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Phantom Island-"Origins"-35

Story 9-"Reunion"-Part 3

By Author Jennifer TreecePublished about a year ago Updated about a year ago 11 min read

He put his ear to the tavern door to listen for activity on the other side. There was mostly silence with a mix of people setting glasses down on the bar and tables.

It was good and bad. Good because there were less people to see him; bad because he may not get information from the few people that were here.

He took a deep breath and reached for the door’s handle.

Octavian opened the door and stepped into the back room of the tavern.

As he made his way cautiously toward the bar, a gruff voice sounded from behind a tall shelf to his right.

“Whatdya think yer doin’ back here boy?”

Octavian turned to see a big burly man lumbering around the shelf and toward him. His expression said he was glad for the confrontation.

“I am looking for someone.” Octavian replied.

“Whoever yer lookin for ain’t back here.”

“Which is why I am making my way out front.” He said calmly.

“Ye shoulda’ gone tru the front door ta begin wit.” The man said as he blocked the entrance to the bar.

Octavian noted the man’s accent and clear lack of education. That along with his size and eagerness for a fight, meant he was a brawler. Likely hired by the owner to keep unruly patrons in check.

He knew this man could cause a lot of damage… to anyone else. When this guy attacked and Octavian came out of it unscathed, the rest would panic.

He wondered if they would freeze, run, or attack.

When the burly brawler ran at him and took his first swing, Octavian skilfully ducked under it and moved to the man’s left side, where he delivered a series of quick jabs to the guy’s gut.

The man turned toward Octavian and swung his other fist at his face.

Octavian ducked, sent a few more jabs into the man’s gut, a couple to his chest, then slammed his fist hard into the brawler’s face.

He followed that hit with another and another until the man was backed into the corner.

He was stunned, clearly unused to someone getting the better of him.

He swiped furiously at the blood covering his face and glared at Octavian.

Octavian shook his head, warning the guy not to come at him again, but the man was a brawler and so he lunged ahead anyway.

Octavian spun around and landed a hard kick to the man’s temple, bringing an end to their… disagreement; then continued on into the tavern’s main room.

Of the handful of men who had been there, only four remained, and they were grouped together waiting to attack.

If there had only been two they wouldn’t be so brave, he thought to himself.

If they knew they’d lose even if they had an army, they would have fled with the others.

Octavian held his hands up to indicate that he didn’t want to fight. “I only came for information.”

The men shifted their eyes toward the unconscious brawler, then back to Octavian.

“That was an unfortunate misunderstanding.” He said. “One that I will hopefully not have to repeat any time soon.”

The men looked at each other, obviously waiting for someone to decide how they should proceed. It was clear they didn’t want to fight Octavian, and that his calm demeanor was confusing them.

Finally, the largest of the men spoke up.

“What kind of information?”

“I’d like to know why some of the homes around here were burned down, and what happened to the people who lived in them.”

The men visibly relaxed.

“Bad bit of business, that was.” The man said as he looked away and shook his head.

Octavian’s heart dropped into his stomach, as he tried to prepare himself for the inevitable bad news.

The man motioned for Octavian to follow as he turned and made his way back to his table.

The other men shuffled back to their seats at the bar, as though nothing had happened, and continued nursing their ale.

The man took a drink of his ale, then a deep breath, before he began his tale.

“It all started when a great man died in battle. It’s been said that he was stabbed in the back.”

Octavian watched as the man’s face twisted into an expression of rage as he spoke. Was he a friend to the captain?

“The story goes that the captain had a close friend nearby who witnessed his death, then ran from the battlefield. Everyone has agreed the captain’s death was not caused by this friend, so there’s much speculation about why he ran.”

“Some say cowardice, but those who knew the captain, know he would never befriend the cowardly sort. He would certainly not go into battle with such a man.”

So he did know the captain. Octavian thought.

“Others say something terrifying happened when the captain fell, though no one seems to know exactly what, there were rumors of witchcraft.”

“Witchcraft?” Octavian asked.

“Aye.” The man replied. “Rumors say the captain’s friend was a witch. They say he was run through with a sword, but didn’t even bleed.”

Octavian watched, expressionless as the man shook his head and sipped his ale. He clearly believed the rumors to be nonsense.

“This was said to be the reason the battle ended, because everyone else fled in panic. Only a few men would even go back to recover the bodies for proper burial.” The man continued.

“The rumors worked faster than those few men could, though. While they were transporting the captain’s body, they were ambushed and the body stolen. A few days later, it was found tied to a stake and burning in a local field. The ones who did it, had used the captain’s personal belongings to make a circle around the base of the fire.”

“They wanted everyone to know who he was and that he kept company with witches.”

“How did they get his personal belongings?” Octavian asked.

“They found out where he lived, broke into his house, and stole it.” The man replied as he motioned to the barkeep for another round of ale.

“Ye got it, Antonio.” The man behind the bar said.

“Antonio?” Octavian asked.

“What of it?” Antonio asked cooly.

“The captain used to speak fondly of an old friend named Antonio.” Replied Octavian.

“What do you know about it?” Antonio asked as he eyed Octavian suspiciously.

“Just what I said, he spoke kindly of him.” Said Octavian.

“How’d you know him?” Antonio asked.

Octavian leaned in and quietly replied, “I was a friend of his too. I’m looking for his daughter, Elizabeth, as I swore I would look after her.”

Antonio sat back in his chair, his face ashen, as the barkeep placed the drinks on the table and walked away.

“You know where she is?” Octavian knew that look. He wasn’t going to like what Antonio said next.

The man tilted his head forward as a response, then held up his hand. “You’ll know too when my story is done.”

