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Chapter 7

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Chapter VII

A Raid

 

“I can’t do it.” Edger said as he slumped down into a chair. They were once more back in the lab, where they were trying to use him to force the gems to unite. But every time he tried; the small objects resisted him.

Charlie looked at the innocent looking gems, that sat still and pleasant looking directly in front of them, she knew what needed to be done, but doing it was the difficult problem. As the kid was becoming weaker and weaker every time, they attempted to gain access to the blasted objects.

“We can give it a rest if you want.” Charlie said, as she moved closer to the gemstones, the sapphire water gem reacted to her impatience and a glass a few feet away began to slosh its contents all onto the desk. Witnessing this Edger shook his head and began to refocus on the objects.

The lights began to flicker as usual, but it was greater this time around, Charlie was sure that the lights would break from the constant flickering, but they held firm. The same could not be said for Edger, where blood was slowly starting to come out of his nose and ears. Eventually the pressure became too much, and he stopped, wiping his blood-streaked face as he slumped to the ground.

“Any difference?” Charlie asked, although she was not hopeful, the only thing that had changed was the intensity and it seemed to have had an adverse effect on her young companion. To her shock however, Edger nodded, albeit slowly.

“Yeah. I saw… I saw electro kid.” Edger said, that had been a shock, considering the fact that the last time he remembered seeing the punching bag, as he was referred to by the worst of the guards, was when he tried stopped Martin from pissing off Layton for the hundredth time, needless to say he had failed in that last encounter. Charlie initially looks confused, before remembering and continuing on.

“Where was he?” Charlie asked, whilst not initially what she had hoped for, it was something that was intriguing as no one had any idea as to where the youngest Wolfrick had vanished to.

“Down south somewhere.” Edger answered. “He was in some cave, but I don’t know where abouts.” Edger finished looking up at the scientist and hoping that she would believe him on that.

“Alright, let me know when you’re ready to go again.” Charlie said in a disappointed tone of voice, whilst the kid was trying his hardest to make his powers work. It didn’t change the fact that he had been limited by Eugene in a way that Martin had not been.

“How was your meeting with Fierhand?” Vernon asked, looking curiously at Codsworth as he had heard about what had happened the last time that the commander had been to the throne room, and the furious argument with Fomhord that had ensued.

“Well, I didn’t lose my temper this time but that was the only difference.” Codsworth replied, he had gone to Fierhand reluctantly, but after the last dire reports from Barca he felt that he had no other choice. It had been difficult, but he had asked for volunteers to accompany him south early to assist in the defence of the stronghold. But only a few had answered the call. Most had remained silent.

The commander had not pushed his look by accusing the remainder of cowardice as he had before, instead, merely thanking those that had volunteered and given them their orders.

“Can I go?” Nick asked, he had been slipping quietly back in, but had overheard the conversation and thought that he would ask anyway.

“No.” Codsworth said, a little to bluntly given the expression on Nick’s face, but the point still remained.

“Why can’t I go?” Nick asked, it was almost midnight and the kid had come back from his own unofficial, and for his sake, hopefully unknown scouting mission.

“Your too young Nick.” Codsworth replied, it had been a hard decision, although the commander doubted that this would be the last that he would hear about it from the only remaining Wolfrick brother, who already had a chip on his shoulder because of that fact.

“I’m older than Martin, and he’s out there erm… Doing stuff.” Nick retorted, although losing some of his effective argument by his lack of knowledge about what his younger brother was actually doing, not that the commander knew either.

“That is correct Nick. But your brother was also not supposed to leave this mountain.” Vernon said, chiming in on the commander’s side. “Something that I would advise you to not bring up, as you helped in that little escapade.” Vernon finished, his brow furrowing as he remembered that episode with little affection. A danger sign that both Nick, and Codsworth knew well to avoid.

“Fine.” Nick said sulking as he returned to his room, not that the sudden attitude fooled either Codsworth or Vernon.

“Do you think the lad will listen Vernon?” Codsworth asked, hoping that the old butler would know Nick’s mind better than anyone outside of the lad and his brothers. Vernon paused at this thinking it through.

“Let me say this commander, whilst all four of the brothers are rash almost to point of having no regard for their own safety. Nick has a raw intelligence that goes along with it. Not that his brothers are stupid mind you, they are all intelligent lads, but Nick is a cut above all of them.” Vernon responded trying to find the best way to phrase what he needed to say next. “His brothers might act in a way that makes it easy for you to catch them in their trouble making, but Nick has managed to avoid that.” Vernon finished.

“You say he’s intelligent, how much so?” Codsworth asked, but it was Charlie who answered, having overheard the discussion and wanted to throw her own two sense into the conversation.

“Let’s put it this way. Nick was accepted into The Imperial College at the age of eight. Four years before they usually start taking in students.” Charlie said, as she vaguely remembered Alan and Vernon discussing the possibilities. “If it hadn’t been for everything that happened, he would have started that autumn.” Charlie finished. She too had been offered a place there, but had turned it down, preferring at the time to remain in Docksmouth, that being said, her offer had not been given early.

