The Survivors (The Eleven Years War: Book Two)

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Chapter Five

Olrick wasn’t sure that Finn had much longer to live.

He was looking even worse than Marion had a few days earlier, when Olrick and Silas had saved her from the executioner; it seemed that the Giskens had even less tolerance for turncoats than they did enemy rulers. Finn’s skin was white as a sheet, with dark circles under his blue eyes, and he couldn’t seem to stop shivering, even after he’d wrapped himself up in both of their blankets and put on Olrick’s coat. He was constantly by the toilet bucket, either hunched over it as he threw up or sitting on it as he had the runs. He was miserable, and even though Olrick did what he could to help him keep his strength up, but he still didn’t seem to be getting any better. He prayed to the gods that he wouldn’t have to tell Elise that Finn had died in such an awful place as this prison, but he feared that that was exactly what he would have to do.

That night, when “dinner” – a watery, cold broth with a few chunks of nearly-spoiled meat in it – was served, Finn seemed to be even worse than he had been, before; he couldn’t even move, now, he was so sick. Despite how worried he was that he would catch whatever illness Finn had, Olrick found himself on the other side of the cell with him, holding him as he shook in his arms. He felt so weak and frail in his arms, like a little child.

“Olrick, I’m going to die here, aren’t I?” Finn asked after he’d thrown up on the floor in front of them.

Olrick found himself biting his bottom lip, unsure of what to tell him. He wanted nothing more than to tell him that he would be just fine and that he would get to see Elise again, but… what if he was wrong? What if he really would die there? He just couldn’t bring himself to say something that might end up being a lie.

“I don’t know,” he admitted. He grabbed one of the soup bowls and offered it to Finn. “I don’t suppose you feel much like eating right now, do you?”

Finn began to shake his head. “You can have it.”

“I’m not the one who needs it,” Olrick said. Finn curled up more as another stomach cramp seized him, groaning in pain.

“Gods, why can’t I just die, already?” he whispered to himself.

“Because it isn’t your time,” Olrick said. “Now, eat up, or Elise is going to kill me.” Finn stared at the bowl for a few seconds, then took it and ate a shaky spoonful of soup. He looked like he wanted to spit it out, but he managed to swallow it with a shudder.

“I’ve always wondered what this stuff tastes like,” he said. “I never imagined that it could taste so bad.”

The cell door clanked open and a Gisken soldier, accompanied by a few guards, walked into the cell. Olrick tensed up, ready to fight; they’d already interrogated him that day: if they were going to torture Finn in the condition he was in… well, Olrick was going to make sure it was nightmarish for the Giskens to get him out of the cell.

“What do you want?” Olrick asked. He could feel his grip on Finn getting tighter.

“Try not to be so imprudent, Watchman,” the Gisken soldier said. “Believe it or not, I’m the bearer of good news, today. There’s some people here to see you, and the warden’s allowing them; you should be quite happy.”

Visitors? For a second, Olrick almost thought that, perhaps, the newly appointed Gisken prison warden wasn’t the monster he’d made him out to be; however, those thoughts quickly vanished. There was an ulterior motive, he was sure of it.

Even so, he gently laid Finn back on the ground and stood up, allowing them to take him out of the cell. They shackled his hands and frog marched him through the narrow corridors of the prison.

“What’s really going on, here?” Olrick asked as they led him down the hallway. “I know you aren’t really going to let people visit me; what’s really at the end of this hallway, the executioner?”

One of the soldiers escorting him smacked him on the back of his head, hard. “Stop talking! You’ll find out soon enough.”

You’ll find out soon enough. That didn’t sound too good.

After a few minutes of winding through the halls of the prison, they took his shackles off and shoved him into one of the cells, shutting the door behind him.

Olrick looked around him. The room he found himself in wasn’t really a prison cell, but more of a reception area. The walls were the same stone as the rest of the prison, but they’d tried to make the room a little more inviting than the other rooms. There were two chairs on one side of the room and a couch on the other, while two candelabras lit the room. There was a second door on the other side of the room from him, one that he discovered was locked when he tried to open it.

He sat down on the couch, horribly uneasy. There was something wrong, here, and he wasn’t totally sure what.

After a few minutes of waiting, he heard footsteps coming towards him.

