Embers of Hope Chapter 6: Detained in Lakedeep

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Claire’s words came true a few seconds later. The sizable drawbridge fell across the fast flowing river, which also served as a moat. Zaradanoric and John watched as a small squadron of soldiers marched in formation around a man who seemed to be mildly important.

John leaned over to Zaradanoric and whispered, “The mug in the center. If he is who I think he is. Then he’s bad news. Maggie said the man her sister married was a boatload of trouble. So mind your step.”

Zaradanoric nodded and watched the soldiers approach quickly. A bulkier man in armor stepped forward. He nodded to Andrew and Claire and beckoned them over. After a quick whispered conversation, they walked towards the man in the center. Claire glanced over to Zaradanoric with a look of mild panic in her eyes before she turned away.

The bulky man strode over to the and spoke quietly, “My name is Charlie. I’m the captain of the guard for Lakedeep. I don’t want to do this but I’m under orders to arrest you. Please give me your weapons and bag and come with me. It will be better this way.”

Zaradanoric glanced at John and then handed the guard his axe and bag. John followed suit albeit grumbling under his breath. The phalanx of guards surrounded them and began to march them towards the bridge.

When they entered the town, they were surprised to see decorations for celebrations. They entered into a large town square with many large shops. Zaradanoric looked around at the people and saw scared eyes that quickly looked away from them. No one held his gaze as they were marched past a sizable fountain towards another street. As they proceeded, another squared opened before them revealing the lake that was the namesake of the town. The jail was hewn directly into the cliff walls surrounding the lake and the two were marched directly towards it.

Charlie waved away all but two guards and opened the jail gate. He marched them to a cell in the middle of the hall. He closed the cell door on the two and looked around for a second.

Then he began to speak, “It is about time that outsiders have come. We have need for an escape.”

John looked up at him and slowly responded, “What happened here? This is a large town with more people than we would have expected.”

Charlie sighed and said, “When we moved here, there was about fifty of us and we were fine. Most of us thought we had separated because of a few differences and to farm more area. However, Patrick had more in mind. He gathered a small group of his faithful and took control. He held our families hostage and used us for conquest. There were several other larger farming communities further up the valley. They were unprepared so we took them as prisoners and incorporated them into our community. We established a strong small community for the safety of the valley. We hauled in bumper crops and prepared. This went from a community to a prison for Patrick’s cult.”

Zaradanoric spoke up, “Do his children know abou’ this?”

One of the other guards chuckled and commented, “Nay, they are mercifully blind to this. His wife keeps them well shielded.”

Charlie continued speaking, “Aye, Jason is right. The older two are sympathetic to us. They have an idea but no real understanding.”

Zaradanoric jumped to business. “Ya’ said ya’ had an escape plan. What is it? I’m not too keen on spending much time in prison.”

Charlie nodded and laid his plan out, “Patrick plans to bring you before public trial and run a rigged trial for your execution, He wants to make an example of you so that he can cement his control. The plan is this. I have a small group of men loyal to me. We can supply weapons for you but we cannot return your belongings. I’m sorry about your bag but the contents were burned. Except for the journal. But back to the plan. When you go on trial, you tell the truth loudly and completely and encourage a revolution. Then we will supply your weapons and you break for it. I’ll have the drawbridge locked in the up position. So when you break for it we run for the lake. We will have to swim through the tunnel so I hope you can hold your breath. Then we make our way back to your party and leave as fast as we can.”

John looked at Zaradanoric and nodded. Then the hunter looked at Charlie and said, “We are in but I have one condition. If this man is such a dirtbag, then I’m taking my nephew, nieces, and sister-in-law. That’s a non-negotiable.”

Charlie looked to his other two conspirators and nodded. The other guard remarked to the room, “The third born will stay here. She wouldn’t leave his side for all the money in the world.”

“Aye, Lee is right. And I’m not inclined to take her with us anyway.” The other guard contributed.

Charlie nodded and set forth the final condition, “We take his wife, the son, and the oldest and youngest daughters.”

John thought for a moment and agreed “Alright. We will stand with ya.”

Charlie grinned grimly and left. The other two guards standing by their cell. John looked around for a moment and sighed.

