Chapter the Forty Ninth: Confronting the PastI wandered over to 9 Gray Wolf Terrace and knocked on the door to the Misk residence. I waited around for several minutes before finally determining that I wasn't going to get an answer. I was tempted to simply pick the lock and steal what I wanted, but I decided to be nice about it and give them a chance. I instead wandered off for awhile, intending on taking the dirt path through Old King's Way - the poor area of town where I'd grown up - and up to Maxim's old factory.
It saddened me to see that the disparity between Old King's Way and the rest of the city still remained. It wasn't nearly as stark or as dangerous as the difference between the main areas of Tarant and the Boil, but it still seemed shameful. Despite being the poor area, however, it had its small joys. Taking a brief detour, I wandered off in the direction of the old rabbit farm I used to delight in visiting when I was younger. It was still around, too, rabbits hopping about all excitedly as I approached.
The door to the farmhouse was open so I decided to poke my head in and say hello. I always had been one for indulging my whims, and this was no exception. The older man inside was turned away from me, staring dejectedly at the floor. I recognized him, although he looked considerably different than I remembered. I was sure that his physical age was only a part of it, and the inaccuracy of my memory was the other part. "Hello, there."
He turned around, somewhat startled, giving me a curious look. I was sure he would never recognize me; I could still have been considered a child the last time I saw him. "Oh! Pardon me, madam, you're so quiet I didn't even notice you coming around. My name's David Wit, what can I help you with?"
I smiled pleasantly. Yes, I know your name, Mr. Wit... I've remembered so many unpleasant things from my past that it would be a shame if I'd forgotten your kindness, or your gentle smile when you watched me playing with the rabbits. "Well met, David. You look as though you're doing fairly well for yourself here." I'd briefly considered introducing myself, as well, but I was still nervous at the thought of recognition. It was silly.
He turned and shook his head sadly, his brief moment of excitement fading back into the mellow despondence that had taken him before I arrived, looking a lot closer to how he had when I'd first arrived. "Yeah... I've done all right for my daughter and myself. At least... I was..."
Daughter? I don't remember him having a daughter. My, time does change everything... "Was? What happened?" I was nosy, and persistent. Aside from that, I realized I might even be able to help. It seemed I'd been helping a lot of people lately.
It was almost shameful. I looked so much like an adventurer that, at my asking, nearly anybody would open up to me in hopes that I could help them. For the rabbit man, how can I refuse? You were so kind when I was young. "I'll try. How long has this been going on for?"
He scratched his head with a pained look on his face, clearly upset about the whole situation. "The killings have been happening for nearly a full lunar turn. If things keep up at this rate, I'll be ruined within another 2! Rabbits breed quickly... but not that quickly!"
I tried to ponder the possibilities, looking for any kind of lead, "What about a dog? Do you own a dog? ...or perhaps it's a wolf?" Hmmm.
He shook his head, "There aren't any wolves around for miles. I don't own a dog, either... tried that before, too much trouble keeping them from scaring the rabbits... I never had one that ate them though."
"Hmm... puzzling. I'll see if I can find out anything." What in blazes could it be? Perhaps some young boys playing a nasty prank? The only way to find out for sure was to sit there and watch. I turned and walked out of the farmhouse crossing the dirt road and poorly concealing myself in some bushes. Sebastian wandered off and pulled out a cigar, idly smoking at the base of the bridge that lead to the rest of the city. Vollinger took the time to clean his gun, always careful to keep it well-maintained. Virgil simply stared off into space as though barely aware the rest of us even existed. If it's bothering you that much, why can't you just say it...?
I saw movement all of the sudden out of the corner of my eye. I turned to see a massive, furry beast leaping out of an open window in Mr. Wit's farmhouse. It galloped forward on two legs, snatching up a rabbit in its thick, beastly claws. It brought the rabbit up to its lupine snout and began chewing on it, devouring over half of it in seconds. It sniffed at the air nervously and snarled in my direction before diving back inside. Good heavens! A werewolf! Even a rumor has to be true sometimes!
I crept out from my substandard hiding place in the bushes and quietly tiptoed up to the window I'd seen the beast enter through. I looked inside nervously, afraid less of the creature I'd just seen and more of what I expected to find inside. Lying on the bed inside the room was a young girl, with clumps of white, bloodied fur strewn about her haphazardly. She was sleeping fitfully, sweat dripping from her brow.
