Chapter 10 – Questions of Importance
“What would you do in my place?”
It was something of a rhetorical
question, of course, since it was being asked of a statue and lumps of stone
were notorious for not replying to questions asked of them.
Tobias stood in the near empty plaza and
glared up at the statue of his erstwhile friend and mentor, Acheron Zelazny,
wondering what to do. A mystery lay before him and he had no idea where to begin
unravelling it. The fact that it was a mystery in which Acheron seemed to be
partially involved only made it all the more difficult.
Even though the two of them had always
been close throughout the time they had known each other, Tobias had to admit
that the white tiger had never said much about himself, where he came from, who
he really was, and he’d never found the heart to ask. He’d assumed Acheron
would give up his secrets when he was good and ready.
But the day of Acheron’s departure had
come before that could happen. In the years that followed, he’d always had the
questions at the back of his mind at who his greatest friend had really been,
but he’d learned to live with the fact that he wouldn’t be getting any
answers to them.
Yet now… now it felt that those
answers were close, wrapped up in the mystery of Royce and his connection to the
founder of the Brotherhood. Royce himself was another matter entirely. It was
his assignment to find a way to convince him to join the Brotherhood. Do
whatever is necessary, Oberon had told him…
Thinking of Oberon made him remember
that day forty years ago, and some of the advice Acheron had given him before
his disappearance. He could still hear the white tiger’s distinctive voice…
“And under any circumstances,”
Acheron had told him, “do not place any trust in Oberon Kane. In the long
run, no good will come of it. I wish I could explain why, but even you would not
believe my reasons…”
It was advice Tobias had kept to
throughout the years, even though he didn’t fully understand it.
It was getting late. Perhaps some sleep
would help him get his head around the facts so that he could start piecing them
all together. He wandered back through the gardens towards the castle. It was
probably best he stop off and check to see how Royce was doing.
He wandered through the corridors of the
castle, drifting off in his own thoughts, considering possible approaches to
take in trying to convince Royce to join up. It was the raised voices that drew
him out of his reverie as he approached Royce’s room.
“I’m telling you it was him!”
“That’s ridiculous! You must have
made a mistake!”
Tobias frowned as he entered.
“What’s going on in here?” He demanded.
Armin and Royce were stood in the centre
of the room, each angrily trying to face down the other. They both turned to
look at Tobias as he closed the door behind him.
“Royce here apparently had an
hallucination that’s got him all worked up.” Armin explained dismissively.
“Probably brought on by exhaustion while wandering the castle halls when he
should have been resting.”
“I was not seeing things, you spotted
idiot!” Royce snarled. “I saw him and he was real!”
“And I keep telling you it’s not
possible!” Armin snapped back.
“Calm yourself, Armin.” Said Tobias
The leopard took a deep breath and
stepped away from Royce. “Sorry, sir.” He said.
“Now, who do you think you saw,
Royce?” The old wolf wanted to know.
“I saw Thorne, Nomack’s puma
assistant.” Said Royce.
“But that’s impossible!”
Spluttered Tobias. The very thought that someone associated with that monster
Nomack could be here…
“Exactly what your lackey here
said.” Royce spat. Armin looked as if he only just managed to bite back an
Tobias sighed. “Why don’t we just
calm down and you tell me more about what you saw?”
Royce, feeling a little weak again, sat
down on the edge of his bed. “There’s not that much to tell. I was taking a
look around the castle, getting some exercise, and heard Thorne’s voice. I
looked around a corner and there he was, talking to someone who called him
“Mallory?” Said Tobias, recognising
the name. “I’ve heard of a puma by that name. Part of the intelligence
division of the Brotherhood, if I remember right, doing undercover work. As I
recall, he was recruited by General Warrick, back in the old badger’s days as
“I overheard him saying he’d
returned from an assignment.” Said Royce. “Perhaps Nomack was his
“That is a ridiculous notion.” Said
Armin. “If the Brotherhood had an undercover agent so close to Nomack, we
would have been informed when we were assigned to recruit you, considering your
past history with him.”
Tobias was thoughtful. He wasn’t as
sure as Armin was on that point. There was so much that they apparently hadn’t
been told about what had been going on, it was entirely plausible that an
undercover Brotherhood agent was something else that had been kept from them.
“I can assure you, Royce, I will look
into this myself.” Tobias said. “You should get some rest now, you’re
still recovering from those injuries. And tomorrow, we will need to start
discussing your future in more detail.”