He looked at Zaradanoric and shook his head before he spoke, “This is a mess I didn’t expect to run into. Now I’m saving my wife’s kin before I am saving my own skin. Well Maggie would be proud of me there. This is just frustrating and overwhelming my good friends here are dead and I’m being held captive by some personality-obsessed dictator. Honestly, I wanna go home to my house and rest. This trip has been more stressful than it shoulda been. I’m glad we found you Zara but I don’t like how this has turned out.”

Zaradanoric nodded and spoke quietly, “I understand John. Its been a long trip. Feels like we ha’ been going for nearly six months an’ not three weeks. I say let’s get out of here and make a direct course for home. I don’t like bullies but now is nah the time to take him on.”

John was about to reply when the doors of the jail slammed open and some shouting could be heard. The two guards looked up and laid hands on their weapons.

As several people strode down the hall shouting one voice came clear, “I don’t care if you are guarding them! Patrick wants to see them. Now unless you want to be up there with them and your family’s dead, let me see them!”

Charlie strode into view and waved his men away. Then he opened the door and ushered them out wordlessly. Two larger men grabbed their arms and started pushing. Zaradanoric didn’t like that at all. He had nearly a head on the largest man and Zaradanoric took a little action. He shoved the man who had his arm roughly off and quipped, “Thank you very much but I can escort myself to the door. And I’d recommend letting go of my friend as well if you would be so kind.”

The guards, who were wearing different uniforms then Charlie and his men, stepped back much to the chagrin of the smaller man who screamed, “You don’t take orders from them! Grab them and don’t let go!”

The guard Zaradanoric had roughed up said, “Grab him yourself, see how long you last.”

The smaller man screamed in rage and shouted, “Just march them to see Patrick. They will pay soon enough”

Zaradanoric and John were marched out of the jail towards the large building on the other side of the square. The smaller man marched in front fuming while the other guards escorted them to the building. After walking up several flights of stairs they entered into the large interior hall. They were marched up another flight of stairs to a balcony and along to a room. As they approached Claire rushed past hiding her face and sobbing. Zaradanoric looked at her leave and got frustrated.

They sat them down on some chairs to wait while Patrick got ready. Zaradanoric was mad and he wasn’t sure why.

Five minutes later they were marched into the room. Patrick stood up and held forth his hand. John refused his hand but Zaradanoric took it and gripped it tightly before sitting.

Patrick looked on at the two defiant men with some puzzlement in his face. Then he regained his composure and smiled menacingly before speaking, “Gentlemen, what we have here is a simple misunderstanding. I have the power here and take care of everyone. I happen to have a rebel problem. They are bent on breaking us apart. Now, I could use two outsiders like you to help me repress the rebels. I’ll offer you a high position with me and make sure you are well taken care of. If you don’t then I can think of some very permanent resting places for you. So what do you say?”

Zaradanoric shot back menacingly, “Nay, I donha’ deal with your kind.”

The venom in the man’s tone took Patrick by surprise. He paused for a moment and replied, “I’m not a dictator. Name to me your request and I’ll fulfill it. What is it? Maybe you want my daughter?”

With that sick offer Zaradanoric stood up, slapped the standing man across the face, and shouted in his Highlands brogue, “Tha’ is enough sir! You despicable scum! Your people suffer around you and all ya’ can do is offer my friend and I jobs to help oppress them more. Nay sir. Not for all tha’ world would I compromise my belief that we are meant to be free! Shame on ye for offering your daughter like she is some sort of prize. That is despicable on a level I have nah seen before. She’s a livin’ breathin’ person more deserving of life than tha man who brought her here. I saw her leave here cryin’ and hiding her face after talkin’ to ya. I’d rather die than work for you!”

Patrick stood there utterly stunned from the force of the highlanders backhand with some blood running from his lip. He looked at John for his answer

“Aye. I stand with him. I’d rather die than oppress people of for money. And I’d slap you as well but my girl Maggie was always the better of the two of us with slapping. ” John said from the other chair.

Patrick was still reeling from the force of the slap and took a moment. Anger clouded his face and he spat out, “So you’d rather die than work for me! So be it. You die here! Guards! Kill them!”

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