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Chapter 6

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Chapter VI

Training and Help

 

Vernon walks into the quarters about an hour or so after Codsworth, Barca, Jimmy and Dave left the mountain to go on the search, along with Doraghek, who it was said had angered several of the king’s councillors with that decision. Despite his relatively late rise he had found that, like most nights recently he had barely slept a few hours, not that this was a problem. He had found that the older he got, the less sleep he had needed. In fact, the last time he had got a full night’s sleep from dusk till dawn, was over two years ago way before the shit had hit the fan. Thinking on this the old butler was brought out of his thoughts by the sound of Bruce, who was sitting at the table with Charlie.

“Alright Vernon, what can we gets you. Do we need more food?” Bruce said looking concerned, and as winter had started in a few days ago Vernon didn’t blame him for it.

“No. No we’re alright for food.” Vernon said, “I just need to speak to Charlie alone.” He had come to the decision last night, that the recent disappearances were connected in some way, but he needed to prove his theory and for that he needed the documents Dmitri had brought with them and for that he needed Charlie’s half of the combination. The other half would have to wait. He also suspected that Dmitri had also come to this conclusion but had failed to alert them before his untimely death.

“Very well.” Bruce said. “I’m late for guard duty anyway.” Bruce said as he got up and left the room heading towards the armoury.

“What is it Vernon?” Charlie said looking at the old butler. “Is it a problem with your chest again.” Charlie finished looking concerned, recently the old man had been complaining of severe chest pains and she was worried that the old wound that he had sustained defending the manor was starting to act up. But Vernon dismissed this fact.

“No, my chest is fine. I just need to know where Dmitri kept his records.” Vernon said. “I want to have a look at them.” The part about his chest was only a small lie, but that wasn’t important right now, what was important was having a look at the files, no matter how little of them were left.

“There in the safe.” Charlie said gesturing towards a safe in the corner of the room, it was small, only about a foot in either direction, but it held three of the most powerful objects in the world inside its metal walls. “But I only have half the combination to it. Why do ask?” She could take a pretty good guess at what Vernon was thinking but she wanted to hear the old man say it himself.

“It’s just an odd feeling I had last night.” Vernon said. “I want to have a look at his records on The Answer. I think it might give us an idea on where master Martin is being kept.” Vernon looked at Charlie whose expression was what he had expected, mild disbelief.

“You think that The Answer is behind this.” Charlie said slowly, thinking about it for a few moments. “It can’t be. Someone slaughtered their ruling council remember, before we got there to do the job ourselves. They aren’t around anymore.” Charlie finished, although they hadn’t gotten all of them. Eugene had been the one to slaughter the council, but he was dead, it was by now common knowledge.

“I know. It’s probably just my imagination but I still want to have a look at those records for myself.” Vernon said. Whilst Charlie was saying that she was certain about The Answer’s fate. Vernon wasn’t so sure, and neither was Dmitri, who had confided his fears to Vernon when they had first arrived at the mountain. Charlie sits for a minute thinking about it.
“Fine, I’ll have to wait for Codsworth as he has the other half. But you’ll get whatever research is in there.” Charlie said and Vernon nods before leaving the room. Leaving Charlie alone in the room for a few moments to think about what Vernon had said, was she wrong about The Answer, or was it just Vernon clasping at straws.

 

This peace was ended when Nick arrived in the room and remembering her promise the previous evening to train the young lad. She got up and walked up to him.

“You ready lad.” Charlie said, despite the age gap between the two, the ten-year-old had shot up in height the past few months and was now almost at her eye level, it was slightly scary when she thought about it, mainly because it reminded her of her brother when he was that age.

“Yeah.” Nick said, looking nervous but excited all the same, as when his brothers had trained under Dmitri back at the manor, he had been forced to watch from the rooftop, as he was deemed by the soldier to be too young at the time. Charlie nodded and headed out of the room followed closely by Nick.

The two walk out through the main gates and out into the countryside directly in front of the mountain. Which was a lot more practical than to train inside as there were very few rooms that were both big enough and empty enough to fire weapons in. as they reach the spot that Charlie had looked at the previous evening as an adequate place to train, due to its relatively level terrain.

Charlie turned around and hands Nick one of her guns that she had taken from the manor when they had fled.  This weapon however, she had never fired, as she didn’t feel right doing so. It was the gun that had belonged to a relative of Alan’s, the one which has a grip made out of a wolf’s tooth. Allowing Nick to begin handling the gun, she walks over towards a nearby tree, and proceeds to cut a target into a it. Once done she walks back to Nick.

