04/05/2015 § Leave a comment
“Halt! Declare yourself!”
Horace jerks to a stop.
Six Watchers stand between him and the open gate, the deep red of the dying sun falling strangely on their mail hauberks and masks. The one who just bellowed at him, the one standing just ahead of the other five, raises his left arm in a fist as he waits for Horace to speak. Horace follows the motion with his eyes. Three more Watchers on the wall. Crossbows at ready, the tips of bolts gleaming dull red.
There is so much redness in his vision. The whole world is awash with blood. Gone sanguine. But is it the sun, or his eyes? He doesn’t know. Thoughts are difficult to manage. Falling to pieces even as they form. The only thought he seems capable of, the one that has kept him on his feet so far, is I am almost home.
“I say again. Declare yourself, or be shot!”
That voice again. Horace looks at the man who spoke, registers the tight lips and clenched jaw. The man is a Watcher. He is wearing the mask. There are more of them, behind the man. And above. They guard the gate. This is the Martyr’s Gate. The city is beyond. I am almost home.
It’s the blood, he’s spilt so much blood. His own blood. So why he still seeing red, when he’s lost so much of it to the road? Why won’t they let him in, let him go home?
The watcher’s fist, raised above his head, trembles ever so slightly. Horace notices it, somehow. There is something urgent he must do. Something that’s asked of him. But what is it they want from him?
They want to know my name.
“My name.” He begins to speak but cannot go on. His voice sounds so strange to him, so alien. He closes his mouth. Has to. His tongue feels like it’s covered in ash, it’s useless, it can’t shape the words he needs.
“Yes,” says the Watcher. Softly, perhaps even kindly, this time. “Your name.”
“My name,” he manages again, at length. “Is Horace. Horace Marten Shaw.”