Dusk (3)

03/23/2015 § Leave a comment

The westernmost land-bound gate on Havertham’s outer walls is commonly known as the Martyr’s Gate, for the hundreds upon hundreds of Eudesian heretics whose decapitated heads have been displayed from the roof of its gatehouse over the course of twenty years’ religious cleansing.

This piece of history, jarring in its bloody-mindedness even among centuries’ worth of violent deeds, has never sat well with Theodric Lowe. There are rumours of ghosts, of bitter winds blowing through the stones and compelling men of Watch assigned here, men of sound faith and judgement just like him, to madness and heresy.

Todd, as his comrades call him despite his longstanding protest, would never admit to a feeling of disquiet over such rumours. But he has, time and again since the assignment began, felt a breeze when there was no wind, and heard murmurings on it that did not belong to any living person. So far he has been able to laugh off these hair-raising instances as foolish imaginings of an overactive mind, which he knows he has, but today, on this the last day of Lamentations, he finds his disquiet no easy thing to dismiss.

Part of it, aside from the blasted Dusk sky, is that he is alone on watch, having drawn the shortest straw. His comrades, all eight of them, are in the gatehouse playing cards, leaving the gate open and unguarded, and leaving Todd on the wall to keep watch over the Long Road and the river Forlorn.

They would be in deep trouble if their sergeant ever hears of it. Never mind docked pay—desertion of post is serious enough to earn each man thirty lashes at the very least. Thirty—that’s enough to keep a man bedridden for weeks, if not crippled for life.

But Todd knows perfectly well that no one is getting lashed. It simple isn’t going to happen. Their sergeant—a sly bastard—has gone back to the city on an “urgent matter” this morrow, which they all know means getting an early start on the Solace day festivities. The sergeant won’t be returning anytime soon, and, if Todd were to hazard a guess, is probably bedding some poor singing house girl even now.

So really, by giving themselves a break from their duties, the men are only following the sergeant’s lead (May he find crotch-rot and louse afterwards!). A well-earned rest after the insanity of past three weeks, of dealing with ceaseless waves of colonial refugees flocking in. The last of them, miners from Abelung, the farthest colony out west, came through three days ago. No one else has shown up since. In all likelihood, none will.

As relieved as he is that the emigration is over, Todd dislikes the idleness it has left him with. Having nothing at all to do, well, that is its own kind of hardship to endure. Especially given what he has experienced—no, imagined—during his time here. The dead breathing down his neck, trying to unhinge a good man with their murmurings. The gate is a marked place, and it is an evil time, with the sun dying, with Night so near.

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