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Chapter 26

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Chapter XXVI

Master of the House

 

It had been close to an hour since Jack had left on his patrol, under normal circumstances this wouldn’t have been cause for any alarm, however with the present climate, it was causing the commander some stress. The boy had been told to remain inside the perimeter walls, but no doubt he had ignored that command and strayed outside its protection, so far none of the Bot’s had seen him since he went out as well. As Codsworth stands on the doorstep looking out at the manor grounds, wondering if he should go out looking for him, when he is distracted by Aiden Patel, another mercenary, a skinny man with unkempt hair approached bearing a white flag over his shoulder. His other hand empty, raised away from his belt, to ensure that he would not be taken as a threat to the people inside the manor. Seeing this Codsworth walks towards the man followed by Dmitri, who had come out of the shadows to his right and had seen the newcomer approach and then stop at the perimeter gates as well.

“Another visitor.” Codsworth said as the pair walked down the slope towards the newcomer.

“Aye. What do you want to do with this one?” Dmitri replied, he didn’t have his hand on his gun yet, but it was in the general area encase Codsworth ordered an attack. He got no response however so as he and Codsworth continue down through the grounds, he keeps his hand at the ready. When they reach the point where Aiden is standing between the gates of the Manor main entrance. It was clear that something had gone wrong for them.

“Well. What'd you want?” Codsworth asked. Wanting to get this out of the way as quickly as possible, the sooner he could be done with these Iron Company scum the better.

“I'm only here to deliver a message.” Aiden said calmly but firmly.

“Which is?” Dmitri said, he too wanted to get this done and dusted as soon as possible. So, they could turn their full attention to The Mayor.

“To release our captain before anyone else gets hurt.” Aiden demanded, at this Dmitri looks over at Codsworth in confusion. The commander shakes his head to try and stop Dmitri responding but it's too late.

“And who else would be getting hurt if we refuse?” Dmitri asked and Codsworth sighed, he had guessed what had happened and who they must have the second that he saw the mercenary walk up to the gates.

“We have one of yours as our guest. The one-eyed lad. He's in our camp right now.” Aiden said, although it seemed to Dmitri that there was a note of sorrow it the man’s voice.

“And you want to trade. Is that it?” Codsworth asked.

“Yes. Your lad, for our captain.” Aiden demanded once more.

“Done.” Codsworth said quickly, he wanted to get this done as quickly as possible, before Vernon could find out what exactly had happened and do to Alden what Dave had done to Patrick.

“Good. We're encamped half a mile down the road. Bring us our captain within the half hour. Or the lad will start losing more body parts than he already has.” Aiden said as he drops the white flag and walks back down the road as Dmitri and Codsworth rush back towards the manor. This was now much more serious than they had thought, they both knew that these people were not the sort to make ideal threats and would most likely carry out that penalty if they didn’t hurry.

 

The pair find Alden siting in his chair inside the cell where they had left him. As Codsworth walks into the room, with Dmitri just behind him. The IronEye looks up, the chunk of iron that was in place of his left eye glinting in the light. He sits still, looking bemused as if he had predicted that this encounter was always going to happen

“Get up.” Codsworth said as he hauls the mercenary onto his feet and DMITRI puts a firm grip on his shoulder wheeling him out of the cell and out into the cave.

“Can you give me my weapons.” Alden said, but he received no reply, and chose not to press the issue. As they walked through the manor, Codsworth expected to run into someone, who would question why they were leading their most valuable captive out into the night. But fortunately, they met and saw no-one.

As Codsworth, Dmitri walk down the road with ALDEN walking between them, the pair thought that they might be too late, as they had not seen any of the mercenary company and they were sure that they had walked the half a mile that they had been instructed to. That was at least until they reach a turn where Aiden walks out from behind a tree, a smug grin on his face. The look of a man who had forced someone much more important than him, to do his bidding.

“I see you've complied with our request.” Aiden said leaning up against the tree. And Codsworth shoved Alden towards him angrily.

“We have. Now comply with your end of the bargain. Or I’ll repaint that tree an interesting new colour, called hint of brain.” Codsworth said taking out his gun and checking to see if it was loaded. Aiden put his hands up in mock surrender and smirked.

“As you will. Follow me.” Aiden said as he walked off the path and into the brush. The four head out through the trees and into a small clearing where a small group of people were waiting around a small log. Resting on the fallen tree was Jack's hand with Taedr holding a knife above it. Before the mercenary could swing down however, he looks up at the new arrivals to see Alden walking towards them and puts the knife down. As Alden walks up to them, his crew back up, and Codsworth could see why. The IronEye, looked nothing short of livid. Looking around he locates Taedr from the crowd and walks up to him.

“I see you've been having fun whilst I was away.” Alden said.

“Aye. Just preparing to make good on a threat.” Taedr said looking at his feet, rather than at his boss’s face, that was going redder by the minute. For a moment Alden does nothing. Then he walks towards where Jack is lying on the ground his hand clutching his wrist. A thick red band wove around the part he was quickly rubbing. Alden looks at the teen. Then back at Taedr. “I see. And may I ask what good this threat would have done.” Alden address’ his subordinate who looks around confused. So, Alden continues. “You were planning to further cripple the lad. Is that it. When we need everyone, who can fight ready and able.” Alden said, spitting with rage now.

“I... I. I didn't think that far.” Taedr said, once again addressing his feet as he sputtered his reply.

“Taedr, the next time I think about putting you in command. Remind me not to.” Alden said harshly before turning away. Taedr looks around for support but receives none. All of their eyes were on their commander who kneels down and helps Jack up to his feet, before addressing him. “Well go on. Go back to your home.” Alden said shoeing the boy away. As Jack walks back to Codsworth and Dmitri. The IronEye approaches as well.

