The Unseeing Eyes
Book I, Chapter 8
Bhollom let the blankets tumble to the ground. He rushed forwards, diving through Naaj-Nash’s robe between her legs, and grabbed Flim by the back of his woolen, drab-colored shirt as he scrambled back to his feet. He pulled the other stub back and positioned himself between the guard captain and the others. He spread out his arms to look as big as he could. He didn’t know how much time he could buy for Neej-Nash and the men to escape, but he would do his best to give them a head start.
“Go! This was a trap!” he yelled, preparing to tackle the captain and try to wrestle him to the ground.
The others made no attempt to run. The gears in Bhollom’s head ground slowly but surely into their place. He turned towards his supposed friends with a mix of horror and disbelief of his face. With shaking arms, Bhollom pointed an accusing finger to Flim’s face.
“This was a trap!” he repeatedin a wavering voice.
The guard captain set his free hand, the one not holding his helmet, on Bhollom’s shoulder. The stub spun around again and slapped the elf’s hand away. But realizing he had turned his back now to his traitorous companions, he turned around again. And again. Bhollom was eventually spinning in his place, not quite sure whether he would rather leave his back open to the captain or the others.
“Settle down, stub,” the captain finally said. His stoic face did not betray his inner struggle to not snicker at the sight of the confused dwarf. “I’m not here to arrest you this time, but to help you.”
Bhollom halted his spinning and faced the captain. He felt a bit dizzy, but nonetheless steadied himself. He lifted his fists to the front of his face, ready to take whatever the soldier might do.
“Right, help us. How stupid do you take me for?” he spat at the elf.
“It’s true, lad,” Patryk interjected, “He’s the guest Mr. Deepport was talking about.”
Bhollom turned around once more. He attempted to look suspicious, but his expression revealed the relief he felt upon hearing Patryk’s words. He knew Whiskers wouldn’t have betrayed him. The feeling was quickly replaced with confusion as he fathomed what Patryk had actually said.
“Wait, what?” Bhollom stammered, “He’s helping us?”
“Indeed I am, stub,” the captain said and took a step forward, but his advance was halted by flim who pushed past Bhollom and set his hand on the captain’s chest plate.
“Ho there, soldier boy,” the fiery-haired stub said and glared at the captain, “You stay right where you are.”
The captain looked down to the short creature standing in his way and his already narrow eyes closed even further as he furrowed his brow.
“Your attitude insults me. Surely I’ve proven myself to you by now,” he said, his deep voice tinged with anger. Flim smacked his lips at the elf.
“Maybe, maybe not. Sure you arranged for us to break them out like you said, but who’s to say you’re not double-crossing us?” he said, “You already played a false one on your own guard, boy, that doesn’t speak well for your character.”
Bhollom thought he saw an imperceptibly brief twitch in the captain’s solemn mask of a face.
“Wait, wait, wait,” Bhollom rushed to say before the captain could inflame the situation further with another vitriolic comeback. He pulled Flim away from the captain and looked up to meet the elf’s eyes.
“You arranged to get us out of the prison?”
The captain sneered at Bhollom.
“A prison? Ha!” he laughed, “You would not have escaped if not for my mercy.”
The elf knelt down and stuck his face a mere inch away from Bhollom’s.
“Or did you really think I would be foolish enough to lock the murderers of our beloved Mayor in the city’s flimsiest guard house with a window opening so conveniently to the back alleys?”
Bhollom hadn’t even considered it, but the captain’s words made sense. Their escape had been mad been incredibly easy. A shame really, Bhollom thought, they weren’t the escape artists he had for a moment considered them to be.
“Some murderers,” he muttered and stepped back from the captain, “Our only crime is not fighting you harder for arresting innocents.”
The captain stood up and flicked a spot of dirt off his helmet.
“I am well aware of your and your… Companion’s innocence,” he said nonchalantly and glanced at Neej-Nash who was still held up by Patryk and Urban. The saurian, though sightless, was staring right at him and hissing quietly. The captain scrunched his nose slightly. Associating himself with one of the reptilian brutes, the things he did for his city.
Bhollom was trying to add two and two together regarding their situation.
“So why did you arrest us then? I mean, if you we’re innocent,” he asked, scratching his beard.
The captain sighed.
“Finally we get to business,” he said, “Listen well, for I will not repeat myself and will only explain everything in brief. I must get back to my men soon.”
He glanced around briefly and, satisfied that no uninvited souls were around, began to speak.
“I arrested you because it is my duty to do so, stub, but also to secure myself from the real murderer. Oh yes, I know who murdered the Mayor and I can prove it.”
“So who did?” Urban asked. The captain glared at the skinny man who had so rudely interrupted him and continued.
“The culprit is none other than the Mayor’s aide, Heribert,” he declared grandly. To his disappointment, his audience showed very little of the shock he had expected. Neej-Nash and Bhollom were the only ones who stirred.
