Pierre's sleep was interrupted by the sound of music coming from over the white walls.
They had been playing for hours for now, without stopping. Sometimes, they sang, and occasionally he could make out the words. One song had included the phrase ‘Bugger Prince Amfortas’.
Pierre had found himself waiting for the Seven to strike the Montalbanese down for their evil, but it hadn’t happened. It still hadn’t happened. The disloyal stayed safe behind their walls, feasting and making merry with food the vile children of Douma Dalkiel brought them while he starved here in the cold.
His stomach growled. He was hungry. He was so very hungry. And cold. Very cold. His clothes were not warm enough, and there wasn’t enough food, and he had to bring a sword down on a man’s head when the panicking started after the duel, and he didn’t know if the man was alive or dead.
He wondered if he’d killed him. A fellow child of the Holy Light. A comrade-in-arms! But the man had rushed at him, with a spear, screaming, and yelling, and waving it threateningly at him…
He was cold. And hungry. So very hungry. He heard rumors some men had been caught trying to eat the dead. He wondered how hungry he would be before such an idea didn’t disgust him. He wondered if he would find out.
A man walked by, humming to himself. He paused before Pierre. “Hungry, lad?” came a familiar voice. Jacques glanced up and saw the old-timer standing above him. Pierre shivered to himself. As usual the old man looked… surprisingly well. His clothes seemed well-tended, and he looked… well, like he’d been eating.
Pierre knew he should tell the man to pass on by--to take his impiety, and his mockery off to the hells--but he couldn’t. Instead he just nodded, and when the old-timer brought out a biscuit and tossed it at him, he grabbed it eagerly, and began to scarf it down.
“Easy, easy, lad,” said the old-timer. “If you’re as empty as I think you are, you don’t want to bolt your food like that. Take some time, and let it settle.”
Pierre nodded quietly, and began to slowly chew what remained of the biscuit, which was quickly proving to be the most delicious and wonderful biscuit he had ever eaten.
The old-timer nodded to himself, then glanced over at Montalban. “You know, the last time I heard music like that… well, it was here. In Montalban. We’d just forced Shaddad’s army back over the river, and there was celebration and song throughout the Free Cities.” He shut his eyes and shook his head. “They played like that for the father’s defeat. And now they play the same music for the son’s victory. Funny old world. Funny, sad, old world.”
Pierre swallowed his last bit of biscuit and then took a moment to feel it go down. “Thanks… thank you…”
The old-timer gave a casual dismissive wave. “Don’t mention it. Have to look out for you young folk…” He walked away, humming and whistling that strange song of his the entire time. As he faded from sight, Pierre thought he caught the phrase “Gone to graveyards everyone”.
But he might have been imagining things.