The scent of wet mud greeted Dorian, as his horse trotted towards the city. The mission had been long and arduous, across the dry, bleak plains to the south of Ostra. It was good to finally be home.
Home, he wondered. Do I even have one?
The sound of horse’s hooves on the soft ground, in conjugation with his own feelings of fatigue and relief, had lulled him into a drowse.
He heard a woman whimper, as she tightly clutched the hem of her gown, tears streaming down her face. The blood on her hands was definitely her own. He had seen this before. He knew.
“What are you looking at?” he heard the gruff voice of a burly man, followed by a smack to the head that sent him sprawling across the small room.
He could see the man advancing towards her.
He could see the terror in her eyes.
He could hear a dull thud, as her head bounced off the wall and landed on the cold floor.
He could see the blood spilling out, drenching her wispy auburn hair.
After that, all he saw was red… His hands, his tunic, the knife at his feet, the wall to his side…
They were all red…
The sudden change of sounds, as he entered the paved roads of the city, roused him. He wiped the sweat off his brow and adjusted himself in the saddle. He had almost arrived.
❖ ❖ ❖
“Who is carrying the message?” Commander Kray asked, rising from his seat.
“A young scout,” his aide replied. “A scrawny little kid with red hair and a scar across his cheek.”
“Dorian?” muttered Kray, absent-mindedly scratching his chin. “Well, that is a surprise…”
“You know him, Commander?” he inquired, surprised that the Commander of the army of the entire kingdom would personally know a lowly scout.
“I helped him out,” Kray continued in his usual manner, “during the port-side situation we had, last year.”
“You mean… He is THAT boy?”
“Yes, Damien, he is that boy,” he said, as he made his way out of the room, towards the lobby where Dorian had been asked to wait. Damien, intrigued by this mysterious kid, decided to diligently follow.
“What does Garfield have for me? Kray asked, upon having seen the young scout.
“Greetings, Commander,” Dorian meekly replied, handing over a small scroll, “Captain Garfield has forwarded this.”
“It looks like a cipher,” Kray observed, peering into the piece of parchment. “I do not recognise these runes, though. Why did the Lumiere division not handle it?”
“They tried, Commander, but they failed. Captain Garfield has dispatched a messenger to Oldenburg, to look for any documents that might help.”
“I see. Damien, forward this to the cryptographers. We need a swift response.”
❖ ❖ ❖
Dorian walked out of the barracks feeling pleased. It had been a year since that night… The night he lost his home, his childhood, his innocence… The fact that he was not in prison, or worse, had once felt like a burden; it was now a responsibility.
He had already received orders for the next mission—a month long training programme. He did not complain. Having already completed his mandatory year as a scout, he was now on his way to become a real soldier.
He knew he had not atoned for his sins, just yet. He still did have a long way to go.
He smiled, as the smell of wet mud brought back warm memories of a time long past. The drizzling rain poured over his head, washing his tears away.
Yes, I am home…
- The name Dorian is derived from that of a Hellenic tribe.
- Being one-quarter Pelasgian, Dorian does have partial Hellenic ancestry.
Image credits: Rinmaru Games