Tuesday, February 14, 2017

"Costis' Room"

He returned to his room, crestfallen, the day's events weighing heavily on his heart. He was the King's man, but he took no pleasure in today's particular duties.

The muscular man eased himself onto his bed, wincing with each small movement. He rubbed some salve onto the scrapes and smaller wounds not already bandaged by the temple's healer a short time earlier. He squeezed away the shill in his hands and lit two more candles at his beside, vowing to light his small fireplace in a moment or two.

Costis dipped his quill in his inkwell and let out a small curse when he heard the quill snap. The ink had frozen; while thawing the ink and cutting a new nib weren't the most arduous of tasks, it was more than he wanted to do. Naturally, this required him to get back out of bed.

He strained and he pushed, first standing, then crouching, then kneeling in front of his fireplace. He fumbled with tinder, kindling, and sicks, building his way to a fire that would warm him through the night. Once lit, he almost nodded off in front of it, but he shook a vigorous shake and regained enough alertness to finish his task.

The scarred, bleeding man thawed the ink and whittled a new nib from the damaged quill. Pushing past his rusted joints, he returned to his bed and hunched over his table.

"I killed a man today," Costis scrawled in his heavy hand. "A brigand, a traitor, but a man nonetheless. He was guilty of no crime but a desire to survive; given my motivations, I am similarly guilty."

Costis didn't record the deceased's name - he didn't know it. He didn't record the manner of death either - he assumed others would know it was a duel to the death with an officer of the court. It was the fifth execution he'd carried out this way after the passing of his predecessor and the pardon of the predecessor's opponent.

His record complete, the gladiator ached his way toward horizontal. He blew out his candles. Lit only by the glow of the fireplace coals and despite his exhaustion, Costis thought only of the dying man's face. He suffered toward sleep, anxious of the next day's duties.

[written November 2016, inspired by a drawing by DH]

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