“I can tell you now that I have no
desire to join this Brotherhood of yours.” Royce stated.
Tobias simply nodded. “As I said, we
will discuss it tomorrow. Come on, Armin.” He sighed.
The young leopard followed the wolf out
of the room, leaving the tiger to get back to resting.
“Sir, are you seriously going to look
into his claims?” Tobias asked, following his captain away from Royce’s
“I said I would, didn’t I?” Tobias
answered. “Or would you prefer I make a liar of myself?”
“But surely there can’t be any truth
to what he says?” The leopard said.
“Maybe. Maybe not.” Tobias shrugged.
“But I’m tired. I’ll see you tomorrow, Armin.”
“Goodnight, sir.” Armin nodded,
heading off for his room.
The old wolf trudged off in the
direction of his own chambers, pondering Royce’s claims of having seen Thorne.
A new piece had been added to the puzzle he was trying to solve…
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
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Royce took a deep breath of the crisp
early morning air.
He was stood at the window of his room.
From where he was, he had a good view of the gardens below. He could spy a few
gardeners tending to the grounds.
Thoughts of his future whirled through
his mind. He was still at a loss as to what he should do with himself. Sure, he
was safe and well for the moment, he was certain he’d be allowed to hang
around here until he recovered more fully from his injuries. Then it’d likely
be a case of join up or get out. He had tried breaking down his options, but
that approach didn’t help much.
The first option was that he could just
join up with the Brotherhood. But that wasn’t what he wanted, to become a cog
in the machine of this big organisation, expected to take orders and do as he
was told. He’d be safe and secure, but the price was something he wasn’t
sure he was willing to accept.
His second option was to leave and try
to build a new life. However, that path would lead him to a life of fear,
constantly looking over his shoulder in case Nomack should reappear to
re-enslave him. It wasn’t a pleasant thought.
The third and final option as far as he
could see was to try and find some way to exact his revenge on Nomack before
building a new life, find some way to eliminate that damn wolf once and for all.
But while that was the option that was the most appealing by far, he had no way
in which he could do it. He couldn’t touch Nomack. The thought of hiring
someone to do it for him had come up, but there was no way he was going to get
the kind of money that would be needed to hire a truly professional assassin.
All he’d ever be likely to be able to hire were simple thugs who wouldn’t
stand a chance against Nomack.
And even if he did somehow manage to get
some cash together to hire someone skilled, what were the chances that Nomack
was already expecting such a move? His tormentor had predicted every other move
he’d made so far, why not this one as well? It was possible he’d retaliate,
re-enslave him sooner than he might otherwise have done.
The tiger turned away from the window
angrily. His thoughts were running in circles without coming up with anything
useful. He needed to come up with some idea of what he was going to do…
There was a knock at the door. Royce
ignored it at first, wanting to be left alone. But the knocking persisted, as if
whoever it was knew he was there and wasn’t about to go away.
“Come in!” He called out.
A tall black panther stepped into the
room, gently closing the door behind him. He looked distinguished and wise as he
smiled warmly at Royce.
“Greetings!” He said, pleasantly.
“You must be Royce Herrick.”
“Who are you?” Royce asked.
“I’m General Oberon Kane.” The
panther told him. “Head of the Brotherhood. I just thought I’d come by and
“And try to convince me to join up, I
suppose.” Said Royce.
“Not at all.” Oberon reassured him,
strolling over to join the tiger by the window. “That’s Captain
Clandrell’s job and I simply wouldn’t dream of doing it for him. I know how
much he likes his job. No, I just wanted to introduce myself. I hope the good
captain has been taking care of you.”
“I’ve no complaints.” Said Royce.
“Everyone’s been very hospitable.”
“Well, we in the Brotherhood tend to
be very hospitable.” Said the panther, glancing out the window at the gardens.
“If you have any questions about the Brotherhood, I’d be more than willing
to do my best to answer them.”
“That’s a nice offer,” Royce said,
“but I think I know enough already. And I think it’s likely I won’t be
joining your organisation.”
Oberon glanced at Royce suddenly, and
the tiger was certain he caught a glimpse of an icy look in the panther’s
eyes. But it was only a split-second before it was gone. “Oh really?” He
said. “That would be a terrible shame. I must say I think you could fit in
very well with us.”
“This just isn’t for me.” Royce
shrugged. “It’s not what I want.”
“I see.” Oberon nodded. “And just
what exactly is it that you do want?”
