“Beddigan?” You alright, mate?” The familiar voice tugged Beddigan up through the cloudy fog of pain to consciousness. He blinked in the darkness, wincing at the sharp pounding in his head.
“By the gods,” he groaned as he shifted and peered around the familiar cell, arms shackled uncomfortably above him. “I think so.” He found the wolf’s yellow eyes peering at him from the cell across the corridor.
“They aren’t gentle.” Ragnon said, muttering a curse under his breath. “You were gone quite a while. It’s never good when you’re gone that long.” Beddigan winced and nodded slowly, careful not to make any pronounced movement as everything hurt. A quick inventory of his injuries suggested that beyond beaten, nothing was broken. He could taste dried blood on his mouth and was certain patches of it marred his fur beneath his torn clothing. He could recall very little of the last several hours, besides being drug about with a hood on so that he couldn’t see where he was going. The beating had begun swiftly and he had been knocked unconscious fairly early on, or so it felt.
“I never thought I could be happy to see this stinking pit of a dungeon but it sure beats that godawful hood.” Beddigan growled, reaching for the grimy pewter dish that had been left for him with a few swallows of water in it. He gratefully drunk two sips of water and used the third to rinse the blood from his mouth, spitting it back into the bowl. Ragnon chuckled.
“Those damn guard interrupted us right in the middle of your story too. I have been sitting here in the dark trying to figure out how it comes to pass that you end up here.” Beddigan smiled grimly at his compatriot,
“And what did you come up with?” he asked. The wolf gave him a toothy grin,
“Well, murder of course. Someone important, I’d reckon.” Beddigan nodded grimly, the smile fading from his face.
“Right on the nose, you are, Ragnon. Though he was far more important to me than he was to the Queen.” Blowing out a frustrated sigh, Beddigan settled in to spin the rest of the tale for the wolf. “We left off with me finding out that the Queen essentially sent my father to slaughter, right? Sorry but my brain is a bit scrambled.” He asked. Ragnon grunted,
“No apologies necessary, friend. And yes, that is where we were when those guards to rudely interrupted us. The nerve!” Beddigan couldn’t help but crack a smile at Ragnon’s lilting sarcasm.
“Right, right. Well I guess the next mportant piece of the puzzle was that soon after I found out that heartbreaking piece of my family’s history, the Brigade was sent on a rescue mission to liberate some of our soldiers being held in Fort Alline. It was a carefully executed mission and we managed to rescue nearly all of the mice that were being held at the prison camp. Along with the mice, I took it upon myself to rescue a young Reenal girl.” His voice grew heavy with emotion as he remembered rescuing Shianne from the brutal prison camp; saving her life despite the fact that the rest of his Brigade members thought him a fool to risk his life to save her. He felt the heat of anger slice through him as he remembered the Queen’s response. She had been furious with him for endangering himself for a mission of his own.
“I take it ol’ Queenie wasn’t too pleased with that decision?” Ragnon said, and Beddigan nodded.
“She would have been more than happy if I had just left the girl behind, despite my having successfully saved her. It was then that I realized she didn’t see us as heroes, or even as soldiers, but as a commodity. We are the Queen’s weapons, and she doesn’t like losing us, especially if we aren’t following her direct orders.” Beddigan groaned in pain as he realized he was clenching his paws into fists due to anger, causing his muscles to contract and stretch over his bruised arms. Shifting again to find a more comfortable position, he continued. “I took the care of this young fox girl all my own, and my fellow soldiers were quick to tell me what they thought of it. My best friend on the Brigade, Sir Charrin, was baffled that I would in any way disobey our queen; after all, the Brigade is there simply to serve her loveliness.” Beddigan said, bitterly.
“I think I see where this is headed.” Ragnon mused from the other cell. Beddigan looked at the wolf for a moment and saw grim recognition in his eyes.
“I have a feeling that you do.” He said flatly, before continuing on. “A short time after rescuing the fox kit, the Queen ordered the Brigade to raid a small inland village that had been pinpointed as a secret hub for Mormant’s weapons manufacturing. We were to take as many prisoners as we could and destroy any Smithing and Forging stations we came across. It was a big job, we had a full troop, and the wolves were unsuspecting. We captured a great deal of wolves that day. Everyone hailed it as a huge success.” Beddigan felt anger flare again as he recounted the story, “Among the soldiers and smithies, we captured a great deal of civilians that day. The Queen loved to have us take civilians because they often cracked under the pressure of an interrogation, revealing things that the soldiers wouldn’t. Unfortunately for them, they refused to talk, right down to the youngest prisoners, a fourteen-year-old cub. She claimed she didn’t know anything about other weapons manufacturing sites, despite her father owning and operating a forging station, and by rights, she probably didn’t. But Queen Elendie didn’t buy it, didn’t buy it from any of them. She ordered the mass execution of all prisoners including the civilians unless someone spoke up.” He heard Ragnon suck in a sharp breath.
“How many?” the wolf grunted. Beddigan sighed,
“At least thirty.” Ragnon made a strangled sound before he muttered bitterly,
“Monsters.” Beddigan couldn’t help but agree and nodded,
“I remember some of the Brigade thinking it was a trick, a ploy to get the wolves to speak. But I had seen behind the curtain. I knew that she meant it.” Beddigan felt tears prick his eyes as he remembered the families, shaking and terrified for their lives. “I couldn’t stop thinking about that little girl. I mean, she was about the same age as the fox kit that I’d rescued only weeks before. And now I was to put her to death?” Beddigan shook his head. “I mean, I felt badly for them all, but I just couldn’t stand the thought of her, and her mother and father along with her, being murdered for no reason.” He faltered, his voice breaking with emotion.
