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Chapter 16

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Chapter XVI

Codsworth's Mistake

 

It had been two days since the celebration, Codsworth walks through the halls of the mountain past a few dwarves standing guard, alongside him is Dave. The two walk towards a large set of doors with a set of marble pillars on either side, in front stand two dwarves in black armour, with only their eyes showing. They were the guards of the heroes and were forbidden to speak to anyone under pain of death. As both Codsworth and Dave walk up to the dwarves, who do not look up at their approach.

“Did an imperial come through here a while ago?” Codsworth asked looking down at the nearest dwarf. Who simply nods and stands aside, letting Dave and Codsworth through the doors and down several flights of steps and into The Hall of Hero’s, the large tomb deep in the bowls of the mountain.

 

Once inside the two step out into a large room several miles from one side to the other, lit only by torch light, every few meters was a white marble tomb with a stone figure of the dwarf inside laying on top.

“Come on.” Codsworth said, and the two walked through the hall until they reached a unique tomb given the fact that it was larger than the rest. The tomb of Dmitri, the only imperial to be buried inside the mountain, and next to the tomb stood Martin simply staring down at the white marble tomb and reassembly accurate figure lying on top.

“Thought we’d find you down here.” Codsworth said. He had known after the previous night’s confession when the lad had asked about Dmitri.

It had been a difficult decision as to whether to tell Martin the full truth about what had happened to Dmitri, specifically the part about him dying whilst searching for him. But the commander had settled on the truth, believing it to be the right thing to do, as he was sure that the lad was almost certainly likely to find out said truth sooner rather than later. At the time, Martin had seemed to take it reasonably well, although that assessment was now in doubt.

“I wanted to s-see him.” Martin said looking up at Codsworth and Dave, stuttering slightly as he spoke. “As it’s my fault.” Martin finished as he returned to the tomb.

“It wasn’t your fault kid.” Codsworth said, walking around to stand next to the kid. “You didn’t stick the knife in him.” The commander continued, although Martin was quick to interrupt him.

“It is though.” Martin said a tear coming down his face. “If I hadn’t of gotten caught. Then Dmitri wouldn’t have been looking for me when… When it happened.” The kid finished, looking back down at the tomb, wiping his eyes. As Codsworth walks over to Martin and standing next to him.

“Lad.” Codsworth said with no idea where he was going with this train of thought. But, decided to push on regardless “Dmitri was already dying. His days were numbered after that wolf savaged him. Back on the mountain pass. It was nothing that you did.” Codsworth said putting his arm on Martin’s shoulder as Dave walked up to join them. “Finding you, was the only thing that kept him going towards the end. You understand?” Codsworth asked looking down at the boy in all seriousness.

“I miss him, I miss them so much.” Martin said, like Charlie, Dmitri had been there for almost half of his life, and now that he was gone, it felt weird that someone as tough could be killed like that.

“As do I lad… As do I.” Codsworth said trailing off into his own thoughts knowing who that the boy was not only referring to Dmitri. Looking down at Martin before taking his arm of the boy’s shoulder and turning to face him. “Now Martin, it’s time to leave.” Codsworth continued as Martin looked up at him with alarm.

“Where… Where are we going?” Martin asked, he had hoped to remain down here for a bit longer. However, his brothers next words terrified him.

“Out on the hunt little bro.” Dave said putting his hand on his gun. “Doctors orders are for you to come along.” He finished, that was more or less the truth. Charlie had said that it would be good for Martin to ride along with them, but she hadn’t explicitly ordered it.

“Out… Outside?” Martin asked looking nervous. He had not been outside the mountain since arriving, and it had taken all of his courage to simply leave the medical centre. Codsworth heard the tone of voice and looked down in a reassuring way.

“Don’t worry lad, you’ll be completely safe.” Codsworth said looking down at Martin. “Now come, your friends are already waiting.” The commander finished. As Dave and after a few seconds, Martin leaves the tomb, the commander turned around and took a last look back at Dmitri’s tomb, then Codsworth follows the two brothers out, catching the two boys easily.

