Dusk (4)

04/03/2015 § Leave a comment

Which is why, when he sees something appear in the far distance, a shadow on the road, his immediate reaction is to question his eyes.

“It can’t be…” He utters to himself. He thinks he ought to blow the whistle, summon his comrades in the gatehouse to action, but his limbs seem to have gone stiff with a sudden chill.

A Nightbeast. So close to the city. There is no doubt in his mind, even though he has never seen one before and such things aren’t supposed to be real. Only a story made up to frighten children, and baseless rumours from farthest colonies to exaggerate their hardship. But what he sees right now, in the dying glow of the sun, fits the stories he’s heard—a great mess of jet black fur, standing tall but not quite upright, shambling, toward the gate and toward him, with eyes that are like seeds of Night’s own darkness…

Todd closes his eyes. Counts to three. Deep breaths. Deep breaths. His mind is playing tricks on him again. That is all. Too much wildness of thought. A fault, but not a great one. It’s just this place, the time. It isn’t real, it simply cannot be.

With that thought, Todd shakes his head clear and opens his eyes. Blinks hard, twice, then looks again.

What he sees is a… person, garbed in some sort of barbaric-looking overcoat, a stitching-together of many different furs and leathers. That person seems to be leading a mule by the reins, which has something laden across its back like a sack of grains. Todd registers a long trail of… blood, behind the pair, a dark glistening on the road that is hard to see in the light of the dying sun but unmistakable once seen.

The relief is almost overwhelming. He finds that his legs are shaking, and has to lean on the parapet for support. The sound that escapes his throat as he does so, involuntarily, is something between a laughter and a sigh.

It’s only a latecomer. Most likely an exile. The blood trail signifies trouble, of course, but after a decade of being a Watcher, this is the kind of trouble he can handle. Gladly, even, after the scare he’s just had. Really, Theodric, a Nightbeast?

With a surge of confidence, Todd straightens his legs and plants his feet firmly on the stone floor. Reaches for the whistle fastened around his neck, lifts it to his mouth, and blows.

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