“Tiny man?” she asked in a still weak voice.
The captain shook his head.
“Yes, the tiny man,” he said as if to a child, “You people, you all saw him today, he was with me when I arrested these two!”
“Aye, we know who he is,” Patryk said thoughtfully, “But I figured he was just a suck-up. Why would he kill the Mayor? His whole position has dependent on him.”
The captain smiled, if only in his mind, at the chance to continue his exposition.
“Oh yes, he is a sycophant, very much so, but he is not stupid. He is the second in the line of command over the city, and with the Mayor murdered, he will be able to declare martial law and take over in the name of securing the apprehension of the Mayor’s killers.”
Neej-Nash flared her frills and lapped her tongue vacantly, while Patryk, Urban, and Flim exchanged confused glances. They had understood few of the words the captain had used, but they did not like they sounded.
“What’s the big deal, though?” Flim asked, “He’ll be out of the picture as soon as the Mages’ Chamber sends in someone new to take over as the Mayor.”
“That is the beauty of it,” the captain said, “As long as martial law is in effect, no change in the city’s leadership can take place as to not hinder the apprehension of the murderers. He will have supreme power over the city, and he can do as he pleases. He might even secede from Kobresia altogether to sustain his new power.”
Now the three sailors began to understand the weight of the situation at hand. Though not everyone agreed on the Kobresian rule, it had brought stability and peace to the city. No respectable citizen wanted Westerport to return to the wild and piratical criminal port it had been before Kobresia took over.
“But how do you know all this?” Bhollom asked, raising his eyebrows with suspicion, “The aide is not doing a very good job with covering his tracks if you know this much.”
“Indeed he is not,” the captain said, “I know this because a letter exists, written to Heribert by a city official where he agrees to participate in his plan to murder the Mayor. He has bought off all the important people in the city council with promises of wealth and power if they support his declaration of the martial law.”
The guard sighed.
“The Mayor was not well liked. Heribert had no problems with getting them to agree.”
Bhollom and the other men nodded slowly.
“I think I understand,” Bhollom said, “But why don’t you just take the letter to the judges and arrest the aide?”
“I cannot get to the letter,” the captain said, “Heribert has locked it up. He is keeping it as leverage on the officials in case they get out of line. He could impeach them all if he wanted to.”
The elf looked at Bhollom and grinned.
“And this, stub, is where I will need you and your friend.”
Bhollom felt a chill run up his spine as the captain’s cold eyes pierced him.
“What? Us? To do what?”
“To get the letter,” the captain said, “I am under supervision until Heribert is satisfied of my loyalty to his new regime and cannot act on my own. But a stub disguised as a servant might be able to snatch the letter.”
“Take care of your own dirty business,” Urban barked, “Why should they help you? We’ll just get them out of the city tomorrow night.”
The captain sneered at Urban.
“Impossible. The city is on full lock-down by now. No one is going in or out until Heribert has these two’s heads on a plate in front of him.”
“There’ll always be a hole to get through,” Urban said.
The captain took a step towards the man.
“Find one, sailor, I dare you. I have arranged the defensive strategy of this city myself. I can guarantee you, these two will not leave this city with their heads unless I decree so.”
Bhollom pushed himself between Urban and the captain.
“Alright, break it off! This doesn’t actually sound half bad,” he said, “We’ll just go in, get the letter, and get out of your hair, right?”
“Wait,” Patryk said, “This Heribert character thinks you’re on his side, eh?”
The captain nodded.
“So why aren’t you, then?” Patryk asked.
“While it is true that I do not mind a change in the city’s leadership, serving under Heribert does not sit well with me,” the captain said.
“You don’t want to serve a murderer, right?” Bhollom asked.
To his surprise, the captain scoffed.
“A soldier serves the one legally in power,” he said, “I care little that Heribert is a murderer.”
“Then why?” Patryk demanded.
A moroseness fell over the captain’s face.
“But he did murder my brother.”
The eyes of everyone but Neej-Nash widened at the captain’s words.
“The Mayor was your brother?” Bhollom asked, feeling a sudden sympathy towards the captain.
The elf nodded. Now that Bhollom thought of it, there was a certain resemblance between the two, as far as he remembered the Mayor’s face. The eyes were the same, as well their general facial shape. He had met few elves in his life, so he had just assumed those were generally shared features amongst them.
Bhollom turned to the others with a questioning expression. Neej-Nash had again closed her eyes and hung limply between Urban and Patryk. Flim was glaring at the captain still.
“And what will you do if we refuse to help you?”
The captain grinned.
“I am the captain of the guard, stub,” he said and glanced over his shoulder at the storage house, “and I now know where my escaped prisoners will be hiding.”
All three turned their eyes to Bhollom, who was staring at his feet. Carefully, Urban spoke.
“Well, the man has lost a brother.”
Bhollom sighed. He turned around and looked the guard captain in the eyes.
“I guess we have no choice.”