The Survivors (The Eleven Years War: Book Two)

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Chapter Four

Eza hated the Giskens.

She found that on that day, as she watched them interrogate a man clothed in gray, mottled clothes from the intelligence core headquarters under the guise of a Gisken private, her hatred for them was especially strong. Even though she didn’t know who the Watchman was under his hood and his half balaclava, it took every ounce of strength she had to keep from intervening on his behalf; if she did, she’d just end up dead, like every other military commander they’d found thus far, and that wouldn’t help anyone. Eza just damned every Gisken in that tiny, cramped cell as they hit every square inch of his body with a baton, hard. Nothing was spared: knees, sides, cheeks; all were subject to the thick, metal baton’s fury.

“You really are quite dense, aren’t you?” the interrogator, the Oraniomancer by the name of Bram, said, his arms folded over his chest.

The Watchman didn’t say anything. With how silent he stayed, Eza was beginning to wonder if he was just being stubborn in it, or if he couldn’t actually speak.

Bram walked over to the Watchman and pulled his hood back and his half balaclava off of his face.

Eza found herself clenching her fists and trying to keep from acting too surprised. This mysterious, stoic Watchman was not just some mute boy trying to be a hero; it was Olrick.

“Do you realize just how easy it is to make this stop?” Bram asked. “All you have to do is give us some sort of information: a name, an address, anything that could be used to find one of your friends, and all this can stop. Is that too much to ask?”

Olrick said nothing. He just stared at his feet, waiting for his impending punishment.

“You stupid bastard,” Bran said as bright, white sparks began to fly down his metal baton. Without another word, Bran hit Olrick with the baton in the stomach, hard.

The result was almost instantaneous. There was a loud zapping sound as the lighting charged baton hit Olrick’s stomach, and the next thing Eza knew, his back was colliding with the other side of the cell, three feet away from where he’d been standing.

Despite the fact that her mind was screaming at her not to, Eza rushed over to Olrick’s side to see if he was alright. The situation wasn’t good. He was twitching uncontrollably, his eyes were shut tight and his face was screwed up in agony, he groaned every few seconds; Eza even found herself praying to the saints to accept his soul in the next life, and she wasn’t even that religious. After how much lightning Bram shoved into him, she was really worried that he’d gone and killed Olrick.

“You seem rather worried about him, private,” Bran said as Eza stood up. “After being attacked a few times by the Caithian resistance, you won’t find yourself feeling so sympathetic for them.”

“I don’t blame him for being worried,” one of the other men said as he walked over. Judging by his blue armband, he was a captain, just like Bram. “If I weren’t used to seeing you nearly killing inmates, I’d probably freak out, too.” He looked over at Eza.

“Can you carry him, yourself, private?” the man asked.

Eza nodded and slowly heaved Olrick to his feat, with his arm slung over her shoulder. He looked at her for the first time in his interrogation, but he didn’t say anything; if he had, she’d probably end up in the same situation that he was in, or worse.

“Take him back to his cell, private,” the captain said. “I’ll send the doctor around soon to see if he’s fit to continue interrogations.

“Yes, sir.” She began to slowly take Olrick out of the cell.

The prison that they were in was just outside the city, near the top of one of the mountains that overlooked Semata. Before the Giskens had taken it over, it had been the securest prison in Caitha, reserved only for those who’d committed crimes that warranted a hell such as that. Now, its cells weren’t filled with rapist and murderers, but with captured Caithian soldiers, who were now being tortured for information before they were shipped off to Kurzh or publicly executed as examples of what happened to those that defied the Giskens. Eza wasn’t sure which one she’d rather have for Olrick; she didn’t want him to die like this, but sometimes, she thought that being sent to the labor camps in Kurzh was a worse fate than death.

“Eza, what the hell are you doing here?” Olrick asked once they were far from Bram’s prying ears. He was starting to recover from what happened to him while he was being interrogated, and was starting to try and walk; however, his feet just ended up scraping against the stone floor, useless. “They’re going to kill you if they find you.”

“I’m trying to get back to Kurzh,” Eza said as she continued to drag Olrick through the stone corridor. “I heard that they’ve arrested Mitrius, and I plan on making sure that they don’t execute him.”

Olrick looked over at her, surprised. “You’re going back home?” Eza didn’t respond.

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” he asked. “I mean, you and Mitrius nearly died trying to get out of there; are you sure that you want to risk going back there?”

“Even if I wasn’t, I can’t just back out, now,” Eza said. “I’m supposed to get on a ship heading for Orovich at the end of the week.” Olrick looked away and bit his bottom lip.

“That’s when they’re shipping me out, too.”

Eza cursed. It looked like Mitrius would be the only person she’d have to break out of prison.

She stopped in front of Olrick’s prison cell and unlocked it. “How are you doing on blankets in here?”

“It’s cold, but I can manage,” he said as she dragged him in.

“The supply closet isn’t very closely guarded,” Eza said. “I’ll see if I can get you something warm.” She gently set him down to the ground. “Are they feeding you almost decently, or do I need to grab some food for you, too?”

“I’m not the one that needs food,” Olrick said. Eza looked behind her to see a huddled mass wrapped in a rag that passed as a blanket in the prison, chained by the ankle to one of the walls. It was thin, shivering uncontrollably as it tried to get warm.

