Island of the Kahts 19
I was doing my best to bandage the wound and stop the bleeding while Savadra ran to alert Craigin, who would then find the others. I would have given anything for a good set of signal whistles that night.
“I don't guess you care to tell me what happened, eh Bart?” I muttered as I worked. The last rays of light had vanished from the trees and my job was becoming impossible.
Bart didn't reply.
Concern melted my distrust and all thoughts of traps and treachery faded as I concentrated on stopping the bleeding. The wound, as best as I could tell, was not fatal directly—else, the dubious archer would have succumbed long before now. Even without Bart's answer for explanation, I was pretty certain the last noises of soldiers in the jungle had been related. Had they turned on the turncoat? That didn't fit, most of them had backed him up when we last saw them.
Why had he told us to run? Why give us the chance?
Unless he truly wanted us to get away.
I looked on the Kurrm'anairis captain with new eyes.
Craigin and the twins arrived just as I discovered that the wound did not penetrate all the way through Bart's body. Whoever had done this to him had to have been the world's worst executioner.
“Savadra stayed behind on account of how much she really would like to kill him.” Fern informed me cheerfully.
“How is he?” Craigin asked, kneeling beside me. The twins took up positions to move the captain's limp body.
“He passed out and he's lost a lot of blood,” I started. “But he might recover.”
“Can we move him?” Gern asked.
I was about to answer when there came a yell from behind Gern, who was promptly hit in the head by a flying object of unknown origin. As Gern toppled over and his sister drew her club, we spied the attacker.
This, it seemed, was my night to be utterly bewildered.
It was Wulv.
The one kindly soldier out of the bunch, one of the few who had not been part of the secret argument with Bart, one of the few who had smiled and conversed with us, one of those who had been absent when we were chased out of the camp, and the one who saved Craigin's very life. Now he seemed bent on killing us like everybody else.
Swinging his sword with an uncomfortable amount of precision, Wulv descended into our midst, forcing all of us to beat hasty retreats. “Get away from him!” he roared.
By now, the fog that had been lying over my mind was simultaneously thickening and parting, allowing me clearer vision in some places.
Gern staggered to his feet, ready to avenge himself.
I held up my hands in what I believed to be the world-wide gesture of peace even as my friends stepped out to engage the soldier. “Wait.” I said.
They ignored me. Craigin's sword clashed against Wulv's.
“Wait!” I bellowed.
I fixed my attention on Wulv. “We weren't hurting him. We were trying to help him. See for yourself, but do it quickly, because he's going to die if we don't do something now.”
Wulv then did something not even I was expecting—and I'd begun to think I'd figured some things out. The young soldier dropped to his knees beside his fallen captain with a strangled sound from his throat. “I'm sorry, Captain. I'm so sorry.”
“Craigin,” I said quietly. “You and the twins find some limbs and vines and make a stretcher or something.” I gestured to Wulv, who appeared to be in shock. “I'll have a better chance at calming him down without everyone else here.”
With a nod, Craigin rounded up the twins—Gern still balefully rubbing his head—and headed out, giving instructions as they went.
“Wulv,” I said. “I need you to listen carefully, alright?” He sat back, his attention still on the pale-faced captain, but he had regained some of his composure. “I've got to admit, I don't understand what's going on with this island, but right now I assure you we're trying to help your captain. We won't hurt you or him unless you give us reason to.” Aside from all the reasons we'd already been given, of course. “Can you tell me what happened?”
“I did this.” Wulv said as he allowed me close to check on Bart again. The man was breathing, but it was shallow. “He told me to, but I...I did this to the captain!”
“Calm down.” Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. “It's alright. You're going to make it right. Help me out here.” I set about finding sticks and thin vines to immobilize Bart as best as I could. The scarce supplies was another reason I'd sent Craigin away.
“It was all wrong.” Wulv continued. “So wrong. Bart wasn't given the orders until after we'd left port. The king sent a gullion from Montall to the Sea Gate. He told us we were not to let you off the island. That once you cleared the way to the mine, we would be done with you. The captain didn't understand. He didn't know what to do, but he managed to convince most of the men to hold off. He said if you left the island without knowing about the silver and didn't return to Montall, there was no reason to trouble ourselves with getting rid of you. The captain was going to pay you directly from what he had aboard the ship to barter against pirates.”
I heard voices nearby. Good, my own captain and the twins were returning.
“I thought the matter was closed. I thought we were all agreed. Most of us would have left you alone anyway. And then that night we heard the Kahts the first time, he suggested that even if you did find out, we would let you alone, just make you leave, or capture you and maroon you on some other island. That's when some of the others began to resent him. Han especially. He loves the silver more than anyone and was willing to protect it at all costs.”
The voices grew closer.
Wulv's narrative fell into disorganized pieces. “But then you found out—of course you did. And Han wanted you dead, and he kept waiting for the captain to give the order, but he didn't. And after you ran, we didn't know what to do. We were afraid, so we pretended to be on their side, and the captain allowed Han to be the leader, but everyone knew Han wanted to kill him and not just replace him. So he told me to rob Han of the chance. The captain told me that I had to make it look right, or the others never would have believed it—I came back as soon as I could get away. But the others must have figured it out by now.”
Someone stepped out of the jungle beside me. “Craigin, fantastic. Were you able to—” That was as far as I got before I realized Craigin had gone off with two twins and seemed to have inexplicably returned with fifteen soldiers.
“Sorry. Not him.”
My night had just gone from really bad to absolutely terrible.
I turned. “Han. What a pleasure.”
Han grinned at me. “I assure you, the pleasure's all mine.”