Beddigan let out a deep sigh as he stretched his sore arms as much as he could. The cell was dark and damp, and his wrists were shackled together and fixed at an uncomfortable height on the wall, with only a small bit of chain allowing for movement, making it impossible for him to get any rest. He spent most of his time sitting with his arms above his head and back against the cold, damp bricks, until his hands became numb. There was no window in his cell, or any of the other cells in the corridor, from what he could tell. The air was stale and musty. Thankfully they emptied his chamber pot daily.
Either things had really changed since his time in Yroebrage with Her Majesty’s Royal Sapphire Brigade, or he had never been privy to this particular dungeon before. It was nothing like the rows of cells with barred windows he had drug many a wolf into. This place had none of the relative comfort and civility that the mice had always prided themselves on.
He had only been in the dungeon one night and already it was too much. Though he had seen three other cells in the corridor as they drug him through it, there seemed to be no other prisoners in them. It was all very odd, especially since he was almost certain he had seen a shadowy figure in the cell opposite his own when he had first arrived. After the guards had shackled him, a swift knock to the head had meant lights out for him, and when he awoke, he was well and truly alone.
He had seen only standard issue prison guards since the Brigade had handed him off once reaching the castle. Once a day a pair of them would come to empty the chamber pot and give him a meal of cold porridge, or dry, crusty bread, along with a bowl of water. They never spoke to him. Not a word.
Beddigan let out a small groan as he repositioned, trying to ease the cramp in his legs and back. Closing his eyes, he silently prayed to anyone who may be listening. His eyes popped open as he heard the telltale thump of boots and the creak of the solid wooden door that lead into the corridor where his cell was. His heart raced. Not the usual time, he thought, straining against his bonds to get closer to the bars that made up the front of the cell. He hadn’t been told anything about what his fate was to be, though he assumed a trial would be in place for treason at some point and then likely execution.
He watched as two guards drug a limp, hooded body into the cell across from his, shackled it in a similar way, and removed the hood before leaving without a word. He squinted in the darkness to try and make out the details of the figure, but could tell only that it was a wolf that was clearly passed out.
Beddigan sat, staring at the other prisoner, waiting for him to wake for quite some time. Finally, he saw the figure shift and groan in pain.
“Annalose and Ardra, it never gets any easier.” he heard the wolf mutter as he struggled into a sitting position. He saw the shock register in the wolf’s eyes as he caught sight of Beddigan. They locked eyes for a moment. “Never expected to see one of you down here. You must have done something truly awful.” the wolf continued, averting his eyes as he winced in pain, still trying to shift into at least a partially comfortable position. Beddigan smiled wryly,
“I guess it depends on your perspective. From the perspective of my people, I am a wolf-sympathizer, and traitor of the highest order.” The wolf grunted in response,
“Why does it matter who you sympathize with? They are all corrupt anyhow. Wolf, Mouse, Bear. Same damn thing.”
Beddigan studied the wolf carefully. It was not uncommon for a wolf to find himself in an Illensdar prison, what with the war raging between the two countries, but what made this wolf special enough to warrant a cell in such a deep, dark dungeon?
“You must be pretty special, yourself, to find yourself imprisoned amongst the traitors to Illensdar.” Beddigan said softly. The wolf snorted with laughter which quickly changed to another grunt of pain.
“Think they broke a couple of my damn ribs…” the wolf muttered. “Me, I’m just a ranger, trying to get the hell off of this damn continent. Not that anyone bloody believes that.” the wolf continued, growling to himself as much as to Beddigan. He looked up and met Beddigan’s eyes again, “You lot sure don’t like it when a wolf doesn’t have any answers for you.” Beddigan let the words sink in. A wolf ranger was rare, but having spent the last many turnings in Katheyra, he knew they weren’t completely unheard of. Clearly the queen believed him to be a spy or some other tool of the Wolves Military, otherwise he would not likely be beaten and shackled as he was.