I walked back inside the farmhouse immediately, at once regretful and resolute, "David... I discovered what's been happening to your rabbits." I sighed heavily.
He looked impatient, "You did? So soon? What? What is it?"
"I'm afraid it's your daughter... I don't quite know how to say this, but she's become a werewolf." I can't believe I just said that, and furthermore that I believe it's the truth. This is madness.
He seemed genuinely afraid, as I'm sure he'd heard the rumors, too. "A werewolf! Oh no! Not my baby! It can't be! What are we to do?"
I placed a hand on his shoulder, trying to brace him for what was to come or perhaps to comfort him. Why does it have to come to this? The rabbit man doesn't deserve this... My sense of decency wouldn't allow me to say anything else, "It would probably be for the best of all if we killed her."
I honestly don't want to bring harm to you or your daughter if it can at all be avoided. "No. I have not."
"Please, madam," he begged me furiously, "in your travels, if you happen to find a cure, think of us. I've heard there are astounding cures in the great mage city of Tulla. Perhaps if you look there... But don't hurt her! I'll make sure she's locked up at night! I swear I will! She won't hurt anyone."
I nodded at him, "I won't hurt her. If ever I find a cure, I will return with it." I didn't expect to find myself in Tulla, but I could at least ask the gypsy in Tarant when I went, or pay a visit to a magick shop.
David fell on his knees, "Oh thank you! Thank you! I will take my leave of you now. I must go speak with Cynthia. This will be most distressing to her."
"Goodbye, David." Well, that was a fine way to taint an innocent childhood memory. I don't think I'll ever forget the sight of that rabbit being brutally torn apart. I departed David's house and wandered back to the main path, lost in thought. It almost seemed like horror and tragedy followed me wherever I went, though I supposed it could've been just my tendency to notice it moreso than anything else. I found such things difficult to ignore.
Well, if there's one man whose luck cannot get any worse, I'd bet it's old man Maxim. I walked towards Maxim's factory at the top of the hill in the distance. It was impossible to miss as it was by far the largest building in the area. The inside was utterly filled with scrap, and most of it not the useful kind. Otherwise ideal parts were broken in new and interesting ways, and absolutely nothing was organized. The smell of oil and fuel mixed to make a nauseating aroma, even to one so technologically inclined as myself. It certainly wasn't the factory I remembered, though I hadn't been nearly as interested in technology when I was a child. What child isn't fascinated by magick, before they figure out how bloody boring it is to study properly? "Hello there, Mr. Maxim. Many apologies, but I couldn't help but notice the state of your factory... what happened here?"
You'd be interested in knowing one of my reasons for coming about... "I saw your machines fly."
He didn't seem to really believe me. "You saw them fly? Where? Where are my aeroplanes?" His tone was more accusatory than exciting.
His lack of knowledge on the subject made me realize something rather suddenly. Although I'd told my story to the Tarantian when I first arrived in Tarant, the average Caladonian was unlikely to have read it. They'd surely become well aware of the zeppelin tragedy, but the weekly scoop of the Tarantian rarely made it to the shores of Caladon unless it was something truly astounding. 'Miracle Survivor Tells All' sounded more like a hoax than anything. "The ogres crashed them after shooting down the Zephyr."
Maxim's skepticism waned. My story was just outlandish enough to actually be believable. If I were barging into his factory trying to set him off on some balderdash or another I wouldn't be very likely to concoct something so bizzarre and easily disbelieved. "Those stupid, inbred, ignorant beasts! They wrecked my masterpieces! And for what, to kill innocent people?! The bastards!"
I could understand his anger, certainly, especially if this was the first he'd heard of what really happened. I was less interested in his ire, however, and more interested in lending a helping hand to a fellow technologist. "I can say I saw your machines fly. Would that help?"
I know the damned things work. "Why don't you simply build another one?"
The level stare he gave me suggested that I certainly wasn't providing him with anything he hadn't already thought of. "No money. This was all funded by the King. That is why his advisors are after my head, and I can't get any more funds without proof. Quite the vicious circle, it is."
Well... I suppose if I haven't gotten around to fixing up that old camera I'm probably never going to... and if the film is salvagable... I can part with this one small joy, in exchange for the greater joy of helping this old man out. "What type of proof would you need?"