The mass sat up, wrapping his blanket around himself tighter. Eza’s jaw nearly dropped in surprise.

It was Finn.

“Silas, what in the world are you thinking?” Elise and Silas were standing by the newly lit hearth, while the abbot was praying over a sleeping Marion and Kael was practicing his staff fighting with one of the novice, over in a different area of the abbey. They’d waited for nearly an hour before they began to discuss what Silas was planning to do; they didn’t want Marion to hear it, seeing how fragile her state of mind already was as far as Olrick was concerned, and both of them were worried that if Kael were to hear about it, he’d try and come along with Silas; now that they knew neither of them would hear about it, they felt like they could really discuss it. “Did you take a trip to a tavern to get drunk off your bum before you came back here when you came up with that idea?”

“I was thinking about taking responsibility for what I’ve done, thank you very much,” Silas said, folding his arms over his chest. “It’s my fault that Olrick’s where he is, so it’s my responsibility to get him out of there; why is that such a damned awful thing?”

“Olrick isn’t the only one you’re responsible for, Silas,” Elise said. “As far as we know, you’re the only military commander we have left. You have a duty to this country not only as a commander, but as a ruler, until Marion’s coronation. I know how guilty you feel about what happened to him, but-“

“But what?!” Silas snapped. “I’m sorry, Elise, but you have no idea how I feel, not unless you’ve ever done something that killed someone you cared about!”

Elise looked down at her feet. “Finn’s dead, thanks to me, and Olrick nearly died in Thaos trying to protect me.” She looked back up at Silas as a lump began to form in her throat as tears began to brew in her eyes. He seemed surprised by the look in her eyes. “Believe me, Silas, I know about the people I love getting hurt because of a mistake I made.”

Silas sighed, running a hand through his hair and looking into the hearth. “I’m sorry, I just… I’ve never had my hands tied like this, before. Whenever something bad happens, I’ve always been able to do something about it. But now that lives are at stake, there isn’t a damned think I can do about it!” He turned and punched the wall next to him hard. There was a loud, ugly crack, and Silas recoiled, cursing in pain.

“Silas you don’t have to do anything about this,” Elise said. “Olrick didn’t join you on your plan expecting to come out unscathed, and he probably doesn’t expect any sort of attempt to get him out of prison.”

“If you’re trying to give me some sort of a pep talk, you’re doing a horrible job,” Silas commented.

“He probably doesn’t expect one because he doesn’t want you to,” she said. “He willingly sacrificed himself to save Marion from the executioner, and he wouldn’t want you – or anyone else, for that matter – getting killed to reverse it.”

Silas stared at her for a few seconds, then sighed defeated. It seemed that he’d decided that she was right, though he probably didn’t like it. “I think I just broke my hand.”

“I think you did, too,” Elise said, looking at his hand. It was already beginning to swell, and the lower part of his hand was starting to turn dark shades of blue and purple. “Let’s get that wrapped up.” They walked over to one of the couches and sat down so Elise could start looking at his hand.

The second Elise touched Silas’ hand, she knew that it was broken: once she’d managed to feel past the swelling in his hand, something Silas didn’t seem to enjoy, she could feel one of the bones in his hand sticking out of the bone slightly.

“It’s definitely broken,” she confirmed. “I’ll have to set it.”

Silas looked up at the ceiling and sighed. “That’s going to hurt like hell; teach me to punch things.”

Elise got into position to set the bone in his hand. “Do you want to have some pain killers before I do this?”

“Just get it over with,” Silas said. “I’ve had bones set a million times, before; this isn’t going to be any different from all those other times.”

Elise shrugged and with a quick motion set the bone in Silas’ hand.

There was a loud, sickening crack as the bone went back into place. Silas yelped and yanked his hand back, cursing and massaging his hand.

“Don’t warn me that you’re going to mess my hand up even more, whatever you do,” he muttered to himself.

“You told me to get it over with,” Elise said. “If I’d given you forewarning, you would’ve tensed up and made my job harder than it needed to be.” She grabbed a bandage from her bag and began to wrap his hand up. For a few seconds, neither of them spoke as she wrapped his hand tightly so his hand could heal.

“What are we going to do with Marion?” Silas asked to one one in particular. He was looking over at the sleeping princess, who was still being prayed over by the abbot. “We can’t stay here forever; the Giskens are going to find us here and have us killed if we stay here for too long.”

“She isn’t strong enough to travel, right now,” Elise said. “From what she told me, this is the first day in nearly a month that she’s had a decent meal, and she has a pretty large gash on her side that’s badly infected. To be safe, she won’t be ready to travel for another month or so.” Silas cursed as she finished wrapping his hand.

“What’s the soonest we could leave?” he asked.

“I don’t feel comfortable saying,” Elise said. “It all depends on how fast her body heals. Worst case scenario, she won’t be ready to leave for two months.”

“Two months?” he asked, shocked. “We’ll be dead in a ditch, by then!”

“Like I said, that’s the worst situation,” she said, looking over at Marion. “If we can get her eating three decent meals a day, again, and if she gets plenty of bed rest, she should be ready to leave much sooner than that.”

“For our sakes, let’s hope you’re right.”

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