Wolfe Chapter 4: Aftermath
Links to previous chapters:
Also, I am extremely intoxicated at the time of this posting. 20 kumi to anyone that finds this secret message first.
“Do you think he’s?...”
“No,” Sam said in a firm but calming voice and he put an arm around his wife as they stood in the rain, “I don’t think he’ll be coming home tonight though.”
“Wake up, sunshine.” A guard said as he turned the key in Zane’s cell door, “It seems your father talked you out of here.”
“You’re letting me go?” The boy murmured as he rubbed his eyes.
“Yeah, but don’t get your hopes up, there’s still the Elder’s trial.”
The jail itself was just large enough for eight people to be detained, and was only meant for temporary holding anyway. He had never even been inside one before, let alone in custody. That whole experience wore him out though, so sleeping on the hard mat wasn’t a problem. A drunkard he spent the night with had already taken the only cot in this cell.
“Before you go, there’s something I think you should see.” His voice was stern and commanding already, but somehow it was even more so.
Zane took another look at him after standing up and realized this was the captain of the guard for the Birk district. Like the other guards, he wore thick, brown, leather armor; the only difference was a cloak draped over his left shoulder and broach that indicated his station. He raised his left hand and put it on Zane’s shoulder to lead him out, revealing the sword on his hip. Naturally it was of officer rank due to the decorations, and there was the Wolfe family crest on the hilt. He was none other than Brailen Wolfe.
He knew little about him since he was 6 when his cousin joined the Birk guard. Ever since then he was a Wolfe only by name, but obviously carried it with pride. They left the jail and stepped out into the bright sunlight. The day was beautiful despite the chaos of last night, and the fresh air was more than welcomed after smelling the stench inside that place. They were looking out into the ocean, and the place where the fight ended was merely 30 meters away. If it had been too much closer, there might not be a jail here at all; though looking at the stone it was made of it seemed like it could take a pounding.
Since the Wolfegate residence didn’t like the sight of jails, they were usually out of the way. The only piers here were for the guards themselves, and the building itself was extremely plain; just a four sided stone structure with the walls at a slight angle to give it more of a pyramid look. Even over here, there were still bits of debris lying about; pieces of wood and chunks of bricks. This section of the district was completely paved so it looked nice for merchants coming into port, but now those stones were torn out in places and flung about.
The captain kept his hand firmly on Zane’s shoulder as he walked him closer to the destruction. It was like a distant, older brother showing him his faults. As they stepped closer, a wide path of devastation opened up leading through the middle of the district. It seemed much worse than it did the night before, and a sickening feeling slowly crept over the teenager.
“Nearly a third of Birk was destroyed…” Brailen said, breaking the silence between them.
Zane just stared in disbelief, not sure what to say at first.
“One hundred twenty people without homes or jobs.”
“Was anyone hurt?” The boy asked, still not sure if apologizing would do anything at this point.
His cousin stopped for a moment as they turned to face down what used to be a street.
“Four people injured, six killed, somehow the rest were able to evacuate in time.”
Hearing that, Zane would have vomited if he had anything in his stomach; either way he felt nauseous. The full weight of what really transpired last night hit him all at once; he watched as residents cleaned up the mess. They had started early this morning, and now it was almost noon, but it looked like they had just now started. It was clear that it would take a while, but not only were there buildings to replace, there was damage done to a good number of houses and shops.
“Well, I hope you understand now.” The man paused, then looked at his relative, “You do know why the Wolfe are so highly regarded,…right?”
The teen looked down for a second then bounced his head back up, remembering his pride. ”We protect the town”, he barely managed to force out.
“No, we protect the people; do you know why?”
“No, sir…”, he easily could have answered these questions, but at the moment Zane’s head was swimming.
“We protect them because they trust us to, we protect them because we honor that trust; we protect them because no one else can, and ya’ know…” he felt himself starting to get worked up and took a moment to relax. “…last night, that trust was broken. It might not be the worst thing our family has done before, but it’s up there, and we’re all going to pay for it –“
“Oh yeah, well you’re not family anymore, so what do you mean we?...” Zane cut him off with a low but angry voice. He then took one last look in his eyes with a somewhat scolding expression then walked away.
The juvenile went further down the docks to where it ended, looking around for something but didn’t know what exactly. Brailen scratched his head, not know what to say to him, and realizing that was just out of fear mostly. The kid kept searching lackadaisically, kicking a few things out of his way as he walked. His mind was just racing and he hardly knew how to react with his body, or what to even say. There was nothing he even could say, nothing that would reverse what happened.