Royce’s first thought was revenge
against Nomack. But that wasn’t possible, so not worth bringing up. “I
haven’t figured that out yet.” He admitted. “I just know it isn’t the
“Well, if you’ve made up your mind
on that point,” Oberon said, sadly, “then it is not my place to try and
persuade you otherwise. But now, I must be getting on, Brotherhood business to
attend to. Furs to meet, things to do. Farewell for now, Mr. Herrick. I hope we
get the chance to talk again sometime.”
Royce nodded in response and the panther
walked to the door. As he reached it, he turned back for a moment.
“I will say this before I go, Mr.
Herrick.” Oberon said. “We in the Brotherhood are capable of a great many
things. So search your heart for what you truly want. Maybe the Brotherhood
could make it happen for you. If you were one of us.”
The panther opened the door and
departed, leaving Royce alone. The tiger returned to staring out at the gardens.
His conversation with Oberon had sparked off an idea...
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“So Mallory is here in the Haven?”
The elderly weasel looked up from his
desk testily. “That’s what I said, isn’t it? He came in yesterday, just
finished some assignment…”
“What assignment?” Said Tobias.
“Does this look like Central to
you?” Said the weasel, motioning to the small collection of rooms and offices
around him that made up the administration centre of the Haven. “How should I
know? All sorts of agents come through here, stopping in to rest or send a
report to Central and await reassignment, I don’t go inquiring as to what
assignments they’ve been on because frankly, its not my business. I just give
them a room and whatever help I can…”
“Then can you tell me what room you
gave to Mallory?” Tobias asked.
The weasel glared at him. “If I tell
you will you stop asking silly questions and let me get back to work?”
The wolf captain smiled at him.
It wasn’t long before Tobias was
wandering through the east wing of the castle where Mallory’s room was. There
were quite a few guest rooms in this part of the Haven, although many seemed to
be empty and unused at the moment. He hadn’t been to this part of the castle
very often, so was having a little trouble finding the right place.
A glimpse of movement out of the corner
of his eye suddenly drew his attention. A puma passed by a junction in the
corridor off to his left, gone from sight in a split-second. He quickly jogged
in that direction and peered around the corner.
It was Mallory, strolling leisurely
along the corridor, probably headed for his chambers. Tobias decided to follow
discreetly, and then confront him in the privacy of his room.
The puma turned a few more corners
before arriving at his destination, a room in a fairly empty part of the castle.
Tobias watched as Mallory stepped inside and then crept to the door. He paused
as he reached it. He could hear the puma inside, talking to someone…
“I must say it’s a surprise to find
you waiting here for me, sir.” Mallory was saying. “I guess you received my
request to speak with you…”
“You should not have come here!” A
strangely familiar voice hissed.
“But, sir, its standard procedure to
report in after completing an assignment.” The voice of Mallory complained.
“Preferably at the nearest Brotherhood post. That was here. I completed my
assignment, doing everything you ordered, sir. After Nomack had me slip Herrick
the antidote to the drugs he’d been using on him, I left Nomack’s company
without explanation. And I stayed in the area long enough to make sure Captain
Clandrell and his lieutenant made contact with him and found Herrick...”
“Herrick is here!” The familiar
voice said. “That idiot Clandrell saw fit to bring him in without
authorization. If he recognises you, it could be disastrous…”
“I’d heard some talk of an outsider
in the Haven, but I didn’t believe it!” Mallory sounded surprised.
“Well, it’s all too true.” Said
whoever was inside with Mallory. “If you are seen by him, it could lead to
some very awkward questions. I want you to depart for Central within the hour,
and keep a low profile around here until then.”
“Of course, sir.” Mallory sighed.
“But I still don’t understand why this assignment has been so shrouded in
secrecy. I don’t understand why Captain Clandrell couldn’t know about me, or
why I couldn’t let Herrick know I was with the Brotherhood. And I don’t see
why you insisted that the note I left for the captain and his lieutenant back in
Pyre so that they’d know Herrick was still alive be kept anonymous…”
“I know it doesn’t make much sense
to you here and now.” The other soothed. “But I see the bigger picture, and
in the long run, your exemplary work on this assignment has been very important.
You will have to trust me on that point I’m afraid.”
“Sir, I trust no one more that I trust
you.” Said Mallory. “So I will leave as soon as possible.”
“Very good.” Said Mallory’s
mysterious companion. “I will see you at Central. I have business to deal with
before I leave here though. In fact, I have to be getting on. Furs to meet,
things to do. Farewell for now, Mallory.”