“Geeze.” Codsworth said scratching his forehead, this was going to be more difficult than he had first thought. The Imperial College was the most selective place in the country, and he personally knew nobody who had been accepted there, let alone four years before they were old enough to join.

“Yes. Nick will be thinking four or five steps ahead in order to get what he wants commander. So, I would advise you to keep your guard up.” Vernon said, threatening a warning look in Codsworth’s direction as if to emphasis the unspoken point to his warning.

 

It was barely dawn, and the small party had been assembled. It had been hard finding volunteers for the mission, but the commander had managed to scrape together a few dozen. Most of the mountain’s residences however, seemed to want to move south only when the king did, and Fierhand was determined not to move out until he was at full force, and with the army of the northern gate, plus the north-men not fully ready, that day was clearly not today. The small group waited for the commander in the entry hall, it was a rag tag bunch of dwarves and north-men, almost all were battle hardened, but of them all, only Erilatir had fought alongside the commander. The one who was not, was Edger, the youngster having requested to leave the mountain after the threats had begun to pile up from its residents. It struck the commander as odd; the people of the mountain had been mostly welcoming of the new inhabitants when after the raid on the prison camp. But that hospitality had not been extended to Edger, who had been shunned ever since coming out of his trance. As if the people did not fully trust that he was being honest when he insisted that he was no longer under Eugene’s control. It had troubled the commander initially too, but after having spoken with him, and the kid’s eagerness to help with whatever he could, he had decided that they could trust Edger, not that his endorsement counted for much in the throne room of Normanguard, with the likes of Fomhord seizing on this sudden generosity with vigour the second that Codsworth made his decision on the kid.

Whilst he was thinking about this and watching as Edger got clumsily onto a small horse, the commander noticed something out of the corner of his eye that looked, odd, one of his companions was slightly shorter than those around them. His initial thoughts were that another dwarf had agreed to join them, as the newcomer was on a goat. But that thought was dispersed by the fact that the stranger was too thin for the usually stocky form of a dwarf.

Then dawning realisation hit Codsworth, and he groaned at his own foolishness. The commander then walked up to the newcomer and removed their helmet to reveal Nick sitting and looking angry at the fact that his plan had not worked as well as he had hoped.

“The answer is no kid.” Codsworth said, looking down at a red-faced Nick, who he suspected had broken into the armoury and headed down to the entry hall despite orders to remain behind.

“But you said that you needed more men.” Nick said, turning the commander’s argument back on itself, or at least that was the idea, and a good one, if Nick had properly thought it through.

“Men yes. You are not even a teen yet Nick.” Codsworth replied, putting Nick’s argument to an end with those few words. For his part, Nick looked stubbornly up at the commander, as if he could force his way onto the mission with a sheer force of will. “Listen kid, I don’t have the number that I hoped for, if I had had more men, then I may have let you come along, but I don’t have enough men to protect you, and Vernon would skin me alive if I let you come with us.” Codsworth continued, that was the truth. He had no doubts whatsoever that if Vernon found out about him letting Nick accompany his troops. The old butler would bury him first and then, if he was feeling kind, kill him. Nick’s face slackened slightly at this, but it was still unforgiving. “We’ll speak when you come south with the main force.” Codsworth finished, hoping to placate the eleven-year-old. And before Nick could answer, the commander drove his horse forward out of the gates, and out into the northern landscape, heading due south straight towards The Iron Tooth.

 

It was two days before the first clouds of suspicion came to Codsworth, it had originally started as a weird feeling of being watched, but he had put it to one side, thinking that it was merely some of the locals with no intention of hostilities against his group. That was the previous day, and since then, that feeling had not left him, if anything it had only grown worse.

“Something’s not right.” Codsworth said, more to himself than to any of the others as he scanned the horizon, it seemed quiet and peaceful but the feeling of being watched never left him.

“Aye the men are too quiet.” Erilatir said, he had not dismounted as others had, and his axe in hand.

“How much further is it?” Edger said, in stark contrast to the others in the group, he was not being quiet at all. Although this too was a concern to the commander as he guessed that the kid was new to the battlefield and wondered how much use he would be if the worst came to them.

“I’ll ride ahead, see if I can see anything out of the ordinary.” Erilatir said, and he rode off leaving the commander alone with Edger, who seemed to be plucking up the courage to ask something.

“What is it soldier? Tomorrow maybe to late.” Codsworth asked, hoping to speed up the conversation. Edger didn’t respond quickly, further antagonising the commander, he was about to repeat the command, when the kid finally spoke up.

“My did the people at the mountain hate me. I mean, I did everything that I was asked.” Edger said, finally opening up on the subject.

Codsworth was taken aback by the question, he had known about the death threats, and he was pretty sure who was responsible for most of them, a certain councillor who had many supporters. But he wondered why Edger was only talking about it now.

“The people of the mountain are a suppositious lot kid, they fear what they do not know, and with the best will in the world, your arrival at the mountain was an uncertainty like they have never known. You were a spy after all…” Codsworth said before raising his hand to stop the obvious retort that he could see coming to the surface before continuing on. “I know you were an unwilling spy, but you came out of a trance claiming to not remember anything that had happened in the past few months, it’s not unreasonable for a few of the dwarves to suspect foul play on your part.” Codsworth finished.

