Weeks had passed since both Jack and Barca had left the group on their respective missions, and the old butler had not gotten used to the quiet that their absence had left, combine that with the fact that Codsworth was only hear half the time, which made the silence even more noticeable. Vernon thought to himself that now that they were at war with the enemy, how many of them would make it through to the end. He was hopeful, they had done a lot better than he could have hoped for in terms of casualties since leaving the manor, and he wondered if the remaining members of the groups luck could stretch that little bit more.
“Vernon?” Charlie said, taking the old butler by surprise for a moment, before regaining his composure.
“What news?” Vernon asked, he knew that Charlie had taken it upon herself to look after Martin as he dove into his visions, not that there was much that they could do. This was completely uncharted territory after all with hardly anyone being able to master it, let alone a kid.
“That’s why I’m here Vernon.” Charlie said, which is what the old butler had feared as there would be no other reason why the scientist would be here. “I want to try forced meditation.” Charlie said rather quickly, in order to get the worst out of the way in as painless a way as possible.
“That’s what we did to master Alan was it not?” Vernon asked hesitantly, and with good reason. As when Alan had gone through the experiment, it had led to the former head of the family leaving suddenly, chasing ghosts that he claimed to have heard.
“Yes.” Charlie said tentatively. She understood the concerned look on Vernon’s face, but this was her last option, and she didn’t know exactly what else to do about Martin’s visions. Vernon put his hand through his hair, thinking it through. This was perhaps the last thing he would want to put Martin through, but if it would help, and if it was really their last chance to help the kid. He nodded, albeit reluctantly.
“I’ll tell him though.” Vernon said, that was important, as whilst Martin knew that Charlie wouldn’t do anything to harm him, it was probably best that he did it, as he had known the boy the longest out of anyone in the group.
The three gems stood in the centre of the room on metal holders. It had been difficult to bring them here unnoticed, but eventually Jimmy had managed it, the young scientist had been nervous throughout the trip across the entry hall. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust the dwarves, it was just these were the most powerful and rare items in the known existence, and he would not have them stolen from him. He and Abi had been trying everything they could think of to get them to combine, after hearing what Vernon had read about in the old journal, it was now imperative that they found out how these small gemstones could destroy the greatest evil in the known and probably unknown world.
“Right try it at two hundred percent.” Jimmy said, as he returned behind the glass patrician as Abi began to ramp up the power.
“Ready.” Abi said, with a lot less excitement in her voice than she had had when they had started their work, in truth, she doubted whether they would even succeed in this task before they had to begin the march south.
A few seconds later a white beam hit the first gem, then into the second, and then into the third. Nothing happened, the small gemstones remained completely inactive, sitting on their metal holders looking innocently back at them.
“Fuckin hell.” Jimmy said, exiting from behind the screen. He was starting to get desperate; they had tried everything that they could think off. Heat, chemicals, even nuclear radiation, but nothing was working, as if the gems were refusing to come together.
“Look, we’ve done everything we can.” Abi said as she walked up to join the young scientist, as she did so, the water gem started glowing slightly. “Maybe it’s got nothing to do with us forcing them together. I mean, we known that this one.” Abi said as she pointed to the water gem, as she moved her hand closer, a small trickle of water came out of the gemstone, as if it was responding to her. “Is alive, it knows when I and my aunt are nearby after all.” Abi finished putting her arm around Jimmy.
Jimmy sighed, that was the truth, he wondered why the water gem reacted to the pair like that. Whether it was reacting to the bloodline, or if it would react that way whenever a river-man came into close contact with the object. He made a mental note to bring Martin’s friend down here to test that theory. As Abi walked away, back behind the protective screen, the water gem responded and lost its glow.
“You’re right I guess.” Jimmy said scratching his head, trying to think what else they could do to bring the gems closer together.
Whilst Jimmy and Abi continued their science experiment, Vernon prowled the halls. It took a bit of time to locate Martin, as the boy was not in his room. But eventually Vernon located him with his friends. Which did nothing to help what he had in mind to help with the boy’s visions.