“Thank you for your time, sir.”
Footsteps approached the door. Tobias
backed away quickly, ducking into the empty guest room opposite. He left the
door open so as not to attract suspicion and pressed himself against the wall
just inside doorway.
The old wolf listened intently, hearing
the door to Mallory’s room open and then close. Curiosity getting the better
of him, Tobias chose that moment to sneak a peak at who had just been talking to
It was a heavily built bear with black
fur, wearing simple casual clothes, black boots, brown trousers and a grey
tunic. Whoever it was, Tobias didn’t recognise him. That in itself was
unusual. Tobias had a very good memory for faces and knew most of the
Brotherhood by sight, even if he might not be able to put names to all the
But this bear was new, someone the wolf
had never seen before. The very fact he was here in the Haven meant he had to be
part of the Brotherhood, but who exactly was he and why had his voice seemed so
familiar when Tobias was certain he’d never seen that face before?
To be honest, when he’d heard Mallory
saying how much he trusted whoever he was talking to, Tobias had naturally
assumed it must have been General Warrick, since experience had taught him that
many in the Brotherhood implicitly trusted the one who had recruited them.
The strange bear padded away along the
corridor and soon disappeared around the corner. Tobias stepped out from hiding,
staring after him. He knew he should talk to Mallory; see if the puma would give
up any information about what was going on. But he couldn’t take his mind off
that unfamiliar face. He had to know who it was. Mallory could wait.
The old wolf set off in pursuit of the
bear, slipping silently along the corridors, keeping pace with the heavy
footsteps of the ursine a short distance ahead, using the sound to follow him
and stay out of sight just behind him. The chase led him through some of the
emptier parts of the Haven.
And then suddenly, the footsteps
Frowning, Tobias crept forward to the
corner he’d glimpsed the bear disappearing around a few moments before. His
quarry must have stopped for some reason. That was the only way to explain the
disappearance of the sound of his footsteps. But when he looked, there was no
sign of the bear. He had vanished.
The old wolf spent the next ten minutes
or so searching the surrounding corridors, but to no avail. The bear had eluded
Eventually, he had to admit defeat. The
question of whom that bear had been preyed on his mind, another mystery to add
to an ever-increasing pile. He made his way back the way he’d come. Perhaps
Mallory could provide some answers to this one.
He arrived at Mallory’s room to find
the door open. A quick glance inside confirmed his fears. It was empty, devoid
of clothing and possessions. Mallory had already left. The failed pursuit of the
bear had taken up more time than he’d realised.
The wolf turned and sprinted away
through the corridors. Perhaps he could catch the puma before he left the
He arrived at the stables out of breath
and headed straight for the young coyote who was tending to the riding lizards.
“Hayes!” Tobias gasped. “Has
Mallory been through here yet?”
“Captain?” The coyote was startled
by the wolf’s sudden appearance. “Who?”
“Mallory.” Tobias explained. “Tall
puma, would be setting out for Central.”
“Oh him.” Said Hayes. “He came and
took his mount and left about twenty minutes ago. He’s long gone.”
Tobias thanked him for his assistance
and left. He silently cursed himself for letting his curiosity get the better of
him. He should have talked to Mallory while he’d had the chance, rather than
going after the bear. But it couldn’t be helped now.
Besides, it wasn’t as if Mallory had
eluded him forever. He’d catch up with him eventually and get some answers.
For the moment, it was time to get back to dealing with Royce.
The tiger’s room was empty. Royce had
gone wandering again. He eventually tracked him to the gardens, where he found
the muscular tiger lazing on a bench.
“You’re looking thoughtful,
Royce.” He said as he approached.
The tiger merely nodded as Tobias sat
down beside him on the bench. He was leaning back, enjoying the sunshine and
fresh aromas of the gardens about him, while going over his thoughts. His room
had been getting a little stuffy, so he’d decided a little fresh air in the
castle gardens might help him reach some decisions.
“Thinking about your future, I
hope.” The old wolf hinted.
“Among other things.” Royce replied.
That took the wolf by surprise. “Armin?”
“Long story short, I had intended to
apologise to him.” Royce shrugged. “Instead we ended up arguing and calling
each other names.”
“Well, here’s a strange idea.”
Said Tobias. “Why not just apologise next time you see him?”
“I’m not sure he’d listen to
me.” Royce sighed. “He seemed completely unwilling to listen to what I had
to say about Thorne, or Mallory, or whoever you want to call him.”