“Once you’re ready, take the shot.” Charlie said, standing to one side, Nick nods as he raises the gun, takes aim and shoots. The resounding bang makes the birds shoot up into the air, once the smoke clears, Charlie looks towards the target and sees that the lad had missed the centre of the crudely cut cross by a few inches.

“Not bad, for a first shot.” Charlie said looking at the target. “Now. Again.” She finishes and Nick raises the gun once more and takes aim.

 

By sunset that afternoon, the tree is full of targets and bullet holes. With Nick being able to hit the centre of the target most of the time. They had been out here for a good four hours by this point, and although there were some very wild misses as well, but the good outweighed the bad and Charlie considered it good enough for a first day.

“That’s enough for today.” Charlie said looking at her student whose long brown hair was now completely windswept. “We’ll do the same tomorrow.” Nick nodded, before examining the gun more closely.

“Why is the grip different?” Nick asked looking at the tooth, he had been about to ask at the beginning of the lesson, before Charlie had ordered him to begin firing at the now bullet ridden target.

“Because it means you still have a weapon after you’ve ran out of bullets.” Charlie said. “So long as your swing is hard enough that tooth is sharp enough to kill almost anything that comes at you. It’s yours should you want it.” Nick looked at her in surprise.

“I can keep it?” Nick said in awe. He had only ever been given one gun before and that was only for the road from Bergskort to the mountain, which Codsworth had taken back after they had reached their destination.

“Yes. It’s been in your family for the gods know how long.” Charlie said. as she handed the gun back to Nick who took it eagerly as she continued. “Only use it in great need though. You understand?” Charlie said as she looked into Nick’s eyes and he nodded, holding the gun up to the failing light before holstering it.

They were about to leave before Nick looks up at the small hilly range to the east where a small black figure can be seen prowling over the hills. Nick walks forward a few paces and stares at the eastern horizon trying to make out what the shape is.

“There’s something over there.” Nick said as he points towards the hills. Charlie walks back to join the ten-year-old, before quickly taking out a pair of binoculars staring at the hills.

“Looks like an animal of some kind.” Charlie said squinting, before putting her hand on Nick’s shoulders and trying to guide him back to the mountain. As the black shape visibly begins to charge towards them at a fast pace.

“Nick get behind me.” Charlie said whilst drawing her own weapon, but Nick who was flying high of the lesson, disobeys her orders steps into a position where he has a good line of sight, un holstering his gun and takes centre aim at the charging creature as it disappears behind the rise of the hill that lay directly in front of them. For a few moments there was nothing, until the beast crests the small summit, charging at full tilt. Charlie however instantly recognises the beast as it turns back into its human form.

Brutus gets up from all fours and stands up straight to his full and impressive height, facing the two in front of him. Charlie lowers her gun, but Nick does not.

“I’d advise you lower your weapon young Wolfrick.” Brutus said in a hoarse voice. “Your bullets will do nothing to me.” Brutus now standing at his full height of over two meters, walks up to the pair of them, the scars on his face in the same position that the bears was, his long coarse brown hair reaching the crook of his back and deep black eyes, looks down at Nick with a small grin on his face.

“Is there any news of my brother?” Nick asked remembering Brutus’ promise to keep them informed of any information that he may hear whilst out in the wilderland.

“I’m afraid not.” Brutus said bowing his head. “I’ve had my ears open for any mention of your brother but have heard nothing of the boy. Which may be a good thing, after what else I have both heard and seen.” Brutus’ face had become hard at this, the lines being thrown into sharp relief in the setting sun.

“What’s been happening?” Charlie asked, they had been virtually blind up here in the mountain, which was starting to cause real fear amongst the population, with many calling for outright war with the enemy, whilst others demanding that they continue to appease them by expelling the foreigners who were clearly disturbing the peace, or so they claimed.

“The agents of the enemy are moving once again. Though not up here, thanks to the winter.” Brutus said, a brief look of relief crossing his face before the frown returned. “But down in the south they are employing new spies to hunt down resistance groups.” The wear-bear finished, and Charlie sighed, though she had suspected the reason that they were not being as harassed anymore, and thanked whatever gods were out there for Normanguard’s harsh winter climate.

“You said it was a good thing that you hadn’t heard any information about Martin. Why?” Charlie asked.

“Because the spies that are being used, are children!” Brutus said and at this he sounded positively enraged to the point that his voice was almost a growl. “They are sending kids into resistance groups as sleepers and bringing them down from the inside. Which does means that your brother is not being used as of yet, and there is still hope that you may just find him.” Brutus finished as he looked around at the surrounding landscape thinking about what to say next. “You should head back inside.” Brutus remarked continuing to stare into the horizon. “Winter is upon us again and I’m not the only beast on the hunt.” Brutus finishes and proceeds to turns around and smiles before turning back into his bear form and heading back out, leaving Charlie and Nick alone once more.

