An Applewood Gallows; Chapter 6

A murmur of agreement ran around the table. Sebastien Deckler was the weak link in the chain. Oskar and Hilde were not comfortable confronting their father with mere suspicion, but if they could get solid information from Major Deckler, then they would have something that they could ask their father about. Getting a straight answer was always easier if the questioner already knew the truth. Deckler might just be the man to get them that, and honestly speaking, nobody at the table knew the man, or cared one way or another what happened to him.

The conspirators tossed out ideas for extracting the truth from the as-of-now unsuspecting judicial corps officer. Torture was brought up more than twice as a viable option, and every time was dismissed by Polk as being too extreme for what was at stake. Trangdor suggested breaking in to his office and searching his notes and diaries, but Oskar reminded him that his office was in the heart of Vorkelburg, a major military citadel that was heavily guarded and secured from such things. Belynda suggested using magic to get the truth, but Hilde and Polk couldn’t think of a way to use sorcery for such a purpose unless the man was dead, and neither of them were keen on that course of action just yet. Oskar mused that if there was a way to delve into a person’s mind and root out the truth, in a setting that wasn’t torturous or particularly threatening, that would be ideal. Polk looked thoughtful and stroked his chin with his hand.

“I believe you might be on to something there, Colonel. And I know just the person that can help. Can you lure Major Deckler to Jordrakenschloss?” Polk asked, his voice betraying a hopeful optimism.

Oskar did his own bit of looking lost in thought, before saying, “Yes. Yes, I can get him here with ease.” He looked at Polk, and then at his sister, a smile growing wider on his face. “Nobody has the slightest inkling of what we are even doing. They will after we get our hands on Deckler, but for the time being, the only people that are even pondering this dilemma are sitting around this table. I can have Deckler summoned here. I am a Lieutenant Colonel in her Majesty’s Imperial Army High Command. I have to run a request through the Inspector General, but I don’t have to tell him everything. Once we get Deckler here, I don’t know how to proceed. But I can get him here inside of a few days.”

Polk laughed, and pushed himself away from the table. Rising from his chair, he said, “You start that process then, Colonel. I’ll go see if I can arrange for the information extraction portion of this plan. Hilde, I will let you know tomorrow if we are on to something. Or perhaps we should all just meet again in the evening. Why don’t you all come by my office, say around sunset. I’ll have a little food brought in, and we can talk more.”

Oskar rose from his seat as well and shook Polk’s hand. “I have a very good feeling about this, Polk.” He said, a clear indication of relief in his tone.

Polk chuckled. “Of course, you do. You aren’t Sebastien Deckler, and you aren’t facing us.”

Oskar showed Polk to the door, and the orog put his hat back on. He waved as he left, but he said nothing. Oskar secured the door after his departure, and everyone settled in on the couch and chairs in the living room. They left the papers on the table, and holding their respective wine glasses, now dangerously low on the precious red nectar that gave ease to their concerns, they sat for the most part in silence. Each mulled over in their mind how they might have to proceed, what they were willing to do to find justice for Major Hossler, and how far it might all go. Oskar was the first to break the silence.

“I want to thank you, dear little sister, for bringing me all of this havoc to unravel.” A snarky smile crept across his lips as he spoke. “Without all of this, I might have had a chance at one day becoming a General, and not spending endless sleepless nights second-guessing my every move in this misadventure.” He held up his glass in mock salute, and quickly finished off the contents in one gulp.

Hilde returned the snarky grimace, and shot back, “You are terribly welcome. We’re family. I wouldn’t want to exclude you from any of this delight.”

Trangdor laughed and rubbed his eyes. “Let’s pick this up tomorrow, then. We’ll see you at Polk’s office in the evening, Oskar. Thank you for a lovely time.”

Oskar laughed. “You did the cooking, and Polk brought the wine. All I did was buy a table a few years ago.”

Hilde and her friends left the apartment, and her brother secured the door behind them. As they headed into the now fully fog-engulfed streets, they whispered as quietly as they could when they spoke. It was true that nobody knew what they were up to. But it was also a fact that they didn’t want to let anyone know. And if they were being really honest with themselves, they weren’t altogether sure that they were doing the right thing. Except for Belynda. She had never met Baron von Vorkel. As she held Cinder tightly against the chill in the air, Belynda smiled and thought to herself how grand this all was. Being a squire had opened up more adventure for her than she could have ever imagined.

Thanks to the wine, and the sense of optimism that had settled in on the group as a whole, everyone was able to sleep just fine. Polk had the latest night of them all, and much of it was spent in a dank, fetid suite of rooms deep below a butcher’s shop. There were actually three levels of underground basements, and the suite which he visited was at the very bottom. Foul-smelling liquids had accumulated in parts of the dwelling, and the walls were wet with slime and mold. Polk had not intended staying long, but the conversation was too good to pass up. The individual he had come to see was not only willing to help uncover whatever truth that Major Deckler was hiding, but had their interest aroused to an almost alarming level. Polk shared only that Deckler knew something about a murder, and that Polk was asking for help in getting that knowledge out of his brain and into an official record. In the shadows of the festering cellar, only dimly lit by candles spaced far apart from each other, Polk’s host signaled that they were eager to assist, and that the information would be forthcoming. The orog had difficulty seeing his host during their discussion, and the entirety of their conversation was held in complete silence. This was no goblinoid or human that Polk had come to seek aid from. This was an illithid, the so-called “mind flayers” that haunted men’s nightmares and ruled deep in the bowels of the underdark, deeper even than the drow elves. This was Dr. Vir, their real name unpronounceable to normal folk. Prying the truth from those unwilling to share it themselves was a specialty for the good doctor.

Doctor was not a formal title, but rather one of respect, and to some degree, fear. Vir was an Interior Investigator, and one of the most highly paid in the realm. Illithid thrived on causing fear, and often all Vir had to do was show up to an interrogation before the suspect would begin revealing everything they knew about any topic you cared to give them. But Vir was also something more dangerous than just a tall, rubbery creature with an octopus-like head and wriggling tentacles around its mouth. Vir was a psionicist. Able to penetrate a person’s mind, and meander freely through their memories, dreams, and schemes. Not only could Vir delve into the darkest corners of Deckler’s mind, but he could cause the man to speak his secrets aloud, where they could be recorded and used in any future criminal prosecution. Polk had worked with Vir before, when the orog had been an active Constabulary chaplain. This was to be something of a side job for the illithid, and Polk promised to pay handsomely for the help. No laws were to be broken, that was something that was very important to both of them. The Army High Command had questions that needed answering, and Vir was in a position to help.

Telepathy is the sole means by which illithids communicate, and Polk had to keep his guard up to prevent more being revealed than he wanted. Vir was curious as to what was being hidden in Polk’s mind on the matter, but it was satisfactory to find that out from Deckler when the time came. There was a slimy, uncomfortable handshake, and Polk took his leave of the psionicist’s home. Polk had seen a lot of things during his life, and had dealt with illithids, and even more fearsome things, but it was always unsettling. The crispness of the fog on the city streets was a refreshment newly appreciated after leaving Vir’s basement abode. Polk had a newfound peace of mind, though. Vir being willing to help their cause would make everything easier. Now it was up to Lieutenant Colonel von Vorkel to get Major Deckler to Jordrakenschloss.

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