“Well,” said Tobias. “That was a
matter concerning the Brotherhood, so I daresay that Armin felt he knew better
than you if something like this whole Mallory business were possible.”
“It is possible!” Royce hissed. “I
know what I saw! You said you were going to look into it. Did you find
Tobias faltered, unsure of how much to
reveal at this point. He wasn’t exactly sure himself what the situation with
Mallory was, what exactly the puma’s mission had been. The identity of that
mysterious bear was likely the key to figuring it out, but he’d been unable to
“I’m still looking into it.” Said
Tobias, since this was essentially true. “But
I do believe you, and I’ll let you know when I’ve got to the bottom of
Royce stared at the wolf for a moment.
“Very well.” He said, eventually.
“We also need to start talking about
your future, Royce.” Said Tobias.
“I believe I’ve actually reached a
decision about that.” Said the tiger.
“I’m glad to hear it.” Said
Tobias. “And what is your decision?” He was actually a little anxious about
what the tiger might say next. Oberon had ordered him to do all that was
necessary to recruit Royce, but if he decided that the Brotherhood wasn’t for
“I will join your Brotherhood.”
Royce revealed. “But on the condition that you help me with something
While a part of the old wolf was
delighted at this, the ‘condition’ sounded a little ominous. “And what is
it that you need help with?”
“Nothing too much.” Said Royce. “I
just want you to help me get something I want very much. Do that, and I’ll
join up with your organisation.”
“You’re stalling.” Tobias
observed. “That makes me feel I’m not going to like what you’re about to
“You probably won’t.” Royce
admitted. “What I want is revenge on Nomack. But thanks to what he did to me,
I can’t kill him. So I want you to do it for me.”
“What?” The old wolf spluttered.
“You want me to kill for you?”
“Yes.” Royce nodded. “I’ll join
the Brotherhood if, and only if, you help me track down and kill Nomack
“You put me in a difficult position,
Royce.” Said Tobias. “I can’t just go out and commit murder for you!”
But then, he caught himself thinking, Oberon had said to do whatever was
“Then don’t think of it as
murder.” Said the tiger. “Think of it as giving a taste of justice to
someone who sorely deserves it.”
“It’d still be murder!” Tobias
“I don’t see your problem with
this!” Said Royce. “We’re talking about Calhoun Nomack, someone as close
to a monster as you’re likely to get!”
“It’s not down to me or you to
decide who lives and dies in this world!” Tobias argued. “And the simple
fact is that cold-blooded murder is only ever an option when there is no other
“Well, if you want me in this
Brotherhood of yours, then there is no other way!” Royce said. “And that’s
all there is to it!”
Tobias decided to back off, not wanting
things to degenerate into an argument. “I’ll have to think about this.” He
said, getting to his feet. “In the meantime, I’ll have Armin come by and
take you to see the Haven’s tailor to get you some proper clothes made up.
It’ll also give you an opportunity to make that apology of yours.”
“If he’ll listen to me.” Royce
“Give him a chance.” Said Tobias.
“And he will. You might find that the two of you have more than a few things
“I already know that we do.” Royce
Tobias didn’t add anything to that, he
simply nodded. “I’ll see you later.”
The old wolf wandered away through the
gardens. This latest development in his assignment had complicated things much
more than he would have liked. Oberon had ordered him to do what was necessary
to recruit Royce, but he somehow doubted that extended to murder.
Of the limited options open to him, the
best that he could see was to go talk with Oberon. As much as he may personally
distrust him, the panther was still the head of the Brotherhood. He should talk
to him; see if there was something that could be worked out regarding his
assignment. There had to be some other way to do this without resorting to
A few inquiries in the administration
centre as to General Kane’s location led him to a small collection of rooms in
a disused area of the castle. He found the door on which hung a hastily painted
sign identifying it as ‘General Kane’s Office’. He knocked and waited for
a call from within before opening the door and stepping inside.
“Captain Clandrell! What a pleasant
surprise! Come in, sit down!”
Tobias closed the door behind him and
glanced around the small room Oberon was apparently using as a makeshift office.
It was small and sparse, just a basic desk and some chairs. The black panther
was seated and cleared away some papers and documents as the old wolf sat down.
“So, captain, what can I do for
you?” Oberon smiled.
“I’ve run into a bit of a problem
with Royce.” Tobias explained. “He has said he will join us, but only if a
certain condition of his is met.”
