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Chapter 24

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Chapter XXIV

Revealing the Enemy

 

Vernon and Codsworth are talking to one another when the group return from their mission at the sanctuary. All four looking tired, and although not demoralised completely, they all looked like they had received bad news.

“What happened?” Codsworth asked, as he rushed over to the returning adventurers. He knew that not all had gone well but refrained himself from looking too smug about his guesses about being correct on that matter.

“Well, we got some information.” Jack said looking around at the entrance hall of the mountain. It was far too crowded for his liking; word of their little mission had seemingly spread like wildfire and half the mountain had wondered whether the small group would return from the ruins that almost all considered cursed.

“Did you get the information you needed?” Vernon asked, that was the most important part of this to him, as he wanted for Martin to be able to truly forget about his time at the prison and this was the final step to that.

“No.” Martin said, shaking his head and hoping that the questions about that would end, as he didn’t really want to think about what his uncle had told him. As every time he did, it made him feel nauseous at the task that was now ahead of him. But he was not to be so lucky.

“Let’s head back to the quarters.” Jack said as he continued to look around the hall, before returning to Vernon. “Away from prying eyes and all that shit.” Jack finished and headed back up the stairway before the old butler could respond.

 

“So, we might have just found a way to help us win this war.” Jack concluded as he finished explaining what they had been told by Uncle Gerrard. The group that had assembled sat in stunned horror at this, the only one absent was Jimmy, who had mumbled something about needing some sleep. The rest were here however, and all remained silent as Jack told the tale, and remained so for a small time afterwards, until Barca broke the silence.

“It's a dangerous move kid.” Barca said, genuinely thinking that the youngest member of their group had well and truly lost his mind now.

“He is right though; it will help us win.” Codsworth said, speaking up, he had his doubts on the matter of whether or not it would even work, but if it did and that was a very big if he knew. Then they would have a direct source of intel to the enemy. And Eugene would never know.

“If it even works that is.” Abi said, voicing the commanders doubt, sure if it worked then it would give them an advantage, but all the same, the gods alone new what damage it could do to Martin if he attempted it.

The youngest member of the group seemed to not have any of these reservations however, as he spoke up in favour of the plan. Even with the potential dangers involved.

“It will, last time I was able fight against Eugene and saw his surroundings.” Martin said that he had managed to guess, as when Eugene had previously tried to gain access to his thoughts, the scenery that the corpse had put up had started to fade away around them. He also remembered Eugene’s fear, as if he had not expected it to happen as well. It seemed that of all of Eugene’s test subjects, he was the first to realise that he was the first one to break the illusion.

“I thought the whole reason for you leaving was to find a way of breaking the connection, not continuing it.” Vernon said, that had been what he had thought this latest adventure had been about, but clearly, he had been mistaken on that count.

“It won't work, it will only be broken when either Eugene, or Martin is dead.” Jack said, that had been what had come as such a shock, that it would rely on the complete and utter victory to help his youngest brother. Vernon sighs at this, began to open his mouth to argue before Martin quickly spoke up.

“I'm doing it alright; we can't stay hiding forever.” Martin said, wanting to put an end to the debate. He knew that the old butler and the rest of the group had his best interests at heart, but all the same, he knew that it would only be a matter of time until war came to them and he was going to be ready for it.

“You've got balls kid I'll give you that.” Bruce said from the shadows, he knew that no amount of money in the world, would convince him to enter the mind of a dangerous and volatile psychopath like Eugene. A man who had no qualms sending his own men to their deaths for his own ends.

Doraghek, who had for the most part was seemingly content to listen and not speak from his position against the wall, decides that now would be a good time to join the fray. The dwarf walks forward and walks over to join the rest of the group to give his peace on the matter.

“If this works. This plan to gain intel. My farther will likely fully commit to helping you win this war. I'm sure of it.” Doraghek said, that he was certain off. As this may give confidence to those who were currently wavering that they had an advantage. He had given up on those dead set against war, knowing that they would never be convinced. But this, this would allow for a sense of hope in the darkness.

