“How long has it been,” the old man whispered.
He heard a slight stirring from somewhere across the room. The wool blankets on the cot shifted and pitched.
“How long has it been,” the old man muttered louder.
“What?” the half asleep soldier questioned from beneath the blanket.
“How long have I been here, how long has it been?” the old man shouted. “Surely, the war has ended by now.”
The soldier threw back the blankets, swung his feet to the floor and hunched over sleepily. The large stone room was cold. It was always cold…and dank. The soldier remembered a time, not too far in the distant past, when the sun shone on his face and warmed his still beating heart. The soldier wheezed and coughed. Blood darkened his lips as he spat on the cold stone floor. “Petraculus”, the soldier coddled. “It’s been years.”
“Then arise my friend, look out the window and tell me of the battle’s progression.”
“I need a minute,” the soldier wheezed with pain.
“What?” Petraculus craned his neck to try and peer around the cloth sheet that divided the room.
“I need a minute.”
“Now,” shrieked Petraculus. “As long as the war yet rages my oath to the king traps me here in this tower. We are nearing the end of the war, dear Talus. I can feel it in my old bones.”
“Fine,” Talus grimaced as he stood, once wrapped in his robe he shuffled toward the window. The warm fur robe felt good against his cold skin. As he reached for the open window, he stopped short as the chain tightened around his throat. He ran his fingers across the rough stone edge of the window sill and felt the dampness as it seeped through the rocks. He imagined the sun shining on his face as he touched his moist fingers to his lips.
“I still don’t understand why they keep my bed over here. It would be easier to win this war if I could simply watch as my spells unfold on the battlefield,” Petraculus mumbled. He tugged on the chain anchoring him to the large oak bed.
“We have been over this a thousand times. In fact every soldier before me has been through this with you,” Talus snapped.
“I know, I know. My bed sits closer to the hearth where it is warmer.” Petraculus rubbed his ankle under the chain. “But why the restraints?”
“It was part of the deal you made with the king. You were the most powerful man in all the kingdoms. After you went mad the king captured your daughter and threatened to slay her unless you agreed to use your powers to help win the war against his enemies.”
“I don’t remember a daughter.” Petraculus rubbed his forehead as he sat on the edge of the bed.
“Oh yes. She was very beautiful. And wise. She was the wisest woman in all the land.” Talus pulled the fur robe tighter around his body. The fever made it almost impossible to get warm. The chills so violently shaking his soul would soon end and he would finally be at peace. Just one more night, he thought. “Shall we begin?”
“Ah, yes, the war.” Petraculus stood and walked toward a withered wooden desk standing next to the bed. A vegetable crate sat nearby on its side as a make-shift chair. Petraculus threw out the back of his robe like a tail and squatted over the crate. He grabbed a feather quill from the desk, dabbed it into some ink, and hunched like a gargoyle over some parchment. “Tell me Talus. What do you see?”
Talus rubbed his face and felt the empty sockets where his eyes used to be. He traced his cold trembling fingers across the ragged scars. He remembered the itching and throbbing from the stitches more than the pain of the surgery. He snorted a barely audible laugh. “I barely remember colors,” he muttered to himself.
“Nothing.” Talus retorted. “I said they are flying their colors.”
“What are their colors?” Petraculus hunched back over the parchment with renewed vigor.
“Green and Black, with a large dragon wrapped around a gold ingot.” Talus coughed again and fell to one knee.
“FAMINE. Ah yes…, probably using a vast array of undead monsters.” Petraculus snickered to himself as he wiped drool from his lower lip with the back of his hand.
Talus propped himself up on the edge of the bed with one arm. “Oh my king, My sweet, sweet king,” he whispered.
Petraculus cackled with glee. “A simple spell of undoing will return the majority of those nightmarish creatures to the dust from which they came.” He began scribbling feverishly.
Talus placed his second knee on the ground and slumped over the edge of the bed. “What about the crops?”
Talus’s body shook violently as the fever throttled his bones. “The crops are withered. The people will starve.”
“Yes. Yes. I will undo the withered crops as well. They will grow verdant and abundantly.” Petraculus scribbled in an ancient language. Darkness filled the room from all corners. As it swirled, slowly covering the light, letters appeared on the parchment. Petraculus slid the parchment under the cloth divider. “Quickly Talus read this tome out loud.”
The door opened quietly and in shuffled three soldiers wearing fur on the bottoms of their boots. Two soldiers had their mouths sewn shut with leather straps while the third had his eyes sewn closed with hemp twine. The two silent soldiers unchained Talus’ cold lifeless husk and chained the third soldier to the wall in his place. The silent guards carried Talus body from the room as the third soldier picked up the tome.
“Thank you, Lord FAMINE,” the soldier whispered to himself. Immediately it seemed, the soldier felt his body begin to decay. He sat on the edge of the bed. “What about the fish in the sea?”
Petraculus began to scribble intensely.