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Chapter 8

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Chapter VIII

Halunicinations of the Commander

 

From a vantage point up on a nearby outcrop. Nick watched as Ashdoon, along with three others joined the fray. To say it was now completely one sided would have been the understatement of the decade in Nick’s view. The newcomers worked quickly and efficiently to absolutely slaughter the ambushers at their own game. They took no prisoners and turned the turkey shoot on the easterners with ease.

It was over before it had really even begun, as the last few bullets were fired, Nick came out of his hiding place and walked onto the slaughter sight. As Ashdoon took of his helmet and wiped the sweat of his brow and looked over at a nearby rock.

“It’s alright kid, you can come out.” Ashdoon said and from behind the rock stepped Edger looking pale at the slight in front of them, next to the startled teen, a north-man also came out from behind the rocks, it was a miracle that he had managed to get to safety in time, when so many of his kinsman failed.

As the two survivors continued their dazed march across the small battlefield, Ashdoon bent down and felt for a pulse on Codsworth’s neck, eventually finding one.

“He’s alive, at least for now.” Ashdoon said as he withdrew from the commander’s pale face.

“Who are you guys?” Edger asked, he had half a mind to return to the rock that he had been hiding behind before he had addressed the four newcomers. Unsure as to whether they were truly friendly or not.

“We’re Juliett Squad. I’m Ashdoon.” Ashdoon said before introducing his team. “This is Harrow.” Indicating the biggest of the group. “Maxious.” Pointing towards a bored looking man with the sniper rifle. “And this is Kiks.” Finishing off with the smallest and thinnest member of the group.

“We’ve been tracking this group for a few weeks, ever since they slipped past that Barca fellers defences.” Kiks said in a dry, sarcastic voice that made it hard to tell whether he was insulting the lieutenant or not.

“When can we get back to the action lads?” Harrow wined as he slammed his gigantic fist against a rock, and whilst it didn’t crack, Nick guessed that it was a close-run thing, as a large dent had been made in the stone.

“Patience Hammer.” Maxious said in a soft voice that was more frightening than any below of anger. “We’ll return to the action soon enough. We’ve got to deal with the greens.” Maxious finished, not looking at either Nick or Edger, but down at Codsworth and the remainder of his group.

“Greens?” Nick asked, he looked up at Ashdoon who seemed to be the leader of the group for clarification on that. He guessed it had been used as an insult, but it was hard to tell. To his surprise, Ashdoon looked slightly embarrassed at the name.

“Yeah kid. It’s a name we use for any soldier who isn’t like us. It’s not something I’m that proud of to be honest with you.” Ashdoon replied and grimaced slightly.

“Speak for yourself Hawk.” Maxious replied, still in his soft, silky voice. He looked around through the scope of his rifle, and both Nick and Edger wondered if the weapon was surgically attached to the man, as he had not holstered his weapon since finishing the slaughter. He was starting to like the one they called Maxious less and less as he continued to speak.

“Hammer, get digging. We’ll bury these lot and take the remainder back to the mountain.” Ashdoon commanded. This order was met by another complaint from the big guy, although this time, no rocks were injured.

“Arh. Why do I have to do all the hard work, both Lightfoot and Deadshot don’t have to clean up their mess.” Harrow said, sounding more and more like a disgruntled child rather than an elite soldier.

“Because we cause a lot less mess than you do big guy.” Kiks said as he turned to Ashdoon whilst also keeping one eye on the terrain. “I still think we should return to the tooth old friend. We will be better served with this lieutenant than guarding a bunch of greens.” Kiks finished as he gestured over to both Nick and Edger.

“We’re not greens. At least I’m not.” Nick said horotely, instead of humbling the squad, it only made them laugh, although with the exception of Maxious, it wasn’t a cold laugh.

“I’m sure you’re not kid. But your commander needs medical attention that we can’t get at the tooth.” Ashdoon said, getting his chuckling under control long enough to speak clearly and calmly.

 

Whilst the Juliett Squad and the survivors made their preparations to return to the mountain. Codsworth continued to lay unconscious, he was seeing things, things from his past that he had hoped to have buried long ago. But as his eyes refused to open up, the commander surrendered himself to the dream, an old dream. The worst one of them all.

He was back in the Imperial City, a many years before the shit had hit the fan, but not far enough back to have erased all the damage that had been done by Mayor Osmund.

“Commander.” Osmund said, almost appearing out of thin air like a ghost after Codsworth had thought about him.

“Yes sir.” Codsworth replied.

“You know what you have to do?” Osmund asked, his plump figure glowering up at the commander with an accusatorily glare that Codsworth new well to avoid. Although that his expression seemed to give away his doubts. “I know what you’re thinking commander. But those people inside that building are traitors, the whole bloody lot of them. And they deserve nothing more than a traitor’s death.” Osmund finished, his harsh stare continuing to burrow into the commander’s skull.

