Beddigan sighed and pressed his back to the wall in an effort to support a move from sitting to a crouched position. Everything hurt; every muscle screamed in agony whenever he tried to adjust the way he sat in the dreary cell. He listened to the rhythmic breathing of the Wolf in the cell across from his.
He had been woken from a fitful sleep when the guards had drug an unconscious Ragnon back to his cell. Once the guards had left, Beddigan had called out to the Wolf, worried about the increasingly battered and beaten body slumped against the cold brick. The Wolf hadn’t so much as stirred in response to Beddigan’s voice.
The shock of Ragnon’s admittance of being the commanding officer of the Mormant army’s son, had rocked Beddigan. It was clear now why the Queen was sure that this Wolf had knowledge that would be most beneficial to the Illensdar army. But Beddigan was certain that Ragnon really didn’t have a scrap of information to give. He had spent a great deal of time thinking about Ragnon these past few days. He wanted to rescue him; help him get across the Lorring Sea. To give the Wolf the freedom he so desperately wanted. But he was in no position to rescue anyone. He didn’t even know how he was going to get himself out of this mess.
Crouching, he waddled and stretched as far towards the barred front of the cell as he could, craning his neck to peer around the dark corridor for what felt like the millionth time. He couldn’t quite see the door, but saw the hint of light sneaking through the frame. Aside from the four cells there was nothing. Nothing at all; nothing to work with. The only interesting thing about the room was the tall, thick band of colourless crystal that stretched from near floor to ceiling on either side of the cages. He had never seen anything quite like them before, and in all the time he had stared at the ones framing Ragnon’s cell, he hadn’t seen even of a flicker of colour or power to denote their purpose.
Huddling back against the wall he heard Ragnon stirring, groaning as he regained consciousness.
“Ragnon? Are you okay?” Beddigan asked, knowing it was a silly question; neither of them were even close to okay. The Wolf grunted,
“I’ve seen better days, though I’ve seen worse as well.” Beddigan smiled to himself in the dark.
“You look a few steps from death, my friend.” He murmured. Ragnon let out a short bark of laughter which quickly transformed into a strangled choke of pain.
“I’d say I’m a few yards away still.” Beddigan’s responding chuckle was choked off as the sound of heavy footfalls tickled his ears.
“They’re coming for me.” He murmured, feeling his muscles ache and throb at the impending beating he was sure to get. The door creaked open and two familiar guards stepped into the partially lit corridor, flanking a member of the Royal Sapphire Brigade. He immediately recognized the mouse as one of the arresting party that had taken him from the mouth of the secret tunnel. The mouse sneered at him through the bars of his cell as he blinked against the new light to clear his vision. He hadn’t seen a Brigade member since they had originally captured him, but he assumed that many had participated in the beatings while he remained in the dark under the black hood. He was momentarily relieved to see that this time there was no hood in either guard’s hand. He didn’t know if that meant he was finally to go to trial or if they had some other form of torture cooked up for him.
“On your feet, traitor.” The mouse growled. Beddigan slowly rose to the stooped position he could get himself in while still shackled as the guards unlocked the cell.
“No hood this time?” he said with a half-smile, taunting the solider. The mouse smiled at him in a way that didn’t reach his eyes,
“Everyone will need to see your face at the trial. It was publicly announced the day you arrived here. Mice have come from far and wide to see you charged for your crimes. And to watch you swing.” Beddigan felt his gut clench as the guards entered his cell and began to unshackle his arms.
“The trial is today?” he asked, dumb-founded. The solider sauntered in close and put his face mere inches from Beddigan’s.
“This very day. I only wish we had been able to locate your sister so that she too could watch you hang.” the mouse hissed. As he hobbled out into the corridor, Beddigan gave Ragnon a sad look. The wolf met his eyes and nodded; a solemn gesture as he was drug away from his newly made friend.
The Brigade soldier proceeded him into the bright corridor beyond the dungeon. The brightness assaulted his eyes once again and he was momentarily blinded as they all moved towards the winding staircase. A loud thud and a yelp as one of the guards yanked hard on Beddigan’s chains sent him colliding into the brick wall. Blinking rapidly to clear his vision, Beddigan tried to yank his chain free of the guard as a blur of movement sent the other guard smashing into the wall next to him, and then crumpling to the ground. A familiar roar sent his heart racing as the chain slackened and Beddigan looked around to see the slumped bodies of the Brigade member and the guards on the ground and William Bearhelm standing at the foot of the stairs.
“William! How in the-” he started to say when the bear held up a paw to silence him. William crouched and fished a ring of keys off of one of the guard’s belts and stepped over the bodied to unlock the shackles and chains from his feet and wrists. Beddigan let out a choked groan of relief as the shackles fell away and he felt the freedom he had been craving for days.
“We’ve no time to talk now, Beddigan. We must get back to the landing at the top of the stairs.” William said urgently, bracing an arm around him and urging him towards the staircase. Beddigan turned back towards the door leading to the dungeon,
“Wait! We have to take him with us.” William frowned,
“Take who with us?” the Bear asked. Beddigan lead William through the door and back into the dungeon.
“This is Ragnon.” He said, gesturing to the wolf, who offered them both a toothy grin. “Give me the keys, William.” Beddigan said. William shot him an incredulous look.
“You want to save a Wolf? Have you gone mad, Beddigan?! We don’t have time for this!” William growled. Beddigan turned to face the bear with a snarl,
“If we haven’t the time, they stop wasting so much of it arguing with me. I wouldn’t save him unless I had a damn good reason, so you are just going to have to trust me.” William growled but handed Beddigan the keys.