 

Olly, Russel and Jeanie are already saddled up by the time Codsworth, Dave and Martin arrive at the main gates. As a large goat rides up suddenly with Doraghek also ready, his axe in hand. Codsworth turns to Martin.

“See lad, I told you you’d be protected.” Codsworth said, and then helped Martin up onto a horse as Dave also saddles up and mounts his own horse. The commander takes his rifle and attaches it to the horse, before mounting up and leads the small group out of the main doors. for a few moments, both Martin and Dave hang back.

“You alright baby brother?” Dave asks looking at Martin, who looks nervously out into the great outdoors.

“Yep.” Martin said, trying to sound braver than he actually felt, he wasn’t sure that he had fooled Dave at all with his tone, but his older brother doesn’t raise the issue and the two follow the group out the gates catching up with ease before heading down into the valley below.

 

The group rides slowly through the hilly terrain, Dave leading the group, followed by Martin, Olly, Jeanie and Russel, with Doraghek and Codsworth bringing up the rear. Doraghek rides up to join Dave at the front, whistling a tune to himself.

“What is that you’re whistling?” Dave asked looking down at the dwarf. “I heard you doing It when he went out searching.” He finishes.

“It’s the song of my ancestor’s lad.” Doraghek replies, it had been the first time that anyone had asked him about the whistling.

“Why not sing it. Why whistle it?” Martin asked, as Doraghek turns round to answer.

“Because lad. I have the worst singing voice in the land kiddo.” Doraghek said cracking a smile as he answered as Martin also smiles. “I see that your hair is starting to return m’lad.” Doraghek said looking at the strands of faint brown hair that had started to return to his head.

“Yeah.” Martin said feeling his brutally short hair, he intended to let it grow out even longer than before just so he could burry at least one of the things that the prison had done to him. “At least I’m not a ginger like Olly though.” Martin finished smiling back at his friend.

“Watch it Sparky.” Olly said from near the rear. Martin smiles as the group continue as they reach a small forest in the valley. As Dave suddenly stops his horse and dismounts, before kneeling down on the ground examining a small print.

“What have you got kid?” Doraghek said pulling up on his goat, he put a hand shadowing the hilt of his axe, but at a shake of the head from Dave he removes it. It was a few moments before they got an answer as the teen continued to make his judgment, before eventually settling on an answer.

“Wolf by the looks of it.” Dave answered looking up to see a few more tracks leading away from the one that he had just been examining. “The track is still fresh and heading due south. We can’t be too far behind.” Dave examines the landscape and then looks towards the forest. “Best to go on foot from here though.” He finished and Codsworth nodded, trusting the kid on this one, as unless one of Martin’s friends knew a lot on the matter, Dave was their best expert on the matter of tracking. As the group dismounts and heads into the small patch of woodland. Dave looks behind him at the group. “Stay frosty.” Dave said smiling as he enters the woodland.

 

The group enter the woodland. They walk a few hundred meters before passing a small stream, that fed into a medium sized natural pond. As the group pass, Martin stops to look, before starting to tremble slightly, with sweat staring to pour from his forehead, as he watches and listens to the water continually flowing down the small river. The voice of Dr Larry comes into his head.

“Tell me, what were you planning last night, and who were you planning with?” The voice of Dr Larry said as Martin’s breathing becomes faster and faster.

“Sparky?” Olly said looking at Martin concerned for his friend, he could guess what had caused this, as Martin tries to get his breathing under control. Realising that something was wrong, both Jeanie and Codsworth turn around to look at Martin.

“Martin. You alright?” Jeanie asked looking concerned. Codsworth’s gaze turns from Martin to the stream that the boy was staring fixedly at.

“Martin.” Codsworth said, also looking concerned taking his hand, which had been resting on the hilt of his knife, having thought that the kid had seen something, but now he was putting two and two together. Eventually, Martin breaks outs of his trance, his breathing coming under control.

“I’m fine.” Martin said, putting on a much braver tone than he felt and mopping the sweat of his brow. As he walks off to the front of the group, and out of sight through the brush wanting to be alone for a short while.

“What happened?” Doraghek said, the dwarf who had been leading the group with Dave, had not witnessed the trance of their youngest member.

