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Chapter 3

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Chapter III

Discovery of the Truth

 

Vernon often found himself down in the vaults of Normanguard these days, it felt odd, as he would never have thought that he would have gone down here before the war. He had never been the bookish type himself, but now was different, and he knew it. He needed answers, they needed answers. So far, the old butler had gone through about a hundred manuscripts and scrolls but had only found titbits of information that could be useful for the war effort. All had been passed on of course, but so far, no headway had been made. It was at that moment, when Vernon saw it, a small role of paper, that some dwarf during the past two or so thousand years, had crumpled up and pushed way to the back of one of the shelves. It definitely looked its age, unlike the other scrolls and books, that had at least been taken care of, this looked worn and broken beyond recognition.

It took a while, but eventually Vernon managed to get his fingers on the old piece of paper, he was careful as he flattened it out on his table, as it looked like it would fall apart as soon as he touched it. As he examined it, he realised that it was most likely written by the same person that had written the previous account, the handwriting was too similar for it to be from another author.

Hurriedly he rushed over to the table, placed the delicate piece of paper on the desk and began to read the short note.

Some old person connect the gems through magic of his mind, disappeared right in front of us as the enemy advanced on our final positions. We had tried everything else, but this was the only thing that had worked. When the old man returned, he had no recollection of what had been happening these past fifty years, but insisted that the gems should be split up, so that no one person could hold them all again.

Vernon leant up from the table that he had been sitting at, his mouth slightly open. They had their next piece of usable information. The old butler felt for the fleetest of moments happy that his work. Until dawning comprehension came to him, that they had no way of using this information, as none of them, nor anyone that they knew in the mountain had the ability that had been described.

‘Or at least they didn’t now.’ Vernon thought to himself, cursing Nick once more for allowing Martin to leave, as well as Dave, the one person who would have been able to track his youngest brother, for seemingly agreeing and not doing as he had been requested. That had become apparent a few days after he had instructed Dave to go and find Martin, Vernon had come to terms with that fact. But it still irked him how little of his control he seemed to have left over the brothers.

 

“And you are sure of this?” Fierhand asked, looking down at Vernon from his stone throne, the elderly butler having come straight to the throne room after making his discovery from the scrap of paper. Vernon had wanted a private audience, so that he could raise his problems without the glowering eyes of some of Fierhand’s advisors, who had mocked the idea of going to war, but had howled when news of their spy’s departure from the mountain had been brought to them, calling the small group rabble rousers, then swiftly moving onto calling them traitors.

“No. I’m not sure about anything like this.” Vernon responded, and as he expected a tittering came from those that had been against them from the start, but he carried on all the same. “Magic is one of those areas that is completely foreign and unpredictable. That being said however, it apparently worked last time, so I can see no reason why it shouldn’t work again.” Vernon finished, and waited for the noise to resume, but it didn’t. All was quiet, which if anything, felt even weirded and unnerving than when the dwarves were in outright hostility towards them. Doraghek however, was once again on the one dwarf who was different to the rest of his kin.

“Problem is though old friend, that we have no-one who is like that here.” Doraghek said, giving rise to the unspoken problem that Vernon had in his mind, whilst also keeping silent on his own suspicions as to whether they had previously had someone who could perform this miracle.

Fierhand stroked his long beard thoughtfully as he pondered his next move, before eventually deciding on it.

“I would like to speak to Vernon alone, the rest of you lot, clear out!” Fierhand said, shouting the last part for the ears of those that would want to defy him. And a few of the dwarves did indeed look angry that they had been ejected from the hall, but none raised the issue.

 

Once the room was empty, save for Fierhand and Vernon. The king stood up and walked down the stone steps in order to have a more personal, and more importantly private conversation.

“You do realise old friend, that we have someone who might be able to help us out, now that our spy has left us for Hurfim only knows where.” Fierhand said in a much quieter tone of voice that took Vernon by surprise. He strained to listen, and initially didn’t know of whom Fierhand was speaking.

“Wh…” Vernon paused a second as the realisation came to him. “No, your grace. Even if the lad could be trusted, which is very questionable at best. His mind is no longer his own.” Vernon finished. He had been filled in by Codsworth when he returned with their guest, that the youngster was nothing more than a shell of his former self, under the full control of Eugene and, on the surface at least, committed to the enemy’s cause.

“I know it’s a dangerous move. But maybe it could work and give the lad his mind back to boot.” Fierhand said. His advisors had initially wanted to send young Edgar Woods to the mines when he had first been brought here, and he too had agreed with them. Until Doraghek had convinced him otherwise on the matter. Stating that they would have use of the lad, and that he was as much a victim in this war.