“Kid.” Vernon said, his voice croaking slightly as if he had a frog wedged down in his air passage. Martin looked up at this, and innocent look in his blue eyes.
“Yes Vernon?” Martin asked, he was confused, he had asked Charlie for the day off from his spying, so that he could spend time with his friends.
“Yeah kid. Charlie wants you in the lab. Says its urgent.” Vernon said shrugging and heading for the door, to his credit, Martin didn’t groan or sigh, just got up and followed Vernon out of the room. Although the old butler noticed that the kid’s spirits picked up when Jeanie got up from where she was sitting and followed them out of the room.
“You alright kid?” Charlie asked as she stepped away from the controls and walked towards the boy and the elderly butler, also noting that Jeanie had agreed to come along to witness the experiment, or that was the reason that she gave when Charlie glanced over at her. But she got back to business. They were in the lab a few rooms down from where they had healed Martin when he had first arrived at the mountain, in the corner was a large water tank, with a set of stairs leading up to it. In the opposite corner were the controls that Charlie was walking away from at that moment, other than that, the room was strangely spartan in its decor. “This is the same experiment that we used on your da Martin.” Charlie said, hoping that Martin was too young to remember the effects of that procedure, but she wasn’t challenged so she continued. “We’ve going to drop the oxygen in the tank which should force your mind to enter these visions.” Charlie finished and looked up at the tank for a second before returning her gaze to Martin.
For his part, Martin only nodded, not speaking for fear that he would throw up, for all Charlie reassurance on them using the procedure on his da, all he could think of was room forty-four.
“If you would step up and get into the tank kid, and we can begin the procedure.” Charlie said gesturing for Martin to head up the metal steps into the tank. They had made some small modifications to the experiment since using it on Alan, but for the most art it was the same. Once Martin was inside, bobbing about in the water, Charlie dropped the hatch on the tank, ceiling the boy inside the water.
“Alright Martin, we’re going to start dropping the oxygen.” Charlie said, looking at the tank, Martin only gave her the thumbs up to confirm, not that she could blame as from what she had heard from his friends, this was similar to what the guards in the prison had done to him throughout his time in captivity. As she dropped the oxygen, Doraghek entered the room to observe the procedure.
Bubbles started swirling around Martin as the oxygen levels were slowly dropped further and further. Jeanie walked forward a few paces to observe the experiment closer, whilst she had not been in the prison for that long, she had seen how Martin was after going into the tank.
“Fifty percent oxygen.” Charlie said, more to herself than to anyone else in the room. Around them, the room was otherwise quiet, Doraghek leaned on his axe, observing the procedure with trepidation.
Vernon looked concerned, having seen this done before to Alan, he was personally in no hurry to repeat the experience again, especially after what had happened after the experiment was done.
Charlie was hoping that this would work, not only for Martin’s sake so that he could enter his visions more easily and with hopefully less pain. She had combined her two previous attempts that she had used on both Jack and Alan, although she still had her doubts on whether or not it would even work.
“Thirty percent oxygen.” Charlie continued as the oxygen levels continued to decrease, until she stabilized them at twenty-five percent. She stepped tentatively away from the controls and observed the tank. It struck her how thin Martin was inside the tank, floating up and down in his mediative state, his long hair bobbing around in the salty water that they were using.
Martin opened his eyes in a place that he did not recognise, it was a dimly lit room, but the biggest room he had ever seen, much larger than even the hall of heroes, it stretched on for miles in every direction as he seemed to be in the centre of it.
“Son.” A voice said behind Martin. And turning around he was face to face with his father again, he was exactly how Martin had remembered him before his death, including this time, the missing leg.
“Da.” Martin said smiling despite himself, he was uncomfortable aware that the last time he had seen him in his dreams, it had been a trap of Eugene’s to get him on side. But as it was, he who had instigated the dream, he doubted that that was the case this time. “How come you’re here?” Martin asked finally after getting his thoughts in order.
“You called me.” Alan responded, smiling at his youngest son.
