As soon as the words left his lips, Gremlaw almost flinched as the three women squealed questions at him like piranha stripping flesh from a carcass.
“How is he?” From Jocinta
“Has he been looking after himself?” Della asked
“Is he thinking of us?” Matra wanted to know.
“Did father send you to rescue us?” The hope in Della’s youthful face almost broke Gremlaw’s heart. He could only shake his head sadly and let them know what little information he had.
“I was sent to infiltrate the Durana Trading Company as Haguana had been identified as the main distributor of a drug called Forever.” Jocinta’s face screwed up in a moue of disgust,
“My Fitlock would never be so base as to deal in drugs!” She said, “Whoever you are, you are wrong in that!” Gremlaw looked at her through eyes bruised and cut by hours of beatings and gently said, “I am called Gremlaw and he is using his distribution network to transport Forever because he thinks it will keep you three safe.” Gremlaw tried to rise but found the screaming pain which shot through his battered body made it impossible. Silent tears rolled down Jocinta Haguana’s face as she became aware of her husband’s actions.
“Is there anything we can do?” Jocinta asked as she tried to help Gremlaw become more comfortable.
“I need time to heal,” Gremlaw stated, “Time to think too.” He added. Fitlock Haguana’s wife nodded silently as she rose and put an arm round each of her daughters, guiding them away from the young man who allowed his eyes to droop closed once more.
Thick palls of greasy black smoke blew sideways into the grim faces of the soldiers, who had been sent to the outpost town of Strathnave, making them choke. In spite of their professionalism and training, the act of slaughtering hundreds of unarmed men women and children did not sit well with any of the servicemen present. Grumbles and complaints echoed across the open area fronting the garrison outpost. The next stage of the process would be even harder on the men, sergeant at arms Thruxton knew, as they were about to attack the outpost’s compliment of soldiers. Thruxton stepped forward and his impressively loud voice rolled across his men,
“Brothers! You were all asked to volunteer for this mission and were all made aware of the whole situation before we left.” Thruxton threw out one arm towards the squat, stone built fortress, “Now we find what we were told, to be true! This town has been taken over by filthy, wide eyed Lavashians who have poisoned our brothers and used underhand tactics to rob them of their minds.” As if on cue, a man covered head to foot in armor and sporting the red and purple of Trathlain royalty stumbled from the fort’s gate which hung open and unguarded. Thruxton knew every man was watching this unfold as he did.
Staggering on unsteady legs, the Unknown Soldier made his way towards the armed men, weaving from side to side as he did so. They could plainly see his mouth working as he gibbered something unintelligible while he walked. Pasty faced and wide eyed with madness, the unnamed soldier finally arrived near to Thruxton who gagged at the stench rising from the man.
“Help us,” the soldier begged, drool falling from his slack lips, “Get some Forever!” The poor soul began to sob uncontrollably as he fell to his knees.
Sergeant Thruxton drew his sword slowly while looking into the eyes of each of his men,
“These motherless Lavashian bastards have done this!” He gestured to the sobbing unfortunate on the floor before him. Thruxton drew back his arm and stabbed it downwards through the neck of the soldier who knelt before him, severing his spinal cord and ending his misery. He cleaned his blade on the man’s cloak before gently removing the Kingdom tabard. He saluted the fallen man and turned back to his man once more.
“Soldiers!” he bellowed, “I expect the same treatment from each and every one of you if I end up in the same condition as this brave man!” Thruxton allowed his point to sink in before calling for them to attack. The slaughter of fighting men began.
A week passed by as Jocinta and her daughters nursed Gremlaw back to some semblance of health and the three women became more at ease and friendly towards the youth. Gremlaw himself spent many hours trying to come up with some kind of plan to escape or at least be responsible for his own future in some way.
“Have you any ideas?” Jocinta asked him one day as they had been given their paltry daily rations.
“We could wait for scurvy to set in,” Gremlaw said flippantly, “I never believed I would be craving some green vegetables.”
“Or fruit,” Jocinta said as she poked at the grey porridge they were served as a matter of course, “Have you?” She almost pleaded.
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