Which was the main reason why he had ordered the lad to remain in the interrogation cell under guard, for his own protection more than anything else. But it had irked him all these months.

“Do you really think that it will work. Giving the lad his mind back I mean?” Vernon asked, he had nothing against the lad personally, but the last time they had tried to help him. It had resulted in nothing more than starting Martin’s visions in the first place.

“My son clearly thinks so, elsewise he would not have been brought back here alive. Also, the commander was seemingly thinking along the same lines as well.” Fierhand replied, shrugging at the question. Although it did nothing to ease Vernon’s consciousness. Codsworth may be right about a lot of things, but recently his decision making had been woefully off, resulting in numerous problems between the two eldest members of the group.

“We also know that whatever was done to Martin, was also done to young Edgar. For good or ill, he is now the only one in this mountain, perhaps in the north for all we know, that can access those objects.” Fierhand added, not so much as an afterthought, as Vernon had also realised that fact long before it had been brought up. But as an additional reason to at least try this new hair brained scheme.

 

“Absolutely out of the question.” Charlie said as Vernon explained the king’s plan to the group that night. She had heard some wild theories in her time, both at the lab at Wolfrick Co, and even more since then. But this took the cake for the most insane plan that Vernon had ever put forward to the group.

Everyone was gathered around, Jimmy and Abi sat on the couch listening intently to the theory with confused but interested looks on their faces now that they had another lead to follow. Bruce stood leaning against the wall, also looking uncertain and without the interested look. Nick sat in the one remaining chair, looking sheepish as he knew that it was because of him and his choice to help Martin and his friends leave, that they were in the situation that they now found themselves in. Codsworth, stood by the fireplace, looking grave at it all, it had not been to long ago that he had interrogated Edgar himself, which had ultimately made things worse. They had tried to raise Barca, still fighting below The Iron Tooth, but they had been informed that the lieutenant was still preoccupied defending the small town at its base to come to the meeting. And Jack, Dave and Martin locations were still unknown to them.

“Look, I know it’s not ideal, but it’s the hand that we have been dealt.” Vernon said, trying to bring Charlie on side. It had been a blow to his cause when she had come out against the idea, as he had been counting on her usual solid support. But this seemed to be one bridge too far.

“It’s a dangerous move Vernon, possibly too dangerous.” Codsworth said, he honestly didn’t know what to think on the matter, the lad wasn’t down the mines, which meant that the dwarves obviously had been persuaded by his and Doraghek’s efforts to prove that Edgar was no longer a lost cause. But all the same, the way his deadened eyes had shown no emotion as he saw Martin rive on the ground in pain, still haunted the commander to this day.

“We have tried everything else guys.” Jimmy said, with a pleading note in his voice, and Vernon turned around, hopeful for a possible ally in making his case. “We’re now out of options, but this might give us a chance to find out exactly how to work the gems.” Jimmy finished, shrinking back into his seat, never having been the one to raise his opinions, even back in the lab.

Charlie wanted to hit him, and really hoped that her niece would do the honours, but when nothing happened, she sighed.

“Look Vernon, I usually follow your ideas, but this is just too risky. Whoever the kid was before he went to that place, he isn’t that person anymore. He’s being controlled by the enemy.” Charlie said, waiting to see if anyone would interrupt her, but when no-one did, she continued. “From what Martin and his friends told us, he’s a spy. He is, maybe unknowingly, but still is working for the enemy. They beelined to us the last time we used those gems in force, and it cost us. Now you want to reveal to an enemy spy that we have more of them.”

Vernon stood there speechless, he had not thought about it from that angle, they had barely survived the previous attempt, and he doubted that they would get the godly help they had previously.

“I say we put it to a vote. I think you guys would be taking a great risk doing this, but at least this way, it’s fair.” Bruce said, speaking for the first time in the debate, hoping that this would at least put an end to the subject.

“Alright.” Codsworth said, looking around the room, it was seemed pretty much spit half and half. With only one person having not voiced their opinion on the matter, or in the entire conversation coming to think on it. “Those not in favour.” Codsworth said and raised his own hand. So did Bruce and Charlie. Codsworth looked around the room, so far as he suspected. “Those in favour of going ahead with this hair brained scheme.” Codsworth said, grimacing apologetically at his words, although they were true. Vernon raised his hand at this, as did both Jimmy and Abi. ‘Again, to be expected.’ Codsworth thought, as all eyes in the room turned to Nick.

