Six months had passed since Nick had been returned to them and Charlie had started the rebellion from inside Wolfrick Co. and things had not died down, Vernon mused as he waited for Dave to return from his recognisance mission. The rebels held onto much of the business district and most of the slums, the people living there having gladly joined the fight to overthrow the elites of the city. In response The Mayor had recalled most of the southern armies to defeat the rebels. Which had done nothing but left their southern flank dangerously under manned. On the bright side at least, the mist had begun to clear, although if what Jack said about it being a result of the enemy, its sudden disappearance could be bad news indeed.
Another problem that they were facing was a lack of food, whilst the forces of Lord Boris had been pushed back to their starting positions, on their retreat they had burned and destroyed huge amounts of farmland in Riveruster. Meaning that the breadbasket of the imperial city was suddenly coming up empty. Which was, Vernon thought, another reason why there was an effective civil war going on in the city right now.
As he was thinking on this, he noticed Nick walking towards the small graveyard, and wondering what on earth this was about he hurried up to the lad.
“Where are you going kid?” Vernon said, finally catching up with Nick, who turned around to look at him looking weary.
“I’m going to see da.” Nick said, which confused the hell out of the old butler.
“Your father isn’t here, master Nick.” Vernon said curiously.
“He is. I saw him. Last night.” Nick said eagerly, looking at Vernon to see if he believed him or not. It didn’t matter either way, the fact remained that he had seen his father last night down in the Wolfrick manor crypts.
“Curious.” Vernon said to himself, he didn’t believe a word of this, if he was being entirely truthful, but Nick seemed to believe it. So, based on that information alone, he agreed to accompany the boy down into the crypts.
Now underground. Vernon lit a torch and followed Nick passed the graves of the boys long dead ancestors. The more recent Wolfrick family members were buried up in the graveyard above them.
“So where did you see your old man?” Vernon said looking around at the tombs, he had never liked coming down here, but now the rows of the dead seemed to be watching him as he and Nick walked past, who in contrast to the old butler, seemed quite unafraid of this place.
“It was down here. About halfway down the crypts.” Nick said as he quickened his pace, with Vernon struggling to keep up. After a few minutes Nick stopped and looked around desperately. “He was here.” Nick said, turning his head in every direction as Vernon caught up.
It was as Vernon had suspected, there was in fact nobody here, nor had there ever been in the past few years.
“Nick, you miss your father, it’s only natural that he should appear in your dreams but...” Before Vernon could continue, however. A snarling came from his right. He turned just in time to see Echo bounding towards him, almost knocking the butler over. Grabbing a pillar for support Vernon turned around to hear a timid voice come out from the darkness.
“To me Echo.” Martin said and came into the light as he spoke, tears glistening on his young face. “You leave da alone!” Martin shouted at Vernon who steadied himself slowly, now completely unnerved.
“Da’s not here Martin.” Nick said, having seemingly given up on his own dream the previous evening.
“He is. He’s coming home. I saw him last night.” Martin said as eagerly as Nick had done less than a quarter of an hour before.
“In your dreams?” Nick asked and Martin nodded. When Nick turned around to look at Vernon, he had never seen him so uncertain before. The butler quickly gathered his thought however and quickly began issuing orders.
“Let us get out of this place.” Vernon said looking at the two boys sternly, Nick nodded, but Martin shook his head.
“I’ve got to wait for da.” Martin said stubbornly.
“You can wait for him away from this place kiddo.” Vernon said, kneeling down in the dirt to get onto Martin’s eye level. He was curious about what Echo would do, but mercifully the husky remained by Martin’s side and didn’t try to attack again.
“But. Da told me to wait for him here.” Martin said looking confused at the whole situation regarding the message that he had received last night.
“It’s okay Martin, your old man will know to look for you in the manor, if he can’t find you here.” Vernon said, he was hoping that the boy couldn’t tell that he was just trying to get him out of this dark place. After a few moments when Martin looked longingly back at the crypts he returned to Vernon and nodded.