“W-What?” Martin asked, unsure of how to respond to that statement. But before he could respond, he saw the figure of Alan, start to flicker in front of him, it wasn’t by much, to the point that he might have missed it. But he didn’t, and he took a few steps back. “You’re not my dad.” Martin said, looking at the fake man in front of him. The figure smiled and shimmered as if it he was reflection in the water that had had a stone lobbed into it.
In his father’s place, was the bearded man that had come to Martin in the Wolfrick Manor crypts. Igradust stood before the boy, and Martin could feel his heartbeat rise, as the last time that this man had come to him, it had not boded well for him.
“What are you doing here?” Martin said angrily, this man, with the exception of Eugene, with Layton bringing up a close second, was the person he would least like to see, especially after initially thinking that he could have spoken to his father.
“You needed help; you’ve been struggling to get into our advisory head recently, especially after you played your hand way to early.” Igradust spoke, his tone was light, but there was a scolding nature to it just beneath the surface.
“I was following your advice.” Martin said angrily, whilst not entirely false, he was definitely stretching the truth there, as it had been in fact his uncle who had told him exactly what to do. “You told me to push my limits, and I did. It’s not my fault that I went too far.” Martin finished hotly.
“Stay still Martin.” Igradust said, choosing to ignore the slight that the boy had given him, as if it was of little concern to him.
“Why?” Martin asked, he was not an idiot, and this sounded eerily like what Dr Larry would say before the propaganda film was to be shown to its unwilling victims.
“I am going to show you a way to overcome your current difficulty.” Igradust said, and without waiting for Martin to approve, he grabbed the boy’s forehead holding it firmly in his hands, as Martin began to scream in pain.
The pain that Martin was feeling was showing up on the monitors, as they all began to flash red. Charlie looked on in horror, as Martin’s heart rate began to skyrocket.
“What’s going on?” Vernon asked, looking first at Charlie then at the tank, then back at Charlie for answers. For her part Charlie was thinking as fast as possible, as with Martin in his present location, he would quickly run out of oxygen faster than they could put it back in.
“His heart rates going through the roof.” Charlie said, failing to keep the panic out of her voice. As she spoke, she was rapidly trying to stop the procedure, but something was wrong, the safety controls were jammed shut. This was not helped by Vernon, who was struggling not to keep the panic out of his own voice as he bellowed his orders.
“Bring him out now!” Vernon shouted as the alarms continued to blare, red lights flashed around the room, as a creaking sound came from the tank as Charlie tried to open the top hatch from the control point.
“The hatch is jammed, somethings stopping it from opening.” Charlie said. She rushed up the staircase and to the hatch, trying to turn the metal wheel, but it was no good, the hatch would not open. This wasn’t good, the limited amount of oxygen that had been left in the tank would not sustain Martin for long.
“This isn’t happening fast enough Charlie. Get him out now!” Vernon continued, whilst the thoughts about the safety failures in the fore front of his mind.
Martin continued to scream, as Igradust held his forehead, imparting his knowledge onto the boy. He saw everything, from the eastern wasteland, to the southern rivers, finally settling on a point at the bottom of the snow mountains.
“This is where you must go boy. I will be waiting for you there.” Igradust said, before fading away in front of him.
The glass of the tank shattered into a thousand pieces, spilling the water, and more importantly Martin across the room. Doraghek stood by the tank, his axe in hand, it had been him who had broken the tank with three great swings of his battle axe. He was soaking wet, having taken the full force of the water as it drained from the tank, so much so, that it had nearly knocked him over.
They found Martin lying unconscious next to the control panel, his face was slightly blue from the time spent underwater. Jeanie approached him nervously, flashbacks of their final days of the prison going across her eyes.
“Martin.” Jeanie said tentatively as she knelt down beside him. For a moment, nothing happened, in which she was almost certain that the experiment had done what Eugene had failed to do and killed him.
A few more moments of nothing where they feared the worst, before Martin spluttering and retching came back to the world of the living, his skin was bluish, having been submerged and there were red rings around his eyes. He then did something that took Jeanie by surprise and hugged her tight.