 

Martin lies down in his bed and closes his eyes, trying to force himself to sleep, even though he knew how foolish that notion was, sleep would come when it came, and nothing he could do would force it to arrive any faster. Around him, and making a bad situation worse, stood Vernon, Dave, Nick, Codsworth and Doraghek watching, with varying degrees of looks on their faces, from curious in the case of Vernon and his older brothers. To the outright disbelief of Codsworth.

A few minutes of nothing begin to confirm the commander’s theory, that they were wasting their time with this whole experiment. That quickly changed however, as Martin begins to violently shake, like a convulsion, although the eight-year-old was also frothing at the mouth.

“Wake him up!” Vernon shouted and began to reach forward before Doraghek spoke up, commanding the room to hold position as if the dwarf was on the battlefield.

“No, wait.” Doraghek said, raising his hand. He had never witnessed something like this happen before and was interested to see what was going to happen next.

 

It seemed to take an age, but eventually. Martin was able to opens his eyes and finds himself standing at the side of a long room that he did not recognise at all, pillars lining the room from the doors to a large black throne at the other end of the room. As Martin looks out from his hiding spot, behind one of the black stone pillars. He sees a large dark figure, sitting on the black throne at the end of the room, a figure so terrifying, that it made Eugene look like an innocent little puppy by comparison. Seven feet tall, covered head to foot in ornate black armour, and two red lights where the creature’s eyes should have been. Martin had only seen this thing once before outside of the propaganda videos that had been force fed to him at the prison, and that was at his home, the day his father had died. Below the figure of The Shadow, stands Eugene.

“My lord, I have delivered your message, but I must ask why bother with the pretences if you intend to invade anyway.” Eugene said, looking at the floor as he spoke, as if he was afraid to look into The Shadow’s face when he spoke as the demigod looked down at his creation with anger.

“Because I was curious how this generation of the dwarven race would react. The dwarves of old would never have agreed to see my envoy. But these dwarves are more tepid and fearful.” The Shadow responded, as if explaining the simplest thing to the dumbest child alive. Eugene bows once more at this.

“They have been for some time my lord.” Eugene said, smirking at the insult that he had just delivered. Martin was ready to leave, he had all the information that he needed, but was then distracted as The Shadow spoke again.

“Continue with the preparations. I want the invasion ready within two months.” The Shadow commanded of his servant as he continued. “Summon all of my faithful allies to me and...” The demigod stopped halfway through his command, looking around the room, before settling his gaze directly at where Martin, who was creeping up closer for a better view.

At this Martin freezes against a nearby pillar, hoping to the gods that he hadn’t been spotted, as Eugene also turns around, following his master’s gaze, and The Shadow gets up and walks down towards the intrusion.

“Master, what is it?” Eugene asked, looking around, his gaze passed over Martin a few times, giving the boy the impression that he was invisible, at least to Eugene. But that was decidedly not the case with the demigod.

“I sense that we are being watched, Mr Fitzfurgel.” The Shadow said almost as a murmur, which carried none the less. As The Shadow walks closure, the air around Martin gets colder, until the demigod was within feet of where Martin was pinned up against the solid pillar, before coming to a halt. “I hear your breath. I smell your fear. But I cannot see you, where are you shade?” The shadow continued as he looks around, and although Martin was settled in the fact that he was invisible, it still didn’t full ease him.

As The Shadow was walking around, mere inches from where Martin stood, Eugene who was completely blind to his presence, begins to gently massages his head, as if something was giving him pain. Before what remains of his brow rises up in horror, and he looks directly into Martin eyes, seeing him properly. A look of terror comes over Martin’s face and he closes his eyes, hoping that he would be able to escape, now that his cover had been blown.

He didn’t know if it had worked or not, until he felt someone shaking his arm, and the cold air of the mountain hitting his face.

 

Martin sits bolt upright in his bed, sweating bullets and panting heavily. He looks around noticing Vernon, Dave, Nick, Codsworth and Doraghek are still standing there, only now Charlie is in the room, having been called in a few minutes prior to Martin waking up from his vision, and examining him.

