Vauns Reflections

One

He leans over the railing in the dim light of the morning. A cigarette hangs limply from his mouth. His eyes calmly look over the smokestacks which have just been lit for the morning. Smoke tendrils rise from the chimneys and mix with the gray clouds. It’s especially smoggy today. Pictures flash in his mind.

Time and again. The raising. The lowering. Flesh rent as he thrust his weight into the cut. The pooling blood. It drips to the ground from the beds. The smell fills the room. The feeling of powerlessness, as he watched Fabrizio sneak in. The silence. The orange gleam of Fabrizio’s swords, and all of their swords, in the light of the lantern, on the shadows of the sleeping men’s faces.

To look at him, you’d have guessed he was a blacksmith who’d risen early to enjoy the peace of the morning. The took long drags while squinting into the gray fog. He took a moment to listen for anyone who might be coming outside from the guild offices. No, they were all asleep now. Sleeping soundly. Safe and unharmed.

“Are you sure you want to be a part of this Sister Helga?” “Me? I’m an old mercenary. I’ve killed many men before. This wouldn’t be any different. Taking out a gang isn’t any different from killing a mercenary company. Killing a man is killing a man.” She looked at him unsure. He looked calmly back at her, the cold of the past tens years in his eyes. But something was melting that gaze from within him. He turned away and stepped up to the planning table before she noticed the tinge of doubt inside him.

The heat of his cigarette almost burned his lips. He realized he was smoking it to the end. With a flick of his fingers he tossed it to the ground below. Its embers tumbled over one another. He wasn’t done. He took more tobacco out, and the papers, and rolled another on the flat railing.

The bullet flew past his head. Natalia tumbled to his feet. Opifera climbed the stairs. They were all moving so quickly, and he so slowly. The trollkin taking up the whole back wall, leaning toward them with his long bastard sword, as thick as a man’s arm. Opifera tried to slide up. “Your back!” he barked, and she turned. The beating of the sword on his shield. Then the shot. Opifera crumples. And Morrow swinging on the silver chain in front of him. She wasn’t making a sound. His whisper. “Morrow…Morrow help us.”

He fingered the silver symbol which hung around his neck, then tucked it into his shirt thoughtfully.

He whipped his sword into the trollkin’s skull. His heart beat once, and he saw the woman with the smoking gun. Sister Helga dropping to her knees over Opifera and her strange magick tongue. Relief. “Don’t kill her.” Hitting the ground below now. Fabrizio stepping aside, “Go get them!” The furtive sounds on the other side of the door. Hallways. More hallways. All the while the speed slipping from his grasp. He could feel it dwindling. The others close behind him.

He stopped for a moment to think clearly. He realized that they didn’t know how little time he had, for how short a time Morrow had given him his wild speed… It might be something he would eventually have to say. Maybe…or they might just laugh at him.

Vaguely he heard Orlov’s laughter, his old company leader. And then he saw his face as he looked at the stump of his arm. And then the screams of his parents. And where was his sister? And Opifera on the ground unmoving. And the sleeping faces. Followed by screams from the infirmary as he walked away.

He flicked the second cigarette to the street. His eyes calmly look over the smokestacks of the city and their glowing rooftops, enveloped in the blinding rising sun. How chilly the morning was. Or was it one of the other mornings, further back in time? There was a question in Vaun’s eyes. He asked it of the sun.

Vauns Reflections

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