“Yes… Sir.” Codsworth said, a little too harshly for The Mayor’s liking, he didn’t blame himself though. He knew what they were about to do. And those poor sods that were currently enjoying the merriment inside the old town hall were people that he knew, and some that he admired.

“Good. Now get to your men into position. You attack on my order only.” Mayor Osmund nodded, it wasn’t a request either, and Codsworth knew it. Either he obeyed, or he would most likely join those inside in death. As if to emphasis this point The Mayor turned back to him. “Remember Codsworth, good soldiers follow orders.” Osmund finished as he enters the old town hall.

 

The scene flickered, not to an entirely new location, just now inside the building. Where him and his men waited amongst the gathering. It was crowded, two hundred soon to be corpses had come to petition The Mayor over his lack of ruling over the city. Osmund for his part, had ‘insisted’ that the room also house his guards for his own protection, and the fools had agreed to it. Believing that guest right, the unspoken agreement that protected both host and guests at any event from injury and death, would protect them now.

“Now I believe that you have some queries that you wanted to make off my government.” Osmund said to the crowd and bringing Codsworth out of his daydreams of being anywhere but here. The great and powerful had come to this gathering, Lord Grasphen and Hore, both renowned generals, along with many other captains and high-ranking soldiers. Gerrard Wolfrick stood right in the centre, along with Oliver Palmer and Yusuf Davies, three of the cities brightest company owners had also signed onto this doomed enterprise. There were others, but the years had whittled down his memory to the point that even those he knew, were nothing but faceless ghosts, even those he had sworn never to forget.

“Our demands are simple Osmund.” Lord Grasphen shouted in his booming voice that echoed all around the enclosed room.

“You are all loyal men to this city, and so I reward you.” Osmund said smiling and he nodded to the men that surrounded the room. And the slaughter began.

Bullets rained down and across the room, Codsworth’s guns in his hands, although no ammo came out of them, the screams were deafening as many ran to the barred doors, only to be gunned down as they tried to hammer them down.

Knowing that The Mayor would check his weapon, along with all the others afterwards, Codsworth opened fire, although he tried to not hit anyone. He knew that he was failing in that objective, the room was after all too crowded for that not to happen. But all the same, he closed his eyes and continued to fire into the ghosts.

“Commander!” A voice seemed to shout from a long way off. Codsworth thought for a minute that it was one of the ghosts crying out as they had when the event had actually happened. But this voice was different, it was more concerned than angry. Codsworth could feel the cold air hitting his face long before he groggily opened his eyes onto the medical lab at Normanguard and groaned.

“How long. How long have I been out?” Codsworth asked of Charlie who stood above him, his head was splitting, and he needed to get going, the garrison at The Iron Tooth was counting on his reinforcements after all.

“Two weeks. Just under to be exact, but close enough.” Charlie said looking down at him and handing over a glass of water. “Drink commander.” Charlie continued forcing the drink into his closed hand.

“What…” Codsworth replied, suspicious of the drink.

“It’s just water. Herfouck’s orders, you were extremely dehydrated when Juliett Squad brought you back.” Charlie replied answering the commander’s unasked question.

At this news however, Codsworth looked up, he at least had the answer to who had come charging into the ambush so recklessly after it seemed like all hope was lost.

“Erilatir? The others?” Codsworth asked, his throat was bone dry, and he gulped down some more of the water to help.

“Buried by the road, there were only four survivors, including yourself.” Charlie answered, she knew that Doraghek had been close to livid when he heard that his friend and kinsman were not brought back to be buried in The Hall of Heroes, but the dwarf had seemingly cooled off after listening to reason, they had nothing to bring them back on, as many of the horses and goats had also been slaughtered along with their riders.

“What about Barca. I was supposed to be reinforcing him.” Codsworth said and as he did so, he wondered if his lack of help had already cost them the vital fortress that guarded the north.

“They’re holding on. According to Ashdoon they have been receiving more reinforcements from resistance cells. Not as much as we hoped, but enough to cling on.” Charlie replied, that had been the other news that the squad had reported, having come from The Iron Tooth in order to track the group of easterners that had successfully ambushed Codsworth and his plucky band of troops.

“Who were the other survivors?” Codsworth asked, thinking to himself that it was a miracle that there were any, although that was the point of Juliett Squad, to produce miracles.

“Yourself, Edger, a north man by the name of Jonell… And Nick.” Charlie said, hoping to just get the obvious over with as quickly as possible. The kid had gotten into enough trouble with Vernon when he found out that he had managed to slip through the defences and try to join Codsworth and his relief force.