“While they were going through his house, they found evidence that he had a daughter. They found out that he was allowing her to become educated. They found the directions to her tutor’s house. They found out that her grandparents gave her horse riding lessons. They decided the captain’s family must all associate with witches.”

Octavian appreciated the man for picking up his story-telling pace.

“They got what they wanted from the captain’s house, burned it down on their way out. They burned his body that night, then went out to his parent’s house, killed them in their sleep, and burned their house down with their bodies in it. The next night, they visited the tutor’s house, where they found Elizabeth.”

Octavian clenched his teeth and his fists as Antonio continued.

“They dragged the women out and burned the house down. Burned the women on stakes in the same place they’d burned the captain”.

“Details.” Octavian growled through clenched teeth.

Antonio took a deep breath and nodded.

“They dragged the women out by their hair. They beat them until they passed out. They tied them to the stakes…” Antonio hesitated.

Octavian slid forward to the edge of his seat, placed his clenched fist on the table, and growled low.

“I want in on whatever you’re planning.” Antonio said.

Octavian nodded his agreement.

Antonio continued. “They stripped them of their dresses, covered them with fuel, and waited for them to wake up before lighting the fire.”

“Who did it and where are they?” growled Octavian.

“Let’s go see.” Antonio replied as he stood to leave.

Octavian let Antonio lead the way. They walked out of the bar, up the street, and turned into a narrow alley.

Antonio approached a well-hidden door and knocked the first part of a shibboleth.

Someone on the other side of the door finished that tune and knocked the beginning of another.

Antonio knocked the next few notes and the door cracked open. He motioned for Octavian to follow him inside. “Don’t start trouble in here.” He cautioned.

Octavian nodded in agreement as they proceeded into a dimly lit, cellar-like room.

“Need your attention boys.” Antonio announced calmly in the quiet space.

A few shuffling sounds was the only reply.

“This man was a friend to the captain, and has a plan I think we all should hear.” Antonio patted Octavian’s shoulder then walked over to a homemade bar at the other end of the room, giving Octavian the floor.

Octavian wondered if Antonio was testing him now. The man didn’t even know his name, let alone what he might be planning.

He decided to play along. If these men really were friends of the captain, he’d be glad to have them around to assist. If they were the ones he was hunting, then he wouldn’t have far to go to get his revenge.

“My name is Octavian. Not only was I a close friend to the captain, but I was to be his son-in-law.”

Octavian paused at the men’s unified gasps. He looked over to see Antonio frozen in place, his tankard of ale stalled halfway to his mouth.

“The captain’s plan was for Elizabeth and I to marry upon our return from battle. Unfortunately, the captain was slain during our last battle.”

One of the men stood. “Did you see it happen?” he demanded.

“I was right by his side.” Octavian said.

The men looked around to each other in surprise.

“Then, you’re the friend that ran away as the captain died!” The standing man spat.

The other men stood at that, all except Antonio, who sat his tankard on the bar and stared Octavian down.

“I knelt beside him, exchanged a few last words, stood to avenge him, and a sword was plunged through my heart before I could.”

The men stood frozen in place, staring at Octavian in shock.

Antonio stood then. “You’re the witch from the story.”

Octavian growled. “I am NOT a witch!” He yelled. “I was cursed by one!”

The men silently sank back into their seats and waited for Octavian to continue.

“I didn’t know until later. What I knew in that moment was that I didn’t die after being stabbed through the heart, and that I was surrounded by terrified men with weapons. And all eyes were on me, so I got the hell out of there as fast as I could.”

“I went home and told my parents. They told me to disguise myself and run. I ran until the shock wore off. Then I hid and tried to make sense of it all.”

The men were more calm now, and listening intently to Octavian’s story.

“I tried to stay away so the people I loved couldn’t be hurt, but the promise I made to the captain to take care of Elizabeth, replayed in my mind night and day. I came back to check on her, and let her know what happened. When I saw ashes where the house used to be, I went to find her at her tutor’s house, but it too was burned down. I made my way to the tavern to find out what had happened, met Antonio, and now I’m here.”

The men remained silent as they nodded their heads.

Antonio walked over, put his hand on Octavian’s shoulder, and looked him in the eyes. “We can’t say any of us would have acted differently, given the circumstances.” He patted Octavian’s shoulder and stood back.

“Well, men?” Antonio asked.

All the men stood and placed their right arms across their chests.

The gesture and their kindness reminded Octavian of the captain. He proudly returned the gesture.

Once they all relaxed their stances, the man who had asked if Octavian had seen the captain die, stepped forward and extended his hand to introduce himself. “Aldo.” He stated.

Octavian shook Aldo’s hand. “Happy to make your acquaintance.” He said.

“The same to you.” Aldo replied.

“We have tracked the group to a church." He continued. "They hold secret meetings in the basement there. We sent a spy to infiltrate the group when we found out what they did to the captain. That’s how we know what happened to Elizabeth, her tutor, and her grandparents.”

“A spy?” Octavian asked.

“My nephew.” Aldo answered. “He is with them now. He is to signal us when all responsible parties are accounted for. When they are, we strike.”

“What are you planning to do?” Octavian asked.

“Return the favor.” Aldo said.

It was a familiar phrase, just like their gesture of unity had been earlier.

Octavian nodded his approval. “I’m in.” He said.

END of Story 9-"Reunion"-Part 3

Thank You for reading! Visit my profile to read stories 1 - 8!


About the Creator

Author Jennifer Treece

I’m Jennifer. I am an indie author. I write novels, short stories, and poems. My genres are mixed and include mystery, supernatural, and paranormal.

You can also find me on my website!

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