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Chapter 6

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Chapter VI

A Wolf's Tale Part 2

 

The cells were cramped, even more so with the two hundred or so people that had been forcefully shoved in here, after the governor’s paranoid decision, no doubt caused by Valter. It took a while of moving through the crowded room before Jack found the man he was looking for. Tore sat on one of the few benches that littered the cell, a place that was had been given to him by the guards, out of respect for the man’s old age.

It took even longer for Jack to make his way over to where the old man was sitting, but after numerous amounts of shoving, he finally managed it, and decided to take the man up on his offer to speak now that he had returned.

“You told me that we would speak when I returned.” Jack said, looking into the blind man’s face, it felt odd as Tore patted him on the shoulders in response to the statement, although he didn’t respond, so Jack continued on. “Well, I guess there is no time like now.” Jack finished.

“I know boy. But are you ready to hear what I have to say?” Tore said and smiled blindly at the one-eyed teen.

“You said I was running away from something. How much do you know about me?” Jack asked, he was certain that he had never met this old man before in his life, but the man had known his name, his full name.

“We’re all running from something here Jackson. That is obvious for a man of my extreme age. I saw it the first time that you arrived in out town.” Tore said.

“You saw it. But your…” Jack started, but Tore merely smiled as always, before he interrupted him.

“Blind. Yes boy, but I see without my eyes.” Tore said, as he stood up and looked down at him, despite this, he barely stood that much taller than he was sitting. “But to answer your question, I know a lot about you. A lot more than you think.” Tore continued.

“How?” Jack asked, thinking things through, but nothing that came to his mind made sense as to how this old man knew him.

“I too have seen The God of the Dawn boy.” Tore said, as he slowly walked back to his wooden seat, which had been the guards one concession to the inmates. “Those that have also been in contact with the gods are visible to us.” Tore continued as Jack looked on in mild horror, wondering what else the old man had been hiding, but Tore wasn’t done with his tale just yet. “And for seeing her, the gods took my eyesight as a price.” Tore finished, his sudden drop in the tone shocked Jack, as the old man, from what little he had seen of him, had always struck him as someone who tried to remain positive. His time in here being an obvious example of that fact.

“I didn’t exactly come off that well myself.” Jack said, although it hadn’t been the god who had taken his eye, but he wondered if the fact that he had been half blinded possibly saved his other eye from being taken like Tore’s, as a price. He thought mockingly to himself that he potentially owed the dead man something for that face and grimaced at that thought. But that wasn’t his main concern, there was something else that the old man wasn’t telling him, something that he was wanting to keep private.

“I know boy. Possibly it saved you from my fate, or perhaps the gods have saved your remaining eyesight for a purpose.” Tore replied, both to Jack’s verbal remark, but also to his unasked thought about his debt to the mercenary, although he also shifted uncomfortably on his seat at the lad’s secondary doubts. And Jack was about to call the old man out on that fact when a sound of movement could be heard from outside the cell.

It took a while but eventually Valter walked out of the shadows and looked up and down the cramped cell, before his cold eyes found Jack.

“You boy. The chief wants a word.” Valter said as he opened the cells one door. It showed the man’s fear and reputation amongst the town, that not one person went to try and break free or overpower the second in command. At least no one except Evert who rushed the much stronger man, with the only result being the fifteen-year-old being punched back into the cell with a bloody nose. There was a small murmuring at this act of brutality, but Jack merely raised a hand to silence them, and walked forward. “Smart boy. If only you’d done it sooner before we had to result to violence.” Valter said, as he closed the cell door after Jack had vacated it.

“Alright.” Jack said, as he left the cell, when an old phrase came into his head and as he expected to die before too long, he decided in that moment that now was a good a time as any to say it. “Now. Take me to your leader.” Jack said smiling like a child at Valter’s confused expression at his attempt at humour. “I’ve always wanted to say that.” Jack finished as he headed up the stairs towards the main hall that he had been a guess in not a week before. Once the ape like Valter managed to suss out that he had been made a fool of in front of the others, he glowered angrily at them, but had little choice but to follow Jack up the stairs.

 

Edvar, the towns grizzled leader sat alone in the room, in stark contrast to when Jack had first came to this town. He was completely alone with Edvar, and Valter. But he doubted that he counted as a separate person who would differ in opinion from his master.

“Tell me boy, why did you stray from your task?” Edvar asked, leaning down at Jack, who looked up confused at the chief.

