Chapter Twenty-Eight

on April 16, 2010 in Evermist

© 2010, Patrick Hester.  All Rights Reserved

Chapter Twenty-Eight

The first few days of patrol blurred together quickly, filled with heavy snow and endless riding.  It didn’t take long for Eli’s backside to go beyond pain and well into numb.  Walking became a chore whenever they would dismount to spell the horses or setup camp at one of the way stations.

These were curious places where a path led down the outside of the Wall to a wide landing that seemed to cling there unsupported.  He knew that couldn’t be and tried to put the engineering of it out of his mind.  He’d spent each night in such a place; they had shelter against the snow and the wind seemed to flow right over without touching them.  There was even a small stable for the horses, food and water stores and coal for burning to provide heat.  Jaycn told him these stations existed the length of the Wall for the patrols to use and that wood was expressly prohibited for obvious reasons.

“When you’re ready, we’ll split watches,” Jaycn said the first night as he handed him a mug of something hot and steaming.  He sniffed it and couldn’t place the scent.  A taste and it was bitter, but warm.

“Kaff,” Jaycn said.  “Helps with watch duty.  Keeps you awake, alert.”

Elias nodded, taking another sip.  “How long before you think I’ll be ready for my own watches?”

“A few weeks,” Jaycn answered, sipping at his kaff, eyes scanning the darkness beyond the wall.  Elias looked out as well, but his eyes could make out nothing.

“What do I look for at night?” he asked.

“Same as in the day but the real tell will be what you hear.  S’quiet at night.  You listen for anything shouldn’t be there.  Trees rustling make noise, they creak and swish and at night, it’s louder and carries farther.  Don’t think we’ll have to burden the watch every night on our own, Klen will start a rotation and every squad member will have a turn.  We need our sleep too.”

Elias nodded again.  It made sense.  On a whim, he closed his eyes and tried to see if there were any noises like Jaycn described, but all he heard was the other man’s breathing.

“Don’t be disappointed,” Jaycn said softly.  “Not hearing something is a good thing.  Means tonight, everyone lives to see another day.”

“Right,” Eli said.  Thinking for a second, he decided to ask something that had been bothering him ever since Fesh told them about the island.  “How come these trees have to be kept behind the Wall, but the ones in my mother’s yard,” he refused to say ‘father’ even if it was his house, “Aren’t any sort of danger?”

Jaycn sipped his drink.  “Don’t rightly know for sure.  But I’ve wondered that myself.”  He shrugged.  “I don’t know as there’s anyone who could tell us one way or the other,” he turned and looked Eli in the eye.  “Of course, have your mother’s trees ever killed anyone?”

“No,” Eli admitted, swallowing hard.  He turned back to the haze of the night, determined that no trees would kill any men that night.  Or the next one, or the next.

Four days in, the weather changed suddenly and he found himself riding with his shirt open and a wet cloth around his neck.  The heat was oppressive, the air thick with moisture – he’d never experienced anything like it.  Jaycn told him it was rare but it did happen from time to time.  The haze that was the interior of the island seemed to be moving like clouds pushed upon the wind.  Jaycn was particularly disturbed by this and kept his eyes open.  Eli tried to do the same.

That night, they found large paw prints in the snow of the way station and Klen ordered the watch tripled.  That night, the snow returned with a vengeance.

2 Responses to “Chapter Twenty-Eight”

  1. Clifton Hill says:

    ‘Kaff’ huh. You should have called it Dew and described it as sweet and light green. 😉 An homage to your own invigorating drink of choice.

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