“The name’s Ragnon.” The wolf said. Beddigan hesitated a moment, but then spoke,
“Beddigan T. Mouze.” He watched and waited for the inevitable look of recognition on the wolf’s face, and was shocked when the wolf only smiled and said,
“Nice to meet you, Beddigan. Wish it could have been under better circumstances.” The shock left Beddigan speechless. Perhaps he is telling the truth, Beddigan thought, and he really is unaffiliated with the military. Clearing his throat he started to speak, but the wolf talked over him. “So what makes them all so sure you are a traitor then, Beddigan?” Beddigan’s gaze sharpened at the pointed question. Ragnon caught this and smiled wryly,
“Woah, woah, I didn’t mean anything by it. Just curious is all. Though a story would sure help me keep my mind off of the pain.” he ventured with a toothy grin. Beddigan took a moment to think about the situation and decided that if there was anyone he could tell his story too, it would be this trapped, beaten wolf who seemed to have never heard of him.
“I was once a member of the Royal Sapphire Brigade, the Queen’s most trusted and elite military force, just like my father before me, and his father before him.” he started, feeling a rush of heady emotion thickening his voice. “It was all I ever wanted to be, from the smallest age.” The wolf nodded and grunted,
“I’ve heard of them. Impossible not to have heard of them.” Beddigan nodded in agreement, knowing of the Brigade’s notoriety across the continent.
“My father died when I was just a cadet, in active duty, with the highest honors. It only strengthened my resolve to be a champion for our Queen; to protect our borders from the ravenousness of the Wolves.” Beddigan said. “No offence.” he added hastily. Ragnon let out a soft chuckle,
“None taken, believe me. I know of the savagery of both our kind’s. It’s why I long to have no part in it.” Beddigan nodded brusquely and continued.
“It wasn’t until after I had achieved my dream and became a member of the Brigade that I started to see through some of the smoke and mirrors put forth for the public.” His voice took on a frustrated tone. “Our Queen was always championed as a kind, benevolent ruler. We even treated our prisoners with decency and respect. The Brigade was seen as a troop of heroes, rescuing captured civilians and military members; protecting villages. But once I became a member I realized that no military can be that clean; and the Brigade was far from clean. And I began to see the side of our Queen that civilians never see; cruel, selfish. Vain.” He blew out a frustrated sigh as lingering emotional pain hammered his heart against his ribs. “Our family had never been told of the reasons around my father’s death, and up until I started to see the cracks in the facade I had never had reason to question it. With a little digging, I was able to find out that my father along with two other Brigade members were sent to protect a village near the northern section of the border, after rumors surfaced that the wolves were planning to raid it. Not an uncommon thing, the wolves raiding our villages near the border.” Beddigan had to stop a moment as his voice had taken a savage edge.
“Just three members of the Brigade? Why not more? Hell, why not a whole army?” the wolf asked, incredulously. Beddigan snarled,
“My question exactly. It turned out that other rumors had placed another raid on a village that produced more resources; wheat and vegetables, and most importantly to Her Majesty, the textile dying for all of the royal banners as it was near the Lichelle River. She made a deliberate choice to not send enough troops along with my father and the other Brigade members in an effort to save the other village.” His voice was shaking with rage. “And they were slaughtered, all three of them, along with the rest of the village.” he finished, feeling sorrow and anger warring in his heart.
Ragnon let out a slow breath. “I’m sorry, mate. That’s awful to hear.” he said sympathetically. “Though I can’t say I am surprised. I know you were, but I have never had such illusions of grandeur about those that run our countries. They are all thieves and liar. Murderers.” Beddigan nodded numbly. After a few moments of silence, Ragnon spoke up again, “That doesn’t really answer the question of how you found yourself down here with the likes of me though, Beddigan.”
Shaking himself free of his reverie, Beddigan was about to speak, to continue his story when he heard boots thumping towards the corridor. Two guards pushed open the squeaky wooden door, bathing the room in light and Beddigan gasped as he finally saw the injuries on his companion; sticky patches of dark red blood from lashings, an arm crooked at an impossible angle, surely broken in at least one place. Before he could take in much more of it the guards entered his cell and began to unshackle him, hauling him to his feet.
“Where are we going?” he asked as the guards half carried, half drug him out into the corridor.
“Good luck.” Ragnon murmured with a wince of pain. Beddigan met the wolf’s eyes a brief moment before a hood was pulled over his head and all was darkness.
To be continued…
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