“You have ten minutes, and not a second more,” a Gisken told someone. “If either of you say anything that sounds remotely like plans to escape, both you and the prisoner will pay the price.”

Olrick stood up as the door opened. He could hardly believe it when he saw who was standing there.

“Olrick!” his mother ran across the room and hugged him. “Thank the gods, you’re still alive!”

He hugged his mother back, even more confused. His mother wasn’t the only person they’d let visit him. His younger sister, Ellen, was there, too, and so was his father, surprisingly. His sister slowly walked towards him and hugged him, as well, but his father stayed back. The fact that he’d even showed up surprised Olrick even more than the fact that any of his family had been allowed in; he’d disowned him almost ten years ago, when he joined the Watch.

His mother looked up at him with tears in her eyes. Damn those Giskens; they were going to use the one thing he had left against him: his family.

She reached up and gently touched his bruised cheek. “Are you alright? Have they hurt you?”

“I’m alright,” he lied. He looked up at his sister, who was standing to the side. Gods, she’d grown up so fast; the last time he’d seen her was the day his father kicked him out for enlisting, almost ten years ago. She would be almost twenty, now. She was almost an adult, and he might as well be a stranger to her.

“They told us you broke someone out of prison,” Ellen said. Her voice was steady, to the point where it sounded unnatural; it seemed that she was trying to keep her emotions at bay. “Is it true?”

Olrick found himself hesitating to answer. He knew for a fact that the Giskens were listening into their conversation and would use anything he said about Marion as an admittion of guilt.

But out of all the people in Semata that deserved to know what he’d done, his family did.

“It’s true,” he said quietly. “I helped Princess Marion escape from prison.”

For a few seconds, his family simply stared at him in disbelief. It seemed that none of them could have ever imagined that he was capable of something as big as this, especially his father, who believed in all the anti-Watchman sentiment that ran rampant through the country.

“Olrick, why would you do that?” his mother asked. More tears began to well up in her eyes. “They’ll kill you for that!”

“I know,” he said, his stomach twisting itself into knots. Little did his family know, he’d be on a boat for Kurzh by the end of the week; odds were, this would be the last time he would see them. “This is what I signed up for, though. I couldn’t just let them kill her, not when I could do something about it.”

His mother wrapped her arms around him tighter. “Gods, Olrick; please, I don’t want you to die.”

To his surprise, Olrick’s father stepped forward, next. His face was stone cold, the way it always was when he was just barely reigning in his own emotions. It seemed that his mother and his sister weren’t the only ones who were a little more emotional, that day.

His mother stepped aside, allowing for father and son to face each other for the first time in years.

Olrick found himself biting his bottom lip as he remembered all the things that had happened between them. He remembered all the things he’d told him when he first enlisted, how he told him that he was no longer his son and that he could die for all he cared; all the pain it had caused him over these ten years came back to him as they stared at each other for a few seconds.

“Markos, I-“ Olrick began, but his father didn’t let him finish. He wrapped his arms around him and squeezed.

“I’m proud of you.” For a few seconds, Olrick simply stood there, unsure of what to think. This couldn’t really be happening, could it? Were those countless years of his father acting like he never had a son finally over? He just couldn’t seem to believe it.

Even so, he didn’t let the moment pass him by. He hugged his father back, thanking the gods that he could die knowing that his parents loved him.

Just a few minutes later, the door opened and a few Gisken soldiers walked in. One of them was holding a pair of shackles in their hands, ready to take him away.

“Your time’s up,” one of the soldiers said as Olrick’s father let him go. A few of the soldiers walked in and shackled his hands behind his back.

His mother looked at them, her eyes filled with terror as they began to lead Olrick towards the door he came in through. “Where are you taking him?”

“Back to his cell,” one of the Giskens said gruffly. His mother looked like she was on the verge of a panic.

“Please, just a few more minutes,” she said as more tears began to well up in her eyes. One of the Giskens took her by the arm and began pulling her out of the room.

“Don’t hurt her!” Olrick squirmed in the Giskens’ grips as their comrades took his family out of the room. One of them punched him in the stomach, hard enough that Olrick found himself doubled over as they pulled him out of the room, his mother calling his name.
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