“I’ve got a hunch.” Codsworth said gazing at the stream, remembering his time in the army when he had seen former imperial prisoners return from captivity. But they surely wouldn’t have done that to a child, he had heard Dmitri talk about his own childhood experiences but seeing the effects now seemed dystopian to him. “I just hope I’m wrong.” Codsworth finished and hoping to the gods he was.

“Why?” Dave said his gun over his shoulder, like Doraghek he had not seen the episode but had guessed what had happened when he saw Codsworth stare at the small stream.

“I’ve got a hunch that he was waterboarded.” Codsworth said grimly, looking at Olly, Russel and Jeanie for conformation on the matter. None of whom denied him of his suspicion. Both Olly and Russel had also been abused during their time at the prison, and Jeanie was under no illusions that she would have joined them after enough time had passed. “Among other things.” Codsworth finished, Doraghek looked shocked at the news.

“Hurfim’s beard. On a kid of all things.” Doraghek said, he knew what his people did to convicts, but those methods were never used on children.

 

Through the brush Martin continues to walk trying to get the voices of both Doctor Larry and Eugene out of his head. He sits down on a rock, his head in his hands trying to make them go away, until a growling noise to his left makes him look up in alarm. Martin looks towards the sound, to find himself in the same clearing as the wolf that they had been tracking, which was staring right at him, its teeth bared, and black eyes fixed on him.

“Dave… Codsworth.” Martin said quietly to terrified to raise his voice. The wolf looks inquisitory at him for a moment, which explains his current state of being alive, his sudden entrance to the clearing had clearly startled the creature, but that feeling was now leaving the creature which, after a few seconds, swiftly began to charge towards him. Martin couldn’t have gotten up in time even if he wanted to, he was about to accept his fate when a gunshot rings out from behind him.

The wolf collapses to the ground a few inches from Martin, who turns around to see Dave behind him, his gun raised. Codsworth runs up to the dead wolf, before turning around to face Martin.

“Are you alright lad?” Codsworth said, kneeling down so he is on an eye level with Martin, who nods as the others enter the small clearing, with Doraghek bringing up the rear, his axe raised.

“Nice shot.” Russel said looking at the dead wolf and turning to Dave.

“Thanks.” Dave replied as he scopes the surrounding, checking for any sign that the creatures pack was nearby. Seeing nothing, he gives the all clear and Codsworth picks up the dead wolf and hauls it onto his shoulder and begins to exit the clearing before turning to Dave.

“Remind me never to get on your bad side.” Codsworth said smiling at the teen before continuing. “How did you know?” Codsworth started to ask, but Dave finished his question for him.

“How did I know where to aim.” Dave said shrugging and holstering his gun. “When you spend as much time out in the wild as I do, you learn quickly the easiest way to get food.” Dave said smiling and the group exit the clearing.

 

Now back on the move, with the dead wolf strapped to the back of Codsworth’s horse, the group move through the hills, progress was good right up until Doraghek’s goat suddenly stops, sniffing at the ground as if he had picked up the scent of some creature he didn’t like.

“What is it girl?” Doraghek said patting the goat gently. As Codsworth rides up to join the dwarf, drawing his gun as he does so.

“What is it?” Codsworth asked looking around at the landscape, he couldn’t see anything, but knew better than to doubt Blizzard’s nose in situations like this.

“There’s someone out there.” Doraghek taking his axe in hand and joining Codsworth in the scanning of the landscape, but all seemed quiet.

“Someone?” Martin asked looking around, this is exactly what he had been afraid of, and not only him as well. Judging by the looks on Olly, Russel and Jeanie’s faces they too were nervous at this news.

“Aye lad. Close as well.” Doraghek said dismounting from his goat. As Dave looks at the ground.

“Well, there are no tracks.” Dave said. Putting his hand onto the grip of his pistol. The group move towards a nearby ridge, protected from the view of the valley below by some large rocks. As Codsworth, using a pair of binoculars looks down into the valley, he takes out his riffle, but Dave raises his hand to stop him. “It’s a kid.” Dave said looking and sounding confused for the first time throughout the hunt.