Before long however, Vernon stood above them looking imperiously down at the two children. But his stern look that had been on his face for the briefest of seconds dropped as he knelt down next to Martin.
“Can you stand up kiddo?” Vernon asked calmly, hoping that his calm tone would have the same effect on Martin, the last thing they needed was his old fears returning to him, which would set back the months of work that he had done to trust the strangers of the mountain. Martin however, nodded, which filled Vernon with relief. This relief was cut short however, as when Martin tried to stand, his legs were unable to support him, and he collapsed to the ground again.
“I can’t.” Martin said, he felt weak, as if all the strength had left him in that moment, his intention of showing the room that this wouldn’t affect him gone in that moment. Vernon only nodded and did something that the butler thought he was way too old to do in his old age and because he thought that the children were also too big for. And he picked Martin up, if the boy wasn’t so thin it wouldn’t have worked, but now was different, and the old butler carried him out of the room in his arms.
It took a while for Dave to realise that he was being followed, whilst he had had his suspicions, he had initially dismissed them as an overactive imagination. That all changed when he passed the outskirts of the forest that they had been attacked by during their travel north from Bergskort.
Dave turned around, looking at the scenery more thoroughly this time, he smiled to himself as he realised who it was that was following him.
“Alright Nick. You can come out.” Dave said exasperatedly, this wasn’t the first time that Nick had sneaked out of the mountain to follow on a hunt or a patrol, and he doubted that it would be the last. After a few moments of silence, where Dave started to doubt his initial judgement, Nick rode out from the trees.
“How long have you known?” Nick asked, thinking to himself that he needed to improve on his stealth abilities, as he had failed to hide from either of his older brothers when he had snuck out after them.
“About half an hour, and the answer to your second question is no Nicky.” Dave said, turning his horse back around, and made to continue with his scouting mission, but was stopped as Nick rode up to join him.
“Try and stop me then.” Nick responded as he rode off into the distance, Dave swore to himself, the last time his younger brother had insisted on joining him on one of his missions, it had ended with him being knocked out, and Nick going missing for a few weeks and he was in no hurry to repeat the experience. Although his younger brother, at least by his attitude seemed to feel the opposite. So, with a heavy heart, and an ominous feeling of foreboding, Dave spurred his horse on to catch up with his younger brother.
He eventually caught up to Nick about half a mile down the road, their long hair, which had not been cut since leaving Bergskort, blowing wildly in the wind. Other than the wind, the road was quiet, ‘too quiet’ Dave thought to himself as he and his younger brother rode along. He had been tasked with scanning the roads for any sign of danger, and to engage if victory was certain, and to return to the mountain for reinforcements if it wasn’t.
“There’s something over there.” Nick said, he was staring over at a nearby hill line, it wasn’t big, but it was just enough to potentially hide away from prying eyes. Dave looked over, he couldn’t see anything, although he put it down to not looking in time and, trusting his brother’s eyesight, the pair came of the road, and headed for the hills.
Once they arrived, slightly out of breath due to how quickly they had ridden up here, they stopped to allow their horses to take a break, as well as to scan the hill line, there was nothing there. It was completely desolate of life, but Nick paused for a moment.
“Don’t you hear that?” Nick asked looking at his older brother. Dave strained to hear, but for him, all was silent, it was eery in a way, just as it had been on their way up to the mountain.
“I don’t hear anything little bro.” Dave said, holstering his gun, but keeping the palm of his hand resting on his axe.
Nick looked disappointed at this. He was also annoyed at himself, he had after all, wanted to come along to prove himself to his older brother, to prove that he could handle things like he could. But he had ridden them of the road on what looked like a wild goose chase. So, he quickly changed tack.
“Is it weird that we were both uncles and knew nothing about it?” Nick asked, he wanted to change the subject to avoid the embarrassment of being wrong about seeing something over here.
“Yeah Nicky.” Dave replied, he hadn’t given it much thought if he was being honest with himself, before he remembered something. “By the way you owe me twenty creds when this is over.” Dave said smiling at the look on his brother’s face.
