Sunday, September 20. 2009
Posted by Johnny Elbows in The Apprentice Mask
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Dim light filtered through the wall of the ger. My eyes felt sticky and heavy. In the distance, I could hear the roar of charging men, the clash of weapons, and call of the clarion. I stirred, and tried to get up, but a hand pressed me back down. I slept once again.
A man in a golden mask with birds at his feet stood talking to a boy, my brother. I wanted to run to him, to tell him that I thought he was dead, killed by the Dina, but somehow, my feet wouldn’t move. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but occasionally, they glanced my way. Finally, the boy reached up and took the mask off the man’s face. He played with it for a moment, holding it up to his own face, and then dropped it on the ground. It shattered, scattering pieces of gilt plaster across the stone floor, and startling the birds into flight.
He turned, looking at me with his funny half-smile. I wanted to talk to him, to apologize, to tell him that I didn’t know, to say that I wouldn’t ever throw rocks again, but when I spoke, I couldn’t hear myself, and he made no sign that he could hear me either. He just smiled at me, and glanced up at the man who stood beside him. Following his gaze, I looked at the man’s face for the first time. I stepped back in horror, and found myself falling.
And woke. I sat up, panting, drenched in sweat. The tent was dark except for the dim light of a candle in the next room. I started when a cool hand touched my head. A soft, feminine voice called out, “He’s awake, and his fever seems to have broken.”
A shadow crossed the candlelight, and a big man entered my room. He spoke softly. “Thank you, Lena. See if you can do something for the king’s birds. I have a message, but I have no bird. Mora, curse that boy.”
A girl slipped from the room, and the man took her place on the chair beside my pallet. “Well, boy?”
“My name’s Ian,” I replied.
“So, Ian, you killed your brother.”
“No!” A pause. “Well, yes.”
“How did you kill him?”
“The Dina came through our village. They chased him down and killed him.”
“Is that the whole story?”
“So, how did you kill him?”
Then the story, along with my tears, came out. I told him about my rock, the clang of the shield, the chase, and the sight of my brother spitted on the cavalier’s lance. He listened in silence. When I was finished, he sat without speaking for several minutes.
“Whose are you?” His question surprised me.
I answered automatically. “I am Mora’s.”
“Then Mora will guide your brother home. Do you know who I am?”
“I am the khasar’s mask.”
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