Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Flash Fiction - Relief

Good evening.

 A day late but hey, here I am.

***

            One of the torches needed relighting. Its fire had been dying for the past while, but Glen was in no hurry. Alone in the dark, he rested on his spear and counted the stars again.
He shivered and prayed for morning. The black armour and cloak they gave him were poorly built and barely protected his body from the cold. He envied the other recruits. They were given mail and helms recently made by a local smith. His were handed down from a previous guard who was knifed in the market square. Wind blew up the hole in the side where the assassin’s dirk laid its mark. 
Moreover, he envied their positions. All others were placed in high towers, across the walls, or in the city itself where danger was sure to dwell. His placement was at a small gate overlooking the lake. The portcullis behind him was only as wide as two men, and situated on the edge of the city. No islands floated there, and only allied towns were on the other side.
            He spat again and drank from the wineskin on his belt. There was no reason to it. There was nothing to guard there but rocks and sand. Gamblers’ halls were on the other side of the gate, but should marauders come who would miss them? Dice and ale could be rolled or poured anywhere. The men he saw enter those places needed no protection, least of all from a lone man in holey armour. 
Listlessly, he looked around himself. The fire to his left was almost gone. Under his breath, he let loose a string of curses against the city watch’s alchemist. He reached into a ragged side pocket to loose a bandage and a flask. With a sigh, he set the spear aside and reached down to the bundle of sticks by the door, lifting one from the ground.
Wrapping the end of the stick in the thin cloth, he held it away from himself as he poured the contents of the flask onto its top. Clumsily, he screwed the cap back on, lifting his torch towards the dying stick. The oily bandage caught fire and quickly spread across the edge of the new torch. He reached over to replace the burning stick. 
Something flickered out of the corner of his eye. Torch high, he turned to meet it.
A massive horse towered over him when he turned round. Bay it was, but its coat was unkempt and its mane was long and mangy. Leather straps fastened simple iron plates to its skull and sides. Black eyes the size of peaches from the market gazed blankly at the ground ahead. Glen stepped back and held his torch up to get a better view of the rider.
Tall he was, and hunched over in his saddle as though he meant to be sick. Black-gloved hands gripped to the reins of his mount. A rusted hauberk clung to his body while stained steel greaves separated his muddy boots from his brown leggings. The heavy mantle he wore covered his shoulders and its hood was thrown up to conceal his face. 
Glen swallowed and held the torch higher. Blindly, he reached behind him to grab his spear. “Who are you?” 
            Slowly, the pallid face of the stranger turned to him. A dead gaze from two fierce, pale blue eyes burned right through him. “It is time for you to go, my ser,” he said in a voice like metal and gravel raking together.
            Glen swallowed and hefted his pike high. “How did I not hear you?” 
“It is time for you to go, my ser,” the man repeated, ignoring the question.
“What business have you here?” Glen persisted, holding his ground. 
The rider cocked his head. Torchlight bounced off his eyes. “Relief,” he uttered.
Glen's laugh was curt and brief; he grew stern, “I asked for no relief. Be on your way.” 
In a blink, the man was on the ground. The horse was nowhere to be seen . Standing tall, he loomed over Glen and advanced soundlessly. The guard dropped his torch and thrust his spear forward. It cut air and air alone.
Unending darkness grew from behind the pale blue eyes of the stranger. Firmly, it gripped Glen’s shoulders. In fear, the lone sentry dropped his spear and screamed as the devil brought its face close to his. 

In the morning, the other guards found him behind the portcullis. He shivered as though a cold wind swept through his bones, and said no words to them. Dubbing him craven, the commander relieved him of his post and two of his fingers.

***

 I've been reading The Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. You know, if that wasn't clear enough.

See you next time,

-RWI

EDIT: May 20, 2012. Edits.

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