He shrugged hopelessly, "Anything that would prove they were capable of flight."
"Let's say I found proof for you. What would that be worth?" It sounded like such a horrible thing to ask, but I was searching for that last little bit to convince me to give up the camera I'd been carrying for so long.
Like those spiders back in Ashbury, or in the Place of Lost Voices... but with healing? That's more than enough to convince me, you've got yourself a deal! "Here's a camera with pictures of them flying. Would that do it?"
He grabbed ahold of the camera excitedly, frowning just a little at its damaged, misshapen exterior. He deftly worked over it, replacing a few of the broken parts with others he had lying around and twisting it back into shape. In less than a minute's time he already had the damn thing fully repaired and was extracting the undeveloped film. "Yes! Vindication! Thank you for this. Not only will I be allowed to carry on my work, I can also make those advisors look ridiculous!" He dug around amidst the parts on the floor and pulled out a folded up machine, handing it to me. "And here's the medical arachnid I promised you. Oh, and you may as well take the plans for it in case you have cause to need them."
I glanced over the plans happily, interested in the details of the machine. It was well beyond my comprehension without the assistance of manuals, however. "Thank you."
Maxim smiled at me, "If you don't mind, I must go to get these developed immediately..." He looked like he was thinking about asking me to leave, then figured his workshop was damn near ruined anyway and simply ran out. Good luck, Maxim. While he was away I slipped the plans I'd stolen from Bates onto a shelf. You enjoy those, now. I decided I'd wasted enough time and if the Misks weren't home yet then I was just going to have to break into their damn house.
I knocked on the door and waited patiently for several moments, much like before. This time, however, I actually received an answer. A rather annoyed looking butler opened the door and carefully looked me over before turning inside briefly. I heard him mutter, "We have visitors. Would you like for me to let them in?" He turned back a few moments later and opened the door. "Greetings. Welcome to the Misk residence."
I wandered inside, looking about to see how the place had changed since I'd last visited. Victor and Frederick weren't exactly close friends, but we still had visited here occasionally. It looked somehow more sparse than I remembered, but I'd been spending the last few years of my life living in expensive inn rooms and visiting all of the wonders the world had to offer. Naturally my opinion of what made a room 'nice' would've changed accordingly. With so little cluttering up the room, however, it would've been hard not to notice the Book of Durin's Truth sitting in the glass display case near the entrance. The lady of the house approached me and introduced herself.
"The LATE Mr. Misk? He's dead?" No... no way! Victor is DEAD?!
She nodded, dabbing her cheeks with a handkerchief. "Yes... he just recently passed. We put him in the ground not four days ago."
I was at a complete loss for words. My conversational instincts took over and I filled the silence with social niceties while I tried to think of what to say. "I'm very sorry for your loss, madam." It seemed like the best course of action was to change the subject of conversation until I could more fully wrap my mind around the idea that Victor was dead. "Er... on a more pleasant topic, I was wondering if I could ask you about that book in the display case...?"
I suppose, so shortly after his death, it's no surprise everything reminds her of him. Still, I do need that book. "I'm in need of that book. Is there any way I might procure it?" I felt rude asking, but I was still a bit off from news of Victor's death and truly the ancient secret of the dwarves was a bit more important than a sentimental memento of a rich woman's late husband. I really am horrible.
She seemed taken aback, which I couldn't really blame her for. "Why on earth would you need to have that very book?"
I somehow doubt you're going to believe this. "Well, I was tasked by a dwarf of the Wheel Clan - the clan among clans - to research the ancient and mysterious Iron Clan. I managed to procure a map to a remote location in the Stonewall Mountains where I found an ancient machine that told me to seek the Book of Durin's Truth. I do believe I'm on to something."
Her eyes dried slightly and she gave me a rather direct look. "Hmmm. An interesting quest, my friend. Perhaps I might be interested in selling it after all. Are you interested in buying it?"
"Buy? Madam! This is a cultural heirloom! Have you no shame?" I see exactly how deep your sentimentality runs. I should've known.
Thanks for the warning, I'll make sure not to waste a good pick trying to open it. "Forget about it. I'd rather talk to you about Victor. He's actually the man I came here to see. What happened to him?"
Fake tears welled up in her eyes again. It made me sick. Go ahead, put back on your phony show of grief. "He drowned... they found him down by the docks, washed up onto the shore. We hadn't seen him for days, but he had been... that way... for the past few months."