So, with Echo still on their heels, the three of them left the crypts with Vernon wondering what all of this could mean, and whether the two older boys had been given the same dreams as their younger brothers.
As Vernon, Nick and Martin along with Echo walk out of the crypt, Vernon making sure to lock the door behind him, they see two figures by the front door to the manor. Still thinking about what had happened down in the crypts though, Vernon didn’t notice them until he was at the front doors himself. When he arrived, he did recognise one of the men, but not the other.
“Ah, Deryn. For what do we owe this pleasure?” Vernon asked, as Nick and Martin walked back inside the manor.
“Shelter. We managed to escape the siege lines that The Mayor forces had raised.” Deryn said, it had been difficult breaking out from the city. But eventually, after about two months of planning, both he and Jimmy had managed to get out.
As they entered Vernon looked back down the road, checking to see if they had been followed, as well as looking out for Dave’s return. But he found neither, so he walked through the double doors and closed them behind him. He was cautious about the two employees having been followed, they were all of them, after all, traitors to the imperial city and The Mayor, who had wasted no time in denouncing them all after the rebellion had flared up all those months ago.
Inside the entrance hall, jimmy and Deryn were already in conversation with Charlie, who had come up at the sound of the doors opening.
“How goes the revolution?” Charlie asked, almost mockingly, she was fully aware that her little revolt had now completely spiralled out of control, but telling jokes seemed to be her coping mechanism.
“Good, if your goal was to have half the city on fire.” Jimmy said. “I have no love for Osmund, but maybe starting a revolt against him when he feels this vulnerable wasn’t the best idea.” Jimmy finished, if truth were told, the odds of the revolution acutely succeeding were laughable. But it kept Osmund busy, which he supposed was the whole point. Not that this impressed him in any way shape or form.
“Why are you two here, may I ask?” Vernon said looking at the two men, sure the extra company was good, but that wasn’t the main reason and Vernon knew this.
“Cause this place will be a lot easier to defend than the city.” Jimmy said bluntly.
“Not exactly how I would have put it lad.” Deryn said, looking at the younger scientist with dismay that he would just blurt out the reason for there being here. Before turning back to Vernon. “But the lad is right. We need a better place to defend, and here seems fine.” Deryn continued looking around at the manor with trepidation. “And it seems the least you can do, since you were the ones that flung us into this mess in the first place.” Deryn finished looking at Charlie sternly, clearly not having forgotten how it was her that started this whole rebellion and then buggered off to safety here.
“Fine.” Vernon said, it was the truth, they did owe them that, but he still wasn’t comfortable, whilst Osmund had been quick to denounce them. He hadn’t yet sent his troops up here, partly because Vernon thought that they weren’t taking an active role in the rebellion. Now that they were sheltering known fugitives, how long would it take for Osmund to find out and despatch fresh legions up here.
Jimmy nodded and dumped his bag on t=one of the tables, which quickly collapsed under the newly place weight. Charlie sighed and hit him across the back of his head as he went to go and pick it up.
“Idiot.” Charlie said as she walked off towards the cave.
“Deryn, we have a spare room for you upstairs.” Vernon started and the elderly scientist nodded and headed up the marble stairway and the butler turned to his younger counterpart. “You’ll have to sleep on the sofa laddie.” Vernon finished and walked out of the room.
“Great.” Jimmy said, but not before making sure that the butler was well out of earshot before he spoke up.
As Dave continued to wonder the hills that surrounded his home, he could see in the distance, the fires continuing in the imperial city. It felt weird seeing the once great city tearing itself apart, what felt even weirder however was the fact that this had been caused by his family. He refocused, now was no time to lose said focus, as Vernon had told him when he went out, whilst the soldiers of The Mayor may not be out here right now, it was wise to keep his senses alert for any sign of danger. And danger, he quickly found, as he thought, he often did. Or rather danger found him. Whichever way around it was, it didn’t change the fact that below him, so far oblivious to his presence, were two imperial soldiers, whether friend or foe, he didn’t know at the moment.
