Insights and Opportunities
The gunship had taken off from the manor grounds, Alan walked away from the comms centre, already regretting his decision to let his two eldest sons to go along with the others. However, the deed was done, and he was certain that if he had told the truth that Jack and Dave had not asked for his permission, then they would have landed and then proceeded to walk to the war-zone on foot. He sighed deeply, whilst he hated to admit the boy’s recklessness reminded Alan of what he had been like at their age, and thus he could emphasise with their desire for wanting adventure, no matter that danger involved.
Several floors above sitting on the balcony railing above the first section of the roof was Nick Wolfrick, his legs dangling of the of the railing that were the only protection between him, and the four story drop that was below him, he was proud of finding this latest hiding place and he had often found himself coming up here, for what purpose, he didn’t fully know. Only that it was a lot quieter up here than in either the manor or its grounds recently. However now with his home so empty, the seven-year-old almost wished that it was full again.
“Please bring Jack and Dave home safe.” Nick said to the whatever gods were out there, if there were any. “And Dmitri and Charlie as well and the others I guess. And make it… Make it so Martin understands.” He finished quietly. As despite how badly he had taken it when he found out about his older brothers later, it had been nothing compared to Martin.
His younger brother had been as volatile as a hurricane since he had found out that so many people were going away. Angry and crying by turns; he had refused to eat, or talk to anyone over the past few days, culminating in him disappearing on the day before his older brothers were set to leave.
Alan had set the entire household to go and search for him. And when the man called Fredricks had finally located him in the crypts below the graveyard. Martin had tried to clobber him with an old torch that had been left on the ground, when they had upgraded the lighting system inside the crypts.
Combine that with the fact that Echo had joined the fray on his younger brothers’ side, it had taken Jack himself to calm his youngest brother down. After which Martin had spent almost all of his time locked inside his room with Echo, refusing to let anyone inside.
Nick had often thought that Martin seemed to have some kind of mystical connection with their dog, but when he had brought it up; Jack had only laughed at the idea, and Vernon kindly told him that such things were not possible. Even though if what he read was true, such powers had existed long ago. And more importantly that he had often heard Martin talking to Echo inside his room, as if he was having a conversation with the family dog.
Going back to matter of his older brothers. He had overheard Vernon trying to council both Jack and Dave to remain behind and Nick had as well. For his own sake as much as Martin’s. But Jack had only said. “I have to go. We have to go.” After which Jack had made him promise not to tell their father, which he hadn’t and as far as he was aware neither had Martin.
It was past midnight by the time that Nick got up and walked towards the door that led back into the manor. He quietly walked through the quiet and now seemingly spooky corridors of the large house.
Given the time of night that it was, he guessed that he was probably the last person to be awake, however he was surprised when passing Martin’s room to get to his own, which was the next one along the corridor, to hear his younger brother, talking once again with someone, and by the sounds of it, they were having a rapped conversation. But was faintly surprised and annoyed when he leant up against the door to listen and heard who his baby brother was talking to.
“You’re wrong Echo, they will come back.” Nick heard Martin say, this certainly confirmed his theory which made Nick angry that neither his older brothers nor Vernon could be here to witness it. He was still in this thought process when the door he was leaning against opened up, causing the seven-year-old to collapse into his younger brother’s room where he suddenly found Echo on top of him, barking madly, which was when he heard his little brother talking above him, his squeaky voice only just audible over the sounds of Echo’s barks. “You shouldn’t be listening in on me.” Martin said standing over him, his blue eyes glaring into Nick’s green ones.
“Martin call him off.” Nick said, looking at the dog who whilst not barking at the current moment, certainly seemed to be thinking the same as the five-year-old. Martin seemed to wait for an awfully long time, as if he was reluctant to do as asked, but eventually he seemed to relent.
“Echo. Off.” Martin said slightly begrudgingly and the husky leaps off Nick and walked over to lie down in the middle of the room, but it’ll golden eyes were still fixed on Nick.
“Why are you talking to him Martin?” Nick said straightening himself up and taking in deep breaths.
“Cause he understands.” Martin said with the utmost confidence, as if he had been asked that question before.
“Understands what?” Nick said, this answer had taken him by surprise. Either; his younger brother was genially in the later stages of madness, which given his recent behaviour wouldn’t have surprised Nick one bit. Or he was telling the truth, at least what he thought was the truth.
