[NorthWorld] Thorgaut Kabbisson: Chapter 21 – Interrogated!
“What?” Thorgaut asked. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Which of those wolves bit you?” Arnulfr asked without bothering to answer his question. “The one I shot, or the one that was already dead when I arrived?”
The man stared at him so intensely that Thorgaut didn’t answer. Arnulfr looked like the kind of guy who could tell if he was lying.
Thorgaut didn’t know why that question was so pertinent, or what it had to do with him being chained up. But he could tell that the answer was critical to Arnulfr. The eerie look on his face worried Thorgaut.
“Everything happened so fast. It’s all fuzzy in my head still.” Thorgaut finally answered.
That part was true. Thorgaut purposely worded his answer that way to avoid having to commit to a response.
Although he did remember being bit by both wolves, he sure didn’t want to admit it to Arnulfr. He hoped to buy some time to figure out what the man wanted to know.
“But why would it make a difference if I got bit by one or the other?” he finally got up the courage to ask.
“We’ve been having a bit of a problem recently in these parts of the woods,” Arnulfr said emotionally. He chose his words carefully to keep his feelings under control.
“What kind of a problem?” Thorgaut asked.
“The undead kind,” Arnulfr spat out. “Undead wolves, walking corpses, and NightWalkers just to name a few.”
“Like the shufflers?” Thorgaut asked
“I haven’t heard them called that name, but they do walk funny,” Arnulfr said. “What do you know about them?”
“Not much,” Thorgaut said realizing that he had almost given himself away. He scrambled to think of a cover story. “My mother used to tell me about them in my bedtime stories. Where do they come from?”
“I’ve heard that there’s an old witch in these woods that rules over the undead. I’ve been trying to trap her. That’s why I set up that snare.”
Thorgaut cocked his head to the side wondering if he was referring to Halldora.
“And what was wrong with the wolves?” Thorgaut asked.
“The one you killed. It was already transforming into one of the undead creatures. If that’s the one that bit you, you’ll probably turn too.”
“Hence the chains,” Thorgaut mused.
Arnulfr nodded. “Don’t take it personally. I can handle you if that happens, but I’m looking out for the children. After what they went through with their parents and all.”
“You had to put them down,” Thorgaut said shaking his head. “I’m sorry.”
Arnulfr nodded and shrugged.
“My brother and his wife. The NightWalkers attacked them one night. My brother hid the kids in the basement. He killed one of those critters, but still got bit. I never found his wife’s body.”
Thorgaut waited in silence for Arnulfr to compose himself.
“I had to cut off my own brothers head. I thought the kids had been taken with their mother, but they were hiding. They saw the whole thing. They hated me and wouldn’t talk to me for weeks. But I’ve done my best to take care of the poor things.”
“And now, you’re hoping I turn into one of them, so the kids see why you had to kill their father?” Thorgaut asked. “To prove you’re the good guy.”
Arnulfr shrugged. “I don’t want to kill you of course. But I suppose it might help the kids understand what happened. But don’t worry, I’ll let you go if nothing happens in a couple of days. Your week is almost up.”
“A week?” Thorgaut asked. “How long have I been here?”
“Tomorrow will be five days since I brought you in,” Arnulfr said. “I didn’t chain you up right away, but when the fever started, you became delirious. I thought you were transforming and almost killed you.”
“But the kids didn’t let you, or else you wanted the transformation to be complete.” Thorgaut finished the sentence for him and shook his head. “Lucky me. I guess I owe these kids my life.”
Arnulfr didn’t say anything but smiled wryly.
Thorgaut mulled everything over in his mind. Something was bothering him, but he wasn’t sure what it was yet. There was something that didn’t add up here.
“This witch?” Thorgaut finally asked. “What do you know about her? Do you know where to find her?”
“My brother went down to trade our furs for food in the town. He heard rumors. The men down there said this witch had moved into the area a while back with an army of walking corpses.”
“They attacked and killed most of her undead minions. But somehow she escaped.” Thorgaut said.
“Yeah, she just vanished into the woods. And they never saw her again.” Arnulfr nodded vigorously.
“Wait. How did you know all that?” Arnulfr asked suspiciously.
“Oh, I heard about out when we docked our ship a few days ago,” Thorgaut said in a blatant lie this time. He didn’t want to tell Arnulfr what he and his men had done to the town.
Arnulfr didn’t say anything for a minute. He just kept looking at Thorgaut. It made him uncomfortable.
“And yet, you still came out her foolishly all by yourself knowing all that?” Arnulfr finally asked incredulously.
“Well, I was with my friends,” Thorgaut retorted defensively. “I wasn’t alone. I just went out hunting and got lost. Then I couldn’t find my way back.”
Arnulfr got a distant look in his eye like he had made a sudden realization. “Now, that you mention it, I’ve noticed that happening a lot recently. There’s a section of the woods that even I’ve gotten lost in a few times recently, and I’ve lived here all my life. That must be the area where the old witch is hiding.”
Thorgaut realized that made sense and slapped himself on the forehead. Halldora must have cloaked a section of the forest to keep people from finding her hiding place. “No wonder I had gotten lost so many times over the last few days,” he thought. Thorgaut chuckled in relief when he realized that he wasn’t going crazy like he had thought.
“What’s so funny?” Arnulfr asked.
Thorgaut looked at him with a grin. “No use lying,” he thought to himself.
“I thought I was going crazy out there in those woods. Running around in circles like that. I came up one way and then backtracked the exact same way up the exact same trail. Yet everything had changed completely, and I didn’t recognize a thing.”
“I hear you,” Arnulfr said. “It’s happened to me, and I know these woods like the back of my hand. But what were you looking for?”
“We left our ship anchored in the harbor at Sandvik,” Thorgaut said. He left out the part about raiding the town, killing the citizens, and burning everything to the ground. He didn’t think Arnulfr would take kindly to that bit of news.
“Then we came up the river by foot on a three-day trip. We arrived at the edge of the plain and set up camp there in front of a range of black mountains.”
“Raven’s Range,” Arnulfr interjected. “Dangerous place.”
Thorgaut filed that bit of information away for later. He needed to know more about that place. He had felt it pulling on him, and had already been planning to explore them on a future trip when he had more time.
“So anyway, I woke up early while everyone was still sleeping. I wanted to stretch my legs to get some early morning thinking in while I hunted some fresh grub for breakfast. And it was the morning after when you found me.”
“This place where you camped. Was it on a U-shaped bend in the river? Where it turns curves back around in the opposite direction?”
“Yes,” Thorgaut exclaimed. “Do you know where it is?”
“Sure,” Arnulfr replied. “It’s not that far actually. The plains start just over the hill and around that bend. I go there often when I want to fish myself.”