“Okay, well, you’re free till the council tomorrow. I guess we’ll see how this all plays out,“ the captain said before turning back to tend to his job.
Zane didn’t reply, he just kept pushing stuff around, going slowly over everything that happened. The one thing he thought about more than anything else was how that kitten looked lying on the ground lifeless. He figured it was probably dead, but so innocent; it had nothing to do with this at all, yet did so much of it. Pretty soon he realized he was looking for the cat, and that’s when something crashed behind him.
It was the kitten climbing out of some rubble it had crawled into. He knew it was the same one because of the dried blood in the same place he saw it last night, not to mention that its fur was all white and somewhat short. That was rare for this area, so it could only have been the same one. The boy slowly stepped over to it, before it noticed and focused on him. After a short meeting of eyes, Zane could tell that it recognized him, or had the same curiosity it did last night before the transformation.
Just then, something clanged from behind, and the cat ran off over the debris. It didn’t even seem injured at all, just as nimble as any cat. He was going off into ways that it could have possibly even survived at all let alone be completely healed when a voice broke through, calling his name.
“Zane, do you have anything you’d like to say?” Sam said, walking closer; he was tough, but at the same he wanted to listen, and this wasn’t his scolding voice. ”Look…son…I know it’s hard at times…”
“Why did this have to happen though? All I wanted to do was show everyone I could be a true member of the Wolfe. This whole time I’ve just been trying to impress you. So why this?”, with those last words, he looked at his dad standing next to him and met his eyes, tears starting to well up despite how hard he tried to suppress them.
“Son, you’ve always impressed me; last night you did for sure. Of course, we could have done without this.” He said, taking a quick look at the mess. “I’m not gonna’ lie to you, son; it’s pretty bad. Not only is Elder Magnus infuriated, but Damien isn’t too happy either.”
Zane looked around abruptly, “Wait, where’s mom?”
“You kidding me?” Sam puffed, “She doesn’t know I even came here to get you out. Do you have any idea how long it’s going to take her to calm down after she sees you?” He couldn’t help but smile a little, “I’ll tell ya’ right now, you’re handling that one on your own.”
“Gee, thanks. “ The boy said with a slight roll of his eyes. After a brief moment of silence, he asked in a more sincere tone, “Dad, what’s gonna’ happen?”
The burly man clapped a hand on his son’s back and said, “I can’t answer that, we’ll just have to wait and see. By this time tomorrow, I reckon we’ll know. It doesn’t end with the council though, son; this is a mark against our whole family.”
The two began to walk away from the destruction and work their way to a street they could actually walk down. “Brailen said the trust people have for us has been broken. What does that mean for the Wolfe though?”
“Well, to an extent he’s right, but you can’t take everything he says too seriously. You see, Brailen couldn’t handle the pressure; at every turn he felt like he was being scrutinized, much like the way you’ve felt at times. It’s only because such a high responsibility is placed on the family, and when something happens, everyone looks at us. Sure there’s other’s with the strength to protect the town, but none as highly skilled or trained as the Wolfe.”
“So, who do people blame for this? Is it just me, or all of us?” The teen wanted to know if he had actually shamed his family as much as it was being made out to be.
“It’s not as simple as all that. You see, the town blames our family, but the district Elders and the Wolfe are focused on you alone.” Sam thought for a second, “As for me…I blame myself…and I’m sure your mother blames me too.”
Zane smiled for a moment as they came around a bend in the street, but that faded when he saw the burnt remains of a house crumbled across their path.
“Let’s cut through this alley, there’s something I wanted to show you this way; besides, you don’t want to go home just yet, do you?” The father said, indicating a direction free to traverse.
They were now getting closer to the North river Nordri, and on the other side of those large bridges was the district of Bern. Zane felt his stomach growl as he looked at the long distance ahead of them to walk. His hunger was also making his tired body ache from the fight, plus he could feel the sting of his chest wounds coming back. Of course, now he noticed that someone must have tended to those cuts while he slept since they were already starting to heal. No bandages though, so that didn’t make too much sense; but right now he didn’t care to analyze it too much, he wanted to eat.
