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Chapter 2

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Chapter II

Phantoms of the Mountain

 

Commander Ervin Codsworth woke up staring at the rocky ceiling of his quarters and sighed, not wanting to get up in the slightest. As he lay back down, trying to force his body back to sleep, he quickly realised however, the futility of his effort and sat back up again and looked out of glass window out towards the northern hills. It was relatively calm at this point he knew however, that it was unlikely to remain so, with the onset of winter having already arrived a few weeks prior. Although the deadly blizzards that this region was known for, were still a few weeks of according to most of the dwarves.

Codsworth wondered to himself then about how in the name of the gods he was going to complete the mission he had given himself after Dmitri Jones had died. He stopped then, rubbing his head. Thinking of Jones’ death was too hard on the old soldier, even though it had been over six months since Dmitri’s body had been carried back to the mountain by his bloodied horse, after he had been attacked by a nearby hoard, how that hoard had been there without triggering the response of the king was still unknown to him, however.

 

Choosing to no longer think about this, Codsworth got up and donned what was left of his old armour, which comprised of the gauntlets and boots, along with shoulder pads, the rest had been discarded over time, or had fallen into disrepair. Meaning he was forced to wear just regular clothes and a worn, haggard looking traveling cloak. He walks over to and looked in the mirror seeing his equally haggard reflection looking back at him. Wondering to himself, at what point had his hair becoming more grey than black. He sighed at his own aging and exited the room and out into the corridor and then into a living area. Where both Vernon Turnip and Bruce Reynolds sit at a table in deep conversation.

“How long has it been since you’ve seen the sun Vernon?” Bruce said with a hint of concern in his brown eyes, he didn’t understand how the old butler was content to be out of the sunlight for this long, even the weak sunlight that they got up here in the colder months that were by now rapidly approaching.

“A month at least.” Vernon replied. “It’s been too long. But I would most likely be a hinderance to anyone out there. I’m not getting any younger after all.” Vernon smiles weekly at this, he was looking in a worse condition than the commander, at least Codsworth had seen the sun, the old butler however, looked practically gaunt, his skin was paling and there were deep shadows under his eyes. If Codsworth didn’t know any better, he would have thought that the blood suckers had gotten to the old man, but they had been gone for centuries. He was about to continue before he notices Codsworth walking towards the door and his smiles disappears and the dark frown returns once more to his face. As Bruce notices this and looks up.

“Going hunting commander?” Bruce said looking at the old commander in his ragged clothes. He remembered all too well the argument that had practically destroyed the pairs friendship. He really didn’t like acting as a mediator between the Codsworth and Vernon, but if that was the game that they were going to play, he guessed he would have to just play along.

Codsworth turns around. “Yes.” The commander replied, his brow quickly narrows as he sees the old butler, although they didn’t make eye contact, it was fair to say, that during there last heated debate things had well and truly gone of the rails.

“Well then good hunting my friend. You aren’t taking requests are you by any chance.” Bruce replied and smiles as Codsworth returns it knowing that the landscape directly outside was not a haven of choice for hunting, combine that with his sub-parr skills at hunting and tracking he knew that they would be lucky if he caught one thing, never mine a choice of animals. But he nods graciously at his own lack of skills before leaving the room. As he does, Bruce turns back to Vernon whose expression is still cold.

“You should cut the commander some slack old man.” Bruce said concerned. He was used to mediating truces and friendships before all this mess had happened, but he had never come across two people this stubborn before. He guessed that it was because the argument was very personal to the pair.

“That man is responsible for what happened to master Martin.” Vernon responded, trying to get the ice out of his voice, and failing miserably on that count.

“And he’s doing everything in his power to find him, which he will. I’m sure of it.” Bruce said.

“I’ll cut the commander some slack, once Martin is back here and not a second before.” said Vernon looking towards a nearby window, although given the fact that winter was now upon them, it was unlikely that that event would happen before the spring came back around.

“Whatever you say. We’ll find him don’t worry.” Bruce said with a reassurance in his voice that he did not entirely feel. It had after all been over eight months since the boy went missing. With neither Dmitri nor Codsworth finding so much as a hair. But he knew better than to voice his doubts out loud. As the more optimistic part of him told himself that if Martin was dead, they would have found a body by now. The problem was that the boy had simply seemed to have vanished of the face of the earth, with not so much of a hair remaining of him.

 

As Bruce was thinking to himself, Codsworth had entered the main entrance hall of Normanguard, which despite whatever mood he was feeling at the time never failed to impress the aged commander.

Twelve massive stone pillars, six on each side of a long wide floor hold up the mountain ceiling. The platform goes from the main steel gates forty meters high and two meters thick, to the throne room two hundred meters away. Long rock stairways connect the main floor to the rooms alongside either side of the mountain wall. Where Codsworth now stands looking down at the mountain home that he and the group had adopted all those months ago. He proceeds to walk along a stone platform and up a set of stone stairs before heads out onto the ramparts, directly above the main gates.