I raised an eyebrow, not quite catching her meaning, "What do you mean 'that way'?"
I could hear the anger in her voice and I could tell it was much more genuine than the tears she pretended to shed. "Victor became... unbalanced... in the last few months of his life. He began having delusions, frequent anxiety attacks... ever since they released that cursed book..."
I should've guessed... "You mean The Curse of T'sen-Ang by Kendrick Wales?"
I had no doubts that the Dark Elves were still at it, protecting their home as they had for over 500 years. I began to dig for any information I could, starting to grow somewhat nervous about what they had in store for me. Surely they knew I was trying to track them down. "Where was the funeral?"
She pointed off to her right, "At the Caladon cemetary. It's northwest of here, near the Panarii Temple."
Right... the First Temple. "Was there anyone strange at the funeral?" I was starting to sound as paranoid as Tyron, only I felt my paranoia was somewhat better justified.
She shrugged, "Not that I remember. There were a few of our friends, the servants, and some family." Frederick... I bet you were there, too, weren't you? "Could you tell me about the delusions Victor was having, madam?"
It was clear to me that she didn't believe him, especially considering how she referred to them as 'delusions'. She always was daft. "And you never saw any of this?"
Her voice became whiny again and she brought back out her handkerchief. Give it a rest, woman. "No... I believe all of those stories drove my poor Victor mad. Of course, there were an ungodly number of collectors who came calling when they found out he still had a copy of the book... but all of them were polite and professional. Not an evil man among them...."
I'm sure you're not nearly the excellent judge of character you seem to think yourself to be. The less evil a man seems the more it'll hurt when he stabs you in the back. "You mentioned Victor said something about his father. What happened to him?"
"But not 'Horror Among the Dark Elves'...." Don't you find that strange?
She seemed to try and explain away my suspicion as though the truth was too fantastical to be real. "No... but Victor didn't find it for many years... it had been hidden in an old chest in the attic of our summer home. It seems Victor's paranoia may have been an inherited trait."
I'd just seen a werewolf not an hour prior, battled a legendary giant earlier in my travels, and made a habit of being blessed by ancient gods. I was willing to believe anything. "Doesn't it seem strange that both died somewhat mysteriously?"
She glared at me hatefully for just an instant before fake tears sprouted once again. "I don't share that view, madam. I'm not a superstitious woman. I miss my Victor more than anything, but I put no stock in such tripe. Both Victor and his father were victims of chance and circumstance. I'll hear no more talk of it."
Fine, hide behind your false grief. You're lucky I'm in a good mood today. "Very well. How did the information get out that Victor still owned a copy of the book?"
I wanted to laugh at what the woman considered treating her servants well. "Perhaps Mr. Wales paid one of them a hefty sum for the information...?" I was sure they could've used the money, at least.
She sighed dejectedly, "Yes, yes, I know. And we did ask all of them, but all of them denied any complicity in the matter. I trust them all... and besides, I've no proof to the contrary. I suppose I'd be grateful if someone were to look into the matter."
Of course they'd deny it if you asked. You really don't have a clue, do you? "I'd be honored to offer my services."
She shrugged, "Any help would be appreciated. The servants are around the house... feel free to speak with them."
Not like that'll do any good. "I just might do that, but first I have one last question... do you still have a copy of the book?"
She shook her head. "No... up until the last two weeks, Victor carried it on his person all the time. Then one day he came home and told us he had hidden it 'somewhere that only he and his old Dad would know'. We all thought it very strange, but, by then, there wasn't much about Victor that wasn't."
"I see. Thank you for your time madam." She nodded, turning away from me and walking off into the bedroom, leaving her butler to let me out. I made my move quickly.
Thanks for the book. I knew we could work something out. As I turned away from Mrs. Misk I noticed something on the ground sitting next to the sofa. It was a passport for one Wesley Carrington who lived at 25 Dragon's Turnabout. Hmm, interesting. Now that might be worth taking a look into. Thinking I'd already left, Mrs. Misk called her butler into her room to ask him for something. I quickly unlocked the display case, leaving her key inside of it so she wouldn't suspect I broke in, and I snatched the book out from it. I darted out the door before I was seen, making my way towards the address on the passport.
I glanced at the book while I walked.
Have you heard the message clear?