“I see.” Said Oberon. “And what
condition might this be?”
“He wants me to help him find and kill
Nomack.” Said Tobias.
“Well, I’m glad you came to me with
this, captain.” Said Oberon, suddenly smiling again. “I’ll be able to make
the necessary arrangements for you immediately.”
Tobias frowned. “Arrangements, sir?”
“For the expedition to find and
eliminate Nomack.” Oberon said. “I can have it all arranged by the end of
the day. No point in delaying, is there?”
“But sir!” Tobias protested. “I
came to see you because I don’t think there is a way to recruit Royce any
other way and wanted to seek your advice!”
“If there is no other way, then this
is what we must do.” Said Oberon. “You have my full authorization to
“You want me to proceed to committing
pre-mediated and cold-blooded murder?” Tobias was shocked that the head of the
Brotherhood could be suggesting such a thing.
“Come now, captain.” Oberon grinned,
leaning back in his chair. “Its not as if the Brotherhood hasn’t engaged in
such actions in the past. Some even performed by you, I might add.”
“Only when there was no other way for
the Brotherhood to complete its goals!” Tobias stammered. This was definitely
not the conversation he’d been expecting to have when he came here. “Such
actions were only ever sanctioned as an absolute last resort! That’s always
the way Acheron himself wanted things!”
“Ah yes, but Acheron isn’t here.”
Oberon shrugged. “And hasn’t been for quite some time. And the simple fact
is that times change, and the Brotherhood must change as well.”
“So you are sanctioning murder?”
Said Tobias. “Simply so that a recruit will join our ranks?”
“Captain, I realise that such a course
of action is distasteful for you.” Oberon soothed. “I don’t like it
either. But try looking at the bigger picture here. This will remove the monster
that is Nomack from the world, thus saving all those who those who ultimately be
destined to suffer at his hands. At the same time, it will gain us a very
promising new recruit.”
“But murder…” Said Tobias.
“Try not to think of it as murder.”
The panther suggested. “Think of it as doing what is necessary. Which I know
from your long record of service you are more than capable of doing.”
“But still…” The old wolf sighed.
“Tobias, we are talking about a
monster here.” Oberon said. “I am familiar with the intelligence on Calhoun
Nomack. He is a most despicable creature the world will be a lot better off
Tobias resisted the urge to ask why
Oberon was familiar with the intelligence on Nomack. Did the panther know about
Mallory and his assignment? The wolf decided it probably wouldn’t be a good
idea to give away just how much he knew.
“Very well, sir.” He sighed.
“I’ll see what I can do.”
“Very good, captain.” Oberon beamed.
“I expect you’ll want to get going, get yourself ready to depart once Royce
has regained some more strength. I’ll make all the necessary arrangements.”
“Yes, sir.” Tobias nodded, getting
to his feet. “Thank you for your time.”
“Not at all captain.” Oberon
grinned. “It’s been a pleasure.”
Tobias left the panther’s office, not
looking back as he headed off through the castle, his mind a whirl of thought.
He still couldn’t believe it. The head
of the Brotherhood sanctioning cold-blooded murder so easily. The thought that
the idealistic organisation he had devoted so much of his life to might be
degenerating into a gang of assassins tore him up inside.
Sure, he knew that on occasion it was
necessary to kill, he had done it himself, just as Oberon had pointed out. But
it had only been after all other options had been exhausted, when there had
simply been no other way. A healthy respect for the value of life had been at
the very core of the Brotherhood in the beginning, Acheron had made sure of
that. Now it seemed Acheron’s values were being tossed aside.
He would go along with things for the
moment, but he knew one thing with absolute certainty. He was not going to
murder Nomack unless there was no other option.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Royce rummaged through a pile of clothes
that lay on the bed of his room. He and Armin had just returned from the
Haven’s tailor, and the tiger was taking the opportunity to try some of the
garments that had been made to measure for him.
“These are pretty nice.” Said Royce,
slipping on a shirt. It fit perfectly. “That tailor of yours does good work.
And quickly too.”
“The Brotherhood takes care of its
own.” Armin commented from where he stood by the window, watching.
“I’m not one of the Brotherhood
yet.” Royce pointed out. “And still may not be.”
“Fine.” Armin shrugged. “I’ll
leave you to your clothes.” He turned to leave.
“Wait.” Said Royce. “There’s
something I want to say.”
“And what would that be?”
“I want to apologise.”
