Simon chewed his food slowly and mechanically. It seemed coarser on his tongue, and he idly wondered if it was being soaked in as much water. But not for long. In the end food was food, wasn’t it, and things like flavor and texture were pointless to worry about. All one could do is go along and eat it, and wait for the next meal.
“…me?” came a voice. Simon realized someone was waving a hand in front of his face, and that the person doing this was the one talking. To him, actually. He turned and saw that his questioner was Jacques who seemed to stare at him strangely, for some incomprehensible reason.
“Jacques,” said Simon.
Jacques bit his lip. “Are you… all right Simon? I’ve been talking to you for the last few minutes, but you didn’t seem to be…”
“I’m fine,” answered Simon. He finished his food. “There’s another scouting mission, right?”
Jacques nodded. Simon rose from his seat. He’d known there was another mission while he was eating, of course. There was always another mission. Sometimes it seemed as if his whole life had been this long march punctuated by attacking these little villages, and everything before then was only a vague, dimly remembered dream. The missions were all alike, when you got down to it--the armigers in charge, and the faces of the villagers seemed to change, a little, but even that wasn’t something he was sure about, was a strange and vague dream, like the time before he was marching.
“…all right?” Simon turned. It was Jacques again, for some reason. People seemed to have been stopping him a lot, over the last few… recently. He wasn’t sure why. But he knew how to make them go away.
“I’m fine,” said Simon.
“You don’t look fine,” said Pierre, who Simon realized was standing behind him. He stepped forward, and placed a hand on Simon’s shoulder. “You know… when I’m lost or in doubt, I like to offer a prayer to Aniel, to let her lantern pierce the darkness of my soul, and to Uriel, so that he may be the glorious dawn that ends the night that surrounds me.” Simon stared at him. Pierre seemed lost for words initially. But only initially. “Would… would you like to pray with me?”
“I’m fine,” said Simon, walking away.
“It would only take a minute,” shouted Pierre to him.
“I’m fine,” said Simon.
“Glorious Uriel,” recited Pierre, in a loud voice. “Oh, Uriel, Brightly Shining Sun. Be the light to me, in this moment. Remind me that darkness ends, and evil ceases. Be the dawn to my night! The light to my darkness! Let your radiance surround me--let your heat warm me--let your glory lift up me who is in disgrace! For I am one who loves the light…”
Pierre’s voice faded into the distance as Jacques walked on to get his things. There’d be a mission. And then another. And then another. And then another. And then another. And then another. And then another. And then another.
Always, always, always another.