“How do you work that one out?” Nick asked, he couldn’t remember making any bet that he had lost to his older and more reckless brother.
“Don’t you remember little bro, you bet that Jack would be the last out of the four of us to get any of it.” Dave said smiling, but suddenly stopped. He had definitely heard something this time, he scanned the horizon as Nick sighed at his loss.
“Wait I don’t remember…” Nick started but was then interrupted by Dave, who shouted to get his attention.
“Ambush!” Dave shouted as the hoard emerged from behind the hill, his horse reared as the dead came walking towards them, not at any great speed, but he knew that now that they had got his sent, they wouldn’t stop, making retreat impossible. As he took out his gun and started firing, Nick observed the seen.
Nick looked at his options, there couldn’t be more than twenty coming towards, them, and even these looked wearier than they did, as if they had been sent ahead to scout, and test their defences. There was no sign of a leader amongst the hoard.
He made up his mind, taking the axe that he had ‘borrowed’ from the fortress of his belt, he charged forward, leaving Dave with a look of horror on his face.
“What the fuck are you doing!” Dave shouted, dropping his gun and charging in after his reckless and in his opinion, idiotic brother. With two now engaged, they made short work of the hoard, and as they finished of the last of them. Nick, having dismounted to get a better look at the dead-men, turned around smiling at his older brother, but the smile quickly faded away at the look on his face.
“What the fuck were you doing.” Dave said, getting of his horse to begin berating his younger brother. “You could have gotten yourself killed Nicky.” Dave finished as Nick looked up from where he was kneeling down on the ground examining the dead corpses.
“Gods, when did you get as scared as Vernon?” Nick asked smiling up at his older brother. “You used to be so much more fun.” Nick said before returning to the dead that they had just re-slain. Dave looked on in horror, he had thought that he was the most reckless of the brothers, had taken some pride in it at a time too. But recently, both his younger brothers seemed to be trying to prove something.
“We had the advantage from range, you shouldn’t have gone charging in like that little bro. Nicky, that stuff may work in the books you read, but in the real world that shit is likely to only get you and me killed” Dave said, hoping to drive the point home in a way that his bookish younger brother would understand.
“Course it does brother.” Nick said, getting up and heading back to his horse that was a little skittish around the re-slain dead-men. “If it didn’t work, then they wouldn’t have written about it.” Nick finished and rode off into the distance. Trying to find the logic that had been used against him, Dave waited for a few moments, he hated when his younger brother did that kind of stuff as usually it proved that he was wrong about whatever they had been previously arguing about.
That night in the quarters, Charlie found Martin in his room, his eyes were still slightly bloodshot, but he had seemed to bounce back from his drowning relatively quickly.
“Hey kid.” Charlie said, wondering if she was intruding, and if Martin would forgive her for messing up the procedure. Martin looked at her for a moment, then returned to staring at the rocky ceiling of his room. He didn’t say anything initially and Charlie feared the worst, but eventually he spoke up.
“Yeah.” Martin said, still looking at the ceiling, partly just as something to do to stave off sleep, but mostly because when he had turned to see who had entered his room, the motion had made him want to throw up what little food he had eaten that evening.
“I would like to take some of your blood, see if we can figure out what is giving you this gift.” Charlie said, but regretted her wording the moment she said it.
“Gifts. If these are gifts, then why does it seem like a curse. Do you think that the others see it as a gift?” Martin said, trying to hold back the tears that he could feel building up in his eyes.
“I would say I know. But I don’t, that’s why I want to examine your blood, see if we can find out what’s causing this… ability.” Charlie said, hoping that the new term would be able to paper over her previous mistake. Whether it did or not, Martin agreed and held out his thin arm. The bruises had healed, although the skin was still slightly darkened when the electro rods had been applied.
Charlie took out a needle, and drew the blood that she needed, it looked normal, although appearances could be deceiving as she had learnt to her cost.
“How are your arms doing kid? They seem to be healing over well.” Charlie asked, hoping to change the subject away from the experience today.
