear in his eye, the first time that Jimmy had ever seen the dwarf show that emotion. “I wouldn’t be able to live with myself knowing that a child of eight did more than a dwarf.” Doraghek finished, returning to his silent watch. He didn’t have to wait long as, at that moment Jack and Martin rode down the slope to join the two of them. Doraghek leans on his axe as he gets up.

“Did it work?” Jimmy asked looking at the two brothers, wanting as much information as possible.

“Aye.” Jack said, although the look of disappointment was still in his eye. “It worked.” Jack finished, looking up at the others. Doraghek was no expert at reading people’s tones but he was certain that the lad was hiding something from them.

“We’ll sleep here tonight lads. I don’t like it any more than you will, but it will be too dangerous to be on the move at night.” Doraghek said looking around and Jack nodded, as he headed towards the tent that Doraghek and jimmy had set up for himself and Martin.

 

Later that night after Jimmy had taken over the watch from Jack, he turned around at a sudden gust of wind. He spun around clutching the rifle in his hands a little too hard, but there was nothing there to see, other than the pitch-black landscape. When he turned around back towards the camp, he noticed that he wasn’t the only one awake. Martin was sat up against his tent, hands clutching his knees whilst rocking backwards and forwards.

“You alright their kid?” Jimmy asked looking concerned. Martin did not speak only nodded his head, but Jimmy knew that the kid was lying, due to the fact that he was awake, so he got up and walked over to the kid. Before Martin began to speak.

“I thought that this would help.” Martin said, more to himself than to Jimmy, seemingly wanting to get whatever was on his mind into the open. “I thought that I could get a quick fix for what that monster did to me.” Martin finished, looking more tired than upset. Jimmy looked down at Martin, wanting to help the kid but didn’t know how too. This was well beyond his area of expertise, beyond anyone’s area of expertise he thought to himself. He was still trying to decide if any of this was real.

“Kid, there are no easy fixes in life.” Jimmy said sitting down next to Martin, thinking about his own childhood for the first time in a long time, although unsure where he was going with this advice. “I wish there were. Gods I do. But you shouldn’t blame yourself for hoping that there would be one.” Jimmy finished up. Martin looked up, this was the first time he had ever heard the young scientist talk about his own past, he wanted more information. But the look on Jimmy’s face told him not to press the subject. So, he only nodded and headed back inside his own tent, as Doraghek gets up to take over the watch.

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