Friday, February 5, 2016

The King's Challenge #202 and #203

TKC 202 and 203

There is no sign of ships overhead and yet we feel their presence. A sense of doom settles over everyone, characterised by how often folk jerk their heads upward to check the sky. As we race across the last stretch of wildflowers, there is no talk. Even the children understand now is the time to make haste.

The horses are exhausted when we halt at the foot of the plateau in the early dark hours. The darkness is without any points of light; the stars appear masked and there is no moon. I wonder if great ships occlude the stars to create this sense of abandonment. Sunrise seems very far away and I know I cannot be alone in hoping the sun will actually appear again.

Fear has reached long tentacles into our minds, hearts and souls. This is how the Glonu operate and no one is immune.

I hope that Damin and Lyra and all the others still trapped inside Arc will cope with the fear; they are where it will be deployed to the greatest effect.

Hal, after telling us that the Messengers have always had access to hidden scrolls, thereby explaining his understanding of what is happening to Massin’s people, joins Kay and I in leading this small gathering of survivors. As we left the site of the burials, he intimated we, this five hundred, may be the last of the last soon. Kay did not refute him, and therefore I understand the Glonu will be merciless.

We may be the last indeed; we have to survive.

Hal takes the lead into the caves. Bearing a smoking torch, he summons four young men to him, saying they will investigate first. Kay calls for everyone to put their gear on their backs; we may have to run at a moment’s notice.

Activity increases then, as does talk. A low murmur settles in amongst us.

Kay hefts my pack as well. “We must pray for more rain,” he says, “to wipe away the hoof prints to this place.”

I look up, but the same strange blackness is overhead. One cannot tell a cloud from a great winged bat. “What about the horses?”

He shrugs. “Depends what is inside that plateau.”

Hal returns then, marching to where we wait. “It needs cleaning, but the caves are uninhabited and seem sound. There is a water source, which fills me with relief.”

“How many? How large?” I ask, thinking of the horses.

It is as if Hal reads my mind, and immediately I wonder if he is a Delver like to Damin. “The horses cannot come. How do we feed them? They have a greater chance at survival if we let them go. After these rains there is enough for them to eat.”

“Agreed,” Kay states. “How many caves, do you estimate?”

The Messenger shrugs. “We have only entered those easily accessible, but they will accommodate us. Seven upon first view. We can investigate further once we are inside.” He sighs then. “It will not be easy living in darkness.” Drawing himself up, he adds, “I’ll see to the horses.”

“We will take them in,” I say, gazing sadly at this small gathering. Are we the last?

Hal heads off and Kay motions to the men to start the ingress. Gradually the plain empties of people. The horses thunder off into the distance until they are lost from view.

It feels as if our world empties of all hope as well.

“We will get through this, Siri,” Kay whispers at my shoulder.

I turn into his waiting arms and hold onto him. He is now my reason for living, for enduring. He is my Hope.

Wetness hits my shoulder, and then rain hurtles to earth.

Perhaps hope is not as lost as I believe.

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