“Yeah. They seemed to have healed up.” Martin said, not failing to notice the change in the subject. Not that he minded but there was something else that he needs. “Could you give me something to help me sleep Charlie. Like something that will stop me dreaming.” Martin finished looking up at the scientist.
“Not tonight. But I’ll get you something for tomorrow. Is everything alright Martin?” Charlie asked, she knew that the kid wouldn’t ask for it unless he needed it, but he hadn’t requested the drug since his orders from Fierhand. She sat down on his bed and looked down at the kid.
“I just, I-I don’t want to see anything. I don’t want to s-see h-him.” Martin finally managed to stutter out in between his sobs. Martin leaned into Charlie’s shoulder, which took her by surprise. She knew that the boy had been broken in the prison, but it was usually Vernon who dealt with the fallout of that. It felt weird, after all that had happened, Martin’s power was at her guess completely limitless, his skills currently untapped. But this was proof that he was just a scared boy who had been traumatised and scarred beyond anything that the others had suffered in the group. In that moment she wished that Dmitri was here, at least he could have related to what Martin had been through.
Later that night, Martin lay in his bed thinking, he didn’t want to sleep after Charlie had refused to give him the sleeping drug, and sleep would bring the old man back, he didn’t know why Igradust wanted him so badly, a few years ago when he had been a lot more naïve, he would have called him a wizard, but that was a long time ago.
This led to a strangely interesting realisation, as he knew that the man was clearly afraid of Eugene, so was he to that point. But the monster had only detected him once, alright twice. But he reconned he would rather attempt another visit into Eugene’s mind. Even though he didn’t like it and would love nothing better than a peaceful night’s sleep. But that was no longer possible until they won, or he died. And with that he lay down and closed his eyes and focussed his mind on his enemy’s mind.
He opened his eyes back onto the mist that had been here the last time he had tried to access the mind of his enemy. It was difficult to not just give up right then and there. But that wouldn’t be very productive, so he proceeded onwards deep into the mist and hoped to the gods that he wouldn’t be discovered here again.
Martin broke into a jog as he moved through the mist, hoping that it would be harder for Eugene to put up defences if he was moving quicker than a walk. However, it was no use, the mist seemed to go on for miles, or was it just surrounding him, that would make more sense come to think of it. All the same, he had to continue, there was something in the back of his mind that was telling him that. A presence that he had not felt the last few times he had been down here previously.
It took a few moments for the next strange thing to happen, but happen it did, as he saw the one person, he didn’t want to see other than Eugene himself. Igradust walked towards the boy through the mist, he looked more terrifying here than he had ever done in his previous visions that the old man had hijacked.
“What are you doing here?” Martin asked observing the old man as he stopped a few paces away from him, he looked different, he still looked old, but his hair and beard were darker, his face had fewer lines in it, and he stood taller.
“The same as you Martin Wolfrick. Trying to spy on our enemy.” Igradust said, the loss of his stoop made him tower over the eight-year-old even more than he had done before, and there was a fire in his eyes that had not been there before.
“Our enemy?” Martin asked curiously, he had known that the old man was technically on his side, but he had been under no illusions that Igradust would stab him in the back if it served the great purpose.
“Yes. You doubt my intent boy. I too wish to see the great enemy destroyed and your mind along with all the others freed from his servant’s influence.” Igradust replied angrily, slightly offended that his character had been attacked by someone so young. He had been working for the side of light for so long now that the fact that someone would dare to question his allegiance enraged him much more than the enemy did. Martin didn’t respond, slightly ashamed that he had ever doubted the man in front of him. But before he could apologise Igradust spoke to him once more. “Leave this place Martin Wolfrick. The enemy are on the alert and your mind will break if you continue on this current path. I will give you instructions as soon as I can.” Igradust finished, and disappeared just like that, vanishing into the smoke.
For the briefest of moments, Martin made to follow the wizard, but held back once he quickly realised that he was no longer on this plane of existence with him. And so, he decided to take his advice, and pulled himself out of Eugene’s mind.