“Umm…maybe we should find some food first…”
“We’ll find a place to eat along the way, let’s cross over there first and get away from all this.” Sam took another look at his boy, “And maybe you shouldn’t be walking around like that…”
Zane glanced down at himself and saw the blood stains on his ripped shirt and his coat that had three slashes in it on one side. The shirt he couldn’t care less about, but that was his favorite coat, and now he couldn’t button it even if he wanted to. He wore that coat even if it was too hot to wear, and he always had it open even if it was cold. It was like his identity; no one else had one like it since his grandfather gave it to him before he died, and he had picked it up on one of his travels ages ago.
He figured the bloodied shirt might not be the best thing to walk around in, but there was no way he was leaving his coat, even if it was cut open in a few places. So he took the coat off, removed the shirt, and put it back on. At least it didn’t have blood on it, and now he wasn’t quite as hot. Plus he’d seen plenty of sailors walk about wearing less, though mother would have a fit if she saw him without a shirt.
“How about now, good enough?”
“Hahaha, I guess that’ll have to do.” Sam said with a smile, “Just try not to make the ladies swoon with that body of yours.” He said, feinting a punch to his belly.
After reacting to his dad’s teasing attack, the boy’s cheeks turned slightly reddish. Sure he was toned, but not as burly as his father. “I’m not…oh, never mind.” He said, barely containing a smile and wanting to change the topic.
He tossed the shirt into a pile of debris that would be cleaned up later anyway, then they trekked across the nearest bridge. Since the halfway point was somewhat taller than most of the remaining buildings in Birk, he took a moment to look back at the ruined district. The path the creature took was easier to see now, and it was more than apparent that it was just scared like he thought.
“No sense thinking about it now, what’s done is done. All you can do is focus on the future, as we all should.”
Zane didn’t bother responding, he just turned they kept walking. As they entered Bern, the most noticeable thing was the tents that were being set up along the river Nordri. Those without homes were forced to live either here on in the Southern district until things were rebuilt. This was also hard on the residence here as well; and it was obvious on everyone’s faces that tensions were already starting to rise.
“Shouldn’t I be doing something to help? I mean…I caused all this…”
“Son, under normal circumstances, I would be the first to tell you to lend a hand. This is different though, not only is there not much one extra person can do, but right now you have bigger problems to worry about...” Sam was usually serious, but had a comedic side as well. “…Like eating a whole bucket of herring!”
He slapped his son on the back and headed off for a marketplace restaurant he spotted not too far away. Zane shrugged; his dad was convinced that the only thing worth eating was fish, but no amount of explaining could make him understand he only liked it because fish was all there was in a fishing village. So after shaking his head at that a bit, he followed him over there.
“I haven’t even had breakfast yet…” Zane murmured, looking at the menu behind the bar.
“Nonsense, it’s past mid-day, and there’s nothing wrong with fish for breakfast.” Sam’s booming voice was getting louder, and his son more embarrassed.
Everything here was expensive too, not like the cheaper stuff in the Birk district. Of course, Sam Wolfe wasn’t one to even notice prices until it was time to pay. They were both served rather quickly, and immediately Zane’s father dug in ferociously. The boy, however, was slightly disconcerted by the decapitated heads on his plate. He didn’t really like fish, and the worst part was he never could understand why the head was served with it. He was too hungry though, so stopped the staring contest and dug in.
At least the price reflected the taste and quality; he didn’t mind it so much after a few bites. There was no talking to his father though while he was eating; the man only paused to breathe every once in a while. Zane noticed that other patrons were somewhat disturbed by the big guy’s table manners, plus his cheerful bellowing earlier didn’t win any beauty contests.
As the teen was finishing off his plate, his dad was finishing his second helping. The man stood up, gave his large chest a pat then asked what he owed. The boy’s head was already shaking in pure, waiting for the inevitable.
“What! Five silver for this?!” Now everyone was looking at them, and once again his dad proved to be the most embarrassing father ever.
“Dad, it’s not like there wasn’t a sign, just pay it and let’s go.” Zane said, standing up.
“Oh…alright, but I’m not letting you charlatans get me next time.” He said, jabbing a finger at the somewhat frightened cooks.
That deserved another roll of his son’s eyes. He’d say that to anyone no matter what the price, then be back the next day and say it again. Finally they put some distance between them and that particular area and headed deeper into Bern. With a full belly, Zane felt ten times better about everything; he wasn’t even as worried about the trial tomorrow, and wasn’t thinking so much about last night.
