Ch10: Five for Now

Copyright © 2013 by P.A. Lackey
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Chapter Ten: Five for Now

The room seemed to go dead as an uncertain silence overtook it. No one reached for their guns, though Arius could see how they prepared themselves just in case. Verbal accusations held back, at least for now, but the mercenary’s eyes did enough of the talking.
“This doesn’t look good, Arius,” Thorim said, as if Arius failed to comprehend it.
“I’m not responsible for this,” he replied.
“No one’s accusing you,” said Brockumus, who glanced around the room full of mercenaries.
“You speak alone,” replied Rie. “This looks suspicious enough.”
“Do you think I would leave my dagger behind for all to see?” Arius shot back, with more anger than intended. “I didn’t do this.”
“Wel,l someone did,” replied Rie, unappreciative of his tone.
“We know the ship was sabotaged,” added Grem. “And someone in this room is responsible for that, and whoever it is, is likely responsible for this too.”
“Let’s not rush to conclusions,” began Brockumus, but Ruekrow cut him off.
“The conclusion is obvious. We have our daggers, and I have heard the rumors. Arius’ allegiance is questionable.”
“Rumors that I am sure you started!” Brockumus barked.
“Silence!” came Thorim’s voice with a boom. The room grew dull once again.
“We must think this through,” he continued. “When could this have happened? We have been together since the crash.”
“I wouldn’t be sure of it,” Dueson replied. “The night of the crash when we sought shelter under the rock. Someone could have sneaked off then, only to return unnoticed.”
“But we had two at watch every few hours,” said Brockumus.
“It was dark,” said Dueson. “Anyone of us could have sneaked off, and besides that, the dagger is ours. It couldn’t have been here before the crash which means it has to be one of us.”
“Then someone is setting me up,” said Arius.
“We don’t need to hear it,” hissed Grem. “The evidence is clear if only we look at it plainly. What are we going to do about it, commander?”
Thorim hesitated a response.
“Setting Arius up would be easy to do,” Brockumus said, taking advantage of the pause.
“Are you volunteering?” asked Ruekrow.
Dueson grabbed his younger brother by the arm as if to ease his accusations. Jayvolni only observed in the background.
“Sir.” Arius had a dry mouth.
He could only plea for his innocence. Anger began to rage as he pondered his framer for he knew someone there was setting him up. Brockumus had warned him to be careful, but the conspiracy against him was already set in motion.
“Quiet,” Thorim nearly hissed. “There are too many possibilities. I can’t accuse you of anything, but the evidence before us is plain. Perhaps too plain.”
“Excuse me, sir,” Grem said with disbelief. “Too plain?”
“This could be a set up!”
“Or carelessness upon the culprits part!” Grem barked at his commander. “How can you dismiss the obvious? Do you wish to see us all dead?”
“No!” Thorim rebutted. “But we need further investigation.”
“We don’t have time,” Jayvolni finally spoke. His calm but stern voice effortlessly broke the heated commotion. “This island will soon be swarming with hostiles. We need an exit strategy if we wish to live.”
“So what?” asked Rie. “We should just forget about this?”
“I don’t care what you do,” replied Jayvolni, “but I’m going back toward town. Perhaps there’s a boat or something.”
“No,” said Thorim. “We need to investigate. Otherwise this mission is over.”
“This mission is already over,” replied Jayvolni. “Now it’s only a matter of survival, and the best way to do that is to get off this island.”
“We can’t,” replied Rie. “Our ship dropped a beacon before it crashed. If we leave this island then we’ll have no chance of getting home. We should find the beacon first. Perhaps it’s washed ashore by now.”
“I bid you well with that,” said Jayvolni. “I’m heading to town, and if anyone wants to come along, follow me.”
Jayvolni glanced toward Dueson and Ruekrow as if to give a special invitation before turning to leave the room.
“Jayvolni,” Thorim said. “You can’t do this.”
“I’m am, sir,” he replied. “And I suggest you figure your end out before you follow. There’s a traitor among us, and we can’t act like it’s not obvious. I’ll keep in touch through the wheel.”
Jayvolni cast a glance toward Arius before he left the room. Ruekrow and Dueson hesitantly followed, leaving the rest to make up their own minds.
“We can’t leave without the beacon,” Rie said. “I’m heading back to the crash. Anyone who wants to go home come with me, except you.”
Rie pointed his finger toward Arius with eyes that threatened harm if he were to follow. Grem went along with his friend leaving the last four of the group. Arius questioned his next move and wondered what Thorim would have done to him. Surely Brockumus would come to his aid.
“And just like that the group is no more,” Thorim said, under his breath. “That’s what I get for working with brutes.”
Looking to the other two mercenaries he asked, “What of you? Do you wish to desert your commander as well?”
“No sir,” one of them replied, Gruegon was his name. “We are vulnerable if we split up.”

“Then it’s us five for now,” Thorim said. “And we stay for the mission, if you are capable of it.” 

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