Wednesday 27 – Friday 29 March 2013
Slivers of light shone through slight gaps in the rubble that still blocked the cave mouth. Progress was slow, hindered by the incessant rain and the increasing chill. Wind whipped around their ears and bit at any exposed flesh. Hands were cold and sore, and that made grasping the rocks and debris all the more difficult. Dagmar flicked the hair from his eyes, and tried to wipe the rain from his brow, to no avail.
Bengt looked in his older brother’s direction but could not see him; the rain and the dark hampered his vision even in close quarters. He feebly battled with the debris, flinging chunks on to the ground around his feet, several times narrowly avoiding injury to his lower limbs. Bengt couldn’t be sure how long they’d been working or how much longer they’d need to keep working in order to free the people trapped inside the cave, but he prayed that they would make a breakthrough soon.
Inside the cave, Queen Elizabetha, still directing her men to work towards freeing them, struggled to pull rocks from the opening.
‘We can’t be far from breaking through now,’ she did her best to cheer the men on.
‘Over here. OVER HERE,’ called a young man covered in dirt and mud from head to foot. ‘I can feel cold air coming through.’
Elizabetha rushed to the other side of the cave and closely examined the hole that had been made. She cautiously fed her arm through the hole, half expecting the entire debris wall to collapse upon her but instead, a grit and dirt coated hand grasped hers from the other side. She almost jumped out of her skin.
‘There’s someone there . . . on the other side,’ Elizabetha said, and she retracted her hand as cautiously as she had fed it through the hole.
‘Can you hear me in there?’ Dagmar called into the hole. He positioned his ear to the hole and pressed as hard as he could bear against the debris. He waited what seemed an eternity before a female voice, which he correctly assumed was the queen’s, replied back.
‘Yes, yes, we can hear you. Is Bastian there?’ she asked.
‘No, he is resting at the castle of King Osgood. Is anyone hurt?’
‘No, everyone is fine. Is Bastian injured?’ she quickly replied.
‘He’s just weary. It would have been difficult to travel through this rain and cold.’ Dagmar said. He didn’t wait for a reply before continuing. ‘I’ve got an idea on how to quickly remove the rest of this debris, and I’m going to need you to do a few things before I can proceed. Are you ready?’
‘You have no idea how ready we are. What do you need us to do?’ Elizabetha answered.
* * * * *
Ingrid Fredriksson sat in silence in the company of King Osgood, and the young mountain clansman who had arrived at the castle, wet, cold and weary, and seeking assistance to free his people. The meal set down in front of them seemed extravagant compared to what she was used to. A simple farm girl, she would have been happy with bread, cheese, and a cup of milk, but Osgood had his servants prepare a feast beyond imagination, not just for her and the clansman, but for all of those currently housed within the walls of the castle.
‘You need to eat,’ Osgood said to Ingrid. She picked at the meat on her plate, pushed it around, and finally ate a small morsel.
‘I’m not hungry,’ she replied. ‘If you don’t mind, I’d very much like to be excused. I wish to sit with my father.’
Osgood nodded his approval and Ingrid immediately stood, wanting to make her exit a rapid one. Bastian said nothing when he saw that she had taken a knife with her from the table. His mind was still slow and recovering from exposure to the cold.
The king joined her as she reached the door, his presence beside her marked by a now commonplace boom of thunder. It also masked the cry that escaped Osgood’s lips as Ingrid plunged the knife into his heart. He stumbled back towards Bastian and fell on the floor near the clansman’s feet, spurring him in to action.
‘Give it to me,’ he demanded, leaping from his chair and grasping at the knife in Ingrid’s hand. ‘They will hang you for this, so GIVE it to me, and go and raise the alarm. Tell them all that the mountain clansman did it.’
‘I will do nothing of the sort,’ Ingrid snapped. She stood her ground, refusing to hand over the bloodied knife to Bastian. ‘I have taken vengeance for my father, and I will take responsibility for that action.’
‘You are a fool! It was not Osgood who killed your father. I was led to believe that it was –’
‘Someone else might have wielded the blade, but it was through Osgood’s actions that my father was killed. Now the good king suffers the same fate.’
She opened the door and left Bastian standing over Osgood’s body. It was only a matter of moments before the knights of the realm had learnt of the murder and restrained Ingrid. The Oracle, watching from the safety of her room, smiled as Ingrid was led past her and down to the dungeon where she would be held until Dagmar and his men returned from freeing the mountain clan queen and her people.
. . . To be continued . . .