Dragonbound: Torn--Book 3

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Truths come out

There were many things Brick knew Walter was capable of. He had seen him as a man of war. A warrior with everything to lose. He could tear down mountains if it meant winning wars. If it meant keeping his men alive.

But this was something different.

There was a fear in his eye.

Brick made his way through the palace, in hopes of reaching Walter. This plan of his was insane. It was going to kill too many men. And for what reason?

Turning, he opened the door, entering the Room of Maps. Scrolls and globes, compasses, and other such things littered the entirety of the room. Walter stood at the center table, inspecting some pages of import. He didn’t so much as glance up to Brick, who closed the door behind himself and approached.

“Walter, this is madness,” Brick said.

“You don’t think I know that?” he bit back.

Finally, his bloodshot eyes lifted, meeting his. He held an air of desperation. It was so unlike himself that Brick wondered if it were really the man before him.

“...Walter,” he muttered uneasily. “When have you slept last?”

“I cannot sleep while I know the wars ahead of us,” he retorted.

“...What are you talking about?” Brick replied hesitantly.

He was clearly withholding something. Keeping something from Brick, from everyone else. Maybe this curse was affecting him now?

He shook his head, clearing his thoughts, and reapproached. “Please. Explain to me what is going on.”

Walter nearly shook with nerves, his eyes shifting to the window, though curtains were drawn shut. “I cannot,” he said simply.

After a moment, as if is entire being shifted to another person entirely, he faced Brick. His eyes took on a new life. “There are battles, Brick. Large, drawn out battles. Fighting of which we’ve never encountered. I know that you do not know of this because I’ve kept it quiet. We cannot risk scaring our people.”

He hesitated, his words darkening. “Avestitia was a difficult one to fight. They’re a powerful foe, indeed. But...We’ve not fought anything like this. The Mage Queen.”

As if queued by the mention of the queen, the room grew a deadly chill. Brick glanced over his shoulder at the door, half-expecting Death to be waiting for him.

“We must prepare. Fortify the country,” he continued. “She’s coming for us. She’s angry.”

“Why?”

“I...couldn’t do it,” Walter hissed. “I tried...I had to.”

“Walter, you’re not making any sense--”

“Nevermind that,” he huffed, shaking his head. “Atop the wrath of the Queen of Mages, we’ve got Davin’s armies.” He sighed sharply, closing his tired eyes.

“...What?”

“Davin has been leading men into attacks on some of our stronger fortifications,” Walter answered.

Brick tensed, his eyes dark as he gazed at him. “Davin left us only to attack us?”

“He is angry with me.” Walter stood, pacing the room. He flexed his fists at his sides, his gaze shifting across the room. “Brick. What I say to you...It will not leave this room.”

Brick nodded once, hard. Was he finally to know what has happened? To hear it straight from Walter? He bit back his anxiety.

“I’ve been visited. Often by Sterjia,” he said. “She wanted something from me. In exchange for the safety of Rishana, I’d hand over Davin.”

The air grew heavier, colder, yet Walter pushed on. “When his abduction failed, I needed people to believe he had left of his own accord. I couldn’t let her know that I had let him go.”

Brick waited a moment, soaking in the information. “Let me get this right...Sterjia wanted Davin. So you were to give him over to protect the country against her in a future war?”

“...Yes,” he admitted.

“But rather than being abducted, he freed himself and escaped? And now, you want the country to believe he simply left so they won’t be alarmed,” Brick continued. “And so Sterjia didn’t learn right away?”

“Yes.”

“Alright, but eventually she’d have to learn the truth,” Brick stated.

“Which is why we’re in so much danger,” he growled.

“And beyond all that, Davin has retaliated against you? You think he believes it was you this whole time?” Brick pressed. “And why do you have his mistress locked up? What is she to do for you--”

“I still need to find him,” he answered sharply. “We still need him.”

“Giving Davin to the queen might be a worse decision than just fighting her,” he replied. “Haven’t you considered the alliance we have with Avestitia? They’re equipt for fighting such armies.”

“I am no fool,” Walter bit. “Of course I’ve considered it.”

The fear in Walter’s expression was enough to convince Brick that something else was happening. Something darker. Perhaps Sterjia had played too many tricks on him. Twisted his thoughts to the point of desperation.

“You said you “had to” earlier. But you couldn’t,” Brick approached cautiously. “What did you mean by that?”

“When he escaped…” he frowned. “Someone came to me that night. Told me that he was rushing from the city.” His voice hushed, as if the queen herself were trying to eavesdrop. “Rather than going after him, I let him go. I couldn’t bring myself to harm him. He was, after all, a good friend…”

“And why are you finding him now? To give to her?”

“It is to appear as such,” he answered. “The woman I have as captive...is just an unfortunate incident. But I do not want Sterjia to get her claws on her.”

And likely, keeping Serah in his own custody would ensure Davin’s return, proven he even hears of her pregnancy. Were Sterjia to get her, he’d go to Trindal-VinCar rather than the City of Rishana.

“Why would Davin attack in such a way? It seems out of character for him,” Brick stated.

“I haven’t a clue,” he mumbled. “Maybe he’s learned of Serah and is very angry with me.”

“Perhaps,” Brick said uneasily.

He knew there had to be a reason behind Walter’s betrayal. Though it was a poor decision and one made hastily.

Now, he is planning to send armies to fight these soldiers of Davin’s. It was going to deplete sources, wound men...Not to mention it will sever any good ties they would ever mend. If this were to continue, Davn and Walter would never work anything out.

“Regardless of all the happenings, what you’re doing with the girl is wrong,” Brick finally stated. “She must be taken care of. Her child must be.”

“I am aware,” he said. “My thoughts of late have been...fogged up. I was desperate for answers. I had to get them, even if it meant threatening her--”

“Walter,” Brick said sternly, but trying to keep himself calm. “You must know...that Trindal-VinCar...that Sterjia has cursed this country. It is why Murdock was mad, it is why Davin had lost focus. And it is why you are so...weary. So confused. You must withdraw from your position. Any leader of Rishana will end in tragedy. I know you well, my friend. You have been my mentor, a hero to so many...I know that you do not want this country to fall, let alone by your own hand. Please. Just keep the country at a standstill. No leaders. Just council. Decisions made in groups. Just long enough for the Mage Queen to end her reign.”

Walter eyed him cautiously. “What do you mean?” he asked.

“I mean that Avestitia is aiming to fight her. To defend against her as she attacks Kiaran’s homelands. Once Avestitia wins the war, she hopes to put an end to this madness,” Brick explained.

Walter continued to stare at him, his brows lowering slightly. “How do you know of this?”

“I have many ties, Walter. As it sits, I am more approachable than you are,” he said. “Information has come to me from reliable sources. And in pieces. But we, as a country, do not know enough or even have enough to take on such a war. Patience, in this case, is much more valuable than sporadic action.”

Walter cringed, looking aside. Many thoughts flitted across his eyes until he finally came to a decision. “I will not stand down. There is no telling who might forcibly take this position.”

Brick frowned, knowing it was a losing battle. All he could do at this point was try to keep Walter on the right tracks. And his next step was to free Serah and hide her safely away.

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