“I didn’t. You asked me to find out about the outpost. I did.” Jack answered. In all honesty he had strayed a little by seeking out the trolls that had performed the defensive attack, but that should be no concern to this man. After all, he had a good reason to seek them out, as possible, if slimly possible allies in the war to come.

“You were seen fraternising the enemy outsider. That alone is punishable by death.” Valter said, obviously still angry at the attempt at humour down in the cells that had halted his power trip.

“Do you deny this fact?” Edvar asked, barely giving Jack the chance to defend himself against Valter’s accusation.

Although Jack tried to remain cool, he knew they were trying to provoke him into saying something that would do nothing but get him hauled out of here and executed on the steps of the town hall.

“Follow me boy.” Edvar said, although the governor had used the word follow the correct term that Jack thought of was dragged, as Valter kept a firm grip on his arm as he was led outside.

 

Outside a horrifying sight greeted them. The street was still deserted except for Evert who stood against a tall building, his hands bound behind him, and a blindfold over his eyes.

“What is this?” Jack asked, looking around at the quiet street, wondering what in the gods name was happening here.

“Well. This is a test of your loyalty boy.” Valter said as he walked from behind him holding a pistol in his outstretched hand. “We know that this boy convinced you to seek out the trolls when he went after you. He confessed to it after you were taken upstairs.” Valter continued, as Evert looked blindly around trying to gage where the noise was coming from.

“And what is it that you want with me then?” Jack asked, but he could make a pretty good guess as to what it was, the outstretched gun was all the proof he needed.

“Shoot this traitor. And we will know that you are a true north-man. As well as that, you shall have our full support in his graces war.” Edvar said, picking up from where Valter had left off. As he spoke Jack took the gun, thinking it through, this was so wrong on so many levels, it made him sick to think about what they were asking him to do. Before realising that he had no other choice, either he did the deed and made it as quick and painless as possible, or they would, and they were likely to make the kid’s death as drawn out as humanly possible.

Jack, holding the gun outstretched, took aim. Until he saw something out of the corner of his eye, he didn’t want to believe that he had seen them, but now was not the time to doubt himself and he lowered the gun and turning to face Edvar.

“I believe that the condemned are allowed some final words.” Jack said, that was the case down in the south, although he wasn’t sure about it up here. After all, he had not given that scumbag Forrest a chance for that. But that wasn’t the point, he just needed a little more time. Edvar looked at Valter at this, and grudgingly nodded his approval.

“Traitor. Do you have anything to say before you meet the seven?!” Valter shouted and Evert looked up at this. Jack hoped for the kid’s sake that he had the nous to play for time, as it would probably mean his life if he took long enough.

“Yeah. How about you let us go and swallow a bullet for good measure.” Evert said, and gins to himself. Valter gets angry at this and takes a few steps forward, but Edvar holds him back smiling at the act of defiance.

“It’s alright Valter. It was the traitor’s final words.” Edvar said before returning his attention to Jack. “Now boy. Do the deed and we’ll join your cause.” Edvar finished turning back to witness the execution. Jack for his own part raised the gun and took aim, before the sound of sweat release hit his ears.

 

A horn, close by rang out through the streets, taking Edvar and Valter by surprise. Jack, however, was not. He had known that sound was coming from the moment he had caught a glimpse of the creatures as they rode down the mountain moments before.

About a hundred trolls, riding their sabercats, huge beasts that almost dwarfed their riders, came charging into the town, and rode down the main street. Jack thanked the gods that the street had been empty other than themselves, elsewise the giant beasts would probably have killed anyone that got in their way.

“You little shit!” Valter shouted, bringing Jack back to his senses as the man lunged at him, his arms reaching for the knife at his belt. But Jack dodged out of the way, and took aim, shooting Valter straight in the chest and dropping the big man to the ground.

After this execution, Jack ran up to Evert and undid the knot that held the boy’s hands together. As Evert took of the blindfold, the Chieftess rode up on her own sabercat and dismounted in front of Edvar, who stood still in the centre of the street, looking like a man ready to shit himself. A few paces behind the troll walked Auraily, the translator who had come on his own horse, that was now nervously looking around at the scene. As Jack and Evert walked up to join the discussion, they overheard what was being said.

“Chieftess Hailith wishes to know why you are trying to slaughter innocent creatures.” Auraily said as the troll grunted her questions at the governor.

“It… It wasn’t my idea. It was his.” Edvar sputtered, pointing down at Valter’s dead body on the ground, now unable to defend himself from his boss’s accusations.