“What?” Doraghek said. As Codsworth once again looks down into the valley, where a kid was indeed wandering aimlessly around the valley.

“He’s right.” Codsworth said as Martin takes the binoculars and looks down into the valley for a better look at the newcomer. “Can’t be more than fifteen. Codsworth starts to get up before Martin speaks up

“Wait I know him.” Martin said, he was sure of that as well. As both Doraghek and Codsworth look down at him now as confused as Dave, so Martin continues on. “He was at the camp.” Olly takes the binoculars and looks to confirm.

“Well, he’s definitely alone now.” Dave said turning of the zoom lens in his helmet. Olly lowers the binoculars.

“Yeah, he graduated, he won’t be a friendly.” Olly said, looking down into the valley.

“Graduated?” Doraghek said looking around more confused than ever now. “What in Hurfim’s Beard does that mean.” Doraghek finished looking at the group in confusion.

“It means he’s a spy. That’s what they were preparing us for back at the prison.” Jeanie said, she knew how confusing it was for the three boys to be talking about this with no explanation, as the others were feeling exactly like she had done on her first day at the prison.

“They were training us to take down resistance cells.” Russel said, throwing in his two sense. Codsworth pauses for a moment scratching his hair for a moment before leaning back up against a rock.

“So, The Shadow is sending kids out now is he.” Doraghek said, looking concerned. If this was true it is not a good sign for the resistance movements, as to the unwary, it seemed like they were just kids.

“Yeah. It draws a lot less attention than sending out them black riders I suppose.” Olly said shrugging in a matter-of-fact tone, that did not coincide with what he had just said.

“Well.” Codsworth said looking mournful. “If he is a spy. Then we have to take him out.” Codsworth said, as he began to re-aim his gun down into the valley below with a grimace on his face.

“Wait their laddie.” Doraghek said. “If we take him alive, we can question him properly. Possibly undo what was done to him.” The dwarf finished putting a hand on the rifle as Codsworth continues to stare down the scope. Doraghek hoped that was the case, otherwise they would be bringing a very dangerous enemy into their home. It took a few moments before the commander relented and lowering the riffle.

“Alright.” Codsworth said, feeling relieved that he didn’t have to murder the kid, as despite what Martin and the others had said, he didn’t feel right executing a child, even if he was what they said he was. Which he thought morbidly, was exactly the point

“Make sure you cover his eyes.” Martin said looking down into the valley. Whilst he wanted to think that they could undo whatever was done to the poor lad, he had his doubts. “So, he can’t see me and the others.” He said looking at Olly, Russel and Jeanie.

“Aye. You lot wait up here.” Doraghek said standing up, his head not clearing the top of the large rocks. “Dave stand guard. Look after your little brother.” The dwarf finished, as Dave nodded, Codsworth and Doraghek begin the slow descent into the valley below.

Thirty minutes later Codsworth and Doraghek walked back up the slope with a blindfolded youth between them. Dave helps Codsworth strap the blindfolded kid onto his horse as the rest of the group mount up.

“Let’s head back to the mountain.” Codsworth said taking the reins of his horse and leading the group off towards the north, with the newbie in tow, not knowing if they had just made a terrible mistake.

 

The group ride through the gates where Vernon is waiting for them. Doraghek dismounts and heads over to two dwarves and speaks with them as Vernon approaches Codsworth.

“How was it?” Vernon asked, he was intrigued to hear about what had happened on Martin’s first trip out of the mountain, and how he had gotten on.

“Certainly interesting.” Codsworth replied as he helps the still blindfolded lad of Dave’s horse as the two dwarves grab his arms.

“What’s this?” The lad said looking around blindly, clearly not used to the rough handling of the dwarves.

“These two here are taking you to get some food and rest. Before we send you on your way again.” Doraghek said, and nods to his kinsman who quickly and quietly lead the lad off.

“Who was that?” Vernon asked looking at the lad in confusion, he was unaware that they had agreed to take on new members, but the commander’s next explanation took the words out of Vernon’s mouth.

“We found him on our way back from the hunt.” Codsworth said as he led his horse back to the stable area and handed the animal off to one of the handlers and returned to Vernon and continued. “Martin said that he was a prisoner at the camp he and the others were at.” Codsworth continued.

