The Shadow of the Mountain
Two days had passed since the arrival of Brutus and the army still hadn’t moved out, this was in part due to the fact that, the were-bear, as some in the camp were referring to Brutus, didn’t want to go just yet. And partly because Codsworth wasn’t sure if they had enough men. Since Brutus had arrived the raids were seemingly coming less frequently, but they were still losing men to the wilderness whenever they sent people out to scout or to go and search for water. Whilst Dmitri and Codsworth walk around the camp as an unnatural wind sets in again, they had been experiencing all kinds of weather since they had arrived. All due they thought, to the mountain not wanting them around. Brutus stands facing towards the nearby jet-black mountain. The remaining forces are nervous and quiet. Once the two spot Brutus they walk over towards him.
“Your men are quiet.” Brutus said, it had been the first thing he had noticed when he had arrived, apart from the hatred that came of them. When he had encountered army camps before, they had always been very noisy places, but this one was, for the most part, as silent as the graves that rested in those hills.
“They are nervous whilst under the shadow of the mountain.” Codsworth said looking up at the slopes, which were now starting to make him nervous as well, it was almost like the mountain was silently watching and hating them as they camped at its base. As Codsworth thought Dmitri looks towards the mountain before spotting a small path leading up it, that he could have sworn wasn’t there two days ago.
“That path there, where does that lead Brutus?” Dmitri said pointing at the dirt track, it looked as old as the mountain itself, and Dmitri reasoned that he must have simply missed it. But something was telling him that the path had not always been there. Brutus looked up following the trail
“It's the road to the Rocksburg. The path through the mountain.” Brutus said, with no need for night vision goggles it was easy for him to see the path.
“I've heard stories about that place.” Codsworth said nervously, wondering what in the gods name had possessed him to volunteer for this particular mission. The stories always ended with unwary travellers looking for shelter in or near the mountains, then never being heard from again.
“Aye, none who venture up there ever returned.” Brutus growled at them, and Dmitri thought that the man was as equally scared as they were when it came to the temple city of Rocksburg. “Whatever inhabits that mountain is evil. You'll do wise to leave this place at dawn.” Brutus said, as he spoke a harsh wind came down, as if the mountain was in agreement.
“I wish we could, that place is already starting to give me the creeps. But we’ve got to wait for our reinforcements.” Codsworth said looking up at Brutus, a thunderclap sounded as if the mountain was protesting. Although Dmitri knew that all weather was in essence random, there was defiantly something about this that scared him more than any enemy coming at him.
Codsworth and Brutus walk away whilst Dmitri, against his better judgment remains for a while. And starts following the path up with his goggles before settling on a crack in the mountain side as something catches Dmitri's eye. Something that shouldn’t be there
Dmitri does a double take and zooms in on the crack where a black hooded figure can be seen. It doesn’t appear to have noticed him, but suddenly it looks directly down the mountainside and points towards him, whilst gesturing with his other hand to join it. Dmitri felt his legs begin to move but Codsworth puts his hand on his shoulder.
“Dmitri. Let's get some rest, early start tomorrow and all.” Codsworth said, not that they would get any, he only said it out of habit now. His entire force was dead on their feet and couldn’t be counted on, if they had to attack Haverminster.
Dmitri turns to look back towards the crack in the mountainside, he scanned the heights for almost two minutes, but the hooded figure is now gone. It had not been a total loss however; he had confirmed Jack’s story about more Raven’s being abroad. Not that it was a particularly comforting thought. It at least meant that neither he nor the kid were going mad.
“Sure.” Dmitri said half-heartedly, his focus was still on what he had seen on the mountainside, until another thought came to him, if that was what he thought it was, then why were they all still alive.
Later that night Dmitri found Brutus in his tent. The were-bear looked more tired than ever, as if the brute hadn’t slept in weeks. ‘Welcome to the club pal.’ Dmitri thought, before he pushed that thought away.
“You saw it?” Brutus asked, as soon as Dmitri entered. He stood up, his head scraping the top of the cloth ceiling as he did.
“Yeah. I saw him.” Dmitri said.
“It. Not him. That thing lost any humanity it had long ago.” Brutus said, whilst not angry, there was defiantly a shift in his tone.
“Alright then. It. Which one was it?” Dmitri asked sitting down on the bed, his head starting to ache. He guested that Rhazien was most likely out east, but that was the only one he knew the name off. And that was only because he had been told his name after the mission in the east. All the names had been as far as he knew, stripped from the records.
“Grissom Malum, when he was alive, he knew these lands as well as I do.” Brutus said looking out of the tent flap. The troops outside still didn’t talk, as if they were afraid that if they did, then they would not live to finish their thoughts.
“I know that three have already left. Where will the others go?” Dmitri asked. He didn’t want to reveal his source for this information as it may lead to the kid being dumped in the loony bin. But the question had to be asked, and who better than possibly the oldest man for close to a thousand miles.
“They’re leader is out in the east, and beyond our efforts to stop him.” Brutus started and confirming Dmitri’s suspicion. “The second, has gone south. But I do not know where. The southrons are the wild card in the wars to come. They will either join us or him. Depending on what they are offered.” Brutus continued.
