Part Twelve July 27, 2016
“Boy,” Angus began, “dis why I’m with a bunch scoundrels like dese.” Angus’s lips curled into a cruel smile, but his sharp blue eyes dulled as if he were torn between pleasure and pain. “See boy, I was in da army, da Emperor’s own. We were fighten’ a troop of one of ‘is sons who were tryin te rebel against ‘im. And we were doin fine fer a tiny troop.” As he spoke Angus’s eyelids opened wider until two saucers of blue iris and tiny pupil glinted in a half-crazed stare. “Dat is until we were ordered te attack a village wher’ da enemy was gettin’ its food supplies.” He began to laugh nervously as he spoke. “We torched it, little ones came screamin out of da burnin’ ‘ouses; we butchered dem. Shoulda seen dis one kid.” He turned his head toward the sky, his thin face grimacing. “Little one came out with fire in its head—blood boilin’ up on its flame infested ‘ead. No, that’s not why I’m ‘ere.” He wiped tears from his eyes. “No, baked flesh don’t bother me senses. It was ‘cause I earned me way te captain in dat force. Dose men were under me own control. And dey was all dedicated bastards; dedicated to me and da Emperor. Our orders were to charge a small bridge and ‘old it until more forces arrived.” Angus’s eyes dulled again but this time with calm insanity. “Funny what a bit of pre-paid currency can make a man do.
“I ordered me sergeant te lead da forces while I stayed back te make sure dere ere no surprise attacks. Taking up da royal banner of da charging boar me sergeant thanked me fer da honour. As ‘e led da men forward, I encouraged da rest te follow, tellin’ dem it appeared safe. I stood on da bank, watching each man march forward. I was a good soldier, boy.” The wildness returned to Angus’s eyes. “I led dose men through danger, and dey trusted me. But fer five hundred gold I could let dem go. Dey marched alive across dat bridge, but soon I knew dey would be nothin’ but spectres in me thoughts, fer da bridge was long. By the time me sergeant was ‘alf way across, da whole force was on da bridge. Dat is when I saw da first longbows peak out of da trees on da other side; I said nothing to me men. I watched me men fall like chess pieces struck by an angry ‘and. Some turned to run back; I shouted fer dem te hurry. But as dey neared da end–none made it. Can’t repent dat. Not when dere is no one te repent te. So ye may wonder, why do dese men still follow me after dey know what I done? ‘Cause I know wher’ da wealth is.”
Bran noticed that Harold gave Angus a look of inquisitiveness when the older man said the others followed him.
Angus, who was now lying on his side, nodded at Harold. “Go ahead, ‘arold. Yer drab story can’t give me any worse of a headache, den I already ‘ave.”
“Why not, got te keep ye bored with amusement, Angus.” Harold stroked his chin. He stared intently into the fire. “Don’t see how it matters anyhow, but we gotta pass da night somehows. First let me tell ye,” he said with a sigh, “me father plowed da land and I ‘elped him, but one day, well I was carryin’ a basket of turnips on me back, I saw a carriage come by our land. It was a noble come te buy me sister’s bed fer a night. Dis noble was familiar. Always comin’ around, bringing is queer friends for da ride. One of ‘is friends always had dis ‘ere lute with ‘im.” He lifted the lute from around his neck. “I thought I could put it te better use than ‘e. So when da noble went off with me sister and I was done doin’ chores I came up te da friend. I asked ‘im if I could somehow buy ‘is lute or another like it. ‘e told me dere was. ‘e led me te a clump of trees near our land. I asked ‘im what dis was fer. Da bastard,” Harold said, his voice becoming flustered, “‘e rubbed is hands along me chest and kept goin’ down. So I spat in ‘is face and grabbed ‘is chin and da back of ‘is neck.” Bran thought the memory must have been great for Harold’s hands clenched the air as if he still had a hold on the man’s neck. “I twisted ‘is neck until the bones cracked. I knew I had te escape or da nobles would kill me fer sure. I grabbed da lute and fled.”
“Is dere a price on yer head?” Angus inquired with a devilish grin.
Harold glanced at Angus in disbelief. “Are ye going to turn me in?”
“Would I do that?” Angus replied winking at Harold.
“Ye and I share a similar fate,” said Dwight as he ran some fingers through his greasy hair.
“We all do,” Harold replied. “None of us can return te da Emperor’s land ‘cause we all got nobles after us.”
“At least dese nobles are cousins related from da time the Emperor’s father was ‘live, and not da Emperor’s own children. We would not be ‘ere otherwise no matter if we lived on da Sphinx Vires’ land or da Emperor’s,” injected Dwight.
“Te Hell with all dis pathetic whining,” Angus grumbled, “Play us a song ‘arold, so as I can sleep dis miserable night away.” Angus walked over to the sacks Bran had carried. From the largest one he pulled out a rolled strip of leather and a cotton blanket. Still grumbling, Angus unrolled the leather onto the ground and lay on one side of it. He pulled the blanket over himself and wrapped the side of the leather over so that he was completely covered.
“Alright,” Harold grumbled to himself. The big man began to tune the strings by ear while the rest got out their blankets. “Figure I’ll have first watch den,” Bran heard him say to himself.
“Tie da boy’s hands and feet together, and den tie the rope to a tree, so as ‘e don’t escape,” Angus said to Plaglo as he gave off wind. “Or, I’ll blow ye up!” the old man gave a cruel chortle.
Plaglo threw off his blanket in a childish fit and did as Angus bid him. Too tired to fight, Bran let himself be tied up. The bald man tightened the rope that was already around Bran’s wrists, then circled the rope around Bran’s feet—the lead that was leftover he tied to a tree.
Uncomfortable and too exhausted to sleep Ban rolled into a position where he could see Harold playing the lute in the firelight. The big man ignored his gaze. As Bran’s father did, Harold began to hum as he warmed up his fingers on the chords. Adjusting the pegs Harold seemed to get the sound he wanted for his feet began to tap the earth in a particular rhythm.
Far away home
Do not forget your child, I
“Not about ‘ome again ‘arold,” Angus complained.
“I would love te be back on da farm instead of ‘ere with ye, Angus, remember dat.” Harold retorted. “If we don’t find some of yer treasure soon, ye know da one ye babble about all da time, we’ll leave someone else for the witch.”
Bran he knew the song Harold was singing. It was a Druid song called: ‘To The Place Where I Belong”. Harold started singing again:
Bring us peaceful sleep,
With quiet solitude,
Te dreamland we awaken
Sunny cities with beautiful women,
Loosely clad in swaying dresses
Fer away home!
Under his breath Bran began to sing the song along with Harold:
We are callin’ ye!
From feraway places
Deep jagged rivers,
Te bear bound caves
Let us sleep,
Let us sleep
Forgetting where he was, Bran began to sing the song louder. Harold looked up at him quizzically then continued:
Our ominous ‘omeland
Do ye remember da sweet songs of love,
We sing te ye
We sing te ye
Dru da drizzling rain,
And dry plains
Let us sleep
Let us sleep
Fer we call te yer womb
Dat abound in our faraway homeland
‘ere yer love carries us into da sweet dreamland,
Let us sleep
Harold continued to play a few more songs until the rest were snoring. Bran saw the big man get to his feet and carefully move towards Dwight. Perhaps from experience, Harold grabbed Dwight’s left hand. Dwight woke up with a start, but Harold put a finger to his lips. They both stood up and walked quietly towards some bushes not far from Bran.