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Chapter 21

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Chapter XXI

An Unwelcome Visitor

 

After arriving back inside the mountain, the return trip being performed in almost complete silence, as Jack had done his best to stay away from the commander. Jack helps Nick who was going paler by the second of his horse, as Codsworth, seeing his chance to get answers on the lad’s brutal murder, calls out to him.

“Jack.” Codsworth said. Still trying to fathom what he had witnessed in the woods, it wasn’t that he had killed the man, as Codsworth was pretty sure that Dave would have seen to that matter. No, it was the manor of the killing that concerned him.

“What is it Codsworth, I’ve got to get Nick to a doctor.” Jack said looking back before hauling Nick towards the medical bay and Codsworth calls him back, not wanting for him to get away that easily.

“Wait, please.” Codsworth said looking exasperated. Jack turns around so that his one good eye is looking right at Codsworth, who waits for Jack to speak and when he doesn’t the old commander presses on. “Why not shoot him? I mean you had the drop on him.” Codsworth asked, he was grateful for what Jack had done, but all the same it still did seem like the lad was getting revenge for something currently unknown to him.

“Can’t waste the ammo.” Jack said simply, not lying per say, but certainly keeping his cards close to his chest. Codsworth smiles knowing that the lad was hiding something from him.

“No. What you did was personal. You wanted that man to suffer. Why?” Codsworth asked he had had no love for the former governor of Bergskort but what Jack had done to him was more than over the top, Jack shrugged at this, although there was a dark look in his eye as he did so.

“Like I said. Didn’t want to waste the ammo on that scum.” Jack said and with that, he turned around and walked off hauling Nick who clasped onto his neck before Codsworth could call him back for a second round of questioning.

 

By the time the pair reached the medical centre, Charlie was already waiting for them, having witnessed the groups arrival back at the mountain and guessing, correctly, that something had gone wrong. She looked up as the two brothers approached, wincing slightly at the pale look of Nick and wondering what in the gods name had gone wrong this time.

“Great, another Wolfrick for me to patch up. What happened?” Charlie said, along with witnessing the groups arrival back at the mountain, Doraghek had in fact rode ahead to inform her of the groups need for a doctor but had not had time explain exactly what had happened. Nick sits down in the chair, looking pale as Charlie examined his throat.

“Knife wound.” Nick said simply, smiling at the thought of how those words seemed so normal nowadays. Charlie continues to examine the wound before grabbing a syringe and injecting Nick with a green substance.

“That should sought it, you won’t be going anywhere tomorrow though, but you are free to go Nick.” Charlie said and as Nick gets up and walks out of the door, thankful that it hadn’t been any worse. But at this comment Jack looks at Charlie in confusion.

“Am I not?” Jack said, wondering why his younger brother was free to leave and he wasn’t, even though he hadn’t sustained any injuries.

“No. Now sit down.” Charlie said, not unkindly but with a sternness in her voice that broke no argument. Jack sits down in the same chair that Nick had been sitting in a few moments, wondering what in the gods name he was supposed to have done wrong now, as Codsworth wouldn’t have had time to inform the scientist about what had happened in the woods just yet, although in the back of his mind, he could take a pretty good guess as to what the problem was. And, as Charlie puts the syringe back before turning to face Jack, she confirms his suspicions. “I want to know why you’ve been acting so out of character since you arrived back to us Jack?” Charlie asked, she had little training as a therapist but still wanted to know the truth.

“I haven’t been out of character.” Jack said defensively, but he knew that he had, both Vernon and Nick had told him as much and he doubted how long he could keep what had happened in the south under wraps before it drove him mad. As he suspected, Charlie didn’t believe him and chuckled as she responded.

“Please, I’ve known you since you were barely thirteen, I know you’ve been hiding something.” Charlie said looking down at the eldest Wolfrick boy, wondering where the eager to the point of annoyance teenager had gone. Jack looked up at her.

“Aye. I have secrets, but so does every other member of the group.” Jack said, he didn’t doubt that fact, certainly in the case of his youngest brother, whom he was now determined to find out exactly what had happened now that the problem with Nick had been resolved now.