This was the truth, last time the men of the south had been split down the middle on their loyalties, and although some had joined their side. Others had sided with the enemy.
“What about the other two. If the thing up there is one of them?” Dmitri asked. If the enemy was trying to surround them from west, south and east. Then the obvious answer was that one of them would be sent to the north. But Brutus had other ideas.
“They will most likely remain with their master. I doubt he will send one to the north, the dwarves will most likely not receive them.” Brutus said calmly.
“You think the dwarves won’t join the enemy?” Dmitri asked, he had met a few of the mountain folk in his time, and none of them had been overly friendly towards him. But the animosity of the dwarves to any but their own was well known.
“No. they won’t join the enemy. They would sooner bend their knees to you imperials than side with him. But that doesn’t mean that they will help either. Most likely, they will sit in their mountain halls and watch from the side-lines.” Brutus finished; this wasn’t the news Dmitri had wanted too here. The truth seldom was. But he had at least counted on dwarven help in the wars to come. He was about to voice this concern when a shout came from outside.
“We’ve got one!” A soldier shouted to the jeers of the camp. Dmitri and Brutus rushed outside to see what the commotion was about.
Outside the tent, a pair of soldiers were dragging a man in Bartazer army uniform through the camp, to the glee of everyone in the imperial ranks. All apart from Brutus who said nothing and didn’t join the cheers.
“Wait.” Dmitri said, and he walked over to the man and on closure inspection saw that he was only a year or so older than Jack, he looked half dead. But didn’t look like he was a deserter. In truth the lad looked scared out of wits.
“We searched him sir.” The soldier said looking at Dmitri, a smile on his face. “What should we do with him?” a murmur went around the camp and it didn’t take a genius to figure out what was on everyone’s minds. Most would advocate for the lad’s death, after all, on the march here they had come across many of their comrades who had been put to death and left for the crows.
“Take him to my tent. I want to question him.” Dmitri said. there was a muttering around the encampment, but no-one raised any objections. ‘Not yet. At any rate.’ Dmitri thought to himself before walking back to his tent.
Inside two soldiers flanked the newcomer. None of the three moved as Dmitri sat down. The two guards saluted Codsworth when he arrived. Dmitri had sent for the commander to join him. But other than that, no-one moved.
“What’s your name son?” Dmitri said looking at the prisoner.
“Help.” The lad said with a shaking voice.
“I can’t help you laddie until you tell me your name.” Dmitri said. Codsworth looked at him curiously, this was certainly not what he had expected when Brutus had come to him with the news that they had an enemy soldier awaiting questioning. Brutus had chosen to remain outside. A smart move as many in the camp had lost any amount of mercy they had had when this mission started and would certainly be out for blood. “Your name. Please?” Dmitri asked again.
“Ligia.” He spoke.
“Why are you here, Ligia?” Codsworth asked.
“We were attacked.” Ligia said in a broken from of the imperial language. ‘This was going to be difficult.’ Dmitri thought to himself but carrying on with the questioning at any rate. This could after all, be just what they had hoped for.
“By whom. There are no imperials other than us in this area.” Dmitri asked looking at Codsworth who nodded to confirm this statement.
“Man in black cloak.” Ligia replied. Codsworth and Dmitri looked at each.
“How many?” Dmitri asked. If it was more than one, then they were in trouble. If it was only one however then they were in even more danger.
“One and many.” Ligia said. this took the captain by surprise; he paused a moment to try and figure out what the lad was talking about.
“Do we have a translator?” Dmitri said looking at Codsworth who shook his head. It was a pity that Bruce wasn’t here now, as he was the best translator that he knew, and it would take days for the capital to send them one.
“Black robe man. Came down from hills. He turned us against each other. Only me and captain survived.” Ligia said.
“Well, that answers that.” Dmitri said, turning his gaze back to Ligia. “Who is your captain?” Dmitri asked the lad. He didn’t receive an answer strait away. It seemed that the kid was having to think about the question
“Colton Abraham. He joined black robed man. Willingly.” Ligia said. looking at the pair trying to see if they believed him. Dmitri looked at Codsworth, he had never heard of this man before, and yet the name seemed oddly familiar to him. The commander had also drawn a blank on this one, so he returned to the questioning.
“Who is this Colton?” Codsworth asked. Ligia looked confused but produced a photo from his coat. At this Dmitri stood up in alarm, inside the jacket, was a black hand, standing right there. Ligia obviously thought that he had done something wrong and made to put the photo away, when Codsworth stopped him. “It’s alright lad. Just hand over the photo.” The commander said, holding out his hand. Ligia cautiously placed the photo into Codsworth outstretched hand and withdrew into his seat.
The photo was of two men, a tall muscular man and a short round figure, not obese, but certainly not healthy either. Both wore black robes sown with the black hand where their hearts would be.
“Dmitri does the tall man remind you off someone?” Codsworth asked handing the photo over to a now sitting Dmitri. He looked at it and was surprised to see Geoffrey Randell looking right back at him.