Rud wiped his hands on his trouser leg, damp earth rubbing into the cloth. The three graves in front of him now held four bodies and a key. Swindon and Podd had wanted to bring Adam back to camp on the night that Rud had saved them, but he had known that there would be too many questions.
The questions had come anyway and Bron had paid
the price for asking them. For now, Rud kept Bron's demise a secret,
letting the rumor spread that he was sick and didn't want to be
disturbed. Not even Swindon and Podd knew the truth.
Rud couldn't help wondering if Bron had been
right to worry about the spring and the water's effects. Had he
overreacted by killing him? No. It had to be done. Bron would have
gotten in the way. He would have had the authority to seal off the
spring and let no one near it if he thought it was a danger to
It was no danger though, Rud knew. It was water
sent from the Gods that would give every man the strength and
vitality they needed to fight the Orcs. Rud was sure of it, just as
he knew that he was the one who would have to spread the Gods' gift.
Boots scraping the ground of the path to the
spring pulled Rud from his thoughts. Swindon and Podd appeared as if
from the rock itself. The twilight of dawn making the entrance to the
path even more difficult to spot.
They were both carrying a barrel on their
shoulder, the added strength of the spring water making it an easy
task. "Two barrels filled with the finest water there ever was."
Podd placed his barrel on the grave his brother was sharing with a
key and one of the men they had first found in the cavern.
"So, where should we hide them."
Swindon put his barrel down as well and turned, undoing his trousers
laces. "I think it should be close enough to camp for us to be
able to refill our flasks when we need to, but disguised so they
aren't easy to find. In a bush or something like that." He said
while taking a piss on one of the other graves.
"Actually, we won't be hiding them. We'll be
exchanging them with the current water barrels of the camp." Rud
Podd's jaw dropped and Swindon turned back to
them, spraying Podd's boots. "Watch where you point that thing
or I'll cut it off!" Podd's hand moved toward his blade in an
instant, white knuckles clenched around its grip.
"Calm down!" Swindon said as he pulled his
pants up and laced them shut. "What do you mean, Rud? You want
everyone to drink from the spring?"
Rud was still eyeing Podd with his flushed
cheeks. Had Bron been right to worry? Yes. But it had to be done. "We
need more men like us, Swindon. Men who can be cut down and keep on
fighting. The conflict with the Orcs is getting worse. Soon it will
be a full-blown war. This is only the beginning of what needs to be
done for us to be victorious."
Podd still had his hand on his weapon, but his
fingers were starting to relax. "I can see the benefit in that,
but what about the Captain?"
"He's sick. Everyone will have had some
water before he's back on his feet and when he has a drink himself
he'll be as good as new and will see why we need to use the spring to
our advantage." The lie came with ease.
Swindon pondered this for a moment, but nodded
his assent in the end. The three of them went back to camp and made
sure that the two barrels were lined up to be used as the day's
drinking water. They had agreed to let the spring water spread
through camp naturally without anyone making a connection to them
immediately. Once everyone or almost everyone had taken a sip, then
Rud would inform them of what it was they were drinking.
As the camp stirred and slowly came to life in
the morning light, Swindon and Podd went to the training grounds to
keep at their regular routine. The lack of a good night's sleep was
nothing to them after having had their fill of the spring's water.
Rud was making his way through camp as he noticed
some heated activity near the mine's entrance. His heart pounded in
his chest. Bron had been discovered, it couldn't be anything else, he
was certain. Rud retraced his steps mentally to be sure there were no
clues leading to his guilt.
With a calm he did not feel, he made his way to
Bron's office. Hushed words were spoken between the guards on duty.
They didn't seem to know what to do. At Rud's arrival he saw fear in
one man's eyes and relief in the other. A spare glance let him see
the door of the office, it was open and was marked by dried blood.
The fearful guard turned away, not making further
eye contact with Rud, while the other cleared his throat to speak,
but couldn't utter a word. Rud made a show of seeing the door and
widening his eyes in shock. "What happened here?"
The relieved guard finally managed to speak. "We
don't know. There's a lot of blood. It's everywhere. We found the
office like this at first light and didn't know what to do. The door
was open and there was so much blood."
"Is Captain Bron alright?" Rud hoped
his concern sounded genuine, although the guards seemed so flustered
they probably wouldn't realize he was faking it.
"I don't know. He's not there and we haven't
been able to find him anywhere else in camp. He's gone."