“You need to talk Jack, I won’t force you, but it will help.” Charlie said, she didn’t know what it was that had clearly been bothering the lad, but she was smart enough to guess that it was serious enough to cause Jack difficulties to speak about it.

“That’s what Nick told me.” Jack said thinking about the conversation he had had with his younger brother out in the valley beneath the mountain slopes. He thought about what had happened to him and seriously considered spilling the beans. Thinking about what Charlie had done for him over the years, Jack was on the verge of telling her, when he was distracted by the sight of Codsworth rushing into the medical bay causing both Jack and Charlie to look up at him.

“You… You better come.” Codsworth said simply, not having time to explain himself instead leaving the room as quickly as he had come in. Charlie rushes after him and after a few seconds so does Jack, the scientist unaware of how close she had some to finding out the truth.

 

They found Fierhand himself, standing on top of the ramparts and looking down into the valley, alongside the king was Doraghek, looking graver than they had ever seen the dwarf, and two dozen other dwarves who had accompanied their king to the battlements. Wondering what had forced the king from his throne room, Charlie looked down into the valley below, where one of the last people she had hoped to come across again was wating down below them.

Eugene Fitzfurgel, looking more like a half rotting corpse by the day, sits on a dead horse down in the valley, looking up at the ramparts, whilst carrying a white flag, beside him was a small hoard of zombies, nowhere near enough to mount an assault, but more than enough to protect their leader if need be. As Codsworth, Vernon, Jack, Martin and Barca arrive on the battlements and look down with varying degrees of alarm as to who was waiting down below them. Eugene spoke up towards the mountain.

“I have a message for the King beneath the mountain. Come down so we can talk.” Eugene said, and although his voice was still calm and quiet, it carried up to the ramparts loud and clear for everyone to hear. Martin physically shivered at the words, remembering his time at the prison, with the voice bringing back memories that he had hoped to supress for a long time. As this was happening Fierhand looks at the assembled crowd behind him, waiting for any of them to dare object to the frown on his weathered face.

“Bring me my goat.” Fierhand said grimly as he began to walk back inside the mountain where one of his aids held out the jewelled encrust axe to the king, who took the weapon as Doraghek began to protest.

“I don't advice this, farther. At least allow me to go out instead.” Doraghek said, he would have no problem sending this monster to the gods should he dare provoke a clash, in fact, he would welcome the chance. But, at this request Fierhand merely smiled, it was a knowing smile that told them that they should save their energies for a later point.

“You are welcome to come, but I will meet with this man. That also goes for anyone else who wants to ride along.” Fierhand said, looking around at the onlookers, before heading down to the great gates himself.

 

Fierhand heads out of the main doors on a grizzled looking old goat, that looked even more battered, and battle hardened than his son’s. The king was followed outside by Doraghek, Codsworth, Vernon and Martin. Vernon had been opposed to this decision by the youngest Wolfrick, but Martin had insisted stating that he needed to learn how to confront his fears against this man that had spent the better part of eight months torturing him. Waiting for them and bearing a mocking white flag of peace was Eugene, sitting astride his own dead mount waiting for them.

“I see you have brought, company.” Eugene said eyeing the riders with no real interest at all. Fierhand bristled at the tone in the voice.

“I'm here. Now what is this message you have for me?” Fierhand said, his hand resting on the head of his battle axe. But other than that, he was completely unarmed and unarmoured in case of an attack. Eugene’s lip curled at the sound of impatience at the king’s voice as if he found the tone more amusing than intimidating.

“Of course. My master, the great and merciful Shadow, sends his regards to the king under the mountain.” Eugen said, bowing his head at Fierhand and continuing on. “He hopes that you will honour your neutrality and hand over any refugees inside your home.” Eugene finished as he gestured at his companions once more. Fierhand looked behind him to where several members of the group, and the survivors from Broken Mountain Institute looked on from the ramparts.

“There are no refugee's here.” Fierhand said, returning his gaze to the half corpse in front of him. At which what remains of Eugene’s lip curls in a sneer, as if he had found that comment the most amusing thing in the world.

“I see three refugees right here in front of me.” Eugene said, finally seeming to pay full attention to the people whom had directly accompanied Fierhand out for this conversation.