“Was it someone we missed during the raid?” Vernon asked, although from what Doraghek had told them, nobody who was left behind would have survived the explosion that ripped through that hellish place.

“No, we levelled that place. If there was anyone that we missed, they’d be dead.” Codsworth answered stroking his short beard. “But from what the kids say, he graduated a few weeks before the raid happened.” Codsworth finished. That certainly seemed to do the trick of riling the old butler up, who now looked at him in alarm.

“You mean he’s working for the enemy.” Vernon said looking shocked. “Why didn’t you put him down?” Vernon asked. If this was true, then they could all be in real danger right about now. Codsworth looks around before answering.

“Because he’s a kid Vernon. He’s as much a victim here as anyone.” Codsworth answered. “I want to help him. See if we can undo what was done to him.” Codsworth responded, he knew it was a risk, but in his option, it was a risk that they should all be willing to take.

“It’s a dangerous move Codsworth. I hope you know what you’re doing here.” Vernon said. Not entirely convinced by Codsworth’s argument, but willing to go along with it for now.

“So, do I Vernon.” Codsworth said looking into the old man’s eyes.

“How did Martin get on anyway?” Vernon asked more pleasantly. But stopped smiling after seeing the look on Codsworth’s face.

“We’re… Going to need to talk about that as well.” Codsworth said gesturing back to the quarters and Vernon getting the hint turned around and headed back followed by Codsworth.

 

Back inside the quarters Vernon turned to Codsworth looking questionably. As the commander closes the door before checking the room.

“So?” Vernon said looking at Codsworth, he was eager, but also apprehensive as to what had happened that the commander had wanted to talk about it in the privacy of their quarters.

“I have a gut feeling that Martin was waterboarded.” Codsworth said stroking his small beard, the look of alarm on the old butler’s face was exactly what the commander had been expecting.

“Waterboarded. How can you be sure?” Vernon asked wondering whether he looked as horrified as he felt.

“We passed a stream on the hunt.” Codsworth said looking nervous himself. “When Martin noticed it, he started sweating bullets, froze up completely. I’ve seen it before.” Codsworth said, he had seen the effects before on victims of the mayor’s torture. They had all had the same reaction to running water. He was about to continue as Charlie walks into the room and was clearly aware that she had come in on a private conversation.

“They’re ready for you Codsworth.” Charlie said looking at the two of them. As Codsworth nods and Charlie leaves the room. He wasn’t sure why he didn’t tell Charlie about Martin’s experiences, after all, after Vernon and the lad’s own brothers, Charlie was the one who had known the kid for the longest. But the scientist hadn’t enquired and that was enough for him.

 

By the time Codsworth arrived outside the interrogation room Charlie was already there. By the door stands a stern looking dwarf.

“Could you take some of his blood, see if there’s any of that drug in him.” Codsworth asks and Charlie nods, until a brain wave came to him and he continued. “But before that could you bring Martin here.” Codsworth asked, not knowing if this was a mistake or not.

“Is that wise?” Charlie asked voicing the doubts that Codsworth already had, surely the last thing they should be doing was reminding Martin of his past experiences at that place.

“I don’t know.” Codsworth said. “But Martin’s sudden appearance might force him to remember who he was before. Or force his master’s hand.” Codsworth said, as Charlie nods and walks off, he hoped he would not come to regret that decision, he wasn’t sure about this. But put that all aside as he walks into the cell.

The cell was bare other than table in the centre with two chairs on either side of it. The lad was standing up against the back wall, as Codsworth takes a seat, the lad however, remains standing. Other than the two of them, the cells only other occupant was another dwarf standing guard by the door.

“Would you take a seat?” Codsworth asked gesturing at the lad to take a seat which he does. Codsworth wasn’t sure but the lad seemed slightly out of it, as if he hadn’t slept in months. But he continues “What’s your name?” Codsworth asked, trying to play the good cop in this situation.

“Edgar Woods.” Edgar said looking into Codsworth eyes, his were also seemingly having trouble fixing on others.

