Introducing Allison’s Well First Word Prompt!
Just a quick shout out to my Victoria at Ruffles and Grace – because she is the only blogger I have seen who posts word prompts on her blog. ‘bows to the lovely Victoria’
And now – onto the prompt.
He peered up at the gate. It had been years since he had ever dared step into this forbidden city. Death was inside its walls. He knew he was risking his life to pass through that gate, but he had no choice.
He pulled his cloak further down over his head and readjusted his grip on his staff as he neared the guards that stood on either side of the narrow entrance. It was like stepping down the throat of a great creature—a sleeping and evil monster.
The sinking sun bathed the flagstones with a queer greenish-blue light and the effect, combined with the increasing pressure on his chest, made him feel as if he were swimming underwater.
“Focus,” he murmured the word aloud.
But then his focus was irrevocably broken when he found himself looking up and straight into the eyes of Tren Blackmarr—a man he knew well . . . and an imperial soldier. Of all days to be on patrol, Tren would be here, now, on this day.
For an instant, their eyes locked together. For less than an instant he thought that Tren might not turn him in—but that faint hope was crushed as Trent wrenched his sword free from its sheath and shouted: “Spy—arrest him!”
He blocked the blade that hurtled towards him with a clever twist of his staff, but Tren was quicker—much quicker than he had once been. Tren slipped his sword past his defenses and pain suddenly exploded inside of him. He was dimly aware of Tren pulling the sword free from his body.
Adrenaline flared out of the pain, the need to survive rose to his defense and he felt himself spinning his staff, striking out viciously and knocking Tren to the ground with a few savage blows before he turned and ran for his life.
His breath shuddered in his ears, ragged and sharp. He could hear the soldiers gaining on his stumbling progress.
He seized the edge of a market cart and heaved with a strength he barely had left. The cart overturned and produce scattered in all directions. The angry owner cursed, slipped on an orange, then went down with a squawk, forming a human barrier as he scrambled to right himself and his produce.
He darted down a side street—running past open doors and open mouths and then the spike of energy suddenly dipped away. He swayed, clutching at his stomach and looked down at his fingers to see blood flowing like red sand from an hourglass. Something shifted inside of him—a king of draining that he had never felt before. It was over, he was going to die.
“Please, just a little longer God,” he whispered. “Not for me, for the others.”
He barely registered the people he was stumbling past now, no one spared him more than a glance and a gasp—except for one. A small young woman with a narrow face, huge dark eyes and dark hair. She did more than stare—she moved towards him.
“Sir?” she asked. “Are you all right? Sir!” she gasped and threw out her arms to try to catch him as he pitched forward. She wasn’t strong enough to hold him up and ended up toppling with him to the cold, hard flagstones and piles of refuse. Garbage skittered in all directions, disturbing a par of rats who ran, squealing, into the shadows.
The girl tried to worm out from under him and still keep his head in her lap. “You’re wounded! What hap—”
“Soldiers,” he gasped.
The girls hands, cupped on either side of his face, froze. He felt them tremble. She looked down at the wound then reached to tear off the edge of her tunic.
“It’s hopeless,” he said sharply. “But all is not lost.”
“I don’t understand,” the girl murmured.
He reached for his staff with an effort.
“I’ll get it for you,” she said, scuttling to pick it up and handing it out to him.
He shook his head—he couldn’t do it himself. “Unscrew the head.”
Her eyes widened as she obeyed and peered into the empty cylinder inside.
“Take out the paper.”
She did as he said and held the message out to him.
“No, you keep it,” he coughed. “It’s a message. You must take it to the market and give it to the man that is selling lamps in the shadow of the Tower. Lives depend upon it.”
“I don’t know who you are or where you’re from,” the girl whispered. “I’m sorry, I can’t. I must report this.”
“Don’t report anything!” he rasped. “You’d be better off like me than to be one of their informants.”
She looked at him—a long, frozen look, as if she were seeing someone else in his face who had said the same thing to her before. Her face looked like untouched snow, with two dark holes in the center of it for eyes.
“I already am an informant,” she said softly.
Despair and shock washed over him. An informant. Nearly the worst person he could be with now. His chest constricted and a cry of pain tore from his lips.
She whimpered and rested her hands on his shoulders. “There must be something I can do.”
He tried to focus on her face, tried to read it, tried to pray. Other people had seen him, but they had passed him by—she was different. She had to be.
“You can do something,” he choked. “You helped me, help me again.” He lifted his hand and curled her fingers down around the note, leaving a streak of blood across her knuckles. “To the seller of lamps. Please, take it. You’re the last hope. This is greater than both of us.”
Her eyes widened.
“It’s not too late to change,” he whispered.
She stared at him . . . opened her mouth to speak, then jerked and turned her head. He could dimly hear the clanging of metal-shod feet, the rattling of chain mail.
The soldiers had found them.