“Sure, it was.” Evert said under his breath.

“Chieftess Hailith wishes for this unnecessary bloodshed to end.” Auraily said to Edvar who doesn’t move, he stand still almost as if he was waiting for someone else to speak on his behalf. “The Chieftess will not ask a second time.” Auraily continues as the trolls grunts and stomps become more agitated.

At this Edvar looks around the street, the hundred or so trolls looking at him with murder in their two sets of eyes. As the governor realises that he has no more allies left as his last continues to bleed out on the street next to him, he takes a deep breath, and nods. Auraily grunts back the response to the troll.

Seeming satisfied with the response, Hailith walks up to Jack Evert looking at them with what seemed to be curiosity in her eyes, before she begins to grunt at the pair of them.

“Chieftess Hailith, wishes it to be known that her people will fight against the darkness with the living once more.” Auraily said, but with a grave look on his face as he gave the news to them. But before Jack had a chance to reply, the troll walked off towards the town perimeter with her forces.

“You seem upset at this?” Jack asked, looking at the ragged man in front of him.

“The last time they chose to fight with our kind, they used as nothing more than cannon fodder. This might be the end of their race if they are put to the same use again.” Auraily said, confirming Jack’s previous suspicions, but before the teen could speak up on this, the translator continued. “When do you plan on leaving this place?” Auraily asked looking at the deserted and now bloody street with some concern, wondering how many others there would have to be before this war was over.

“This evening, I have something that I must do first.” Jack said, and Auraily nodded, taking his leave and riding up to the town limits to inform the trolls of the decision.

 

Back down in the cells, Jack unlocked the door, and the people who had chosen to defy the governor came streaming out of the cramped room. The last to do so, was Tore, the elderly man slowly moving forward as he crept out of the tight prison.

“I take it that you have sorted things out with our uneasy neighbours.” Tore said smiling as he left the cell.

“I have.” Jack replied, not bothering to ask how the old man knew what had transpired outside mere moments before, just accepting that he had his ways. “The town is yours until we return.” Jack finished, leaving out the if.

“Young lad. Would you mind, given me and the commander here some time alone.” Tore said, looking down to turn his blind eyes on Evert, who nodded, and followed the people out of the prison. Jack, however, was confused, he wasn’t a commander at all, although that wasn’t what was troubling him. As he watched, Tore took a seat on a small bench that was propped up against the wall. “I’m sure you’re wondering what I want with you son.” Tore said smiling at Jack.

“Er. Yeah. I guess.” Jack replied, wondering those thought exactly. But chose not to say anything.

“I just wanted you to know, that I know that your parents would have been proud of you.” Tore said and smiled blindly at the look of shock on Jack’s face after he heard those words.

“You knew my parents?” Jack asked, he had never met this man before in his life. Although that wasn’t exactly saying much and he knew it, but it still intrigued him that this man was connected to him even if it was in a small way.

“I knew your parents. And I knew your uncle and grandparent’s boy. As I know you and your brothers, although I have never met them. Your father and Uncle were my favourite nephews.” Tore said, and a note of sadness came into his voice as he spoke. “I was one of the few who knew about your parents’ relationship before everyone else.” Tore continued. That hadn’t surprised Jack, as he knew that many had looked down on his parents for the relationship, both from the old butler, and from the sneering comments he had received from school for being a legitimised bastard.

“Why did you come up here?” Jack asked, that was now the primary thought in his mind now that he had an answer to who this man was. He didn’t doubt that he had been visited by Xyla, but it seemed very odd that he had known about his family just from that fact.

“The same as you boy. I came here to escape. Although not from the same thing as you. But to escape, nonetheless. That part of my original tale remains so.” Tore said, and the sorrow was still in his voice, apologising for his departure from his home.

“Why are you telling me this?” Jack asked, it was nice and all, but he doubted that this was just a friendly chat, and it almost certainly had a purpose to it.

“I tell you this boy. So that you know that there is no shame in sticking with your decision to leave your past behind you and live out your days in this land.” Tore said, his voice rasping now from the poor air levels in this place.

“I have nothing up here anymore.” Jack answered, a year ago he had had something to live for in the north, but now that was gone, and he would never have it back. “I can’t keep running from my past. As if I do that, then there will be nowhere left to run too.” Jack finished, and with that, he held out his hand, and helped Tore up, and walked with the old man out of the prison.

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