That was the problem nowadays, as some legions had joined the rebellion, making it almost impossible to figure out who were your friends and who were your enemies. That however became apparent as the two soldiers came into hearing range.
“Do you think he’s out here?” The first said looking around.
“Yes. We know the wolf pup likes to get away from the den. We can take him out here when he’s vulnerable.” The second said, also scanning the area. Dave judged him to be the meaner of the two. Not that it mattered, both would more than likely fire on him if they caught him. It was weird, the imperial soldiers he had met when he and Jack had gone south had been good people and had welcomed the youngsters into their ranks. But these two seemed hell bent on finding and killing him and his whole family, or at least the second one did.
Choosing to leave this place, he silently got up and ran as quietly as he could back to the manor, his days of scouting these parts were now well and truly over, if The Mayor was sending troops up here, it meant that it was no longer safe. And hoping that neither of the two soldiers had heard him, he continued his retreat towards his home.
-- Ivan and Brett arrives –
The following morning, two men walked up the manor road, it had been a difficult walk, ever since that woman had dismissed them from their jobs on the board, they had been plunged into despair and ruin. Both had lost everything they had owned after The Mayor had declared the entire company traitors and ordered them put to death for their crimes.
“How much further?” Blane asked. He looked as tired as Brett felt, which in away was understandable, both having walked the thirty miles from the city barricades to the manor in less than two days. In truth their opponents seemed less than heartfelt in their siege of the lower city and the business district. With Blane theorising that many of their attackers would have willingly joined their side if given the choice.
“Not far. The man’s house should be just beyond this rise.” Brett said. “And then we can see if Mr Wolfrick is truly mad, or just trying to ignore us.” He finished.
As the pair crested the hill, they saw the manor directly ahead of them, about a quarter of a mile in the distance. Compared to the warzone that they had left behind, this place seemed like a paradise.
“Here we are.” Blane said as he looked at his companion, and they both proceeded to continue up the road. Before they could go more than a few steps however, a gunshot rang out. Blane span around looking for the attacker but could see no-one. He turned to Brett and felt his heart sink.
Brett was choking on his own blood, as he fell to the ground, he spat out one final curse at how his life had fallen apart so quickly. Then he spoke no more. It didn’t take long to find the bullet hole, a gaping hole in the man’s neck answered that question. The only problem now was that Blane was now caught out in the open, with no idea where his assailant was.
He looked around, but still couldn’t see where the attack had come from, he looked towards the manor, but judged that it was too far away to make it during daylight, across open country without any from of cover. So, he sat down next to the fresh corpse and waited for the sun to go down. Which would hopefully give him the cover that he needed.
Night fell and Blane tired of waiting for the sun to set beyond the imperial city, slowly got up and began to run towards the manor. For the first hundred meters all seemed to be going well, until about halfway towards the manor, the gunshots began to ring out again. One, two, three. The bullets whizzed past him, hitting the perimeter wall of the manor grounds. As he reached the wall, he realised to his horror, that he had overshot the gates by about fifty meters, leaving him with three options; stay still and die, climb the wall and more than likely die, or run to the gates, get caught and die.
Before he could think on this however, he heard a noise from directly above him, he looked up and saw the old butler who had insulted him standing on the top of the wall, along with two weird metal machines holding rifles and firing down at his attackers.
“Get in!” Vernon shouted, and not wanting to waste his last chance of survival, Blane ran for the entrance and rushed through the gates, which closed automatically behind him. After a few moments the gunfire ceased, and Vernon came down from the walls. “May I ask what in the gods name are you doing here. Mr Blane.” Vernon said as he walked up to the former board member.
“I’m here… to help.” Blane said, stammering as he hurried to gain control of his breathing.
“I see. Well, I hope you like sleeping on the floor.” Vernon said as he walked back towards the manor, leaving a slightly confused Blane to follow in his wake, back towards the dimly lit manor.