“Why are you here?” Codsworth asked putting his hands together, seeing if the lad would try the same trick he had back in the valley.

“I… I told you.” Edgar said looking nervously around. Codsworth smiles slightly, realising that they were still splaying that game.

“No, you didn’t.” Codsworth said putting her hands on the table. “You were within walking distance of both our present location and a nearby town. You weren’t lost.” Codsworth leans back in his chair. “On the surface at least, it was a good lie. Your master would be proud of your work. So, tell me. What are you doing here?” Codsworth asked looking at Edgar.

At this point Charlie walks into the room and walks up to the table, followed by Martin who stops by the door and looks around wondering why he had been brought here. He wanted to go back and continue the conversation he had been having with his friends, but Charlie had insisted so he had come.

“Hold out your arm.” Charlie said and Edgar complies holding out his arm as Charlie injects a needle into the vein drawing out a sample of his blood and exits the room. Revealing Martin to Edgar who straightens up.

“Well, well. Electro kid. What are you doing here I wonder?” Edgar said. A small smirk on his face. Martin did a double take at this, that had been the name the older boy had used for him when he had been on semi-good terms with him. But the tone was off, and there was something menacing in the smirk that he could see on the older boy’s lips.

“I’ll be asking the questions here.” Codsworth said with a stern force, trying to bring the conversation back on topic.

“Of course, you will.” Edgar said, mimicking the commander’s earlier position and putting his hands together.

“Who do you serve?” Codsworth asked hoping for an answer that might help them, but Edgar ignored him addressing Martin instead.

“You know it’s a pity Martin. That you didn’t see the light.” Edgar said calmly and slowly standing up from his chair. At this Martin clamps his hands over his forehead as Codsworth rushes out of his seat.

“Martin?” Codsworth asked, the guard in the room rushes over as well. As Edgar continues.

“Our master had such plans for you.” Edgar continues smiling widely now as Martin begins to weep in pain.

“Please stop.” Martin begs as he was on the ground clutching his forehead, as other voices joined the onslaught. With both Eugene’s and Dr Larry’s being prominent amongst them. Above him, Codsworth was trying to gain control of the situation once more.

“Guards!” Codsworth yells and a few dwarves rush into the room and carry Martin outside into the corridor and then rush off to find Charlie. As he was about to leave the cell, Codsworth makes to follow but turns around to look back at Edgar with nothing but loathing in his eyes. “We’ll resume this later.” Codsworth said spitting venom.

“Of course, you will.” Edgar said smiling as he sits back down in the chair and placing his hands together once more, as Codsworth leaves the room.

 

Back outside Codsworth looks up and down the corridor, before noticing Martin curled up in a ball on the cold floor, screaming loudly as if he was back inside room ninety-nine again. As Charlie rushes up to the screaming boy.

“Martin. Can you hear me?” Charlie asked kneeling down but gets no response, Martin continues to howl and scream in agony. “Get him back to his room.” Charlie ordered as two dwarves carry out the order. Codsworth leans up against the door to the cell.

A few minutes later the dwarves rush through the doors to the Wolfrick quarters and take Martin to his room still breathing heavily, the screaming had stopped about halfway back, but the boy was moaning and pleading for someone unknown to stop. They were followed closely by Charlie and Codsworth.

“What happened?” Vernon asked looking at Codsworth as Dave and Nick come out of their rooms at the noise. Followed by Bruce, whose eyes were still slightly closed with sleep.

“I… I messed up Vernon.” Codsworth said, sitting down on the chair and putting his head in his hands, as Charlie rushes into Martin’s room.

“What happened!” Vernon said trying not to lose his temper, although he didn’t know if he would be successful in that objective. Before he could say anything more however, Charlie re-emerges from Martin’s room followed by the two dwarves who take their leave of the group and return to the mountain proper.

“He should be fine. But we don’t know what happened to him.” Charlie said observing the temper’s that were starting to appear in the room in front of her. At this Vernon exits the room and heads for the main hall. “Next time Codsworth. Don’t use Martin as bait.” Charlie said before leaving the room, as Codsworth continues to sit in the chair, his head in his hands.

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