“I never asked to have my head ripped apart by that lunatic.” Edger said, sounding eerily like Martin when he had been used by that psychopath.

“No one ever does kid, whilst those that sent you death threats will answer for their crimes if I have any say in the matter. You cannot blame the others for suspecting a degree of falsehood on your part.” Codsworth said, and he meant those words, whilst he had had his suspicions about Edger, the kid seemed genuine, and even if he wasn’t. he would never send a threatening note to a minor for something that said minor had had no control over. He was about to say more, when the commander stopped and looked around the landscape.

It was at that moment when Codsworth noted that something was wrong. It was once again too quiet for the time of day. They were barely twenty miles from the mountain, and with it going into the final stages of its war preparation, the noise should have reached for miles arounds, but there was nothing. He quickly signalled for Erilatir to return to him.

The commander looked around, becoming more and more worried, the last time he had had this feeling, it had been the precursor to an attack.

“What is it?” Erilatir asked as he rode up on his goat, but before Codsworth could reply, a bullet streaked through the air, and hit the dwarf squarely in the throat. Erilatir’s beard went scarlet as the blood came gushing out of his neck and the dwarf collapsed onto the ground dead.

Codsworth’s horse reared up at the scent of blood. Almost unsaddling its rider, but Codsworth clung on for dear life, and was able to turn around to see their attackers coming up from behind the rise.

They were not zombies; the group were moving too fast for that. But eastern dwellers, the people that inhabited the far eastern territories of there world. They were dangerous and tough people, and whether it was the dark influence of The Shadow, or a by-product of living in the wastelands that they called home, it had made them a cruel race, and their hatred of the more fortunately positioned west was well known.

Seeing this new enemy, Codsworth managed to draw his guns and begin firing. Although he knew it was a foolish endeavour, he had fifteen with him. And now stood ready to face at least three times his number. But unlike the times when it had been a hoard attacking him, there was no hope of safely wittingly down their numbers from afar, as these people were firing back at him.

 

A few miles down the road, Nick kicked stones as he followed the path that Codsworth and the others had taken on their root south, a gun slung over his shoulder and unaware of the skirmish that was raging just a few miles ahead of him. He had returned to the quarters after he had been discovered by Codsworth, as to be present when Vernon woke up, but he had headed out the second that he was certain that it wouldn’t arouse the old butler’s suspicions.

That was when he heard it, the sound of the screams coming up ahead of him. Nick groaned, he was countless miles away from the help of the mountain, and even if he could somehow convince Fierhand’s advisors, who already didn’t like him because of the stunt he pulled when the group first arrived, to send help. They would arrive too late to be of any use to Codsworth. With that fact, it left only one option, and realising this, Nick readied his gun, and headed forward, hoping to be of some small assistance to the commander.

 

Codsworth was continuing to fight for his life. They were currently pinned down behind some rocks, with no chance of escape. He could hear the group of easterners laughing as they continued what was rapidly becoming a turkey shoot.

“We can’t stay here forever.” Edger said, the kid having been one of the first to hide, not that Codsworth blamed him at all for that fact. They were down to only ten now, the last north-man who attempted to make a run for it having been shot in the head the second that he had raised his head above the rocks.

“I know kid, but if we move, we’re dead men.” Codsworth said, as he fired a few shots over his head, which stopped the laughter and seemingly hit one of their attackers as the group of eastern dwellers began angrily firing back at them.

The gunfire suddenly stopped after a few moments, and taking this as his cue, Codsworth rose up and along with his few remaining men, opened fire on their attackers. All but Edger who continued to remain behind the rocks.

 

Nick heard the re-emergence of gun fire and quickened his pace, checked to make sure his gun was loaded and charged headlong into the back of someone. He had been going so quickly that he hadn’t noticed them, and he found himself on the ground looking up at a tall man dressed in commando gear.

“What the…” Nick started when the man kneeled down and covered his mouth, a few grunting sounds come out, but it does the job as there was no longer any noise. The man, Ashdoon, a blond-haired muscular man, begins to whistle like a bird. From up ahead of them, a few more whistling sounds come from the distance, answering the call.

Ashdoon, slowly puts his finger to his lips, and Nick nods as the hand is removed from his mouth.

 

Back on the battle sight, Codsworth was barely able to hear the bird whistle, but in a millisecond lull it happened again, the sound of birds, which was odd as there had been no noise before the attack, which is what had alerted him to ambush in the first place.

But he heard it again, a bird call coming from the distance both ahead of them, and behind. He turned around to see if he could spot anybody, but in that moment, he knew that he had made a mistake, as a gunshot rang out to his side. And he felt a searing pain in his side.

Looking down he saw the damage. The hold side of his body was covered in blood, it came gushing out of him, staining the cloths that he wore red. The commander fell to the ground, and felt himself slip out of consciousness, the last thing he saw was the sight of four newcomers joining the battle and then he saw no-more.

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