Armin stopped and looked back at him,
surprised. “Really? You’re actually going to admit you were wrong about
Royce was slightly taken aback. “No,
of course not, I was right about that!”
“I see.” Armin hummed.
“I’m talking about before that.”
Royce explained. “When I claimed you couldn’t possibly understand me. You
showed me I was wrong about that and I think I owe you an apology for being so
arrogant on the subject. So, I’m sorry.”
“Well, I must admit I’m
surprised.” Said Armin. “I honestly didn’t think you had such an apology
in you. I’m glad I was wrong.”
“In fact,” Royce went on, “I
don’t mind admitting that it is a little comforting to know that there is at
least someone who understands me.”
The leopard returned to the tiger’s
side, joining him in sitting on the bed. “I think you’ll find that there are
plenty who understand you, if you just give them a chance.”
“It’s something to try, I
suppose.” Royce muttered.
“Trust me, it’ll be worth it.”
Royce suddenly found that he did
actually have a degree in trust in the leopard. Despite his first impressions of
Armin as being smug and arrogant, Royce was starting to actually like him. He
guessed the discovery of all they had in common probably had something to do
“If you think I can do it,” Royce
shrugged. “I guess I can give you a try.”
“All it’ll take is a bit of effort
on your part.” Said Armin. “After all, I was able to do it, and I was worse
“I find that hard to believe.” Said
“Really?” Armin grinned. “Someday,
ask Captain Clandrell to tell you about the incident at the brothel in Cascade
Falls involving the beaver and the seven watermelons.”
The tiger frowned at the leopard beside
“I’d tell you it now myself,”
Armin winked, “but there is no way you’d believe it coming from me.”
Royce couldn’t help but let out a
“You know,” said Armin, “it’s
good to see this side of you, to see there is something underneath that stubborn
exterior of yours.”
The leopard placed a reassuring hand on
the large tiger’s leg. It felt nice, and Royce saw that Armin was smiling
warmly at him.
Inexplicably, Royce found himself
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
General Gunther Kimball looked himself
over in his mirror, making sure he was presentable. He always liked to look his
best when he was meeting with General Kane. It was simply a matter of pride.
He headed for the door and opened it. He
was about to step out into the corridor beyond when Tobias was suddenly there,
having just arrived.
“I need to know, Gunther,” Tobias
demanded, storming in without waiting for an invitation. “Did you know about
“What are you talking about?” Said
the lion, closing the door.
The old wolf looked into his eyes
thoughtfully. “You really don’t know, do you? Now that is interesting…”
“Tobias, please, what are you talking
about?” Gunther wanted to know.
“Do you remember Mallory?” Tobias
asked. “Puma, works in undercover intelligence?”
“Yeah, I think so.” Gunther replied.
“I think I’ve met him a few times here and there. Why?”
“I’ve discovered that he’s
recently been on an undercover assignment.” Tobias explained. “He was posing
as a Mr. Thorne, assistant to Calhoun Nomack.”
“But I would have known about such a
mission!” Gunther spluttered in surprise.
“The only way you would think that,”
Tobias interjected, “is if you
already knew Nomack was involved in all this before you despatched Armin and I
to Pyre. And yet Nomack’s involvement was suspiciously absent from the
information I was given.”
“Yes.” Gunther admitted. “I knew
Nomack was in Pyre when I had you sent to recruit Royce. But I had no idea what
he might have been planning, or that we had someone posing as his assistant.
That is the truth!”
The old wolf looked into his friend’s
eyes. “Either you’ve suddenly become very good at lying, or that really is
“It must have just been an
administrative error that I wasn’t told…” Gunther murmured.
“Do you really believe that?” Tobias
The general shook his head sadly.
“Well, here’s something else you
won’t believe.” Said Tobias. “General Kane has just sanctioned murder. And
just so that Royce will join up.”
“What are you talking about?” Said
“Royce has said he will join up if I
help him track down and kill Nomack.” Tobias explained. “And Kane authorised
it. Without hesitation, I might add.”
“I don’t believe it.” Gunther
“Secrets and lies.” Said Tobias.
“Murder authorised without hesitation. The core values of the Brotherhood are
being discarded, Gunther! What do you have to say to that?”
“It’s necessary, Tobias!” The lion
said, even thought he himself didn’t seem too convinced. “You don’t know
“Only because no one has seen fit to
tell me!” The old wolf growled back. “Are you seriously going to try and
argue that it has become necessary to discard the values upon which the
Brotherhood was founded? Values I went to great pains to teach you when I
recruited you all those years ago? Whatever the reasons, this is a step too
The general sat down and sighed. “I
know you’re right. Murder… General Kane is going too far. But you really
have no idea of what’s going on…”
“Then why don’t you tell me?”