I think you have
I know you have
For else you'd not be here
The road from here is not much longer
You've traveled far to see this light
Your heart keep strong
Your courage long
The morning will be bright
Now travel to the Vault of Iron
And bring with you the key of glass
The door swings wide
And there inside
You find your truth at last
It was certainly a curious little book, but at least I had an idea of where to go next. The 'key of glass' line confused me, since I'd made the key out of mithril, and I no longer had it anyway. I supposed I could always make another if I really needed it. By the time I'd finished reading and mulling over the contents of the book I was at Mr. Carrington's house. I picked open the lock and looked around for clues, but I didn't have to look hard. The first thing I spotted was a slip of paper just sitting out on the man's desk.
I knew it. Now I've really got some questions for the servants at that place. I'll get to the bottom of Victor's murder. I scurried back to the Misk residence and knocked on the door again. The butler answered and, seeing who I was, let me in. "Shall I fetch the missus?"
"No, that won't be necessary. Actually, I returned to speak with you. Could I ask your name, good sir?"
He seemed confused, but he tried to be accommodating, "Of course, madam. I am Wesley Carrington, the butler here at the Misk household."
Not for long you're not. "Can you tell me anything about the book by Mr. Wales?"
His guilt was as plain as day, and I was honestly surprised that the lady of the house couldn't tell when she asked him outright. If she'd known her servants as well as she should have, perhaps treated them as decently as she claimed, she'd have been able to spot his guilt without even asking. Victor would still be alive, too. "Forgive me, but I'm looking into the matter for Mrs. Misk."
He narrowed his eyes at me hatefully. The tone of his voice shifted from surprised to outright hostile. "Are you insinuating that I might have something to do with that, madam...?"
I smirked and stared at him purposefully, "What can you tell me about Elmer Burbottom, Wesley?"
A sudden look of shock crossed his face and I heard him audibly gasp. "Wh-what? How do you...?" He suddenly realized his mistake and his face hardened considerably. He was furious. "Have you been going through my personal belongings, madam? Will I be forced to call on the authorities?"
I would hate to abuse the fact, but I know how the police work around here and I know they'd sooner believe the Whytechurch inspector than they would a rich woman's butler. "Just answer the question, Wesley. Who is he?"
Who do you expect you're fooling with that rubbish? Oh yes, they're real big on capital punishment without a trial here in Caladon. I rolled my eyes. "I'm sure we'll be seeing one another again, Wesley. Good day to you."
I walked outside, trying to think of what to do next. I thought of visiting Frederick and asking him his opinion of the whole thing, but I couldn't very well just waltz into his house after what I'd done and start asking him random questions. It was funny, I did that to so many people, yet when it was somebody I knew I felt so much more uneasy about it.
I walked over to the nearby cemetary that Mrs. Misk had pointed out, just idly looking around to see if there might be any hints on Victor's grave or if there were any suspicious elves lurking about.
Virgil...? What's gotten into you? He hadn't been quite right since we arrived in Caladon and I strongly suspected that something in the graveyard had to do with why. Come to think of it, I likely hadn't been quite right either... and for the same reasons. "Vollinger, Sebastian... could you wait here for me as well? I'd like to be alone for a bit. Watch Terry for me." Terry gave a dissatisfied woof.
Sebastian winked, "I'll take care of the little hellraiser for you, you go on and pay your respects."
"Thank you... both of you." I wandered off into the graveyard, avoiding Virgil so as not to intrude on his space. I went straight to the back of the graveyard, looking for a grave I ought to have been ashamed for not visiting sooner. In the three years since Nathaniel's death I'd only visited his grave once, just after the funeral. I cried and cried, and Frederick even tried to comfort me, but it wasn't his place to do so. I was mad at him for that, I suddenly remembered. Even moreso, I was mad at myself... I was still mad at myself.
My heart caught in my chest when I spied an all-too-familiar name on the grave right next to Nathaniel's. I was so in shock that my entire body stopped moving and I felt like I was going to pass out.
Here lies Frederick Colburn
Beloved Husband and Father
I was so stunned I didn't even cry. I didn't know how to feel. At first I'd been running away from him, and by the time I had a change of heart and started longing for his company again he was already dead. I'd spent the past year or more waiting for the moment when I would arrive home and tell him of all the adventures I had. In my mind he'd welcome me back with open arms, forgiving me for robbing him again. Those dreams would never come to pass, could never come to pass... the realization was finally starting to hit me that my beloved Frederick was dead.