“You are a better man than your Queen deserves, friend.” Ragnon said with a sincerity that punched through Beddigan’s cloud of dismay. He offered the wolf a weak smile,
“Thank you.” He murmured softly. “So, I made the decision to break them out. All of them, and give them a fighting chance to escape back to their homeland. It was the right thing to do.” He said fiercely, as if arguing with the memories of his past. “And despite everything that has happened since, I don’t regret it.” Ragnon nodded,
“So you let the wolves go. How did that lead to murder?” Beddigan felt a pang of pain lance through his body as he shuddered, remembering how that fateful night had gone.
“Sir Charrin was the other Brigade member on duty with me as guards, the night that I had chosen to free the prisoners. I had toyed with the idea of telling him my plan but I just kept coming back to his reaction after I had rescued the fox kit. I knew he wouldn’t be in favour of my plan, that he would side with the Queen no matter what, but I assumed he would at least give me a chance to free them.” Beddigan let out a frustrated sigh. “I was no fool; I knew there was no way out of there without being caught for my act of treason. But I did not expect to have to leave a mouse, my best friend, dead by my hand.” Beddigan’s voice choked with emotion and his feet twitched in his boots, aching to pace as he continued on. “Charrin made it clear he would stop me if I tried to free them, and I made it clear I was freeing them, no matter what. He tried to convince me to think of my own livelihood, and I tried to convince him that the Queen was not our champion, but more master to our slave. He drew his sword and I drew mine and-” His voice choked off again as a broken sob escaped from his chest. Ragnon made a sympathetic sound,
“Take your time, friend.” Beddigan nodded absently and focused on steadying his breathing. After a short time, he continued, his voice now hollow and deflated.
“I ran then, freeing the wolves and taking off with them. I have been running ever since.” Ragnon blew out a deep breath,
“Wow. That is quite the tale. Had I not seen you as you spoke it, I would have believed very little of it.” Beddigan smiled wanly,
“It is unfortunately all true. And after all these turnings since I left, and it has been many, I find myself stranded here with little hope of rescue. They’ll surely hang me.” Ragnon chuckled softly.
“I don’t know that I believe that, Beddigan. You seem to have found your way out of some tight scrapes before.” Beddigan shrugged and leaned back against the wall, exhausted, and drifted off to sleep.
A short time later, Beddigan woke, feeling drained and sore. He ached to rub his wrists and stretch his legs. Rolling up into a crouch, he tried to bend and sway as much as possible to release the tension in his muscles. Catching the glowing amber eyes of the wolf across the corridor he managed a weak smile.
“I guess I still haven’t finished the tale, have I?” the wolf offered a toothy grin,
“I wasn’t going to say anything but yeah. I know why they think you a traitor and all, but how did they finally catch you?” Beddigan’s smile faded,
“A friend to whom I owed my life was taken by the wolves and I sought to rescue him.” Ragnon grunted,
“Sorry to hear that. Can’t have been easy to try and break a friend out of the prison camps.” Beddigan shrugged, remembering the valiant fight and race towards his homeland’s border after he had freed William.
“It wasn’t so bad. I managed it, and now my friend is free and I’m the one on lock down.” Ragnon groaned as he shifted in his cell.
“Ain’t that just the rub of it.” The wolf shook his head. “I find myself wishing I had a friend like you to break me out of this hole.” Beddigan offered a sad smile to the wolf,
“You have a friend in me now, Ragnon. Were only I able to do something about our situation.” Ragnon shrugged and the two sat in companionable silence for some time.
After shifting again into as stretched out a position as he could manage, Beddigan spoke.
“I do believe it’s your turn, friend. How does a wolf such as yourself find your way into a dungeon like this?” Ragnon let out a short, hollow snort of laughter.
“You only need to be a wolf to find yourself in a place like this in Illensdar these days.” Beddigan frowned,
“But the other cells are empty. And these aren’t the regular cells, anyways.” He mused. Ragnon grunted and shrugged,
“They believe I have information about the military and they refuse to believe me when I say I know nothing of the army’s plans for your people. Until you showed up, there hasn’t been another prisoner down here since I arrived. Though from what I have heard, wolves swing faster than you can down a glass of ale, these days.” Beddigan felt his gut clench, thinking of the prison cells being empty due to quick execution. He shuddered, trying to tamp down the queasiness.
“Why are they so certain you have information?” he asked, meeting the wolf’s eyes. He saw his own fear reflected as they both caught the sound of heavy footfalls approaching the dungeon. The creaky door swung inward and two guards approached Ragnon’s cell. Beddigan’s expression softened as the wolf gave him a small smile despite the obvious pain he was in, as the guards roughly unshackled and drug him out into the corridor between the cells.
“I think it has to do with the fact that I am Commander Rollstad’s son.” Beddigan’s mouth hung agape in shock as the guards shoved the hood over Ragnon’s head and drug him out of the corridor.
To be continued…
© Copyright 2016. All Rights Reserved.