“They have all sworn an oath of allegiance, by both rights and laws they are my citizens of this kingdom.” Fierhand replied curtly, hoping that that would settle the matter although Eugene’s face told them that he saw it differently.

“My master sees it differently. He sees that you are sheltering know resistance members. He is not at all pleased by this.” Eugene said, mockingly shaking his head in disappointment. At which Doraghek speaks up for the first time.

“We do not care what your accursed master thinks of us.” Doraghek spoke up, he had always made his feelings known about what they should have done, when the monster first returned to their shores, and had been outraged when his father had allowed himself to be persuaded otherwise by his cowardly advisors. Although this was nothing compared to the look of anger that crossed Eugene’s face at these words.

“You will mind your tongue dwarf, or I shall have it out.” Eugene spoke, spitting venom, if that were at all possible. But at this Fierhand came to his son’s defence, there were many things that he would allow, but smearing his kin was apparently not one of them.

“You are the one who will mine your tongue, you are a guest here after all.” Fierhand said riding forward, gripping the axe more tightly now. At these words, Eugene looks at Fierhand before bowing his head in a token of apology.

“Of course. Forgive me your grace” Eugene said as he once again turns to looks at the companions that had ridden out with the king, of course the commander was there, he never missed an opportunity to mick with his betters, then there was the old butler, then he fixed his dead eyes on Martin and his lip curled once more. “Ah, Mr Wolfrick. I did not expect to see you here. It has been a long time indeed.” Eugene said, in his old flattering tone that did not hide a certain amount of dread, but before anyone could raise the corpse on this he returned to the king. “You have a month to eject all refugees from your home, else you will have declared your intentions.” Eugene finished and before any of the group can answer Eugene turns around and head back south along with his small group of zombies following along behind him.

 

A loud ruckus engulfed the throne room as Barca slipped inside, not wanting to be noticed by anyone in attendance. He could spot Doraghek fiercely arguing with Fomhord. Who seemed to be the two leaders of their various tribes, between and above them, sat Fierhand, watching intently from his throne, not saying anything, just pondering things through.

“If I didn’t know better Fomhord, I would assume that you’re a coward and a traitor both for your demands!” Doraghek shouted to jeers from his own supporters and an anger from his opponents.

“Just because I do not wish to throw away lives meaninglessly does not make a coward, it makes me intelligent, something that you have always lacked Doraghek.” Fomhord retorted back, causing Doraghek to try and lunge forward only to be held off by Erilatir. Sensing an advantage, Fomhord continued “After all, let us not forget that the southerners betrayed us after we fought side by side with them the first-time round.” Fomhord said looking around at the throne room to murmurs of ascent.

“A fight we won easily before and could do so again!” A dwarf behind Doraghek shouted to cheers, although from what Barca could see, none came from Doraghek, which was at least a positive sign.

“Tell me Fomhord, how long before The Shadow changes his mind on this deal that you concocted. How long before he decides that we’re too much of a threat and must be taken out.” Doraghek said, stepping forward a few paces. “Or are you too gullible to see that he is merely finishing off the resistance of the southerners, before turning his full attention on us.” Doraghek finished to cheers from his supporters.

As Barca continued to watch on Mazgux walked over to where the lieutenant was watching on, at first Barca didn’t notice him until he felt a tug by his waist. Looking down he saw the dwarf looking anxiously up at him.

“What do you think is going to happen?” Barca asked, wanting the truth and wondering if he would get it.

“Honestly, it depends on whether Doraghek can keep his temper, as that was what foiled him when he called to march south when your homeland fell.” Mazgux replied with a sense of doom, which Barca silently shared. Doraghek had been a good friend to them, but no one would ever say that he kept his temper in check. Before Barca could raise this point however, Mazgux spoke up. “You should return to your quarters, there is nothing that you can do remaining here.” Mazgux finished. Barca was about to argue but he knew deep down that the dwarf was right, if anything, his presence may in fact make things worse for them, so he turned and left the room, hoping to the gods that Doraghek would be able to keep his temper under control, for their own sakes, let alone the fate of the rest of the world.

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