Codsworth looks out at the surrounding landscape, figuring out where he should set out to. Before deciding in his head to go south as there was both a greater chance of finding food and, though he doubted it, a chance he may find some evidence of Martin’s whereabouts. Whilst Codsworth was deep in this particular thought Doraghek, prince of the mountain, walks up to where Codsworth stands looking out at the landscape. The short, stout dwarf looks up at Codsworth, with his long black beard and hair flapping in the breeze and the early winter sunlight gleaming of the silver gemstone that was in his left eye socket.

“So young Imperial” Doraghek said. “Up here again I see.” It was common knowledge that the commander could often be found up here these days, he had heard about the argument from the brothers a few days after it had happened. And whilst he was not one to speak ill of his guests, that argument had done immeasurable harm to their cause in his humble opinion.

Codsworth looks down and smiles before going back to stare at the southern horizon. “I’ve not been young in a very long time.” He said grinning slightly.

“You Imperials are all young in the eyes of a dwarf. But as you say. When will you leave my not so young Imperial friend, then?” Doraghek responded chuckling, as despite his looks the dwarf was almost thirty years Codsworth senior. And would most likely live for at least another sixty years on top of his own age. He often wondered what it was like to have the short lifespan of the surface dwellers, as very few lived to even half the age of the dwarves.

“In a minute or so.” Codsworth said sill looking towards the south, he had been trying to follow on in Dmitri’s footsteps, although he had no idea about why the captain had thought that there was anything knew down there.

“And will this be one of your longer trips.” Doraghek said, the commander had been taking more and more of these as winter drew closure, his longest time being out was almost a fortnight, it had been so long that the dwarf had been on the verge of sending out search parties for the commander, fearing what had become of the man after what had befallen his friend.

“It’s only a food trip. I’ll only be gone until the afternoon at the latest.” Codsworth responded, he hoped that was the case at any rate, given his below parr skills at hunting, it had taken him almost the entire day to kill his target on the previous hunting mission, but he had stuck with it for the simple reason as it would give Dave enough of an excuse to go back out on hunting missions. The fourteen-year-old had becoming moodier as every day passed that he wasn’t allowed out. But on that count, he and Vernon were in agreement, as after what had happened to Dmitri, they had both ruled that it was too dangerous for the lad or his younger brother to go out alone.

“Well then, I won’t keep you any longer.” Doraghek smiled and then turns to leave. Followed not long after by Codsworth back inside the mountain proper. Where the aged commander walks down towards the main gates and takes his horse out of a large room, saddles her and rides out of the great gates. Nearly knocking over two dwarves returning from a patrol in his haste. They turn around to curse him out for his carelessness but Codsworth was already several hundred meters down the main causeway by the time they turn around.

 

Once Codsworth is several miles away from the mountain he dismounts and ties his horse to a nearby tree and proceeds on foot into a patch of woodland in the otherwise hilly terrain, he knew enough to head towards woodland for animals, even he with his limited knowledge knew that for certain. Inside the woodland was a lot darker than outside, as little of the unwarming sunlight was able to get past the branches and leaves of the evergreens’ that grew up here, as he walks, he also draws his gun from over his shoulder, in order to be ready in an instant should he spot his prey. As he continues to walk through the woods, the sound of his feat seemingly being magnified out here, every broken twig, every leaf, was like an artillery blast of noise, wondering to himself whether or not he was scaring away every animal for about fifty miles he continued to walk through the woodland. After a few moments it seemed like his luck had turned as he spots a medium sized deer lurking in a nearby clearing.

The deer looks up and makes eye contact with Codsworth, it doesn’t run away, clearly unafraid of the commander, wondering to himself briefly whether this normal behaviour for a deer, he fires at the creature, missing the beast and causing it to run off. Codsworth swears loudly and puts the gun down. He had been foolish to come out alone, he thought. He was no hunter and an even worse tracker. He was at the point when he was going to have to swallow his pride and go back and fetch Dave, who seemed to have a natural gift for this sought of thing.

“Well, isn’t this a shit show.” Codsworth said to himself, before turning around and seeing another wolf approach from a patch of trees in front of him, clearly attracted to the sound of his noise, probably drawn by the sound of him swearing, unlike most creatures that used these woods, these creatures were predators and would not scare as easily as other animals. Thankful for this fact, Codsworth raises his gun and takes aim before firing. The wolf collapses to the ground dead and into a patch of mud. Codsworth walks up to the beast and looks down at it judging its size before deciding that it was big enough on nothing but gut instinct, not that that had been of much use to him of late, but with no one else to challenge him on the matter it was all he had.

Codsworth picks up the beast which to his surprise was a lot heavier than he had guested it would have been and hauls it over one shoulder before walking out of the clearing. Unlike in Bergskort, when the people would have to split their catch by depositing half of it into the stores, the mountain was much better provisioned, and their stores were plentiful. Meaning that any catch he made was his, and his alone. Thinking about the two different mentalities in keeping its people from starving, the commander continues to walk until he reaches his horse, as well as the cold sunlight.

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