The Last Stand (The Eleven Years War: Book One)

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Chapter Four

Olrick was in deep trouble.

As Blair dragged him away from the tavern, he began to realize just how much trouble he was in. The first time they’d caught him, the night Milo died, they hadn’t take much stock in him, at least, not at first. They hadn’t known that they’d managed to arrest the person in charge of the Watchman corps of the Caithian army until that last night, when they really began to interrogate him for information, but hadn’t added extra security by the tree they’d tied him down to in time to keep him from escaping.

However, they certainly wouldn’t make that mistake a second time. They knew who he was, they knew what he was capable of; there was a very small chance of him being able to get out of this situation.

After a few minutes of walking through the occupied town, they reached a large, white tent, just outside the town. Blair led him to it and walked inside.

Olrick nearly wet himself when he saw who else was in the tent. Sitting down at a table with a map of Caitha spread out in front of him was General Raul, the leader of the Gisken forces. He had pale, gray hair that he always pulled back into a short tail, just as Olrick had seen many Giskens do, blue eyes (at least one of them was; he had a bandage wrapped around his head that covered one of his eyes,) and pale skin. Despite the fact that he was growing old, he still looked strong as an ox.

“General Raul, sir.” Blair saluted him, raising a fist at a ninety-degree angle. He looked up from the map at them and returned the salute. When he put his arm down, Blair did, as well.

“Is this the Watchman who was giving you so much trouble, Lieutenant?” He asked. He scoffed. “He’s little more than a child.” Blair’s grip on Olrick’s forearm tightened in anger, but he didn’t say anything.

“Keep him under lock and key somewhere with a guard this time,” General Raul said with a flippant wave of his hand as he looked down at the map again, seemingly planning their next attack. From what Olrick could tell, they were going to attack a small village east of Thaos. “We’ll send him off to Kurzh once our ships come to resupply us.”

So, that was to be his fate? He knew that that was likely what would happen to him – after all, that’s where they sent all of their prisoners – but the news still managed to hit him like a brick wall. It was a virtual death sentence; he only knew of one person who’d managed to make it out of that frozen hell alive, and she could barely talk about it without getting antsy.

“What do you want us to do with the people that were hiding him, sir?” Blair asked.

“Who was it?” General Raul asked.

“An older man and a girl,” Blair said. “They own the tavern here.” General Raul paused as he thought about it.

“Has Nalia gotten control of her little gift, yet?” he asked. Olrick bit his lip, praying that she had.

“No, sir,” Blair said.

“The man can serve as someone for her to practice on,” General Raul said. “Perhaps the Abunaki can find a purpose for the girl.”

“Wait-“ Olrick blurted out. General Raul looked up at him, surprised. He swallowed and began to try and keep the fear from registering on his face. As much as he hated to admit it, he was terrified of the aging general: after all, he’d personally brought about the deaths of thousands of men just like him.

“I’m sorry; I didn’t quite catch that,” he said. Seeing that he couldn’t keep his mouth shut without revealing his fear, he sighed as he tried to gather his thoughts. What could he say to keep them from sending Elise and her father away?

“The girl is the town’s doctor,” he finally managed to say. “You’d be wasting a valuable asset if you were to sell her to the Abunaki.” He hated having to talk about Elise like that – after all, she was a person, not a pawn to be played – but he was afraid that if he didn’t refer to her as an asset, his words would fall on deaf ears.

“A doctor, you say?” General Raul asked as he looked back down at his map and continued plotting. “I suppose we’ll have to put her to the test, then.” He said something to Blair in a strange language, one he didn’t think he’d ever heard, before. Olrick heard him unsheathe his sword.

A lump began to form in his throat. What were they going to do to him?

To his surprise, it wasn’t the sting of a blade that Olrick felt against his good shoulder. Instead, Blair slammed the pommel of his sword against his shoulder, hard. There was a loud, ugly pop, and the next thing Olrick knew, he was laying on his stomach. His shoulder hurt so badly, it took every ounce of willpower he had to keep himself from screaming in pain. Both Blair and General Raul simply stood there, watching him as he writhed on the ground in pain.

“D-damn you,” Olrick managed to whisper, praying to the gods to lessen the pain. Blair got tense, as if he intended to strike him again, until General Raul held up one of his hands, much to his dismay; he seemed to take pleasure in each little pain he was able to inflict on their first prisoner of war.

“There have been so many times where I could have ordered my men to kill you,” General Raul said, his voice eerily calm. “With just one flick of my wrist, I could have you killed like a dog.” Olrick looked up at him, into his emotionless face and stark, blue eyes, confused.

“Then why haven’t you?” he asked through clenched teeth.

“Because I have no use for a dead slave,” General Raul responded bluntly, looking back down at his map. Olrick grimaced after he’d heard that, as if the very words themselves had managed to slap him. The gravity of what was happening to him began to sink in: they were going to sell him off in Kurzh. He was going to die in a frozen wasteland, without any hope of ever seeing his homeland ever again.

“Take him to the girl,” General Raul said as Blair grabbed him and pulled him back to his feet. He almost passed out in pain. “If she knows what to do, bring her to me.” With that, Blair began to drag Olrick out of the tent and back to the tavern.

Elise felt like the world was falling apart around her.

As she sat on the floor or the tavern, Pa’s arms wrapped around her, her dead brother’s sword on her lap, her vision blurry with tears, she tried to piece together what was going on. How could any of this possibly be real? In the past few minutes, the Giskens had managed to destroy her life: her brother was dead, the Giskens had invaded, they’d probably gone and killed Olrick and were beginning to decide her and her Pa’s fate as they mourned her brother. She kept praying to the Gods that someone would hurry and wake her up, but she knew that that wouldn’t happen; this was all really happening to her.