No... how could this have happened...? All this time, I've been longing to return home... I've brought you so many gifts, Frederick, I have so many stories to share.... I wanted to see the look on your face when I showed you the journals of Kraka-tur and Kerghan the Terrible... I wanted to feel your pulse quicken as I related tales of Qintarra and the Bedokaan, or of Maximillian on the Isle of Despair... I wanted to invite you along with me to search for the lost remnants of the Iron Clan, to uncover ancient Dwarven history hand-in-hand.... By the Gods, Frederick, is this how you felt when I left you...? So alone, so... empty...? Frederick, I am so sorry... Dozens of emotions assaulted me at once, from guilt and regret to sadness and horror.
I heard quiet footsteps behind me and I turned, startled, to see the dwarven gravekeeper standing nearby. "I haven't seen anybody visiting old Fred in quite awhile. Did you know him?"
I slowly nodded, sniffling before I spoke, wiping off the tears cascading from my eyes, "Y-yes." It took all the strength I had to eke out that single word between sobs.
"I knew him. He was a good man, always very kind to me even though I'm just a gravekeeper." The dwarf shook his head sadly, letting out a deep sigh, "He didn't deserve the things that happened to him. It's a real shame, the story behind that one."
"I... I'm not familiar," I managed to stammer out. "How did it happen?" Tell me what happened to my Frederick...
"I suppose these old legs of mine could use a rest anyhow," he gave me a rather friendly look and sat down on the ground, curling his stubby legs underneath his body. "Well, by the end old Fred sure didn't have a whole lot to be happy about. His son died far too young, he was only a lad of thirteen... it was such a tragic accident.... I remember well how often I found Fred in this here graveyard, just sobbing." Oh, Frederick... we both loved Nathaniel... so much... if only I'd been more careful, none of this would ever have happened...
As if reading my mind, the dwarf continued, "Then Fred's wife... he lost his wife that very same week. She didn't take her son's death very well, either. The way Fred told it, she blamed herself for the whole thing. She ran off... bought a ticket to the I.F.S. Zephyr when Fred was at work one day. When we heard news of the accident, we were all devastated." So that's it... they never read my story in the Tarantian... everybody thinks I'm dead.... Of course, it all makes sense now, why nobody recognizes me... I'm just an adventurer from Tarant, bearing a passing resemblance to an unlikable woman who died three years ago.... Gods, Frederick... you thought...
"She was a good woman... had a lot of energy... didn't get along so well with a lot of people, but Fred loved her all the same. Even after her death, he just couldn't let go. He was a complete wreck for a good six months after that, and every day his grip on reality grew weaker and weaker. One day his mind just... snapped. He started knockin' on people's doors at night, askin' if they'd seen his Samantha like he'd forgot she was dead, but knew she was missin'. He looked horrible.... Ah, forgive me... I'm not talking your ear off, am I?"
I shook my head, still scarcely able to believe the truth of the matter. "Not at all, sir, I'm... I'm saddened to hear your tale, but I wish to hear it all the same..." It was me...? Oh, Frederick... you thought I was dead...! First Nathaniel, and then me... by the Gods, what have I done?!
"Well," he sighed heavily, the tiniest trickle of emotion escaping his stony facade, "you already know how it ends. One day they found his body in the gutter... beat to death sometime during the night. The investigation didn't take long... turned out to be a coupla rich kids, had a bit too much to drink and thought they'd have fun at poor old Fred's expense... didn't know when to stop. The guard let 'em loose after a night in jail, said they'd been drunk and probably did old Fred a favor in the end anyway. We all know the kids' parents bribed the right people to make it happen." I clenched my teeth and nearly choked on my tears. Rage and sorrow battled in my heart... I wanted to scream. It never bloody changes, does it? Kick a man when he's down instead of lending a helping hand... the rich trampling all over the rest of us, no matter how hard we work or how much hell we've been put through! Frederick... no, not like that... you deserved so much better than that...
"I buried him myself, right next to his son. In the end, that was all I could do for him. It's one of the sadder stories in this here graveyard, and this place don't have any happy endings if you know what I mean. Anyway... I gotta get back to work, I'll leave you to pay your respects. It's been a while since I thought back to old Fred here, and I thank you for listening to this old dwarf's story. You take care, miss." I sat there, tears pouring down my face accompanied by horrible sobs. Not you, too, Frederick... I've gone and killed you, too...