Nick didn’t move for a moment, as he thought things through. He hated when stuff like this came this. And it was now made even worse, as he held the casting vote. He felt the sweat drip from his forehead from the pressure of all the eyes on him.

“I… I.” Nick stuttered, trying to get the words out. Although he was unsure as to what to say, he was aware that he was one of the reasons why they were currently in this situation, his brother being the other. But Dave wasn’t here to answer for it. “I say go ahead with it.” Nick said hollowly, before getting up and returning to his room, closing, and more notably to Vernon, locking it behind him.

 

The room was dark by the time Vernon went to see if Nick had unlocked his door, the previous two attempts had ended in defeat when the heavy wooden door did not give way. On the third attempt however, the door creaked open to reveal Nick, lying down on the bed staring at the ceiling.

“You alright kid?” Vernon asked, looking down at the eleven-year-old, who didn’t respond, but continued to stare up at the ceiling as if he could read something that was written up on the rocky cover. “We didn’t mean to put you on the spot back there Nick.” Vernon said hoping to apologise for what had happened previously.

“Was I right. I mean. Did I make the right decision?” Nick asked, not looking at the old butler, but at least willing to communicate with him. Which Vernon thought was a start at the very least.

“Only time will tell kid, the procedure will be done tomorrow. That’s when you’ll have your answer.” Vernon replied, hoping that that answer would satisfy the kid’s doubt. However, he was sourly mistaken on that count.

“It’s not that. It’s just that, this experiment. Might it kill him?” Nick asked, looking at Vernon for the first time, hoping that he had made his original point easier to understand.

“In truth lad.” Vernon said as he walked forward and sat down on the bed next to Nick and looking as grave as Codsworth had these past few months. “I do not know. But what I do know, is that it maybe our last chance to beat him. Yes, we are now gathering an army. But I fear that they will serve no more than a distraction to the all terrible one. Like before.” Vernon finished looking grim, that was the truth of the matter, from his own basic knowledge, and from what he had been reading about these past few months, it was hard to see it any other way.
“I know.” Nick said looking queasy at the thought. But Vernon however, chuckled at this comment.

“I should have known that you knew about this stuff already kid. Read it in your old man’s library I guess.” Vernon said still chortling.

“Yeah, and down in the vaults.” Nick said looking slightly embarrassed.

Vernon looked confused for a moment, before what Nick had just said hit him like a tonne of bricks.

“You mean you’ve been down in the vaults of this place. When? How?” Vernon asked, in quick succession. It had taken him a long time to convince Fierhand to allow him access to the vaults beneath the mountain. But this was news to him. Nick however, shrugged casually.

“When we first arrived, I wanted to see if it was as big as they said it was. But the one at The Imperial College is bigger though.” Nick replied brushing the hair out of his eyes as he did so and wondering why the old butler looked so shocked.

“So, you decided to break into the place?” Vernon asked incredulously, wondering what else the kid was hiding from him. But he would worry about that later. The vaults after all, were off limits to anyone but the king, under penalty of two years down the mines, and he wondered to himself why Nick wasn’t taking this more seriously.

“I didn’t break in. Dave did and let me look around for a while.” Nick said shrugging and with the supreme air of invisibility that all young people have before they get caught.

“Well… Right…” Vernon spluttered, not sure what to say, before deciding on nothing, as he knew not to get into an argument, as Nick had an unusual ability to win them, even against him. And with that, he left the room closing the door behind him as he did so.

 

The following morning dawned bright and early. Although it was a stark contrast to the lab, that had a dark mood about it. As Jimmy and Abi finished their preparations by placing the golden life gem on a stand directly in front of a wooden chair. Behind it, was a huge lamp stood ready to deliver the light that would power the gemstone, or so they hoped. Next to gold glinted gemstone, were the other two, a few feet on either side.

Alongside Jimmy and Abi, Charlie was also present, despite her reluctance for this to happen, she was not going to miss it. At this point, Edgar Woods, the prisoner taken by Codsworth and Doraghek all those months ago, was led into th room by two dwarves, a blindfold covering his eyes.

Edgar was forced down into the chair, and held in place by the dwarves, at which point Doraghek stepped into the room, his axe in hand. Charlie observed the room, all the players in position, and nodded to the dwarves, who took the blindfold off.

