As Beddigan approached the tent near the southern edge of the army’s camp, where the three prisoners were being held, he felt his gut clench. This was not going to be a pleasant conversation — not with the Lord Regent running the interrogation.
A Lion soldier nodded to him and held open the door flap for him enter. Tied to sturdy wooden chairs were three Wolves clad in the standard grey Mormant Military garb. Beddigan noted that none wore any of the patches and medals that the higher-ranking military officials wore. These are basic soldiers — grunts, really, he thought.
The Wolf in the centre looked up and Beddigan saw naked relief on its face.
“Finally, something I recognize.” The Wolf croaked, leading to a coughing fit. Beddigan turned to a soldier standing near the entrance,
“Get them some water.” He ordered. The soldier just looked at him.
Beddigan made a frustrated sound. The Lord Regent was sitting on a chair near the side of the tent, and Beddigan looked to him, trying to disguise his annoyance.
The Lord Regent stood then and gestured to the soldier to heed Beddigan’s request, and the Lion left the tent to fetch the water for their prisoners.
“What… who…” the same Wolf stammered, staring at the Lord Regent, who wore the finest white breeches and vest, with shimmering gold adornments, and red piping, and a brilliant red cape. Before Beddigan could offer an explanation, the Lion’s booming laughter filled the tent.
“I am the Lord Regent of the United Empire of the Lions.” He said smugly. The Wolf just blinked at them for a moment, confusion furrowing its brow.
The soldier had returned with shallow bowls of water for the Wolves and Beddigan moved to untie one of each of their paws so that they could drink but the Lord Regent stepped in.
“They will remain tied.” The Lion said firmly. Beddigan didn’t try to hide his frown and snatched one of the bowls out of the soldier’s paws. He held it to the Wolf’s mouth and allowed him to drink. He repeated the process with the other two prisoners.
“They…” he began. “The Lions, and other Felines like those in this room, and the Rams which you may have seen in the battle — the ones with great curled horns, that is — come from the north.” Beddigan said, once each Wolf had taken the edge off their thirst.
The Wolf on the right scoffed, which lead to a coughing fit and Beddigan to offer the prisoner a bit more water, eyeing the red stain on the chest of the Wolf’s uniform, and wondering about the possibility of internal injuries. When his throat was clear the Wolf said,
“There is nothing to the north, Mouse.” Beddigan cocked and eyebrow and gestured around the tent.
“Well then what do you suppose is going on here then?” he asked. The Wolf’s face twisted into a snarl.
“Sorcery. Lies and deception. Tricks. Your kind has always been full of tricks.” Beddigan pushed down his immediate reaction of rage. The Lord Regent stepped towards the three prisoners and interjected,
“Ahh, and was it these mere mystical illusions that drove your forces from the city? Was it magic and trickery that captured you and brought you to this tent?” Beddigan waited for the Wolves to react but they said nothing. The Lord Regent continued, “No, it was the soldiers under my command that did that. Even with your war machines, you were no match for us. And we will take your capital next, and leave you with nothing to control but what food you put in your mouths.”
The Wolves snarled and Beddigan felt the increasingly familiar prickling of unease at the pleasure the leader of the Lions seemed to take in threatening and conquering.
Trying to diffuse the situation, Beddigan stepped between the prisoners and the Lord Regent,
“Okay, enough of this. Answer our questions and you’ll be on your way.” He said, ignoring the peculiar look the Lord Regent gave him. “I’ve no doubt the Bears of Sinerrah have joined you. Exactly how many of those war machines does the Mormant army have?” he asked. The Wolves said nothing, casting their eyes down to the ground. After a few moments, he asked a different question. “Okay, fine. They run on crystal power. Where did you get these crystals from? The Bears?” The Wolves continued to say nothing, but in this case, Beddigan was fairly sure their silence was confirmation.
Pacing across the room, Beddigan thought about what to ask next. They weren’t likely to answer any of his questions, but he could hope to catch a flicker of recognition. Turning to face the prisoners again, he asked,
“Have you secured Katheyra?” A twitch, a tiny movement of the corner of the Wolf on the right’s mouth. “Ahh, you have then. Fighting a war on two fronts is never a wise choice.” He said softly. “But you Wolves and your arrogance know no bounds.”
The Lord Regent chuckled then, a low, rolling sound.
“Well done, Beddigan! Well done. And we didn’t even have to torture them.” The Lion chuckled. Beddigan winced and silently thanked Annalose and Ardra that he had gotten what he needed to satisfy the Lord Regent out of the prisoners before it had come to that.
“We should find a couple of soldiers to accompany me in escorting the prisoners away from the city.” Beddigan said, looking towards the door flap leading out of the tent. The Lord Regent placed a paw on his back and pressed him forward toward the exit.
“I’ll take care of that, my dear Mouse. Why don’t you go and get some food and rest? It has been a long day for us all.” The Lion soothed. Beddigan almost agreed, but that prickling feeling and the echo of the Lord Regent referring so casually to extra lost men in the securing of the war machine, had him digging his heels in.
“That is most gracious of you, my Lord.” He said, turning back towards the Wolves, “But I’d really feel much better escorting them from the city myself. This is my home.” He added. The Lord Regent gave him a measured look, and Beddigan felt relief wash over him at the Lion’s curt nod.
“As you wish.” The Lion said, before beckoning his personal guard to follow as he left the tent. Beddigan turned to the two other Lion soldiers in the tent.
“Will you join me in removing these Wolves from the city?” he asked. The two Lions nodded, and they set about untying the Wolves, and checking them for any weapons that may have been missed in their original capture. Satisfied that they were unarmed, Beddigan lead them out of the tent and set off to the east, to return the Wolves to the border.
To be continued…
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