Night Guests

3rd October - Dusk Eastern Wall - Midnight

"It's fucking creepy out here." the soldier lit a match and offered it to his partner. The tall man ducked his head to catch the flame with his cigarette. He took a long drag watching the ash glow and savouring the hit of nicotine in the smoke that filled his lungs.

"Creepy doesn't cover it." he answered after a moment. It was pitch black and they were standing on the foundations of the new eastern wall, looking out on the Darklands beyond. A chill breeze was floating in from the endless darkness and high above the Maelstrom made its presence known with the soft rumble of thunder.

"Blake was saying there are things out there." The shorter soldier murmered, "He says he saw a black dog with red eyes, just standing out there looking at him."

The taller soldier laughed, "Blake is full of shit, there aint nothing out there but nothing and a whole lot of that."

"I dont know. Its still fucking creepy."

"I aint arguing with that, but there aint nothing out there. Its just creepy is all."

"So what they got us guarding against?"

They were silent for a moment as they considered the question, both taking long drags on their cigarettes. There came a sharp clicking sound from the wall to their right.

"What was that?" the first soldier peered over while the second reached down for a shuttered oil lamp. They both readied weapons.

"I'll go see, you cover me." whispered the shorter of the two as he crept over towards a stack of large crates.

"Be careful." his companion hissed.

He slipped forward his weapon at the ready. The soft light of the oil lamps giving a yellow glow to the stone floor. He considered blowing his whistle to raise the alarm but thought better of it. The Captain would not thank him for dragging him out his bunk at this time of night for anything short of open rebellion. As he grew closer the noise repeated and he froze. There was something moving behind a large coil of rope next to the crates. He took a deep breath and edged forward. Glancing back he saw his partner still standing there watching and then as he returned his attention back to the coil there was a sudden movement.

A large brown rat scurried out letting off a loud screech and the soldier jumped back with a curse. The creature was gone in a flash of fur, disappearing into the darkness and he laughed out loud. Thank the gods he had not fired his weapon.

"Did you see the size of that thing." he called back to his companion, but there was no answer. Looking back he saw that the taller man was gone. He ran over to where a smouldering cigarette lay glowing on the ground and quickly bent down to pick it up. Still crouched he looked around.

"Where you gone?" he called out, "It was just a rat."

He heard the crunch of a boot behind him and turned as he stood. "Bloody hell you scared the life out of me where did you..."

His words were cut short by the long hunting knife that was plunged into his throat. He hung there on the blade for a moment, gurgling and choking on his own blood before the owner of the knife shook him free and kicked him from the wall.

"They die so easily Jairo." said the man, the disappointment clear in his voice.

"What do you expect Aldan. They are not of the people." replied another man who was just now climbing atop the wall to stand at his side.

"The men of Graymire provide more sport, we should return. This city will make us soft." Aldan grumbled as he cleaned his knife and returned it to it sheath.

"I will find my sister and complete our task then we will see." Jairo answered. "We should not kill so many of these people, they may grow suspicious."

"They fear the darkness, I will display the bodies in a way that will increase their fear."

Jairo laughed, "The mother would approve."

"Yes." Aldan replied. "It is a strange thing that a people that fear the darkness so much would destroy the very walls that protect them from it."

"Perhaps they have learned from their foolishness. Nothing lives in the darkness, there is nothing to fear." Jario mused and Aldan barked a laugh.

"You speak half truths my friend, nothing lives in the darkness but for these people there is everything to fear."

"Is this why we keep returning to this place Aldan? to consider our fear?"

"We are far from the people here Jairo and protected from the darkness by high walls and comfort. Here the walls fail so we return to remind ourselves of who we are."

"Ashen." Jairo spat the word, "Outcasts."

"Just so," Aldan agreed, "I have heard rumour of those we seek this day."

Jairo looked up sharply, "And you wait to speak? tell me what have you heard where are they?"

"In the district they call east twins, there are rumours of people sharing our markings. They perform and entertain for coin."

"She will be there. She must be."

"Remember we do not only seek your kin, we must find all of our people within these walls and make them ready."

"Of course." Jairo answered, but his thoughts were clearly fixed on other matters now.

***

The dim light of the next morning revealed the dismembered corpses of two soldiers. Their body parts strewn upon the walls as if in some sort of ritual and strange markings and symbols painted on the stones about them. The heads of both solders were missing and were eventually located beyond the walls mounted on wooden spikes. Their eyes had been removed.

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