 

As the sun dipped behind the mountains on the horizon, Nick and Charlie walked back through the main gates as they closed behind them, the locking mechanisms on the heavy steel doors grinding shut. By the time they reach the quarters Bruce had returned from guard duty and Vernon was also waiting for them, leaning heavily on his cane for support, the old butler seemed even more frail than he had done this morning, to the point that he looked almost gaunt.

“Is everything alright Vernon?” Charlie said looking concerned, although the old butler had said he was fine earlier, Charlie knew that his old wound still bothered him from time to time, she was also uncomfortably aware that Vernon was not young anymore and that the wound may not have healed completely. She was then distracted by this as she remembered what Brutus had said to them. “Why did you think that The Answer may still be around Vernon?” Charlie asked and Vernon did not respond immediately choosing to think about what he was going to say.

“Dmitri.” Vernon finally answered. “He confided with me when we first arrived here, that he thought that they may be behind the kidnapping, that we did not completely wipe them out a few years ago.” Vernon sat down slowly in a chair, wincing slightly as he did so.

“Well, that would explain what Brutus said.” Charlie stated as the pieces started to add up, hopefully not too late as she continued. “He told us that the enemy were using kids to spy on resistance cells.” Charlie finished

“Well at least Brutus is alive.” Vernon said, wondering to himself what the man had been doing the past seven months that was so urgent he had to leave the group only a few short weeks after arriving at the mountain. Vernon sat down on a chair wincing at the pain in his chest, the old wound seemed to be acting up more and more nowadays, but apart from his age he didn’t know why it was getting worse. He sighed and tried to get up, at which point thing went from bad to worse.

As Vernon tried to get up, he immediately clutched at his chest and then collapsed to the ground, continuing to claw at his chest in agony. Seeing this, Charlie rushing over to the old butler and knees down next to him.

“What’s wrong with him?” Nick said looking around scared out of his wits at the sight in front of him. Charlie doesn’t answer as she cut open Vernon’s shirt to reveal the old wound, he had sustained, had opened back up, that wasn’t all thought and had long black lines running from the open wound all across his body.

“Bruce, go get a medic in here now.” Charlie said and Bruce rushed out of the door and pelts it at full tilt towards the medical centre, as Vernon continued to convulse in agony.

 

A few hours later, Vernon lay in the medical bay out cold with several tubes in him keeping the old man alive. As Herfouck Ashchin, the leading medic at Normanguard walked up to Charlie who was standing in the waiting room. Nick was still in the quarters with Bruce and Abi who had arrived an hour after Vernon had collapsed.

“Vernon here has suffered a mild heart attack.” Herfouck explains as she approached Charlie looking grave, who was wondering what the doctor wasn’t telling her.

“That doesn’t explain the black marks leading from the wound.” Charlie said looking at Vernon. Herfouck looked around as another Dwarf passed her a sheet of paper. The dwarven medic then proceeded to look down the sheet before looking back up again.

“Nor do I unfortunately, it could be Black Numen, but I don’t know. We are going to run some tests on a sample we’ve managed to extract. Which should give us a better idea of how to help.” Herfouck said. As she spoke, Vernon was wheeled out towards the operating room next door Herfouck looks up. “There is no more that you can do Ms Sparrow. Go back to your quarters and we’ll take it from here.” Herfouck said as she put her hand on Charlie’s elbow, which was as high as she could reach before walking into the operating room herself. As Charlie stands there alone for a few moments, she thinks back to the people that they had lost along this road that they had come down, was Vernon just going to be the next name on the list. She had always thought that the old butler would live forever, the man had seemed to have a stubbornness not to die.

She sighed deeply before exiting the room and heading back to the quarters, wondering to herself how long had Vernon been hiding his injury and why he had not mentioned it before now. When she arrived back in the quarters, she found Nick waiting for her, despite the lateness of the hour, he was still up and wanting to get the latest news from her.

“Is he alright?” Nick asked the second that Charlie crossed through the threshold of the quarters.

“No, he isn’t.” Charlie said. She didn’t know why she was telling Nick the truth, but she instinctively knew it would be better than lying to the boy, especially about the man who had practically raised him for most of his life. “You should get some rest Nick. You’ve got a hard day’s training tomorrow.” Charlie said, trying to take the boy’s mind of his guardian, she wasn’t sure if that had worked or not, as he sighed and turned around heading back towards his room, followed not long after by Charlie.

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