Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Siege of the White Mountain; Vol. 2: Fields Running Red--Part 57

The wind was blowing, making the tent shift uncomfortably, and the flames in the braziers flicker. Sylvester wrapped his cloak around himself, and glanced at the Archon. Septimus muttered something unintelligible, and gave a weak moan. And then came something close to understandable.

“Oh, bar not the way, Lady of the Moon. Bar not the way for your poor servant!” he said. And then came a long coughing fit.

The young man shook his head. He’d found the Archon after the battle--a leg and both arms broken, incoherent and delirious. Sylvester had taken him back here and begun…

Begun the vigil. Because that’s what this was. Waiting for a sick, dying man to pass on. On occasion over the last few days, Sylvester had briefly begun to hope otherwise, but each apparent rally had been followed by the Archon’s health taking a sudden turn for the worse. He was left wondering how long the man could keep going like this.

“The lily, oh, the lily,” began to sing Septimus in an off-key croak. “Fair and white it grows…”

Sylvester applied the hot compress to the man’s forehead. Not long, he was thinking. Not long at all. “Oh, Seven, let not Your servant fall into the Darkness…” he began.

There was a strong gust of wind, and then, with a mild yelp, Sir Georges entered the tent, his teeth chattering. “Will this weather ever improve?”

“In a few months, I’d say,” replied Sylvester. “But it will get worse before then.”

Sir Georges gave a bitter chuckle at that, then looked at the Archon. “Has he said anything sensible?”

“Not really,” answered Sylvester. “It’s all bits of old prayers, and hymns. Once… he called for someone named Elsa. I think it was his elder sister. Or perhaps an aunt.”

Georges nodded to himself. “Is it wrong of me to hope he goes quickly?”

“I am a young man, new to your order, and thus the wrong man to ask such questions,” said Sylvester.

Georges smiled at the former Sacristan. “That seems like a polite way of saying yes.” He sighed. “The problem is… we’re low on food. As it is, we’re shoveling supplies to a mouth that’ll make it all useless shortly.”

“Not very much in that way,” answered Sylvester. “He… seems mostly to subsist on broth and water. I don’t dare feed anything more substantial, or he’ll choke on it.” Sylvester stared at the withering face, and then shut his eyes. “Will they be here soon? The reinforcements?”

“They should be,” said Sir Georges. “They have to be. Otherwise…”

The tent was silent for a long moment, save for the sound of the wind. After a while, the Archon began to sing again.

“The cuckoo is a pretty bird. She sings as she flies…” he began, and then he trailed off wordless moaning.

Sir Georges glanced at Sylvester, and then lowered his head.  “Oh, Seven, let not Your servant fall into the Darkness…  Let his way be free, and his burden light…”  

Sylvester joined in the prayer.

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