Dawn In The West

by Matt H

In the City of Silk, a priest is pushing a seed into rich black soil. The children doze in the afternoon sun, some looking sleepily at the seed, the flower, and the autumn leaves set out on the table. Today's lesson is from the priest of the Verdant Lord. Compared to the lessons taught by the Lady of Blood and Wine, this is dull religion. Abruptly, the priest freezes, as though startled. His face twists, apparently in pain. He isn't the only one. The children look around as a small boy begins to sob uncontrollably. And then others feel it. A normally quiet girl begins to tear at herself with her fingernails, shrieking horribly. One clutches at his throat, choking and gurgling; another wordlessly begins to pound everyone near her with her small fists. The priest begins to bleed freely from his nose and ears and slowly collapses. By now, the screaming from the street outside can be heard in the classroom. Some of the children are rushing forward to help their teacher. Others run out into the street. When they get there, they do the same as everyone else: turn to the west, and freeze. Over the Forest, which is always the same and always different, stands a vast pillar of black fire. The city staggers and reels as the people faint, sob, turn on each other, or just gape at the impossible thing in the west. And everyone whispers the same thing. The Forest is hurting.

Two guards are dragging a chained convict through the streets of the White City. Admittedly, both were bandits last week, but they preferred to call themselves 'adventurers', so that's alright. “Busy tonight”, comments Protz (the tall one). “Yeah. Still, make it easy to get this one back to m'lord De Courci. Feisty little beggar, aint'cha?” says Liebmann (the squinty one).

The convict, who was calling himself Honest Thomas this morning, says nothing.

“Take a look and see what all these idiots are gawping at, will ya?” asks Protz.

“Sure. Here, gimme a leg up. Ah… well. Bugger me.”


“That's… that's really incredible.”


“It's… indescribable…,”


“Out west. There's… like… darkness. Over the Forest. Looks like fire. Disappearing into the sky.”

“Gimme a hand up will you…? Ta. Oh. Oh gods. That ain't good. What's it mean?”

“Dawn of a golden age?” suggests Liebmann.

“End of the world?” suggests Protz.

“Overtime,” they agree, and are happy. Only briefly, though, because they soon find that the convict (who was calling himself Honest Thomas this morning) is well and truly gone.

And a thousand miles to the West, a telescope falls from the shaking hands of an aged astronomer. He stares east, and can still see the horror with his naked eye. He doesn't know what it means, but he knows what he must do. He stumbles as he trots down the cold stairs of his tower. He must tell his masters what he has seen in the east, in the Great Forest.

The smell of blood still clings in the nostrils of the Duke as he climbs the tower to his private apartments. He has come directly from the shard pits, and the screaming still echoes in his ears. He walks up stealthily behind his wife, who his standing on the balcony. He already knows that something has worried her, and has resolved to have it eviscerated. Putting his arms round her, the Duke whispers “good evening” to his love. Starting, she says, “You made me jump.” The Duke smiles. His wife thinks it is a pleasant smile.

“You look lovely this evening, Caroline. But… is anything the matter?” he gets a coy smile in return.

“No. Except… I saw something. Promise you won't call me silly.” The Duke's smile widens. His wife laughs a little. “I thought it was… like a star, out there…,” she points to the north-west, “just above the horizon. It was funny. It scared me a little. Oh. It's still there.” The Duke follows his wife's gaze, and something catches his eye. His smile fades and he strokes his beard absentmindedly. “What does it mean, dear?” asks the Duke's wife, who is sure her husband knows everything.

“It means the world is changing.”

“Will it be a good change? Or a bad change?” his wife is anxious, and the Duke smiles once more. But only partly at her.

“All change is good, my love, if you know what to do about it.”

The Duke runs his hands through his wife's beautiful hair, and kisses her. Because he loves her.

misc/fiction/dawnw.txt · Last modified: 2011/03/31 20:30 by osj01
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