Photo by Tom Swinnen from Pexels
Today I’m posting something I wrote back in November of 2012. Here it is.
The child hadn’t made a sound in hours, because of the small dose of sedative in his milk. The man was glad of it. Besides the rough snorting of the horse’s breath and the crashing of its hooves, nothing broke through the veil that night had laid on the land. He was glad of that also; it made his task easier. He cursed himself for the strange sick knot that was forming in his stomach. Death shouldn’t do this to him. He encountered it every day, and engaged in it readily. But tonight it was different, and he could only clench the horse’s reigns in his gloved fingers as he galloped.
Still the child had not cried, and he had nearly reached the shore. He saw the moon rising red above the sea, and thought of blood. There would be no blood; he would make sure the child’s death would be swift and certain. The horse whinnied as the man dismounted, the warm bundle of the child clasped to his mailed chest. His boots sunk in the wet sand, and he cursed under his breath again, forcing his feet forward. The child was heavy; heavier than he thought he would be.
Nightbirds shrieked their unearthly cries above him. He shuddered. Even the chain mail shirt and cloak couldn’t keep that shudder away from him. They always reminded him of death, those birds did. Death, and cold lonely places. This was a cold lonely place, and he was leaving the child to die here.
He tried to keep his footing on the slippery rocks. There was a cave ahead, dark and sheltered from view, where the child would not be seen. Or heard, he hoped. It would complicate things a great deal if the child was found. He didn’t want to think how, but he imagined this short swift death would be nothing compared to it.
At the back of the cave, two boulders clustered together, a small space like a cradle between them. Perfect for the boy. He knelt, his sword dragging into the sandy ground. In the dim light he lifted the child and placed him in the crevice. With curious desperation he noted the seaweed growing around the rocks; they would be underwater when the tide came in. Good—swift and painless just like he had sworn. He had sworn the boy’s death, and had carried through with it. That was enough.
The nightbirds shrieked again, and their screams cut him. He leapt up, scattering sand from the end of his cloak.
“My lord,” he whispered. The still air of the beach swallowed his words. “I’ve kept my oath; the boy is dead.”
A quick stride up the embankment, and with a gallop of hooves he melted into the night.
Thanks for reading, as always!