Sunday, March 31, 2013

Guard


He stood in the scant cover of his booth as gentle rain swirled in the wind outside. He curled and uncurled his toes in time with each steaming breath, trying in vain to keep circulation to his extremities. It was about time to take another turn around his patrol route he supposed glumly. With a sigh retrieved his spear, jingled his mail into something like a comfortable position, and stepped out into the cold night. Low quality leather boots crunched on the gravel path, unnaturally loud in the otherwise total silence.
"Don't know why they can't let me watch from the tower," he grumbled, "this is just going to make my armour rust." Crunch, crunch, clack, the gravel path intersected a cobbled one, clack, crunch, cru...nch. There was a sound from somewhere off to the side, the kind of sound that a person makes while trying to be quiet.
"Huh? What's that?" He gripped the spear more tightly and headed toward the source of the noise, a gazebo near the keep walls. Another clunk. Boots on shingles maybe?
"Who's there?" he put what little bravado he felt into it as he left the path. Just as he was about to walk into the darkened area something caught his eye. A foot hanging over the edge of the roof, what he had thought was a patch of shadow revealed itself as a cloaked figure seemingly staring intently at the keep wall.
"Intruders!" He shouted, and ran towards the large bell in the corner of the nearby courtyard "Ring the alarms! Intruders!" About halfway there an arrow shattered on the wall next to him. He felt a splinter of it catch his cheek and draw blood, but didn't slow his pace. Frantically he bashed the bell with the butt of his spear, heard the reassuring sound of other guards waking in the guardhou...

...nch. Another fifty feet and he was under the cover of the eaves of the keep. There seemed to be some sort of rope stretched from the wall to the roof above but he paid it no heed. He wasn't the only guard on patrol, somebody else would have said something earlier if it wasn't supposed to be there. Another few moments and he'd be out in the open again. He hunched his shoulders and pulled his hood further forward over his face. Just before he took the first wet step there was a rushing noise and a dull thump behind him. He wheeled, spear at the ready, and saw a mangled heap laying on the path, one dagger in each shattered hand. He looked up at the roof above, and back at the body.
"Guess it's my lucky ni...

...nch. He blew on his hands as he approached the ugly back end of the keep. It didn't help, his knuckled were all but numb. Livestock grunted and gurgled in their pens, wood was stacked high for the coming winter, a stack of open barrels that served no obvious purpose stood in the middle of an expanse of mud. It would be hours yet before the kitchen staff began their day's work, so no chance of a sneaky five minutes in the warmth. There was a squeal of porcine surprise up ahead and he saw a shadowy figure sprinting across the grounds.
"Hey, you!" He shouted. "Intrude...

...nch. Out of nowhere a cloaked figure charged at him, sword held in both hands above its head. He was momentarily shocked, but recovered in time to point his spear at the figure and brace it against the ground. The figure ran onto the spear seemingly indifferent to personal harm and he felt the impact, the brief resistance, the crunch of bone. A dying cough from the figure spattered hot blood against his face. He laughed in relief.
"Try and attack me, will y...

...nch. The path took a hard turn where it met the keep wall. He felt strange as he approached the corner, as if he could see the corner but didn't know what it meant. He walked straight past the corner and into the wall, felt the cold hardness of it against his face, knew something was wrong but couldn't say what. His vision was filled with gritty grey stone, glistening in the rain. His feet kept walking but he couldn't figure out how to control the rest of his body, he stared in disbelief as he saw the tip of his spear repeatedly pass through the solid stone. Something was terribly, terribly wrong. He could hear footsteps behind him now, first soft on grass, then crunch, crunch, crunch. If he could just explain to his body that he had to turn around, that he couldn't walk through walls. The footsteps stopped, there was a blossom of pain in the small of his back. A tearing, horrible, fatal pain. The last thing he heard was a strange tone, like a dampened bell being hit twice. Whatever it was, it wasn't the celestial clarion he had always expected.

Achievement Unlocked: Perfect Killer.

Saving...

Next week's word will be genre.

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