“I trust you didn't know about this then.” Codsworth said, his hand on the butt of his gun, as if he did, then there would be no form of alliance between them, and every single one of these mercenaries would be put to death.

“I told them to get a hostage should I not return. But I didn't tell them to mutilate said hostage.” Alden said, and before Codsworth can respond he continues. “Well then I suggest we get on the move. I want to start setting up defences around your manor sooner rather than later.” IronEye finished and he and the twenty other men leave the clearing and head towards the manor leaving Codsworth, Dmitri and Jack alone in the clearing.

Dmitri turns to the commander, taking his own hand of his gun. That had been too close to call, and he seriously wondered now how Vernon would react to this meeting, especially when he heard that Jack had been used as essentially a bargaining chip to allow these mercenaries into the manor. Something that he knew the old butler would be against. They needed more help, more reliable help.

“How many men can you get up here without alerting the mayor?” Dmitri asked, he hoped that there were maybe loyalists down in the south where he and Codsworth were more well-known. And well, not liked, the raid on Lord Boris’ fortress made that unlikely, but at least respected more that Osmund.

“Thirty, at a push.” Codsworth said. “That is assuming that any would answer the call.” Unlikely considering the result would mean declaring themselves enemies of the state.

“I suggest you call them in. Help us in the defence. We need everyone we can get to defend the manor now.” Dmitri said and Codsworth nods and heads back to manor. Jack walks up to stand beside Dmitri.

“Do you trust them then?” Jack asked.

“I trust them about as far as I can throw them. But they're right. We need everyone we can get. Now I suggest we get you back now.” Dmitri said, he had no need to ask of who Jack was speaking off, but that didn’t matter anymore. What was important was getting him back before Vernon realised that any of them were missing. “Come on kid.” Dmitri said, as he and Jack follow in Codsworth’s footsteps back up the road.

 

Dmitri had hoped to get back to the manor before the mercenaries. Firstly, to warn Vernon of their arrival and the agreement that had been struck. And secondly to make sure that Jack’s little adventure would go unnoticed by the eagle-eyed butler. It was however not to be so however, as when he Codsworth and Jack walk through the open double doors of Wolfrick manor. They found Vernon standing by the marble stairway looking horror struck as two members of the iron company were in the process of boarding up the ground floor windows. Seeing their return, the old butler rounded on the three of them.

“May I ask what these mercenaries are doing in the house?” Vernon asked, he wanted and explanation and was furious when Codsworth simply walked past him towards the communications room without saying a word, effectively forcing Dmitri to answer the question.

“We need them.” Dmitri said, he didn’t like it as much as the butler, but the facts remained that they couldn’t defend this place without experienced men. And so far, they had only had himself and Codsworth. Whilst both Charlie and Vernon had been battle tested, and Jack and Dave had also gone to war, none of them were hardened veterans in the same league as himself and the commander.

“These men are criminals.” Vernon said, spitting mad at the notion that these men had been allowed into the house.

“Aye. Highly skilled criminals.” Dmitri replied nodding, that fact he couldn’t deny, but that made them exactly what they needed. The Iron Company had a history of not fighting fairly which is exactly why he wanted them. “But we are on the same side now. And time is short.” He finished and walked up to Vernon who still looks like he ready to commit murder. He understood that. Two days ago, he too wouldn’t have wanted these men anywhere near the house. “Vernon. You know I wouldn't put this house's occupants at any risk unless I absolutely had to.” He finished, to his slight amazement the old butler did not argue this fact. This feeling was quickly replaced by trepidation however, of Vernon did not immediately shoot down his ideas, it meant that he had a clever work around to them on the way. And that once again, was proved true by his next words.

“The decision is not mine to make. I am but a mere servant of this house.” Vernon said simply.

“I know it isn't, it isn't mine either. And with Alan away...” Dmitri trailed off in mid thought and smiled to himself, before both he and Vernon look at Jack. Who was leaning up against the wall, his hands in his pockets, trying to conceal the ugly red marks around his wrists from Vernon’s watchful gaze.

“What?” Jack said realising that they were staring at him.

“The house is yours Master Jack, until your farther returns at least. It is up to you to decide whether these mercenaries stay.” Vernon said, addressing the teen in a formal tone that slightly unnerved him. At this Codsworth returns to see Vernon and Dmitri waiting on Jack's orders.

“We'll receive imperial reinforcements within the hour.” Codsworth said, he had been slightly amazed that he had managed to get through, and even more shocked to hear that the commanding officer was willing to join him with a small squadron of troops.

“The mercenaries will stay Vernon.” Jack said and walked off towards the cave. He needed to sit down, being given the effective keys to the family company was one thing, but he had never expected to be effective command of his home’s defences. What little they had of them at any rate.

“As you say sir.” Vernon said and nodded as Dmitri turned to Codsworth.

“Codsworth, we need to prepare this house for siege. We don't know what's going to be coming at us, and we will only have fifty odd men to defend her.” Dmitri said, causing Vernon to turn to him in shock.

“A siege. This isn't a military fortification.” Vernon said, he had expected for them to try and flee, whilst they had the perimeter wall and gates, there was nothing standing between that and the manor. Plus, the last time the house had come under assault, they had suffered greatly because of it.

“I know. But she is defendable. For a certain amount of time.” Codsworth said, he too knew that whilst they could defend here for maybe a few hours at most, it wouldn’t be long before they would be overrun. But he nodded to Dmitri’s order and went to wait upon the few imperial reinforcements that he had managed to scrape up and slightly praying that they would live to see the dawn.

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