Tobias demanded. “You know me, I’ll figure it out eventually. Why not just
tell me and save the time and trouble?”
Gunther looked thoughtfully at his
friend. “Very well,” he sighed, “I suppose if you’re going to be
expected to commit murder, you should be told the reason.”
Tobias thought it best not to mention
that he had no intention of going as far as to commit murder, He was just glad
some answers were finally coming.
“But it can’t be now.” Gunther
added. “I’m expected in a meeting with General Kane in a few minutes,
he’ll get suspicious if I’m late. And this will take some explaining.”
“I’ve waited this long, I can wait a
little longer.” Said Tobias.
“Meet me back here later tonight,
after nightfall.” Said Gunther, making to leave. “I’ll tell you everything
then. And we should keep this to ourselves. Warrick would have my hide if he
knew anything about this.”
Tobias nodded. “I agree. I’ll see
you later then. And Gunther…” He patted the lion on the shoulder. “Thanks.
For agreeing to give me some answers.”
“Hey, you know me.” Gunther smiled.
“I can be a hard-headed idiot at times, but I usually get over it.”
“Yeah, I know that all too well.”
Tobias chuckled. “You’d better get going. We’ll talk more later.”
“Later it is.” Said the lion, and
then he was gone, off to his meeting in a rush. Tobias watched him go and then
headed off himself. He could be a patient for a little while yet. The important
thing was that some solid answers were not too far off…
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Tobias approached Royce’s chambers.
He’d been putting this off, even resorting to wandering in the gardens for a
while after seeing Gunther. But it had to be done. It was time to let the tiger
know that they’d be setting out again once he’d regained some more strength.
It wasn’t something he was looking
forward too as he’d have to be very careful with his words. He didn’t want
to lie to Royce at all and tell him he intended to kill Nomack for him. But
there could be trouble if the tiger suspected that murder was not on his mind.
He knocked on the door briefly before
stepping inside. He found Royce and Armin sitting side by side on the bed,
talking amiably. At least Royce seemed to have apologised, Tobias thought.
They both looked toward him as he
entered. Armin nodded respectfully.
“I hope I’m not interrupting
anything?” The wolf asked, moving toward them.
“Not at all, sir.” Said Armin,
“I bring news, Royce.” Said Tobias.
“You’ll be glad to know that after discussing things with General Kane, an
expedition has been authorised to find and deal with Nomack.”
“You mean kill him, right?” said
The old wolf remained silent. He really
didn’t want to have to lie to the tiger…
“The Brotherhood doesn’t commit
murder lightly, Royce…” Armin tried to explain.
“And I’m not asking it to.” Royce
grumbled. “All I’m asking is help in exacting some justice upon the one who
did so much to me.” Armin looked disgusted at this.
“I said that we would deal with Nomack.”
Said Tobias tactfully. “And that is exactly what we will do. If it comes down
to killing him in the end, then so be it. Now, do you have any idea of when we
should begin looking for Nomack?” Tobias asked.
“As a matter of fact, I do.” Said
“And there was me hoping I wouldn’t
have to go back there any time soon.” Tobias sighed. “Can you be certain
he’ll go there?”
“Yes.” The tiger nodded. “I know
Nomack. Much more than I’d prefer. He likes to check in on all his business
investments from time to time. And I know he now owns part of the Stone Walls
Arena in Pyre. He’ll show up there eventually. And besides, I have business
I’d like to take care of back in Pyre.”
“More revenge?” Said Armin,
“Perhaps.” Royce replied, solemnly.
“We’ll see how it goes when we get there.”
“You and I,” The old wolf began,
“are really going to have to talk about…”
A frantic knocking at the door
interrupted him. A second later a badger burst in, out of breath.
“Captain Clandrell!” The new arrival
gasped. “I was sent to find you! You have to come at once!”
The old wolf leapt to his feet. “Why?
What’s going on?”
A look of sadness crossed the badger’s
face. “There’s been a terrible accident, sir. General Kimball is dead…”
To Be Continued…
Read Chapter 11...
Raging Tiger/Kuman the Barbarian/Mitchell and Michael/Going Under/Beware the Transformer/That Day/Working Bears/Heart of a Hero
The Art Gallery/The Library/The Comic Store
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