I sat there and cried for so long that I lost all track of time. I simply couldn't believe the truth of the matter, and the harder I tried to make myself accept it the more pain I felt. The urge to run away again welled up inside of me, but I had nothing left to run away from. I couldn't very well outrun the truth.
At last, when the sun began to set and colored the entire graveyard in an intense shade of deep crimson, I started to realize how much time had really passed. I wasn't even sure when I'd entered the graveyard, but I didn't think it had been that close to sunset. There are people waiting for me... people I call friends... Virgil... Virgil had lost somebody, too... that was the entire reason I'd thought to visit Nathaniel's grave in the first place. If anybody can share this pain with me, it's Virgil... I can't bear this alone...
I slowly climbed to my feet, staring at Frederick's grave and trying desperately to dry my eyes. "I know it's far too late for words, but... just... I'm so sorry, Frederick. I can't stay with you right now, but I promise I'll come back... I'll make it up to you one day. I don't even know how to bloody start, but I will find a way. Say hello to Nathaniel for me... I miss you both terribly. Good-" I cut off, having difficulties finishing my thought. "Good-" Tears started to flow once more. I'm not ready to say goodbye yet, Frederick... and I don't know if I ever will be. I took a deep breath, feeling the tears burning behind my eyes. Slowly, one step at a time, I forced myself to walk away from Frederick's grave. I saw Virgil in the distance, staring at a single grave at the end of a row. I was desperate for company, for somebody else who might understand what it felt like to lose somebody so dear.
You don't have to run off on your own... we don't have to be alone, Virgil... please don't make me be alone... "Virgil... what are you doing here? Who's grave is this?" I walked closer to him and placed my hand on his shoulder. I felt that our shared experiences could only bring us closer, and I would've done anything to rid myself of the horrible feeling of isolation that consumed me.
He hung his head down sadly, looking like he was about to say something. "Nothing... I... This is... someone I used to know. Many years ago... I... just thought I should stop by to pay my respects." Whatever he had intended on saying never came out.
Not now, Virgil... please, don't push me away... I can't bear to be alone right now, please talk to me... I read the name off the grave, Lawrence Brummond 1860-1884. "Lawrence Brummond...? Was he a friend of yours?" I wasn't even thinking, just blindly pushing forward... forcing my presence on Virgil when he least seemed to want it. My pain pushed me towards the only person I had left that I felt could truly understand me. My need became his need, and I refused to accept that he just didn't want to talk about his past... that unburdening himself would not bring him the same relief it might've brought me.
Virgil started stammering nervously, not having expected me to question him further. I grabbed ahold of his hand and I held it close to me, trying to reassure him, trying anything I could to remove the distance between us. "Lawrence was my... uh... my friend. We grew up together. In Tarant, actually. Our, uh, families... moved to Caladon when we were older. He died in an... accident." I could tell that Virgil wasn't being honest with me, and that my actions were making it that much harder for him to keep lying. "A terrible accident..."
The closer he came to sharing, the harder I pushed him for information. I wanted so badly to hear what he had to say, to understand him and in turn be understood. I pulled off his metal gauntlet and clutched his hand between both of mine. I stared up into his eyes and asked, "What happened?" I felt the warmth in his hand, yet more tears forming behind my eyes in sympathetic anticipation for the untold story that hung heavily in the air.
No...! Why do you continue to push me away?! Why now, when I need you the most? It would've hurt me less if he'd simply struck me across the face. I dropped his hand and tossed his gauntlet back at him, turning away quickly before he could see the tears in my eyes. "Fine. Let's go... the others are waiting."
The tone in his voice changed. He became much more soft-spoken and less sure of himself. "I'm sorry... I... well, forget it..."
I turned around, tears be damned, and I looked up at him. "Why don't you just tell me, Virgil?!"
He looked at me and I could tell he wanted to, but for some reason he still would not. He shook his head slowly and regretfully, "Perhaps another time..."
I turned around again and walked towards the others, not bothering to look back at Virgil. I could hear him following me, but a part of me wanted to run and just keep running until he was no longer there. I felt alienated by the one person I thought I could trust.
Bonus ContentRequested by Canuck-Errant