“Me.” Martin said simply.
Nick was about to tell his younger brother that he was insane and needed serious help if he thought that the dog could understand him, let alone communicate with him. But decided against it. Although Martin seemed to have guessed what was on his older brother’s mind.
“You’re like the others, you think I’m crazy.” Martin said glumly as he lay back down on his bed and gazed up at the ceiling.
“What others?” Nick asked.
“Vernon, Jackie, Da.” Martin said.
Nick sat still not saying anything for a minute. ‘So, they believed me then.’ He thought to himself. Although he had never told his dad about his suspicions regarding Martin, although it wasn’t hard to see. Well, it hadn’t been for him at any rate.
“I don’t think you’re crazy little bro.” Nick said, looking into his brother’s blue eyes.
“Really?” Martin said sitting up eagerly, a look of hope in his blue eyes as if this was the first time anyone had told him that.
“Really.” Nick said, it wasn’t entirely a lie, he did believe that his younger brother was communicating with husky, although he wasn’t sure entirely sure that it made him totally sane. He chose not to say this however he chose not to say this, it was clear that Martin was looking for reassurance in this matter and he wasn’t going to undermine that. However thoughts of his brother’s ability kept him awake long after he lay down on his own bed. He couldn’t sleep though, it was as if what his younger brother had told him was keeping sleep at bay. Which was when he made his decision.
Getting out of his bed, Nick walked over to the door and opened it, the wood creaked slightly probably alerting both Alan and Vernon to his plans. But no sound came from either his father’s room, or the stairs from where Vernon would all but certainly come from. Sighing at his own fear, Nick walked out of the room and down the corridor.
It didn’t take him long to reach his destination, he had been there so many times throughout his life, that he could have made the journey blindfolded. Nick slowly opened the library door, and entered the darkened room. At this time, it looked larger than usual.
What did take him a while though was locating the book that he had used to try and prove his case to Vernon about Martin’s abilities. He had a suspicion that the old butler had most likely removed it from the collection. He searched and searched but could not locate it. His hopeful mood was slipping and he had almost given up hope when he saw it, placed right on the very top shelf; ‘THE MADNESS OF THE EMPEROR.’ sat wedged between two others, but more importantly, well out of the seven-year-old’s natural reach.
This tactic that the old butler had employed before was an old one, and one that Nick had perfected in getting around. And eventually after stacking the chair, along with several books on top of the rickety old table, Nick just managed to get his finger tips onto the book, and pulled it of the shelf. It was a lot heavier than he remembered it being. As he slowly and carefully climbed down, and placed the chair back on the ground, he opened up to the page that he had shown Vernon to try and prove his point and read, trying to see if there was anything that he had missed.
…The Emperor Ryon had always been a sickly child, and for years, many people feared that he too had the disease that plagued and later killed his great father. But all were shocked to find that the boy had a far worse affliction. He often claimed to be possessed by that terrible ability to communicate with animals, and that the beasts would often respond to his commands. Indeed not many believed it at first, but on a hunting trip in Riveruster to honour his father’s victory against the Rivermen of the south. The Emperor used his ability to talk to one of the hunting dogs, and the animal did seem to be listening. Whether this was just the animal doing what comes naturally or if it was indeed…
Nick, looked up, he hadn’t gone this far before into this particular book, but turned the page, he saw to his horror that the next several were gone, all had been ripped out. And all that remained was the tattered binding, almost taunting him. He learned back in his chair, and put the book onto the table. He was about to go back to his room when a voice called out to him.
“So, your trying to find out more about your brother Nick?” Vernon asked calmly from behind him. Nick spun around at this and saw the old butler standing not three feet away from him holding a torch in his right hand and looking exhausted. Nick paused, he had not heard the door open whilst he was in here and guessed that in his eagerness to find out about Martin, he had walked right past Vernon.
“I-I didn’t see you Vernon.” Nick said looking at the ground, slightly ashamed of himself.
“Strange how the short sight-full youth are when there hearts are completely, and wholeheartedly set on something.” Vernon replied, not unkindly, in fact Nick was relieved to see that the old butler was smiling down at him. “So.” Vernon continued in a business like tone. “I see that you are trying to find out what ails your younger brother.” Vernon finished looking at the book lying on the table.