“Hurry.” The bear said before turning to stand guard at the door. Rushing to unlock the cell, Beddigan hurried inside and began undoing the shackles that held the Wolf down.
“Can you walk?” he asked the Wolf. Another toothy grin and a groan of pain from Ragnon was the only answer that he got. Once free, leaning on each other for support the two shuffled out of the dark dungeon and towards the stairs. William started up them and as he rounded the first corner in the spiral he let out a growl of surprise.
“Watch your step.” He growled back to them as they climbed over two more guard’s bodies. Once they reached the top of the stairs, Beddigan smiled at the familiar face of Shianne, who was using a rag to wipe blood from her gauntlets.
“The amount that I owe you…” Beddigan breathed as their eyes met. She flashed him a quick smile,
“That debt has already been paid.” Beddigan gave her a puzzled look, but said nothing. There would be time for that question later. He watched as Shianne sized up their Wolf companion. “Well, well.” She said with a grin, “You managed to snag yourself a prize pig as well. And in a dungeon, no less. The luck you have, Beddigan!” she said, cackling with laughter. William looked at them, warily. Before anyone could speak Beddigan felt a distortion in the air in front of him. William growled,
“Everybody back! Get back against the wall!” Beddigan helped Ragnon to the room’s edge and watched in wonder as a silvery oval appeared and his baby sister walked through. Leaping forward despite the pain it caused in every part of his body he hugged his sister.
“Clottie!” he cried out, feeling her sniffle against him. Breaking the hug, she patted his cheek softly.
“Come! We’ll have time for hugs later. Everybody through the portal! I can only hold it a few seconds longer.” Scrambling through the portal Beddigan felt as if his organs were going to melt and leak out of his body as he found himself stepping into the familiar living room of the home he grew up in. Once everyone had piled through the oval disappeared. Ragnon collapsed to the floor, coughing so hard blood began to trickle from his nose. Beddigan started to sunk down next to his friend but William grasped him under his arms and moved him gently to the couch as he wheezed.
After a few moments of rest, both he and Ragnon stopped coughing. Clottie was standing over them, wringing her hands.
“I knew it was going to be hard on your if you had injuries. I didn’t expect you to be this bad! And your… friend here?” she said, gesturing to Ragnon. “He is in even worse shape than you.” Beddigan couldn’t help but smile at Clottie as she fretted. He reached out and grasped her hand, “I can’t speak for Ragnon, but I think I am okay now. I can’t thank you enough for rescuing us.” Clottie smiled and leaned down to kiss his forehead.
“What use is sorcery if you can’t use it to save your family.” She murmured.
“Do I get a kiss from the pretty lass as well?” Ragnon said as he rolled onto his back and flashed his toothy grin. Both Beddigan and Clottie frowned at him. William growled,
“We don’t have a lot of time to linger here, but we can spare the night. You both look like you need it.” Beddigan nodded, rubbing his swore and bloodied wrists. He fixed his eyes on Shianne, who was leaning against a wall watching the Wolf with such interest that it made his stomach churn.
“What did you mean the debt has been paid?” he asked her. She nodded her head towards Clottie,
“Let’s just say that your sister and I have come to an agreement.” Beddigan’s gaze drifted to Clottie whose smile had faded and whose eyes now held a wary gleam as she met Shianne’s gaze. William spoke then, before anyone could ask any clarifying questions,
“So who is he? And why did we save him? And why did she call him a prize pig?” the Bear asked, nodding at Shianne. Beddigan’s mind raced as he tried to think of a way to explain to his best friend that he had just inadvertently saved the son of his worst enemy; the Wolf who had tried to kill him and harm his family. The Wolf who was the reason he had needed to swear off his name, fake his own death, and become estranged from his wife and children. Before he could say anything Ragnon coughed and sat up, leaning his back against the couch where Beddigan lay.
“I think I can answer that. My name is Ragnon; Ragnon Rollstad. And I recognize the look of a bounty-hunter on that one, and I recon she sees a hell of a payday in me.” He said, nodding his head towards Shianne. William blinked, his jaw working has his paws clenched into fists.
“Roll…Rollstad? As in, Commander Rollstad?” Beddigan met his friend’s eyes,
“Yes, Ragnon is the son of Rollstad. But he is not affiliated with the Mormant Army in any way. He is a ranger. The reason he was being held was because the Queen didn’t believe it possible that he could be estranged from his father. But I believe him.” William snarled, taking a threatening step towards them.
“Why would you believe him?! He is a Wolf! And the son of a monster.” Shianne took a couple of quick steps across the room, putting herself between them and the Bear.
“Woah now, let’s all just take a moment and cool off.” She said, holding up her paws in a plaintive gesture. William eyed her a moment and then took a careful step back. She smiled at him, “There we go, that’s a good boy. Now, I can tell you, the son of Rollstad is indeed estranged, and he is correct; there is a lot of money on his head to have him returned. Alive.” Ragnon’s smile faded,
“Some things are worth more than money.” Shianne fixed him in her gaze.
“Yes. Some things are.” She said softly. Clottie spoke up then,
“All right everyone, let’s calm down and let these two rest for a bit. I’ll make some soup. William, could you please go collect some fire wood?” The Bear gave them all a long, hard look before he nodded and left the house. Shianne grinned and said,
“I’ll just go give him a hand then.” And slipped out the door after them. Beddigan watched as Clottie moved into the kitchen and began pulling vegetables out of the cold-box. For a moment, he felt happy and safe, as he drifted off to sleep.
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