Things you do for family- 1024 words
The courtyard stinks of animals and much and human waste. And wasted human, I can’t help thinking, because beneath the stench and the louring sunset sky lays the taint of death, like a stain that can’t be shifted. My brother isn’t the first to die here, and he won’t be the last.
I rub my filthy arm across my nose, and then across my eyes because they’re blurred and I can’t see properly. Then I shut them all together and curl up against the parapet. I want to be a hundred miles away, buy what use would I be to Conal then? Anyway, the hideous weight of the crossbow in my arms can’t be ignored. I hate crossbows, I always have: a horrible weapon, brutal and distant, and I’ve never liked to touch them or even look at them. It’s as if I was born knowing I’ve an appointment with one that I’m not going to want to keep.
I sniff and rub my eyes again, wishing I could be more of a man, wishing I wasn’t so afraid. I’m sixteen years old, more than old enough to kill and die, a lot older than I was when I watched my father die. His death couldn’t be avoided and neither can this one. What’s the point in premature grief?
My eyes jerk open. A clattering rattle of wheels on flagstones, and I glance over my shoulder. This is a good vantage point, but I’ll likely be spotted as soon as I fire, and I’ll have to be fast to get down the tower walls and away. I can’t think about that, not now. The mob that so far has been muted, only muttering with the day’s excitement, now raise their voices as one, turning as if by black magic into a single howling beast. I make myself look. And I gasp.
The man I see can surely not be my brother, Conal, the Wolf of the North.
His hair has been cut roughly and his body is covered in grime and blood, his once fine clothes torn and dirty. I swear when I see the girl beside him. He will want me to kill her as well. He was always the noble one. I watch as he speaks softly to her, comforting her, even though in any other situation she would be in the crowd, shouting and jeering with the rest. Even as I think that I see Conal lift his head slightly, his eyes meeting mine through the haze. He smiles at me, glad to see me there.
“The warlocks smiling. Let’s see him smile as he burns in hell”
Something flies out from the crowd and hits my brother upon the forehead. He falls to his knees and the girl starts to fluster about him. But my brother is strong and he rises once more. When he raises his head again I see dark blood flowing from the fresh wound. Spears are thrust at them and slowly the sad pair shuffles onto the ugly pyre which will be their grave.
I wipe my eyes again, to wipe the tears away. Looking down upon him it is impossible to see the brave and well-dressed young man whose future was so bright. I shouldn’t have to do this. But I’m the only family Conal has left and he is all that is left of mine. And that means something, that means when Conal told me what I must do I knew I had to do it, even as I cried I knew I would be here on that night. But this girl! Conal raises his head again, not looking at me, instead gazing into the haze.
“She has a name Seth”
Even as he says it I know I don’t want to hear it, it will only make pulling the trigger that much harder.
“Her name is Emma”
“I’ll do it Conal, for you, not for some feral girl.”
“Her first, I don’t want her to see or feel any pain”
“This is the only way little brother. Now ready yourself. My story draws to a close but yours, yours has hardly begun”
But before I can respond my eyes are drawn to a flame. With a roar the torch is lit, the resin and bark burning brightly. I can only watch in disbelief as the torch is slowly carried towards the pyre. Burly men, men who once served my father now prepare to kill their old masters first born. Rough ropes bind the pair to stakes driven deep into the cracked earth. The torch draws closer as my brother looks up at me for the final time, a smile dancing in his eyes. And with that the torch drops, time seems to slow as the flame falls through the air before landing in amongst the straw and dry twigs. The kindling works well and soon the pyre is a raging inferno.
I can hardly make out my brother and the girl but I know I have to. I wipe my eyes once more before raising the crossbow and levelling it carefully. Taking a deep breath I squeeze and the string twangs. The bolt flies true and I see the girl slump forward and remain still. Too quick for anyone to react or notice I slide the second bolt in, draw back the string and pause for a second. Blinking tears from my eyes I squeeze and turn away quickly so as not to see my bolt hit its mark. Scrambling forwards I hear angry shouts behind me as realization daws.
Clambering over the parapet I half tumble half scramble down the pile of rubble. Landing heavily upon the flagstones I drop the crossbow and run. I run, my feet hitting the flagstones as I sprint through the ruined doorway. Now I’m on the road my footsteps fall more quietly and I run faster. I never look back and I never thought of what I had done, instead I ran. Only when I reached the old stone bridge that crossed the river did I allow myself to stop and collapse into tears.
Hope everyone enjoys
Last edited by Romero's Own; 09-06-12 at 09:40 PM.