“So, the kid managed to join up with me.” The commander said stroking his beard and wondering who was the most reckless of the brothers. “I suppose I should be grateful for the fact that he wasn’t killed.” Codsworth finished.

“Trust me, if me and Jimmy hadn’t been there, Vernon would have done the deed when you lot got back.” Charlie replied. It had been an awkward reunion, as Vernon had ranted for close to an hour by the time that Nick got a word in edgeway, not that it helped his cause. In the end, it had taken a long time to cool of Vernon’s temper towards Nick, made even harder by the fact that trying to reason with the old butler was like trying to reason with a troll, although the troll she now realised was the less stubborn creature.

“Where is Nick now?” Codsworth asked, he had a mind to have a few words with him about his recklessness and how it would eventually end up costing him, even with his intelligence that he used to back it up.

“Locked himself in his room. He refuses to come out. Says that we should trust him more.” Charlie answered, the lad was eating, which was something, but other than more meals, he rarely left the safety of his room. Whether this was because he was still angry at Vernon, or he was planning something else, she didn’t know nor did anyone else for that matter.

“I’ll speak to him later. See if I can get him to tell me why he is so desperate to end his life.” Codsworth said finishing the drink, he knew that Nick was claiming that he was feeling left out, what with his brothers out in the wild, and him being left behind. But Codsworth suspected that something else was driving the kid’s decisions these days.

 

Nick lay on his bed thinking of ways to get to the warzone as quickly as possible without altering Vernon, a difficult task, as due to bad luck, his room was directly next to the old butler’s, meaning that any attempt to sneak out at night would be detected by the famously light sleeping Vernon.

He was then interrupted from his thoughts of escape by a short rap on the door. He thought about just ignoring it, as the door would certainly hold against the butlers ramming attempts. That was until he heard a voice on the other side. It wasn’t Vernon’s frequently harsh voice, but Codsworth’s.

“Nick. Open the door.” Codsworth said, seeming more tired than he had ever heard the commander before. Nick paused at this, he had not expected the commander to be up, as the last time he had gone to check on him, he had still been out cold as his side had only just been stitched up. Grudgingly however, Nick got up of the bed and walked over to the door and unlocked it to reveal the pale faced commander standing in the doorway.

“What?” Nick asked, before stopping himself realising how rude that statement had come across.

“May I come in?” Codsworth replied, looking down at Nick who seemed stunned at the fact that he was not being yelled at by someone for a change. The eleven-year-old nodded slightly before letting the commander in. “I heard that you came after us, after I gave you an order not to leave…” Codsworth started but before he could continue Nick interrupted him.

“Look Codsworth, if you came here to beat the shit out of me then your about two weeks late. Vernon saw to that already.” Nick said lying down on his bed and looking up at the stone ceiling. But before he could continue himself, Codsworth raised his hand to silence Nick.

“I’m not here to bollock you kid, from what Charlie said, you’ve had enough of that shit already.” Codsworth said, but kept his hand raised to stop Nick from interrupting him again which fortunately the eleven-year-old didn’t. “I still want to know why you came after us at any rate?” Codsworth finished, sitting down on Nick’s bed, he didn’t know whether or not he should, but there was no exception from Nick, so the commander took it as okay.

“I told you, I wanna fight. Jacky, Dave and Martin are all doing something, and I’m stuck here.” Nick answered, wondering why everyone kept asking him that question.

“That is part of it I’ll grant you kid. But there is something else. You’re smart enough to know that the second that you arrived down at The Iron Tooth that you would have been sent back to the mountain.” Codsworth said, getting the kid’s point about wanting to do his part, but knowing that there was something deeper driving this suicide wish that Nick seemed to have.

“I’m telling the truth. I promise.” Nick replied, he wondered how many times he would have to say those words before all this mess was over.

“Alright kid.” Codsworth said smiling and getting up. He was halfway towards the door when he heard a sniff coming from behind him. Turning around, he saw a tear coming down Nick’s cheek.

“I wasn’t going to the Iron Tooth.” Nick said, talking more to himself than the commander, trying to mentally justify what was going on in his own head. “I overheard that new kid talking to Charlie about having an idea as to where Martin and Dave had gone. I was planning on trying to find them.” Nick finished.

This took Codsworth by surprise. From his own limited scouting he had found no trace of where the two Wolfrick brothers had gone too, but clearly Nick seemed to have some kind of lead on the matter.

“Well, I can’t blame you kid.” Codsworth said, he had never been that great at this kind of thing. “But unless you have a precise location then…” Codsworth stopped there remembering exactly who he was talking to, the kid who had got accepted into The Imperial College early. “You have a location, don’t you?” Codsworth asked looking at the eleven-year-old with renewed interest now. Nick hiccupped back his tears, before nodding slightly.

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