“Are you alright kid?” Charlie asked, she hadn’t seen anyone looking more terrified since Jack had been having his own visions of The Unknown Lands. Something that had both shocked and intrigued her when it had happened. Although it didn’t lead to anymore knowledge in this particular case that could help them.

“I'm alright.” Martin replied, wondering why everyone was looking so serious, he had only been out for a few minutes, at least he thought so, and hadn’t died. So, he wondered why everyone was looking at him as if he had just returned from the dead.

“You had what looked like a seizer. Your heart also stopped for a few seconds. That's why we called Charlie here.” Vernon said, answering Martin’s unasked question, again like Charlie, thinking of the time when the eldest Wolfrick brother had gone under and his vital signs had dropped to zero.

“What did you see kid, anything useful?” Codsworth asked, he was curious about this whole procedure, and seriously questioned if it was even possible. Whilst he had heard of visions being true, part of him was sceptical of the power.

“Yeah, I saw something useful.” Martin replied as he began to relay what he had just witnessed in his vision.

 

After Martin had told his tale to the whole group, to the interest and more importantly the alarm of all, in particular Doraghek, who quickly rushed out of the room, muttering about how they should meet him in the throne room in half an hour. Vernon nodded at Martin, looking weary and a little concerned about what he had just heard, but he put that aside for the moment, as he turned to Jack.

“Right lad. I think the time has come for you to tell your side of the story. About what happened in Bergskort?” Vernon asked, and all eyes turned to the eldest Wolfrick, who looked up in alarm.

“What does that have to do with anything?” Jack asked, he didn’t want to relive, heck, he had actively tried to avoid thinking about that horror, and he wasn’t comfortable in revealing it to anyone.

“It has everything to do with this. You potentially hold a piece of information that could convince Fierhand to commit to the war.” Codsworth said from the corner, having remained silent through most of Martin’s story, he was now interested in getting the whole truth from the elder brother.

Jack looked around the room, looking for a friendly face that would be likely to take his side of the argument, but when he saw none. He gulped, wishing that he was anywhere but here right now. Before he began to give his tale.

 

“It was about eight months after you lot left for the here. I guess I had started to forget all about what happened down in the south, not intestinally, but I was happy, properly happy for the first time since mum died.” Jack started looking down at the ground, waiting for somebody to interrupt him, praying that someone would stop him. But, when nobody did, he sighed and carried on. “A few months after my daughter, Ida was born. I went out hunting for food, we were low at the time and we had been losing more and more hunters over the past weeks and months, nobody knew why or how, they just kept disappearing I wasn’t even supposed to go out, but we needed the food.” Jack continued, hoping that someone would say something, anything that would stop him in his tracks. “Whilst I was out the town was attacked by two of the Ravens, my guess the ones who didn’t follow us into Bartazer when we fled home. That bastard McCoy let them in, he was allowed to run whilst his people were slaughtered.” Jack said, his teeth gritting together as he spoke about the former governor of Bergskort. “When I got back, the town was already ablaze, I sh-should have gone back t-to help, but I didn’t. I r-ran, cause I’m a c-c-coward.” Jack said, stuttering over the words.

“You aren’t lad, you’re not a coward for feeling from an unwinnable battle.” Codsworth said, trying to offer a little bit of comfort for the lad.

“I returned two days later, to see if there were any survivors. There weren’t. I found Erika and Ida, mutilated in front of our still burning house. I spent enough time to bury there remains by the front doors of the house. And then head out in pursuit of McCoy. I wanted to make him pay. I wanted to see him suffer. For what he did.” Jack finished, looking up at the group, his green eye showing nothing but rage at the man he had killed back in the woods.

“Right lad.” Vernon said, he had been ready for the full horrors of the story, but only because Jack had told him the night he arrived, the others had not been told, and all looked shocked at the tale. “Now I believe that Fierhand is waiting on us.” Vernon finished, wanting to end the silence that came after Jack’s experiences.

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