“Er. Yeah, but a load of the pages have been torn out though.” Nick said as he looked at the old book, like it was still hiding something else from him. “You didn’t take them out did you?” Nick asked sheepishly, hoping that the simple answer would be the right wrong.
“No. I found the book in the same condition as you have just done. You see, I came down here, after you told me your own suspicions regarding Martin.” Vernon said as he picked up the tattered book and placed it back on the shelf, he had hoped to have some answers for Nick about Martin, but he had had just about as much success as Nick was now having.
“You believed me then?” Nick asked, he had already guessed as much from his conversation with Martin, but he wanted to hear it for himself from at least one of the people he had informed of his suspicions.
“Yes Nick I did. I had however, hoped to keep your mind away from whatever is going on in your brother’s until I did some further research on the matter myself.” Vernon said as he turned to face Nick, and whilst he didn’t look or sound angry, their was definitely a strained tone to his voice now.
“I just. I just wanted to help.” Nick said weakly as he looked up at the butler.
“You have a sharp and curious mind Nick. But leave your younger brother to me.” Vernon finished with a finality in his tone, that told Nick that the meeting was over. And with that he headed through the shelves and headed back to his room. If he hadn’t been in such a miserable mood, he would have spotted the blue eyes watching him from a dark corner of the library.
The next morning Vernon found himself driving Alan down into the city, half the butler’s mind was still on the conversation he had had with Nick the previous evening whilst the other half was wondering why Alan would go down to his company in person, given his often vocal remarks about how he hated the place. It did seem odd that he had requested to go down today, there was nothing special planned, no meetings scheduled, but it was his job which meant that he found himself once again the chauffeur. An hour later they pulled up in front of the steps, as Alan got out he looked at Vernon.
“This won’t take long.” Alan said smiling, as he turned around and walked into the building, leaving Vernon to wonder exactly what in the gods name he was talking about and thinking that Martin might not be the only one going mad in the Wolfrick family.
Alan found Harper in his office rummaging through his desk and had apparently not noticed the sound of the door to the office opening and Alan entering the room. He was about to call this woman for a thief, but decided against and lent quietly against the door frame watching as Harper continued her search. For what exactly, Alan neither knew nor if he was honest cared, everything he had of value was either at the manor or down in the south with Dmitri and Charlie.
As Harper continued to rummage through his desk, Alan was getting bored and decided to end this little game once and for all. He took out his phone, snapped a picture and then made himself known.
“Can I help you with something.” Alan said. He was pleased to see the look of horror on the old bat’s face as she jumped a mile into the air, before turning around to face him. “What would Osmund think about this, one of his employee’s nothing more than a common thief.” He finished smiling to himself.
“Where is it?” Harper said, looking and sounding half mad.
“Where is what?” Alan asked mockingly, he knew for a fact what this woman had been sent to retrieve and had known for some time. He wondered to himself how foolish The Mayor must be to attempt such an obvious ploy.
“You know perfectly well what.” Harper almost screamed at him.
Alan raised his eyebrows. ‘This was too good.’ He thought whilst mentally deciding what to do next: To either continue to play dumb, or to tell this woman exactly where the artifact that she was certainly after was.
“The gem. Where have you hidden it.” Harper said annoyed.
“Oh that.” Alan said deciding on the latter of his plans. “Truth is, it’s down south under the protection and usage of Dmitri Jones.” Alan said with a smirk at the purple colour that Harper’s face had gone.
“You gave that weapon to an Undesirable.” Harper said, enunciating the last word as if it was beneath her to talk about those people.
“Technically he’s been pardoned. Didn’t you get the memo.” Alan said continuing to enjoy the show that this woman was putting on for him.
“Yes. Well.” Harper said, mumbling slightly.
“So this is why you are at my company, to rob us.” Alan said, he had known this for a fact, but it was the fact that The Mayor thought that he could get away with this that really riled him up. “What will The Mayor think when he finds out that you’ve failed.” Alan said an idea forming. “Who knows there might be a cell in Greymount with your name on it by the end of the day.” He finished smiling at the look of horror on the woman’s face. This was almost to perfect, not that it helped him in anyway, when he thought about it more, this woman might only be the first that Osmund would send to steal from him.
“What do you want. Mr Wolfrick.” Harper said, knowing that for her at least the game was well and truly up.