Chapter 16
Chains of Madness

Castle Darkwall, Gladius

"People are easily enslaved by their desires and ambitions. They will cast everything aside to satisfy those wants. No code or bond can hold them back. There is great profit for the manipulator who exploits the wants of others."
--Excerpt from the assorted writings of Mark the Guardian

Locked in a solitary chamber in the officer's quarters, the Guardsman Harald Svenson was left to his ravings. More than two months had passed since his unit was wiped out by Mark the Guardian. Captain Terentius could not bring himself to lock one of his officers in the dungeon, least of all the son of General Leifson, but he had to limit the damage Harald could do to others and to himself.
The mad lieutenant's solitude was broken by an unexpected visitor. The cloaked form of Brenok materialized in the room, sending Harald into a panic.
"Witch! Witch!" he screamed, frantically carving runes in the flesh of his arm with a fingernail.
The warlock's apprentice gave a bemused chuckle. "My, my, my, aren't we having fun?"
"Redbeard, defend me!" Harald cried. "Smash the carver of evil runes!"
"There's not much humor left in it now," Brenok said with a sigh. "Besides, I have a use for you."
His rod danced to the notes of his incantation, unraveling the curse on the lieutenant's mind. It did not take long. After all, Brenok was undoing his own spell. The frenzied look in Harald's eyes soon faded. The moment he regained his senses, Harald's bad temper rushed in to fill the void left by his madness.
"You!" he screamed. "What the devil did you do to me!?"
"I saved your life," Brenok said with a serpentine grin. "If I hadn't given you an attitude adjustment back then, you would've only gotten yourself killed by the Guardian. You should thank me."
Harald scowled. "Whether I live or die, it'll be on my terms, not yours. Try your witchcraft on me again and I'll run you through."
"You're getting angry at the wrong person, friend. The Guardian. He's the one you want."
Brenok's ploy to redirect Harald's anger towards their mutual enemy worked flawlessly,
"Where is he now?" Harald asked.
"Out of your reach, but there's still something you can do."
"And what's that?"
Brenok allowed his feet to touch the ground. Walking up to the Guardsman, he placed a hand on his shoulder and smiled maliciously. "You can hurt him." He placed his other hand on Harald's chest. "Strike at his heart."
Harald brushed away Brenok's hands. "How?"
"You already know the answer. You saw it for yourself in Corinth."
It took Harald a moment to realize what Brenok was talking about. Then he remembered the emblem the Guardian wore. He knew what the warlock's apprentice was suggesting. It was something he had wanted to do ever since he was first charged with hunting down the rebel elements in Gladius, but there was a problem.
"How am I going to get out of here?"
Brenok motioned to the door. "When the guard comes in to give you your food, demand a change of clothes and a meeting with Captain Terentius. They'll be amazed to see you in your right mind again. Terentius is desperate. The Guardian and his cronies have dealt some grave blows while you were out of action. He needs something to show the King when he returns from Byrn.
"Ask for two hundred men. It'll be more than enough. Terentius will have a platter of heads to give the King and the Guardian will have a nasty homecoming. There's nothing left for him in Byrn and soon there'll be nothing left for him in Gladius."
"And this plan of yours will work?"
"Of course," Brenok replied confidently. "Because of your spell of madness, your glory will be all the greater when you succeed in this endeavor. So, you see, I've served you doubly."
"If things go as well as you say, I might find it in my heart to spare you my blade."
Brenok bowed insincerely. "How kind of you." Lifting himself off the ground, he waved his rod with a flourish. "I will leave you to your work. Happy hunting, Lieutenant Svenson."
With that, the warlock's apprentice vanished. It took Harald a moment to gather his thoughts. He had been out of senses for far too long. His arm was out of practice. He would need his strength for the task that awaited him.
He did not like the thought of moving according to Brenok's design, but to avenge his shame at the hands of the Guardian, he would gladly play the puppet for a time. As long as there was profit in it for him, that is.