Observing the room, Edgar seemed for the moment as calm as he had been the day that he had first been brought to the mountain. But then his empty eyes fell upon the gemstone. It happened fast, Edgar lurched forward, not in attempt to grab the stone for himself, but what appeared to be an attempt to escape, as if he feared whatever power was inside the life gem. Or at least that’s what it looked like to Charlie.

“Let me go! Let me go! Let me go!” Edgar shouted, practically screaming at this point, but the guards held him steady.

“Keep him steady. That’s not him speaking.” Charlie said that she was certain on, when she had taken his blood, something that would have been a lot more painful than what was about to happen was ever likely to be, the kid had made no fuss. But now, with this, he was screaming his lungs out. The Dwarves nodded and tightened their grip, as did Doraghek who heaved his axe up, ready for the worst.

“Beginning test.” Jimmy said sweating bullets himself as he turned the huge light on. The blinding light hit the gold glinted gemstone, which did nothing but magnify it. The whole room then began to hum, almost as if it was vibrating under the pressure. But nothing was louder than Edgar screams as he fought to get out of the room.

The other lights in the room began to flicker, but if it was the power being drained to feed the large light, or the magical power, but which one of the two it was. They never found out, as small explosions came from all the lights of the room, including the main one, and then all went out.

The two dwarves that had been holding Edgar were blown of their feet, and collided with the back wall, but if Charlie thought that the lad would make a run for it, she was mistaken, as Edgar lay limply in the chair, not moving and dead to the world. Jimmy and Abi, who had taken cover behind the observation point came walking out and looked around at the scene.

Abi felt the lad’s neck, feeling for a pulse. But came up empty, she looked towards Charlie and shook her head, stepping back from the dead boy in the chair. The room was now only lit by the light from the three gemstones, which had seemingly moved closer together, only by a few inches, but it was something.

“Call a medic, tell them to have the…” Doraghek started, but was interrupted when Edgar spluttered back to the world of the living, he was looking around the room as if he had never seen it before.

“Where am I?” Edgar asked looking around the room and the people in it. The two dwarves made towards him, but Doraghek called them off by holding his hand in the air.

“Can you hear me laddie?” Doraghek said, stepping forward, whilst also trying to maintain his distance, and despite his assurance to his fellow dwarves, his hand remained firmly on the hilt of his own axe.

“Yes.” Edgar replied, fixing his eyes on the dwarf, but made no move, other than to scratch his head in pain.

“What was the last thing that you remember kid?” Doraghek asked, looking seriously at the newly returned teenager.

 

“There was no lie in his eyes father.” Doraghek said. They were back in the throne room, mercifully empty at Fierhand’s command, save for himself, Charlie and Edgar, who was wrapped in a coat after complaining of feeling cold. “The last thing he remembered was being in the control tower at Broken Mountains Institute with Eugene.” Doraghek finished, hoping beyond hope that he would be believed, as when they had first brought the lad in here, one of the dwarves had drawn his weapon and made to strike Edgar, only stopping when Doraghek met his weapon with his own.

“Do you know who I am boy?” Fierhand asked, looking down with a grimace on his weathered face. Edgar only shook his head, looking at the floor throughout all of Doraghek speech and his own response.

“There is other news your grace.” Charlie said stepping forward and looking slightly embarrassed herself. As by the time the lights had been brought back on, they had discovered that the experiment had partially worked. “What you proposed worked, at least a bit. The boy’s power was able to start uniting the gems together.” Charlie finished.

“Am I right to suspect that there is a but coming Charlie?” Fierhand asked, not in a malicious way, but in a way that told her that the old king knew her to well, and the track record of her own visits here was usually accompanied with a ‘but’.

“I’m afraid so father. The lad is not ready to go again.” Doraghek said before Charlie could answer, as if the dwarf wanted to give her a break from her frequent bad news to the king beneath the mountain. “If you were there, you’d understand. The lad’s heart stopped when he went in. At least we think he went in. And we don’t know what will happen if he goes in again.” Doraghek finished, and Fierhand nodded, seeming more tired than he had been in a long time to Doraghek’s eye. The king got up of his throne, and walked down to join the three of them, although Edgar still adverted his eyes.

“You are welcome to stay here as long as you want lad.” Fierhand said, placing a hand on Edgar’s shoulder, which caused the teen to look up for the first time in the conversation. But before he could say anything Fierhand turned to his son. “I would advise you to take him out the side passages. Where nobody will try and attack him.” Fierhand finished a stern look on his face. Doraghek nodded solemnly as he and Charlie walked Edgar out of the throne room, as Fierhand returned to his throne.

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