“How did you know him?” The Gisken with the shaved head, who’d introduced himself as Corporal Kael, sat with them, his sword back in his sheath. Once Blair and Olrick were gone, he seemed to have found his humanity again. She was surprised at how pleasant he seemed to be.

“He was my brother,” Elise said quietly. Kael adjusted himself, seemingly uncomfortable.

“Sorry,” he said quietly. Once again, she found herself surprised at how genuine this Gisken sounded. She’d been under the impression that Giskens were even more brutish than Kurzhians all through the day, with the invasion and the fact that they seemed to have killed her brother for no good reason at all. Because of this one corporal, she began to see that not every one of the Giskens were evil, that some may have been, heaven forbid, decent human beings with the misfortune of being born in the wrong country.

Then again, it all could’ve been an act to get her and Pa to cooperate with them.

The floorboards by the door creaked as someone walked into the tavern. They looked over to see Blair, holding Olrick in his arms. He was shaking and his face was contorted in pain.

Elise could feel a lump beginning to form in her stomach. What had they done to him?

“Are you a doctor?” Blair asked. Elise slowly stood up, leaving Milo’s sword on the ground. Pa took it, careful not to cut himself on its sharp blade.

“What happened?” she asked as Blair set Olrick down on one of the tables. He flinched and yelped in pain when his shoulder touched the table.

“An interrogation went south and he hurt his shoulder,” Blair said as Elise began to feel his shoulder, making Olrick flinch and begin groaning in pain. She could feel a large, hard lump in his good shoulder, one that hadn’t been there before. “General Raul ordered me to get him to a doctor, and as all of ours are occupied with our injured, I had to find someone else.” Elise walked behind the bar and began to fill a tankard with ale.

“You dislocated his shoulder,” she said. Once the tankard had been filled, she walked back over. “I’ll need to put it back into place.” She put a hand on Olrick’s shoulder as she held the tankard up to his lips.

“Olrick, I need you to drink this,” Elise said. “It will help with the pain.” Though not by much. She would prefer to use something a little more potent, like some of the medicinal herbs that came from towns near Thaos, where the soil was more fertile and the delicate herbs would be able to survive. However, she didn’t have enough of them for it to do much effect, and she had a feeling that there wouldn’t be another market for a while. Olrick didn’t seem to know that the ale wouldn’t help that much or didn’t care that it wouldn’t, though, because he drank up the entire tankard without a second thought.

Once there wasn’t any more ale in the tankard, Elise set it back down on the table. “Can you put your arm over your stomach for me.” Slowly, he moved his arm so his arm was at a ninety-degree angle and rested on his stomach, right where she needed it.

“I’m going to move your shoulder, now,” Elise warned. “Try to relax.” Olrick nodded and took a deep, shaky breath.

Carefully, Elise took him by his forearm and began moving it away from his body. He didn’t seem to be in too much pain, until she began to move his elbow away from his body.

Olrick began to scream in pain through clenched teeth as she moved his elbow up and down, trying to get his shoulder to pop back into place. Finally, she heard a loud pop and Olrick began to relax. Elise hadn’t realized that she’d been holding her breath until she sighed, relieved. The method hadn’t seemed to work, at first; she was worried that she would have to use a more painful method of putting his shoulder back in place.

“You did good,” Elise told him. “Try not to move your shoulder too much, alright?” Olrick nodded.

Elise looked over at Blair and swallowed, hard. Even though she hadn’t even known him for a day, she found that she was more scared of him than she had been of any man, even Bram. He was ruthless, the kind of person who didn’t like it when his plans went awry, which was why, she thought, that he hated Olrick so much. What was he going to do to her if she disrupted the Giskens’ plans even more by telling him that he couldn’t interrogate Olrick, anymore?

“He needs to keep his arm stationary for a few weeks,” she said. “If he doesn’t, it’ll just pop back out.”

“That’s out of the question,” Blair said. He grabbed Olrick by the front of his shirt and pulled him to his feet. He stumbled forward and nearly fell to the ground, until Blair caught him. “General Raul’s orders stand; he’s undergo interrogations until he breaks and gives us the information we want, or until our ships are able to take him to Kurzh.” Elise’s heart sank. It seemed that Olrick would be yet another person the Giskens would tear out of her life.

“If he continues to go through these interrogations and his shoulder keeps getting popped out of place, he’ll be of no use to you if he can’t do anything with his arm,” Elise said. They’ll kill him if he can’t work.

“It isn’t me that you’ll have to convince,” Blair said. “It’s General Raul.” Elise didn’t respond. The very name was enough to inspire fear in anyone who wasn’t a Gisken; after all, he did lay waste to every country he invaded.

“Perhaps, you could manage to do it, though,” he suggested, as if such a feat were so easy to perform. “He can be reasoned with.” Kael stepped forward.

“Blair, I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he said. Blair glared at him.

“Then, perhaps you would like to join her, corporal,” he said. “I’m sure her father would appreciate it.” For the first time during the conversation, Elise looked back over at her father. His eyes were wide with horror, no doubt worried about what the Giskens were going to do to his daughter. She was scared about that, as well. Kael looked over at Pa, as well. He gulped when he saw the look on his face, then looked back at Blair.

“I-I think I will,” he said. Blair seemed surprised by his answer, but he didn’t say anything about it.

“Then, go on ahead,” he said. “I’ll go find a place for the Watchman.” He walked out, Olrick in tow.

Once Blair and Olrick were out of eyeshot, Pa looked over at Kael.

“What is he going to do to her?” he asked, scared. Kael rubbed the back of his neck.

“I’m not sure,” he admitted. “I’ll try and keep her safe, though; you have my word.” Pa, frowned, unconvinced, for a few moments. Then, he sighed.

“Why do I trust you?” he finally asked. With that, Kael escorted her outside to some unknown fate.

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