“Are you awake yet?”
“Are you awake yet?”
Jack blinked, he was cautiously aware of the dull ache coming from the back of his head and the stirring feeling in his gut. He opened his eyes slightly and was met with a young face close to his, with two blue eyes staring at him intently. He instinctively pulled away and coughed a little, slowly gathering his bearings. He looked around what seemed to be a warm chamber, furnished with worn seating and a large daunting fireplace. The little boy in front of him moved restlessly closer.
“You’ve been asleep for soooo long!” The little boy exclaimed, “I thought you were dead but my Da said you’d wake up eventually.”
Jack smiled a little at the boy, and saw there were two others in the room. The one who sat opposite him looked eerily familiar, although Jack could not name how. Another man was stoking the fire, with his back to Jack.
“How long was I asleep for?” Jack mumbled, rubbing his head where it hurt.
“A looong time,” the boy informed him pointedly.
He felt a large bump on his head, and felt his lips were cracked and dry. He’d had nights like this before – waking up in strange places surrounded by people he didn’t know – and yet he was not in the least concerned.
“What’s your name?” He asked the little boy.
“I am Kadan, and that’s my Da” he pointed to the man near the fireplace. “And that’s Lorcan, the one with the scar.”
Jack nodded, glancing over at the one he’d called Lorcan. Suddenly it hit him – the scar – it was the man from the brothel, whom he’d tried to engage in an argument. The man’s piercing blue eyes were hard to shake, especially with the scarring of his face.
“I’m Jack,” he said. “Tell me Kadan, how did I get here?”
Kadan grinned, his long dark hair catching the candlelight. “You can thank my Da for that!”
Jack looked over at the other man, there was a familiarity about him as well. With great effort, he stood up. While he knew that both the two men could obviously hear him and knew he was awake, they had yet to acknowledge him. In his training as a king’s guardsmen, this sort of psychological game was often used to gauge recruits ability to take initiative. He painfully stepped toward his supposed saviour, shocked at the amount of soreness his body had. The man turned to face him, and Jack knew then who the man was.
“Raiden,” he whispered. “I mean – Sir, Lord…”
Raiden Mieko, the deceased queen’s brother, shook his head at Jack.
“You really should be resting, you know,” he told Jack. “I didn’t go to all this effort of saving you only to have you die on my floor.”
Jack smiled a little, although it hurt. “Thank you, I don’t know what happened.”
“I’ll tell you what happened,” Raiden gestured to Lorcan. “Your little stunt at the brothel got back to me, and I knew your name so I sent Lorcan back to get you – only to find you’d been swindled.”
“Swindled? By who?”
“A whore and some thieves,” Raiden rolled his eyes. “You’re not the first, believe me. Lorcan was able to get your coin back, but frankly I think you owe it to me and more for saving your life.”
Jack nodded several times, “Of course. I don’t want it – it's whore money anyway.”
“What’s a whore?”
Both Raiden and Jack were taken aback, little Kadan had crept up to join them and was sitting beside Lorcan.
“A woman that has sex for money,” Lorcan said bluntly.
There was a moment of awkward silence and they watched as Kadan absorbed this new information.
Then, he nodded. “Oh I get it, because men like sex.”
Raiden laughed nervously, “Yes, my boy. Men like sex.”
Jack turned to the scarred face that had surprisingly come to his rescue, “I would like to thank you – I wasn’t in a good place to begin with, I’m ashamed I let it get that bad.”
“You owe me,” Lorcan replied slyly. “And I’m sorry about your wife.”
Raiden cleared his throat, “Yes uh. I did send someone for her, but by the time they got there the owner was tossing out her body – I’ve had it prepared for you to bury.”
Jack breathed in deep, his heart aching forcefully in his chest. He never thought he would have to refer to his wife as ‘it’ although he knew there was no point holding any fondness for what is now just a decomposing shell. His mind briefly went to Payge – and how he would tell her, what he would tell her. He pushed it out of his thoughts, knowing that right now there was nothing that could be done.