“So what is it you wanted to show me over here anyway?...” He asked his dad as they walked further to the North-East side of Bern.
“Something few people even think about these days, something that was here from the beginning of the town, of Wolfegate, when our ancestors first settled here.”
Now the lad’s interest was piqued, he never really knew about the family’s origins at all, and until now, never cared. There was some hope that he’d be shown a way to use a tradition in order to grant him immunity, or another way of dealing with this that the council might not have thought of. They approached a small entrance to the side of the cliff that seemed poorly maintained. It was behind some market stalls and buried in vines like no one cared anymore.
Sam was about to turn a handle he found, then stopped suddenly and looked about behind them. “Is anyone there?” he asked in a whisper.
“I don’t see anyone? Why?” Zane was actually a bit worried now; were they even supposed to be back here?
“Gotcha’!” Sam jabbed him in the side playfully, snickering to himself as he used his brute strength to push the door open.
Inside it was extremely dark, but apparently the boy’s father had been here before. He took a handful of dry leaves, set them on a ledge that was near the entrance then used his flint rock to spark them. Immediately they were engulfed in flames, but in turn they lit a series of channels carrying oil. The flame traveled quickly down the one that he lit then split off in different directions around the room. The oil channels were ingeniously designed, and in no time the whole place was glowing.
Now Zane could see massive pillars stretching back almost two hundred meters, and they were standing in one corner of a diamond shaped room. The pillars seemed completely sporadic, no rhyme or reason, and a great many had carvings on them.
“What is this place?” Zane asked with wonder in his voice.
The ceiling was at least 7 meters tall, and each of the columns must have been four or five in diameter.
“This is the hall of our ancestors.” Sam said as his son slowly walked a further in. “I thought it would be time for you to see this. There’s much I need to explain to you so that you may fully comprehend what takes place on the morrow.”
Zane suddenly felt his head throb with pain; it only lasted a moment, but was enough to make him double over in pain. This of course alerted Sam who asked if he was okay, but kept a firm tone. The adolescent stood upright again and assured him he was fine, and then continued onward while taking in this enormous room.
“Do you know what these carvings are on each pillar?”
The boy thought about it, “Nope, not a clue.”
“They’re all in boxes, and inside of every drawn box is a symbol to represent a member of the Wolfe.”
“So these are to represent our ancestors?”
“Not just anyone though, each one has proven their bravery with great feats, and most of them died protecting the town. These are heroes, and are honored here on each pillar.”
“Some are still blank…” Zane said, his words trailing off with thought.
“Yes, that’s because they await the heroes of the future, and when this hall is filled, it will be expanded again, as it has been for over a thousand years. This room is not forgotten, it merely hasn’t been opened for nearly 20 years…four years before you’re birthday, if I’m not mistaken.” Sam was attempting to play his ‘wise sage’ act, but it never seemed to work the way he wanted it to. “Do you know why they seem to be in this odd pattern?”
“No, but I’m guessing you’re going to tell me…” Zane flashed a smile at his dad to let him know he was only teasing.
“Hmm…well if you’re gonna’ be like that, then I won’t.” The man turned to the side in a fake pout.
The teen laughed, “You know you can’t resist.”
“You got me,” Sam shrugged. “They form the Wolfe family crest in the first eighteen, the others are extending the mane of the wolf on through the generations. Right now there’s a total of fifty-six, but those first eighteen pillars stand for the original eighteen that settled these lands and found the valley of Nordri and Sudri, later to be known as Wolfegate. They are the only ones that are not put on these columns, since they are the pillars themselves.”
Zane was actually intrigued now, but suddenly the headache returned with a vengeance. He collapsed to the ground and the whole room was blurry. He heard his father calling his name, but it was fading despite him coming closer. A growling sound filled his ears instead, and his heart was pounding. He felt the sting at his chest where the cat had scratched him, and he wasn’t sure if he was dreaming, but he felt blood pouring out of those wounds.
Visions began flashing before him; he had no idea what was happening, just that his whole body was like it was now on fire. Every inch of him was in pure agony, and the images kept coming. Finally he saw something he recognized, something he’d never forget. It was that cat, looking just as fierce and dangerous as it did last night before Elder Magnus attacked it with his bear. It filled all his senses, he not only smelled it now, but could feel it just like he did before.
“Son?! Are you okay?! Speak to me! Zane!”